A BIG SISTER'S AWAKENING
A/N: New muses have erupted once more. Let me know what you think! R/R.
Summary: Petunia Evans was determined to hate Lily. But when a run in occurs with her sister's former best friend, sometimes you can't control your instinctive sisterly duties.
She could recognize him from a mile away.
Despite the blinding glare from the hot summer sun, and the continuous inward pleading of her conscience to find shelter in a nice, cool, place, it was necessary for her to be out and about. Vernon was taking her out to lunch, but had to make a stop at the office to discuss project details with his supervisor. He said he wouldn't be long.
Still, thirty minutes had past, and Petunia could not help but grow a little impatient. The new industrial office site lacked any kind of shade, and she was beginning to feel a slight burn on her cheeks where the sun unleashed its power. Honestly, how could she present herself out in public looking like a common field worker with freckles decorating her face, let alone to Vernon?
She unconsciously tapped at her hair, a habit she had picked up as she matured into a sophisticated woman. There was always a chance a strand could have fallen out of place, even by a nonexistent breeze. A part of her wanted to wait outside, just as Vernon had asked. She wasn't one to disappoint him. But the heat was beginning to become unbearable. She wasn't used to it. The last time she could remember spending that much time outdoors was when she was a little girl, playing with her little sister.
She snorted to herself. How naïve she was then! Petunia caught her reflection from the shiny windowpane on the building. Already, the few blemishes from past childhood sun exposure was creeping upon her delicate skin. If only she had behaved like a little lady back then, her face would be nearly flawless! But Lily always had a way of convincing her to have adventures. What a load of tosh that turned out to be, seeing what her little sister had turned into.
She shook her head, returning back to the present decade. That freak of a sister…she always managed to sully her mood. And the direct summer heat wasn't helping, neither. Petunia made up her mind to wait in the lobby. She didn't know if it would have any type of air circulation whatsoever, but anything with a roof over its head would surely shelter her from the oppression. Vernon would understand.
That's when she saw that boy…that other freak. The one responsible for changing her baby sister. Petunia had her hand on the doorknob, and feeling a rare breeze blowing from the far end of the street, she turned to relish in the refreshing coolness it had brought for a moment. The boy…well, after a quick overview of his looks could no longer be considered such, the man, was walking out of a building a few doors down from where she was about to enter.
Ha! It was the new food bank, she thought to herself smugly.
Young Severus Snape didn't seem to notice her. He was busy adjusting the worn satchel draped over his still long, lanky, and unhealthy thin frame. That horrid hair of his hung limp over his face, as if he hadn't had a chance to wash it in a week. Just like it always had. She wrinkled her nose at his baggy old t-shirt and faded blue jeans. It was men like him that made her lose faith in the general society.
It would seem that neither one of them would need to speak, to her utter relief. They could continue on with their lives without the awkward and unwanted exchange. Petunia had the latch of the door pushed in, allowed the door to stand ajar for a blissful moment. But then, fate had one cruel, torturous plan in store for her.
She heard a mute struggle where Severus was standing. The obvious sound of fabric and thread giving in to the weight of the goods inside the old bag resounded in her ears, and seconds later, the seams tore, spilling the contents that the young man had been carrying.
She refused to look his way as she heard him curse obscenely. But then, she felt something hit her polished high heeled shoes. Looking down, she noticed a can of green beans had been the culprit. The shuffling of the owner had quickly faltered. Her identity had been discovered.
Avoiding the jeering gaze of her little sister's estranged friend, Petunia bent down and picked up the can, holding it awkwardly against the fabric of her paisley dress. Still, Severus had yet to approach her to retrieve it. She sighed. It was obvious she would have to be the first to speak.
"Are you going to take this, Snape? I don't have any use for it myself."
Yes, it was a rather rude greeting, but neither one of them, in all their years growing up near each other, had ever been more that courteous to one another. Even that was a rare occurrence. Generally, they despised each other, and there wasn't a reason to change things now.
