Chapter 2 – Heart open
Ailie and Fred apparated to a narrow street with old, crooked houses on both sides. A few people were out doing their business, but appart from that, it was quiet.
An old lantern with a wax candle inside lit up the misty air surrounding the door closest to them and Ailie approached it.
She walked up the three steps and pushed open the door with a squeak. Fred followed her, with his wand in a tight grip.
The walls were covered in green painted woodpanels and was dimly lit by lanterns hanging from the ceiling. It was like going back in time at least 200 years.
Ailie opened another doo and went down some stairs, leading into complete darkness.
"Lumos" she said quietly and Fred followed her down to the basement. There was another door and she muttered something wich Fred figured was some sort of password. A loud click escaped from the door and Ailie pulled it open. With a flick of her wand, the room inside was lit by dozens of candles placed on shelves and the floor. He looked around in amazement.
"You lived here?" he asked in disbelief. There was a mattress on the floor with some flower patterned sheets, stacks of school books in the corner, a small shelf with a locked box, a jar of ink and some quills. Under the tiny window stood a dresser. There was a small sink, a stove and a door leading to the toilet.
"Yep" she replied. "For about a year"
She stuffed her backpack with the few clothes she had in the dresser, the photographs and the locked box. She looked around, scanning the room for anything else to bring.
"So... I know we don't really know eachother" Fred began slowly spinning around as he inspected the tiny room. "... but to be perfectly honest, I thought it couldn't get much worse than what you told me last night, and now you tell me you lived here for a year. It can't just be bad luck, can it?"
She was looking away from him, still scanning the room.
"I wish the bad stuff stopped there" she muttered to herself and flung the backpack over her shoulder.
"What?" he asked. He had heard her perfectly well, but he couldn't believe it.
"Nothing" she said. "Shall we head back?"
She was walking towards the door when Fred held his arm out to stop her.
"Ailie, it might be hard to, but we need to start trusting eachother if we're going to stay under the same roof"
She sighed and bit her lip. Fred continued.
"I'll start, alright? My family's been quite involved in helping Harry Potter. For one thing it caused George to lose his ear. Our younger brother is with him right now trying to save our world that alot of people don't even know we're losing. We're part of a radio channel, reporting how it goes, reading the names of witches and wizards who's lost their lives. Our friends are working undercover for Harry at Hogwarts. He's the only one who can stop Voldemort".
For a moment they stared at eachother and Ailie wasn't sure how to deal with all that information. A part of her was frightened to know such important things in case she was captured again.
"You do realize I could probably buy my freedom with that information if they catch me again, don't you?"
"Yeah, and I don't see Voldie as the generous type of bloke, but I'm pretty sure you could get a heap of gold too". He gave her a crooked smile. "But I promised you I wouldn't let them get to you and I intend to keep that promise".
She was looking straight into his golden eyes. They were glistening in the candlelight. She took a deep breath before she spoke.
"I don't know if what happened to me was because they didn't believe me when I told them I didn't know where my father was or if they just didn't give a shit..." her eyes were glittering with silent tears. "I thought there couldn't be anyone worse than Bellatrix Lestrange... With her psychotic kind of torture... I know what it feels to have every bone in my body crushed. I know the smell and pure, white pain of my own flesh burning. The taste of my own blood... And yet, that man Dallox..." she squeezed her eyes shut for a second, before she took a deep breath and opened them, as she approced the mattress to sit down.
Fred swallowed, ready to to tell her she didn't have to go on since it pained her so much, but she spoke before he had the chance.
"The first time he was alone... I still remember his foul breath against my face, his filthy hands roaming my body... That time it was easier to shut down and turn into an emotionless shell..." she was staring out into the room as she spoke. "He was alone most of the times, but once in a while he brought friends... other Deatheaters. I couldn't shut down then. The pain was to grave, with six, perhaps more men having their way... I remember one young man, just a boy, watching..." she turned to face Fred with tears falling from her glazed eyes. "... Malfoy's boy... He'd look me in the eyes and I could see he was afraid, but he did nothing..."
Fred regretted ever asking her to share her secrets, but hearing the name Malfoy lit a fire in him. He had one more reason to kill the ferret now. He could hardly believe it. Sure, Malfoy was a complete arse, but to watch something like that happen to a girl his own age and not interfere... It had been worth dying if it had saved her from it.
He sat down next to her, a strange feeling in his stomach, something between sick and hurt.
Gently, he put his arm around her and she smiled through the tears.
"If you were some crazy guy working for Ol' Voldie you probably would've raped and tortured me in my sleep already, 'ey..."
She wiped her tears with a tired chuckle, trying to lighten the mood. Fred gave her a weak smile but it didn't last long.
"I'm sorry" he whispered, not knowing what else to say. She reached to touch his cheek.
"Don't be. You saved my life. If you hadn't let me in, they would have caught me and I'd rather die than have Voldemort even touch me...".
When they got back there was an awkward silence between them. Fred left to work at the shop. All he said was that if she needed something to get down there and then he was gone.
