Disclaimer: I do not own anything you recognize, so I see no need for you to sue me.
This is my first published story, so I hope you would enjoy it!
A RAY OF LIGHT
Chapter 1: A Fine Evening
In my own little corner in my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be.
On the wings of my fancy I can fly anywhere
and the world will open its arms to me.
-"In My Own Little Corner", Rodger and Hammerstein's Cinderella
The place was absolutely magnificent. Streamers and banners hung from the bannisters and the room almost sparkled from hundreds of sparkly lights and the numerous coloured fairy lights, giving the place an almost ethereal glow. An orchestra played classical music and waiters went around offering guests more champagne. Most people from high society were present there, mingling amongst each other, all gathered there for a night of dancing and merriment. But there was no doubt they were all bragging about their assets, comparing whose ancestral home is bigger and whose children were brighter and more accomplished.
Petunia Evans surveyed her surroundings with her beady blue eyes, looking pleased. She smiled smugly to herself, allowing herself to bask in the attention she was receiving. After all, it was her birthday. She loved how every woman in the room complimented her attire. It was a sleeveless floor-length gown made of ivory silk taffeta, decorated with golden crystal beads and shimmering blue embroidery, and she was extremely proud of it. She loved how all the bachelors wanted to dance with her, each taking a turn to waltz with her. Tonight, she was the star.
Looking at the room, she was pleased to see that her younger sister was sitting alone in a corner. She wasn't joining the festivities, instead she was eyeing the dancers distastefully, a slight scowl on her features. The blonde smirked. That was the icing on the cake: seeing her younger sister having a miserable time while she was happily dancing the night away.
'Serves her right', Petunia thought to herself with a flick of her blond hair. 'For all the times she made me feel inferior when compared to her accomplishments. Tonight, it's my turn to shine.'
She also smiled when she noted that the younger Evans was wearing a simpler dress, compared to her own elaborate gown. It was a simple Grecian-inspired emerald gown that flowed gracefully to the floor, with no other embellishments. Her dark red hair was set in large curls falling down her shoulders, framing her face.
Petunia walked around, mingling with her guests, her self-satisfied smirk still in place. She spotted several of her friends, all clustered in a circle, obviously talking about the latest gossip in town. Her best friend, Yvonne Lancaster seemed to be entertaining them with stories she heard over the past week, discussing the latest scandals, happenings and rumours circulating among the London aristocratic scene.
Yvonne rushed to her best friend's side immediately. She kissed Petunia on each cheek and beamed. "Petunia, you look absolutely beautiful!" she said in her high, nasal voice.
"Why thank you, Yvonne, so do you, love", Petunia replied, looking at her friend's dress. "What a lovely gown you have there."
"Thank you", Yvonne said, twirling on the spot. "I had it made just for today."
"Well, it's amazing", said Petunia, trying to look impressed, even though she would very much want to be someplace else.
"Such a wonderful ball, Petunia", Yvonne said, nodding impressively, her blue eyes looking at the extravagant decorations. "Of course, nothing but the best for you."
"I wouldn't settle for anything less", Petunia replied haughtily.
"Seems to me like that little sister of yours is keeping to herself tonight."
Petunia gave a rather un-ladylike snort at the comment. "As she should. She should do well not to take attention for herself tonight, and remember her place.
"Well, I must say, you're really going to be the envy of all the young women. This is splendid! Splendid indeed! Which reminds me, have you heard the news about-?" Yvonne began, but a loud "Petunia!" cut her off.
"Petunia!" said Vernon Dursley breathlessly, running towards them. "I need to speak with you for a moment. Yvonne, do you mind?"
Yvonne looked stunned, but shook her head. "No, of course not. Go ahead, Petunia, my news could wait."
Petunia smiled at Yvonne before taking Vernon's arm. He led her away to the dance floor. They bowed to each other and joined in the waltz.
"Thank you for saving me back there", she said gratefully to Vernon. "As much as I love Yvonne, I would very much rather not talk about other people tonight."
