Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ A Domestic ❯ Something Tangible ( Chapter 8 )
“You made that vase?”
That was not the response she’d expected. Petunia’s eyes widened with shock. “You know about the vase? How?”
“Yeah. Sirius—my godfather—showed me a thank-you note he’d received from my mum, and she referenced it.”
There was something in the neutrality of his statement that made her unhappy, but Petunia decided not to press for more details. “Anyhow, I’m getting a few steps ahead of myself. Hours after your mum’s visit ended, Vernon arrived home from work. He was fit to be tied, white as snow yet practically steaming from the ears. He threw his briefcase on the kitchen table—just bam!—to snap it open. When he did, I saw about a dozen phials filled with purple- and peach-colored liquids.
“Vernon huffed and puffed, reminding me of the wolf trying to blow down the pig’s brick house, until he finally bellowed, ‘That freak who your sister wed accosted me in the car park and ordered me to bring these home for you!’”
Harry perked up at this information, his black hair (to her fancy) standing erect like dog ears. “My dad talked to him?”
Petunia bit her lip hard. “Em, not exactly,” she hedged. “Apparently it was more that James flew circles ‘round Vernon whilst riding his broom, poking my husband with a wand, and threatening that if he didn’t comply, he’d turn him into a pile of horse—”
“I get the picture,” Harry assured her, snorting a little from suppressed mirth, she was sure. “Oh, to have a time-turner so I could witness that for myself!” He exclaimed softly, shaking his head. (Petunia privately agreed, and then wondered why most things magical weren’t so self-explanatory.) As quickly as it came, she could see the amusement fizzle out of his eyes when he asked, “What were in the phials, Aunt?”
She wilted under that heavy gaze. “More than anyone else, I know you know the answer to that question.”
“Yes,” he replied amiably, expression unyielding, “but I want to hear you say it.”
He wasn’t acting cruelly, even if it felt so. Death by a thousand tiny admissions of sin. Petunia’s sin. She looked away from her nephew, hollowed by shame. “Appetite boosters and sleeping draughts. Lily must have brewed them straight away upon returning to Godric’s Hollow.” Her voice wobbled as distress took an ice pick to her brain. ‘Oh, Sis, the sorrows I heaped upon your shoulders, and you still cared for me…’ “Lil even wrote out instructions for how to use them properly. James had informed Vernon that he’d pop over in two days’ time, and if I wasn’t eating or zonked when he did, he would follow through on his aforementioned promise.”
“I have heard that Dad could be most persuasive when the situation called for it,” Harry commented.
“Indeed,” she said dryly. “He was effective, though I honestly can’t tell you if James knocked us up or not.” Vernon would never tell her, and after a while she gave up asking, though this bit of information was irrelevant. “I used an appetite booster to eat—well, more like slaughter—supper that evening, and then took a sleeping draught after I laid Dudders down. I thought it’d just put me out for a few hours, or maybe the night. When I woke up and wandered downstairs, to my surprise, Mrs. Figg was giving Dudley a bottle. She looked near to tears and told me that I’d slept for four days. I was in disbelief, but it was the best sleep I’d had in a long while. Dreamless, no dead bodies or unending imaginings of what Mum and Dad did in their final moments.”
“The sleeping draught does provide the rest its user needs.”
That gave her pause. “How often do you take it?” Petunia inquired before she could stop herself.
Harry rolled his neck, then his shoulders. “More than I’d like, but it’s better than the alternative.” He looked distant. “I had a horrible fifth year at Hogwarts, and I frequently lashed out at the people I cared for. Not for anything they’d done, but they were there, and it was convenient. I think my sleeplessness made it much worse.” He took his glasses off to clean the lenses with his shirt. “I became reckless and… and a good friend of mine could have died due to my poor decisions.”
“I’m sorry.” It came out as barely more than a breath, and Petunia wasn’t sure what all the apology covered. They’d received a detailed letter about Harry’s trauma following his participation in some sort of tournament during fourth year. Instead of giving her nephew a hug or taking him to see a psychologist, she’d basically waited out his time in her home with gritted teeth. Lie back and think of England, yeah? She knew he would be gone in a fortnight and then the ginger-haired wizard family could handle him.
