Chapter 17 : Reconciliation
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‘Quite sad,’ his grandmother nodded. ‘But I was pleased to go home and see my parents.’
‘I shan’t ever want to leave,’ declared Joseph confidently. ‘Even in the summer.’
Harriet smiled a knowing, grandmotherly kind of smile.
‘I expect you’ll feel differently once you get there, darling,’ she said kindly. ‘Everyone loves Hogwarts, but everyone loves their family too.’
Joseph looked dubiously at Jocelyn, and wrinkled up his nose.
‘Hey!’ Jocelyn cried indignantly. ‘You will miss me, Joseph Weasley. I know that you will and you know that you will too.’
‘Well, maybe…’ Joseph said slowly, grinning.
‘I can’t believe I have to wait another three whole years,’ Matthew sighed despondently. ‘Will any of my other cousins be going at the same time as me, Grandma Harri?’
‘I have no idea,’ Harriet frowned in concentration. All of the grandchildren of her generation of Weasley cousins regarded themselves to all be cousins too, and with the Weasley tendency to produce rather a lot of offspring, this made life complicated.
‘There’ll probably be someone,’ Henry put in helpfully. ‘You won’t be on your own.’
‘We all get to go together,’ Gabby announced, indicating herself, her twin sister and Emma.
‘I’ll be all on my own,’ said Joseph. ‘But I am the oldest, so I’ll be okay.’
‘You’re not the oldest of everyone,’ Henry protested. ‘There’s Tessie and all of her brothers and cousins and that side of the family. And what about Aunty Lily? Does she have grandchildren?’
‘Yes,’ Harriet replied wearily. ‘But we’re not going to start talking about that now. The last time we tried to draw a family tree we needed three tablecloths.’
‘Oh,’ Henry looked disappointed. Harriet softened.
‘I don’t mean to sound cross, Henry,’ she reassured her grandson. ‘But you know your old grandma gets tired and you do have such a lot of cousins to try and remember.’
‘That’s okay, Grandma Harri,’ Henry smiled kindly at her. ‘Shall we go and play for a bit?’
‘It’s still light,’ Matthew shot to the window to check. ‘We could go outside and climb the trees!’
‘Be careful,’ warned Harriet. ‘And only for a little while.’
‘But it won’t get dark for hours yet,’ Alice piped up.
‘Only for a little while,’ Harriet repeated firmly.
There was a scramble to get up and find the correct pair of shoes, preferably one with both a left shoe and a right shoe. And if both shoes matched it was better still. On the way out, little Emma hesitated in the doorway.
‘When we come back in, will you tell us about your first visit to Aunty Lily’s house, Grandma?’ she asked.
‘Of course,’ her grandmother smiled back at her fondly. ‘I’ll tell you about that later, I promise.’
Harriet hesitated for a moment, but it didn’t take her long to make up her mind. This was her grandmother and, despite all that had happened since she had received her Hogwarts letter, she was family and Harriet still loved her. Harriet was downstairs in a flash and the door was thrown open just a few short seconds later. Then she paused, unsure of what to say. Her grandmother stepped forward towards her.
‘Harriet,’ she said, her voice cracking slightly. She pressed a shaking hand to her mouth.
‘Grandma,’ Harriet replied, a little more stiffly than she intended. Then, ‘Do you want to come in?’
Petunia Dursley stepped carefully across the threshold and followed her silent granddaughter along the hall and into the living room.
‘Did you come deliberately because Mum and Dad aren’t here?’ Harriet asked eventually, as they stared at each other across the room.
‘I just had to see you, Harriet,’ her grandmother said, by way of reply. Harriet knew that that really meant ‘yes’, but she said nothing.
It took Petunia a good while to notice Harriet’s silence, because she was too busy gazing around the familiar living room of her son and daughter-in-law. Several things had changed since she had last been there, almost a year ago. Alongside the old family photos that had been on the mantelpiece sat a new photograph in a shiny frame and pride of place. In the photo her granddaughter was beaming happily at the camera, dressed in what Petunia assumed was her school uniform, with the grey jumper and the red and gold stripy tie and some kind of black blazer or jacket with a strange crest on the breast pocket. On the coffee table directly in front of her were stacked a couple of books, with the top one being entitled ‘The Standard Book of Spells, Grade One’ and in the corner by the television sat a birdcage.
