Privet Drive was renowned for its residents' composure. A street filled with identical houses populated by staunchly Tory middle class men who spent their evenings applauding Mrs Thatcher's attempts to turn the country around and break the communist traitors populating the unions, and nosy middle class housewives who knew better than to make a fuss, lest their neighbours get something new and undoubtedly embarrassing to spy on.
It was, therefore, somewhat unusual - but undeniably interesting and worth investigating through half-closed curtains - that a quiet, early November morning should be rudely interrupted by a piercing scream originating from Number Four, Privet Drive.
"We... We might have to, Vernon... But of course he won't take anything from our Dudders, we'll make sure of that-" Aunt Petunia paused, and took a closer look at her husband, who had, as of yet, not said a single word, and just looked at the boy curiously. "Vernon?"
Vernon Dursley kept looking at the boy. "We'll take him, Petunia."
Petunia let out a sigh of relief. She wasn't feeling particularly bad about her freak of a sister getting killed, but if what this 'Dumbledore' had written in the letter was true... It would be necessary. For her, for Vernon's and for her little Dudley's sake.
"Good. I think we've some space in the cupboard for the boy-"
"Cupboard? Why the cupboard?"
"For the boy, Vernon. Dudley has already got his bedroom and his playroom-"
"Nonsense, Petunia. The boy needs a proper place to sleep. I'm sure we can manage with two bedrooms for two boys."
Petunia just stared.
"I'm off to work - it'd be best if you get the room ready soon, and come the weekend, we'll get the boy some furniture."
"B- But Vernon-"
"No buts, Petunia! This..." and it was in this moment that Petunia realised that her dear Vernon wasn't planning to provide charity. The gleam in Vernon's eyes didn't imply kindness.
"This is a gift, Petunia. And it'll pay off tenfold."
It implied greed.
When Dudley and Harry were six years old, Vernon entered Dudley - the larger, heavier of the two boys - into the local wrestling club, to keep the boy from getting too round - 'Muscles, not fat, my boy!' as he liked to say. Dudley took some time to adjust to the notion that punching wasn't allowed, but eventually decided that slamming people was almost as fun.
Harry didn't think it very fun to spend entirely too much of his time pinned under Dudley, and was somewhat miffed that Uncle Vernon wouldn't let him join the football club, but Vernon praised his excellent grades at school well enough, and it did mean that Harry had a lot of time for himself, and playing with his friends in the park was almost as good as being in a football team. He did have a lot of friends - he was much less likely than Dudley to punch people, yet bullying him because of his weird scar was a really bad idea, too, because doing so invariably resulted in a free lesson in etiquette from Dudley. And everyone wanted to avoid those.
When Harry was seven years old, one of his teachers gave Dudley and Harry a thorough dressing down because Harry had let Dudley copy his homework after Dudley had had wrestling practice. Their teacher was pretty scary - as angry adults tend to be to seven-year olds - and his shouting distressed Harry, who knew that Uncle Vernon cared a lot about their schoolwork. That's when their teacher's wig turned blue.
Harry had no idea how this had happened, but when Uncle Vernon heard about it, he practically beamed and patted Harry on the back, telling him that supporting his relatives is important and that he was proud of him.
Harry didn't understand how he was supposed to have been responsible for turning his teacher's wig blue. He was certain that his teacher's wig had simply malfunctioned. Didn't this chemistry-stuff do such things every now and then? But he decided not to mention his doubts to Uncle Vernon, and just basked in his praise.
Aunt Petunia didn't speak to him for a week.
When Harry was nine years old, Uncle Vernon sat down with him in the living room and told him that he was a wizard. His parents, too, had been wizards, and they hadn't been killed in an IRA attack but by an evil wizard - though really, that was practically the same thing.
Harry was doubtful, but he had to admit that it did explain the wig incident a few years back, as well as the floating tea set and how his favourite T-shirt still fit him perfectly even after three years. It also explained why he'd been able to talk to that viper in the park that he was now keeping as a pet and was the reason he had to clean up his room himself because Aunt Petunia refused to enter it.
