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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Petunia's Redemption

Petunia Dursley looked up sharply at the sound of a knock on the front door. She wasn't expecting any packages or visitors today; unconsciously smoothing her apron, she dried her hands on the dish towel folded precisely over the oven handle and went to answer the door. Vernon hadn't moved from his spot on the living room sofa-- it was Saturday, so he wasn't likely to budge until she called him for supper. Petunia patted his shoulder affectionately as she went past, and he mumbled a quick “hello, dear.”

Petunia didn't look through the peep hole before opening the door-- this was Little Whinging, after all, it wasn't like there were any bad sorts here-- and so had no warning at all when she looked out onto the stoop and saw her sister.


Petunia gave a silent gasp, her hand flying to her mouth. “L- Lily?” She whispered.

“Oh!” The girl said, smiling. “And here dad told me you wouldn't know who I am. Only, are you all right? You're pale as a sheet.”

Petunia forced herself to take a deep breath and look closely at the red-headed girl on her step. Of course it wasn't Lily, it couldn't possibly be Lily-- aside from the fact that Lily was, of course, gone, this girl couldn't be older than ten. Lily had been years older when she had... and yet, this girl looked so very much like her. But looking closely, there were little differences-- the shape of her nose, the tilt of her eyes. This wasn't Petunia's sister.

At the sound of a throat clearing, Petunia jumped and tore her eyes away from the girl who so resembled Lily Evans.

There, standing just behind the girl, bold as brass, was the boy. Only, he wasn't a boy now-- of course he wasn't, he was less than a year younger than Dudley and Dudley was married with a family. And so was Harry, clearly-- Petunia's jumbled thoughts fell into line and she realized who this girl must be.

“Petunia?” Vernon called from the living room. “Who's at the door?”

“No one,” Petunia replied without thinking, her voice sounding hollow in her own ears. “Just from the gardeners association.” Stepping shakily out onto the stoop, she pulled the door shut behind her.
The boy spoke before she could. “Aunt Petunia, this is your great-niece, Lily.”

“Lily?” Petunia said again, softly, biting her lip to keep it from quivering. “Of course, of course.” She took another shuddering breath and composed herself briskly. “Well, what are you doing here?”

Lily replied, “Yeah, dad said you mightn't be too pleased to see us. But I know all my mum's family, and no one at all from dad's side, so I badgered him until he agreed to bring me to meet you.” She was speaking quickly, like Lily Evans always had when she was nervous. Petunia noticed the girl's hands fussing with the hem of her t-shirt, too-- just like her sister. “I hope it's not too much bother.”

Petunia swallowed, refusing to look at Harry-- which was all too easy, since she couldn't take her eyes off of Lily. “What else did your father tell you about us?”

Little Lily glanced up at Harry quickly, then back to her great-aunt. “He told me you took him in when he didn't have anywhere else to go. He said-- well, he's famous, you know, with our lot-- oops, he said not to mention that-- but he said that growing up with you and his uncle and his cousin taught him to be humble, taught him to be just a normal person, instead of expecting everyone to fawn over him because of him being famous. He said you taught him to look at what people do more than what they say, because that tells how they really feel about you...” She trailed off, shrugging.

Petunia found herself staring at Harry, her throat and eyes burning as she took in the man he had become. Still that ugly scar on his forehead, still the same untidy black hair, and yet he had the broad shoulders of a man, and somewhere over the years he had grown taller than she was. He looked back at her steadily, returning her gaze with those eyes, those green eyes that were exactly the same as her sister's. Hesitantly, afraid he would shrug her off, Petunia took a step towards him. When Harry didn't move, she very suddenly flung her arms around him. Quite unaccountably, she was crying onto his shoulder.

“I'm so sorry,” she whispered. It was the only thing to say. And then he was hugging her, too, patting her gently on the back.

“It's all right, Aunt Petunia,” he whispered back. After a long moment, she pulled away, wiping at the tears that still streamed from her eyes, and turned back to Lily.

“Your dad was a good boy,” she said, the words spilling from her mouth like they had a mind of their own, and she realized she had waited years to say them. “He was a good boy, and very kind, and very brave. I'm so glad we took him in.” She looked back to Harry. “I just wish we had done more for him-- taken better care of him, loved him--”

“It's all right,” Harry said again. He gave a slight nod, reinforcing his words.

“I'm so glad you came,” Petunia whispered, pressing her fingertips to her quivering lips as she tried to hold back more tears. Harry seemed so calm, so at peace with the way she and Vernon had treated him-- she knew she shouldn't burden him by pouring her shame all over him. And yet, she couldn't help it. These were thoughts and feelings she had kept locked so tightly inside that she had barely acknowledged them herself, let alone made the colossal mistake of confiding them to Vernon. Ever since they had left Harry alone and run for their lives, all those years ago, Petunia had felt this little kernel of guilt dug in under her ribcage, lodged somewhere near her heart. Dudley had been able, that day, to find a few words-- something to ease the pain of everything they'd done. Petunia hadn't had the courage.

But maybe there was something she could do to make up for it.

“Wait here,” she said, her voice still a little choked, and darted back into the house. Grabbing a pen and a pad of paper from the table by the door, she dashed off a few lines and slipped back outside. “Here,” she thrust the note into Harry's hand. Then, voice quivering again, she looked at little Lily. “You look just like your grandmother,” she said. “She was a brave, loving, brilliant woman, and you will be, too.” She met Harry's eyes. “Goodbye, nephew,” she whispered. Petunia Dursley walked back into the house and shut the door.

Standing out on the front stoop where he had been left as a baby, Harry Potter glanced around at the hydrangeas along the house and the little brick walls dividing yards that looked like they had been cut using a ruler. Gleaming cars, meticulous flower beds, and lacy curtains in the windows of all the tidy little houses-- Privet Drive hadn't changed a bit. Well, Harry thought with a slight smile, perhaps some things about it had changed. He looked down at the paper his aunt had pushed into his hand.

Dudley, Charlotte, and Charles Dursley
9 Forsythia Place
Little Whinging

His smile widening into a grin, Harry tucked the paper into his pocket and took Lily's hand. “So,” he said, leading her back down the drive. “Are you glad you met my family?”

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