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Chapter 43 : Something Meaningful
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April 1st, 1979:
Petunia took out her portable secretary, which was a wooden writing desk with a hollow compartment for storing parchment, ink, quills and sealing wax. It had been a gift from Liana, and so had lessons from her on how to write legibly with a quill and ink. When Petunia asked what was wrong with a normal ballpoint and stationary, Liana had replied that writing with a quill taught a young witch or wizard discipline and was old fashioned but elegant. Petunia supposed that was so, and learned to promote goodwill between herself and her new in-laws.
She had just received a letter from her sister, a confidential one, regarding Severus and his recent activities as Dumbledore's agent. Lily had been very upset at the condition her husband had returned in from his last Death Eater meeting and since she couldn't confide in Eileen or Dickon, chose to confide in Petunia, who knew the entire story about Lily and Severus and Regulus' secret agenda.
Petunia drew out a creamy parchment and dipped her quill into the indigo ink and began to write, remembering to hold the quill at the correct angle and not press too hard.
I'm so sorry to hear that Sev is ill and hope that he feels better soon. If you wish, I can come down and help you take care of him while you're working. It's not like I have anything pressing to do around here, except attend a few benefits for Young Wizards and Liana's Witches' Club, which is a charity organization that sets up fundraisers for widows and orphans. With James gone to the Auror Academy, and not likely to get leave till May, I've been kind of lonely.
I know what you're thinking, Lil. Here I am, in the lap of luxury, my every need and want tended to by house elves, and I'm lonely. I must sound very ungrateful and selfish, right? Liana is very sweet and does her best to make me feel at home here, but the fact is that I am a guest in her house, and I feel like a guest, even though I am part of the family. The minute I try to do anything for myself, like remove a plate from the table after dinner, Blink is at my elbow and telling me, "Lady Petunia must not do Blink's job for him." It feels very awkward, especially when we both grew up with Mum's rules of clean up after yourself, a maid doesn't live here.
On the surface, it might seem wonderful to have a servant do everything for you, but sometimes I just want to scream that I'm not an invalid, I can pick up after myself and fold my own clothes and put my own shoes on.
Without housework to fall back on, I have more time on my hands than I know what to do with, and finally understand what people meant by "the idle rich". I've read more books in these past few months than I had back in school, and I really miss my husband. I'd even welcome that brat Sirius, because at least he would make things interesting. Okay, I'm not that desperate.
But I do wish there was someone to talk to around my age. The witches I've met through Liana are all her age and while they're nice, I can tell they're eying me up and wondering what the heck James saw in me, or why Liana and Charles permitted him to marry a Muggle? Every time I come to a meeting, they all seem to watch me like an unusual specimen of monkey.
Doubtless you'll say I should have looked before I leaped, and made sure I knew what I was getting into before I pledged myself at the altar. I thought I did know, but now I'm not so sure. Things were different with James around. He smoothed things over and people never were rude to me when he was beside me. Sorry, I don't mean to whine. You have bigger worries than my stupid social life.
Seriously, Lil, if you need anything, please let me know. Even if it's just to have somebody hold your hand while you cry in your coffee. I feel so bad that I couldn't be there last night, and help you take care of Sev. He's like my brother and to hear about him being in such pain . . .I'm so sorry you have to endure such terrible things.
Maybe I should go and give Professor Dumbledore a piece of my mind, putting eighteen-year-olds in such dreadful situations! And never mind that at seventeen in the wizarding world you're of age! Sev was spying for him long before that. Heaven help the old gaffer if Eileen ever found out what he made her son do! Not to mention Dad, he'd probably dust off that old revolver of Grandpa Evans' and threaten to put a bullet in the old man's head. I think Hogwarts would need a new Headmaster.
I wish this bloody war were over! Someone should just steal a bomb from the Royal Arsenal and set it off at one of those Death Eater meetings, that would solve all your problems, no? And mine too! I worry all the time about James, because the training is dangerous, and at any time they could suspend it and order him to duty, if necessary.
And here I sit, twiddling my thumbs and reading, while my sister and brother-in-law and husband risk their lives to rid the world of the wizard version of Hitler. Please be careful, Lil! I couldn't stand it if something happened to you. Or Severus.
