Chapter 1 : An Expected Letter
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‘What do you two want to do today? I’m afraid we’ll have to cancel our day trip to the beach; the weather report says it’s going to rain. Sorry girls.’
For once it looked like the weather report was right. Despite the heat and humidity, the sky was covered in thick, grey clouds threatening to burst open at any moment, making the great outdoors seem dull and uninviting. Being the last week of July – and the start of the summer holidays – the sun should be shining, invoking energy filled youngsters to play merrily in its rays, but it obviously had other ideas today.
Lily and Petunia Evans had been looking forward to a day at the beach all week and, at their mother’s words, exchanged disappointed looks. Mrs Evans, who was placing cereals and milk, toast, butter, jam and marmalade on the kitchen table, noticed her daughters’ expressions and immediately felt bad. She hated disappointing her children, especially as they rarely disappointed her.
‘We can do anything you like,’ she said apologetically. ‘Bowling, swimming, ice skating – well, any indoor activity you want.’
‘Bowling!’ Lily and Petunia said in unison, their faces instantly lighting up again.
Mrs Evans smiled as she sat down at the table opposite them, thinking how easy it had been to placate her children.
‘Bowling it is then!’
‘Yeah, me and Petunia against you and dad,’ Lily said nudging Petunia in the arm.
‘Okay, we may just beat you this time though!’
‘I doubt it mum, me and Lily are an unbeatable team,’ Petunia said grinning.
‘There is no disputing that dear. Eat up then, you can’t play on an empty stomach.’
As they poured their cereal and buttered their toast, a loud clap of thunder sounded in the distance and the first drops of rain started to fall. It quickly turned into a heavy downpour, the rain lashing at the windows, obscuring the garden from view.
‘Ah good, I guess I won’t be getting buried in the sand today then!’
Mr Evans, a tall, stocky man with a receding hairline and a friendly face, had strolled into the kitchen just as a fork of lightning lit the sky and another crash of thunder boomed, nearer and louder this time.
‘Not today dad, we’re going bowling instead.’
‘Bowling? And you agreed to this Rose? I don’t think I could handle another defeat!’ Mr Evans said, winking at Lily and Petunia.
‘We’ll go easy on you dad, we know you’re getting old!’ Lily said cheekily.
‘I’ll have you know I’m still in my prime, full of life I am.’ Mr Evans replied. He sat down next to his wife and picked up the box of cornflakes, but put it back down and stood up again as the clatter of the letterbox announced the arrival of the post. ‘I’ll get it.’
Lily and Petunia giggled as Mr Evans hobbled out of the kitchen hunched over, clutching his back and muttering like an old man. They heard him shuffle down the hall, still in character. When he returned with the post he was walking normally.
‘Anything interesting, Roger?’
‘Nope, it’s all bills and junk mail by the looks of it,’ he replied sifting through the mail. ‘A postcard for Petunia, blimey Belinda’s only been gone a week, she must be missing you already,’ he handed Petunia the postcard with a grin. ‘Ooh and a fancy letter for Lily. There you go love.’
Lily put down her spoon, took the parchment envelope her father was proffering, and gazed at it for a long time. There was no stamp, the address was elegantly written in emerald green ink and on the back was a wax seal with a large letter H on it, surrounded by a snake, a badger, a lion and an eagle. Lily’s excitement mounted, she had been expecting this letter. This envelope looked exactly the same as the one Severus had shown her less than 24 hours ago.
Petunia abandoned her postcard and looked from Lily, to the letter, and back to Lily again in disbelief. While Lily had been expecting this letter with excitement, Petunia had been hoping it wouldn’t come at all.
‘Are you going to open it, Lily? Or are you just going to stare at it?’
Lily, not registering the petulant tone in which her sister had asked the question, smiled up at Petunia before starting to carefully open the seal of the envelope. She lifted the flap and pulled out several pieces of parchment, which she unfolded and began to read the top page.
HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Miss Evans,
We are writing to inform you that you possess a strong magical ability which has been registered with us. We are pleased to offer you a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed information about the school and the magical world, and a list of all necessary books and equipment needed.
I hope this has not come as too much of a shock to you. Term begins on 1st September; an owl will collect your reply on 31st July.
As she read, Lily’s eyes grew wide and a smile of relief formed on her face. She was a witch! She did possess magical abilities! Severus had been telling her the truth! As much as she had wanted to believe Severus about all he had told her, there had been a small part of her that felt that maybe Petunia was right. Right from the first meeting with Severus Petunia had admonished Lily for believing such rubbish. She had been adamant that magic did not exist and that Severus had purely told Lily this tall story to ensnare her, to forge a friendship with her.
Lily remained silent, looking through the other pieces of parchment with a faraway look on her face. Just as the letter said, there was a list of books, uniform and other items, such as a wand and a cauldron, instructions on how to get to a place called Diagon Alley and on how to get on to platform 9 ¾ in Kings Cross, and a long piece of parchment outlining the statute of secrecy and other wizarding laws.
Daydreaming about the magical world, as she so often did, Lily stared at the letter, the sounds of the thunderstorm outside and the intrigued voices of her family blanked out. It was only when Petunia nudged Lily in the ribs that she was brought out of her reverie and realised that she was being spoken to.
