Chapter 6 : Chapter 5
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Sadie woke incredibly early the next morning and lay awake, listening to the unaccustomed sound of others breathing around her. It was strange, after being alone for so long, to sleep in the same room as the two girls she’d met the day before. Strange, but somehow nice as well.
They’d told her they were excited to be her friends. Sadie didn’t know how that made her feel exactly. She’d never really had friends before. Siblings, but never a friend. It was an exciting thought, making friends like a normal teenager, but it was also distressing as she had no idea how to do it or what to expect. She’d been alone for so long, shoved aside and forgotten…
Knowing her mind was too full of whirling thoughts to go back to sleep, Sadie pulled her glasses off the top of her carpet bag and slipped them on, giving her a view of the dark of a bedroom hours before dawn. She glanced around the room. Wild brown hair tumbled out of blankets on the camp bed next to hers, Hermione Granger curled in a ball and all but hidden by her blankets. Ginny Weasley by contrast lay sprawled on her bed, covers kicked to the bottom, sleeping peacefully.
Moving silently so she didn’t wake the other girls, Sadie slid off her own camp bed and crept the two steps in the small room to the window. The moon and stars still hung brightly in the pre-dawn sky as she gazed out and they gave her enough light to make out the outlines of trees and hills around. Her memory from yesterday filled in the rest.
It was so beautiful here! She’d often thought nothing could compare to the beauty of the Vermont countryside she’d grown up with, but this gloriously green place definitely came close. It made her want to pull off her shoes and slip away through the grass exploring, as if she were a little girl of six instead of a jaded girl of sixteen, as if her innocence and life hadn’t been shattered by the last seven years. Perhaps, somehow, this place and these people could be a new beginning for her, a way past the sorrow, pain, and horror she’d lived with since she was nine. She’d pleaded silently for so many years for another chance – maybe she was finally going to get it.
Shaking her head to clear it of memories that shouldn’t ever surface, Sadie snagged the book Harry had let her borrow and opened it by the window, using the moonlight to read with.
She wasn’t completely ignorant about Quidditch; her brothers and dad had loved to talk about it, and now she thought about it she remembered that sometimes her dad would take the boys off into the woods to a secluded meadow where they could play mock games. Sadie barely remembered going with them once. Closing her eyes, she could almost feel again the thrill of zooming around on the back of a broom, clinging to Archie’s shoulders as the wind whipped her hair about her face, squealing with glee, but when she reopened her eyes, the memory slid away like sand through a sieve, leaving only Ginny Weasley’s dark bedroom behind.
Full of sorrow, Sadie turned back to the book and the chapter she’d been working her way through that explained all the rules of the game. She was only a few pages in when the bedroom door creaked quietly open and Mrs. Weasley appeared. She looked around and noticed Sadie sitting by the window.
“You’re already up!” she whispered in surprise. “Did you sleep all right?”
Sadie nodded, standing. She held Harry’s book up for the woman to see.
“Oh, trying to catch up a bit, dear?”
Sadie nodded again.
“Well, why don’t you get dressed and head on down to the kitchen while I wake Ginny and Hermione. Breakfast is ready and the boys should be there soon.”
Sadie quickly grabbed some clothes, choosing a button up shirt and jeans this time as they seemed more appropriate than her skirt for a sporting event, and then ducked into the bathroom, grateful for the chance to change away from curious eyes. It was as she was pulling off her nightdress that she realized that wouldn’t be an option for very much longer if she was to live in a dorm with several other girls. The thought sent a tide of panic rising inside her again. She tried to hold it back as she slipped on the new shirt but her fingers trembled as they worked on the buttons.
How could she possibly hope to hide the marks? What would the other girls think when they inevitably saw? What would she say to explain?
Trying to quell her shaking, Sadie finished dressing swiftly, then splashed some water on her face before brushing her hair back into its usual braid, telling herself the whole time it would somehow be okay.
The worry wasn’t gone but she’d at least managed to contain it and stop the shaking by the time she stepped out of the little room. As she was leaving she met the boys trudging down the stairs half awake.
