Author's Notes:

Plot: Severus Snape and Petunia Dursley are two people who are not overly fond of Harry Potter or each other. But when Petunia's husband Vernon dies, Dumbledore orders that Severus and Petunia get married in order to protect a six-year-old Harry. Both have objections, but in the end Dumbledore's will prevails, and this unlikely couple must learn to live with each other despite their pasts and differences. Severus struggles with being married to a muggle, who also happens to be the sister of his dead love. Petunia struggles with being married to the unpleasant wizard whose actions led to the death of her sister. Harry struggles with his identity.Dudley has to deal with having a much stricter father.

Other players in this story: The Weasleys, Alastor Moody, Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Lucius Malfoy, Narcissa Malfoy

Pairings: Severus Snape/Petunia Evans Dursley, Arthur Weasley/Molly Weasley, Lucius Malfoy/Narcissa Malfoy, and possibly some Bill Weasley/ Nymphadora Tonks

Other pairings may present themselves but that is all I have for now. Also, they may just be mentioned briefly, mostly canon pairings.

Ages of characters at the beginning: Petunia, about 27, Severus 26 (almost 27), Harry 6

-Galad Estel

Chapter One

Petunia Dursley sat at her kitchen table rolling out dough for gingerbread, her blond hair imprisoned in curlers. It was late Friday morning, a week before Christmas, and her son Dudley was at school. Her nephew Harry was not, however. The boy had gotten himself just sick enough so that he could stay home and be underfoot. All day, he had been dashing into the kitchen to steal food when he thought her back was turned. It was wearing her patience thin, although she had hardly said anything about it. She had snapped at him twice earlier, but then she had given up. It was just easier to pretend he did not exist.

'Aunt,' a small voice said, 'Auntie.'

She turned to see Harry behind her. He was standing rocking from one foot to another, putting on the cutest face a six-year-old could manage.

'What?' she said. She sprinkled a small amount of floor on the gingerbread dough; it looked like a light snowfall on clay.

'Can I help you?' he asked.

'Yes, boy,' she said. 'If you want you can dust upstairs.'

Petunia took out a heart shaped cutter and pushed it into the firm dough, rocked it back and forth, back and forth, like a cradle. She remembered how she had always hated children. Even when she was young they had bothered her. They were so loud and disruptive, untidy. She had never wanted to be a mother, but when Dudley was born she had loved him. Dudley had come from her body. He had been part of her, and he gave her things to do to keep her from thinking. She had felt useful, almost like her own person.

'I…I meant with the biscuits,' Harry mumbled, 'I'd like to help with the biscuits.'

Petunia stared at the thin boy in front of her. He was swimming in Dudley's old clothes. He looked pale and sickly, and not just because of his recently acquired cold. Harry always seemed frail, like he would just fade away. He constantly reminded her of her loss. He was so much like his mother. Lily.

Lily had taken everything. She was the magical girl with bright green eyes and deep red hair that would fly out around her when she twirled, and stay up even when she stopped moving. Her parents had doted on Lily but had never paid mind to the dreams of their older daughter, Petunia. When they had been young, Petunia and Lily had been as close as sisters could be, but as time went on Lily kept on drifting and drifting away. The further she drifted, the harder her parents clung to her, until they worshipped the owls that brought home Lily's letters. Then Potter came, tall, dark and handsome, a prince charming for the spoiled princess, and Lily was gone completely, whisked away to a happily-ever-after that ended with her sudden death.

Lily had taken almost everything, but she had left one thing behind – Harry.

'Well, you can't,' Petunia snapped, 'You'll get everyone sick. You've done enough trouble…sneaking in, stealing food. I'll have to clean everything again, thanks to you. Now go back to your room, boy.'

That sent the boy scurrying. Petunia cut more hearts, put them in a pan, shoved them in the oven, tried not to think. She turned on the wireless. Wham! was singing 'Last Christmas.' It was a silly, romantic Christmas song but she left it on. It made the kitchen feel a little less cold. She even tried singing along for a while, but her voice caught. She turned her attention to the dishes instead, scrubbing them, putting them in drain. By the time she had finished, the biscuits were done baking. She set them out to cool.

Then her eyes turned to the rest of the kitchen. She filled a bucket with warm water and soap and started cleaning every surface in the room. Vernon would be home later. He would be happy to see his house was kept in order while he was gone.

A sharp wrapping on the door broke through Petunia thoughts. She wrung out her rag and placed it on the side of the bucket.

'Coming!' she called, wondering who could it be. Ever since Harry had been placed on their doorstop, they had had fewer and fewer visitors. The boy tended to scare people away.

'Open up!' Vernon's voice bellowed. Only there was something strange about it, like an echo of another's voice had bled in.

She scurried to the window and peered out. Vernon was standing on the doormat holding a large wreath with a red ribbon. He turned and saw her, glared like a bull. 'Open up!'

Frightened, she ran to the door and turned the handle.

'It wasn't locked,' she said breathlessly, peering out.

Vernon pushed past her into the house, dropping the wreath on the hall floor and making for the kitchen.

'Did you go to the post office?' Petunia asked, following him.

He turned blank eyes at her. His left hand reached into his right pocket and produced a few letters. He thrust them into her hands.

She looked them over, trying to see if there was anything there that would have made Vernon upset, but they were just Christmas cards from acquaintances.

'What's wrong, Vernon?' she asked. 'Why aren't you at work?'

He turned away from her, did not answer. He started to open all the drawers, looking inside.

'Are you drunk, Vernon? Why aren't you answering me?' Petunia's heart was pounding in her chest.

Vernon pulled a knife from the silverware drawer and pointed it at her. She screamed.

'Where's Harry?' Vernon said. His face was red, going on purple; his eyes were thin lines in his face.

'I don't know,' Petunia said. 'Put the knife a way.'

'Don't lie to me, woman!' He advanced on her, knife held outward.

'I really don't know, Vernon. Please put the knife away.' She backed away from him towards the telephone.

'Don't bother,' Vernon snapped. 'The line is cut.'

'Vernon, have you gone insane? Vernon, I'm your wife, please, please put the knife away.' Tears sparkled in Petunia's blue eyes.

'Where's the Potter brat?' Vernon insisted, running the knife along the contour of Petunia's breast. She reached back with her hand and felt the hardwood of the wall.

'I'm here,' a small voice squeaked. Petunia let her eyes look away from Vernon for a second and saw the boy, trembling in the doorway.

In an instant, Vernon had turned on him. The child fled away towards the stairs.

'No, Harry!' Petunia shrieked. 'He'll catch you that way!'

Harry hastily changed direction, making for the door, but Vernon lunged forward and grabbed at Harry's neck. Harry screamed. Vernon yelped and fell to his knees, knife still clutched in his right hand. His left hand reached out for Harry, but there seemed to be an invisible barrier between them.

'Curse you, boy,' Vernon growled. Then he turned the knife on himself and slit his throat. Petunia felt another scream tear through her throat and then everything went black.