Actions

Work Header

We Would All Be Happier

Chapter Text

Back when Mr Vernon Dursley first courted Miss Petunia Evans - only the whole business was not as romantic as the word implied, but already Petunia had had it with romantic fancies, she had had it up to here - she put him to the test in coy little ways.

That first Easter Saturday spent with his family, Petunia, already done up, in the wing chair with a magazine of Marge's, Vernon getting ready for their dinner at the downtown steakhouse. "What's your star sign again, honey?" she called as he sprayed his aftershave. "Would you like me to read you your horoscope?"

From the bathroom, there came a noncommittal and horribly inconclusive grunt, and then Vernon appeared in the doorway. Didn't even know this moment was significant, didn't he? That he would have to prove himself.

"Only it told me," said Petunia to that sceptical face, bravely hanging on, "it told me that Pisces - I'm a Pisces - should be careful handling sharp knifes today? And us going to a steakhouse, isn't that almost spooky?" She gave him her most vacant smile.

"Silly girlish nonsense, no offense, dear," Vernon said gruffly. "You're better off following the stock exchange."

Or later, during one of their non-romantic dates - appointments? - when they had coffee at a department store before she had dragged him into a hole-in-the-wall bedding shop. The shop window had announced a shipment of fancy high thread count Egypt cotton sheets, and Petunia felt that one of the vectors her life ought to be taking was towards the ownership of long-lasting quality bedding products, monograms extra. Vernon, of course, agreed. He said with cars and interior he would never go cheap.

Next to their comprehensive bedding selection (Petunia scoffed a bit at the dolphin-and-sunset designs), the shop also sold a fair range of soul-soothing falderal interior items - bowls full of potpourri, fragrance lamps, peridot paperweights - and among the more unwieldy exhibits was a huge amethyst geode. She had to use both hands to lift it.

"I thought we could put that in our bedroom, it'll be lovely on the dresser," Petunia said, reading the hand-written note stuck to the bottom. "Says here this absorbs harmful energies. What with you grinding your teeth all night -"

Vernon regarded her in a way that made her stomach drop. Had accidentally scared him off for good with her feigned interest in esoteric swizzle? But she had a deep and thoroughly unexamined need to be sure of what he was, and what he was not. Petunia had no interest in being surprised by late-onset dabblings in homeopathy, vegetarianism, or pushing wine glasses around.

But fortunately, at some point in his own upbringing Vernon had internalized the notion that girls were sometimes silly because of the way they were wired and therefore he had to be even more sensible all the time. His own sister Marge, though, gave the distinct impression she had never been silly in her life, not even as giggling teenager, not even as a staggering toddler.

"I'm not having that rock in my bedroom," Vernon said. "Put up a nice painting of a sailing boat or some old geezer in a hat, that'll cheer the place right up. No rocks, though."

It was The Moment. Petunia stared him right in the eye. "Marry me," she said, for once breaking all rules.

Was that how Lily felt all the time? she thought, so brave, yet so giddy, yet so on top of it all? Then was shocked at her own daring.

So in a way she was relieved when he didn't accept right then and there between the semi-precious rocks and the potpourri bowls. But he did ask Marge to help him pick out a ring and proposed a week later under proper circumstances, and she said yes.

Later, she even told him that her parents did not, in fact, die when their taxi crashed on the way to the South-East England Shrubs and Bushes Competition. Instead they went hiking to the Himalayas and fell off a cliff.

Their last postcard got here after they did. Four scribbled lines that sounded reasonably happy, she supposed, two adventurers on the adventure of their lives, Lots of love, Mum & Dad, though of course true adventurers could never be happy where they were. She knew that Vernon, who made all the right noises when she told him, understood the point completely: this was what happened when people went off on adventures. They left others behind.

(Sixteen year old Lily had not understood the point at all, having rushed into a grand adventure of her own. Petunia understood she had taken one of those toxic concoctions that her kind was so fond of and that was why she was so detached at the funeral, because of the beetle's eyes and frogspawn and essence of some garden weed or other. Then Lily had gone back to that school of hers and left Petunia in that big empty house to get rid of the souvenirs from all continents, the dried fertility snakes, the ornamental drums from a market in Ulan Bator, the flutes made from eucalyptus wood, the Irish rune stones, the tie-dyed baby suits from California; her parents had unfortunately been fond of touristy knick-knack.)

