Chapter 6 : A Highly Unusual Day
| ||Rating: 15+||Chapter Reviews: 4|
Background: Font color:
A Highly Unusual Day
15 July 1971
Petunia sat on the edge of the bed, her foot propped on her desk chair while she leaned over to paint each toenail a coral pink. The drawer of nail varnish lay on the floor. She had pulled it clear out of the vanity cabinet to dig through the myriad colors. Normally she painted her nails on the front steps with Lily, but it was one of those summer days when the outside air thickens to a gelatinous, suffocating fog, and so she had cloistered herself in her bedroom instead.
As she painted, the memory of the previous night swept over her again. It had, from the start, been one of those days when nothing seems to go right. Mum was on call at the hospital. They called her in first thing in the morning, which left Petunia alone in the house all day with her sister. Lily followed her around like a magnet, talking nonstop until finally Petunia couldn’t take it anymore.
“My god, Lily! Don’t you ever stop talking?” She snapped, and Lily ran off, crying as if she didn’t entirely deserve what she got.
Then dad came home from work to find Lily sulking on the stoop, and he assumed without questioning it that Petunia was to blame, which was completely unfair. She’d been on the phone arguing with Susie, and his lecture interrupted her phone call. It was totally embarrassing. Really, it had been a terrible day in a number of ways, and Mum had come home too exhausted to be comforting. She even asked Petunia to make dinner.
Petunia had offered to exchange pedicures with Lily, not that she actually wanted to spend time with Lily, not that she felt bad for snapping at her, but just because she was trying to be the bigger person. And what had Lily done? Run off to the park with her shoelaces undone and her hair a mess of red. All told, Petunia was not eager to talk to anyone in her family today. Particularly not Lily, who was, as usual, the cause of it all. It worked out just fine to lock herself in her bedroom, where no one could pester her, rather than on the front stoop. There, in all likelihood, Lily would return, beg to borrow her favorite color nail varnish, and spill half the bottle because what use were eleven year olds, anyway? She had no idea where Lily was - probably off somewhere with that disgusting Snape boy - but she didn’t care. Not one bit.
When she finished painting her toes, she sat back against her pillow and studied the gloomy view out the window. It was the same boring street as always. The beeches and poplars lost their luster in the damp air, the leaves hanging limply under heavy-bottomed clouds that were almost purple, and despite the heat Petunia felt the shiver of nerves she always experienced when it looked likely to storm. Apart from the neighbor’s dog barking at a tabby cat, it was quiet outside. Lily appeared from the direction of the park. She waved goodbye to the greasy-haired boy as he headed off in the other direction. The cat had stopped walking and was sitting between two bushes in the lawn across the street.
Petunia heard the click of the screen door closing behind Lily, when… what in the world? The cat was looking around in a way that was far too human and then, so quickly and seamlessly Petunia almost didn’t realize it was happening, the cat changed.
Petunia sat bolt upright on the bed, smudging the varnish in the process. She didn’t care. Standing right where the cat had been, but moving closer at an alarmingly brisk pace, was the strangest woman Petunia had ever seen. She wore a horrid dress in a forest green color, with long sleeves that looked unbearably hot for such a sticky day. Her hair was pinned up under a rather old fashioned hat, and a pair of distinctive glassed rested low on the bridge of her nose. When the woman was so close to the house that it was hard to get a proper view, Petunia scrambled up from her perch and down the stairs to the landing. She peered into the living room. Mum was combing out Lily’s hair while she read one of her zillions of library books.
The doorbell rang. Petunia jumped down from the landing, racing to beat everyone else to answer it. For a moment, she stared open mouthed through the screen window at the woman’s stern but elegant face. Mum made a tsk sound, and Petunia came to her senses and opened the door.
“Hi,” she said, and immediately felt awkward.
“Good afternoon. I’m Professor Minerva McGonagall. I’m here to speak to Mr and Mrs. Evans, and Miss Lily Evans, if she’s here.”
“Me?” Lily squeaked,
Petunia stepped aside at the weight of Mum’s hand on her shoulder. For a moment, she thought Mum was going to send the woman off with a terse thank you, but there was something about her that made you positively afraid to disobey her. “I’m Mrs. Evans. Please come in,”
“Thank you,” the woman said, and followed Mum inside to the sofa. She sat down and looked at the redhead, who stood eagerly nearby. “You must be Lily.”
