They weren't doing anything - they were standing by the garden gate talking in the sunshine, and Lily was showing Sev her new quills for school - when Petunia rushed out of the house.
She dove for Lily's arm and grabbed it hard; even as Lily shouted in surprise she started to drag her sister back and away from the gate and Sev.
"What's the matter, Tuney!"
"Let her go, you're hurting her," said Sev angrily.
"I'll hurt you, you filthy Slytherin," said Pet, just as furious. "I know what you are now - all that talk! And last year when you said Mum and Dad were just Muggles and who cared if they'd told us not to stay out late. Why don't you run off to Durmstrang with Bella Black?"
Lily dug her heels in angrily.
"What do you mean, just a Muggle? When? Who's Bella Black?"
"She's a Slytherin," said Petunia, still glaring at Sev. "She thinks people who don't have magic - people like our Mum and Dad - are animals. She thinks we're animals because our Mum and Dad don't have magic. And you do too!"
"I - no -"
"Not animals," Sev said desperately.
There was a beat. Lily straightened up, pulled her arm out of her sisters, looked, suddenly, very cold.
"Not animals, but?" she said.
"I - you - my mother - she says - but -"
"I don't care about your mother. So when Tuney and I asked you if it made a difference, us being Muggle-born, and you said no, were you lying?"
"He wasn't lying," Petunia said acidly. "It doesn't make a difference. He just forgot to mention that he doesn't usually believe that."
Sev was white as a sheet, and couldn't seem to answer; his hands were jerking towards Lily repeatedly. "No," he said again, just as desperate, near incoherent. "No - my mother - and it's not - and you're different -"
"Different to all the other animal Muggle-borns?" said Pet scathingly. "How, exactly?"
"I - it's not -"
"Get out of my garden, and get away from my sister!"
"Hey, Sevvy- leave her alone."
Lily was far too furious to be grateful to the two boys in the compartment with her. Sev had waited until Petunia had gone to see her friends from last year, and now his fingers were digging painfully into her forearm and his face was twisted-up.
"Get off me, Sev," she repeated angrily.
"I don't think she wants you around, mate," said the boy in glasses. The other one, the more handsome one, snorted.
"Bit of an understatement."
"You shut up," Sev spat at them, "you don't know -"
"No, you don't know," said Lily, and stomped on his foot. He yelped, as much in surprise as in pain, and lept backwards. His fingers had left red marks on her bare arm. "Get off me and stay off me. Stay away from me. You couldn't even stand up to Pet -"
"But I told you, I told you it wasn't true!"
Lily clutched her arm across her chest and glared at him furiously. "Fuck you, Sev," she said; it was the first time she'd ever taken the word into her mouth, Tuney said it was a horrible nasty word you shouldn't ever use, and so it was the only one suited to expressing her current feelings. "I know what you look like when you're lying."
"Seriously, that's enough," said the boy in the glasses. "Get out of here."
In a heartbeat, Sev's helplessness had switched to anger, focussing on the other boy.
"Or what?" he sneered. "You'll hex me?"
"Or I'll punch you in the face," snapped the boy in glasses. "You're annoying and you're stupid and you've hurt her, look at her arm."
"I don't need you to look after me!" Lily shouted crossly. The boy's eyes narrowed.
"Whatever, but -"
"But your friend with the filthy hair is still hugely annoying," said the handsome boy.
Lily looked at him; then at the boy with glasses. Then, slowly, back at Sev, flushed with anger now; he still had a strange, jerky look to him. He looked back at her, and for a moment she thought she saw the Sev she'd known for almost three years, gangly and nervous and shut-off from everyone but her.
Then he said, "Come on, Lily - they're idiots, they're bullies - you don't want to hang around them - you want to come with me, you can see that -"
Something tightened in her throat.
"I can see these," said Lily, and angled her arm so he could see the bruises, too. She looked over her shoulder at the two boys. "He's not my friend," she added.
After Sev had stumbled out she sat down and burst into tears.
"Oh, bugger," said the boy in glasses, looking horrified. "Gotta hanky?" to his friend.
"Nah," he said. "I lose 'em cos Mother thinks I ought to have one."
In the end Lily blew her nose on a crisp white shirt with lace and ruffles which the handsome boy assured her was entirely unwanted, and indeed when she finished with it he bundled it up and shoved it in the little rubbish container with an air of greatest pleasure.
