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Gravel on the Ground: From the Ashes by 1917farmgirl
Chapter 8 : Chapter 7
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8


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Chapter 7

Special Thanks: A note of thanks to all the people who helped me work through issues in this chapter and get my writing going again. You know who you are and I’m so very grateful.

*****

Two days after the World Cup, the rain came down in waves. Mr. Weasley and the Weasley brother she saw the least – Percy – were at work. Mrs. Weasley was busy in the kitchen and the rest of the family were scattered throughout the wonderfully odd house, but Sadie stood before the sitting room window, transfixed by the storm. She couldn’t help but think of New York City and the rainy night that had changed everything. Was it strange that despite all the horror and suffering that city had caused her, she still somehow missed it?

“Do you like the rain?”

She turned to find Ginny standing next to her, smiling easily.

Shyly, she nodded.

“Me, too.”

Silence fell, but it was a warm, companionable one, which surprised her. Ever since that night in the woods and the appearance of the evil mark that had blighted so much of her life, Sadie had struggled to keep the memories and nightmares at bay. It scared her. What if these kind people somehow saw the darkness that resided in her and were repulsed? She wrapped her arms around herself, the fingers of her right hand rubbing self-consciously at her left shoulder and the faint marks she could feel even through the fabric of her clothes. It was safer to stay in the background, cling to the edges. She stopped trying to help the others understand her signs and only rarely used her notebook, so Ginny seeking her out for company was a shock.

“Want to see something cool?” Ginny spoke again, her eyes sparkling with invitation. She held out an old, patched sweater.

Sadie hesitated, but the eagerness of the younger girl broke through the sorrow and fear, calling to her. Finally, she nodded and took the sweater. Ginny waited long enough for her to put it on and then grabbed her hand.

“C’mon,” she said, pulling her out of the front door and into the rain.

They raced across the garden, Ginny splashing right through puddles as large as small lakes as she tugged Sadie toward the woods. Almost instantly, they were drenched to the skin but the younger girl simply let out a delighted, almost giddy laugh of joy and ran faster.

Something forgotten stirred inside of Sadie and awoke – something wild and free – and she pushed her legs to keep up with their mad pace even though they trembled from the effort. As the wind dashed the rain against her skin and whipped her skirt and hair about, she felt a strange, liberating excitement she hadn’t felt in a long time.

Ginny slowed as they entered the trees, picking her way with more care, but she never let go of Sadie’s hand. The quivering branches now protected them from most of the steady rain. Instead, large drops of collected water plopped to the forest floor in random patterns. Obedient and very curious, Sadie followed the twisting path Ginny led her on, gazing around with silent wonder.

They crossed a small creek, balancing carefully on a slippery log, and then suddenly Ginny released her hand and disappeared, ducking through a dark opening Sadie never would have noticed on her own.

“C’mon in, Sadie.”

Sadie dropped to her knees and crawled through, emerging into a small, dry space just as Ginny produced her wand and used it to light a lantern that hung from the low ceiling. It cast a warm, mysterious glow. Sadie let her eyes roam the little room – for that’s what it was, she realized – in amazement.

The branches and trunks of several old, gnarled trees naturally formed a sort of circular enclosure. Ginny had augmented it with bits of board and old pieces of canvas to create a perfect hideaway, totally invisible from the outside unless you knew it was there. It wasn’t tall enough to stand up in, but the walls spread out, leaving plenty of room for two people. An old, meticulously mended rug covered the dirt floor, and stacked neatly against one side was a faded quilt and several pillows. The largest tree trunk in the tiny room’s circumference was hollow and inside it Sadie could see a few chipped teacups and saucers, a well-loved rag doll, and a stack of much-thumbed books. Pictures of various sizes were tacked up around the walls.

