bethbethbeth: (HP Beholder (femmequixotic))
[personal profile] bethbethbeth posting in [community profile] hp_beholder
Recipient: Pale_Moonlite
Author: ???
Title: “As You Say”
Rating: PG-13 to mild R
Pairings: Petunia/Snape
Word Count: 16,800
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *[Infidelity, Non-explicit het sex]*.
Summary: After Lily's death Snape and Petunia are drawn to each other in an attempt to find something of Lily in the other. Neither of them is really sure what they find, but they find that they need it.
Author's Notes: The summary is from the prompt, I hope that it works for you, Pale_moonlite.
Thanks to X and X for having a look at this, the blame is all mine, however.





November 1st - 4th, 1981

Petunia Dursley, nee Evans, had received a rude series of shocks this autumn morning.

The first was the finding of a small child on her doorstep.

The second was the realization that it was her sister’s child.

The third was the news that her sister was dead.

But the topper was the letter that requested, no, ordered her to take the child into her home at least until his seventeenth birthday. There was a rather uninformative explanation of why this was necessary, as if the problems of a bunch of magical freaks were any of her concern, and as if she would turn away her sister’s child. True, said sister had forsaken her, had abandoned her and run off to her oh-so-special school and married that horrid Potter boy, and it appeared that she had paid a high price for doing so. Still and all, Lily had been her sister, and they had once loved each other. The babe was family of a sort even though it pained her to see her sister’s eyes looking out from James Potter’s face, and she knew her duty.

She was not, however, going to be ordered about by the old crackpot who had denied her the simple courtesy of being allowed to attend school with Lily, and the flourishing signature Professor Albus Dumbledore had her teeth grinding.

“I knew something was up, what with all the strange goings-on of late, but surely we aren’t going to keep him?” Vernon queried after Petunia had told him what she thought he needed to know.

“In fact we are, Vernon,” she had replied with uncharacteristic firmness, and Vernon Dursley had yielded with poor grace. The few times that Petunia had taken that tone with him were bright in his memory, and though he was indeed king of his castle he knew when to back down by now.

“He’ll be expensive,” Vernon protested feebly.

“He won’t need much,” Petunia informed him.

After her husband had left for work and her son had been fed into a stupor, Petunia watered down some milk and gave her nephew a bottle after changing him. If he was to be in her house, he would be clean.

She then fixed herself a cup of weak tea and sat at her kitchen table with the letter she had not bothered to show to her husband.

”I regret that you will be unable to attend the services for your sister and her husband, but in the present climate I am afraid that it would be unwise, and possibly dangerous,” he had written. Further…

”I have enclosed a sheet of enchanted parchment. Should you need to communicate with me concerning Harry, merely write your message and then burn the parchment and I shall receive it quickly.”

Petunia donned her reading glasses and took up a pen.

Mister Dumbledore,

You will make arrangements for me to attend my sister’s funeral or I shall leave the child on the steps of a police station. You took her from me in life, you will not deny me my chance to say farewell.

Mrs. Petunia Dursley


She lit the parchment from the cooker, and watched it burn to ashes in the sink. After cleaning the sink, she carried her sleeping nephew up the stairs and placed him in a laundry basket in the tub in the guest bath just in case he had an accident. She looked in on her sleeping son and smiled at his musical snoring, and then she lay down on her bed and wept bitter tears for the sister who had broken her heart.

Dudley's crying woke her from her fitful sleep, a sleep troubled by fragmented dreams of her past, of the happy times with Lily, and the terrifying and yet wondrous time when Lily had held out her hand with a wilted flower in it and the flower had bloomed anew. Petunia had acted properly outraged, but in her heart she had nursed the guilty hope that she too would be able to do that someday. There had been brief remembrances of that sallow-faced Snape boy and how he had wedged his way between her and Lily, and of Potter, the arrogant bastard who had ripped Lily from her forever and whose face adorned the burden in the guest bath.

Said burden added his cries to those of her son, and Petunia rose to take care of Dudley.

When she had changed Dudley and settled him in his playpen with a few snacks, she went to the guest bath to deal with – Harry, as she supposed she should think of him. He was quiet now, and Petunia shivered a little at the sight of the envelope clutched in his hands even though she was not really surprised.

”Dear Mrs. Dursley,

As per your instructions a taxi will arrive at 10 o’clock Wednesday morning to take you to the service. I hope that this will be satisfactory to you, and will avoid any enstepment of Harry. Enclosed please find another sheet of parchment in case you need to communicate further.

Arrangements have also been made with your neighbor Arabella Figg to look after Harry while you are gone for the services, and indeed at any other times when you might need assistance, of course at no cost to you. You may be reassured to know that Mrs. Figg is not a witch, merely a pensioner glad of the chance to earn a little extra. She would also be willing to look after your son, but I am sure that you would prefer to make your own arrangements for him.

Sincerely,
Dumbledore”


It was with a satisfied smile on her face that Petunia rinsed Harry off in the tub and wrapped him in an old towel before returning him to the laundry basket.

“I’ll bring you something after Diddy has finished his snack,” she replied to the questioning gaze of the child. “I’ll cut down some of his old diapers for you as well. Skinny little thing, aren’t you? Small for your age. Can you talk? No? I can’t see what all the fuss is about, truth to tell. Well you’re here now, and we shall have to make the best of it. Just don’t go expecting too much, and mind you make yourself useful and don’t cause any trouble.”

The unflinching stare of her sister’s eyes made her uncomfortable, and she hurried downstairs to check on things for dinner. A good meal would go a long way towards placating her husband. There was time enough later to make more permanent arrangements for an inconvenient nephew. The tub would do for now.

November 3rd, 1981

Petunia had arranged for a sitter for Dudley, and delivered Harry to Mrs. Figg who accepted him with a proper lack of enthusiasm. She was right pleased when the taxi showed up promptly at ten.

"Where are we going?" she asked the driver.

"Godric's Hollow, Mrs. Dursley," replied the driver.

"How long will it take?"

"Round about an hour, Madame."

"Very well, you may proceed."

Petunia settled back in the seat and stared out the window in silence.

"I shall of course wait for you, Mrs. Dursley. I shall be here when you care to leave," the driver informed her when he had parked the car. Petunia waited for him to come and open the door, and gave him a curt nod of acknowledgment. Then she walked to the front doors and entered the chapel.

The oddness, the unnaturalness, struck her with physical force. The place simply reeked of magic, but she kept her composure as she walked to the front of the chapel where two coffins lay side by side. Ignoring her late brother in law, she stood silently for a time staring at her sister's body. She was struck anew by Lily's beauty, one more thing she did not share with her sister. Whatever farewell message she had she kept to herself.

Ignoring the curious stares of the assembly, she turned and walked back up the aisle and took a seat in the very last row. She listened in silence to the praise heaped upon her late sister and her dead husband, although her lips compressed into a thin and bitter line, and her nostrils flared when her inconvenient nephew was anointed the savior of wizardkind.

Wizard was he? She would see about that.

She followed the procession to the cemetery, and once again stood silent on the fringe of those gathered. Only when everyone else had gone did she go and stand before the freshly mounded earth.

"Goodbye," she whispered, and as she turned to leave she glimpsed a dark, hunch-shouldered figure moving off between the headstones.

"Here you are, Madame," said the driver as he held the door for her back on Privet Drive. He handed her a card with the name and number of the taxi service. "Should you ever in future wish to visit your sister's grave, just call and I shall take you there. There will of course be no cost to you." The driver hesitated before adding, "I am very sorry for your loss."

Petunia looked at him sharply, but settled for giving him a slight nod. There was blame enough to go around, but she had no reason to think that this taxi driver deserved any of it. Besides, the loss was old; it was only the death that was new. She might have changed that assessment had she seen the car vanish from sight just after it had rounded the corner.


January 30th, 1982

"Mrs. Figg will look after Harry while I'm gone, Vernon. I shall be back in time to prepare supper for you. It will do Dudders good to have some man to man time with his father," Petunia told her husband.

"Very well, go if you must, I suppose," he answered, scarcely looking up from his paper. "I'll take Dudley to Marge's, she has some new pups."

"Be a good boy, Diddykins," she instructed.

"Shan't!" answered Dudley with a slobbery grin.

"That's my boy, got a mind of his own!" Vernon chuckled.

Petunia smiled indulgently and went to the waiting taxi. She nodded to the driver and took her seat, setting a small box beside her. The drive was completed in silence.

"I shall wait for you, Mrs. Dursley," the driver told her as she exited the taxi.

"Very good," Petunia acknowledged, granting the driver a nod. He was a competent driver, after all, and he knew when conversation was not called for.

Petunia made her way along the shoveled pathway to the point nearest Lily's grave and then carefully stepped through the light dusting of snow. She stood for a time, silent and dry-eyed, staring at the tombstone and resolutely not reading the name of Lily's husband.

"You were more an Evans than a Potter," she said at last. She opened the box and removed from it a flower. She had cut this flower a month ago in her greenhouse. It was a lily, and it was from a plant that her sister had given her as a wedding present, "to remind you of your sister." The flower was shriveled and dead now, and it reminded Petunia of many things, her sister included. She laid the flower on the grave and left with no further word.

The taxi was in sight when she realized that her cheeks were wet with something, and she stopped abruptly. The thought of the decaying bloom lying on her sister's grave, that she once had thought so apt and symbolic, now seemed like indulgent self-pity and petty spite. She decided that she was above such things, and retraced her steps.

There was a black-cloaked, hunched-over figure standing by the grave, and Petunia thought that she could hear a sort of choked, sobbing, sound. She was just about to ask them what business they had at her sister's grave when there was a brief pulse of light, and the lily she had repented of leaving swelled with new life and fresh beauty.

"That was the first magic I ever saw Lily do," she said, and the figure started visibly.

"Petunia," Snape greeted her.

"Mrs. Dursley, if you please," she replied stiffly.

"As you say," he responded.

"Why are you here?" she asked.

