AYNIL: Chapter Six: Aunt Petunia’s Reasoning

After a few hours of tossing and turning Harry was back in the kitchen again. No one else was in there. They were taking advantage of a few extra hours of sleep. They surely needed it after the night that they had just endured, Harry thought. He wished that he could have the same advantage of a restful lie-in. But even when he did manage to get to sleep for a few hours he had unsettling dreams. Some might call them nightmares. He kept reliving the worst moments of his life, the death of his parents, Cedric, Sirius. While far from pleasant he had been dealing with these dreams for years, the troubling part was that he was starting to see things that had not yet occurred. These were the visions that he was most troubled by.

Harry stared down into the cup of coffee that he had made himself as he thought about everything again. He hadn’t touched a drop, but the warmth felt nice. It seemed as if his mind was on a loop of some sort. No matter what he started thinking about he always ended up back at the same two thoughts., the destruction of the Horcruxes and Ginny. These two things had become fused in his mind. Harry couldn’t explain how this had occurred, even to himself.

The creaking of the door caused Harry to look up. Into the kitchen walked Aunt Petunia. She had been crying. Her eyes were red and swollen and her face was all blotchy. When she looked at Harry he saw something that he hadn’t expected. There was sadness in her eyes that had never been there before. She had brought this predicament on all by herself, lying about what her son truly was. Despite this Harry felt sorry for her. He also felt a strange connection with his aunt. In that moment he actually felt that she was truly a family member.

“Morning,” he said quietly. “Sleep well?”

Aunt Petunia snorted, but didn’t say anything. She was looking around the kitchen apprehensively. She seemed lost.

“Some coffee?” Harry offered, holding up his cup as an indication of what he was talking about. She debated for a minute and then nodded mutely, sitting down at the table across from Harry. He got up to get the coffee.

“How’s Dudley?” he questioned conversationally. “Has he woken up yet?”

“No,” Aunt Petunia responded quietly. Her voice carried none of the brisk, snappish tone that Harry had grown accustomed to. “He will be all right though, won’t he?” she asked, still in that small voice, looking worriedly at her nephew

“Yeah, the stunning spell doesn’t have a lasting effect. Once he wakes up he’ll be completely normal. A little disoriented probably.” Harry set down the cup in front of his aunt and then reclaimed his own seat. He put his hands around his own cup. It was cold now, he quickly let go and pushed it away.

When his aunt didn’t say anything after a few minutes Harry spoke up,

“I’m really sorry about Aunt Marge,” he said, staring at the table. He noticed that there was a long burn mark in it, the same one caused by Fred and George two years previous. That seemed ages ago now. It still felt like a different Harry had sat there laughing with Sirius over the twins antics.

“Marge?” she looked blankly at Harry. He stopped looking at the burn mark and directed his gaze to his aunt instead. Did she not know about what had happened? “Yes it was terrible. Vernon is quite beside himself I understand,” Aunt Petunia finally stated. Harry noticed a new tear trickle down her cheek. What did she mean by that statement. Had she not seen her husband?

For a moment, Harry wondered if he would be overstepping his bounds by asking this very question. He wasn’t in the mood to be yelled at again. But then he started to think about it and he realized that the whole reason things were the way they were was because of Voldemort’s stupid need to snuff him. His aunt and uncle weren’t talking because they had to be vacated from their home and their son had to be abducted from school due to Harry. Aunt Marge was dead because of him too. He decided that he would chance the possible eruption and try to help, if that was even possible.

“How’s he taking the news about Dudley? Have you talked to him since he got back?:

Aunt Petunia’s mouth twitched and her face contorted. She hated when he asked questions. But her lips usually pursed when he did dare to do this. That isn’t what happened this time. It looked like she was struggling not to cry.

“Not very good. I tried to talk to him when he came back. But he refused to see me. He started chucking things at me when I opened the door,” she paused with her eyes closed tight. The recollection was obviously painful for her. She took a deep, shaky breath. She seemed to be trying to gather her strength before she continued. “He . . . he said that he didn’t want anything to do with . . . with us . . . anymore.” She had to take great gasps of breath to get these words out. “His own son,” she added in an undertone.

