The older you get, the more you realise that nobody, particularly not your parents, can be perfect. That their judgement isn’t the be-all and end-all of your life. Three years she had been married to Vernon and still, when she looked out at the quiet avenue with its manicured patch of grass in front and its little garden out the back, when Vernon got in from work and praised every meal she made as if it were fit for royalty- she felt that twinge of pleased satisfaction tempered with a touch of ‘I told you so’ at her parents. Her Dad, who laughed uproariously when she suggested trying to cook something of Delia’s, rather than the usual, predictable fare “You? Cooking? That’d be the day. Anyway that kind of food’s too poncy for me. Give me your mother’s bangers and mash any day.” Or -worse- her Mum’s mild rebuke “If you tried as hard in your more academic subjects as you do faffing about in home ec I’m sure you could really make something of yourself. Have you thought of a typing course?”
Memories like that made it all worthwhile. She had shown them, hadn’t she? Found someone who loved her and appreciated what she could do and made her feel special for a change- and they lived a good deal better than that scruffy old terrace. Times were changing, the factories closing but here- in a beautifully manicured, altogether nicer location people like Vernon and Petunia were on the up. It was just as well she’d got out when she had, she thought. Got away from the clammy grasp of a dying town and a family that didn’t want to know her.
Obstinacy ran in the family, and Petunia did not allow herself to dwell on the past, less still to have regrets.
Most of the time.
When Dudley was born, though, she had wished fleetingly that her parents could have been there. That she- Always Second Best- had made this beautiful little human being, that bawled and clutched and gurgled, soothed by the sound of her voice. She sent them some pictures and they returned with an eager letter- telling her Lily was due – any day now- to have her own baby and ‘wasn’t it a coincidence’ to be grandparents twice-over.
Petunia put the letter in the washing up bowl and binned the pulpy remains. She told Vernon she hadn’t been crying, it was just a touch of hayfever and then gave Dudley an extra bottle, apologising to him that he would never have grandparents to fuss over him on special occasions, but Mummy and Daddy would make sure he never missed out for the lack of them.
And then, she found a baby on the doorstep. Lily was dead.
Had anyone told her parents? For a time, Petunia and Vernon worked on autopilot- getting the baby in, wrapping him up against a chill, putting a nappy on him- lucky she still had some of Dudley’s old size, as the little thing could wriggle out of the ones she normally put Dudley in.
That afternoon, Petunia poured herself the strongest cup of coffee imaginable, doctored with a touch of the brandy usually reserved for Christmas cakes, and made the hardest phone call she had made in her life.
“Mum? It’s…it’s me, it’s Petunia.”
Petunia wouldn’t allow them to visit at first. She was too wary, she wouldn’t have them in the house disturbing the order of her household, breaking up what she had worked so hard for. But they kept ringing one another. She found herself wanting to hear their voices- she would never hear Lily’s again, after all.
Dear Headmaster Dumbledore
I know that you are no longer Lily’s teacher but, as you will recall, we are non-magical (indeed, I had to travel all the way to London and get someone to help me get to the post office there to send this) but we wondered if you could get in touch with us or let us know what has become of our Lily’s body? We understand from your letter to Petunia that there may be some form of investigation but beg of you to help us get in touch with the correct people so that we can begin the funeral arrangements for her and James.
George and Marigold Evans
I am sorry to write at such a difficult time but if you could get in touch with us we would be very grateful. We cannot find any information about what is happening to Lily and James’ funeral arrangements and the telephone at your flat is no longer working.
Hope you are looking after yourself
Please get in touch
I am sorry more than words can say to be a mither at such a time but we are frantic- please could you get in touch with us – we haven’t been contacted by anyone magical about Lily and James’ funerals.
So sorry to trouble you but please could you get in touch with us? We are not getting answers from anyone in the magical world and we just want to know what is happening with Lily and James’ funerals.
Marigold and George Evans
Lily’s mum here, please could you send an owl…
So many letters returned to sender only made Petunia angrier. “You see!” she told the babies after getting off the phone from her Mum, crying again, “I told her so. Look how quickly they were to drop us now that Lily isn’t here. No one will even tell us what to do about a funeral. It’s revolting. Maybe they are all dead…but Dumbledore! He was alive, he left that note. It’s just the way they treat the likes of us.”
Lily, if you could see your precious magical world now, making your mother cry.
Finally (finally!) Dumbeldore deigned to get in touch with her parents. It did not go well. Petunia listened to her father retell the story and was ashamed of him. For all his anger, for no matter how he shouted: they were not allowed to attend their daughter’s funeral, for fear they could be traced back to Harry. Dumbledore fed them some cock-and-bull story about another family who had been tortured by this supposedly-dead monster’s followers- as if precautions couldn’t have been made.
Even serial killers get let out to attend a loved ones funeral, but the magical world was not going to let them in to help bury their daughter and sister.
It was a vile and rainy journey to get up north, and despite Vernon’s cursing about the horrendous bank holiday traffic and the too-warm car smelling faintly of warm sandwiches and baby sick, Petunia realised she’d never loved him more. Because Vernon didn’t complain when she told him she was going to have to go and visit her parents, he just nodded and agreed. She wondered if, privately, he’d always known this would happen eventually, but she didn’t like to ask. He just kissed her cheek and got out his road atlas spread all over the kitchen table, to start planning the trip.
Of course it wasn’t perfect. For a start, her Mum insisted the boys call her ‘Nana’ rather than ‘Grandma’, causing both Vernon and Petunia to share a wince.
Vernon and Dad engaged themselves well enough by discussing the motorway – some things are, after all, universal- and Petunia let out a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding when the babies- mostly- behaved themselves and her parents didn’t spend all their time doting on Harry and leaving poor Dudley out in the cold.
They went to church on Sunday, the same old one Petunia had grown up -trooping across the school yard on special occasions. People she’d grown up with came and cooed over the babies and smiled warmly at Petunia and Vernon which was…surprisingly nice.
Still, Petunia was relieved when they headed back home to Surrey. She wondered if it would’ve hurt, regardless of the reception they’d received. After all, if they could treat their grand children fairly, why couldn’t they have done the same with their daughters? But she tried to squash the thought away.
Her parents had obviously still had some growing up to do and – she supposed- so had she.