dedication: TO CHLOE BC I WANT HER TO SHIP THIS WITH ME
notes: don't even look at me i ship it so hard
title: half turned to dust
summary: Something out of nothing, like a soul. — Petunia/Remus.
Remus takes Harry to King's Cross because Petunia won't.
It is September 1st, and she is losing one of her sons to the same school that took her sister nearly two decades earlier. Dudley doesn't ask—Dudley already knows that Harry is different, that Harry is special.
He accepts it with much better grace than she ever did.
She's not surprised about this.
Dudley is not like other children his age. He is bigger and somehow quieter, and, Petunia can admit, not as bright. But he is kind, her boy, always feeding pigeons and stray cats, tall for his age and growing still. He minds the younger children without being asked, walks them to their buses in the morning before he goes to school, his jeans patched at the knees from where he's torn them open defending the littlest ones from school bullies. He is not going to be suited to university, she knows, not the way Harry would have been if he hadn't magic at his fingertips.
Harry is clever and Dudley is kind, and together, they make quite the pair.
"He'll be home for Christmas," she scolds herself aloud. "Lily always was."
Petunia doesn't often think her sister's name, much less say it, but for now she thinks she deserves this. Lily always came home for Christmas, laughing and red-cheeked, deep pockets full of butterflies and chocolate frogs and notes from her friends. She came with sweets Petunia couldn't have named if she tried, and big thick books that smelled of vanilla and silence, if silence had a smell.
And Petunia had never once spoken to her about it.
Lily was gone, and now Harry is, too.
Petunia shakes herself out of it. Regret is for melancholy days, and she does not have many of those. Frankly, she has too much to do—with Harry off to that school, she is going to have to pick up the slack. Dudley's homework would need to be checked, they could do that after supper, after they did the dishes—
A bell rings.
She jerks her head up, eyes narrowing, lips pursing. A strand of ash-blonde hair falls across her vision, and everything slows.
Petunia hadn't been expecting anyone.
There is a bat by the front door. Heavy, wooden, sturdy; it is a pale line of safety at the limit of her home to keep the dark things outside where they belong. Petunia had cause to use it before, but never during the day. She doesn't want to think about the state of the hallway: there has been blood on the walls before and there will be blood on the walls again.
She wipes her hands on a dishtowel, and stalks out of the kitchen, rolling her sleeves up as she goes. The bell's fallen silent, but still she eyes the door suspiciously. Elderly Mrs. Mattheson next door always rings before bringing cookies. No one else would be home, this time of day.
Petunia is not stupid.
She peeks through peep-hole before she opens the door.
The exhale that escapes her moves her entire body.
She yanks the door open, and glares at him with all her might.
Remus Lupin is a shabby man in a long dusty-brown coat and boots of an indeterminable sort of leather. He is her age, perhaps a year younger; no older than thirty, but the scars across his face make him look older. In fact, everything about him makes him look older, from the lines around his eyes to the nick in his lip. His hair is the colour of wet sand, skin a shade darker, and despite the air of danger that hangs around him like a shroud, he smiles like sympathy.
Petunia can't stand him.
(No, this is a lie. She can stand him. For all his wizardry—even in her mind she spits the word—Remus is tolerable to a fault. It is Sirius Black that she cannot stand.)
She opens the door, regardless.
"Lupin," Petunia says colourlessly.
"Hello, Petunia," he says, and his tone is light. His hands are stuffed in his pockets, and he is, there is no other word for it, lounging. Something in chest wants to snap at him to strand straight, he's been spending too much time with Black, again, when is he going to learn.
"I didn't think I'd see you until Christmas," she says, the muscles in her face too stiff to even fake a smile. "What do you want?"
"May I come in?" he asks.
Petunia stands there for a moment, the bat within reach. She forgets, sometimes, that there are deeper and darker things out there, things that can't be beaten back with a bat or a sharp tongue. She forgets that there are bits of dirt that can't be scrubbed away.
"I was just about to put the kettle on," she says. "Take your boots off—"
"—you just washed the floor," he finishes for her, smiling.
Petunia's stomach clenches itself into knots as he follows her in. She does not like having people at her back, never has. But Remus, for all he brought Harry away, is one of the few people in the world she trusts not to stab her in her soft places if only because she'd destroy him right back.
"Close the door," she reminds him.
He already has. Petunia breathes a sigh of relief.
