Lily looked around in the dark of the night. It was the thirtieth of July, but just barely. In thirty-three, thirty-two, thirty-one . . . seconds, the thirtieth of July would fade away into the thirty-first, and the thirty-first of July was a big day for the Evans house. It was the day that Lily, the cherry-haired girl with the covers tucked under her chin, waiting for the clock to strike midnight, turned eleven years old. But although the anticipation and excitement were almost too much for Lily to bear, the night eventually grabbed hold and she sank into a magical dreamworld of unicorns and potions and spells and wands and flying broomsticks and.... Lily was unsure of when she had gotten to sleep. She wasn’t sure she even was asleep until she heard her sisters, Petunia and Rose, bustling around her, and noticed that the black that had once shielded her mind from the outside world was not turning a red-orange as the sunlight passed through her eyelids. Struggling to choose between sleep and reality, Lily was suddenly snapped alert by a revelation: Today she’s eleven. She snapped up, checking her calendar to make sure she wasn't mistaken. A happy noise - almost a gasp - escaped as she realized she was right. She really was eleven years old! Rose barely got out of her way as Lily ran sideways down the stairs, taking them three and four at a time. The long staircase was narrow and spiral; Lily was almost too dizzy to stand when she reached the end. Lily had longed for this day for three years - ever since her cousin, Charlotte Bouvier, had gotten a very special letter on her very special day inviting her to a very special school: Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Charlotte was talked of often amongst their family, but often in hushed tones. Lily knew that they had to keep the news of her being ‘magically inclined’ a secret - the non-magic folk (Charlotte called them ‘muggles’) weren’t very tolerant of magical things. But when they did talk about Charlotte, they spoke of her in high regard. “What an honor it is,” she had heard her Aunt Georgia say to her mother shortly after the Charlotte had gone for her first year at Hogwarts. “Father had always told us that there was magic in our blood, but I never did believe it.” “I agree,” said Lily’s mother, Geraldine. “I never did believe it could be true. But don’t you know that with each passing day, I see more and more in Lily?” Georgia gasped. “Do you think it’s possible?” “I do!” screeched Geraldine, nodding her head wildly. “What about Petunia?” Georgia asked. “Her eleventh is coming up shortly, isn’t it? Do you think . . .” Georgia stopped short as she noticed the deflated look on her sister’s face. “Petunia,” Geraldine began, looking to see if she was within earshot, “is, I’m afraid, as Muggle as we all were, if not more so.” Lily thought this conversation over in her mind as she made her way past her older sister to the mail slot in the door. “There’s nothing for you,” Petunia said nastily as her sister approached. Lily was used to the verbal abuse from her older sister. Her mother had said she was going through a ‘phase’, but Lily didn’t know if Petunia’s bitterness would ever improve. Instead, she sat by the door until Petunia grew equally bored and frustrated and left the room entirely. There she sat, undisturbed by breakfast, lunch, or dinner. She didn’t even move to open the presents that were piling up beside her, or to blow out the candles that were now melted down into her birthday cake. Instead, she sat, her eyes drooping with exhaustion and disappointment, until she heard the clock chime midnight once again. No longer was she eleven; she was now eleven and one day. And, she thought, as she quietly cried to herself in bed, I’m as muggle as they all were. Lily woke up as the sun began to poke through the window coverings. While asleep, she dreamt again. Wonderful dreams of spells and wands and broomsticks. This light, however, replaced these dreams with the sad truth that not only had she never cast a spell or seen a wand or flown on a broomstick, she had never even gotten a letter of invitation from Hogwarts. She was as ordinary as her older sister, Petunia, who was as ordinary as any human person could possibly be. It had been nearly two weeks sense her eleventh birthday had come and gone without so much as a postcard bearing the Hogwarts emblem. It had been hard for her to come to terms with her normalcy at first - she had always felt different from the other children in her classes - but sooner or later, she reasoned, she wouldn’t have any choice. Her legs were a little wobbly as she stood, arching her back to work out the stiffness in her body. A yawn escaped her mouth as she went to the window to look upon the morning. It was the brightest morning she had ever remembered seeing, and although beautiful, it pained her eyes to stare into it. Still, she tried, shielding her squinting eyes with her hands. As she looked out into the bright sunlight, she caught a glimpse of something. A flying something. But as quickly as she blinked, the flying something was gone. Still, Lily couldn't help but think to herself: An owl! I’ve gotten an owl! Lily raced down the stairs, again, three-at-a-time, but when she got to the mail slot, all that was there was a perturbed Petunia, her hands clasped behind her back. “Give up, Lily,” Petunia said. “It’s not coming.” Lily looked at her older sister with tears in her eyes. “Besides,” Petunia added, ignoring the pained look Lily was giving her. “It’s all for the best. I don’t care what Mum and Aunt Georgia say about that