The Sugar Quill
Author: Red Monster  Story: Little Sister's Grudge  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.

Little Sister's Grudge

by Red Monster

My betareader is Ada Kensington, and I must give her credit for deciding that Snarky and Barky are actually Snape and Sirius. I always knew there was a reason I came up with them!

"One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours' time by Mrs. Dursley's scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousin Dudley..."
--Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, Chapter 1

November 1st was the day the owls came out in force, the sky was riddled with shooting stars, and people were hitting the streets dressed in brightly colored cloaks, muttering about Muggles and the Potters. That was the day when Petunia Dursley had to tell her husband, Vernon, that no, she had NOT heard from her sister, and why should she? That was the day a gray tabby cat read a map on their street corner, and a little old man in a purple cloak gave Vernon a hug. On the 2nd, all seemed to have gone back to normal. There were no owls swooping around outside, no cat sitting on the wall, and certainly no oddballs in cloaks scampering about, at least not in the Dursleys' neighborhood, which was as it should be. That morning, while Vernon ate breakfast and before little Dudley woke up, Petunia stepped outside to put out the milk bottles and get the morning paper, but the paper was not what she found on the welcome mat. Petunia let out an ear-splitting scream that lasted a full five seconds and sent every bird in every tree on the street fluttering into the sky, at the sight of the black-haired baby sleeping just below her front door. She stopped to catch her breath, to the sound of Dudley's cries from above and Vernon shouting, "Petunia, what the devil was that about?"

The welcome-mat baby woke up, too, and started to cry. She had to calm down. This was obviously some cast-off that a neighbor's teenage daughter had left at their door; some silly girl had screwed around, gotten knocked up, concealed her pregnancy, given birth in secret, and chosen Petunia and Vernon's house as the place to leave her little accident so no one would find out. They would leave it with the nearest orphanage and be done with it. She stepped over the baby, put the bottles down on the bottom step and was reaching down to pick the baby up and carry it inside, before any of the neighbors looked out and saw her shrieking over a small child on her doorstep, when she saw exactly what was wrong with this picture. At that moment, she could no longer deny what had made her react so vehemently to the sight of that child on her welcome mat.

It was at least a year old; someone had to have become attached to it by now, it had been around much too long to be a simple case of abandon-and-forget-about-it. There was a letter tucked into the baby's blankets, that looked just like the letters that Petunia's sister, Lily, had received from that freakish school, except that it was addressed to "Mrs. V. Dursley" rather than "Miss L. Evans." The baby already had a mop of unpleasantly messy hair, just like Lily's husband. Due to all these things, Petunia did not pick up the baby and take it inside until she and Vernon could decide which branch of social services to call. Instead, Petunia Dursley fainted, right there on the front walk, where all of Privet Drive could see her.

When she came to, she saw the living room from the oddest perspective. Vernon had her clutched in one arm and was carrying her inside, and from the noise coming from so nearby, she could tell he had the welcome-mat baby tucked under his other arm. He set her down on the sofa, laid the baby on the cushion next to her, and demanded to know, "What is the meaning of this?! Petunia, whose child is that?"

"I don't know, Vernon, he was there on the mat when I opened the door!"

"I could see that much, but who left it there?!"

"I'm telling you, I don't know!" she wailed. "It's someone who knows my sister!"

Vernon stood back, and all the color drained out of his face. "That couldn't know...their son, could it?"

"No!" Petunia squealed automatically. "She knows perfectly well what we think of her lot, and she's told her husband, too, as you well know! My sister has the sense not to leave her child at our house! This is someone else from her crowd!" The morning was going very badly. Petunia was caught between one toddler, her own Dudley, screaming his little head off upstairs, waiting to be brought down and cared for; another toddler, definitely not her own, crying for attention beside her, and her husband, standing over her and demanding answers.

"But no matter who left it here, Petunia, we cannot keep it! We'll have to call the authorities to take it off our hands and send it to the orphanage. It's the only thing for us to do!"

"I'll do that, Vernon, now go to work," she snapped.

"And I hope you realize," he continued, "that our son is awake and wondering where his mother is? Do you hear him crying over the racket that runt is making?" demanded Vernon, gesturing toward the black-haired baby.

"Of course I hear him! Now go to work, I'll sort this out, but I don't want you to be late," she fussed, ushering him towards the door.

Vernon did not take the risk of pointing out to her that he had a good fifteen minutes before he was in danger of being late, and that she was no nearer to going upstairs to see to Dudley than she'd been when he carried her inside, because although he had one of the strongest personalities Petunia knew, even he could be nervous when she reached the level of agitation she achieved when she was reminded of her sister.