Foregoing pride, Severus quickly sauntered to her and snatched the can from her grasp, not saying anything in reply. Petunia rolled her eyes. He hadn't changed since the last time she spoke with him. Always thinking he was more superior to her, just because he was born a freak. He was above even speaking to a woman like her. How wrong his philosophy was! She was well dressed, waiting on a man who was moving up in the world, and he was barreling down the dodgy ends of town and living off the food people gave him out of pity. Who was the superior being now?
"You could say thank you," she said coldly to him.
Severus's shoulders had hunched forward at her cruel remark as he gathered the rest of the fallen items from his ripped bag. "I don't need to be taking etiquette classes from the likes of you, Evans."
"Well, it appears you lack the common decency to notice when someone has aided you during a mishap."
"Of course I noticed, you daft prissy girl. I was about to thank you, but then I also noticed who you were, and I did not want to speak to you, so I figured my family could live on without one can of beans." The boy had turned his back to her once again, fiddling with his bag. It appeared that he was trying to hide his actions from the girl.
Normally, Petunia would have simply tossed her head back and continued on her way, but the boy was behaving quite secretly with his bag. She craned her neck back, trying to get a better view. When that didn't work, she stepped towards the huddled figure on the ground, and caught sight of him hastily shoving a long piece of wood underneath the leg of his jeans just at the moment when the shadow of her tall frame sheltered him from the direct sunshine.
"Aha!" she cried out accusingly, pointing a long finger at the boy, "I caught you! You're performing magic, and I know for a fact you aren't allowed to perform such nonsense outside school. You are going to be in so much trouble!"
Instead of panicking, he simply brushed back the hair that had covered his eyes and raised a brow at the older girl. "You really think I would risk my entire wizarding career over a mending spell? Look around you, Evans. Do you see any creepy and hostile wizards and witches coming after me for my arrest? I didn't think so."
Feeling quite embarrassed, she folded her arms across her chest. "Well, maybe not today. Your lot usually gets yourself in trouble. And seeing where you've come from, well, let's just say I won't be surprised if I hear you've been sentenced to prison in years to come." For a moment, Petunia saw a flash of pain shift through his dark eyes from her verbal retort, but then his eyes returned to its usual cold fashion.
"I just meant there are loopholes to all baseless and trivial laws," Severus muttered, resuming his collection of spilt food.
Petunia sighed as she studied his thin, sweating frame gathering the goods back into his freshly mended bag. Perhaps she had been a little…insensitive and presumptuous. The guilt was beginning to eat at her stomach, so she did the first thing she could think of to help reconcile the situation.
Petunia crouched down next to the boy and began to help him place the cans back into the bag. They worked in silence, hastily shoving the food away so they could both get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
When the last can had been stored, Severus closed the bag with the attached zipper and worn buckles. He stood up and adjusted the strap securely and comfortable onto his shoulder. Then, he offered Petunia a hand up from the ground. And she took it awkwardly.
"Thanks…" he said quietly and feebly, not making eye contact with her.
"It's the least I can do," she said as an indirect apology for her actions earlier.
Severus nodded and turned to walk down the rest of the street. Petunia walked back to the door of her beau's employer, watching the other boy saunter the opposite direction towards the few miles to his home in Spinner's End. His stance, to her scrutiny, seemed a bit hesitant, as if he was reluctant to leave. When he turned around once more towards her, it only confirmed her suspicions.
"How's your sister?" he called out anxiously.
Her brows went up in surprise. That was the last question she expected coming from him, seeing that the two of them were nearly inseparable. "I don't know. You tell me. I barely speak to the girl."
Severus began walking back towards Petunia. "That's a strange way to treat your little sister," he scolded rather resolutely.
"I don't hang out with freaks like you!" Her temper was getting short with the boy. "Besides, you see her more than I do, now and at that loony bin you call a school. Why wouldn't you already know the answer to your questions?"
Once again, she caught that pained expression in her features. "I haven't spoken to her in weeks," he tried to say apathetically.
That was news to Petunia, and judging by the body language Severus was giving off, it wasn't a coincidental absent relationship. Something had happened between Severus and Lily that had damaged their closeness. Despite wanting to hate the girl, Petunia was still Lily's big sister, and her instinctual defenses for her began to draw up.
"Is that why you haven't been stopping by our house all summer?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "I can't visit a place where I am not wanted."
"But you're her best friend."
