1. The Disastrous Dinner
It was the middle of 1980 when two happy incidents occurred. Lily Potter and her sister Petunia Dursley gave birth nearly a month apart to two healthy baby boys.
The first time the Potter and Dursley families met was also the last. Petunia had, over the years, come to associate magic with her parents' favoratism, and her husband shared this opinion. In her eyes, James was even worse than Lily, because he was not only a full-blooded wizard, but he had friends who rode ... motorcycles!
The evening started off on a bad note, with the Potters arriving half an hour late. Lily tried to appease Petunia with some lame, scatter-brained excuse, something about having trouble finding a safe route, or something like that.
"A safe route," mimicked Petunia. "We're not in the middle of a war or anything. Or," she added, "are you being followed? Yes, that must be it, Vernon. The secret police are following them." Lily and James shared an oh-how-little-you-know look before setting their son down to play with Petunia's son, Dudley, on the floor.
The boys didn't take well to one another. Dudley scratched the Potter's son, Harry, and Harry, instead of bursting into tears as any other child would have done, hit his older cousin on the nose. James pulled Harry off the floor and apologized, though, as he complained to Lily afterward, Dudley had started it.
"Let's move on to dinner, then, shall we?" said an outraged Vernon.
Dinner was a complete fiaso, in Petunia's opinion. She had prepared a large lasagna, not realizing that Lily had recently become a vegetarian. Harry nearly pulled the tablecloth off halfway through the meal, upsetting Vernon's wine glass. To make matters worse, as she was cleaning the mess up, James made some joke to Lily about their son being a true marauder, or something like that. The meal became increasingly uncomfortable; the two couples could find nothing to talk about and only small scuffles between their five-and six-month-old sons broke the silence.
Dinner was over by 7:30, but James said their ride wasn't coming until nine. "There's safety in numbers," said Lily with a shudder by way of explanation, hugging Harry close to her body.
The two families suffered in silence, until James stood to use the bathroom and bumped into the coffee table, knocking over the glass candy dish that had been given to Petunia by hers and Lily's mother. Fuming, Petunia bent to pick up the pieces.
In the embarrassing silence, James muttered, "I didn't much like that thing anyway."
"Hush," admonished Lily.
"Honestly, honey, did you see?" James retorted. "It had snakes carved all over it! What kind of people were your parents anyway?"
Lily knew that when James's temper was arroused there was no stopping him. But it had been a long night, so she foolishly snapped back. "They were lovely people, thank you very m-"
"How dare you!" screeched Petunia suddenly, dropping her dustpan in disgust. Both boys, who had been fighting over Dudley's new set of blocks, perked up their heads at the sound of their mothers' angry voices. Lily was on her feet beside James, glaring furiously at her little sister.
"You come in here, eat our food," sputtered Petunia, "and then you insult my mother! Lily, I can't belive you stand for this!"
"Well, I can't believe you stand for this lug of a husband. What happened to the tall, dark, handsome stranger you always wanted to marry, huh?"
"Does the little rat badmouth our family at home, too?"
"Do you have any idea who our grandmother was?" breathed Lily dangerously.
"Your grandmother!" cried Vernon, jumping to his feet. "I don't know who you think you are, but I will not let you talk this way about our family! Get out! Take your son and get out of our house this instant and I never want to see any of your faces around here again!"
He crowded them to the door, both Lily and James struggling all the way. Petunia saw James reach into his pocket, groping for something, and let out a scream of trepidation. "No, James," cried Lily. "Not on-"
"Well, what would you like to do, hand Harry over to him? Because if we go outside ..."
In time, Petunia understood the meaning behind his words, but that night she had no inkling of the danger her sister was in or the risks she'd taken to meet them. If she had, perhaps she'd have been more understanding ...
"Never, never, never!" she shrieked loudly. Dudley started up at his mommy and then burst into tears. It was the scariest moment of his young life. "Your son will never be handed over to anyone in this family! Do you understand me?" Pure hatred shone in her eyes, tears shone in Lily's. "Now get out of my house, and don't ever return!"
James opened his mouth to speak, but Lily pulled him aside as best she could. "If little old ladies can Apperate with their shopping bags, we can Apperate with the baby." And with that, Vernon closed the door on them and Petunia never spoke to her sister again.
But she was forced to speak to her nephew again. Because ten months later, Harry was delievered to Petunia's doorstep. Lily and James were dead, killed by Tom Riddle.
2. Treacherous Thoughts
Petunia Dursley hummed a little tune as she straightened couch cushions in the living room. Vernon would be home from work soon. Dudders was out someplace, driving with his little friends. And HE was in the house ... somewhere, upstairs, hidden away in his room.
She wouldn't be surprised if he never came out again. He barely came out anymore, except to eat and shower.
She paused for a moment, thinking ... imagining what the last fourteen and a half years would have been like if it hadn't been for that one last fight, more than fifteen years ago ...
Jack and Marigold Evans had been proud of their two daughters. And if they had been more proud of one than the other ... who could blame them? Petunia knew she was a dud. She knew she wasn't beautiful or smart or clever or sociable, all the things that her sister had been. She knew she had been much overshadowed by her popular older sister.
She had seen the loving, tender gazes he had given Lily, his red-haired, green-eyed beauty of a daughter. And then he would happen to glance over at her, her "beauty" too bland for his taste, your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, bony, skinny blonde. Even as a child, Petunia had noticed the preference for her sister only too clearly.
