Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ A Domestic ❯ Bibbidi-Hobbity-Foo ( Chapter 4 )
“Hang on. My parents had a phone?” Harry blurted out suddenly.
Petunia gaped at him, eyes bugging, unable to comprehend his fixation on this detail. She could feel a flush of indignation creep into her cheeks. “That is your takeaway? A phone. A bloody phone! Have you heard nothing of the rest of it? That your mum was desperately ill, that Jack and Rosie rushed to be with her? Why am I telling you this story?!” she demanded, her voice shrill.
“No, no, of course I heard the rest.” Her nephew had the grace to look abashed. “The wizarding world is fascinated with Muggle technology, but we don’t usually, uh, use it,” he explained. “Just seemed an odd thing.”
“You’re asking the wrong person if you want the particulars. I haven’t the faintest!” Petunia huffed, holding her palms up. “All I know is that magical Lily had a very unmagical family, all of whom liked using the phone and disliked owls dropping post through the chimney. Whatever bibbidi-hobbity-foo she had to do in order to convince James that a phone was needed, she did!”
“I believe you,” Harry said quickly even as he hunched his shoulders. (Oh, so he could lie, too.) Her nephew looked vaguely uncomfortable before asking, “Are you sure Grampy and Nana Evans understood my dad?”
She was shaking for an entirely different reason now. “What are you suggesting? That my parents were berks and interpreted ‘everything is great’ as ‘your daughter is in a bad way’? Are you speaking English to me, or is it actually Hogwash and I’ve wasted my afternoon?”
He was getting in a froth, too. “I’ve never heard of a magical person having a difficult pregnancy.”
“Then you clearly haven’t been around a girl in the pudding club,” she snarled, dragging her hands through her tangled hair to keep them from wringing his neck. “Last time I checked, being a witch or a wizard doesn’t make you less human. Tell me that part about immortality again? Oh, wait.” Petunia glared at him. “Pregnancy is hard, Harry. Ask your Mrs. Weasley if you won’t take my word. Besides, you’re not thinking about this right.”
“How’s that?” Harry barked back, ramrod-stiff and oozing offense.
“If Lily hadn’t got those daily brews, the both of you might have died well before Moldy-vort had a chance to try. The condition your mum had kills women in the Mugwo—Muggle world,” she proclaimed hotly. Petunia had learnt this many years later, after watching a medical mystery program. In that episode, the decedent had many of the same symptoms as her sister, and neither the woman nor her baby survived.
She could see that Harry was thinking it over, finally taking her seriously. “That is reasonable,” he conceded. “One of Ginny’s brothers was badly injured by a drag… Never mind. The gist is that it took him a long time to recover, even with magical restoratives.”
“Mm-hmm,” she grumbled, feeling somewhat vindicated. Her back started aching—the joys of nearing forty!—so she got up and stretched.
Unfortunately, being sober and agitated made looking at the current state of her kitchen intolerable.
“I have to clean up before we go on,” Petunia announced.
“I’m not asking you to help, Harry. You can stay seated, or poof off for the next half-hour, I don’t care. This space is getting put to rights first.” She walked over to the rubbish bin and removed the liner, smashing down the empty boxes on top in order to make tying it off easier.
She jumped; Harry was standing to her right, holding out a new liner. (Evidence of her set ways, she supposed—he knew where she kept the cleaning supplies years after leaving her home.) Petunia took it from him. “Thank you,” she replied, before thrusting the used liner at him. “Trade with me; the big bin is out that door, in a new white-picket enclosure off to the left. No lock, just press the lever.” As he took out the bulging and slightly ripe-smelling sack, she snapped open the new one and inserted it in the kitchen bin. When he returned moments later, Petunia handed him another liner. “If you’re going to stay, start chucking all the empty containers and other bits of trash into this.”
For five minutes, they worked silently, clearing the counters and scrubbing stains off. Petunia was filling the sink with hot soapy water to properly clean the dishes when Harry interrupted her delightful moment of not-thinking.
“What were their favorite card games?” He asked, standing by the drain and holding a large dish towel in his hands.
“Pardon?” It was like waking in a daze: she heard and knew all the words he spoke, but it took a moment to process them. Once she caught up, Petunia heaved a put-upon sigh.
