Disclaimer: HP isn't mine.

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Petunia Dursley didn't think herself cruel. She gave a certain amount to charities each year (reputable charities only, of course, and she made certain the money would go to those who deserved it, not drunkards or homeless layabouts) and she did, after all, house her good-for-nothing freak of a nephew.

Sometimes, she really didn't know why she bothered.

"Just look at him," she muttered under her breath, glaring out the window at her sister's scrawny son as he weeded her garden.

"Yes, look at him."

Petunia shrieked and whirled, and the dish she'd been drying clattered to the floor.

There, in the middle of her kitchen, stood a man she feared and loathed with unparalleled fervor.

"You," she hissed venomously, eyes narrowed to slits. "What are you doing here? Get out!"

"My dear Petunia, there's no need for hysterics," Albus Dumbledore said mildly, flicking his wand once. The plate rose from the floor and settled into the sink.

Petunia paled and pressed back against the counter, as far from the Headmaster as she could get.

"What do you want?" she demanded shrilly, wishing Vernon were home. He'd take care of this...this intruder!

"Only to speak and be heard," Dumbledore replied, staring at her sternly over the tops of his spectacles.

"Then get on with it," Petunia ordered with false bravery, twisting her thin hands in her dishcloth.

"Look at your nephew, Mrs. Dursley," Albus ordered, glancing out the window towards the boy in question. Reluctantly, Petunia turned her back to the aged wizard and fixed her gaze on Potter.

"Look at him," Dumbledore repeated softly. "Just an ordinary boy - an ordinary teenager."

Petunia's lips twisted sourly as she observed Harry, who looked worn and tired and angry as he tugged another weed out of the ground. "Ordinary? Ha! He's an unnatural freak, just like his parents!"

"Is that so, Petunia? Muggles are no more human than wizards and witches. We all bleed and we all die. We all have things we love and hate and fear."

"What's your point?" she asked impatiently, wanting him gone as soon as possible. She didn't need him in her house, tainting the place with his magic.

"Harry Potter is, magic aside, just a child, Petunia. A child who has experienced things no one should experience, a child who has lost more in his fifteen years than many have in entire lifetimes - but a child nonetheless. He does not need your enmity."

"You left him here for us to raise," Petunia snapped. "We'll do so as we see fit."

"Look at him!" Albus said, more than a hint of anger in his voice. She pursed her lips, scowling as the boy outside swiped roughly at his eyes with the back of his hand. He'd been doing that often the past week - his eyes would start water, and he'd duck his head and scrub at his face until the tears were gone.

"This is your nephew, Petunia, your sister's only child. He is alone, and he is hurting enough already without having to suffer your spite. He has held a classmate's corpse in his arms, has watched his godfather die, has fought just to live since he was eleven...are you so malicious that you need add to his burdens, all because you were jealous of your sister as a child?"

"Get out."

"Harry is a kind boy, but he does not forget or forgive easily. One day he will be of age, Petunia, and perfectly capable of avenging every slight, every insult, every injury you and your husband and son have dealt him. If you cannot treat him well out of altruism, then do so out of self-preservation."

And then, silently, the Headmaster was gone and Petunia was left alone in her kitchen, staring out her window at the boy who was ruining her life.

For a moment, she contemplated the old wizard's words. Deep inside, there was a little nagging voice telling her he was right, that she was firmly and decidedly in the wrong.

But just as she had for the last fourteen, nearly fifteen years, she stifled the voice and pasted a scowl on her face. Dumbledore was wrong. Potter was just another freak, no more deserving of kindness than a pesky rodent.

"Perfectly ridiculous."