Harry wasn’t sure what to say to this. The experiences he had with his uncle had left no doubt that Uncle Vernon cared about his family, well his wife and son anyway. How many times had he furiously demanded that Harry keep his “abnormality” away from them so that Petunia and Dudley would not be in danger? As infuriating as these incidents had been to Harry, he knew that they were done out of love. These were not the actions of a man that was willing to walk out on his wife and son. Uncle Vernon had just been given a nasty shock and he would come around.

Harry opened his mouth to tell Aunt Petunia that things would be fine once Uncle Vernon had time to get used to the idea that Dudley was a wizard. But would he? If there was one indisputable thing about the Dursleys, it was that they were terrified of anything that messed with their nice and normal lives. Harry knew this was one of the reasons that they so detested having him around the house. His nasty secret threatened their normality. Dudley having the same abilities would be even more of a disgrace to Uncle Vernon. Did he really love his son enough to get used to the idea that Dudley was a wizard? Harry hoped so. He didn’t think that his cousin would be able to stand having a father that was revolted at what he was. Harry wouldn’t have been able to handle it.

“I think he just needs time,” he finally told his aunt. She looked as doubtful as Harry felt, but didn’t say anything. They were again quiet for a few minutes. It was Aunt Petunia who broke the silence.

“I’m sorry Harry. For calling you a liar,” she said sincerely.

Had he heard right. Was his aunt actually offering an apology? Was she really admitting that she had done something wrong, and that he, Harry, was right?

“There are a lot of things that I regret now,” Aunt Petunia continued. Her eyes were downcast and she was speaking in a very weak voice. “I should have told Vernon my suspicions. I realize how wrong I was to try and hide this from him, just as I was wrong to convince him to try and to keep you from going to Hogwarts.”

Harry realized his mouth was open. Even if he could have thought of something to say to her he wasn’t sure that his mouth would be able to form the words. He didn’t need to say anything though because aunt Petunia continued talking.

“Last night was a wake-up call for me. I don’t want any more secrets.” Again she was speaking more to herself. She wasn’t looking at him as she said this. She sighed heavily and looked at Harry. “I am going to be completely honest now and tell you everything.”

Tell him everything? What else could she be hiding? Was she going to tell him that she too was a witch? Harry wasn’t sure he wanted to know any more of her secrets. Maybe she was about to tell him she’d had a secret love affair with Snape. Harry grimaced at the thought.

“Before your mum was born, my parents were very fond of me. They gave me everything. But when she was born it was like they forgot who I was. Everything was for dear sweet Lily,” she sounded very bitter. “It was like that wherever we went. No one cared about me if my stupid little sister was around. She was the life of the party, the belle of the ball. She got everything she wanted, and everything I wanted too.

“I never got anything I wanted,” Aunt Petunia actually whined, Harry half expected her to stomp her foot too. Now he knew where Dudley had inherited this annoying ability. Harry had always thought that Uncle Vernon seemed more the type to whine. He refocused his attention on his aunt as she continued to speak.

“I was the one who spent my childhood pretending to be magical. I was the one that wished and wished that there really was a magical world out there that I could be a part of. I was the one that wanted to be a witch. My parents were furious with me. ‘There’s no such thing as magic,’ they told me. They believed a respectable Evans girl would do what was proper for her. I spent hours and hours learning how to cook and clean, and sew. But Lily, oh no she was allowed to do whatever she wanted. My parents only believed that one of us needed to be respectable I guess.

“And then when she got her letter from Hogwarts, did they scorn her like they had done me? NO. They were proud. They thought that it was the most wonderful thing in the world. They told everyone that they could how their precious little Lily was going to go off to some school and learn to be a witch. They were fine with magic. Anything for their little sweetheart.”

She stopped, breathing hard. Each of her sentences had been punctuated with a furious snort.

“Surely that’s a bit of an overstatement,” Harry said. He didn’t realize that he had even voiced this thought out loud.

“Don’t interrupt me,” Aunt Petunia barked shrilly.

Harry leaned back in his chair closing his eyes. He was starting to feel a little angry himself. How dare she talk about his mother like this! Everyone said that Lily Evans had been a vivacious and kind girl. Her sister was just jealous because she wasn’t as talented, pretty or well-liked.

