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Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
Petunia stopped her frantic pacing and turned to the woman standing in front of her. She was an elderly woman, with a crooked nose and wiry blonde-turning-grey hair. Her skin was leathery, but her countenance was that of a trustworthy person; it made a person want to tell her each and every secret they had, which hardly helped Petunia as she was trying to get the woman to divulge a secret, not keep it.
“Are you certain that’s what happened, Miss -?”
“It’s Marion, and yes, Your Majesty,” the woman said, bowing her head in respect. “That is what I saw.”
“That’s not what I asked,” Petunia said, her tone as icy as her blue gaze. She pursed her lips and carefully contemplated her next words. “You have to be one hundred percent positive that is what happened as you are making some serious allegations against my sister, the crowned princess of Westerflower,” she reminded the elder woman. “I don’t care what you saw.”
Perhaps it was the edge to her voice, but suddenly the woman - Miss Marion - looked very anxious indeed. She showed all of the signs of a person in doubt: she fidgeted with her hands, her brow was furrowed, and she was refusing to meet Petunia’s gaze. In any ordinary social context, it would have been proper etiquette, but this was vastly different from any situation Petunia had ever been in - except with the incident with the butcher’s son.
And the gardener.
And the tutor from -
Petunia shook herself out of her thoughts. She could mull over it after the woman was dismissed. “Well?” she said imperiously. “Are you positive that precise event is what occurred?”
Marion licked her thin lips, her eyes darting back and forth. “Well, um, you see, I merely saw the princess exiting the room where I knew the young man was being -”
Petunia held up her hand, effectively cutting off the ranting woman. “I’ve heard enough,” she said, a note of finality in her voice. “Bertram, if you would please escort Miss Marion back to the kitchens…”
There was a certain panic in the elder woman’s gaze, but after reassurances from the guard that the princess’s words were not a euphemism for the gallows, the woman went willingly. Once the door to the throne room closed, Petunia sank down on the steps of the dais, uncertainty weighing heavy on her shoulders.
“Oh, God,” she whispered to herself, pushing both hands through her long blonde hair, her eyes slipping closed.
As much as she didn’t want to believe the woman’s story, Petunia knew better. There was a chance - a very sizeable one, if she was honest - that Marion hadn’t been mistaken, that she had, in fact, witnessed Lily slipping into the chambers of a young man - most likely a solider - and leaving quite flustered.
It wouldn’t be the first time Lily involved herself with someone below her station. There had been the butcher’s boy, the gardener, the language tutor in Summermarsh, the jester and the physician’s assistant (both had been fired from their positions) and probably a slew of others that Petunia didn’t know about.
Growing up with Lily was…difficult, to say the very least. The younger of the two Evans princesses, Lily was the innocent one, the one with the baby face and bright green eyes that could enchant just about anyone. She had a precocious personality, always making jokes and laughing as if she didn’t have a care in the world. Her charm was the stuff of legend, similar to those of their late grandfather, King William, who had been adored by all of their subjects and neighbouring countries. In short, she was the perfect daughter, everything a princess should be - except for one thing:
She was the most fickle person Petunia had ever met in her entire life, even for a princess.
One day, Lily’s favourite colour was green and the next it was violet; one evening she demanded to have wine with her dinner and the next, she was spitting it into the goblet, declaring it the most disgusting thing she’d ever consumed. She wanted to learn the violin on a Monday, but by Sunday next, the piano was the sole instrument of her desires. She loved the heat, then she hated it. She wanted to marry Prince Severus of Easterhollow and then she didn’t - she wanted to run away and marry Bruce the butcher’s boy or Francois the language tutor. She wanted everything she saw because she was inherently curious and always searching for the next best thing.
It was impossible - and time consuming - trying to keep up with her, so Petunia had given up and let their parents chase her around, telling her what to do and what not to do. It was much easier to let others deal with Lily. Petunia had been content on doing just that for as long as she lived, but then King Gregory and Queen Phillipa decided that their eldest daughter was more than capable (with the assistance of Dumbledore) of looking after the kingdom and, more importantly, Lily.
She had failed them - her parents, her sister, her kingdom. She’d failed them all.
She had - unintentionally, of course - betrayed the trust they’d stored in her by letting her sister’s wandering eye become a wandering hand and God only knows what else.
Petunia sighed, loosening her hands from her tangled hair. Her eyes stung as she stared down at the tips of her ruby coloured shoes, wondering exactly what she’d done to make the world so angry with her. She was the obedient daughter, the one who did what she was told to do and acted as a princess was supposed to. She was the heir to the throne, not Lily, yet everything Lily did seemed to overshadow all of Petunia’s accomplishments. And just like always Petunia, not Lily, would be the one to take the fall for the younger’s actions, despite the fact her entire focus had been concentrated on the clean up following the attack and redoubling the castle’s security.
