Tea and Tidings
Life in number four Privet Drive was normal. There was the patriarch and man of the house Vernon Dursley, his wife and homemaker Petunia, and their young son Dudley. Indeed, the Dursleys tried to foster the image of their perfect and normal life. The rotund man, with small squinted eyes and straw-like yellow hair, was a head shorter than his model-like wife. She had the odd proportions that lent themselves beautifully to the runway. Her legs and neck were long in relation to the rest of her body, which itself was taller than average. Her light golden blonde hair coiffed and curled just so, pearls at the neck, Petunia strove to personify the post World War II housewife stereotype. Her red pumps giving just enough rebelliousness to make her the talk of the Ladies Tea without incurring the wrath of their gossip.
Petunia was in fact quite adept at maneuvering within the social turbulence of their middle-class community. One must always appear affluent yet charitable. It was with there that the Dursleys were able to imply virtue without any real effort on their part. They would just trot out Petunia's nephew. "Poor Harry," She would say. "He survived when both his parents died in a horrible accident!" Then for a dash of drama, hand at her pearls and getting a bit misty eyed, she would add: "They say terrorists were involved!" Nothing is so dramatic as the truth. The ladies would congratulate her on her generous spirit and devotion to family. All the while knowing that decency kept them from their own pious retort. Then they'd coo over little Harry, with his big innocent green eyes. "He's just so frail, I worry so," she would continue, deceptive appearances were Petunias mainstay after all; She felt no remorse in allowing them to see her nephew as a fragile orphan. Being younger and smaller than her Dudley just added to the aura of fragility. "Oh, that nasty scar! It's the only legacy he has of his parents!" She would end. Once again reminding the social climbers and flibbertigibbets that her place was secure.To which the ladies would offer their token efforts to assist the young family. Mr. Dursley meanwhile, would just make an off comment on how trying it was to raise a child not his own before the gents talked sport.
The façade began on a cold November morning, no different from any other. Petunia, up early as she was wont to do, had already prepared her infuser with her own 'breakfast tea' blend (Keemun, Assam, and Darjeeling in equal parts, a healthy dash of nutmeg in honor of autumn, and milk). She would peruse the 'Home Journal' while she waited for the water in the kettle to boil. Of course like everyone else she had an electric model, hers was just a touch more elegant than the rest. Wrapped in her house coat and a shawl around her shoulders, she would get the newspaper, while her tea steeped. Then sit at the table and sip at her tea while she brushed up on current events. The Midsomer Midden was a weekly paper and kept a fairly up to date social calendar of the county.
It was a sneeze that broke her normalcy and changed her life for ever more. Upon hearing, it her head swiveled sharp and hawk-like towards the conservatory door. Her own son, well into his tantrum two's (though he had turned four that past June), was sleeping upstairs in his room. They had no pets and it was a few hours yet before sunrise, and a few hours more before it would be acceptable for social calls. Though she would certainly have a stern talk to whomever thought themselves familiar enough with them to use their back door as opposed to the front. Petunia cocked her head and was ready to count it as a sound of the early morning wind when she heard a tiny cough. With that she stood regally from her chair, wrapping herself in her plush house coat, drawing the sash tight and tied at her hip. She ensured that her sleeping cap was in order and that no stray curl had escaped from where they were secured and walked towards the conservatory.
She tapped the screen beside the door that opened into the glass walled room, a recent upgrade in their security system, and could see no one in the garden or on the patio. She flipped a switch to turn on the the lighting that discretely showed off the masterpiece of a garden. She had the first place ribbons to prove it. She frowned as she saw at the bottom of the screen, near the french doors that led to the patio, a small sliver. She couldn't tell what it was, but she new it was less than a metre high or wide. She tried to tell Vernon they needed a camera with a better viewing angle. It was hard though, for portly man to imagine anything that could fit in one square metre. Well this could prove useful in future conversations. He had just wanted to be able to tell the lads down at the pub about his newest tech. Petunia however had more varied uses for the cameras. Knowledge was power after all.
Safe in the knowledge that no one was inside the conservatory, she quickly made her way through the room. She could see frost on the windows, obscuring the stars overheard. Opening the white trim french doors, she could see through the security screen, what appeared to be a bassinet. Her mind refused to make the leap from the bassinet itself to what would be inside. She found herself hoping it was a litter of kittens. She quietly opened the security screen door, took a step forward and knelt down. To the left, leaning against the glass was, what she assumed, to be the stand that accompanied the baby carrier. There was also a familiar trunk. It was black, with red leather straps, around and over the top, and the metal was a sturdy bronze made to look like gold. She knew on top, covered by a bag, would be the name 'Lilly Evans'.
