Harry stood at the post office, reading the letter in his hands for the second time. He kept a box for his Muggle relatives, among other business. Most of the time, the mail was rubbish. But today, the notice in his hands was important.
It had been years since he heard from them, years since he had married, had children, and gotten on in life. Years passed, but the letter in his hand was different. It was in bold scrawl and he was fortunate to be able to read it. The penmanship was terrible, but the words underneath the scribble were surprising.
I don't know if this will get to you, but I wanted to tell you that Dad had a heart attack yesterday during Sunday brunch. We were at a shop in town, and he said he was feeling like rubbish all of a sudden. Then he fell to the ground. There was a bystander there. She worked on him so long, trying to keep him alive, before the ambulance got there to take him to the hospital. The guys in blue worked on him too.
Dad never woke up.
We're having the funeral on Friday, and you are welcome to come.
I know you hated him, and I understand why you left. I don't hate you. I know now that what happened was wrong.
Mum's a mess. She just sits there in the kitchen with a spot of tea getting cold then starts crying.
I'm at a loss. He's my Dad.
He never thought he'd hear from his family again. The last words that were said in person weren't delicate, eloquent, or even thoughtful. He frowned, remembering that it was like a completed business deal than saying goodbye to his family. Then again, they might be family in blood, but they weren't really his family. His real family was from a small ramshackle cottage in Devon, held together by magic and love. His family was loud, noisy, and bursting with love and acceptance. His family stood by him at his best and worst. His family loved him.
Ginny took the letter from his hands, reading quickly the note that he couldn't talk about.
"Do you want to go?"
"I don't know. I've not seen them in over ten years, and even then, it was uncomfortable. I've spoken with Dudley more often, usually around the holidays, but my Aunt and Uncle? I've talked with my Aunt twice since the day they went into hiding and my uncle once when I called looking for Dudley. I've not seen Uncle Vernon since the day they left, and I've not seen my Aunt since the day I went to tell her we got married. I don't know if they would want me to be there."
Ginny squeezed her husband's hand, finding it cold and clammy. "We should go. You're a better man than this, and you'd be doing it for your cousin, not for them."
Harry looked down at his wife. She was smiling and he knew that she was right. She usually was. "We'll go, as long as someone can watch the kids for a few hours."
"I'll see to it, either Mom and Dad or Fleur. Someone can keep them while we go."
Harry nodded, holding the letter in his hand. "Do you think I should reply, or just show up?"
"I think just showing up will be enough. It's not like we'll be there to make a scene as The Boy who lived. You'll be Just Harry."
Harry took the letter back, scanning it for the pertinent information. It was enclosed in a notice in the bottom, with date and location. Taking a day off wouldn't be a problem. He had plenty of time accrued at work.
"You think that Ron and Hermione should come too?"
"I don't see why not. They know everything, and I am sure they would like to be there for you as well."
Harry nodded. "How should I dress?"
Ginny smiled. "I'll have you something nice to wear for the day. You won't look remiss."
Harry stood in front of the mirror of his bedroom, adjusting the tie on his neck. Ginny had gone into London to the shop that she frequented for him, and purchased a new suit, in dark blue with a hint of red stripe in it. He agreed – he looked sharp in it. The red tie looked dapper, the folded red pocket matched well, and his polished dress shoes were buffed to perfection. He stole a glance, and saw his wife leaning in the doorway of their home. She was smiling.
"I look like a stuffy ponce in this."
"Rubbish Harry. You look like a businessman and a respectable one at that. We'll blend in nicely at the funeral. No one will know, save Dudley and your aunt about who you are."
He nodded, adjusting his tie once more before turning to his wife. She always did his final inspection when they had a function to attend. She walked up to him and checked his tie, his cuffs, his collars and his shoulders.
Harry looked down on his wife, wearing a complimentary merlot red dress. Her modest attire and heels looked good on her. She stepped back and looked him up and down. "You're ready."
Harry nodded, and they made their way to the fireplace. They would travel to Grimmauld Place, which he kept now as a city home. In the garage was an auto they kept for city travel when they had to blend in as Muggles. They walked out the back door of their city home to the carport. Harry opened the door of the three year old Mercedes, and watched his wife slide her shapely legs in before sitting down. She smiled, and he returned it.
He thought it was pretentious to keep such a vehicle stored, but the years in passing helped him understand his wife's insistence that they keep one for appearances. Cardiff was too far to drive today, not after bundling the kids off to their parents earlier in the morning. He had occasion to use it for work as well, going undercover on assignment.
An hour later they were pulling up to the address listed on the paper. It was a small set of buildings, brick and wood façade on the front. He pulled into the drive going into the back of the building and saw few cars in the back.
"I wonder where everyone is."
"Maybe we're early Harry. The paper did say for 11 A.M."
"But it's half ten. Maybe we went to the wrong place."
"No, we're at the right place."
Harry frowned. "Fine, let's go in."
They stepped out into the chilly morning air. A quick walk from the back parking lot to the front of the build and they were quickly inside the business. It wasn't pretentious, but cozy. They hadn't attended many funerals since the first two weeks of May so many years ago, but most were Muggle trappings that he needed to attend. This was different, not as cold. It surprised him.
"Good morning. My name is Mr. Hopkins. How may I assist you this morning?"
Harry shook his hand, finding him charming yet professional. "We're here for Vernon Dursley."
The funeral director plastered his smile on further before turning heel to walk further back into the building. They passed by various closed doors, some with signs on them and others unadorned. The set of double doors in the back were open, with a small stand out front with an open book. Harry and Ginny looked down and saw no names written in it yet.
