Bonds of Blood
Petunia wakes early on the morning of July thirty-first, her nephew's seventeenth birthday. She has never acknowledged its passage before, but today she feels she should. Today marks the end of her debt to Lily, paid in blood. Today, Harry will leave her home, and, God willing, he will never have cause to return.
So today, before the sun has even begun to lighten the eastern horizon, she eases his door open and comes to stand in his bedroom. He is awake in spite of the hour, surrounded by the trappings of parcels she knows were brought by owl, and wearing black wizard's robes.
Suddenly, she feels acutely uncomfortable, fixed by that painfully familiar emerald gaze and standing barefoot, wearing only a nightdress instead of the formal things she now feels the situation demands. "Hello, Harry," she says quietly.
"Aunt Petunia," he acknowledges her with a nod, absently toying with his wand and, unknowingly, making her feel very nervous. "Do you need something?"
"I wanted—never mind." It is a stupid impulse, she chides herself, a desperate wish to finally free herself from the memory of a dead woman. "It doesn't matter."
He rises and takes her arm as she turns towards the door. "Say what you came here to say," he tells her. "What, are you afraid that now that I'm seventeen I'll decide turnabout is fair play and give you back the misery of ten years spent in a cupboard?"
Turning away, he sheathes his wand in a sort of holster strapped to his arm and begins to gather up wrapping paper and bits of ribbon. "I'm a Gryffindor, Aunt Petunia," he says quietly, not looking at her. "Not a Slytherin."
She remembers having heard both words from Lily, long ago, but cannot recall what they mean. "I know you wouldn't hurt me. You've got your mother's eyes and your mother's temper and your mother's sense of justice. And while I never bothered getting to know you, I did know my sister." Roughly, she takes the pile of shredded bright paper from his arms and stuffs it into the rubbish bin. "And every time I look at you, I see her looking back. That's why I took you that night, all those years ago."
"Blood's thicker than water?" he asks knowingly, giving her a sardonic grin as he takes his seat on the bed again, reaching through the bars of the nearby cage to gently stroke his snowy owl's feathers. "Yeah, I thought that might be it—a sense of obligation. Merlin knows it didn't extend very far." Strangely, he doesn't sound bitter. "Just as well, I guess. I learnt what I needed to learn here."
She sits down on the opposite end of the bed, as far from him as possible, and looks to him, raising an eyebrow. What can he be referring to? They taught him almost nothing save silence and obedience, and surely his primary school education wasn't worth boasting about. "And what was that?"
He shrugs. "Self-reliance. Perseverance. At any rate, I needed it. I still do."
Her question is silent, and she reads the tacit answer in his gaze.
Yes, the war is still there, fought with wands and arcane words and hidden from the eyes of ordinary people. The monster that killed Lily is still after him, still spreading fear and hatred and shadows over his world and reaching with both hands to consume it.
"I know I didn't bring you up properly." She casts her eyes down, avoiding his. Avoiding Lily's accusatory stare, her righteous mother's anger—neither here nor now, but both quite real in Petunia's own mind. "And that I didn't treat you as you should have been treated."
"I figured that out years ago, Aunt Petunia," he says, a little shortly. Then, with a noise that is half-laugh, half-sigh, he adds, "If it does anything to ease your conscience, I've had people to show me love. A mother figure, two father figures, a whole handful of quasi-siblings. I'm going to be all right."
To her relief, he doesn't sound as though he is lying. "You've made arrangements, then?" she asks, raising her head again but still not looking directly at him as she picks at a threadbare place on his quilt. "For today?"
"I did, last summer after I left," he answers, smiling genuinely now. "My guardian will be coming shortly after breakfast." Then, as though in explanation, "I have the spell down, but he says I still need to test for my Apparation license and pass before he'll trust me not to splinch myself."
Ignoring the magic-specific words, she translates that mentally into normal terms: he cannot travel on his own, so an adult will be coming to fetch him. "Your godfather?" She remembers the man, dimly, from a summer long ago, when Lily brought her fiancé, who in turn brought their friends. Harry's godfather, if memory serves, has black hair and lively gray eyes and a laugh like the bark of a dog.
A look of grief comes fleetingly over her nephew's face, settling in his eyes and turning them instantly sober. "No. He was murdered two years ago," he says quietly. "Someone else will be coming for me. You wouldn't know him," he adds.
"The man from the train platform, in the shabby robes?" she inquires, trying to recall the details of his face. Light brown hair streaked with gray; features prematurely old. "Romulus something?"
"Remus," he corrects automatically. "Remus Lupin."
"And he looks after you? Properly?"
Harry grows suddenly defensive, a hard look crossing his face. "Remus is my family; of course he looks after me, because he cares. But the real question, Aunt Petunia," he says, narrowing his eyes, "is, why do you? Why, after sixteen years of not seeming to give a damn one way or the other if I dropped dead, do you suddenly feel it's important that someone does?"
"Because I loved Lily," she says, very softly, forcing him to lean forward to hear the words. "Because before she became a witch and was corrupted by all that unnaturalness, before magic"—she spits the word like a curse, scowling as though it leaves a foul taste in her mouth—"killed her, she was my sister. And it's too late now to make amends with her, but for the sake of her memory, I had to keep you safe, because she died for you. She died for you, and I couldn't let that sacrifice be wasted."
