Lily's letter from Hogwarts

Petunia is upset that she's not a witch like her sister

Extract from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling

There was a little silence. Lily had picked up a fallen twig and twirled it in the air, and Harry knew that she was imagining sparks trailing from it. Then she dropped the twig, leaned in towards the boy, and said, ‘It is real, isn’t it? It’s not a joke? Petunia says you’re lying to me. Petunia says there isn’t a Hogwarts. It is real, isn’t it?’

‘It’s real for us,’ said Snape. ‘Not for her. But we’ll get the letter, you and me.’

‘Really?’ whispered Lily.

‘Definitely,’ said Snape, and even with his poorly cut hair and his odd clothes, he struck an oddly impressive figure sprawled in front of her, brimful of confidence in his destiny.

‘And will it really come by owl?’ Lily whispered.

‘Normally,’ said Snape. ‘But you’re Muggle-born, so someone from the school will have to come and explain to your parents.’

‘Does it make a difference, being Muggle-born?’

Snape hesitated. His black eyes, eager in the greenish gloom, moved over the pale face, the dark red hair.

‘No,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t make any difference.’

‘Good,’ said Lily, relaxing: it was clear that she had been worrying.

‘You’ve got loads of magic,’ said Snape. ‘I saw that. All the time I was watching you ...’

His voice trailed away; she was not listening, but had stretched out on the leafy ground and was looking up at the canopy of leaves overhead. He watched her as greedily as he had watched her in the playground.

‘How are things at your house?’ Lily asked. A little crease appeared between his eyes.

‘Fine,’ he said.
‘They’re not arguing any more?’

‘Oh, yes, they’re arguing,’ said Snape. He picked up a fistful of leaves and began tearing them apart, apparently unaware of what he was doing. ‘But it won’t be that long and I’ll be gone.’

‘Doesn’t your dad like magic?’


‘He doesn’t like anything, much,’ said Snape.


‘Severus?’


A little smile twisted Snape’s mouth when she said his name. ‘Yeah?’


‘Tell me about the Dementors again.’


‘What d’you want to know about them for?’


‘If I use magic outside school -’

‘They wouldn’t give you to the Dementors for that! Dementors are for people who do really bad stuff. They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban. You’re not going to end up in Azkaban, you’re too –’

He turned red again and shredded more leaves. Then a small rustling noise behind Harry made him turn: Petunia, hiding behind a tree, had lost her footing.

‘Tuney!’ said Lily, surprise and welcome in her voice, but Snape had jumped to his feet.

‘Who’s spying now?’ he shouted. ‘What d’you want?’

Petunia was breathless, alarmed at being caught. Harry could see her struggling for something hurtful to say.

‘What is that you’re wearing, anyway?’ she said, pointing at Snape’s chest. ‘Your mum’s blouse?’

There was a crack: a branch over Petunia’s head had fallen. Lily screamed: the branch caught Petunia on the shoulder and she staggered backwards and burst into tears.

‘Tuney!’


But Petunia was running away. Lily rounded on Snape.


‘Did you make that happen?’


‘No.’ He looked both defiant and scared.


‘You did!’ She was backing away from him. ‘You did! You hurt her!’


‘No – no I didn’t!’


But the lie did not convince Lily: after one last burning look she ran from the little thicket, off after her sister, and Snape looked miserable and confused ...

And the scene reformed. Harry looked around: he was on platform nine and three-quarters, and Snape stood beside him, slightly hunched, next to a thin, sallow-faced, sour-looking woman who greatly resembled him. Snape was staring at a family of four a short distance away. The two girls stood a little apart from their parents. Lily seemed to be pleading with her sister; Harry moved closer to listen.

‘... I’m sorry, Tuney, I’m sorry! Listen –’ She caught her sister’s hand and held tight to it, even though Petunia tried to pull it away. ‘Maybe once I’m there – no, listen, Tuney! Maybe once I’m there, I’ll be able to go to Professor Dumbledore and persuade him to change his mind!’

‘I don’t – want – to – go!’ said Petunia, and she dragged her hand back out of her sister’s grasp. ‘You think I want to go to some stupid castle and learn to be a – a –’

Her pale eyes roved over the platform, over the cats mewling in their owners’ arms, over the owls fluttering and hooting at each other in cages, over the students, some already in their long, black robes, loading trunks on to the scarlet steam engine or else greeting one another with glad cries after a summer apart.

‘– you think I want to be a – a freak?’

Lily’s eyes filled with tears as Petunia succeeded in tugging her hand away.

‘I’m not a freak,’ said Lily. ‘That’s a horrible thing to say.’

‘That’s where you’re going,’ said Petunia with relish. ‘A special school for freaks. You and that Snape boy ... weirdos, that’s what you two are. It’s good you’re being separated from normal people. It’s for our safety.’

Lily glanced towards her parents, who were looking around the platform with an air of wholehearted enjoyment, drinking in the scene. Then she looked back at her sister, and her voice was low and fierce.

‘You didn’t think it was such a freak’s school when you wrote to the Headmaster and begged him to take you.’

Petunia turned scarlet.


‘Beg? I didn’t beg!’


‘I saw his reply. It was very kind.’


‘You shouldn’t have read –’ whispered Petunia. ‘That was my private – how could you –?’


Lily gave herself away by half glancing towards where Snape stood, nearby. Petunia gasped.


'That boy found it! You and that boy have been sneaking in my room!’


‘No – not sneaking –’ Now Lily was on the defensive. ‘Severus saw the envelope, and he couldn’t believe a Muggle could have contacted Hogwarts, that’s all! He says there must be wizards working undercover in the postal service who take care of –’

‘Apparently wizards poke their noses in everywhere!’ said Petunia, now as pale as she had been flushed. ‘Freak!’ she spat at her sister, and she flounced off to where her parents stood ...

The scene dissolved again. Snape was hurrying along the corridor of the Hogwarts Express as it clattered through the countryside. He had already changed into his school robes, had perhaps taken the first opportunity to take off his dreadful Muggle clothes. At last he stopped, outside a compartment in which a group of rowdy boys were talking. Hunched in a corner seat beside the window was Lily, her face pressed against the window pane.

Snape slid open the compartment door and sat down opposite Lily. She glanced at him and then looked back out of the window. She had been crying.

‘I don’t want to talk to you,’ she said in a constricted voice. ‘Why not?’

‘Tuney h – hates me. Because we saw that letter from Dumbledore.’

‘So what?’


She threw him a look of deep dislike.


‘So she’s my sister!’


‘She’s only a –’

He caught himself quickly; Lily, too busy trying to wipe her eyes without being noticed, did not hear him.


‘But we’re going!’ he said, unable to suppress the exhilaration in his voice. ‘This is it! We’re off to Hogwarts!’


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling

Did you enjoy this extract from ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'?
Get the book from the Pottermore Shop