Much much later, a week before their wedding, she told Vernon about the weird stuff and her sister. He passed that last test in flying colours, said he'd always thought Lily was a bit of a hippie.

She was overwhelmed that he was indeed as pragmatic as she had hoped, the least romantic soul she could have possibly found this side of London, and that he treated courtship like a business relationship, with none of the frilly pink hearts of her girlfriends' boudoirs. That left space for her, finally, only for her - a wide open space that she could fill with long meaningful glances and well-dosed giggling, and, after half a bottle of wine, crude jokes about his drill company that neither of them had thought her capable of.

She knew now that Vernon would never, ever, leave her to be somewhere more exciting, in that one place where she could never follow.

And hadn't that last point been made exceedingly clear.


And in the here and now, there is Dudley. Sixteen months old and a right bundle of joy, even though at this moment he is also a mite unhappy on top of all the joy. It is six-something in the morning, the sky behind the bedroom window still pitch-black at the tail end of a chilly November night, and Dudley is already crying. He is an early riser and will later be a conscentious, hard-working man, just like his dad.

His dad is turning over in his sleep, letting out a grunt that sounds remarkably like "healthy lungs, atta boy", while she sweeps up Dudley from his brand-new baby bed. He's wailing away at some unknown upset that only children can sense. There's something about waking up in the dark, maybe about waking up at all, and none of the eight words he knows can explain this to his mum, so he cries and cries and cries.

He may also be just hungry, he's growing so fast, and after all it's an almost sensible time for breakfast anyway.

She watches Dudley closely, always. She has no idea - and no-one has explained it to her - whether the weirdness is genetic; she's not even sure whether their those people about genes. But if Dudley has the weird gene, he hasn't shown any signs, like Lily had when she had fallen off the changing table at six months old and bounced right back with a giggle.

Of course she can't test Dudley for traces of the unnatural in the same way she tested Vernon. The very thought that Dudley may fall off some place higher than a footstool makes her breathe all funny, and so he has never got an opportunity to fall. If there were ever any sparks, any toy cars that suddenly honked, she would have noticed. They may have dodged that particular bullet after all.

When they'd bought the house, she thought there may be two children one day, one for each nursery; sometimes in these early morning hours the thought still comes up, like now, when she passes the second bedroom, Dudley up in her arms. But it's wearing on her, all this watching, all this worrying, in addition to all the crying, the feeding, the changing, the countless sunrises she has watched from a nursery window. It is probably the reason why Lily and her kind have been creeping into her thoughts more often lately, even before yesterday rolled around with all the owls and the strangely dressed people.

And she has so much love for Dudley that she surely can't share with another because it would mean she'd have to love Dudley a little less, so she got herself the coil. Between that and Dudley growing up as normally as a boy could, no-one will ever leave her again because of another place that is more fun.

She carries Dudley downstairs so as to not disturb Vernon, who is a busy man all day and has a right to sleep at night. She carries him from the corridor to the living room and then back to the corridor and back to the living room and into the kitchen and makes him bob up and down until he appears a little less cross at being awake. She says that she loves him and that it's going to be a beautiful day and much better than yesterday and that there's going to be breakfast in a short little while but she has to get in the milk first.

"Nom," says Dudley and beams. "Nom, nom, nom, nom!"

"Dudley, you learned a new word! Has Dudley learned a new word? Say it again, nom, nom!" says Petunia when it registers through the haze of tiredness. As soon as she has got the milk in, she can get her coffee. It might be word number nine for her baby book, but she has to look up if syllables count.

"Nom, nom, nom! Want nom!"

At least he's not crying anymore. But something is a little off. Petunia could swear she can hear a child crying now, and not far away like back in the summer when everyone had their windows open, but up close. And it's not Dudley, who is still demanding nom. It's close.

One-handed, Petunia operates the coffee maker. She has made it three years without any weirdness. She has hardly even thought about her sister, merely glanced at the card announcing Harry's birth the summer before last (it had a tiny moving picture on it, a black-haired baby in an egg-yolk yellow romper suit kicking his legs), and then she put it away into the box that contains the few weird items she regretfully owns. She's not going to start hearing voices now.

While the machine makes reassuring gurgling noises, Petunia places Dudley in his playing pen where he can't possibly escape, though not for lack of trying, the little rascal, and gathers the crate with the empty milk bottles.

"Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, mummy, nom!" Dudley yells, pulling himself up on the bars to stand, and his chanting drowns out the strange crying a bit. Oh, how she loves Dudley.

She opens the front door and screams. But only for a second, because of the neighbours. It turns into a whimper.

Then, in one movement, she puts down the milk crate and sweeps up the bundle of blankets lying there, and the compelling force of this instinct surprises her. Instances of raw feelings are usually reserved for Dudley. She will have to think abouth this, later. She overshoots the movement, he's lighter than Dudley to whom she is used, he feels strange in her arms, like time has moved backward.

Inexplicably, the child wrapped up in the blankets has been asleep, but he starts crying now. She doesn't know how she could have heard him crying before he actually made a sound, but she knows instantly that the child in her arms is her nephew Harry, which would explain this, and that something terrible has happened. Like when the phone rang five years ago and it turned out to be the British embassy in Nepal and they told her there'd been a mountaineering accident. This time, they could have called first, couldn't they?

She shoos. She rocks. But the little boy in the blankets has just woken up, alone and confused, and he wails as if the world has ended. Maybe it has for him, how much does a child his age understand? She is pretty sure that Dudley understands a good deal more than he lets on. But Harry is a month younger and who knows what they have or haven't taught him.

At least the boy feels warm, and isn't it just like those weird people, leaving a one-year-old outside on a concrete doorstep in November for God knows how many hours in just a few blankets, could have rung the bell at least, the child could have frozen, the neighbours could have seen, he could have crawled away, on the street, anywhere. He could have been taken by the milkman, who looks shifty, and why didn't the milkman notice a little boy wrapped in blankets?

Maybe this is another of those weird survival tricks. Maybe his folks are the kind of people who would throw a child out of a window, confident that it will not be hurt, or worse: to decide if it's worth keeping... she shudders. A letter flutters from the blankets to the ground, but she doesn't have a hand free just now.

She can't have been standing on the doorstep for more than a minute, but Dudley is wailing again from the kitchen. Now Vernon is coming down the stairs in his pyjamas, a serious breach of his morning routine. She opens her mouth to explain all this - why Dudley is in his playing pen all alone and crying instead of having breakfast, why she is stepping into the corridor clutching a different and also crying child, a stranger - but there is no explanation at hand except for her conviction that something terrible must have happened, and that is the kind of mystical knowledge that fortunately doesn't fly in the Dursley household, so she just says, "There's a letter on the stairs, it had better explain all this."

She carries crying Harry past a rather confused Vernon and into the kitchen, where she puts him into the playpen next to Dudley, and they clash from the first second, crying horribly out of tune. It makes her ears ring, so she picks up Dudley and puts him into the high chair. Her day is all topsy-turvy now and it's not even bright outside yet. She resents it deeply.

Sensible Vernon brings in the milk as well as the letter. She takes a bottle from him, goes through well-rehearsed motions, measuring cup, pot, electric stovetop. Then she remembers that she will need more milk than usual because Harry will want to eat once he's done crying, and she pours in more milk. As she watches the pot so it won't boil over, Vernon is reading the letter.

Petunia usually adds the semolina by feel, but now she doesn't know how much semolina goes into that much milk, how much sugar. It is all wrong, it is all too much at once. She gets out a different measuring cup, pours, whisks. So much attention for a pot of pudding.

Vernon is done reading.

She spreads out some of the semolina pudding into a flat bowl so it can cool efficiently, and blows on it for good measure. Dudley is not happy about the longer than usual wait. "My sister," she says when she runs out of patience. "I expect that she is -"

She looks up at Vernon. "And that husband of hers." She understands.

"I knew it," she says, "I knew it would come to this, but she wouldn't listen -" Petunia is feeding spoonfuls of semolina pudding to Dudley, who finally stops crying. Harry is still at it in the playing pen, though, but none of them has any attention left for him right now.

Vernon nods. This comes from a shared understanding that adventures are bad for you, full stop, and so Petunia doesn't have to explain what Lily had told her, after the days of the frog spawn incidents were over, after the long-winded tales of dungeons and real dragons, after the millions of photographs of laughing, waving schoolchildren in girly clothes, with Lily pointing out all her weird friends.

It must have been around the time of the funeral, back when they thought they could make up after all. Apparently even Lily had realized by then that some of the goings-on in the other world were a bit questionable, or maybe it was just the first time Lily mentioned it. Turned out that Lily had not been as universally popular over there as they had all thought. Turned out there were even weirder folks who wanted people like Lily dead or at least gone because apparently she wasn't weird enough for them.

