Chapter 23 : A Dursley Christmas
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Somehow everything seemed to be working her way while she was here. But, it would not last and she knew that. Eventually Uncle Vernon would learn the truth about her identity and, when that happened, it would prove disastrous. Apollonia dreaded that day, for she seemed fairly positive that Uncle Vernon would freak out more than Aunt Petunia, if that was even possible. Things just wouldn’t turn out the way Apollonia wanted them to if Uncle Vernon discovered the truth. But, Christmas was a problem in and of itself; how was she supposed to keep her heritage a secret from her uncle and get her presents? “Damn it!”
Dudley eyed her. “What is it?”
“Just a problem I’m going to have tomorrow,” Apollonia muttered. “I have no idea how I’m supposed to get my gifts without your father finding out. I doubt my father even thought about how that could happen amongst Muggles. By tomorrow, the secret could be out.” She was worried about the ramifications of her father’s inadvertent mistake. It could very well cost her. The remainder of her stay here could very well be torturous.
“Maybe he did think of something,” Dudley reasoned.
“Yes. Maybe he did,” Apollonia conceded. “But, I can’t count on that. I simply cannot be sure that my father took extra precautions regarding your father learning the truth. In fact, he might not even know what we did. Dad was gone by the time Uncle Vernon got back and the lie was conceived. My secret will eventually be discovered and I don’t want it to be now.”
As evening settled in, Apollonia’s fear that her secret might be revealed grew even worse as Christmas Day got closer. Dudley did what he could to try to allay her fears, but it didn’t work. Just because her cousin was the only person accepting of the fact that she was a witch didn’t mean that he could help her get through what was going on. I wonder what Harry would say if he knew that I’m getting along with Dudley and that he’s been helping me. I doubt he’d believe it. Aside from the fact that Harry knew nothing of the maternal side of Apollonia’s family, she was unsure of his reaction. I think I need to talk to Dudley before I leave then. I have to make sure that he reveals nothing this summer.
The Slytherin barely got any sleep that night. She was too worried about the next day and how she was supposed to get her gifts without Uncle Vernon learning the truth. Apollonia was brought out of her encumbered sleep when Dudley shook her awake early the following morning. “You need to come with me. I thought you might want to see this before my parents get up. If Dad finds out about any of this, well I don’t know what will happen.”
“Now?” Apollonia asked.
“It’s the only way,” Dudley replied.
Apollonia groggily followed her cousin downstairs and into the living room. There was a confused look on her face until she noticed the pile of gifts at her cousin’s side. “What’s going on?” she asked.
“Those,” Dudley explained, gesturing towards the pile of gifts, “appeared in my room yesterday with explicit instructions to get them to you. Apparently, your father thought of everything when he sent you here. Somehow, the man must have known what happened.”
“And thank Merlin for that,” Apollonia noted. “Of course, you could have easily placed them at the tree. There’s something else that you have to tell me, isn’t there, Dudley?”
“One gift is difficult to hide,” her cousin explained.
“In what way?” she asked.
“It’s sitting outside,” he replied. “I couldn’t exactly bring it inside after all the trouble we had in years past. Mum and Dad would never let me live it down I let that happen again. There’s a reason Harry was miserable every summer he was forced to spend here.”
“Let’s see the gift then,” Apollonia said.
Dudley motioned for Apollonia to follow him outside. She did and was met with an odd sight for a Muggle neighborhood; there was a small blueish-gray owl perched in a tree just outside Number 4 Privet Drive. “The owl. That’s one of your gifts. I didn’t see who sent it though. The card that came with the owl is still inside. But, I thought you might want to see the owl.”
“I’ll figure out who sent it later,” Apollonia said.
“Good. Now, I need to give you my gift,” Dudley said. “I can’t have my father seeing this. He doesn’t know you’re my cousin, so I can’t give you your gift in front of them.”
“And what is that gift?” she asked.
The cousins headed back inside where Dudley began digging for something. He finally pulled it out of a drawer and held it up to Apollonia. “I’ve only ever found one picture of Aunt Lily, locked away in a trunk. There’s no way that Mum would ever miss this,” he said, handing the picture over. “In fact, Harry’s never even seen this picture; no one ever thought it necessary to allow him to have knowledge of his parents, not with how much Mum hated Aunt Lily.”
“Yeah, that’s fair,” Apollonia scoffed.
“I did say before that we treated Harry horrifically,” Dudley confessed. “But, at least I’m trying to make up for it. I avoided him this past summer and I plan on doing the same when he comes back at the end of the year. After that, there will be no need for me to worry about it anymore.”
