Chapter 6 : Harriet's Journey
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‘Oh,’ she said, surprised. ‘Did I fall asleep?’
Hugo and Harriet both giggled. ‘Yes, you were snoring for England,’ Hugo told her between giggles.
‘Hugo Weasley, I do not snore!’ Lily was wide awake at once.
‘I know, I know,’ Hugo held up his hands in surrender. ‘I wish only teasing, Lils, calm down.’
Lily rolled her eyes, and then checked her watch. ‘How long was I sleeping for then?’ she asked, feeling a bit embarrassed.
‘Maybe for about half an hour?’ Hugo guessed. ‘But anyway, that’s not the point. Why didn’t you tell me that Harriet is your cousin?’
‘Oh,’ Lily said. She looked at Harriet, who had gone slightly red. ‘Erm…’
‘Sorry,’ whispered Harriet. ‘He asked me about my family, so I thought…’
‘That’s okay!’ Lily said, smiling. She didn’t want to make her feel bad. ‘I don’t mind at all. And Hugo, I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know. Is that a good enough reason for you?’
‘Well, I suppose so,’ said Hugo, sticking out his tongue at her. ‘I think I’ll be off now. I’d better track down those brothers of yours and tell them all about the new addition to their family, hadn’t I? Unless you want to tell them yourself, Lily?’
‘No, that’s fine,’ Lily replied, and she waved as he left the compartment. ‘Sorry that I fell asleep, Harriet.’
‘That’s okay,’ Harriet said quietly, sitting back down and staring out of the window. It was starting to rain outside.
‘Are you okay?’ Lily asked curiously. ‘You seem… sad.’
‘Do I?’ Harriet almost seemed to be talking to herself, but Lily ignored that fact.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Can I do anything to help?’ And to Lily’s great shock and horror, Harriet burst into tears. ‘Oh no,’ Lily said hurriedly. ‘Please don’t cry! I didn’t mean it. I was only trying to help. Please don’t cry!’
Harriet blinked and covered her face her hands. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, her voice muffled. ‘I’ll be okay in a minute.’
Lily sat back and waited as patiently as she could, digging in her pockets to try and find a tissue. Her search was not successful, but eventually Harriet re-emerged from her hands, her face blotchy and tear-stained.
‘I’m so sorry,’ said Lily quickly. ‘I really didn’t mean to make you cry.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ sniffed Harriet. ‘It’s not you. It’s just… Hugo asked me about my family, and then you and him started talking about your brothers, and it’s so silly, but it just makes me sad.’
‘Why?’ Lily was curious again.
‘Because…’ Harriet began. ‘Because I don’t think my family will ever speak to me again,’ she said all in a rush, with the air of somebody getting the worst over with as quickly as possible.
Lily was aghast. She, who had always been protected and cared for and much loved by her whole family, couldn’t comprehend such a thing. ‘But why?’ she asked eventually, frowning deeply.
‘Because…’ Harriet paused again. ‘Because I got that letter, because I’m coming to this school, because I’m… magic.’
Lily, whatever she thought of herself, was a bright girl, and at once she understood Harriet’s obvious difficulty with saying certain words, but she still could not understand the reasoning behind it. ‘Why would that make them hate you?’ she asked carefully, leaning forward.
‘Well, my grandparents don’t like anything that isn’t, well, normal,’ Harriet said, as if she were trying to explain it to herself as well as to Lily. ‘When I was little and we went to see them, I wasn’t allowed to play make-believe games and stuff. Anything unusual, like a flying car or a talking dog or something stupid, and they thought it was ridiculous and dangerous. I wasn’t allowed to watch those sorts of cartoons and things at their house. I think it was in case it gave me ideas, and now I see why! And my dad has always kind of gone along with everything that they say, because it makes things easier I suppose. So now that they know I’m not normal, they hate me!’
Lily blinked fiercely. ‘What do you mean, not normal?’ she demanded. ‘There’s nothing wrong with you!’
Harriet giggled faintly. ‘Of course I’m normal to you,’ she said. ‘But not to them. I’ve barely spoken to any of them since I got my letter. I haven’t seen my grandparents at all. They won’t speak to me, I know they won’t.’
