All for Myself
Summary: Petunia Evans was playing with her food…and then she was playing with fire. Petunia, Lily and Snape. Pre-Philosopher's Stone AU.
I'm sorry if I seem self-effacing
Consumed by selfish thoughts
It's only that I still love you deeply
It's all the love I've got
Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens (2010)
Around the time when she started her third year of primary school, Petunia got into cleaning. She liked it because it felt so organised, so cathartic (although of course she didn't have such a vocabulary at age seven)…it felt like control, removing all the dust and all the stains, like she was Queen of Purification and Perfection. She kept her desk and her little book shelf at school spick and span, but most of all, she adored tidying and cleansing the kitchen at home, which always seemed to get so dirty so fast. It earned her some actual praise (they still didn't say she was pretty, but at least she was something that Lily wasn't), and it was wonderful.
But it was nothing compared to when she got into cooking.
Later, she would find it supremely ironic that her parents had actually viewed Petunia as the odd child before they'd discovered Lily's magical abilities.
It happened one day when she was almost thirteen, and her Mother caught a cold when she was supposed to assist in the local church flea market and bake sale.
For whatever reason, Petunia immediately volunteered to do the baking for her. If she only had the recipes, she reckoned she could handle it. She ran to the kitchen, sifting through her mother's collection of cook books. If she'd stopped to think, it might've occurred to her that she was acting as though she was desperate to prove something.
Two hours later, she looked up from her fevered measuring and mixing and it dawned on her that she'd got utterly carried away. She'd just become so enthralled with the list of ingredients and the instructions, with how all its fiddly little tasks seemed to demand her accuracy and attentiveness.
For the first time since she was a toddler, she realised, she'd made a terrible mess of the kitchen. A sticky, sweet, dark mess.
But the cake in the oven was rising, and she was mesmerised. When she finally took it out, she stared. That sticky, sweet, dark mess had turned into something entirely different. Something warm, soft and puffy; something beautiful.
And it didn't matter. She'd clean the kitchen afterwards, and she'd be quick and thorough about it as usual.
Her heart felt like it was shrinking, however, when she slid the cake out of the oven, set it gently to cool for a minute, and finally cut a small piece for herself so she could test it.
It didn't taste anything like it should have. Somehow, she knew exactly what a cake like that should be like, even if she'd never seen her mother try this recipe before, and this was nothing like it.
Gritting her teeth, she pushed the cooling cake aside and grabbed the recipe book again. This was not good enough.
It wasn't her, she realised when she'd finished baking and trying another. It had been the recipe itself. It wasn't her. She was neat, precise, by the book.
When she realised it was the recipe, she went back, and she did something she'd never done before. She, a child who always dressed and acted properly, a child who always lingered on the teacher's and her parents' every word, a child who'd never even coloured outside the lines, changed the instructions.
After she'd finished her little experiment, she changed the instructions.
Picking up a pencil, she primly crossed out the line that said "two cups of low-fat milk" and replaced it with "two cups of apple juice". She didn't even care that her mother might scold her for scribbling in her books.
What had previously looked good but tasted like a spongy lump now both looked and tasted delicious.
It really wasn't her. It was just the instructions. And now she'd made her tiny rebellion.
Next, like a student moving on to an advanced class, she tried soufflés. She'd heard they were supposed to be difficult.
When she stood there, crouched in front of the oven, with her nose practically touching the hot glass of the door, watching the soufflé rising like a magnificent chocolate cloud, she felt like a French chef.
The way these mixtures could transform like this…it was almost like mag—
It was fascinating, that's what it was. Yes, that was a better word.
Her parents were completely baffled when she served them this secret dessert after dinner. For once, nobody mentioned Lily, who was currently at school.
Petunia's culinary experiments raged on. She went through entire cook books, running into the kitchen each day after school, and the odd thing was that her parents indulged her. Perhaps, if she'd stopped to think, in between sautéing onions, stirring béchamel, marinating lamb cutlets and folding croissant dough as carefully as an artist folding a tiny, delicate paper crane, she might've wondered why her parents were this liberal about her new obsession, and might've come to the conclusion that it was connected, like a lot of things were, to her rejection from Hogwarts.