"You know very well why, and I come on this day because I prefer to remember her life rather than her death. Her birth is for me much more important than her passing, and on that anniversary this place will be packed with simpering idiots blessing her for her sacrifice and thanking her for birthing the saviour," he said wearily.

"So it is true what Dumbledore said, that she gave her life to protect her child?"

"It is. A poor bargain, in my opinion. She should have yielded up that miserable Potter's get and preserved her own life," Snape spat bitterly.

"For once we agree on something," Petunia told him. They stood in silence for a time. "The flower is better this way," she admitted quietly, "I do not mind that you did that." He nodded. "This is still as much your fault as anyone's," she added.

"If not more so. Once again we find ourselves in accord."

She turned without reply and walked away swiftly.

"You remind me of her," Snape called after her, and Petunia spun around swiftly.

"I will not be mocked at my sister's grave, you unnatural freak!"

"I do not mock you, Mrs. Dursley. Lily would stalk away from me exactly like that when she was cross with me. I had thought that only she could so vividly demonstrate disapproval by the way that she walked. You are perhaps more like her than you know."

Petunia could think of no reply to that. No one had ever before compared her favorably to her sister. The thought was foreign, and while not altogether unpleasant it was confusing. She merely nodded and left.

Snape stared after her.

January 30th, 1983

"Be a good boy for daddy, Diddykins," Petunia said, leading Harry by the hand.

"Bye bye," Dudley replied, waving a chubby hand.

"Such a bright boy," she gushed with pride.

"Chip off the old block," Vernon agreed.

"Where are you going, Aunt Petunia?" asked Harry.

"Don't ask questions, you. Mind you don't give Mrs. Figg any trouble now, goodness knows where we'd find someone else to keep you," Vernon warned him.

"Yes Uncle Vernon," Harry replied. Dudley stuck his tongue out at Harry.

Mrs. Figg opened the door to Petunia's knock, letting out a strong smell of cats and their encumbrances. Harry entered silently, Petunia left without saying goodbye.

"Thank you," Petunia said to the driver who was holding the door for her. She received a respectful nod in reply.

The drive was once again taken in silence, and Petunia casually wondered if she would have the grave to herself.

"No snow this year," the driver commented as he assisted Petunia from the car.

Petunia stared at him for a moment before giving what she thought of as a gracious nod. "It has been unseasonably warm, yes," she commented.

"I shall be here when you are ready, Mrs. Dursley," the driver said with a small bow which earned him an even smaller smile in return.

"It's nice to see someone who takes pride in even a menial job like taxi-driving," she thought as she followed the path to Lily's grave. No one was there, and she was uncertain whether the little tut she gave was of satisfaction or disappointment.

She opened a box and removed two lilies, one new and perfect, and the other wilted and browning. The contrast pleased her as she arranged then on the grave.

"An apt presentation," a low voice said, and she jumped at the sound.

"You startled me, Mr. Snape," she snapped.

"My apologies, Mrs. Dursley, an old habit. Lily and I used to try and surprise one another while we were studying, and from behind, you - forgive me, I am certain that you do not care to hear my melancholy maunderings about the past."

"Do you miss her so much?"

"Every second of every day. Is her child well?"

"Well enough. Skinny little thing, not much of Lily in him save his eyes. He has Lily's eyes," Petunia's voice trailed off to a whisper.

"And that bastard Potter's face, I am informed," Snape added with a heavy sigh. "It is an obscene conjugation."

"Yet more common ground," Petunia granted. She cut her eyes over at him, and noted the grief that was writ large in every line of his body. "I brought the wilted one in case you came," she admitted, "I thought that you might want to -"

"Thank you. It is a pathetic gesture that I make with this, but it is fitting, I think. Even more so since the blooms come from you." Snape whispered an incantation, and they silently watched the lily bloom anew. "She loved you a great deal, Mrs. Dursley. She spoke of you often to me when she still spoke to me at all."

Petunia's entire body tingled at his words.

"I thought that she had no use for me since I had no magic," she admitted. Snape shook his head slowly before he answered.

"She would have given you her power if she could. I think that was the only guilt that she ever carried, that she could not share magic with you."

For an instant Petunia thought to protest that she would rather die than be such a freak, but the bitter statement emerged as a sob, and Snape produced a handkerchief and handed it to her.

"Thank you."

"I always carried one for her, her allergies would assault her at inconvenient times. I cannot now leave my rooms without a fresh handkerchief." He gave a wan smile and shrugged.

"Was she good at it, the m- magic?" Petunia asked, almost against her will.

"She was brilliant at charms, that is, spells of the same nature as the one I used on the flower. Does my presence here bother you, Mrs. Dursley? I do not mean to intrude on your grief. I can remain out of sight until you are done, if you wish."

"Oddly enough, Mr. Snape, I am comfortable with your presence. We are the only ones remaining who knew Lily as a young girl, when the world was still in its proper shape." He nodded slowly, and they stood together in silence for a time.

"Standing here with you, I can almost make myself believe that we are simply waiting for her to come home," Snape whispered. Then there was a sharp crack, and he was gone.

January 30, 1984

"Thank you for watching Dudders, Marge," Petunia told her sister in law.

"Always glad to look after my neffy-poo, Petunia. He's all boy, Dudley is. Can't say the same for that nephew of yours. Wormy little thing, not that I would speak ill of your family you understand, Petunia. It's very kind of you and Vernon to look after him," Marge said in response. "Where is he, any road?"

"A neighbor lady looks after him at need. I cannot in good conscience burden you with him, Marjorie," Petunia explained.

"Quite. Dashed considerate of you Petunia. Mind, I would do if the need arose, family and all that. Vernon is my brother after all, and you are a good wife to him."

"Thank you Marjorie, Vernon is fortunate to have such a loyal sister."

"Well then, safe journey. I shall take good care of Dudders, never you worry."

"I'm hungry," Dudley declared.

"A growing boy needs his nourishment, come along with your Auntie Marge then, lad."

"Good morning, Mrs. Dursley," the driver greeted Petunia, and he held the package she was carrying while she got into the taxi.

"Thank you -" Petunia realized that she had not the least clue who the driver was.

"Wesley, Madame, Wesley will serve," the driver supplied, giving another of his short bows.

"Yes. Thank you, Wesley," Petunia said courteously.

Petunia leaned back in the seat, placed her hand on the package beside her, and closed her eyes.

Snape was there before her. He turned at her approach and inclined his head.

Petunia took the two lilies, the fresh and the wilted, and laid them on her sister's grave.

"I - I brought you something," she said hesitantly. Snape turned his face to her with a curious expression on it. Petunia produced an envelope from the flower box and handed it to him. Snape opened it and his breath caught.

It was a photograph of him pushing Lily on a swing when they were children.

"Where did this come from?" he asked thickly.

"I took it with the camera I got for my birthday one year. I was going to destroy it, but I thought that you might care to have it," she explained.

"Thank you," he said, and his eyes filled as he stared at the picture.

"She deserted you too, didn't she?" Petunia asked. "I know she liked you, she told me so. She was so excited that you were going to be at school with her. But in the end she abandoned you too, I suppose." Petunia questioned bitterly.

"No, she did not," he replied. "I drove her away. I drove her away with my jealousy and my insecurities; with my anger and my hatred of those I perceived as having things that I did not. In the end it was my own failures, my own weaknesses that took her from me."

Petunia recoiled as if slapped, and for the very first time it occurred to her that she might have been guilty of the same thing. They stood mute, bound together in grief of a different sort.

"Aren't you going to do the flower?" she asked at last.

"Not this year, I think. This year I shall face things as they are, not as I wish them to be. I thank you again for the picture, Mrs. Dursley."

"Petunia, please."

"As you say - Petunia."

He inclined his head and stepped away through the tombstones as snow began to drift down.

"Shall I just pick you up same time next year, Mrs. Dursley?" Wesley asked when he pulled up in front of her home.

"Yes, thank you Wesley. That will be fine."

January 30, 1985

"Thank you once again, Marjorie. It is a comfort to Vernon and me to have someone we trust to look after Dudley," Petunia told her.

"Auntie Marge!" Dudley exclaimed as he waddled up to her as fast as he could manage, raising his arms.

"Dudders, my boy! Come and give your Auntie Marge a kiss," she greeted him, and she swept him up in her arms to receive a rather sloppy kiss on the cheek. "You'll soon be lifting me up, such a big, strong, fellow you are getting to be," she told him.

"I love you, Auntie Marge. Did you bring me anything?"

"Of course I did. I wouldn't come to see you empty-handed now, would I?" She set him down and produced a brightly wrapped package from her pocket, and Dudley seized it and trundled into the sitting room with it.

"You're a thoughtful daughter, Petunia, to take care of your parent's graves so well," Marjorie commented.

"Yes, well one has a duty to family, you know," Petunia responded. Petunia had told Vernon and Marge that she was going to assume responsibility for her parents’ plot because of Lily’s death, and they accepted her explanation that going in winter assured a bit of privacy. Vernon and Marjorie had never really realized that it was always on Lily's birthday that she went, if indeed they had any idea when her birthday was.

"Indeed, and you certainly shoulder more than your fair share of that, you and Vernon. Does that boy give you much trouble, Petunia?"

"Not often, he’s rather a quiet little thing, really. I'm afraid that Dudley doesn't take to him all that well, though."

"Only natural," Marge commented, "I trust that Dudley suffers no lack because of him."

"Certainly not. We made a bedroom for the boy in the cupboard under the stairs. It's quite cozy, and it doesn't impinge on Dudley's rooms at all," Petunia responded a bit stiffly. As if she would favor that unnatural thing over the child of her body.

"No offence intended, Petunia. Should have known without asking, please accept my apologies. If I may be so bold, are you and Vernon intending to have any additional children? I could do with a niece, you know. Between the two of us she'd learn how to be a proper girl, wouldn't she?"

"We shall have to see, Marjorie. We do have our hands rather full with Dudley and the boy, but one never knows, does one?" Actually, Petunia knew quite well. She would dutifully accept her husband's increasingly rare desire for her body, but there was no way in the world that she was going through childbirth again. Not after Dudley she wasn't.