"I'm James, by the way," said the boy in glasses.
"And I'm Sirius."
"You Gryffindors," said Tuney, glaring. "Can't you behave?"
"It was only a bit of fun," said Lily, laughing.
"Potter and Black aren't always -"
Lily's face grew still and solemn. "I know," she said. "I know what they're like. But they're funny, OK? Funny and fun. And if I tell them to lay off, they lay off."
Tuney snorted, but just because she wasn't convinced didn't mean Lily had to stop helping James and Sirius arrange for the most gruesome-looking skeleton they could find to spend a week in Professor Binns' chair. The miserable old ghost wouldn't even notice.
Sev had been Sorted into Slytherin like a shot. Two weeks later Lily had found out what Mudblood meant.
She didn't think about him any more.
If Petunia had any particular proclivity for one area of magic, it was Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures. She'd always liked to garden, but she'd never been fond of pets the way other girls seemed to be, so the creature thing came as a surprise.
"You're very good with them," said Professor Kettleburn. "You loosen up around animals, Evans, it's good for you."
Things got weird in fifth year, although Petunia never did find out why. Where for four years Lily, James, Sirius, the Lupin boy and that Pettigrew kid had been thick as thieves, and in her view that particular metaphor was more appropriate than any other, when they were fifteen everything seemed to go off the rails. Around Christmas the five of them were wandering the castle looking like they'd just been announced joint Kings and Queen of the world, and it was even rumoured Lily and James were dating, but then James hexed Whatsisface Aubrey's head the size of a hot-air balloon, and Lily called him a bully and a prat in front of half the staff, and then Sirius and Remus and James all had some falling out or other, and by the time they were sitting their OWLs only Peter was still talking to all the other four.
Petunia thought they were being idiots, and told them so: collectively and individually. It didn't help. They seethed through the exams and they seethed through the summer, until one day Lily stayed out late with Janey from primary school and came home in a downpour. She promptly caught pneumonia.
A week later, the rest of the Marauders were on the front doorstep, all of them pale.
"Blimey," said Petunia when she opened the door, and knew that somewhere behind her her Mum was flinching at such unladylike language. "It's an invasion."
"What's happened to Ceryneia?"
Petunia glared at them.
"Lily," James said, giving in - actually, Petunia thought he seemed too worried to want to argue over the silly nicknames they'd invented this year. Though Lily's at least made some sort of sense. The Ceryneian Hind was in the encyclopedia. "It was - we have a - a standing appointment, yesterday. She didn't show. She's never done that before."
"I didn't know that," she said at last. "Uh, she's got pneumonia. Had. Bed rest for a bit." She felt a bit surprised to see the relief on their faces, and then felt a bit awful for feeling that way - after all, just because they were fighting now didn't mean they'd stopped caring about each other.
"All right. Come on up."
Two weeks later she caught James and Lily kissing behind the conservatory.
Three weeks after that, Lily caught her kissing Gideon Prewett behind the conservatory.
They drew up a mutual non-disclosure agreement.
The thing with Gideon didn't last too long anyway; Petunia wasn't sure she was cut out for relationships. She liked things the way she liked them, and most of all she liked being in control of herself. Watching Lily throw herself into James' arms with giddy abandon made Petunia dizzy.
She hated not being able to see straight.
Petunia's seventh year started badly and didn't stop. The whole world seemed to have gone entirely mad; for the first time she subscribed to the Daily Prophet and soon wished she hadn't - deaths, disappearances, you-know-who, giants rampaging, Dementors roaming the country. It was ridiculous, and it was terrifying. Mutterings from the Ministry began about stricter security measures, registrations; the pure-blood dynasties still alive began to shuffle their feet and side-eye notions like restricting the Muggleborn quotient among first-year Hogwarts students; some shops in London and other towns with a wizarding presence were rumoured to have purebloods only signs in their windows.
Petunia didn't believe that. There weren't enough of them to keep any shop going by their custom alone, and she said so more than once in the Hufflepuff common room.
It was a way to vent, and a way to hide the fact that she was getting more and more afraid with every passing week.
So was Lily, but the difference between Lily and Petunia was and always had been the difference between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Ceryneia lept before she looked and fought back before she asked questions; Cery, above all, was also secure in the knowledge that as she did so Prongs and Padfoot and Moony and Wormtail were doing the exact same thing.