"This is your night, and therefore would be spent as you wish, my dear", Vernon said adoringly.
Petunia looked even more pleased at his words, but a slight frown formed when he let go of her hand. It vanished, however, when she saw that he was pulling out a narrow velvet box out of his coat pocket and offered it to her. She took it from his hand and opened it, ecstatic to find a platinum bracelet encrusted with dozens of sparkling diamonds with a large aquamarine set in the middle. "Only the finest for the lovely Petunia", he told her, taking it out of the box and putting it around her wrist. She watched the gems sparkled as they caught the light, almost bursting with glee. After the dance, she left Vernon to speak with his friends as she took a stroll around the ballroom.
She spotted her parents with some of their friends in a corner, talking animatedly. She decided she would greet them and see if they were enjoying themselves, but she caught part of their conversation as she drew nearer.
"…Well this is certainly a lovely ball, Robert", she heard Lord Everson tell her father. "You must be so proud of your daughters."
"Yes, well, our Petunia is doing very well, very well indeed. She's obtaining satisfactory results in University and she's done what young women do in University. She's found herself a suitable husband. The heir to the Grunnings Corporation. Young Vernon Dursley, such a fine match."
"How about your younger daughter?" asked Lady Everson, looking interested.
"Well, our Lily is a different matter altogether", Mrs Evans gushed, apparent pride lacing her voice. "She's absolutely brilliant. She will be having her debutante ball soon and then she would be sent to Finishing School, like her sister before her. We have such high hopes for our little Lily."
"I heard that the Van Heusen boy is smitten with her", said Lord Everson, taking a sip of wine.
"Is he now?" Mrs Evans said, suddenly interested. The Van Heusens were an extremely wealthy political family, and to have connections with them would mean a great status upgrade for anyone. Women from across England would kill to even catch the eye of the elusive Van Heusen men.
"Yes, for a few years now. Apparently, he saw her at a mutual friend's party", Lady Everson shared, laughing a little. "Quite smitten, young Master Van Heusen is."
"Well, she never said anything of the sort!" Mrs Evans exclaimed dramatically, looking aghast.
"She seems…uninterested", Lady Everson said hesitantly, unsure if the information was correct. "It appears that she has been rejecting the young Master's advances toward her."
"Well, she is quite young", Mr Evans supplied. "She's only eighteen, Azalea, what do you expect?"
"Eighteen is a rather advanced age, Robert", countered Mrs Evans, "really, she should already decide on what she wanted to do with her life! She should have some idea on what her future would be! And I thought she was sensible enough!"
"Oh, calm down, Azalea dear, she has plenty of time! She's beautiful and bright; she should have no problem with finding a suitable husband!" Lady Everson chuckled, her eyes full of amusement.
"I suppose you're right", Mrs Evans said, regaining her composure. "I just worry that Lily would end up with someone unworthy."
"All parents worry about that", Lord Everson assured her, "especially with daughters like yours! They would be assets to any man who would be lucky enough."
Petunia blocked out the rest of the conversation. She was already livid, hearing her parents bragging about Lily in front of their friends. She was angry that Lily stole the spotlight once more. She heard the distinct tone of pride her mother used whenever she talked about her sister. She thought she had the advantage, already finding herself a suitable suitor, one her parents could brag about. But no, they talked about her, but shifted quickly to Lily, who apparently caught the eye of someone even better than an Aristocrat.
'Why is it that when I have something, Lily would show up with something better?' She thought angrily, tears prickling at the corner of her eyes.
To her annoyance, she spotted Lily surrounded by several young men, all offering to dance with her. She shook her head, declining politely.
Petunia stalked angrily to where her sister sat on her own.
"Enjoying yourself, Lily?" she spat venomously, making Lily look up.
"Hello, Petunia", Lily responded pleasantly, ignoring the spiteful tone her sister used on her. Petunia glared at her. "Happy birthday", she added impassively.
"What on earth are you doing?" Petunia said, eyeing her suspiciously.