Lily Potter was Petunia Dursley's older sister by two years, and a casual observer, had there been one who was allowed to look in on their family situation, would have surmised that the rift between them had started when Lily entered secondary school, but that observer would have been mistaken. The trouble had begun when they were very small children. It was all Petunia could think about as she went up the stairs to Dudley's room. Lily, as a child, had been the apple of their parents' eye, and Petunia could never figure out why. Lily had been beautiful, and bright, and charming, and honest, and capable of perfect behavior and politeness when it suited her. She had also been stubborn, and demanding, and bossy, and possessed of a blowtorch temper entirely unbecoming of a pretty little girl from a respectable family such as theirs. She probably thought herself a good sister, because she had been affectionate, even protective, of Petunia when things were going her way, but Petunia had been frightened of Lily since the beginning. It would have been one thing if Lily had merely been willful and tempermental. Petunia could have lived that that. The real problem with Lily had been the disturbingly unique ability she'd had to make things go her way.

"It's okay, sweetums, Mummy's here now," she cooed as she lifted Dudley, an exceptionally large 16-month-old, out of his crib. He was not to be mollified so easily, however. Dudley flailed his little fists through the air, sometimes hitting Petunia in the face, and kicked her in the pelvis as he screamed. "Mummy's sorry she took so long, darling, but we're going downstairs now. You'll get to eat breakfast, and play with your toys, and Mummy's not going to forget about you again. Won't that be nice?"

Dudley continued to shriek and struggle all the way down the stairs and into the living room. Petunia was afraid he would hear the other baby crying and become even more upset, but Dudley didn't seem to notice the additional noise over his own tantrum. This was understandable, as Petunia couldn't hear the other baby over Dudley's wailing, either. In the kitchen, Dudley could not be coaxed into his high chair. Petunia supposed she must have been distracted by the arrival of the little abandonee and the possibility of having to deal with her sister's crowd; that must have been why she couldn't wrestle Dudley into his chair as usual. Finally, she gave up on giving him breakfast in the kitchen and decided to take a more two-pronged approach to the situation. With great difficulty, she clamped Dudley to her side with one arm, picked up the high chair in the other hand, and carried both into the living room. Dudley was not to be distracted just yet, but his flailing did grow slightly gentler when he caught sight of the television, and Petunia was able to persuade him into the chair. She knelt down to select a tape for him to watch, and caught a glimpse of the sofa. The strange baby was still there; he had not disappeared, though he was trying to struggle out of the blankets wrapped around him. The letter had fallen to the floor; it was propped up against the front of the sofa.

Petunia slid "The Adventures of Snarky and Barky" into the VCR, and kept thinking about the way her sister plagued her existence as she went back into the kitchen to find something Dudley would like to eat. Living with Lily had been an ordeal because she had been easy to rile, but difficult to subdue once she got into a temper. She would get angry, and then the strangest things would happen around her. As Petunia loaded several donuts onto a plate and took a bottle of fruit punch out of the fridge, she remembered a time when their father, who'd had the strongest grip of anyone they knew, had grabbed a furious Lily by the arm, and it had slid out of his hand like rubber coated in oil. Dudley was still wailing and beating his fists on the tray, but his eyes were on the TV screen, and that suited Petunia just fine. She didn't want him to see that there was another child in the room. Another time, their father had made the same mistake, and rather than have her arm slip through his hand like a large and oddly-shaped bar of soap, it had given him an electric shock. No normal child could have done that. She knew already that it was another far-from-normal child who'd been left at her door.

"Here you go, Dinky Diddydums," she trilled, smoothing his cap of fine blond hair down and kissing his pudgy pink cheeks. This was her perfectly normal boy. He would never send an electric shock up her arm when she tried to restrain him. Dudley picked up a donut and crammed it into his mouth. Thus pacified, he settled in to follow the antics of Snarky and Barky. Petunia sighed with relief now that her son was happy. She went back to the couch where the strange baby was now on his stomach, fighting against blankets and couch cushions to get up. He had stopped crying, but Petunia suspected he would start again if he fell off the couch, so she took a throw pillow and wedged it in against him. Then she picked up the letter.

Due to Lily's uncanny knack for unexplained occurrences, their parents had found it very difficult to discipline her. One day, after Lily flew off the handle about something Petunia could no longer remember, their mother started to reprimand her, and Lily responded by shutting herself in her room, whose door, which was not fitted with a lock, refused to open for a full twenty minutes. The Evanses therefore had no choice but to wait for their older daughter to settle down on her own before they could tell her she should be ashamed of herself for such behavior. Petunia had rarely ever been the recipient of Lily's inexplicably potent tantrums, but she was convinced this was because she'd been smart enough to stay out of her sister's way whenever possible.

Lily had not made strange things happen only when angry. According to their mother, Lily was terrified of the needle when she went to the doctor's office for her immunizations. She clung to their mother and cried inconsolably when the nurse came at her with the needle, but then it broke in half the moment it touched Lily's skin. The nurse said it must have been a defective syringe and went to fill up a new one, but their mother insisted that Lily's arm be swabbed with something to numb her skin before the injection was attempted again. The upshot of all this strangeness was that Lily usually got her way.

The only time Petunia could remember Lily paying the consequences of her actions right away had not been at home. It had been at school. In her first year of primary school, Petunia had a friend named Joy, and they liked to jump rope together. One day, when they were sharing a jumprope on the playground, they were approached by three girls, all in their final year at the school. Petunia and Joy tripped over the rope and stopped jumping when they saw the bigger girls coming.