Uncle Vernon explained to him that he'd have to keep his being a wizard - and his talking to snakes - secret from most people, and that they'd visit a place full of wizards next weekend so he could get a bit of an early start in his wizarding education.
Aunt Petunia pursed her lips in what Harry knew was most severe disapproval, and Dudley asked his father why he wasn't a wizard and how he really wanted to be a wizard and turn his teachers' wigs blue, too, but Uncle Vernon explained that although Dudley wasn't a wizard, he was a very strong boy and that he and Harry both had their own strengths and weaknesses.
Dudley wasn't too happy about that, but he was mollified.
Diagon Alley had been awesome, or so Harry thought. Dudley had agreed with him (Though he'd spent half the time teasing Harry for the very unfashionable hat Uncle Vernon had forced him to wear to hide his scar), but Uncle Vernon had viewed it with a rather more practical outlook - even refusing to buy the boys ice cream -, and Aunt Petunia had spent the entire trip looking disdainfully at everyone and everything.
Unfortunately, Harry hadn't been able to get a wand yet (Despite Uncle Vernon's near-tantrum at Ollivanders'), and that was a huge disappointment, but they'd bought a lot of books, and Harry, who was pretty studious in the first place, had started reading pretty much instantly.
Harry was surprised to learn that he was actually in the books - well, in some of them, anyway -, and apparently a hero and icon of the wizarding world. It scared him a little.
He also found that the transfiguration book they'd bought didn't help him very much - he found that he was completely unable to do any of the things described in it. Harry supposed this was because he didn't have a wand.
Charms were a different matter. Harry knew he'd performed levitation-, repair- and colour-changing charms before, but as it turned out, unless he was experiencing extreme distress, he couldn't perform them. For now, he resigned himself to learning their theory, though he promised Uncle Vernon that he'd manage to do at least one of them before he turned eleven and got his wand.
Uncle Vernon didn't look too happy about that, and Harry felt guilty. His Uncle had spent a lot of money on this and Harry had let him down. For all his being a die-hard Tory, Uncle Vernon loved to quote Marx on a single issue - 'The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.' -, and Harry knew that his Uncle firmly believed this. Harry and Dudley didn't receive pocket money and presents as a matter of course, they received them as a reward for doing chores and for getting good grades. How was Harry supposed to repay his Uncle for all the money he'd spent on Harry if Harry couldn't learn magic quickly?
Fortunately, there was also Potions, and Harry didn't need a wand for that. Even better, making potions was almost like cooking, and while Harry knew his Aunt didn't like him, Harry nonetheless spent a lot of time helping her with cooking to earn himself some money. He was experienced. As experienced as a nine-year old could be, anyway.
This was how he could repay his Uncle!
"Petunia! Oh Tuney! Come here and let me kiss you!"
"Vernon?!" Aunt Petunia, who was in the process of baking a cheesecake with rather more raisins than Dudley would've liked, looked momentarily confused. "What's the matter, Vernon?"
Harry and Dudley both grimaced as Vernon slung his arms around Petunia and kissed her. Kissed her far too long to count as decent, especially to nine-year old boys.
"I've got the deal! Grunnings will expand!"
"Oh! That's so wonderful, Vernon - you must've been so convincing!"
"Oh yes. Our partner is most impressed. It's the Japs, you know - Mitsubishi. The slant eyes plan to build a new plant here, and we'll provide them with their drilling kit. Kicked the competition right into the curb, we did!"
Harry reflected that this was probably pretty easy to do when said competition was taking an extended nap immediately before the negotiations began.
Well. There was no denying that valerian sprigs worked as advertised.
Shortly after their tenth birthdays, Harry and Dudley were forced to endure what was probably the stuffiest party they'd ever had to endure - and for residents of Privet Drive, that said something. Unfortunately, Uncle Vernon had insisted that they come, dressed like little gentlemen (Which neither of the two boys appreciated in any way), and noted that his big investor had a boy their own age for them to talk to, so if they could stop moping for a moment and actually return something to the family for once...