Petunia only reasoned it was because she didn't let it interfere with school and because her parents enjoyed her cooking. It didn't really occur to her that at least some of the ingredients she used were fairly expensive. Perhaps if she'd stopped to think, she'd have noticed there had been fewer gifts at Christmas than usual for both sisters, or that Mum hadn't bought a new frock in quite a while, or that Dad's shoes were starting to look sort of worn, or why they were going to their grandparents' house this summer instead of staying at a Bed & Breakfast somewhere as usual.
Or perhaps, if she'd stopped to think, she might've blamed Lily and her expensive school supplies and school fees. Perhaps it wouldn't even have crossed her mind that her parents were compensating for something.
Neighbourhood children sometimes wondered why she wasn't outside, riding her bike or playing.
Nobody knew that, beneath the proper, polished façade, she was playing.
One evening, at fifteen, while she was all alone, cooking a gorgeous-smelling lamb fricassee for her parents, who would soon come home, she wore her protective goggles from the chemistry lab. That is, they weren't actually hers. She'd borrowed them. It wasn't stealing. She would put them back.
She felt giddy.
When Lily came home for the summer before her fifth year, she praised Petunia.
Her green eyes were wide with astonishment as she tasted the meticulously prepared dinner; coq au vin, with crêpes flambé to follow. "Tuney?" she asked, staring, "Did you really make this? How did you—? This is like stuff from a posh restaurant!"
A queasy cocktail of smug superiority, sweet revenge, humble gratefulness and fluttery happiness coiled around in Petunia's gut as she was subjected to Lily's bright, delighted smile. She never quite knew if she wanted to impress her, overshadow her or beg for her approval. Had she made this as Lily's welcome home dinner, as a gift to her, or had she made it so her parents would forget all about their golden child's return and focus on their other daughter instead? Or both?
"My word, Petunia," Father said, dabbing at his blonde moustache with a napkin and beaming at her, "this is simply delicious!"
Petunia felt her face go warm and red, pride, joy and embarrassment bubbling up in her throat; she found herself unable to say anything.
"It's almost better than the grub they serve us at Hogwarts, Tuney," insisted Lily cheerfully, "and they've got dozens of specially trained house elves working together and everything!"
Petunia's smile faltered a bit. She didn't like hearing about that place.
"Why, I'm starting to believe it runs in the family," Mother chirped, sounding pleased, "you should take a look at Lily's report card, Potions is her best subject!"
Now, Petunia's smile had vanished completely, her face going pale. So now when she finally wasn't completely obscured by Lily's talents, she still had to share the spotlight?
When was it going to be her turn? She'd already had to endure years of dinner conversation revolving around what Lily might be getting up to at Hogwarts— even after she began her curious culinary career! If only they hadn't already been spending so much time talking about Lily even before she entered the magical world, Petunia might've been able to believe they only chattered on about her because they missed her.
"Potions?" Petunia asked in a tiny, dull voice.
"We make magical substances to help, heal, control, transform or coerce. I suppose it's sort of like Chemistry," explained Lily, tilting her head pensively at Petunia, "or cooking, really. I mean, we have to get it just right, just the right ingredients, and just the right amounts of them, and we have to prepare them exactly right before we mix them together, or put them in the cauldron to cook, and then we have to cook them exactly right, or else it's…well, a sunken soufflé, metaphorically speaking," she added, with a giggle.
Suddenly, Petunia felt silly for thinking of soufflés as something advanced.
"And you do rather well in Chemistry, don't you, Petunia?" chimed in Mother, then. "You got an A on your last test, didn't you?"
Her stomach fluttered, the previous feelings of pride flaring up again for a moment, but it was too late. The cold, squirmy, and above all familiar feeling of disappointment just wouldn't let go.
Petunia could only nod in reply to her mother's questions. If she opened her mouth, she felt she'd shout something really, really…unfortunate, and probably directed at Lily. She couldn't bear getting scolded for ruining the family reunion on top of having to listen to her parents doting on Lily again.
"Your hair has got so long since Christmas, Lily," said her father, tugging playfully at Lily's beautiful, red hair. "How about you get your mother to cut it tomorrow afternoon?"