The couple shared a look. Harry fiercely guarded their residence outside of Cardiff. Few knew of it outside of the family. It was better guarded and warded that Gringotts or Hogwarts. Harry's break-ins at both proved that. Ginny nodded and took the ink pen from the holder to sign their names into the book. Harry watched her sign their names, one under another, along with their Muggle post address. The city address would suffice.
They stepped in the closed doors to the small chapel which had various upright chairs and many flower arrangements.
"Where is everyone?" Ginny asked quietly.
"I don't know. I thought more people would be here."
They stood in the doorway of the room and watched while the director went to the grey haired woman sitting up front by the casket. Harry saw Dudley there next to her and knew who she was. She had changed dramatically. The years hadn't been kind at all.
She turned and her eyes grew as large as a house elf's. The two men flanking her helped her to her feet while she toddled on their arms, supporting her. He had grown in the intervening years, and now looked down upon his Aunt. She was ashen, shadowed around the eyes, and couldn't look upon her nephew.
Harry turned to his cousin, and gripped his hand warmly. "Dudley."
"Harry. I'm glad you could come."
"You remember my wife Ginny."
Dudley leaned over and kissed her chastely on the cheek. "It's always a pleasure to see you Ginny."
Ginny smiled politely back. "It would be better under different circumstances."
Harry interjected. "Where is everyone Dudley? I thought there would be more people here."
"There will be for the funeral. It doesn't start until half eleven."
"Then why did your letter say eleven?"
Dudley blushed slightly. "We wanted to talk a little before getting started. You are family, and the director wanted to speak with everyone."
Harry kept silent, fighting the animosity inside. A hard squeeze on his hand broke his temper. He looked, and Ginny was giving him a harsh glare. He held her look, having a fierce yet fast argument with her. He nodded, and she responded in kind.
They turned back to his Aunt, who was now looking at her nephew. The makeup she wore didn't hide the weariness or anguish on her face. Unlike the last time, he had grown into the man he wanted to be. Gone was the boy faced with an uncertain destiny. The Auror stood in front of her. He fought to hid the contempt and pity of the woman standing in front of him.
"Harry," Petunia whispered. "You came. How did you know?"
"Dudley sent me a letter earlier this week."
Petunia took his hands. They contrasted one another. Hers were frail, worn, covered in liver spots. His were strong and calloused, tidy and gentle.
His aunt nodded her head, not quite looking him in the eye. She stammered, but couldn't say anything.
"Aunt Petunia, we can talk later. Today isn't the day."
He caught a nod from his cousin and a small smile from his wife. "Yes, you're right. We should talk later."
The four of them turned to sit back down at the front set of comfortable chairs, and to talk with the director.
Harry and Ginny sat on the front row with his Aunt and cousin. Ron and Hermione sat on the next row. They took a half day from their jobs to give condolence for Harry. A few other people sat in the small chapel in the building.
He was surprised at first with the lack of people who came for the funeral. He expected many to turn out, but then realized that he was accustomed to the Wizarding world, where a funeral for a fallen Hero might turn out half of England for it. For someone less well known, such as Fred Weasley, the turnout might be around a hundred. Vernon Dursley's funeral had maybe thirty people at best. From what Dudley said, most were co-workers and neighbors, but few friends.
He wanted to smile, thinking back of the funerals he had so many years past: Remus and Tonks; Fred; even Severus, whom his younger son was named. Snape's funeral was less attended than this one, but the few who went to that held him in respect.
The director droned on but Harry didn't listen. The words washed over him, feeling the emptiness of them for the man who was being talked about. He wanted to laugh and make a showing of how terrible his uncle was, but he held his tongue. Today wasn't for him, no matter how rough and cruel his uncle had been to him growing up.
She leaned in quietly, hearing her husband in her ear. "What," she replied shortly?
"I don't want a funeral like this."
"What would you like?"
"I want a party."
"You want it today?" she smiled.
He grinned back at her. "You can kill me tonight if you want."
"Fair enough Potter. Now shut it."
He heard the drone of the director, letting the words drift through like flotsam on the surf. He thought back instead to a man who needed speaking up for, even if he had been harsh and rough and hard on him too. Instead of white hair and corpulence, he saw black lank hair, dark brown eyes, and a quiet word for him in those last moments. Instead of begging forgiveness, he only wanted solace.
The funeral that followed, attended by only a few people, and mostly for him, was quiet, somber, poignant, and humble. Years had passed but he could remember the morose words he said about the man whom he now regarded as one of the bravest he ever would know.
An epiphany hit him like a bludger to the head. He learned from all of them. Vernon Dursley was nothing compared to the giants who came into his life after he turned eleven. But he even learned from Uncle Vernon. His wisdom was most prophetic.
I should be thankful. I learned how not to parent my own kids from him. You taught me what not to do, and how not to act as a father. You taught me how to love all of my kids, not singling out any one of them. I learned how to love from Arthur and Molly, and learned so much more from the Weasleys. But you did teach me, in your own cruel way. You showed me what I never wanted to be.
Ginny's soft voice trickled into his ear. "Harry, come back to me."
Harry blinked and saw warm cinnamon eyes looking up at him. His wife knew how to get his attention.
"The director is done. We're leaving for the cemetery."
Harry nodded, taking his wife's hand on his arm as they followed his Aunt and Cousin from the parlor. He felt a hand on his shoulder and another arm slide on his left. His best friends were there, helping him like always.
"Harry, are you OK?"
Harry turned to his sister on his left. "I am. I'm thankful that I learned some lessons from Uncle Vernon. I learned how not to be a man like him."
A/N: This story was prompted by the unfortunate passing of Richard Griffiths, who portrayed Uncle Vernon in the movies. I hope I have done the post-book lines justice. - DG