With a small child in the household, most people's lives developed a certain ritual in order to survive, and Petunia Dursley was no different. Mornings were started with the whoops and yells of a sixteen month old Dudley as he bounced up and down in his cot, loudly demanding to be out, to have breakfast, to watch television – anything as long he was getting attention.
She usually managed to buy an extra half-hour of sleep by bringing him into their bed, settling him down between them until his squirming became too much and she had to take him downstairs before he woke Vernon.
Then it would be downstairs and to the television, and thank Heaven for cartoons to keep Dudley quiet as she bustled about trying to get things ready. To the doorstep to get the milk – freshly delivered by the milkman – so that she could get Dudley's Frosties ready (the boy objected loudly to food which didn't involve sugar in some shape or form) and then pick up the baby on the step to bring him in…
…wait. That wasn't part of the morning ritual.
Petunia stared at the small bundle on her doorstep, placed neatly next to the morning milk, and lifted her voice in a yell very similar to Dudley's usual shout.
"Well, they can't possibly expect us to take him," Vernon said, once the baby had been brought in, Dudley had been given his Frosties, and the situation had been explained, "Not without giving us any notice like that."
Petunia stared at the note in front of her, though she had read it so many times in the past half-hour that she felt the words might have been burnt permanently into her retinas. "I don't think they got any notice," she said quietly.
"Surely there are legal processes to this sort of thing?" Vernon asked, waving his butterknife in the air, "Don't we have to agree before we can be named as the one the boy comes to?"
He paused, thinking for a moment, "What about his godfather? That rich friend of James? The one with the motorbike who thought he was too good for any of us?"
"Apparently he's in some sort of legal trouble," Petunia said wearily.
"Ha, I knew it!" Vernon was triumphant, "I knew with a motorbike like that, he had to be in a gang of some sort. Probably some kind of Hell's Angel. Instinct's right every time." He reached for another slice of toast, buttering it thickly.
"Want!" Dudley's voice was a whine as he reached to grab at the toast, unsatisfied with his own morning cereal if only because his father had something different. Absent-mindedly, Petunia picked up a slice, spreading it with butter and jam and cutting it into fingers before handing it to him.
She didn't think to do any for Harry.
"According to the note, they think he might be involved in their death somehow," she informed her husband flatly.
"Rival gangs," Vernon said authoritatively, "I've read about this. It was in the Daily Mirror. First they start out by lying around on the dole or letting their parents pay for them, then they start mugging old ladies, and the next thing you know they've turned on each other. Didn't you tell your Lily she'd picked a bad'un with James? Rich boys like that, more money than sense." He ate his toast with satisfaction, licking the melted butter off his fingers. "On drugs too I shouldn't wonder. Didn't I tell you last time they visited James was gabbling on about magic? God knows what he was taking. Sniffing glue at the very least."
Petunia sighed. Tired of a family who sighed and wondered over Lily's every move, she'd been delighted to find in Vernon a stolid unimaginative sort of man, a man who would never dream of believing in magic. Who wasn't just down to earth but practically had his feet of clay buried in the stuff and believed in the material things of life with a fervour that was almost holy. In short, everything that her family and her background had never been and she treasured the difference. Sometimes, however, that could be a problem. When things needed explaining for instance…
"They seem to think the boy's in danger," she ventured cautiously, "From whoever killed his parents. They think he might just be safe with us."
"And put us in danger? And little Dudley?" Vernon blinked, glancing towards his young son, "I would say that's going a little further than "unreasonable"."
"They think he might be in danger with anyone who isn't family," Petunia explained. She rubbed her forehead, trying to shift the headache that was trying to settle there. This was not something anybody wanted to wake up to.
"We're hardly even that any more," Vernon said irritably, "How long is it since they've visited now – did they even thank you for the vase we sent them for Christmas? That was a quality piece from Argos!"
"They sent a note." It had been a brief note, but then so had been the one Petunia sent with the vase in the first place. After too long, it became easier to not-communicate than to break the wall of silence that grew between them.
"Notes. Notes to say thank you, notes to hand children over, do these people know how to deal with anything any way other than sending a note?" Vernon pushed his chair back, banging the legs noisily against the stone floor.
Upset by the noise, Harry began to whimper for the first time, the sort of cry that in Dudley would mean he was building up to a good long yell. Vernon regarded him with disdain.
"And he's a noisy little beggar."
"Be quiet, Harry." Too distracted to really think what she was doing, Petunia handed the child a full slice of toast – unbuttered. Harry gripped it tightly between two hands and stared it as though not quite sure to do with it, not even making an attempt to eat it.
