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Gravel on the Ground: From the Ashes by 1917farmgirl
Chapter 5 : Chapter 4
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 19


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Chapter 4

Standing on a rather crooked set of stairs, Sadie clutched the old carpet bag that had been loaned to her and stared at the strange house. Beside her, Professor McGonagall reached out and rapped smartly on the front door. Sadie felt the surge of nerves and fear well up inside her again but she tried valiantly not to let it show. Suddenly, she heard a stampede of footsteps rushing for the door.

Professor McGonagall glanced at her and obviously saw something of her thoughts reflected on her face. The older witch’s expression softened slightly. “Don’t worry, Sadie. They may sound and often behave like a pack of rather wild monkeys, but they are one of the best wizarding families in all of England. You’ll be fine.”

Sadie nodded weakly just as the door jerked open and the waiting was over.

“I said hush! You are not all going to mob her at the door!” the red-haired woman called over her shoulder to what sounded like a huge crowd. Then she turned around and Sadie suddenly found herself enveloped in a warm, loving hug. Shock swept through her and she froze, panic building. She hadn’t been embraced like that since…since her own mother was alive.

Professor McGonagall came to her rescue.

“Molly, let the child breathe! She’s not going anywhere,” she said exasperatedly.

The red-haired woman clung on for a few seconds longer then reluctantly let go and stepped back, wiping a hand at suspiciously glistening eyes. Sadie sucked in a gulp of air and turned her eyes to the ground, gripping her bag with trembling hands as a tall, red-haired man with glasses appeared behind the woman in the doorway.

“Molly, Arthur,” Professor McGonagall spoke up, “this is Sadie McLauchlin.”

The man reached around his wife and extended his hand to her. “Sadie,” he said solemnly, “you look so much like your father. I’m sure they’ve told you he was a very good friend of mine, your mother as well, and we’re so glad to have you staying with us.”

Mention of her parents sent a burst of unexpected pain through her. It had been so long since she allowed herself to think of them – to remember… Still, she was an expert at ignoring pain, so she shoved the hurt away and juggled her bag to one side. Hesitantly, she shook his hand, unnerved by the formality.

“Well, there’s no need for us to all keep standing here in the doorway,” Mrs. Weasley bustled, putting an arm around her shoulders and pulling her toward the house. “Come in and meet everyone.”

Sadie threw a panicked look at Professor McGonagall, causing the old teacher to smile fondly. “You’ll be just fine, Sadie. I shall see you at Hogwarts at start of term.” She barely had time to nod before she was drawn into the house by Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.

Despite her fear, Sadie found she couldn’t help looking around in awe. She’d always known her family was magical, that she was a witch, but she’d also known they had to try and keep that magic hidden; they were trying to pass as Muggles after all. So she wasn’t entirely sure what she’d expected from the house of an openly magical family but this certainly wasn’t it. The fading memories of her own, large farmhouse were of a comfortable mix of ordinary Muggle items and carefully disguised magical ones. Her mother had thrived on order and neatness, relishing the challenge of carving a home out of the old place that embraced their magic but didn’t advertise it. This, however, was far from orderly and neat. Instead it was all haphazard afghans, tea kettles, and well-worn furniture, oozing magic left and right.

Then Sadie noticed what seemed to be a whole crowed of ginger-haired people surrounding her and she forgot all about the house itself. Her alarm returned full force and she gulped, looking down at her new shoes when she realized they were all staring at her. Finally, someone spoke.

“Are you sure she’s Harry’s cousin, Dad?” one of the tall teenagers asked, standing next to someone who obviously had to be his twin. “Because with hair like that I’d say she’s actually our cousin.”

Several people chuckled and Sadie self-consciously reached up and touched the end of the long, red plait that hung over her shoulder. Mrs. Weasley frowned at her son but the comment broke the tension and Mr. Weasley stepped forward.

“Let me introduce everyone,” he said. He started at the tall man with long hair on the far right. “This is Bill, our eldest.” He then pointed to the twins. “George and Fred. And behind them is Charlie, our second oldest. And then Percy. He just finished Hogwarts and has a new job working at the Ministry.”