‘Who’s it from?’
‘Don’t keep us in suspense, what does it say?’
Mr and Mrs Evans’ were curious as they wondered what on earth could be written in the letter that would have their chatterbox daughter sitting in silence with a look of relief and happiness on her face. Their intrigued tone made Lily really wish she had confided in her parents the way she had in her sister for the past year. Yes, they knew about Lily’s friendship with Severus, and Petunia had told her mother about him calling Lily a witch during their first meeting, but neither girl had mentioned magic to them again – Lily because she hadn’t wanted her parents reacting like Petunia, and Petunia because she hadn’t wanted them to believe it like Lily did.
Lily looked up at her parents, pushing her vibrant red hair away from her face. She hesitated, unsure how they would take the news, before finally speaking. ‘I’m a witch!’
‘The letter says I possess a magical ability and I’ve been offered a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,’ Lily said, pausing before adding, ‘just as Severus said I would.’
Mrs Evans studied her daughters face in shock, looking for the usual signs Lily showed when she was teasing or joking. She found none. The mischievous twinkle was missing from her bright, excited green eyes. Her lips, rather than curling at the corners as she tried to hide her grin, were set in a delighted smile, beaming from ear to ear. Mrs Evans knew instantly that her youngest daughter was telling the truth.
‘Severus? Your friend from the park? How... what... You knew about this?’ Mr Evans asked his daughter, perplexed, as his wife calmly asked to see the letter.
‘Yes, she means that boy from the park.’ Petunia answered as Lily nodded at her father and handed the letter to her mother. ‘He has been filling her head with this nonsense for the past year! You should hear the things he’s been telling her, a load of mumbo jumbo about magic and spells and... and... dementors. He’s no good, that boy, he’s mad!’
‘Petunia!’ Lily said. ‘Severus is my friend, and he is not mad!’
‘Lily, you don’t still believe him do you? He told you that letters came by owl but that your letter would be hand delivered! And yet it has come by normal post, this just proves he’s a liar! That letter is obviously from him as part of his elaborate practical joke!’
‘It’s not a practical joke!’ Lily stated firmly.
‘Well, it doesn’t seem to be, a lot of effort and imagination has been put into it if it is. It certainly isn’t the work of an eleven year old boy.’ Mrs Evans interrupted the brewing argument between her daughters, hearing only the last statement from Lily as she had been too engrossed by the letter. She now looked at her daughter with an excited smile. ‘Ooh Lily, how exciting! Now, tell me everything this Severus boy has told you.’
Mr Evans took the letter from his wife as Lily began recalling the many meetings she’d had with Severus. Mrs Evans listened, fascinated by the information her daughter was so animatedly telling her, and Mr Evans perused the letter, the confused shock he had originally felt ebbing away. Petunia simply stared at her mother in disbelief – how could she so readily believe this nonsense?
As Lily’s story came to an end, Mr Evans put down the letter with a smile. ‘I always knew there was something special about my little Lily!’
Lily looked at her father, her smile growing wider. Petunia was also looking at Mr Evans but with a look that portrayed the hurt and anger that she felt.
‘It certainly explains a few things.’ Mr Evans continued, not noticing his eldest daughter’s expression. ‘Like the time you didn’t want me to go to work and my shoes shrank. Very strange that was! I thought I was going mad at the time.’
‘And when we bought you the wrong coloured bike for Christmas, we woke up on Boxing Day to find it had changed from purple to pink overnight!’ Mrs Evans added, smiling at the memory. ‘You insisted Father Christmas must have come back and changed it because you’d been such a good girl.’
Lily laughed, recalling other strange occurrences that could have been caused by her magical abilities, glad that she could finally discuss them with her parents and petunia (who had previously refused to talk about them). She turned to Petunia as one came to mind.
‘Do you remember when we wanted chocolate ice cream and mum only had vanilla,’ Lily said excitedly. ‘When she placed it in front of us it changed to chocolate.’
Petunia remained silent, absently stirring her cereal as she continued to stare at her parents. Lily repeated, ‘Do you remember Petunia?’
‘No,’ Petunia muttered. ‘I do remember when my favourite doll ended up on the roof when I said you couldn’t play with it though. And when I got locked in the cupboard under the stairs – even though there is no lock on it – just because you wanted to hide instead of seek!’
Lily laughed again.
‘Oh I’m glad you think it’s funny,’ Petunia spat, slamming her spoon into her bowl and glaring at Lily angrily.
Lily stopped laughing instantly, placing her hand over her sister’s, smiling at her kindly.
‘I’m sorry Petunia, I didn’t mean…’
Lily trailed off. Petunia had whipped her hand away, as though she had just been scalded, pushed her chair back and stood up.
‘Why are you all so excited about this?’ Petunia seethed. ‘What is so good about magic? From what I’ve seen of it the only thing that it’s done is let Lily have her own way, never mind who gets hurt because of it!’
‘Petunia! What happened with Severus was an accident. And I would never hurt you, you know that!’ Lily stated.
