"I DON'T WANT TO GO TO HER HOUSE! TAKE ME WITH YOU!"
The high pitched wails of a five year old boy pierced the ears of his parents and younger cousin, the smaller boy happy to get away from the noise. Harry was going away to a summer camp, and thankfully, his cousin wouldn't be tagging along. His Aunt and Uncle were going on a work retreat for his Uncle's company, but no children were allowed. Which meant that he was being shipped off to summer camp and his cousin… Well, they were still deciding on where to place him.
"Sweetie, you know we'd love to take you with us, but this trip is for grownups."
"I WANT TO GO!"
"Son, Mummy and I don't want to leave you, but Daddy has to go. This retreat is important for me." Vernon jostled the phone against his ear, huge fingers wrapped around the cord. "I'm just seeing if your Auntie Marge can look after you."
Dudley pulled a face. His Auntie gave him treats and money, but all those dogs… he used to have nightmares about them chasing him down.
Vernon spoke into the receiver as Petunia smoothed her son's thick blond hair down. "Now pumpkin, you're Mummy and Daddy's big boy. We know you'll be perfectly behaved for your Auntie Marge. You're a good boy. Unlike some one." She shot a nasty look at Harry, who shrunk back, rucksack at his feet.
"I DON'T WANT TO STAY WITH HER! I WANT TO GO WITH YOU AND DADDY!" Dudley screwed up his face, his cheeks bright red. "TAKE ME WITH YOU!"
Petunia clung onto her son desperately as he began battering her with his small fists, Harry looking on in bewilderment and slight apprehension. Many times, he had been the target of those fists and he was keen to avoid them.
Vernon ended the call and put the phone down. He sighed in frustration.
"Marge is ill. She can't take Dudley."
Petunia's frozen smile soured into a grimace. "Who'll take Dudley then?"
Vernon sighed again. "We could get Mrs Figg to take care of him, she does alright with the boy after all." He glared venomously at Harry, who to avoid any more looks, dropped down to the floor and curled up behind his rucksack. Vernon stared in confusion at Harry, shaking his head in exasperation and turning away to watch his wife attempt to console a wailing Dudley, who had taken things up a notch by wriggling excessively.
"Duddy! Calm down, sweetie! Calm-" She struggled to hold onto him, ducking out of the way of a flailing arm. "Duddykins," She cooed. "How about Mummy gives you a big chocolate bar for you to eat before going to Mrs Figg's?" Petunia turned her attention onto Vernon, clutching her son tightly to her chest.
"I really don't want him to stay there, Vernon. The house is so… unclean with all of those cats. Do you think she'll be able to look after him properly?"
"Like I said before, Pet, she looks after the boy alright. He comes back in one piece, without a cat scratch on him."
"He doesn't matter." Her cold clipped voice shot back. "Our perfect little angel does. Don't you, Duddykins?" She squeezed Dudley hard, the five year old stopping his wailing and writhing, to moan instead.
"Mummy! You're squishing me!"
Loosening her grip, she simpered: "I'm sorry, diddums. Is Mrs Figg the last resort then?"
"I'm afraid so."
Petunia shook her head in distaste, before smiling sweetly down at Dudley. "Duddy, you're going to be staying with Mrs Figg for the week. I know you'll be well-behaved for her. You'll be able to go and play with your friends because she'll take you to the park and don't worry, I'll make sure that you'll be well-fed."
Dudley decided to throw a tantrum to get across his displeasure at being placed with the cat lady.
"I DON'T WANT TO GO AND STAY WITH HER! SHE STINKS! HER AND THE STUPID CATS! TAKE ME WITH YOU NOW!"
"Baby, Daddy's going to call Mrs Figg now and then we'll get your bag packed. Okay, sweetums?"
Throwing himself onto the carpet, Dudley rolled around, wailing in anger and displeasure. As Vernon pressured Mrs Figg into taking on their precious boy for a week, Petunia fussed over Dudley, attempting to soothe his screams before any of the neighbours took issue. From behind his rucksack, Harry stayed curled up. If he was out of the way, then he wouldn't be bothering any of his relatives.
A few moments later, Vernon slammed the phone down.
"She's agreed to take Dudley. Pet, we have to get a move on, we need to go soon. Remember we have to drop the boy off at that camp."
"Mmh." Petunia hummed half-heartedly as she scooped a writhing Dudley up into her arms, trying to avoid being battered with small fists. "Come on, sweetie, lets go get ready!"
It took a full hour for one bag to be packed, Dudley changing his mind about what to take every few minutes. His mother had to constantly remind him that the television was too big to pack and that all of his toys would still be there when he returned home in a week. In the end, an assortment of clothes, shoes and toys were packed into the bag, a colouring book and toiletries shoved down the sides.
As Petunia lugged the bag to the door, instructing Dudley to put his shoes on, her eyes welled up when her son whispered:
"You're getting rid of me, aren't you?"
She turned round sharply, his big eyes and sad pout tugging at her heart. She crouched down and pulled him into a hug, a tear dripping down her cheek as she heard him sniffle against her shoulder.
"Duddykins, we would never get rid of you! We love you so much! You're our ickle Duddy! We love you!"
His fake sniffles vanished, a smirk appearing on his face, arms hugging his mother tightly. "So… I don't have to go to Mrs Figg's? You love me so much, you have to take me!"
"No, baby. W-We can't! There's no other c-choice!"
Petunia wailed in distress at the fact that she was being separated from her son for seven whole days, and Dudley wailed at the realisation that for once, he hadn't got his own way.
The mother and son duo stood on the doorstep of Mrs Figg's house, Dudley scuffing the doormat moodily. He was giving his mother the silent treatment, whilst Petunia sniffed the air in distaste. The pungent aroma of cat food wafted out through the open window, but it was not ladylike to gag, so she pinched her nostrils instead.
When the front door opened, Petunia's fingers pulled away from her nose and she eyed her neighbour critically.
"Good morning, Mrs Figg."
"Thank you for agreeing to take Dudley."
"Well, your husband made it clear that I was taking your son, and we'll discuss payment at the end of the week."
Petunia bristled at her words, but instead took to peering round the woman, through the doorway. Amused, Mrs Figg questioned her.
"Is something the matter?"
"H-How many cats do you have now?"
Her face scrunching up in disgust, Petunia muttered: "I don't want my Dudley being attacked by one of those… animals, and is your house clean? Also, you need to make sure that the meals you prepare for Dudley are well-portioned. I don't want my baby to starve."
Mrs Figg looked down at Dudley and tutted. "I don't see that happening any time soon."
"My house is very clean, Petunia, regardless of the cats. As you know, Harry has been round here many times and he has never picked up any diseases or any other codswallop that people believe you can pick up from cats. Dudley will be absolutely fine. Now, go and join Vernon, I'm sure you're on a time constraint."
"Well, I am." Petunia bristled again, before turning to her son, her lips settling into the familiar smile she reserved for her only child. "Duddykins, Mummy has to go now. I know you'll be a good boy for me, enjoy your week." She bent down and yanked him into a tight hug, whispering in his ear. "Any problems though, I want you to talk to Mrs Polkiss and she'll call me at the resort we're staying at. Anything bad at all, and Daddy and I will come straight home. I love you!"
Dudley squirmed in her grip, making a face when she kissed him on the cheek. Petunia broke the hug and rose up again to her full height. She smoothed his thick blond hair, then hurried off down the path. Dudley wiped away the saliva on his cheek, shuddering, then stared up at his neighbour.
"I don't like you." He scowled.
"The feeling's mutual." Mrs Figg muttered. "Come through, Dudley."