And then Lily had gone back there, rejected Petunia and reality one last time.

Petunia is feeding Dudley another spoonful, and another, then takes a look at the pot. Suddenly, there's only one third or so left. It will have to do for Harry, she's not making more, she never even asked for this. She takes Dudley out of the high chair, puts him into the playing pen with a bottle of juice, takes Harry out of the playing pen, puts him into the high chair, gets a different spoon, and tries to feed him the rest of the pudding. It isn't working so well.

"Good grief," she says. "Does he ever stop crying?"

Vernon, still engrossed in that letter, grunts that he doesn't know.

He's not particularly interested in the pudding. There's still tears on his little face, he's not growing calmer, the way Dudley reliably does. He must learn that he won't get their attention by crying. Back to the playing pen? But that's where Dudley is.

"We can't keep him, of course," she says, now that the shock is slowly wearing off, and Vernon, bless him, lets out a sigh of relief that he had apparently been holding in.

He'd have taken Harry on for her. It breaks her heart, the goodness of this man. The pudding runs down Harry's chin, of course Lily would have a fussy eater for a child. It's just one more little thing.

"I thought he had a godfather," she says. "Why can't he stay with him?" A godfather who's weird like him, who could buy him weird stuff, all the broomsticks and weird spinning stones and useless watches that don't show the time, like Lily used to have; and give him toad entrail soup to eat, or nightshade puree, maybe he'd like that better. Petunia thinks everyone would be much happier that way.

"Says nothing about no godfather in here," says Vernon.

"I haven't seen her in three years," says Petunia. "Haven't even thought about her, really. Bet she didn't give a hoot about us anyway, she never called. And now this!" She says this as if to defend herself in advance for something she is about to say. "Does the letter say anything about a -"

She pauses. The pause is punctuated by Harry, who is still sobbing from time to time and who seems to have given up on eating completely despite the spoon still hovering in front of his face.

"About what, dear?" says Vernon, gentler than even she, who has an admittedly fond view of her husband, has thought him capable of.

"A funeral," she says. "I'm not even sure they have them, but -" Maybe they just throw their dead into the sea. She gets a paper towel from the dispenser to dab at Harry's chin.

"No," says Vernon. "Doesn't say anything about a funeral. Says everything's been taken care of, though. Well, we can imagine how that one's going over. Dropping children in front of other people's houses, that sort of thing. Probably leaving the inheritance out on the street for people to pick through."

Petunia thinks of the long, lonely months after her parents' death, which she had spent sorting, filing, investing, selling, and overall keeping busy. "Just like them," she says. "All tangled up in your business all the time. Anyway, it can't have been worth having kittens over, of course there's Lily's half of my parents' house but I don't think Lily ever made a lot in that job she had and as for that good-for-nothing Potter - bet they blew what they had on that try-too-hard wedding."

Her own wedding had been a sober affair at the town hall, in her second-best dress because her best dress had been chewed up by one of Marge's bulldogs, with Marge - showing no signs of a guilty conscience - as a maid of honour and a carefully chosen subset of their relatives characterised by being sensible and hard-working. As was repeatedly assured to them by their wedding planner, they had exactly the normal amount of flowers and an average dress and a sensible cake. They could have afforded more flower arrangements or a fancier dress or an even bigger or more decorated cake, but that money would be more sensibly put towards the down payment for the house in Privet Drive that they had laid their eyes on.

Naturally, Lily's wedding invitation arrived the day after they got back from their honeymoon in Brighton. In curly, girly handwriting, it asked everyone to wear whatever they thought they looked stunning in and bring a bowl of their favourite food for the potluck. It had been seen as a huge affront in the Dursley home.

"I bet I still have that stupid sparkling card somewhere -" says Petunia, and then her brain switches back to the present, "- who did you say signed the letter?

"One A. Dumbledore," says Vernon. "He also claims that he is sorry for our loss."

"God-damn Albus Dumbledore and his phony god-damn sorrows," Petunia hisses, and Vernon looks surprised, possibly because up until now he hasn't known his wife is capable of either cursing or hissing.