“I’ll dry and put away your dishes, but I’m not working for free,” Harry asserted patiently. “Tell me more about them.”
‘And I told you that you didn’t have to work at all,’ Petunia was tempted to remind him. On the other hand, he was saving her a few steps… Pulling on her rubber gloves, she grabbed a sponge and a bowl and began washing. “Mum and Dad didn’t have favorite card games, per se. It depended on who they were playing against. For instance, when Lil and I were small, they played memory card games with us, and when we got a little older, Old Maid and Happy Families.” Rinsing the bowl, she put it in the drain and worked on her next dish. “With their grown-up friends, they’d play whist or cribbage. Sometimes at the weekend, they’d play those games late into the night, when me and Lil were lying in bed.” She closed her eyes briefly and could hear her dad’s deep chuckle mingle with the sounds of unintelligible conversation and the cheerful blare of her mum’s pop records through the floor of her upper-level bedroom.
Harry dried the dishes as they came, stacking them on the counter according to type. “Favorite books?”
“Dad loved poetry, and he read everything from Shakespeare’s sonnets to Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. His favorite novel was Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling. Mum’s favorite book was The Bible. She was particularly fond of Psalms, Proverbs, and the Gospel According to John.”
“Was she devout, then?”
Petunia didn’t want to address this issue. It was another headache in the making, not to mention quite dreary. Carefully, she replied, “Yes… and no. Her relationship with religion was complicated. She believed in God, but the rest of it was a bit greyer. Dad himself was agnostic,” she offered.
Thankfully, this seemed to satisfy her nephew, or at least he let it be, opting to shelve the dishes he’d dried instead of pursuing the matter. “Favorite sports?”
She gave a soft snicker. “None for Mum. Well, all right, she occasionally watched ice dancing and gymnastics on the telly, but she wasn’t an aficionado. She just never cared for that sort of thing. She wasn’t even that big into exercise.” Setting the washed utensils in the drain basket, Petunia unplugged the sink and removed her gloves. “Would you fetch the broom and dustpan, please?” When Harry returned with the asked-for items, Petunia took them and said, “If you’d tackle the hob, I’d appreciate it.” He shot her a wry look but went to pull out a rag and some cleaning spray.
Petunia resumed her story as she swept. “Mum’s idea of a good workout was scouring the house in the morning, chasing after me and Lil in the afternoon, and working on a quilt in the evening! She was old-school—preferred sewing entirely by hand.
“Dad, however, was big into sports and fitness. He loved watching football, cricket, rugby, and tennis, and he could play all of them with varying degrees of competence. Not professional-level good, mind, but he was fast and accurate. His workmates at the paper mill called him Cracker-Jack and were always pestering him to play on their sports teams.”
“What did he like the best?” From her angle, she could see Harry spritzing the backsplash and wiping off the tiles.
“Running,” she replied without hesitation. “Dad had fun with the other stuff but running was for his own pleasure. He ran a lot of 5K races in the surrounding areas, and in 1974 he qualified for the London Marathon. Only marathon he got to run. Finished in just under four hours. That’s a good time for a beginner. A very good time. One of the best,” Petunia drawled, earning a surprised laugh from her nephew. She laughed, too. “Yeah, Dad was modest in a lot of ways, but he bragged about that accomplishment for years! When he had knee surgery in ’77, ohhh, Mum nearly killed him. He couldn’t run for six months, and he made misery of it until his surgeon gave him the go-ahead to resume.” Sweeping the detritus into the dustpan, she added, “Mum was with Dad at that appointment. She told me that she planted a big buss on Mr. Dowling’s mouth and decreed that he had saved her marriage!”
“That bad, huh?”
“I’m sure he was worse,” Petunia declared firmly. “I was out of the house by then, but I still remember the two times Dad was poorly when I lived there, once with pneumonia and the other with bronchitis. He was whingy, grumpy, and sullen, and he wanted everyone to feel as lousy as he.”
Harry whistled. “Yikes.”
