The toddler on the doorstop stopped Petunia Dursley in her tracks as she reached for the milk.
She blinked but the basket with its sleeping infant didn't disappear.
She swiftly checked if anyone was looking before she carefully reached for the basket, picked it up and carried it inside. She placed it on the rug in the living room, next to the play-mat where her own son slept after his early morning feed.
She went back to retrieve the milk, hurried inside and locked the door. Out of habit she made tea; strong and sugary for shock. She returned to the living room and stared at the basket for a long moment.
She and Lily had drifted apart since Lily had been identified as a witch and taken off for schooling, and she'd barely seen her at all since her sister had wed James Potter. Some of that Petunia knew was her fault. It had been obvious in the one meeting the two couples had sat through that James Potter was utterly unlike Vernon and likely to rub him up the wrong way; the two men just had nothing in common.
Vernon was a solid and ordinary man. He'd been born to average middle-class parents, educated at a private boys' school and a proper University, and had gone to work as a manager for the same firm as his father after graduating. Petunia had met him through a friend of a friend one evening out in town in a respectable pub. They'd courted properly for a year before Vernon had proposed and they had been married a year later. Lily's James, on the other hand…
James Potter was clearly an aristocrat; polished manners, innate arrogance and unconscious elegance in quality clothes which had clearly been tailored for him. He was also movie-star handsome with his dark hair, green eyes and classic square jaw. His only flaw were the glasses he wore to see properly and even then they added a rakish air. He was truly otherworldly in a way Vernon was not and never would understand despite his acceptance that there was a magical world.
Petunia preferred Vernon's normality and steadfastness but she had always understood why James had eventually swept Lily, an otherwise sensible young woman, off her feet. They'd barely been out of school before they'd married. She sometimes wondered given the war in their world whether Harry had been an accident. Her own Dudley had been very much planned and wanted.
Petunia frowned a little at the name. Vernon had insisted on calling the poor mite after a favoured Uncle and she still thought it didn't fit her cheerful happy baby even if Vernon said he was the spitting image of the man.
In sleep, Harry James Potter definitely looked like a miniature James.
Petunia took another sip of her tea as she considered the basket and the letter she could see peeking out of the blanket.
Vernon's footsteps on the stairs had her turning to the doorway as he appeared in his pyjamas although he'd thrown his dressing gown over the blue striped cotton. Petunia was suddenly aware she was still in her nightwear under her sensible flannel housecoat.
Vernon stared at the basket and shot Petunia a questioning look. "Is that Lily's boy?" he began uncertainly.
"Yes," said Petunia, willing her voice to remain firm.
"I didn't hear them…"
"You didn't," Petunia confirmed, "I found the basket on the doorstep."
Vernon blinked at her, his ruddy cheeks paling. "I know your sister and that wizard of hers are a bit odd what with the magic thing and all, but even they wouldn't leave a baby on a doorstep." He frowned. "Do you remember the hoo-hah yesterday? I overheard someone say the Potters were gone but…" he shrugged helplessly.
Petunia nodded and finally faced up to the thoughts she had been resolutely pushing away.
James and Lily wouldn't leave Harry. Which meant something had happened to them. Something bad.
Vernon crossed the room and put his arm around her. "What are we going to do?"
Petunia sighed. "Lily sent me a trunk only last week. It's in the attic. She said if anything happened to her I should open it."
Vernon looked slightly panicked as she moved past him and into the hallway. "What do I do if Howard wakes up?!"
"It's Harry, Vernon and do what you do with Dudley," Petunia sighed exasperated, "feed him or change him." She left him wrinkling his nose at the thought of nappy changes and headed upstairs.
She hated the ladder to the attic and went carefully up. They'd put flooring down so they could walk easily and it only took a moment to locate the old-fashioned wooden trunk. Petunia knelt down in front of it and carefully placed her hand on the lock.
It clicked open.
A golden glow seeped from the crack and Petunia caught her breath as she pushed the lid upward. The light streamed out and suddenly the shape of Lily was there in front of her…a golden cloud of magic.
"Help me, Obi-Wan, for you are my only hope!" Lily's avatar said loudly.
Petunia rolled her eyes. "Not funny."
"Oh come on, it's a little funny! And it was my inspiration for making this imprint!" The avatar looked around the attic and sighed. "Well, if I'm awake that means I must be dead." She grimaced at Petunia's soft sob at the blunt truth. "Sorry, Petunia."
Petunia allowed herself another moment of grief before she took a deep breath. "We found Harry on the doorstop."
Unsurprisingly, the golden shape immediately formed a stream of light. Petunia followed it down to the living room, very aware that the trunk followed on its own.
