Chapter 3 : Chapter 2
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Harry was feeling peacefully full and content. That was hands down the best meal he’d eaten since he left Hogwarts at the end of term and now thoughts of bed and dreams were starting to creep into his mind. It was a wonderfully relaxed feeling and, despite the excitement of the World Cup in two days, he wished this evening could never end.
“While everyone is here, there’s something I need to tell you all,” Mr. Weasley suddenly announced, his voice quiet and serious, cutting through the easy after-dinner chatter. He caught Mrs. Weasley’s eye and she nodded, setting her napkin down on the table and folding her hands.
Harry’s blissful mood popped like a balloon and his stomach dropped, instantly sure that this would somehow be about him. It usually was when Mr. Weasley made a statement like that with him present. Ron and Hermione apparently had the same thought because they both turned to look at him, but he just shrugged his shoulders in confusion.
“We have someone else joining us tomorrow, staying until the new Hogwarts term starts,” Mr. Weasley continued carefully.
“Going to the World Cup?” Fred blurted out and Mr. Weasley nodded.
Harry listened to the noisy outbursts from the Weasley clan thinking maybe this just might not be about him for once.
“Quiet!” Mrs. Weasley suddenly said loudly, stopping everyone mid-breath. “I think if you lot would be quiet and listen,” she continued in a calmer voice, “then your father was about to answer all of your questions.”
Rather sheepishly, the Weasleys looked back at their father.
“As I was saying, tomorrow we have someone coming to the Burrow to stay with us for the rest of the summer. Dumbledore asked us if we’d be willing and we readily agreed. I expect each and every one of you to treat her kindly,” he eyed the twins pointedly.
“Her?” Fred and George said in shocked unison.
“Why here, Dad?” Charlie asked calmly.
Mr. Weasley sighed, his eyes sad again. Now that Harry thought about it, Mr. Weasley had seemed a bit melancholy all evening, which was so uncharacteristic for him.
“Her father was my best mate, many years ago before he died. We would’ve volunteered even if Dumbledore hadn’t asked. Her name is Sadie McLauchlin.”
For a moment there was complete, stunned silence and then everyone started to speak at once.
“Do we know her?”
“I don’t remember any Sadie at school…”
“Is she a first year?”
“She’s coming to the Cup with us?”
Mr. Weasley held up his hand to stop the barrage of comments from his loud brood.
“Sadie’s situation is rather…unique,” he said quietly.
“What do you mean, Dad,” Bill asked, voicing the question Harry and everyone else wanted to know.
Mr. Weasley sighed. “Sadie’s life…hasn’t been easy.”
Harry heard a disgusted snort from the other end of the table and looked down to find Mrs. Weasley frowning. It seemed as though she very much wanted to add to that statement but Mr. Weasley gave her a meaningful glance and she kept silent.
“As I said, her life hasn’t been easy. She’s a very powerful young witch but she’s never had the opportunity to attend school. She should have started Hogwarts five years ago but no one could find her.”
Around the table, people were doing rapid calculations to figure out the age of their impending guest, all except Ron who blurted out with a confused expression, “No one could find her?” He shook his head as if disgusted at the thought that adults could actually lose a person!
“So, she’s sixteen?” said Fred before anyone could respond to Ron.
“And just starting Hogwarts?” added George.
“As a first year?” they finished in unison, voices full of horror.
“No, of course not. Dumbledore has a plan to help her catch up. She’s never formally been to school, but she’s not completely without magical ability or training. She’ll be starting as a fourth year – a few years behind but not as bad as it could be.”
Harry glanced around the table as discussion continued about this mysterious girl who would be coming to stay with the Weasleys. It was interesting but other than the fact the girl would be joining his year he honestly couldn’t see how it mattered to him. After all, it’s not as though he made a huge habit of becoming chummy with girls several years older than him.
“Why did Dumbledore send her here, Dad?” asked Percy, his voice thick with disapproval. “I’m sure there are others with more erm…room than you and Mum.”
“She can have your room, Perce,” called Fred gaily.
“Yeah, you’re hardly ever in it,” added George.
Percy started to sputter about the important work he did for the Ministry in his room but Mrs. Weasley interrupted.
“Boys,” she scolded sternly, glaring at them all. “Of course Dumbledore could have found somewhere else to send her, but we wouldn’t hear of it. We insisted she come here. It’s the least we could do.”