“Mphm, Saay,” muttered the tall twin who had at least half an eye open and Sadie supposed it was meant to be ‘Morning, Sadie.’ Ron and Harry nodded at her as well while the other twin just leaned heavily on the handrail and looked ready to start snoring. Apparently, this house was not full of morning people.
The sight of the four disheveled and sleepy boys had an unexpected effect on Sadie. She felt her panic from before start to dissolve away. Instead, an emotion she hadn’t experienced for so very long bubbled up inside her – the urge to laugh – and she couldn’t stop the huge grin that split her face.
“How can you smile at this time of the morning?” asked Ron incredulously, most of his words coming through a huge yawn.
“Because she’s evil,” muttered the more awake twin, switching eyes to squint out of in a vain effort to wake up. “People who are chipper this early are very, very evil.”
Somehow, the whole strange conversation made Sadie feel more at home and welcome than anything else, and so she just smiled again and followed the boys down to the ground level of the house.
Despite the early hour, the kitchen was bright and warm. Mrs. Weasley, who must have returned to the kitchen while Sadie was in the bathroom, was puttering cheerfully around the stove while Mr. Weasley sat at the old table, looking fully awake and excited. The boys struck up a conversation with him, something about Muggle clothes and Apparating. Sadie left them to it and shyly moved over to the stove by the red-haired woman.
*Can I help?* she signed slowly, hoping the woman would somehow understand.
“Oh, thank you, dear, but it’s all ready. Just have a seat and eat up.”
Sadie did as she was told, taking the offered bowl of porridge with a grateful nod. It was only a simple meal, but to Sadie it was wonderful. Hunger had been her one constant companion during the last seven years. She knew what it was like to be weak and dizzy from it, to honestly think she might not make it through the night. That nice but fussy Healer who’d examined her at the school had told the professors lack of proper food for so long was part of why she was smaller than others her age. After suffering so much from the lack of it, Sadie knew good, plentiful food was something she would never take for granted.
She realized she’d become lost in her thoughts again when Mrs. Weasley suddenly snapped sharply at one of the twins, causing her to accidentally drop her spoon on the floor. Blushing, she ducked to retrieve it as an argument broke out between the twins and their mother.
Feeling like an intruder in a private family matter, Sadie returned her spoon to the table and quietly sneaked out, grabbing the borrowed rucksack she’d been given.
The sky was still dark and the moon out. Sadie sat down on an upturned bucket to wait for the rest, soaking up the calm silence. In the stolen moments of solitude, her thoughts wandered, again caught between the present and the past, just as the world around her hung caught between the night and the morning.
Eventually, the door opened and the light of the house spilled out into the dark, bringing people along with it. Sadie stood, but otherwise stayed put, content to observe from the background. Finally, the goodbyes were all said and they were on their way.
They walked in the dark for a very long time. The others chatted around her but she was grateful no one tried to pull her into a conversation. It would have been too difficult to try and make herself understood and keep up the pace as well. At first she looked around with curiosity at the sleeping village and countryside, but soon she found herself struggling for breath and instead had to concentrate on keeping up, putting one foot in front of the other.
“Are you okay?”
Sadie’s head jerked up and she was surprised to find herself flanked by the tall twins, Fred and George. She nodded quickly, but they didn’t act like they believed her.
“Do you want me to carry that for you?” the one who hadn’t spoken before asked, pointing to her rucksack.
Sadie gripped the straps tightly with both hands and shook her head. Harry’s loaned book was in there, along with a few of the new clothes Professor McGonagall had bought her – but more than that she didn’t want the others thinking she was so helpless and weak she couldn’t carry her own bag.
“All right,” the first twin said with an easy smile, and Sadie made a mental note to learn to tell them apart.
“But let us know –” finished the other.
“– if you change your mind.”
They both smiled at her one more time and then strode off, moving to catch up to their sister.