“She went off to that freaky school and I was permitted to go to the local comprehensive. Lily would write to me every so often, when she could find the time, bragging about how popular she was and how good she was doing in school. In later years she would go on about how many boys liked her, and how she had her pick of the lot. She never, not once, asked about how I was doing.

“When I was old enough to drive though she wanted to spend all her time with me. She wanted me to drive her all over the country. It didn’t matter if I had other plans, she would just whine to mum and dad and they would make me take her. She took me around to all of her friends. She would tell them that I was her chauffeur. That’s really all that I was.

“But when she started going out with your dad, suddenly I wasn’t even good enough for that. She stopped even writing to me.”

“You’re lying,” Harry had jumped to his feet, knocking his chair over in the process. It clattered to the floor with a loud BANG. He couldn’t believe that he had listened to as much of this rubbish as he had. His mum was a good person; she wasn’t someone that would just abandon her sister like that. “You’re just jealous because she got what you didn’t,” he nearly shouted.

“Harry what’s going on?” Lupin asked coming into the kitchen. He looked from Harry to his aunt. “Petunia what were you telling him?”

“I was telling him about his mother Remus,” Aunt Petunia said, glancing at Lupin.

Harry stared at the pair of them in disbelief. Since when were his aunt and one of his father’s best friends on a first name basis? He supposed they could have been introduced the previous evening. That was probable. But that didn’t explain why they seemed to be so familiar with each other. Even in the short time that Lupin had been in the room Harry could tell that there was some history.

“How do you two know each other?” he asked.

“When your mum and dad were dating, we tended to spend a lot of time at your mum’s house. That was the only way we could spend any time with him.” Lupin grinned broadly. “He had it bad for Lily. You saw a little of that yourself.”

Despite the anger that he was still feeling Harry couldn’t help but smile, When he did this some of his anger dissipated. He recalled the scene that he had witnessed in the pensieve. That had been the only time that he had ever seen his parents together. His father had been obviously smitten, even then.

Harry didn’t much like to think about that memory he had seen during his last ever Occlumency lesson. It made him feel a little sympathetic towards Snape, and just now that was the last feeling he wanted to have.

“Why were you shouting though Harry?”

“He tends to do that when confronted with the truth,” Aunt Petunia said.

“She was telling lies about my mum.’ Harry burst out furiously as the happy bubble that had been the memories of his parents deflated. “She was saying that mum was spoiled and got everything that she wanted, and that she didn’t care about her own sister.”

Lupin’s jaw hardened as he turned and said angrily, “How could you tell him lies about Lily, your own sister. She adored you. She wanted nothing more than to spend all the time in the world with you. But whenever she asked, you were always too busy, or didn’t want to come. “

“What? come and watch her make out with her boyfriend?’ Aunt Petunia sounded revolted at the idea. “She didn’t need me to come with her for that. You and Sirius and Peter were enough of a fan club.” She had to have been around them a lot to still be able to spout of the Marauder’s names so quickly, Harry thought.

“It wasn’t like that. We would have to listen to how worried she was about the state of her relationship with you. She loved you and it pained her terribly that the two of you weren’t closer. She would bring you to school to show you off to all of her friends. When she got a letter from you she would have to bore us all stupid with how proud she was of you.”

“Lies. Harry is old enough to know the truth about his sainted mother. She was a selfish little girl who could not stand it when anyone else was happy.”

“If you’re talking about what she told you about —“ Lupin started.

“That’s exactly what I am talking about,” Aunt Petunia snapped, shooting a warning glance at Lupin. “She seemed almost gleeful when she told me what he was like.”

“It wasn’t like that,” Lupin said again, frustration evident in his voice. “She just wanted to make sure that you were safe and happy. That was always her first concern.”

“Who are you guys talking about?” Harry asked curiously. He was sure they weren’t talking about Uncle Vernon. Who could Aunt Petunia have been involved with before Uncle Vernon that his mother would not have liked. From all he knew about Lily Evans-Potter, she had been very understanding of the plight of others.

“Don’t ask questions,” Aunt Petunia snapped, sounding much more like her normal self.

“Why do you have such a problem with me asking questions?’ Harry shot at her. “What exactly is it that you’re hiding?”

