Between the lines
Summary: Why did Petunia take Harry in? What really went through her mind when she found her nephew on her doorstep? A different perspective on the night Harry was delivered to Number Four, Privet Drive.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to JK Rowling
The Letters From Dumbledore
The shriek echoed round the quiet and empty roads of Little Whinging, but it was a Sunday morning. The inhabitants were mostly having a lie in, and so no one heart the high-pitched scream, nor the ensuing wails of a baby - who was quickly snatched from his position on the front door step - nor the sound of the door to Number Four Privet Drive being shut with a slam.
Petunia Dursley, breathing heavily, dumped the bundle of blankets down on the kitchen table and, with trembling fingers, snatched the letter that had been tucked into the baby's fist. Thankfully, he had stopped crying; curiosity seemed to have overpowered fear as his large green eyes roamed the kitchen.
Petunia opened the envelope, removed the parchment it contained, and read:
Dear Mr and Mrs Dursley,
It is with my sincerest regret that I must inform you that Lily Potter (Nee Evans) and her husband James were murdered at the hands of Lord Voldemort last night. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy and deepest condolences for your loss.
As you will have undoubtedly noticed, their son Harry, your nephew, survives. Lord Voldemort vanished after trying to kill him, leaving our world a much lighter place for the time being. However, ridding the world of an evil wizard can hardly be of any consolation to Harry himself, at this tender age, and as you are his only living relatives, I have delivered him to you, in the hope that you will take him in and care for him as though he were your own.
Harry, of course, will be able to start Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when he turns eleven years of age. I hope that, in a few years time, when he is old enough to understand, you will explain to him who his parents were and what happened to them, and inform him of the world they lived in and the school he will soon be attending. It may also be a good idea to prepare him for the fame and acclaim he will receive on attending Hogwarts, so that it is not too much of a shock to him when he arrives.
If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact me!
(Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry)
Petunia took a deep breath. So Lily was dead. Her perfect, know it all sister, her parents' favourite (although they never would have admitted it) had been killed. She wasn't quite sure how to feel about that. A little remorseful, perhaps, but a large part of her felt that it served her right, being caught up with all those.. wizards.
As she thought of the distasteful word, she became aware of another piece of parchment in the envelope, and took that out as well. Her fingers, that had been shaking so much on finding Harry on her doorstep, were now surprisingly calm as they unfolded the piece of paper, which bore the same elegant, narrow writing as the first.
I address this letter solely to you, in the hope that, having spent time with your sister and having been informed of certain information regarding the magical world, you may understand a little more than your husband the danger that Harry may soon find himself in.
The curse that killed your sister and brother-in-law was also directed at Harry, but backfired, vanquishing Lord Voldemort for now. It is, however, my firm belief that he will return, and when he does, Harry will be in very grave peril. Even now, he may be in danger from some of Voldemort's most devoted followers.
However, while he is still a child, at least, there is hope for his continued safety. Your sister Lily died to save her son, which means that he is protected by an ancient branch of magic greater than anything even Voldemort can penetrate, a protection based on the bonds of love and of blood. I have placed a charm upon Harry, which ensures that, as long as he can call the place where his only blood relatives dwell a home, he will be safe from any evil that would otherwise seek to harm him.
I will take this opportunity to inform you that this magic keeps your own family perfectly safe as well, and to assure you that you will not be putting yourself in increased danger by accepting Harry as a surrogate son.
I am very much aware that you prefer not to be associated with the magical world, but I ask you to do this, if not for your sister, then for the greater good, in the knowledge that you will not only be protecting Harry from harm, but that you may also playing a part in the true and definitive end of Lord Voldemort himself.
Until our paths cross again, I wish you all the best,
Petunia sank down onto a chair in the kitchen. Vernon was still upstairs. She was not looking forward to explaining this to him. When she had told them about them, informed him very hesitantly, with many stammers and stops and starts, that her sister and her husband were magical, he had looked shocked, turned grey, then white, then purple, then asked her if it was a joke. When he had finally realised she was serious, and told her in no uncertain terms that he wanted nothing to do with them, she had, of course, agreed with his every word.
