Tuney! Tuney! Come look!” The young redheaded girl beckoned excitedly for her sister, filling the playground with her infectious laughter. She stood, crouched over, in the middle of the field of the local playground, peering at something in the grass. Her white dress billowed around her at the slightest breeze and her hair was a tangle of red curls; she was the epitome of innocence.
A taller, slender brunette cautiously dragged her feet to the ground, abruptly stopping her swing, and walked over. “What is it, Lily?” she asked, a faint note of curiosity in her voice.
“A present. For you,” the younger of the two beamed. She held out the stem that she plucked, which blossomed into a beautiful flower at her touch. “A petunia for my dear Tuney.”
The elder girl looked smiled at her younger sister, and she, too, pulled a flower from behind her back, looking quite proud of herself. “And here’s a lily for you!”
“But Tuney,” the redhead gasped. “You don’t know how to do magic!”
And as she finished her sentence, the last word resonating into the clear air, the lily in the older girl’s hands blackened, turning to ash and scattering into the breeze…
Petunia Dursley awoke from her nightmare with a gasp, and was slightly comforted as she took in her surroundings: the neat white bed that she shared with her husband, the wooden crib that belonged to her precious son, the walls lined with pictures of the happy family. It was only a dream, she reminded herself. Only a dream.
She sat abruptly on her bed, clutching the sheets tightly around her as she glanced at the walrus-like man snoring contently next to her. This was all her husband’s fault. His mention of her sister that evening had triggered a flood of memories… had triggered that horrible dream. Maybe, she thought, she just needed to clear her mind of those thoughts. She could catch up on that novel her friend sent her… Yes, that was just the spot.
After heading to the kitchen to make a quick cup of tea, she went to her study and settled down into the comfy rolling chair, cracking open the paperback. Where was I before Dudley started demanding his dinner and Vernon came home from work? Chapter 7, was it? She started reading where she last left off, but found that she couldn’t quite concentrate, reading the last line at least five times. Hmm… Maybe she could crack open the window just a bit to let some air in. She pushed back the leather rolling chair and made her way over to the window overlooking the rest of Privet Drive. Much of her neighborhood was asleep, which was what she really should be right now… if it weren’t for those haunting memories. She pushed back the thought and looked down at the neat rows of houses, the perfectly trimmed green lawns, the glowing street lamps that bathed the neighborhood in a warm orange light, feeling a sense of pride. This was the life she had established for herself. Perfectly safe, perfectly secure, perfectly normal. Perfectly perfect.
Her beady eyes landed on a tabby cat with strange square markings seated on her lawn. It looked up, as if sensing her curious gaze, its glowing eyes seeming to stare right through her. Now, Petunia, that’s ridiculous, she chided herself. It’s just a cat. She was about to open her window when suddenly one of the street lamps started flickering, and then another. Suddenly, the orange glow was replaced by a pitch black. A blackout perhaps? But that wasn’t right—if she craned her long neck just a bit, she could hear the distinct hum of the refrigerator downstairs.
Strange, she thought, and narrowed her eyes. Nothing strange ever happened on Privet Drive—it was precisely why she had absolutely insisted Vernon buy this house, and he had readily agreed, his salary as director of Grunning’s being more than enough. That only meant one thing… Lily’s folks.
It always pained her to even think about her younger sister—the one who was good at everything, who as a child her parents adored and pampered, who… who was a freak. She was perfectly alright when she was a little kid, but magic had corrupted her—she was as far from normal as you could get. Petunia supposed one could determine it as jealousy, but to her it was more of a grudging admiration missed with resentment. As the older one, she always felt like she had to be the sensible one. Her parents were easily fooled by those magic tricks, but what about being practical and making a living? She sometimes envied her sister, always carefree, never having to worry about being sensible, shoving all the responsibility on her. That was what she always did, making Petunia seem like the logical, boring one, overshadowed as she showed off her magic and talent. Her parents were absolutely fascinated by all of it, too—even the stories of that stupid magic school with some kind of farm animal name—and she was forced with the burden of being the only common sense in the Evans family. She was relieved, really, to find the perfectly normal Vernon Dursley.
Well… Lily wouldn’t dare to show up here, would she? She knew the reputation Petunia liked to keep up—the perfectly spotless, normal one, mind you. They hadn’t seen each other in years; most of their relationship these last few years had been a handful of letters and the occasional Christmas present. A dull ache sometimes sounded in her heart whenever she remembered her sister, but she pushed it away. Lily wasn’t truly her sister anymore, she was a freak. The line that she always chanted to herself to push back the burst of pain and sadness that was sure to come resurfaced. Freak, freak, freak. Lily was a freak.
