Disclaimer: Everything belongs to JK Rowling.
Disclaimer: Dedicated to my best friend. Get well soon!
A/N: This story follows canon so I apologise if I've made any mistakes regarding the timeline etc...I tried my best to stay as close to JK's plotline as possible : ). I hope you enjoy it!
Petunia hummed as she cooked breakfast. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the fragrant smell of roses wafted into her kitchen from the front garden. Vernon was still sleeping as usual and wouldn't be down until she called him. A smile graced her lips as her thoughts turned to Dudley. He'd finally managed to snag his own home with the money he'd earned managing a Tesco and had moved out last month. Petunia slapped some bacon in a pan and watched it sizzle. It was comforting thinking about him. All that needed to happen now was for her son to find a suitable woman to give her grandchildren with.
Turning to the table with the skillet she tipped the bacon and eggs onto a plate, but as she went back her eyes flickered into the hallway for a brief second. The cupboard under the stairs looked as innocent as ever but Petunia still scowled at it. She didn't even want to know what her nephew was doing now. Judging by the way things had been when she last had contact with that lot ten years ago the boy was probably dead, or worse on the run wreaking havoc.
She pursed her lips at the thought and was about to call her husband down for breakfast when a loud crack was heard from outside, as though a car had backfired. Jumping, Petunia moved quickly to crane her neck out of the window, curious. That was odd, she thought, there's not one car out there...
Feeling a little deflated at the unexplainable occurrence (she hated things that couldn't be explained) Petunia made to move away from the window, but stopped when something caught her eye.
Standing in the middle of the deserted road was a small child! The stupidity of parents these days...
Moving swiftly Petunia flung open the front door and walked briskly towards the little boy, who she now noticed as she drew closer, was crying in earnest. What shocked her however wasn't the fact he was stranded in the middle of the street, or even that he was wearing what looked to be a scarlet cloak, but his face that made Petunia briefly question going to help the child. It was like looking back inside the cupboard under the stairs twenty-two years ago.
A mop of unruly black hair covered the boy's young head and fell over a long face. Under little square glasses stared back intense green eyes. He continued sobbing even as she drew near, albeit a little slower. I must be imagining things, Petunia thought. It would have to be a coincidence, she was sure of it...there was no way this random little kid could having anything to do with him.
"Boy!" she snapped. Even though she felt empathy for the child it didn't mean she had to show it. Only her Dudley got that, "Why are you in the middle of the road? Didn't your parents warn you it was dangerous?" She grabbed his hand and firmly pulled him to the sidewalk. He cried harder but didn't resist and she let him go as soon as possible.
He gasped as he talked, "I do-on't know whe-ere mum and dad ha-ave gone!"
"They left you here?" Petunia snarled, outraged. He looked about four or five. What kind of riff-raff did this kid live with?
"No-o!" the boy sniffed, looking at her with his wide innocent eyes, "Grandma brought over so-ome chickens and one started chasing me!" his tears had started falling again, "and it was so sca-ary...all I wanted to do was ge-et away and next thing I'm being squeezed really tight and I end up here!"
Petunia scowled, it was obvious the kid was lying. You don't just disappear and reappear in a different place without trying. The boy was a little snot and his parents probably weren't much different. It didn't help that he was a dead ringer for him.
"Oh rubbish," she snapped, "What really happened?"
Petunia frowned when he continued sobbing.
"I'm n-not lying!" he said defiantly, even as he swiped at his runny nose with the sleeve of his cape...thingy.
"Don't dirty your clothes!"
He stopped immediately and resorted to sniffling. Good, Petunia thought, at least he'd been trained properly. It was a pity about the pathological lying.
"What's your name?" she asked briskly. If she could figure out his identity there would be a hope of getting rid of him sooner, "And don't you dare lie to me!"
"Of course not ma'am," he said, stricken, "my name's Albus."
Albus? Albus! Petunia fumed. Who in their right mind would inflict their child with such a horrific name? No, he had to be lying. The brat obviously had a problem with telling fibs, she wouldn't be surprised if his parents were criminals. They were probably in prison right now and had just left their kid to fend for himself. What abysmal lowlifes. Couldn't they see how they were turning the future generation into themselves? This little snot would probably end up a petty thief at eleven. She breathed out slowly from her nose.
