Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ A Domestic ❯ Want in One Hand ( Chapter 3 )
It was almost a relief to feel the sting of his condemnation.
“Ah, yes.” The detour was officially over. “Let me make another cup, and we’ll get to it. Would you like some more?” A sharp shake of his head was her answer. Petunia rose on bloodless legs, floated about the kitchen as she refilled her cup. She opted for a splash of milk and a generous dollop of honey, needing the comfort of sugar.
Returning to her seat, she faced her nephew. The truth. He needed the truth, or her approximation of it, and that deserved a little set up. She took a sip of tea to wet her mouth and scowled as the rich flavor curdled sickly on her tongue. Drat. At least holding the teacup warmed her icy fingers. She tightened her grip around the delicate vessel. “The summer you and Dudley were born, most of England experienced heavy rains for ten weeks.” She paused, wrinkled her nose. “No. That’s not quite right. ‘Heavy rains’ sounds like a mere inconvenience, but it was devastating. I’m talking Biblical levels of flooding, the sort that drowns cattle and sweeps away homes. The sort that ruins livelihoods and lives. Whole communities were destroyed by the overflowing lakes and rivers that surrounded them. It was bleak, got it?” She waited for his slow nod before resuming. “Keep in mind, the rains started a few days before I gave birth and finally ended in mid-August.
“You probably know this, but Mum and Dad lived in Cokeworth.” She frowned at the memories of the dirty, smelly village of her childhood and shook her head. “I don’t know why. Such a smudge of a town, even to this day. I made leaving that place one of my conditions for marrying Vernon,” she revealed offhandedly, shrugging a shoulder. “In the months following my wedding, I tried convincing Mum and Dad to move south, be closer to us, to Lily and James,” and here she pursed her lips to squelch a snide remark, “but they were stubborn. ‘This is our home,’ they’d reply, just that, end of discussion.” Old anger fanned to life, burned in her gut. “In fairness,” she said, unable to keep the scorn from her tone, “I suppose their childhoods made them unwilling to give up anything they considered theirs.”
“Wonder what that’s like,” Harry interjected coolly.
Petunia sputtered. ‘Foot, meet mouth.’ Bloody hell. The thought of apologizing floated through her mind, but would he consider it sincere—and really, as he’d already pointed out, what was a word stacked against her actions? She rallied. “Anyway, Cokeworth is a good three-hour drive from here, and that’s if the weather holds and traffic stays light. It’s farther still from Cokeworth to Godric’s Hollow, almost five hours. Mum and Dad often—"
“How do you know about Godric’s Hollow?”
The second break in her flow of thoughts annoyed Petunia enough to answer with a question of her own: “Are you asking because I’m not magic, or because I’m me?” She sneered down at her wobbly reflection in the milky tea.
“Um, both, I guess.” Harry sounded puzzled and hostile.
With some exasperation, Petunia said, “Harry, you do realize that Lil was the only Evans to have magic, right? I thought your friend Harmony was like my sister. Surely, she’s stayed in touch with her folks, or do most witches and wizards lose contact with their Mugwort family members?”
“Hermione, and Muggle,” her nephew corrected, almost absently, “and I suppose not...”
“Well, there you go. Lily sent me her postal address after she married James. I doubt she ever thought I’d visit, but she was an optimist. I still have that notecard, somewhere.” It was at the very bottom of the wooden box, under Lily’s favorite rabbit stuffie and tangerine polka-dot socks from girlhood, but Petunia didn’t want to further derail their discussion.
“They were good people, by the bye. Your grandparents, I mean—I’m sure you’ve heard quite often about your mum and dad. Jack and Rosie tried very hard to treat Lily and me equally, although they had more reason to favor Lil.”
Harry made a soft noise, and she gave a humorless laugh. “Yes, boy, I said it; just don’t expect me to repeat it. Where was I? Oh. When the two of us fell pregnant so close together, Mum and Dad promised they’d be at hospital for each delivery. Why, they even had a plan in case we went into labor at the same time! They were chuffed to be grandparents twice over--”
She stopped as saliva pooled in her mouth and queasiness roiled her belly. ‘Uh-oh.’
“Aunt?” Suspicion and annoyance tinged the word.
She couldn’t answer. Hurriedly setting her teacup and saucer on the table, Petunia knew that she was about to chunder, and that she wouldn’t make it to toilet. Rising so swiftly she toppled her seat, she dashed to the kitchen sink just before the first expulsion. Colorful chunks of vomit swirled in the watered-down milk in cereal bowls, slid down the crumby face of a plate or three, and dribbled into the drain. After many minutes of continuous eruptions, her stomach emptied, leaving behind the random spasm. Petunia shakily twisted the cold water tap to rinse out her mouth, and then she grabbed the spray nozzle to rinse her sick from everything else. Her whole body felt sore and jangled. More than anything, what she wanted was to lie down on the sofa with a damp flannel over her brow and sleep this wretched afternoon off.
Of course, you can want in one hand and spit in the other.
“All done?” Harry asked quietly from the threshold of the kitchen. He was holding a water glass she didn’t recognize, filled halfway with a fizzing greyish-green liquid.
Petunia gawped. “What’s that?” she asked nervously as her guts clenched in dread.
“It’s Mrs. Weasley’s hangover cure-all,” he explained, crossing the floor to stand by her. “I first had it after Ginny’s and my engagement party. It looks terrible and tastes about the same, but it makes you feel better pretty quick.” He pressed the glass into her hand, wrapping his fingers around hers briefly. “Give it a try.”
