AN: Thanks for the reviews, favs, alerts, C2 adds, and such. Karl loves you.
Chapter Five: The World, The World, The World
"Don't see why we've got to be here," grumbled Vernon, though his voice was less annoyed and more uncomfortable. He pulled at the collar of his navy blue suit jacket and glanced around the cheery office.
"Vernon," snapped Petunia sharply under her breath, all the while smiling calmly, one long, thin leg poised over the other. "So nice to see you again," she said loftily.
Dr. Johannson looked up from her clipboard. "Really? Is it?" she inquired brightly.
Petunia and Vernon looked at each other. "Why… yes!" Petunia said, still smiling falsely, and sitting up in her chair, her neck looking even longer than usual.
"That's good to know! It's nice to see you again as well!" The doctor responded, lowering her notes. "Now, Mr. Dursley, you were wondering just a few seconds ago about why I decided to call the two of you in today—"
"No, he wasn't," smiled Petunia.
"Excuse me?" asked the therapist.
"My husband wouldn't say anything of the sort!" Petunia explained. "On the contrary, he is pleased to be here!"
"Is that right, Mr. Dursley?"
Vernon's eyes got a little wide. He fingered his black mustache. He really didn't want to be here. But he never wanted to upset Petunia. It was like the whole business with Harry. Vernon stilldidn't understand witchcraft, or Demendoids or Hogsbend, or whatever the flip Petunia had told them back when they'd first been engaged. He'd simply promised never to talk about it. And never to ask about it. Besides, what Petunia had told him didn't change how much he loved her. He'd always thought Lily was a nutter, even before he knew she was a witch.
Prior to the news, he'd just considered her a "hippie". Vernon had really had to be accepting in order to live through all of these years of hush-hush, Harry Potter, owls, letters, Dudley being thwarted by poisoned candy and invisible bogeymen… And he wasn't going to go against his wife now just because some wonky therapist wanted him to answer a question.
He shook his head. Then he nodded. "Yes, that's right," he said.
Petunia patted his knee.
"Good," Doctor Johannson said happily," because in family therapy, there is never just one client. Dudley may have been the family member who was referred to me, but in family therapy, all of the members are equally responsible for improving whatever problems are occurring—"
"Pardon me," Petunia said sweetly, but her eye twitched," but I really don't understand. We have absolutely no problems! Duddy is simply misunderstood, and we're here to prove he's innocent and clear his name!"
The doctor threw back her head and laughed. When she was through she winked merrily at Petunia. "Dear woman, your son isn't guilty of anything! He's committed no crimes. Yet," she added, and Petunia looked perplexed. "He simply needs to work out some issues he has, but please don't make this more complicated than it is. Dudley is experiencing a change in his life. He's all ready made progress, but I need your cooperation until my job is done."
Petunia, though rather annoyed that anyone would say her Dinky Duddydiddydums would have "issues", nodded vigorously. "Anything," she said enthusiastically. "I'll do anything to help my son!"
Vernon nodded. "Anything."
"Anything?" asked the doctor.
"Anything!" the Dursleys replied.
"Lovely," said the doctor, and flipped a page on her clipboard. "What can you tell me about your son?"
Both Petunia and Vernon brightened considerably. It was clear that this was one of their very favorite subjects.
"He's just the nicest little boy there ever was," began Petunia," he's never given me any trouble, always been polite and quiet at home, never brazen. He got into a prestigious academy, Smeltings--"
"--Proudest day of my life," sniffed Vernon— I was a Smelt meself, you see!"
"--and he's been top boxer for the past two years, and he never causes any trouble."
"—nothing more invigorating than getting your Smeltings Stick! Ha!"
"—and he tells me everything, and he has many little friends, and he's my wittle angel," Petunia finished in baby talk.
"You sound like you're very close to your son, Mrs. Dursley—"
"Oh yes!" Petunia affirmed. "Always."
The therapist smiled. "I suspect that's because you were raised in a loving house as well."