She pushed herself to her feet, knowing fully well that moping would get her nowhere. She was a woman of action, a woman of station. She could do something about this; she could stop it before it spiralled out of control. As it stood, it was nothing more than a rumour, but oftentimes the rumours were far worse than the truth, and Petunia would be damned if she let her sister destroy her reputation over the fancies of a foot soldier.
No, she was going to do something about - something drastic, yes but also very necessary.
“Ouch!” cried James for what felt like the hundredth time in the last ten minutes alone.
“Oh, button up. I only poked at it,” barked a stern looking woman. She had steel grey hair, a hooked nose, and all the bedside manner of a porcupine - except nowhere near as cute.
He pulled a face, but closed his mouth all the same.
The first time Bertha the Nurse had barged into his room to tend to his wounds (at the behest of Dumbledore, who was busy attending to all of the other sick and wounded in the castle), James had put up a fight, complaining about how much it hurt as she poked and prodded and redressed the wound. That’d earned him a fair bit of pressure on one of his blossoming bruises. When he called her an unsavoury name, she viciously ripped off one of the bandages.
He swore he could still feel the sting, but the lesson was learned: Bertha was not a woman to be argued with. Not without consequences, anyway.
It was only when his skin felt like it was being seared right off his bones that he let out a yelp. “Bertha!”
“Oi! Stop your moving, twerp, I’m almost done.”
He pushed her callused hand away from his abdomen, where she had been applying some sort of salve to his wound. “Stop trying to turn me inside out then!” he shot back through his gasps for air. “Merlin, that hurt. What the hell are you trying to do anyway? Murder me?”
Bertha looked up from her work, her thick grey eyebrows knit together in vexation. “I’m trying to keep you alive, but if it’s murder you want, hand me one of those pillows there.”
James returned the vicious glare. “You have a funny way of keeping people alive.”
“And you have a funny way of not keeping your mouth shut,” Bertha said. “Now let me do my work or else.”
It was an empty threat, but he took one look at the deadly spark in her dark eyes and consented, removing his hands from the hole in his side. In truth, it wasn’t so much as hole as it was a deep gash. The skin around said gash was swollen and inflamed, yes, but it didn’t pain him nearly as much as it had the first day after the attack.
That was three days ago.
That was also the last time he’d spoken to Lily, but he pushed her from his thoughts before he could get angry and take it out on Bertha. Though her touch was far gentler than it had been moments ago, he doubted she would very much like an unprovoked attack.
“Well,” Bertha said finally, as she capped the jar of salve and wiped her hands on her apron. “It doesn’t look infected nor does it have the awful stink of rot.”
“Good?” Bertha snorted. “That’s marvellous, considering the rate the others are dropping. Consider yourself lucky, Potter; the remedies Dumbledore suggested actually worked for you. Not many others can say the same.” She turned her back to him to retrieve a fresh stack of bandages from her bag.
“Is he that bad of a physician?”
She waddled back over to his bedside, motioning for him to sit up as she approached. He did so, with great difficult and a deep groan that rumbled in his chest. It took a moment, but he caught his breath enough to lift up his arm so she could start winding the long strip of cloth around his torso. As she wrapped him up, she spoke:
“Dumbledore is the best damn physician this court has seen in the past hundred years. And don’t you start with your witty comments, boy,” she reprimanded as soon as she saw his mouth open. “I wasn’t alive when he first arrived at court, but my mother was. She used to tell me about all of the miracles he performed on people destined for death.”
His thoughts went back to his world, where death after death was splashed across the front page of the Prophet and people were terrified to leave their homes. “So if he’s so good at what he does, then why are people still dying?” His voice quivered as he looked up at her in earnest, hazel eyes searching her wizened face for answers. “Is it because he’s getting old?”
Her smile was tinged with sadness. “No, dear,” Bertha replied, bringing up a hand to touch the top of his head. “It’s because the enemy is that strong.” Her touch lingered for several moments of silence before she dropped it and resumed her work.
Once the final strip of bandage was secured into place, she took her leave, exiting as quietly as she had entered.
Despite the fact he’d lived at Westerhaven Castle for nearly seven years, Remus Lupin had never been to Dumbledore’s chambers. Located in the underbelly of the castle, he’d never had need to go there. Save for today. Today, he walked with a purpose.
The corridors were narrowed down here, the stones darker. Torches hung every few paces though they did little to lessen the shadows. Remus couldn’t understand why the old man would want his chambers in such a dark, dank place. It was nothing short of dreadful down here.
He was halfway to the physician’s chambers when Mary’s voice called out to him.
“Finally! I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.” Her eyes narrowed as he approached her. “I’ve been waiting for almost an hour.”