The road took them out of the quiet village and up a steep hill. By the time they reached the top, Sadie was trembling and feeling faint. She collapsed on a large rock, panting, and simply watched as all the others looked around for the Portkey.
The struggle up the hill had left her far weaker than she wanted to admit, but more than that she as finding it increasingly difficult to keep her thoughts rooted firmly in the here and now; they kept wandering unbidden to the shadows of her past, released by the presence of people who pulled at her memories of home and family. It saddened her to realize those images from her childhood were fading, the voices she held so dear were growing faint and fuzzy in her mind. For too long she’d shut the memories out, unable to deal with the pain they also brought, and now she was paying the price.
She looked up at her name to find Ginny standing in front of her.
“Come on. We’ve found the Portkey and it’s about to go.”
Sadie scrambled to her feet and followed the younger girl to the rest of the group who were standing in a clump around an old boot. She noticed with surprise that two other people had joined them while she wasn’t paying attention. Snap out of it! she admonished herself. It was dangerous to get lost in thoughts and lose track of the present.
Remembering the Portkey that had brought her to England from New York City with Professor McGonagall, Sadie put out a finger to touch the boot and then reached up and gripped her glasses tightly so they wouldn’t fly off her face when she landed. As she felt the magic activate, she closed her eyes and willed her breakfast to stay in her stomach this time.
Flashes of light above her as creatures zoomed all around.
Bodies – pushing, pressing, on all sides – too close! Too close!
The odors of sweat and sugar and dusty earth filling her nostrils.
Noise! So much noise! Shouting and raucous singing and cheering! Too much noise!
She wanted it to stop! Needed it to go away!
Breathe! Sadie tried to order herself, tried to listen to the logical part of her brain, but she just couldn’t! It was too much. She was surrounded, swept along in a great flood of people, surging, swelling, threatening to engulf her. Eyes – there were eyes everywhere – and so much magic. She could feel it thick in the air like a fog, waiting to snap and crackle into action.
Blinded by panic, she wanted to sink to the ground in a ball, throw her arms up and cover her face, shut it all out, but she also knew she didn’t want to go back there, back to being a prisoner held by fear and terror and her own mind. Instead, she reached out and fisted her hands into the back of the jacket worn by the red-haired man walking in front of her, not even sure exactly who it was, and clung on for dear life.
“IRELAND! IRELAND!” the celebrating crowd around her chanted with wild excitement, but Sadie only felt sick as she allowed herself to be pulled forward, her feet stumbling over the ground as her vision tunneled to include nothing but the black of the jacket she’d latched onto.
So much magic! So many wands!
The hordes pressing in on her from all sides weren’t like the crowds of people she’d learned to slip unnoticed through on the streets of her city – they hadn’t had the power to hurt her, not like she had. But here, Sadie was surrounded by that power, and no matter how much she tried to remind herself that magic was good, could do amazing and wonderful things, her whole body and soul knew the real truth – that it could also be used to inflict pain and terror.
The thoughts seared urgently through her brain but she fought them, her breath coming in ragged gasps as she tightened her hold on the fabric until her fingers turned bone white, letting the crowd simply carry her along through the cacophony.
Bill Weasley sat quietly in a corner of the tent, his chair tipped back and his boots propped up on a convenient trunk. Around him, everyone else was laughing and squabbling happily about the match, reliving their favorite moments in loud, excited voices as they sipped their hot cocoa, but Bill stayed silent, his eyes fixed on the one other person who wasn’t joining in the revelry: Sadie.
The girl rested cross-legged on the floor, tucked away in another corner, a mug of forgotten cocoa clenched in her hands and her eyes staring off vacantly behind her glasses. The others were so caught up in their post-game revelry that they didn’t even notice. Honestly, Bill probably wouldn’t have noticed either if not for what had happened on the way back from the World Cup.
When his jacket had been grabbed as they jostled through the crowd, he’d turned his head to tell whomever it was to get lost. He’d expected someone who’d taken their celebration a bit too far, but the words froze in his throat as he saw Sadie’s terror-glazed eyes instead.