"What did I tell you about lying?"
"I'm not lying!" said 'Albus', frustrated, "I just want to go home!"
"Don't take that tone with me young man," she scolded, "Now, what's your name? You're real name."
"Albus!" he said in the exact same voice, "Albus Severus Potter!"
Petunia blanched. It couldn't be...
He continued, oblivious to her sudden stillness, "I've got an older brother called James and a younger sister named Lily. I don't know why mum and dad called me Albus!"
Lily? James?... Albus? Oh God. The boy had spawned! Only he would call his offspring such a –such an...unnatural name. Petunia breathed deeply and slowly. It could still be a coincidence she thought desperately, even though she knew it was futile. There was no way it was just a coincidence with those names, but she had to make sure...
"Who're your parents, boy?" Petunia gritted out, dreading the answer.
"Harry and Ginny," he said.
She closed her eyes as her meagre hopes sunk. So this was his kid...great! Just what she needed...
Albus continued undeterred, excited even, "Dad's an Auror! He catches baddies and stuff. It's really awesome 'cause he shrinks his uniform for me at home and lets me wear it! Isn't that cool? I want to be an Auror too when I grow up. mum played Quidditch before my brother and I were born but now she writes for the Daily Prophet. James likes writing a lot. I keep telling him he's more like mum than dad," Albus giggled, "he doesn't like that because mum's a girl! He turned my hair blue the other day because I -"
Petunia held up a silencing hand and Albus stopped talking immediately. The less he spoke the better, although she felt a little guilty for being so cold. It had been a long time since she'd been near such a young child and she'd forgotten how innocent and full of life they were. She wished Dudley would get a move on and have some kids as obviously his cousin had. Three children already? Evidently his lot breed quickly and numerously.
"Do you know where you live? What street are you on?"
"Godric's Hollow!" Albus said cheerfully, all traces of crying gone, "If you have an owl I can write to mum and dad, or better yet I could Floo back. Do you have a fireplace?"
Petunia felt herself tense. The little brat was just full of freakishness, but despite his annoying tendencies she couldn't help but feel a little warm inside at his eagerness to talk to her. No one seemed to like doing that these days, not even Vernon. It was in those times she admitted, very reluctantly, that she missed the quiet presence of her nephew. He'd always craved her attention but back then Dudley was more important and he'd been pushed to the side. She regretted doing that now.
A sudden crack rent the air and Petunia jerked out of her brief stupor. A man had appeared out of nowhere, right in the middle of the road just like little Albus had done before.
"Dad!" he yelled and ran, meeting the man halfway. Harry Potter scooped him up with strong arms and kissed his son's forehead, burying his face in his hair.
"Thank Merlin you're alright," Harry breathed, leaning back to look at his little boy. Petunia remained rooted to the spot, paper white and staring as she witnessed the scene before her. The boy had changed so much over the past decade.
Gone was the timid five-year-old, gone was the scrawny little ten-year-old, gone was the gangly teenager; instead in his place stood a man, and a very impressive man at that. His pitch black hair, so like his son's, was as messy as ever, falling into the same bright emerald eyes he'd always had, and which had frequently filled Petunia with bitterness because they reminded her of Lily. He was muscled and broad shouldered, and stood at least a good six-foot. Petunia could still remember when he was so small his face would press into her stomach when he tried to hug her. A sudden guilt gnawed at her insides when she remembered how she'd shunned him away. Now he towered over her. His skin glowed healthy in the sun and his new round glasses glinted. Petunia felt her heart clench at the love in his expression while he looked into the face of his son and it was then Petunia realised she couldn't fault one thing about him.
Shifting Albus so he rested on his hip Petunia watched as her long lost nephew stepped onto the pavement not three metres from where she was standing. He looked even more impressive up close. Faint laugh lines creased at the corners of his eyes and his quirky smile was almost contagious as he observed Albus. Petunia was surprised when she felt a sudden stab of jealousy; he's never looked at me like that before...She shook herself. She didn't deserve to be looked at with love from him, even if the boy was unnatural.