Tell Sev that if I had that monster Voldy-mort here now, I'd kick him right in the balls! Then we'd see how much of a wizard he is!
I've also been studying as much as I can about pureblood customs and history and memorizing House crests and mottos. I don't ever want to be an embarrassment to James or give those gossipy hens any reason to snicker up their sleeves at me, the ignorant little Muggle Lady. But I do confess, it's slow going and I feel like begging Papa Charles to take me to a Quidditch match. I haven't been to one since before I got married.
Give my love to Mum and Dad and remember what I said.
All my love,
Petunia sprinkled the letter with pounce and after waiting for it to dry, folded it neatly in thirds and slid it into an envelope and sealed it. She wrote Lily's address on the envelope and then whistled for Tipperary, or Tippy, Liana's speckled owl. "Please take this to Lily Snape," she said to the pretty owl.
The owl gently removed the letter from her hand and let her give him a scratch behind the head before flying gracefully off through the conservatory window.
Petunia felt something warm and soft rub her ankles, and looked down to see Kismet, Liana's calico, at her feet. She bent and scooped the cat into her lap. Kismet immediately settled down and began to purr and knead her claws gently into Petunia's morning robe. "Hey, Kizzy. What shall I do today? Shall I donate some more Galleons to the Orphan Fund? Or read another book about Sir Lancelot and Elaine? Or wait, I know, I'll indulge in your favorite pastime, Kismet. I'll go and take a long nap." She rubbed the cat under the chin. Then she laughed. "Listen to me, talking to a cat like you could answer me."
Kismet purred thunderously. "I need to do something meaningful, Kizzy. Something besides just following Liana around to her Ladies Aid meetings. But what?"
She sighed. She was used to working a full day at the pharmacy, and then coming home to help prepare dinner and afterwards spending time with her family. Now, however, her days seemed to run into each other, and drag endlessly. Liana and Charles were kind, but she found she had little in common with the two aging purebloods, and she feared trying to make friends with another pureblood witch, figuring they would look down on her and sneer at her. She found that she missed Spinner's End and her family more than she would have thought possible.
She had regarded her marriage as a great adventure and looked forward to learning how to fit in with her new world and being with her husband. But after their honeymoon, which had been fabulous and which Petunia found unforgettable, James had gone away to the Auror Academy and she heard from him infrequently. She wrote letters to him once a week and sent him packages of his favorite snacks and whatever else he requested, but she longed to feel his arms about her and hear his voice in her ear, whispering tender endearments. She missed their morning flights across the grounds and riding on the back of his stag form through the small forest upon Potter manor. She also missed his lean, well-muscled body lying next to her at night, they had been married for six months, and she had spent only a month with him in all that time.
She had thought she was prepared for the reality of being an Auror's wife, the separation and the anxiety, but she was finding it much more difficult to adjust than she thought, and a large part of her problem was plain boredom. Because of the war, there were fewer soirees and balls thrown by the pureblood set and fewer invitations issued to the Potters and their new daughter-in-law as a result. Petunia longed to prove to her new family that she could be useful and help fight against Voldemort and his followers. Not that she wished to become an Auror or a spy like her younger sister, but she wished to show some of the doubting friends of the Potters that having a Muggle in the family was not something to be ashamed of.
Everyday, there were more reports of casualties in raids, and more families left behind to mourn those who had died. She picked up the Daily Prophet and after scanning the front page, found an articleabout St. Mungos and how they were looking for volunteers to help with some permanently spell damaged patients in their ward. Some of these patients, stated the article, had lost hope and were in a decline and some had been technically abandoned by their families, who could not deal with the person's injuries or didn't have the time or money to care for them, and so left them as wards of the hospital.
Volunteers needed! Petunia mused. I used to volunteer at the hospital a few hours a week back home when I was in school. I could do the same here. That's something I not only know how to do, but am good at. If they would trust me, a Muggle, to help them.
She decided to write the staff at St. Mungos a letter, and she signed it Lady Petunia Potter. It was the first time she had done that, but she figured what was the point of having a title if she didn't make use of it? One thing she had learned very quickly about the purebloods, was that they didn't hesitate to use their rank to get what they wanted.