Harry and Dudley were relieved to learn that unlike every single adult in the Finch-Fletchleys' obscenely large house, Justin was actually a pretty easygoing boy, though sufficiently aware of proper etiquette to not embarrass his parents in front of the whole crowd - he just slinked off into another room with Harry and Dudley in tow.
"So what did you do to be punished by having to come here?"
"Being Uncle Vernon's kids," Harry replied ruefully. "He's so happy, he's practically beside himself and tries to make us a part of his great leap forward."
Justin laughed as Dudley made a face, making it clear just how much he enjoyed being a part of this leap. "My parents mentioned him a few times during dinner - they don't much like your Uncle, I think. But they do like his success."
"He does have that," Harry agreed. "Trust me, we know - he won't stop talking about it."
"So... What do you want to do?"
Harry looked at Dudley, and vice versa. "Um... Dunno?"
"Hm. Ever heard of Risk?"
"So you're dentists? Well, Grunnings does manufacture drills-"
The woman smiled indulgently at Uncle Vernon. "That's wonderful, but I'm afraid that we rely on rather more specialised, medical machinery."
Vernon laughed, hoping in vain that it sounded as unforced as he was trying to make it. "Of course, of course, Mrs Granger. Though, with our lovely host's investment, I wouldn't be surprised if we expand into that sector in a few years' time. But say-"
Vernon looked somewhat irritated at the little girl that was tugging on Mrs Granger's dress. Mrs Granger's expression on the other hand, was considerably more kind. "Yes, Hermione, dear?"
"Would you mind if I go looking for the library?"
Jean Granger frowned. She loved her daughter dearly, but she felt she spent a little too much time with books and not enough time socialising. Though admittedly, a high-society gathering like this one - the presence of the Dursleys notwithstanding - wasn't exactly the place for an almost eleven years old girl to socialise, either.
Though, hadn't she seen some children earlier? She looked around, and recognised the door through which she thought they'd gone.
"Not a problem, Hermione. I think it's somewhere in the east wing, through that door, you see?"
Jean Granger smiled as her daughter eagerly made her way towards the door, and managed to keep up her smile as she turned back to Vernon and Petunia Dursley. "Ah, children..."
"WhaaaAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" Hermione screamed as she opened the door, head turned back to look at her Mum and Dad still trying to find an excuse to get away from the Dursleys, and consequently didn't see the Risk board that sent her flying almost as if it'd been made of slippery ice.
Then she floated gently to the ground.
"I'm sorry!" three voices rang out.
Then everyone looked very confused at everyone else.
"Are you sure, Harry?"
"Yes, Uncle Vernon."
"They all talked about accidents similar to what Harry used to have, dad. They must be wizards, too. They're all looking scrawny like Harry, too."
Vernon Dursley put one hand thoughtfully to his chin, while Petunia - disinclined to hear about even more freaks - cleaned up the kitchen. Again.
Vernon knew that - although the Finch-Fletchleys stood by their deal -, he hadn't made the best of impressions. Actually, he suspected that his boys had made a better impression than he had, though he couldn't figure out how. If the boy - and that irritating girl that apparently belonged to the Finch-Fletchleys' dentists. Not relevant to his business interests as such, but if they were friends of the Finch-Fletchleys, including them would probably score him some points - really were wizards just like Harry, then him, Vernon Dursley, being integral in informing them ahead of the letter they'd get next summer, and giving them a head start ought to not just help fixing a few unfortunate impressions, but score huge points for the future.
Not to mention that the Dursley- and Finch-Fletchley families, supported by real wizards, should be able to make several fortunes in no time at all.
Oh yes. His investment in Harry was going to pay off big time.
"Very well. We should arrange a private visit in a week or two. And Harry?"
"Yes, Uncle Vernon?"