"Oh, that'd be lovely," Mother agreed, fiddling for a moment with her own, shorter red locks, "I could do with a trim myself, I think."
Laughing, Lily batted her father's hand away. "It's supposed to be this way, it's the current fashion, Dad," she said nonchalantly, before letting slip a grin, "besides, when it needs cutting, I'll do it with magic when I get back to school…Isadora Brown taught me an excellent spell for it…!"
I just bet she did, thought Petunia darkly, reduced to mocking her sister inside her own head.
"Well, that's the first really practical spell I've heard of," chuckled Mother, "you'll have to teach me that one!"
"Oh, ha ha, Mum." As Lily rolled her eyes at her mother's intentionally foolish joke, Petunia wanted to gag.
The way Lily had described Potions, it dawned on Petunia later that evening, it didn't sound like there was any wand magic involved, only the mixing of ingredients, and possibly a cauldron…in fact, it sounded almost like making soup, at which she was very, very skilled.
It sounded, in fact, like something a…a Muggle could do.
The next afternoon, when Lily was outside (probably up to no good with that horrid Snape boy), Petunia snuck into her room.
Magical Drafts and Potions, she read, only to scoff as she noticed the name of the author. Arsenius Jigger? What sort of name was that? Sounded like a circus freak!
Nevertheless, when she was back in her own room, she was clutching the book.
It took her about half an hour to copy down the potions she thought looked interesting (including a couple of potions from a loose note stuffed inside the book, marked 'Adv. P., ask Sluggy and Sev') and return the book to Lily's room, who never even knew she'd been there.
The ingredients were even stranger than she'd expected. That was a snag. Half the words she'd never even heard of— Flobberworms? Bicorn horns?— and knew she wouldn't find any of them in any ordinary shops. So Petunia came to the conclusion that she'd have to swallow her stubborn pride and visit…that world, or she'd never get anywhere with her little project.
So when the day came when their parents usually took Lily shopping for school supplies, she slinked towards the kitchen, peering moodily at her family as they were eating breakfast.
Her father looked up. "Yes, luv? Don't you want any breakfast?"
Realizing she was half-way hiding behind the door, as if spying on them, she cleared her throat and entered the kitchen, sitting down on her usual seat. "Morning, Dad, Mum…Lily," she began, stalling for time, and stalling further by picking up a piece of toast and spreading marmalade on it, "I was just thinking…"
Her mother put down her tea cup, wiping crumbs from her mouth with a napkin and glancing at her daughter with interest. "What about?"
Petunia bit her lip, hesitating again. "Maybe it's time I came with you all to…to Diagon Alley."
"Finally!" Lily cheered, throwing her hands up in triumph. "Seriously, Tuney, I've got so much to show you!"
When Petunia saw the way her sister's face lit up, she almost felt guilty, but only almost. Lily had always been so eager to flaunt the magical world in front of Petunia, her enthusiasm apparently making her oblivious of her sister's discomfort and jealousy…an obliviousness that was almost worse to bear than if she'd been making Petunia jealous on purpose. Did Lily honestly not see that showing her things from a world she'd been effectively shut out of was like insisting on offering ice cream to a lactose intolerant child? Was she really that obtuse, or did she simply not care how much it hurt her sister?
Petunia had spent the last few years pondering these questions, and had yet to find any answers.
Never mind, though. She could at least make an attempt at bringing part of that world to her instead.
Petunia had been there before— only once, before she knew for certain she was rejected— so she had at least some idea of the layout of Diagon Alley, but new shops seemed to have popped up like toadstools, and a couple that she remembered from the last time had apparently gone out of business.
What had not changed in the slightest, however, was the bustle of the place. It was crowded, cramped and ten thousand different odours and noises seemed to be simultaneously assaulting her nostrils and eardrums.
As they stepped out of the Leaky Cauldron, Petunia's hands went to her sides, her back going ramrod straight, as she was suddenly surrounded by…well, a sea of freaks, varying from weird to weirder. There were pointy hats, clothing with an indecent amount of different colours all at once (making her think it was a miracle her eyes hadn't started watering yet), people carrying their cats and birds around as if they were fashionable accessories, and there were grown men in robes and pointy shoes and grown women with ridiculous hairstyles that looked like something was nesting in them; for all she knew, there probably was.