“I discovered this place when I was seven,” Ginny said with a grin, scooting over to the hollow tree and reaching inside. “I added stuff to it every summer and even stole Fred’s wand when I was ten so I could cast a water-proofing spell.” She pulled a tin box Sadie hadn’t noticed out of the tree and opened it, tossing something at her. A biscuit, Sadie realized as she caught it in surprise while Ginny continued talking. “Don’t worry, the tin is charmed to keep food fresh. Anyway, no one but me knows about this spot. Well, and you now. I come here whenever the boys are driving me spare and I’m ready to kill a few of them.”

Sadie smiled, her first genuine, happy smile in days, and nibbled on her biscuit slowly while Ginny devoured hers in three bites. As she ate, she let her eyes wander again, studying the pictures the younger girl had put up.

“That’s the Weird Sisters,” Ginny explained, following her gaze. “They’re the best band ever, but I can’t get Mum and Dad to let me go to one of their concerts.” She rolled her eyes, before pointing to the next one. “That’s my Grandpa Weasley. He died when I was only five, but I remember he used to bring me licorice wands and we’d play marbles in the dirt. Mum used to get so mad at both of us when we’d come in all filthy, and he’d just wink at me and smile.”

A grandpa. Sadie had never had a grandpa, or a grandparent of any kind. Just as she had as a child, she stared at the old, wrinkled face in the photo, wondering what it would be like to have someone who came to visit with pockets full of sweets. She remembered faded photos carefully labeled so she knew who they were, but the people in them had all died before she was born.

And then another thought came to her. Ages ago, when she’d been that normal little girl and had pulled her parents’ photo album off the shelf to spend hours looking at those pictures, studying the faces of relatives she’d heard about but never met, the pictures had moved! It was only a small book, with few images, but it was always kept carefully hidden from the wandering, Muggle eyes of their neighbors, because of those magical, moving pictures.

So, why were Ginny’s photo still?

*Why don’t they move?* she signed without thinking, then quickly pulled her hands back, ducking her head self-consciously.

“No, wait,” Ginny said excitedly, turning around to face her. “Can you do it again, a little slower? I want to try.”

Shyly, Sadie signed the sentence again, much slower.

“You’re asking something about my pictures…” Ginny guessed.

Sadie nodded.

“Why I hung them up?”

Sadie shook her head.

“Why they…why they…” Ginny narrowed her eyes in confusion, so Sadie gave up on correct signs and resorted to pantomime. She moved her arms and legs and then pointed at the images.

“Oh! You want to know why they don’t move!” Ginny exclaimed with understanding.

Sadie grinned and nodded.

“I asked Bill to put a charm on them before I brought them out here. Just in case this place was ever discovered. You know, by a Muggle or someone.”

*That’s smart,* Sadie told her, moving her hands slowly.

“Thanks!” Ginny answered.

Sadie beamed. She’d been understood! Was this what friendship felt like? Because if it was, she liked it. Still smiling, she pointed to the last picture tacked to a branch.

“That’s last year’s Gryffindor Quidditch team. We finally won the House Cup. Fred and George play on the team, see?” she said proudly, pointing out her brothers who were hardly difficult to miss. “So does Harry. I hope I get to play on the team someday.”

Something caught Sadie’s eye and she leaned forward, studying the picture closer in the flickering light of the lantern. Floating around her cousin’s head, someone had drawn three tiny hearts in red ink.

Tilting her head to one side, she gave Ginny a questioning grin as she used both hands to trace a heart shape in the air.

“Oh, Merlin,” Ginny muttered, a deep blush shooting up her cheeks as she snatched the picture off the branch and shoved it far into the hollow tree.

A laugh bubbled up inside of Sadie at the sight of the younger girl’s embarrassed face. *You like…my cousin?* she signed, realizing she didn’t yet have a sign for Harry’s name, or anyone else’s for that matter.

“It’s just a stupid crush, okay!” Ginny muttered, still bright red. “Please don’t tell Harry!”

Laughing silently, Sadie nodded. Then she took pity on her new friend and changed the subject. Gesturing to the hidden room, she gave Ginny a thumbs up in approval.

