The Bell and the Black Dragon

I shove my hand over my mouth, trying to stop the nauseous feeling dominating my stomach. I try to hide the disgust as I look at my husband, as he ruthlessly hits the boy on the floor. I didn't know he would be like this. I didn't know he could… He only lost his job last year.

And since then, he had become a drunk of the worst sort. I can't stand to look at him now; neither can Dudley, his own son. Our son. Ours. My heart breaks.

I feel another wave of sickness hit me in the stomach as I hear a resounding crack as something snaps from a particularly fierce kick to his side. I wince as he whimpers. That's the first sound he's made.

That's the very first. The boy says nothing, makes no noise to say what he's thinking after it, either. Only his eyes question me. Questioning me why. 'Why does this happen? Why do I allow this to be so? Why? …What have I done to deserve this?'

I can't answer that, I won't even think about it, because some part of me knows the answer is 'nothing.'

I can't reply to those questions. I find myself at a loss, looking into those eyes.

I look into those eyes– God, why do they have to be Lily's? – and I want him to stop hurting right away. I see what is happening and all I've done, the boy's whole life flashes before me, and I know I've done wrong, but now I can't do anything about it. I will only be hurt. Getting myself into it won't help anything.

Dudley is upstairs. Can't stand to be around his father anymore. I understand. I look at him now, and see not the man that I loved and married, no, surely not – this is not he, but a monster. A replacement, a shadow of what I once had, taunting me with the idea that tomorrow he might be different, he might have changed back.

This is but a childish fantasy, and I know better than to deceive myself with it. I know better. But still...

Looking into those questioning green eyes, I realize he is asking why. And since I cannot answer, I say nothing. Even if speaking would help... I wouldn't know what to say. I fell anger rise inside me. I look for a place to put it, and I aim it towards the boy. Yes! He deserves this! The nasty freak! Coming to my house! Eating my food! Taking clothing from my Dudders!

Then I realize it's not working. I try but I cannot believe that anyone– even this boy deserves this treatment. I feel anger at myself. For not realizing what the boy needed all along is love. He never had it. I knew the risks when I took him in. I knew even more, when I saw what was written in the letter.

I knew the cause and the cost, and I took him in, but that wasn't enough. I did not support what he needed. I did not give him lessons of right and wrong. I did not give him love, the very reason he was placed here. I did not even cry over my sister's demise.

I realize I was wrong not to do these things, and I feel the tears come now. He was hers. And look what I did. I made him live in a cupboard. A God. Damned. Cupboard.

I called him a freak. The only reason I gave him an actual room? So the other freaks didn't want to investigate why their savior's living standards was scarcely larger than a closet. Because we saw the letter. We knew what he was for the Wizarding world.

There is no way to help right now. I will wait.

With a final kick to the boy – no – Harry's ribs, the drunken man heaves him self onto the couch. He is done for today.

Tomorrow? Who knows?

'"Petunia?" Vernon slurs, "take the ruffian… upstairs… now!" He is panting and sweating from exertion. He disgusts me.

'"Y– Yes, dear."

''I walk over to Harry and help him up, watching as he grits his teeth to stop from screaming in agony. I hold his arm all the way up the stairs, supporting him, even though I am weak... in so many ways.

''As I gently lay him on the bed, I whispers, " Harry? It... It'll be alright, I'll be back later to help."

''In too much pain to speak, he does not reply. I see a bit of confusion in his eyes, and gently brush his hair with my fingertips, away from his sweaty forehead, as I have never done before, feeling slightly soothed by the motions, he lets his eyes fall shut, despite confusion. I look at his scar for a moment.

I know what it means. I always have. And I know that he's got even more to go through. I did read that letter. I know this… prophecy business. Even as he was four or five and I looked down at him, I knew what his destiny was. What he would have to do.

I lay a comforter over his broken body, and note his falling asleep, and leave. I lay awake that night.

I hear my husband's snoring next me. I feel the comforter against my body. I feel how my toes are slightly cold. I feel how my heart hammers as I am aware of seemingly… everything in the world that is wrong all at once...

It would be like every other morning. He would sleep in late, say he was going to find work, and then go out to another bar, whittling away their money. He would not be awake for a very long time.

So I gently slip out from under the covers, and sneak out of the room, making sure to gently shut the door behind me. Walking across the living room, and up the stairs. I step over the first two, knowing they creak.

I recall yelling at a young Harry because he made them creak once, when I had a headache.

Slipping past Dudley's room, and hearing the sounds of his snores inside, I keep moving, to the second bedroom.

I open the door slightly, and look inside. He seems to be shivering. The comforter has been thrown off, flung to the ground in the heat of some distant nightmare. He lays awake now, cold, but too weak to move and obtain the comforter from the floor. I gently walk to the bedside, and reach for the comforter. Retrieving it, I lay it over the boy. His eyes open, and the look of surprise fights with confusion at seeing her there. He mumbles, and I think he is trying to say 'thank you.'

Thanking me. All I can think of is how absolutely… absurd it is that he should thank me. Absolutely painful that he still would after all I've done. It's so absurd that I want to laugh, that I want to giggle insanely… that I want to cry.

I gently place the hot pack I brought with me against his side lightly, hoping to alleviate some of the boy's pain. He hisses slightly, but no other sound is made. Oh, how I wish that I could take back all of the things that I did to him...

I place a damp cloth on his forehead and hear him give a slight sigh of contentment. His eyes are still closed, but his sigh is accompanied by a tiny smile. I just watch him.

My life. This is really my life. After everything, this is where I have been lead, this is who I am, and this is where I am. This is real. My husband is really this way and he really does this, and it is wrong. This… this is my life.

It hadn't been a bad life. And Vernon hadn't been a bad man. Once upon a time these things had been true. But when I think about the things I've done since this young man had been shoved into my house… my life was not a good one.

Or was it… was it that I hadn't been a good person? Maybe I never was. And I just hadn't been tested before. Well now I have. And I have failed. I have failed myself. I have failed mum and dad. I have failed my son, my sister, and Harry. All because I was jealous of my sister. Of her beauty, of her attention, of how she always seemed better than me, and hoe everyone loved her more… and I blamed her. I blamed everyone. I blamed magic. I blamed everyone but myself. And now… now that I realize my error... half of those people are dead.

Ironic, isn't it? How they were the good at heart, and yet I still survive to ruin others? Oh, poor Dudley… at least he knows it's wrong… he won't do the same, ever… right? I worry… but I'll get him away.. I'll make sure he knows.

I gently rearrange the comforter around Harry's broken form, for something to do, and unable to speak with the shame coursing through me.

I whisper to him. I've lost all sense of self, and now I am crying, on my knees, just holding him, begging forgiveness and saying I am soo sorry…

The worst thing of all? He whispers back, voice cracked and hoarse. "I forgive you."

I look up at him, now silent, and then I just caress his face, and I thank him. I say to him, I say, "We will get out of this. I will leave him. I will, and I can help you, and know you and– and– "

I am stuttering now. I have to tell him, I have to let him know, that I will help him, get him out of this first chance…

But he knows. He knows, and moves his hand a little and places it on my own. He says, "I know."

Later on, I leave him and climb beside my oblivious drunken husband.

Tomorrow I will tell Harry he is free. I will tell him. Vernon is out of alcohol. He will go out, and he comes back I will be gone. I don't even need half the things in the house. I've still got my son. I've still got my life. I will be gone.

But for now, I will sleep, and I will sleep well. Because I know, that for all that I am, and for all that I have done, and all that I must still do…

I am Forgiven.