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Chapter 1: The Witch's Sister: Petunia's Story
It was mid-December and eighteen-year old Petunia Evans was curled up on the sofa, “watching telly” with her boyfriend, Gregory Fisher. As a matter of fact they hadn’t even gotten around to switching on the television, let alone watching it, but it made a good excuse to get away from her parents and their questions and get a little time to themselves.
“I think we’ll go into the living-room now,” Petunia had remarked as they had finished dinner. “There’s a programme about to come on which Greg just has to see.” She nudged him.
“Oh, em, yes,” he muttered. “Never miss it.”
Luckily they hadn’t asked what programme it was, as they might well have done. Her parents really were ridiculously suspicious, when it came to her anyway. All she and Greg were doing, really, was talking and cuddling up together.
“Your sister should be coming home soon,” shouldn’t she?” Greg commented.
“Yeah, the day after tomorrow,” she replied unenthusiastically.
“How come she’s going to boarding-school, anyway?” he asked. “After all, you didn’t, did you?”
“No, I didn’t, but well, she’s….. Well, it’s sort of a special school.”
“A special school? You mean, she has a disability or something?”
Petunia was almost tempted to reply in the affirmative, but he would be bound to meet her over the next couple of weeks and he would surely find out she’s lied.
For a moment, she considered telling him that Lily attended a special school for problem children or something like that. It would be fun to have somebody think of Lily as a troublemaker. Reluctantly, however, she abandoned that idea too. Mainly because of the reaction she knew she could expect if her parents found out that she’d told him that, and also because she wasn’t sure she could sustain such a story, if he started asking what she had done.
“Nothing like that,” she finally replied. “It’s just that she….well, she’s studying subjects that you can’t do in any of the schools around here. It’s kind of a special programme.”
“Like a stage school or something.”
“Yeah, kind of like that.”
“It’s nothing spectacular,” Petunia almost snapped. “I mean it’s not as if she’s going to be famous or anything. If you ask me, she’s wasting her time. I don’t think she’s learning anything that will be any use to her when she’s looking for a job.”
Petunia had no idea whether that was true or not. She knew nothing about the wizarding world or what job options were available there. Not that she was interested or anything, she told herself.
But the last thing she needed was for her boyfriend to start getting impressed by Lily’s stupid magic tricks. She heard enough people withering on about Lily and how talented she was- more than enough.
Once Greg had left, her mother started up in that vein again.
“I didn’t hear the television on in there,” she commented suspiciously. “I hope you weren’t up to anything you shouldn’t be.”
“We were only talking,” Petunia replied in exasperation. “And ok, maybe he kissed me a couple of times, but he’s my boyfriend, in case you haven’t noticed. We’re eighteen. What do you expect us to do-sit around playing tiddlywinks?”
“Now you know I don’t mean that, Petunia! Just don’t go getting in any trouble, that’s all. We never have any trouble from Lily.”
Lily, Lily, Lily, Petunia thought angrily. Wasn’t it easy for her to be the good daughter, when she was off at school, with nobody knowing what she was doing.
It wasn’t fair. She’d been living away from home, doing more or less what she liked, probably, since she was eleven years old, whereas, Petunia, who was more than two years older than her was still living with her parents, having her every action scrutinised. Anybody would thing she was the younger!!
Things had become a whole lot worse since the results of Lily’s O.W.Ls had arrived just weeks after Petunia’s A-levels. Lily had received a mixture of Os and Es, which were apparently the highest results possible on the O.W.Ls. Petunia, on the other hand, had received mostly Ds, which were admittedly far less impressive, and had to put up with weeks of comparisons from her parents.
“If only you’d put half the effort into your work that Lily does,” they had complained. How could they know how much effort Lily put into her work? All they saw her do was her holiday homework.
Ok, so she had received supposedly good results, but look at the subjects she was doing. Petunia had heard her talk about them often enough and despite professing to have absolutely no interest, had sneaked a look at Lily’s report card. Potions, Transfiguration, Charms. How difficult could they be? They were all just a matter of waving a silly wand and saying a few ridiculous-sounding words.
“Abracadabra, hocus-pocus, Alicazam,” she muttered, waving her arm around. Nothing to it! Lily should try taking some proper subjects like French or Geography; the sort of subjects that Petunia had done for her A-levels. Then she might not find it so easy to be getting such impressive sounding results.