Sadie thought Percy, a tall kid with glasses like his father, looked rather annoyed by the whole process going on around him, but Mr. Weasley ignored this and kept on with the introductions. He placed his hands on the shoulders of the only ginger-haired girl in the room. “This is Ginny, our only daughter. She’ll be a third year at Hogwarts this autumn. And this is our youngest son Ron, his friend Hermione, and last but not least your cousin, Harry Potter.”

Sadie’s head was spinning from the introductions, and she knew there was no way she’d remember all these names until she’d heard them several times, but one name she did recognize – Harry Potter. Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall had both spoken of him often in the last few days, but more than that, she remembered – long ago conversations by her parents about her Aunt Lily, Uncle James and Cousin Harry…drawings carefully colored and childish letters penned to be folded happily and sent away…her mother’s quiet pain when nothing ever came back in return…

She stared intently at the dark-haired boy before her, lost in a whirl of emotions and questions of her own. They both wore glasses but that was their only real resemblance. In fact, they probably didn’t appear any more related than the rest of the world, her taking after her dad and Harry, she suddenly realized, looking very much like the boy she remembered seeing in her mum’s old photo albums.

“Um, hi,” her cousin said awkwardly, waving a little before shoving his hands nervously into his pockets as Sadie realized she’d been staring. Blushing again, she barely returned his wave. They stared at each other for a moment more then looked away, both uncomfortably aware they had no idea what else to say. And it was not as if that was even an option for her anyway.

If she was completely honest with herself, Sadie knew that was one of the roots of her paralyzing fear. So many years spent in silence had changed her, and even though she’d fought back, embracing the opportunity to learn sign language when given it and finally reclaim her voice, it was no longer her first instinct to use words. On the streets, signs meant nothing to most people, or worse, signaled a weakness. As long as she didn’t try to communicate, she could let people believe she was only shy, but as soon as she tried to speak, whether it was through signing or writing, the truth was out there, leaving her exposed and vulnerable – an easy target. She might be safe now, but she couldn’t shake the ingrained feeling that she would willingly be giving up an advantage to be used against her if she answered with her hands.

To her immense relief, Mrs. Weasley broke the loaded silence. “George, take Sadie’s bag up to Ginny’s room please,” she said, springing into action and issuing orders to fill the pause. “I hope you won’t mind bunking with the girls as we’re a little full up right now with everyone home for the match tomorrow.”

Sadie shook her head quickly.

“Good,” Mrs. Weasley said with a smile, wrapping an arm around Sadie’s shoulders once again. This time she managed not to flinch. “For heaven’s sake, child, you’re skin and bones! Come eat some breakfast!” The plump woman guided her through into a homey kitchen and pushed her gently into a chair at the old, scarred table before bustling off. “Arthur, the second leaf for the table, please? Charlie, Ron, the plates. Fred, glasses and silverware. Percy, the – ”

“Mother,” Percy interrupted. “I’ll be late for the office.”

“Oh, all right then, Percy, but do try to be home in time for dinner.”

Percy nodded, then gathered up a formal looking briefcase and hurried out of the kitchen door. Sadie watched Mrs. Weasley sigh as she followed her son’s retreating back, but then the woman shook her head and turned to the breakfast preparations again. “Bill could you manage the toast, instead? Hermione and Ginny come help me with the bacon and boiled eggs.”

At the table, Sadie sat in awe of the chaos going on around her, feeling more than a little lost. She liked this family of happy, boisterous red-heads, but it had been so long since her life had included ordinary things like breakfast, setting the table, and people caring for each other that she felt vastly out of place.

And they were so loud!

Still, watching them stirred long buried memories of her family. On the dim edges of her mind she could remember crazy family dinners – her brothers running wild, little Clara giggling... Sorrow crept through her with smoky tendrils, dulled by years and distance from a sharp jab into a deep, always-present ache. The memories hurt, but still she craved them as they were all she had left now. She was just trying to remember exactly what her dad had always liked on his toast when someone sat down beside her.

“Sometimes it’s easier to just stay out of their way,” Harry said, giving her a tentative grin. “There’s no stopping Ron’s mum when she decides someone needs fattening up. I should know.”

Sadie pulled herself back out of the past and tried to return the smile with a tiny one of her own, feeling very shy. As she did she felt something strange pass between them, as if they both just realized that given time they could be friends.