"Quite, didn't mean to pry. Well then, I hear your car, off you go, never worry about Dudders, he's in good hands with me."

"Of course he is. Dinner is prepared, and I have left notes on when things should go in the oven, just in case. I expect to be back in plenty of time to take care of it myself, but Vernon does like dinner ready when he gets home in the evening," Petunia explained.

"He's a man, Vernon is, of course he wants his dinner after a hard days work. Only proper, you may rely on me," Marge said heartily.

"I shall be back as soon as I am able; I might need to do a bit of upkeep. The staff is no better than they should be," Petunia cautioned.

"No surprise there. I'd best check on Dudders, safe travel, Petunia." Marjorie went to the sitting room and found Dudley happily devouring the chocolates she had brought him, pleased to note that he had managed to swallow at least as much as he had smeared on his face.

"Good day to you, Mrs. Dursley," the driver greeted her.

"And to you, Wesley. Thank you," she said, getting into the taxi. Wesley nodded in reply.

Petunia wondered if Snape would be there again, and she wondered at wondering that.

He was not, and she placed the two blooms, the fresh and the wilted, and busied herself with brushing the wind-scattered debris from her sister's name.

"Petunia..." she heard, but she did not startle at it.

"Mr. Snape," she greeted him after rising.

"I think that it would be acceptable for you to call me Severus, Petunia," he said with a wan smile. She nodded. "Shall I?" he asked, gesturing to the flowers.

"Please."

They stood shoulder to shoulder as the lily bloomed, as the tears ran down their cheeks.

"Do you suppose - do you suppose that if we had not driven her away that she would..." Petunia could not finish the sentence.

"A question I have often asked myself," he admitted, handing her a handkerchief.

Petunia dabbed her eyes, grateful for the courtesy, and also grateful for the company. This man that she had despised for years was the only link she had to Lily, the only one who understood the loss, who really knew what Lily had meant to her.

"I regret that I was rude to you when we were children," Petunia said softly. "I was jealous. She cared more for you than me."

"I was thinking the same thing."

It began to snow, as it had the year before, but this time they stood together as it fell and watched the snow cover the name of the girl they both had loved. This time they stood together and clung to whatever bit of Lily they could each find in the other.

January 30th, 1986

"I don't want to go to Mrs. Figg's!" yelled Dudley. "It smells!"

"She has cake," Harry told him.

"Shut it!" Dudley commanded, and he shoved Harry roughly.

"Diddy, don't mess your new clothes. I'm sorry, but Aunt Marge cannot stay with you today, so it will have to be Mrs. Figg. You'll be fine, and mummy will bring you a nice present when she comes back, all right?" Petunia asked him.

"A big one?"

"Yes, darling, a big one," she assured him.

"Okay then."

"Come along now," she urged the boys out of the door. Harry maintained a wary distance.

"I want cake," Dudley announced as he pushed past Mrs. Figg. Harry smiled apologetically at her. He figured that he had imagined the quick wink of her eye.

“It will be easier once they start school,” Petunia thought as she walked back to her house and the waiting taxi. Both boys were old enough, but it had been decided that Dudley was not quite ready, much to the outrage of the Dursley parents. Of course Harry could not be permitted to start before his cousin, so…

"Nice to see you, Mrs. Dursley," Wesley greeted her.

"Thank you Wesley," she replied with a nod.

Petunia nodded again as she exited the car, and Wesley settled in to wait.

Snape was there before her.

"Petunia," he greeted her.

"Severus," she returned.

He stood quietly while she arranged the traditional flowers on the grave, and she stood aside as he muttered his spell. By now this bit of magic disquieted her not at all. Here at her sister's grave she was in a world utterly apart from Privet Drive.

"Do you ever go back?" he asked. "Back to the old neighborhood, I mean," he asked at length.

"Not since my parents died, no. Why do you ask?"

"I wondered if you might like to go and visit the playground, but I suppose that I am being overly sentimental. It's just that the picture you gave me last year..." his voice trailed off.

"I'm not sure my driver would have the time," she temporized, but she was filled with the desire to see again the places where she had played with Lily, back when Lily was still hers.

"I can take us there, you know. No need to bother your driver," he offered. Petunia shuddered, the flower was one thing, but this was another.

"By magic, I suppose you mean," her lips reflexively thinning with disapproval.

"I merely offer," he explained.

"How would that work, then?"

"It is called Apparition. I would take you by the arm and transport us to our destination. It takes no time at all and I am afraid that it is a rather long drive from here," he explained. "Perhaps another time," he added, seeing her hesitation.

A sudden reckless urge came over Petunia, she had grown to love the flower magic, perhaps a bit more would do no real harm. She was certain that the flutter in her stomach was trepidation, not anticipation. No one would know, after all.

"Very well then," she agreed, and she extended her arm.

"This might make you a touch dizzy," he cautioned, "but no harm will come to you."

Then he pulled her to his side, and the world whirled away. Petunia closed her eyes, the whirling stopped, and when she opened them they were standing in front of the swings she recalled from her childhood.

"How do you feel?" Snape asked her, having seen how flushed her face was.

"I'm fine thank you, it was a bit disconcerting, that's all," she lied.

It had been exhilarating, and her heart was galloping madly with the thrill of it. She felt the same sort of guilty pleasure that she felt while masturbating quietly in her bed to avoid waking Vernon.

"It hasn't changed much," Snape observed.

"The council seems to have kept it in good repair, at any rate," Petunia noted. "Do you still live nearby?"

"When school is out, yes. I teach at Hogwarts now."

"Hogwarts be damned," muttered Petunia, and she walked over to the swings.

"I have felt that way from time to time myself," Snape admitted, taking a seat on a swing. After a moment Petunia sat in one beside him.

"I asked him to let me come. Dumbledore. I asked him to let me attend with Lily."

"And he refused gently yet firmly?" he surmised.

"In so many words. If I had been with her, I could have taken care of her, kept that Potter boy from her."

"Perhaps; speculation is useless however." She looked at him sharply. "I know this, for I have done little else since she died. I have gone over every decision I can recall making, wondering which one was the key, the one that led to her death."

"That seems a bit conceited, don't you think?" Petunia asked him. He snorted.

"I suppose so. Perhaps nothing could have prevented it. The universe is stingy with 'whys', as a rule," he scuffed a toe in the trough worn by children's feet.

"True enough, such as why I have no magic, for one. Why wasn't I special like she was?" Petunia had dropped her avowed hatred of magic for the moment, here now with Severus she allowed herself to ask the question that had haunted her for years.

Her answer was a shrug.

"No one knows. Magic goes where it will. It is at times a mixed blessing. Death at least is impartial; we may all rely on that."

Petunia made no reply, but pushed off on the ground and set her swing in motion. Snape watched for a moment, and then stepped around behind her. Setting his hands on her shoulders, he pushed, and for a few moments the two of them remembered.

Petunia dragged her feet, and he stopped pushing. Soon enough the swing stopped and she stood facing him, framed by the chains of the swing.

"Why are we here?" she asked.

"Because we can't let her go," he answered, and he handed her a handkerchief.

"I should get back," Petunia told him.

"As you say, Petunia."

He took her arm and Apparated them back to the cemetery.

This seemed to be Petunia's day for impulses, and she put her hand on Snape's shoulder.

"Thank you," she said, and he gave his shallow bow. "Next year, then?"

"If I am spared, and thank you as well."

Petunia nodded and walked towards the car. She looked back at the turn of the path and saw him staring after her.

"I'm sorry for keeping you so long, Wesley."

"Not at all, Mrs. Dursley. My time is yours this day, and I brought a bit of lunch just in case. May I offer you some tea?"

"No thank you, but could we stop at a shop on the way home? I must get something for my son," she asked.

"Certainly, Madame. Consider it done."

"Thank you, Wesley," Petunia said as she exited the taxi and walked up the sidewalk, her bitterness towards her sister and her hatred of magic reclaiming her with every step, the flutter in her stomach replaced by a stone.

January 30th, 1987

“Good morning, Wesley,” Petunia greeted him, “I do hope the earlier start did not inconvenience you?”

“Not in the least, Madame. This day is always set aside for you,” he replied, giving his short bow.

Petunia stopped short, considering. She had worked out by now that Wesley must be a wizard, and she supposed that this was really due to her sister’s fame, and Potter’s, and even that inconvenient nephew, but she decided to accept this rather unusual accommodation as her due for what she had suffered because of all three of them.

She gave Wesley a small smile and a brief nod of thanks.

Settling back in the seat, she found that she quite enjoyed being catered to in this manner. Dudley and Harry being off at school gave her more freedom, and she resolved to enjoy it. Especially on this day. She absently stroked the box by her side and ascribed the flutter in her stomach to a rather rushed breakfast.

Petunia was surprised to see the dark figure standing by the graveside already, but she found that she was pleased. He turned at the sound of her approach.

“Good morning, Petunia,” he said in greeting, and his lips twitched slightly in what she fancied might have been a smile.

“And to you, Severus,” she replied.

She placed the flowers and they stood for a time in silence, each of them wandering in their memories. From the corner of her eye Petunia saw him raise his wand, and she heard the whispered spell.

The flutter in her stomach increased.

“The place is much neater than last year,” Petunia observed approvingly.

“I took the liberty when I arrived. I hope that you do not mind.”

“Not at all; now that she is gone from us I do not mind sharing her with you. Not here I don’t, I wonder why that is?”

“Speaking for myself, it is because I know that you truly loved her. Her, not just her magic or her beauty,” Snape responded. “I no longer resent the love she had for you, and I see more of her in you every year. There is a rigid strength in you that Lily had as well. Some might call it stubbornness I suppose; I prefer to think of it as character.”

