When she was eleven years old, Petunia brought home a Certificate of High Achievement in Academics — the only girl in her school to do so. She had gone out to dinner with Mum and Dad and Lily and turned red with embarrassed pride as she listened to their praise. In the back of her mind, a small, arrogant side of her had thought, I’ve left some big shoes to fill.
When Lily was eleven years old, she had found a letter in her mailbox, formally inviting her to the school that Petunia had only heard whispers about from the shifty boy that always watched them in the park. Their parents had taken Lily out shopping, buying her special equipment for her special school with more money than they brought home a month. They had been glowing
as they told Lily how wonderful she was, how bloody unique she was to be accepted to a school like this.
That weekend, Petunia had stayed home in her room, rereading Jane Austen’s Emma
. She soothed her hurt pride with the fact that Lily would most likely fail out of that school — she had always been rubbish at maths and history, after all. Perhaps the new school would reject her once they saw that she was not
a serious student. She had kept her fingers crossed as she turned the pages of the book; though she knew in her heart it was only a silly superstition, she hoped for a higher power to make her wishes come true. For what would her academic certificates mean if Lily could perform the impossible?
Lily had promised to write every day that summer, and though Petunia had brushed it off as though she didn’t care, she was irked when the letters began to grow fewer and fewer. She wondered if the teachers would query about Lily’s family life… when she closed her eyes every night, the conversation was visible beneath her lids.
“I wonder if talent like this runs in the family. Have you any siblings, Miss Evans?”
“Oh, I’ve a sister, but she is rather boring.”
“Tut tut. Boring is what makes a good student. What is her name?”
“Petunia…that name rings a bell. Perhaps we ought to enroll her immediately, in case we’ve overlooked her magical abilities thus far.”
Sometimes, it was so real she would wake up and wonder if her letter had been sent yet.
She waited four years, but it never came. She had given up being a good student by then. Only half of her heart went into her studies, perhaps a fifth of her time was spent studying. The other four-fifths were spent doing things that she would come to regret, things that she scorned later in life and tried hard to protect her dear Duddy-kins from. She had stopped trying to earn her parents’ pride, for she knew well that it was foolish to try for something that would never happened. The absence of a letter had taught her that much.
And who was she to try to be the good daughter, when it seemed as though Lily was good enough for the both of them?