“I’m glad you’re here, Sadie,” Harry said impulsively.

Sadie blushed and ducked her head, but then remembered what both Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall had asked her to do. Forcing herself to give real words a try, Sadie reached into the pocket of her skirt and pulled out the little notebook and pencil.

I’m glad to be here, too, she wrote. And as she spelled it out, she realized that she really was. She was still very much terrified, but for the first time she found herself looking forward to this new future she’d been abruptly swept up in. It was everything she’d craved for so long.

“Breakfast is ready!” Mrs. Weasley called cheerfully just as Harry was reading her words and they were surrounded by everyone else before he could do more than smile in reply.

*****

Harry noticed that Sadie kept her notebook out on the table while they ate but the hearty meal was half over before she used it again.

“How do you know Professor McGonagall so well?” Charlie asked her suddenly during a lull in the conversation. Left with a question she couldn’t answer with a nod or shake of her head, Harry watched Sadie hesitate before reaching for the little book.

She wrote for a moment before turning it around and showing the room. I remember her from before…when I was a little girl.

That didn't really answer anything, but Harry could still hear Hermione’s lecture from last night in his head and so he held back his questions.

“You know you can sign to us,” Mrs. Weasley said softly. “We might not understand it right now, but how else are we supposed to learn, dear?”

Sadie’s eyes widened in surprise. You want to learn? she wrote quickly.

“Of course!”

“Yeah!”

“This will be great!”

Harry watched as Sadie’s shocked expression deepened at the enthusiastic answers, but he noticed a flicker of pleasure beneath it.

“Which kind do you use?” Hermione asked politely and Harry rolled his eyes. Typical Hermione, knowing there were different types of sign language.

She seemed shy at being the center of attention, but Sadie still wrote the answer on her notebook before passing it down the table to Hermione. “American Sign Language,” his friend read out loud. “Why American and not British?” she asked, handing the little book back so Sadie could answer.

Sadie wrote again and then turned the book around to show the room her answer. Because that’s where I was when I learned, in New York City, was the rather cryptic answer.

“You were in New York?” Harry blurted. No one had told him that!

Sadie nodded.

“Wicked!” Fred jumped in enthusiastically.

“What was it like?” added George.

“Oh, New York City has the largest magical population in the United States, even bigger than Salem and Roanoke Island!” Hermione suddenly cut in excitedly before Sadie could even answer George’s question, her eyes bright with the thrill of sharing information. “The American Ministry is there, as well as the Ralph and Mary Hall Wizarding Museum and Library! There’s a whole magical sixth borough in the city that the Muggles don’t even know about. It sits on an island in Lower New York Bay and there’s a special subway car that runs to it that only witches and wizards can find. It’s so fascinating! I –”

“– read all about it in some book or another,” Ron, Fred and George all finished for her at the same time.

Harry laughed along with the rest of the Weasleys as Hermione blushed slightly, glaring good naturedly at Ron and the twins. “Well, it is fascinating,” she defended. The she turned to Sadie again. “Did you spend a lot of time there? Were you ever able to visit the Museum and Library? I would absolutely love to go there sometime!”

Sadie stared at them for a long moment, a strange expression on her face, before she picked up her notebook again. This time she wrote slowly and seemed to hesitate before turning it around to show them.

No, I never went there. It wasn’t safe. I stayed in the regular parts of the city.

Harry wondered what she meant by it wasn’t safe. He looked at her carefully and noticed she seemed a little pale and her hands were trembling. Before he could ask, however, the conversation moved forward, so he made a mental note to try and talk to his new cousin sometime. Once he knew her a bit better.

“Did you always live in the city?” Mr. Weasley asked.

Sadie shook her head no. I lived on a farm in Vermont when I was little, she wrote next, her hands steadier with the new topic.

“But you learned to sign in the city, right?”

To Harry it seemed almost as if Mr. Weasley was very carefully and gently fishing for information, as though maybe he was just as clueless about Sadie’s past as the rest of them.

Sadie nodded this time. She paused, and Harry wondered if she would let that stand as her complete answer, but finally she lowered her head and wrote again.

