Today is my wedding day. "Dear Lily," Petunia says, and she kisses me. Her lips are cold and stiff against my cheek, arms as unyielding as steel. "I wish you and James all the happiness in the world," she says, and turns away too quickly to seem sincere.
I have lost my sister.
I lost her long ago.
* * *
Where to begin? As two perfectly ordinary sisters, growing up in a small English town with parents who loved us. I was only a bare year older than Petunia but I never ceased to remind her of it.
"That's right, Pet, go on playing with your dolls and fairytales," I would say kindly, "I have better things to do." That's who I was, the pretty one, the clever one, who topped the class and made heaps of friends while her little sister stayed indoors and dreamt of dragons.
But we loved each other nonetheless.
"What's that you're reading?" I asked curiously one evening.
"A book of ancient Greek legends," Petunia said, curled up in an armchair and so engrossed that she did not even look up. "It's wonderful, listen, there was a nymph called Daphne who-"
"Nymphs, fairies, dwarfs, talking animals - Petunia, aren't you a little old for all that?" I teased, one year her elder and so much more grown-up. "Why don't you read about something real? Or maybe you could try out for the lacrosse team?"
"But I like these stories!" She looked up at me, eyes wide and excited in her chubby unprepossessing face. "They're so exciting. Look, I'll show you the one about Leda and the swan, or Europa and Zeus..."
"Maybe later, Pet," I replied, beating a hasty retreat.
She was always trying to make me read her stories or show me the pictures she drew. If it wasn't the ancient Greeks on her mind, it was the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson. I couldn't fathom her fascination with them - these things weren't real. What was the point of knowing about witches if they didn't exist?
"You'll never understand," she would sigh, and go back to sketching unicorns.
* * *
I was ten years old when the letter came. Petunia and I hid on the stairs, quiet as mice while our parents shut themselves in my father's study, their voices raised and heavy footsteps creaking on the floorboards. Back and forth, back and forth; I could picture my mother, seated at the desk with her head in her hands while my father paced and paced.
"Do you think they're fighting?" Petunia whispered, her lip quivering.
"Don't be silly," I said lightly, not wanting to admit I'd had the same suspicion.
Hours later, or maybe it was not so long, my mother called me in. "Lily, your father and I need to talk to you."
I remember swallowing hard - what have I done wrong? - and looking back at Petunia for support. She smiled at me, her face crinkling in a way I knew meant she was trying not to cry from the fear and suspense. Seeing her so scared made me want to fly back and hug her, to tell her it was going to be alright. But all I did was smile back, strongly, and walk into the study with my head held high. Mother closed the door behind us.
"You're not in any trouble, Lily," my father assured me kindly as I sat down beside him. I smiled in relief. But the furrow in my father's forehead and the lines at the corners of my mother's mouth told me that even if I wasn't in trouble, something was definitely wrong.
"Here, darling," my mother said, her voice quavering nervously despite her smile. "We think you should read this." She slid a piece of paper over to me and smoothed a bright curl from my cheek. "Don't be frightened, Lily. It's just a letter."
I skipped over the letterhead and went straight to the text.
Dear Miss Evans, (I read) We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of...
There I stopped reading and put the letter down. I looked to my parents, searching for an explanation. "Witchcraft and Wizardry?" My voice sounded strange to my own ears. "Wh-what does it mean? Is it a joke?"
"No, my darling," my mother said quietly. She put her hand over mine. "It's not a joke."
They talked and talked to me, trying to explain something that they could barely grapple with themselves. I simply sat and listened, trying to comprehend that the world I had believed in was not the world that existed.
Magic. All my years of scorn, disbelief, dismissal - and now to find that magic was real? I may have laughed, I may have cried. I do not recall clearly. I was in too much shock.
But I do remember thinking this: Petunia is going to be so happy...
I think they would have kept talking for hours more, and I would have continued to trying to quietly absorb it all, except that then the door unexpectedly gave way and Petunia tumbled inside. She had been listening the whole time, her ear pressed up against the door.
"Where's my letter?" she said breathlessly, scrambling up from the floor before my mother could help her. "Can I go with Lily too?"
* * *
Petunia's tears made wet smudges on my cheek as she kissed me farewell at King's Cross Station, Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. "I'm g-going to miss you so much," she sobbed. "I w-wish I could come along."
"Don't be silly," I said, smiling so hard it hurt, "I'll only be gone for a little while. And next year you'll get a letter and we'll go there together!"
Mother hugged me goodbye, too full of emotion to speak, while my father gruffly embraced me and told me to be a good girl.
Then I was on the train, waving goodbye from the window. The engine tooted and we were off, the train huffing and puffing its way out of the station as I bid farewell to the life I had known. Petunia ran along the platform as long as she could, waving a white handkerchief, tears running down her face - and then she was gone, left behind as the train gathered speed and took me away with it.
I sighed and sat down in the carriage, feeling suddenly less excited and much more alone. There were other students in the carriage and I swallowed hard as I wondered if I should try to talk to them.
A tall boy with mussed black hair and spectacles saw me looking over and smiled. "Hello," he said. "I'm James."
"Hello," I said back, shyly. "I'm Lily."
