The Sugar Quill
Author: Nundu (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Runner Beans  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

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Runner Beans 

 

As she sat down at the table in her spotless kitchen a report on the morning news broke into her thoughts of the dayís upcoming schedule of an arriving guest.

"ÖAuthorities have announced that Sirius Black, a convicted mass murderer, has escaped and is currently at large."

Sirius Black. Not him. Please God, not him. Petuniaís mind raced. She turned to the television screen in time to see a picture of a gaunt-faced man with a tangled mat of elbow length hair. His eyes, barely visible through the dark curtain of hair, gleamed with an intensity that startled her with their familiarity. She had last seen him almost thirteen years ago, but those eyes were impossible to forget.

~*~

There she stood, for the last time, in the busy main hallway at Kings Cross Station. She used to wait nearer the blank barricade, but was off put by the cluster of peculiar people that gathered there annually to collect their loved ones. The cries of delight at the sudden appearance of eager children with trolleys laden with steamer trunks and animal cages filled the cavernous hall. Petunia refused to be part of that scrum anymore. Lily knew how Petunia felt about Ďher typeí, but always seemed delighted that Petunia at least made the effort to meet the train. Greeting her sister with a bright wave, Lilyís red hair reflected the beams of sun from the skylighted ceiling as she pushed her way forward to hug an impatiently waiting sister. Although only fifteen months apart in age, Petunia had the appearance of a woman a decade older than the vibrant teenager on the cusp of adulthood. She held herself stiffly for the caress, brushed back a blonde strand that escaped her carefully styled coif, and turned back towards the station exit with the expectation of being immediately followed by the younger girl.

"Wait, Pet! I want you to meet someone!" Petunia turned with a sigh, and faced Lily, who was now standing hand in hand with a tousle-haired young man. This was not the boy Petunia had seen Lily whispering with last year on the platform. This one had a bit more of a wild look about him. "Petunia, this is James Potter. James, my sister Petunia." Petunia barely had a moment to acknowledge this before three other young men stepped forward, proffering their hands.

"Remus Lupin"

"Peter Petegrew"

"Sirius Black, at your service, madame." His eyes lighted on Petunia with a flicker of amusement as he lifted her hand to his lips. She could feel the smirk teasing the corner of his mouth, as he looked her up and down. She jerked her hand away immediately feeling almost violated.

"Oh Padfoot, you try that with all the girls! Be nice to my sister! Youíll be seeing a lot of each other in the future I imagine," Lily scolded with amusement. She turned to Petunia and with a roll of her eyes said, "These three scalawags are Jamesí best friends and faithful companions. Itís hard to find one without the others. Itís a sad fact of life, but itís almost as if Iíve a harem!" She turned and patted each man on the arm affectionately before finally turning to James and grasping him in an embrace. "Remember what I told you about the telephone! Hereís my number." She gave him a quick buss on the cheek and pressed a slip of paper into his hand. With a turn and wave she called out "Ring me!" as she followed Petunia out into the busy road and to the car parked by the curb.

~*~

A quiet foot on the stair brought her back to the breakfast table. A tousle-haired boy with owlish glasses was slipping quietly to the table between Vernon and Dudley. He reached across the table for a piece of toast and glanced at the television screen to the picture displayed of Black.

"Öthe public is warned that Black is armed and extremely dangerous. A special hotline has been set up, and any sighting of Black should be reported immediately."

"No need to tell us heís no good," snorted Vernon, staring over the top of his newspaper at the prisoner. "Look at the state of him, the filthy layabout! Look at his hair!"

Petunia glanced at her nephew who seemed bemused by the prisonerís appearance. He absentmindedly patted the top of his head, as if in an effort to tame his own wild locks.

As the newsreader went on to the next report, Vernon exploded with indignation. "You didnít tell us where that maniacís escaped from!"

Yes, where did he escape from?

"What use is that? Lunatic could be coming up the street right now!"

Petunia shot an anxious glance out the kitchen window. What if he was coming down the street right now? What if he was looking for Harry? What if he was looking for her?

~*~

The bell rang and Lily ran to open the door. "James! You came!" She reached out and dragged the boy in the door, all the while calling, "Mum, Dad, please come meet James!" She led the way into the lounge as her parents came out of the kitchen. With a grin on her face she made introductions. James stepped forward and reached out his hand to her father with an expression of grim earnestness. Her father grasped Jamesí hand and shook it solemnly, then broke into a grin that matched his daughterís.

