A/N: All you really need to know is that this story takes place post-DH (minus the epilogue), and is written in Petunia's POV. Enjoy!
May second was a day quite like any other she'd experienced at the cottage.
May third however, was progress. Things would get back to normal now that they were allowed to go home.
No more unnaturalness; no more strange people wearing strange clothing speaking strange words.
They had been forced to stay in a wretched "safe-house" for nine long months with no contact to the outside world, and no one to lean on except each other. Then, out of the blue one tepid May evening, they had been released. Vernon had spent much of the ride home reprimanding their escort for "abandoning us in that rat's excuse of a home", and yelling loudly due to the fact that the robed man kept trying to drive on the wrong side of the road. She quite agreed. Living in some miniscule little cottage in the middle of bloody nowhere with only her fear and an ancient television set for entertainment left one readily eager to bash in the head of whoever put them there. No matter what good intentions, it was just plain rude to dump them there with no communication for almost a year.
On the morning of May fourth, she was startled to wake up to the sound of the garbage truck outside their window. Vernon snored through it. She could faintly hear Dudley as well.
She would adjust. Eventually.
And so life continued. She found it surprising how difficult it was to go on pretending that their whole lives hadn't just been turned upside down for nine months - or really, for seventeen years. She couldn't seem to concentrate on the important things anymore.
All of Vernon's ties looked the same nowadays.
She tried to adjust - everyday waking up to the normal sounds of Privet Drive, picking out Vernon's work clothes, making breakfast for the three of them, making sure to tape Dudley's favorite television program (which came on before he was awake), trimming the hedges, watering the flowers, tidying up the bedrooms, making Dudley lunch, wiping down the kitchen, vacuuming the downstairs, starting on dinner, welcoming Vernon home with his usual drink and kiss, doing the day's dishes, planning the next day's meals, going to bed. Repeat.
The problem was her mind wouldn't shut up.
The problem was, as physically preoccupying as her daily tasks were, they did not maintain her mind's attention. So her mind wandered.
This never used to happen. Not before.
Rationally she knew that having been through the terrible ordeal that was those nine months would take awhile to get over, but still - Vernon and Dudley had been through the same nine months, and they were behaving normally. In the five months since they had been home, they had both jumped back into previous routine with the flip of a switch. Though Vernon was now the manager at a local bank, and Dudley was finishing up college with a private tutor, they were both back to how they were before.
So what was the difference? They had been able to act like those nine months had never happened; like Harry had never even been in their lives in the first place.
She knew that he had though. Today she had planned on facing that fact, but had found herself irrationally afraid and unable to reach across the tiny hallway for the handle.
Stop being so silly, she thought to herself.
It wasn't as if there was a ghost waiting to pop out and scare her.
With a deep inhale of breath and a shaky arm, she unlatched the door to the cupboard under the stairway.
The thin door creaked with age and disuse, the hinge slightly rusted and slow.
It was surprisingly dark, and unsurprisingly stale. Stepping closer, she nervously (Stop it, Petunia) reached inside toward the hanging string and sharply tugged until the dank cupboard was lit by a flickering bulb.
It smelled of sawdust and dirty socks.
The tilting cot took up almost the entire space - the rest occupied by stray bits of paper with childish drawings of dragons, a mildew ridden box containing some shapeless gray clothing, and a yellowing tea cup filled with a few crayon fragments and a roll of clear tape.
The walls were grimy, inlayed with dust and spiderwebs; their filth enhanced by the dimly shadowed lighting.
She sat stiffly upon the weak cot, the faded blue blanket scratching unpleasantly on the backs of her thighs. Slowly she turned parallel to the door and rested her head on the lumpy excuse for a pillow, the cot screeching in effort beneath her. Eyes trained on the ceiling and stairs, she reached blindly to her right and pulled the flimsy door closed. She tugged on the string above her once more and let her arm fall to her side.
Her knees were aching, bent awkwardly between her body and the wall.
It was pitch black and the air was too thick.
Her skin was itching; the mixture of the dust and the knowledge of the presence of spiders sending steady twitches of discomfort along her body. She could hear the pipes easily through the wall, loudly pushing water to and from the laundry room.
Inhale. Her breathe was shaking with effort.
Exhale with a faint whimper accompanied by a flood of tears to her eyes.