Had she been disappointed at his reaction? Had she, very secretly, hoped that maybe Vernon would embrace the idea of his unusual relatives and that she could maybe "keep in touch with the magical world" as Dumbledore had once suggested. As Petunia looked apprehensively down at her nephew, she thought back to the first letter she had received from Albus Dumbledore. She had never told Vernon about it, but sometimes she took it out and looked at it, rereading the kind words. As Vernon was currently taking one of his long, Sunday morning showers, she went through to the living room, into the dresser, into the very back of an old drawer that Vernon thought contained nothing more than Christmas ribbon and wrapping paper cut offs, and pulled out an envelope: thick, slightly ripped, and containing several letters. The first one she took out was written in the same narrow writing as the letters she had just read.
Thank you for your lovely letter. The pink floral paper you used was delightful and I was particularly intrigued by the purple scented ink! I must pay a visit to my local ink store to see if they stock it there!
I quite understand your desire to come to Hogwarts to study magic, but it is with deep regret that I must inform that we can only accept students who possess magical qualities. If this applied to you, your name would have been written down by our magic quill on the day you were born.
If there was a way to bestow powers on non-magical children then I would, of course, turn my attention to this and consider your attendance to the school with the utmost devotion, but unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to make this a reality.
I am very sorry about this, but please understand that it is for your own benefit as well that we do not accept non-magical students. I think you would find it most upsetting not to be able to take part in the practical lessons, such as Charms (making objects dance and fly) and Transfiguration (turning one object into another) and have to content yourself with the theoretical side of the wizarding world: learning about wizard history and goblin wars (which can be very dull), or studying the night sky through a telescope (which can give one quite a stiff neck!).
I do, however, encourage you to keep up with the magical world through your sister. Very few muggles (non magical people) have the chance to learn about wizards through a close relative, as we tend to keep ourselves to ourselves, and I would encourage you to capitulate on this opportunity.
Again, please accept my sincerest apologies for my obligatory refusal to admit you to the school.
In the hope that we will one day correspond again,
Petunia had never told anyone how bitterly disappointed the letter had made her. After all, she had always pretended to hate her sister's freaky world. She had thrown away almost all the letters that Lily had ever sent her from Hogwarts, and there had been plenty. Lily had written many times, begging her not to be upset, beseeching her to write back, pleading with her to be friends again, but Petunia had torn them up or else put them straight in the bin. The letter that Lily had sent after Petunia had told her she wasn't welcome at her and Vernon's wedding, smudged with tears, saying that she was happy for her and that she hoped Petunia would change her mind, had even been thrown in the fire.
Yet there were some, just a couple, that she had kept, and why she hadn't been able to toss them carelessly in the bin like all the others, she wasn't quite sure, even now.
She dug deeper into the envelope that had held Dumbledore's first letter and found a small, square, thick piece of paper, with an attached photo of a young woman with bright red hair and a man with glasses. The piece of paper was a wedding invitation, to the union of James Potter and Lily Evans.
It was the third invitation Lily had sent her. Petunia had sent back the first two envelopes, unopened, but then curiosity had got the better of her. When she had seen what it was, when she had set eyes on the photo, although she never would have admitted it, she had felt her insides burn with sudden jealousy. Jealous because Lily looked so overwhelmingly happy. Jealous because James, with his arm around her, looked so protective, so caring and so... fun. She loved Vernon, of course she did, but she didn't think he would or could ever cause such a delighted and care-fee expression as Lily's to appear on her own face.
Petunia hurriedly pushed the thought out of her mind and took up the next piece of paper, addressed just eight months later, enclosing a picture of a baby boy, and a small note from her sister, telling her that Harry James Potter had been born on the 31st July.
She had told Vernon about that one, dismissing her nephew as a good for nothing runt, but she had received two letters since, which, although her husband knew absolutely nothing about, she had not been able to throw away.
She took out the first, which had been written in January.