“Nothing. You are just too nosy. You’re like her,” Petunia snapped at her nephew again.

“Fine.” Harry had enough of this story anyways.

Still feeling very angry Harry stomped up the stairs and ended up in the drawing room with the Black family tree again. Dudley wasn’t there anymore. He had either been moved or had woken up and left. Harry sat down and started at the lineage of Sirius’s family. How dare his aunt talk about his mother like that! Everyone that he had talked to that had known his parents had said that they were wonderful, generous and caring people, his aunt’s was the only tale that didn’t tally. There was no way that his mother was that selfish, spoiled person. If she had been would she really have given up her life to save her son? Harry didn’t think so.

He lay back on the old couch. he closed his tired and itching eyes. Harry hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep since Dumbledore had died. It was starting to get to him. Harry had dark circles under his eyes, and he was starting to get very short tempered with everyone. he desperately needed sleep. If only those damned thoughts about Horcruxes and Ginny would abate.

A thick golden locket was dangling before Harry’s eyes like a pendulum. When he tried to reach for it, the locket evaded his hand. “Come on,’ he said frustrated. He took another swipe and missed again. Catching the snitch wasn’t this hard. The most infuriating thing about not being able to catch this thing was that it was within his grasp. It was so close but still he couldn’t get his hands on it.

“Harry?” Ginny’s voice called from far away. Her face swam into his vision. “Do you need help?

“Yes,” he said taking another unsuccessful swipe at the locket. “I don’t know why I can’t catch this stupid thing, “ he screamed in frustration.

“Its love Harry. That’s your power.” Ginny was smiling at him. That’s what Dumbledore had said, but how did that fit here? How did that have anything to do with the fact that he couldn’t grab — this — stupid — locket/ With each word that he thought he made more failed attempts to snatch the pendant.

“Ginny, what does that mean?” He asked her. She didn’t say anything, but just smiled. She was only a foot from him, the locket hanging between them. They were so close that he could see each of the freckles on her face, the ones that she hated but he thought were so cute.

Harry forgot about the locket and reached up to touch her face. He couldn’t do it. His hand met an invisible barrier. This was very like the one that he and Dumbledore had encountered in the cave. Harry pressed his fingers harder against the barrier, but all they did was bend backwards.

The smile that was on Ginny’s face faltered, and a sudden fearful look came into her eyes. Harry tried harder to get through that barrier, but had as much success as before.

“Harry, help me,” Ginny implored quietly, and in a scared voice.

“I’m trying,’ Harry said, frantically trying to find a way to get through the invisible force.

“HARRY, HELP ME PLEASE1” Ginny screamed pleadingly. Her face was white and she was wearing an expression of abject horror. “PLEASE, DON’T LET HIM TAKE ME,” she shrieked.

“I WON’T,” Harry yelled. But at that moment he couldn’t move. He had been paralyzed, and could only watch as Ginny was pulled away, still screaming for him to help her. Harry fought against whatever force was holding him still, and he started to feel it lifting. He ran to Ginny. He had almost reached her when there was blinding flash of green light. He got to her just in time to catch her from hitting the ground.

But it was too late. Her head fell backwards, and Harry could see her eyes. They were empty, just like Cedric’s had been.

A mirthless laugh filled Harry’s ears and then a high-pitched voice spoke.

“You won’t win Harry.” The laughter continued.

Harry was screaming as loud as he could at Voldemort, but it was in vain. His screams seemed to die in his mouth. He gave that up and started to shake the lifeless form of Ginny that he still held in his arms.

“Come on Gin,” he said brushing a strand of hair out of her face. When she didn’t respond he shook her harder, starting to feel his own tears trickling down . “Ginny, you’re strong, fight him.” He started to repeat over and over, shaking her harder still so that her head rocked back and forth.

He looked into those empty eyes again and reality finally set in. Ginny was gone. She was dead.

“NO!” Harry screamed so loudly that it felt as though his throat might have exploded. He continued to shake Ginny knowing that it was no use. . . .

As though from a great distance, Harry heard someone calling his name. He opened his eyes and registered two things at once. His scar was throbbing painfully, and everything was blurry. Someone had removed his glasses.