“I am,” Lily grinned. She hopped a little on her toes. “Are you— you’re from the school, aren’t you? From Hogwarts?”
At this the woman smiled, and Petunia was surprised that someone with so cool a demeanor could show such warmth. “Indeed I am. Is your father here?”
Lily nodded as Mum took a seat beside the woman. “Yes, my husband is upstairs. Petunia, would you go get your father please?”
Petunia went to the steps and hollered up, “Dad! Come down! Mum says!”
“That’s not what I meant,” Mum huffed.
“You think I’m going to miss a moment of this?” Petunia shot back.
Lily said nothing, though the way she fidgeted it was clear she was desperate for the conversation to really begin. Mum murmured an apology to the woman and offered her a glass of lemonade while dad came down the stairs with those heavy steps, wiping his hands on his pant legs.
When he entered the living room, he stopped in surprise. “Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize we had company.” He crossed the room in brisk strides and sat down beside Mum, holding his hand out to shake. “I’m Robert Evans.”
The woman shook his hand and responded, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Evans. My name is Minerva McGonagall. I’m here because Lily has been selected for admission to a very prestigious boarding school.”
“Has she?” Dad asked. The suspicion in his voice was obvious. Dad was a no fuss person. He liked things straightforward and comfortable - just like Petunia did. She had to restrain a chuckle as she watched his eyebrows rise.
“It’s true daddy, I promise! It’s Hogwarts!” Lily piped up unexpectedly, and both her parents stared at her as if she’d opened her mouth and a foreign language came out.
The McGonagall woman nodded. “Yes, the school is, to be precise, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And the young Miss Evans is”—she paused to give both Mum and Dad a look of great sincerity —“ a witch.”
Absolute silence greeted this proclamation. Petunia moved slowly away from the stair landing toward the rest of her family, and came up behind her father’s armchair, wishing somebody would say something, anything, to break the spell of silence.
Finally, Mum said, very politely, “I’m sorry but, what did you say?”
McGonagall opened her mouth to reply, but before she could get a word out, Lily said, “I’m a witch, Mum! I have magic. Hogwarts is the secret magic school. Isn’t it amazing?”
“I couldn’t have put it better,” McGonagall said, and that glimmer of a smile appeared on her face again for a moment.
“But…” Dad was looking around between McGonagall, Lily, and Mum in disbelief, until finally he settled on McGonagall and said, “But, that’s not possible! Magic isn’t real!”
“I know it’s rather a shock,” McGonagall stated calmly, “but magic is in fact quite real, as Lily already knows. If you think back on it, you may recall times when strange, inexplicable things happened to your daughter, or around her. Anything coming to mind?”
Slowly, both her parents began to nod their heads.
“That time with her hair, Bert,” Mum murmured, and dad reached across the coffee table to take her hand.
Lily watched them anxiously, and Petunia wondered what she was thinking. She looked terrified, but also ecstatic.
“But, magic?” Dad said again, running a hand through his hair, and shaking his head.
“Show them that thing you can do Lils. That’ll convince them!” Petunia spoke without thinking, and Lily flushed red.
“What thing does she mean, love?” Mum asked. Lily glanced at McGonagall, who nodded, and then scampered off and returned holding a yellow tulip from the vase on the kitchen table. Petunia watched eagerly as Lily did what Petunia knew she would do. It took her a moment. She could never do it instantly; it was almost like someone running hurdles, building up tension before the leap. Leap really was the right word, too, because that’s exactly what Petunia’s stomach did when Lily finally exhaled softly onto the golden petals. Then, of course, they weren’t golden anymore; at Lily’s command the flower turned the infinite blue of a summer sky, deepening to plum at the base.
Mother let out a frightened shriek that faded to awe after a moment. Father said nothing, and Petunia knew what he was thinking. He’d bought the bouquet of tulips yesterday when he and Petunia drove out to purchase potting soil. Therefore, he knew there was nothing special about the flowers. If there was nothing special about the flowers, there was only one possibility: Lily really was magic.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” he said at last. Mother shot him a scolding look for the curse. Normally Petunia disapproved of curse words, but she thought it was warranted in a situation like this.
McGonagall granted Petunia a wise look. “It seems your older daughter knew about this already.”