Sorrow had filled him and he turned his head back around, letting her cling to his coat for the rest of the walk back to camp, his thoughts churning.
And they were still churning as he sat there, watching her. Sadie was just a kid, only a few years older than his own kid sister; fear of that sort didn’t belong on anyone’s face, let alone someone so young. What horrors were in her past to make her feel such panic at an event that was supposed to be so much fun?
It worried him. His chosen profession had put him in contact with many of the worst aspects of magic. Some of the curses he encountered were truly horrific and he was grateful they’d been buried and forgotten by time.
But apparently not buried deep enough…
What curse had been used on this young girl? What evil had someone tampered with to cause such pain and damage? Dark, ancient magic of that kind was not something to be trifled with, nor was it generally plied without personal consequences. The old magic had a way of exacting a price for daring to call upon its power, almost as if it had a mind of its own. That was usually enough to deter any mostly-sane individual from tampering with it. It was frightening to think He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his followers were willing to delve into those secrets despite the consequences.
And it was incredible sad that a young, innocent girl knew first hand of such evil, had been hurt so badly by it.
Bill’s attention was suddenly pulled back to his present surroundings when Sadie carefully set down her mug of untouched cocoa on the floor and climbed to her feet, slipping out into the night, her expression haunted. He waited for just a few minutes, then made up his mind, rising quietly so as not to distract the others and following her.
The night outside was clear and bright and full of the sounds of happy celebrations. Fires still burned cheerfully in front of many tents and by the sound of it, the party in the Irish camp had almost reached the point of a riot, illuminated by the near constant flashes of fireworks.
Bill glanced around, but there was no sign of Sadie. She must have disappeared into the girls’ tent.
He paused for a moment, debating the appropriateness of him entering when she was in there alone, but worry quickly overruled propriety.
“Sadie?” he called out, announcing his presence as he ducked under the opening and stuck his head through the doorway. “Sadie, may I come in?”
She was curled up in one of the faded armchairs that stood in the tent’s small living area, and judging by the way she jumped, he’d obviously startled her.
“Sorry,” he said quickly. The last thing he wanted to do was add to the discomfort he could practically see oozing from her.
Still, the gaze she turned on him was fearful, and for one brief moment distrust flashed across her face before she nodded hesitantly. She straightened in her chair, preparing to stand.
“No, don’t get up. I just wanted to check on you, see if you were okay,” Bill said, coming completely into the tent. Shyly, she settled back into the chair, pulling her feet up underneath her. Bill snagged the other armchair and moved it closer, sitting down across from the sixteen-year-old where he could see her writing with ease if she decided to try and speak. “I didn’t mean to startle you,” he added again.
She shrugged, saying without words that it was all right.
For a moment they sat there in silence, Bill studying his new surrogate family member and Sadie studying the pattered rug in order to avoid his gaze.
“You didn’t enjoy the match tonight, did you?” he finally asked quietly.
Sadie’s head jerked up, guilt flashing across her face and she shook her head quickly, as if to deny what he was saying.
“It’s okay, Sadie. You don’t have to like it. Quidditch isn’t for everyone.”
Still looking guilty, Sadie pulled out her notebook and wrote, handing it to him almost reluctantly.
But the tickets were so expensive.
Bill recalled the conversation from the box before the match had started and mentally cursed Lucious Malfoy.
“Sadie, that doesn’t matter. You never have to pretend to enjoy something when you don’t. Not in this family.”
He waited to see if she would respond, but when she stayed still, he went on.
“Sadie, afterward…in the crowd…”
The girl blanched, ducking her head, but Bill pressed on, sensing this was important. “It was overwhelming, wasn’t it?”
Across from him, Sadie closed her eyes, and suddenly it was as if something let lose inside of her, some kind of barrier she’d been keeping in place by sheer force of will crumbled. Small tears started to leak about from behind her lashes, carving paths down her pale face as she started to tremble.