Vernon's shriek of surprise had her hurrying. She wasn't surprised to find him, clutching Dudley to his chest and keeping a chair between him and the golden form of her sister.
"Is that…?" he asked.
"Some form of Lily," Petunia said.
"I'm kind of a magical portrait," the avatar said, "but James and I worked out how to make me this instead of a painting. His trunk is in the family vault. I was given to Petunia for safekeeping. You can still call me Lily." She reached out a glowing hand to her son. "He's injured. There's a scar on his forehead."
"What?!" Petunia immediately moved to take a closer look, scolding herself inwardly for not giving her nephew a thorough examination as soon as she'd brought him inside. She brushed the dark tuft of hair back and frowned at the livid red lightning bolt scar. "Vernon, get a cold compress!"
Vernon placed Dudley back down, hurried out and came back almost immediately with a cold cloth dripping with water.
Petunia sighed. Men. They seemed completely incapable of wringing a cloth out properly. She squeezed the excess water into her abandoned teacup and laid the cloth on Harry's head. He hardly stirred.
Something dropped through the letter-box; the small thump echoing through the house and startling them all.
"Probably the paper," muttered Vernon as he went to investigate.
"Something's wrong here," Lily's avatar held her hand out over Harry's forehead, "there's dark magic attached to him."
Petunia's breath caught painfully in her chest; a shiver zipped down her spine. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure," Lily said, "but whatever it is it's not natural. It's subdued by the protection I gave him but who knows what affect it would have on him or the people around him long term? He needs a hospital and a Healer!"
"Isn't this your husband's snobby mate?" Vernon suddenly brandished the front page of the paper and thrust it in front of the golden figure.
Petunia craned her head to look and blinked. She barely recognised the bloody, sooty and dusty man.
"That's Sirius!" Lily almost reached for the paper before she seemed to realise she wouldn't be corporeal enough to hold it. "What does it say?"
"It says Black was arrested yesterday for that terrorist bomb in London," Vernon said, "it killed thirteen people!"
"That makes no sense," Lily paced away from Vernon and around the room, "none of this makes any sense!"
"Maybe the letter will explain," Vernon pointed at the letter in the basket.
Petunia reached for it.
"Wait!" The avatar stalked back over and raised her hand again. "There's a small magical compulsion spell on it."
"Of course there is," Petunia said sharply. She'd never trusted the magical world. She went into the kitchen to retrieve some tongs and set about opening the letter without touching it. It took a few moments but before long they were all crouched around the coffee table staring at the words.
"He tells you I'm dead in a letter!"
The imprint certainly had her sister's fury, Petunia noted. "I'm not sure realising it from knowing some imprint of you was awake was any better," she pointed out. "Apparently, by taking Harry inside our home, our protection and his is guaranteed from the magical world." She tapped the tongs on the sentence. "Honestly, did he think I was going to read the letter on the doorstep with a baby out in the cold?!"
"He's threatening us!" said Vernon, shoving a meaty finger at a passage. "If we don't take the boy in then we'll likely be targets of this bad wizard's followers. He's trying to scare us into taking him!"
"This is insane," Petunia said, "why would anyone see to the custody of a baby like this! They don't know anything about us!"
Lily's avatar nodded. "Sirius is Harry's guardian. He's meant to take him but there are provisions because we knew he might have gotten killed right alongside us. Either way, you are not part of the chain of custody, Petunia."
Petunia bristled at that. Wasn't she and Vernon good enough?
"It's not that I didn't trust you to raise my child, Petunia, but you're not magical," Lily explained, "and Harry is very magical. You and Vernon just aren't equipped to deal with floating toys and accidental magic – which there may be a lot of since he'd just gone through a massive trauma of some kind. It'll only scare you and you're scared enough of magic as it is."
Petunia nodded slowly seeing the reason. She and Vernon were not equipped to deal with a magical baby nor did they really want their lives upended by having to take Lily's child in. Of course, they'd do their duty if they had to…
"We need to get someone from the Ministry here," Lily said, "we need to tell them about Harry's injury and make sure he gets help, and find out what's going on with Sirius because he would never blow up a street! We can owl someone I trust who will help us…"
"Not this Dumbledore chap?" asked Vernon.
Lily's golden imprint shook her head. "No," she said tersely, "I'm definitely not going to trust that senile old man who left my son on a doorstep in November and tried to blackmail you into taking him."
Petunia nodded decisively. "Right then; Vernon, you'd best get to work, you're already running late. Lily, you and I will get this sorted out."
"Parchment's in my trunk," Lily said visibly relieved.
Petunia sneaked a peek at the slumbering form of her nephew. She would have taken him, under protest and grudgingly given that awful letter, but she would have done it. But, Petunia mused as she set out the parchment and picked up a pen, thank God for Lily's trunk.