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Blackberry Stone

By Sarah-Anne Dexter


Chapter 1

Well I, own this field,
And I, wrote this guide,
And I, have no reason to reason with you.

She recalled how, when they were children, Petunia had done all she could to differ from Lily. Her sister was not normal, and it had scared her. Of course it did – what child wants to find out her sister is more than capable of turning them into Lord only knows what? Those days she spent on that field with that damned Severus Snape, talking about magic and Dementors and Azkaban and potions. Now that she had been given almost seventeen years since Lily had been murdered, she realised her sister had not meant harm by talking of the world in which she had lived. As for Snape, well, Petunia remained unconvinced.

And so, for the best part of her life, she had strived to be as mundane as she could. Always fitting in, never standing out, and she was beginning to regret it. Dudley was almost a man now, and Vernon was long past being of much comfort to her; she didn't hate Lily half as much as she pretended to, but Vernon seemed to hate her for the sake of hating her. Yes, Petunia had been frightened by Lily's world, but she didn't hate her sister like Vernon did – Petunia didn't even think Vernon could give a reason for hating Lily anymore, other than, “But she was one of them!”

One of them, Lily most definitely had been. But she had died at the hands of evil, and last night, Lily's son, Petunia's nephew, had finally destroyed the man – the thing – that murdered Lily and James. Yes, Harry had finally done it, and Petunia was all too aware of the freedom that she had been given last night, because Harry had done what Lily would've done, given the chance. Lily could not have been that bad if she died to save her son.

But as young adults, when Dudley and Harry had been born, when both girls had got married, Petunia had found no incentive to contact her sister. She had not wanted to convince Lily to encroach back into the normal world she had started to stray from as a child. She had her own world, and Petunia had stayed in hers, and truthfully, neither had wanted the other's invasion. Had Petunia known that her sister would be killed aged only twenty-one, protecting her baby from the most evil being known to anyone, she might have put in a little effort, just a tiny bit, to tolerate that bizarre and frightening world she had been so afraid of as a girl.

I'd be sad that I never held your hand as you were lowered,
But I'd understand that I'd never let it go.

She walked down the path, the air damp with May mist, but not the type of fog that had been so prominent since the Dementors had abandoned Azkaban. Of course she had known what that was, as soon as it had become as bad as it was – because, after all, she had overheard those conversations between Snape and Lily.

She had let Vernon, Dudley and Harry believe she was none the wiser, but she knew. Honestly, she managed to piece together many things over the years, but she had remained silent, not wanting to admit that she understood what was going on.

After all, she was supposed to hate that world and everything and everyone who inhabited it, wasn't she?

It was that hatred that Petunia had always exaggerated to herself that had stopped her attending her sister and brother-in-law's funeral. How could she have shown her face there, surrounded by witches and wizards, with customs she couldn't have understood without warning? How could she have gone back on all she had said to Vernon about despising every freakish bone in Lily's body.

She had been a coward.

She had let those fears keep her from a last goodbye to her sister. But maybe that wasn't such a curse; would she have been able to bring herself to bid Lily farewell and know she could never see her again?

I'd be sad that I never held your hand as you were lowered
But I'd understand the world does what it does.

Petunia sighed, kneeling down on the grass, touching the thin blades with her thin fingers.

Why had she allowed herself to be so bitter and afraid? Didn't she have more courage than that? Or was she really such a coward that she had let herself believe for all these years that her distaste for Lily was anything to do with her being a witch and nothing to do with Petunia's longing to, just for once, be on a level footing with her sister? Because, honestly, Petunia knew that if she had turned out to have the same magical abilities Lily had, she wouldn't have had much of a problem.

But Petunia was a Muggle. The word rang in her ears, in the voices of Severus Snape and James Potter, mocking and sneering, making her feel that she was less than they were, just because she couldn't wave around a stick of wood and make strange things happen.

Rarely had Lily ever thrown that in Petunia's face, and certainly she had never done so without provocation.

It was the way their parents had fawned over Lily, the way Lily had been able to be proud of her achievements, the way Lily had been so , that had angered Petunia. Lily was everything Petunia wasn't; when it boiled down to it, it was jealousy she had always felt for Lily. She still felt that sisterly love – it never left her, even when she buried it so far down that she almost forgot she had ever felt it – but she was insanely jealous of Lily.

Their worlds had diverged in extreme ways, and their intense contradictions ended with the ultimate split: Petunia lived, Lily died.

And you never did learn to let the little things go,
And you never did learn to let me be,
And you never did learn to let little people grow,
And you never did learn how to see.

“You still don't get it, do you?” a small voice said behind her. Petunia spun on her heel and found herself staring at Lily's youthful, twenty-one-year-old face.

“What on-” Petunia spluttered, but Lily silenced her by raising her hand gently.