"I see." Harry's voice is flat, his face expressionless. "I'm grateful for what little you did give me, then, and I forgive you what you didn't. So now, if that's all…"
The words hang there in the air, suspended. She has his dismissal, and even his forgiveness. She can take it in lieu of her sister's and stand up, walk out, and never see him again. She can be rid of Lily and her child forever.
But something keeps her there—the echo of a little girl's voice in her memory, whispering, sharing stories and secrets in the darkness of a childhood bedroom. "Not quite all," she says. "There are things of hers in the attic that were sent to me after she died—you know, your sorts of things—in her old school trunk. I couldn't open it, and I wouldn't have wanted to if I could. By rights, it belongs to you; you'll take it when you leave."
His eyes light with his smile. "Thank you," he says. "I have photos of them, and one or two things that belonged to my dad, but nothing of Mum's. Remus will probably be able to tell me when everything is from, too, if it doesn't say."
Petunia nods acknowledgement and turns away, pausing briefly in the hall. "I'll be in the kitchen," she tells him. "Breakfast will be ready in about half an hour; make sure you're ready to go by the time Lupin arrives."
Downstairs, in the security of her own, perfectly normal kitchen, she feels silly about having been so apprehensive in Harry's room—No, she corrects herself, Dudley's second bedroom. Her nephew has, after sixteen years, at last reached the age of majority. Now an adult in the eyes of the law, he is no longer her concern, and has no place in her house.
That thought, too, is comforting. Soon, the boy will leave with his guardian, of whom Lily would no doubt have approved, and she will no longer have a tangible reminder of her sister, will no longer have to see her sister's eyes. She will be free to forget Lily, forget Harry, forget their abominable powers and their world, and immerse herself in the little, normal things that have been so long tainted by those memories.
She hums to herself, a nameless, cheerful tune, as she prepares the meal—pancakes and eggs and bacon, just the way her son and husband like them. A plate, for the last time, is set down at Harry's place at the table, and she calls quietly up the stairs. Vernon and Dudley will want to sleep a while longer yet, but her nephew has always wakened early in her house.
"I'm all ready to leave," he informs her, sitting down and taking up his knife and fork. "I have all my things packed, and I got Mum's trunk out of the attic so you wouldn't have to bother."
Normally, she would scold him for acting without her permission, but today, she lets it go. It is true—she did not particularly want to go poking about in the cramped, dusty attic, especially not for anything of her sister's. If Harry has managed to locate and move the trunk by himself, then so much the better. "Thank you," she says, taking her own seat. "You didn't have any trouble with it? It was fairly large."
Harry shakes his head and grins at her, a little cheekily. "Not anymore," he says. "I used a Reducing Charm on it, to shrink it down. It's with my own trunk in my pocket."
Ah. She should have known: when the normal way of doing something is unpleasant or difficult, their kind always resorts to the use of magic. "Good," she says, smiling as brightly as she can manage. Even to her, the smile feels false and fixed, like a doll's. After a moment, she simply nods and returns her attention to her food, meticulously cutting it up into small bites.
Half an hour passes as they eat in silence, neither acknowledging the existence of the other. For all practical purposes, they are not even in the same room together, never mind at the same table.
So she starts when Harry addresses her, not expecting to have the silence broken. He doesn't look as pleased as she would have thought, considering he is going to leave their house and return to his own world to stay. On the contrary—he looks almost grave, the look in his eyes incongruous, too weary to belong to such a young boy. "You know the wards will fall today," he says.
She takes a deep breath and releases it in a sigh. Of course the wards will fall—once her nephew no longer makes his home in their house, where Lily's blood runs in her veins and her son's, their protective power will be nullified. "Yes," she says quietly, already anticipating what he fears. "I know. And?"
"I'm afraid that Voldemort might go after you once they do—use you, to get at me," Harry says evenly, holding her gaze. "Aunt Petunia, I can't really consider you my family—I have a family, and to be honest, it doesn't include you. But we're blood relatives, and that means something, at least." Reaching into the folds of his robes, he pulls out a gleaming object and holds it out to her.
It is a necklace, a silver trumpet lily hanging on a thin chain. She looks at it distrustfully, knowing it has been enchanted somehow. "What did you do to this, Harry?"
"It's called a Portkey," he tells her. "I got Dumbledore's permission to make it. Wear it always, and if you're ever in any danger, say 'Sanctuary', and it'll transport you someplace safe. It'll also work for Vernon and Dudley if they're touching it."
Sanctuary. Mentally, she repeats the word, fixing it in her mind, and picks up the necklace, fastening it around her neck and tucking it beneath her nightdress, concealing it from sight. Even now, she realizes with a twinge of something like shame, he protects her and her family.
As she has protected him, she reminds herself, viciously quashing the sudden upsurge of unpleasant feelings. It is no less than he owes her, especially since any danger they face will be his fault.
She ignores the whisper of conscience telling her that he owes her nothing after the way he has been treated, and that the actions of the sadistic megalomaniac out for his blood are certainly beyond his control.
