"What do you suggest we do with him?"
"How should I know? He's your blasted nephew, Petunia!"
Both Vernon and Petunia Dursley loved to complain about everything under the sun, so this was more than normal occurrence at Number Four Privet Drive. So normal in fact that the Dursleys' young son Dudley only averted his eyes from the television screen to turn up the volume on his show. None of the three gave a thought to the little boy washing supper dishes a few rooms away, leaving Harry Potter, the Dursleys' five-year-old nephew and ward, in the perfect position to eavesdrop.
From what Harry could gather between the roaring television and his cousin's noisy snacking, one of Aunt Marge's dogs had littered the night before and she absolutely refused to leave her precious darlings in order to babysit Harry. This suited Harry just fine because Marge (who was not his biological aunt at all) was a horrible woman. The Dursleys, on the other hand, were in quite a predicament, they knew of no other places to unload the Potter brat while they took Dudley and his little friends to the funfair.
"What about that Figg woman?" shouted Uncle Vernon in a burst of inspiration, "she could watch the boy!"
"She can," Aunt Petunia agreed. "But the old bat won't. Not after what happened last time!"
Harry distinctly remembered "last time'" He swore—even after a severe beating from Uncle Vernon—that he had only been rifling through the drawers for a bit of paper to draw on. Instead, he found a crumpled old envelope. It was a letter from someone named Kwikspell informing Mrs. Figg that the program they created was not designed to aid people called Squibs. Harry, who had only begun to read a few months prior, inquired about the strange sounding words and was told crossly "children were to be seen, not heard."
"Quite right," grumbled Uncle Vernon in agreement. "Although I thought she knew the boy was a gibberish-muttering freak. I suppose he'll have to come along then."
Harry's little heart leaped at this unexpected good fortune. For the first time in his miserable life on Number Four Privet Drive, Harry had reason to hope that Dudley's birthday held more promise than the beating he always endured.
Dudley tried valiantly to change his parents' minds. He'd screamed, hit his father upside the head and had even gone so far as to kick a hole through the television screen but for once, his toddler-like tantrums made no apparent difference.
The next morning, breakfast, which was usually filled by Dudley's whining and Vernon's boisterous complaints, was a quiet and sulky affair. Harry was too excited to enjoy the refreshing quiet. Instead, he shoveled down his porridge and gazed around the table certain an order was coming his way.
"What on earth are you staring at?" asked Aunt Petunia when she caught his eye. "If you're coming along you'd best get dressed. In proper clothes, mind you! I won't going out in public with a ragamuffin."
"But the dishes," Harry protested.
"I will clear them today," Petunia sighed. Here she was trying to do something nice and the child was giving her cheek.
Too good to be true!
"Where are your manners?" hissed Uncle Vernon, as the boy jumped lightly from his chair.
"Thank you, auntie," responded Harry before running off.
Neither of Harry's guardians had improved their mood by the time he squeezed into the backseat of the family car. "Stop that fidgeting boy!" Uncle Vernon ordered, looking at him in his rearview mirror. "Can't you sit properly?"
"I'm trying to see the first carnival tents," Harry explained from his seat between his cousin and some of Dudley's equally massive friends.
"You'll see them soon enough!" he grumbled, and a few minutes later announced their arrival.
" Oi! Out of the way, Scar Head!" Dudley shouted. He shoved Harry forward causing the boy to overbalance and tumble headlong out of the car.
Harry quickly righted himself, staring in amazement. Everywhere he looked there was an attraction: a tall wheel that went round and round high above the rest of the festivities dominated one corner, a glowing carousel the other. Lining the middle, there were several game booths each with proprietors who had to advertise using bullhorns and megaphones to be heard over the excited din.
"Have you ever been to the carnival before? " laughed a lady vendor who gave each boy (including Harry because Vernon couldn't get him away fast enough) a towering cotton candy. Harry had never seen anything so good in his life and had difficulty not shoveling it all in his mouth at once. The vendor frowned at his starved, thin appearance.
"We're going on rides now!" said Dudley pulling his mother away from the stand.
"Which ones, darling?" Aunt Petunia simpered.
"The tilt-a-whirl!" shouted Harry, his tongue already an electric blue color.