The breath caught in Petunia’s throat as she could replace all these things of Harriet’s in her mind’s eye with those similar objects that had belonged to her sister Lily. She paused to wonder what her living room might have looked like all those years ago had she been special, like her sister. What if her own books had been present too? And what if she had allowed her nephew Harry to truly be himself under her roof and it had been his owl – Petunia couldn’t remember the name right now – and his photograph and his school books?
All of Petunia’s regrets spilled over and once and were unleashed in a torrent at her granddaughter who stood before her, looking nervous.
‘Oh Harriet, I’m so sorry!’ she sobbed. ‘I was stupid and prejudiced and too damn silly to see beyond my own precious life. I know that I said a lot of awful things to you and about you but I never, ever meant to hurt you! I was only trying to stop you from getting hurt, like I did all those years ago. I know that I went about it all the wrong way and that all I did was hurt you even more.’
Harriet, feeling positively alarmed at seeing her straight-laced grandmother crumple like this in front of her, didn’t know what to do.
‘It’s okay, Grandma,’ she began hesitantly, not sure what she was going to say next.
Her grandmother looked up. ‘No it’s not, Harriet,’ she said firmly, getting a grip on herself. ‘I have a lot of explaining to do, but you deserve to know the truth. Will you come and sit with me?’
‘Of course,’ Harriet mumbled, sitting down next to grandmother on the sofa and looking up expectantly. Petunia took a deep breath.
‘It all started when I was twelve,’ she began. ‘My sister Lily got a letter from your school, from… Hogwarts and I was so jealous of her. We had always been best friends as well as sisters, and I couldn’t stand that thought that Lily was better than me, more special than me. I wanted to go as well, but they said that I couldn’t because I wouldn’t be able to do what the other children could to. I took it to mean that I wasn’t good enough. I started to resent… ma-magic and my sister as well. I was unhappy at home by myself without Lily and with only my parents for company, so I started to blame Lily’s school for taking her away from me. I convinced myself that it was their fault, and that they were all up to no good with their silly tricks and doing things that should be impossible. I regret it now, because it led me to treating your Uncle Harry so badly and, more importantly, I treated you in exactly the same way.’
‘But Uncle Harry is a great wizard,’ Harriet protested before she could help herself.
‘What do you know about him?’ Petunia frowned. ‘I didn’t know that you knew much about him.’
‘He’s famous,’ Harriet explained, while her grandmother looked flabbergasted. ‘He saved my world from the most evil wizard of all time. We learn about him all the time at school. And I hear about him from Lily too, she says – ’
‘Lily?’ her grandmother interrupted suddenly.
‘My best friend,’ Harriet said quietly. ‘Lily Potter. She’s my cousin too, because Uncle Harry is her dad.’
‘He named her after Lily,’ Petunia whispered, lost.
‘Yes,’ Harriet confirmed.
‘What’s she like?’ Petunia asked, suddenly looking urgent. Harriet smiled.
‘Well, Lily has bright red hair and brown eyes and lots and lots of freckles,’ she began. ‘She’s just a little bit taller than me but still smaller than everyone else. She is very loud and crazy but very clever and kind too, and she’ll always stand up for you if you’re in trouble. She has lots of friends and two big brothers who look out for her.’
There was silence, during which tears dripped gently down Petunia’s nose. Eventually, she spoke.
‘Oh Lily,’ she whispered. ‘Lily, Lily, Lily. Oh Lily, I’m so sorry. I got it all wrong. I failed your son and now I’m failing my own granddaughter.’
‘You haven’t failed me,’ Harriet interjected quietly.
‘Oh but I have,’ her grandmother sighed sadly. ‘Don’t you see, Harriet? All I wanted was for you not to feel left out and like you weren’t special, and that’s exactly what I ended up doing. I did it with your father, too. I wrapped him up in sickly love and gave him everything he wanted to try to stop him from ever getting hurt and I just drove him away in the end. I just wanted you both to be happy.’
‘I am happy, Grandma,’ Harriet insisted. ‘I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my whole life, apart from missing you and Grandpa. But now you’re back, and you’re not going to stop talking to us again, are you?’
‘I will never make that mistake again,’ her grandmother promised sincerely. ‘Do you forgive me, Harriet?’
Harriet nodded quickly. ‘Of course I do, Grandma,’ she said, just as sincerely. ‘But what about Grandpa? Is he still angry?’