There was a large Muggle library. I went there a lot. It was warm and dry and I loved the books. They offered some free classes and sign language was one of them. That’s where I learned. I’m still learning. Only been signing for about a year and a half now.

With sudden clarity, Harry found he understood what his cousin was not saying. She went to the library because it was warm and dry, meaning wherever she was living was not. And no one had offered to teach her to sign, give her back a way to communicate – she had to find that on her own. That told him more than anything else about her situation. If she’d been living with even half-way decent people, they would have found a way for her to communicate. Even a Muggle orphanage would have done that much. So, either those she’d been living with didn’t care at all that she was stuck in silence, or she wasn’t living with anyone – she was completely on her own.

Harry felt a rush of sadness, which surprised him slightly as he still didn’t really even know this girl who was his cousin, but he felt it just the same. He’d often thought bitterly that living on the streets might be preferable to living with the Dursleys, but he didn’t really mean it. As miserable as it was at Privet Drive, he did still have a roof over his head when it rained or snowed, a bed to sleep in, and usually food – if grapefruit counted as food.

“So, what was the city like?” George broke into Harry’s thoughts, going back to his original question that had been overlooked in the subsequent conversation.

Sadie’s eyes glazed over and her expression became slightly haunted. When she showed them her notebook this time there was only one word on it.

Lonely.

A sorrowful silence fell around them and everyone spent a few awkward moments shoveling food into their mouths, Harry and all the rest uncomfortably aware they didn’t know what to say to that. Finally, Bill broke the mood.

“Hey, Sadie,” he said, a forced cheerfulness in his voice. “How would I sign ‘please pass the pumpkin juice’?”

Sadie thought for a moment, then moved her hands slowly through a serious of motions, everyone watching carefully. Bill studied them and then tried to copy the motions back.

“Mate, that was awful,” Fred laughed as they all watched the grinning curse breaker struggle with the signs.

“Yeah, don’t quit your day job,” added Charlie as laughter broke out around the table once again.

It saved the meal, dragging the collective mood of the room back out of the dark corners it had been plunged into. They spent the rest of the time engaged in a lively game of “How Do You Sign” with someone pointing out an object and the group all trying to copy the signs Sadie showed them, more often than not making a great mess of things and ending up roaring with more laughter. The activity helped pull the mute girl out of her shell, and by the end Harry was happy to see her laughing silently along with the rest. Not surprisingly, Hermione was by far the quickest at learning the new language, but Harry was rather shocked when Fred and George seemed to grasp it with relative ease as well.

“This is brilliant!” Fred exclaimed after having successfully signed something to his twin and understood the answer.

“Outstanding!” George agreed enthusiastically.

“Just think of the future!”

“Whole conversations – ”

“ – right under others’ noses!”

“No more whispering – ”

“ – or passing notes in class!”

“Why didn’t we think of this before?” they finished in unison.

Harry laughed along with everyone else except for Hermione and Mrs. Weasley who just looked scandalized.

*****

Finally alone, Sadie sat on a soft chair in the sitting room of the Weasleys’ house – the Burrow she’d learned it was called. She smiled at the thought that a home could have a name, just like a person or an animal. Names were powerful; people named the things they loved. And they stripped them away from the things they did not…

She shivered, curling her feet up underneath her tighter and staring at the arm of the chair where a small bit of stuffing was escaping from a hole in the upholstery. There was a book open on her lap, loaned to her by her appalled cousin when he’d learned she knew none of the official rules for the sport they were going to watch tomorrow, but she wasn’t really reading it. Her thoughts were lost, stuck in the past. Before her eyes danced not the words on the page but a memory instead, one burned into her mind...

She waited so long at the doorway trying to find the courage to enter the room that she almost missed her chance. At the last moment, she clenched her hands and forced herself to slip inside, melting into a seat in the back corner and trying to be invisible.

She knew what she looked like – what she probably smelled like as well. No one noticed outside, or in the forgotten nooks and crannies of the library she usually frequented, but she was fully aware that in here, where real people existed, she did not belong.

But she wanted to – she
needed to.

She’d watched them leave two days ago, hiding in the shadows as she waited for the hallway and her path to the secret room with the water spigot to clear, just another class full of people who led normal lives letting out. Until she saw the teacher stop and answer a question – with his voice, but also with his hands.