Ailie sat down on the couch with a sigh. She had a strange feeling in her stomach; worry, angst... It was slowly eating her from the inside out.
Why had she told him? Why had she let herself be reminded and told a complete stranger about the worst parts of her life?
She felt stupid.
Her thoughts were interrupted when she noticed a family photo on the shelf. She slowly got up and made her way towards it.
Holding the framed photo between her slender fingers, she realized she recognized two of the people in it, appart from the twins. A boy and a girl.
"Weasley..." she whispered as she scanned the features of the two teens.
Images from Hogwarts came flashing back through her mind. She suddenly remembered she had seen both of them with Harry Potter most of the time.
A smile tugged at the ends of her mouth and a warmth filled her up as if it were liquid. She could trust the twins, she was sure of it now.
She had never talked to any of them at Hogwarts, but she had heard of the secret group that had formed the year before she had attented Hogwarts and she had secretly wanted to join them, but never dared.
She put the picture back in it's place with a smile. It gave her an inner warmth to know people still cared about family, but in a way it didn't surprise her when it came to the twins. To bring a stranger wanted by Deatheaters into their home required both curage and a heart in the right place.
She decided to clean up the clothes and other things she'd managed to find at her old place. With a flick of her wand her clothes were clean and free from wrinkles. It surprised her how big they looked. She had lost a lot of weight after her abduction, but decided to try them on.
She smiled as she pulled her favourite dress over her head and scanned her own image in the mirror. It was pastel blue with tiny, pink flowers, tight at the chest and waist, but with a knee length, flowing skirt. She had to shrink it a bit, but she didn't mind. It reminded her of life and who she really was.
She twirled infront of the mirror and laughed. She felt free again.
She figured there was no guarantees of that feeling lasting forever, so she plopped down and pouted as she stared at her own face, trying to decide what to do. She flicked her wand and her hair curled itself into soft waves. With a swisch she had fixed her eyebrows and applied a small amount of makeup. She had missed those simple things.
Seeing herself at that moment brought back happy memories from the Hogsmeade visits with the other Hufflepuff girls, gossiping, shopping, eating sweets.
She glanced over at her backpack and smiled, shaking her head as she grabbed a packet of muggle cigarettes. She ran her fongers over the golden letters. The white paper had gone yellow and the red had faded to orange. It had been a long time. Back then it was the most dangerous thing she had done on a daily basis. Boy, does life change.
She got up and apparated outside, not wanting to disturb the twins by walking through their shop.
She took a deep breath as she appeared just outside their shop. A few people were walking about, but there wasn't a rush yet. There was a slight wind that made her hair and skirt swaye a little.
She let a cigarette slip between her lips before she lit it with her wand. It wasn't like she had missed smoking, she had been forced to deal with not being able to, but the thought of being free enough to stand in Diagon Alley, in the middle of the day, having a fag while the wind blew through her hair was refreshening.
"Muggles... Inventing a form of slow suicide for pleasure's sake"
She turned around and saw Fred walking down the steps from the shop. He approached her with a smirk.
"How did you know I was here?" she asked and took a drag on her cigarette, making it glow. Fred nodded towards the windows and she felt stupid for not thinking of that herself.
"You look dashing, by the way" he said as he scanned her from tip to toe. "Great colours on you"
"Yeah, you seem to love colour"
His WWW robes were deep purple and his turtleneck a bright orange, really clashing against his ginger hair, but in a way it made him look really handsome. Maybe it was like a drop of paint on a black canvas, he was still a symbol of hope and laughter in their dark world.
"You shouldn't be out here on your own" he said softly. She nodded and painted a circle in the gravel with her shoe.
"I know, I just... I wanted a moment of freedom"
Fred nodded with his lips pressed together. His kind eyes were resting on her face.
"I wish there was a way to give you real freedom". He leaned back against the wall with his hands down his pockets. "Could've shown you the Burrow. I haven't really missed being there until everyone was forced to leave. 'tis not safe there anymore..."
"Your childhood home?". He nodded.
"Looks like a crazy, wonky house ready to fall apart, but inside it's homey, always warm from the open fire, the smell of mum's cooking and outside, there's fruit trees and fields and further down near the woods there's a creek. That's freedom to me".
She had watched his features change as he spoke, obviously remembering those times. Even though it was clear he missed his childhood home, Ailie could see the hope in his eyes, to one day return there for one of his mother's Sunday dinners.
She put her cigarette out and walked up to him, looking into his eyes as she placed her hands on his shoulders.
"One day you can show me" she said with a smile. He chuckled and shook his head as he pushed himself away from the wall and gently pulled her hands off him, still holding her fingers between his down at her sides.
"Oi!" George interrupted, sticking his head out from behind the door. "I can't be at three places all at once, get back in here"
Fred let out a sigh and chuckled as he let go of Ailie's hands.
"We better head back in"
She nodded and followed him back inside the crouded shop, her mind trying to figure out what he was going to say.