school, it’s all nonsense, and you don’t need your head filled with any more nonsense than it already has.” Suddenly, Petunia stopped. The look on Lily’s face had twisted into some kind of indescribable mixture of anger and hurt, and Petunia knew she had gone too far. There was a rumbling kind of sound, and one single, purple flower popped up in the center of Petunia’s head. Petunia screamed as she felt the flower on top of her head, and as she did, three more popped up, and then five more, until it looked as if she was wearing a flowered hat. “What in the world is going . . . Oh, dear!” Geraldine exclaimed as she and Georgia ran into the living room. The two older women looked from Lily to Petunia, and back again. They couldn’t decide where to start. “MUM!” Petunia screamed, beginning to cry hysterically. “Look what she did to me!” Lily turned to look at her Aunt and her mother. I didn’t mean to, she tried to tell them, but no words would come out. How could she have possibly done that to her sister? If she had had that much magic in her, surely she would’ve gotten into Hogwarts. As Lily was trying to read the expressions on her mother’s and Aunt’s faces, a flash of green light waved at her from the front pocket of Petunia’s skirt. Lily blinked, quickly, thinking it was just her mind playing tricks on her again. But when she opened her eyes, it flashed again, brilliant green. Before she could stop herself, Lily jumped on top of her screaming sister, digging in her pockets to find . . . whatever it was. Finally, Lily had it within her grasp. It was slim and flexible, and it seemed to be squirming to get out. As her Aunt and Mother pulled her off of Petunia, the whatever-it-was came with her, hitting her in the face before flopping around on the floor. Lily stared at it, her mother and Aunt asking her questions that she couldn’t hear, despite their raised tones. It was a letter. And it was addressed to her. As if in slow-motion, Lily reached out to touch the letter. Once she did, hundreds of them came soaring at her from their hiding places under sofas and rugs, in between cushions and pillows, out of cubby holes and books. A few of them even flew out from under Petunia’s dress, making her squall even more. Everyone stood quiet as the last letter, this one crumpled and torn on one corner, tried to make its way to the pile in front of Lily. Lily caught it as it flew by her, and with a sigh of relief, it collapsed within her fingers. “Your letter,” said Geraldine, in a quiet, surprised tone. Lily stared at them. Her mother and aunt were withholding strained looks of joy and excitement, while Petunia looked as narrow-eyed and nasty as ever, casually moving a daisy-bloom out of her face. “Go on, then!” Georgia said. “Open it!” Lily couldn’t hide her excitement as she tore open the seal and read the words inside: Dear Miss Evans, We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on September 1. We await your owl no later than July 31. Yours sincerely, Minerva McGonagall Deputy Headmistress A smile broke across her face as Lily read the letter aloud. Her Aunt and Mother let out a sigh of happiness. Petunia noticed this display of approval and tried again to turn the attention to her. “Look what she did to me!” she said. The daisies and pansies were now falling down past her nose, and she had to keep pushing them up to see what was going on. “Oh, Petunia,” her mother said. “You know she didn’t do it on purpose. Why, before we knew about Charlotte, she was all the time making things disappear or float away.” She laughed. “It’s not funny!” Petunia said hotly. “Oh, of course it’s not, dear,” Aunt Georgia said, trying to soothe her. At times they were glad Petunia had no magic in her blood; she could throw a tantrum well enough without it. “But I wonder, how did that letter get into your pocket?” “Um . . .” Petunia began. She hadn’t thought of how to explain that just yet. “You stole it, didn’t you?” asked Lily. “You’ve been hiding my letters.” If Petunia had had any magic in her at all, smoke would be coming from her ears as she fumed. Instead, being as muggle as she was, her face turned the brightest red ever seen, and out of her mouth came the loudest, most high-pitched scream anyone in the room could ever have imagined. When it was over, Georgia and Geraldine, turned to Lily as if nothing had happened. “Congratulations, Lily,” her mother said. “And you,” she added, turning to Petunia. “You have a lot of explaining to do, young lady! Hiding your sister’s letters . . .” “But. . . but . . Look what she did to me!” Petunia shrieked again. “Make her change it back!” “Pigswallow!” her Mum said. “She didn’t mean to do it in the first place, Petunia. We’re going to have to take care of this the old-fashioned way.” Petunia’s caterwauling suddenly stopped. “Wh-what do you mean ‘the old-fashioned way’?” she asked, her eyes wide. “There’s only one way to get rid of unwanted weeds,” her mother said as Petunia started wailing once more. “Come along, child. It won’t be that bad.” Aunt Georgia watched as Geraldine led the sniveling girl to the back of the house then turned toward Lily, who was still sitting amidst the pile of letters. “Lily,” she asked. “How would you feel about coming with me and Charlotte to get your things tomorrow?” Lily felt her smile widen, which she didn’t think was possible. Her letter still clasped in her hand, she ran up and threw her arms around her Aunt. For the first time in all her eleven years, she felt as if she might have finally found her place in the world.
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