‘Well that’s just stupid,’ Lily declared, not really thinking about the fact that she was insulting Harriet’s own family. Then something seemed to click in her brain. ‘Is that why there was no-one with you on the platform?’
Harriet nodded numbly. ‘They dropped me out at the front of the station. We said goodbye there. I think they wanted to come and see me off, in a way, but they couldn’t bring themselves to actually come into contact with people who are… different.’
‘But that’s who you are as well!’ Lily exclaimed. ‘You’re… different. Aren’t they proud of you?’
‘I doubt it,’ Harriet said sadly. ‘They don’t see it as anything to be proud of. Since I got my letter I’ve basically spent the whole time in my room. Mum and Dad don’t really speak to me much, except when they have to.’
‘How rude,’ said Lily, rather bluntly.
‘Very,’ agreed Harriet.
‘Didn’t you ever try to talk to them?’ Lily asked.
‘I didn’t think there was much point,’ Harriet said miserably. ‘I think I know what they would have said.’
‘But how can you know if you never asked them?’ Lily frowned. ‘Maybe they were just surprised.’
‘Well, it’s too late for that now,’ said Harriet. ‘And I don’t know what to do any more. What if they don’t let me come back in the holidays?’
Lily was upset by Harriet’s distress, and she racked her brains for a solution. ‘I know,’ she announced, after a short pause. ‘We’ll write to them. Well, you can write to them. And we’ll send it to my dad with my owl and he can send it by Muggle post to your house.’
‘Your owl?’ Harriet asked faintly.
‘I forgot that you don’t about know that!’ Lily exclaimed, leaning over and pulling the cover off Dobby’s cage with a flourish. ‘We send our post by owl. It’s very quick – depending on how far they have to fly, of course – and owls are very good at finding their way.’
‘Wow…’ Harriet said, gazing at Dobby enviously. ‘He’s beautiful.’
‘He’s a she,’ Lily corrected. ‘She’s called Dobby.’
‘Still beautiful,’ sighed Harriet.
‘I know,’ said Lily. She was about to tell Harriet the story of her good luck present, but she stopped herself just in time. She didn’t want to make Harriet jealous. ‘So do you want to write to your dad then?’
‘I wouldn’t know what to say,’ said Harriet uncertainly, tearing her eyes from Dobby.
‘I’ll help,’ offered Lily at once. ‘If you want me to, of course.’
‘I wouldn’t know what to say,’ Harriet repeated slightly desperately, as Lily bent down to open her trunk and extracted some parchment, a pot of ink and a quill which Harriet took somewhat reluctantly. ‘What do I say, “please don’t hate me?” – I wouldn’t even know how to start!’
‘“To Dad,”’ Lily suggested. Then she giggled. She couldn’t help it.
Harriet smiled too. ‘Good plan,’ she said. ‘Thanks for that.’
‘Go on then,’ Lily urged. ‘I bet it will work. You can just say that you’ll miss them and that you’ll write and tell them all about it. Parents always want you write to them.’
‘Well, okay,’ Harriet said slowly, staring at the parchment like it might bite her. ‘But aren’t you going to show me how to use this first?’
‘Oh,’ Lily giggled. ‘I forgot. Sorry!’
Lily forced herself to sit quietly while Harriet steadily wrote away for a few minutes, pausing every now and again to scratch her nose. Her face had gone all crumpled again. After a couple of minutes, Lily sat on her hands to stop herself from fidgeting with impatience. Harriet was totally absorbed and didn’t seem to notice.
‘Will you read it?’ Harriet asked eventually, shyly holding out the piece of parchment.
‘Of course,’ said Lily, smiling. She released her hands with relief and took the letter.
I know I am a disappointment to you and I know that you are cross with me. I know this isn’t what you wanted, so maybe I should have said no and stayed at home. Would that have been better? I’m sorry if that’s what you wanted me to do. And I’m sorry for being different. Anyway, I’m on the train now so there’s no going back, even if you wanted me to. I’ve met a girl called Lily here. And guess what? Her dad is your cousin. Uncle Harry. I was shocked too. She seems nice though. Now I wish you’d told me more about your cousin, because I’ve realised that I don’t really know anything at all. Well, I just wanted to say that I hope you don’t hate me too much. I’m sorry if you do. I hope I get to see you soon, and that you let me come back in the holidays. I’ll write to you again if you like and tell you what’s going on at school.