The boy was quiet, studying the pavement rather intensely. He kicked a pebble down the sewer drain and sighed. Petunia bit her lip. She would have known about all of this if she had tried to fix her tattered relationship with her baby sister, and a part of her felt guilty for abandoning her, when she was obviously going through a difficult transition period in her life.
Truth be told, Petunia had noticed Lily acting a bit aloof when she had arrived home from school a few weeks before. But she herself was so wrapped up in her new relationship with Vernon that she didn't have the desire to inquire further as to those changes. It all made sense now. Severus and Lily had stopped being friends…or at least ended a very serious relationship.
Come to think of it, Lily and Severus were always a lot closer than any normal boy and girl could have been without being romantically involved.
"Did the two of you have a row?"
The expression he gave her was one of exasperation. "That might be the stupidest question I have ever heard."
Of all the nerve! She folded her arms across her chest. "Well, if that's how you responded to her all these years, I'm not surprised she finally gave up on you." She saw him flinch at her direct remark.
"I actually enjoyed her company, and she had intelligence beyond gossip and pop culture, so the words I exchanged with your sister were beyond sarcasm and ridicule." He paused for a moment. "But what I'm trying to understand, if you disliked her so much, why wouldn't you want to wish her on someone as cold and disdainful as me?"
Petunia studied Severus. His posture was one of exhaustion and defeat. Naturally when he walked, he always had his head pointed towards the ground to avoid any type of eye contact from passersby. Now, it was more prominent than ever. The poor child looked lost with no idea of where to go from there. And the tone of his voice…Petunia could always remember Lily being drawn in with the timbre he used. Severus always had a way of speaking with passion and raw emotion. Now, it was heavy and dark. The sadness enveloped her just the same.
"Freak or not, Snape, Lily is my baby sister. A part of me still looks out for her, and she's been moping around all summer. Now I know it's thanks to you."
"Oh, so now you notice. If you even remotely cared, you would have known it before today."
"How dare you! You have the nerve to judge me when you yourself must have done something so terrible it made her stop speaking to you! I know my sister. She wouldn't drop something unless she had good reason."
Severus didn't respond immediately. He looked back to the ground and shuffled his feet, returning to his previous tasks of kicking pebbles. "You're right. I did screw up."
The sincerity and the pain etched into his voice almost undid her. "Have you tried apologizing?" she asked as apathetically as she could, but to no avail.
"Of course I did," he answered passionately, "But she wouldn't have it. Lily knows me. She knows deep down, I didn't mean what I said that day. I was upset and I wasn't thinking and…" He groaned out loud, running a hand through his hair. "She knows I'm sorry. She knows I regret everything. She knows that I lov…"
As his voice cut out, Petunia's heart skipped a beat. This was all a tragic love story, and her little sister was the leading lady. "You…loved my sister?"
Severus froze, realizing he almost let slip the true nature of his feelings. Instead of answering directly, he sighed heavily, and made reluctant eye contact with Petunia. "What does it matter if I say it? She'll have nothing to do with me."
"It matters because when you say it out loud for all to hear, when you make that kind of confession, it becomes reality, and you can actually do something about it."
"What, you want me to do something about it? You, Petunia Evans, want me to be in your sister's life for an unsurpassed amount of time? The trash of society? Come off it, Evans. You never wanted her to spend more than five minutes with me in any given moment."
He had a point there. Petunia always thought Lily could have done better when it came to the subject of men. She went wallowing around the dodgy ends of town, associating with boys like him, when she could easily snag a man like Vernon. She never truly understood her sister.
Staring at her while her mouth hung open, unsure of how to answer his remark, he smirked. "That's what I thought." He turned back around, heading down the street towards his home.
"But…but if it made her happy in the end…" her voice finally called out, stopping him in his tracks.
Severus turned to face Petunia and smiled sadly. "It doesn't matter now, Petunia."
Strangely enough, she felt her throat constrict when the resolute tone of his voice hit her ears. "Surely, you can try and redeem yourself."
"I am beyond redemption."
"You don't mean that, Severus. We both know the two of you had rows in the past, and you two reconciled those differences and things were back to normal. What is the difference now?"
