Nothing can go wrong today. Be polite. Remember Hogsmeade. Remember Hogsmeade. Remember Hogsmeade.
Harry chanted this to himself as he made his way toward the kitchen. It would be his job to clean up after the evening meal, and he knew Aunt Petunia would be furious if he didn't get started soon. With Marge visiting, his Aunt was more on edge than usual and therefore very eager to find fault with Harry.
Cowering in the doorway to the kitchen, doing his best not to draw attention to himself, Harry watched in disgust as Marge inspected a crinkled, old polaroid. The portly woman seemed to think that she was a dignified lady, perched studiously in her chair with her back straight and legs crossed beneath the table. Harry almost snorted. She didn't seem to notice that she was at least fifty pounds overweight and stuffed into a floral dress that made her look like a sausage. Harry longed to tell her so. But he wouldn't.
He had promised to be good. He had to be. Nothing can go wrong today, he reminded himself again.
His Aunt Marge examined the weathered photograph carefully, her eyes narrowing slightly as she stared. It wasn't often that she looked so contemplative, and Harry began to wonder what exactly she was looking at and why it had elicited such a reaction. His curiosity got the better of him, and he stepped carefully around the perimeter of the room, inching along the counter until he could nearly see over Uncle Vernon's broad shoulders.
Marge huffed loudly, her shoulders shaking with mirth, and held up the picture to Vernon.
And now Harry could see. His eyes widened in surprise.
It wasn't often that Harry got to see photographs of his mother, but he'd recognize her anywhere. Her dazzling vermillion hair, just as bright red as any of the Weasley's, was bold against the background of the photo. He involuntarily took a step closer, longing to take in the details.
The picture must have been taken at Christmas, because Harry spotted a tree covered with golden tinsel in the background. And though the tree was covered in glistening ornaments, it couldn't draw Harry's attention away from the red head. Lily, who appeared to be around eleven in the photo, had dazzling green eyes with a light sprinkle of freckles dotting her nose and cheeks. Her smile was so captivating that it seemed to light up the room. He found himself smiling back.
And his mother was not alone in the picture. She had her arms thrown around a taller girl, who stood rail straight with her nose in the air. The mousy, brown-haired figure wore neither a smile nor a frown. She appeared quite plain in comparison to her younger sister, and the photograph seemed to capture her contempt for the vivacious little girl.
Harry realized that Aunt Petunia must have been jealous of her, even then.
Marge pulled the picture away from Vernon, taking a large gulp of brandy from her glass.
"Even then, you can see it." The woman spat. "It's just like with my dogs, you can tell when they're young if they'll amount to anything. It should have been obvious that she'd end up a whore," She stated, dropping the photo back inside an old shoe box filled with newspaper clippings and mementos.
How dare she? Harry clenched his fists and turned toward the pile of dirty dishes on the counter. They were caked with filth. He grimaced, filling the sink with scalding water.
Calm down. Ignore her.
Then he heard Uncle Vernon guffawing behind him and grit his teeth.
"That's what I tried to tell Petunia about the boy!" Vernon bellowed, taking a swig. "From the second she brought him in off the steps, I knew!"
Just then, Aunt Petunia emerged, pulling a beautifully decorated cake from the fridge and setting it on the table in front of them. She seemed to deliberately avoid looking at Harry.
"I know, Vernon. Back then, I didn't see it, and I hoped that he would be different, but I should've listened. It would have saved us years of trouble."
Harry was seething, but he refused to show it. He scrubbed hard at a plate. How dare they talk about me like I'm not even here.
"It's like I always say about breeding dogs, if there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup," Marge declared, laughing so hard that she splashed a bit of liquor on herself.
Harry whirled around, letting the spoon he'd been cleaning sink into the pile of suds.
The whole table was laughing raucously. Even Dudley had joined in, though he looked much more interested in the cake than their conversation.
Despite having removed his arms from the scorching water, Harry felt himself growing hot, far hotter than he should be. The anger burned through him like fire, and he couldn't stop his hands from trembling.
She's not a whore. She's not a bitch. You're the bitch!
