FIC: "Cultivation" for donnaimmaculata Recipient:donnaimmaculata Author: ??? Title: Cultivation Rating: R Pairings: Petunia Evans/Vernon Dursley Word Count: 3409 Medium: fiction Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *None*. Summary: Petunia must stay at home with her ill mother while Lily continues her studies at Hogwarts. Stunted in the shadow of her sister's deeds, Petunia never expected someone to pull her into the sun where she might actually grow. Author's Notes: Many thanks to my wonderful beta B. Any remaining errors and inconsistencies are totally my own.
Petunia waited outside King's Cross station, pretending she was only there to keep the taxi from leaving. Lily had asked her, as always, if she wanted to say goodbye at the platform, but Petunia didn't want to see the first years eagerly boarding the train. Better to stay out here and pretend none of it existed.
Petunia scuffed her shoe against the kerb, annoyed. She glanced at the clock. Surely the train had left by now, yet there was still no sign of her mum. She went inside and wandered between Platforms 9 and 10, getting more and more frantic.
"You should have seen all of the owls!" Petunia's head jerked up as she heard her mother's voice.
"There you are!" Petunia turned around, hoping no one had seen her mum suddenly appear. "What took you so long?"
"I was talking to Mrs. Potter," she said as she leaned on her cane, her other hand waving animatedly. "Did you know there are flying motorbikes? Her son nearly got a ticket riding around in broad daylight, can you believe --"
"-- is that so," Petunia interrupted, trying to urge her on toward the door. She swore a conductor looked at her strangely. Just as she managed to get them outdoors, Petunia saw the taxi had left. She looked up and down the street, anxious. Her mum seemed oblivious to the predicament, still going on about the flying motorbike.
Petunia heard a sharp whistle and when she turned, she saw a teenaged boy hailing a taxi. He was about to get in when he saw Petunia. She noticed his gaze go to her mum with her cane.
"Here, you take this one," he said, holding open the door and helping her mum inside. He offered his hand to Petunia. Petunia felt herself blush as she took it and got inside. During the ride, her mum continued her story well within earshot of the taxi driver, but Petunia even didn't think to tell her to shush.
Her mum, though not elderly, had always been poorly due to being struck with polio as a child. When their father died, neither Lily nor Petunia thought their mum ought to be left alone. When Lily mentioned this, their mum insisted Lily couldn't possibly leave her studies and she ought to stay at Hogwarts. This left the burden to Petunia, who instead of attending her sixth form, would tend to her frail mother.
Petunia was outside trimming the rose hedge, her sleeves rolled up and the ugly green gloves chafing her wrists. It was hot and the trimmers were causing a blister to form, even with the gloves. Petunia didn't want to be in the house anymore, so she had come out to the yard to attempt to clean it up a bit.
"You look like you could use a hand."
Petunia turned around, startled. The boy she had seen at the train station was grinning at her, leaning nonchalantly on the fencepost. He was dressed rather smartly for a Saturday - not exactly a school uniform, but his trousers looked freshly ironed and his shirt was buttoned up to the neck.
She wiped a strand of hair from her forehead, embarrassed at how sweaty she was. "I can't say I'd mind."
He nodded toward the hedge trimmers and started to roll up his sleeves. "Let me have a go at that."
Petunia handed over the trimmers. The boy started to work briskly at the hedge. He was obviously trying to impress her, Petunia felt, and she decided she was impressed.
"Ever since my father died, there's really been no one to keep up with the yard work," Petunia said, peeling off her gloves. "My mum's too poorly to tend to the flowers due to her illness, though I try to keep up."
"I'll help you out with it if you like," he said. "I do yard work for the elderly neighbours near our house. It's tragic that young healthy men don't do their part for the invalid as they should, don't you think?"
Petunia nodded, still quite perplexed by his behavior. It just seemed so odd. He didn't really act like the boys she saw at school, like he was a gentleman from some other era. She wondered why she didn't recognize him; maybe he went to one of those private boarding schools.
"I’ll get you a drink," Petunia said with a smile. "Be right back."
Her mother was sitting in the chair by the window so she could get some morning air. Her mother was staring out the window when Petunia walked by.