Thanks for the vase you sent me for Christmas. It's very unusual. I hope you liked our gift to you! Don't worry, there's absolutely nothing magical about it!
I hope you had a good Christmas, ours was pretty manic. On the subject of which, I have something to ask you. Dumbledore thinks it might be a good idea to have a few people as undercover correspondents for the Order of the Phoenix (that's our secret society fighting Voldemort – you know, I mentioned him last time I saw you). A few of the Order's relatives are doing it already. You wouldn't be in any danger and you really wouldn't have to do much, just receive the odd Owl and forward it on to us via normal post. It's just so our headquarters aren't given away.
I told Dumbledore you probably wouldn't want to do it, but he seemed to think you might like a chance to be involved in the wizarding world. Let me know what you think!
Ps: I know you probably don't care, but in case you were in any way interested, Harry is now six months old and growing fast. How is Dudley? I really would like to meet him at some point. I wish we could put everything behind us and just be friends.
There had been no question of showing Vernon this letter, of course. What on earth would he have said? Imagine the idea of receiving letters from owls instead of a postman! As for meeting Dudley, it was completely absurd. They couldn't have their dear diddykins interacting with a people like that! She had not even replied.
Sometimes, she wished she had. She couldn't help it.
Now, there was only one last letter in the envelope, and it was very brief.
Just to let you know things have got pretty difficult here. James and I have to go into hiding. We're really hoping that things will get better soon but we can't be sure. I'm so sorry to leave you to cope with Mum and Dad when they aren't in good health but I have written to them to tell them and I hope they will understand.
I love you all.
Petunia looked at the date on the top of the paper and then down at Dumbledore's most recent letter. Just three months had passed since then, and Lily going into hiding had clearly not had the desired effect. She was startled to feel one single tear running down her cheek. It dropped onto Dumbledore's letter, right onto her sister's name, creating a large black blotch over the word Evans.
"Petunia?" a gruff voice interrupted her thoughts. She rubbed her eyes hastily, but no more tears had appeared in them anyway.
"Why is there a baby on our kitchen table?" her husband demanded.
She had completely forgotten Harry! She had not even heard Vernon come down the stairs. Shoving Dumbledore's and her sisters' letters back in the envelope, and the envelope to the very back of the draw, she straightened up and went back into the kitchen. Harry Potter was still not crying, but his eyes were wide open. Vernon was looking down at him with an expression of disgust on his face.
Wordlessly, she handed him the letter that had been addressed to them both.
As he read it, Vernon's face when bright red with incredulity. "Keep him?" he gasped hoarsely. "Raise him as our son? I don't think so!"
Petunia made a small noise of protest but Vernon's eyes were now bulging with indignation.
"No! Abolutely not! I won't have it!"
"We have to, Vernon!" Petunia said, feeling nervous as she took in his livid face but knowing that, for once, she would have to be firm, would have to stand up to him.
"Why?" Vernon's face was twisted unpleasantly in fury and disbelief, going magenta as he looked once more down at his nephew. "Why can't we just pack him off to an orphanage and be done with it. We'll just pretend that he doesn't exist, like we've been doing since he was born. No one will know!"
"We can't," Petunia struggled with a suitable reason, unwilling to tell her husband about Dumbledore's second letter. Dumbledore was right, she realised. As much as she hated the "freaky" world her sister had found her home in, she still understood a lot more than Vernon about the potential consequences of refusing to take Harry in, and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to make her husband see them for himself.
"But the neighbours!" Vernon blustered, now breaking out into a sweat. "What on earth will they think? We're building up quite a decent reputation around here Petunia, just imagine-"
"I don't want him any more than you do," Petunia burst out at last, cutting over him. "But I heard her talk about that world, about those people, about the sort of things they can do. They work in different ways to normal people, Vernon! Who knows what might happen, or what they might do to us if we don't do as Du-" she broke off, amending herself hurriedly "as this - this man asks."
