The Sugar Quill
Author: Mintha  Story: Consolable  Chapter: Default
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Every time he came back he looked colder, harder

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine.

 

 

Consolable

 

Every time he came back he looked colder, harder. She never understood why he was always so eager to get back to that medieval dungeon of a school when each time she laid eyes on him at the train station he looked like he’d been through a war. This time was no different. During the drive home she risked the occasional glance in the rear-view. He stared out the car window with a look on his face like he was carved out of stone.

 

*

 

Two days, she thought in disgust. Locked up in his room as usual - no, no surprises there. At least he had the grace to be quiet about it. Doubtless drinking water from the bathroom tap, but refusing to come down to meals. She wasn’t going to take them up, she wasn’t his maid. Or his mother. He would come down if he got hungry enough. He’d gone longer than two days.

 

*

 

Petunia was doing dishes when the doorbell chimed. She hastened to answer it, smoothing her wet hands down the front of her apron to dry them. She opened the door to find a young man standing on the doorstep. He seemed completely unremarkable, save for the fact he was carrying a plant, which in her experience teenage boys didn’t tend to do.

 

“Yes?” she asked warily, wondering if he was selling something, and then had the most horrible suspicion, just as he opened his mouth and said pleasantly, “Hello, ma’am. I’m here to see Ha-“

 

Petunia grabbed his shirtsleeve and hauled him inside; he stumbled slightly as he clopped into her foyer. She looked around wildly for neighbors before slamming the door. “How did you get here?” she hissed at him. Visions of broomsticks littering the front lawn flashed across her mind, or flying horses or Apparations........

 

“Well, first I took a bus...“ he began. “And then I walked. I’m Neville Longbot-“

 

“I don’t care who you are, what are you doing here?” she demanded.

 

“I’ve come to see Harry, ma’am,” he said again patiently. “He’s allowed a visitor, isn’t he?”he asked simply.

 

Petunia’s gaze narrowed as she stared into his dark eyes, looking for sarcasm but unable to find any. He had a most disconcerting manner about him. He didn’t seem to be using the words as any kind of veiled threat, the way those others had done, with their glib words masking promises of creative revenge against her and her family. But he didn’t seem cowed by her, either. He was merely.... polite, despite her own admittedly rude behavior. Almost aristocratic, really. Such a funny word to pop into her head, she thought, in reference to someone standing there in such ordinary looking clothes. She snorted inwardly. Surely Harry hadn’t managed to go and make himself a friend with manners?

 

Her eyes traveled down to the plant in his hand, spilling long tendrils over the terra cotta pot. Whatever it was, it looked like a rampant spreader. “Is that magical? I won’t have it in my house.”

 

“No, ma’am, it’s just peppermint. Garden variety Mentha Piperita. Harry likes it in his tea, and, well, it’s supposed to help those who are grieving,” he finished softly.

 

Grieving? Who on earth -? she wondered, before deciding it was probably better and safer not to ask. Or care.

 

She considered the likelihood that if she didn’t allow a quick visit, there would be trouble from someone about it somehow. The last thing she needed was one of Harry’s wrathful guardians showing up and showering the living room with snakes. Neither Vernon nor Dudley was due home until dinner, Vernon couldn’t roar about what he didn’t know. She supposed the easiest way out of the whole situation was to go back to the dishes and pretend the bell had never rung, until he went away.

 

“Very well. If you’re out of here by four.” She glanced up the staircase. “And if you can get the door open,” she added acidly. “Be my guest.”

 

“Thank you, Mrs. Dursley,” he said. He paused on the step, and added, almost apologetically, “ By the way, those dahlias out front..... they could use a little water.”

 

Petunia Dursley blinked in surprise. She’d forgotten about the dahlias. And she wasn’t often thanked.

 

*

 

The dishes were at last finished and gleaming in their slots.  At some point she had put a kettle on, merely out of habit, of course, and at another point, she found that she had put two cups of tea on a tray. She supposed there was no harm in taking it up if she’d gone this far out of her way already.

 

She was halfway up the staircase before she glanced up into the hall. The door to Harry’s room was now ajar, she noticed. She had climbed another three steps before she heard the sound. She wasn’t sure what it was at first, but by the time her shoe had ascended another stair, she realized, and came to a standstill, frozen with disbelief. Sobbing. She had never heard that unnatural child cry. Ever.

 

He’d screamed the first time she’d picked him up. Screamed fit to wake the dead.

Inconsolable. She’s been able to manage her own child well enough, but nothing she did worked with her nephew, and she’d felt like such a failure, pacing up and down the living room while Vernon complained and complained about the noise until she felt ready to cry with exasperation herself, until it finally stopped, hours later. Not because of anything she’d done, but simply from sheer exhaustion.

 

And from then on, there had been only silence. He became unreachable, and Petunia had not troubled herself to try to cross the chasm that Vernon only blasted deeper every day anyway.  She was afraid of heights to start with. She was afraid of him, and he seemed to be afraid of nothing.

 

Certainly he had seemed to require nothing from her. He’d always been too proud to cry in front of her, too strong to need her, too independent to ask her help.

 

She wouldn’t have thought he’d accept anyone’s help.

 

Until now, apparently. Harry sounded more like a child in this moment than he ever had when he’d actually been one.

 

She waited, knuckles white around the tray handles. The tray grew heavy, but still she waited, until at last, it stopped. Then she waited a few minutes more.

 

Only then did she take the tray into the room.

 

They were sitting on the edge of the bed, close together. Harry was hunched over slightly, still leaning toward his friend as if he might’ve been in his arms a few moments ago, and wasn’t entirely ready to move all the way away yet.

 

His face was red, and streaked looking behind the tilted glasses, and he’d blown his nose on his shirt, she noticed. He wouldn’t look at her.

 

She set the tray down on the chair in front of them.

 

She watched the other boy... Neville... take leaves off the peppermint with an air of capable practice and put them in the hot water. The smell, bright and green, filled the room, reminding Petunia of Christmas even on this hot June day.  She watched as Harry took the cup in both hands and breathed in the fragrant steam, closing his eyes.

 

She didn’t try to offer any words of comfort. She knew she couldn’t touch him in any way that mattered, so she didn’t try. But it was some comfort to Petunia, to know that her sister’s son was, after all, consolable.

 

//
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