A shock ran through her body. Her sisters school trunk and a bassinet. The phrase repeated over and over in her head. A riot of emotion that she was currently too numb to put a name to. Reaching forward, she pulled back the top comforter, folding it half down, it smelled of smoke. Beneath lay an envelope with her name scrawled in beautiful, gold leaf calligraphy. Shaking, her hand moved the package to the foot of the bassinet, on the comforter. The quilt seemed to be of good quality, if you could ignore the flying golden balls and brooms that zipped around on it. Next was a white fleece blanket, thick, soft and warm against a baby's skin. The child in question was sleeping soundly, clutching a shaggy black stuffed dog, and dummy firmly in his mouth. His head was topped with a shock of black hair, rosy cheeks, and soft pale skin. Her quick examination couldn't fail to notice the wound that started at his eyebrow, just left of his nose, to just above his right temple. It was inflamed and the hair around it seemed to have fallen out, but the baby was still sleeping well. 'I'll need to get some scar cream' she thought randomly.
Being the practical woman that she was, Petunia quickly pulled herself together, picked up the bassinet, and closed the door. She walked quietly back to the table, on which she put the basket. Her kettle had clicked itself off indicating that the water was heated. For a few moments she lost herself in her morning ritual: breakfast tea, one sugar and a dash of milk. With her mug wrapped in both hands, warming them, she stood above the bassinet. 'At least whoever left him on my stoop swaddled the child well' her thoughts were critical. However, she couldn't just leave him untended. She still had nappies from Dudley's smaller days, bottles, and a few dummies, so she was confident that she could care for him.
Petunia went into the kitchen to prepare a bottle. Not knowing if solid food had been introduced yet to the boys diet. Bottle in hand she sat down at the table and contemplated this abnormality. Petunia found herself quite dismayed at the situation. 'People just don't leave children on doorsteps in today's world' Her thoughts still trying to process the bassinet in front of her.
With a fortifying breath, Petunia slowly picked the baby up. He fussed a bit when she removed his dummy, but the warm milk bottle was received well. She sat there, silent, just watching the child in her arms. There was little doubt who the child was, but admitting that meant confronting the "why's" behind the baby on her door step. She wasn't quite ready. When he had finished his bottle, she through a towl over her shoulder and patted his back to help him burp, making sure no gas was lodged in his belly. Wiping the sick up from his mouth made him fuss. He opened his green eyes that surely would've been a glare if it wasn't on such an adorable face.
"There there young one," she whispered to him silently, quickly ensuring he had his dummy. He huffed at her, as if to make his dissatisfaction known, before the dummy was once again locked in place. He nestled in and closed his eyes. Such innocence. 'Oh Lilly-bear, what's wrong?" she thought to herself. She knew it would take an extraordinary circumstance to separate her sister from her son. Her beautiful, bright, and shining baby sister.
It had been, to Petunia, a devastating shock when their family found out that Lilly was magical. She had always carried a slight jealousy of her sister, though she was two years senior. Where Petunia was a somewhat uncommon light haired blonde, her sister had vibrant red hair. She had actually played the big sister more than a few times when the children in Lilly's school though to make fun of her for being a ginger. They both shared the Evans family green eyes, however Lilly's were so bright they nearly glowed. Lilly was only slightly taller than her peers, while Petunia had always towered over her own. The biggest difference though was how exuberant Lilly had been, even as a young child. She seemed to radiate a sense of confidence that Petunia felt she lacked. Next to Lilly's warm and welcoming personality, Petunia was cold and off putting.
As a grown woman she could see that being a very hormonal fifteen when Lilly got "The Letter", had made things more tumultuous than they needed to be. Her beleaguered mind had been unable to see past the young girl who would have experiences that were beyond anything Petunia would experience. It was a real life adventure her sister was going on and she was being left behind. Not only left behind, she couldn't even visit. She had written a letter to the headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, pleading to be let in. His reply had been a standard rejection letter. For all the emotion she had felt at that time, the silent callousness of the letter was like shards of glass in her soul.
Life changed after that. She never got to teach her sister the things that a young woman could expect to go through during school. She couldn't even help with homework. As Petunia's life seemed to get more and more average, Lilly grew into a beautiful woman with perfect curves, a vibrant personality, and was (quite literally) magical. Though Petunia herself was considered beautiful, compared to her sister she felt like a stick topped with wool. They had never quite gotten the closeness back that they had once shared. The mercurial, and sometimes turbulent, emotions that had pushed between them had left a lonely bitter feeling within Petunia. She never did quit missing her sister.
Gently she lay her nephew back in his basket, only covering him with a quilt from linen closet she had stored for Dudley. She would need to wash the bedding, as the smell of smoke clung to them. Next she moved her attention to the packet she had received. It was thick and a dark yellowish color with her name written on it: Mrs. Petunia Eavanartan Dursley. The fancy gold leaf calligraphy didn't smear or flake as she ran her finger over it. Turning the offending article over, she found that the thick envelope was sealed with red wax. She frowned at the image embossed there. The "H" was one she would never forget. This letter was from Hogwarts! She hissed quietly. 'That damn school! What were they doing with my nephew!? Oh, they are going to bring ruin to my life...again!' She recognized that the desire to throw the envelope into the fire was not a rational one. It likely contained answers that she dearly needed (even if she didn't want them.) She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, forcibly calming herself. The rage she felt was an old one that belonged to a different time. 'Back then I was a young teen, with a young girl's dreams and a young girl's ambitions.' She was not a little girl any longer.