Worst memory short of the Fifth Year Fights: punching Sev in the face for laughing about Mulciber and Avery's attack on Mary McDonald.
Could she take a joke? Hell yes. Could she tell Dark Magic from a schoolboy prank? Yes again. It wasn't her fault Sev had not yet arrived at the emotional or intellectual maturity needed to make that distinction.
Her words seemed to hurt him almost as much as the punch, and she could feel his eyes on her back when she walked away from him and across the courtyard to where James had appeared, shedding sweat-stained Quidditch robes and muttering distractedly to himself about training schedules.
As far as Petunia, or anyone else at Hogwarts school, could make out, sending Cresswell tapdancing down the corridor at the end of fifth year was the last jinx James Potter ever turned on a fellow-student who hadn't drawn on him first. As for Sirius, coming back to school with that strange scar on his palm...
But the Marauders kept their own counsels, as they always had.
"I'm so sorry, Tuney," said Lily quietly.
Petunia, packing her bags with swift, sharp movements, didn't turn. "It doesn't matter."
"It was the job you wanted, of course it matters."
"Leave it, Lily. The Ministry's not hiring right now, that's common knowledge -"
"It's common knowledge," said Lily caustically, "that the Ministry's not hiring Muggleborns."
Tuney's shoulders stiffened, then relaxed.
"So I've taken that job at Flourish and Blotts," said Petunia. "It'll be all right. I'll like it." She smiled, firm, unconvincing, at the wall ahead of her, grateful Lily couldn't see.
"And then we'll see."
Silence. Blouse, blouse, set of robes. Throw a pair of shorts away, three sizes too small; was it really so long since she'd been shopping for Muggle clothes?
Yes, yes it was.
"Is it true you turned Dumbledore down?"
Petunia slammed her suitcase lid shut. "Yes," she said, still speaking to the wall.
"I'm not a fighter."
"Rubbish, you're as skilled as I am."
"It's not all about skill. Besides, I -" I'm afraid. "I don't believe - I can't believe - it's right - fighting back - not like that. Violence breeds violence. Secret societies instead of the rule of law." She shook her head. "That's not what it ought to be."
Lily sighed. "It's all there is. It's all we've got."
After all, it wasn't as if Lily hadn't demonstrated, this year, where her intentions lay. She would fight, and fight to the death if she had to, for what she wanted, for the world she wanted. She always had.
Petunia had always been of the opinion that you ought to be grateful for the luck you'd been given, not go chasing after more.
Cery and Prongs were married on a fine autumn day as the sun slanted dramatically through the clouds and the leaves on the trees turned orange, gold, brown, red as Lily's hair.
Petunia never told them how much the symbolism of their choice of date frightened her.
"Pet," said Sirius, white-faced on her doorstep. "Something's wrong. Have you seen Peter?"
Petunia gripped the doorframe and felt herself begin to shake. The way he looked. And hadn't she been feeling uneasy herself, hadn't she known... "No," she said, barely getting the words out.
"We switched," he said baldly.
"Lily - James - the baby -"
"C'mon, we're going over there. Quick!"
"Sirius! Sirius, come back - they'll catch Peter or they won't, but come back now and help me with Harry!"
"You let this happen," Aunt Petunia shouts at Professor Dumbledore, "you knew Voldemort was here and you let him get near -"
"He didn't let me do anything!" Harry bellows, standing on his hospital bed in fury. "It was my choice! He killed my Mum and Dad, I've got a right to face him!"
The argument blows away, forgotten, in the second week of the summer holidays when Harry comes down to the kitchen one night and finds Aunt Petunia crying silently, her head in her hands and her whole body shaking.
"Lily, Lily, what do I do?" she asks the empty kitchen helplessly. "He's you, he's you all over again, both of you... and Sirius doesn't see a thing wrong with it, but I'm afraid, Lily, I'm afraid for him..."
"Aunt Petunia," Harry says, shocked, and runs to her.
Snape doesn't stop hating him; Harry still doesn't know why, not really. He doesn't understand, and never has, the concept of someone hating you because of something you haven't done. But over time he grows a thicker skin: the confusion and the humiliation isn't as important as the fact that he's growing to hate Snape back.