"No need to be terrified young man! I rarely bite!" The ice broken, conversation erupted. Mr. Evans was taken by Jamesí plans for work in the law enforcement field. An Auror, as it was called in the magical world.

James and Lily shared a brief glance before Lily took a big breath and said, "Thatís the field I am pursuing also, Dad."

Silence met this pronouncement.

Mr. Evans finally spoke. "Are you considering what that would mean Lily?"

"What do you mean by that?" Lily rounded.

"Well, we assumed you would eventually want to marry and start a family, and law enforcement is not exactly a mother-friendly fieldÖ. not to say you canít do what ever a man can do! You have the brains and the gumption to be what ever you want to be! Donít let being a female hold you back from anything!" Mrs. Evans babbled.

Lily grinned at her mother, "Oh Mum, youíve just not quite got the hang of all that womenís equality jargon yet have you?" She reached over and gave her mother a hug. "I understand what you are saying, but I think we have some important work to do to make the world a safe place to bring children into. Iím going to have a go at that before I start making babies." With a swift glance at James, her colour rose in her cheeks.

Just as Petunia came out of the kitchen carrying a coffee tray, the doorbell jangled again. She placed the tray on the coffee table and went to open the door. Pulling it open, she was greeted by a smirk and a drawl.

"Ah, Petunia. A delight to meet you again." He reached for her hand. She snatched it away, and stepped to one side.

"Youíll find them in there," she said, motioning to the lounge door. As Sirius entered the lounge, Petunia slipped back into the kitchen through the rear hall door, busying herself with cleaning the spotless counter of imagined cake crumbs, and listening to the chatter and laughter from the other room.

"Pet," her father called. "Come join us!" Petunia sidled into the lounge and found the only seat left open was on the settee next to Sirius. She perched on the edge of the seat, as if ready to bolt. The conversation continued to swirl around her. She tried to follow it, but it seemed to involve a long story about a unicorn cornered in a paddock in the forest and a very unhappy rat. At one point Sirius caught her eye and grinned at her in a casual, almost friendly way. She quickly shifted her glance and he returned his attention to James and the story. As time passed, Mr. and Mrs. Evans begged off and retired upstairs, leaving the younger people to their own devices. Sirius stood, faced Petunia and offered his hand.

"May I take you for an evening walk, Petunia?" he asked. Petunia stood in confusion. Sirius leaned in and whispered in her ear, "I think these two would appreciate some private time." He nodded towards James and Lily who were doing a bit of whispering themselves. Petunia blushed and nodded, following Sirius toward the hall. "Weíll be back in a bit," Sirius called. There was no response. Sirius snickered, "As if theyíll notice weíre gone."

The sky was a velvety midnight blue perfumed with jasmine and warm dry grass. Sirius and Petunia walked side by side, saying nothing, but comfortable in that silence. As the moon rose nearly full, Sirius looked at it and grinned. Petunia glanced at him, "Whatís so funny?"

"Oh, I have special plans for tomorrow night."

"Really."

"Yes, a group of us always get together and celebrate the full moon."

"Ah, wellÖ.right."

"So, Petunia, tell me about yourself," Sirius changed subjects.

"Well, Iím starting at University in September. I had a nice gap year working at an accounting firm in the city, and now I want to get my certificate as a public accountant so I can progress, you know."

"HmmmÖand?"

"And, what?" Petunia asked, puzzled.

"Is there a nice young accountant interested in your books?" Sirius quipped.

"I beg your pardon!"

Sirius grinned, reminding her forcefully of a great lapping dog with his head cocked, tongue lolling , begging for her approval. "Oh, come on, a pretty girl like you, you must have them lined up! Any guyís a sucker for long blonde hair. You just have to let itÖ.", he reached for the clip on the back of her head. As he touched the chignon, she reached back and slapped his hand away.

"Donít touch me!" she hissed.

Sirius dropped his hand and thrust it into the hip pocket of his trousers. "What are you so scared of Petunia?"

"Nothing!" she whispered, the shake in her voice betraying her word.

"Nothing? Nothing makes you hide in the kitchen when I arrived? Nothing makes you scared to be alone with me for five minutes? I donít think thatís nothing, Petunia. What are you scared of?"