"I made a new friend dad!" Albus giggled, and turned to look at her.
Petunia met her nephew's gaze and nearly flinched when she saw shock and disbelief there.
Albus was looking between them both confusedly, trying to figure out why his father, who'd always been so brave, suddenly appeared anxious and pale.
"Hello," she said stiffly, not sure what she should say. Should she ask how he was going? Would he actually want to talk to her?
Petunia was saved from her dilemma when a third loud crack rent the air and a red-headed woman carrying a young toddler on her hip and holding the hand of a small boy materialised in the middle of the road. Harry, who Petunia knew was grateful for the distraction, grinned broadly at the three as they walked over, kissing the tallest chastely on the lips. This woman, Petunia noted, was very beautiful.
"You were taking a little long," she said, adjusting the equally red-headed girl on her hip, "so I followed your Appiration trail."
"That's fine, I found Al pretty quickly."
"Mum!" Albus beamed as his mother pecked him on the cheek.
The woman smiled, "are you alright?"
"Yeah, but it was super scary!"
He laughed, and Petunia found she liked the sound of her nephew's voice as he chuckled at his son's exclamation. She quashed the feeling brutally; she felt like she was intruding on some personal family moment. Maybe if I sneak off quickly...
"Hello," said the woman kindly, "I'm guessing you're the one who found our little Albus?"
She managed to choke out, "Yes, I am. He's quite the...chatterbox." Although in the last few minutes she'd come to appreciate her nephew a little bit more Petunia still found it hard to not ask 'what possessed you to name your kid Albus Severus?' Perhaps it was a wiza – freak thing? I mean seriously she thought the poor kid has to live with it his whole life.
"Err, Gin," said the father, faltering slightly, "this is my Aunt Petunia. I don't think you've met."
"Oh nice to meet you," said 'Gin', who's expression didn't change but Petunia could feel her become a little cold towards her.
"Aunt Petunia, this is my wife Ginny and my kids, James, Albus and Lily," his voice was proud.
"How do you do?" Petunia said, nodding to them all but then added abruptly, "Well, I really must go in. I was in the middle of cooking breakfast."
He appeared stung and she felt a stab of guilt, Ginny seemed to be silently fuming, and her eyes narrowed dangerously.
"W-would you like to join me?" the words tumbled out of Petunia's mouth before she could stop them and she watched with bated breath as her nephew looked at her in surprise, "I-I mean, you don't have to...it's just we haven't seen each other in a while and you've got a family now, and-"
"We'd love to," answered Ginny warmly. Petunia saw forgiveness in her face and it comforted her. The children, seemingly picking up on the tenseness of the situation had remained silent.
The five Potters followed her into number four. Petunia wasn't sure if Vernon had left yet and was relieved to find his plate empty and the car-keys missing. She had a feeling he wouldn't take well to Harry Potter's sudden reappearance into their lives, much less their home. As they passed through the hallway she saw Ginny's eyes flicker over the cupboard under the stairs and scowl, the previous softness on her face fading. The fact that Ginny knew about her husband's treatment during his early years hit Petunia hard and she kept her gaze down, embarrassed.
They entered the kitchen and she set to work pulling out more food from the fridge, giving a weak smile to the children as they sat with their mother at the table. Her nephew's face took on a nostalgic expression as he looked around curiously before eventually sitting down next to his wife. Petunia noticed Ginny grasp his hand.
"Is bacon and eggs alright?" she asked, surprising even herself with her hospitality.
The man was grinning, his bright green eyes alive with thankfulness and awe. She knew why. He'd ask that same question every day before he cooked them breakfast, just to make sure he was doing the right meal because sometimes Dudley wanted pancakes. Petunia realised with a jolt that she actually wanted to cook himbreakfast now. Oh how the tables had turned.
"That would be perfect," he answered quietly, and then said something Petunia had never offered him, "would you like some help?"
Her mouth hung agape for a moment before she snapped it shut, "Oh no, it's alright. I can manage."
