Where You Belong

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Petunia Dursley rinsed her mouth briskly then spat into the sink, running water into it briefly to clean everything down the drain before wiping her mouth fastidiously with the nearby hand towel. The awful taste still remained in her mouth, but after sixteen years of restless nights she was used to it; eyes snapping open in the darkness, feeling as though something was advancing slowly and oppressively towards her, mouth filled with the taste of something vile and indescribable.

Snapping off the bathroom light, Petunia walked confidently down the hall, one hand trailing along the wall for guidance, towards her bedroom. The door to Dudley's room was slightly ajar, and she eased it open even farther, peering inside. In the gloom, she could make out her son's large shape, chest rising and falling evenly, and she sighed with relief for some reason she couldn't place, and stood for a moment, watching him with a fierce sort of desperate pride welling in her breast. She didn't realise how tightly she had been holding on to the door jamb until she let go, and felt an ache in her hands.

She had nearly reached her room and the warm cocoon of her bed covers -- floral print with roses, on sale at Whitsby's, of course, much nicer than those ugly things Marge had given them for Vernon's birthday years ago -- when she paused again, this time outside Harry's room.

She stood for a moment close to the door, collar of her house coat drawn tight around her thin neck. Despite what the boy undoubtably thought, she knew his habits well, and although he tended to stay up even later these days, practicing the magic he thought her oblivious to with Vernon asleep and dead to the world, he would have finally succumbed to sleep by now. And because it was a habit as much as preparing Vernon's coffee before he woke up in the morning, she opened the door soundlessly and went in.

On the desk in it's cage, the owl's head swivelled silently in her direction, regarding her with solemn amber eyes. Petunia's mouth crimped slightly round the edges at the droppings and mouse carcasses littered about the desk, and she resisted the urge to try to see how quietly she could sweep them up as she made her way towards the bed.

Sprawled on his back sound asleep, some people might have thought Harry Potter looked more and more like his father with each passing year, but to Petunia, he had always been the image of Lily. It made getting angry at him, stupidly angry, even worse, causing her to remember every spiteful feeling, every jealous argument she had ever levvied at her sister, things she had never had the chance to take back. But she doubted he could have understood that, even if she had been capable of expressing it, though she desperately wanted to.

And apology now would be like a too-weak salve desperately slathered onto years-old wounds, and although Petunia knew it was still better than seeing the cold look in his eyes whenever Vernon looked his way, she couldn't bring herself to do it. Instead, she stood over his bed, watching him sleep with furrowed brows.

He had lost something this year, she knew. Someone. And she was angrier all the more for it. He might have held off dying until Harry had moved in with him! Vernon had puffed bitterly over dinner one night, but for Petunia that wasn't it. It was knowing that that man, Sirius Black, someone she had never met, could have been capable of giving her nephew the affection he had never had. And now that possibility too was severed.

She worried about him. At least as much as she worried about Dudley. And as she watched him shift restlessly in his sleep, she reached out and gently smoothed the mat of tangled black hair on his head. Bending down close to his ear, she whispered, "You grow up. You grow up well, and you get him for what he's taken from all of us and you and everyone else. You get him, and you'll always have a place here."

And, tenderly, she pressed her dry lips to his forehead briefly, backing away an instant later when he shifted, face perhaps a little calmer in sleep. The vile taste left by nightmares was gone from her mouth as it always was when she had reassured herself that he was still with him -- it was worse when he was away at school -- and she nervously straightened his bed covers, drawing them up over his shoulders as much as she dared. From the other side of the room, the owl hooted once at her, softly, and she retreated, closing the door quietly and soundly behind her.

When she slid back into bed a few minutes later, Vernon grunted and rolled over. "Petunia, what's . . . " he mumbled blurrily.

She patted his shoulder once and kissed his cheek lovingly. "It's okay." she whispered. "Everything is going to be all right."