Petunia hesitated. ‘I’m not sure I should be telling you this, Harriet,’ she said slowly. ‘But you have the right to know, given how we have both treated you. Now, I’m not making excuses for the way that I acted but the thing is that, unlike me, your grandfather has no such reasons in his past for being how he is. This means that, while I have been slowly coming to the realisation that what I have done in my life has been totally wrong and damaging to a good number of people, he refuses to admit this. Vernon believes that anyone who isn’t, well, like him is not really worth bothering with. I regret that I ever agreed with him in any way. I don’t think you’ll be seeing you grandfather very much anymore, Harriet, and neither will I.’
‘Are you leaving Grandpa?’ Harriet asked, not sure if she was hearing right.
‘Not exactly,’ her grandmother forced a smile. ‘In that I have nowhere to go, but basically yes. I no longer want to be with him in that way.’
‘You could come and stay here,’ Harriet offered quickly.
‘You are kind, Harriet,’ Petunia smiled gently. ‘But I don’t think your parents would like that very much, and quite rightly so. I have behaved very badly indeed and I don’t have the right to expect them to take me in like that.’
‘But I live here too, even if I am away at school a lot,’ Harriet persevered. ‘And I want you to stay. I could tell you all about school… if you wanted me to.’
‘I would love to hear all about it,’ her grandmother said genuinely. ‘I have had so many opportunities to ask and yet I was too stupid to do it. It must be fascinating.’
‘It’s amazing,’ Harriet said eagerly, her eyes as wide with wonder as they had been on her very first day at Hogwarts.
When Polly Dursley returned from her trip to the supermarket, she was initially surprised to hear voices coming from the living room and her first thought was that Dudley had returned home early from the office. She immediately recognised one of the voices as belonging to her daughter, but it took a few seconds for the second voice to register. Once it did, she marched straight into the room, rapidly preparing for a shouting match.
Upon bursting into the living room, she was astonished to see her mother-in-law sat listening intently to her daughter with a proud smile on her face.
‘What’s going on here?’ she demanded. Harriet leapt up.
‘Mum!’ she cried. ‘Grandma came to see me!’
‘So I see,’ her mother said, pursing her lips. ‘Harriet, be a dear for me and just take my shopping bags into the kitchen, will you?’
Harriet immediately recognised the tone of her mother’s voice and scuttled out of the room to do as she was told. She quickly delivered the bags of shopping to the kitchen and, after a brief assessment of the contents of each bag, she deposited the necessary items in the fridge before hurrying back out into the hall.
Here, Harriet faced a dilemma. Many other twelve-year-olds, her best friend included, would have thought nothing of listening at doors, but Harriet was hesitant. She liked to do the right thing, so she hurried past the living room door before she could be tempted, and sat down on the stairs before beginning to hum loudly.
After a good ten minutes, Harriet tentatively removed her fingers from her ears and stopped humming. There were no raised voices, which was good, but her mother and grandmother were still shut in the living room, which was potentially very bad indeed.
Deciding to remove herself from the situation completely, Harriet headed upstairs to her bedroom and sank down onto her bed. The unexpected reappearance of her grandmother in her life could only be a good thing, unless of course her parents decided that that was not allowed. Harriet crossed her fingers hard. She knew that both her mother and father had been very cross indeed with her grandparents and, remembering what her mother had said about them at Christmas, Harriet crossed her arms.
Sitting back on her bed, Harriet forced herself to think of something else. The first week back in Little Whinging had not been as strange as she had thought it would be. She had found it a refreshing change to be away from the constant chatter and laughter and arguments of the Gryffindor common room and Hogwarts in general, but she did miss Lily. It was also nice to have her own bedroom again, although Harriet had found herself waking up in the night, momentarily confused at the absence of the curtains around her bed and the wrong positioning of the window.
Of the actual magic, Harriet missed very little. She did not consider herself competent enough at anything that would make a very large difference to her everyday life, but the idea that she was not allowed to do any kind of magic was strange.
At home, there was also the problem of her friends. Harriet had yet to tell Lauren that she was actually home. She knew that sooner or later she would have to see her, and she was also acutely aware that this meeting would probably signal the end of their friendship, for good this time. There were just too many things that she would not beable to answer, and Lauren would not put up with this anymore. Harriet couldn’t blame her. Had their roles have been reversed, she knew that she would have found it very difficult indeed to accept such pathetic answers and excuses.