Petunia felt her cheeks heat, she was unused to praise of this sort, if praise it was. Her housekeeping and cooking were widely admired, but this – this was her, not what she did. She was unable to formulate a reply, and Snape did not seem to expect one. This was one more unusual thing about him that Petunia had begun to appreciate, Severus Snape required no one to validate his own opinions.

“Could we go to the playground again?” she asked.

“As you say, Petunia.” He extended his arm, and they whirled away.

This time they explored a bit farther, seeking out the little hollows they had used as sanctuaries when they were children. It appeared that the current generation had discovered them as well, though Petunia noted with disapproval that the new owners tended to litter. She gave a sniff of disapproval, but she missed the fleeting, sad, smile that it brought to Snape’s face. How often had he heard Lily give that same sniff?

They soon found themselves seated on the swings, swaying idly as their minds wandered.

“May I see your house?” Petunia asked.

“My house? Whatever for?” he asked, briefly flummoxed.

“I cannot go to my childhood home, it has been sold. I knew you as a child, if not very well, and now that we are no longer rivals for Lily’s attention I should like to see yours. Coming here takes me back. Call it a whim,” she explained. He considered in silence.

“Very well,” he agreed, “it is not far.” He let her rise from the swing unaided. “This way,” he said with a gesture, and Petunia followed him.

It was not far.

It was a rather dreary little house surrounded by other dreary little houses, but Petunia knew enough of the neighborhood to have expected that. The yard was neat for an unoccupied dwelling, merely some windblown trash against the fence. Snape unlocked the door, opened it, and gestured for her to precede him into the house with a neutral look on his face.

Petunia simply walked in without even wondering what the neighbors might think, should they be watching. On Lily’s birthday the world was a different place entire.

She nodded in pleasure at the tidiness; Severus Snape was orderly in his personal habits. The room was austere, the lack of a woman’s touch evident, but apart from the inevitable dust it was clean and neat. Her eyes wandered to the bookshelves, and settled on the mantel. There in an ornate silver frame was the picture she had given him. She was pleased that it meant so much to him, but puzzled that he did not have it with him at his workplace.

He answered her unasked question.

“I will share her with no one but you.”

January 30th, 1988

“It is one day out of the year, Vernon,” Petunia pointed out. “Surely you can care for your son yourself for one day out of the year. Mrs. Figg is looking after the boy.”

“I was going to a darts match,” he protested.

“Go then, take Dudley.”

“I want to watch television!” Dudley protested.

“Daddy will buy you a nice present, Diddykins,” Petunia promised. “Please, Vernon. You might even have a good time with your son.”

Vernon Dursley was several kinds of a fool, but he was not an abject idiot. Petunia always seemed moody this time of year, and he resolved not press it.

“Woman stuff,” he decided to himself.

“Very well, dear. We men will just have to make do without you for a while, then,” Vernon said heartily.

Dudley was still protesting when she greeted Wesley and stepped into the cab.

There was no dark figure by the grave this year, and Petunia felt disappointed for some reason. She brushed the light snow from her sister’s name, placed her flowers, and stood staring at them. After a few moments the dead blossom bloomed anew.

“I was delayed,” he said.

“It is no matter,” she responded, trying not to let the relief she felt color her voice. The silence weighed heavily for a several moments, then… “You are here now,” she whispered, and she imagined that she felt a light touch on her shoulder.

The snow began to fall, and Snape extended his arm to her when she turned to him.

The world whirled away.

Snape’s living room was the same as last year, but for the fire crackling in the fireplace and the fresh rose beside Lily’s picture on the mantel.

“It was cold,” he stated.

“Yes,” she agreed.

Petunia stood and stared at the crackling flames, enjoying the warmth of the fire. She also enjoyed the consideration that had occasioned the lighting of it, and the placing of the rose with her sister’s picture.

“Would you care to sit?” he asked.

“That would be nice, but I don’t want to leave the fire,” she answered.

“No need.” He flicked his wand and Petunia watched calmly as the small sofa drifted up behind them.

“Thank you,” she said, and she sat.

Snape sat beside her, and together in the flickering firelight they gazed at the picture of Lily, and the rose.

“I am trying to stamp the magic out of the boy,” Petunia said into the silence.

“I can’t say that I blame you, but I shouldn’t think it will work,” Snape told her.

“He will go to your school, won’t he?”

“I should imagine so, yes.”

“Will you teach him if he does?”

“Very likely, yes.”

Petunia nodded.

“Then teach him well, for Lily’s sake. But make him earn it, the magic. Make him pay for it.”

“As you say, Petunia.”

Snape’s stomach rumbled.

“Please excuse me, I am afraid that I missed breakfast,” he apologized, clearly embarrassed.

“That will never do,” Petunia said briskly. “A strong man like yourself needs his nourishment. I shall fix you some lunch.”

“Alas, the cupboard, as they say, is bare.”

“And there are shops even in Spinner’s End. I shall make you a list. You go and fetch things while I take the kitchen in hand.”

Snape stared for an instant, the clipped and assertive tone she used so transparently the same as her sister that he knew that Lily must have had it from her. He wordlessly handed her a pencil and paper. There had always been pencil and paper at hand in Tobias Snape’s house; he had been a great one for lists.

“The kitchen is just there,” he said, pointing.

“Thank you.” She stood and removed her coat, hanging it on the tree as she went to the kitchen.

The kitchen was small but neat, and Petunia merely wiped the counter and the stove with a damp rag before setting various things on the counter and trying out the cooker. It was old, but perfectly serviceable.

It would do.

Snape returned soon and deposited some bags on the kitchen table, and Petunia efficiently emptied them.

“Marvelous, you got everything. This won’t take long, please sit and relax while I fix lunch,” she requested.

“If it won’t bother you I would like to sit here in the kitchen. I promise to stay out of your way.” Petunia nodded and set to work.

It was odd, he thought, having a woman other than his mother in this kitchen. Odd having someone take care of him, as it were. Odd, but pleasant. He admired the efficiency of her movements, the expertise of long practice that was apparent as she worked. Once again he was struck by a similarity to her sister. They did not really look much alike, but the movement, the skill; he might have been watching Lily prepare a potion.

“You would have made a fine potion maker,” he told her.

“Thank you,” she replied, knowing without being told that this was high praise from him. It was remarkably unremarkable that she was here in his house cooking for him, the magic that dripped from him seeming wholly natural and right.

This day was different.

The simple and hearty meal that Petunia soon set before him filled more than his empty belly, and the pleasure on her face at his obvious enjoyment brought him something he had not felt since before he knew his magic. They ate in comfortable quietude.

She allowed him to assist with the washing up, and they worked efficiently together before resuming their seats before the fire.

“Thank you for a marvelous lunch, Petunia,” he said after a while.

“You are most welcome, Severus. Thank you for sharing with me,” she replied, and he knew what she meant.

“I suppose I should be getting back,” Petunia said reluctantly. It really was most pleasant here before the fire.

Snape rose and fetched her coat, helped her into it, and extended his arm. They appeared at the graveside, and they both shivered at the sudden cold. Snape waved his wand and heat surrounded them.

“Warming spell,” he explained.

“Handy, I imagine. Thank you, Severus.”

“Thank you, Petunia,” he returned.

They looked at each other for a long moment, each of them replaying the day’s events, and then Petunia pressed a quick kiss to his cheek and left without a word. Snape stared mutely after her, utterly unable to sort out the storm of emotions inside of himself.

“Same time next year then, Mrs. Dursley?” Wesley asked, helping her from the car.

“Yes, I think so, Wesley. Thank you,” she answered him.

“Very good, Madame.”

Vernon and Dudley were still away, and Petunia decided that she had time for a good long soak in a nice hot tub before she had to begin supper preparations.

January 30, 1989

"Marjorie is planning to have you and Dudley for dinner this evening Vernon, so don't fret about me. I shall manage on my own for a while," Petunia told him as she helped him on with his coat.

"Her cooking can't match yours," Vernon complained.

"That's very kind of you, Vernon dear, but please don't tell Marjorie. You know how much she loves you and Dudders coming to visit. I'm sure she will make a special effort with dinner."

"Of course you're right. Shan't say a word. It's good for Dudley to get out in the country now and again as well. Perhaps I should take him to visit Marjorie more often," Vernon speculated.

"Whatever you think best, dear," Petunia agreed, patting the well-stuffed shoulder of his coat.

"You, boy! Off you go to Mrs. Figg's, and mind you don't give her any trouble. I've got my eye on you, you know."

"Yes Uncle Vernon," said Harry on his way out the door. He was extremely grateful that he wasn't being dragged to Aunt Marge's. Looking at endless photographs of deceased cats was a small price to pay to avoid Marjorie's tongue and Ripper's teeth. Besides, he had grown rather fond of stale cake.

Petunia watched her husband drive off with her son, and then busied herself in the kitchen.

"Good morning Mrs. Dursley," Wesley greeted her at the curb. "May I help you with your basket?"

"Yes, thank you Wesley, and good morning to you," she replied. Wesley took the basket from her and secured it in the boot of the car.

"You seem in good spirits this morning, Madame, if I may be so bold," Wesley ventured as he pulled away from the curb.

"It is a fine day, Wesley. My sister loved weather like this." Petunia flushed when she realized that she had revealed something personal, but Wesley gave no sign that he had noticed anything unusual.

"If you'll pardon me once again, Mrs. Dursley, it's a grand sister you are, visiting her regular like you do. A grand sister indeed."

"Thank you, Wesley," Petunia replied, "I did love her a great deal."

The rest of the trip was in silence, and the farther from Privet Drive she got the more her love for her sister surfaced in her heart and the farther her bitterness fell behind her.

"I brought you something for your lunch, Wesley," she told him as he opened the boot. "Just a little something for afters." She took a box from inside the basket and handed it to him.

"Very kind of you Madame, very kind indeed," he said as he accepted the box with a bow. "I shall be here when you care to leave, and thank you."

"You're quite welcome, Wesley," she took up her basket and followed the path into the cemetery.

"Right nice of her," Wesley said to himself, and he settled in to wait for his passenger.