"Send him back," Vernon gave his verdict decisively. "Let him be someone else's problem. No-one reasonable could possibly expect us to take him on – especially not with one child already to take care of. Dudley's enough work, aren't you Dudders?"
He ruffled his son's blonde hair affectionately, and the little boy waved jam-covered hands in the air towards him.
"Down!" It was unquestionably a demand, and Petunia was quick to respond to it, lifting him down from the high chair and placing him on the floor.
"Go watch your cartoons then, there's a good boy."
Neither parent was watching closely enough to notice when Dudley tugged Harry's one slice of toast away from him in a quick movement, before disappearing through to the front room, clutching the stolen food closely to him.
The most placid baby would have objected to that. Harry dissolved into loud tears.
"Oh god, now he's crying," Petunia said, looking ready to cry herself as she looked down at the little boy, somehow reluctant to pick him up.
"Let him cry," Vernon instructed, his voice firm. "You've fed him already, haven't you? He's just spoilt – down to that father of his, no doubt. Well, the sooner he learns he's getting no more of that, the better. Probably lucky for him that the man died."
"He looks so like Lily," Petunia said, almost dreamily, "Those… those green eyes…"
Her voice trembled suddenly, and she shut her mouth hard, trying to gulp down on a sob that seemed to want to surface.
"Petunia?" Whatever his faults, Vernon Dursley did care about his wife. He was by her side in moments, patting her awkwardly, "Whatever is it?"
"I just… I feel so awful," Petunia's voice broke, and she groped desperately in her pocket for a handkerchief, "Just… so, so guilty."
"Because of Lily? You mustn't." Vernon tried to reassure her, "It's sad, but your sister chose to go down a bad path with that husband of hers. That's no fault of yours. People make their own choices."
Petunia shook her head. "Because of Harry," she admitted, voice muffled now by the handkerchief.
"You want to take him? It really is very impudent of them to ask, but if you're so insistent on wanting him…" Head of the household Vernon might be, but if his wife or son cried… well, it wasn't so hard for them to get what they wanted.
"Because I don't want to, and… and, he's my own sister's son. My sister! And he's in trouble, and we should, I know we should. But… I don't want to!"
"Why not?" Vernon sat down heavily beside her, ignoring the hiccups and snuffles still coming from Harry.
Petunia wiped her eyes with her handkerchief, and looked up, "Lily was… special," she admitted, careful with her phrasing again, putting things in a way her husband would understand, "Talented in ways I wasn't. She… it meant she had a lot of fuss made of her, and I was always the one left behind, the one with nothing special about me. He – Harry will be talented like that. I can just feel it. And I don't want him to be in danger – I don't – but I don't ever want Dudley to feel left behind like that! Like I was!"
"But Dudley is special," Vernon pointed out, frowning, "Listen – he's figured out how to turn the television on all by himself already. No-one can say that boy isn't bright."
"Oh, I know he is," Petunia offered her husband a watery smile, justifiably proud of their son's achievements, "I'm just afraid that beside Harry, he'll believe he isn't."
"We won't let that happen." That was one thing Vernon knew he could reassure her of with complete certainty.
"No," he said firmly, "Just because we have to take this other boy on – to keep him out of danger if you insist – doesn't mean we have to let our Dudders feel left out. We just have to make sure that our son knows he's special – and we can do that."
"Even if Harry turns out to be… talented?" Petunia asked doubtfully.
"We'll make sure of it," Vernon patted her shoulder, certain now that he had the solution to all her worries, "Everything Dudley wants, he'll get. We'll make certain he knows he's still our best boy. That doesn't have to change because of Harry."
It was reassurance of the type Petunia needed. A solution that would allow her to keep Harry out of danger, if staying with them was really the only way to achieve that, while making sure that Dudley never fell into his cousin's shadow.
And if Harry did show signs of magic, that could be dealt with when the time came. A little bit more love and attention to Dudley for every sign that showed itself, to make sure her boy knew that he never need feel less for not showing the same signs, that he could never be worth any less to her because he wasn't magic and he wouldn't be the one waiting for a letter that wasn't lost in the post, or delayed with an owl gone off course, or fallen down behind the headmasters desk and missed the despatch…
Her son would not be left behind, because he'd never want to go at all.
Grateful to her husband, she reached to hug him, and Vernon hugged her back, glad the moment of upset had past. It was annoying having the child dumped on them like that, but if it made Petunia happy they would find a way to deal with it somehow.
Nobody thought to hug Harry.