Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
This one-shot is basically to show samples of the letters that might have been exchanged between Albus Dumbledore and Petunia Dursley after the attack on the Potters at Godric's Hollow. I wrote this fiction to accompany an editorial, so the format is only semi-narrative.
In this sample scenario, it's perhaps three or four in the morning immediately after Lily and James Potter's deaths. Dumbledore sits down to write his first letter to Petunia.
Dear Mrs Dursley,
It is with a heavy heart and with my deepest regrets that I must inform you of the deaths of your sister, Lily, and her husband, James Potter.
Lily and James fought tirelessly against the tyranny of Lord Voldemort, the Dark Wizard responsible for the deaths and torment of so many, including your own beloved parents.
Your sister and brother-in-law died heroically, valiantly defending their child to their last breaths. One blessing from this terrible tragedy is that Harry survived the attack, plucked from the rubble of their home.
The Potters defied Lord Voldemort to the last, and it is to Lily, James, and Harry Potter that we must pay tribute for ridding our world of this despicable villain. Yes, Mrs Dursley, he is gone. There remains a strong risk, however, that in years to come Lord Voldemort may rise again, and so I look to you, Mrs Dursley, as I am sure Lily would, to care for her son … to offer him sanctuary in the bosom of the last of the Evans girls.
I urgently await your reply. I should also like to offer my assistance with the funeral arrangements. Please let me know your wishes in this regard and I will attend to it anon.
Again, please accept my most sincere sympathy for your tragic loss,Albus Dumbledore
Fawkes offers his services, hopping down to take possession of the letter in his golden talons. "Be discreet, hmmm?" says Dumbledore softly. "And watch for a reply."
Fawkes Apparates (or whatever it is that he does) silently into Petunia's bedroom at Privet Drive. He is the soul of discretion. Petunia wakes, startled, to have a phoenix feather stuck up her nose (well, okay, maybe not, but one can dream). She starts to shriek then realises it's related to the dreaded 'M' word and quickly assures a groggy Vernon that nothing is amiss and he falls back to sleep. Petunia reads the letter and his horrified, hopefully for the right reasons (again, one can dream).
She hastily scribbles a note on the back of the letter and looks around helplessly. Fawkes, ever vigilant, instantly reappears. She's petrified as he carefully takes the letter from her hand and disappears with it back to Dumbledore.
I cannot possibly do as you ask. Harry would be much better placed with his father's family. I'm sorry, but I have my own baby, Dudley, to consider. And my husband would absolutely never ever agree. Never!
A child like that would surely be much better off with his own kind. His Potter relations would be a much better choice.
As for the funeral arrangements … I'm sure whatever you do will be for the best. It won't be near here will it? In any case I cannot get away – I'm sorry, my husband and my baby need me here with them. You'll understand, I'm sure.
Mrs P Dursley
PS. Please do not send that bird again!
Dumbledore reads Petunia's letter with a sinking heart. Lily had perhaps told him of her sister's antipathy to anyone connected to Magic (including herself and James). He tries again, this time appealing to her sense of duty to Lily and empathy as a mother of a baby boy herself.
My dear Mrs Dursley,
I'm afraid I find myself the bearer of yet more ill news. James Potter's parents … his uncles, his cousins … all have perished, victims, in most cases, to Lord Voldemort's reign of terror.
You, Mrs Dursley, you alone are all the family Harry has left. You are the only blood relative capable of protecting and caring for the child, unless, of course, you have other siblings of whom I am unaware?
Mrs Dursley, you must realise the importance of family to an infant like Harry. Consider if the situation were reversed … consider if Dudley were orphaned. Would you not want your sister to care for him as if he were her own son? To give him all the love and affection that you would wish to bestow upon him yourself?
Kindest regards,Albus Dumbledore
Petunia begins to panic. There are perhaps several letters that go back and forth, either right then in the middle of the night, or perhaps throughout the daytime while Vernon is at work.
At some point during the day Dudley learns a new word: "Won't". You can just bet he learned it from his Mum, perhaps screaming it in frustration in her spotless kitchen! It's a lovely thought that Harry uses this very word to defy orders when under the Imperius Curse. "I WON'T!" he screams at the false Moody and at Lord Voldemort too (in Goblet of Fire).
Not that I'm suggesting that Dumbledore would have ever cast such a curse on Petunia Dursley, even if he did by chance pop into her kitchen at some point during the day (nb, in Chapter 1 of Philosopher's Stone, we are told that no one like Dumbledore had ever been seen in Privet Drive before, but then that doesn't mean he didn't Apparate straight into Petunia's house).
But back to the letters – whether Petunia actually saw Dumbledore in person is likely a moot point, it's the content of her response that is important. When she received Dumbledore's letters she might have written letters back, then again, she might have talked to him face to face, or she might have just screamed "I WON'T!" at the toaster, who knows?
So, anyway, Petunia is thoroughly fed up and panicked by this time and writes a 'last' letter of her own; one she hopes makes her decision and her feelings very clear indeed!
