Harry Potter and the Reluctantly Paternal Uncle
A/N: Concept: Vernon and Harry get along. Chance of successfully completing story: moderate to strong. Interest in continuing story: high. Likelihood of next chapter being shot out as soon as I receive five or so reviews? Astronomically high. R/R! :D
Chapter One: Mixed Drinks
It was early in the morning on the first day of November, 1981, that the Dursleys' lives changed forever. It happened when a one-hundred-forty-something-year-old wizard dropped a baby off on their front porch.
For six years, Harry was the object of his relatives' disgust and disdain. For six years they pretended he didn't exist, locked him in his cupboard for the least of transgressions, and blatantly favored his cousin—their son—over him in any situation they could think of. Suddenly and inexplicably, Vernon suggested to his wife that they begin treating the boy with some dignity. He claimed he was concerned the boy would complain at school, and he didn't want the drama. Petunia, ever attentive to her husband's whims, took to ignoring the boy.
The years since then had changed the Dursley home—albeit not much. Ten years ago, the mantelpiece above the electric fireplace had featured a series of pictures of a fat, pink baby in various outfits his mother had forced him into. Now, the frames were the same but the series of pictures showcased a fat, pink eleven-year-old boy riding a carousel with his mother (in outfits she had forced him into) and in another eating a large hamburger while his father looked on. Almost forgotten, on the very edge of the mantelpiece, partially hidden by a votive candle in a small (but tasteful) dish, was a picture of a dark-haired boy in a pair of oval, wire-rimmed eyeglasses sitting next to his uncle on the sitting room sofa.
Harry Potter. Always partially hidden. Outshone by his cousin's normalcy, his cousin's bulk, his cousin's whims. However, unbeknownst to his cousin Dudley and his Aunt Petunia, Vernon liked a nightcap. A nightly nightcap. Brandy on Tuesdays and Thursdays, vodka and tonic on Fridays, whisky and coke on Saturdays.
One night, after his seventh birthday had come and passed, Harry was waiting for Vernon when the man sneaked downstairs. He had already mixed the drink. Vernon tried it, his eyes lit up, and a shaky partnership was born.
Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays his uncle had taken to drinking Bloody Marys. It wasn't that he'd had a particular affinity for them, but Dudley wouldn't drink tomato juice even if it asked him nicely and Vernon still had half a case of vodka left from the Grunnings Christmas party last year. One evening, feeling jocular, he had actually suggested Harry become a bartender after one of these specialties. Then he remembered that he was supposed to hate the boy.
Despite the necessity for his dislike, he found that the boy was actually strangely engaging—at least for a seven-year-old. It was at this time that he suggested to Petunia that Harry's treatment at their hands improve. If Vernon had known that the boy was carefully monitoring his moods and mixing the drinks accordingly, he would have been furious. Vernon was a bit daft, however, and not good at judging the alcoholic content of a drink until he had emptied half the glass. By half a glass, he could almost forget Harry was one of them. By a full glass, Harry might as well have been a peer. The boy was always attentive, thoughtful in his responses, and polite.
Harry had discovered his uncle's weakness for a good stiff drink at the age of seven. By the age of ten he was expertly mixing the four drinks his uncle preferred, although he'd experimented with a few others. The trick was to get Uncle Vernon an extra-large glass of his preferred beverage, then; "Uncle Vernon, sir, I was reading that book that I got the proportions for your whisky and coke from, and I stumbled upon something called a Royal Flush..."
Harry himself had a bit of an affinity for that particular drink. Three ounces of Crown Royal, two ounces of peach schnapps, two ounces of cranberry juice and an ounce of raspberry liqueur. One big sip for Harry, clean off the edge of the glass with his sleeve, and he'd carry it from the kitchen to the sitting room. Harry would enjoy a pleasant buzz for the rest of the evening, and Uncle Vernon would get, well, drunker.
In early March, one Friday night, Vernon and Harry were in the midst of a conversation about Vernon's new car (a black six-speed '91 BMW 850) when Vernon closed the magazine and turned to Harry, a serious expression on his face. This, of course, was no mean feat for a man who would still be too drunk to stand up for another half an hour. "Boy," he began, "do you still remember what I told you on New Year's Eve?"
Harry had been particularly morose that evening, shut up in his room (his uncle had been swayed to replace Harry's cupboard with the smaller of the two bedrooms on Harry's ninth birthday) while his aunt hosted a costume party. There was a knock on his door about ten minutes before he estimated the guests would arrive. Vernon entered the room and set a paper bag down inside the door.