Vernon scanned the letter again nervously, now holding it at arms length as if it might explode. As she saw his eyes dart suspiciously over the name at the bottom of the letter, Petunia knew she had won. If there was one thing her husband hated more than being associated with anything abnormal, it was the idea of something abnormal happening to him. His expression was no less ugly, but the redness in his face started ebbing away.
"Fine!" snapped Vernon, slamming the letter down on the table. Harry, who had been completely calm until then, gave a jolt at the brutal movement and started wailing.
"Shut up, you little runt," Vernon snarled. He addressed Petunia, his voice loud to try and drown out Harry Potter's cries.
"Fine! We'll take him in and we'll keep him alive. But he's not going to that school. He's not being told a word about this- this world. I doubt we'll ever make him a decent human being but he is most definitely going to be a normal one! And he's going to be kept away from Dudley as much as possible. Don't want him rubbing off on our own son, now do we?"
Petunia shook her head, then nodded, pale-faced but releived that the battle was won. Over the following years she did as Vernon insisted, not saying a word to her nephew about the magical world, refusing to answer any questions about his parents. She told Vernon that she had destroyed the letter from Dumbledore, when in actual fact it was placed in the envelope along with the others and kept secretly in the back of the drawer. Harry was raised in a cupboard, Dudley was given preferential treatment, and Petunia pushed all thoughts of the magical world out of her mind. Even when, despite all their best efforts, Harry found out about his parents and was sent off to Hogwarts, the longing to be part of the magical world never returned to her, nor did the jealousy, nor did the tears. Nevertheless, Petunia Dursley kept the envelope of letters for the rest of her life, very, very occasionally, when Vernon and Dudley weren't around, taking them out and rereading them, wondering idly what would have happened if she had reacted differently to any one of them.
Many years later, when she died at the ripe old age of ninety-nine, when her darling diddykins, now seventy-five years old, brought his only son and his ten-year-old granddaughter to help him clear out his mother's house, it was she who found those letters, still in good condition, at the back of a drawer in her great grandmother's bedroom. She did not ask her Granddad Dudley what they meant, but she took them home and kept them, hidden and secret, in her own bedroom, sometimes reading them curiously and trying to figure out a meaning. And when her own daughter, at eleven years of age, received a letter informing her that she had been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she was not altogether surprised. And when she heard through her daughter, during the Easter holidays of her third year, that in a few weeks time a man called Harry Potter was going to come and give a speech to mark a hundred years of peaceful times since the downfall of Lord Voldemort, the full meaning of the letters that she had taken from her great grandmother's bedside table suddenly became much clearer. And when her daughter remained supremely unconcerned and wondered aloud if she'd be able to get out of going to this "long and boring waffle about a dead guy," she felt a sudden, urgent need to give her the old letters, to show her why she should probably regard Harry Potter as more than "some old man who won a war a million years ago."
And so when Harry James Potter, one hundred and sixteen years after being left on his Aunt Petunia's doorstep, came to his old school to talk about the end of Lord Voldemort, he was nervously approached afterwards by a blond, round-faced Hufflepuff girl, who forced her way through the crowds of students ogling "The Chosen One", ignoring her teachers' protests, to tell him that she was a descendant of Dudley Dursley. The old man looked completely baffled, and half disbelieving, but consented to give her a few minutes of his time. She showed him the letters, and the photos, telling him where they had come from, and he, looking completely shocked, examined every one of them in minute detail.
Harry occasionally wrote to his cousin Dudley's great granddaughter in the years that followed, and when he finally passed away, he was, at his request, buried with the piece of parchment announcing the union of Lily and James Potter and its adjoining photo, and laid to rest next to his parents in the graveyard of Godric's Hollow. But he had told her to keep the other letters, told her just how important they really were, and why. And when two of her own children were accepted at Hogwarts but her youngest, to his bitter disappointment, was not, she gave him the letters that had been written to his great great great grandmother, begging him not to be angry or upset, imploring him not to isolate his family because of it, and reminding him that even the most non-magical of people can play the most crucial of roles in the lives of wizards.
a/n Next chapter will be about Snape
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