"Finished with that, are you?" said one of them, not really as a question. "Let us use it, then."

"No, we're not finished yet," said Joy in a very small voice. She and Petunia started to walk away.

"Yes, well, too bad," said another one of the three. They followed Joy and Petunia and soon had them surrounded, blocking their paths of escape. "You've had that jumprope for long enough, and it's just the right length for the three of us. So you might as well just give it to us," she said, holding out her hand.

"No," Petunia protested. "We're still using it." Her voice sounded fainter and whinier with each syllable.

"But your turn's over now," said one of the bigger girls. "You runts need to learn how to share." With that, she snatched the jumprope out of Petunia's hands and the three of them began to walk away. Joy and Petunia watched them helplessly, wondering what to do next.


Heart planted firmly in throat, Petunia looked to her left and saw Lily stomping towards them. The three girls who'd taken the jumprope ignored her. Lily marched past Petunia and Joy and quickly caught up with the three.

"Excuse me. My sister and her friend were using that jumprope, and you had no right to take it from them. Give it back and wait your turn."

The three bullies could no longer pretend Lily wasn't talking to them, as she'd stepped in front of them, so instead, they surrounded her, too.

"We don't want to, and you can't make us," said one, barely even trying to conceal her amusement. Eight-year-old Lily, though plenty bold, barely came up to these girls' shoulders, and she put Petunia in mind of a Yorkshire Terrier she'd once seen bark at a pair of German Shepherds.

"I don't want to have to hurt you," said Lily, and while the trio laughed riotously, she wrenched the jumprope out of its holder's hands and threw it back in Petunia's direction. While Joy ran to pick it up, the three bigger girls stopped laughing.

The one who'd just had the rope taken out of her hands shoved Lily, pushing her back to bump against the one standing behind her. Lily shoved her back even harder, pushing her three feet backward. The girl behind Lily grabbed her by the shoulder and whipped her around, but before she could carry out the blow to the face she clearly intended, Lily plunged her fist into the bigger girl's stomach so hard she fell on her back and was promptly sick.

"Anybody else?" Lily demanded, raising her fists at the other two. Though her back was turned to her younger sister, Petunia would not have been surprised if Lily's eyes had been glowing red and shooting sparks. The two of the bigger girls who were not on the ground and covered in vomit helped their friend up, threw Lily one last dirty look, and stalked away. "Good!" she shouted after them. "Don't ever come back!"

"That'll be quite enough of that!" said an adult voice. A teacher appeared at Lily's side and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her towards the school.

"But, Miss, they were being mean to my sister!" Lily protested.

"I don't care, there is no excuse for such behavior!" responded the teacher, and Lily, having spent her fury and unearthly power on attacking the three bigger girls, had no choice but to allow herself to be dragged off to the headmaster's office.

"She's going to get in trouble, it's so unfair!" said Joy, watching the teacher take Lily away. "But she got us our jumprope back, let's skip some more!"

"No," Petunia whimpered, and she was so shaken by what she'd just seen, she started to cry. "No, you can have it."

Petunia did not touch a jumprope for the rest of that day. Lily's eyes were red and puffy when she walked Petunia home that afternoon.

Petunia had been convinced that Lily was either crazy or possessed by demons, both had seemed equally viable for another two years after that. Though Lily did not make any more scenes at school after the jumprope incident, she continued to make funny things happen around her elsewhere. Their parents had always thought Lily was just special, though a little strong-willed. Their answer finally came in a letter, dropped through their mail slot by an owl in the summer before Lily was to start secondary school. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had written to inform Lily that she had been accepted. That was their explanation: she was a witch. There was such a thing as magic, but only a small number of people could use it, and Petunia's sister was one of them. Their parents were simply delighted, like this was an honor bestowed upon their family, but Petunia felt differently. She was convinced that the power that made Lily so terrifying could not possibly be a good thing. She was even more disturbed at the thought of there being other people around the country who could do the same things, and that they had a school where they learned to use their unknowably dangerous abilities more efficiently. Petunia did not share her feelings on the matter with her family; she was quite scared enough of Lily without actively offending her.

They took Petunia with them into Diagon Alley when they went to buy Lily's school supplies. On the way into London by the letter's directions, Petunia half wondered if this was real at all, if someone who knew what Lily was like wasn't playing a spectacular joke on them, but there was no joke. Lily spotted the Leaky Cauldron, which led them into Diagon Alley, and it was worse than Petunia could ever imagine. The place was populated with people who made Lily look perfectly normal and reliable. Petunia hid behind her father's back in Gringotts Wizarding Bank to keep the goblins from noticing her when they went inside to exchange their money for wizard gold. From there, she was dragged along to Ollivander's, where the man who sold Lily her wand was as creepy as they came. She also had to watch her sister get fitted for school robes, and why anyone would want to wear long black robes as a school uniform was a mystery to Petunia. Then there was the bookstore, where the inventory as just as freakish as the people buying it, but that wasn't half as bad as the store where they bought Lily's potions ingredients. Petunia had nightmares for weeks about her sister brewing up diabolical concoctions with those things. The store with the parchment and quills wasn't nearly so bad, in fact it was really quite nice, but Petunia couldn't see what was wrong with using modern paper and pens. They also took Lily around to buy a cauldron (adding detail to Petunia's nightmares), scales, telescope, and dragon-hide gloves, which gave Petunia the horrible vision of Lily meeting an animal just to her taste.

