Blazing orange light melted over the horizon as I stand looking out my window, a letter clutched in my hand. It's a hasty, scribbled, angst-ridden message from my niece Lily, who never knew I was her aunt until today. She found out through a note that her mother had written just hours before, and that's why she knew to send an owl with the news.
My sister is dead.
Strangely enough, I don't really feel anything. Shock, maybe, but shock is numbing, so I suppose that's why I can't react to this, why I can't cry. Then again, I have no reason to cry. Why should I cry for a sister I never really knew? For a sister I feuded and fought with for longer than I care to recall? No, I don't have a reason to cry, not now....not when I can't change anything....
I can't stop a twinge of emotion prickling at my heart as I think back on all the years gone by. She was only one year younger than I, and we were the best of friends as children. We had our whole futures planned out.....go to Hogwarts, graduate at the tops of our classes, and go on to become huge successes in the wizarding world. I remember how we used to act out what we would be when we grew up.....we'd pretend to be famous singers, miracle-working doctors, anything and everything we could think of.
Then, Diana turned ten. I had completed my first year at Hogwarts, and she simply couldn't wait until her letter came. The summer wore on, and with each passing day, she grew more and more anxious, watching the sky for an owl that would come bearing a heavy yellow envelope. All too soon, it was August 31st, and I was boarding the Hogwarts Express without her. I almost expected her to stay home; I didn't think she'd be able to stand the disappointment. But come she did, hoping against hope that there had been a mistake, and that she would find someone waiting for her at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, rushing to give her a letter that had somehow been delayed.
Of course, no such person was there. I can still picture her tear-streaked face in my mind as the train pulled away, the image of anguished disappointment. I can still hear her voice yelling over the noise of the train as I waved to her and our parents from a window.
"I hate you, Minerva McGonagall! I'll hate you until the day I die!"
Another pang of emotion tears at me as I relive those words. Until the day I die. I stare at the fading sun, the screaming voice of a ten-year-old girl echoing in my mind. "Did you die hating me, Diana? Did you keep that vow you made, all those years ago?" I whisper softly to the empty room as I turn away from the window.
Suddenly, I realize how empty the room really is. It's amply furnished, yes, but there isn't anything there to reflect who I am. No photographs of friends: I haven't any. No family keepsakes, although I do still have family.....but I'm not a part of that family anymore. No knickknacks to clutter things up. No decorations, nothing. Only a small, cedar box on the dresser that I haven't opened in years. I don't have to open it; I know exactly what's inside.
Yet I want to open it. I've gone this far down memory lane, there's no sense in turning back now. With trembling fingers, I put the crumpled letter down on the dresser and lift the hinged lid of the box, pulling out it's contents slowly, handling them as though they're precious jewels. A handful of fake costume jewelry. Two matching butterfly hairclips with letters on their bodies, one with a D, the other with an M. I'm not sure how I ended up with her clip as well as mine. A little pearl bracelet that had been mine as a child, much too tiny to fit even my thin wrist now. Some smooth, round pebbles we had collected by a stream one afternoon. Another butterfly hairclip.....Diana loved butterflies, and was always talking me into buying butterfly jewelry.
Finally, tucked away in the corner of the box, I see what I've really been looking for all this time. A necklace on a long, thin gold chain. The pendant is made of some sort of pale pink stone, cut in the shape of a heart, and on one side of the heart rests a tiny golden butterfly. This was the last thing she ever gave me. When I had returned home from my first year at Hogwarts, she presented me with this. She had one similar to it, and she used to talk about how when we were both at Hogwarts together, we could wear our necklaces and everyone would know we were sisters.
As I hold the necklace, a tear drips silently onto my palm, and I realize that I must have been crying for some time now. I should have forgiven her. I should have written to her, or called her on a Muggle phone, or gone to visit her.....but pride and stubbornness kept me from doing so. And now she's gone. I'll never get her back. I'll never know if she really hated me until the day she died.....
A soft hoot from the open window startles me out of my thoughts, and I automatically wipe the tears from my face. An owl is perched on the sill with an envelope attached to it's leg. Hastily, I take the letter from the bird, and it's flies away.
My eyes well up with fresh tears as I read Lily's handwriting for the second time today:
I forgot to send this with the first letter. Mum told us to send it to you in her note, and said you would understand.
Taped to the parchment is a necklace, the little golden butterfly perched faithfully on the pink stone heart.