‘Wouldn’t you?’ Petunia questioned with raised eyebrows, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. Blinking furiously she turned to her mother, ‘May I leave the table please?’
Mrs Evans, shocked by the exchange between her daughters, looked at Petunia sympathetically. Unsure what to say to placate her daughters this time, she simply said, ‘But you’ve hardly eaten anything dear.’
‘I’m not hungry.’ Petunia replied, trying hard to keep the anger out of her voice.
Mrs Evans nodded and Petunia stormed out of the kitchen, avoiding looking at Lily. Lily heard the stomping footsteps ascend the stairs, cross the hallway upstairs and then the slam of Petunia’s bedroom door.
Lily had mixed emotions by Petunia’s angry outburst. On one hand it proved that Petunia believed in magic as much as she did despite all her previous comments about it being nonsense. On the other hand, Lily was appalled that her sister could think she would hurt her, and was also angry with herself for evidently upsetting her. Seeing the hurt, confused look on Lily’s face, Mrs Evans said, ‘Don’t worry dear, she’ll calm down. She’s probably just a bit shocked.’
‘Yes, don’t get upset about it Lily,’ Mr Evans added. ‘I’ll give her a while to calm down a bit then go up and speak to her. I’m sure she’ll be fine again by dinner time.’
Lily wasn’t so sure. She hardly ever argued with Petunia and Lily had never known her to storm off before the argument had been resolved. Petunia was obviously extremely angry at her and this anger had evidently been brewing since Lily had first met Severus. Lily felt sure that it would take more than a kind word from her father to cheer her up.
Lily was right. After breakfast Mr Evans spoke to Petunia, but to no avail. Petunia refused to speak to him, refused to leave her room and had decided she didn’t want to go bowling anymore. With the day’s plans ruined, Lily was eager to find Severus and tell him she had finally received her letter. But she was sure this would only fuel Petunia’s feeling of resentment towards her and so stayed in the house, trying to contain the bubbles of excitement.
The following day Petunia had calmed down slightly. She was back on talking terms with Lily but became silent and sullen whenever Hogwarts was mentioned and her eyes flashed with anger every time her parents showed their pride in Lily. Lily tried several times to speak to her sister about the outburst but Petunia immediately changed the subject or simply ignored her and left the room.
July 31st dawned bright and clear. The windows in the Evans’ house were thrown wide open to allow the gentle summer breeze to cool and soothe the occupants. Mrs Evans, Lily and Petunia were seated around the kitchen table, tucking into tuna sandwiches and a much needed glass of ice cold juice.
Lily had spent the morning nervously anticipating the arrival of an owl. Her reply, accepting the place at Hogwarts, lay on the kitchen side ready to be sent. As she ate, Lily kept glancing at the letter, wishing the owl would come sooner rather than later.
She didn’t have to wait much longer. Halfway through lunch a large, handsome, brown barn owl flew through the open window, landing on the table, causing Petunia to scream and drop the glass she had just raised to her lips. Petunia and Lily jumped up from the table at the same time; Petunia to grab a cloth to mop up the spilt juice, and Lily to grab her letter. Mrs Evans stayed at the table, feeding the crust of her sandwich to the owl.
Petunia quickly cleaned up the mess and hurried out of the kitchen without saying a word, abandoning her half eaten lunch. Lily watched her leave then moved round the table to stand next to her mother.
‘I am doing the right thing … accepting the place, aren’t I?’ Lily asked as she started tying the letter to the owl’s leg.
‘Of course you are sweetheart,’ her mother replied softly.
‘But… but, I’ll be away from you and dad, and Petunia. And it will be so different, everything will change. Petunia obviously doesn’t approve – maybe she’s right!’
‘Lily, you are special. Very special! You need to go. If you don’t you may end up regretting it. Of course it will be a different life to the one you know now, but as we are always telling Petunia – as you are always telling Petunia – change is good, in fact it can be wonderful! This is who you are Lily, you have to go.’
‘I know. It’s just … just a bit scary, I’ll be entering a whole new world and you won’t be there with me. I’ve never been away from you before,’ Lily said. For the first time since she had received the letter, she thought not of the magic and the fun she would have, but of the fact that she would be leaving her family and friends.
Mrs Evans took Lily’s hand affectionately in her own and said, ‘There has to be a first time for everything Lily. I’m really going to miss you, but you’ll be home for the summer and for Christmas. You are meant to be part of this “whole new world” and, as I said, you have to go,’ she said earnestly, then looking at the owl waiting patiently to take flight, added, ‘Get that letter sent Lily!’
Lily finished fastening the letter, then carried the owl to the open patio doors, Mrs Evans following, and the owl spread its wings and took flight. As they watched the owl fly gracefully into the distance, Mrs Evans pulled her daughter into an embrace, holding her tight.
‘Looks like I’ll be going to Hogwarts then.’
Mrs Evans smiled. ‘Yes. You know, not just anyone gets an opportunity like this. You truly are special and I know you’ll be a great witch, the best!’
Neither Lily nor Mrs Evans noticed Petunia standing in the doorway, watching them intently, looking small and forlorn, tears prickling her eyes.