She looks from little Harry, who is still sniffing, semolina pudding all over his face, to little Dudley, who is in all likelihood preparing a right royal tantrum because the top of his juice bottle came off and no-one has paid any attention to him in at least five minutes, the poor nipper. She will have to brush two sets of little teeth, later. Change two sets of diapers. Get two one-year-olds to take their naps. Buy more diapers before the weekend rolls around. Change their milk order because they'll need more milk until this is sorted out. Cancel Dudley's toddler group this afternoon because she can't leave Harry alone and bringing him is out of the question.

"You had better get ready for work," she says. It is still very early for Vernon to go to work, but she is offering him a way out, even if it is a way out that doesn't involve breakfast. He accepts in a hurry, and thankfully. She is Petunia, she tends to matters of the house, even though what she is planning is likely not to meet her husband's approval.

Her coffee, when she gets to it, is stone cold.


Of course Petunia doesn't get around to putting her plan into action until the afternoon, when Dudley is thankfully napping and it is only Harry still being fussy. Why he's holding on to her when he won't let himself be consoled, is beyond her. He doesn't want to be put down, either. It is like he's going out of his way to be difficult. He is calling out from time to time, "Mummy, mummy," but of course he doesn't mean her and there is unfortunately nothing that she can do about his mummy.

She's tried smiling at him for a while but it didn't work, he never smiled back once, and then her face hurt from grimacing and she stopped. She's tried finding out if he can walk holding her hand, something that Dudley has mastered three months ago, but that didn't work either. A late bloomer. Of course.

In Vernon's and her bedroom, she tries to sit Harry down on the bed, but he won't have it so she decides to be lenient just this once, and holds him with one arm while she reaches into the back of her meticulously tidy wardrobe with the other. Thank goodness she already has strong arms from carrying Dudley around.

There, all the way in the back and disguised as a box of cheap jewellery, is her weird items box, which right now contains a handful of photographs from Lily's and her childhood, an old map showing a handful of places that other, newer and more detailed maps don't, a few shiny gold coins of that weird money, the sparkling wedding invitation, Harry's equally sparkling birth announcement, and a flecked oval rock like a fossilised egg, which her parents had said was the calling stone. She takes the latter out.

Her parents had received this after Lily had got herself enrolled in that weird school of hers. They had said it was the only way of contacting Lily at school, since the Royal Mail obviously (obviously! she huffs) wouldn't deliver there. Her parents had happily put up with the owl droppings on the window sill. Petunia had only ever used it once before, just after that phonecall from Nepal, and then never again. She'd tried selling it with the rest of her parents' stuff, seeing as how she wouldn't be needing it, but it had always turned up again in that very box and that had spooked her too much to keep trying. So into the back of the wardrobe it was.

Her letter contains only a handful of carefully chosen, no-nonsense imperatives. One-armed, she awkwardly turns the calling stone around in her hand, and then a string appears at the pointy end, and before she can pull it, Harry grabs it. A weird melody plays, like a thousand tiny bells ringing in the wind. She's heard this much too often when growing up, her parents wrote to Lily every Sunday. At once, (and how did it get here so fast?) a grey, fluffy owl taps on the window. She lets it in before the neighbours see it.

In her arm, Harry makes a sound that hasn't been part of the admittedly restricted repertoire he's displayed so far, a sort of happy gurgle. Finally, something he recognizes, and that of all things. "Owlie," he blubbers, once, though it may just have been "Owie" but that doesn't make any sense because he's not hurting. Dudley would have just said, "Birdie."

Or maybe he would have screamed at it like a normal person. If Harry stays, they have their work cut out for them, Petunia thinks. She sits him down on the bed after all, while he watches, wide-eyed and finally silent, as she's tying the letter to the great dirty bird's outstretched foot.

Before she sends the bird on its way, she looks out of the window, left, right. The coast seems clear of nosy neighbours, but then, there have been an awful lot of owls lately, and Petunia has an inkling this is all connected to why Harry is sitting on her bed instead of playing with his own parents. "This is for Albus Dumbledore," she says to the owl, feeling silly, and the owl nods pompously, or maybe she's just imagining this, and is off into the grey afternoon.

And Harry is still here. She watches him.

Petunia had closed her heart to Lily years ago. At the time, she'd thought she was stuck in this bleak reality, but now she knows she is just rooted, and that this reality is the only thing that makes sense. She only regrets that Lily isn't around so she can point out to her that she had been right and Lily had been wrong.