Even after he’d rescued Dudley from those hideous creatures, she’d felt little gratitude and loads of trepidation. The letter regarding her sister’s demise had flashed before her mind’s eye. Death by magic, death because she was magic. Petunia could see the past catching up to her present, to Lily’s son with his scarred forehead and cold secrets, and she’d wanted none of it—none of Harry, if his presence invited trouble to her neighborhood. Did she ever consider him in those moments, his apprehension? Of course not.
Suspecting that his sparse description scarcely covered a fraction of what he’d endured through fifth year and beyond made her queasy. And he was a good lad, and it was no thanks to her.
Her nephew gave a laconic shrug, his only acknowledgement that she’d spoken. “How many phials of the potions did you use?”
“All of them,” Petunia answered. “Not every day, and certainly not full doses after that first time. However, I gradually regained my weight, and I could sleep through the night again. Well, when Dudders wasn’t fussing, that is.” She bowed her head, staring sightlessly at her lap. “Lil saved my sanity and my health, yet I couldn’t bring myself to express remorse for the evil things I said to her.” Drumming her fingers against her thighs, she asked rhetorically, “How could I take back something like that? How could she believe me?”
There was a weighted pause, and then, “So, your solution was to make my mum a vase?”
Normally, she would have bristled at his tone (so full of censure it was), but she hadn’t the energy. “I know how pitiable it sounds, and I suppose it was, but there was underlying meaning to the gift.”
Belatedly, Petunia realized that she was going to reveal a bit more about herself than she’d intended, and it sat all wrong. Was this how it worked? Was there nothing she could keep private? Surely not! She looked up at her nephew, gave a tiny smile. “Harry, Harry, do you really have all night? Look at the hour!” She gestured at the darkening room before twisting around and turning on the floor lamp behind the sofa.
The lad was all earnestness, blast him. “I think I do,” he responded with a nod. “It’s now or not at all. That is what you told me earlier today, correct?”
Petunia made a noise of exasperation and flung her hands up. “Oh, please. I was drunk and melodramatic!”
“And now you’re just melodramatic.”
“My, aren’t you clever,” she retorted, sticking her tongue out childishly. “Look, shouldn’t you go home to your fiancée?”
“I already did,” he pointed out coolly. “Ginny agreed with me that it was best to table this discussion and be done with it. If you’re hungry, I’ll cook up something and we can share a meal. If you’re tired, I brought along a package of Weasley’s Wondrous Stimulant Sticks for pep. But I’m not leaving until I’m satisfied we’ve covered all the particulars.”
Petunia was going to object to food, but right as she opened her mouth to say as much, her stomach gurgled noisily. “Well, I guess I’m not averse to some supper,” she said weakly, her face growing hot with embarrassment. Standing up, she once again grabbed several of the empty wine bottles off of the coffee table. “Would you pick up that sack, please? And maybe grab the last two empties for me?” Harry grunted softly and did as she asked.
After they’d placed the trash in their correct bins, Petunia opened the fridge to peruse its contents. Her eyes landed on a quart of cream, a bottle of spicy mustard, and half a block of cheddar cheese. “Is there any tomato soup and bread in the cupboard?”
“Uh, yeah, both here.”
“How about some blushing bunny, then?”
“Sounds good,” Harry replied, and they assembled the ingredients on the counter.
Pulling out some pots for the sauce and the soup, and a baking tray for toasting the bread, Petunia hummed “Strawberry Fields Forever” by The Beatles. Yes, she thought, this day had been surreal, and she couldn’t reconcile it, but nothing to get hung about. Right? ‘Maybe it won’t be too bad in the end.’
“Was my mum’s owl a snowy owl, like Hedwig?” Harry’s back was to her as he grated the cheddar.
“Random,” she mused, divvying the tin of soup between the two pots. “What made you think of that?”
“Dunno, really. You’ve never said before.” He added the cheese to the pot on the left burner.
She poured the cream over the cheese, added a squeeze of mustard. “You never thought to ask before, and no. Lily told me that Heather was a great grey owl, imported from Norway. Here, fill the tin halfway with water.”
Harry took the tin from her, his face drawn in a scowl. “My mum named her owl Heather.”
Petunia nodded, a little confused at his reaction. “Yes, because ‘Heather’ rhymes with ‘feather,’ and heather can describe a shade of grey, and great grey owls have a lot of feathers.” When Lily explained her reasoning for the name, it made perfect sense to her.