"Oh," she choked out.
Her throat tightened, face crumpled, and shoulders tensed. Her tears were steadily flowing, creating trails of wetness on her temple and through her scalp, some landing noiselessly on the matted pillow beneath her head. The silence went uninterrupted save her uneven gasps of breath and the steady groan of the pipes beside her head.
"Oh, I'm s-so sor-ry..." she pleaded nonsensically, her hands now covering her face, her body slowly rocking from side to side.
"Pl-please, please forgive me...oh, Lily...I'm so sorry..."
They ordered takeout that night.
She felt horribly guilty.
Everyday she woke up with a rock in her stomach; aching and unrelenting.
In the year since she'd emptied Harry's old cupboard she'd come to terms with many distasteful stains in her history with her only sister's son. It was an unpleasant and ongoing task. She felt sorry, certainly - but no longer guilty about the neglectful role she'd played in his childhood. There's no need to laden yourself with guilt over something that you can't fix.
At least that's what she told herself every morning when she awoke.
Today it was worse.
It was July thirty-first. Harry would be nineteen today. Would be. Or was.
It was her naivete of the difference that caused this horrible weight in her stomach.
That day, hidden underneath the stairs, the realization that she hadn't thought to ask the wizard who'd escorted them home whether Harry was actually alive or not caused her choked gasps to turn into uncontrollable sobs. She'd felt unbelievably stupid and selfish.
She still did.
It was bitterly cold.
The snow was thin this year, but the air was stark and dry - easily seeping past her many protective layers.
They had decided to spend Christmas in London this year in order to christen the posh two bedroom apartment they'd bought Dudley a few months before. The boys had decided to spend the day bonding over beers and football at a local pub, and she was frantically making her way through the throngs of people occupying the busy London street. Why she'd made the decision to do her Christmas shopping only three days before said holiday, she'd never know.
Spotting a music shop across the street (and feeling abundantly impatient), Petunia sharply turned and sprinted across the road, narrowly sliding in front of an oncoming car. She made it to the other side safely, if a bit out of breathe, her eyes sliding to the building next to the music shop.
Her brow furrowed and her breathe caught.
But no, it was just a bookstore.
No...but...maybe. Because for a second, there had been a building in between those two.
If she hadn't led the life she had, she would have easily dismissed it as lightheadedness. But she knew that there were things in this world that normal people couldn't see. But she had seen it.
For one second it had been as real as the street itself. Though much less modern, and much less clean, than the street itself.
She had somehow made her way through the bustling crown to the other side of the sidewalk, her hand now pressed against the crease that separated the two stores.
He could be in there, she thought.
And it really wasn't such a stretch that he might. She'd recently decided that it was silly to think that Harry was dead, for their magical escort surely would have mentioned such a thing. So, he could be in there. From the vague rememberings if her childhood, she knew that there was a magical neighborhood in downtown London that was quite popular.
It was unbearably strange that at one point her sister had probably stood here, as well as Harry. It was also unbearably strange that there was a building in the crack that her hand was covering.
What if the people inside of the invisible building could see her?
Spinning away quickly, her cheeks already reddening with embarrassment, darkened further at a few curious stares from passers by. Really, she couldn't blame them. She would certainly have scowled if she saw someone touching a building and staring at it like it was the holy grail.
Picking up her abandoned shopping bags, she briskly strode away, deciding that Dudley could live without a new walkman this year.
Allowing herself one quick look back to where she knew the magical building to be, she sent one useless and unheard thought towards it before hurrying around the corner.
Happy Christmas, Harry.
Goosebumps appeared long the back of her neck as the small fan blew chilled air against her sweat laden skin.
It was only eleven o'clock in the morning, but the heat had already become too unbearable for her to continue her usual routine. She had only lasted five minutes under the stifling sun before she'd decided to skip her chores in favor of a cold drink and air conditioning. Sipping greedily at her lemonade, she cursed the weather for delivering such a strong heat wave so late in the year. As far as she could remember, September had always been a relatively mild month weather wise.
This year, however, the Powers That Be had decided that they wanted her plants to bake.
Her eyes had slowly slid closed and she pressed the cold glass against her neck, sighing in relief.
She had planned a pot roast for tonight, but at the moment ice cream was sounding like a much better option.
