Houses Competition: Year 2, Round 5
[Prompt]: The flowers died three weeks ago.
Word Count: 2190
Beta: Pix, Aya, JustPaulInHere
Tags: OOC Petunia Dursley
My Sister's Keeper
The flowers died three weeks ago, but Lily has said nothing. She's absentmindedly run her fingers over the dried leaves of the shrivelled rose plant, slightly teary-eyed but has not bothered to attempt to fix the flowers even with magic. That is the first sign that leads James to believe that something is very wrong, because if there is one thing she loves more than him, she claims it's those flowers. Her mother had gifted the plant to her when it was merely a sapling, and she'd tended to those button red roses with extreme care.
Lily hopes that once the plant grow strong enough, she can get the plant to creep over the panes of the window in the living room, and the plain brick wall of their little home would be covered with a carpet of green peppered with tiny roses.
"Just like in Enid Blyton's books!" she had said in awe, and James had nodded as if he knew exactly who Enid Blyton was.
When the first roses bloom, she's so delighted that she clicks innumerable pictures of the flowers, and even tells the neighbours about it. He vaguely remembers a mention of sending a mini bouquet of them to Padfoot as well.
So when she forgets to water the flowers two days in a row, and her glazed eyes just skip over the dead leaves like they don't exist, James knows something is wrong. She is lost in thought these days, quieter than usual, and when she thinks he isn't looking, he swears she is throwing him wary glances.
One evening, she finally tells him.
It's a rainy day, unusually cold. They're both snuggling on the couch, watching the dancing shadows created by the flame in their fireplace, after a strenuous half an hour of trying to get James to understand how a television works. That is unusual because Lily never gives up on trying to get James used to some of the "fun Muggle things".
Out of the corner of his eye, James sees Lily playing nervously with her hair, her brows knit into a worried frown; not a surprising sight these days. She's absent-mindedly tracing circles on the back of his hand with her thumb, her grip on his hand tight.
He knows she's struggling with words, so he waits. He doesn't know what to do that might comfort her because he has no idea what is bothering her, so he squeezes her shoulder gently, reassuringly.
She relaxes into his side, and moments later, burying her face in his shoulder, mumbles, "I'm pregnant."
With those words, everything falls into place, and James knows. He feels her tears soak through his shirt, and he understands her pain. In fact, he feels it as much as she does, but there is also nothing he wants more in this world than to hold their child tight against his chest, trying to get little fingers wrap to around his own.
Despite the fear that is now creeping into him along with the warmth, he is happy. And he tells her so. Tells her that they'll protect their child with their lives if they needed to; she nods against him and falls asleep moments later. James lets his head fall onto the back of the couch and stares at the ceiling till his eyes droop shut as well.
Their conversation only eases things only a little bit.
There is still a sense of unease that neither of them can shake off. There's always a small worried frown etched on her face, and once catches her staring at the mirror with a hand delicately planted across her stomach with a sad look in her eyes. Her eyes meet his in the reflection, and she sniffles softly.
"What sort of a world are we bringing our child into, James?" she asks, voice quivering.
Closing the distance between them, he kisses the top of her head and pulls her closer. "It'll be alright, Lil," he whispers, because he wants to believe it, despite the raging fear roaring in his chest.
She looks up at him, green eyes glistening with unshed tears. He tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear, and lets out a soft laugh. "Imagine a little girl with your eyes and my brilliant looks," he jokes.
Giving him a watery smile, she replies, "I like to think that it'll be a boy. With hair as annoying as yours, and-"
"Your eyes," he says again with conviction. "Our child has to have your eyes. Mine look like mud," he chuckled.
"I think they're quite alright, Mr. Potter," sighs Lily, kissing his shoulder and resting against him.
The conversation makes things slightly easier, but only because they seek comfort in each other.
It's not because Lily worries less, but merely because James lends a supporting shoulder when she needs it. She's the one that soothes him when he lies awake in bed at night, heart thundering in his chest because she knows that at night, his thoughts spiral out of control and he needs to feel her presence.
But it isn't enough; it is difficult now to go help their fellow Order members in the smaller battles across the country. There is so much more at stake now.
Twelve weeks into her pregnancy, James insists that she stay home while he goes on missions for the Order. Lily hates it, but she agrees anyway. She doesn't fall asleep until she feels the bed dip with his weight and he snakes a hand around her waist, pulling her closer.
It is during one of these nights that Lily feels particularly restless, because the sun is down and James isn't home yet. She paces across the living room restlessly for a while, before collapsing on the couch. She can feel the skin below her eyes starting to tingle, and she isn't sure what comes over her as tears blind her vision, but she picks up the phone that James has reluctantly installed in their home.
"It's for Muggles, Lil! We're not Muggles!"
She dials the number she's known for months, filled with a peculiar feeling of familiarity that is yet so unfamiliar.
"Hello, you've reached the Dursleys! How m-"
"Tuney…" she breathes, and her voice cracks just a little.
There's dead silence on the other end as Petunia stops mid-sentence.. The sense of longing she's kept locked away in the back of her mind hits her with full force. She clears her throat, trying to keep her composure.
"Lily," says Petunia in a clipped tone.
"H-How are you?" asks Lily, bringing her feet up on the sofa and pulling them close to her chest. "And the baby?"
