Hey, look, I'm still not any better at titles for this thing.
So, it's been a while since I've written any of this series, but someone suggested a while ago that I do Petunia – sorry, I don't remember who – and I've been getting round to it. Slowly. Not sure if there's going to be any more of this series, so don't rule it out, but don't hold your breath/
In Childhood Places Again
She'd expected Vernon to go first. Had been a little afraid of it, actually, because after all this time she couldn't imagine him not being with her. She'd assumed that he'd die first, and she'd follow soon after.
But death had claimed Petunia first, taking her via a head injury, after she'd slipped on her wet kitchen floor and hit the corner of the work top on her way down.
And now she was here.
The bedroom was small. It always had been small, as had the house it belonged to, but it had seemed big enough as a child, and far too big during those first few months after Lily had left. They'd shared the bedroom, something which they'd both loved and hated. The lack of privacy was infuriating, but having someone there to talk to during the night was nice. When they were younger, Lily would get scared and climb into her bed during the night.
Then Lily went to that school, and Petunia had spent the nights alone. After a few years, they'd disliked having to share, due to them no longer getting along.
It had hurt Lily, she knew, that she'd pushed her away so effectively. It had hurt Petunia, too, but she couldn't seem to help herself.
It was still the same, though Petunia knew for a fact that after they'd moved out, their bedroom had been redecorated into a spare bedroom. But here, the walls were still white, the framework light blue. The two single beds on either side of the room had the same white frames and baby blue bedspreads they'd always had. The light blue carpet even bore the stain from where Lily had spilled cola, and been unable to magically clean it due to the threat of expulsion. The white furniture was immaculate, and their childhood toys were packed in boxes under their beds.
On Lily's bedside table, a small model phoenix stretched it wings over and over.
Petunia lowered herself to the bed that had been hers, unsure what she was supposed to do. Unsure if this was a dream.
The painted white door opened, and Petunia turned to face it. She didn't stand, until the women entered.
Lily Evans – Potter – looked the same age as she had when she died. Her long hair fell down her back, her green eyes were as big and bright as ever, and a slight smile pulled at her mouth.
"Hey." She said softly.
Petunia didn't speak.
Lily paused, looked around the room, her smile widening with sentiment.
"Remember, how you wanted pink and white?" She said quietly. "And I wanted red and blue." She laughed softly. "It would've looked terrible, but they were my favourite colours at the time. Mum made us compromise. You said we could have pink and blue – I really, really hated pink. It took mum three days to talk you into white and blue."
"You wanted red and white." Petunia said softly, looking almost surprised to hear herself speak. "It took a few days to talk you around, too."
"Yeah." Lily nodded, moved closer into the room. She paused to examine to cola stain. "You were mad at me for ages for doing that. I was fourteen, and had already got a warning letter that summer. Remember?"
"You got a warning letter most summers." Petunia replied.
Lily laughed. "I kept it minor, though. Made sure it was never bad enough to get me expelled. But I wouldn't risk magically cleaning it, and nothing anyone tried could get it up."
She smoothed the quilt on her bed, paused by the bedside table. "James gave me that." She murmured, looking at the phoenix. "When I was made prefect. I...disliked him, at the time, but I loved the little phoenix. I took it with me when I moved out. Up till then, he believed I'd thrown it away." She picked up the phoenix, smiled at it.
She sighed a little, turned to her sister. "Tuney...Do you know why you're here?"
Petunia shook her head, and Lily bit her lip, the way she often did when nervous.
"I guess I'll have to just come out and say it. Petunia...you're dead."
A part of her had suspected, but it was human nature to deny death for as long as possible.
She spent a few moments letting news sink in, then looked back up at her little sister. "So...what now?"
"You have a few choices." Lily said. "But first, we need to go on."
"Go on to where?" Petunia asked suspiciously.
"Relax, Tuney, it's not a magic thing. This is just a...an in-between. Just to ease the transition a little. That's why I'm here, too. To make it easier for you. When you're ready, we'll go on, and you can make your choices."
"What choices?" Petunia asked.
"Well...You'll see. I know it can be a little hard to accept, so take as long as you need." She sat down on the bed that had been hers. "Let me know when you're ready."
Petunia simply nodded, and they lapsed into silence. And all she could think was that this could be her last chance to see her sister, to say all the things she was supposed to.
"Lily..." Petunia said softly. "I'm sorry."
Lily looked at her, a hint of anger in her eyes. "I don't want your apologises, Petunia. I don't need them. I made peace with what happened between you and I long ago. It's my son you ought to be apologising to."
Petunia lowered her gaze.
"Did you think I wouldn't be watching? You're a mother, Petunia, would even death have prevented you from watching over your baby? James and I have waited around, in some kind of limbo, since our deaths, to make sure he was OK. To make sure he survived to his teens. To make sure that – if he didn't survive his fight with Voldemort - we were here waiting for him. We've waited, watched, so that when death takes him, we are here, he can finally meet us. And if needed, we will wait even longer, so he can watch over his own children, with us by his side."
She looked as though she expected Petunia to speak, but she didn't, and Lily continued.
"We watched, Tuney. We watched him cry, because suddenly his mum and dad weren't there. We watched him have nightmares in that damn cupboard and go to you and your husband for comfort. We watched you or Vernon yell at him, send him away, back to the dark with his fears. We watched you lie to him, forbid him from asking about us, neglect him. He was so miserable, and you – you were supposed to be looking after him."
"We kept him safe." Petunia said, her voice hollow. "That – that man – he said that as long as he had a home with us, he was safe -"
"You gave him safety, Tuney, but he needed love, too! He was just a child, and you – you put him through so much...Did you hate me that much, Tuney, that you couldn't give my son any comfort when he cried for us? That you would send him to a dark cupboard when he had nightmares? That you would barely feed him, that you would let your son beat him, that you would lock him away for things you knew weren't his fault, and that he didn't understand? Did you?"
"I didn't hate you." Petunia said softly.
"I struggle to believe you, Tuney, after what you did to my boy."
"I never hated you."
"He was innocent, you had no reason to hate him." Lily said coldly.
Petunia looked at the floor, focussing on the ancient cola stain. "I was bitter. Jealous. I wanted to be like you. Wanted to be a – a witch. And...and Vernon and I, we loved each other, but not like you and James did. And I knew your son would be a wizard, too, and...And how was I supposed to act like he was normal, act like he belonged with us?"
"You didn't even try! Do you know how many time I cried, because my son was beyond reaching, and calling for me?"
"Sorry isn't good enough." Lily replied. "I can forgive your treatment of me, Petunia. I can understand your jealously. But not Harry. I can't forgive that."
"I know. And I can't expect you to." Petunia shook her head. "I'm sorry. I...I really am."
Lily simply nodded curtly.
"I'm ready." Petunia said, standing. Lily stood, too, and moved towards the door.
"Don't be afraid." She told her flatly. "It doesn't hurt."
"We just – we just walk through the door?"
Lily looked back, met her eyes, and nodded. "After you." She added, stepping back, as though unsure Petunia would follow if she went first.
Petunia nodded, braced herself, and stepped through the door.
Lily took one last look around the room, then down at the phoenix she still held. Then, with sorrow in her eyes, she followed her sister through the doorway.