Her eyes flickered open, preparing to scour the refrigerator for something cold to make for dinner, and instead landing on a tawny colored owl perched on the open window sill.
Jumping in surprised, her lemonade glass became more empty that full, and soaked her blouse through with the ice cold liquid. Yelping in indignation, she quickly ripped some paper towels off the rack and proceeded to try and save her shirt from ruin. Despite being livid about being covered in sweat and lemonade, her body was rather glad about the splash of cool liquid - no matter.
Coming back to her senses, she turned towards the unusual sight before her.
Paper towels still pressed against her chest, she cautiously inched toward the creature. As if it knew her intentions, the owl helpfully balanced on one leg, reaching the other leg towards her. She untied the letter from it's scaly lim as quickly as possible and proceeded towards the kitchen table. Pulling out a chair, she laid her damp paper towels on the spotless table next to the mysterious envelope. It was addressed to her in neat, yet uneven writing - seemingly with real ink rather than a ballpoint pen.
It was quite obviously from a wizard, and she felt foolish for just now realizing that it could only be from Harry.
Seeing as she didn't know anyone else that uses an owl for communication, it must be from him. Though the handwriting did look a little girlish. She traced the letters with her index finger, noting that the envelope itself was also obviously not of modern design.
Number 4, Privet Drive
Little Whinging, Surrey, England
Breathing deeply, she stopped herself from wondering what in the world this could possibly be about. With that thought, she quickly turned the envelope over and slid one manicured finger under the flap. She pulled out the contents, a single rectangular paper of similar material as the envelope. She stared at the words on the card, her mind racing too quickly to do anything but drop her mouth open in shock. She finally had proof that Harry was still alive, though not the kind of proof she was expecting.
You are cordially invited to
the wedding of
Ginevra M. Weasley
Harry J. Potter
on Saturday, the fourteenth of April
two thousand and one, at four o'clock in the evening
at The Burrow, Ottery St. Catchpole, England
Please send your RSVP via owl to
Ottery St. Catchpole, England
So, Harry was alive.
She hadn't moved a centimeter since opening the letter, and only did so when she realized that the owl was preparing to leave.
"Wait!" she shouted, her voice echoing clearly off the tiled walls.
The owl flinched at her loud command, but obeyed and turned back in towards the kitchen, and proceeded to stare expectantly at her.
She had stopped the owl before she'd had time to think about her reasoning behind doing so, but reading over the invitation once again her knee-jerk reaction made clearer sense. If she wanted to respond, this was her only chance seeing as owls weren't readily available at the local post office.
Now that the owl was stationary, however, she had time to think. Did she want to respond?
This was the proof she had been longing for - the proof that, yes, Harry had survived. She could now live the rest of her life guilt and magic free.
But she was so curious.
She couldn't help it. She had always been quite nosey, never passing up an opportunity to hear the latest gossip or snoop around other people's business. When she was little this was even more prevalent, and in response to her over bearing antics her father had told her "Curiosity killed the cat".
She had responded, "Then it's a good thing I'm not a cat."
He hadn't liked that.
And yet her curiosity about other people's lives had never waned.
Though now she did find it interesting, and a bit ironic, that she had never been interested in poking her nose into Harry's life - though his was undoubtably more interesting that those of the housewives of Privet Drive.
And now she had the opportunity - if not to snoop, then to just learn. Or at least see. See what his life is like; who this 'Ginevra' (Silly name, she thought) was; who his friends were; where he worked; what he was like... So many questions, and the answers could be had in just a few months time. Well, there was no use dilly-dallying. She knew that eventually she would talk herself into attending for one reason or another, so she might as well get the bird out of her kitchen as soon as possible.
She sat up rather suddenly, and with a quick glance at the motionless owl, swept into the study to retrieve her stationary for special occasions. She may not have a fancy ink quill, but her paper was a step up from that old parchment like paper the invitation had arrived on.
She took special cared to keep her handwriting as neat as possible (these things are important), and started on her reply.
I am replying to say that I will be
attending Harry's wedding, with
- Petunia Dursley
P.S. What is 'The Burrow' and how do I
get there by normal means?
Short, but succinct. Now all she had to do was wait for a reply.
And figure out a way to get to this 'Ottery St. Catchpole' without Vernon finding out.