With every new store they visited, Mr. and Mrs. Evans grew more fascinated with the world their older daughter had been invited to join, and Lily grew more excited about the skills she was about to learn. Petunia wished they'd left her with a babysitter for the day, as it would have spared her a lot of watching her sister be the center of attention amid some very disturbing scenes. That day in the middle of London proved an introduction to what Petunia would go through for another seven years.

Even after Lily went to Hogwarts and was hidden in a castle hundreds of miles away in the mountains of Scotland, she managed to occupy nearly all of their parents' attention. She sent frequent letters, all of them carried by owls, and they never failed to fascinate Mr. and Mrs. Evans well beyond what was reasonable or natural.. Not one evening passed since the first letter arrived that Petunia did not spend dinnertime listening to her mother and father excitedly discussing what Lily had just told them about her school. Petunia always bent over her food, ate in silence, and asked to be excused from the table as soon as she finished. Her parents were blissfully unconcerned about this behavior; if they thought anything was amiss, they were remarkably good at hiding it. It was fairly obvious that they found Lily infinitely more interesting than Petunia, and try as she might, there was nothing Petunia could do to change this.

Before they got the news that Lily was a witch, Petunia could compete with her fairly well. She could never be as pretty or as imaginative as her older sister, but her parents appreciated her earnest effort and calm, cooperative demeanor. Back then, they had a special place in their hearts for each of their daughters. After the letter came, Petunia could never compete with Lily again. The playing field was hopelessly skewed in Lily's favor, and Petunia made the mistake of continuing to play. Lily came home for Christmas that year, and every year after that, and Petunia would have rather been back in school than see the way her sister became the center of the household. That first year, she gave Petunia a necklace strung with tiny gemstones she'd Transfigured out of pebbles, and it was awfully pretty, but Petunia wished she wouldn't show off at every opportunity like that, and after their mother cooed over the gift as if it were a treasure found in the tomb of Nefertiti, she lost the temptation to wear it. After all, it was only a bunch of little rocks picked up off the ground. What kind of a Christmas present was that?

The more her parents discussed Lily's letters over the dinner table, the more Petunia was convinced they had it all wrong. Even if she'd seen fit to tell her parents her opinion of the "education" Lily was getting, there was no doubt that they would have scoffed, if they listened to her at all. After Lily was at Hogwarts for six months, she had her parents so thoroughly under her spell that they forgot to ask Petunia how her day was anymore.

Petunia sat down on the couch next to the baby she'd found on the welcome mat, the letter in her hand. She caught a glimpse of his face, and didn't know why she hadn't noticed it before; he had a jagged cut, shaped like a bolt of lightning, running the height of his forehead. It had scabbed over, but it looked deep enough to leave a scar. It was proof positive that he'd been left with her by freaks of the lowest calibre, not that she needed it.

Despite the way Lily had become less like the normal, respectable people who'd brought her up and more like the weirdos who ran her school with each year she attended, Petunia had actually thought the situation could have been salvaged, up to a point. The time when Petunia knew her sister had gone entirely to the other side was when Lily Evans met James Potter. He was in her year and house at Hogwarts, one of those oddballs who came from a whole family of scary freaks like Lily, and she brought him home for the Christmas holiday in her seventh year, as she'd recently begun "going out" with him. Petunia didn't like him at all. It wasn't that she could disagree with the effect he had on Lily; she was sunnier and pleasanter around him than Petunia had ever seen her, and he was the perfect gentleman towards her parents. However, Petunia didn't think much of her sister's taste in men, as James was bony as a herring, nearsighted, and couldn't be bothered to comb his hair. What was worse, he knew nothing of the world outside of the tiny, abnormal one he occupied with the rest of the Wizarding freaks. He didn't know what half the things in their house were, though he found them fascinating, and they didn't have any strange or exotic possessions. While Mr. and Mrs. Evans found his ignorance amusing, and even sort of endearing, fifteen-year-old Petunia couldn't help but laugh at James for not knowing what the purpose of their microwave was. She got sent to her room for that. Lily came in several hours later to tell her she was pathetic, that she was lucky James hadn't hexed her for the way she'd treated him, and that dinner was ready and their Mum said she could come downstairs now.

James was supposed to sleep on the couch, but Petunia saw him, through a crack in her doorway, sneak up to Lily's room that night, and saw her let him in. Their father would have roasted that boy like a Christmas goose and grounded his daughter until she was thirty if he'd caught them, but Lily said some nonsense words several times, and Petunia didn't hear anything else from that room.