"Iím scared of what you are!"

Sirius looked taken aback. "What am I? Whatís so scary about me?"

Petunia looked around in a panic. "Youíre just like her. You know, aÖaÖwiÖ.a wizard." She choked out the last word in a strangled gulp.

Sirius threw his head back and bayed with laughter. "Is that all?" he gasped as the laughter finally died. "I thought I had grown a third eye or something."

Petunia turned on her heel and strode towards home. Sirius hurried to catch her arm. She jerked it out of his grasp. "Donít touch me, I said!" Sirius grabbed her arm again. As she struggled to free his grip he pulled her to face him.

"Look, Iím no different from any other guy, except I know how to use a wand." Petunia stopped struggling at that pronouncement and dropped her jaw. Sirius looked at her peculiarly then again burst out laughing. "That didnít come out quite right did it?" For just a moment Petunia looked ready to grin back at him, but seemed to catch herself, flung herself out of his grasp and continued storming down the walkway. "Aw, Pet, come on! Whatís so wrong with being a wizard?" Sirius whined as he trotted at her heel.

"Whatís so wrong with being a wizard? Whatís so wrong? Itís not normal. Itís not natural. I want a normal, natural life. Not one filled with frog spawn, tea cups turning into rats, magic wands, abnormal things. I want a nice, normal, everyday life with a nice normal, everyday man. NOT SOME FREAK LIKE YOU!"

Sirius stopped, absolutely floored by her response. "Freak? Iím a freak?"

"YES! You are a freak!" With that she arrived at the front door, threw it open and stormed into the house. Stomping through the lounge on the way to the stairs, she shouted "Good night, Lily! And good night to your freak friends, too!"

~*~

"When will they learn," Vernon roared on, "that hangingís the only way to deal with these people?"

"Very true," agreed Petunia, staring out into the neighborís runner beans.

~*~

"Oh come on, Petunia, itís only for an afternoon. You can at least pretend you like me for that long."

"I think we had best just be satisfied with being polite to one another. Thatís probably as much as we are capable of getting on with for now."

"PetuniaÖ." Sirius almost whined.

"Go away, and do not touch me. I am not interested in you or your puppy dog eyes. I am simply here to support my sister, God knows why, in this travesty she insists on calling a wedding."

"We could make it a double wedding. Make your Dad happy wouldnít it? He loves me."

"He doesnít know you like I know you, Sirius Black. I see you for what you are, and you do not interest me in the least. Iíve told you that since the first time I met you."

"Second."

"What?"

"The second time we met. You met me the first time in the train station and sneered at me even then."

"I did not sneer at you. I didnít even know you. You thought you were being suave and debonair, but I saw you as just another flirt trying to bowl me over with your supposed sophistication. I have always preferred men who are straightforward and honest."

"Like Vernon?"

"Yes, like Vernon!"

"Come on, Petunia. Heís not your type."

"Oh, and what is my type, might I ask?"

"Someone with a life other than selling drills, what-ever those are."

"He just happens to be in line for a managerial position that should set him up for life. He will take very good care of me."

"Is that whatís important to you, Petunia? To have good care taken of you? Donít you want to be more than just his pretty little wife sitting at home making tea and biscuits for important clients? Donít you want to experience a bit more life than that?"

"And what exactly do you offer a girl? Wild adventures that you might not come home from? Running for your life from people who want no more than to see you dead? A family that has disowned you? Yeah, I can see you being a right catch yourself! Lily might be able to stand that kind of future for herself, but I canít. I want to know my husband is coming home at night. I want to know heíll be there when weíre old. I want to have children who know their father and know he loves them and would go to the ends of the earth for them."

"If you think James would ever abandon Lily then you donít understand James at all." Sirius growled. "James will never leave Lily for anything. Their children will be the most loved children in the world. They will know their Dad loves their Mum more than anything in the world. I have never felt that kind of love for anyone yet, Petunia, but I can see it in James. Donít worry, Lily is not making a mistake."

"I wish I had your confidence in your world Sirius. I do. But I canít. I know what Lily has told Mum and Dad about that man, and it scares me. None of us are safe. None of us have a future as long as he is alive."

"Petunia," Sirius grasped her hands, "if we wait until life is safe and a future is guaranteed, none of us will ever have a future. Take your future. If what you really want is Vernon, then take Vernon, but live your life always wanting more. But always keep trying to look around the next corner for adventure, or life will become stagnant. You arenít a stagnant person, Petunia. Donít let Vernon keep you from blooming."