She set about cooking breakfast, deciding that she might as well find out what he'd been doing.
"So, um..." Petunia began while she clicked on the cooker, "what's been happening these past ten years? What do you do for a living? Is that man, Vodlemort, gone?"
Ginny snorted and her nephew corrected her, laughing a little, "Yes, Voldemort is gone. I managed to defeat him back when I was seventeen. I work in the Auror Corps, we're sort of like wizarding policemen, although a little more militarised."
"Oh that's nice," she said, impressed, cracking some eggs. Policemen were very respectable.
"Yes," piped up Ginny proudly, "and he was promoted to Head of the Department last year. The youngest ever in history."
"I told you my Dad's really cool," said Albus, rocking on his chair, an action Ginny quickly stopped, "when I grow up I'm gonna be an Auror like him!"
Petunia smiled at him, "that's a smart goal to have; your father is a good man."
In her peripheral vision she saw Harry stiffen and Ginny smile at her warmly. The three children peered at their parent's odd behaviour curiously.
Wait. What did she just say? Petunia felt her face whiten at the realisation of what emotions she'd just admitted to Harry.
And did she just refer to him in her mind as Harry?
The name felt foreign. He'd never been 'Harry' to her, just 'boy' or 'her nephew'. It felt weird but strangely nice to think of him that personally. She chanced a glace over to him; he had a slight smile on his face that seemed to glow like he was beaming at her. She turned back to the stove in order to take off the pan and dish out the food, a tiny grin tugging at her own lips. Thank heavens Vernon had left.
"Breakfast is served," she said, taking the plates over and setting them in front of everyone.
Ginny smiled, "this looks lovely Petunia."
"Thank you," she replied.
"This is really good!" said James, shovelling eggs into his mouth, dusty red hair wild, "it tastes like Dad's!"
Harry chuckled as he ignored his own meal for a little bit while he cut up his daughter's food so she could eat it easily.
"So Harry, how old is everyone?" Petunia asked, genuinely curious, "When did you two marry?"
"I'm six!" proclaimed James proudly before he proceeded to inhale his bacon.
Albus held his fork awkwardly and kept glancing at his dad, "I'm five."
"And Lily here is three," said Ginny kindly, brushing her daughter's head.
Harry smiled and Petunia felt, oddly, pride well inside her knowing it was directed at her, "We've been married for seven years."
"You seem very happy," she said evenly.
"We are," said Harry, glancing at his wife who grinned. Petunia felt a rush of affection towards the woman who could give Harry what she hadn't. Her feelings towards her nephew had taken a one eighty degree turn and she had absolutely no idea where she was headed. Thinking about him – no, Harry - without so much as a wince was disconcerting after so many years of mutual dislike.
The table was silent for a while and Harry started on his own breakfast. Petunia noticed he still ate his egg white first and then spread the runny yolk over his toast. When he was living at Privet Drive she had resented this eating habit as it was rather strange, but now, she noted with a slight jolt, it didn't phase her. Looking casually around the table Petunia was horrified when she nearly let out a genuine laugh as Albus mimicked his father's eating patterns. The little boy would glance over at his dad's plate every other second, ensuring he was consuming his breakfast in exactly the same order as Harry. He was even trying to fit the same amount of food into his significantly smaller mouth. Ginny caught her eye and grinned amusedly.
"It's a phase," she mouthed silently.
Petunia smiled. She knew about phases, Dudley had gone through many and one of them was definitely the 'I Want To Be Exactly Like Dad' stage. Vernon had allowed Dudley to follow him around all day and copy everything he did, even writing up Dudley's own 'Grunning's Contract' to sign and stamp with his own seal of approval. When Harry found out she was his mother's sister he'd gone through his own, very unique stage of 'I Want To Be Exactly Like Aunt Petunia'. Suffice to say it didn't last long after she'd scolded him for trying on her high-heels. He'd run away crying after telling her she was nothing like his mother, a comment that earned him a whole day in his cupboard. Petunia regretted the memory horribly as she remembered the innocence of his crime and the truthfulness of his words.
