Title: Wednesday (1/1)
email: temporary_blue [at] yahoo.ca
Summary: "Wednesday's child is full of woe."
Characters: Petunia, Vernon, Dudley, Lily, Harry
Distribution: Sure, ask.
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowlings created and owns the Harry Potter universe and everything related to it. I am in no way affiliated with JKR, nor am I making any profit from this fan work. No harm is intended.
Date: Sept. 24-Dec. 24, 2002.
A hard rain woke Petunia Dursley early Wednesday morning. The blinds were slapping against the windowsill; cool gusts of air filled the room each time the shades billowed outwards. Petunia imagined that she could smell the richness of wet earth, even from the master bedroom which was usually dominated by the scent of vigorously-applied lemon furniture polish. Vernon snuffled sleepily as Petunia eased out from under his thick arm, heavy in sleep, which he had flung over her narrow shoulders at some point during the earliest hours of the morning. Vernon sighed and spread into the sliver of space Petunia had vacated even as she slid into her housecoat.
Petunia's open-backed slippers slapped against the parquet floor, the sound barely audible over the rumbling rain. Petunia's side of the bed was closest to the window and she reached it in several quick steps; neatly avoiding the solidly practical pieces furniture which stood in her way. She caught hold of the blinds with one hand and held the other before the screen. Cool air tickled at her palm, but she didn't feel any raindrops--the wind was driving the rain in the opposite direction. Petunia left the window open, hoping that the rain would break the muggy heat that had claimed the house over the last several days. The unusual weather had set Petunia on edge in recent days; she leaned towards the window and drew in a deep breath of rain-fresh air.
It was earlier than Petunia would be expected to rise. Making breakfast no longer took as long as it once had, with Dudley on his diet. However, the thought of returning to bed held little appeal. She had always been a light sleeper; "too full of energy to while away the hours sleeping!" Mum had laughed sleepily on those mornings when she had arisen to find Petunia already seated at the breakfast table. Petunia returned to the bed long enough to tuck the sheets over Vernon's shoulders. He had been too warm for them the previous night, but he was quick to take a chill when the weather turned.
Petunia eased down the darkened hall, not bothering to turn on a light. She had travelled the length and breadth of the house so often while cleaning it that her home no longer held any surprises for her. She was a good housekeeper, Petunia knew. She had bridled with impatience at such tedious work while younger, more eager for adventure than for chores. The gardens had been Petunia's passion, then, and the one thing that she shared with her father. Housework had become a grim point of pride during her early married years when Petunia had almost desperately sought to prove her worth as a wife. Household chores were no longer something Petunia gave much thought to anymore, one way or another.
Dudley's bedroom door was open a crack; his snuffling snores rolled out into the hallway. Petunia eased the door open wide enough to peer into the room. The toys lining the walls formed odd shapes in the darkness; Petunia had never shared her own father's comically exaggerated tales of the monsters which lurked in his children's rooms. Dudley's night-light cast a soft yellow glow, barely bright enough for Petunia to pick out his features. Dudley's soft, wet mouth hung open; so like the sweet baby of her memory that Petunia's heart clenched. She had pampered him, Petunia realized, but she had waited so long for him, and she had been so very happy.
Mum had been in the hospital by then--grey and old and tired--but she had smiled when Dudley wrapped his hand about her finger. There were get-well cards arrayed on Mum's night-table, one of which propped up a snapshot. Petunia had recognized the dark red hair before she did Lily's face; joy was clearly visible in Lily's expression as she looked down at the baby she held. Petunia's lips had narrowed and she had quickly looked away. Horrible scrawny thing, she had decided while comparing him to her own gurgling baby. Mum's pain-dulled brown eyes had been sad when Petunia next met them, as if she knew what Petunia had been thinking. As if she'd known something Petunia hadn't.
Petunia hadn't asked and she hadn't allowed Mum to tell her. She could not bear for Mum to speak of Lily, to once again plead for reconciliation between them. Petunia could not find the strength within herself to reach past the memory of Dad's pinched white face and rasping breaths. Petunia had jostled Dudley on her knee and he had begun to wail, allowing her to fuss over him and smooth her hand across soft tufts of blond hair. Mum had sighed and slumped back into her pillows, neatly silenced; Petunia had left with Dudley still screaming in her arms. Dudley was growing so fast, and Petunia had been so busy with the daily business of maintaining a house and family that she'd hardly had time to see Mum after that.
The call had come late on a Tuesday afternoon. Petunia had clutched at the phone, her hands still slick from the soapy dish-water. She hadn't been to visit Mum for weeks; and now Mum was gone and it was so easy to blame it all on Lily. It had been Mum's love for Lily which had kept Petunia from attending to her as she should have; and the old anger at the utter _uselessness_ of Lily's beloved magic had reawakened. Of what use were Lily's strange incantations and chants if all of that power was useless when most needed?