A mass of red swam into his sight, and he caught a flowery scent that meant it could only be one person hovering above him.

“Gin?” he asked just to be sure.

“Yeah Harry it’s me,” she responded.

He sat up quickly and pulled her into his arms. He hugged her so tight that she jokingly said, “Harry, I need to breath please.”

He let up a little but still didn’t let her go. The dream (or whatever it had been) was still vivid in his mind. He couldn’t forget the look of those empty eyes. He pulled away a little so that he could look at her. He had to make sure that he had just been imagining it. When her vivacious chocolate brown eyes stared back at him he breathed a sigh of relief and pulled her close again.

There was no way that he could ever let her go. The dream that he had just had was proof enough. All he cared about now was that she was here and safe with him. Ginny wasn’t dead.

“What’s this about?” Ginny asked, not making any move to let go of him, for which Harry was grateful.

“Nothing. I’m just glad that you’re here,” he replied stroking her hair. He was feeling much better already.

“I’m always here,” Ginny quipped, trying to lighten the mood. She pulled back a little so that they could look at each other again. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said very seriously this time, and with a determined look in her eyes. She wiped away two tears that were lingering on Harry’s face. With anyone else Harry would have felt embarrassed to be caught crying, but with Ginny he didn’t. He just felt comforted.

“Ginny, I told you not to wake him up,” Mrs. Weasley admonished as she walked into the room, carrying what looked like a plate of sandwiches.

“I didn’t,” Ginny said. “Harry was – “ she stopped when she felt him cringe. He didn’t want the others to know that he was having nightmares again. Mrs. Weasley and Hermione would fret incessantly, Tonks would probably start asking him if he was a seer again, and Ron and the others might start avoiding him like they had done after the attack on Mr. Weasley.

“He woke up on his own,” Ginny said, squeezing Harry’s hand. He squeezed it back in thanks.

“Oh, well now you’re up Harry, you should have something to eat. Your aunt tells me that you didn’t have breakfast.”

“Yeah that’s right,” Harry said as he put on his glasses, which Ginny had just handed him.

“Well it’s almost lunch time, so I brought these instead. I hope you don’t mind.”

“That’s great Mrs. Weasley, thanks.” Harry replied.

“Its no trouble dear,” she responded. “I have a few things to take care of. Enjoy those sandwiches.” With that she exited the room, leaving Harry and Ginny alone once more. They each took a sandwich and chewed in silence. Right now, this was exactly what Harry wanted. He just wanted to be close to Ginny, to make sure that she was still safe. He didn’t feel like answering questions.

“What’s wrong?” Ginny asked when they had finished eating and had washed their sandwiches down with the pumpkin juice that Mrs. Weasley had also brought. “What were you dreaming about?”

Harry debated about not telling her, but knew she wouldn’t drop it until he gave in so he Briefly told her what he had dreamt, leaving out the locket. The dream wouldn’t have been bad alone. What upset Harry was that it could become reality.

“It’s going to be OK, that’s not going to happen,” Ginny said certainly

“You can’t know that,” Harry snapped. He felt bad immediately. He hadn’t meant to be short with Ginny.

“No I can’t, but I believe it anyways,” Ginny said. She now had the same look in her eyes that she had worn back in the Gryffindor common room when she had come running at Harry. The first time they had kissed. There was no doubt that she was a fighter and if Harry’s fear became reality she wouldn’t go easily.

Harry smiled at her. How could he have ever tried to stay away? The harder he tried to avoid her the more she was around. Was fate trying to tell Harry something? He had his reservations and reasons even now for not being with Ginny, but the other little voice inside his mind was talking louder and making a more sound argument. He cleared his throat, to say what he had to say.

“Ginny, I . . . I’ve been thinking since last night and —“ he stopped. He wasn’t really sure exactly how he wanted to phrase this. He knew what he wanted to say. But he had been trying to drill the same things into her head for weeks now. What would she think when he completely reversed his position? Would she think he had gone mad? Or worse, would she say no?

Ginny sat patiently while he was trying to find the words. When the silence continued she was the one that spoke up.

“Are you trying to say that you have changed your mind about us?” There was a hopeful look in her eyes.