Vernon coughed into his hand. The room seemed to spin.
Petunia took a heavy breath. "Well," she said tersely. "It may have been lovable for some people—"
"Who?" asked the therapist, as Vernon attempted to catch her eye, to warn her of the terrors that lay ahead.
"My sister," Petunia went on," was the prize of the family. She was always beautiful, funny and smart, and I was just as good, but no one seemed to notice. She got special treatment, and I had to sit and watch while my parents adored her. I was sure it was because she had that pretty red hair. So once, I even dyed mine!" Petunia clenched her chopped tresses. "But red clashed horribly with my bone structure! And everyone treated me just the same," she spat out bitterly. "And I vowed I'd never make my son go through what I did—"
"That's good," said the therapist," you both look quite charming as blondes."
Petunia pursed her lips and smoothed out her dress. "Are you being funny?"
"No, why? Anyway, that is interesting. How difficult it must have been for you, Mrs. Dursley."
Vernon patted his wife's knee. He knew this was very hard for her, yet he wasn't quite sure what it had to do with Dudley. Dudley wasn't a witch, nor did he have red hair.
"And Mr. Dursley," the therapist started, shaking Vernon out of his confused thoughts. "Are you an only child like your son is?"
He shook his head. "Nope. I happen to have a sister by the name of Marjorie Anne."
"Both of you with sisters? Delightful! Which of you was the favorite, yourself or Marjorie?" asked the doctor.
"What?" Vernon sputtered, taken aback. "Well… neither, I suppose. Mother wasn't really the nuturing type—more of an 'all for themselves' lass, bless her heart." He chortled in discomfort. "She was upset with Marge for her love of bulldogs. 'Ye can't marry a pooch, Marjorie!' That's what she'd always say. 'You can't get a man smelling like a pooch, Marjorie!' Yes, sir, she'd say that from noon until night." He twisted his mustache. "She was also foolish enough to advise me against becoming a drill salesman. I started the Drill Lovers Alliance at Smeltings in my day and became the president, and she told me, 'Vernon,' she says, 'you're making me look like a twit!'" He paused. "I was the only member, you see." He shrugged. "But that didn't stop me! And now, look! I'm rising to the top! I'm showing her!" he announced, throwing his hands up into the air. He suddenly looked inspired. "I know what I'd do if she were alive!" he announced. "I'D SELL HER A DRILL!"
"Yes, you would, darling," Petunia said with a nod.
"Exciting!" agreed the doctor, writing something down in her notes.
Vernon suddenly became quite driven: "Would you like a Grunnings drill? Best drills in the world, can't ask for a better handle! They come in all colours now, too, though that wasn't my idea, it was—"
The doctor clapped her hands. "Mr. Dursley, I would love a drill."
"Pet, there's nothing wrong with keeping Dudley in those sessions!" Vernon declared, still beaming six hours later. "I quite like that woman!"
"Vernon!" Petunia exclaimed in a harsh tone. "Vernon. Just because she took one of your drills does not mean Dudders needs to be sent back there—"
Dudley and Harry were pressed up against the door in the kitchen, which was very reminiscent of when they were both eleven.
--"and besides, now she wants HARRY to come ALONE?" Petunia whispered.
Dudley shoved Harry in the shoulder and grinned. Harry waved his fingers at Dudley as though sparks might shoot out of them. Dudley pouted and moved a few inches away from him.
"Well, he's all ready promised to keep his gob shut!" Vernon protested. It seemed he was now awfully fond of the therapist. In fact, he loved anyone who bought his drills. It made him happier than anything. That was why everyone else in the family was now terribly worried.
Vernon now had faith in Harry.
"The… world," Dudley began slowly, turning to face Harry with an expression that could only be described as horror. "The world…"
"Yes, Dud?" Harry pressed. "The world…?"
"The world… is at… an end," Dudley replied, and shaking his head, he shuffled away.
Harry stared after him, afraid. After all, Dudley had never been concerned about the world before. This was serious.