The Sugar Quill
Author: Poppy P (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Last Embrace  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A/N: A great big ROXin thanx to Z for the beta and to SoupyT for cleaning up my Americanisms. They’re both AWESOME! A short explanation before you read this fic. I’ve always been caught up on that line in GoF where Mrs. Weasley hugs Harry and it says he had no memory of ever being hugged like that, as though by a mom. I kept thinking: Harry was only 15 months old when the Dursleys got him, surely they had to pick him up sometimes, at least to change his diaper and such. That’s how this fic came about. Actually, I would’ve loved to write it as a songfic, but I couldn’t think of any appropriate songs. Suggestions?

“All right, all right, I heard you!” Petunia Dursley regarded her eighteen-month-old nephew Harry with distaste. “I just changed your nappy not fifteen minutes ago, surely you can’t be wet already.” She pushed the toddler on his back in the crib the Dursleys had acquired at a second hand shop. “I swear, if you’re wet already…”

Petunia set the screaming toddler upright again. “Why, you’re as dry as a bone! What is your problem?” She looked at the half-empty bottle in Harry’s crib. “Are you hungry? Take this.” She handed him the bottle. The baby promptly flung it to the ground.

Petunia made an exclamation of disbelief. “You little brat!” She bent down, retrieved the bottle and shoved it into the child’s hand. He slapped it away again.

“Well, I never!” cried Petunia in exasperation. “Are you sick?” she asked, reaching out to feel the boy’s forehead. “You’re fine,” she declared coldly, withdrawing her hand quickly as her hand brushed his scar, a glaring reminder of why she had to take care of this child in the first place. She slapped her hand on the rail of the rickety crib. “Stop this racket this instant before you wake up my Dudleykins!”

Petunia knew this was not likely as Dudley’s nursery was upstairs, far removed from the shabby, little room they had set up for her nephew in the cupboard under the stairs.

She leaned heavily against the crib, frustration mounting. Caring for two toddlers was hard enough, added to that was the fact that she detested Harry for being the son of her freakish sister Lily. If it weren’t for that bloody letter…thought Petunia darkly remembering the letter that had been left with Harry the morning he was left on their doorstep. That letter had made it blatantly clear why the Dursleys had to keep Harry, like it or not. She shuddered.

Petunia looked down at the screaming toddler again, whose sobs were now punctuated by loud hiccoughs. “What do you want?” she hissed at the baby.

Suddenly, Harry did something he had rarely done since coming to number four, Privet Drive. With tears dripping down his pinched, little face he reached out to Petunia with his small hands outstretched.

“Really now!” she spluttered, regarding Harry with disbelief. “I’ll not neglect my housework to coddle you!” She started to walk away, but turned back when Harry’s wails increased in intensity. He was still holding out his little arms.

“Oh, all right then,” she muttered, plucking the child roughly out of his crib. She held him awkwardly at arm’s length. With a great, shuddering sigh, Harry’s sobs subsided. Much to Petunia’s disgust, the child leaned towards her and she had no choice but to let him nestle in against her shoulder. She rolled her eyes, protesting, though her voice was slightly softer. “You’re nothing but a burr in my side, just like your mother.”

Harry disengaged himself slightly, apparently intrigued by the change in her tone. “M-m-mum?” he babbled.

Yes, your mum,” said Petunia, unconsciously tightening her hold on the child. “It doesn’t surprise me that you’re spoiled, seeing as you’re mother was the most self-centered girl on the planet. Everything was about Lily.” Petunia’s voice quavered with resentment. Harry merely went on babbling, content with the sound of her voice and her reluctant embrace.

“You’ve got eyes like hers,” said Petunia grudgingly. “Dad used to say they were ‘the color of clover in March.’” Petunia patted Harry’s terry-clothed bottom softly as she spoke. “Mum and Dad always favored her. But it won’t be like that with my Dudleykins, and that you can tie to. I won’t make him feel less just because you’re here.” She nodded resolutely, inadvertently rubbing her chin against his mop of black hair. She frowned. “Your hair’s so black and soft,” she said reluctantly. Against her will she reached out and ran her hand over it. “Must take after your father. Lily had that bright red mess.” With a far off look on her face, Petunia cuddled Harry closer. “I used to plait her hair when we were little girls. She always wore it long. It was just like that story where the princess used to lower her hair through the window. We used to hide in the attic for hours, playing pretend. I always had to be the boy, because I was older,” she smirked, “and taller.”

Without even realizing it, Petunia found herself in the living room sitting in the armchair with her nephew in her lap. “Little did I know,” she continued, “that Lily would get to grow up in a real fairy tale with castles and dragons and unicorns.” She looked down at the child, face hardening. “Now look at her, gone! And I’m stuck with you.” Petunia’s voice softened, despite her hard demeanor.

Petunia hugged the baby to herself suddenly. “You’re all I have left of her Harry. Lily…” her voice choked on the name.

She cried quietly, but somehow, intuitively, the child felt her distress. He squirmed in her lap until he was facing her. Harry crooned comfortingly in his baby talk, reaching a pudgy, little hand to Petunia’s face. The moment he touched her cheek, she felt it. It was as if a faint electrical current was pulsating between herself and Harry. Her skin prickled with goose bumps. The magic was so thick it felt tangible, permeating the air all around them. Petunia gasped as a small porcelain lion on her mantelpiece suddenly floated into the air and hovered along the ceiling in a golden sphere of light that changed colors every few seconds; now green, now blue, now red. Harry clapped his little hands, squealing with delight as he reached for the sphere.

At first, Petunia felt a sense of awe, but suddenly she found that an all too familiar, gut wrenching bitterness replaced the wonderment. She stood up quickly, grasping Harry by the armpits and holding him at arm’s length. As she marched out of the room, the sphere with the little, porcelain lion faltered, sending the little figurine crashing to the ground where it shattered into a million pieces. When she reached Harry’s cupboard she placed him roughly into the crib. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, as your mother and father were nothing but freaks!” The toddler listened, wide-eyed. “Well let me tell you something,” she shouted, forgetting that she was addressing a child under the age of two, “We’ll have none of that nonsense in this house.”

She spun on here heel, leaving the confused child alone to huddle sleepily in a corner of his crib. She couldn’t believe how she had let herself get caught up in Harry’s sense of wonder at the magic that flowed involuntarily from him, even if it was for a second. Petunia went into the kitchen, her sanctuary, and began banging pots and pans around as she began to make dinner. So what if Lily had got herself killed? she thought angrily. Why did they have to get stuck raising her freakish child? The more she thought of it, the angrier she became. There was one simple solution; she would never allow herself to get close to the boy again. She would do what was necessary to keep him alive, of course, but beyond that, he was on his own. These thoughts chased each other unceasingly, around and around in her mind, until she thoroughly convinced herself.

Petunia never embraced Harry again.

//
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