“I owed Charlie that much,” continued Mr. Weasley softly, a mournful, faraway sort of look in his eyes and his voice grave. Harry stared. He’d never seen the Weasley patriarch emotional like this. “For years I’ve questioned what happened, wondered if there was something more I could have done…”
“Arthur,” Mrs. Weasley cut in quietly, her tone pulling him back on topic but her eyes soft and loving. For just a moment, Harry was captivated. Aunt Petunia never looked at Uncle Vernon like that…
“I’m sorry,” Mr. Weasley said, clearing his throat and steadying his voice. “I suppose I could do a better job at explaining, couldn’t I? Sadie’s mother Jenny was in our same year in Gryffindor, and as I said, her father was my best mate at school, even though he was several years older than me. There weren’t that many redheads around Hogwarts back then and we bonded over bad ginger jokes before finding out we shared a…er…rather fondness for Muggles. Over the years, that grew into a friendship not unlike Ron and Harry here. By the time Charlie left Hogwarts, we were inseparable.”
“Wait,” broke in Charlie with a sudden spark of understanding in his eyes. “Your friend’s name was Charlie? Does that mean...”
“Yes, Charlie, you were named for him. And I believe he named his second eldest son Arthur,” Mr. Weasley answered, a smile finally forming.
Charlie grinned, a pleased look on his face. “Finally, proof that my name wasn’t just random, unlike the rest of you lot! I always knew I was the favorite son…”
“Watch it!” the twins growled, glaring.
Harry shook his head, cutting in before all the Weasley boys could really get going on each other. “Mr. Weasley, you keep saying was and were when you talk about them? So both her parents are dead?”
“Yes, Harry,” responded Mr. Weasley. “Her parents are dead. Her whole family was killed.”
“Voldemort?” he pressed, ignoring the flinches from around the table.
“I don’t really know,” Mr. Weasley answered him after a moment. “That’s part of why everything about this is so shrouded in mystery. Molly and I, along with others like Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall, firmly believe that followers of You-Know-Who were behind the murders, but there’s no proof. The crimes were committed in such a way that it’s possible they were simply atrocious acts of random Muggle violence.”
Harry frowned, recalling some of the more awful stories he’d overheard from the Dursleys’ telly on the evening news. He was well aware that Muggles could be every bit as cruel and evil as wizards.
Next to him, Hermione was shaking her head in sorrow and disgust. “What can we do to help her, Mr. Weasley?” she asked sincerely.
“Just be her friend.” He smiled slightly at the young witch who had become almost a part of his own family. “I imagine, despite everything Albus and Minerva can do, things will be difficult and frightening for her. We just want her to have some friends and people she knows before the school year starts.”
Mrs. Weasley picked up the conversation. “Take her under your wing and show her around. Look out for her at first. You all remember that exciting and yet terrifying feeling of your first week at Hogwarts, trying to find your way around and figure everything out.”
They all nodded firmly, Harry more fervently than the rest. He vividly remembered that first week when the eyes of the entire school seemed to be glued to the scar on his forehead. He felt a bit of kinship with this unknown girl take hold inside him, understanding now what Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were getting at.
“Well,” continued Mrs. Weasley, her next words echoing exactly what Harry had just been thinking. “Imagine all that with the added burden of everyone knowing you are new and behind in school.”
“Hermione and Ginny, show her around the dorm and introduce her to the other girls. Professor McGonagall gave her a private sorting to lessen her embarrassment and she’s in Gryffindor,” Mr. Weasley picked up the conversation again. “Ron, Harry – help her out with school and be her friend. Fred and George,” he added, looking at the twins. “She’s sixteen, like you two. She’ll need some friends her own age who don’t care she’s a few years behind.”
“As if success in school was our number one criteria,” Fred scoffed. Harry noticed Mrs. Weasley’s face darken with a frown.
“Don’t worry, Dad,” George added before his mother could respond to that. “You can count on us.”
“The rest of you,” finished Mr. Weasley looking at his older children, “just make her feel welcome and answer any questions she might have. This is all going to be so new and very unnerving for her.”
“Don’t worry, Dad,” repeated Charlie. “We’ll make her feel like part of the family. But why are you so sure she’ll have a hard time making friends? She might be behind, but she’ll still be surrounded by kids her own age.”
Mr. Weasley paused and Harry got the impression he was trying to figure out how to say what he needed to tell them next.
“I mentioned Sadie hasn’t had the best of circumstances in life. I’m not going to tell you much more than that; she can tell you more if she ever wants to and we – your mother and I – don’t know all that much anyway. But there's one thing we do know and you should be prepared for as well.”
Harry felt an ominous tickle of worry settle in his stomach. What was wrong with this girl? What horrible thing was Mr. Weasley so reluctant to tell them? Was she from a bad family? Voldemort’s long lost niece or something that would make people shun her? Some horrible inherited power? He knew first hand that you couldn’t pick your relatives, or your abilities, so whatever it was he figured he wouldn’t hold it against her.
“Well, what?” demanded Ron impatiently.