“I really wouldn't do that if I were you,” Apollonia told him. “You can’t simply ignore Harry; I won’t let you. He’s as much your cousin as I am and deserves your respect.” There was no way that Apollonia could ever allow Dudley to simply ignore Harry; she needed to do whatever she could in order to reconcile the two cousins. It wouldn’t be right if Harry completely lost touch with his mother’s side of the family; Harry knew nothing about Apollonia being a part of that family, so it was best to keep in touch with the only reformed member of his family. So, Apollonia would do what she could to help that along.
“After everything I did to him, how would that work?” he asked.
“Just trust me,” she grinned. “It will.” Apollonia had a tight grip on the picture of her mother; it was the only one she ever had. Harry probably had plenty, but she couldn’t exactly ask her brother about them without revealing her secret. “Anyway, Dudley; thanks for the picture. I never exactly knew what Mum looked like.” She began murmuring to herself for the time being. “Dad was telling the truth; I really do look like her.” Apollonia, more than ever, missed her mother. She wanted the chance to get to know her. Guess I better go talk to Slughorn. I never thought he’d be good for anything. Apparently not.
Apollonia and Dudley sat around for awhile before Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon came trooping down. The usual scowl was in place on Aunt Petunia’s face while Uncle Vernon seemed oblivious to the entire exchange. This may be the only Christmas I spend here on semi-good terms with Mum’s family, Apollonia realized as she pulled her gifts towards her. By this summer, this whole thing is going to be but a distant memory. Harry and I will both be here this summer and everything is sure to change. I know it will.
While her aunt and uncle focused intently on their son as he opened up his presents, Apollonia started opening her own gifts. Given her magical heritage, it was best for Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon to focus on their son opening his gifts rather than watching her and allowing her secret to be revealed. Her magical heritage was something Vernon and Petunia Dursley utterly despised; they would not stand for magical artifacts being within their home. Dudley seemed to be the perfect distraction, so Apollonia began unwrapping one of her gifts.
Tucked underneath the blue wrapping paper of a soft package was an emerald green cloak with a silver dragon clasp. Hidden within the folds of the cloak was a black leather-bound book. Apollonia opened said book to the front page where she found an inscription written in gold ink. To my little girl, Life is complicated. Sometimes things may not work out the way you want them to. If it was up to me, you and you brother would have been raised together. Since I cannot be there for your life, use this journal to tell me all about your life. –Lily Potter. The gifts seemed to have been from her parents. As it was the only one she’d ever receive from her mother, Apollonia held it close. Obviously her father seemed to have had it for all these years and, now that she knew about her mother’s identity, she was allowed to have it. “Mum,” she whispered, sliding the picture Dudley gave her into the book and setting the gifts from her parents aside.
A green wrapped package came next; two books on what Apollonia recalled telling Hermione her favorite subjects were: Potions and Transfiguration. Hmm? Books? That girl spends too much time in the library. It’s no wonder she’s so oblivious to Ron’s feelings for her. Harry’s gift came next. Inside the gift from him—from her twin brother—was a small wooden box. The box seemed rather plain, that is until Apollonia touched the box. Hmm? Charmed to respond to my touch? There’s no way Harry could manage a spell like that. Why did Harry even give me this box anyway? It seemed an odd gift, one that Apollonia would have to look into later while she was in the safety of her brother’s room. For the moment, the box was set aside and the final few gifts were pulled in front of her.
The only gifts left for Apollonia to open yet were a scroll tied with a bright green ribbon and a small package that sat beside it. Apollonia took the package first and untied it to find a silver necklace with a snake pendant lying there. The snake eyes were emerald, so Apollonia could only assume that one person would send it. Her suspicions were confirmed with the note. Apolla, Do not question this order. It’s for your own protection that I must ask you of this. When school begins again, please don’t come anywhere near me. It’s simply not safe. Just wear the necklace and I can watch over you. Draco.
Seeing the order written in her friend’s note, Apollonia crumbled the parchment in her fist. What was Draco thinking trying to order her around like this? Did he actually think that he was protecting her by doing this? That means the scroll—and the owl Dudley spotted a little earlier—would be from Narcissa. She unfurled the scroll to understand why the owl was there. Apolla, It’s upsetting that you could not spend your holiday here as you usually do. Things simply don’t feel right. Your gift is the owl that brought this message. And, remember to watch over my son. I fear he is in more danger than ever. Narcissa.
