Chapter 4: Aunt Petunia
Petunia Dursley was in the kitchen cooking dinner for her family when she heard the front door open. She went over to greet whoever had come and was startled to see Dudley standing in the doorway, panting and looking deathly pale. Ever the concerned for her precious 'Dudders' she hurried over to him.
"What happened Diddydums?" she asked, concern evident in her voice.
"Huh!" he said as if someone had broken him out of his reverie.
"Dudley?" she asked more gently, grasping his forearm. She was worried now that someone could do something like to Dudley as he was rarely so intimidated.
"N-nothing mum. There's nothing to worry about. Yeah, absolutely nothing to worry about. I don't know why you worry so much." he rambled.
"Are you sure Dudley?" she asked. She was sure he was hiding something from her. Call it a mother's instinct.
"Yeah mum, everything's alright, I'm alright. There's nothing to worry about. I told you" he said, the colour returning to his face due to his mother's presence.
He understood the concern of his mother. She was a strong woman in her own right. She had lived almost all her life around 'freaks'. She had to contend with her 'freak' of a sister all her childhood and her youth till she was killed by another 'freak'. Then she had to look after her sister's son. A 'freak' of the highest order, now off fighting the same 'freak' who had killed his parents. So, though she was surrounded by 'freaks' she had survived and was sane. This made Dudley respect her all the more. He hugged his mother and went up to his room.
Reassured, Petunia went back to the kitchen to cook dinner. She was still concerned that he wasn't telling her something. The only time she had seen her son so frazzled was during the summer of 1996, when he and Harry had been attacked by Dementors. She still shuddered when she thought about how she had almost lost both the boys that night.
Yes, Petunia Dursley had changed. She had changed the moment she heard that Voldemort had returned. She had gone considerably soft on Harry since then, surprising him to no end. Though she was still gruff with him from time to time, she could tell that he could tell it was all an act directed towards Vernon and Dudley. They would never understand what it was like to lose all their family members. Harry had lost his parents and the closest person to a father he ever had, she had lost her parents and her only sister to that monster Voldemort. Though she had never let on, she had shed a few tears at Lily's death. So what if she had been a 'freak', she had still been her sister, her blood. But she had never grieved Lily's death. The long standing jealousy towards Lily had gotten the better of her. This jealousy had clouded her judgement towards the wizarding world in general.
But the rebirth of Voldemort had changed all that. It made her realize the enormity of the situation Harry was in. She knew Voldemort couldn't kill Harry as a child. So he would be baying for Harry's blood now that he was back. It took a few days , but she eventually realized that since Harry was the one to bring about Voldemort's downfall (yes, she knew about the prophecy. Dumbledore had written the gist of it in the letter.) she vowed to make No. 4 Privet Drive a liveable place for Harry. Make it one less thing to worry about now that he had Voldemort to worry about. But then, Harry had been taken away before she could talk to him about it. She determined to talk to Harry and sort things out between them during the next summer vacation. And she did. It was all awkward and tentative at first. Harry wasn't willing to open up to the woman who had mistreated him all his life that easily. Nor did she expect him to. But she eventually reached through to him. He gradually warmed up to their conversations once he realized that her intentions were honest. They found that they both eagerly looked forward to that time of the day when they had these conversations. She talked to him about Hogwarts and his friends. She was horrified to learn how much the boy had endured in his short life. Her heart went out for this child. She immediately regretted all the things she had said and done to make his life miserable. She cursed her stupid jealousy and vowed it would never come in the way of anything ever again. She also told him tales of his mother in her childhood, when they used to play together like true sisters. She also told him all the ridiculous stories about Vernon and Marge, just to hear his laugh which had become rarer and rarer as the years had progressed.
The last time she had seen him was when he had come to take all his belongings after his schooling had finished, indicating that he was moving out. She followed him to his room. Once inside, he said that he had actually come to see her because he had considered her family for the past one year. This statement brought tears to her eyes. She hugged him and wished him well and then said her goodbyes. She wiped her tears and followed him downstairs. He said his goodbyes to Vernon and Dudley. Vernon merely grunted from his position in front of the television which clearly meant 'Good Riddance'. Dudley didn't even glance up from whatever he was eating. Petunia mouthed Harry a silent apology on their behalf which he waved off indicating that he knew these would be their reactions. He sighed and with a quick wave to Petunia, he left.
Petunia still thought about the boy, no, a man now. She was constantly worried about him even though it was six years since she had last seen or heard from him. She sincerely hoped that he was well and had sent Voldemort packing into oblivion to avenge his parents' and her sister's death.
Petunia shook her head to clear her thoughts. It wouldn't do to have such morbid thoughts. All she could do was hope that he would someday contact her.
