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Through Winter’s Dusty Memories - A Place for the most Rare of Loves
Find it in the Room of Requirement

Boca. posting in A Gift Exchange for HP Rarepairs
User: hprare_exchange (posted by msqu)
Date: 2007-10-16 00:47
Title: Through Winter’s Dusty Memories
Security: Public
Tags:het, james, james/petunia, petunia
Story for: bethyb00sh
Title: Through Winter’s Dusty Memories
Pairing: James/Petunia
Rating: PG
Summary: Petunia has never known true romance, and on a cold winter’s night she discovers what it means to live a life which can never be hers.
Additional Notes: I hope you enjoy it, particularly as it’s inspired by one of my favourite songs!

James shuffled through the cool evening, hands stuffed in his pockets and head bent towards the ground. He sighed as he cast an eye over the distinctly greying Muggle pub looming before him, but seemed to decide it was adequate and headed for the entrance. Immediately, he was hit with the smells of alcohol, cigarettes and decaying carpet. Ah, he thought, finally a place where it doesn’t matter. The barman gave him a grim smile as he headed for one of the stools scattered in front of the bar. Collapsing into one of them, his head fell naturally into his hands as he let out a long groan.

“Bad evening?” the barman inquired dispassionately.

“You have no idea,” came James’ muffled reply.

“Oh, I think I do, mate,” responded the barman. “Work in a bar, don’t I? I see plenty of this. What can I get you?”

“Just…just a beer, please.” James lifted his face up with great effort, and reached for the glass of amber liquid that had been placed in front of him. He stared at it for a long time, enjoying simply watching the beer eddy before him, and concentrating so hard it was as if he believed looking at it for long enough would make the rest of the world disappear.

After a while, he reached for it and drank heavily, inhaling the bitter scent just as much as he was savouring it on his tongue. It warmed his throat, and he took a few gulps more; flooding himself with comfort and feeling it seep away each time.

He felt a cool breeze play around his neck and ankles as another person entered the pub, but didn’t look around until the woman had seated herself just one seat away from him. He watched her impassively as she ordered her drink and traced the design of the beer mat before her. There was something about her that he thought he recognised – the way she flicked her hair, or the way she crossed her legs, perhaps? In a sudden wave of comprehension, he realised who she was. He had only met her once, and very briefly, but already he was disposed to dislike her. Having taken the decision to ignore her, he was therefore surprised when she spoke to him.

“James Potter? Surely – surely not.”

She didn’t sound cruel or derogatory, merely shocked. He turned back towards her and nodded, calmly saying, “Petunia Dursley.”

Again, her face registered surprise, presumably at the fact that he remembered her name, but she quickly masked it. “You’re the last person I expected to meet in here,” she confessed.

“Same,” he replied. “In fact, the idea of coming here was so that I wouldn’t be recognised.”

Nodding in reply, she took a sip of her drink and stared determinedly at the wall in front of her. She seemed quite embarrassed – an emotion he hadn’t at all expected to see her display. His preconceptions thawing a little, James attempted to continue the conversation.
“It’s pretty cold out there, hey?” he said, gesturing at the door.

“Oh yes, I wasn’t at all prepared for it,” Petunia replied, indicating her thin cardigan and skirt. She offered him a weak smile, which he found himself returning without thinking. “So why then are you here, James Potter, in a secluded pub on such a cold night?” she asked.

Feeling uncomfortable, James responded, “Oh, I needed a walk; a little break. You know, get away from the everyday for a bit.”

She smiled again, this time with grim empathy, and took another sip. A little pause followed, and then she stated, quite plainly, “I’m on my own tonight too.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, Vernon’s out of town for the week on business.” James noticed she took a rather larger sip of vodka this time.

“Well, I can’t say that having Lily around this evening was the best thing in the world,” he admitted. “That’s the reason I’m here, really…we both needed a bit of space, see.”

“I thought there might be a bit more to it,” she said delicately. “But it’ll all be forgotten by the morning, I’m sure. Couples like you are just meant to be, and if you have a few arguments it doesn’t matter at all. Just part of the package.”

“Yeah, I hope so, you know. We haven’t even been married that long.”

“How long?”

“Almost four months now,” he said, smiling at the memory of it. “She looked so beautiful that day – I can still see that afternoon sun reflecting off her hair and dress, if I close my eyes.”

Petunia watched him as his eyelids drifted shut and a look of bliss temporarily replaced the anxiety scratched into his face, but quickly looked away as he snapped his eyes open once more and raised his hand to order another drink.

“You’re lucky, you know, James,” she began, “to have that in your life. To have her in your life. I still love my sister, even after everything I said. But I can’t repair the damage now. I just don’t fit in anymore.”

She sighed, finishing her drink and rising from the bar stool. James looked startled, and asked, “You’re going?”

“I think I’d better.”

“Come on,” he said, patting the seat to his right, “stay here with me a while. We can just talk a bit more. I like the company.”

Petunia smiled weakly again, and sank into the stool beside him. She glanced at the barman, ordered another vodka and leant her head on one hand so she could face him. “Alright then,” she said, “tell me about how you and Lily got together.”

James let out a faint chuckle. “Well, that certainly is a story in itself. The thing was, I started fancying her around age fourteen or fifteen, but she wasn’t at all interested. I was just an arrogant prick as far as she was concerned. Kept turning me down! I didn’t give up, though, which probably annoyed her even more,” he recounted fondly. “Then, for some reason, I decided to tone it down a bit in our last year. I guess I was almost ready to accept what everyone thought was obvious – that she would never be attracted to me. But lo and behold, my old charm won her over and she agreed to go Hogsmeade – that’s the local town – with me. And I swept her off her feet.”