"How's Dudley and Vernon?" Harry asked into the remarkably comfortable silence.
"Dudley's a manager at the local Tesco," she started, snapping out of her reverie, "he moved out last month. Vernon is still working at Grunnings, although he's thinking about retiring soon. Other than that nothing has really happened. Dudley isn't married yet so it came as a bit of a shock to find little... Albus (despite her new found affection for Harry Petunia still couldn't fully appreciate that name). I had never imagined you with kids."
Harry laughed, "Neither had I. After the war Gin and I got back together and everything sort of...fell into place from there on."
"That's good. I'm glad," Petunia said smiling, and she knew how much her comment meant to him.
"I'm glad as well." said Harry a little quietly, "Very glad. Ten years ago I never would have seen myself where I am today."
"Surely you knew something about your future back then?" She immediately regretted her little outburst as Harry's complexion whitened.
Petunia had known the boy for his whole life and so could tell when he was becoming sad and lost in memories. It had happened a lot during the time he was at that school and she had often wondered, after he came home every summer suffering from horrible nightmares, why he always went back. It obviously wasn't a very good learning environment. She scolded herself, neither was Stonewall High and yet you still wanted to send him there...
"During – during the war," he cleared his throat, looking at her seriously, "the situation was bad, and I mean very bad. Voldemort's regime had overtaken our government and me and two of my friends were on the run. You couldn't trust anyone, people disappeared for no good reason, children," he spat the word out, disgusted, "were found dead on the street. It wasn't a happy time for anyone no matter what side you supported. Suffice to say, I didn't see much of a future for myself. I was damn lucky to succeed in killing the bastard." he said, and then glanced worriedly around at his children, 'Ignore that last word, kids."
"That's why dad's famous!" said Lily cheerfully, immune to the sudden tension in the room.
Petunia looked at him in surprise, "You're famous?"
"Err...just a little," he said, running his hands nervously through his hair, a habit he'd been doing since as far back as she could remember. She had found it annoying back then but now she found it endearing.
"Just a little?" Ginny scoffed and then turned to Petunia, "he won't tell you, but he's the most famous wizard in the world."
She was gobsmacked. Harry Potter, famous?
"I don't believe you," she told him.
Harry laughed a little nervously, "well, I sort of, well," he seemed uncomfortable talking about himself, "ended the war when I killed Voldemort."
"Oh," she said stupidly.
He laughed, "Don't worry; you had no way of knowing."
"I can beat Dad in Exploding Snap though," said James proudly. "And Uncle Ron demolishes him in chess."
"We never let the fame go to his head. He's got enough ego as it is," Ginny said jokingly, winking at her husband. Petunia was momentarily reminded of Lily and James.
Harry laughed and squeezed her hand.
"So, what do you do Ginny?" Petunia asked after they had settled down.
She smiled, "I write for the Daily Prophet. It's the British wizarding newspaper."
"She writes the sports column," Harry provided, setting his knife and fork down on his empty plate, tactfully ignoring Albus who quickly shoved the last of his bacon in his mouth before setting his own cutlery down.
"Oh that's lovely."
"Thank you," replied Ginny, "I rather enjoy it."
"I want to be a writer as well," piped up James, "and play Quidditch. I'm gonna try out for the Gryffindor team when I go to Hogwarts."
Petunia, only having a vague inkling of what they were saying, merely nodded.
"Why can't you be an Auror with me?" Albus whined, "And you don't even know if you'll be sorted into Gryffindor!"
"Of course I will be," sniffed James, "It's you I worry about being sorted into Slytherin."
"Hey watch it! I can change your hair blue as w-"
"Boys!" Barked Harry, "Settle down and mind your manners. You're guests in my Aunt Petunia's house and it would do well for you to remember that fact."
Both children looked suitably chastised and mumbled, "sorry dad."
Lily giggled and Harry glanced at his watch, doing a double take.
"Oh wow," he said surprised, "It's ten o'clock! I've got a conference in five minutes. Sorry Aunt Petunia but we really have to go."
"That's fine," she said not unkindly as everyone stood to leave, "Come – come back anytime."