"Isn't that the boy from the station?" her mum said.
"Yes, he's helping with the hedge."
"I hope he's not expecting payment." Her mother looked worried. "I don't get my cheque until Friday."
"Of course he isn't," Petunia said briskly, fetching the water pitcher from the fridge.
Her mum raised an eyebrow. "Do you know him?"
Petunia went back outside without answering. She noticed the boy had done quite a lot of work on the small hedge in such a short amount of time. There were dark stains around his underarms and he was breathing a bit heavily, but he smiled broadly at her approach.
"My mum was just saying how kind you are to help with the yard work," Petunia lied. She disliked the shrill sound of her voice and she knew she was talking too quickly, too. "She said you do such good work and told me you're quite the example for those lazy boys that are always slouching about and causing a nuisance."
"That's what my mum says," he said with a hearty laugh. "Anyway, I'd be glad to help you out again if you'd like."
"We'd appreciate it." Petunia handed him the glass. He drank it down in several gulps, handed it back to her. "My name's Petunia."
When Vernon wasn't coming by to do the yard work, he came by to take her out for a walk. He confessed to her that he had heard her address when her mum had spoken to the taxi driver at King's Cross. Petunia thought she ought to be scandalized, but Vernon was nothing but a perfect gentleman. She looked forward to their regular walks, which of course her mum found very peculiar. Young people went to the cinema or the pub, they didn't go for walks, she said. But that was what Petunia found she was liking more and more about Vernon; he was unlike what she expected of any boy.
*** Vernon had invited Petunia to join his family for church that Sunday as his sister was singing a solo in the choir. Vernon's parents were grand, imposing people; much different from Petunia's parents. When they walked inside, the usher greeted them politely.
"Your usual pew, Mr. Dursley?"
Petunia was quite impressed when the usher led them to a pew quite close to the altar, unhooking the velvet rope so they could sit down. Petunia also noticed that when the offering plate went around, Vernon's father put a very large envelope upon the plate. He made a big show of smiling broadly at the usher, who smiled (a bit falsely, Petunia thought) back.
When they stood outside after the service, Mrs. Dursley seemed to latch on to every woman who went by -- at least the ones with the most jewelry -- and gush loudly about how wonderful their Marge was. The women would smile politely, but then seemed far too eager to get away from Mrs. Dursley's clutches.
Petunia started to feel a bit indignant on their behalf; surely anyone could see the Dursleys were fine, upstanding citizens. Mrs. Dursley knew each of the women by name; she seemed to know where they went on holiday and what schools their sons attended. But most of all, she was quite interested in Petunia, something Petunia never quite received from her own parents. She was quite happy to talk to Mrs. Dursley and when she caught Vernon's gaze, she saw his approval.
It was pouring when Vernon arrived for their regular walk, but she insisted they go out anyway. Elderly people returned his polite nod, as if he were a wealthy gentleman and not a teenager still in school.
"It's really coming down now," Petunia said, huddling closer to Vernon and his umbrella.
"I think I see a shed outside that allotment," Vernon said, pointing. "Let's take shelter there for awhile until the rain passes."
They hurried inside the gate and sat down on the wooden bench inside the shed, but not before Vernon removed his jacket and set it down so she could sit upon it. They sat there in silence for a moment, looking out over the gardens. Someone was hunched over a hoe, working away even despite the deluge.
"Sometimes I walk by here and see these folks tending their allotment," Vernon said, pointing to the gardener. "I realize it's all very well; fresh air, exercise. But I don't really fancy seeing myself doing such a thing. I mean, that's what the greengrocer is for, right?"
"I don't mind tending to flowers," Petunia said. "But you're quite right. All those bugs and such."
"Not to mention parsnips," Vernon made a face. "I hate parsnips."
"I promise you won't find a single one on your dinner plate," Petunia laughed and patted his hand. He took her hand in his and smiled.
"Do you realize how much you've captivated me?"
Petunia blushed. "I had hoped you might be as fond of me as I am of you."