"How did you-"
"Mum told me," says Lily quietly.
"Right. Of course."
"We're doing good, thank you for asking," she replies. "And you?"
"Tuney, I'm pregnant," says Lily, and Petunia can almost hear the sob that Lily is choking down.
"Well, I didn't…" she starts, but sighs. "Congratulations, Lil."
"Thank you," she says softly, and is suddenly unsure what to say to her sister. They haven't spoken since that disastrous double date years ago, but there is still something comforting about Petunia calling her Lil like when they were little.
"Mum doesn't know, does she?" asks Petunia a few seconds of silence later.
"No," Lily sighs. "I wanted to wait till-"
"Lily, why did you call?" asks Petunia at last, her voice tinged with both caution and concern.
"Tuney, I'm scared," she admits finally with the softest of sighs. "I-I know you don't want to hear about the wiz-my world, but I just… I needed to talk."
She takes her silence as a positive sign and continues. "We're in the middle of a war, Tuney and-"
"War? What, war? I'm sure I would've heard of such a thing, Lily," says Petunia sternly. "Wars are somewhat hard to miss, you know?"
"Tuney, all of the people that are reported missing? The storms in unlikeliest of places? That's all part of it."
"All that is your folks' doing!?" asks Petunia with disbelief, and Lily flinches at the accusation.
"Just a handful. There's some of us trying to er, keep it under control."
"I see," says Petunia, but she honestly doesn't. She suspects she would be better off not knowing, so she dismisses Lily's attempts to explain what the Wizarding War means. Instead, she gently asks her sister what it was she is scared about.
"I'm scared for the baby," admits Lily. "It's a horrible world for any wizard or witch to be born in, and I'm so so worried. James is gone and-"
"Wait, did that man abandon you or-"
"Tuney, no!" exclaims Lily, mildly amused despite her anxiety. "He just… He's gone to fight. And he isn't home yet. I-"
"Are you alone?" asks Petunia, cutting her off.
"Lily! You should know better than that! What if you need something!? Or the baby?"
"Tuney, I'm sure I can manage," says Lily, a part of her starting to feel hopeful that her ties with her sister may not after all be severed beyond repair.
"Oh? Is that why you called me then?" asks Petunia challengingly.
Lily falls silent, sniffling softly. "You're right. I'm worried sick about James. I'm worried about the world my baby's going to be born into. I'm scared, Tuney. So much could go wrong! I feel so helpless sitting home while James is out there, not knowing when it will be the last time I see him. And what if something happens to me?"
She's freely crying now and as much as a part of her wants to hang up on her sister, Petunia waits for Lily's sobs to subside. When her sobs descend back into soft sniffles, Petunia tells her that nothing will go wrong; that James will be back, and that all Lily should focus on at that moment is the baby.
The two sisters spend hours talking, slightly reserved at first, but the ice is thawing. Lily knows that talking to Petunia won't make everything she is worrying about go away, but it makes her feel better.
There is something oddly soothing in talking about the seemingly more mundane things, and not worrying about where the Death Eaters might hit next, or which family Voldemort will possibly target. She seeks comfort in the fact that outside of her war torn world, there is a seemingly safer place to be in. She knows it is delusional to think that the Muggle world is safer, but she lets herself believe otherwise.
And Petunia... She may not understand the wars, but she understands in the way that matters to Lily; she almost always has.
When James comes home that night, he finds Lily sound asleep on the couch, the mouthpiece of the telephone tucked between her cheek and shoulder.
After that phone call, Petunia visits the Potters thrice and Lily visits the Dursleys twice. James, though not fully trusting of Petunia, leaves their home with a clearer head than usual, knowing that Lily has company that cares for her.
James would rather have Mrs. Evans over, but Lily insists that Petunia's company is good enough for her. Petunia's dislike towards magic irritates him to no end, so he's grateful that Petunia's arrival almost immediately has him leaving the house on an assignment for the Order.
Petunia is initially quite finicky, flinching everytime James reaches for his wand or Lily uses hers to make her a cup of tea. Her discomfort makes Lily use her wand less and less, almost to the point where she hardly carries it with her anymore. James doesn't pretend to understand what the fuss is about because he's always felt that Petunia needs to accept Lily for who she is.
It probably has something to do with the fact that being a wizard is normal for him, and he's been brought up surrounded by magic.
Lily on the other hand, remembers what her life was like before she'd discovered what she is. She tells James that things with Petunia may be getting a lot better and that she might just be on the brink of re-establishing her relationship with her sister.
So despite how he felt, James leaves their home with a smile on his face, knowing that his pregnant wife is happier and less worried than she's been in a long time.
It has been a couple of weeks since Petunia's first visit, but things are only slightly better. Every unexpected knock on the door has him reaching for his wand and her hands flying to shield her stomach. They're happy, but also afraid. On the edge. They're both getting tired of it, and when Dumbledore mentions the Fidelius Charm, Lily has a sinking feeling.
She knows that'll create a gap between her and her sister again; probably a gap that she wouldn't be able to bridge. She wishes Tuney understood her world, but doesn't hold it against her that she doesn't. Sometimes, it's nearly impossible to get accustomed to an idea and Lily understood that.