It didn't help that she was already feeling nauseous, either. She hadn't enjoyed using the Floo Network much the first time, and disliked it even more now.
"Isn't it wonderful, Tuney?" enthused Lily, entwining their arms and gently pulling her sister along, beaming from ear to ear. "I'm so glad you decided to come with," she added, sounding so sincere Petunia felt like shrinking in on herself.
"It's certainly colourful," Petunia remarked, surprised to hear her own voice escaping her mouth without any irony.
So she dutifully went along with her family to Gringotts to exchange some "Muggle money" for so-called "Galleons, Sickles and Knuts", before buying Lily's new textbooks at Flourish and Blott's and her new quills at Amanuensis Quills. When they were back at the fairly calm Leaky Cauldron to have some lunch on one of its long, wooden tables, she mostly sat in silence, nearly spending more time chewing the inside of her cheek than her shepherd's pie, lost in thought while going over her plan.
"Where do you fancy going next, Petunia, dear?" Mother piped up suddenly. Her plate was empty, and she was leaning forward eagerly now, sipping at her steaming cup of tea and obviously in a good mood.
"I think I'm just…going to go look around a bit by myself," said Petunia, avoiding their eyes. She hadn't even noticed they were all done eating already.
Father frowned, his eyes meeting Mother's in consultation before he turned back to his daughter. "But Tuney, I'm not sure that's such a good idea…"
"Come on, Dad," she pleaded, "I'm sixteen, and it's my first time here…there's so much for me to see, and I don't want to keep you waiting since you've seen it all before. I'll meet up with you after the rest of your errands, all right?"
Lily eyed her sister for minute before finally nodding. "It's okay, Dad, I'll have to go for my robe fitting at Madam Malkin's next and then go look for a new cauldron, and that'll just be boring for Tunes, anyway."
Father hesitated. "We-ell…"
Throwing all dignity to the wayside, Petunia actually pouted at her father. "Please?"
She thought she caught Lily muffling a giggle behind the baggy sleeve of her top. Mother seemed to be hiding a grin as well.
Sighing, Father smiled. "Have you got enough wizard money, then, luv?"
"Plenty, Dad, thank you," Petunia cooed, elated that her plan was working. "I'll meet you back here in an hour!"
"But at least finish your lunch!" she heard father calling after her as she hurried off to her new future, her cheeks glowing with anticipation.
To be honest, Petunia had no idea where to get the ingredients, and therefore felt a sigh of relief escape her when she spotted a sign that said Slug & Jigger's Apothecary. 'Apothecary' sounded about right…not to mention that she recognised Jigger's name from Lily's Potions textbook.
The clerk looked up when she entered the shop, as a bell signalled her arrival, but thankfully left her alone as she ducked between a couple of shelves and started to read the labels of the first containers she saw while trying her best to ignore the overwhelming jumble of alien smells. She'd simply find the ingredients herself and leave as quickly as possible; she was deathly afraid she'd somehow receive any questions only a witch might be able to answer.
"Decided to go slumming, have we?"
Startled, Petunia almost dropped the jar of something dried and dark green she'd distractedly picked up in her search. She whirled around, poised for flight. Her eyes narrowed when she saw who'd addressed her.
Severus Snape was giving her a look that was far too patronizing for somebody who was wearing second- or even third-hand clothing and looked like they hadn't washed their hair in a week. "I thought you'd decided you were too good for a world full of…what did you call them? Oh, yes…freaks."
"And I thought you'd decided that I was just a Muggle, and therefore uninteresting," she flung back at him, once she'd composed herself. "So what could you possibly want?"
"Naturally I wish to know what a Muggle such as yourself is doing alone in the shop where I buy my Potions supplies," he parried snidely.
"I'm only picking up some things from Lily's list while she's doing her other errands," Petunia said loudly, looking down her nose at him; a good trick, considering he'd finally grown taller than her, "I think she's having her robes fitted about now."
To her satisfaction, the boy's sallow face flushed pink at the mention of her sister, as she'd expected it would.
She smirked. "You should run along…Sev. She said she was buying a new cauldron next, maybe you can catch her."
Glaring at her, Severus nevertheless hurried to pay for his ingredients and left in a rush.