“Yup. Most fortunate that he was a hearty sort. Dad was sunshine almost all other times.” Emptying the dustpan into the rubbish bin, she surveyed the kitchen. Was it spit-and-polish glowing? No. Was it tidy enough to satisfy the neatnik in her? Yes, it was, she decided. Harry approached her and held out his hands for the broom and dustpan. “Thank you for helping,” she said quietly, looking up at him, as she surrendered the implements.
His brows lifted just a fraction, the faintest hint of startlement. “You’re welcome.” This time, he meant it.
Nodding, she returned to the table, stared down at her teacup, lips twisting. Experimentally, she took a sip of the tea. Aside from being cooler than she liked, the honey and milk combination in her Earl Grey tasted pleasant this time, and she took a deeper swallow. Randomly, Petunia thought of the book she’d started reading called Cross Stitch, about a post-war woman who touched a stone circle and fell two-hundred years into the past. Where was her stone circle?! Of course, she’d take the dashing Highlander and all his Highlander sex, too, but evasion—that was her goal. What was a little smallpox compared to this task?
Harry rejoined her, and once again they sat facing each other. “Anything else?” she asked, fighting the urge to fidget. The heat generated from moving about was slowly leeching from her body, and she hugged her elbows in an effort to retain the warmth.
Her nephew seemed to consider the question before he said, “My dad rang your folks, and your folks rang you. What happened after that?”
Back on track, then. (And part of her shrank and skittered off, angry at her weakness in turning to drink, terrified of the fallout looming closer. This boy did matter, and how aggravating the realization.)
Her heartbeat ratcheted up a notch. “The following morning, I hadn’t heard from Mum and Dad, and that was unusual. Whenever they traveled long distances, Mum always let me—and presumably Lily—know when they’d reached their destination. I started worrying. Vernon was shockingly practical about the whole thing. ‘With this rotten weather, they probably stopped at a lodge for the night. Phone lines are down in several areas. Maybe they can’t place a call,’ he said. It made sense, and I was knackered from another night of Dudley fussy with colic, so I did things to distract myself. I hoovered the carpet, made the beds, dusted the sitting room, and washed some laundry…”
“What was Vernon doing?”
Petunia tilted her head, a crooked smile forming on her mouth. “He was working, Harry, same as he did every weekday. You were born on a Thursday. Men don’t get paid leave to help with the babies, and in those days, Vernon was on a salesman’s wage, not a director’s salary. We needed every penny he could earn.” She gave a snort of derision and waved her hand as if she could physically swat away remembered irritation. “It’s not like he was ever hands-on, anyway. Vernon never changed Dudley’s nappies, or bathed him, or rocked him to sleep, and he envied the attention his son received.” Easier to have just one child to contend with for eight hours a day than two, for sure.
“When did you start to think something was truly wrong?” Harry asked.
The muscles in her neck and shoulders knotted painfully. “Not think, knew. I knew something was truly wrong when James rang me that evening.” Her eyes and throat burned. “It was the only conversation we had that didn’t end in name-calling.”
She always remembered the beginning of the call with clarity:
Petunia was twenty years old, a wriggling baby propped on her hip. She was vexed at her husband’s refusal to hold their son—again—while she answered the phone in the kitchen. “Dursley residence,” she said tersely, longing to brain Vernon with the receiver she balanced between her ear and shoulder.
Petunia yelped, causing Dudley to squeak in turn. She scowled at the familiar voice on the other end. “For heaven’s sake, James, you’ve deafened me! Just talk like a normal person… if you can,” she muttered under her breath.
“Is this better?” her brother-in-law asked, adjusting his volume accordingly. His tone was scrupulously polite, which meant that Lily was nearby.
“Yes.” After a pause, where Petunia reminded herself that she loved (not liked, but loved) her sister and manners were a thing, she asked, “How is Lil? Did she have the baby? Are… they both all right?”
His voice was like hearing a rainbow. “She is fantastic, and she did, and they are! We’ve named him Harry. Strapping little lad, half a stone and nineteen inches long.”
“Oh, well, that’s wonderful!” Petunia exclaimed, sniffling as her out-of-whack hormones made her tear up. (That’s all it was, surely.) “I bet Mum and Dad are thrilled to bits, too!”
Silence met her statement. Then, ever so softly, James said, “About that…”