Petunia placed her flowers and waited. She did not have to wait long before the wilted lily swelled anew.

"Severus," she said with a nod.

"Petunia," he replied with his small bow. His eyes fell on the basket and one eyebrow arched.

"I took the liberty of bringing some things for lunch," she explained.

"That was thoughtful, do you want to eat here?"

"If you don't mind, after we tend to the stone I should like to go to your house. For some reason I feel very close to Lily there."

"As you say," he replied, and together they cleaned the stone.

“I wish his name were not on the stone,” Petunia admitted.

“I wish that he had never been born,” Snape amended.

“That too.”

“As for his name on the stone, I have removed it several times. It comes back.”

“Just like the man himself,” Petunia muttered, thinking of the times Lily had been enraged to the point of tears by James Potter, only to welcome him back.

“Quite,” agreed Snape.

After a respectful silence, Petunia extended her arm and Snape took them to Spinner's End. Petunia was pleased that there was already a fire burning in the hearth and that there was a fresh daisy by Lily's picture. The small sofa was drawn up a comfortable distance from the fire.

"She loved daisies," Petunia said softly.

"Yes, I couldn't find one last year. I prevailed upon Professor Sprout to let me put some in one of the greenhouses," Snape explained.

He helped her off with her coat and they sat together and let their minds wander back in time.

“Tell me about your childhood, Severus.”

He stiffened for a moment, as he always did when asked about his childhood, but the usual angry retort did not come from his lips. Here with Petunia, on this day, in this place, he found himself almost eager to tell the story.

And so he did, from his earliest memories until the time his magic manifested and things that had been merely austere took a decided turn for the worse.

“It seems that my mother had neglected to inform my father that she was a witch,” he said wryly. “I am afraid that he took the news rather badly. He called her a deceitful, unnatural, bitch, and then he left us.”

Petunia made no reply, being fully occupied with wonder that she was filled with outrage at what Tobias Snape had done. It had been, after all, a massive deception that Eileen Prince had perpetrated.

She reached over and took his hand; they sat together and stared at the fire.

“Shall I fix our lunch?” she asked at length.

“Thank you, Petunia,” he said, and she rose and carried the basket into the kitchen knowing full well that he had not been thanking her for lunch.

A few minutes later he joined her in the kitchen, once again approving of her skill and efficiency as she cut, stirred, and heated. Once again they cooperated with the cleaning up, and neither of them missed the warmth of the fire with the comfort of easy companionship in its place.

It was something they would wonder at later, but just now it seemed normal to both of them.

Back at the graveside, they said their silent farewells to Lily for another year.

“I should like to prepare lunch for us next year, Petunia. I have no doubt that my efforts will not equal yours, but it seems only fair,” Snape said.

“You cook?” she asked. He shrugged.

“I am a Potions Master. I cook constantly, although much of it is not precisely palatable.”

Petunia laughed, and the sound struck him like a blow, but he mastered the flood of emotions. It was Lily’s laugh.

“It helps. Your being here, I mean,” she told him. “It helps to…” Petunia fell silent.

“You help me as well,” he replied, and he touched her cheek with his fingertips before he disappeared.

“That was a lovely bit of cake, Mrs. Dursley,” Wesley greeted her, “proper hit the spot, it did.”

“Thank you Wesley, I am glad that you enjoyed it. I hope that it went well with your lunch.”

“Well it did stand out, I must say. Just a regular bachelor’s lunch, cold sausage and cheese, and some bread, but it keeps body and soul together well enough,” he told her.

Petunia took her seat and Wesley closed the door and drove her home.

“I shall bring lunch for you next year, Wesley,” she declared upon exiting the car.

“Why thank you, Mrs. Dursley, that is most kind of you. I look forward to it.”

Wesley’s bow was a touch deeper than usual, and the smile on Petunia’s face lasted all the way into the house.

”She is an embittered woman with a deep-seated fear of, and hatred for, magic,” Dumbledore had cautioned Wesley when retaining his services as Petunia Dursley’s driver. ”Do be discreet around her, yes?”

Wesley thought that she was a woman striving to come to terms with the loss of her sister, and a damned fine baker as well.

January 30th, 1990

“Here is your lunch, Wesley,” Petunia greeted him, handing over a box that was warm to the touch. “It’s only a lamb pie, I hope that will do.”

“Lamb pie is a favorite of mine, Mrs. Dursley, and it’s still warm from the oven and all!”

“I’m sure that you can contrive to keep it so until lunchtime,” she said. Wesley appeared to be at a loss for words. “It’s all right, Wesley. It seems I have a foot in two worlds whether I want to or no. You are a very good driver and a courteous gentleman. A discreet warming spell performed inside your car will scarcely alarm the neighbors, and it won’t be nearly as good cold.”

“Thank you, most considerate of you Madame,” Wesley replied. He had been going to do the spell in any case, the aroma from the box had his mouth watering, but he appreciated her acceptance, given what he had been told.

They had been driving only a few minutes when Petunia spoke up.

“Wesley, if you should happen to know of a shorter route to the cemetery, I have no objection to your taking it.” Wesley caught her eyes in his mirror, and he could tell that she meant it.

“As you say, Madame. It would be well to settle back in the seat a bit.”

Petunia did so, and a moment later the taxi lurched sharply.

“All right back there, Mrs. Dursley?” Wesley asked.

“Quite all right, yes, Wesley, thank you. I must say that it does save quite a bit of time.”

“It does, but I have no objection at all to driving like a Mugg- pardon me please, Madame,” he said quickly.

“It’s quite all right Wesley. I know that you meant no insult.”

“Indeed not, Mrs. Dursley, indeed not. You’re a right fine lady in my opinion, begging your pardon.”

Wesley was a rather bright red by this point and Petunia felt strangely empowered by his reaction.

“I’ll let myself out, Wesley. I do hope you enjoy your lunch.”

She was scarcely out of sight when Wesley opened the carton. He had remembered that she had said that she would bring lunch, but he hadn’t counted on it. His cold sausages and cheese with bread were in the boot, and if he got hungry later they would serve as well as they ever had.

She had provided him with real cutlery and a cloth napkin, along with a thermos of tea, and steam blossomed under his probing fork. The flaky crust melted in his mouth, and the blended flavors exploded on his tongue. His eyes closed as he chewed the large pieces of fresh vegetables, the cubed pieces of lamb. There were no shortcuts in this pie. He swallowed and heaved a contented sigh.

“A fine lady indeed,” he said aloud.

Snape showed up soon after she arrived, and they went through their ritual with the flowers and the clearing of Lily’s name.

“You arrived early this year,” he said after a time.

“It suddenly seemed a bit wasteful to have a wizard for a driver and go the same old way,” she responded.

“So you have changed your mind about magic?”

“No. I still think it is unnatural, and I wish that my sister had had never been cursed with it. But… it was a part of her, and I know now that it always was, even before it showed. So on this day… on this day it just seems…”

He extended his arm and took them to his house.

The fire was crackling merrily, and there was a fresh daisy by the photograph of Lily and Severus as children.

“I have seen the list of students for the upcoming years. The boy will get his letter on his eleventh birthday,” Severus informed her after they had shed their coats and sat down.

“I expected as much, there have been incidents. The boy is too much like his father by half.”

Snape nodded. “At the least it will get him out of your house for the bulk of the year.”

“It’s an ill wind as blows no one good, I suppose. I am sorry that it will saddle you with him, though. It is still painful to see her eyes looking out from his face. It’s like he’s mocking me from the grave, at times.”

Snape gave her hand a squeeze.

“I’ll manage," Snape said, "after all, you have for years, and I’ll scarcely be with him all the time. Excuse me, I should start lunch,” he said as he stood.

“Might I help?”

“You do help. However I shall prepare lunch. You are of course welcome to join me in the kitchen.”

“I’ll be along directly,” she told him, and he left her on the couch.

Petunia stared into the fire, trying to sort out the storm of emotions inside of her. She failed utterly, and stood to look closely at her sister’s image. Things stirred within her, unfamiliar things, nearly forgotten things, things that she had no name for. Perhaps, just perhaps, here, this one day of the year, things need not make sense. Perhaps this one day of the year she could just remember her sister and put herself first. Perhaps just this one day could be hers.

She touched the daisy on the mantel and went into the kitchen.

Snape had shed his coat and was busy at the counter. Petunia took a seat and watched him as he had watched her. She too was impressed with the skill displayed as he cut and measured, approving when he cleaned up as he worked. She smiled when she recognized that he was making lamb pie.

“I like lamb pie,” she told him, and he threw her a glance over his shoulder as he worked.

“I know, Lily told me,” he replied with a genuine smile.

Petunia realized that she quite liked the idea that her sister had talked about her with Snape, it helped her to believe that Lily really had cared for her.

Petunia also realized that she had never seen a man actually cook, not like this. Vernon would periodically sear things on the grill in the yard, but that was different, crude by comparison. She watched as he cut the lard into the flour for the crust, obscurely pleased that he was using the old ways without regard to modern notions of healthy cooking, however valid they might be.

She also watched the play of muscles under his skin, the lean forearms exposed by his rolled-up sleeves. She was fascinated by his utter absorption in the task, his total and effortless concentration. Things stirred inside her again, and she realized with surprise that she could name them this time, unusual though they might be.

Petunia truly cared for her husband; he was a good provider and a devoted father. What they had together was real and substantial, it made sense, and she had always thought herself fortunate in her marriage and her family. She still did think so.

But just now, on this day, in this place, with its magic and its memories and its might have beens, with the patently absurd sight of a powerful wizard with a skull and a snake tattooed on his forearm making a lamb pie for her she realized and admitted to herself that she simply wanted this man. She knew that it was not love, she knew that it was not in any way proper, she knew that it made no rational sense whatsoever. She knew all of this.

But just now, on this day, in this place, with its magic and its memories and its might have beens, she simply did not care, and she rose from the table.

“It will need about an hour and a half, I’m afraid, would you like something in the mean-“

He had turned from the oven to find her standing very close to him.

