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.
Summary: After his seventh year at that place, Petunia has a final meeting with her nephew.
Author's Note: This story was inspired by word #79 at the 15minuteficlets livejournal community, a general desire to avoid all my current WIPs, and my evil master plan to make people appreciate Petunia Dursley. This is my second Petuniafic -- the previous one, "Family," is also posted here on ff-dot-net. Any canon goofs, grammar mistakes, continuity errors, implausible characterizations, bad dialogue, boring passages, and Americanisms are entirely my fault.
Falls the Shadow
This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
Petunia rolled the words around her mind, trying to remember who'd written them. Some poet, someone she'd studied back in school. Tennyson? No. Someone else -- it was a poem about scarecrows, perhaps? Lily would have remembered...
Well. It wasn't important where she'd picked up the phrase. It wasn't even hard to see why her mind had tossed it up as suitable for the moment. Change was never something she'd been fond of, not even welcome changes.
Deep in the back of her mind, Petunia admitted, she'd always expected the magic to break free someday. She'd never truly believed she and Vernon could stamp it out, could make Harry normal, could keep him away from that mad, high-handed, careless world that had stolen her sister and tricked Lily into thinking her powers were a gift.
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
That was another phrase whose origins she didn't remember. Apt, though.
"And the word 'gift' in German means 'poison,'" she murmured, mind drifting back once again to her school days. What language would Lily have studied if she hadn't--
Petunia shook her head. Enough of this nonsense. She'd wrung a promise from the boy -- from Harry, that was -- that he'd come back after his seventh year at that horrible place. He'd given her blank-faced, insolent astonishment, as if he couldn't imagine ever willingly clapping eyes on her and her home again, but he'd grudgingly agreed.
Ungrateful brat. It hadn't been easy keeping him all those years, not with Vernon's periodic campaigns to drop him at an orphanage, not with his first fit of magic that turned her own son bright blue for a week, not with the constant, creeping knowledge that spells were woven around her house, watching her like vengeful ghosts.
But he was family, he'd saved her Dudley from that dementor thing (even though it was his own fault the nasty creature had been lurking about), he'd warned her to take the family abroad while he had his final battle with that Voldemort person, and by and large, he'd been a well-behaved child. She could admit that now, when she didn't have to worry about disciplining him anymore, when she didn't have Lily's reborn eyes following her as a constant goad.
And there were certain obligations that came with being family.
Petunia checked the clock on the mantel. Five past two -- he was late. "Typical behavior," she said to herself. "The boy wouldn't have an ounce of discipline if it weren't for me, and look how soon he forgets it all. Just like his good for nothing father." But before she could settle into her resentment, the doorbell rang. Petunia rose creakily from her chair, stretched limbs stiff from waiting, and strode through the front hall. Harry at least understood the real world well enough to use the door instead of her fireplace or that unnerving 'appearing' trick some wizards could do.
She opened the door abruptly, meeting his too-green eyes with the same minor shock as always, and waved him in. "You came. Good. This won't take long, and then we'll never have to see each other again."
Harry nodded. "I can't wait," he muttered, just loud enough that Petunia was certain he meant for her to overhear.
"Mind your manners," she snapped, leading him back to the kitchen. She stopped in front of the sink and pinned him with a glare that, she was pleased to notice, still made him twitch and inch his hand toward his wand. She'd never been able to do that to Lily--
"There will be no magic in this house," she told him. "And if they haven't got rid of those watching spells already, you tell them to rip them apart as soon as you're gone."
Harry blinked. "You knew about the wards?"
Petunia sniffed. "Despite what you people think, I'm not stupid just because I can't do magic. But that's not why you're here. Like it or not, you're Lily's son, and I have some of her things that I've been saving for you. I want you to take them and promise never to come looking for me or my family."
He looked suspicious. "I don't believe you. If you have my mother's things, why didn't you give them to me before -- or just throw them away?"
Petunia didn't deign to answer. Instead, she bent and fished around in the cupboard where she kept her baking pans and trays. It had been the safest place she could think of to hide the box -- Vernon and Dudley would never bother with cookware, and she hadn't let Harry do much more than fry-ups. With her luck, he'd only have botched everything like Lily had always done.
"Here," she said, drawing out a battered cardboard package tied with fraying twine. "Letters, pictures, a few pieces of my mother's jewelry, a fair bit of the rubbish Lily was always collecting, and some... some magical things. She put a spell on the box; it holds more than it ought to." Petunia grimaced. "It smacks of cheating."
She hurried on before the boy could interrupt. "Lily left this with me when she and your worthless father went into hiding. 'Just in case,' she said. 'Just in case the worst happens.' Well, it happened. So you can take the unnatural box -- it's your problem now."
That seemed to be all Harry could manage to say. Good.
"Have you left any magic in my house?" Petunia asked.
Harry shook his head, a hint of a smirk on his face. "Despite what you think, I'm not stupid just because I can do magic," he said, throwing her words back at her. Insolent brat.
"No," she said before she could stop herself, "you're stupid because you agree to do magic. And you think their world is better. Just like Lily." Well. In for a penny, in for a pound; she might as well say this to someone before she died.
"Tell me this, Harry James Potter: which world killed my sister? Which world killed your father? Which world almost killed you? Which world sends a baby to kill a madman?" She nodded at Harry's shock, satisfied. "You think about that. And you decide for yourself whether you want to spend your life in an unnatural world, hiding from reality until you get yourself killed, too.
"Now get out of my house."
Petunia shooed her unresisting nephew out the front door, closed it firmly behind him, and turned the key. There. Done. And with surprisingly little drama -- just a few words they should have had years ago. She'd imagined, now and then, that when he left he'd yell and scream at them for his 'mistreatment' all those years, that he might curse them with his magic, that he'd be as vindictive as Lily had sometimes been. But all he'd done was make a few snide comments and let her order him around, the same as always.
That scarecrow poet was right, Petunia thought. This is the way an age ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
She'd done her duty.
Maybe now she could let Lily rest.
AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I adore feedback and am particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why. Failing that, though, feel free to ramble on about whatever you want. :-)