Petunia glared over her morning breakfast plate at the large, brown owl sitting without shame on the table. Her mother stared with wonder bordering on disbelief at Petunia’s sister, Lily – who, for her part, looked positively elated. Petunia scoffed. Certainly she did not care what the glittery, gem-like ink said on that strange, thick paper. She had more important things to think about – the status of the new jewelry shop around the corner, for example, or whether or not Effie Mortenson had broken it off with Mark Thomas again. Nonetheless, when her father came bounding back into the room with his eyeglasses perched on his nose, she paused her important musings to hear his verdict on the letter.
“Now, then, Lily, let’s have a look at that!” With her eyes aglow, Lily handed the envelope and paper to her father. The envelope, curiously enough, was addressed to “Miss Lily Evans, The Corner Bedroom, 1207 Carlyle Ave, London.” Mr Evans flipped through the pages of the letter several times before setting both his eyeglasses and the letter on the table. “I don’t really know what to tell you,” he said, “except that I cannot write it off as a hoax. That bird is remarkably well-trained!” As if understanding Mr Evans’s words, the owl puffed up its chest and fluttered its wings in pride. “It does mention that because we are – these Muggles people, a Professor Margreaves will come to see us about Lily’s acceptance to this school.”
Petunia then understood. It was that pig school – Hogwash or something. That stupid, dirty boy had been telling Lily all about it that day at the park last year before he made a branch fall right on top of her! Still, if Lily was good enough, why wasn’t she? After all, they were sisters. In fact, Petunia was the elder, the prettier, fairer, the smarter – better at everything! If anyone deserved to attend a special school that was likely superior to the local secondary school, it was Petunia. She wasn’t sure that she even wanted to, though. Surely if Lily could go away to school she could, too, but she didn’t trust that – that magic thing. She harrumphed and stabbed her eggs until the yolks split open.
Mrs Evans was examining the paper from every angle, while Lily still seemed too excited to talk when, to no one’s surprise, the doorbell rang. As Mr Evans rose to answer it, Lily, breaking her silence, bounced in her seat and exclaimed, “It’s him! It must be! The professor!”
Her mother shook her head, saying, “It could as easily be the postman,” but even she did not sound convinced. Petunia had a sinking feeling in her stomach that it was, indeed, the professor. Sure enough, within moments Mr Evans returned, a tall, solid woman following behind him. She ran a hand through her short, dusty brown hair and then straightened the rounded edge of her collar. She wore a dusky bathrobe-sort-of-thing that Petunia swore had glimmering pinpricks of light scattered over the front, and on the woman's head sat a funny pointed hat that appeared to be of the same material. The garb was ever so strange and inappropriate – and for a teacher! – but at least her belt matched her polished leather shoes. She shook the hands of Mrs Evans and Petunia. At Lily, she smiled thinly.
“Hello,” she said. To Lily she continued, “I take it you are Miss Lily Evans?” Without waiting for confirmation, she said, “My name is Professor Margreaves. I teach at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You have been offered an opening at the school, as the letter states, and I am here today to answer the questions you and your family will undoubtedly have.”
Mr Evans grinned. “So it is real! I knew it! But what is the wizardry and witching business?” he said as he offered her a chair and some breakfast. Petunia frowned. Hogwarts – that was the name Lily and that strange boy had talked about. How utterly absurd!
“You will learn, Mr Evans, that the world does not work as you have believed,” she said, sitting but refusing the meal. Petunia noticed that her voice was rich and she did not fidget or shift in her chair. The woman continued. “There are, of course, certain people that have the ability to reach the highest levels of physical fitness, bringing us Olympians and famous football players; other people have a mind for thinking, which gives us so many books and different ideas. However, there are others who have a very different sort of gift. Your daughter, Lily, has such a gift.” Here she paused, allowing her words to sink in and to accept the cup of coffee Mrs Evans offered her.
“So this is a school for gifted people? What is Lily’s talent? We’ve always known she would do wonderful things, but we had never noticed any particular special abilities,” Mr Evans said. Petunia thought that Lily didn’t have any talents at all. Petunia herself always received praise about her piano playing, while Lily couldn’t even string together a tune. Petunia, however, couldn’t do the things that Lily could – but not that she’d even want to have that wicked ability! Maybe, though, there was a chance she could learn, too. However strange Lily’s weird powers may be, Petunia was rather curious about them. She had almost spoken up about Lily and her magic tricks when the professor cut her off.
“Are you positive she has no special abilities? I’m sure you have noticed, Mr and Mrs Evans, that Lily sometimes does things that are beyond comprehension – usually when she is upset or afraid.”
Mrs Evans nodded thoughtfully. “There was that time – remember, Lily – when you were seven and the neighbor boys pushed you into the pool. Right after that, they slipped, right in a row, and landed in the deep end! Oh, they tried to put it on you, but you were still in the water,” she said.