Vernon brought her hand to his lips and kissed it, which caused a secret thrill to go through her body. She had always worried that, were she ever to date a boy, it would be all fumbling pawing and such. But Vernon's kiss was so chaste and simple, she was completely taken in by his gesture. Petunia was so happy, but also so flustered and conflicted. She adored hearing about his life, his plans, his family. They very rarely spoke of hers. She knew that would eventually happen.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, it's just.... your family is so good, so proper and well-bred. I'm afraid I can barely compare." Petunia thought about Lily. How could she even tell Vernon, practical and solid Vernon, about Lily and Hogwarts?
"We can't help where our roots are planted," Vernon said, gesturing to the wet gardens. "Just how we grow. When weeding is needed, you pull up the weeds and then the good things flourish."
When Vernon brought her back to her front doorstep, she was about to pause to speak to him again, but then she heard what she swore was a hooting sound. Her eyes widened with terror.
"See you tomorrow!" she blurted abruptly, nearly slamming the door in his face.
Her fears were true. There, on the back of an armchair, was a scruffy-looking owl. Her mother was stroking its head.
"What is that thing doing inside?" Petunia gasped. "What is it doing here?"
"Lily sent him," her mother replied cheerfully, as if the owl were nothing more than a birthday parcel. "His name is Gus. Isn't he a sweetheart?"
"Mum, what is it doing inside...."
"It was pouring so terribly," her mother said, "I couldn't possibly leave the poor dear outside, it would catch its death of cold."
"Well, it's stopped raining now," Petunia opened the window. "Come on, let's get it out and it can go back to where it came from."
"Oh no, it's our post owl!" her mother said with a smile. "Lily bought him for us to keep, so we could write her as wizard folk do."
"We can't keep an owl." Petunia was frantic. "What will the neighbors think?"
"They'll know we have a witch in the family," she said proudly.
"It's going back outside," Petunia said, exasperated. She waved her arms at the owl. "Go on, you, get out."
"Don't be so harsh," her mother said, holding her arm out to the owl. It clambered onto her arm and Petunia felt like the owl was glowering at her with its yellow eyes. "See, he's very friendly. Go on, love." Her mother crooned to the owl. "There's a nice tree out there for you. I'll have some post for you in the morning."
The owl hopped off her arm and sailed up into the tree, where it sat on a bare branch in plain view.
Once her mother had gone upstairs, Petunia checked several times, hoping the stupid owl had flown away. Unfortunately, it was still there.
Petunia picked up the phone, glancing up the stairs. Looking up the number in the book, she dialed.
"Hello, is this Wildlife Control?"
Her mother rarely left her room these days, which worried Petunia. Sometimes she would bring dinner up to her mum if she wouldn't come downstairs. One evening while Vernon was visiting, Petunia went up to fetch her tray and found the food untouched and her mum still in bed.
Her mum looked out the window. "Have you heard from our Lily?"
"No," Petunia said, "I told you I'd tell you if I had, right?"
Petunia sat on the edge of the bed, uncomfortable as always. It was during these times that she silently hoped for some spark of recognition of her own sacrifices, the reasons that she was here and not in school.
"She doing all right?" Vernon said, glancing her way as she came down the stairs.
Petunia shrugged. "The doctor thinks she's just being stubborn. She ought to get outdoors, but she just stays in her room."
"She won't tell you why?"
Petunia sat down on the couch beside him, feeling helpless once more. Vernon reached for her hand and squeezed it gently, polite as always. She took his hand and put it just underneath the bottom of her blouse, against her stomach. Petunia was scared he would pull away, but instead he only looked at her in confusion. His hand was warm against her skin and she felt him pull his fingertips inward, which tickled. She drew in a sharp breath, intensely aroused.
He moved closer to kiss her, but she turned her head away. She started to unbutton her blouse.
"Kiss me here instead," she whispered, her hand at her throat and then trailing down to her breasts. He kissed her neck slowly but she urged him to go faster. When he did, she wanted more. She pulled him down on top of her, rubbing herself against his leg. She could feel his prick underneath his trousers. When the friction wasn't enough, she squirmed her hand into her underpants and brought herself off to a shuddering orgasm. They looked at each other, dazed.
"I'll just... go to the lavatory for a moment," Vernon said, breathing heavily. Petunia nodded. She then realized never brought her mum's tray down from her room.