Petunia looked up at him with a pained look on her face. "You donít understand us at all, do you?" She turned and walked into the chapel to meet her sister in the narthex.

~*~

Vernon bustled around the kitchen, news report forgotten. He was blathering on about getting to the train station to meet his sister. Harry seemed concerned, but Petunia tuned out their conversation as she cleared the table.

~*~

She stood back and looked at her beautifully set table. The silver gleamed dully in the sunlight and the china glistened under the weight of her carefully baked cakes and biscuits. She placed her hand on the small of her back and stretched, trying to lengthen her torso loaded with child in an effort to give herself more room to breath. A thump of a kick caught her in her rib and she smiled as she gently massaged the little foot. Only six more weeks little one, she thought. Then youíll be mine to hold. Granny and Papa are coming for tea today. I wonder whatís keeping them. A glance at the clock on the mantle told her it was half gone four. It wasnít like them to be late. Petunia flopped on the chair and propped her feet on the ottoman, enjoying a moment of rest. She started to a knock on the door and was surprised to see it was after six. She must have dozed off! She dashed to the door and flung it open to see Sirius Black standing there.

"PetuniaÖ.", he stammered, looking ill. "Petunia, I have to take you home."

"Take me home? What? Whatís the matter?"

"Just come with me, Petunia, please." She grabbed her purse and followed him out the door and down the walk. He grabbed her hand and took off at a pace she struggled to match.

"Hang on, please, Sirius," she gasped, "I canít walk that fast anymore."

They covered the five blocks quickly, but as they rounded the corner, the block seemed covered with a green haze. "What is going on, Sirius?" Petunia rounded on him.

"He found them, Petunia. Voldemort found your parents. Iím sorry."

"NO! They said he couldnít find them! They promised me theyíd be safe! Theyíre safe, I know they are! He promised me!"

"Petunia, I know. Iím sorry, I donít know why he came after them."

"I do! James and Lily got away from him again, and he wanted revenge. He couldnít get to them, so he got the next best thing. Where are they? What did he do with them?"

"Theyíre still in there, Petunia." She pulled out of his grasp and ran up the path. He followed her into the house to find her in the lounge looking at the still, perfect bodies of her parents, lying where he had felled them, side by side, hands clasped. She dropped to her knees, sobbing. "Mummy? Daddy?" She sounded like a five-year-old crying from a dream. Sirius stood over her, feeling helpless as he watched her rocking and sobbing as she stroked their cheeks.

"Come on Petunia. The Muggle police will be here anytime. You canít be here."

"Leave me alone! Youíve done enough! Get out of here and leave me with my parents! Leave me alone!"

"Come on, Pet, you canít be here. Thereíll be an inquiry. You canít tell the Muggles about Voldemort, theyíll think youíre crazy."

"I canít leave them here. I canít leave them alone," she gasped.

Sirius pulled her up gently, trying to turn her towards the door. She pulled against him, but failed and shuffled along after him, still staring back at her parentsí empty shells. They retraced their steps back towards 4 Privet Drive. Sirius pushed the front door open and led her to the lounge, allowing her to collapse on the couch. Her glazed eyes swept the neat, ordered room with the now cold teapot and cake plates sitting on the table. With a sudden movement, she knocked the setting from the table, bringing it shattering to the floor. She kicked the table over. She yanked the cushion from behind her and threw it at the lamp by the window. With a sudden surge of manic, she began to roar through the room brushing carefully-placed knick-knacks from their shelves and pictures from the wall. Sirius stirred from his shock and grasped her arms just as she reached for a table lamp.

"Petunia, stop it!"

"DONíT TOUCH ME! Itís all your fault! We believed you when you told us weíd be safe. We believed you when you said he didnít care about us! We believed you when you said heíd come after you not us! You and that, that Dumbledore lied to us!"

"Yes, Petunia, we lied to you. We didnít think heíd go after you or your parents. We thought youíd be safe for now. Iím sorry. That sounds trite, but I am sorry. Come on, Pet, you need to rest. Vernon will be home soon. Iíll wait and tell him for you, if you like. You need to have a lie down."