"Drinking", Lily replied nonchalantly, holding up the glass on her hand, showing it to her sister. "Is that illegal now?"
"You better not be doing any funny business" Petunia warned her.
"I assure you that I am not", Lily sighed. "Now, will you please stop being ridiculous and just enjoy your party? I'm sure Mother and Father put plenty of effort into making this a memorable night for you. It would be a shame if you spent it being horrible to me."
Petunia opened her mouth but closed it immediately, but settled on directing venomous looks at her sister.
Lily just nodded and stood up. Petunia looked at her slim form disappearing through the crowd. She was angry at the way her sister seemed to have a pleasant disposition, even though she was simply horrid to her.
She didn't have much time to contemplate further, as Vernon had already caught up with her.
"I'm sorry, dear, I got a bit immersed in conversation with the lads", he chuckled heartily, but stopped when he noticed the look on Petunia's face. "Is there something wrong, dear?"
Petunia looked at him and shook her head, a small smile creeping to her face. "No, of course not. Don't worry, Vernon, I'm probably just tired. Shall we?"
She took his hand as he led her off to the dance floor.
Lily frowned when she left her sister. 'Expect Petunia to be hostile towards me, even when I haven't done anything', she thought miserably.
Lily hasn't been in good terms with her sister for years, ever since she entered Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. Her sister didn't possess magic, and therefore was denied admission. Their mother, a witch herself, was proud that at least one of her daughters was magical too. This, of course, made Petunia even more bitter and she resented her sister ever since.
She walked off to another corner, careful not to attract any attention to herself. She didn't want to give Petunia any more reasons to despise her. Before she could get there, however, a loud voice called her name.
'Please don't be-' she thought desperately, her eyes squeezed shut, but her hopes proved to be futile. She let out a groan as the owner of the voice ran to where she stood.
"Well, fancy seeing you here, Evans", Sirius Black said, grinning.
"Well, fancy it indeed", Lily snapped, "this is my sister's party after all."
"Why the attitude, Miss Evans?" Sirius said, pretending to be offended. "I came here to make pleasant conversation with you and you act like you don't even want me here!"
"Oh, what makes you say that?" Lily remarked sarcastically.
"I knew you couldn't resist my charm!" Sirius clapped his hands with glee.
"Shut up, Sirius, before I hex you", she said viciously.
"Sirius, please stop annoying Lily."
Another young man arrived beside Sirius, his blue eyes shining with amusement.
"Remus", Lily said, relief spreading through her body. "Please remove your mutt of a friend from my sight, please."
"Why, Lily darling, I am deeply offended", Sirius gasped, but his eyes held a small noticeable glint of mischief.
"I would apologize, but I don't think I did anything."
"You don't think you did anything?" Sirius repeated, looking horrified, as Remus chuckled beside him, "Why, my dear Miss Lily Evans, you have committed such an act of disrespect! How can you not want me around?"
"Plenty of reasons, Sirius", Lily raised an eyebrow, but a small smile gracing her lips.
"Looks like Lily doesn't want to be disturbed right now, Sirius", Remus said, pulling Sirius away by the arm. "Let's go before she sets your hair on fire."
"Aw!" Sirius whined, stomping his feet like a child denied of candy, "Can we stay? Annoying her is so much fun!"
"Fun?" Lily said dryly, "You're always teasing me because you found it fun?"
"Of course, why else?" Sirius remarked offhandedly.
"Why do I even bother?" Lily muttered darkly, "Well, if you'll excuse me, Lord Black, I will be going now."
"Alright then, Miss Evans", Sirius grinned, "Remus will keep me company on your place!"
Remus let out an audible groan as Lily turned away, giving him an apologetic smile. Sirius was laughing madly as he dragged Remus off to where the alcoholic drinks were.
"We should have dragged James along" she heard Sirius say.
'James who?' Lily thought, intrigued, 'Must be another rich friend of Sirius'. If he is anything like that womanizing idiot, I don't want to know.'