When Petunia slipped back into her mother's room, she felt a cool breeze. The window was open slightly, the curtains blowing. She closed the window and peered out into the dark. She reached for the quilt to pull up over her mother, then saw in the moonlight that her mother's face looked ashen. Petunia hesitated, then leaned down closer.
They drove in silence as Vernon followed the ambulance. He cursed and slowed down as they approached a stop light.
"Don't worry," Petunia said. "It's happened before. Probably pneumonia again... she'll be all right."
But Petunia wasn't sure.
Petunia sat in the plastic chair by the hospital bed, watching her mum sleep. Vernon stood behind her, his hand awkwardly on her shoulder. She wished he'd move it away, but she knew he was trying to be comforting. Suddenly, there was a loud noise, as if a car had backfired outdoors.
Lily pushed back the hood of her traveling cloak, her eyes red-rimmed as if she had been crying.
"I came as quickly as I could," Lily said, as if her sudden appearance wasn't unusual at all.
"Vernon," Petunia said, her voice trembling, "This is my sister, Lily."
Vernon looked too stunned to move. It didn't seem to matter, as Lily ignored him completely and took their mum's hand. Petunia started to move toward Lily, but then stopped, terrified, as Lily took out her wand. Lily started to speak aloud and a bouquet of roses (complete with a vase) suddenly burst from it, landing on the nightstand next to their mum's bed. Petunia heard Vernon gasp.
"Stop it," Petunia said, horrified, but Lily went on chanting and waving, roses popping out of nowhere and landing on every available surface. One of the large vases started to scoot over a pitcher of water as if clamouring for space; Petunia grabbed the pitcher before it crashed to the floor. She didn't dare look at Vernon. "Lily, don't you remember, they'll send one of those letters to you --"
"Let them." Lily's voice was hollow. "I don't care."
Petunia tried to reach for Lily's arm, but Lily jerked away, her words louder as a multitude of potted plants surrounded them. Lily's chanting reached a triumphant end and a shower of red and white petals suddenly burst over their heads and drifted slowly down. Vernon frantically brushed the petals off his jacket as if they were biting insects.
"I think I need -- " Vernon said shakily " -- no, I demand an explanation."
"Ask her," Lily said harshly, jerking her head toward Petunia, "if she'll give you one."
With that, there was another loud bang and Lily disappeared.
Vernon was very pale. The teacup clattered as he set his cup back down in its saucer.
"She's a witch?"
"Yes," Petunia said. "I know it all sounds impossible, but there it is."
Vernon looked up at her blankly, clearly expecting some other explanation.
"I wish it weren't true," Petunia said. "I wish it were all a dream and I'd wake and I'd --"
"Then we'll make it a dream," Vernon reached for her hand. "It's all just a terrible, awful nightmare and now... now we'll wake up and it'll be over, right? No such thing as flowers that come from nowhere or any of that. It doesn't exist."
"It doesn't exist," Petunia repeated, her hand gripping his. It sounded so reasonable. She could feel such strength in him. The promise of such good things. "None of it."
The houses on Privet Drive all looked the same from the outside, but as Petunia stood inside the empty house she dreamed about how her house would look better than anyone else's. The hedges were a bit unkempt but the Agapanthus were gorgeous. She nearly jumped as Vernon tapped her on the shoulder.
"Daydreaming?" he said with a grin. "I've called you three times from the car. We should be going, we're to meet Marge for supper."
"It's just so perfect," Petunia said. "I can't bear to leave it, even though I know it's ours!"
Vernon slipped his arm around her waist and pointed at the fireplace. "Can you see our little tyke's stocking hanging there?"
"Yes!" Petunia said, delighted. "We'll fill it with so many toys, won't we?"
"Only the best for our best," Vernon chuckled. He kissed her cheek.
"And chocolate and sweets -- "
"-- everything, I promise!"
Petunia laughed, her heart so light. She could already hear the babbling of the little one that she would spoil so thoroughly; the one she would more fiercely than anyone had ever loved a child before.
As she stepped into the car, she thought she heard a soft hoot but she dismissed the chill that threatened to move into her heart. She couldn't have heard what she thought she heard.