Of course to hear Lily talk about it, you’d think she was studying Advanced Biochemistry or Astrodynamics or something equally difficult, Petunia thought, when her sister arrived home two days later.
As soon as she came in the door, their parents began asking her all about life at Hogwarts. Petunia might as well not have been there for all the attention that was paid to her.
“How are your studies going?” their mother asked, though without the accusatory note which had always been in her voice whenever she had asked Petunia similar questions.
“Unbelievable,” Lily replied. “Studying for the N.E.W.Ts is something else. I don’t know what next year is going to be like. If this keeps up, I don’t think I’ll be able to come home for Christmas at all next year. Not without the aid of a timeturner anyway!! What was it like studying for the A-levels, Petunia? Were they as bad?”
While Petunia was deciding how to answer such a completely ridiculous question, her mother intervened.
“Oh, Petunia didn’t exactly overwork herself anyway. She appeared to have no interest whatsoever in her studies. If she doesn’t find a nice rich man to marry, I don’t know what she’s going to do. The kinds of job she’s going to get won’t keep her in the style to which she would like to become accustomed.”
“Anybody would think I spend a fortune the way you go on,” she snapped at her mother. “And I’ve told you before, I’ll get a job. I’m still considering my options.”
“You don’t have all that many options; not when you’ve refused to consider any form of third level education, and have absolutely no experience of even part-time work. I don’t know what you’re expecting. Christine offered you a job in her boutique and you wouldn’t take that.”
“I’m hoping to get something that pays a little better than that,” she began, but her mother interrupted.
“Let’s not discuss it now. We don’t want to ruin Lily’s first day home with silly arguments.”
Oh, of course not. It was ok for Petunia to be subjected to constant nagging and criticisms, but you couldn’t ruin Lily’s day by expecting her to listen to it.
It had its good side, of course. Her parents’ absorption with Lily did at least mean that they paid less attention to her older sister’s doings and spent less time questioning her suspiciously every time she had been outside the front door.
On the other hand, it was rather irritating when she actually wanted to tell them something and she’d find them sitting in the kitchen listening to Lily telling some stupid story about Bogarts or Hinkypunks or some other strange phrases that meant absolutely nothing to her. It would never have occurred to Petunia that, perhaps if she took a bit more interest in her sister’s descriptions of her life at Hogwarts, she would understand what Lily was talking about and might feel less excluded when her family were discussing life in the wizarding world.
Lily, on the other hand, did try to take an interest in her sister’s life, even if that was made more difficult by the fact that Petunia never contacted her while she was at school, which left rather a lot to catch up on during the holidays. She was particularly interested to hear about Greg.
“I can’t wait to meet him,” she declared. “You’ll just have to invite him around some day before my holidays are over.”
That was just what Petunia did not want to do. The last thing she wanted was to have Greg sitting there chatting to her sister, probably being as impressed with her as everybody else was.
Finally, though, she could come up with no more excuses, particularly since he was just as keen to meet Lily as she was to meet him.
“Ok, come over Christmas Eve,” she surrendered.
“You don’t sound too pleased at the idea,” he said. “Don’t you want me around or something?”
“It isn’t that.” Surely he knew that it couldn’t possibly be that. “It’s just that….. well, things are rather hectic at home at the moment, with Lily home and all. And you know, she’s going to want to meet you, and ask you all sorts of ridiculous questions. You know yourself what little sisters are like. I’d rather have you all to myself.”
That answer pleased him.
“I’d rather have you all to myself too,” he replied. “But we have to get to know each other’s families too, don’t we?”
It certainly looked that way, she thought. Well, she might as well submit to the inevitable.
She regretted having done so almost as soon as he entered the house, and she saw his eyes turn towards Lily in appreciation.
“Wow,” he flattered her. “From what Petunia said about you, I’d imagined a little girl, not a beautiful young woman like you.”
Lily smiled at his flattery.
“I suppose I’m still a little girl to Petunia,” she replied. “You know, being the baby sister and all. And I have been away most of the year ever since I was 11.”
Their mother came out of the kitchen to greet him at that point.
“Dinner’s nearly ready,” she announced. “I hope you like chicken, Greg. It’s Lily’s favourite, and I’m afraid we’re all inclined to spoil her a little when she’s home. We see so little of her, after all.”
