Chapter 1 : I Let You Down
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Don’t you remember? We were by the seaside, on a holiday methodically begged from our parents; you were eleven and I was thirteen. Powerful ages. Ages when anything can change.
And you dug us a hole in the sand, with raising a hand. Just stood there and made the beach change shape to suit you, a shingle wall rising around us- for protection, you said, a secret place for us to hide away and play. I got cross with you. I didn’t like it when you did things like that.
You only laughed. You said: Don’t be silly, Tuney! Magic can’t hurt you! Magic is fun!
But I never did believe you.
Turns out I was right in the end though, doesn’t it? Magic can hurt you. Magic did.
You said: I’ll always be with you, Tuney- I’ll never go away! We’re sisters- nothing can change that!” You said: You’re my best friend, Tuney; it’ll never be different between us! Never! I won’t let it happen. You’ll see.
You let me down, Lily.
A week later and a man arrived on our doorstep with a letter for you. I was out, at a friend’s. When I came home Mum and Dad were beaming and congratulating you. You were bouncing off the walls with excitement. They said: Lily’s going away to school! A school for magic people- just like her!
I frowned. I didn’t know what to think of this.
You bounded up to me, your eyes lit by something that was not the sun. You said: Won’t it be incredible, Tuney? A school all full of magic!
And that evening all the light bulbs blew, because you were so excited and we were clearing up glass for days. I expected Mum and Dad to be angry, like they normally are when we break things but they only laughed. And that night, we went out for dinner to celebrate. You chose the restaurant (an upbeat sushi place) and Mum and Dad laughed again at such an unusual choice for such a little girl.
I was fuming. I sulked all through dinner and carried on when we got home. After we’d gone to bed, you tried to slip into my room. It was your way. When something important happened, we’d curl up together in bed and discuss it, until you felt okay again but tonight I didn’t feel like talking. I got out of bed and sat against the door, resting my head against the cold wood whilst outside you pleaded and begged and eventually began to cry.
I didn’t move.
I thought I might fall asleep there, leaning against the door but in the end I got too tired. So I got back into bed and pushed the chest of drawers there instead. And after a while you went away.
I began to brood.
It annoyed my friends. They started to say things like: Petunia’s real secretive these days and Come on, Pet, lighten up! That annoyed me. I spent less time with my friends and more time in my bedroom. I blamed you. I wouldn’t have to be secretive if it wasn’t for you. I’d lighten up if it wasn’t for you.
One day, I slipped into your room while you were out with Mum and Dad (buying spellbooks, potions, cauldrons, robes- I wanted none of it) and it was lying there on the desk. That damned letter. The letter that made everything wrong. I picked it up: Dear Miss Evans, it said, in ink that stank of promises unkept, Dear Miss Evans, We are pleased to inform you- But that was all I read.
I held it in my shaking fingers.
So easy, I thought, so easy. To tear it to a thousand shreds, that which takes away my sister. To pretend that it never was, had never been, that my little sister was staying here with me...
I heard as the front door went.
I put down the letter and fled.
And in my own room I composed another letter- more artfully written I liked to think, more elegant, bolder and infinitely more persuasive. I posted it on the way to school: To the Headmaster of Hogwarts... Then marked off days in my schoolbooks, counting down ‘til I could be sure that my sister would never leave me; I would go too.
I didn’t of course.
Next thing I know, the train was taking you away. And I stood there on the platform, too ashamed to wave. And I knew that you’d lied on that summer day because here you were going away. And when you came back you had changed.
So I took it out on you. You were so much bigger than me so I made you small, inadequate. I scoffed at your stories, blocked my ears at your tales, frowned at your jokes and laughed at your misfortunes with a laugh that wasn’t real, wasn’t mine but appeared here to stay.
After a while, you stopped telling me the stories, the tales, the jokes and the misfortunes.
And I didn’t know what to say.
Life goes on and so did I. O Levels, A levels- straight As. University- a good one, grand and tall, without a trace of magic in its halls. First Class honours.
Mum and Dad came to everything- school shows, award ceremonies, prize-giving, with a smile and a camera. I sat, smugly on their mantelpiece in my academic gown, whilst next to me, the other daughter, the little one, waltzed down the green, eerie-beautiful, in a dream.
Then Vernon and his solid reliability. I clung to him and so he married me. Mum and Dad’s approval: Yes, he seems a very nice fellow... Yes I’m sure his company will flourish... Yes, Petunia- I think that you’ll be happy...
You never came to my wedding but I didn’t go to yours. I think you would have come if I’d wanted- you wrote me a lovely letter (I have it still) sending me your congratulations and best wishes for the future. Somehow, I never found the time to get back to you. And I didn’t want you at my wedding anyway. This day was my day. You were risky; you liked to interfere. Your interference could stay away.
I saw a picture of your newly-wed. A dodgy bloke he looked to me, untidy, tousled, windswept, sooty hair and a wicked glint in his eye. I wondered if you’d be happy. I wondered if I should get in touch. I wondered if I’d been a fool, a child...
And then you were dead.
And now your son stands before me- almost seventeen- you’d be proud. They say he looks like his father, but I know better. I see you in the raising of his eyebrows, the intonation of his sentences, the tilt of his head. I see you in fearless way he faces down now my husband and the loyal way he returns to his friends. He is too like you. He runs away like you did. You left me, Lily and now he will too, the boy whom I have never loved but always needed, the boy who was my ruined chance to make it good, your boy, whom I was too foolish to see could have been mine too.
He has no love for me. He is impatient to leave. My son and husband are waiting in the porch; we stand together in the hallway, me and you, Lily, me and you.
And there are so many things I have to say to you, so many apologies to make. So many times and ways I’ve done wrong by you and never once admitted it, so many explanations I long to give.
I’m sorry Lily.
I let you down.
In the end, of course, I say nothing at all. He watches me leave through your eyes and softly closes the front door and you are gone. I have broken the last thing I had left of you.
I get into the car and slam the door. There are other people in the car; they are talking, arguing I think. I stare out of the window like a child, unseeing, unhearing and into the night, the car drives inexorably on.