"—but she took you," Dumbledore cut across him. "She took you grudgingly, bitterly, unwillingly, furiously – but still she took you, and in doing so she sealed the charm I placed upon you."
On a fine November morning, Petunia Dursley casually opened her front door to put out the milk bottles ...
... and they dropped from her hands with a crash! She gave a stifled scream.
There was a baby on the porch, wrapped in blankets. And not just any baby. She had never seen the child before, but she knew who he had to be: Harry Potter, her sister Lily's son. He could not be much more than a year old, and he resembled his good-for-nothing father very strongly.
That he was sitting on Petunia's front porch, all alone, could not mean anything good.
At Petunia's screech of dismay, the boy woke up and started to cry. He flailed around a little, and a cream-colored envelope dropped out of his blankets. Petunia bent over him and picked the letter up, noticing as she did so that the boy had green eyes just like Lily's.
The letter was made of parchment, which killed any possible hope that it was from a normal person. Only Lily's kind of people, wizards, insisted upon writing on animal skins.
The graceful handwriting, the signature, and the wax seal triggered an old memory for Petunia. The letter was from Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, that school where Lily had gone to study magic. Somehow, it surprised Petunia only slightly to learn that Dumbledore was still around. She had never met him, but many years ago, back when Lily was first going to Hogwarts, Petunia had secretly written to the school, asking to come and learn magic like her younger sister ...
Somewhat to her amazement, she had gotten a reply from the headmaster himself. But the letter was just polite, empty words. Dumbledore had said Hogwarts was only for people like Lily. Not for Petunia.
From then onward, Petunia scorned her strange sibling, but a part of her always wished she could be a witch too. She never understood why Lily could do those odd things and she, Petunia, could not. It didn't help that between the two of them, Lily had also turned out to be by far the more beautiful.
Once Lily was off to school, Petunia didn't have to think about their differences so much. She did not have to be confronted with Lily's amazing talents, nor with her looks, except when Lily came home for school holidays. When Petunia had finally grown up and left home, she made certain she hardly ever saw her sister ... usually pretended she didn't exist ... she hadn't even gone to Lily's wedding, though Lily had sent her photographs ... and after their parents died, they'd completely stopped talking to one another.
Now, all of a sudden and most unwelcome, Lily's child was squalling on her doorstep. A living reminder of the rift between herself and her sister, of the unfairness of fate, of hurt feelings that could never be mended.
There had better be a good explanation for this.
Petunia unrolled the letter and read it, slowly and carefully. Her eyes got wider with every line. Little Harry continued to cry, but Petunia paid him no attention.
So Lily and James were both dead. Killed by one of their kind, a "Dark" wizard whom they'd dedicated themselves to fighting. And now their son, an orphan, was to be left on Petunia's hands.
"If you loved your sister," the letter said, "you must take Harry into your house and raise him as your own. You are the only family he has left, and the safety of this innocent child is completely dependent upon your decision. You, Petunia Evans, are the only person in the world who can protect him. He cannot be sent to an orphanage or cared for by any other. Only you."
Only her. Apparently Dumbledore hadn't troubled to notice that Petunia was married; she wasn't Evans any more, she was Dursley now, thank you very much.
But nobody had ever told her before that she was the only person in the world who could do something. Even Vernon had never spoken to her like that.
When Petunia and Lily were children, it was always Lily who was the special one. Petunia demonstrated a decent aptitude for most school subjects, and when she'd grown up she was acceptably productive at her job, but she had never had the chance to be outstanding.
Now she finally had the opportunity to do something special, but only to take on a responsibility she absolutely did not want.
Why should she help the boy? What did Petunia care for him and his lot?
The baby Harry had cried himself out. He still whimpered, but he was exhausted and much quieter than before. He rubbed with one tiny hand at the cut on his forehead, which was shaped like a bolt of lightning.
There was little doubt in Petunia's mind that the boy would grow up to be a wizard freak, just like his parents. She didn't relish the thought at all.
Lily had been her sister. Despite everything, Petunia had never been able to wish that bond away. And now Lily was dead, there was no hope at all of making things right between them. Petunia did feel a bit sad about that. More than a bit, really ...
Her fingers tightened into a fist, crumpling the letter. It just wasn't fair! Even from wherever she was now, Lily could still manage to make her elder sister feel small and mean. Petunia knew in her heart what she had to do, what she owed her sister, if for no other reason than that they shared blood ... but it made her more angry than she had felt in years, burning with the kind of resentment that used to pain her when Lily performed a spell for their parents or friends. That Lily was gone now, and would never outshine her any more, did not make it hurt any less.
Lily would never know what had happened to her son. Dumbledore's letter hinted that Lily had given her life to protect her baby boy, a sentiment Petunia could appreciate as a mother ... but that didn't obligate Petunia herself!
Or did it?
... Lily was gone. Forever. She had died and Petunia could never speak to her again.
A tear slipped down Petunia's face. It was followed by a stifled sob. Harry watched her with those green eyes of his, exactly like Lily's eyes.
Perhaps, she owed her sister this one last favor. A tremendous favor it was, taking on an extra baby to look after, and one who was haunted by a dangerous maniac at that ... but it was as Dumbledore said: Harry was, after all, an innocent child. No matter how Petunia felt about his parents, the boy did not deserve to be abandoned.
And he was just about Dudley's age. He could wear some of Duddy's outgrown things, perhaps. Maybe, if they burned the letter and told Harry nothing of his parents, he would turn out normal enough. Or at least he wouldn't have too much of a bad effect on their precious Dudders.
Petunia tucked the letter under her arm, picked up Harry reluctantly and rocked him. He soon fell asleep again. Petunia sniffed and wrinkled her nose; the boy needed a change.
As she turned to reenter the house, there was a flicker of movement on the fence: a cat jumped down into the neighbor's yard and out of sight.
Petunia stepped across the threshold of number four Privet Drive with Harry in her arms, and closed the door behind her.