Confidence restored, Petunia walked up to the counter to ask the clerk for assistance. When she presented her assembled list of ingredients, the old man was most helpful, and never asked her whether she was a real witch or not.
Fortunately, the containers of ingredients and the containers she'd bought in which to keep the potions were tinier than she'd thought, and all fit into the spacious wicker handbag she'd brought for the occasion. When her Mother asked her what the clinking noise from her bag was, she claimed she'd bought some bottles with which to collect pretty pebbles and sand during their next visit to her grandparents' house at the beach. She only hoped they wouldn't ask to see her "collection" later.
She was cautious. Oh, so cautious, even if her hands were shaking a bit. She'd spent hours preparing the ingredients in her room, and had already been working on the potion itself for half an hour out in the garden shed on Dad's old camping cooker.
The flobberworm mucus was disgusting, but Petunia was used to filth and stubborn stains. Like a soldier strapping on his kit, she'd tied on her biggest apron, put on her thickest gloves and slipped on the protective goggles that she'd once again borrowed from the Chemistry lab. Petunia was nothing if not sensible and pragmatic.
Applying the flobberworm mucus to the potion, which was green by now, she watched in fascination as it turned pink. Turning up the heat, her intent gaze followed the swirling developments, waiting for the liquid to turn orange. Then she took the pot of the heat.
As she gingerly sprinkled the dried nettles into the pot, her hand felt steadier. She stirred, putting the pot back onto the heat and waiting for the next reaction.
It took a while, but it finally turned blue. Elated, she added the meticulously crushed snake fangs and did a silent cheer when the potion turned a nice pink again.
Slowly lifting the pot off of the heat again, she dropped the porcupine quills into the mixture and watched as it turned orange again under her skilful hand, stirring away. Finally, it was time for the pre-stewed horned slugs, which she'd been dreading. They did not smell particularly fetching, but as she poured, the potion eventually turned turquoise.
Now she had come to the last step; putting the pot back on the heat, she hummed under her breath, stirring until it turned nice and red; she kept going until it turned an even more pleasing pink.
The year before, she'd overheard her parents discussing her in the kitchen, expressing their concerns about whether she suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Well, if that was the case, it seemed her attention to detail was finally paying off.
At least…it had if the potion did in fact work.
Petunia found she was trembling when she walked up to the mirror in her room the next day, having post-poned the first test run out of fear, not surprised at all at how pale her reflection seemed to her. Pale, that was, except for the irritating boil lodged halfway between her nose and her cheek, which was the reason for her first choice in potion-making.
Pulling the cork out of the small bottle, she dabbed a wad of cotton against the opening, watching the pink liquid soaking into the cotton. Reluctantly, she set the bottle aside and lifted a shaky hand to her face, wiping the wet cotton gently across the blemished skin.
Then she removed it, closing her eyes, and counting backwards from a hundred. When she eventually opened her eyes, her breathing having turned shallow and nervous, she was stunned.
It was gone. The boil was gone. Just like that.
A warm ripple of delighted shock went through her. This was better than cleaning. Better than cooking. This was the single most exhilarating moment in her entire life up to that very day.
She, Petunia Evans, had done magic…completely without magic. Completely without doing anything disturbing that normal, decent people shouldn't be able to do at all, and had no business doing. She was only making abnormal things, that didn't mean she was abnormal herself…but quite possibly, it meant she was extraordinary.
For days, she was practically vibrating with excitement, going outside and riding her bike at full speed, too distracted to even cook dinner, so she reasoned she should do something easier next, just to calm her nerves.
The Murtlap essence she made from carefully strained and pickled Murtlap tentacles took care of the skinned knee she'd got from crashing on her bike.
As she continued her experiments, Petunia ached to show her success to Lily, fluctuating between wanting to gloat or be praised, but even if Lily had been home, she was likely to be horrified. Petunia knew she was probably messing with something she shouldn't be messing with. There were probably laws. She knew Lily wasn't allowed to use magic outside of school before she turned seventeen, so what would they do if an under-aged Muggle used magic? But did potions count? Technically, she hadn't used magic, she supposed; because she couldn't, really, even if she'd wanted to. She had no magic.