"First year at Hogwarts?"
"Me too." He grinned at me. "Why don't you come over and sit with us?"
That was how I met James Potter.
* * *
I was home for the summer after my first full year at Hogwarts. "It's been wonderful!" I said gleefully as I hopped off the train and into my family's arms. "Wonderful!"
"Lily, it's so good to see you!" My mother hugged me. "And we heard the news - first in Charms class! I'm so proud of you."
"Well done, my girl," Father said with approval, "well done."
"Isn't it wonderful, Petunia?" Mother said, prompting my till-then silent sister.
"Very," Petunia said. She smiled, but there was sadness behind the smile.
Even before we had arrived home, I sensed that something was wrong with Petunia. We sat in the back of the car as my parents talked in the front. I reached out and touched her arm gently, quietly saying, "What's wrong, Pet?"
She moved her arm, just slightly, but enough to put it out of my reach. "It's nothing." Petunia turned her face to the window for the rest of the drive home.
However, Petunia was as cheerful as ever by dinnertime. I quickly convinced myself that I had only been imagining things.
It was a beautiful summer. Blue skies and tall trees and warm sun. The kind you always remember when looking back on childhood as The Summer, brighter, realer, and yet more dreamlike than all the others put together.
Despite our differences Petunia and I had always been fond of each other, and that summer we did everything together, from shopping in town to swimming in the creek. We didn't spend a day out of each other's company and by the end of it we had never been better friends. Whatever had rankled her on my return was soon forgotten - or so I thought.
A few days before the new year was due to begin at Hogwarts, I found Petunia crying in her room.
"Why are you crying?" I asked in alarm, trying to put my arm around her. "Are you hurt?"
She shrugged me off and buried her face in her pillows, sobbing incoherently.
"Pet, tell me what's wrong! Please, stop crying."
She wept. "It's... It's you."
I recoiled, shocked. "W-what?"
"You have everything! You have all the luck!" she burst out. "You have magic! And you're smart, and you're pretty, and, and..." Her voice cracked. "And my letter hasn't come yet! My letter, I never got my letter..."
* * *
In my sixth year at Hogwarts I was a Prefect as well as top of my class. But at year's end I went home with a mixture of joy and dread - for while my parents were warm and proud, my sister only smiled coldly. Ever since that last perfect summer, when her letter never came, things had been different between us. No matter how hard I tried to patch it up she rebuffed me at every turn.
I went to her room and sat beside her on her bed. "What do you want?" she said coolly, turning the pages of her book without looking up.
"I just wanted to talk," I said tentatively. "You know... Girl talk, sister talk. What you've been doing. How your friends are."
"Hmmm," was her reply.
"What's that you're reading?" I said, in attempt to engage her interest. "Greek legends? Brothers Grimm?"
"No," she said, her eyes full of scorn. "Don't be silly. That's kid's stuff. Now can you please leave me alone? I'm trying to concentrate."
As I left the room, I noticed her bookshelves were mostly empty. I asked my mother about it later, as casually as I could.
"Yes. She, well, she burnt them," my mother said quietly, her face suddenly clouded.
"Burnt them?" I faltered.
"Yes," she nodded. "All her fairy stories, her classics, her childrens' books. We never dared ask her why. She just - a few months ago she took them outside and made a bonfire." Mother sighed. "I worry about Petunia. She hasn't been going well at school, she never talks to us, and she's fallen in with a new group of friends... I just don't understand."
But I think I did.
* * *
Seventh and final year at Hogwarts was filled with both more responsibilities and more freedom. While the teachers gave us more time to ourselves and relaxed some of the stricter rules for us seventh years, there was so much more to be done and increasingly little time.
I was even busier than most. Not only did I have to worry about my studies and my duties as Head Girl, I had fallen in love. James and I - well, I suppose it was inevitable. We'd been best friends for so long. Though it was difficult to find time to spend with James, I never regretted one moment we were together. He made me feel so happy, so loved. He made me feel complete.
It's no wonder that the most vivid memories of my final year at Hogwarts are not of classes, or examinations, or escapades in Hogsmeades. They are of James.
There is one afternoon in particular that I recall now. We sat on the hill, blue sky above and a whole world at our feet. He lay his head in my lap; I ran my fingers through his hair and wondered if there was a luckier girl in the world.
Then with a sudden painful pang, I thought of my poor sister Petunia. I remembered the girl she had once been, before she became embittered, and the stories she had told me. Stories of Zeus who came to Leda in the form of a swan, of Poseidon in the guise of a ram; pure white unicorns who only suffered the touch of maidens and frogs who turned into princes. Stories I had never really listened to...
Oh Pet!, I thought as my hand tangled in my lover's hair, as my fingers traced the curve of his antlers. I'm so sorry.
My sister had dreamt with all her heart, but in the end the stag had come to me.
* * *
"I wish you all the happiness in the world," Petunia says, and turns away before I can see her crying.
"Petunia," I begin, my hand reaching out, but then James is by my side and I lose sight of her in the crowd.
She wishes me all the happiness? No. She wishes my happiness were her's.
And I - I just want my sister back.
Petunia, Pet, don't you see that I still love you?