Love from Harriet
Lily blinked hard. ‘That’s good,’ she said eventually. ‘I like it. Do you want to send it?’ Harriet nodded slowly. Lily woke Dobby up by gently prodding her and lifted her out of her cage. ‘This is the first letter she’s ever taken, you know,’ she said. ‘And it’s a very important one, so I hope she manages okay.’
Harriet nodded again, and watched as Lily showed her how to attach the letter to Dobby’s leg. Then Lily carried the owl to the window while Harriet opened it.
‘Will your dad know what to do with the letter?’ Harriet asked, pausing with her hand on the latch.
‘I’m sure he will,’ Lily said. ‘You put his name on the front, didn’t you? Daddy’s not stupid. He’ll know.’
This seemed to satisfy Harriet, because she opened the window as wide as it would go. Now it was Lily’s turn to be unsure.
‘I think I just let her go,’ she said, looking at Dobby as if for confirmation. ‘Hopefully she knows the rest.’
‘Go on then,’ said Harriet, nodding, and a few seconds later the two girls watched as the owl soared gracefully out of the window and out of sight. Lily felt a strange sense of loss as she watched Dobby fly away. The owl was supposed to be her companion in this strange world she was entering. Then she mentally shook herself. She was being selfish.
At that moment, the door flew open and James and Albus appeared. Both were red in the face and out of breath.
‘We just spoke to Hugo!’ Albus panted. ‘Is it true?’
Lily folded her arms and stared at her brothers. ‘Is what true?’ she asked, enjoying having this tiny little bit of power over them.
‘Oh, give over Lily,’ growled James. ‘Come on, is Harriet our cousin?’
Lily frowned. ‘Well I’m not sure,’ she said. ‘We haven’t quite worked that out yet, have we Harriet?’ She glanced over. Harriet was looking taken aback. ‘Oh I’m sorry,’ Lily continued. ‘Harriet, this is my brother James. You’ve already met Albus, I suppose.’
James seemed to remember himself and stuck his hand out to Harriet which she took, looking rather surprised. ‘Hi,’ James said. ‘Forgive me being impatient with my little sister. It’s very nice to meet you. Are you really my Uncle Dudley’s daughter?’
Harriet nodded mutely.
‘Wow,’ said Albus. ‘Lils, why didn’t you tell me earlier?’
‘We hadn’t really figured it out then,’ Lily mumbled.
‘Well, okay,’ Albus said. ‘Look, I’m really sorry, I wish I could stay and chat but when I saw Hugo I was on my way to find Rose and…’
‘That’s okay, Albus,’ Lily interrupted him. She was quite enjoying having Harriet all to herself. Albus rolled his eyes and left.
‘I’d better go too,’ James frowned. ‘Duty and all that…’
‘Okay,’ Lily said, almost pushing him out of the door. ‘Bye James!’
‘Bye Lily-bear!’ James was laughing as he wandered off down the corridor.
Blushing furiously at the childhood nickname which James had promised not to use in school, Lily turned to Harriet. ‘So,’ she said. ‘Do you still want to share my brothers or not?’
‘Hmm,’ Harriet considered this. ‘I still think they’re better than my family,’ she said sadly.
‘But they are your family!’ Lily said. ‘We’re cousins now, remember.’
‘True,’ said Harriet, but she still looked upset.
‘Hey,’ said Lily. ‘Please don’t be upset. I know what you have to do.’
‘What do you mean?’ Harriet looked up.
‘I know what you have to do,’ Lily repeated. ‘You have to make your parents proud.’
‘How do I do that?’ Harriet asked. ‘They hate ma… magic.’
‘But that’s only because they don’t understand,’ Lily said, nodding wisely. ‘So you just have to do your best and work really hard and write to them and tell them everything so that they do understand. Then they’ll have to be proud of you.’
Harriet stared at her. ‘Do you really think so?’ she asked.
‘I know so,’ Lily replied. ‘How could they not be proud of you then? I bet they’re just shocked that you got into Hogwarts, that’s all. You just have to do your best.’
Harriet dropped her gaze to floor for a moment, and then she looked up at her new friend, nodding. ‘Okay Lily, I will,’ she said slowly. ‘But are you going to take your own advice too?’
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