Home Is The Place Where
by Kyra Cullinan

The world finally gets around to ending on a Tuesday afternoon.

It's been doing it for days, a long slow death rattle, and Petunia doesn't think she's slept since it began. She can hear it ending even in the quietest part of the night, while Vernon snores beside her and the horizon burns magenta.

He knows there's something wrong by now, and so does Dudley. Everyone knows there's something wrong: the newscasters on Dudley's television had talked about freak climatological patterns, then about airborne toxic events, then about God, then about nothing at all. Without the Sky signal beaming a hundred channels into the house, Dudley plays videogames with the shades drawn and grunts at her when she brings in food. His knuckles are always white and she knows she should say something. Should tell him it'll be all right, because she's his mother. But she doesn't want to lie. She feels burned down and hollowed out to a strange, empty place of truthfulness and essences.

Honest even with herself now, admitting she felt something before anyone else did, that somewhere deep down inside she must be marked a freak like the rest of them, because she knew it was happening. A restless prickling underneath her skin which has now grown to a relentless buzz. She feels sick with the inherent wrongness of things, the vertigo of reality. The same sense that lets her know it won't, can't be much longer now. Things are starting to look strange from the corner of her eye, like they have only two dimensions, not three. Like the universe is folding itself up. She wishes she knew if other people see it, too. Upstairs Vernon is asleep or pretending to be, after muttering something about making the most of the day off work.

So she's the only one sitting in the back garden, waiting. She doesn't want to be inside on a day like this (the last day like this the last day the last--). Her nails dig into her palms and the pain is comforting.

The neighborhood is very still. Everyone has left or vanished behind drawn blinds and silence. They always were a respectable street. It takes Petunia a while to realize what she's missing: the white noise hum of the nearby motorway, now silent and empty. The air is colder than it should be.

And after a long time, there's someone coming over the grass toward her. Trudging slowly along the hedgerow, looking at the ground. She tenses (more), thinks about calling for Vernon, and then the figure pushes its glasses up its nose and she recognizes it. Him. Harry.

He's filthier than she's ever seen a human being, clothes ripped, hair matted, but he only pauses for a second when he looks up and sees her watching him.

She looks at him and says, "you," and he sits down without looking at her.

"Hullo Aunt Petunia," he says flatly, as if they're both entirely different people, and looks down at the ground, at the gashed mess of his hands.

"You did this," she says. "Your people did this. It's them."

He jerks at this, and almost looks at her.

"THEY did it," he says, too loudly, and when he softens his voice it's no less angry. "They did all of it, and they expected ME to--"

He breaks off, face twisting. Petunia is almost afraid but she can't see the outline of that thing, his wand, in the back of his jeans, where he's been carrying it since he was fifteen. Like she wouldn't notice him doing it, sneaking around, defying their rules, rebellious as he always was.

After a long silent moment he looks up at the horizon, which seems to be crackling dark very far away.

"But," she says, and stops. "They're not going to stop it, are they?"

"They're dead," says Harry. Empty-voiced. "There's nobody left."

"So you came here," she says, and her voice does that harsh thing she hears it doing and he winces and looks at her, finally.

"I--," he pauses again. "There was nowhere else to go."

And she gets a chill, wants to ask if he means that literally. But she doesn't doesn't does not want to know.

"Well I don't know what you expected," she tells him. "If your uncle sees you--"

"I know," he says, momentarily fierce. "I know," softer. "I just wanted." He stops and shrugs and twists away and they're both silent, sitting, waiting, for a long time.

Petunia watches him from the corner of her eye, watches him breathing, feels herself breathing. She hasn't seen him since he left for the last time a year ago.

He looks like his father. He looks like her sister. He looks far too young to be so covered in blood, but there's something hard and dark in his eyes that she finds strangely comforting. Like confirmation of everything she ever knew.

"Tell me about my mother," he says finally, voice challenging. "Did you ever like her at all?"

"I'm not going to do that," she snaps, and her back is straight and her sitting room is spotless and the air tastes strange.

"She was your sister," Harry says, rough and angry. "You grew up together, she must have loved--" He breaks off and shifts to look at her, eyes flashing. "You knew her, and I never got to at all. Do you even remember her? What she looked like? What was her middle name? What was her favorite color?"

Petunia winces and tightens her lips and looks straight ahead until Harry deflates and his gaze flattens, stretches to some far point of sky.

The sky seems lower. She can feel something pressing on her from all sides, like reality is trying to compress itself.

In the house behind her, her son is shooting imaginary monsters and her husband is lying with the covers over his head and Petunia is watching the color drain out of everything beside her filthy, silent nephew. His elbows rest on his knees and Petunia realizes there are old, dirty tear tracks down his cheeks. She can feel every bone in her body.

"Yellow," she says after a long time. Not softly, because she's never been soft, and he turns and blinks with something like surprise. He doesn't smile and neither does she and they look at each other.

The sky looms. Petunia holds her breath and counts and waits.


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