With that last thought she went back to her favourite pastime: Neighbour Snooping. She had seen this young couple, an attractive red-head and a handsome brown haired young man, move in a week ago. She decided to let them get settled in before she met them. She would meet them tomorrow afternoon, she decided.
The next day passed as usual for Petunia. Get up in the morning, cook breakfast for Vernon and Dudley, see Vernon off to his office and Dudley to wherever he went off to, read a few magazines, snoop on the neighbours, wash the dishes, take a nap. Before she knew, it was already 4'o clock and time to visit the new neighbours.
Petunia walked the few steps towards No.8. She had a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach which she could not explain. She was pondering over the fact that she didn't realize she had reached the front door of No.8. She broke out of her thoughts and rang the bell. The funny feeling intensified. She found it queer as it had never happened before.
The door was opened by the attractive red-head with the brown haired man behind her. As she looked up, she saw recognition flash across the man's face and his face lit up in a bright smile.
'Did she know him? If yes, from where?' All these questions and more were running through her mind. She almost forgot why she was there. She smiled and introduced herself.
"Hello. My name is Petunia Dursley. I live over at No.4. I came to welcome you to our locality."
"Thank you. Please come in." answered the man with the same bright smile on his face. Did she see a trace of mischievousness in that smile?
Now, Petunia seemed to get a feeling that she knew the person. But from where? She went in nevertheless.
"Please make yourself comfortable" he said indicating a pair of plush armchairs. The woman went into the kitchen to make tea. Petunia sat down in one of the armchairs. The man sat down on the couch opposite her.
They didn't speak a word till the red-headed woman came back with a tray of tea and biscuits. She offered a cup to petunia with a smile on her face, the same mischievous smile the man had, poured one for the man and took one for herself and settled down on the couch next to him.
"You didn't recognize me, did you?" he asked with a small chuckle.
Petunia was dumbfounded. So he actually knew her! But who was he? She thought she recognized the voice and the tone. But the face did not fit. So she was back at square one.
He was looking intently at her, amusement dancing in his eyes. She glanced at the red-head sitting beside him. The woman was shaking with suppressed laughter. The two were laughing at her and here she sat with a dumb expression on her face and staring at both of them in turns.
After watching her for some sign of recognition, and failing to find one, the man sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. They instantly turned jet-black and unruly. He then removed his blue contacts to reveal startling green eyes. He lastly waved a hand over his face to change his facial structure.
"Now do you recognize me?" he asked with mirth in his voice. The woman next to him bow burst out laughing.
Petunia watched his transformation with a look of shock on her face. Her first thought as he revealed his hair was 'What the hell is going on?' But as she looked at his eyes, his piercing emerald green eyes, she knew. She knew it was him. After all, who else had Lily's eyes but Harry? To say she was shocked was an understatement. She was too stunned to speak. She had not expected to see that afternoon. But she was happy all the same.
She didn't say anything for a minute or two. Just stared at him in disbelief. He was smiling. Boy, did she miss that smile. Suddenly, without warning, she jumped out of her armchair and engulfed him in a tight hug, laughing and crying at the same time. Ginny, sensing the need to leave them alone, made towards the door.
"Wait" Harry called out.
Petunia let go of Harry, tears of joy falling freely down her face. Harry smiled down at her and then beckoned for Ginny to come over. Ginny approached the two, somewhat apprehensive. He took her hand in his and squeezed her fingers reassuringly.
"Aunt Petunia, this is Ginny Weasley, the love of my life. Ginny, this is my Aunt Petunia" he introduced them. Ginny burned red at her introduction but smiled nevertheless.
"Hello Ginny" Petunia smiled warmly at Ginny.
"Hello Mrs. Dursley" Ginny said, returning the smile.
"Call me Petunia, dear. And Harry, I must say your choice is excellent."
She turned to Harry and asked"Weasleys? Aren't they the ones who destroyed our fireplace?"
Ginny flushed a deep red at Petunia's observation. Harry laughed out loud at seeing Ginny's expression.
"Yes, Aunt Petunia, one and the same. Ginny is their sister." He leant in closer and whispered in her ear" But Ginny is capable of breaking more than a fireplace. You should see her temper."
"Hey, I heard that." Ginny said and smacked his arm.
Petunia watched them bicker as a mother would her children. They were made for each other. She only hoped that they remained that way.
After chatting a bit, Petunia rose to leave. She hugged Harry and Ginny and went out the door. Once outside, she looked up at the sky and hoped that Lily would find it in her heart of hearts to forgive her for the atrocities she had heaped on the boy when he was young. She closed her eyes and a single tear escaped her closed eyelids. She had been given a second chance at Harry. She vowed not to let this go to waste as she had the first time around. This done, she hurried home to cook dinner.