“Don't worry, Petunia,” smiled Lily. She was unchanged, probably still wearing the same robes she died in. “I'm all in your head.” Petunia was genuinely relieved. Her mistrust of the magical world had never vanished, and she didn't think she could bear talking to an actual ghost, even if she knew they existed. “Do you understand yet? Do you understand why I stopped trying?”

Petunia looked at the damp grass, shifting her booted feet. Truthfully, she did know. In her anxiety to refrain from showing fear and jealousy, she had been downright hateful towards Lily, knowing that Lily had only been living out her life, just as Petunia was living out her own.When she looked up from the ground, Petunia was staring straight into Lily's green eyes, exactly like Harry's. Even now, sometimes looking at Harry was too much to bear; there were times she couldn't bring herself to look him in the eyes because all she saw was Lily. “You didn't give me the chance,” Lily quietly told her. “You took our little differences and made them huge. You hated me for something I couldn't change. Every chance you got, you called me names, insulted my world. Yes, Petunia, my world,” she added more sternly when Petunia opened her mouth to argue that the wizarding world was never the one Lily was born in. “It was where I was meant to live. But I didn't want you to hate me because of that. It meant nothing. I knew Muggle-borns whose Muggle relatives accepted them happily.”

Petunia couldn't argue that point. After all, wasn't one of Harry's best friends from a non-magic family? Had her family disowned her? Probably not. And not to mention that, rationally, she knew that Lily was just her own mind telling her what it already knew, all the information it had gathered over the years. “That was the funny thing, you know,” said Lily conversationally. “Voldemort hated me for the opposite reason you hate me. He hated me for being a Mudblood,” she spat, “for being from a Muggle family. You hate me for having magic in my blood. I couldn't really win, could I?”

Petunia finally snapped at the image of her sister, “You never tried to include me! You just hung around with that godforsaken Snape boy, making it clear that you didn't want me there!”

“I'll agree that Severus didn't want to talk to you,” Lily coolly smiled. “But I never once said I wanted you to leave my life. I wanted the space to grow into a decent witch, yes, and I wanted the distance to be able to figure out the war that was going on in my world. I never excluded you, though. I even said you could read my school books if you wanted.”

“I didn't see the point.”

“You never looked for the point!” exclaimed Lily. “I was different, so you hated me. Maybe you were scared of the strange stuff, and jealous that Mum and Dad were actually pleased I was a witch, but that was all it was.” Lily stepped forward and stared into Petunia's face; she instinctively pulled her coat tighter around her body, like it could protect her somehow. “I was preparing for war, you know. Voldemort was starting to take over. James and I joined the Order. My friends were murdered. Tortured until they lost their minds. And still, I was trying to get my sister to understand that I was still Lily. Still the girl you grew up with.”

It was all there was to be said for the subject, for she knew all this anyway.

But I'd whisper that I love this man now and for forever,
To your soul as it floats out of the window,
To the world that you turned your back on,
To the world that never really let you be.

Lily reached out and touched her husband's gravestone, and sighed, “Don't tell me you came to see us?” with a faint laugh.

“Harry won,” mumbled Petunia. “He's gone. Voldemort is dead and gone.” Loathe as she was to admit it, she was glad Harry had got through the last year alive. She didn't need any more of her family to die at the hands of some barely-human, evil thing. “You didn't die for nothing. Neither did James.”

Lily smiled slightly. “I really do love James, you know,” she said. “You wouldn't have liked him whether he was a wizard or not.”

“I know,” agreed Petunia sniffily. “Far too childish for my liking. Harry's the same. Well, he used to be, anyway.”

The statement made Lily snort in an unladylike fashion. “Please,” she scoffed. “Dudley was always more of a child than Harry, and you know it. You never let him be a child. Dumbledore asked you to treat Harry as your own and you made him sleep in the cupboard under the stairs!” Petunia shifted uncomfortably, for she knew Lily was speaking the truth. She shouldn't have been so cruel to Harry when he was a child. After all, it wasn't his fault he was a wizard, or that his parents had been murdered. But Vernon had insisted that keeping him under the thumb was the way to get the magic out of him, and Petunia had let him do it. Let herself believe it, even.

“You know,” Lily said quietly, “I am sorry you never got a peaceful life. You didn't want to be in my world but when I died, you had no choice.”

“Owls flying in and out the place, letters shouting at me, Dumbledore in my front room,” Petunia bitterly listed. “That Weasley man blowing the wall apart, Harry inflating Marge until she flew away. Apparently there was even a in my kitchen. So Harry says, anyway. Your world,” growled Petunia dangerously, “never left me alone.”

To Petunia's annoyance, Lily laughed at her. For the first time, Petunia could see that from where Lily would have stood, these events would have been hilarious to watch. She imagined briefly that she was a witch, and that she had just watched Vernon's reaction to these things for the first time; she couldn't help it – she let out a short yet mirthful laugh.

And I am lower now and lower still,
And you did always say that one day I would suffer,
Did always say that people get their pay.
You did always say that I was going places,
And that you wouldn't have it any other way.

