The Unopened Letter

By Yami no Kokoro

Severus Snape sat on his bed, leaning against the chipped white wall and listening to the buzzing of an errant fly perusing his uneaten dinner. The house was silent- a lot was silent these days. During every summer for the past five years Severus could always count on going to Lily's house to escape the quiet or the screaming, but not now. Now that word burned like a dark curse between them, and Severus was left to idle his days alone.

Because without Lily he was truly alone. What were his Slytherin friends to him? Nothing. Lily was all that had ever mattered.

The truth hit him like a troll's fist, Severus stood and drifted over to his desk dazedly, to pen the most painful letter he would ever write.

.-

Petunia Evans scowled up from her book as a dark, spotted owl hooted again from outside her closed bedroom window. It was for Lily again; it was always for Lily, after all. The summer months that Petunia had used to savor had recently become the longest of her entire year.

At least during the school year, when Lily was off at that stupid school for freaks their parents had to pay some attention to Petunia. Of course, every time Lily's tawny owl swooped in with a letter, talking about transfiguring teacups and banishing boggarts and all of the other useless information taught at that school, Mum and Dad had to moon over it for hours. They giggled and exclaimed like children, as though transforming a rat into a wine goblet was something to be admired and not simply… unsanitary.

But at least then Petunia only had to deal with hearing about the "amazing" Lily Evans two or three times a month. Now this was daily dinnertime conversation and, what was worse, the room that Petunia shared with her sister had become a virtual petting zoo for all manner of feathered animals, delivering letters to Lily at all hours of the day and night. And while Lily was out with her friends or downstairs giggling with their parents, Petunia was expected to just sit about and collect her mail for her.

The bird hooted balefully from the windowsill, and with an exasperated sigh Petunia pulled herself to her feet. She couldn't care less about Lily's precious school friends or their messages, but if the bird didn't leave then Petunia would never get through her summer reading in peace.

When she pulled the window open the owl flapped back into the air, ruffling its feathers and swooping over to Lily's bed, where it deposited a letter. Then, with a look at Petunia that she could almost classify as an indignant glare, had it been human, the bird took flight again and soared off into the night.

Petunia slammed the window shut as soon as it was gone. She couldn't stand the sight of them. Once, one of those giant beasts had assaulted her for nearly ten minutes before Lily had come in and laughingly told her that it was looking for payment for its delivery.

Imagine, paying a bird…

Petunia returned to her desk, but found herself unable to concentrate on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." Thoughts of Lily's wretched magic and their parents' inexplicable adoration of it refused to let her be. What, really, made Lily so special? What did she and her little Greyfinger friends have that Petunia didn't?

And why did her "specialness" mean that Petunia had to put up with being virtually ignored, looked down upon by Lily's magical friends, and then expected to play messenger girl with hordes of flying rodents?

It didn't, she decided, and in an instant of savage outrage stood up, strode to Lily's bed, and chucked the envelope straight into the garbage. For a moment she felt indescribably pleased with herself, before she felt a pang of regret. After all, Lily was her sister, however ridiculous she, her friends, and her stupid magic were. She would take the letter out, put it back on the bed, and then talk to Lily tomorrow about getting her owls to deliver to the front door, where normal mail went.

And then, before Petunia could bend to retrieve the letter, Lily stepped into the room, eyes bright and smiling.

"Evening, Tunie. I saw an owl go by the house a minute ago. Was there anything for me?"

There was an eagerness in her eyes as she spoke, but Petunia shook her head quickly. She couldn't very well say that she had chucked her sister's letter, could she? Lily would go crying to Mother and then Petunia would never hear the end of it.

"Nothing," she replied, and returned quickly to her desk, before Lily could catch the lie in her sister's eyes.

After all, how important could one silly letter have been, anyway?

.-

The unopened letter read as follows.

Lily,

I hope that you find the heart to open this once you've seen my handwriting on the envelope. I have been sitting here for almost half an hour, trying to think of how I can ever apologize enough to you, for saying what I did. I can only say that I was upset, embarrassed, and I wasn't thinking clearly when I shouted at you. I've never been very good at admitting when I need help, I hope you can understand.

But right now I know that I do need help, Lily. I need you to forgive me, because you are the most important thing in my life. Somehow, at school, around the other Slytherins while you were off in Gryffindor, I'd gotten caught up in the ideas of those idiots in my class, and I'd begun to forget how much you mean to me. You are my first and my most important friend, and I don't know what I would do if I lost what we share.

I don't need the friendship of Avery or Malfoy, and I don't need their outdated ideas. If you're willing to forgive me then I'll have all that I need.

If you do forgive me, I'm waiting tonight at the place where we first met. And I swear, Lily, that next year I'll try harder to be someone that you can respect. If you give me this one chance.

Severus