"The first in the family to attend Hogwarts!" Jack had exclaimed when they had discovered she was a ... a witch and would be going to that freak school.
She had begun to dread her sister's summer and winter vacations, and was glad when Lily began visiting her own friends instead of coming home every summer. She tried hard to compete with her sister in everything.
Later on, Petunia met and began to date a boy named Vernon Dursley. But no, she still hadn't beaten her sister: when she had confided in Lily, trying to make her jealous, Lily had told her she was also seeing someone, a ... a wizard by the name of James Potter.
Tensions rose between the two Evans sisters. They broke off ties almost completely after they had both become pregnant at the same time. That fateful dinner over fifteen years ago had been the first time the sisters had spoken in a year.
Now, fifteen years later, Petunia heard HIS door open and heard HIS footsteps as he made his way down the hall to the bathroom.
She bustled about in the kitchen, trying to look busy even though she was lost in her thoughts. She remembered a time before ... Hogwarts, before all this witchy business. Lily had still been the pretty, popular one then too, of course, but they were more open, friendlier.
She remembered countless sleepless nights, when the two of them had stayed up until dawn, talking about one thing or another. That's when she had told Lily about the tall, dark, handsome stranger she had once wanted to marry. So many nights ...
Lily had been such a good friend, such a good sister ... Lily's son, upstairs ... Lily's son, not Petunia's nephew or Duddy's cousin. They weren't worthy of those positions because they hadn't acted the part ... just like she wasn't worthy of being called Lily's sister. Blood was nothing. She hadn't acted like a sister.
And it was too late ... too late to help Lily. She was gone, and nothing would ever change her opinions of her sister ... it was too late ...
But it wasn't too late for her son ... Petunia set down the teapot as her husband pulled into the driveway and started up the stairs ...
3. Just a Crack
She knocked lightly on the boy's door. There was silence inside. Then, a few moments later, Petunia heard a creaking of bedsprings, and the door was opened.
Just a crack.
She could see his face through that crack though. Lily's eyes. Her father had been so proud of them. They were his eyes as well. His room was growing darker, he hadn't yet turned on his light, and his face glowed yellow in the bright light from the hall. Vernon slammed the door downstairs.
"May I come in?" she asked.
He looked taken aback, but muttered, "Sure," and pulled the door open wide.
She looked around; she hadn't been in here in a while. He hadn't done much with the room, hadn't even put up posters like Dudders had ... it looked more like he was visiting than living here.
"Did you want something?"
He was staring at her with such a strange expression. Was he glaring? Yes, but there was something else staring out at her in Lily's eyes. Hope? Hope that what? She had never given him any reason to hope for anything from her, had she?
"I want to talk to you."
She sat down on the rumpled bedcovers of his bed. Looking wary, he sat gingerly down next to her. His hair was sticking up in all directions, as if he hadn't combed it for days and days. Which he probably hadn't.
"I want to tell you about someone."
"Okay," said the boy.
"She was a beautiful girl," said Petunia. "Long, curly red hair, beautiful green eyes. Everyone who saw her loved her. I knew her, too. I loved her, too. She was my sister – how could I not?
"She was more than beautiful, she was also kind," she continued. "We had secrets together, secrets we kept from the whole world. Like girlhood crushes and those sorts of thing." She was staring down at her lap; she couldn't bear to look into his eyes. The eyes that weren't his.
"What are you trying to-"
"Shush and let me finish," she said. There they were, the same words she had said so many times throughout his life, but her words didn't have the usual sharpness they always held. The words seemed rounder, softer. The words hadn't changed, her tone had. Her voice. He sensed the difference and listened up, opened up his ears.
Just a crack.
"You know who I'm talking about by now, don't you?" she said. "Lily. Your mother."
She summoned up the courage, and looked into his face. There was no more resentment in it, only curiosity. She could hear Vernon calling her from downstairs, but she didn't answer. He'd never come in here anyway. This would be the last place he'd look.
The boy looked down at his hands. She decided to continue.
"The truth is, I miss that part of her, that part that used to be, before she went away to school. I wanted things to be simple again, for me to be slightly jealous and her to comfort me. I was angry once I grew up enough to realize that life is constantly changing and we can't hold on to the old memories and refuse to accept the new situation, because we miss out on so much ... I didn't go to her graduation, or her wedding ... and she didn't come to mine ... I was young and stupid and couldn't accept that things could be different yet still be just as good as they were before. "
I've messed the past twenty-five years up and I hope you can forgive me."
He looked into her face at the same time she looked into his. Their eyes connected, and for a few moments they were struggling, both of them wanting to break the awkward connection, but neither of them wanting to be the one to do it.
She had broken in.
Finally, as if in agreement, they looked away together and Petunia continued. "I don't want you to forgive me now, that would be selfish, because it's impossible to forgive twenty-five years of suffering in a few minutes. But I'd like it if you'd think about forgiving me and all the pain I've caused, and if you can't forgive me, do it for Lily ... "
He nodded slowly, thoughtfully, as if he were lost in another thought ... "I've got to give Vernon his dinner now," she said, "but think about what I said, all right?" He nodded again, and then got up to show her out of the room. He didn't close the door behind him, however.
It was wide open.