“But… Heather? Why not Lady Jane or Ashley or anything else pertaining to grey?” Harry sounded almost offended as he handed back the tin.
Stirring in the water to the pot on the right burner, she asked, “Where is this fixation coming from? Heather is a pretty name!”
He scratched his head, and said slowly, “Guilt by association, I reckon. I had three Heathers in my classroom during my last year at St Grogory’s: Heather Ambrose, Heather Louis, and Heather Muhlberger. The first had a crush on Piers Polkiss, which told me everything I needed to know about her; the second was nice enough, but she stank of her dad’s cigarettes and ate paste; and the third kept a running commentary on my appearance.”
Petunia cringed. Yet one more thing she was accountable for. “Girls can be visual.”
“Hmm. She also made up a singsong rhyme that other kids liked to parrot, it went something like, ‘Harry’s very small like a little prairie dog and wary of blackberry jam eaten on a ferry by scary Carrie.’”
“That was… kind of catchy,” Petunia reluctantly confessed, keeping her eyes on the bubbling cheese-and-tomato sauce, reducing the heat to simmer.
“You’re not the only one to think so. Year 4 and 5 girls caught wind of the tune and began skipping rope to it at playtime. Poor Carrie Hooper. She was blind in one eye, which is why Muhlberger labeled her ‘scary’ in the rhyme. She was so distressed by the whole thing that her parents transferred her to another school.” He fell quiet for a moment, opened the bag of bread. “Carrie was the closest I ever came to having a friend. She shared a few blocks of her Dairy Milk bar with me at lunch one time. Muhlberger took exception and that’s why she drove her away. So, no, I’m not very fond of the name Heather,” he finished lamely. Laying slices of pumpernickel bread on the baking sheet, Harry muttered, “Maybe if I’d known Mum’s owl.”
She stared at his profile, a sinking sensation in her gut. “Did you ever have a good time at primary school?” This was a question she should have asked when Harry attended primary school (along with literally any other inquiry that demonstrated concern), but alas.
“No.” His answer held the smack of concrete. “If Dudley and his gang weren’t bullying me for breathing, I was teased by my classmates for other reasons. Plus, I regularly got into trouble with the adults at St Grogory’s since I had no idea I was magical or how to control my talents. I had no one.” He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “Hogwarts wasn’t easy, but Dumbledore and my mates helped me through the bad times, and we enjoyed plenty of good times, too.”
Unlike at her home, under her dubious care. She broke eye contact first. It was so she could turn on the broiler and toast the bread, she lied to herself, not daring to look at him.
Petunia walked over to the dish cabinet to take down plates, bowls, and glasses. “Em, what would you like to drink with supper? Tea, milk, fizzy drink?” Some wine, perhaps?
“Any orange squash mixed up?”
“We have,” she confirmed, as Harry removed the baking tray from the oven. “Turn off the elements on the hob, too, please. The soup and sauce should be ready to go.” As Harry began dishing up the food, Petunia retrieved the pitcher of squash and poured the drink into their glasses with the intensity of a bomb squad agent disabling a fuse. He’d figured her out, and she was only deferring, not stopping—
“What, are you counting the individual drops of liquid?” Her nephew’s voice held a note of amusement.
“I might have done, but that’s all ruined now,” she fired back.
He gave a short bark of laughter. “Forgive me for interrupting.”
Rolling her eyes, Petunia carried the glasses to the table, then went to fetch some serviettes from a drawer. “I saw the soup spoons, but did you get out forks and knives?”
“No. I prefer to live dangerously and just eat the saucy toast with my hands.”
“Heathen,” she accused with a tsk, before deciding to make do. Laying the serviettes on the table, she took a seat next to her nephew, and reflected that they’d sat next to each other more in this one day than they’d done whilst living under the same roof. Petunia wondered if she’d run the gamut of adjectives for the word “guilt” yet. This young man didn’t need or want her guilt, though. He sought answers, and more were coming soon enough, but she could never provide the right words to make sense of her treatment of him. Stiffening her spine, she raised her glass and said, “Cheers.”
For just a moment, Harry looked as if he might refuse, but then he clinked his glass to hers and repeated the sentiment. They ate their blushing bunny in silence, with even the chewing and slurping taking on a muted quality. It was so normal that she wanted to crawl out of her body and hide. All the years they could have sat together as a family unit, gone. Her fault. Vernon would have caved to her demands, she knew. Wouldn’t have liked it, but he capitulated when it mattered, and Harry should have mattered.
