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Chapter 1: if you could go back in time, what would you change?
Lily. Lily Marie Evans. Lily Marie Evans, Muggleborn Witch. Lily Marie Evans, Prefect. Lily Marie-Evans, Head Girl. Lily Marie Evans, Auror. Lily Marie Potter, Wife of James Potter. Lily Marie Potter, mother of Harry Potter. Lily Marie Potter, dead.
Lily Marie Potter. My sister. Dead.
Petunia Dursley has the act down pat.
She pretends like she doesn’t care.
(Interesting Secret: She always has.)
She lived a life of ‘I-don’t-cares’ and ‘I-hate-yous’ and ‘Go-away-Freaks’. Just a life of lies, of pretending, of acting like everything was okay when it wasn’t, of ignoring all of that love, of wanting nothing more than for everything to be normal again.
But what really was normal? Was normal those trembling years, that half-remembered dream, of when Lily was a little girl with bouncy red pigtails and a lightning-bolt smile? When they were sisters, and played tag, and painted each other’s nails, and were Best Friends, PetuniaandLily?
But that wasn’t normal. That was a memory.
(Just A Thought: If you could go back in time, what would you change?)
Lily had always been incredible. Petunia had always been so painfully mundane that she often spent nights wishing on stars and constellations that she could be something special, that she could be Lily.
But she wasn’t Lily.
She was Petunia.
And that made all the difference, really.
Because Lily was Lily and Petunia was Petunia and Magic could never be Normal.
(A Memory: Once Petunia tried magic with Lily’s wand. Nothing happened. She realized that magic wasn’t from the stick; Magic was from Lily.)
And as she sat there, surrounded by an army of hygienically washed-down normal, staring at her normal hands and holding back her normal tears, and trying to act like she didn’t give a care in the world, Petunia realized that she was never coming back. Lily was never going to shine and glow anymore, and her lightning-bolt smile was lost forever, and those piercing almond eyes were just a mere memory…and Petunia wanted nothing more than to live it all over again, and change everything, starting with that first day.
She wanted to be a sister again.
Because that’s what she was: Petunia Dursley, Mother, Sister.
It was as natural as breathing.
And with all of those years of suffocation…she just didn’t know what to do anymore.
It felt like drowning, like she wished she could just pick up a stick and say some magic words and save everyone and make everything right again.
Big Sister, to the rescue.
She wasn’t a hero. She was a joke.
And Petunia laughed bitterly at her normal hands and wondered if Lily thought about her before she died.
Harry. Harry James Potter. Harry James Potter, A Nuisance. Harry James Potter, a boy with those soul-piercing eyes, marred by that face and that unruly hair and the reason my Lily is dead. Harry James Potter, Another Wizard. Harry James Potter, A Boy Who’s been Through a Lot. Harry James Potter, hero.
Harry James Potter. My nephew. Incredible.
And there he was, that boy of almost-twelve, glowing with the happiness of learning that he was just as magical and incredible and brilliant as anyone could ever want to be. And she looked at him and saw Lily in his eyes and almost broke down right there because she wished he was Lily but he wasn’t, he was Harry and Harry wasn’t Lily and damnit, I want Lily back.
Sometimes, Petunia wished she could tell the boy that she loved his mother.
Sometimes, she wished she could slip him a little more food and let him know that he glowed with a sort of brilliance that reminded her so much of Lily, and that no matter how hard anyone tried, to make sure that he never lost his shine.
Sometimes, she was almost positive that she loved Harry Potter, and she was almost mad at herself because she wanted to hate him so much and just couldn’t.
(A Confession: When Harry yelled in his nightmares, Petunia used to steal into his room and put a hand on his forehead and pretend that she was soothing Lily. He always breathed deeply and let a small smile light his face at the comfort, and her heart ached with the beauty of innocence, and she was suddenly okay that he was Harry and Not-Lily, because he was a part of Lily and that was enough.)
And there he was again, a boy of fifteen, sitting in her kitchen, telling her about the secret world she wanted to live in, proving to her that he wasn’t just a boy, but he was a hero with a mission and a world resting on his frail shoulders.
She almost wanted to put her arm around him and tell him that it was going to be okay.
But he looked so ready for anything, and he shone brighter than ever, and she knew that he would be just fine, and he would save the world.
(A Late-Night Thought: I wish he knew I love him.)
Regret and Remorse and a hundred-thousand ways of Apology and Wishing It Was Different.
Petunia wished she could start over.
She wished she’d clapped for Lily when she made magic.
She wished she’d hugged Lily when Lily got her letter.
She wished she’d smiled at Lily’s glow one last time before she went on her adventure.
She wished she’d listened when Lily talked about her wondrous school and her great friends and that Prat James Potter.
She wished she’d teased and poked Lily because she knew all along (Big Sisters know Everything, even when they Pretend not to care) that Lily loved that Prat James Potter from the moment he pulled her pigtail at the station (When Petunia was acting like she wasn’t watching but actually went home and smiled at the memory).
She wished she’d gone to watch Lily glow at her graduation, that she’d clapped for her brilliant sister and beamed with pride because that’s my sister up there, and she can make magic!
She wished she’d called Lily and told her to be careful when she found out about the War, instead of sitting at home and praying for her safety to the Trees and Sky and Magic and that Pressed-Flower that could Open and Close at the command of Lily’s fingers.
She wished she’d gone to Lily’s wedding and watched her while she glowed at the arm of James Potter, who Maybe Wasn’t So Bad After All.
She wished she’d written back to Lily and told her that the picture of her son was Beautiful, and that he had Lily’s Eyes.
Petunia had a hundred wishes, and a thousand shattered dreams, and a million ways that she could have made it better, but didn’t.
(A Last Wish from the Backseat of a Stranger’s Car: Please don’t forget me because I loved her and I love you and I just don’t know how to tell you.)
Family. Harry’s Family. Harry’s Beautiful Wife with Dark Flowing Red Hair, Ginny. Harry’s tall, mischievous-looking son, James. Harry’s quiet and beautiful son with Lily’s Green Eyes, Albus. And Harry’s brilliant Daughter who already glows so bright, it’s almost a heartbreak to look at her and not smile.
And Petunia smiles, because Harry knows she Loves him, and Lily’s right there, sitting in front of her, with her lightning-bolt smile and her hair in red pigtails (and even though her eyes are brown and not green, it’s close enough because she’s Beautiful).
And when little Lily holds up a leaf and shows Auntie Pet how she can make it flutter around a thousand times in the palm of her little rose hand, Petunia beams, gently touches that brilliant red hair, and says,
“That’s great, Lily.”
And Lily shines, and everything is Almost Okay.