Harry knew she'd been an amazing person. He would have given anything to have known his mother, to have seen her smile in person, to have spoken to her even once, to have hugged her. He felt a lump growing in his throat. He would never do any of those things. She was dead.
The shrill laughter continued, and Harry couldn't contain his fury any longer. His face turned dark red, making his green eyes, identical to his mother's, even more striking than usual. His body started to quake ominously and a whooshing roar filled his ears.
"SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!"
The fire inside of Harry burst.
The lights in the chandelier exploded above them. Marge let out a startled shriek and dropped her glass, sending shards of the crystal cup and dark liquid scattering all over the snow-white carpet. The screech faded out into silence, and the whole room grew tense and still.
Harry was panting hard. He swayed on his feet, but the burning pressure inside him did not diminish.
Dudley let out a whimper, causing his mother to reach for him, and she pulled the stout boy into her embrace, glancing around with fear in her narrowed eyes. Vernon stood up from the table, scanning the room, his pudgy face scrunched in consternation. He placed a worried hand on his wife's shoulder, and they shared an uneasy glance. Then he looked at Harry, his eyes bulging, his head shaking threateningly.
One by one, the glasses on the table shattered, and all hell broke loose.
All around the room, plates exploded with a crash, pictures on the walls hurled themselves across the room where they smashed and fell to the floor. The doors opened widely and then slammed themselves shut. Vernon dove underneath the safety of the kitchen counter, covering his face with his hands to protect his eyes from the flying shards. Petunia and a screaming Dudley cowered beside him, taking shelter from the chaos.
Harry stared in shock at the scene, feeling the power swelling beneath his fingertips. It was somewhat thrilling. Harry turned to Marge, who was frozen in her chair, her mouth gaping open.
She watched as the photograph that she'd held moments ago slowly rose into the air. Lily's smiling face inched closer and closer to her. The picture drew nearer, and Marge leaned further and further back in her chair until she toppled out of it with a thud and scurried underneath the table. Her eyes, wide as saucers, peered around the room until her eyes settled on Harry. She was afraid.
Serves her right.
Harry glowered at her just before the table she was huddled beneath lifted into the air and slammed into the ceiling, splintering and sending wooden fragments flying in every direction. The pieces rained down on her, but she didn't take her eyes away from Harry's.
He stared into her fearful face, feeling no sympathy. She deserves this, he thought and sent a harsh smirk in her direction. He was filled with satisfaction at her terror. But then, without warning, the light in Marge's grey eyes faded and she fell, face first, onto the hardwood floor.
Harry's power faltered. The heat was gone. He stood there, trembling at the front of the room, his mind blank.
"Marge?" he heard Vernon sputter.
The pudgy man crawled out of his hiding place and over to his sister. He prodded her once. Then twice. Vernon rolled the woman's body older, his face deathly pale. Marge didn't move.
The blood in Harry's veins turned to ice.
"She's dead," Vernon spoke distantly, as if in a trance. "She's dead."
Harry's vision blurred. Dead? No. She can't be dead. I didn't… Did I?
Vernon shot up from the floor, locking eyes with Harry.
"SHE'S DEAD!" he bellowed. "YOU KILLED HER! YOU KILLED HER, YOU UNGRATEFUL SON OF A BITCH!"
Vernon advanced on Harry. The young wizard tried to move, but it was as if his body was malfunctioning. His limbs were filled with sand; his feet were nailed to the floor; his brain was a numb pile of mush.
Harry reached for his heart, almost surprised when he felt it pounding forcefully beneath his shaking hand. There didn't seem to be enough air in the room. He gasped for breath, but all the oxygen seemed to have disappeared.
He'd just committed a murder. What would Dumbledore do? What would his friends think? And the ministry, would they send him to prison?
He was so focused on the future, that he felt far removed from the present. It wasn't until his Uncle was towering over at him, roaring words Harry couldn't hear, that everything snapped back into focus with a force that nearly knocked him off his feet.
He's going to kill me, Harry realized.