The flat is small. They can't afford much more than this, not on her salary (or lack thereof), but it is homey and so clean it shines. There is no excess dirt on the sill where Petunia keeps her potted herbs, no grime in the mortar between the tiles on the floor; everything smells of lemon cleaning supplies, and this is exactly as she likes it.
Remus is careful to keep the dust on his coat from hitting the floor.
Petunia approves. He's right, she did only was the floor this morning. She'd always cleaned as a method of coping, and having it mussed this would be irritating. She's just put the kettle on when it's whistling. There's no way it could have boiled that fast—
She whirls to glare daggers at the man sitting at her table.
"No magic in the house," she says, frostily. "You know the rules."
"Harry's not here," he says, gently.
"The rules are there for a reason, Lupin," she says, as severe as he is gentle. "If he catches you at it, there'll be no stamping the habit out, and I'll have pots and pans doing some sort of ballroom dance on the ceiling."
He's looking at her with level eyes, clear and quiet across the space between them.
"Oh," she says, and narrows her eyes again. "Lupin, have you come to comfort me?"
He stiffens, to her very great satisfaction. "No, I—"
"You're a terrible liar," Petunia cuts him off shortly.
And he sighs, a great exhalation of breath, like he was expecting her to do that. He probably had been; in some ways, Petunia is very predictable. Her regret and her icy temper are two things anyone who knows her can count on.
"Yes," he says. "I wanted to make sure you were alright."
"I'm fine," she says shortly.
He doesn't say that she doesn't sound fine, but then, Remus is much kinder than Petunia knows how to be. He won't call her on the flimsy tremble to her shoulders.
A moment later, Petunia can't keep it in, anymore.
"How do other parents do it?" she asks, voice ragged, tripping over the vowels of a sob. She thinks of Harry, with his big green eyes and his always-crooked glasses and the way he grins when he's gotten into something that he knows no one is ever going to believe. "How do they send—how do they just—?"
"I don't know," Remus says. "I wish I did."
He doesn't move to touch her when she turns away, and for this, Petunia is grateful. He doesn't see the tear in the pit of her eye, the loss like a physical weight. She knows if anyone touched her now, she would break.
Petunia Evans does not have time to break.
She shakes her head, and gives herself two deep breaths in through her nose to calm down. When she turns back to Remus, her eyes are dry.
"Me, too," he says. "Next time you should come with us. Dudley, too."
It's the mention of Dudley that does it.
Dudley, who is big and slow and sweet. Dudley, who looks at Harry and sees a brother and a best friend. Dudley, who looked his father in the face and told him to leave my mum alone. Dudley, who the Wizarding World always seems to forget.
But Remus remembers.
Petunia stills the shaking of her hands by busying herself with pouring a pot of tea. She turns and catches sight of the bump in his throat, imagines pressing her thumb there hard until the blood rushes away and leaves the skin white.
She's shooing the thought away before it has a chance to fully form.
This is Remus.
Remus, who remembers Dudley when no one else does.
The scrap of chair leg against tile rouses her from her thoughts. Remus is standing up, uncertainty in his face for a flicker of a second before it closes off, and she's left looking at a face as stone-cold empty as her own.
"I should go. I just want—"
"Would you like to stay for a cup of tea?" she cuts him off.
He looks at her for a long time, and Petunia would find the regard uncomfortable for the fact that Remus doesn't think her beautiful, and sheis absolutely alright with that. Petuniaiss only beautiful on the surface: she is all sharp angles, hoar-frost flowers on the windows that melt away with the warmth.
Remus Lupin looks beyond the surface.
"I'd like that," he says, hovering still.
"You can sit down, Lupin," Petunia says, lips twisting wryly. "I'm not going to kick you out. I offered tea. I'm not that unpleasant."
(She is that unpleasant, though, and they both know it. He doesn't remind her of the time Sirius stomped all over the flowers growing on the balcony in the back and she got so angry her face went numb from the rage. They'd had so little, and Petunia does so love her flowers.)
So Remus sits down, a little awkward, a little sweet, and he smiles at her.
"Here," she says, and sets the tea down in front of him.
"Are you going to sit?" he asks, indicates the rickety chair next to him. For a moment, she is hit with an image of Harry and Dudley fighting over the chair in the middle, both always wanting to be together but also apart. Something out of nothing, like a soul.
"Yes," says Petunia, softly, nearly smiling back, "I think I will."
And she does.