Chapter 1 : Hand Me Down
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Mum had always wanted me to wear her dress--an heirloom standing for our family’s unconditional, endless love. But I hated it.
It was really quite beautiful, truth be told--pure white with lace trimming the edges, tracing intricate details along the silky fabric and around the hem of the skirt; tiny silk flowers ran down the back in crisscrossing lines. Gorgeous.
And yet, I hated it simply because it reminded me of her. My sister--my best friend for so many years. The girl who had just left me without looking back. My sister, who had dreamed of getting married in that dress. My sister, who had spent hours with me planning our perfect moments: our first kisses, our first dances, our first loves. My sister, who had abandoned me--who had run off and gotten eloped and disappeared from the face of the earth. And every tainted memory of her destroyed me all over again.
I couldn’t wear that dress. I wouldn’t.
“Lily, you look absolutely stunning,” Mum whispered, tears brimming in her eyes as she watched me twirl in that dreaded collection of fabric. “Just gorgeous.”
I smiled at Mum; even though my heart was breaking, I smiled.
“Do you like it?” With hands clasped together expectantly, Mum waited.
How could I extinguish the fervent fire dancing in her eyes? What kind of a daughter would I be? What kind of good-for-nothing excuse--
“Of course, I do,” I replied, breaking into my own thoughts as I spoke. “It’s fantastic. Really.” Her smile brightened and I wish I could say that was enough. I wish I could lie to myself and say seeing my mother happy was enough to make me forget--that it was enough to drown out the bitter taste that lingered. But it wasn’t.
I was certain nothing ever would be.
“Are you excited?”
No, I heard the annoyed voice in my head drawl, sarcasm dripping. I’m not excited, you dolt. Why the hell would anyone be excited about getting married? Honestly. It’s the worst day of my life. In fact, let’s just do away with it all together. Wouldn’t that be grand?
“Yes,” I smiled politely. “Very.” I focused my attention on the flowers I was supposed to be deciding between. Who really cares what flowers are at a wedding? They’re all flowers.
“What about these?” Mum called from the next row over. I joined her to examine the blooming buds: petunias.
“They’re...ahh...not the right color. Looking for more of a lavender, really. A bit too dark,” I dismissed them immediately, moving away as quickly as possible. “These are nice.” I pointed to a bunch of pale violet chrysanthemums.
“Yes, they’re beautiful.”
I held the envelope loosely in my hand, running my fingers along the edge in uncertainty. I’d been staring at the same bit of paper for at least an hour. It was rather sad, really, but I couldn’t seem to tear myself away. Silver swirls and bells decorated its edges, encasing black letters in a tiny silver box. The writing had seared itself in my mind, taunting me.
Vernon and Petunia Dursley
4 Privet Drive
Little Whinging, Surrey
It was the only invitation I hadn’t sent yet. I was afraid to. Afraid that she might not show. Afraid that she would.
I didn’t want to see her. I didn’t want to have to deal with her fake smiles and her husband’s judging stare. I didn’t want to have anything to do with either of them. But she’s my sister. At least, she was.
“Do you think she’ll come?” I asked for the millionth time. James’s arms wrapped around me, stopping me in my pacing tracks and holding me tight.
“It’s not about her, Lils. This is our day.” His words were muffled against my hair. “What does it really matter if she’s there or not?”
“Are you ready?” Mum squeezed my hand.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I laughed nervously, attempting to bite my lip though it evaded me in a smile. Despite my worries, I couldn’t help but feel overjoyed when I saw my reflection. Mum’s dress hung perfectly around my body, clinging to my hips before cascading down to the floor and floating around my ankles. Locks of my bright red hair were pinned up, though most of it rested around my shoulders in elegant waves.
“Come on, love.” Dad held out his arm, the brightest of smiles splitting his face in two. I slipped my arm into his and inhaled deeply. Through the closed oak doors to the cathedral I could hear music begin to play. As they opened before me, James came into view, fidgeting and looking rather ill, to be honest. But as soon as he saw me, his eyes lit up, matching the grin parting his lips.
I looked around the room, taking in all of the guests beaming at me. My gaze slid over the crowd, stopping suddenly near the front where two seats remained empty. I felt my heart drop into my stomach and my smile falter. She wasn’t here.
I didn’t know why I expected her to show. I didn’t know why I’d let myself think that just maybe she would forget her little grudge and actually be here for her little sister. I didn’t know why I--
But then, my eyes met with James’s and I just didn’t care. In that moment, I knew he was all that would ever matter to me. He was my everything.
Electricity shot up my arm and sent shivers down my spine as my father’s steady hand was replaced with James’s. At his touch, all of the prying eyes were forgotten. The world disappeared. Petunia didn’t matter anymore.
Bright and shining hazel eyes met mine as I lifted my face to his. Even as tears filled my eyes, I grinned. This was ours.
“I love you,” James mouthed.
“I love you,” I vowed, realizing for the first time just how very true those words had become.