"I told you so," Petunia said, her lips pinched in an almost victorious frown. Lily didn't fault her. Petunia had been waiting for years for Lily to do something wrong - and she had, she had done so wrong.
The boys were out in the yard. Dudley was attacking a hedge with a stick, thrashing out his hands, flinging kicks with his feet. Harry was watching, quietly, his eyes wide. He had never met Dudley before. He wasn't around children his own age very often, though he did have some friends among the Hogwarts students. Dudley seemed like a fierce, fascinating creature to him. Over the day they'd been there, he'd followed Dudley around, observing. Dudley seemed to enjoy the audience, an audience that didn't understand Ninja Turtles or telly or remote control tanks. He spoke to Harry like Harry was a particularly stupid pet, but Harry didn't seem to mind.
"I told you. That Snape was no good, everyone saw that. He was nasty even when we were children, remember what he used to do to me?"
Petunia had taken to Harry this visit in a way she never had when he was a baby. She let him be with Dudley, which was more than she'd ever allowed in the past. Maybe it was that she saw both of them as victims - of both Severus and Lily. Lily tried not to think about it, to just appreciate it, enjoy it - a day with her sister, their children playing together. Something that even before James, she had never quite been able to imagine.
"Doing that to a child," Petunia said, and tsked, picking up her teacup. "Despicable. Using - that - to hide the evidence."
Petunia had been good enough to wait until Harry was out of listening distance to start talking. Vernon was away - his sister had a fall, thrown out her back - which was another blessing. He would have turned them away, Lily was sure. She hadn't really understood, when she rung the bell, holding Harry's hand, why she had come here. There were others who would take her - Remus would have asked no questions, Sirius would have leapt at the chance to spend time with his godson, she could have gone to a hotel, even, she had money. Where she had really wanted to go, she knew, was to her mother. But her mother was dead. Petunia was the next closest person.
Petunia had put Lily in a guest room, and Harry in Dudley's second bedroom. Lily bit her cheek, tried not to judge. Harry had been almost silent since they left Hogwarts. Looking at the room had made him talk. He poked at something on the shelf, crushed almost beyond recognition, and whispered to her "Is this what toys are like when there's no magic to hold them up?" She had laughed, at that, and had been surprised at how normal her laugh sounded. She kissed Harry's tangled, flyaway hair, smoothed a hand over his forehead, felt the flesh and blood of her son and knew that somehow, even here, in the most Mugglish of places, everything would be all right.
She and Petunia cooked supper together. The boys were set up in front of the telly - Petunia had popped a movie in, something that even to Lily had seemed magical, and Harry was lost to the world. Petunia had dug around on the top of the fridge and emerged, triumphant, with their mum's recipe box, thick with dust. "How about some cottage pie?" Petunia said, with a smile that made her look about nine years old, and Lily had almost burst into tears. Cottage pie had been their father's favorite, their mother's go to dish on anyone's bad day. She nodded, and they spent more time than necessary going through the recipe box, looking at their mother's handwriting, her smooth, rounded letters. Cottage Pie was filed between Cake (Petunia Birthday) and Cake (Lily Birthday).
Dudley threw a small fit when it was placed on the table ("I DON'T EAT CORN TODAY!") but Harry, who was never much picky, had tucked in. She watched him eat, small, almost dainty bites, watched his head duck down, how careful he was with his manners - was that Harry, her polite, quiet son, or was that what Severus had taught him in a meal without her? - and slowly felt the good feelings she'd gained in the cooking leak out of her, like a balloon.
After supper, in the fading light, Dudley had gone outside on his bike, riding up and down the pavement while Petunia followed him, a few steps behind. Lily had walked with her, Harry clinging to her hand but eyes glued forward, mesmerized by the bicycle. There were other children out, doing the same thing, other mothers, and Lily thought, for the first time since graduating Hogwarts, what she had given up, by taking the letter, by saying yes. She had lost things that no eleven year old understood. And what had she gained, in return?
Before she could think about it, she felt Harry tug at her hand, trying to get a better angle on the bicycle. She followed him.
That night, she set Harry up in Dudley's spare room. He was in the least magical pajamas Lily could find, patterned with chocolate frogs. When she'd bought them, the frogs had hopped around, but like the real things, the charm had faded. They barely even wriggled now.
She sat down on the end of the bed, tucked the covers in around him, reached up and unhooked his glasses, smoothed at his hair. She tried to think of something to say, of how to start, but Harry did it for her.
"Did you used to have a bike, when you were little?" Harry asked. Lily smiled.
"Wow. You knew how to ride it, and everything?"
Lily nodded. "My father taught me. Your Aunt Petunia, as well."