"NO! Get out of my house. Get out of my life. I never want to see you or anyone like you again! You tell Lily, if you ever see her again, that I donít want to ever see her again either. If she hadnít become a freak, none of this would have happened. Voldemort would have never heard of any of us and would never have come after any of us if she had made a nice normal life for herself. I hate her for that. Tell her thatÖ.I HATE HER!"

Sirius looked at her with pity in his eyes. He nodded then turned and walked out the door. Petunia watched him walk down the path with his head bowed, as she gasped and grabbed her abdomen, doubled over in pain.

~*~

Vernon began lecturing Harry on his behaviour during Margeís visit. The boyís eyes seemed to glaze over as he enumerated the items on the list. Harry seemed more sullen in his responses, untilÖ

"Weíve told Marge you attend St. Brutusís Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys."

"What?"

~*~

 

The mail slot rattled on the front door. Petunia looked up as Vernon brought the mail in from the hall, and settled into his chair at the breakfast table. Petunia looked up from feeding Dudley, or rather dodging his spoon as he slung his porridge around the room. She took his bowl off his tray and offered him a teething biscuit to give herself a brief reprieve. She turned back to her coffee and looked at the stack of letters. A creamy parchment envelope fell out of the stack. She broke the seal and drew a heavy folded sheet from the fold. An invitation.

You are invited to the christening mass for

Harry James Potter

Sunday, 1. September 1981

Godrics Chapel

Godrics Hollow,

Pembrokeshire, South Wales

A small, hand written note fell out of the envelope. Petunia picked it up from her lap, recognizing Lilyís delicate script. "Please come." the note begged. "We only have each other. I cannot bear losing you too. I know you blame my world for Mum and Dadís death, and rightfully so, but please donít let that destroy our only connection to them. We cannot let our sons grow up without family. They may not have their grandparents anymore, but they and we can have each other. Please, Petunia, come."

Petunia cast a sidelong glance at Vernon, immersed in the morning newspapers. Two years ago, his biggest fear would be that someone would find out about his wifeís sisterís Ďabnormalityí. Now he never mentioned it. At times he seemed to even tiptoe cautiously around her if he found her looking at family mementos or photos. He seemed to have decided to ignore the fact that she even had a family. Maybe that was for the best. Petunia never mentioned her family to Vernonís co-workers. The neighbors who asked about her parentís sudden deaths were told about a leak in the oven. They had died of gas poisoning, silent, painless and suffocatingly deadly, it was explained. Sometimes Petunia could almost convince herself of that. Sometimes.

Petunia directed her attention to her rambunctious sixteen-month-old son. He had finished the teething biscuit, so she placed an apple wedge in front of him. He shoved it aside and thrust his dimpled fist out towards the biscuit box, grunting and reaching, begging for another. Petunia smiled as she gave in to his petition. Lilyís son was only three months younger than Dudley. An announcement of his birth had arrived a little over a year ago. Petunia had not responded. "We cannot let our sons grow up without family." Lily implored. Petunia felt an ache in her chest. ĎWithout familyí. Petunia tried to imagine growing up without being surrounded by the love of her parents and sister. They had their moments, as all sisters did, but her closest friend had always been Lily. Until Lily had gone away to school. That school, those people, had taken her sister away. Those people had destroyed her parents. Lilyís world had destroyed her family. Lily was all she had left of her family. Vernon had a sister, but she was a coarse maiden woman that had more interest in her dogs than children or men. She was constantly offering none too subtle hints for Petuniaís improvement. She reminded Petunia more of a strict schoolmistress than a sister with whom she could share anecdotes and secrets. ĎWithout familyí. No, Petunia couldnít imagine living like that. She couldnít imagine letting Dudley live like that. After all, the love of a family was what made life worth living. Could she get past the pain of seeing her motherís red hair and her fatherís green eyes every time she looked at Lily? She would have to. It would be the price she paid to embrace the love of her sister. She would go.

Vernon took her to the station the in the early morning hours of the new month. He seemed shaken by her pale, determined face. "Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked for what must have been the hundredth time.

"I have to do this." Petunia asserted. "Iím the only family she has left. It wouldnít look proper for me not to be there. Iíll be back on tomorrowís train. Now, be sure Marge understands Dudleyís meal schedule, and that he should be taken for an outing this afternoon, if the weather is nice, and to check his nappies regularly, and keep those nasty dogs out of his face. Oh, and make sure she knowsÖ."

