It was a rainy mid-morning nearing the end of June when Harry was given the shoebox. Aunt Petunia seemed to have given up issuing household orders and his family was avoiding him. This suited Harry very much and his feet were curled up under him on his bed whilst he re-read The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection.
Aunt Petunia wrapped at the door whilst barging in and tossed a shoebox onto his bed.
“Here – since you must be leaving soon,” she cast him an unkind hopeful look, “You should have some rubbish I found whilst clearing out the loft.” Her voice quietened, “They were your mother’s. I’m not sure why they’re in my house.”
Harry gaped uncomprehendingly.
“So take them, then!” Petunia spat. She seemed oddly jittery.
Harry quickly grabbed the box. “Um. Thanks.”
She stormed out and slammed the door.
Harry leant down to remove the loose floorboard, and retrieved the penknife Sirius had bought for him at Christmas.
Stomach clenching, he slit through the layers of duct tape, scooted back up to the headboard, and removed the lid.
Harry stared. Inside was an assortment of odds and ends, ticket stubs, parchment and photographs.
He was immobilised. Not knowing where to start, he upended the box and grabbed at what was closest: a black-and-white unmoving photograph. A small Lily sporting a toothy grin stood alongside a muddy miserable girl holding a crying baby.
He flipped over the photograph and read:
Me - 7, Archie - 6 months, Petunia - 8
The dreaded day of cousin Archibald’s christening had arrived. Lily had never been so bored in her life. And they weren’t even ready to leave the Midlands for the epic drive.
Lily was dressed in a frilly pinafore, her hair neatly smoothed back into a plait.
She was swinging her legs in boredom on the divan outside her mum’s room, viewing the scene playing before her with a weary expression on her face.
“Ow! You’re pulling!” Petunia screeched.
“The knots must come out, Pet. Lily was perfectly happy to keep still.”
Petunia, on the other hand, was dressed in a pair of dungarees. There was a snail living in her central front pocket and her socks were a bit muddy from gardening without shoes.
Lily smirked and folded her arms.
“Why is there mud in your hair, darling? You better not have been rolling around in the garden like a swine. You know how upset it makes me when you work on the Sabbath, and there’s no time for another bath!” she said, grinding her teeth together in an effort to keep calm.
Petunia glared around at Lily and grabbed the hairbrush from her mum and hurled it at Lily.
“Ow! That was my h-h-head!”
Mum slapped Petunia. “Awful girl! Why did you do that?”
Both girls started bawling.
Half an hour later, Lily and Petunia were bundled in the back of the car, still sniffling. They were each looking out their windows, feeling stung.
Three long hours later, a smug looking Lily stood next to now a slightly less muddy, harassed looking Petunia who cradled what looked like a red sniffling plucked chicken in a frilly frock.
“Smile nicely for the camera, young ladies!”
Archibald now being passed around to other relatives for the photographer, Petunia and Lily made their way over to the table with the biscuits.
“I’m sorry, Lil. I didn’t mean to hurt you before.”
Lily tentatively smiled up at Petunia. “That’s okay! I shouldn’t have laughed. Friends forever?”
“Sisters for life,” elbowed Petunia, reaching over to get Lily two biscuits.
Lily hugged her knees to her chest on the window seat, staring unseeingly out the window as tears ran down her face. She was 18 and was spending the week at her dad’s house in Cokeworth before leaving tomorrow to get married.
She wasn't sure where it all went wrong. It seemed that her sister had always appeared jealous at the attention she got for having the ability to do the impossible.
I never asked for this, thought Lily.
She had been phoned and written, begging and pleading for her sister to attend the wedding for a solid month - ever since she had planned the date. The registry office had been fully booked for the next six months but luckily someone had dropped out. Since Albus recruited them to the Order just two months ago, they were anxious to get married.
This week all of her arguments - that she was sorry, wanted to mend this bridge, you’re my only sister, dad would be upset, mum would be turning in her grave, that it was important to her, if she died tomorrow she wouldn't even care, that if she died tomorrow she would regret not going for the rest of her miserable life - had fallen on deaf ears.
In the end Petunia had packed her bags for London to see her boyfriend.
Lily wiped her eyes, got to her knees by the bookcase, and retrieved some old photo albums from the '60s.
She started sniffling again as she begun to flick through. Life was simpler before Hogwarts, wars, and weddings. There she was, playing happily with her big sister in the paddling pool. In another, she, Tuney and mum were all holding hands on her first day of primary school.
She gazed at toddlers on the merry-go-round at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Her younger self was grinning, her big sister’s arms were looped around her and she was planting a kiss in her filthy hair.
Just when did that sister die?
She flicked through the album, watching steadily as her family and friends aged.
Finally, she got to the last photo. It was in black-and-white and showed her and her sister next to their cousin Archibald at his christening. Archie was wearing a hideous formal frilly thing – and was rather red in the face.
Her sister looked upset and grubby. Lily was grinning up at the photographer and looked considerably cleaner than her older sister.
She felt that the photographer had captured Pet’s personality well. So she sighed slid it out of the album.