"Mummy," Dudley whined. "You said if I let him come, I could pick all the rides I wanted! You promised not to let him ruin my birthday!"
"Hush, darling," said Aunt Petunia before shooting Harry a withering look. "You don't qualify for the minimum height, and anyway this isn't your outing is it? Is it Harry?"
"No," the boy muttered his stomach tightening, as Dudley shot him a triumphant grin.
"And you remember that! See how Mummy handled him, darling? All better now?"
Dudley screwed up his face again and forced a sniff. "I s—suppose so."
"Why don't we go on the carousel?" his mother suggested. "Mummy will take your picture riding a pretty horse. Come, Harry."
Realizing he was already in enough trouble, Harry followed obediently. He knew his aunt was right of course, what rides would they let him on when he stood as tall as they average four-year-old? On his tiptoes.
An entire roll of film later, Dudley dropped what had become a rather fixed smile, declaring that the ride had become overrun with younger children. Uncle Vernon made a big show of negotiating with (or rather yelling at) the frightened ride operator, and Harry was able to slip away from the Dursleys unnoticed. A trio of rather tall boys was holding up the line for the last booth. It was a leather thing that Harry assumed people sat on although he couldn't see why
"This is where size comes in handy," he decided as he weaved through legs. Soon he was close enough to hear what the boys were saying.
"You're going to get us in trouble, you know," said the smallest one.
"About as old as Dudley," Harry thought to himself but that's where the similarities ended, for while his cousin was quite wide, this boy was lean, as though he had been stretched out.
His companions (and brothers from the looks of it) laughed. "Why? We aren't doing anything wrong," said one.
"Trying to see how the Muggles work this thing is all," remarked the other. Harry wanted to ask what "Muggles" were, but if these boys were the smallest bit like his relatives they would hate being asked questions.
" Fred, Percy's going to see you."
"Come on, Ron, he's Percy, not the Minister!"
"Fine, I'll just tell Mother then," threatened a cool voice. This Percy had his chest puffed out importantly reminding Harry of a ten-year-old gorilla.
"You wouldn't really—er—would you son?" stammered their father. "Don't want your mother knowing I went to a Muggle funfair, let alone that I took the lot of you with me."
There's that word again thought Harry. He was about to make his presence known to the family when Percy bent down. A small girl had pulled on his robes. What strange robes they were, too.
"What've you got there, Ginny?" Percy asked, in a kinder voice than he had used previously.
She shook her head, giggling and put another piece into her mouth. "I don't know what it's called," their father replied. "But I paid for it with their money." He seemed to think this was quite clever, and his kind laugh put Harry at ease.
"Would you like some cotton candy for a bit of your popcorn," he asked quietly.
"So this is 'popcorn' is it," the balding man asked stroking his chin. "Interesting."
Harry looked puzzled but nodded. "And this is cotton candy," he held it out to the girl who looked at it nervously. "Eat it, it turns your tongue blue, see?" Harry stuck his out and wagged it, but soon felt a sharp tug on his collar.
"There you are…your and aunt and I…looking all over this place!" snarled Uncle Vernon, although Harry somewhat doubted the Dursleys had looked for him at all. Catching a glimpse of the family, Vernon rolled his eyes thinking they must be carnival folk and continued to rage at Harry "When I get through with you more than that tongue of yours is going to be blue. Perhaps I may even add a few other colors as well, are we clear boy?"
The balding man cleared his throat. "Excuse me," he said, trying to keep the anger out of his voice. "I didn't catch your nephew's name, but I'm quite sure it is not 'Boy'!"
Uncle Vernon looked like a deer caught in the headlights but quickly composed himself. "I see, and what would your name be?"
"Arthur Weasley!" the man replied.
"Ahem…well Mr. Weebleby
"Weasley," corrected Arthur coldly. "And might I suggest you look after your own son?"
Mr. Weasley's arm made the slightest flick and Harry distinctly heard a neigh. There was a scream, which could only belong to Aunt Petunia as Dudley's carousel horse—now quite alive began to gallop away—with him on it!
Uncle Vernon howled, while the Weasley boys screamed with laughter. Even Harry managed a small smile
"Thank you, sir," he whispered.
He smiled sadly. "Don't mention it. Now I don't believe I ever did catch your name, son?"
"It's Harry. Harry Potter."