Petunia sucked in a sharp breath before carefully closing Dudley's door. Some memories were no longer as easily banished as had once been the case. Petunia placed much of the blame for that upon the boy in the smaller bedroom off Dudley's. She felt that she had grown suddenly, inexplicably old in the space of a scant few years. The others were dead and had been for far too long. Petunia's memory alone was not enough to hold all that she knew; much less to contain all that which she feared.
Harry had returned to Privet Drive that summer with shadows in his eyes, exhaustion a dark smudge on the delicate skin beneath them. Never as outgoing as Dudley, Harry had been more quiet than was usual even for him during recent weeks. Still, though, it had been impossible for Petunia to ignore him as fully as she desired; more than ever, he brought Lily to mind. There was the same sorrowful weariness that Petunia had heard in Lily's voice the last time they had spoken. Harry seemed to move slower, to speak softer--and Petunia had been startled into tears to hear Harry screaming for Lily in his sleep, only days after he had returned from that horrid school. Petunia found Lily's image superimposed over Harry's, and Petunia feared.
Lily had come to Mum's funeral. She had not been alone that day. Her husband had stood at her side, hand at Lily's elbow. Three young men, distinctly uncomfortable in their dark suits, had stood at the periphery of the crowd of mourners. Has she no respect, no decency? Petunia had thought; too angered by the odd looks Lily's companions were garnering to cry herself.
It had been a warm day and Lily's tightly coiled hair had glowed under the sun. Her face was pale and drawn; weariness underlay her words as Lily spoke to those who had come to mourn Mum's passing. A bumblebee had lazily drifted above Lily's bent head; Petunia had watched it rather than listen to Lily's wavering voice. Petunia had remembered butterflies dancing about Lily in the garden--the day Petunia had lost her fondness for the flowers she had tended so carefully for so long; Mum's startled curse when she found a rat curled where her tea-cup had been moments before; the utter certainty Petunia had felt that Lily should have been able to save Dad. Petunia had turned her back when Lily approached her at the end of the funeral. Petunia had lowered her head into the comforting curve of Vernon's neck and had allowed him to lead her back to the car.
Lily herself had been dead scant months later. Petunia hadn't known, hadn't _imagined_--and Lily must have been so very frightened for such a very long time. No one had told her the truth. Petunia had learned but bits and pieces of what had transpired and even that had been enough to make her stomach churn and eyes burn. Petunia didn't even know where Lily had been buried; she hadn't been able to stop herself from slapping Harry the only time he had asked.
Reluctantly, almost despite herself, Petunia eased towards Harry's door and peered in on him. He looked frail beneath the covers, small and vulnerable. The boy hated her, Petunia knew. She did not allow that thought to bother her. She had given Harry little reason to respect her, much less to feel any affection towards her. Petunia had never thought of herself as cruel--she was a good wife, a good mother--but Harry twisted at something deep and powerful within her. He had Lily's eyes, he had Dad's eyes, and the sight of them sometimes made Petunia's throat close tight against her sense of loss. She hadn't ever tried to know the boy himself, and had done her best to eradicate everything within him which reminded Petunia of her own failings and lost opportunities.
Harry groaned low in his throat and drew his knees in closer to his chest. Petunia's hand turned white around the doorknob. She had a lovely home, a good husband, a darling son--and if Petunia had believed in magic, she might have said that her family was cursed. Everyone she had loved, gone too soon, and Petunia herself felt strangely shallow. Petunia's forehead rested against Harry's door. Her breath came out as a wavering sigh. She was happy, she was, she had to be. It was too late for anything else.
Dull grey light was edging along the living-room window's shade as Petunia descended the stairs. The rain had lessened in intensity, a soft drizzle, barely heard above Petunia's strained breath. She had spent more time standing watch above her family than she had realized; her foolishness had left Petunia feeling raw. It would be, she thought, a relief to submerge herself in the daily business of maintaining her family. The kitchen light chased away the lingering shadows as Petunia readied the kettle for Vernon's first cup of tea. Petunia checked the clock above the sink, and certain that the paper-boy must have passed, set out for the front door. Vernon became testy when the newspaper was not present with his breakfast.
The paper was stuffed tightly into the mailbox; doors were opening here and there along the street as neighbours sought their own newspapers. Petunia tugged the paper free and nudged the front door shut with her slippered foot. She absently glanced down at the front page and paused, mouth twisting silently.
"Oh," Petunia breathed finally, "oh." She slid down to the floor, bent her head to her knees and wept.