Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ Of Jealousies and Imperfections ❯ One-Shot
"You were jealous of my mum," Harry said, in a bland tone one would use to talk about the weather.
The teacup rattled in Petunia's grasp, its contents threatening to splash over the rim. Setting the china aside on the end table, she took a breath—shallow, like the care she showed her nephew—and looked into his eyes, her sister's eyes; that perfect green. How strange he seemed, quite different from the skinny child who cowered in the cupboard or the angry teen who bared his teeth. 'Yet he protected us,' she thought, 'when he could've left us to fend for ourselves, as we might've done him.'
"Yes," she replied. No point in dodging. She was knackered from a day of cleaning and he was full of a dead man's memories.
Petunia pressed her mouth into a thin line. She'd agreed to this, could hardly tell Harry to bugger off for wanting answers (the boy who lived and lived again), even though she felt so small. "Why wouldn't I be?" she asked him, shrugging, as old resentments stirred beneath her ribs. "Lily was perfect."
Harry frowned, running a hand through his messy black hair. "Nobody's perfect," he told her flatly. "Not even Lily."
This startled Petunia. "Was, too," she blurted childishly, gripping the armrests of her chair and feeling wonky. What conversation were they having here? "She was pretty, and brainy, and talented, a-and…" 'And I wanted to be her,' she almost said, but couldn't quite push the words out. Honesty was one thing, but pride was another. Lily, whom their parents adored, had all the magic (literally). Wasn't that enough? What more did he need to suss out?
Her nephew sighed, and rose from the couch to look out the windows of the sitting room. It was raining; she could see the storm clouds reflected in his glasses. "Aunt," he began (and it struck her how rarely he used that honorific), "I have very few memories of my mum. Most of the people who knew her, really knew her, are dead." He went quiet, looking a little lost as he unconsciously rubbed the scar on his forehead.
"I'm not sure what you want from me," Petunia admitted. Didn't most children like to know how brilliant their parents were? And he had to know—Lily was a bleeding prefect!
"Nobody's perfect," Harry repeated. Something in his voice… "My dad wasn't. He became a good man, but he was a terrible boy. He was a bully and an arse, and he barely made it through school." Petunia saw the way his shoulders drooped slightly, the twist in his lips, and realized—though he'd never tell her—that this discovery gutted him.
Fine, fine, fine; she could help him out, here, lay his worries to rest.
"Well, Lily wasn't a terrible girl," she said firmly, whilst her stomach burned. "She wasn't me."
He blinked at her. She blinked back. 'That… wasn't what I'd meant to say.' An uncomfortable silence settled over them. Before Petunia could attempt to backtrack, or Harry could attempt to (poorly) deny her claim, Vernon burst through the front door.
"What're you doing here?" he snarled at Harry, holding his brolly like a weapon as his face grew alarmingly red.
Petunia could see her nephew's fingers twitching, and remembered that he was legal to practice magic. She wondered where he kept his wand, and if he'd charm a pigtail onto her husband. 'Best not to find out,' she decided, and rose from her chair to greet Vernon. "I invited Harry over for a little chat, darling," she soothed, laying a thin hand on his raised arm.
So what if he'd actually appeared in their fireplace when she was dusting the mantle and she'd flailed her arms and broken the keepsake plate from their visit to Buckingham Palace? Petunia wasn't in the mood for a row. She fixated on the rainwater dripping onto her new hardwood floor, instead, and didn't catch the shocked looks both men gave her.
"Dearest?" Vernon choked, as the color drained from his cheeks.
"Do me a favor, please, and fetch some towels?" she asked, grimacing. "The moisture will warp the boards if we leave it."
Too stunned to protest, Vernon dumped his brolly in the umbrella stand at the foyer, and then headed for the kitchen.
"Aunt," Harry said softly.
"James… James was stroppy with me, but I called him a freak whenever he and Lily visited," she murmured, continuing to stare at the floor. The water droplets rippled with Vernon's approaching footsteps. "I didn't want to know him, never bothered, but Mum and Dad said he was pleasant, albeit odd." Her tongue felt thick in her mouth. "People can be complete duffers, Harry. The good ones try to change, though, don't they?"
Vernon handed her some old tea towels, which she accepted with a smile. "Now, would you please go strip the bedding, so I can put on a load of wash after I finish with my nephew?" Petunia asked sweetly. Her husband glowered, but obediently trudged up the stairs, only looking over his shoulder once.
As she knelt down to blot up the water on the floor, Petunia said, "If you must know, Lily hated spiders."
"Spiders," Harry echoed blankly.
"Yes. She killed a lot of them when we were children, but it made her cry. She also called the last letter of the alphabet 'zee' because of a septic boy she met in primary school. One time, Lily stole my packet of Jelly Tots. No, twice; she had a massive sweet tooth. Oh, and when I told her fairies didn't exist (always prattling on as if they did), she stuck chewing gum in my hair. A great gob of it; our mum had to cut my hair above my shoulders." That memory still hurt, little needles pricking her scalp. Petunia had prided herself on her long, shining hair, and then her sister took it away. She never bothered growing it out again.
Rising from the floor, Petunia finally ventured to look at Harry.
He seemed bemused. "That's it?" he asked, with a note of disbelief.
"For now," she told him, holding his gaze. He stood fairly close, and the nerves in her neck pinched from looking up at him. His lanky frame annoyed her. Frowning, she added, "You could give me some warning next time, so I don't hurl a candlestick through the window."
It was as close to a proper invitation as Petunia could muster. They stared silently at each other a long time, ignoring the stomp-stomp-stomp of a sulking Vernon above.
"Okay," Harry agreed, nodding.
She nodded back, and tried to ignore the beginnings of a headache creeping its way across her temples. This would cause her trouble, with her husband if not her son, Petunia was sure of it, but she owed him this much.
Harry walked over to the fireplace, and Petunia watched her nephew take a pouch out of his jacket. "Floo powder," he explained, as he dipped his fingers into the pouch, though she already knew. With his back turned to her, he said, "I think you're right, about people." Then he threw the powder and disappeared in a burst of dust and sparks.
Petunia wanted to cry.