Full up with anxiety over just what she would say to Lauren and how she would manage not to cry when her friend finally snapped and told her to go away, Harriet suddenly remembered her mother and grandmother downstairs. There was still no shouting. Maybe they’ve killed each other, she thought worriedly. Harriet crossed her legs.
The sound of a car in the driveway cut through her and sent a shiver down her spine. Her mother had called her father home early. The front door opened, before being shut a few seconds later with unnecessary force. Harriet momentarily crossed her eyes.
Feeling dizzy from the sudden distortion of her vision, Harriet took a few deep breaths and looked around her room to try and calm herself down. Any minute now… she told herself, any minute now the shouting will start.
Half an hour later Harriet, who couldn’t believe her ears, heard her name being called. Apprehensively, she uncrossed all her limbs, climbed off her bed and padded across her room to the door.
‘Yes?’ she called nervously down the stairs. Her mother smiled hesitantly up at her.
‘Will you come down please?’ she asked quietly.
More confused than ever, Harriet obeyed. In the living room, her father and her grandmother were standing at opposite ends of the room, awkwardly avoiding each other’s gaze.
‘Harriet,’ her father said uneasily. ‘Sit down.’
‘Maybe I should talk?’ Polly Dursley suggested quietly.
‘No,’ her husband said determinedly, straightening his tie. ‘This is my job.’
Harriet shifted her gaze from her mother to her father. He looked acutely uncomfortable at the situation.
‘Dad?’ she asked slowly. Dudley Dursley cleared his throat.
‘We’ve called it quits, Harriet,’ he began hoarsely. ‘We’ve called it quits and we’ll start all over again. Your mother and I have spoken to your grandmother, and we’ve agreed. You’re more important. You need for us to get on.’
‘It’s not your fault, love,’ Harriet’s mother crouched down beside her and rested a hand lightly on her knee. ‘It was never your fault. All of us, myself, your dad and your grandma, we’ve all said and done things that we shouldn’t have, but we’ve sorted it out and everything will be okay now.’
‘Really?’ Harriet blinked, not quite able to believe it.
‘Really,’ her mother promised.
‘What… what about Grandpa?’ Harriet asked hesitantly.
‘You’re not to see him,’ her father’s voice sounded like a whip. ‘Do you hear me, Harriet? You’re not to see him. He’s no good for you. I’ll not have it.’
‘He’s right, Harriet darling,’ Petunia spoke up for the first time since Harriet had re-entered the room. ‘I don’t want you to see him either.’
‘He doesn’t want to see me, does he?’ Harriet said in a small voice. She wasn’t really asking.
‘He doesn’t want to see any of us right now,’ her mother tried to reassure her.
‘Grandma, does he know that you’re here?’
There was a short pause.
‘It’s none of his business where I am,’ her grandmother said eventually. Harriet didn’t need to ask anything more.
There was another uncomfortable pause. Dudley Dursley was still staring resolutely at the same corner of the fireplace as he had been for the past ten minutes.
‘Come on, Harriet,’ Polly said briskly. ‘Come and help me make some dinner.’
Obediently, Harriet got to her feet and followed her mother out of the room, leaving a pregnant pause in their wake.
‘Just pop upstairs and wash your hands,’ Polly said. ‘And then come and find me in the kitchen. You don’t mind helping, do you?’
Harriet shook her head before beginning to slowly climb the stairs. Her head was spinning. Obviously all was not completely well, but things were starting to look hopeful. Perhaps she could have both magic and her grandmother in her life after all.
Heading back downstairs from the bathroom, Harriet could hear voices coming from the living room. She couldn’t help it. She paused outside the door and listened hard.
‘Duddy, please look at me,’ she heard her grandmother pleading. ‘Now that we’ve dealt with everything you could at least acknowledge that I’m here. We’re supposed to have sorted it all out, darling. Come on, come and sit down and we can have a nice chat. I’ve missed you so much, lovey.’
‘Mother,’ Dudley Dursley interrupted. ‘I’m not doing this for you. I’m not doing this for me. I’m not doing it for us. I’m doing it for my daughter. She needs us, and she doesn’t need to be upset about something which is not her fault.’
‘What do you mean, Duddy?’
‘You’re here because Harriet wants you to be, not me.’
I'm sorry for the lack of anything particularly interesting in this chapter, but I think it was important overall. Thanks for reading, it means a lot :)