During three weeks spent in and out of James Potter's company, Petunia found out more about the magical world than she'd ever wanted to know. She was not required to take part in any of these conversations, but it was difficult not to overhear sometimes. She heard James tell Lily about some horrible creatures called dementors who guarded the wizard prison, Azkaban, and they were bad enough to make even Lily shudder at the mere description of them. Then they discussed how the giants had been expelled from Britain, with James holding up most of the conversation because his family knew about such things while their History of Magic teacher was apparently too dull to make such lessons stick. He told Lily all about the dynamics of using house-elves' labor. They had a lot of conversations concerning some people named Sirius, Remus (what kind of people would give their children such names?) and Peter, and some poor soul they kept calling "Snivellus."

Petunia was very happy when the holiday was over. She was even more relieved when Lily came home very briefly at the end of the school year to pack up her belongings and move out, though her story of getting a flat with one of her girlfriends from Hogwarts sounded less than candid. After that, they didn't hear much from her. She joined the family when they took Petunia out to lunch to celebrate her finishing secondary school two years later, and that was the last the sisters saw of each other.

Another two years after that, Lily got married to James Potter at the age of twenty-one. By then, she'd more than gotten the picture of how Petunia felt about her whole lot, so she did not invite her sister to the wedding, which was fine by Petunia. Her parents were invited, and they were the only "Muggles" (their crowd's name for normal people) in attendance. They came back thoroughly enchanted with the occasion, and though Petunia had long since learned not to be surprised by her parents' fascination with Lily's abnormality, it didn't make her any less annoyed at the moving photographs her mother showed her of the ceremony and reception. Lily wore an emerald-green gown, rather than white, which was only appropriate, as she and James couldn't even pretend to play at having waited until marriage. She looked stunning, yes, but couldn't she do anything normally?

Relief had finally come for Petunia Evans when she met Vernon Dursley. He was everything she'd been looking for, and hadn't even known it. Vernon was so dependable, and strong, and authoritative, and upstanding, Petunia knew she'd struck gold when they started dating. He was a rising young executive at Grunnings Corp. when they met, and she could tell he'd work his way to the top in a few years. She was disappointed to find that her parents were not so pleased with him as she. They were polite enough to him when she brought him home for dinner one evening, but nowhere near as warm as they'd been to James. Petunia loved her parents and wanted to make them happy, but if they expected her to go hunting around Diagon Alley and bring home a man who didn't know the difference between a microwave and a television set, then she'd just have to disappoint them.

After that night, Petunia decided if there was anyone outside her family she could trust enough to tell about her sister, it was Vernon. So she came into his flat one evening and told him about Lily. She told him about the existence of magic, how it had allowed Lily to do strange and terrifying things as a child. She told him about the school where all the other freaks sent their children to develop their abnormalities to the utmost, how they had their own subculture where perfectly ordinary things were foreign. She told him about the boy her sister had married, how all their letters to her parents were delivered by owls. Vernon's reaction was better than Petunia could ever have hoped for. He believed her; he didn't laugh, he didn't think she'd lost her mind. He didn't think she could be anything like Lily, either. What was best was that he agreed with her that her sister's power couldn't possibly be a good thing. She was the one who had the true measure of Lily and James and all the rest like them; her parents had the wrong idea. Petunia felt as though someone had just let her out of a cage. She could not find words to express her gratitude to Vernon for showing such faith in her, or for her appreciation for his determination to remove her as far as possible from the strangeness that had seized her family. They got married later that year, and bought a nice, newly built townhouse in Little Whinging, where none of their neighbors knew anything about her sister. She liked it that way, in fact she told anyone who broached the subject that she was an only child.

Motherhood had been the only pursuit in which Petunia had finished before Lily. She and Vernon planned to have a child soon after marriage anyway, but it turned out to be a real silver lining in their lives. Shortly after their wedding, Petunia's father was diagnosed with cancer, so she was especially happy when she found out she was pregnant. Of course she expected her father to make a full recovery and live to be over a hundred, but it was good that he'd get to see his grandchild soon, nonetheless. Dudley was born the following June, and even the nurses agreed he was the most perfect baby they'd ever seen. He had been their little prince ever since then. They could already tell they had certainly not produced one who would turn out like Lily or James.

One day in early August, Petunia took six-week-old Dudley to her parents' house to visit her ailing father, and her mother answered the door with an expression of indescribable excitement on her face that could only mean there was recent news from Lily. It was not what Petunia was hoping to find on a visit home.

"Petunia, dear!" Mrs. Evans greeted her, kissing her on the cheek. "And my little Duddy!" She bent down and kissed Dudley's forehead, too.

"Is Dad awake, Mum? Where is he?" she asked, before her mother could get started on Lily.

"Yes, of course, he's waiting for you in the study. Come on, I'll go with you."

They found Mr. Evans settled into a recliner with a book in his lap and an IV drip in his arm. He looked drawn and much too thin, but he smiled and put his book aside when he saw them.

"There's my little girl," he said, holding out his free arm.

"How are you, Dad?" Petunia asked. She kissed him on the cheek and laid Dudley's blanket-wrapped form into the arm he was holding out.

"To be honest, I've been better," he said. "But I'm not complaining, as I don't get to see you and the baby every day. Speaking of which," he turned to his wife, "have you told Petunia the good news yet?"