“I’m sorry,” Remus said at once. “Moody wouldn’t let me leave until I finished all of my duties and James’.”
The severity in her face lessened, lessening the impact the shadows had on her features. “Oh, well, I’m sorry for being so rude.” She folded her arms over her chest, running her hands up and down her biceps. “This place just gives me the creeps, is all.”
“Understandable,” Remus said, nodding. “Shall we?” He gestured towards the dark stretch of corridor that awaited them.
Mary grimaced. “I suppose we should get this over with. I’m sure Dumbledore will be interested in your findings.”
He didn’t want to think what Mary would say when he reported that he had no findings at all. So instead of dwelling on the thought, he led the way down the corridor until they found the correct door. Aside from the brightly lit torches, the only other thing on the wall was a slate black plaque with a golden inscription denoting the old healer’s status.
Mary stepped forwards and knocked, rather impatiently, too. Her jaw was set as they waited in the darkness for Dumbledore to respond. “He’d better be in,” she grumbled. “I had to skive off my duties for this. I imagine Lily won’t be too happy when she finds out she’s got to use Amelia.”
Out of impulse, Remus put a hand on her shoulder. “It’ll be fine,” he soothed, giving her shoulder a small squeeze before dropping his hand. “I’m sure she’ll understand.”
He could have sworn he saw Mary glance at him out of the corner of her eye in an appraising sort of way, but the sound of shuffling on the other side of the door drew both of their attention away. Seconds later, the door opened, revealing the kind and heavily wrinkled face of Albus Dumbledore.
“Come in, come in,” greeted the old man, beaming at them over the crest of his half moon spectacles. His eyes were so blue, they shined even in the poor lighting of the dungeons. As he retreated back into his chambers, he added, “I’ve just put the kettle on.”
“Brilliant,” chirped Mary as she stepped through the threshold.
Remus followed her and, with a gentle click, closed the door behind him. The room was covered in shelves, all of which were overflowing with books, spare bits of parchment, vials and jars, and everything in between.
“Sit down and make yourselves at home,” Dumbledore instructed, shuffling to the wood-stove, where the kettle was just beginning to boil. “I trust you’ll both want a cup of tea?”
“Yes please,” they said in unison, each searching for a place to sit. The entire front room was littered in papers and textbooks, all with thick spines and curious titles written in faded golden ink. In the end, they sat down on the bench pushed away the far wall.
“So,” Dumbledore prompted, his back to them. “What news? How is young Mr. Potter?”
Remus choked on his breath. He hadn’t expected the conversation to become so serious so quickly. He thought that they would have made small talk and drank a cup or two before talking shop, but Remus supposed that the physician did have people to see to.
Swallowing thickly, he did his best not to wring his hands as he spoke. “There’s been a vast improvement in his condition over the last three days. I think your prescriptions are working.”
“Of course they are,” Dumbledore said off-handedly. “But what of the other? Have you noticed anything different about him?”
Frowning, Remus shook his head. “Nothing I noticed. And I feel like I know him fairly well. He complains about the pain, but he’s in good spirits, just like always.”
Dumbledore twisted away from the woodstove and studied Remus with his strangely luminescent blue eyes. “Did he consume any of the food you brought him?”
“No,” he muttered, feeling ashamed. He spared a glance at Mary, who was looking at Dumbledore. “Not while I was there, at any rate. He said he wasn’t very hungry.”
“That’s a common side-effect of nearly all healing potions,” Dumbledore replied gently. Remus did not miss the kindness and understanding in the old man’s words. “There will be more opportunities to ask the young man questions. He will not be going anywhere for the next few days - not unless I give the word. But fret not, Remus, we’ll find them out soon enough.”
Mary opened her mouth to speak, but the kettle started to whistle and the physician’s face lit up. “The tea is ready!” he exclaimed, beaming at them. “Now, who would like some treacle with their cup?”
Lily felt guilty.
She had felt that way for the past three days.
Ever since she’d chewed James out.
For saving her life.
Immediately following their argument, Lily had tried to justify her reason for yelling at him by blaming it on instinct. After all, for the better part of five years, the only time she ever actively sought him out was to scream at him for being a prick. Even if it wasn’t her business, she took every opportunity to knock him down a peg or two. It was only natural that she would get defensive, that she would yell at him instead of thanking him.
Or so she tried to tell herself, but the guilt continued to eat away at her, so much so that she asked Mary to get her a Sleeping Draught from Dumbledore, but even that didn’t help.
Something akin to frustration burned in the pit of her belly at the thought of him. Stupid, dumb, daft Potter. With his ruffled black hair and eye catching smile. Her stomach continued to sear, though the sensation didn't pain her nor was it acerbic. It felt almost…fond. Which was bizarre, considering that they were on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.