Okay, this was not helpful. Pulling herself apart for the past didn’t rearrange the present. Her eyes strayed from her plate and landed on the box and the photo album, still lying on the table, and a thought occurred to her.
“Dad loved the woods.”
“What?” Harry mumbled around a mouthful of cheesy toast, looking startled.
Petunia shrugged. “You’d asked earlier. Dad loved the woods. Nature in general, really, but he adored trees. When he ran trails, he would often take a pocket-sized sketchbook with him and draw the more interesting trees he saw afterward.” She gestured to the box. “I kept two of his sketchbooks. His technique was minimal, unfussy, but he captured the outlines very well, and he notated the date and location on every sketch. Years ago, I attempted a walking tour based on one of the sketchbooks. I stopped eleven pages in. The cedar he’d dubbed ‘Big Red’ had been cut down due to rot. I hated the idea of encountering another stump where a twisty oak or regal elm once stood. It was like losing another piece of him…” She took a large bite of pumpernickel toast, thoroughly masticating the morsel, and then washed it down with squash.
It gave her just enough time to recover her composure. She continued.
“Dad did his best to instill the love of nature in his children. During the summer holiday when we were in primary school, he’d take me and Lil camping at Woodside Country Park. It was a popular attraction for families given the beauty of the area and the amenities available. While Lil and I were fascinated by the bunkhouses and little log cabins, Dad insisted on pitching a tent and using sleeping bags. It wasn’t so bad, being outdoors. At night we’d fall asleep to the susurrus of leaves and insects, and in the morning we’d wake up to the smell of bacon and eggs cooked over a fire. For one week, Lil and I would explore the forest, pick wild berries, swim in the ponds, and pretend to be fairy princesses—sometimes highwaymen or pirates, especially when there were more boys than girls around.”
“You, a pirate?” Was that doubt or mocking in his voice?
“Arrgh, matey, don’ go an’ cross the Dread Pirate Tuni, lest ye be made to walk the plank,” she growled, baring her teeth as she squinched her right eye shut and brandished her spoon at him.
Her nephew’s face was comical. “Tuni? What about Nia?”
“Oh, no. I never let anyone except Mum, Dad, and Lil call me that.” Harry looked thoughtful at this admission. “I was good at being mercenary,” she added (unnecessarily, her inner voice heckled, for he already knew this). “I got the drop on Greg Gherkins when he tried to raid my candy stash one year. The nerve of him, breaking into my backpack! Came away with his prized 1969 Lotus Europa Matchbox car for the trouble.” And a stolen buss, but no need to mention that.
Harry whistled. “Impressive.”
“Yeah, well, it was, until Lily tattled to Dad, and I had to give it back.”
“Curses!” She curled her lip at him, and he snorted, hard. “So, I take it Nana wasn’t as enamored of the outdoors?”
“Well, she loved gardening, but no. She was done with wildlife after her accident. Mum was firmly a city-dweller. More than that, she was a homebody. Nothing suited her half as much as growing plants, reading books, baking biscuits, and doing needle-crafting. She was a phenomenal seamstress and knitter. She made a lot of Lil’s and my clothing growing up, and throughout the year she donated handmade blankets, jumpers, hats, and mittens for needy ch-children…” She stuttered when Harry’s eyes became suspiciously damp, but he waved her away. “Em, Mum did have a bit of a competitive streak when it came to her tomatoes and quilts. Only time I ever heard her described as ruthless, but she never cheated. Her goods were just that good, and she was rewarded accordingly. Every time she entered a contest, she ribboned. Not always first place, mind, but she never left empty-handed.”
Harry crunched his cheesy toast, took a slurp of soup. “Did my mum like to run, or sing, or knit?”
Ah, and here, he inadvertently put the story back on course. “Lily was a decent swimmer, and she could hold a chin-up for forty-nine seconds, but she wasn’t terribly interested in sports. Lil did take tap-dancing lessons for three years if that counts. Mum was, em, invited to remove Lily from the dance studio after she somehow turned all of the boys’ recital costumes pink.”
Her nephew coughed behind his hand. “Oh, dear.”