Bill acted on instinct, reaching across and taking her hand, squeezing it the same way he would have done if it was Ginny crying in front of him. Surprised, she looked up, meeting his eyes for the first time and he was grateful to see that while the anguish remained, the mistrust was gone.
“Magic –” he said seriously, holding her gaze, “or at least the people who use it – can cause a lot of hurting, can’t it.” It wasn’t a question, and he didn’t bother to beat around the bush or sugarcoat his words.
She wrinkled her eyes and Bill could see the unasked question in them.
“I’m a curse breaker,” he explained. “I see the results of evil magic every day.”
Oh, her eyes seemed to say, even though he could tell she didn’t completely understand what that meant. Shakily, she reached up and wiped at the tears that were still falling down her cheeks with her free hand.
“Sometimes talking about things can help, you know…” Bill urged kindly, releasing her hand and leaning forward, his elbows resting on his knees.
Quickly, she shook her head.
“Don't like sharing much, hmm? I understand that. And I bet the crowd out there tonight isn’t the only thing that has you feeling overwhelmed. We’re not exactly the quietest or calmest bunch around, are we?” he smiled, trying to put her at ease. “It's easy to get lost in a big family - don't always share things myself. But look, Sadie, I can tell you one thing about my lot - they care. We all care and want to help. Whenever you feel ready, you should know that whatever you tell us, however hard or scary it is - we'll treat that confidence with respect, and you too, for having the courage to share it. So, keep your chin up, okay, kiddo.”
She gave him a watery smile at that and finally reached for her notebook again.
Archie used to tell me that, she wrote, the sorrow back in her eyes. When I had a bad day.
“Archie…he was one of your brothers?”
Sadie nodded. The oldest.
Poor kid, Bill thought, feeling sadness creep back up. So much taken away… They might sometimes drive him insane, but he couldn’t image losing any of his siblings, let alone all of them and his parents, too. He tried not to let his thoughts show, however, as he spoke.
“Archie sounds like a smart guy.”
Sadie smiled for real this time as she nodded. He was brilliant, she wrote, and Bill could see the pride contained in those three words.
“Well, I reckon I’m hardly fit to be called brilliant,” he said with a shrug, “but I have always felt it would be nice to have more sisters in this family. How about it? Care to adopt me as a big brother?”
Sadie looked at him for a long moment before she broke into a shy grin.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he replied. “Now, as an official big brother, I want you to remember that I’m always here to listen, about anything, all right? I’m not pushing…just want you to know that. And feel free to ask any questions you want as well. I know there are probably a lot of things you’re confused about right now.”
She seemed to mull his words over for a moment before she picked up her notebook and wrote a few words. Bill hoped she might be about to open up slightly, but when she turned it around so he could read, the question wasn’t what he’d been expecting.
My cousin – Harry – is he famous?
Bill leaned back in the chair, laughing out loud. “Picked up on that, did you?”
This time when Sadie answered, she did so with hesitant motions of her hands, which Bill took as a very encouraging sign. He didn’t know exactly what she was saying, but when she made a small zigzag motion with her finger across her forehead he figured it out.
“People were looking at his scar?” he checked. “And whispering?”
“Typical,” he muttered rather grimly. Sadie looked puzzled. “Ask him about it. He’ll tell you, I’m sure, but it’s really not my place.”
The girl nodded again and Bill noticed she looked exhausted.
“Well, I reckon I’ll go see if the others are done arguing about Quidditch plays,” he said, rising to his feet. “You going to be okay?”
She smiled at him. It was still a smile tinged with pain, but on the edges of it he could detect the glimmer of hope as well.
“Good,” he replied. “But I mean it. If you ever need a brother to just listen, even when you’re at Hogwarts, send me an owl.”
*Thanks,* the teenager signed, something Bill had no trouble understanding.
He smiled one last time and then ducked back out into the chilly night.
Author's Note: I am so very sorry about the lack of an update last week. Real life jumped me. That's the only excuse I have. Hopefully, I can keep it from happening again.
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