“Sadie can’t talk, dear,” replied Mrs. Weasley gently. There was shocked silence all around as she continued with a sad voice. “A powerful spell took her voice away sometime during the years she was missing. Professor McGonagall gave her a notebook for writing and she says when encouraged Sadie uses some form of sign language, but it’s still going to be difficult for her, getting people to understand what she wants to say. We’re hoping an extra week or so here before school starts will help her feel more comfortable communicating, and give us all a leg up on learning how to recognize a few of her signs as well.”
For several minutes no one said anything. Finally, Ron ventured a quiet question. “She can’t talk?” he asked as if not sure he’d heard correctly.
His mother nodded.
“Because of a spell?”
She nodded again.
“But…that’s awful!” Hermione finally burst out. “Can’t anything be done? Reverse the spell or something? Surely Dumbledore must know how! Or St. Mungo’s! Or there has to be information in the library no one’s thought of –”
“Hermione,” interrupted Mr. Weasley, “Dumbledore’s investigated every option, and while I’m sure he won’t mind if you look again, right now there really is nothing that can be done but help her have confidence communicating and learn to understand her. It was old, dark magic that took her voice. Those types of spells don’t always have reversals.”
Hermione didn’t argue but by the look in her eyes Harry knew she wasn’t dissuaded. She’d probably hit the library running their first day back, dragging Ron and him along in her wake.
“Well, it’s getting late, dears,” spoke Mrs. Weasley, standing and starting to gather scattered dishes. “We really should all be getting to bed. Big day tomorrow. Ginny, Hermione, if you could help me with these platters and Fred and George, the chairs…”
“Molly, wait,” interrupted Mr. Weasley again. “I need to finish telling them everything, especially Harry.”
“Arthur, I don’t think now’s the time. They’ve had all the news they can handle tonight.”
“And when will be the right time? She’s arriving in the morning?”
“It’s the kind of news you don’t just dump on a person! Especially with everyone else here. Give them time to get to know each other.”
Harry, Hermione, and all the Weasley children’s heads were swiveling back and forth between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, who almost seemed to have forgotten they were there.
“Molly, it’s not bad news. Why are you worried about telling him?” Mr. Weasley asked his wife.
Mrs. Weasley seemed to deflate, sinking back into her chair. “Because I know how I’d feel, finding out something like that after fourteen years with everyone watching.”
“Finding out what?” Harry asked, unable to stop himself. “What does this girl have to do with me?”
“Quite a lot, actually,” said Mr. Weasley, smiling at him, some of the sadness of before dissipating. “Sadie’s your cousin, Harry.”
For the third time that evening a completely shocked silence settled around the table.
“My cousin?” Harry choked out.
“But…what? How?” he stuttered, his brain whirling in confusion. “But the Dursleys never –” Harry stopped that thought. The Dursleys hadn’t told him a lot of things, like, oh, the fact that he was a wizard and his parents had been murdered by the worst Dark Wizard to walk the land in a century or so.
“Your aunt and uncle didn’t know anything about her, Harry,” added Mrs. Weasley gently, apparently resigned to telling the story now. “She’s not related to them.”
Harry’s brain struggled to process that. “But that means she’s…my dad…” He trailed off, noticing that Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Fred, and George were all staring at him with expressions ranging from concern to bafflement.
“Sadie’s parents were Charles Stuart McLauchlin and Jenny Potter McLauchlin – your father’s older sister,” said Mr. Weasley quietly.
A million thoughts and emotions raced through Harry’s brain at lightning speed. He had a cousin! A cousin he didn’t know about. A cousin who wasn’t Dudley the Human Whale. A relative who wasn’t remotely related to the Dursleys and might not hate the very sight of him. It was not unlike the whirl of feelings he’d had when he found out he had a godfather who actually cared for him.
“Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?” he finally blurted, rather louder than he meant to in his excitement.
“Well, remember, until a few days ago we didn’t know if she was even alive,” answered Mr. Weasley wearily. “She vanished the day her family was killed and most everyone assumed she’d died, also. After years of searching, even those of us who held out hope had to admit it was probably true.”
“You’d already lost so many people, dear, we didn’t want to burden you with even more relatives who’d been killed,” said Mrs. Weasley, her voice quavering. “Why raise your hopes about a cousin who was most certainly dead?”
Her words brought home a fact Harry hadn’t really articulated in his brain yet – her parents had been murdered; his own aunt and uncle. The fact that he hadn’t even known about them until five minutes earlier didn’t stop the familiar rush of grief and anger that filled him just as it always did when he thought of his own parents dying. They were two more people Voldemort had somehow taken away from him and two more reasons to make sure he never got the chance to rise to power again.
“Now, it really is time for bed,” Mrs. Weasley finished firmly, swiping suspiciously at her cheek with the back of her hand. “Everyone off to sleep. Your father and I will clean up here. Off you go, off you go!” She made shooing motions with her arms, sending all of them, even her grown children, off into the warm light of the Burrow. “And go right to sleep!” she called after their retreating backs. “No talking!”