"I've told your aunt that one of the guests arrived early and was using the upstairs lavatory. I made it quite clear she was to stay downstairs, and I'd make sure you were quiet this evening." Vernon hesitated, fidgeted, then steeled himself. "While I hate to admit it, I've been wrong about you, boy. You're... you're not a freak. I admit you're abnormal, but in your world, well..." he paused here, uncertain of how to proceed. "You've shown respect and obedience to your aunt and I, and you are very detail-oriented when it comes to your chores. You exhibit patience and tact, and are nothing short of any parent's dream. Well, except the freaky stuff, but..." he paused again. "There's a costume in the bag." He gave Harry a stern look. "You had laryngitis and you can't speak. If you must speak, try to sound like you're sick."
Harry calmed himself so that he didn't accidentally animate one of Dudley's toys in his glee—the toys were still stored in the room despite his residence there—nodded his head slowly, and waited until his uncle had closed the door to tear into the bag. Inside he found a pair of leggings, a comical mask, a jester's hat, and a tunic. There was also a pair of strange shoes with curled toes topped with a single bell. As Harry hurriedly dressed, he vaguely hoped this costume fit into the theme of the party. As he came downstairs, his Aunt squawked in surprise.
"What an adorable costume," she simpered. "And to think I missed you coming in." When Harry said nothing, she started. "Oh, Nicholas, I'm so sorry, Vernon did say you'd had laryngitis."
"Yes, ma'am," Harry rasped.
"And so polite," she cooed. She paused. "You're not still contagious, are you?"
"No, ma'am," he squawked.
She winced. "That's good. All the same, between us, would you mind keeping the mask on this evening? There are some important people from my husband's line of work coming for the party and I wouldn't want to make them uncomfortable."
"Of course, ma'am," Harry growled, trying to make it sound like a lot of effort.
Petunia winced. "How about we tell them you're mute, yes, that'll do... have you ever played Charades?" Harry hadn't, but he'd watched his aunt and uncle play with his cousin. It was a remarkably simple game, the type that had dominated Dudley's childhood until he discovered video games. He nodded. "We'll tell them they have to guess what you're trying to tell them. How does that sound, dear?" Harry bobbed his head up and down, trying to look encouraging. It must have worked. Petunia kissed him on top of his head, then Vernon showed up and chivvied "Nicholas" along to "meet" Dudley and Piers Polkiss.
The party was a great success. Vernon landed two contracts that evening, Petunia handed out three copies of her fudge recipe, and Dudley and Piers managed to sneak half a bottle of rum outside. It was eye-opening for Harry as well. He began to learn that while asserting his personality quietly was the best way to deal with his relatives, other people tended to be open to different approaches. He stored away this information for later as he was rarely around other people. His uncle took Harry's happiness at being allowed this reward as an indication that the boy would probably respond well to reward-based incentives in the future.
Harry, for his part, remained quiet and respectful; paid attention to his studies; finished his chores as quickly as possible; and continued mixing his uncle's drinks at ten every evening.
"Yes, sir," Harry said. "Quite well, actually. Remember when Piers threw up on Dudley about two minutes after the last guest left?"
Vernon suppressed a smirk. "Remember when your aunt found the costume?"
"You told her that Nicholas left it for Dudley, and Dudley tried it on, and ripped it in half." Harry giggled quietly. "Dudley's far more... bulky than I am, I'm surprised he even tried it on."
"I was really thinking more of the conversation we had before the party," Vernon said, waging an internal war over whether he should laugh at the memory or scold Harry for insinuating his son actually weighed a bit more than his wife's conservative estimates.
"Where you complimented me about five times in the same conversation?" Harry nodded. "I about had a heart attack."
Vernon nodded. "Well, I need a promise from you, and I'll give you something in return."
"So you let me go to the party because the way I act is the way you like me to act, right?" Harry asked. Vernon nodded. "And if I make this promise to you, then you'll tell me what really happened to my parents?"
Vernon would have been shocked at the audacity of the request if he had been sober. However, Harry had mixed him three large drinks this evening, and the smooth way in which Harry had interjected had him convinced that he'd just offered that proposition himself. "Well, yes, I suppose," he said slowly. "I need you to promise that you will never tell your Aunt Petunia about..." he motioned to the empty glasses.
Harry tilted his head at his uncle, confused. "Why would I talk to Aunt Petunia, sir?" he asked.
"I mean if she ever asks you," Vernon clarified.
"So you want me to lie?" Harry asked. "You told me to never lie."
"I told you to never lie to me. Remember, boy, women want you to lie to them. Their hair looks wonderful, their clothing fits perfectly, their makeup is just right..." he paused. No need to turn the boy off women for good. "A little lie here and there is not going to hurt anyone, and we both actually stand to benefit from it."