He's sort of worried that makes him a horrible person.
Aunt Petunia waits with Mr and Mrs Weasley for news about Ginny, and sinks into her chair when she sees Harry, covered in blood and clutching a sword.
"There's just - there's no bloody stopping you," she says, and for a moment he feels awful, the most dreadful thoughtless nephew to have ever existed, and then she smiles. Aunt Petunia doesn't really smile much, but Harry likes it when she does.
Hermione talks once about Professor Sinistra's theory about parallel universes and Muggle science once; Harry looks at her and Ron and thinks that surely there are things that never change, world to world to world.
Lord Voldemort materialises in the staff room, and everyone panics.
"Hmm," says Remus. "I thought it was rats."
Harry looks at his feet and shuffles, feeling, in the aftermath, a bit embarrassed. "So did I," he says.
As soon as Fred puts his wand to the parchment, Harry knows what the scruffy old thing is. A hand wraps itself around his throat and squeezes hard as the ink blossoms across the parchment: Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, Prongs and Ceryneia...
And there it sits in Filch's office, waiting for a worthy inheritor, a mischief-maker to take up our mantle! Sirius used to tease him when he was little. Perhaps, one day, it'll come to you.
So it has.
Professor Lupin - Remus, Remus who taught Harry to play chess and who once bought him a cuddly-toy stag and hind that Harry still owns, still keeps wrapped in tissue paper in his wardrobe at home - is pointing a wand at Ron and shaking; he looks half-mad, and for the first time in his life Harry is afraid of him.
It's full moon, it's full moon tonight.
When Sirius crashes into the shack, Remus turns.
"Where is he, Remus? Where?"
But then there's Snape, and they're yelling at each other, awful things, it wasn't just schoolboy rivalry, it was never stupid schoolboy rivalry, Snape was a Death Eater and he hated Mum with his whole heart. Knowing that makes Stunning him easier. Knowing that makes hating him easier.
Pettigrew still gets away.
Sometimes Harry thinks Aunt Petunia's in love with Sirius; other times he thinks that's a stupid idea. He's fairly sure, though, that she's never much liked the two or three girlfriends Harry's known him to have. Maybe it's not about Sirius specifically, as a person, so much as it's about his ability to... what, socialise? Even Harry can do that. Cho came to the ball with him, after all; he's fourteen but he's not totally inept. No, maybe... fall for someone at all.
Aunt Petunia, to the best of Harry's knowledge, has never been in love. Uncharitably - unkindly - he thinks that's at the heart of it when he realises she doesn't like Cho.
Sirius and Aunt Petunia are there to cheer him on when he goes into the maze. They're the first to reach him when he comes back out, clutching Cedric's body.
Aunt Petunia tells him about the Prophecy over Dumbledore's objections. Her voice is firm, and steady, and betrays no hint of the tears on her face. Harry smashes a window, angry as he's seldom been in his warm, loved life, and then dodges out of the house with a Seeker's skill and speed. It takes Ron and Hermione to find him, six hours later, up his favorite tree in the woods behind the house. He's gone lethargic by then, he can't even think, and they more or less carry him home.
This time it's him who ends the fight by crying.
He's three hours into fifth year when he realises he won't ever be able to tell Cho. He tries, but the words are gone, and he finds to his own surprise that so is his willingness to say them. (No wonder Aunt Petunia doesn't like her.)
Anyway, the subsequent conversation... goes well. At least, Harry can say for sure that they're broken up at the end of it, which he supposes was the ultimate goal.
Umbridge sets a hatred in his blood that Harry's never felt before for anyone - not for Malfoy, not for Snape. He throws himself into undermining her with all the talent and the skill he has, every story of Sirius' serving a purpose, every warning of Aunt Petunia's forgotten. He cries, after that first detention, hidden in a cupboard and shaking with fury and humiliation as much as the pain of it - he's hurt before, he's even been tortured, but that was different - this is different. That was a battle, a fight, honestly and properly. There are some things Voldemort respects, or pretends to respect: courage, mostly. Umbridge just hates, and takes her hatred out on everything she sees, and Harry has never in his life been confronted by something like that - never in his life been so powerless in the face of it.
So he cries, quietly, and wishes he weren't fifteen and too old for this - wishes he were small enough to run home and burrow into Sirius' or Aunt Petunia's arms, wishes he remembers more of his Mum's voice than your Dad's coming and run, sweetheart, run now.
