This story was written for the AU challenge at the ‘omniocular’ LJ community.
Many thanks to Ara Kane for beta-reading.
Best Mother in the World
The birth announcement arrived from Lily on the day Petunia came home from the hospital. Her precious baby Dudley had survived for only three days while she fought for own life due to severe complications. Now the carefully decorated nursery upstairs would remain empty. Learning that her sister had succeeded where she had failed was another stab to Petunia’s heart.
Vernon patted her hesitantly on the back while she sobbed on his shoulder. “Perhaps, dear, when you’re ready, we can adopt a baby.”
Petunia sat up abruptly and shrieked, “No! Never!” She rushed from the room.
Petunia found her infant nephew on her doorstep the day after she bought the paint to turn the unused nursery into a sewing room. Reading Dumbledore’s letter wrapped in the blankets instilled in her the belief that, while her sister may have been brave, she also had been stupid. Petunia firmly vowed she would do a much better job raising Harry than Lily ever could have.
When Harry started crying for “mama,” Petunia carefully rocked him in her arms, murmuring, “Shhh… Your mummy’s right here.” Her heart swelled with triumph as he eventually settled down to sleep.
By the time Vernon came home from work, the floor of the living room was covered with toys. When, in his bewilderment, he looked as if he wanted to remind his wife of her outburst the year before, she stopped him with a frown. She had made up her mind to be the world’s most conscientious mother, and no one could stop her.
They both turned around at the sound of a gleeful toddler’s laugh. Harry had discovered the best toy of all: an empty cardboard box.
Vernon’s sister Marge came to visit the Christmas that Harry was three, bringing along her bulldog Bluto. Petunia disliked having (potentially dirty) animals in her house, but Harry delighted in the opportunity to chase the dog up and down the stairs. After about fifteen minutes, the two of them came to a sliding halt in front of the adults seated at the kitchen table. Petunia shuddered in disgust as Bluto gave a laughing Harry a slobbery kiss on the cheek. In return, Harry pulled the dog’s tail and was completely surprised when Bluto growled and snapped at Harry’s hand.
Immediately, both Petunia and Marge were on their feet.
“How dare you let that beast attack Harry like that!” cried Petunia.
“Attack Harry? Bluto was acting in self-defense!” Marge’s already ruddy face flushed in anger. “That boy of your sister’s is a menace. I still can’t believe you agreed to take him in. He’ll turn out just as worthless as his parents. Blood always tells in the end. I would never raise a child that wasn’t mine.”
“She is too my mummy! Don’t talk to her that way!” shouted Harry, tears rolling down his cheeks.
Marge opened her mouth to respond but no sound came out. Petunia looked at Harry’s frowning face and realized with a sinking heart what had happened. She had spent the last two years blissfully ignoring (as much as she possibly could) Lily and James’s genetic contributions to the boy. Magic was now just as obvious as hair or eye color.
Leaving behind Marge (who was unsuccessfully trying to clear her throat), Petunia scooped up Harry and carried him off to the bathroom to wash his face and hands. All the while, she assured him that whatever anyone else might say, she was indeed his mummy.
Marge’s voice didn’t return for two days. The week after her departure, Petunia filed the papers to officially adopt Harry and make him fully hers.
“I don’t know why the teacher is so upset,” said a mystified eight-year-old Harry as Petunia walked with him along Privet Drive. “We were on the playground, not inside the school. The snake didn’t touch anybody when I told him not to. Besides, he told me he wasn’t poisonous.”
Petunia carefully hid her dismay over Harry’s latest magical exploit. In the beginning, she had tried giving him his own way in everything to keep him from becoming angry or upset, but that hadn’t stopped the episodes. Nowadays, Harry was constantly getting into trouble at school for being found in un-climbable trees or opening securely locked cabinets. He was clearly puzzled about how these things managed to happen, but Petunia had done nothing to enlighten him. Her current method of coping was to act as if anything Harry did, even talking to snakes, was perfectly normal.
“Well, I’m glad you remembered the ‘no animals inside’ rule. I’ll talk to your teacher.”
“Thanks, Mummy! Can we go to the park?”
Petunia nodded, and Harry took off running ahead. She still felt as though she were scoring a point against Lily whenever Harry called her that, especially now that he was aware of his true parentage, thanks to continual comments from Marge. Her sister may have been his mother, but Petunia had earned the more important title.
She watched Harry race around the park and join in an impromptu game of football with some other children. He always seemed the happiest when moving at top speed with the wind in his face. Petunia’s desperate fear was that he would keep running - and leave her behind.
The day that Petunia had dreaded for ten years came two weeks before Harry’s eleventh birthday. She had sent him to pick up the mail, and on his return to the kitchen, she immediately recognized the Hogwarts crest on the letter he was reading with obvious curiosity.
“Hey, Mum, Dad! Look at this!” Harry tossed the opened letter onto the table. “I can’t believe anyone would go to this much trouble to pull a joke on me.”
Petunia desperately wanted to latch on to this explanation, but her forced attempt at laughter died in her throat. She caught Vernon’s eye and saw that he looked as frozen as she felt.
Harry’s smile began to fade as he saw their serious expressions. “It is a joke. Isn’t it?”
Petunia opened her mouth to answer but couldn’t find any words.
“It’s real?” Harry’s eyes widened as comprehension dawned. “All of the weird stuff that happens to me…”
She could only nod.
“You knew? And didn’t tell me?”
“My sister…” Petunia broke down at the thought of that dreadful school swallowing up her boy. The knowledge that Harry might resent her for withholding vital information was nearly as painful. However, when Vernon and Harry, both flustered by her outburst, tried to comfort her, she wasted no time in trying to influence Harry’s decision by playing for sympathy. “I don’t want to lose you!” she wailed.
Unfortunately, a mother’s tears were no match against the impeccable logic of an increasingly independent boy. “You won’t lose me,” Harry pointed out. “It’s just a school. I can come home for holidays.” He picked up the letter and ruffled through the pages. “Besides, it sounds kind of cool. Better than Smeltings.”
Vernon grumbled about the put-down of his old school, but Petunia knew immediately knew that any attempt to persuade Harry not to go to Hogwarts would be futile. Adolescent whims only grew stronger if they were opposed. Additionally, Petunia feared that any obstructions she put in Harry’s way would be countered with force by that headmaster. There was simply nothing more she could do.
Lily and her world had won, after all.