AN: My update schedule isn't the most consistent, but I am still trying to put out at least a chapter a month. Any new chapter will be posted on a Wednessday morning EST.
I own nothing of Harry Potter, I'm just working with J.K. Rowling's characters and world (with a few characters of my own).
1 Nov, 1981
Vernon Dursley took a sip of his tea as he watched the evening news on the telly, wincing slightly at the overly sweet taste of the weight drops his wife had put in it, but happy that his neck was finally distinguishable from the rest of his torso. Petunia had almost spilled some of it while handing it to him, something on the news about owls flying around in daylight and freak shooting stars all over London had spooked her. As soon as he'd taken the cup she turned and sped to the back, shouting about her roses needing a little extra fertilizer.
"Maybe owls are bad for roses?" Vernon muttered to himself as the newsman continued his story of many groups of strange people in robes gathering and celebrating in pubs in many British cities. Robes? Like bathrobes? In public? Nutters should be locked up, no need for that freakish nonsense in proper society.
Five minutes later he still hadn't heard Petunia return from her garden and decided to put his cup by the sink and go help her shoo the owls. Vernon stopped as he went to open the door to the kitchen, on the other side he could hear Petunia softly sobbing. Was her garden ruined before she got out? I would have thought I'd hear her screaming then…
"Petunia dear, whats…" Vernon started as he opened the door but trailed off in shock. He hadn't seen his wife like this since her parents died right after they started dating, but she didn't have any more close family or anything like that. Did she? She looked up at him from the counter, her face blotchy and red from tears she was trying desperately to keep quiet. Vernon spied a large glass of iced drink in front of her and grabbed it.
"Pet, a soda before bed isn't the best idea." As he picked it up the smell hit him. Brandy, and not a drop else. "What's the matter dear? Did those owls ruin your garden? Was there a rat out there or something?" He asked as he put his hand on his wife's back.
"SHE'S DEAD VERNON!" Petunia wailed, sputtering into his chest as she held him for support, all hope of holding it in abandoned, "THEY'RE DEAD! Both of them…they're… and he's…" Dudley began crying in the background after a moment, woken by his mother's frantic shouting, Petunia took a moment to calm herself before stoically heading upstairs to get him, leaving a stunned, confused Vernon behind.
In her absence, Vernon had time to finish taking stock of his surroundings. It wasn't hard to spot what was wrong, "We don't pay for the sunday papers..." Vernon may not; but it seemed Petunia did, Special Edition of the Sunday Prophet the paper said, "Prophet? Could they mean Profit?" He mused aloud, "What kind of hack paper is getting my wife so worked up, is it from a soap opera? I didn't think she'd be into something abnormal like horoscopes." He got his answer when he looked at the top headline: Wizarding World Saved: You-Know-Who defeated by Boy-Who-Lived!
Wizarding world? You-Know-Who? What the blazes?
But it became clearer as he read, James and Lily Potter killed… One-year-old son miraculously survived… Oh no, Vernon realized, They're dead, she'd screamed, both of them. Petunia never talked about her sister, she told Vernon while they were dating that Lily Evans was a layabout who'd gotten hitched to a rich heir that was drinking his fortune away. But what the hell was this paper talking about, Wizards? The article called James Potter an 'Auror', and Vernon could tell from the context that that was some kind of bobby… or maybe a soldier? "Defeated and captured numerous Death Eaters in the line of duty?" He muttered, was this man some kind of war hero?
Petunia returned to the kitchen, clutching to a now quietly sleeping Dudley like a lifeline, as Vernon read the article for a second time. He hadn't even noticed the pictures the first time, but there was no denying that they were moving. Like looped footage on the telly, a group of robed men were walking around a blown-out house, smoke streaming from a hole blasted out of the second floor directing others to bag items on the ground before it looped. Vernon took a sip of Petunia's brandy for himself.
The Lord and Lady Potter are survived by their son, Harry (1). When approached by journalists for the Prophet on his way to Gringotts Bank, Chief Warlock Albus Dumbledore promised to make an official statement at a later date, but told Prophet journalists that the child, who the public has dubbed 'The-Boy-Who-Lived' for his miraculous survival of the Killing Curse cast by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, has been moved to a safe location to protect him from remaining Death Eaters.
Vernon and Petunia talked for an hour about the truth of her sister, Lily. When the newsman on the telly added a gas explosion in Godric's Hollow to his late-night cycle, a new bout of crying started up from from Petunia. At first, Vernon was worried that she would bring her family's freakishness into the house now that this terrorist wasn't going around attacking people related to the normal world. He was quickly disabused of that notion when she told him that they had been using magic for almost three years without him noticing anything out of the ordinary. Creams to stop bleeding and close cuts with no scarring, pastes that heal burns and boils overnight, hair products that could make even Petunia's stringy hair the envy of the neighborhood…
His wife had been using bottled magic to make their lives easier, and passing it off as "Herbal Remedies", recipes taught by her mother, since they met. Turns out they were actually magic potions that Lily had learned about at some school for magic people. Petunia told Vernon that she was trying to protect him by keeping it from him, just like Lily protected her by estranging herself from the family before she graduated. If they had been too involved they might have been attacked by this terrorist from the news.
Vernon eventually asked her to let him sleep on this, and they'd talk more tomorrow, maybe even try to find out what this "Chief Warrock Bundeboor" planned to do with Harry. After all, it wouldn't do for Dudley not to know his cousin. Especially with as much as Petunia obviously loved and now missed her sister.