"Wow." Harry couldn't seem to wrap his mind around that. "Could you still? If you had a bike?"
"I think so. They say you never forget." She smoothed at his hair again. "Maybe tomorrow, we could get you a go on Dudley's bike, show you how."
Harry shook his head. "Dudley doesn't share," he said seriously. "He told me so."
Lily tried not to frown. "Well, then, maybe we'll go out and get you a bike of your own. Would you like that?"
Harry's eyes almost popped out of his head. "Really?"
"Really." It was so nice, to see him that way, excited, happy, smiling. He looked like James, he looked -
But then it faded as soon as it came. One of his hands poked out of the top of the blanket, picked at the thread at the edge.
"What's wrong, love?" Harry shrugged a little, in the bed, a movement that brought the blanket further up, hiding more of him from view.
"Just - I don't know if they let bikes at Hogwarts."
"Well. I'm not sure we're going back to Hogwarts, Harry."
This did not affect him the way she thought it should. Hogwarts was the only home he remembered, but he simply nodded, as though it were inevitable, then bit his lip. "But - it's not a quiet toy."
"That's all right. We wouldn't ride it indoors, would we?"
"Just - um, Dad Sev doesn't like toys that - that aren't quiet."
Lily swallowed, tried to keep her voice level. "I'm not sure we're going back to - Dad Sev, either." The name lay heavy on her tongue, the stupid name she'd forced on them, hoping if they said it enough it would be true. It wasn't true. It had never been true. It had never been anything more than a wish, and suddenly she hated that name more than any other, more than Voldemort. "You don't have to call him that anymore."
This only seemed to worry Harry. He started to chew on his lip. "I - I can. That's okay."
"No, Harry. Don't. He's - It was stupid, to try and - you were right. He's not your father."
This seemed to upset Harry more. He chewed at his lip more vigorously and blinked at her. His face twitched a little and he looked down at the blanket, before saying, in a voice that sounded as though it were trying very hard to be brave, "He can be. If you want him to."
"Oh, sweetheart, no. I don't want that." She wanted so many things, in that moment, in all moments; James back, a powerful surge of longing that was not unfamiliar, but she pushed it down. It hadn't helped, to wish for James.
"But he makes you happy," Harry said, slowly, like he was trying to puzzle out a particularly hard Arithmancy equation. "You said."
Lily felt her throat tighten, and she tried to smile. "You make me happy," she replied.
Harry blinked up at her. "But - you were sad. He said. Without me, you'd be happier."
Lily closed her eyes, for one second, felt it inside her, building up, a flood, and when she spoke, it was barely above a whisper. To buy a moment, to pull herself together, she leaned down and kissed Harry gently on the forehead, on top of his scar.
"You make me happiest," she said, and somehow, it was the right thing.
She stayed with him until he fell asleep, which took much less time than usual, and then stayed a little longer, looking at him. Asleep, without his glasses, his wild hair dampened down by his shower, he looked less like James, or her, and more like himself. She wondered what James would say, what James would have done to Severus, what James - but then she made herself stop. It had been so many years. It was time to stop.
She rejoined Petunia, eventually, sitting in her perfect kitchen, and Petunia started up on Severus again as she put the kettle on. Lily wondered, idly, where Petunia felt Severus' real guilt lay - in hurting Harry, in using magic to do so, or in taking Lily away.
"What will you do now?" Petunia asked, pouring them two cups of hot water, bringing over a small box of tea bags (something Lily has seldom drank since discovering tea leaves in third year, which had always tasted more right) and looking at Lily.
She wanted her to renounce everything, Lily realized, sifting through her options. Snap her wand and come home and be normal, well, as normal as Lily got. But that was something that could never be. Not with Harry, and the war, and her whole life working against it. And she couldn't go back, either, not to live in Hogwarts, surrounded by ghosts, dead and not. She focused on ripping open her packet of tea, and shrugged.
"I think tomorrow, I'll get Harry a bicycle." She took a sip of her tea - not terrible, just not what she was used to - and looked back at Petunia. Petunia, who had never much been good at silent communication, stared hard at her for a moment, then, slowly, a little sourly, nodded. "Any suggestions?"
Petunia, never one to hold back an opinion, went on a long talk about how her and Vernon had decided on just the right bike for Diddy - it seems to focus mostly on how expensive it was - and Lily sipped her unfamiliar tea, listening with half an ear to Petunia and half an ear up the stairs, seeking out Harry's sleeping breaths, and let herself rest for a moment. This wasn't normal. Nothing was. There would be a new normal, perhaps, one day, but not yet. For now, it was enough to rest, and breathe, and know Harry was safe asleep.
It was enough.