Harry stopped pulling on his cloak for a moment, "Thanks, I think I will."
"I'll take the kids home," Ginny volunteered and Harry kissed her in thanks, "It was very nice to meet you Petunia and thank you for the wonderful breakfast. I hope we manage to have you and your family over one day."
Petunia felt flattered, "Oh you're too kind. You're very welcome."
"Thank you!" chorused the children, going to stand by their mother near the doorway.
Petunia smiled at them and then turned to face her nephew who was standing there as awkwardly as her.
"Err, well," Harry began, "thanks for having us over and looking after Al when he was lost. It would be interesting to catch up again; I'll send you a letter in the post – your post of course."
"That sounds wonderful," Petunia said, amazed at what was coming out of her mouth; had she really hated this man not an hour ago? "I'll keep an eye out."
He smiled, "Thanks. I guess this is goodbye then."
"Yeah I suppose, goodbye Harry," Petunia said softly and then did something she'd never done before.
Harry seemed surprised at her hug but soon relaxed and Petunia felt his arms wrap around her shoulders. She quickly realised that he gave exceptional hugs for someone who she knew had never really been hugged as a child. He embraced her warmly and openly, as though they were merely old friends and Petunia found she leant into it almost addictively, Dudley and Vernon had never been ones for physical affection and it was only now she realised how starved she was of it.
They broke apart and with a parting wave the Potter family disappeared in front of her with a crack, and once again Petunia found herself utterly alone.
She slowly began walking towards the kitchen again but stopped as she passed the cupboard under the stairs. Petunia looked at it and found she was rather disgusted with something, and it was only a few moments later that she discovered she was actually repulsed at herself. She eyed the doorhandle of the cupboard warily before slowly bending down, taking hold of it and opening the door. Petunia hadn't looked in it since Harry had moved into the second bedroom.
Petunia let it gape open for a bit before she, as if in a trance, sat down on the thin mattress and pulled the door shut. It was pitch black and musty, and she could hear her own deep breathing while she fiddled around for the light switch. It was so small she couldn't fully extend her legs. Eventually she found the switch and the space was flooded with light from the naked globe suspended from the underside of the stairs. She looked around slowly, taking in the small cramped area with mounting horror.
On the small shelves at her feet stood some little odds and ends, useless to most but they told a story to Petunia. There was an old forgotten children's book that she picked up, brushing the dust from the cover. 'The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe,' it proclaimed in faded silver lettering. It seemed very well read as the spine was creased almost to tearing point and numerous pages were dog-eared. Harry had obviously borrowed the book off a teacher or something similar and then forgot to ever take it back. Petunia knew she never would have let the book into the house all those years ago.
Also on the shelf was a red PlayDough dragon now rock hard from all the years spent in the dry cupboard air. Petunia picked it up and held it in her palm, studying the way Harry had, with his young fingers, manipulated the dough to form a tiny little snout and rudimentary claws on each foot. Next to where the dragon had been, moulded from the same material but blue in colour, stood what could've only been a knight. Petunia picked it up and held them both in different hands. She could imagine a five year old Harry acting out scenes between the two characters during the long hours he was restricted to where she currently sat.
Putting them down carefully Petunia looked to the side as something caught her eye. Brushing the dust from the wall she felt her heart race and her breathing become erratic at what she found there. Two rather large stick figures were drawn on the wood in what must have been black and coloured marker pen. One had long red hair, the other had black messy hair and both sported huge semicircular smiles and wide happy dot eyes. The words 'Mum and Dad' were written in childish scribble across the top with four exclamation marks at the end.
Her breath was uneven and gasping now and soon the tears fell hot and fast. Petunia closed her eyes and pulled her knees to her chest, burying her head in them as wave after wave of terrible guilt washed over her.
"I'm so sorry Harry," she sobbed into the dark cupboard.
A/N: there you go, it's done, I really hoped you liked it : ). Hopefully Petunia wasn't insanely OOC or something and the whole story was ruined for you :P. Anyway, please review, I live off those things :D...FEED MY HUNGER! Om nom nom nom nom...