She’d froze, emotions so strong shooting through it rendered her numb.


People could speak with their hands?

The millions of trapped thoughts that filled her head, bashing around and around against her skull for years, all whirled to life at once. Overwhelmed, she’d fled – from the hallway and the building itself – running back to the dingy corner of the city that was hers for now, until someone forced her to move on. For two days after she hadn’t moved, fighting a mighty inner battle, her strongest emotions at war – fear verses hope.

Hope won.

And so she sat in the class, a ragged shadow in the back, desperately soaking up every word like a dying man who’s been lost in the desert does water. Watching everything, hearing everything, savoring it all.

The teacher’s hands moved fluidly, forming words, never knowing the key they were providing – the lock they turned.

She tried to slip out unnoticed when the class was done, but her luck ran out.

“Hey, wait,” a voice called, and she drew back in fear still several feet from the doorway and her escape.

With longing eyes she watched the rest of the class file out as the teacher came up to her. She turned back to find the man studying her, his expression soft and far too knowing. She felt exposed…vulnerable…scared.

“You weren’t here last week, were you?”

She shook her head, staring at the hole in her left shoe where her two largest toes stuck out. She knew what was coming. She would be told she had to leave. The lock would be shut again and the key taken away.

“What’s your name?”

Rage, frustration, fear, shame… The familiar plethora of paralyzing feelings swarmed her, making her feel like she would burst, but all she could do – all she could ever do – was stare at the teacher and helplessly shake her head.

Something sparked in the man’s eyes; it almost seemed like sorrow. “Oh,” he said and then was silent for a very long time. Suddenly, he dug into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pad of paper and a pen. “Why don’t you take these,” he said, thrusting the objects at her, “and then I’ll see you next Tuesday for class.”

And then the teacher had walked away leaving her clutching the objects in shock.

Later that night, in large letters that wobbled and swayed from ages without practice, a grubby, awkward hand gripped the pen and pushing way too hard on the pad of paper wrote the words:
My name is Sadie, My name is Sadie, over and over again, until at least two precious pages were filled.

For the first time in at least five years, her words finally escaped their prison in her mind.

And she had reclaimed her name.


*****

From the hall outside the sitting room doorway, Arthur silently watched the newest member of his household with troubled eyes as she sat in the chair, unmoving, staring off at what he knew must be memories only she could see. He understood her expression because he shared it, his own memories and emotions rising to the surface of his mind as he stared at her, saw the echo of her father in her face, her hair… The other children were all outside, gleefully trying to kill each other as only teenagers could do, but Sadie stayed behind, content to sit alone.

Arms suddenly slipped gently around him and a chin came to rest on his shoulder.

“Have you told her yet?” Molly whispered, turning to place a gentle kiss against his cheek. “That Charlie and Jenny made us her godparents?”

Arthur shook his head. “No. I don’t know how to bring it up without opening the door to all of her painful memories.”

“That door’s already open, dear,” Molly replied sadly, moving around to stand beside him and gesturing with her head to the girl before them, so lost in her thoughts she hadn’t moved for almost ten minutes. “Just look at her.”

Arthur put an arm around his wife’s shoulders. “How do we help her, Molly?” he continued their hushed conversation, his heart breaking.

“With time and patience and understanding…and lots and lots of love. We can do that, Arthur. The proof’s outside, tromping through my roses and hoping I won’t notice if he gets Bill to mend them. Sadie isn’t the only slightly broken child around here.”

He couldn’t stop the sad smile her words brought to his lips. “Harry at least has no trouble expressing himself.”

“Sadie will get there. Just give her time.”

With a sigh, Arthur let his head fall on top of Molly’s and pulled her close, letting the past creep back up on them again just like the young girl they watched over.


Author's Note:
Not sure anyone is still reading this past the first chapter, but if you are, I'd love to know what you think. :) Also, after some people expressed confusion about a few things in the last chapter, I have made a few minor edits to it, dealing with the mystery surrounding Sadie's abilities.

As always, I must give thanks and hugs to my friend Smuffly - you always have my back on this story!
 
 
 
 


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