“Told you it was cool. And you can come here whenever you want. Just promise not to tell anyone else about it.”

Moved by the fact that Ginny would share something so special and personal with her, Sadie nodded solemnly as she crossed her heart with one finger.

They sat in silence for a while after that. Sadie drew her legs up into her arms and rested her chin on the tops of her knees, listening to the patter of rain on the branches above them, the peaceful stillness of the forest in a storm. She’d always been drawn to water. Ever since she could remember, she’d loved the wild beauty of a storm. It seemed to her nature’s way of expressing fierce, strong emotions. As she got older, she’d learned first hand about the harsher side of nature, the way cold and damp could seep into her very bones, wrap icy fingers around her skin that refused to let go. But even when she’d been forced to endure the cruelest of weather without shelter or warmth, she’d somehow held onto her ability to see the beauty there as well.

“Wanna go puddle jumping?” Ginny blurted out of the blue. “There’s one out behind Dad’s shed that’s almost knee-deep in storms like this.”

Sadie wasn’t sure normal sixteen-year-old girls were supposed to go puddle jumping, but she suddenly realized she didn’t care. The horrific images and memories that had been dogging her for days had been pushed back to the edges of her mind again because of Ginny’s eager friendship. She didn’t want it to end.

Smiling, she nodded.

Ginny put out the light and the two girls scrambled from the shelter of the little room back out into the storm.

“Merciful heavens!” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed an hour later as two muddy, bedraggled, drenched girls tried unsuccessfully to sneak through the kitchen and up the back stairs. Sadie froze as the plump woman planted her hands on her hips and skewered them both with a pointed glare. “What on earth have you girls been up to?”

“Playing in the rain,” Ginny answered honestly with a shrug of her shoulders as she started up the stairs again. Sadie hesitated for a moment, unsure what to do, before following her new friend.

“Change your clothes!” Mrs. Weasley’s voice hounded after them. “So you don’t catch your death! And don’t drip all over my clean floors!”

“Okay, Mum!” Ginny hollered back, pausing as she rounded the next landing to roll her eyes. “Mum worries too much,” she whispered. “And Fred and George will have already ruined her clean floors.”

Sadie just smiled and continued to follow the younger girl, but inside she was glowing. Today, she’d made a friend. She’d been trusted with a secret. She’d twirled and danced in the rain. She’d been worried over by a mother.

And for several wonderful hours, she’d felt normal and whole – not broken. As if she belonged.

*****

“So, when are you gonna tell me what’s eating at you?”

Fred sighed as he heard George come up behind him, but he didn’t turn around. Instead he pretended to focus on the cauldron of bubbling, sticky, red goop he was stirring.

Red candy for their latest sweet…

Red like the cherries of its flavor…

Red like the blood that pooled on the floor as a little girl watched her family die…

Okay, poor diversion choice, he chided himself, forcing his thoughts off that path.

“I’m fine,” he grumbled to George as he gave the liquid a rather vicious few turns with the metal spoon.

“Yep. And Percy’s posing nude for Magical Exposure next month,” George replied with a frown as he sat down on one of the old, wooden crates lying around.

They were in their “laboratory,” which was actually the long abandoned woodshed they’d commandeered. No one ever came out there, except for maybe Ginny and she knew how to keep her mouth shut. It worked great for some of their projects that were too risky to try and keep secret in their room.

“I’d pay to see that,” said Fred, pausing his stirring thoughtfully.

“Wouldn’t we all? But that’s not the point is it? The point is you’re lying through your teeth. So, spill. What’s wrong with you?”

What was wrong with him? How could he explain to George when he wasn’t even sure himself? All he knew was that two nights ago while holding onto a panicking Sadie to keep her from bolting again, she’d experienced some kind of awful memory. And then suddenly, without warning, he was seeing it as well. Horrible, evil images that he had no right to even know about burned into his brain.

What kind of magic could do that: share a memory between two people? Sadie didn’t even have a wand yet!