And then he dries his tears on his sleeves and waits until his face is cooler and less swollen, and he stands up and leaves the cupboard and he finds a way to take that power back, and to use her power against her, and it is glorious. Even the twins are impressed.
Until the Ministry. Until Bellatrix, and Avada Kedavra, and the veil.
They live at the Burrow, after that. Mrs Weasley insists, because Aunt Petunia is as lost as Harry - it's like half her life's been chopped away.
Strange he's never realised before that all the people she's closest to are Mum's friends and not hers. She sits with Remus a lot, and they share their sorrow in silence. Harry can't bear to - can't bear to do anything that involves sitting still, being stationary. He runs and flies and shouts and plays as if he's twelve and not sixteen, as if he's not just lost his godfather, as if he's not been nearly-orphaned, as if one of the two mainstays, cornerstones, of his life were not gone: disappeared entirely and leaving scarcely a trace behind.
Only the map, firm ink lines appearing and reappearing on the worn smooth surface. Only Harry, who clings, now, to the things that Sirius gave him (laughter, joking, irresponsibility; courage, loyalty, the strength to bend, bend entirely out of shape, and still not break) with ferocious, desperate strength.
It's around this time he starts noticing the way Ginny's hair falls down her back, and the upturn of her nose at the very tip, and how she grins when someone's said something they're both trying hard not to make an awful (dirty) joke about.
She catches him looking once, and they stare at each other across the Gryffindor table for half an eternity (d'you mean? yes. I guess I do.). Two days later she breaks up with Dean.
"I don't understand," Harry says quietly. "I don't understand how anyone can be like that - towards their own family. I know it happens. I don't understand it."
Dumbledore sighs. "You have been lucky, Harry; luckier than you know. A great part of me hopes you never understand it, that no one ever does, but unfortunately, to defeat Lord Voldemort we must understand him, and hence the Gaunts."
On Harry's seventeenth birthday, Voldemort himself kills Aunt Petunia.
Later on, Harry has a week-long blank in his memory that he makes a point of never trying to fill.
Her gravestone is in Godric's Hollow, near Mum and Dad and Sirius's small memorial. Harry wanders by there once a month, or maybe once every two months, muted grief and scars. He wishes, whenever he comes, that he'd thought to ask more about her, about his Aunt; she told him so much about Mum and Dad, it feels like Petunia Evans was never anything other than Lily's sister. Harry's no fool; he knows it was a choice she made, knows she could have turned away from it - from him. Still: how did it get that far?
How could it not?
He pokes at Snape's Pensieve memories wtih a stick, sometimes, as if stirring up the mud at the bottom of the pond. All that pent-up longing, and Mum's fierce refusal to be anything less than who she was. Harry's fairly sure Snape blamed Aunt Petunia for the end of that friendship, or at least wanted to. It was easier than admitting to himself that he'd put those bruises on Lily's arm in the train. You want to come with me, desperate yet imperious, commanding a stray dog or a toddler not old enough to speak its own mind.
Look at me.
Harry shudders, and feels sorry for him, and hopes Mum would've been glad to know that Snape had managed, in the end, to do or try to do some good in the world.
(If she weren't? Not, he decides, his feud, not any longer. Dumbledore was wrong - Harry will pity the dead all his life, because they have no more chances to put anything right. Not everybody, he thinks wryly, gets a King's Cross.)
Flying; freedom and the wind in his hair and robes, the skill it takes, the ease and confidence of it. Sunday mornings sunny or raining, with Ginny's weight across his chest. Meals with Ron and Hermione, and code-word conversations only they understand. Teddy; Neville and Luna; cold beers and warm apple pies; his house, and the wood-smell that pervades it; cut grass in Gin's hair and slow summer twilights.
Yet they turn up in his dreams sometimes, the ghosts in the Forest, insubstantial as mist yet more real to him, in that moment, than any other part of the world was, except Voldemort and the wand he was walking towards, the final ending. They smile at him and wave and sometimes beckon. It would be so simple, so quick, so easy, after everything he's seen.
But Harry Potter has never been very good at taking the easy way out, though Aunt Petunia used to say she wished he were. It's not your fault, she'd say and sigh. You take after Cery rather a lot.