After the war, Petunia Dursley finds that Hogsmeade is a far cry from Little Whinging when she takes refuge in the Three Broomsticks. As she and Dudley begin to rebuild their lives in the wizarding world, she must make peace with both her past and her present.
“This is where you’ll sleep.”
She doesn’t fail to notice how The Barmaid has phrased it.
Not: This is your room. But: This is where you’ll sleep.
Reminding Petunia that she owns nothing anymore, not even the bed she sleeps in. Which is clean enough, she supposes, looking at it.
“Where are the lights?” Petunia tasks.
“Yes. Lamps. Overheads. Lights.”
“On the bedside table,” The Barmaid says in a tone Petunia doesn’t much like. It says, You poor, daft thing. Your troubles have turned your mind.
Of all the things Petunia has lost over the past year, her mind isn’t among them. Not yet, anyway. It occurs to her that this place might finally do the job.
“That?” Petunia says, pointing at the old hurricane lamp that sits on the small oak table next to the brass bed.
“Yes, of course.”
“You have no electricity here?” Petunia asks, although she’s quite certain that the answer will be “no.”
“Never mind,” says Petunia. “I’ll need some matches.”
The Barmaid raises her eyebrows, and Petunia reiterates, “Matches. To light the candle.” She borrows the tone from The Barmaid.
Let’s see how you like it.
Understanding flickers across The Barmaid’s face. “Right. Sorry. I forgot you ha-ven’t got a wand.”
And I couldn’t do much with it if I did, Petunia thinks. Lily was so disappointed when I couldn’t—
But she cuts that thought off at the knees. That loss is so ancient, she has no busi-ness dredging it up again now, when she has so many fresh ones to mourn.
“I’ll have to find some,” The Barmaid says.
Each woman stares at the other as if peering through the glass at a particularly odd specimen in a museum of natural history.
“Well, I’ll just leave you to settle in, then,” The Barmaid says finally. When she draws her wand, Petunia turns away. The room is instantly bathed in the weak glow of candlelight.
“We have tea at six-thirty, before the rush,” The Barmaid says, shutting the door behind her.
Tea, Petunia sniffs to herself. Of course. It wouldn’t be dinner here, would it?
A memory assaults her: Dad barking a laugh at her the first time she’d called it “din-ner.”
“That Dursley chap’s making you sound like a toff, Petunia. Mind you don’t forget where you come from.”
She hadn’t forgotten. Vernon’s family wouldn’t let her.
Now another memory comes: Marge, blown up like a be-girdled dirigible, floating over Privet Drive, screaming her fat, red face off. Petunia almost wanted to hug Harry for that.
She opens her case and begins to unpack her few things, placing her nightclothes and underthings in the top drawer of the tacky dresser. As she hangs her three dresses in the wardrobe, it crosses her mind that they probably have no iron in a place like this. She’ll have to see if she can get hold of one. Maybe she can ask Harry to bring one from London, much as she hates to ask him for anything.
Harry Potter. The hero.
You’d think the great hero of the wizarding world could find something better for his aunt than this tavern.
Petunia doesn’t want his charity, and she isn’t averse to work—she took a business course at North East London Polytechnic, didn’t she?—but cooking for a tavern? God knows what strange, unnatural kinds of food these people will want. At least Hestia served good, wholesome, normal food. Petunia would say that much for her.
She uses her handkerchief to polish a bit of dirt from one of her shoes before plac-ing it carefully next to its mate at the bottom of the wardrobe.
It’s rather funny, when she thinks of it. She’d wanted so desperately to escape the kind of life her mother led, so she ran first to dirty, frightening London and the pol-ytechnic, then to clean, reassuring Vernon Dursley and Little Whinging. But the life she led with Vernon wasn’t really all that different from her mother’s, after all. Cooking, cleaning, seeing to her husband’s and son’s needs . . . the window dressing was different, that was all.
There was more between Cokeworth and Little Whinging than two hundred miles, though.
She places the two pictures of Dudley—one taken just before Harry came to live with them, the other taken just last May at Smeltings—on the dresser. After a mo-ment’s thought, she moves the more recent one to the bedside table.
He lost weight after that incident with Harry and those things; he no longer resem-bles his father so closely. And despite Petunia’s misgivings (that ridiculous stick!), he did fairly well at Vernon’s old school. She’d even begun to nourish a secret hope that he might muster an O-level or two.
Now it’s all gone, those old dreams. Swept away as she sat there listening to that black wizard and the ginger one explaining about how she and Dudley and Vernon were in terrible danger from the same person who’d killed Lily.
“But I thought you’d killed him!” she wailed at Harry.
The ginger wizard said something about rebounded curses and disembodiment and possession before the other one interrupted him, telling Petunia, “Harry only stopped him temporarily. Now he has to finish the job.”
How Petunia hated Harry for that!
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