Greg assured her that chicken was absolutely fine, but his eyes never moved from Lily, and throughout dinner, he paid far more attention to her than he did to Petunia, teasing her and laughing at her jokes, while Petunia sat in sullen silence.
“Your sister is really great,” he told her, when she’d finally managed to drag him away. “And really good-looking too. You never told me that. I don’t know. I guess I was imagining her as this little sister. It never occurred to me that she might be so pretty.”
Petunia was disgusted. She had expected him to be impressed with Lily; everybody was, but it had never crossed her mind that he might fancy her. And she had certainly never thought that he would be so blatant about it, even if he did.
An idea entered her head. Maybe he wouldn’t be so impressed with Lily if he knew what a freak she really was. Petunia had never paid much attention to the secrecy demanded by the wizarding world. It wasn’t her problem, after all, whether people believed in magic or not.
Nonetheless, so far she had kept her knowledge to herself, partly because most people would think her crazy if she told them the truth and partly because she was afraid people would think she was a freak if they knew what she had for a sister.
However, at the moment, she would be delighted to have Greg realise what Lily was. And as regards thinking she was crazy, well, with Lily home, she had proof. Her robes and spell books were in her bedroom; her broomstick was in the closet under the stairs. If necessary, Petunia could find plenty of evidence of what her sister was.
“Yeah, maybe she’s pretty,” she admitted. “But she’s not normal. She’s a witch; a total freak.”
Greg roared laughing.
“You don’t believe me,” Petunia replied calmly. She had been expecting this. “I’ll prove it to you. Come upstairs with me.”
“These are her schoolbooks,” she explained as she removed them from the bookshelves. Then she flung open the doors of the wardrobe. “And these are her robes.”
“Is this some kind of a wind-up?” Greg asked in amazement. “I mean there’s no such thing as witches! Is there?”
“Oh, there is,” Petunia replied. “They just take a lot of care to keep it quiet. Well, you can’t blame them, can you? I wouldn’t want anybody knowing if I was that abnormal.”
But Greg wasn’t listening.
“This is wicked,” he declared. “Oh, it must be so exciting to have a witch for a sister. You’re so lucky. I have to ask her about this.”
Downstairs, Lily pleaded with him to keep it a secret.
“Petunia shouldn’t have told you,” she said. “Nobody is supposed to know.”
Greg promised faithfully that he wouldn’t tell anybody. You could see he would do anything for her.
Oh, Lily was right, Petunia thought. She shouldn’t have told him. She had only succeeded in making Lily more attractive to him.
Not that she had the slightest interest in him. Since she had come home, Lily had been talking on and on about some guy called James Potter. She professed to hate him, but Petunia thought that it wouldn’t be at all surprising if she ended up dating him. So she had no interest whatsoever in Greg Fisher.
In one sense that was what Petunia found the hardest of all to accept. That Lily could charm her boyfriend away from her without even trying. It was just one more indication of the fact that everybody loved Lily better than her.
Once Lily went back to school, of course, Greg turned his attention back to Petunia, but it was too late. Petunia was sick of being second best, and told him in no uncertain terms that she had no intention of merely being a substitute for her sister.
“It isn’t like that,” he blustered. “You’re my girlfriend. I love you.”
“Oh, get real, Greg. I saw the way you looked at her. Just push off. I’ve no intention of going out with a guy who goes around fancying my sister.”
Despite the fact that it was she who had ended the relationship, she was hurt. And disappointed. She really had liked Greg. And it felt as though he had chosen her sister over her. He would have done so, had he been given the choice. Petunia felt sure of that.
Therefore, when she met Vernon Dursley, eighteen months later, he seemed like the answer to a prayer. Middle-class, matter of fact and completely contemptuous of anything he didn’t understand, Vernon had absolutely no time for anything supernatural. Like Petunia, he recognised Lily for what she really was: a total freak.
As soon as she introduced them, Petunia knew that this was one man who was totally unimpressed by her sister and would never choose Lily before her, and once she realised that, Petunia knew that she had found her soul-mate
Author's Note: Does the "Wasn't it easy for her to be the good daughter" bit sound too Irish for an English character? I thought it sounded kind of Irish, but I couldn't think what the English would use in place of it, so I decided to leave it.