At that moment, a pudgy fist soared toward his skull and Harry twisted away, diving toward the patio door. He reached for the handle just Vernon struck out again and made contact with the back of his head. He let out a grunt and felt himself flying forward. Harry threw his arms out desperately, hoping to clasp onto something that would allow him to remain upright. He failed. His ankle twisted and gave out beneath him. As he tumbled downward, his cheek scraped against the wall, ripping the skin and leaving a burning gash down the side of his face.
Harry found himself sprawled across the hallway floor, facedown. He turned himself over and stood up quickly, ignoring the pain and intending to escape again, but Vernon was quicker. He loomed over him, still roaring with rage, and pinned him against the wall.
"Please," Harry stuttered. But before he could get out an apology, the man's large fists wrapped around his scrawny neck and squeezed viciously.
He felt the rough hands digging into his flesh and choked for air, but he couldn't breathe. His eyes widened in panic and he wrapped his arms over the man's, desperately trying to pry them off.
Vernon roared; his face so close to Harry's that his hot breath steamed up the boy's glasses.
"I'LL KILL YOU, YOU BLOODY FREAK!" His booming voice echoed in the narrow hall.
Harry twisted and turned, determined to find a way out of Vernon's strong grip.
Dark spots began dancing in his vision. He could feel the bruises forming around his throat, and he let out a squeak of pain. Harry continued to struggle, digging his grimy fingernails into the man's hands. A few droplets of blood bloomed on the surface of the man's skin, but he made no progress in escaping.
Harry knew he couldn't fight for much longer.
The thought had come out of nowhere, and even through his panic, it surprised him.
Perhaps it would be okay if he just gave up. Didn't he deserve this after what he'd done?
Marge is dead.
Maybe he'd still be able to see his parents again. Maybe they would forgive him.
Harry stared straight into Vernon's narrowed eyes. This man was supposed to be like a father to him, he was supposed to love him and care for him, but he never had. Vernon had always hated him.
Harry was powerless as memories of Vernon flashed in front of his blackening vision: A five-year-old Harry was tossed forcefully into a cupboard and locked away for days. A slightly older Harry was screamed at and berated for something Dudley had done. A twelve-year-old Harry received a fierce blow to the jaw after his uncle's failed meeting with the Masons. And on and on they went.
Harry didn't have a single pleasant memory involving Vernon Dursley.
He's always wanted me dead. He doesn't deserve the satisfaction.
With his last remaining energy, Harry flailed his limbs wildly, swinging his bony knee upward, making contact with his uncle's groin. He heard the man gasp in pain and the hands around his throat released.
Harry stumbled for a moment, violently coughing and blinking away the dark spots. He sucked in a huge breath and then dashed down the hallway on shaky legs.
He turned the corner and darted past his cupboard. The front door was just ahead. He was going to make it. Harry's hand curled around the cool brass of the knob and froze.
Everything that he treasured in the world was still in his room. His wand. His cloak. His photo album. He couldn't leave them behind. He needed them.
And instead of wrenching the door open and rushing to safety, Harry turned and darted up the stairs.
He could hear the heavy footsteps behind him. His heart beat even faster beneath his threadbare tee-shirt as he flung himself upward.
Harry was much lighter and quicker than his uncle, and for that, he was grateful. He was nearly halfway up the stairs to the second floor, before he felt wind on the back of his neck. There was a loud grunt and then he felt Vernon lunge for him.
Harry leapt up two more steps, just barely leaving him just out of Vernon's reach. The man slammed hard onto his protruding stomach, knocking the wind out of him. Harry let out a quick breath of relief, and then scurried up the last few steps. He could see the door to his room only a few yards away, but Vernon was already on his feet again.
If he corners me, I'm dead.
He was too close. Harry knew he couldn't make it to his room in time.
Acting on impulse, he veered left.
Harry glanced around his Aunt and Uncle's bedroom, taking in the plush cream carpet and the lavishly decorated bed. Not wasting any time, he launched himself across the mattress, rolling once, before dropping to his knees on the other side.
Holding his breath, he plunged his hand beneath the bed, searching until his fingers brushed against a cool object. He could breathe again.
It's still here.
Harry gripped the object tightly and dove to his feet just as his uncle appeared in the doorway.
The malicious grin on the man's face faltered as he spotted the gun in Harry's hands.