Dear Petunia Dursley


I’ve tried for a very long time to understand you. You’ve made it very difficult. I’ll never be able to understand why you treated your nephew the way you did. Or why you married who you did. Or spoiled your son to the point you did. Mostly, your life seems to me something to be pitied, a sad story about someone so consumed with jealousy that they lost touch with all other feelings they once had towards a person. But I’ve been thinking more and more about siblings lately- specifically, the relationship between my own sisters and I.

I’m the oldest sister, like you. Sometimes I think people don’t always realize how big of a difference that makes. Especially people who are the only child- it’s impossible for them to ever get it. The dynamic is strange and you can always tell which order someone was born only a few sentences after they begin to talk about their siblings. It’s in the language we use- which things bother us about the others, how our parents treated us differently, what we felt the others had that we didn’t.

For you, that last one is obvious. Lily had magic, and you didn’t. She was off doing new and exciting things, things you would never be able to do no matter how hard you tried. That I can understand. I know how it is to watch your sibling do things you can’t. I’ve been watching, for years now, as my sisters experience a world I’ve always wanted to be part of. Go to college. Travel abroad. Get a degree. Find a job. Live on their own, out of the house and supporting themselves. Find love. People who don’t know better tell me that the only thing stopping me from doing all those things too is myself. But you and I know better. Sometimes, people are born different. Sometimes, life deals you a hand that makes certain things impossible. You had no magic. I have genetic health problems. And because of this, you and Lily, my sisters and I, live in completely different worlds.

And I want to ask- at what point did you begin to hate Lily for that? At what point did jealousy and loneliness become malice, loathing, total rejection? At what point did your feelings of disgust for her become so powerful that you couldn’t even care for her innocent infant son?

Was it when she died?

Sometimes I wonder if my sisters will one day hate me for being sick. If one day, the differences between the worlds we live in will be too much. We’ll live too far separate from each other to allow understanding anymore. What if they hate me for how I am?

Or worse, what if I grow to hate them?

It doesn’t feel possible. But I’m sure you thought the same, once. I can’t imagine losing a sister. I can’t begin to imagine losing a sister to murder, especially a sister you hate. It had to have been horrible, but it doesn’t excuse how horrible you became. And I suppose… I’m writing to ask how not to become you. That’s a horrible thing to say. And it’s not exactly the point of this letter. I want to understand you. I want to be able to empathize with why you became the way you did because one day, I might grow to hate my sisters. Or they may grow to hate me- and if I can empathize with you, then maybe… I can continue to love them anyway. Does that make sense to you? Probably not. It barely makes sense to me.

If you’ve made it through this letter, haven’t quit reading in anger, do me one favor? Go visit Lily’s grave.


Another Older Sister

Petunia Dursley is from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling


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