Disclaimer: I own nothing; it all belongs to J.K. Rowling. I'm just borrowing the characters to play with for a while. This is for pleasure only, no profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Mrs. Petunia Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, pursed her thin lips as she stared at the plaid ribbon adorning the wreath of holly and pine she'd hung from her impeccable white front door. The thin silver pair of shears she clutched in her right hand opened and closed as she glared at the uncooperative bow.
Petunia cast a critical eye at the ribbon. She had cut it several times in an effort to get it to hang exactly even, and now the ends appeared too short. She was certain the salesman who'd sold her the wreath had gypped her when cutting the length of ribbon in the first place.
Glancing out of the corner of her eye, she could see the perfectly trimmed bow on the door of number six fluttering in the chilly breeze. She squinted slightly to get a better look and was certain that her neighbor had bought a ribbon trimmed with gold thread this year just to outdo her.
Pulling the wreath from the door, she went back inside, planning on returning the entire wreath and giving that smarmy salesman a piece of her mind. She'd have to find a bigger, more elaborate bow from another shop.
Casting an apprising eye around her spotless sitting room, she sighed with satisfaction over the Christmas decorations she'd hung. Tasteful and not overdone, she thought approvingly. Her Diddy-dinkums was due home from Smeltings the next day, and she wanted everything to be perfect for her darling boy.
They'd been forced to be away last Christmas because of that nonsense, and she wanted a greeting-card holiday this year to erase all those unpleasant memories. For a brief moment, her mind wandered back to that farewell with her nephew over a year ago before she firmly squashed it from her mind. No need to be thinking about him at Christmastime.
Christmas was for joyous family gatherings.
Petunia twisted her lips, a shadow crossing her eyes for the briefest of moments, before tossing her nose in the air and continuing the inspection of her home. Dudley had been so kind and wonderful that day they'd been forced to flee their home. Such a gracious young man! She'd been so proud.
Of course, perhaps something abnormal had been done to her Dudley while they'd been shut in that abhorrent hideaway. He had brought up his cousin, and what they supposed might be happening to him, an inordinate number of times – as if he'd actually cared.
Petunia shook herself again. No. Dudley was fine. They hadn't had a word from that other one since they'd been released from their safe house. They'd been told that…that…that he had been successful and that the evil one had been vanquished. Of course, he'd never once bothered to come check on them, had he? After all they'd done for him? He couldn't be bothered to check on their wellbeing.
The fact that she'd informed that Jones woman that he was by no means allowed to ever set foot in her house again was inconsequential. Ungrateful brat.
Petunia scrubbed furiously at the kitchen counters, her indignation swelling as it always did when her thoughts turned to her nephew and the way her family had been burdened with his care. They'd given him food and shelter for sixteen years, without recompense or the slightest bit of thanks. No, Petunia was glad to be rid of him.
Her conscience twinged slightly as the image of her sister's red pigtails fluttered through her mind before she could firmly squash it out. She hadn't wanted or needed a sister, and she certainly shouldn't have been expected to care for that sister's offspring after her own carelessness had cost her her life. Petunia was always left to clean up Lily's messes. She'd given the boy more than anyone should have expected of her. She'd had her own son to care for, after all.
Craning her neck to be sure Vernon hadn't yet returned from work, Petunia took a small nip of the sherry she'd tucked way in the back of her spotless refrigerator. Just a nip to help calm her nerves. It was the holidays.
As she prepared the evening meal, her thoughts continued to hover where they frequently did – on her beloved Diddy.
He'd been a bit…odd since they'd returned from the safe house, but at least he hadn't brought up his cousin again. He'd returned to school for his final year this past September, and Petunia had been anxiously counting the days until he'd return again for the holidays.
She'd been shocked and appalled when she'd received his letter asking to spend part of the Christmas holidays away – with a girl! Of course, Petunia had denied his request and told him in no uncertain terms that he was expected home for Christmas. She'd never had the need to be stern with her son before, so she was certain the tone of her letter must have taken him back. She was certain this girl must be a bad influence.
Still, he'd said he'd be home for Christmas as usual.
Petunia didn't know who this Deidre was, but she was certain she wasn't good enough for Diddy. She suspected the girl would probably prove to be some nasty little gold digger who wanted to attach herself to an up-and-coming young professional like Dudley. Already she was trying to gain control by telling him where to spend the holidays – trying to get him to spend the time with her family instead of his own.
Well, Deidre was in for quite a shock if she thought Petunia would allow just any girl to sink her claws into her son. Petunia was on to her little games.
Realizing her hands were shaking with suppressed anger, she poured another glass of sherry and shoved her casserole into the oven.
She couldn't help but wonder when Dudley had met Deidre and why she hadn't heard about this girl before. Certainly he couldn't have been seeing her for very long or Petunia would know about it, and if he hadn't known her for very long, why did he want to spend part of his holiday with her?
Petunia continued to worry the details in her mind. She hadn't seen her boy in months and didn't like the idea of sharing him with some strange girl who couldn't possibly comprehend how special her Dudley was.
Hearing the front door open, Petunia quickly downed the last of her sherry, rinsed her glass and left it in the sink as she hurried to greet Vernon.
She scurried into the hall, kissing him on the cheek as he put his briefcase in its proper place next to the door. His suit was rumpled and stretched just a bit too tight across his middle. She'd have to go out and purchase him some new ones. A year's worth of sitting around in hiding with little to occupy their time hadn't done much for their health, Petunia thought sourly.
"Afternoon, Petunia. What's for dinner?" Vernon asked, his jowls quivering slightly when he spoke.
"I've a casserole in the oven. It's almost ready. How was your day?" she asked, taking his coat and hanging it in the wardrobe.
"I think I've got a big order coming in. Should arrive any day now," Vernon said, puffing his chest. He moved into the sitting room and sat in his customary chair to unfold the evening paper. The chair groaned as his weight sank into it.
Petunia pursed her lips. Vernon hadn't really had a big order since they'd returned from hiding. He seemed to have trouble getting back into the swing of things, but he got very tetchy if Petunia commented on it, so she chose to let it go for now. She didn't have the energy to worry about anything else but Dudley at the moment.
They shared their meal in silence, watching the evening news on the television in the kitchen, the one she'd bought for Dudley several years ago. When Dudley was away, she and Vernon didn't find much need for conversation. Petunia liked to think it was because they knew each other well enough not to need words.
As they settled down to bed that night, after pecking one another on the cheek, Petunia's mind was filled with disturbing thoughts of Dudley bringing that Deidre home to meet them. She shuddered as she rolled over to turn out the light.
She wasn't certain how much later it was, but she didn't feel as if she'd slept very long when the sound of shattering glass filled her room. Her heart pounded as she sat bolt upright in bed, clutching the bed covers close to her chest. The room was filled with an eerie glow, and Petunia was certain her eyes were playing tricks on her. Vernon's snores continued as she furiously wiped at her eyes, refusing to believe what she saw.
Trembling, she slowly pulled her hands from her eyes, opening them to stare at the ghostly image of her long-dead sister.