Some days, as she stood there concocting another alien substance with another bizarre name in secret, she wondered if the witches she'd heard about in stories…if they were really just Muggles who'd been doing the very same thing she was doing now, doing things they probably shouldn't, and not being able to escape persecution because they didn't have the ability to fly or…or apparate, she thought Lily called it?
She wasn't quite sure how she felt about that.
Other days, she stood looking in her mirror at her longish face, slightly protruding teeth and pointy nose, longing to make an attempt at some sort of beautification potion, because even before Lily's special talents had been revealed, her dark red, thick, sleek hair, unusually green eyes and heart-shaped face had always gained her a lot of attention. It wasn't that Lily was some sort of stunning fairy tale beauty— she didn't have much in the way of chest, hips or bum, moved a bit boyishly at times, and her very fair complexion tended to burn and peel if she stayed too long in the sun— the problem was that next to Petunia, she may as well have been. It was the inevitable comparison that hurt Petunia and only made Lily even prettier. Where Lily was slender, Petunia was awkwardly underweight and too tall for her age. Her blonde hair somehow paled in comparison to her sister's, even if all the women in the magazines and films were blonde, and her pale blue eyes looked wan and lifeless when juxtaposed to the startlingly green, laughing eyes of Lily.
Yet Petunia had never worked up the nerve to try to find out about a potion that might improve her own looks.
When she made a tiny mistake with her Confusing and Befuddlement draught, adding just a bit too much scurvy-grass, and then accidentally spilling some of it on a mushroom in the back garden, watching wide-eyed as it transformed into something pulsating and mushy before it burst quietly like a trodden-upon, overripe tomato, she lost even more of her nerve. Then and there, she made the snap decision to never try any of the more appearance-altering potions on herself, never mind the mind-altering ones.
No force on Earth could stop her from continuing to use the magical cleaning solution she'd made with diluted Bundimun secretion, however. It was just far too efficient to give up.
Following the incident was a nightmare in which she was drinking a delicious cup of tea, only to find her brain turning literally mushy in her skull, starting to pour out of her ears as she simply knew, in the way you did in dreams, that Lily must've put something magical in her drink. For some reason, she also thought she could hear a familiar, condescending scoff.
Rolling over in her bed, Petunia squeezed her eyes shut and tried to get back to sleep.
What with her disturbing experience, and what with her nightmares, Petunia had no idea what urged her to make Polyjuice Potion her next venture.
Author's notes: I don't know how the hell this happened. I thought I'd never write a Harry Potter fic. It probably had something to do with the fact that I've been listening to the HP audio books (because of Stephen Fryyy, national treasuuuure), because I was baking a cake a few days ago (and Petunia is like the Überhousewife, yikes), and because the deleted Petunia scene from DH makes me cry like a baby.
In case you're wondering, there will be more Snape in the next chapter. :P
Feel free to britpick this fic as much as you like in the reviews. Being that I am Norwegian, and have been taught British English in school/at university, but am constantly being exposed to American English in the mass media, my writing reflects this by being a jolly hybrid of the two. I've tried to avoid the most obvious American English expressions and such, but…
Feel free to correct me if I got any HP facts wrong, too. I'm not an expert. :P
Isadora Brown: Lavender Brown's mother, who wasn't given a first name in the books, as far as I've understood it, so I took the liberty to give her one for this story. I assume (for the sake of the story) she also went to Hogwarts, and that she was probably also in Gryffindor. I just needed a name for a school mate for Lily who'd be likely to have beauty advice.
This potions stuff suddenly had me intrigued, out of the blue. I mean, technically…it's pretty much the one kind of magic that Muggles should be able to do, right? Maybe I'm wrong, but hey, I thought it was an amusing concept. I wonder how many times I wrote the word "potions" in this fic. :P I'm assuming the potions ingredients can't be THAT expensive, or the school and/or the students wouldn't be able to afford them. After all, if even Ron Weasley can buy his ingredients… :D
Sources used for potions: The Harry Potter Lexicon: Encyclopedia of Potions and List of Potions: Harry Potter Wiki. I chose the potions where the highest amount of ingredients and/or instructional details were available.
Sources used for Diagon Alley stuff: Diagon Alley: Harry Potter Wiki.