Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars.
Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in any case, the made - up things seem a good deal more important then the real ones.
-Puddleglum the Marshwiggle
When Petunia was a child, her mother would tell her stories of fairy countries. Except they weren’t like Neverland or Oz, because in these stories, people–or animals, sometimes–died. And even though sometimes some came back, others didn’t.
Petunia’s mother sometimes cried during these stories. Not like Lily cried–Petunia, of course, was a big girl, and never cried herself, except perhaps a very little when she fell, but not any other time–but the sort of crying where her eyes became shiny.
Petunia didn’t understand why her mother cried.
It was just a story. Mother even said so.
Mother said that a lot.
Petunia was eight and Lily was five on the evening her sister didn’t come in for dinner when Mother called.
Father went out to get her, and carried her in under one arm while she giggled.
“Didn’t you hear me?” Mother tried to look scolding. It was hard, Petunia supposed from where she was setting the table, for her to manage that with Father tickling Mother now, and Lily squealing.
“I was talking to a lion,” Lily said matter-of-factly.
“No you weren’t.” Petunia rolled her eyes. “There aren’t any lions here.”
“Are too! He was warm and soft and told me things. He said he missed you, Mummy.”
“Dummy. Lions can’t talk.” Petunia looked to her mother for confirmation of this fact, but she wasn’t there.
Father went to find her, and came back with an odd look on his face.
They ate without her that night.
Mother never went to church with them.
Father said that she didn’t go because she liked to pray alone.
Petunia supposed that was a good reason, even if she didn’t quite understand why. She asked, one day.
“Because...when she was little, your mother went with her parents and brothers and sister. And she misses them.”
“Oh.” Petunia still didn’t understand, but she didn’t ask more after that.
“She’ll come.” Lily beamed at her father and sister as she said this. “I know she will. He said that she just needed time.”
“Who said, princess?”
Lily smiled again, secretly. “The lion.”
Petunia just sighed.
When Lily’s letter came, Mother turned very pale and left the house.
She didn’t come back for three days. Father said she just had to go visit her friend for a while, but Petunia knew it wasn’t that, because his brow was wrinkled and his voice was tight.
That night might have been when she started to resent Lily and her lions.
Mother came back during the evening. Lily glanced guiltily at Petunia before she went back to reading her history book, while Father pulled Mother into their room.
“You know, if we were quiet, we could go hear what they’re saying.”
Petunia gave her sister a sharp glance at that. “Eavesdropping?”
Lily attempted to look innocent. “Overhearing.”
Another glare, before Petunia stood, glancing at their parents’ room, and finally went to stand near the door, swatting at Lily, who pressed close.
“...I’ve spent the last fifteen years trying to forget about...”
And then, “I think I saw Him. He never comes here, you know, but I think...I think...”
And their father’s voice, soothing, tones too low to make out.
Lily tugged her sleeve, and Petunia followed her sister back to the den.
“She’ll let me go, now.”
“You don’t know that.” Same sharp tone, as Petunia looked over her shoulder.
“Yes, I do.”
“He wants me to go. And Mother won’t say no to him. She can’t.”
“Your talking lion?” A sneer, almost.
Lily looked sheepish as she nodded. “Well. He’s not mine, you know. He’s not a tame lion.”
Loftily, “I wouldn’t know,” as she pulled out her French work and set to work ignoring Lily.
Petunia, after all, had never seen Lily’s lion.
The day before Lily married the Potter boy, she went out to lunch with Petunia.
“He’s fine,” and Petunia couldn’t stop the soft smile that crossed her lips as she said this. Nor, she found, did she want to. “How’s James?” The smile didn’t disappear as she asked, though it did fade.
“Also fine. Probably out getting drunk with Sirius. Remus and Peter are under strict orders to make sure he doesn’t leave the country.”
“Drunk? But it’s...” And despite her dislike for James, she can’t quite fault him for drinking so early. Vernon had done something much the same. “...Anyway. How are you?”
Lily grinned, shrugging. “Excited. Terrified. Everything in between.”
“I remember.” Silence, then, “Seen any lions recently?”
Petunia didn’t mean to ask that. Not today. She truly didn’t want to upset Lily today, but old habits die hard.
Her sister paused before smiling wryly. “Yes, actually.”
“And what did your lion say this time?” Sipping her water as they ordered.
“Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“I do hate it when lions become predictable.”
Lily laughed at that. “I’m sorry, Petunia. It’s just that...it’s all very normal to me, I suppose. I am sorry, though. Even James has a hard time with it. I forget that everyone doesn’t see him, you see.”
“Why?” Her voice was quiet as she asked.
“Why haven’t I ever seen him?”
Lily blinked. “Oh...Petunia, I’m sorry, I didn’t ever think–”
“I don’t care.” Flatly, as she continued studying her glass. “I just wondered.”
“I...suppose because you didn’t need to see him.”
She frowned. “I don’t understand.”
“No. I don’t either, really.” Her smile was apologetic, and Petunia merely sighed.
“This is your fault, Lily!”
“Look, I didn’t–I’m–Dammit, Petunia, I can’t deal with this right now.”
“Mother and Father are dead, Lily, because of your magic and your Death Eaters!”
“I know, alright? I know!” Lily’s voice was short over the phone. “Do you think it hurts me any less than it does you?”
“Why should it?” Her voice was cold. “You can always just magic it away.”
Her sister had hung up.
“So what’s his name?” Vernon had stopped cursing, finally, and was now looking at Petunia with a resigned look.
“Harry Edmund Potter.”
“Good Lord, what a mouthful.”
She bit of a sharp retort about the names Vernon or Dudley before answering, “Edmund was our uncle’s name.”
Vernon squeezed her shoulder gently at that. “Nice of your sister to call him that, then.” Gruffly, before he turned and went to the fireplace.
“Yes.” Petunia’s smile was a bit sad for a moment before she looked back at him. “It was.”
She dreamed of a castle on an island with four thrones.
She dreamed of a man with a grin who said she was his namesake, and a woman, who smiled like Lily.
She dreamed of another man off by himself, with a golden beard and sad eyes.
She dreamed of a garden, and dreamed of her mother, younger than she remembered her being, and laughing in a way Petunia had never heard her before.
Petunia dreamed of a Lion, and she felt his fur on her face as he promised her something that when she woke up, she knew, she wouldn’t remember. But for the moment, in her dream, she knew that she was more than just the older daughter, more than just practical.
She dreamed that a voice like summer whispered that she was the daughter of a queen.
And then she woke up.
Petunia was silent as she slipped out of their bed, careful not to wake Vernon. Feet padded silently down the hall until she reached the room that–well, it was the one Harry was in, for now.
His eyes were open, as she stood over the crib Vernon had scavenged from the neighbors across the lane.
They had agreed to keep him away from anything related to magic. Had agreed to raise him perfectly normal.
Another moment, and she picked him up, settling in the rocking chair with him.
Petunia stared at her nephew.
He would grow. And she would distance herself from the boy who asked about lions, and let Vernon yell and rage. When it hurt too much to remember the family that this boy and his lions and his magic took away from her, she would change his middle name from that of the uncle she never met to the brother-in-law whose memory she hated.
But he was small, at the moment.
“...Once upon a time, there were two queens and two kings, in a land called Narnia...”