"Don't try to understand things you have no knowledge of!" Severus finally said sternly, a mixture of remorse and anger in his voice. "I betrayed her in the worst possible way, and for that I deserve to lose her."
Petunia didn't know why she was pushing so much. "Lily doesn't think that. She misses you. I can tell. You two belong together. That's the way it's supposed to be. You and Lily, being bothersome and inseparable."
"Again, I say to you, Petunia, things change."
Petunia swallowed and felt her heart grow cold. Severus had given up hope at winning her sister back. Usually, the boy had fierce determination and will for achievement. Now, at the chance for love and happiness, he just…let go.
She straightened her back, disgusted at his weakness. "Perhaps you're right, Snape. Perhaps you don't deserve her. Lily is worthy of a man who will fight for her approval. Win her affections. She doesn't need a man who will give up at the first sign of a battle."
Petunia couldn't remember a time she had spoken so strongly for Lily. Ever since she had left for Hogwarts, Petunia vowed she would never associate with her freak of a sister. The girl would have to fend for herself. But now was different. Matters of the heart took precedence beyond any set difference she had with her younger sibling, and Petunia finally understood what it meant to be a big sister. She would defend her against anything that poised a threat, physically or emotionally.
And looking back to the past few weeks, hearing her sob quietly into her pillow, seeing fewer smiles flash on her face, not recognizing a vacant expression in those usually vibrant green eyes, Petunia knew her sister suffered from a broken heart. It was her duty to fight off the man who was responsible for it.
Severus opened his mouth just as the door to the drilling company opened. "Petunia, my darling. I'm so sorry I made you wait. The boss was raving about my reports on…" Vernon's voice died, seeing his girlfriend and a strange boy staring viciously at one another. "Tuney, what's going on?"
A fake smile automatically plastered on her face. "Oh, it's nothing, love. The boy was just leaving." Petunia reached over and wrapped her arms around his thick waste, while Vernon draped an arm around her shoulder. His confused expression then grew abhorrent as he studied the younger man in front of him, obviously as disgusted with his appearance as Petunia had when she first recognized him.
After developing his own conclusions, Vernon awkwardly cleared his throat. "Petunia, who is this…dead beat?" he whispered in her ear, careful as to not let Severus hear.
Petunia stuck her nose up in the air, glaring at the younger man with malice. "Oh, he's just a nobody," she said loudly. "He used to be friends with my sister, but she finally had enough sense to recognize what he truly was."
They both continued to study him cruelly. Finally, Petunia was satisfied and directed her beau up the street to where they had originally planned on lunch. "Let's go, Vernon. We've wasted precious time already." And with one final glance, the couple turned to leave, Severus himself not exchanging a farewell.
It wasn't like he deserved it. Severus Snape had destroyed the best thing he had ever had, and in a way, he had destroyed whatever naïve trust Lily had for people like him. He had taken away a part of her innocence that could never be replaced. He had broken her heart.
But a part of Petunia longed for the two of them to reconcile, just like in her romance novels. Surely love could conquer all and vanquish conflicts that threatened to tear them apart. That was the way it was supposed to be. They were supposed to live happily ever after…
She shook her head. Petunia knew better than that. It didn't fare well to dwell on naïve views on love and romance. The real world didn't work that way. The real world was full of hatred and bigotry, and it took more than courage and two words to take away the pain and the harm that had been done.
Realization dawned on her as she continued down the sidewalk with Vernon. She remembered Lily talking about Severus's living situation. Compared to him, the Evans had raised their children with more love and affection in one hour than Severus had experience in his whole lifetime. Such a sheltered and protected home, to her utter dismay, had made her just as naïve as her littler sister. Now, being older, she understood things weren't always so clear cut and fair. Severus had come to that realization early on in life.
She sighed as she approached her destination. Despite what he may have done to Lily, despite his abhorrent appearance and lack of hygienic skills, despite him being what he was, no one deserved to live such a life that made him lose hope in things that were supposed to be full of spirit and happiness. Like a person's first chance at love.
Petunia Evan's heart went out to Severus Snape for the first time in her life.
Still, the damage had been done, and Lily and Severus's relationship was beyond all chances of reparation. Petunia could only hope that one day he would have the chance to love again.