“Yes,” she said, and she took him in her arms and crushed her lips to his.

It was not wonderful. It was not dreamlike.

It was two people coming together out of overwhelming needs of several kinds.

It was an unaccustomed activity for them both.

They did not, either of them, dream or imagine that they were with someone else.

It also did not take very long, and Severus did not cry out Petunia’s name, or Lily’s, when he spilled inside of her and collapsed beside her.

And the earth did not move for Petunia, but when she wrapped her arms around the bony and angular form of this man by her side, she felt a kind of satisfaction that she never had before.

And here, now, on this day, in this place, with its magic and its memories and its might have beens, she smiled, and was fulfilled for a time.

January 30th, 1991

"It is a pork pie this year, Wesley," Petunia told him, handing him a warm box, "the lamb at the shop just wasn't up to standard this time."

"Sure and you would know best, Mrs. Dursley, and no one can say that Wesley Drummond ever turned up his nose at pork. I believe I could eat a shoe were it wrapped in your crust; I've never tasted the match of it. Thank you most kindly," he responded.

"You're very welcome, Wesley," Petunia said, and she took her accustomed seat and settled back.

"The road's clear just now Madame, are you ready?"

"Indeed I am," she answered with a smile on her face.

"Petunia," Snape greeted her with a bow.

"Severus."

The stone was a bit dirtier than usual, and Snape used a cleaning spell on it.

"Well there's a bit of magic that I wish I could do," admitted Petunia.

"I rather imagine that 'scourgify' would come in handy indeed with two boys in the house," Snape agreed.

"Three, counting Vernon," she amended, and Lily's laugh echoed off the stones. Snape blushed, but made no reply. She ignored the rising color in his face and settled the flowers in their place.

They stood together as Snape cast the spell and some time later he picked up the basket she had brought and took them to Spinner's End.

Snape seemed a bit rigid as he hung up their coats, and Petunia thought that she knew why this was. She had this suspicion confirmed a moment later.

"Petunia, I must apologize for my behaviour last year. It was - unseemly of me. Frankly I was a bit surprised that you returned this year," he said resolutely.

"Goodness, Severus, don't go apologizing, no woman wants to hear that. Was it so awful that you regret it?"

"What? No, I mean - that is -" He stopped when he saw the twinkle in her eyes. "You're having me on, aren't you Petunia."

"Only a little. But I meant it, you have nothing to apologize for, we are both adults and you certainly did not coerce me. In fact I seem to recall that I initiated things." She smiled at him. She could not help but smile; she felt young and pretty here on this day in this place. This day was hers, and she fancied it a gift from the sister she had begun to believe had loved her as well. "Now come with me to the kitchen while I get things ready for lunch. I have a nice hen, and it will need some time to bake. Does that suit you?"

"As you say, Petunia."

This time was less frenzied, and they lay together after and he told her of Hogwarts and his teaching, and they talked of times past, and when she went to check on the chicken he went to the mantel and got the daisy and placed it in her hair.

What they shared was not love, not really, and they both knew that full well; but just now, on this day, in this place, whatever it was, it was theirs.

Wesley was happy to see that his passenger seemed at peace when she returned to his cab.

"Would you mind terribly taking the long way home, Wesley?"

"Not at all Madame, not at all."

Just a bit more of her day. Just a bit more.

January 30th, 1992

“Cornish pasties, Wesley, be sure and keep them warm,” Petunia told him with a smile. “Lemon pie as well.”

“I must say, Mrs. Dursley, your husband is a fortunate man indeed if you feed him even half so well as you do me.”

“You may sure that my husband never misses a meal,” she replied. “Though it might be all to the good if he did now and again.”

“Ah well, can’t blame a man for indulging himself with food like what this is, Madame.”

Petunia felt quite pleased with herself as she sat back in the seat. Vernon was indeed fortunate, and she was certainly due one day a year just for herself. And Lily, of course.

“Hang on, Madame,” Wesley cautioned, and the taxi lurched.

Snape was pacing by the grave when she arrived, with a look on his face that would curdle new milk.

“Severus?” she questioned.

“I cannot think why you never smothered that beastly child in his sleep,” he answered crossly. “He is precisely like his father was, arrogant, disrespectful, thinks the rules don’t apply to him… and worst of all, Lily’s eyes in Potter’s face.”

He pointed his wand at the stone and blasted Potter’s name from it. Petunia felt a thrill at the sight, but the satisfied smile left her face when a moment later the stone shimmered a bit and the hated name reappeared.

Snape sighed.

The blast had cleared the debris from the stone quite efficiently, and Petunia placed the flowers and went to his side.

The flower swelled with life from the spell.

“For her, I do it for her,” Snape reminded himself, “but at times…”

“Indeed,” Petunia agreed.

Snape took them to Spinner’s End.

“I have lunch prepared, I brought food from the school. I regret that I cannot stay very long, Petunia, but things are quite unsettled at Hogwarts at the moment.”

“Is it anything to do with – him?”

“Well he certainly has been sticking his nose into it. I’m doing my best to protect him but he doesn’t make it easy. I apologize for rushing you Petunia, but I really have very little time.” He gestured towards the kitchen.

“I have food at home,” Petunia said as she took his hand.

“As you say, Petunia.”

They were more comfortable with one another now, with this relationship that neither of them could put a name to that filled some need they never acknowledged in open or in secret. But on this day, in this place – they each gave freely of themselves to the other.

Snape’s countenance was much clearer when he returned to Hogwarts.

“Here, Goyle,” he said, handing the boy a basket, “leave the basket in the common room when you and your greedy little friends are done stuffing yourselves.”

As for Petunia…

“Is anything amiss, Madame?” Wesley asked when Petunia returned to his cab sooner than usual.

“Not at all, Wesley. It was a satisfying visit; there simply was not the luxury of much time this year.”

January 30th, 1993

“Do you have plans with Dudders today, Vernon?”

“Thought I’d take him to a boxing match, let him see a real man’s sport. Will you be home in time to fix dinner?”

“I expect so, although I may not have time for anything elaborate,” she cautioned.

“Very well dear, I shall see you this evening, then.”

Vernon had decided that it was best to indulge his wife when she had her yearly notion to visit her parents’ grave. She was going regardless, and she always cooked a special meal when she returned. Vernon loved Petunia’s cooking. So did Wesley.

“Good morning Mrs. Dursley,” Wesley greeted her, holding the door of the taxi open.

“Good morning to you as well, Wesley. I’m afraid it’s only sandwiches this year, I was in a bit of a rush this morning.”

Wesley hid his disappointment, after all, it was very good of her to bring him lunch in the first place, and he often had worse lunches than that.

“Think no more about it, Madame, it is most kind of you to think of me at all. I am quite sure that I shall enjoy the sandwiches.”

“I do hope so, shall we be off?”

Wesley checked the mirror a few minutes later and caught her eyes, she leaned back in the seat and nodded, and the taxi lurched.

“I shall be here when you care to leave, Mrs. Dursley,” Wesley promised.

Petunia felt a bit disappointed when she saw that there was no dark figure at the graveside, but she set about tidying up. Snape had still not appeared when she had finished and laid the flowers on the grave, and the disappointment turned to uncertainty tinged with concern.

Before she could edge into deciding that Snape was simply done with her, however, an owl landed nearby with a leather pouch tied to his leg. The bird hooted at her and extended the leg pointedly towards her. Petunia set her face and retrieved the pouch. The owl waited expectantly.

“Good bird,” Petunia said uncertainly.

Realizing that no treat was forthcoming, the owl ruffled its feathers and then swooped silently away. Petunia shuddered.

The pouch contained a small bottle of clear liquid, a seed of some sort, and a folded piece of parchment.

”Dear Petunia,

I regret that events at Hogwarts make it impossible for me to join you this year. A drop of the liquid in this vial on the lily will enable you to carry on at least one of our traditions, and a drop on the seed will reveal a further message that I hope will mean something to you on this day.

Until next year,

Severus”


As soon as she had finished reading it the parchment vanished, but rather than trigger her revulsion towards magic it incited a feeling of admiration for his cleverness. He had ensured that this day would remain between them.

She carefully let a drop of the liquid fall on the wilted lily, and smiled when it filled with new life. Then she set the seed down and let a drop fall on it.

It took about a minute for the seed to sprout and grow into a daisy, and she picked it up and held it, remembering.

Wesley in the meantime had finished his first sandwich and had begun to wonder if he could get away with removing Mr. Dursley. This sandwich had been roast beef on home made rye bread sliced thick and spread with good mustard. It had been topped with a generous portion of sharp cheddar and some thinly sliced onion and its companion was sliced turkey and absolutely noble in appearance.

Petunia placed the daisy in her basket and said farewell to her sister.

By the time she got back to the car she had convinced herself that Harry must be the cause of whatever crisis had kept Snape from joining her this year. It did not improve her feelings towards him.

Wesley heard brisk footfalls approaching, and reluctantly abandoned the turkey sandwich and what appeared to be mince pie. He was standing by the door when she arrived, and the look on her face convinced him that silence would be better received than a “Back so soon?” would be.

No fool, Wesley.

He was also not surprised when she asked him to take the fast way home.

“Thank you, Wesley,” she told him as he smoothly brought the car to a stop, “I’ll see you next year.”

“Yes Madame, I look forward to it, and thank you again for the lunch.”

“Next year it will be better, goodbye then.”

Wesley waited until Petunia had entered her house safely before driving away.

Petunia took the daisy out to her greenhouse and carefully potted it before going to the market. She would still have time for a nice bath before starting on her husband’s favorite dinner.

January 30th, 1994

“I packed a lunch for you and Dudley, Vernon, do be sure he wears a life jacket,” Petunia encouraged.

“Bought him one myself, dear. Had the devil of a time finding one in his size, finally had to go to a surplus store.”

“It’s nice of Colonel Fubster to take you fishing, I do hope you have a good time.”

“Colonel Fubster is a real man’s man, and I think he might be a bit sweet on our Marjorie,” Vernon said with a sly wink.