"No, what good news is this?" asked Petunia, very nervously. This had to be a recent owl from Lily, only what did her father mean by "speaking of which"?

"I thought we could tell her together," said her mother.

"Yes, let's do that," he said, and turned back to Petunia while Mrs. Evans searched for something on a nearby bookshelf. "A little bird told us something very exciting the other day."

"And what was that?" she asked, dreading the answer.

"Your sister just had a baby!" said her mother from the bookshelf, still searching around. "Dudley's got a cousin!"

It was worse than she'd expected. The last thing they needed was another one like Lily and James running around. "Did she now?"

"Yes, she had a little boy named Harry just a few days ago," her father said. "On the thirty-first, wasn't it, dear?"

"That's right. Now, Petunia, I know you haven't been getting along with her so well, but now is as good a time as any to make up with her. Now where is that picture?"

"I don't want to make up with her, Mum," she said, and meant it.

"Oh, don't be silly, you're both mothers now, you've finally got something in common. I know; the next time she and James send us an owl, we'll send the bird over to your house, and you can write her yourself."

"Vernon and I do not want owls in our house."

"Here it is! Look at this, see if that doesn't change your mind." Her mother handed her a photograph.

It was one of the moving sort that Lily and James's lot considered normal. There was Lily sitting in bed, all plumped-up from pregnancy, cradling a tiny red-faced newborn on her chest, smiling and waving at Petunia as though happy to see her. James kept flitting in and out of the frame; he'd pause to kiss Lily, play with the baby's feet, then he'd disappear to attend to something at the foot of the bed. He looked ridiculously happy, as if high on drugs, and his hair was even messier than usual. Eventually, the photographic baby opened his mouth to cry, and Lily popped her tit out of her nightgown and stuck it in his mouth. It was at that point that Petunia flipped the picture over and handed it back to her mother.

"I didn't come here to talk about Lily," she said. "I came to see you, Dad. How's your treatment going?"

When Petunia went home that day and told Vernon what she'd just found out, they agreed that Dudley should not know about the Potters. They would not tell him about his "Aunt" Lily or "Uncle" James or "cousin," Harry or any of the other weirdos with whom they were associated. Contact with such people would not be good for their son. Vernon's sister, Marge, knew nothing about the Potters, they had their neighborhood convinced that Petunia had no sister and could therefore have no brother-in-law and no nephew, and they would just have to convince the Evanses to respect their wish to spare their son from having any relationship with or knowledge of the Potters. Surely they could find something else to talk about when the Dursleys visited.

All was well for several months after that, until the Dursleys' phone rang on an ordinary January afternoon. Petunia picked up to hear her mother sobbing uncontrollably on the other end, unable to string a complete sentence together. Still, it didn't take long to find out what had happened.

Her mother was so distraught that Petunia handled most of the arrangements. They'd known for quite some time that Mr. Evans was dying, but the doctors had told them he was expected to live at least six months longer than he did. Mrs. Evans had taken them seriously, and she was a wreck beside Petunia in the lawyer's office, going over the will.

Just weeks after the funeral, she died of a heart attack alone in her house. If Petunia had not made it a point to call her every day, it would have been much longer before she was found.

Petunia suspected her mother's heart attack was brought on by the stress of losing her husband so suddenly, but the cause was of little concern to her. She arranged two funerals in less than a month, and Lily didn't show up at either of them. At both occasions, Petunia scanned the sanctuary for her sister's shining coppery head next to James's untidy black mop, perhaps with a baby carrier between them, but they were nowhere in sight. Lily gave her parents more gray hairs by age thirty-five than most people have at forty-five, and they still loved her like she made the sun rise every morning, and she couldn't even pay her respects when they died. Petunia lay awake next to Vernon for half the night following her mother's funeral, trying to think of a reason why her sister would snub their parents so deeply, and the only one that made any sense was still not satisfactory. If Lily didn't know their parents had died; if the news hadn't yet gotten to her, so she couldn't very well have asked where and when the funerals were to be held, then it was her own damn fault if she'd stowed herself where no one without an owl could reach her.

After that night, Petunia found it much easier to pretend she'd never had a sister. Lily's absence from the funerals cemented her decision to keep Dudley as far away from the Potters as possible. Not that she had ever wavered in her story to the neighbors, and Dudley was much too young to remember anything Petunia said around him, but she suddenly found it easier to make her thoughts match her words. She thought a lot less about Lily, and in the following months, she came to think less frequently about her parents, too. She hadn't intended to forget them, but Vernon was very good at following her lead in not talking about the Evanses. It somehow helped her stop thinking about Lily, and all the times she'd forced Petunia to live in fear as a child. The less she thought about her mother and father, the less she missed them, as well.

Now, Petunia had to ask, why was she being so forcefully reminded of her sister? Which one of her friends had just seen fit to leave a baby on her welcome mat, and whose child was it? The answers, if she would ever be allowed to find them, had to be in the letter in her hand. Petunia's head throbbed from hitting the ground when she'd fainted. The strange baby had overcome the throw pillow she'd pushed in against him, and was in danger of diving headfirst off the sofa. Dudley was oblivious to both of them. Petunia took one deep breath, set the strange baby on her lap to face off to the side, and opened the letter.

