She remembered the house. Petunia was not convinced that she had ever seen it in life, but photographs, certainly; she must have done, for she remembered it very clearly: the Tudor beams, the hedge, the untidy lawn, the low, wide windows, the flowerbeds. Someone had recently taken several gardening tools to it; there was a row of small shrubs in pots waiting to be planted, and a pair of sunglasses left forgotten beside them. She did not think they belonged to - to Harry.
Upstairs the curtains were drawn, thick dark red and blue. There was smoke coming out of one of the chimney pots, the back one. That was the kitchen, she supposed. At the front of the house, on the left, the lounge curtains hung open. The room was stuffed with books and rather worn-down furniture.
The question of how he'd managed to acquire all this in a year since coming of age was one Petunia was not sure she wanted answered. Her sister had played fast and loose with any rule she came across if it suited her. That husband of hers had been worse.
The garden path was paved unevenly, weeds growing up through the cracks. Petunia's shoes sounded oddly loud on the stone.
She drew a breath and knocked on the door.
Inside, there was a call, a clatter on the stairs, someone laughing, someone else yelped, a door slammed. The front door opened.
Petunia froze, familiar disapproval stiffening her spine.
"Morning," said the redhead in the doorway. She was wearing a man's shirt and an oven glove and absolutely nothing else as far as Petunia could see. "Erm. Can I help you?"
Petunia swallowed hard and kept her composure. "I hope not," she said. "I am here, in fact, to see - see my - to see Harry Potter."
The girl was pretty in a fierce, lean way. She folded her arms over her chest and said, "You're not the first. The secretary said you'd be round today but I didn't think Witch Weekly journalists got up before ten a.m. - and I never thought they'd dress like you."
She could not, Petunia decided, have been older than Dudley. And the cheek of her.
"Young - woman - I assure you, I have never been a witch in my life," said Petunia. "Harry is my sister's son."
It occurred to her now that she never had managed to use that word - the n-word - nephew, my nephew. It was so much closer - almost possessive. My nephew.
The girl blinked. "You're Aunt Petunia?"
"So you have heard of me." Grimly.
The other woman tossed her tousled hair and said coolly, "Nothing but bad things. In fact I'd be more inclined to let you in if you were the woman from Witch Weekly."
Petunia was on the verge of the most cutting remark she could think of - something about half-naked strumpets and how dare she and so on - when behind the girl, the kitchen door opened. He could have been her brother-in-law, now more than ever. She had last seen the man in this house, not long after the wedding. They were the same height, and they had the same hair and nose and mouth - even something of the same look, something tired yet optimistic.
But Harry had - had always had - his mother's eyes.
He paused in the hall, barefoot and half-dressed in jeans - an unutterably foolish thing to do, cooking shirtless. She could smell the bacon.
"Aunt Petunia," he said. "Morning. I - see you've met my girlfriend Ginny."
Where on earth had he learned that, that calm? She did not remember it in him, and she certainly did not remember it in his parents. Lily would have been yelling at her by now - in the front garden, probably, for all the neighbours to hear.
"Good morning," said Petunia, struggling with her own calm.
The redheaded strumpet - Ginny - unfolded her arms and propped her hands on her hips. "I'm sure that whatever Mrs Dursley -"
"Somebody dead?" asked Harry, harshly blunt. Petunia jumped at the sound.
"No! Of course not."
Harry looked at her. Of course not, when she knew, surely, when she had at least an inkling of what he had lost...
"No," she repeated. "I came to. Well, you've not written - or called - so -"
Harry paused. There was a new scar, she realised, on his right shoulder - like a burn mark - and another, short and thin (a cut, a knife) along one of his ribs on the same side. There's a war on, he had said, but surely that was over now?
"I didn't think," he said carefully, "that you'd want to hear."
"If I recall correctly," said Petunia, desperately clinging to all the dignity she could muster, "you never thought very much at all."
Beside her, Ginny shifted, dangerous, from one foot to the other. Harry was smiling strangely. "I suppose from you, that's almost affectionate," he said.
Petunia bit the inside of her lip.
"You could stay for breakfast," he said. "It's almost finished. Hermione and Ron will be down in a minute."
Gratefully, Petunia snatched at the truth. "I can't. I have to get back and see Vernon."
She wrapped her fingers around the handle of her handbag and said, "Thank you for the invitation."
Harry pursed his lips. "You're welcome."
Ginny did not look as if she agreed with him.
"Will I see you again?"
Petunia met his eyes - her sister's eyes - properly, for the first time in a lot of years. She had no more ever really looked at him than she had given him his proper title - my nephew.
Get out! Lily had screamed at her. Get out, Petunia, and don't come back. I can't take another minute of your jealousy or your snide remarks or your vile ignorant oaf of a husband, get out!
"No," she said. "I think probably not."
"In that case," said Harry, "goodbye."
Petunia had half-turned already, one hand on the door; she looked back at him over her shoulder. The last time they had done this, she had not said a word to him; he had stood there defiant and angry and lost as he always was when he was in her house, and she had turned and left him to whatever future it was that he faced. Well, he was not defiant here, or angry, and certainly not lost; apparently the house was full of his friends. He looked as if he belonged in it. There was just enough of Petunia Evans left in her to be glad of that, somewhere deep, deep down (the same somewhere that had known perfectly well there was no stamping it out of him, no changing him, no normalising him, he was what he was just like his mother).
"Goodbye, Harry," she said. And then, catching Ginny's eye, "My sister would have liked you. Whether that's a compliment or not I leave to you to decide."
The door shut behind her with gentle finality. The sun was out, and someone's dog was barking, and Petunia remembered Lily saying how much she'd loved those roses under the study window.