She hoped they would reply promptly. Then she went into the kitchen to see if Blink would "allow" her to bake her favorite lemon poppyseed pound cake to serve for tea. Though she had gotten used to the house elves being around, she feared she would never get used to food just appearing on plates at dinner by magic. She had asked Charles once if the food just appeared out of thin air, and he had laughed and said that no one could create something out of nothing. Petunia had never seen any of the elves actually cooking and wondered how they managed to make meals. Was there a spell to just conjure food? Or did the food get magicked from one place to the Potter mansion? And if that were so, did it mean that some poor Muggle went hungry because his dinner had disappeared?
She felt foolish asking her in-laws such questions, and so held her tongue, though when she next wrote James she would be sure to ask him, and she could trust him to inform her truthfully and not sneer at her ignorance.
"Milady Petunia!" exclaimed the house elf when Petunia set foot in the graystone kitchen. "How may I be of service?"
"I . . .err . . .wish to bake a cake, Blink."
Petunia nodded. "I know such is not usually the case, but today I find myself in the mood to bake and would appreciate it if you would show me where everything is."
Blink looked quite shocked, then he bowed and said, "As you will, milady."
Petunia smiled. "I'll need eggs, butter, flour, sugar . . ."
She spent the afternoon happily baking and then Blink cleaned up the mess, despite Petunia's protests that she could wash a few dishes. "Oh, no Lady! You are mistress now, mustn't do such things! Sit and relax."
Petunia wanted to tell the little elf that she'd had quite enough of relaxing and resting and needed something to do. Something meaningful. But she didn't want to make Blink feel bad either. So she compromised, wiping down the counter and then going upstairs to sit in the drawing room and read till tea time.
To her utter surprise, she received a letter, and it was from St. Mungos. She opened it with trembling hands, figuring it was a letter of rejection.
But it was a letter welcoming her to the volunteer staff of St. Mungos, saying that she could begin any time she wanted.
A grin a foot wide spread across her face and she squealed and jumped up and down. At last she could feel useful and make a difference, so many times people tended to forget the veterans of war, especially those who had no family. Most times, those who had been injured wished to be read to or play a game of cards or just have some listen while they reminisced about their lives.
She quickly scribbled a reply and said that she would be eager to start tomorrow.
When she told Charles and Liana about her new project, they seemed very happy.
"What a brilliant idea, Petunia! I'm only sorry I didn't think of it before." Liana smiled. "I'm sure you will make a wonderful volunteer."
"Indeed. Some of those poor blokes have been vegetating in that ward for months," Charles agree. "Do them good to see a new pretty face."
Petunia blushed. Her new father-in-law was a gentleman in every sense of the word, but he, like his son had an eye for a good-looking woman. And he told her that his son had good taste to marry her. "Thank you, Papa Charles. I start tomorrow and I hope all goes well."
"It will. Don't fret, my girl." He gave her a genial smile. Then he added, "How would you like to attend a Quidditch match tonight? I just received tickets from a client of mine and we can go to it. Front row box, the Wimbourne Wasps are playing the Montrose Magpies."
"Oh, I'd love to see it!" Petunia said, beaming.
"And so you shall," Charles said, then he called Blink to refill their glasses with white sangria.
Petunia arrived home near midnight, exhausted and hoarse from cheering on the Magpies, which was James' favorite team, and also Petunia's. The Magpies had won by catching the Snitch in the last quarter. Still smiling, she got undressed and ready for bed, on this night she fell asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow, and she dreamed pleasant dreams of herself and James, riding through the trees in the moonlight, as she clung to Prongs' back and giggled at the tangled mess the wind made of her hair.
When she woke it was dawn, and soon it would be time for her to Sidelong Apparate to St. Mungos and begin bringing some life and meaning back to the forgotten war veterans. And her own life as well.
Hope you're all enjoying seeing this new mature Petunia.
Next up will find Severus brewing some rather nasty potions for the Dark Lord, and Lily attending a rather unpleasant meeting as Zoey. The next few chapters will be rather dark, since the war is now beginning and many atrocities are occurring which Sev and Lily will be witness to. Reg too, once he finishes school.
I was surprised at the lack of reviews last chapter and hope that you aren't becoming bored with this storyline. So . . .please review and let me know that you are still interested in me continuing to post this fic.
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