“Well, sort of,” Harry admitted.

“What does that mean, sort of?”

“Well I guess I realize what an idiot I’ve been thinking that Voldemort wouldn’t find out about us.” Harry was speaking slowly, to make sure that he used the right words. “And I guess I’ve been stupid to think that I could keep you safe by breaking up with you.”

Ginny smiled as she said, “Its about time. I’ve been saying that for weeks.”

“I don’t think that we should advertise the fact that we are together. But I’ve had enough of Voldemort controlling my life. We’re happy together and that’s a good thing.” Ginny was positively beaming now. And, Harry thought defiantly, if Voldemort were to find out he would not be happy. A Voldemort that was pissed off because he, Harry, was so happy wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. But Harry would still rather the Dark Lord did not glean any more information about his relationship with Ginny.

“I’m so glad that you finally decided to come to your senses,” Ginny giggled as she cuddled up to Harry.

“So you’ll take me back?” Harry asked playfully.

“Oh no of course not,” Ginny mocked as she rested her head on his shoulder.

“That’s what I thought.” Harry leaned back on the couch again, keeping his arms around Ginny, and they drifted off to sleep together.

* * * * * * * * * *

Untold hours later, Harry woke up, feeling properly rested for the first time in three weeks. Ginny was still there. She was resting her head on his shoulder, playing with her hair. Harry shifted a little so that he could look down at her.

“Well, good afternoon sleeping beauty,” she teased kissing him. “I was wondering when you were going to wake up.”

“How long have you been awake?” He asked, once again hugging her close to him. He hadn’t had any bad dreams during this nap, but the last one he had still weighed on his mind, and he needed to reassure himself that Ginny was indeed by him, and quite alive.

“I dunno, a while. I didn’t want to move because you looked like you needed sleep, and I was scared I would wake you.”

“Thanks.” He kissed her on the top of her head.
Ginny lifted her head and looked at the door.

“Your aunt and cousin came in a couple times while you were sleeping. I think that she wants to talk to you again.” Harry felt her tense up as she said these words. “They’re here now,” she whispered to him. “Did you want me to tell them to get lost?”

“No.” Harry sat up. He didn’t know what his aunt wanted to tell him this time. He was sure that it was going to be something else nasty about his mother, or perhaps she had some horrible tales to tell about his father. The thought caused his blood to boil. But it was better to have her say what she wanted to say and then to move on with it.

“What do you want now?” he asked warily.

“Can we sit down?” Aunt Petunia sounded uncertain and a little scared. Her snappish manner was gone again. Harry waved his hand carelessly to the room at large, indicating that she could sit wherever she liked.

Aunt Petunia came to sit across from Harry, Dudley closely following her. His cousin kept shooting covetous looks at Ginny. Harry was annoyed at this and put an arm around her waist, pulling her a bit closer. He wasn’t looking at Ginny but he felt her tense again and she moved a little closer herself, Harry’s hand in her own.

“So?” Harry asked his Aunt when she didn’t say anything. “What do you want now? If you’ve come to tell me any more lies about my mother or father you can save your breath.”

“No — no I don’t want to do that,” she said quietly. She closed her eyes, as though praying for the strength to say whatever it was that she had come to say. “I just wanted to apologize for this morning. You were right. I was jealous of my sister.” She did actually look ashamed and embarrassed.

“She was everything I wasn’t. She was pretty, and popular, and smart, and loving, and — and a witch. I could never compete with her, even in the eyes of our parents.

“She adored your dad. I think that she had a crush on him from when they first met. She would never say that of course, because she didn’t want to inflate his already large head,” Aunt Petunia smiled. Shocked disbelief was the only feeling that Harry could muster. His aunt was actually talking civil to him about his mother and father. Was this even humanly possible?

“When they finally started dating it was clear to everyone that they belonged with each other. They were disgustingly sweet,” Aunt Petunia again smiled at the memory. “And instead of being a good sister, I was jealous.” She stopped and glanced at Harry, that same look of shame again on her face. Harry was gazing at his aunt as though he had never seen her before. This could not really be the same aunt that had forced him to live in a cupboard under the stairs for ten years of his life!