November 1st, 1981

Dear Mrs. Dursley,

I am sorry for the abruptness of this news, and for the way it must be presented to you, but I am going straight to the point.

You probably wonder why this child has been left at your house. It is with most tragic news that I bring him to you, but there is more reassuring news to be found along with it.

This is your nephew, Harry James Potter. His first birthday was July 31st. It is my greatest regret to inform you of this, but I have brought him to your home because his parents were murdered last night. Their killer was Lord Voldemort, the most powerful Dark wizard of this century, and he is the reason that I must ask you to become Harry's new guardian.

Voldemort went to the Potters' house last night with Harry, not James and Lily, as his intended victim. He has never shown any qualms about killing people to get to others, however, so he first killed James as he tried to hold Voldemort off while your sister retreated with their son. He soon found Lily with Harry, and she refused to stop shielding him from Voldemort, and so he killed her, which allowed him a clear path to Harry, and therein lay his mistake. Harry's mother died rather than stop protecting him, and this action left Harry with a protection that Voldemort did not expect. When he attempted the same curse on Harry that had just killed his parents, it did not kill him, but rebounded on Voldemort. He was not killed, but he did lose his body and powers and was forced to flee. I am certain that he will eventually return to his powers, and when he does, his first priority will be to kill your nephew. In the meantime, Voldemort did not operate alone. Many of his supporters are still at large, with their powers intact, and they, too, would like nothing more than to kill Harry Potter.

That is where you come in, Petunia. Your sister allowed her blood to be shed rather than allow Voldemort to come another inch closer to her son, and so Harry's protection will always be in his mother's blood. I have cast a charm which will allow this protection to continue indefinitely, but since you are the only person left alive, other than Harry, who shares Lily's blood, the charm's operation depends on you. As long as Harry can call home the place where his mother's blood dwells, there he cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort or his followers. He will need to return there only once a year to consider it his home, but if he does, it will be the safest place he can find from the ones who intend to kill him. To put the charm into effect, Petunia, you must agree to take Harry into your home. I cannot force you to raise him as your son, but I hope you will keep him. Bear in mind that your house will shield the rest of your family as well as Harry when he is there, and that there is no one in the world who can offer him a safer place than you.

I will know of your decision by tomorrow night. If you refuse to take your nephew in, then I shall arrive at your house with an associate to take him off your hands. However, I do hope that will not be necessary.

Sincerely yours,
Albus Dumbledore

She looked at the strange baby's face. He had stood up in her lap to play with her earrings while she read the letter, so she had to look up slightly. He had a typical, chubby baby's face, with narrowish, green eyes. When Petunia was a very little girl, about two years old, she had once tripped over a crack in a sidewalk and fell down. Lily had come and helped her up. It wasn't a very interesting story, but it did mean that one of Petunia's earliest memories was of looking up into a pair of eyes just like this little boy's. There was no doubt that she was holding Lily's son.

A faint buzzing sound began somewhere in her head, that quickly grew louder as she sat, frozen like a statue, staring at the letter. She was vaguely aware of a toddler in a high chair across the room, eating doughnuts and watching cartoons, and another one standing in her lap, as she had to look around him to see the letter. All she knew was, her questions had been answered. She and Vernon were both right.

It was their nephew that they'd found sleeping on the welcome mat, but it wasn't his parents who'd left him there. He'd been left there by this Albus Dumbledore character, and Petunia knew about him. He was the headmaster at Lily and James's school, she knew that from hearing about him as a little girl with a witch sister. He was prominent among wizards for other reasons, such as defeating some Dark wizard named Grindelwald in 1945, so obviously he knew his Dark wizards. Petunia knew that much about him since she saw him on one of those ridiculous Chocolate Frog cards that teenage Lily always left lying around. And as the buzzing receded, a single thought rose up and would not move.

Lily and James were dead.

Of all the reasons for a baby to be left on her doorstep, that one could never have entered her mind. She had never really thought of her sister and brother-in-law as people who could die. And yet, they had been killed. Lily had died while protecting her son from a murderer, refusing to step away from him, at the expense of her own life. She had no idea how this Albus Dumbledore knew what her sister had been doing at the time she died, but she knew it was the truth, because that was exactly the sort of bull-headed thing Lily would do.

As much as she would rather have thought of anything else on Earth, Petunia wondered exactly what this Voldemort had done in the Potters' house, just how it had looked. What kind of curse had he used on them? What kind of damage had it done, what was left of Lily now? Was she uninjured, except for being dead, or was there even anything left of her and James? She saw Lily flat on the floor of what was left of her baby's room, surrounded by broken glass and splinters of wood, her bright green eyes wide open and blank, staring straight up, with one hand still holding onto her child, until he stood up to toddle in closer, see if he could rouse her. Petunia could not understand how she had come up with this image, could not understand why she couldn't shake it from her mind, could not understand why she suddenly found herself kneeling on the floor in front of the couch and hysterically sobbing into her nephew's tiny shoulder.