Lily heaved a sigh again, getting up from her own gravestone. Petunia had never had an experience like this, but she wasn't as scared as she had initially been. All that was happening was that she was imagining her sister's side of the conversation and, for the first time, letting some of the bottled up emotion out. “You told me when I left school that I was going to get in trouble, remember?” Lily smiled sadly. “When I told you James and I were going to join the Order. You said that people who put themselves in harm's way tend to end up harmed.”

“I was right,” Petunia simply said. She sat down on the ground, feeling the grass dampen her trousers and coat – for once, she didn't care about that, especially when Lily sat down next to her. “You went and got yourselves murdered. Nearly got your son killed, too. What on Earth were you thinking, putting your child in danger?” she berated her younger sister, just as she would have done had Lily survived.

didn't put him in danger,” Lily snapped defensively. “Voldemort marked him for death. That's why we hid. You know this. Dumbledore told you that, Petunia.”

“I know,” Petunia groaned; she only realised now that she had been absent-mindedly picking at the grass. Her hands were stained green in the morning light.

“Do you remember the last thing you said to me?” Lily gently asked her, a hint of sadness in her tone.

Take your man and your mad world and get out of my life. I don't want you and your freaky friends anywhere near me,” recited Petunia, word-perfect. How could she ever forget that? The last thing she had told her sister to do was get out of her life. It was only years later that she had done that, and only now that she realised that Lily could never really come back.

Because they had spent so long apart beforehand, and because Petunia stayed away from the funeral, when Lily died, it had not felt like she was gone forever. It had been easy to forget that she was no longer wandering either of their worlds, even with Harry to look after. It was a very strange sensation, to logically know someone is dead and buried, but not feel their death in your heart.

But now, seeing the gravestones in front of her, Petunia felt it. And it hurt. It hurt more than she could have imagined it would have done. It was only years of self-taught restraint that prevented her from breaking down in tears over it.

But I couldn't turn my back on the world for what I lack, wouldn't let me.
But I couldn't turn my back on the world for what I lack, I needed.

“I'm not like you, Petunia,” Lily murmured. “I couldn't walk away from the fight and come back to the Muggle world. I'd already felt the war. I don't have that ability to shut off that you have.”

Petunia stared at her sister and wondered if Lily had really envied that in her. “I'm a cynic.”

“If I'd been a cynic like you, I might be alive to have this conversation in person,” pointed out Lily. “I should have known better than to think Voldemort wouldn't find us somehow.”

The thought swam around in Petunia's mind; from all she'd heard about Voldemort, from Harry, from Dumbledore, from Lily and James themselves, he had been a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps Lily had been foolish to underestimate him, to take what he displayed for face value. But perhaps Lily had been doomed for death either way, since she was always going to defend her son to the death, just as Petunia would've done for Dudley.

And I couldn't turn my back on the world for what I lack, wouldn't let me
And I couldn't turn my back on the world for what I lack, I needed.

And maybe Petunia could have made more of an effort to understand Lily's world. In part, she blamed Snape's sneering coldness and cruel remarks to scare her away, but she also had to confess that she had been frightened of what the magical world held. Because, really, who wouldn't be afraid by the existence of soul-sucking Dementors and werewolves and dragons? Her logic had initially be justifiable, but maybe she had taken it a bit far.

However, Petunia knew she had always lacked that capacity for acceptance and change, so maybe it wouldn't have been so different. Even in the last seventeen years, she had learned to accept that Lily's world, Harry's world, did exist, and its fate – when it came to Voldemort – did affect the non-magic world. But seventeen years of secretly growing up had taught her that.

She had no way of knowing if she could have done it as a child or a teenager.

And it was because of this uncertainty that she found herself whispering to her sister, “I'm sorry, Lily.” Lily's smile made those little words worth the effort they took to produce.

I shouldn't turn my back on the sweet smelling blackberry stone.

It was with that one remark that Petunia stood up and gave the gravestones one last glance. When she had driven over here this morning, leaving Vernon and Dudley fast asleep, she had not known what to expect. If she had known that all her own forgiveness and acceptance was always within herself, she would have come before now.

She turned her back on her sister, both the figment and the grave, and started to walk away. In her ears she heard Lily's young voice softly whisper, “I love you, Petunia.”

Petunia froze on the spot and closed her eyes. How could she keep denying that she had loved her sister, after figuring out for herself that hatred had nothing to do with their fraught relationship? But could she say so out loud?

Her compromise was to make a deal with herself. Petunia made a selfish vow to herself, a pact with Lily, that she was never coming to this place again. She was never setting foot in this graveyard again in her life, and she was never putting herself through it again – her conscience clearly didn't like this desolate graveyard, littered with headstones bearing names that just had to be wizarding families. But in return, for Lily, she was going to utter a truth she had not admitted since they had been children.

“I love you, too, Lily.”

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