Lily and Remus had been friends since they were seven, their mothers being in business together, and Remus introduced Sirius to Lily three years ago. They were both from another wizarding school, Hogwarts, in Scotland. Lily had begged her mother to let her attend Hogwarts but Azalea Evans wanted her to attend the French school, believing it would make her more sophisticated.
Lily found herself wandering to the gardens, lost in her thoughts. She wrapped an arm around herself, looking at her surroundings. The garden was as elaborately decorated as the ballroom, all the rosebushes decorated with hundreds of sparkling fairy lights. Silvery moonlight bathed the grounds, giving the night an almost magical glow. It was rare for her to see a night as peaceful as this, given the recent events, from the Muggle war that had just concluded, and now, the Wizarding one just waiting to happen. She sighed, thinking about all the unrest lately and wondering what she could to help the resistance.
She was shook out of her stupor by the sound of someone clearing their throat. She turned to see her mother, looking straight at her with an unreadable expression on her face.
"Mother", Lily greeted, nodding curtly. Judging by her mother's face she knew that there would be a lecture coming.
"Lily, I need to speak with you", Mrs Evans said, her tone unusually business-like. She approached her daughter cautiously, not once breaking the uncomfortable silence that descended upon them.
"Can't it wait for tomorrow, Mother? Won't you rather spend tonight with Petunia? She won't take to me kindly if she saw you paying attention to me instead of her", Lily said almost pleadingly. She really was not in the mood to listen to another long-winded talk-most probably about marriage- by her mother at the moment. She turned away, desperate not to look straight into her mother's eyes.
"Alright then, Lily, but tomorrow we will talk, you understand?" she said, stroking her daughter's red hair. Lily nodded obediently, knowing that she has no further say in the matter. Mrs Evans seemed to be satisfied with her answer and left with a fleeting smile to her youngest daughter. "You may want to get inside, dear, it's getting cold. We don't want you falling sick, you know", she advised.
Lily stared after her, listening to the soft sound of her high heeled shoes making contact with the pathway. She heaved a sigh of relief.
No doubt she wanted to talk about my marriage prospects again, seeing Petunia so happy with her beau. Can't she see that I am not Petunia?
Lily was left looking more miserable that before.
What's a girl to do?
When she decided to finally go back to the ballroom, she realized that they had already gathered around a small round table, where a cake was already sitting on top of. Petunia was in the middle and her guests were singing the beginnings of "Happy Birthday". When the last note was heard, Mr Evans cleared his throat to get their attention.
"Thank you, everyone, for coming", he said in a loud, impressive voice, "in behalf of my daughter Petunia Victoria Evans, we hope you enjoyed the ball. I would also like to take this opportunity to invite you to join us for the upcoming debutante ball of our youngest daughter Lily Guinevere Evans. It would be a great honour if you join us for that occasion was well."
Petunia smiled graciously, her bright, even teeth showing and her cheeks glowed with happiness. Vernon took this opportunity to call their attention by gently clinking his wine glass, making everyone tear their attention from Mr Evans and focus on him.
"I would like to make an announcement, if I may", he declared, looking straight at Mr Evans, though his voice suggested that he would go ahead and make the announcement anyway, with or without their permission.
Mr Evans looked rather surprised at the proclamation, but he nodded in agreement, smiling amiably.
"Thank you, sir", Vernon said, putting down his glass and looking rather nervous and pleased at the same time. "I would like to ask for your daughter's hand in marriage, if the lovely Petunia would have me."
Lily shifted her gaze to her sister, who was hyperventilating so much she looked like she might faint soon. She raised a hand to her mouth dramatically, her eyes widening so much Lily half-expected them to pop out of her eye sockets. Lily rolled her eyes. Trust Petunia to make it as dramatic as possible. No one would hear the end of it come the next day, she was sure.
