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Susan, Afterwards

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Susan was twenty, almost twenty-one, when she went to the police station to identify the dead bodies of her parents and siblings. Those of Professor Kirke and Miss Plummer, too.

She performed her duties as ably as she could. She went through her parents’ and siblings’ effects, and she stripped Professor Kirke’s house of everything before selling the beloved old pile to a entrepreneur to turn into a hotel. She thanked her friends for their concern and comforted her aunt and uncle, who didn’t understand their own grief over Eustace’s death. She moved away, to a town called Cokeworth, where she got a job working as a secretary because there was so little other work for women after the war.

Susan was twenty-eight, almost twenty-nine, when she married Charles Evans.

Charles was a solicitor at the firm where she worked — a respectable man, her aunt called him, but Susan didn’t like him because he was respectable. She liked him because he winked at her whenever they met eyes and because he held her hand in his when she haltingly told him about what had happened to her family that day.

She told him about Narnia, too, but she said that it was a children’s game. He didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and he said it sounded magical.

“It was.”

“We should have a half dozen children, and they can play Narnia too.”

Susan gave birth to their first daughter a year after their wedding and to their second two years after that. Petunia Lucy was born golden-haired and blue-eyed, like her aunt and namesake, and Lily Caroline was red-haired and green-eyed, like her father.

“Daughters any man’d be proud of,” Charles said firmly and often.

Charles wanted a son, she knew. Everyone knew, and they looked at Susan and her two beautiful, clever daughters with a mixture of pity and scorn. Men always wanted sons to play sports and learn their manly wisdom, and their neighbours surely had guessed that Susan wanted a son too, even if they had guessed the wrong reason why.

Edmund, she’d convinced Charles to name this theoretical son during her first pregnancy, after her younger brother who she loved too late and too well. He deserved to have a nephew named in his honour, just like Lucy had a niece. Edmund had rolled his eyes at her refusal to acknowledge Narnia, but he’d squeezed her shoulder and told her she was always his Su. He had understood her like magnificent Peter and valiant Lucy never could.

They never did have a son, but that was alright.

They were happy for so long that Susan almost didn’t notice when Petunia and Lily became unhappy. It was that Snape boy’s fault, she agreed with Petunia, but Lily’s new friend was only the bearer of bad news — an unpleasant boy, brought up by unpleasant parents who were determined to spread their misery wherever they may, but he caused no more harm than they would allow.

Petunia’s bitterness increased when Professor McGonagall came with that letter. Susan and Charles tried their best, but Petunia could not forget that Lily was magical while she wasn’t.

Lucy was everybody’s favourite, even Aslan’s, not I, Susan wanted to tell her, but Petunia had only stormed off when Susan tried to comfort her.

They tried, but the girls were both so jealous of each other. Petunia hated Lily for her magic and her boarding school and her striking good looks, and Lily hated Petunia for her uninterrupted time with their parents and her ability to fit in and her dozens of friends.

“You’d have more friends if you stopped defending Severus,” Susan pointed out, in irritation, but that had made Lily angrier. She had told her mother those stories in confidence because she had wanted her mother to know how badly Severus fit in at Hogwarts, but Susan had only heard stories about her daughter’s friend bullying other students.

“Can’t you understand that we don’t want you to go away? You already go to a good school, and we feel better with you nearby,” Susan told Petunia, but Petunia didn’t want to hear about how much her parents wanted her at home and how much they missed Lily. She refused to understand anything if it had to do with Lily.

Susan gave up on expecting her daughters to reconcile. Attempting it was only making them angry with her, and she saw them rarely enough in between Lily’s education and Petunia’s friends.

Part of her had hoped that when Charles died — and it felt so strange, to feel hope when her husband was dead — they’d see reason and lean on each other, but by then Petunia was engaged to the thoroughly unmagical Vernon and Lily was dating the thoroughly magical James. They had each chosen their worlds, and Susan was the only link between them.

Lily and James at least attended Petunia’s wedding, but Petunia and Vernon wouldn’t return the favour, no matter how furious Susan was.

Finally it got to the point where she didn’t bother to tell them that the other was pregnant, though they were due within a month of each other.

Petunia was the elder, and her child was due first. Vernon drove her up to Cokeworth when she was three months away from motherhood, and neither looked happy about being there. Susan had never met a man more determined to do what he didn’t want to and to be unhappy about doing it, and it had begun to wear off on her daughter. Petunia had always liked being useful, but now she relished it and resented it equally.

“Maybe I could name my son Edmund Peter,” Petunia said, stiff and unwilling. Vernon looked like he was a “yes” away from vomiting on Susan’s favourite rug, and once again Susan marvelled at her eldest’s choice in men. But Petunia loved him, so Susan must as well.

“Give him his own name,” Susan said gently. Peter and Edmund (and Lucy and Eustace and their parents) had been dead for thirty years, and it was time they rested in peace.

(Her aunt and uncle were dead too. Poor Aunt Alberta had died first, from cancer, mourning her son until the end and refusing to admit it, and Uncle Harold had died within months from a heart attack. Susan wondered if he even knew that he couldn't live without his wife or if he had invented a perfectly logical reason for it on his own deathbed.)