Groaning, Lily abandoned all pretences of concentration and slid down in her chair. “I’m a horrible person,” she mused aloud, rubbing her hands over her face. Her fingertips found her temples and she kneaded them, wanting nothing more than to be able to sort out her feelings - and confirm whether or not any of them were for James.
Lily balked at the thought, sinking even further in her arm chair, her neck straining from the awkward angle.
As Lily jumped out of her skin at the sound of the unfamiliar voice, she realized that this was quickly becoming a thing. She didn’t like it. “For the love of Merlin, will you people please stop sneaking up on me?” she asked, pushing her hair out of her face before climbing out of her chair.
“Sorry, Your Highness,” said a girl who was unfamiliar to Lily. She bowed her head, eyes staring pointedly at the floor.
The knot of guilt became so heavy, Lily put her hand on her stomach, massaging the area just below her belly button. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped at you -”
“Amelia,” the brunette supplied, giving her an odd look. “I’m one of your sister’s maids.”
“Ah, right, sorry,” Lily apologized again, mentally scolding herself for slipping up. Again. That, too, was quickly becoming a thing. “I didn’t notice with the - is that a new dress?”
Amelia blinked at her, clearly confused by the path the conversation had taken. “She’s the one who sent me, Princess. Your sister - her Royal Highness Petunia -”
“She’s not a Royal Highness, just a princess,” Lily corrected with a roll of her eyes. Typical Tuney, she thought bitterly. “Last time I checked, our mother was still the queen.”
The maid continued as though she hadn’t been interrupted. “Princess Petunia requests your presence in her chambers at precisely three o’clock this afternoon.”
Lily pinched her brow. “What time is it now?”
“It’s half past two, Your Grace,” Amelia answered, an unmistakable tone of smugness in her voice.
Sirius arrived, punctual as ever, at Princess Petunia’s apartments. Though it was still unclear precisely what he was doing here, he strode through the double doors with an air of confidence that was quite unfitting for a dog. He owned it, though, just as he owned every aspect of his personality: effortlessly.
“Ah!” the princess exclaimed as he padded into the hall. “There you are, Black. Right on time.” She didn’t rise from her seat to greet him. He preferred it that way.
“Would you expect any less of me?” Sirius retorted, jumping into the empty chair to her immediate right.
From the corner of the room, someone scoffed. “You should address your princess with more respect, dog.”
Snape, Sirius growled internally. His annoyances, like his hackles, raised tenfold at the sound of the visiting prince’s nasally voice. “I have all the respect in the world for Petunia.’
Snape sprang to his feet so quickly, he might’ve been resting on coils. He had his hands braced on the table top and was glaring down the length of his nose before Sirius could even blink. “How dare you!”
Spittle landed on Sirius’ snout. He grimaced, but didn’t say anything.
“Severus, please calm down,” Petunia urged, rising from her seat to place a hand on his shoulder. “Black is an old family friend. We’re well acquainted with one another and address each other casually.” Though her voice was friendly, the warning glare she sent at Sirius was anything but.
With the guidance of the princess, Snape took the seat opposite Sirius. “That should not excuse his reprehensible behaviour. Then again, he is an inferior being and most likely does not understand the importance of titles.” He glared at the black dog. “You did not address the princess by her proper title.”
Sirius shrugged. “I’m sorry,” he said, though his tone suggested otherwise.
“Your Highness,” Snape shot back, drawing out each of the syllables.
The dog flicked his tail irritably. “As far as I’m concerned, you are not my prince. To me, you are just another visiting dignitary with a poor attitude and absolutely no power in the realm of Westerflower or her people, myself included.”
Snape’s jaw was clenched so tightly, the sound of his teeth grinding was audible.
“So,” continued Sirius, delighting in the other’s agitation. “I suggest you remove the stick out of your arse and go back to your little corner to sulk over your bruised ego. The adults have a matter of importance to discuss.” He tore his eyes away from Snape, whose face grew redder and redder as the seconds ticked by, and looked to Petunia. “At least that was my understanding.”
“You understand perfectly,” confirmed Petunia.
Smug, Sirius turned to the prince and smiled. “Then let’s get down to business, shall we? What is it that you wanted to discuss that required my presence?”
The smallest of smiles touched the corners of Petunia’s mouth as she picked up her cup of tea and brought it to her lips. “A matter of security.”
A/N: If it seems like it’s been ages since I’ve updated this - that’s because it has. To make a long story short, my little brother had surgery back in June and his recovery has been a lot more intensive than we initially thought it would be, so that left little time for writing. However, he’s back home now and doing fantastically, and now I have time to do what I love most! I know I promised a lot of juicy happenings, but really, it’s just a lot of plotting between the characters. I hope you enjoyed it, though! Thanks so much for reading!