“I was never attracted to your father. That mop of messy black hair —“ Aunt Petunia cringed at the thought of such disorder, and gazed at Harry’s hair for a moment, before she went on. Ginny, seeing this reaction ran her fingers through it . Harry shivered pleasantly.

“But they were the fairy tale couple. The ones that are so deep in love that they don’t see anyone else in the room. They started planning the wedding of every girl’s dreams. Again I was envious. Here was my little sister getting another thing that I had never got. My wedding was very no-frills. We were married in my parent’s backyard. I love my husband,” Aunt Petunia said fiercely, as though Harry had been about to contradict her. “But our relationship was never full of passion like theirs was. I wanted that.

“They didn’t get their fancy wedding though. The war with Voldemort was getting worse, and your mother and father were too busy to plan it. So a few friends of theirs threw together something small. I didn’t go, but I saw pictures, and they looked just as happy with the tiny wedding.

“Things only got worse after they got married. I only saw them once after that. I’m sure that they were just as happy though. Your mum would write periodically. She never said much, just that they were working in some secret group to try and stop Voldemort and his followers from getting more powerful. Your mum and dad never were ones to sit idly by and let things go on. If there was something that they didn’t like they would try and change it. You are like that too, Harry. At least it seems like you are, from what I’ve heard of your antics from Dumbledore.”

“Exactly how much contact did you have with Dumbledore?’ Harry asked. He knew about a few instances where Dumbledore had written letters to the Dursleys, but from the way his aunt was talking it seemed almost as if they had kept up a regular correspondence.

“Oh every so often,” Aunt Petunia said vaguely. “Anyway, after your parents got married your mum and I didn’t talk much. It was better that way. Your uncle and I were able to settle into our lives, and everything seemed normal. I was actually happy for the first time in my life. I had someone that loved me more than my dratted sister. I wanted to keep it that way, so I never invited her round for tea. I didn’t want to chance my husband falling under the Lily curse,” Aunt Petunia spat the last two words, pursing her lips, looking bitter.

“Things would have been fine if she hadn’t got herself killed.”

“She didn’t do it on purpose,” Harry said angrily.

“No, but she did make the choice. I wouldn’t have expected any different. But we got landed with you,” Aunt Petunia looked at Harry, a familiar expression of contempt on her face. Then she sneered. “My dear sister’s baby. It would have been quite bad enough to have you there, as I was sure that you would be magical. My husband and I detest magic,” she explained unnecessarily to Ginny. “But the worst was not yet over. Within a few days I learned that you had somehow mysteriously defeated Voldemort, and were now famous and considered by the wizarding world to be a hero. More than once I received those disgusting owls asking for news of you.” Her teeth were gritted. This was an unpleasant memory for her. “I refused of course. Dumbledore told me too, and I quite willingly agreed. I may not have been able to change the way I was treated as compared to my sister. But I could control the way my son was treated compared to ‘the boy who lived-’” another sneer “- and I certainly was not going to let you overshadow my precious baby.”

Aunt Petunia seemed to have finished her story. She wasn’t looking at Harry, but she was gazing at Dudley lovingly.

“That’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard,” Ginny spoke up. “You treated Harry like rubbish because you were jealous of your sister when you were a kid. You really need to grow up lady.”

“I’m not proud of it.” Aunt Petunia had her head down now, and again she really did look like she was remorseful. Harry marveled at how quickly she could go from feeling contempt to feeling shame “It really was a disgusting and petty thing to do. I would probably change it if I could. But Harry seems to have turned out all right anyway.”

“YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING!” Ginny jumped to her feet and was glowering at Aunt Petunia. “How can you just sweep this under the rug as if you did nothing wrong, and say its OK because he seems normal?” She looked at Harry. “And how can you just sit there, and not get upset at this woman?”

“Gin, getting mad isn’t going to change anything,” Harry said truthfully. He meant what he said, but he was still angry about the lies his aunt had told about his mother that morning. “And I did OK for myself I think.”

Ginny sat down again, but her face was still red with anger and she was still fuming. Harry took her hand in his, hoping that it would both calm her and restrain her from leaping at Aunt Petunia if need be.

“Harry, I know that words can’t make up for the treatment that we made you endure, but that’s all I can offer,” Aunt Petunia said.