Petunia and Vernon left, and Lily and James flew up a couple days later — pink-cheeked from the wind and exercise, cheerful and troublesome. Susan scolded them lightly for flying on broomstick when Lily was so far along, but they’d never do anything that could actually endanger her or their child.

“We were careful,” James assured her, and he grinned. His parents had passed away during the winter, and her maternal concern comforted and reassured him.

Susan shook her head and asked after his friends. She had a soft spot for Peter, for obvious reasons, but Sirius and Remus were charmers too. (Sirius kept asking her when they were running away together, and one of these days, she would tell him to pack his bags and take him with her to Brighton or Weymouth. That poor boy needed a mum too.)

“We thought we might name him Edmund Peter,” Lily said, and James didn’t look bothered by the suggestion.

Again, Susan told them to give her grandson his own name. “It’s time for us all to move on,” she said, and she wished her aunt and uncle could have managed that before the end.

Lily squeezed her hand.

Her grandsons were named Dudley Franklin and Harry James, and Susan cooed over them as well as she possibly could from Cokeworth. She considered moving south to be nearer to them, but it seemed like such a hassle in a world of broomsticks and aeroplanes.

Eventually Petunia and Lily did learn of each other’s child, and they both blamed Susan for not telling them.

Susan ignored them. It was becoming easier to do with each passing year, and now she had James to roll his eyes behind her back whenever Lily started up. Maybe one day Vernon might do the same, she thought, and she’d like him better — but naturally, that never came to be.

Susan was fifty-two, almost fifty-three, when Lily’s former headmaster came to her house in the middle of the night, with her orphaned grandson in his arms, and said that her younger daughter and her husband were dead (murdered, by a dark wizard) and that she needed to take care of Harry now. “There is a prophecy,” he added, almost reluctantly, and she froze.

It was like something out of those horror films that had become so popular. She had thought herself so safe in Britain, even with the trouble Lily refused to talk about, but this was worse than a silly little poem about sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

Was this why Aslan hadn’t taken her? So she could raise her grandson for the slaughter?

Professor Dumbledore explained in more detail while Harry ran around the house and babbled without any sign of distress, and she wondered when he would realise that this wasn’t a holiday visit to Granny, that his mum and dad were gone forever.

Professor Dumbledore had the same compassionate look in his eyes, but he tried to veil it. Badly. Susan had been a queen in Narnia when he was teaching eleven-year-olds parlour tricks, and she could see the hearts of men just as well as she could see those of centaurs and beavers. Albus Dumbledore was not a bad man, but he thought too highly of himself and his schemes. Susan would have to spend a great deal of time combating that.

“I daresay we shall have no cause to meet in the next ten years,” the professor said civilly, and Susan agreed. She didn’t want wizards and witches wandering through her neighbourhood, bringing attention to Harry, though of course she would welcome Peter, Sirius, and Remus when they came to visit.

Years passed before she realised that they never had.

In that time, Harry had grown from a sweet baby into a sweet boy — clever enough, athletic enough, and funny enough. Susan had told him everything she could remember about Hogwarts and his parents, and she should have known better than to do that because afterwards he wanted to learn spells more than maths and play Quidditch more than football. Her knowledge of such subjects were too vague to satisfy him, and she didn’t want to take him to Diagon Alley without a grown witch or wizard as an escort.

He was Harry Potter, after all. That meant something.

There were witches and wizards who lived in or near Cokeworth, and Harry looked too much like James for them to remain ignorant of his identity. Strangers bowed to him or seized his hand to shake, and it reminded Susan of her old, secret life.

Harry wasn’t a king, however. He was only a child.

A child, she repeated to herself whenever she received a letter from Hogwarts about her grandson’s adventures — stealing the Philosopher’s Stone, discovering the Chamber of Secrets, rescuing an escaped convict, performing in the Triwizard Tournament.

“You must be so proud,” Mrs Weasley said in that almost condescending way she always spoke to Susan, the poor dear, the overwhelmed muggle, as they waited for the Third Task in the tournament to begin.

“I’m terrified,” she replied curtly.

She never stopped being terrified. Sirius and Remus reappeared in her life and explained where Peter had gone (traitor, she thought, and she missed Edmund so much it hurt), and they promised that Harry would always be safe with them.

They died too, though. Everyone died except her and Harry, and Susan had lost touch with Petunia and her family a long time ago.

(“You and Dad always coddled your precious Lily!” she had screamed after Harry turned Dudley’s hair blue, and Susan yelled back because they hadn’t. Susan and Charles had tried their best, but Petunia hadn’t wanted to acknowledge that. She only wanted to play the victim.)

The dead were dead, and Susan didn’t know if she would ever see them again. She couldn’t return to Narnia, after all, but maybe she didn’t need to when Harry could win the war.

It was a strange feeling, to return home after an adventure, but return home Harry did. He became an Auror and continued fighting, and he married Ginny Weasley and gave Susan Pevensie great-grandchildren to spoil instead of raise.

She had thought she was all out of tears. Surely she had wept them all when her family was killed, when Lily and James were murdered, when Petunia stormed out for the last time, when Harry was hurt again and again.

Harry placed her great-grandson into her arms, and Susan cried with joy.