The both laughed softly, but an emptiness lingered behind Petunia’s. “I bet you were a real hero for her,” she joked lightly.

“You bet I was,” he replied, signalling for another drink from the barman.

“I remember her talking about you when she got home from school,” she recalled, “in her fourth year, particularly; continually telling us how much of a prat you were.” She rolled her eyes.

“I probably was,” James concurred, his voice slurring slightly as he said it. “Me and Pad- Sirius were pretty self-involved.” He took another gulp of beer and laughed again. “I was so proud when she first said yes…I held her hand all the way back to school, and I could hear people whispering about us, but I didn’t care.

“Then there was the time we first kissed…I remember that I dragged her outside on a really windy day so we could have some privacy, and we hid behind on of the pillars to shield ourselves from the gale. I sort of” – he took another swig – “wrapped my arms around her, then pressed her to the pillar and kissed her. She seemed surprised, but in a good way.” He finished his glass and gestured for a refill. “I’ll never forget it, y’know. ‘S times like this that make me realise how far we’ve come.”

Petunia had fallen silent and was gazing almost wistfully at James. “You had the perfect story,” she murmured.

“Sorry?”

“Oh, nothing,” she amended hurriedly, feeling around in her handbag distractedly. James was already ordering another drink by the time she looked up, and seemed ready to launch into another story. “Just give me a minute – I’m going to nip to the toilet,” she said as steadily as she could manage, hopping down from the stool and hastening towards the door marked ‘lavatories’.

Standing in front of the water-splashed mirror, Petunia examined her face. It had gone a little red and blotchy, but otherwise looked normal. She leant down on her hands, her elbows resting on the sinks’ countertop, and attempted to compose herself. After about a minute had passed, she straightened up, smiled brightly at herself in the mirror, and returned to the bar, where a slumped James was describing his marriage proposal to the barman.

“I ge’ down on one knee, an’ I say, ‘Lily, you are the mos’ beau –”

“Come on James,” Petunia commanded firmly, “I think we should go.” She pulled him off the stool, helped him stand upright and supported him as they walked slowly out of the pub.

The air was sharp and cold outside, but Petunia welcomed it after the muggy atmosphere of the pub. She led James round the side of the building, where he pulled free of her grip and leant against the wall, breathing heavily. She leant directly opposite him, smiling as he tried to stand straight and flopped against the wall again.

“We’ve talked abou’ me an’ Lily a lot tonigh’ y’know…bu’ nothing abou’ you an’ tha’ Dursley guy. How did you meet?”

Petunia laughed hollowly and replied, “Oh, it was nothing special. Not at all like you and Lily.” She turned away from him and stared into the darkness. When she twisted back, tears were clearly visible in her eyes. “All I wanted, James, was to have a story to tell…a big romance, like you two, where I was carried away by my knight in shining armour. But no, I’ve never experienced that at all. I love Vernon, but I have so much left in me that I can never explore. I will al– always have this voice in my head asking me why I never took that risk and fought for the grandeur you had.”

Tears were leaking profusely from her eyes as she stared at James, her body shaking with sobs. James’ smile faded as he looked at her, so small and helpless, and without even thinking, he stumbled towards her and met her mouth with a clumsy kiss.

She was cold as he wrapped his hands around her waist, and her hands met the skin exposed at the back of neck. The kiss deepened, and he could taste the peppermint savour of her loneliness: so different to the cinnamon and sugar he knew. Eventually, he pulled away, aware as he did so that his lips were stinging with this new secret.

Petunia looked up at him, running her fingers over her lips, tracing the memory of his being planted there. “You’re right,” she whispered. “We just can’t.” She stepped away from him carefully, watching his eyes all the time. “We need to go home, James. Neither of us is thinking straight.”

James nodded his agreement slowly, and taking one last look at her tear-streaked face, staggered away up the road, back to his home. Petunia watched him disappearing slowly, only beginning to move herself when he had vanished from sight. With great effort, she picked up each foot and placed it in front of the other, walking in the opposite direction to James. Each step she took was a reminder that the next time she saw him, he wouldn’t remember anything; he may not even recognise her at all. And she would have to turn away as if nothing had happened, letting the secret escape her lips in a sigh which would be lost in the wind.
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Beth: Narnia
User: bethyb00sh
Date: 2007-10-16 13:14 (UTC)
Title: (no subject)
Keyword:Narnia
Oh how beautiful! I never imagined it to be something like this, but it makes so much sense! A beautiful story, mystery writer, and I enjoyed it so much.

The conversation between James and Petunia was well-written. The aversion between them at first was well-put, and the dialogue moved from delicate to friendly as I saw the evolution of their relationship. At first, I was a little curious about the arguments James and Petunia might have had with their spouses, but then I realized it didn't matter. Such a trivial detail wouldn't have any positive effect on this story!

I feel so much more for Petunia here than I have ever felt for her before. "I still love my sister, even after everything I said. But I can’t repair the damage now. I just don’t fit in anymore.”
My favourite line from Petunia. Very appropriate and so sad.

But of course my favouritest (hee) part of all is the last paragraph.
And she would have to turn away as if nothing had happened, letting the secret escape her lips in a sigh which would be lost in the wind.
Marvelous. Simply marvelous.

If that song had inspired this story, I need to get my hands on it.
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merlins_babe
User: merlins_babe
Date: 2009-02-18 22:17 (UTC)
Title: (no subject)
This story has been rec'ed at
The Golden Seeker
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Pining for...
March 2008