“Good point,” Mum said, her voice suddenly testy. She smoothed it over. “Petunia, honey, could you give us some time to chat? This is startling news, to say the least, and I’d like to have a chat with just us and Lily for a bit.”
“Oh. Yeah. Okay.” Petunia mumbled. As she left the room, she glanced several times over her shoulder at Lily, whose smile was growing wider by the millisecond.
Petunia had just finished repainting her toes to fix the smudges when Lily opened the door without warning and threw herself down on the bed alongside her.
“Um, do you mind?” Petunia said, “You could have knocked!”
“Sorry.” Lily rolled onto her back and stared wide eyed at the ceiling. “I can’t believe it’s real.”
“I thought you already knew? Didn’t that Snape boy tell you about it?” Petunia asked. “Even I knew!”
“His name is Severus, Petunia, gosh! And yes, he did tell me, but it never felt completely real until today. You should have seen it. She can turn into a cat!”
“I know! I saw her go from cat to human before she knocked. It was insane.”
“Completely,” Lily agreed. “But, maybe… insane in a good way?”
Petunia didn’t respond. She wasn’t sure if magic was good or not, she only knew that it was the most amazing thing she’d ever seen. “What did that lady tell you after I left?” She asked instead.
“Well, she explained more about Hogwarts and how to enroll and what to bring, and how to get there. I get to take the train!” They had taken the train to Edinburgh for a wedding a few years ago, and they both thought it was far superior to driving. ”Everything is just like Sev told me, really. Hogwarts is a castle, really beautiful, and I’ll get to learn all kinds of different things about magic. There are different houses and your house is like a family for while you’re at school.”
“Why would you need a family? Why can’t you just have us for your family?” Petunia remembered, randomly, that it was supposed to storm that night. She sat up and curled her knees into her chest.
“It’s a boarding school, Tuney. I won’t see you or Mum or Dad for months. I can’t be by myself during all that time.”
“Do you have to go away? Couldn’t you just go there for school and then come home at night?”
“You know I can’t. It doesn’t work that way.” Lily sat up, too, and wrapped an arm around Petunia’s shoulders. “I’m sorry. I’ll miss you bunches.”
Petunia didn’t return the hug. The familiar image of a castle, large and white, with a drawbridge, floated to the front of her mind, and Lily and Severus there together…
Lily interrupted her thoughts. “Wait, how did you know? You said you already knew about Hogwarts. How?”
Petunia’s blushed. “Oh, I, um… I kind of happened to overhear you and Snape talking…. It doesn’t matter.”
“It matters to me. You were spying!” Lily removed her arm and scooted away. “That’s nasty. You should have told me you knew!”
“When? You’re always out with him.”
“You could have come with me to meet him any time, but oh no, you’re too good to be friends with someone from Spinner’s End. You’re such a snob, Tuney.” Lily strung the nickname out, making it a tease.
“I am not! He’s weird, okay.” Petunia didn’t say what she was thinking, which was that Severus always looked at Lily like a hungry beast that had just successfully lured in its prey. He gave her the creeps.
Of course, Lily took it the wrong way. “If he’s weird, am I weird, too? I’m just like him, after all.”
“What?” Petunia sputtered. “You are not!”
“I am! You think we’re a pair of weirdos because we can do magic!”
“Well, I’m excited about Hogwarts, and I’m going!”
Why was Lily being so crabby? It wasn’t like her at all to yell and argue this way. “Lily, you’re acting weird.” The moment she said the words, Petunia knew they were a mistake.
“See! You do think I’m a weirdo! Well, I think you’re just jealous, so there!” Lily jumped up from the bed and stomped a foot.
“If that’s how you’re going to be, fine!” Petunia’s brain felt disconnected from her mouth. “Go ahead and find your new family - you’re a weirdo anyway. We won’t miss you!”
The air went static, and Lily jumped back as the words sliced between them. Then she turned and dashed out, her sobs still audible for a terrible moment as she rounded the corner.
Petunia stared after her for ages, not thinking, her heart pounding recklessly in her chest. Outside, thunder rumbled through the clouds. The storm was beginning.
I apologize for the wait! I am FINALLY ready to post more of this story, and I have a backlog of chapters now. I plan to post once a week until it's done.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter. I had a tough time with it. Many thanks to the wonderful Julie for her help!
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Other Similar Stories