“Are you okay?” Hermione whispered anxiously to Harry as they climbed the stairs to the bedrooms. She and Ron hadn’t stopped throwing him worried glances since Mr. Weasley had dropped his bombshell news.
“Yeah,” answered Harry, meaning it. “I mean I just got a relative who doesn’t hate me or think I should be committed. That’s good, right?”
“That’s the spirit, Harry,” said Fred, clapping him on his shoulder.
“Can never have too many relatives, I say,” said George. “I mean look at us. Have to rent a small village every time they all come round.”
Harry laughed at the twins but the sound of Mrs. Weasley’s footsteps approaching sent them all – Bill and Charlie included – scattering before he could say anything in reply.
Harry followed Ron into his flaming, orange room, Fred and George trailing behind. For a while no one said anything, finding pajamas and climbing into the four beds that were crammed into the small attic space.
“Where d’you reckon she’s been?” whispered Ron eventually, picking up the conversation from earlier. “If they thought she was dead?”
Harry had been wondering the same thing but he wasn’t exactly sure he wanted to know. Parents killed mysteriously, voice taken by some evil spell, missing for who knew how many years…? Wherever she’d been it couldn’t have been good.
“I dunno,” he replied. “But your dad told us she’s had it rough.”
“Think she’s been stuck with Muggles like you?” asked George.
“An orphanage maybe?” suggest Fred.
“I hope not,” muttered Harry, thinking how well that had worked out for one Tom Riddle.
A soft knock at the door interrupted them.
“Ron, it’s us,” Ginny’s voice hissed through the keyhole. “Let us in.”
Ron got up and opened the door for Ginny and Hermione to slip inside. Ginny settled on the end of George’s bed; Hermione on Harry’s.
“Bill and Charlie coming?” asked Fred. Harry noticed he didn’t bother asking about Percy.
“No,” Ginny answered. “Said they were tired.”
“Mum better not hear us,” muttered Ron.
“She won’t,” said Ginny confidently. Everyone looked at her curiously. “I woke the ghoul up before we came in,” she explained. “Mum won’t be able to hear anything but him for at least an hour.”
Fred and George gave their little sister an appraising, almost parental look.
“Gin,” Fred said, hand over his heart in exaggerated emotion, “you make us so proud.”
“Growing up so devious and all,” George added, wiping at his eyes.
“Oh, shut up, you two,” Ron groaned, chucking his pillow at the twins.
“So, what did we miss,” Hermione asked.
“Not much. We were just trying to figure out how Dumbledore and everyone else could have lost her.” Ron replied. “I mean, how do you just lose someone?”
“It’s not as hard as you think,” Hermione answered knowledgeably. “Look at Peter Pettigrew.”
Ron grimaced and stuttered while Harry frowned. “You think my cousin’s been living as a rat?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Of course not. I’m just pointing out how easy it is to lose track of someone, especially if everyone thinks they’re dead.”
There was silence for a moment as they all considered that. Harry couldn’t help but feel grateful that even though he’d spent the first twelve years of his life in ignorance of the magical world at least that world had kept track of him. What if Dumbledore had given up after that first letter went unanswered? That was a truly horrifying thought. Harry suppressed a shudder.
“Wonder what she’s been through?” George mumbled
“And not one of you is going to ask her,” Hermione said sternly, giving each boy a glare.
“Aw, Hermione!” several voices whined. “Why not?”
“I mean it,” she cut them off. “Your parents hinted that she’s been through some pretty horrible things. She doesn’t need us prying into them. Harry, do you like it when people ask you about what happened to your parents?”
Harry shook his head.
“Then I’m betting she’s not going to want to talk about it either.”
Reluctantly, five heads nodded.
“I wonder what she’s like?”
“Maybe she’s –”
“Sh!” Ginny suddenly hissed, holding a finger to her lips. Dead silence filled the room allowing all of them to hear distant footsteps on the stairs.
“Mum’s coming!” Fred whispered. “Quick, get out!”
Hermione and Ginny leapt to their feet and dashed out of the room while George flicked the light out. All four boys threw themselves into bed and pulled the covers over their heads, pretending to be asleep. A few moments later the door opened a crack. Harry held his breath but after several seconds, it closed again. He let out a sigh of relief, but no one dared talk after that. One by one, they drifted off to sleep. Harry, however lay awake long into the night, mulling over everything he’d learned and wondering what this new cousin would be like as he listened to Ron’s snores.
Author's Note: I know I said I'd be updating every two weeks, but I have decided to drop that time down to one. I'm having fun with this and seem to be okay keeping ahead on chapters, and I want to keep people interested. If you have read and reviewed this story, thank you so much! It means the world to me!
Lastly, thanks as always to the wonderful Smuffly for her beta-ing and amazing support, and to Pix and anyone else you glanced at parts for me.
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