“That would be lovely, I do worry about Marjorie all alone out there in the country.”

“Marge can take care of herself, Petunia, and there’s Ripper as well,” he reminded her.

They both smiled at the memory of Ripper running Harry up a tree.

“Right then, we’re off! Come along, Dudley,” Vernon called. Dudley stumped down the stairs with a heavy case, still resentful at having to wake up so early on a weekend at home.

“You can’t take a computer on a boat, son. Besides, you’ll be having far too much fun fishing to mess about with that.”

Dudley doubted that, but he took the case back to his room. He cheered himself up a little imagining what sort of present Aunt Marge would give him, he was hoping for money.

Petunia saw off her husband and son and hurried to the kitchen.

“Good morning, Mrs. Dursley,” Wesley greeted her, nostrils aquiver.

“And to you, Wesley. I do hope this lunch makes up for last year’s.”

“It smells wonderful, Madame, and those were the best sandwiches I have ever eaten,” he assured her. She smiled her thanks, handed him her basket, and took her seat.

“Hang on back there, Madame, here we go…”

“I shall be here when you care to leave, Madame,” Wesley delivered his usual promise very courteously, but his eyes kept straying to the box on the seat.

“Enjoy your lunch, Wesley,” she said, smiling at his eagerness.

Wesley opened the box and stared in wonder at Cornish hens, asparagus, fresh rolls, butter, and a container of what proved to be hollandaise sauce. Vernon Dursley felt a goose walk over his grave.

Petunia’s smile widened when she saw the dark figure waiting for her, but it faded at the expression on his face.

“What is wrong?” she asked.

“A dangerous criminal has been in the school. It is possible that he meant to kill the boy, and it is reported that it is the same man who betrayed Lily,” he answered with his accustomed bluntness.

“The boy, Harry, he is well?”

“To this point, yes, however I anticipate difficulties in keeping him that way. He has his father’s reckless arrogance that some fools mistake for courage,” Snape replied with a snort of disdain.

“Who is this man? Why would he want to harm Harry?”

“As to why, he is insane, dangerously so. As to who, he was James Potter’s closest friend, and he is Harry’s godfather,” he explained.

“Damn James Potter to hell,” Petunia whispered. “What will you do?”

“Protect the boy if I can, and kill the man if I have the opportunity.”

“Good. Do be careful though, please.” His lips twitched momentarily.

“Enough of this unpleasantness,” he declared, “shall we, Petunia?” He gestured to the stone, and together they cleaned Lily’s name and performed their flower ritual.

“Thank you for the daisy,” she said into the quiet. “I have it in my greenhouse.”

“I believe that it is still my turn to provide lunch, as we missed it last time,” he reminded her, she felt a flutter at the memory and slipped her arm through his.

The fire was there, and the daisy was there, and there were good smells coming from the kitchen, but their eyes met and by unspoken accord they pursued another hunger first.

Both of them felt comfortable with this now, it was a part of this day, a way for them to share their loss, their pain. For Petunia it was a day of might have been, a day to feel the magic that Lily had had, that she did not. It was also a day to have this man that Lily had not, the grief and the guilt and the bitterness they shared binding them in so many ways and setting something loose inside of her that she never experienced at any other time or place.

He hissed as her nails dug into his back, and she smiled.

“Did you enjoy your lunch, Wesley?”

“Ambrosia, Mrs. Dursley, a symphony of taste, you are a goddess,” he said earnestly.

On this day, if only this day, she felt a bit like one.

The feeling, however, faded as she stepped briskly up to her home, and was replaced by something else.

”Mister Dumbledore,

I feel that the time has come for you to make other arrangements for Harry, in fact I insist upon it. The boy is unruly and willful, and while I did love my sister I can no longer allow her child to disrupt my family. I am afraid that I see him heading for the same end as she and the boy’s father, and of course I cannot allow him to endanger us as well.

You may send for his things, there are not many.

Mrs. Petunia Dursley”


She lit the parchment from the cooker, tossed it into the sink, and set about fixing dinner for her husband.

She did not jump when the owl tapped on the window a while later, she simply took the message and shooed it away.

”Mrs. Dursley,

I am afraid that it is quite impossible to make other arrangements for Harry. The magic that protects him, the magic that is based on your blood connection to him, also protects you and your husband and son. Harry is indeed in danger, and while this may not concern you overmuch I must point out that your connection to him is known in the magical world. It is entirely possible that someone might attempt to get at Harry through you and it is therefore necessary to leave the original arrangement in place for as long as the protection will hold. This is of course his seventeenth birthday, as you well know.

It is regrettable that you are unable to have any sort of family feelings for your sister’s only child, it would make things more pleasant for you. Be that as it may, Harry will remain with you, and there is an end to it. Unless of course you prefer yourself and your family to suffer the same death as your sister did.

Dumbledore”


The parchment vanished before she could tear it to bits, and she sought another outlet for her rage.

“Petunia, those were doubtless the smoothest mashed potatoes ever to meet a fork. I am a lucky man,” Vernon declared in vast satisfaction.

January 30th, 1995

“The snow is a bit heavy this year; can you drive all right in this?” Petunia greeted Wesley.

“Yes, Madame, the snow will cause us no difficulties, I assure you,” he replied.

By now Petunia trusted Wesley completely as far as driving went. Indeed, she thought that if all wizards were like Wesley, that she might be able to tolerate them.

“Very good, Wesley, here is your lunch.”

“Thank you Mrs. Dursley, very kind of you, very kind indeed.”

The car pulled smoothly away from the curb with no sign of slippage, and Petunia settled back in her seat and watched the snow falling.

“Do step carefully please, Mrs. Dursley, the walk is likely to be slippery.”

It was indeed, but fortunately Wesley was able to catch her and steady her.

“Oh dear, thank you, Wesley. This might be a problem at that.”

“Err, Mrs. Dursley, I could… that is if you would permit me…” he looked meaningfully at her shoes.

Petunia shrugged mentally, it was after all, her day.

“I would appreciate your help, Wesley,” she said after a moment. “Will it hurt?”

“Not at all, Madame, you have my word on it.”

“Very well then,” she told him, and she closed her eyes and gritted her teeth.

“All done then,” Wesley announced, and Petunia opened her eyes and took a cautious step. It was like walking on dry pavement.

“The spell will also keep your feet from getting wet,” he promised.

“Thank you Wesley, enjoy your lunch.” Wesley bowed a bit deeper than usual; he had an idea about lunch.

“Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding,” he said reverently. “I am in love.”

She could tell by his posture that Snape was agitated, but he greeted her cordially enough.

“How are you, Petunia,” he said.

“What has the boy done now?” Snape’s lips twitched in what she now knew was a smile.

“He has somehow managed to once again place himself in peril while simultaneously showing off to garner further attention. He is – vexing,” Snape admitted.

“Indeed he is. I sent Dumbledore a letter demanding that he be removed from my home.”

“No! You must not do that; it would place you in peril.”

“So I was informed. Did you kill the man who betrayed Lily?” she asked.

“Alas, no, and there seems to be some doubt if it was he who betrayed her after all. In any event, he poses no threat to you or your family, of that I am certain,” he told her.

“That is reassuring, thank you.”

“Shall we?” he asked, gesturing to the snow-covered stone. Petunia produced a brush from her basket and they cleared Lily’s name before placing the flowers.

“They look pretty in the snow,” Petunia commented.

“Indeed.”

He extended his arm and took them to Spinner’s End.

“The daisy looks particularly lovely this year,” she said, lightly touching the petals.

“Petunia, perhaps we should just have lunch, my mood is – ungentle - at this time,” he said hesitantly.

“As is mine. I cannot rid myself of that boy, I have learned to appreciate magic and can never have it, my sister is forever gone, and my family is in danger. ‘Gentle’, is not on my mind, Severus.”

“As you say, Petunia.”

The kiss was ungentle, the disrobing was ungentle, the threadbare carpet was ungentle, the hands, the mouths, the teeth… it was all – ungentle.

It was also so very different for both of them, the yielding of one to another, the taking without any need to ask or fear of refusal, that when they were at last sated neither of them had any words for a time.

“Oh dear, Petunia, I seem to have injured you,” he said in concern, noticing the bruises he had left on her.

“The damage is mutual,” she replied in a tone none who knew her would have recognized.

“On me it is no matter. A bruise or a scratch is of no consequence. On you, however, it may be noticed.”

“Not this one,” she demurred, pointing to a mark high on her inner thigh.

“Then that one we shall leave,” he granted, “may I?” he asked, reaching for his wand.

“If you must,” she assented, and she lay back and yielded herself to him once again.

January 30th, 1996

“I’m afraid it’s leftovers this time, Wesley, but I did have time to warm them,” she explained.

“Anything you prepared is bound to be delicious, Mrs. Dursley. Nicer weather than last year, I daresay, no need to charm your shoes,” he replied with a wink.

“No, but I have to say that those shoes served me well through the winter. I don’t suppose that you could…”

“It would be my pleasure Madame, I shall take care of that when we arrive.”

Petunia nodded graciously, she really had enjoyed not slipping on the ice and snow last winter, not to mention the dry feet.

“And there you are, Mrs. Dursley, this pair will keep your feet snug and dry so long as they last,” Wesley promised her. “I shall of course be here when you care to leave.”

“Thank you Wesley, I appreciate your help.”

“Any time at all, just call the number if there is ever anything I can do for you.”

He really meant it, as far as Wesley was concerned anyone who could cook like she could was a friend of his, and he respected her devotion to her departed sister. The leftovers turned out to be roast duck with wild rice and parsnips cooked in the drippings.

“The woman is a treasure, the minister himself doesn’t eat like this.”

Snape turned to greet her, and the look on his face wiped the smile from hers.

“What is wrong, what has happened?” she asked.

“Things are a bit chaotic at the school, that is all. It is of no importance.”

“My son was attacked last summer, do you know anything about that?”