Vernon's voice became a whisper. "How far along are you with that love potion?"
Harry grimaced. Aunt Petunia had never shown him any love - granted, he understood by now that Uncle Vernon didn't exactly love him, either, but Uncle Vernon did at least respect him, saw how he could be useful - and as a consequence, he didn't see anything wrong with helping Uncle Vernon score with his secretary. But it was still icky. Like, adult icky.
"I can't believe I'm actually a witch!" Hermione exclaimed while stirring the concoction in her brand-new cauldron.
Next to her, Justin Finch-Fletchley just grinned. "Yeah..."
"Took your mum long enough to acknowledge it," Harry teased Justin while flipping through the legilimency book Uncle Vernon had stumbled upon and - after realising the implications - promptly bought him with a stern note to study it really hard.
Justin grimaced. "Uh... She did look a little unhappy, didn't she?"
"But you do have this gift - we all do -, and that means we've to use it. Anything else would be a waste." Hermione said with conviction. "And besides, she was probably more bothered about Harry making his snake dance over the living room desk than about your Eton prospects."
Both Justin's and Hermione's parents had been aware that their children sometimes did things that Should Not Happen, and when their children had told them that the Dursleys' nephew was afflicted with the same and apparently knew what caused this, they'd agreed to a meeting quickly enough. Of course, neither set of parents had particularly believed Vernon and Harry when they'd explained about magic - that Harry didn't have a wand didn't help, either, although Harry was now able to make feathers levitate or turn them green maybe half the time that he attempted it if he concentrated really hard for a few minutes.
Still, the books they'd brought with them - which would've been a pretty ridiculous effort to fake - convinced them to at least give visiting Diagon Alley a shot.
Two brand-new Gringotts accounts, two dozen books and an absurd amount of potions ingredients acquired at a discount since Vernon and the Apothecary's owner knew each other pretty well by this point later, they were back at the Finch-Fletchleys, and Justin's mum's... Reluctance had not been enough to stop Hermione and Justin from enthusiastically following Harry's example - maybe they didn't have a wand yet, but Harry had told them so much about what potions could do, they could hardly wait to unpack their kits and start brewing.
Admittedly, Hermione didn't think Harry's tale of how he and Dudley gave one of the boys in their class Maximum Turbo Farts Potion-laced muffins was that funny, but there were more 'Mature' recipes that were more to Hermione's liking, too.
After this, the three met on most weekends, and Hermione in particular devoured the books she'd acquired at Flourish and Blotts at a frightening rate. It didn't take her long to repeat Harry's feats with a feather, either. Of course, by then she was already eleven in the first place.
"Hi, Uncle Vernon!"
"Hello, Mr Dursley."
"Hello, Mr Dursley."
"Vernon dear! How did your appointment with Volkswagen go?"
"Hello children! And it was fantastic, Tuney! You wouldn't believe the rates at which we can sell!"
Vernon planted a passionate kiss on Petunia's lips before marching upstairs to get changed after an afternoon of tense negotiations. "Oh, and Harry, how about a visit to the zoo next weekend? I'm sure your friends may want to come, too."
"Sure, Uncle Vernon!"
Harry reckoned that the champagne with a healthy dose of drowsiness potion had been a success. Well, Uncle Vernon had said the Germans deserved being treated like that for the war and all, so Harry figured it was alright.
"So you never learned Parseltongue? It was just... There?"
"Hmm... And snakes don't have ears, so it must be a magical ability," mused Hermione.
"And that means that snakes are probably all magical creatures, too."
Harry and Hermione nodded. "Makes sense, Justin."
"So..." Hermione's eyes gleamed, and Harry gulped. He knew that gleam from Uncle Vernon. "It definitely can't be learned by non-magical people. But..."