She'd give a lot to be able to do that, though she would not give Dudley, or Vernon. She has turned out to be right. Lily ought to have come back. Now Petunia's heart is closed to Harry, too, it must be. So much would come rushing in if it weren't, she may explode.

"I can't raise you as my own," she says.

Harry doesn't look at her, only at the window, and starts crying again now owlie has gone.

(The response follows promptly on that very same afternoon, even before Vernon gets back from work, and she has a feeling Albus Dumbledore is doing this on purpose, out of courtesy for her. Albus Dumbledore must be a soft-hearted old geezer, not like her Vernon, not like him at all.)


It is a few days later. Petunia has been up for two hours, first with Dudley who needs lots of affection these days, then with Dudley and Harry, who is just fussy, and then finally Vernon has woken from the combined crying and come downstairs for a breakfast of bacon and sausage and baked beans and eggs, but he isn't as chipper as usual. It is a good thing that he's up early, because she has a surprise to spring on him as well, and she hopes this will be the last surprise for a long, long time.

"I will be needing the car today," she says, setting the steaming plate in front of him. "Do you mind taking the bus?"

She hardly ever drives, and if she does, then only to the grocery shop, but only if Vernon is busy on weekends. The long drive ahead of her is already making her nervous. A hundred and twenty miles to go there, a hundred and twenty miles back, she's marked and memorized all the stops she'll allow herself. But she'll feel safer going by car, nothing is going to be too weird or scary when there's a large grey Volvo in the picture.

Of course Vernon minds, he hates taking the bus, he hates not being in control of the vehicle he is sitting in, he hates waiting at the bus station for a bus that is late, he hates standing in the bus because all seats are taken, he hates being brushed against by strangers who might have headlice or body odour or tattoos. He could have said no, and Petunia wouldn't have gone. It's as easy as this.

"What are you planning?" he asks.

Petunia sighs soundlessly. "The funeral is today," she says by way of explanation, almost casually. "It is in a place called Godric's Hollow. Where the wedding took place. I don't think trains go there."

The wedding they didn't attend. They even went to Mallorca to have a proper excuse, flight tickets non-refundable, so sorry. After all, Lily had feigned a proper excuse when it came to her attending Petunia's wedding, had landed herself in some hospital or other not a year out of that school of hers, no doubt on some adventure or other, and Petunia wasn't going to let her have the upper hand.

"Didn't think so," Vernon says. "Of course they wouldn't have trains."

They do, actually, is what Petunia thinks, but what's the point of saying it out loud? So they have trains. Or maybe they just have the one train that takes children away from their families. Big whoop.

Vernon tries a different angle. For Vernon, he's being very subtle. "What about Dudley?" he says. He doesn't even ask how she knows of the date, or the time.

"I fixed it with my friend Yvonne, from the toddler group," says Petunia. "She's looking after him for the day."

"He'll be screaming all day," says Vernon. "Little rascal."

"He's very attached to his mummy," Petunia says fondly.

There's a pause. "What about him?"

"I'm taking him, don't I" says Petunia. "I mean, they're his parents, he won't understand of course, but I suppose it's only - " The nerve of them! she thinks. That she had to deal with that messy owl business just to find out when her own sister would be buried!

"Are you bringing him back?" Vernon says, chuckling at his joke. They both know he's half serious.

"There must be one of their lot who's willing to take him in," says Petunia. "That husband of hers, he must have parents, or relatives, or something. And I'm pretty sure the boy does have a godfather. There's been some mistake, I bet that Dumbledore wasn't looking properly, or maybe he just threw him at the most trustworthy people they could find in a hurry."

"Wait a minute," says Vernon. "That does sound almost sensible."

"From the lot of them, I'd call that suspicious." Petunia sighs. "He doesn't belong here. It'd be best for all of us."

She swallows, and busies herself with making coffee. That weird world has already taken her sister. She feels deep down that maybe it is not the best for Harry to go back there, but the very least she has to do before putting up with this is to find Dumbledore, and press him for all the information that he has left out of that cryptic joke of a letter. If this is not a mistake, if Harry is indeed better off with Vernon and herself and Dudley, than she must know why. Because then there's still a choice to be made, and it is not up to Dumbledore or any of those weird people.

"The petrol tank is full," says Vernon. Of course, he keeps such good care of his car. "The atlas is in the glove compartment. You want me to wash it before you go?"

He would only have had to say no.