Vernon put his hands up defensively. "Now, now Petunia. Marge will be fine. She is excellent with Dudley. He loves his auntie Marge. Donít you worry about us. Just be careful there. Watch out for yourself. God knows their kind wonít." With a perfunctory kiss on the forehead, he turned and strode out the carriage. Petunia settled into her seat and watched out the window as the station slid away and Vernon turned towards to car park, not seeing her final wave.

She got off the train, stiff from the four-hour trip, and peered around her at this new place. It figures theyíd go to the most desolate end of the earth to escape, she thought with a smirk. She picked up her bag and began walking to the car park. Perhaps the taxi driver would know how to get to this ĎGodrics Hollow.í She certainly couldnít find it on any map she had found. As she stepped though the way out she heard her name called. She looked up to see Sirius Black striding though the car park. She stiffened her back and walked to meet him.

"Petunia, weíre so glad you made it. Come on, I have a taxi waiting."

"Oh, no place magical? An ordinary taxi can take us there?"

"Well, most of the way, at least, Pet."

"Donít call me that," she said, all expression disappearing from her face and voice.

"Why not?"

"Just donít."

Silence fell as they climbed into the waiting taxi. As they bumped along Sirius tried again. "Could Vernon not get away to come?"

"No."

"Howís that son of yours? I hear heís doing well after arriving a bit too soon."

"Heís progressing nicely for a preemie. Itís difficult, but we are giving him double feedings to keep his strength up. The doctors expect him to catch up quickly." Petunia recited from rote.

"Good. I was worried about you both. Iím sorry I didnít realize what was happening when I left that evening."

"You had no way of knowing. Itís quite all right. Thank you for your concern." Petunia parroted flatly.

They each looked out their window of the taxi, studiously ignoring each other. Finally Sirius turned once again to Petunia.

"Thereís something you need to know."

Petunia looked at him with an arched brow.

"Voldemort is still looking for James and Lily, and now Harry too. He has told his followers that nothing is more important than the death of that little boy." Petunia gasped. "James and Lily are going into hiding soon. This will be your last chance to see them until Voldemort is gone."

"Why is he after a baby boy?"

"We donít know. I think it is just his determination to totally destroy their lives."

"Are Dudley, Vernon and I in danger too?"

"I donít know, Petunia. I hope not, but I canít make any guarantees, you know that."

"Yes, I know that," she replied dully. "So, how are they going to hide? No one else seems to be able to hide from him, why do they think they can?"

"There is a very old, very complex spell that allows you to hide anything. Dumbledore is making the arrangements and it will be done in the next couple of weeks. With this spell the only way they can be found is if they are betrayed by someone that loves them very much."

"And who will that be? Who will they trust that much? Dumbledore?" she sneered his name.

"No Ö me."

"And you will never betray them?"

"Never, Petunia. James is my brother. We may not have had the same mother, but we are brothers. Closer than blood could make us. I love Lily like I will never love another woman. That baby is my child, too. I donít expect to ever know love like I feel for those three people again in my life. All I can do is give them this. I will protect them to my death."

Petunia looked into his eyes and saw an almost manic gleam. She nodded in understanding.

The evening drew to a close. A day of reunion and celebration. Slowly the friends slipped away one by one, leaving the young couple with a dozing toddler that already sported the tousled black mop of his father and bold green eyes of his mother and a doting auntie and godfather. Petunia tickled a little foot that had worked its way out of the blanket. The toes curled and the baby stirred, but he did not wake. She looked up at Lilyís face, leaned against Jamesí shoulder. She should have looked satisfied and happy, but her face was pulled into worry. Petunia heard her murmur, "But what will be done with him?"

"Azkaban, love. The dementors that guard it will make sure he never leaves it. The dementors will make sure he is not fit to leave it. Thatís not our worry anymore. All we have to do is keep Harry safe and happy."

Petunia wrinkled her brow. "Are you close to catching him?" she asked her sister, who jumped when she realized her sister had overheard.

"We think so. I have developed a charm that should be able to track him, the next time he attacks. The problem is, he usually leaves his dirty work for his minions. It has been several months since he last attacked someone Ďpersonally.í We think heíll show his face again soon."

"So you have to wait until someone else dies to find him?"