But the alarming question of how it had happened wasn’t what was bothering him the most. Ever since Ginny’s terrible experience with that soul-sucking diary, he'd given up on being surprised by weird mind magic. No, what really knocked him off kilter was not the how, but the what.

The images had been brief but brutal, raw…sickening.

He didn't usually take life too seriously, but even he knew there were things that demanded to be, and this was bloody-well one of them! The nightmarish visions kept haunting him over and over, filling his mind with gruesome images and questions without answers.

How could someone do that to a little girl?

How had she survived it?

Did others – the professors, his parents, people he trusted – know what she’d been through?

Or were these secrets she alone kept, suffering in silence?

They certainly weren’t memories she was out there sharing with the world. He had no doubt he wasn't supposed to have seen them. He glanced over at his brother, who'd taken over the stirring when he'd stopped. If he wasn't meant to know, neither was George.

He never lied to his brother and they never kept secrets between them.

What was he supposed to say?

“Okay, so the fact that you just for zoned out on me for five whole minutes after avoiding my question says you are absolutely hiding something – something huge I’m guessing,” George broke into his depressing thoughts, his voice worried. “Fred, what in Merlin’s name is wrong?”

Fred signed and sat down on another old crate. “Just drop it George.”

“No way! Something’s causing you pain and that is not okay,” said George vehemently, deadly serious for once in his life.

“I’m fine!” Fred tried again, knowing it wouldn’t work but without any other options.

“I could beat it out of you.”

Fred raised an eyebrow. “You say I’m in pain, so your solution to it is to cause me more pain?”

George shrugged. “Pretty much.”

“You’re a git,” muttered Fred, launching one of the spell books piled around at his brother’s head, who ducked it easily.

“Takes one to know one.”

Suddenly, the tension was broken with that childish taunt and they both collapsed in laughter. Still, when Fred finally composed himself a few moments later, he realized George was gazing at him expectantly.

“George,” he sighed, “I can’t. It’s not my secret to tell,” he finally admitted.

George studied him intently for a moment. Between them, the red goop bubbled and popped, forgotten.

“So, this isn’t something about you?”

“No,” Fred assured him. “It’s given me a lot to think about, but I really am fine. I swear – on Merlin’s left ventricle.”

Again, George was silent, weighing his words. “Okay,” he said at last, resuming the neglected stirring. The red potion had now turned thick like sludge; at this rate, they would have to throw this whole batch out and start over.

“Okay? That’s it? You’re just gonna let it drop?” asked Fred, astonished. He was surprised, and that was beyond strange. He hadn’t been surprised by anything George had done since they were two years old and his twin had been looped up on anti-sneezing potions. Of course, this was the first time in the history of their lives that he had purposefully kept a secret from George so there wasn’t exactly a precedence to gage things by.

“You said you were okay. I trust you,” replied George simply.

And just like that, they were right again and Fred felt the huge weight he’d been carrying lighten a little. It wasn’t gone completely – the atrocious, stolen memory still haunted him – but the fact George understood relieved a burden he hadn’t even known was there.

Just then, the spoon George was using to try and stir their invention snapped in half, the potion a solid mass inside the cauldron. His twin threw the top half of the utensil down the ground.

“So, failure?” asked Fred with a grin and a shrug.

“Failure,” George echoed, dousing the fire with his wand.

“C’mon. Let’s go raid the kitchen. Mum said she was making biscuits today.”

“Love the way you think, brother of mine.”

They’d come back tomorrow and clean up the mess before trying again. Forcing memories that weren’t his to stay at bay, Fred lead the way from their “workshop” and out into the pouring rain.

Author’s Note:
I had a hard time deciding how to write Sadie’s signs. ASL is recognized as a language in its own right, so it has different rules for grammar and syntax. When written out literally in English, it can come across as stunted and jerky, even though it is smooth and beautiful if you are watching it. I didn’t want Sadie to sound that way when people read her, so I chose to write her “words” as they would be said if someone was translating for her.
 
 


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