When she managed to get a grip on herself enough to look up, she saw the letter dropped on the floor, felt Harry's little hands on her upper back, saw Dudley looking back at her, his face and hands smeared with chocolate, utterly bewildered. He seemed unconcerned with the presence of another child in his mother's arms, but she had his attention with the way she was crying.

"Mum-mum?" He said.

"Mummy's sorry, Diddy," she sobbed.

Dudley was finished with his breakfast, and the tape was almost over. She let go of Harry and set him on the floor, placed the letter back in its envelope by the lamp, and went into the kitchen for a damp cloth. As she wiped off Dudley's face and hands, very gently so she wouldn't upset him, Petunia tried to think of what she'd do about Harry. She had to make up her mind by that evening; Dumbledore's letter made that clear, but what should she do?

She and Vernon had agreed that the child was to be handed over to social services. They already had one toddler to raise; to take on another would be preposterous. Although, that had been before they knew he was their nephew, and Vernon still didn't know. But did they want to raise their nephew, given who his parents were? Did she really want a constant reminder of Lily and James in her house? She didn't want one. Did she?

Dumbledore had said Harry was in danger of being killed by supporters of some murderous evil wizard, possibly by the same murderous evil wizard later on, but that she, Petunia, could provide him with flawless protection by keeping Harry in her house. She did not relish the thought of having a child in her home with a pack of magically-powered murderers after him. But then, if she didn't take him in, they would have a clear path to him. Petunia had a fleeting vision of some hooded figure sneaking into a room full of babies in the middle of the night and setting upon Harry with a wand, but she had to block that out of her mind; it would not do to think of such things. Would those horrible creatures be able to find him in an orphanage or foster home? Was it even her responsibility to worry about such things for someone else's child? But then, look what had just happened to that someone else. There was Lily again, sprawled among the wreckage, still holding onto her small son's ankle... Petunia's head throbbed hard enough to blur her vision as she took Dudley out of his high chair.

Dumbledore had also said she would not be putting her family in any danger by taking Harry into her home. If he knew as much as he did about James's and Lily's deaths without having been there, and if he was as powerful a wizard as Lily had told her, then surely he knew what he was talking about. Even so, did Petunia want to be involved in some bizarre magical transaction that depended on her being related to Lily? She wanted to say "definitely not," and yet she couldn't arrive at that answer.

There were so many things Petunia didn't know, so many answers she couldn't find, as she sank to the floor with her son in her arms, but there was one thing she knew with absolute certainty, and that was: Lily was powerful. Or rather, Petunia had to tell herself, she had been powerful in life. Even as witches went, Lily's power had been impressive. James had been no different; Petunia remembered Lily telling her parents about all he could do in Transfiguration, and that was supposed to be one of their hardest subjects, so James must have been powerful, too. If Voldemort had been strong enough to kill them both in one night, and evade Dumbledore for as long as he did (and it sounded as though he'd been terrorizing people for quite some time), then he was a serious threat. His followers could easily track Harry down to an orphanage, and Voldemort would eventually come back to life. She couldn't say where Dumbledore and his associate would place her nephew, but if she did what she'd promised Vernon, and called social services, then Harry didn't stand a chance. That was all she could say for sure.

Petunia Dursley did not call any part of social services that day. She did not go near a telephone, even when it rang, she did not open a phone book. She built a nest of a blanket and pillows on top of a cardboard box in the cupboard under the stairs and put Harry down for a nap in there. That morning felt like years before as she played with Dudley on the floor of the living room at around three o'clock that afternoon.

There were certain things she would have to do. She would have to convince Vernon that the abnormal powers could be discouraged out of Harry; otherwise, she could not expect him to allow the boy to stay. She would make sure Dudley never felt like he had to compete with Harry. She would make sure Harry was never rewarded for using his powers against them. She would have to make up an ordinary, non-magical story to explain his parents' deaths and the scar on his forehead. A car crash sounded believable enough.

She would have to tell Vernon that people would find out if they left their nephew at the orphanage, and it would not reflect well on them. She could not tell him the truth about why she needed to keep Harry, because she could never expect Vernon to understand. She couldn't understand it herself.

No one would ever know how much her sister had occupied her thoughts that day. No one would ever know how worried she was that one of these killers, these supporters of Voldemort, might find her nephew. If Petunia could help it, Harry would never know what kind of power he was sure to possess, so he would never go back into Lily and James's world, where all these dangers awaited him. No one would ever know how alone she felt at having lost her father, her mother, and her sister in less than a year, and she was all of twenty-five. No one would ever know, especially not Harry himself, how strongly she felt that she could not leave him to the wolves.

Close to fifteen years later, Harry found himself in Dumbledore's office, telling his headmaster that his aunt didn't love him, in fact didn't give a damn whether he lived or died, and Dumbledore said,

"But she took you. She may have taken you grudgingly, furiously, unwillingly, bitterly, yet still she took you, and in doing so, she sealed the charm I placed upon you....Your aunt knows this....She knows that allowing you houseroom may well have kept you alive for the past fifteen years."
--Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37

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