I beg you, please do not send that bird again! His feather nearly woke my Vernon! I really cannot stress enough that my husband would never ever agree with having a freak like that in our home. What if he did things? How would it look? My Vernon would never stand for that sort of nonsense. People just popping in and out unannounced! Owls all over the place!
Oh, yes, I know very well what it would be like – I lived through it when my sister went to that freakish boarding school! My Vernon has a VERY bright career ahead of him. We can't have mad things going on all the time! What will people think?!
As for if the situation were reversed, I think I know my sister better than you do, thank you very much! Lily knows that I would NEVER EVER want my precious Dudley raised by her and that horrible boy she married.
My parents are dead! Now my sister is dead, too! All because they got mixed up in your wretched world. Dementors! Werewolves! Vampires! It all started the minute Lily got that letter inviting her to go to that horrid school! I refuse to have my family endangered by being dragged into a world so full of witchery and misery and death! I want nothing to do with any of it!
Please just leave me and mine out of this horrid mess! I just want to live a normal life, why can't Lily understand that?!
Dumbledore contemplates this final word from Petunia for some time.
'Eleven years,' he thinks to himself. 'Eleven years of Lord Voldemort's reign of terror ended tonight. Lily was twenty–two - the war began the year she started at Hogwarts then. No wonder Petunia Dursley has never seen our world in a fair light.' He also notes that she used present tense when referring to her dead sister.
"It hasn't really hit her yet, has it, Fawkes … not in her heart …"
Then he writes what becomes his 'last' letter, the letter that 'explains everything', his quill lingering long above the sheet before he starts writing.
Dear Mrs Dursley,
I must impress upon you the importance of Harry being accepted into your home. Lord Voldemort may well be gone for the time being but there remains a great risk to you and your own family. Yes, Mrs Dursley, your family. Do not delude yourself, once news of Lily's connection to Lord Voldemort's demise is known, then you personally, as an Evans, and your son as well, may be targeted. Purely out of spite or revenge – just as with your parents.
Lily Potter's sacrifice left the strongest possible of all protective forces within her child; the ancient power of a mother's sacrifice. This ancient magic flows now in Harry's very blood.
Last night Lord Voldemort, arguably the most powerful wizard of our times, was vanquished. How? He tried to attack Lily's baby and failed because of this very force shielding the child. He not only failed to kill Harry, but the spell was deflected back upon himself. As a result, Lord Voldemort has been banished, reduced to a gormless, pitifully weak, malevolent essence. I know it is inevitable, though, that some day he will return to wreak havoc once more.
Lily's blood saved her baby from Lord Voldemort bare hours ago and will continue to protect him in the years to come, but this protection will only reach its maximum possible force if combined with a surrogate mother who also shares her blood. It is you, Mrs Dursley, you who can provide the safest sanctuary for this precious child. It is you who can ensure that your sister's sacrifice was not in vain.
The act of accepting Harry into your home will seal a pact that protects Harry whilst ever he can call your home his own. You share her blood too, you see. By being Harry's surrogate mother, you will carry all the enormous protective power of Lily's sacrifice. Yes, Mrs Dursley, just by the act of allowing Harry houseroom in your home you will be preserving Lily's powerful protective shield. If you do this, then Harry will be safe. If you do this, Lord Voldemort will never be able to touch Harry whilst ever in the sanctuary of your home.
My dear Mrs Dursley, I know that you are still in a state of great shock, and understandably so. I am sympathetic to your concerns for your family's privacy, if you consent to take your nephew, then I assure you that every measure will be taken to keep the Wizarding world at a distance from your family. The charm on Harry is invisible; I assure you that your friends and neighbours need never know anything about it. They will only know that your good heart was opened to a needy child.
There is something else that you might wish to consider before making your decision; Lily's nephew also carries her blood. Yes, Mrs Dursley, by preserving by your connection with Lily and Harry you will also be providing the same powerful protection to your own infant, Dudley. He too will never be harmed in your home by Lord Voldemort whilst ever Harry has a place there.
Mrs Dursley, if you will not take Harry for Lily's sake, then please think of the safety of your own little boy.
Think of Dudley.
Professor Dumbledore seals his letter and Fawkes flutters down to the desk, ready to play his part again. Dumbledore shakes his head slightly at the great bird.
"I suspect that Mrs Dursley needs a little time to absorb what has happened. I think I'd best deliver this last one myself." His clear blue eyes dim a little. "When I deliver Harry."
Late on the evening of Tuesday, 1st of November, Dumbledore turns up at Privet Drive, chats to Professor Minerva McGonagall and Hagrid and leaves the baby on the doorstep.
A letter is clutched in wee baby Harry's hand. Whether or not this letter is the letter described by Jo Rowling as 'the last' is open for debate. Dumbledore says he left 'them' a note, meaning Mr and Mrs Dursley. He tells Minerva, "His aunt and uncle will be able to explain everything to him when he's older. I've written them a letter."
In all likelihood, the infamous 'last' letter to Mrs Petunia Dursley, alone, was concealed, perhaps magically, but perhaps, even more simply, just tucked inside Harry's blanket for Petunia to find.