“Just so,” she grinned. “Lily did like to sing. She could carry a tune and had a sweet voice, but she didn’t have a lot of projection. I often overpowered her when we sang duets, and I’m not a robust singer. As for knitting, well, that’s an activity that takes a lot of practice in order to create something pleasing. Your mum wanted to be an expert from the jump, and if she wasn’t, it frustrated her. Lily was a brilliant child but a little unfocused.”
“Not a knitter, then. What about you?”
“Me?” Petunia asked, bemused. Harry’s forehead wrinkled as he stared at her silently. “I was not brilliant, but I did have patience,” she replied, smiling faintly. “I learned early on that I was no match for Lily’s vivaciousness. Therefore, I sank myself into the hobbies that Mum and Dad loved, because I knew they would give me attention when I asked for help. In fact, that’s why I made Lily a rag doll for her sixth birthday.” Petunia remembered the months of planning and work it had taken to complete the project, from purchasing the pattern, fabrics, and notions, to cutting and pinning the materials, to meticulously stuffing and assembling each piece of the doll. She’d even made three removable outfits and a little purse, all while under Rosie’s fond, watchful eye (the best part of the whole process).
“Did my mum like it?”
“She did,” Petunia asserted, the sour taste of antipathy on her tongue. “She liked it so much that she whispered to the doll, and it started dancing on its own. It was the first magic Lily deliberately performed.” She’d made the doll with love, and it had been her achievement, but that disappeared when the cloth creature floated and swayed above their parents’ dining table. Suddenly it was all Lily’s clever feat. ‘Oh, come, be fair,’ she chided herself. In a low voice, she said aloud, “I know Lily wanted to entertain me as a thank-you for the gift, and I wish I had accepted it in the spirit she’d intended. Instead, I felt even more invisible to our parents. My little sister had set another standard I’d never measure up to.” She saw the consternation in her nephew’s eyes and held his gaze, allowing him to see her turmoil.
There was a gradual shift in his expression, a softening, almost. “Was there anything you, uh, beat my mum at?” Harry grimaced. “That’s poor phrasing.”
“I know what you meant, and yes. Art. Drawing and painting mostly, but I enjoyed ceramics, too. Lil just didn’t have a knack for it, no matter how hard she tried. Again, I think it was due to her personality, but some people are less adept at art than others. I considered it only fair since she was so quick in maths and science, and I barely grasped either subject.” Polishing off the last bit of her cheesy toast and soup, Petunia pushed the dishes aside and leaned her elbows on the table.
“When I was ten, I woke up one morning to Lily wailing on the floor beside my bed. She’d tried to trace one of my drawings onto a fresh sheet of paper, presumably so she could color it in.” It was an elaborate sketch, too, featuring multiple creatures—human and animal alike—frolicking in a meadow. “The pen she was using snapped and leaked ink everywhere, destroying my artwork.” It also left a permanent black stain on the little rainbow rug she’d hooked two months prior. Acrylic wool was no match for India ink. Lily never tried to magic away the damage, and her parents later declared that it added character to the rug. Rubbish.
Harry swallowed down the last of his squash, then rose, collected all the dishes, and took them to the sink. “Bet you weren’t too keen on that,” he posited, returning to the table.
“’Course not. Lily invaded my privacy and ruined something I’d spent hours creating.” Sighing wearily, Petunia rubbed at the tension in her temples. “Siblings are complicated, Harry. I was angry, but Lily was so distraught that I hadn’t the heart to scold her. What I did do was pull out a fresh drawing pad and some colored pencils, and I sketched a unicorn. I had this vague plan rolling ‘round my head…”
“That’s a unicorn?” Lily looked at the short, bloated creature with great skepticism. Her cheeks were still splotchy from her crying fit, but Petunia noticed that the tears had stopped falling. “It looks like a horned pig with too much hair. Maybe you need more practice!”
Petunia sniffed, tapping her pencil to the page. “Dunderhead. I made it ugly on purpose.” This statement was true; however, her sister was also correct. She was a little shaky on rendering horses and their mythical counterparts.
Lily looked confused. “Why would you do that?”
“Because you’re going to make it pretty with your magic tricks,” Petunia replied lightly, her stomach fluttering with nerves. Sure, she was jealous of the attention Lily’s hocus-pocus earned, but she was also a little uneasy around it. “You know how you talked to your cursive practice sheets and the letters peeled off the page and drifted up to the ceiling in your room?”