Mrs Evans smiled fondly, fanning herself with her hand. Mr Evans was beaming with pride, looking from his daughter to her beau, nodding his agreement. Lily ran to a secluded corner far enough to remain unnoticed, but close enough to hear all the exchanges between the guests. Everyone, the ladies in particular, began whispering to each other furiously and Lily could see Yvonne Lancaster- who, in Lily's opinion, was possibly the biggest gossip in London- talking so swiftly that her companions all looked like they were getting exhausted trying to catch up with her words.
Petunia nodded enthusiastically, saying a shaky, "Yes!" and crying tears of joy. Vernon looked relieved and extracted another velvet box, smaller than the previous one, and opened it. Nestled inside the cushioning was a platinum ring, adorned with the same gemstones as the bracelet he presented her earlier that evening. Petunia extended her right hand and he placed it tenderly on her ring finger.
'Well, at least she's happy', Lily thought, genuinely glad that her sister might actually be busy enough with her own affairs to forget to treat Lily badly. Oh, and that she would be happy.
Congratulations showered the newly engaged couple and Petunia found herself once more the centre of attention. The women flocked around her, all demanding to see her newest trinket and she was all too happy to oblige. She looked happier, much happier than Lily have seen her the past few years. Vernon was also offered congratulations and well wishes, many of the bachelors complimenting his choice of wife. The couple looked ecstatic, eagerly drinking in the attention so graciously bestowed upon them. Their parents were talking amongst themselves, discussing what Lily supposed were wedding plans, looking exhilarated.
Feeling lightheaded and not wanting to be caught in the celebration, Lily made to depart for her bedroom. She barely took ten steps when Sirius and Remus blocked her way.
"Hi, Lils, just want to bid you adieu", Sirius said, taking Lily's hand and kissing it. "Until next time."
"Goodbye to you too", Lily replied, flashing him a gentle smile and pulling her hand back. "And don't try your Casanova ways on me, you know I'm impervious."
"You'll give in soon, Lily dear", he assured her, earning a roll of the eyes as a response.
"Now, if you're done flirting with her, I would like to say goodbye too", Remus interrupted, pushing Sirius gently to the side.
"Oi!" Sirius complained loudly, shoving Remus forcefully, "Don't be rude, Moony!"
Remus chose to ignore him and gave Lily a brotherly hug. "I'll see you soon, Lily."
Lily hugged him back. "I'll see you soon. I suppose Mother would invite you here within the next few days, she has a new shipment of books arriving, you know, and I know she will ask you if you wanted to take a look."
Remus looked excited at the prospect of new reading materials and looked considerably more cheerful as Lily released him.
"What about me? Aren't you inviting me over?" Sirius whined.
"Unless I'm much mistaken, you're leaving to visit James in Berkshire, aren't you?" Remus reminded him, his hand massaging his temple, as if dealing with his friend gives him a headache.
"Oh, I forgot about that", Sirius said thoughtfully, placing a finger to his chin.
"If you two are quite done, I would like to go and rest", Lily cut across their conversation, looking exasperated.
"Sorry for keeping you", Remus said hastily, looking bashful. "Goodnight, Lily."
"Goodnight to you too", without further comment, Lily turned on her heel and left them, making her way to her bedroom.
Lily watched Sirius and Remus leave from her balcony before retreating to her bedroom. She changed out of her gown in favour of a loose fitting night-gown before heading to the bathroom. She washed her face, gazing at her tired eyes for a moment before making her way back to her bed, sinking into the soft, comfortable mattresses. She pondered about the day's events for a moment, listening to the sound of their guest leaving and the chirping of crickets from the gardens. The soft sounds were almost like a lullaby to her, and soon she drifted off to a peaceful sleep.
Thank you for reading and please review if you enjoyed it! I planned that James would appear in the third chapter, but if there's demand, he may make an early appearance! Oh, and he and Lily aren't acquaintances, as they attended different schools and he doesn't live in London, but I swear they will have a connection later on. You'll just have to wait and see. ;)
*oh, and I forgot to enable anonymous reviews when I posted... so I'm sorry about that. I already enabled them, though.