There is a sudden, sharp crack like a whip, and they both look up. It is Lupin, of course, wand in hand. He looks, more or less, as she remembers, although he's now smiling and dressed in robes that are, while obviously worn, impeccably mended. She knows her expression is anything but properly welcoming; Harry, by contrast, is absolutely beaming. He rises from his chair and meets his guardian at the front door, where he is caught up in a brief embrace. "Hello, Harry," Lupin greets him warmly. "Ready to go?"
"I think so," Harry says, pausing a moment. "I checked the bedroom upstairs, and I have my trunk packed. I just want to make sure I didn't leave anything in my cupboard."
It is said casually; he doesn't intend her any harm in speaking so. Still, Lupin's brow furrows with concern, and she feels panic clutching with icy fingers at her heart.
"Your cupboard?" Lupin asks him, watching as he opens the tiny door beneath the stairs and ducks into the space there, crawling beneath the foldaway bed that (hell and damnation!) she's neglected to remove.
In short order, he emerges and shakes his head. "No," he says lightly. "I have everything."
Lupin is silent for a moment, and when he speaks next, it is with deliberate calm. "Harry? Would you mind enlightening me as to precisely why there is a bed in that cupboard?"
Harry mutters something in answer, doubtless to the effect of 'I used to sleep in it', and Lupin's eyes narrow, his pleasant expression turned suddenly grim. "I see," he says evenly, addressing her nephew but looking to her. "An extra bedroom upstairs, and yet, for some unfathomable reason, you slept there."
"Not since my letter came," Harry protests, by now recognizing the danger signal. "Really, Remus, it's fine—"
"No," Lupin says, clasping the boy's shoulder and speaking in a voice that is at once gentle and firm. "It is not 'fine' to treat a child that way. It makes me ill just to think that you spent ten years—" He cuts himself off. "Stay here, Harry; I won't be long. Petunia? I'd like a word."
The subtle edge in his tone makes it a command, not a request. She motions him into the kitchen and shuts the door, sitting down at the kitchen table. He seats himself across from her, meeting her eyes and holding them with his own. They are a curious amber color, like a wolf's, and that alone unnerves her.
"How dare you." Lupin's voice is low, but she can hear the fury there, restrained beneath a deceptively calm surface. "How dare you treat a child that way, and then presume to call yourself a mother."
She is no fool: she knows better than to try to defend her treatment of Harry. Lupin would not take kindly to hearing her say that she has always considered the boy he so obviously cherishes an abnormal freak.
Besides, his words are true. She has no defense.
"Would you make your own son sleep in a cupboard under the stairs?" he demands of her, now almost sharply. "Would you want him treated as you have treated Harry?"
She can do nothing but mutely shake her head. No. She would sooner die than have her Dudley abused like that, neglected and berated and scarcely fed.
Lupin's gaze bores into her now, piercing, with predatory intensity. "If the situation had been reversed, Petunia," he asks her, very quietly, "and you and your husband murdered, and your son left in Lily's care—would she have done to him as you have to hers?"
"No," she whispers, knowing the words to be true. "Lily would have treated Dudley like her own son, and loved him just as much as Harry."
"Yes. You knew that, Petunia, and yet you did not extend the same courtesy to her." His eyes flash with fire, but his voice is level. "You can consider yourself fortunate that you are not dealing with Harry's late godfather," he says mildly. "Sirius would have taken one look at that cupboard and hexed you within an inch of your life."
She casts her eyes down, avoiding his gaze. "Just take him and go, please," she says softly. "Take him and go, and let me forget all this."
"We will go," he says simply, rising from his chair. She is almost ready to congratulate herself for escaping magical retribution when he adds, his tone ringing with the finality of a death-knell, "But you will not forget. You were wrong to shun Lily, and cruel in your treatment of Harry. For the rest of your life, you will remember them, and your own guilt."
He raises his wand and points it at her, then murmurs a brief incantation, too quietly for her to make it out. There is no great flash of light, no grand display, no pain. She simply feels something like a rush of warm wind on her face.
Lupin looks at her, half-smiling as though satisfied, and with a quiet, "Goodbye, Petunia," opens the door and leaves the room.
She does not follow him to see her nephew leave. She and Harry have said their farewells, and she feels no regret at the crack that signals his departure. She simply sits there, pale and frightened and wondering what in the world Lupin has done to her.
Finally, curiosity overcomes fear, and she ventures upstairs to the bathroom, peering into the mirror that hangs over the sink. And then she sees her face lose what little color remains in it, and sinks weakly to the floor, shivering as the chill of the porcelain tiles seeps through the thin fabric of her nightdress.
Lupin was clever. He did not need to curse her in vengeance, did not need to hurt her. As he said, she will simply remember Lily, remember Harry, remember what she has done, and feel the pain that is unique to shame. As long as she lives, she will never be able to forget, and that subtle punishment—undying memory—is the worst of any he could inflict.
For he has given her the most enduring reminder possible. Even with Lily and Harry both gone from her life, the unwelcome sight of vivid emerald is not.
Lupin has given her Lily's eyes.