“The attack was directed at Potter, who fortunately at last showed some of his mother’s skill and managed to drive the dementors off. I do not believe that it will happen again, Dumbledore will see to that.”

“Dumbledore, the man is maddening,” Petunia muttered.

“At times, but he is a very great wizard, and he really is doing all that can be done to protect you and your family, Petunia. I trust him.”

This surprised Petunia, but it did reassure her a bit. Snape had left unsaid a world of things, things that perhaps she had a right to know, but there was nothing she could do about any of them and he was unwilling to risk whatever this was they had together this one day of the year. Not even one day, just a few precious hours stolen from a year of pain and peril. He was not brave enough to risk those few hours.

Neither was she, and she left questions unasked. This day was for her.

They cleaned Lily’s name and placed the flowers.

I didn’t bring anything for lunch,” she said at last.

“Neither did I,” he admitted.

Just a few precious hours that neither of them really understood, and that neither of them could do without.

January 30th, 1997

Petunia had called Wesley’s number days ago, for after Dumbledore’s visit the previous summer she had been afraid that she would no longer have his services. Wesley had assured her that he would arrive as usual this year.

She was also mindful that Harry would come of age this year, he would be out of her house at last and she would no longer have to see her sister’s eyes in that hated face. No longer be taunted by that visual reminder of what had been taken from her. No longer see in her sister’s son that which had been denied her; magic.

It was strange, she thought as she worked, how terrifying and freakish magic was in Dumbledore’s hands but how comforting it was on her shoes. How she resented Harry’s powers but had come to admire Wesley’s – and Severus’s. Then again, neither Wesley nor Severus had ever taunted her, insulted her, or damaged her home.

But soon the boy would be out of her life, and today was her day. Today she would have the bit of magic that she thought of as hers by right, that she deserved.

“Good morning, Mrs. Dursley,” Wesley greeted her.

“And to you, Wesley,” she returned.

“Are the shoes still serving you well?” he asked as he put the heavy basket with its interesting smells securely in the boot.

“Indeed they are. They have been a great help to me, thank you, Wesley.”

“My pleasure, Madame, off we go then.”

“The basket is for you, Wesley. I do hope you enjoy it,” Petunia told him at the cemetery.

“Thank you Mrs. Dursley, I am sure that I will.” He bowed to her and she took the path to Lily’s grave.

Wesley opened the basket and stared in wonder.

“Roast goose with chestnut stuffing, plum pudding, a vegetable terrine… I am your slave, Madame,” he whispered.

“Severus,” she greeted him, and he inclined his head to her. In silence they completed their rituals.

“Can you tell me anything about what is happening?” she asked.

“No,” he answered.

“As you say,” she acknowledged, and she held out her arm.

They sat in silence before the fire, sharing some wine as neither of them were hungry.

“I am frightened,” she said.

“As am I,” he replied.

She took him by the hand and led him to the bedroom.

“Just for today, nothing matters,” she told him.

For a time they almost believed that, as each of them tried to find something they had lost. They were patient and gentle with each other as the world was not, and while neither of them found what they were looking for, both of them were able to briefly forget their hatred and bitterness.

Perhaps that was Lily’s gift to them.

The light was waning when they returned to the cemetery, she with questions unasked and he with things untold, but that was not what this day was for.

They stood for a moment staring at the stone and then she gave his hand a brief squeeze and left. When she looked back from the turning of the path he was still standing there looking at the ground.

Wesley woke at the sound of her footsteps, and was standing by the door when she reached the car.

“Thank you for the marvelous meal, Mrs. Dursley, best I ever had.”

“You’re welcome, Wesley.”

“There is one thing Madame, I have been instructed to tell you that the arrangement for me to drive for you has been terminated as of today. I had a message from Dumbledore to that effect.”

“I see, well it is no more than I expected from him, I suppose.” Wesley cleared his throat.

“As I said, Madame, I was instructed to tell you that, and I have. Now I tell you that any time you wish to come here, or any other place, you have but to call me and I shall be pleased to drive you. This is my arrangement, and it’s no one else’s bloody business, if you’ll pardon my saying so.” Wesley turned a bit pink.

“Thank you Wesley, that is most kind of you. I must say that I have seldom had such courteous treatment from a wizard.” The smile that she gave him actually made her look like her sister, just a bit, just for an instant.

January 30th, 1998

Petunia tucked a pillow under Dudley’s head where it lay on the breakfast table, but left the witch and wizard’s faces where they had landed; in their plates. Her husband was still snug in bed. Vernon Dursley had reacted to their protective custody by doing as little as humanly possible, and he took most of his meals there. He also drank heavily, and so it had been simplicity itself to slip him his share of the dreamless sleep potion. Hestia Jones had offered this to her after the first week in their secret location when she had been unable to sleep, and after noting its effectiveness Petunia had requested it often and used it less so.

The months in hiding had been both frightening and frustrating for her. Diggle and Jones had refused to tell her anything about what was going on, but her natural inclination towards eavesdropping had garnered a few interesting tidbits, the most exciting and worrisome of which was the news that Snape had killed Dumbledore and was openly serving the Dark Lord.

She devoutly hoped the former was true but had reservations about the latter.

Petunia had only a vague idea of where she was, but on the supervised shopping trips she had made the village had seemed homelike enough. More importantly, it also had call boxes. It had not occurred to Dumbledore or her minders that she would find a way around both the cancellation of her dedicated taxi and her unfamiliar location to continue her tradition of visiting Lily’s grave on this day, or that any of them would have the courage to venture outside the wards that protected them, and she took no small amount of satisfaction in the fact that she had once again been underestimated by Albus Dumbledore.

This one day she would have. It was her day. And Lily’s, of course.

She let herself out of the house, walked to the village, and called Wesley. The car glided up to the call box in minutes.

“Thank you for coming, Wesley,” she greeted him, “I do hope this won’t cause any trouble for you.” Petunia correctly assumed that Wesley had at least some idea what was going on.

“As to that, Mrs. Dursley, there is trouble enough to go around, but if you can’t visit your sister on this day then we have already lost, it seems to me. I am honored that you called me, Madame.”

“It’s only a bit of cake,” she apologized, handing him a small box.

“A bit of your cake is worth a longer journey than this, Mrs. Dursley. Besides, we have a tradition to uphold, haven’t we?” He bowed and opened her door.

“I shall be here when you care to leave, Madame,” Wesley said yet again.

“You always have been, Wesley,” she replied, “thank you again.”

“My pleasure.”

Petunia was both surprised and relieved to see the familiar dark figure standing by the grave.

“I wasn’t sure you would come,” she greeted him.

“I should not have, it is dangerous for both of us, but…” he shrugged.

“Is it true? Dumbledore, did you kill him?”

“Yes.”

“Is it also true the you serve - him?

“I shall see her avenged, and whatever it takes to do that, I shall do.”

“I could not bring flowers this year,” she admitted.

“Of course not, I am impressed that you made it here at all. Shall I?” he produced his wand.

“No, this is another year to face things as they are, I think,” she said after a moment.

“Quite.”

Together they cleaned the stone, and they stood in silence for a time.

“This year will see an end, Petunia,” he said softly. “It is unlikely that the boy will survive the road that Dumbledore placed him on, and he knows it, but he has his mother’s courage and his father’s arrogance and he will travel it nonetheless.”

“And you?”

“Few things are more certain than my death in this, but I too will see it through. I have no hope at all that I will join you here next year.” Petunia nodded, she would lose this too, this small bit of magic, she had expected little else.

She extended her arm to him.

“We cannot go to my house. It is – occupied,” he told her.

“The playground then.”

“As you say, Petunia.”

They crawled into the thicket much as they had as children, and they lay together on the ground surrounded by a warming spell and wrapped in his cloak, just holding each other in silence.

Of a sudden he rolled atop her, his lips bruising, the kiss hard and demanding, and Petunia responded in kind. Desperately they clung together, fingers scrabbling at fastenings until they had moved enough clothing to allow him to forcefully enter her as she tore at his hair and fastened her teeth in his neck.

It was a fierce coupling, raw, all need and no want, and it was a bitter climax for both of them. But whatever it was, it was theirs and no one else’s.

Shoulder to shoulder they stood by the grave. Snape flicked his wand, and there appeared on the frozen ground a lily, a petunia, and a daisy.

“Goodbye,” he said, and he was gone.

Petunia stood for a time staring at the flowers on her sister’s grave, and then she picked up the daisy and returned to the car.

“Are you all right, Mrs. Dursley?” Wesley asked in concern, noting her disheveled appearance.

“I’m fine, Wesley, I fell is all. Tripped over a bump in the path.”

“Next year, Madame?” Wesley asked, helping her from the car.

“I should think so, Wesley. I shall let you know where to fetch me from, and I shall take care to feed you better.”

Wesley bowed and took his leave. Petunia walked back to the house.

“Where have you been?” demanded Hestia Jones when Petunia entered the house.

“What have you been up to, eh? You’re a sight!” blustered Vernon, whose outrage had dragged him out of bed.

“Shut up,” said Petunia shortly, and she locked herself in the bath.

September 1st, 2009

The Great Hall was abuzz when the doors opened and Professor Sinistra led the first years in. She stood behind the stool with the Sorting Hat on the table by her side and called the names of the new students.

“Abercrombie, Ewan…”

“HUFFLEPUFF!” shouted the hat after a time, and his new housemates cheered as he joined them.

“Billingsley, Robert…”

“HUFFLEPUFF!” the hat decreed after a brief pause, and a chubby boy sidled shyly over to his house table.

“Crenshaw, Persephone…”

“RAVENCLAW!” cried the hat after long deliberation, and a very beautiful blond girl walked self-consciously to sit with her house.

“Dailey, Sybila…”

“GRYFFINDOR!” the hat decided eventually, and a short girl with a determined look on her face stepped proudly to the Gryffindor table.

“Dursley, Daisy…”

“SLYTHERIN!” screamed the hat instantly, and a thin girl with black hair and dark eyes strode confidently to the house she had been born to.





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