Staring between her nephew and the concoction, Petunia grimaced, gave a half-hearted toast, and knocked it back in one swallow. The sour taste caused a full-body shudder, but damned if the boy wasn’t right. Her nausea and pains evaporated like mist in the sun. “Thank you,” she murmured gratefully, handing back the glass.
“You’re welcome,” Harry said—on automatic, she suspected, because he wasn’t truly paying attention to her. He uttered a nonsense word before tapping his wand to the glass, and then it disappeared. Her skin rippled at the sight.
How effortless that was for him. He could make her vanish if he wanted to, she was certain of that, and the realization frightened her. Petunia closed her eyes wearily. ‘Stop it.’ She was being hysterical; Harry just cured her hangover. It seemed a little incongruous for him to make her feel better only to turn around and make her nonexistent! Then again, if he winked her away, she would be spared delivering this meandering recitation. Two sentences, was it? Bah! (“Anything to put off the inevitable, yeah?” her dad’s voice asked sympathetically. “Just remember, death and taxes will always get their due.”)
Hold on, did her nephew say he was engaged? When did that happ—
Harry coughed behind her, and she blinked, disoriented. In scant seconds, he'd walked over to the table, righted her chair, and sat back down in his. His left foot was tapping against the tile floor as he gestured for her to reclaim her seat. ‘Screw your courage to the sticking place,’ Petunia mused inanely as her heart made a valiant go of trying to break through her ribcage.
“Can’t quite remember where I left off,” she said apologetically, shifting her bum a bit on the wooden seat.
“They were chuffed to be grandparents,” her nephew prompted, a hard glint in his eyes.
“Hmm, right,” she hummed. “Well, they kept their word about being there for me. They’d arrived a week before Dudley’s due date, because I kept experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions—em, that’s false labor,” she clarified at Harry’s blank face. “It wasn’t painful, but it was uncomfortable, and I…” She trailed off. ‘I really wanted my mummy to reassure me it was normal,’ she nearly shared, but this wasn’t relevant to the story. Nor was the feel of Rosie’s fuzzy jumper under her cheek, or the soft scent of her lavender perfume. Petunia swallowed the tickle in her throat. “The point is that when they drove down here, the weather was dry. It was not dry when they returned home. In fact, the roads were so slick with rain that Dad nearly crashed their car into a tree along the shoulder.”
She caught Harry’s wince. ‘Do you see where this is going now? Would you like to spare me the retelling?’ Petunia wanted to hiss. Unfair; she knew he was just reacting to the description provided. Her nephew wasn’t daft, but she doubted he’d reached a conclusion. In fact, he rarely ever assumed anything when she relayed a story. Maybe that was a side effect of his strange and twisty life: to him, there were no obvious endings.
True enough, wasn’t it? One small detail had the power to alter reality. And oh, what an effect this one had. “Harry, there are a lot of things we haven’t come ‘round to discuss yet, and one of them is that you were born prematurely. Mum said your original due date was the twenty-fifth of August.”
She could see the surprise spread across his face. “No one ever said anything to me about that,” Harry said, with a hint of skepticism in his voice. “Not my godfather, or Dumbledore, or Lupin…”
Petunia rolled her eyes. “You made us go into hiding for a year because Moldy-vort wanted you dead,” she reminded him tartly. “Somehow, I doubt telling you about the birthdate you didn’t have seemed very important.”
Her nephew’s mouth twitched. “Guess not,” he agreed, “but… why?”
Oh, how his vague questions set him up for a snarky comeback! However, she decided to not play coy. “Why were you born prematurely?”
“From what I understand, Lily became very sick toward the end of her pregnancy.” Petunia’s forehead crinkled as she thought back to that time. She was so sleep-deprived and irritable in her early post-natal days that it was hard to pay attention when her mother rang, especially when the conversation shifted from Dudley to Lily, but… “Mum said she complained of things like terrible headaches, blurry vision, and trouble weeing. The weeing part kind of boggled me, because when I was up the duff, I couldn’t seem to go more than five minutes before needing the loo.” She grinned at the face her nephew made. “Hey, everyone does the necessary, lad.” The brief spark of humor faded. “Lily was visited daily by a witchy doctor, and receiving special brews, but the symptoms got worse.
“Then, on thirtieth July, James rang Mum. He told her that Lily had fainted after getting up from the sofa and she was having a hard time breathing. Gurgling sounds, he said, and her pulse was weak. James said that the witchy doctor was going to deliver the baby—you—early, because it was too dangerous to let Lily carry to full-term.” Petunia shivered. “Mum was frantic when she phoned me with the news. I could hear Dad exclaiming, ‘We needs must go, our girl could die!’ over and over in the background. They were almost out the door at that point.” She sucked her bottom lip between her teeth, worrying the flesh until it stung. “Remember, Harry, that the weather was dreadful. Every day, the broadsheets were filled with stories of broken buildings, felled trees, and downed electric lines, as well as concerns for farm crops and wildlife, all due to the rains… I admit, I expressed my concerns. Mum and Dad were undeterred, though. They were going to brave the roads to be with Lily in Godric’s Hollow.”
She squeezed her hands tight in her lap to keep them from shaking. “It was the last time I ever heard from them.”