She heard a loud thump and started. “Vernon, is that you?” she called out. An eerie silence was all the response she got. She started for the bedroom, her cup of tea cold and forgotten, breathing a sigh of relief to see her husband sleeping peacefully where she had left him, his low snores mingling with Dudley’s soft, rhythmic breathing. Then where did the sound come from?
Hearing another thump, she grabbed her shawl from the rack and wrapped it around herself, heading downstairs. She opened the front door cautiously, embracing the cool autumn air. There wasn’t a soul in sight, the only movement being the flick of the tabby cat’s tail as it disappeared into the bushes. Very strange… Petunia was about to close the door when she felt something brush against the hem of her nightgown.
“Oh!” At her feet was a bundle of blankets with a baby inside, fast asleep, accompanied by a crisp, white envelope. The baby was a tiny thing, probably half the size of Dudley, with a mop of untidy black hair and a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. Why would anyone leave her a baby? Well, whoever it was could just take it back. That was just so cliché: A baby on her doorstep? Did they look like some kind of orphanage or something? Petunia was about to close the door again when a glint of green caught her eye. Those eyes… she would recognize them anywhere. Those were Lily’s eyes.
Quickly, she snatched the bundle up, baby, blankets, letter and all, and slammed the door shut, making sure to click the lock shut tightly and fasten the chain on top securely. Gasping, she peered at the letter in her hand. Mrs. Petunia Evans Dursley, it read.
No. This was not possible. She had worked so hard to distance herself, to protect her family, from this… this corruption in the form of magic, and now it had appeared right on her very doorstep. Surely it was some kind of mistake? Petunia’s sense of curiosity caused her to open the letter anyway. Reading it wouldn’t hurt; it was, after all, addressed to her.
Mrs. Petunia Evans Dursley, she read again, cringing slightly at the mention of her former last name. Even those five letters caused unpleasant memories to bubble up, and after her parent’s unfortunate deaths, she tended to avoid the name whenever possible. It was less painful to forget, to sever all ties. I regret to inform you, she read on, about the deaths of Mr. James Potter and Mrs. Lily Evans Potter…
Was this some sort of sick joke? Surely her sister… But she was healthy, and alive! How could she be dead?
… on the evening of 31st, October…
The letter dropped onto the floor. Petunia didn’t feel like reading on any longer. Maybe in the morning, she thought numbly. This wasn’t possible. How could Lily…
Petunia bit her lip as the image of the young, carefree Lily from the playground appeared in her head, then of an eleven-year-old Lily, home for Christmas holidays, face bright with stories of her new school, and finally of a determined, strong young lady, seated next to her boyfriend at Petunia’s wedding. Lily was always the braver of the two, headstrong and independent; how could she be dead? Her sister, Petunia choked back a sob, was dead.
All of those times she had called Lily a freak, had ignored her promises of trying to change Dumbledore’s mind, had snobbishly refused those chocolates from the place Lily called Honeydukes came rushing back at her. How she longed to go back in time to fix those moments… Their relationship was so pure, so happy, how had it gone so wrong?
Magic, that was why. Magic had ruined their wonderful relationship, had caused them to amount to this, had resulted in Lily’s death. Her younger sister, dead, because of magic. And the seed of hatred that was planted the moment that Lily set off for that magic school, leaving her behind, the seed that was nurtured as the years went by and the sisters grew apart, sprouted to its full height at that moment. Magic was a truly evil, evil thing.
Petunia seemed to remember the bundle next to her for the first time since she opened the letter. She glanced at her nephew. Don’t worry, Harry, she thought, I will never expose you to that vile thing. You will be perfectly safe here, perfectly safe and normal. I will never let you know about the thing that caused your mother’s downfall.
A surge of pity and compassion overcame her, and she clutched the warm bundle to her chest. Oh, Lily, I’m so sorry, she thought. Her poor sister, her little sister, the epitome of innocence.
And sitting there, sunken in the floor of her neat, carpeted hallway, next to a pair of Vernon’s work shoes and her crimson heels that matched with her scarlet evening dress perfectly, holding her slumbering nephew in her arms, the prim and proper, always responsible Petunia Evans Dursley started to cry.
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