Almost immediately after she finished reading that note, it transformed into a large pendant that fit snugly in the palm of her hand. Upon seeing the shape of the pendant, Apollonia smirked. A sun, the symbol of my nickname. Leave it up to Narcissa to give me something like that. Her finger slid around the cool metal of the golden sun pendant and held it tightly. This was yet another reminder that Voldemort was messing with her life. Nothing else would have made such an impact on her life. One day this will be fixed. Everything will be as it should be. I just have to wait for that day to come. How long though? How long must I wait for my family to be together? I haven’t even spent time alone with my father since I was eleven. Even then I wasn’t allowed to see my father all that much. But, once Harry does what’s required of him, I can finally have the family I’m supposed to.
Apollonia set aside all the gifts—all tucked under the cloak to hide them—and turned her attention to her cousin. He still seemed to be opening gifts. How is he still opening gifts? There was no way that Dudley should have still been opening gifts. Vernon Dursley could not have been making that much money. Seems as if I need to have a little talk with my aunt and uncle about what’s been going on. As soon as my secret is out, I must confront them about what they’ve been doing. Through both her father and brother, Apollonia heard that Harry had a terrible life; this had to be the reason.
It was early afternoon by the time Apollonia had the chance to speak with her cousin. There was something she needed to know, something that only Dudley could tell her. He was the only one around that would willing tell her what she wanted to know. Aunt Petunia would never say and Uncle Vernon was still clueless as to her true identity, thus making it difficult for her to go around asking questions about things that did not appear to be any of her business. Dudley was by the tree when Apollonia got the chance to approach him. “Dudley, I need to ask you something.” Her cousin eyed her warily. “When you and Harry were growing up, did Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon ever dote on Harry? Was he ever allowed to have anything while growing up?” she inquired of her cousin.
“Not ever,” Dudley said. “To my parents—and me up until a year ago—Harry was a waste of space, a freak. We all thought that he deserved absolutely nothing, so all he ever got were my hand-me-downs. Until he went off to that school of yours, Harry never got anything new.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Apollonia muttered.
“Why ask me that?” her cousin wondered.
“Because when you were growing up, at least a fourth of the money that was used to buy all the gifts you received was paid to your parents for taking Harry in. I’m quite sure of that. Dumbledore would never have simply left Harry there without compensating Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon for the task they had undertaken. But, the fact that they despised him to such a degree prevented them from using it to fulfill its true purpose,” Apollonia informed her cousin. Maybe through Dudley she could convince her aunt and uncle to respect Harry more; the chance was slim, but she had to try and would start by informing her cousin of the neglect Harry suffered through because his aunt and uncle chose to spoil Dudley.
Her cousin shrugged. “I didn’t know.”
“I doubt it would ever get mentioned,” Apollonia muttered. Why would Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon ever let that slip? The only reason Apollonia knew was because she paid attention; just because she was known as the Invisible Slytherin didn’t mean she didn’t pay attention. She was always there; it was just that no one ever seemed to know she was there. For reasons such as this—uncovering secrets that would have never been discovered any other way—being invisible was a blessing. It was really the only good thing about it at the moment. Thanks to her being the Invisible Slytherin for most of her life, watching over Draco was a problem; she suffered taunts from Pansy because of it.
“And exactly how am I to make up for what my parents did?” Dudley asked his cousin. “Harry isn’t exactly going to trust me given all that I’ve done to him over the years.”
“That’s why I’m going to help,” Apollonia assured him. “If what my father says is true, I have to stay here for the summer rather than with my father or friends. Harry is my brother, so I’ll do whatever I can to reconcile the two of you. The fact that you’re nice to me just adds to that. Since he doesn’t know anything about me being related to him, he’ll come to realize on his own just how much you changed from the spoiled cousin he remembers.” As Apollonia explained the situation to her cousin, her mind momentarily flickered to Draco. The same thing might apply to him if she played her cards right. For the moment however, Draco was in a very precarious position. Seeing as he was friends with Harry Potter’s half-sister—a fact that he would remain oblivious to until after the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort occurred—Apollonia would do what she could to keep her friend from going to Azkaban for whatever he was planning as the newest Death Eater.
“Thanks,” Dudley said.
“It’s what family does,” Apollonia reminded him. “Once Harry does what’s required of him, it will bring us closer together. I’ll make absolutely sure of that fact. I couldn’t care less whether he reconciles with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon or not, but the same cannot be said about you. See, while I at least have my father, Harry has no one; it’s best if you and Harry put aside your differences and accept each other, faults and all. Aunt Petunia’s hatred of magic has festered long enough; it is time for that to cease. It’s time for the family to come together—in any way it can—and live in peace.” While her brother dealt with aspects of the war and Voldemort, Apollonia would do whatever she could to keep what was left of her family together. For the remainder of the year, she would keep in contact with Dudley and see to it that her cousin and Harry started to get along.
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