"Because you don't get in trouble and I get to hear what happened to my parents," Harry said slowly.
Harry extended one small, pale hand. "Deal, Uncle Vernon. I promise not to tell Aunt Petunia about your drinks."
Vernon cringed inwardly, but accepted the boy's handshake. "Your parents were..." Vernon took a deep breath. "Boy, go mix me another vodka and tonic." Vernon picked up a legal pad and a pen, and began hastily composing a list. "Heavy on the vodka."
When the letter arrived, Harry stowed it inside the pocket of his jeans and turned the rest of the mail over to his Uncle, who raised an eyebrow at him. He nodded, and his uncle returned to his breakfast. After breakfast, Vernon typed up an answer to the letter and sealed it in an envelope. The owl sitting on the brass railing on their front porch turned expectantly toward Harry as he pushed open the storm door. Harry proffered the letter, and the owl hooted derisively. The boy cocked his head at the bird, then noticed the leg extended to him. With trepidation, he slowly and carefully rolled up the envelope and placed it in the owl's talons.
The owl hooted at him, took flight, and the boy went back inside. "Your Aunt is at a spa for the day, Dudley is in London with my sister, and we have some shopping to do." Vernon narrowed his eyes at the boy. "I hate shopping. You will quickly acquire the items on the list, in the sizes listed, and you will not check price tags. I am a fairly wealthy man." His tone brokered no room for argument. "Am I understood?"
"Yes, Uncle Vernon." Harry was nearly vibrating with excitement.
"You will do the rest of your shopping with a Professor McGonagall, who will be meeting you at the park tomorrow morning at nine sharp. I do not want to talk to her. I do not want to see her. I do not want to hear her. And when you come back tomorrow night, you will have the trunk that I will buy for you today, and none of your... things... will be visible. Your aunt has been made aware of the situation and she will be expecting you home to make dinner." Vernon seemed to be doing some more of the soul-searching he indulged in whenever he was talking about magic. "You will ask her to... shrink... your supplies. You will carry them in your pocket and you will not speak of them or use them until after you have left. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Uncle Vernon."
His uncle seemed to notice that he was unnerving the boy, so he decided on another tactic. "Now that that has been taken care of, let's go get you some proper clothing. Don't need you looking scruffy when you get to school."
At the end of the day, Harry had been properly outfitted with enough clothing that Vernon had to carry the trunk so Harry could manage the bags. They managed to get everything inside, de-tagged, folded, and either put in the unused dresser or the closet. Harry's old clothing went out with the garbage. By the time he'd wrestled the bag out to the curb and made his way back inside, he had fifteen minutes to start dinner.
"What am I supposed to make this evening, Uncle Vernon?" Harry queried.
"Just drinks," Vernon replied, eyes fixed on the TV screen. "Pizza's on the way. Petunia and Dudders are staying at Marge's this evening, didn't I tell you?"
Harry's eyes grew large. Pizza? He was going to eat pizza? He felt strangely accepted by his uncle, and hoped desperately that nothing would shatter this illusion. He carefully mixed his uncle a large Bloody Mary and poured himself a glass of cranberry juice. He thought about it for a moment, then added a few splashes of vodka. As he capped the bottle, his uncle came into the room. "Boy?"
"I wouldn't tell your aunt or cousin about this either," he said.
"Of course not," he blurted, then gave an apologetic grin.
"While I thought the pizza might have been incentive enough, talk to that... Professor... of yours tomorrow and see if she can't find you a book that fills you in on the basic details of life in... her world." Vernon gave him a piercing stare. "I would suggest you hide it as soon as you get home. Do. Not. Let. Your. Aunt. See. It."
"Yes, Uncle Vernon."
Uncle Vernon harrumphed, then looked sheepish. "Is that mine?" he asked, gesturing toward the Bloody Mary.
"Oh! Yes! I took some cranberry juice, is that alright?"
"I don't care about the juice," Vernon said, turning his back on Harry as the doorbell rang. "But you might want to be careful with the vodka. They say on the telly that alcohol can stunt your growth."
Harry's jaw dropped. "But... you... how long..." He snatched up his glass and, careful not to spill any juice on Petunia's clean carpets, made his way into the living room. He watched as Vernon maneuvered two pizza boxes into the living room. Outside, Harry heard a scooter pull away from the curb. "How did you know?"
"I can read, too," Vernon said. "I know the recipes in that book. I just can't mix the drinks like you can. I know how much is supposed to be in them, and each of my glasses have the measurements marked on the outside."
"You're not angry?"
Vernon folded a slice of pizza in half and crammed it entirely into his mouth. "Be a ruddy hypocrite if I was, wouldn't I?"