Chapter 9 : Station Wagon
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1 September 1971
Sev said magic would change her. He said they would get to Hogwarts and life would never be the same. Lily breathed hot air onto the window pane and traced the outline of a house, a heart, a flower. She wondered if Petunia was doing the same thing on the other side of the backseat, but she didn’t turn around to look. That would be like giving in, and she couldn’t do that.
Mum said Sev was wrong. She said Lily would change, and life would change, but that Lily would still be Lily and lots of things would still be the same. But Lily knew, somehow, the Sev was right. She would climb aboard the train - the Hogwarts Express, she still loved the name - and it would carry her away from this life and into a different one, and she would never, ever be able to go back. Not really. Not in the ways that mattered.
She flattened her palm against the cool glass and demolished her picture. The home, the heart, the flower, gone in a flash. Easy. As soon as she did it, she wished she hadn’t, but the rain had tapered off and she couldn’t get the glass to fog up again. It was just a window now, clear and clean and empty.
Why could’t Tuney go to Hogwarts? Why had Lily gotten magic, but Petunia hadn’t? It wasn’t fair. Not one little bit. For a moment Lily wished, truly, ludicrously, that she could be just an ordinary person. No dandelions blushing pink at her command, no vengeful pimples showing up on mean girls’ faces at school, no owls leaving streaks of white on the front walk. She remembered a particular part of Dumbledore’s letter, read with Severus behind the tennis courts at the park.
I understand the injustice of life better than you might think. You are right to say it is unfair that Lily and yourself were born with this rather significant difference. However, I have learned that, while things often seem unfair to one’s own disadvantage, you may find in the end that it is you who got the better lot after all. Or perhaps not. Only time will tell.
Severus had scoffed at this, clearly finding the idea that anyone would prefer not to have magic utterly insane. “He’s famous, you know, but he’s a bit mad,” he’d said, rolling his eyes.
Lily, however, had spent several nights lying awake, and the thought that it was all too much, too complicated, was frequent among the worries that circled back to her with the steadfastness of the sun. She’d gotten this incredible thing, and she couldn’t help but worry that she didn’t deserve it. What if she started Hogwarts and they discovered she was no good at magic and had to send her home? What if she made a mistake and hurt somebody? What if she failed all her classes? Professor Dumbledore was right; Lily might not be the lucky one at all. Suddenly a rush of warmth toward Petunia rose up in her chest. She had, after all, tried so hard to go and been so keenly disappointed.
Lily turned away from the window and toward Petunia for the first time since leaving the driveway in Cokeworth. Petunia wasn’t looking out the window. She held her mood ring between careful fingers, studying it absently as the car bumped along. Lily wondered what color it was. Orange for unsettled? Red for angry? Yellow for happy? She’d said as much the other day.
“Tuney,” Lily whispered. Petunia glanced at her and frowned. “I don’t think it’s better to have magic, you know. I mean, I don’t think it makes me better than you.”
Petunia scowled, gave a small sniff, and turned her attention back to her mood ring.
“Please say something,” Lily hated the pleading note in her voice, but she couldn’t help herself. “Please, Tuney. I’m not going to see you for months. Won’t you miss me at all?” Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes and she did nothing to prevent them. “I’m going to miss you.”
Petunia’s expression darkened. “You don’t have the right to be sad!” She hissed, keeping her vice low so Mum and Dad wouldn’t hear. “You chose this! You’re the one who’s different. You’re the one who’s leaving. So don’t t you dare say you’re going to miss us when you could’ve stayed home in the first place!”
Fighting through a sob to get the words out, Lily answered. “What would you do? Would you just pass it up?”
“Of course!” Petunia lied.
“That’s not true. You’d go in a heartbeat. You probably wouldn’t even feel sorry!”
Petunia looked stung at being caught in her lie. “How do you know? You don’t know what I would do!”
“Oh, yes I do.” Lily snapped.
“Why can’t you just stay home?” Petunias eyes started to glisten. She was always getting mad at people for doing things she would have done herself, no questions asked. Wasn’t she supposed to be the responsible one? The mature one? It wasn’t fair the way she acted. Something in Lily, some long worn elastic temper, snapped.
“God, Petunia. I don’t want to stay home, okay? I want to go! Anyone would want to go! I really will miss you, though.”
“You are so selfish!” Petunia seethed.
“No, Tuney! I’m sorry!” She rushed the words, forgetting to keep her voice low.
Mum craned around from the passenger seat and eyed them suspiciously. “Quiet down back there, girls. Your father and I are trying to read the map. We’ll be there soon.
“Sorry, Mum,” Lily murmured. She turned back to Petunia and mouthed the words, I’m sorry.
Petunia clenched her jaw, unimpressed. She turned the ring over in her palm, seeming to consider the magic it held. Then, with surprising violence, she threw the ring, hard. It hit Lily in the chest with a sting. She squeaked. Petunia gave a satisfied scowl and turned firmly toward her window.
Lily retrieved the ring from where it had fallen and slid it onto her thumb. The glassy sides turned a pale lavender. She tried to picture the little decoder card that had come with it, but couldn’t. It was a shame, because she had never in her life been less certain of how she felt.
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