Something in her tone made Harry believe that perhaps she was not being as genuine in her apologies as she was trying to make out. He nodded that he accepted her apology because he wanted to know what her true motivation for this little speech was.

“AARRGGHH,” Ginny growled in frustration. Harry silenced her with a look. He had tried to convey to her that there was something more and he wanted to know what it was. She seemed to have understood because she flopped back on the couch and didn’t make another sound. When Aunt Petunia didn’t appear forthcoming, Harry attempted to elicit what she wanted. When more time had passed in silence he decided to be blunt.

“What else did you want?” Another question. Aunt Petunia pursed her lips for a second, before she forced them into a smile that looked more like a grimace.

“Well there is one thing . . . “ she looked at Dudley.

Dudley had not noticed his mother’s glances at him at all. His piggy little eyes were scanning the room and periodically flicking from Harry to Ginny. He would get this greedy expression every time he looked at her. Harry’s annoyance was almost at breaking point. He was about three seconds away from punching Dudley in the face.

“Now that it’s . . . out in the open about Dudley’s condit — um — ability, I think that maybe it would be useful if he were trained up a bit. You know — er — just in case he needs to defend himself or something.”

The absurdity of this conversation finally got to Harry and he burst out into fits of laughter. In the course of one twenty-four hour period his world had been turned upside down. He had gone from living in the most Muggle environment around with people who hated everything magical to a house that was completely magical, bringing those same people with him. His cousin, who would run squealing, terrified, to his mother if Harry said such nonsense words as “Jiggery Pokery,” was a wizard. His aunt, who one day ago couldn’t say owls, and who had colluded with his uncle to keep him from going to Hogwarts, was now telling him that she wanted her son to learn magic. If he hadn’t otherwise felt completely normal, Harry would have been sure he had gone mad.

“What’s so funny?’ Dudley asked, looking at Harry, who was still laughing raucously.

“Yeah that’s what we’d like to know?” Ron asked entering the room, followed closely by Hermione. They were both looking at Harry with concern in their eyes. They seemed to be worrying that he had gone mad.

“The — funniest — most — ludicrous — joke,“ Harry gasped, trying to stop himself from laughing. “She wants him -” he pointed from his aunt to his cousin, “ – to learn magic.”

“Ha, good one Harry,” Ron said.

“Its not a joke Ron,” Ginny stated. “She really just told us that she wants him to learn defense.”

Ginny, Ron and Hermione were all looking at Harry seriously now. As his last bits of laughter died away, Harry couldn’t see the humor in it anymore either. Dudley was one of the worst students that he ever met. The great dolt never read anything, something that would not go over well when it came to magic. And then there was the fact that Defense Against the Dark Arts wasn’t as cut and dry as some would think. There were other spells that could be useful against an enemy that you would just never learn in that class. Come to think of it, did they even offer a Defense Against the Dark Arts class for people who weren’t enrolled at Hogwarts?

“Uh — it’s a good idea in theory,” Harry stated, “but I don’t think they offer a class that you could take to learn that sort of thing. That is, unless you are enrolled at Hogwarts. And I think Dudley might be a little old for that.”

“Oh no, I thought that it could be more of an independent study program,” Aunt Petunia said getting quieter with each word until she could barely be heard. “I thought that since we’re stuck here maybe . . .” she looked around the room at each of the teenagers. She surely wasn’t suggesting what he thought she was.

“What? One of us teach him?” Ron asked the question that Harry had been thinking. He looked at Harry in alarm.

“Yes, exactly,” Aunt Petunia said, and she looked right at Harry.

“I don’t think that Hermione would really be up to that,” Harry thought out loud. If there were anyone that he would want to learn from it would be the brightest witch of his year. He was sure that she wouldn’t be able to stand for Dudley’s laziness though.

“Oh, no, she’s not talking about me,” Hermione said also looking at Harry.

“Why would Hermione teach him, when you’re the best here at Defense?” Ginny asked Harry.

“What? Me teach Dudley?” Harry asked stupidly. That would be a very bad idea. “No,” he said firmly. No, there was absolutely no way that he would be able to teach Dudley magic without killing him.

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