The professor nodded "Perhaps there have been other incidents, too? Before I discovered I had this gift, this gift that Lily possesses, I changed the color of my older sister’s hair every time she teased me. A friend of mine changed the size of his favorite pair of boots when they grew too small before he learned how to control his gift,” the professor said.
Her parents nodded, recalling several other strange incidents. Petunia could list many more, though: that strange trick with the flower, for one, and her frustratingly good balance. She never fell when they went ice-skating, and more than once Lily zipped away to another room when she and Petunia argued (leaving Petunia to take the blame for whatever the argument was about). It really wasn’t fair how Lily managed to get away with everything, especially when she used her magic-y thing.
At this point, Lily couldn’t keep her mouth shut. “I know!” she said. “Severus told me all about Hogwarts! He said I was a witch because I can jump farther off the swings and not get hurt, and I can do other things, too! He told me not to tell anyone, but Tuney knows ‘cause she was spying--”
“Shut up!” Petunia said. “I was not! Besides, I think it’s stupid – he said it was magic, but magic isn’t real. Everyone knows that!”
The professor chuckled. “Well, apparently, Everyone is wrong. Magic exists, and Lily has the ability to control it. Hogwarts is a school for children with the gift of magic.” Mr and Mrs Evans looked stunned. Mrs Evans gulped down the rest of her coffee (which was surely lukewarm by then) and set the mug down with a shaking hand.
“Our daughter,” she said in a voice just a notch above a whisper. “A witch! A real, actual witch!” She laughed. “I suppose we should have seen it coming. She could always do unusual things.”
Her parents and Lily continued talking with the professor about the different preparations they had to make before school. Petunia, though, couldn’t stand how they were completely ignoring her. After a minute or two of their excited chatter, she shoved her chair back and stood, ignoring her half-finished plate. Her mother finally looked up from talking to the professor.
“Tuney, whatever is the matter?” she asked.
“I’m tired. Going to find Effie to talk about real things,” Petunia said sharply and turned on her heel. She could almost feel her mother’s eyes on her retreating back, but she continued on to the door. She didn’t say goodbye.
An hour or so later, Petunia was swinging in the park. Effie had been busy (perhaps out with Mark? Petunia would get the details later), so Petunia had wandered for a while before sitting on the swing. She had run across that boy, the greasy one Lily liked to talk to, clutching a letter that was a twin to Lily’s own. She glared at him, but his smug smile only deepened. "I expect," he drawled, "that she got her letter today, too." He was mocking her – not that she cared, of course, but it was the principle of the matter! Petunia Evans did not like to be mocked! That was it, most certainly. That was why she knew that her world was far more normal than Lily’s would ever be. Of course, not that she wanted to be weird – a freak. Certainly not. But it still wasn’t fair. She scowled, hoping the boy would leave her alone. Evidently, he took the hint, because he slid off the swing and skulked away (but not before sending her a snarky look, of course). Petunia sighed in relief.
However, moments later she saw Lily walking up the path to the park as quickly as her short, stubby legs could take her. She collapsed into the swing next to Petunia’s and smiled. “Oh, Tuney – I didn’t think it would actually come! I had hoped, but I didn’t think I was really anything special!” Petunia scowled.
“Well, you’re not. So don’t worry,” she said, a snide tone betraying her smile. “I saw your boyfriend. He had a letter, too.”
“He isn’t my boyfriend! I like him as a friend!” Lily huffed. She twirled a piece of hair around on her finger. Petunia started to hate even that habit of Lily’s – didn’t she know it was terrible for the ends of the hair? Lily spoke again. “But I knew he’d get it. He’s the one who told me, after all. Do you think we’ll get in the same house? Professor Margreaves said that there are four and that everyone is sorted into one. She also said that we have to go shopping downtown for our school things on a special street that only magic people can see and that the train platform is hidden too! I really can’t wait! Mummy said we can do the shopping next week. Would you like to come? I bet you’d like to see everything!” Her eyes were shining, and she looked far more animated than Petunia had ever seen her.
“No, I don’t want to see it. It sounds like there will only be freaks there, and I want to be around normal people,” Petunia said. Lily dimmed visibly, her grin shifting to a pout.
“Well, fine, then. Don’t come – I’m sure I’ll be happier without you!” she said, upset. She muttered after that, “Just ‘cause you’re jealous.” Petunia heard and her frown deepened. She kicked the swing to a stop and stood to leave. Lily was abashed, but before she could apologize, Petunia had stomped away, hot tears threatening to spill over her cheeks. She angrily brushed them away, hoping no one could see. Lily could go to her weird school and learn to be a freak like the rest of them, for all she wanted. Petunia would go to her normal school and grow up and be beautiful – and she would be perfectly happy about it, she was sure. She had to be, because it was all she had now.