“Yeah,” Lily replied, looking at her attentively.
“Well, I want you to talk to the unicorn. First, make it come off the page, and then change its shape.”
“I don’t know if I can…” her sister said, touching the image with tentative ink-stained fingers.
Petunia scoffed. “We both know you can make it move!”
“No. I mean make it pretty. Some things can’t be fixed.” There was an obnoxious gleam in Lily’s eyes.
“Brat.” Gently ribbing her younger sister, she cajoled, “At least give it a try.”
Staring at the unicorn, Lily whispered to the page. Slowly, the image of the creature began separating from the paper. “Yes, that’s right,” she cooed. Lily continued to mumble words under her breath, and soon the image was hovering in midair. Petunia watched as the lines of the “horned pig” metamorphosed under her sister’s direction, becoming elongated, more elegant and equine, until a majestic sparkling unicorn galloped around in the air before them.
Petunia clapped, delighted at the display. “Blinding! See? I knew you could do it!”
Lily beamed for a moment before a shadow crossed her face. “But I can’t draw it on paper, Nia, not like you,” she said mournfully, swiping her hand at the prancing animal and dispersing the magic.
“You’re not seeing the woods for the trees, Lil. This is ace! You turned this ridiculous drawing into a masterpiece. It’s impressive.” For once, she was all sincerity, unhindered by envy or apprehension.
“Y-you really think so?” Lily’s ears flushed bright, as they usually did when she was shyly pleased.
“I do,” Petunia said firmly. Magnanimously, she offered, “I will make all the ugly drawings you want so you can keep improving your technique.”
“Golly, Nia, thank you!” Lily threw her arms around her with such force that both girls toppled over, dissolving into a fit of giggles. If Petunia angled her sister so that Lily’s pyjama bottoms soaked up some of the ink puddle, that was entirely coincidental.
“It became our favorite pastime. Sometimes Lil would animate the drawings exactly as I made them, and other times she’d improve upon the designs. We started creating stories for the characters, and I painted backgrounds—castles, forests, ocean floors—that she’d project behind the figures… Mum called it our ‘Magical Marionette Hour.’ It was a lovely collaboration.”
“And it stopped once she went off to Hogwarts.” Her nephew’s face was opaque. Petunia was glad for that.
“Oh, not immediately. Lily indulged me during her first Christmas back home. Received a few warning letters for it, nothing severe, although I swear Heather hooted judgmentally at us. When Lily returned for the summer holiday, however, everything was different. She was serious and told me that magic wasn’t some child’s toy to throw about at a whim.”
Petunia had been blindsided by this new rigidity in Lily’s attitude. In their time apart, she had feverishly drawn dozens of pages of people, creatures, and scenery, and written several storylines, expecting they would put on a spectacular play for their parents as they had done mere months ago. It was all for nothing. “I—it didn’t make sense to me. Lily had been footloose with her talents for years, and after one full school term she obeyed these seemingly arbitrary regulations.” In a fit of hurt and anger, Petunia had ripped up the artwork she’d labored over and tossed the scraps in Lily’s face before slamming her bedroom door shut.
Harry’s face was harsh. “You know better now.”
“Hindsight doesn’t change my ignorance of magic’s dangers when I was thirteen!” she snapped. “Lily shut me out, too. I didn’t learn of things like exploding cauldrons and maimed children until much later, and it was Mum who filled me in, not my sister.”
Pulling the photo album close, she flipped through pages until she was near the back cover. “Here.” She turned the album toward Harry and pointed to the bottom corner of the right page. The photo was one of the rare color images. Lily and Petunia were turned toward the camera, goofy smiles wide on their mouths. Petunia was holding a sketchpad with the charcoal outlines of a little winged bunny, and Lily was pointing to its fuzzy, violet-eyed counterpart suspended in midair.
“Wow. Mum was good at that, wasn’t she?” Her nephew murmured.
“She really was. Lil had a knack for breathing life into my ‘ugly drawings.’ To this day, I miss our plays.” Petunia’s vision blurred again. “After I h-hurt her, and she helped me anyway, my thoughts kept returning to our beloved childhood activity. I wanted to do something for her that expressed my affection and regret, something tangible, that Lily could see and feel. That’s when I arrived at the concept of an ‘ugly vase.’”