"Not so loud, Justin..." Harry was still tired. Who on Earth called at nine-thirty in the morning on a freaking Sunday? Even Hermione wouldn't do that. Granted, Uncle Vernon didn't think highly of sleeping in, and insisted on everyone being out by nine even on Sundays, but they'd been home late, cheering Dudley on in a wrestling competition (Dudley had won silver - 'The best birthday presents are the ones you win yourself!' Vernon had proudly exclaimed while patting his sweating, grinning son on the back), followed by a celebratory dinner that lasted until... Well, too late, anyway, so this particular Sunday was an exception.
"Professor McGonagall was here! From Hogwarts! With my letter! Apparently she is planning to visit Hermione next Saturday - I told her that we'd like to go together, and would meet her there."
"Ok." Harry really wanted to be excited for Justin, but since it was blatantly obvious that they'd get their letters this summer, it wasn't that special.
"You're invited, too, of course! I didn't tell the Professor that I know you, of course - she was surprised enough when I asked about Hermione -, and I think her reaction to seeing you with us will be pretty funny. So, you coming?"
"Sure... Err, I guess you didn't tell her about the books and the potions kit and the potions you've already brewed?"
"Of course not. Where'd be the fun in that?"
Harry thought that was a valid point.
"Ah, Minerva. Done with visiting our Muggle-borns for next year?" Professor Dumbledore asked jovially as he entered Minerva McGonagall's office. It took him a moment to realise that Gryffindor's Head of House was slumped on her armchair and looking rather philosophically at a half-empty bottle of Loch Lomond.
"Almost, Albus, almost. Dean Thomas is the last one... And I certainly hope it'll be more... Normal than today."
Dumbledore conjured himself a rather brightly coloured beach chair and laid down. "You sound rather exhausted, Minerva. What happened? I could summon some sherbet lemons if you'd like..."
"No, thank you. And... You remember last week, when it turned out that Justin Finch-Fletchley and Hermione Granger already knew each other and their abilities?"
"Yes. We were all rather surprised, but of course, their parents have known each other for a while..."
Minerva sighed. "Yes. But Mr Finch-Fletchley wasn't entirely truthful with me. They didn't just know that they both had unusual abilities - they knew they were a witch and a wizard. They'd been in Diagon Alley for the first time almost a year ago, and while they couldn't acquire wands, they acquired a number of textbooks as well as a complete potions kit."
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. "Well, that is unusual, although I guess that if their children found the Leaky Cauldron, it's not out of the ques-"
"Oh, that's not it, Albus." Minerva gave a hollow laugh. "They had help. You do of course remember the Dursleys?"
"I... Think I can see where this is going. Minerva..."
"Vernon Dursley and Harry Potter took it upon themselves to inform the Finch-Fletchleys and the Grangers of their children's magic once Harry had observed it during a visit to the Finch-Fletchleys. When we came to Diagon Alley today - and let me tell you, seeing Harry Potter chatting casually with the other two almost cost me my composure right then and there -, all three families already had Gringotts accounts and half their textbooks. All they needed were robes, wands, and some items to restock their potions ingredients-"
It was here that Albus Dumbledore perked up. "Minerva - did you say restock?"
"Yes." Minerva McGonagall replied while pouring first herself, and then the Headmaster another glass. "They couldn't get a wand until this summer, but potions don't require wands unless they're of N.E.W.T. level sophistication. Our returning Mr Potter has been brewing for almost two years, and Miss Granger and Mr Finch-Fletchley for almost one." She frowned. "I told you ten years ago that the Dursleys are the worst kind of muggle. I don't want to know what Vernon Dursley may have done with some of the potions Harry Potter has concocted."
Dumbledore frowned. "That is a matter of some concern. I'll have someone look into it."
Minerva looked relieved. "Thank you, Albus."
"Oh, and one more thing, Minerva."
The Professor looked up from her once again empty glass. "Yes?"
"Don't tell Severus."
A/N: The Vernon Dursley in this story is inspired by the Vernon Dursley in the story Enlightened! written by Rumour of an Alchemist.
Any and all HP characters, lines, locations, concepts, and trademarks borrowed for the purpose of this piece of user content are the property of their respective copyright holders, not me.