"We donít plan for anyone else to die, Petunia." James offered in an uncharacteristically quiet voice. "Heís looking for Lily and Harry and me. We plan on letting him know where we are." Petunia gasped, all blood draining from her face. "No, not where we really are. Just a red herring to lead him to a specific place so we can control the circumstances. There the spell will be cast. Even if he gets away, Aurors will be able to track him and capture him straight away. The only way it can go wrong is if he doesnít fall for the bait. The spell is faultless. No one can best our Lilyís spells." He pressed a kiss against Lilyís hair, stroking the head of his sleeping son.

"But how will you Ďbaití the trap?"

"Itís simple really. One of our closest friends has wormed his way into Voldemortís inner circle. Voldemort is so sure of his abilities that he doesnít think we could get a spy near him, but we have. That person will confide that he has found out our hiding place, sending Voldemort to the trap we have laid."

"And you trust him implicitly?"

"I would trust him with my life."

~*~

 

"Well, Petunia," Vernon broke into her memories, "Iíll be off to the station, then. Want to come along for the ride, Dudders?"

"Duddyís got to make himself smart for his auntie, " said Petunia, stroking Dudleyís thick blonde hair with affection. "Mummyís bought him a lovely new bow-tie."

With a clap of the boyís shoulder, Vernon left the kitchen, followed quickly by Harry. Dudleyís attention reverted to the television screen.

Petunia went out to the back stoop to collect the eggs and milk left by delivery.

~*~

As she stepped onto the stoop, she saw a bundle of blankets. She reached for it, but withdrew her hand with a gasp. A baby! Someone had left a baby on her stoop! She quickly reached out and gathered the bundle up, grasping at an envelope as it fell out of the folds of the blanket. As she pulled back the blanket to reveal the childís face, she knew immediately who it was. "Harry! Oh, Harry. Oh, Lily," she moaned. She sucked in her breath as she saw a lightening bolt cut on his little forehead. She gathered him tighter, and took him into the house, hoping he would stay asleep so she could think. Vernon would be so angry. He hated any mention of her family in his house. He was torn between his own anger at the fear someone would Ďfind outí, and his sorrow for his wifeís loss of her parents and his childís grandparents. Petunia laid Harry, still bundled up and sleeping, across her knees, patting him absent-mindedly as she opened the envelope. The emerald green script began:

Dear Petunia,

As you are aware, your sister and her husband and child have been under the safekeeping of a spell to protect them from a wizard who sought to destroy them. Every protection known to wizard kind was used, but unfortunately Voldemort broke through these barriers and found their hiding place. Lily and James fought valiantly, but to no avail. I regret to tell you they both perished. Lilyís last act as a mother was to protect her son. There is no stronger love than that of a mother for her child, as I am sure you are aware. In dying to protect Harry, Lily transferred a power to Harry that allowed him to survive Voldemortís curse with only the cut you see on his head. Not only did this power protect Harry, but also appears to have destroyed Voldemort as well. Now there is one more protection I want to place around Harry. I want to place him in your safekeeping. You and his mother share blood. Harry now carries his motherís blood, and therefore a link to you. As long as he is protected by his motherís blood in a home that carries his motherís blood, he is protected from the evil forces that will continue to seek him out. Furthermore, in accepting him as your son, you and your child will too be protected by this ancient and wonderful magic. Where family blood flows, love flows. The greatest power of all is love.

If you feel you cannot accept this commitment, please let me know immediately. I will remove Harry from your household. However, upon doing this I cannot offer any protection for your household. Please consider carefully. Harry will remain in your care until he is of age seventeen. His secondary education will be the responsibility of the magical community, as was his motherís. He will need to return to your home each summer to maintain the power of this protection. Remember that this spell is as much for your protection as his.

I know you will consider this carefully.

Yours,

Albus Dumbledore

Petunia dropped the letter. "With this spell the only way they can be found is if they are betrayed by someone that loves them very much." The baby was jerked from his slumber as Petunia began to scream.

~*~

The gravel crunched on the drive. "Get the door!" she hissed at her nephew as he came down the stairs. Every day the sight of him reminded her. Every day, the sight of him made her shudder with fear for her own sonís life. Every day, the sight of him made her remember that only he stood between her and death. And now the man that had vowed to protect this very child to the death was out of prison. How long before he found them? She took one more frantic glance out the window before turning to greet her sister-in-law.

//
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