"You can't be serious, Albus! I've been watching them all day and these are the absolute worst sort of muggles imaginable! They couldn't be more different from magical kind! Their boy is a right terror too! It's quiet now, but I've only been gone for about forty-five minutes for some dinner, and the child was screaming for sweets and toys every moment he was awake." The stern looking woman angrily protested to the aged, white bearded man securing a note to the small basket in which slept the newly minted Boy-Who-Lived.
"Now Minerva, you must understand," Albus began, stopping once again to wait for Hagrid to let out an exceptionally long, loud wail for James and Lily; the silencing charm he'd put up when he first arrived all that kept the whole neighborhood from waking up, too bad he and Minerva were inside the charm area and could hear the blubbering half-giant at full volume, "Not twelve hours after the Potters were dead the Malfoys were angling to have custody of young Harry granted to them. I couldn't risk a death eater; or worse yet, another hidden death eater getting to him. Here, he can grow up safe from the dangers our world still has in it. This way he has a chance at a normal, if muggle, childhood; and in ten years when he returns to us, he will be ready to learn. The fame of this night will not have swollen his head, or worse, exposed him to the dark. I have prepared a letter explaining the situation, and why young Harry has been placed in their care. I'm sure they will care for him. After all, they are family."
"Jus don' seem righ' though Dumbledore. Leavin' James an Lily's boy wit muggles." Hagrid blubbered, for some reason using a normal sized handkerchief that looked comical in his giant hands. "I 'member Lily talkin 'bout 'er sister in sixth an seventh years, I do. She dinn't like magic, thought it were a waste of time or summat. Said they were'n talkin since Lily's parents were killed." Hagrid trailed off, his eyes pleading with Dumbledore.
"Don't worry, Hagrid. Before I leave I shall put up wards around the house such that no wizard meaning harm against young Harry can find it." Albus patted the half-giant's arm, "You should go Hagrid, you can do no more here tonight."
"Aye, guess I'll go an give Sirius 'is bike back. Awful nice o' 'im to let me borrow it to bring 'Arry to ya." Hagrid said as he turned and mounted up on the magical, flying, motorbike and drove away.
"Thats nice, Albus, but you aren't planning to leave him like that are you?" McGonagall asked, indicating where baby Harry slept in a basket on the front porch of the Dursley's home at Number 4 Privet Drive.
Albus gestured at the light switch beside the front door, "The light is still on, Minerva, so they must at least come out to turn it off. If they have already expressed a dislike of the magical world then I see no reason to invade their home at this late hour. When they go to sleep tonight they will first have to come out and turn the light off, they will find him then. In the meantime I will apply a warming charm." Minerva frowned, if they don't like magic they might not want Harry intruding in their home either, but finally nodded as she saw Albus cast the charm. Then, she turned and with a crack she disappeared.
So, Petunia Evans (what was her married name again? Digby?) doesn't like magic? Albus smiled, if they already disliked magic then they would likely resent a wizard intruding on their peace on sheer principal. Albus knew how strong prejudice could be. Pureblood families routinely hid or, in extreme cases, exiled squib children just for lacking magic, the reverse was true as well; and a muggle who breaks ties with her sister during a war will definitely not truly accept a reminder of that sister in her home. Albus decided to go one or three steps further than he promised to Minerva and Hagrid, ensuring that no part of the magical world would ever find Harry Potter or the Durley family until time for Harry to rejoin them in just under ten years. Plenty of time for an accepting Dursley family to have made him pliable and looking for an escape.
Albus Dumbledore chuckled as he returned the light he had stolen from the street lamps of Privet Drive one by one. Then, as a last act of petty spite, he doused the porch light with his deluminator and apparated away with a crack.
Vernon Dursley was rarely, ever, late; he liked living by a schedule, thank you very much. But the events of last night had kept both he and his wife in a restless, slightly drunk, sleep; and when he finally woke up it was to a pounding headache from the brandy. He was already contemplating calling in sick for the morning just to avoid the reprimand.
A half-hour later Vernon was heading out the door when he saw the last thing he could have expected, even after the shocks of last night. Sitting on his front porch was a sleeping baby in a basket, holding an envelope that looked to be made of some old-looking parchment. He swivelled his head, looking for whatever horrible parent would play a prank using their baby like this; seeing no one, he examined the child more closely.
They wouldn't? Oh God of course they would, the freaks! No, even if you're freaks you can't be so nuts that you'd go leaving a toddler outside in bloody November!
Vernon easily recognized the messy black haired baby in front of him from one of those moving photos that Petunia had pulled down from where she'd hidden it in the attic, right beside some kind of magic potion brewing station he'd somehow never seen. She said that he stored all his things in the garage, making it easy to keep from him.
The lightning bolt scar on the boy's head may be new, but this was unmistakably his nephew Harry Potter. "Oh shite." Vernon muttered, then in a louder voice, still too low to be heard by the neighbors, "Petunia, draw a warm bath, the freaks left your nephew on our bloody doorstep! The boy is likely freezing, there's only a blanket here!" As he spoke, he grabbed the basket and took it inside
At least this excuse will get me more leeway at Gunning's than a hangover, Vernon thought resignedly.
An hour later: after giving the kids a warm bath, some of Dudley's favorite pudding, and putting him both kids down for a short nap, the two elder Dursleys were trying their hardest to keep their composure reading Headmaster Albus Dumbledore's note explaining Harry's circumstances.
"No executable will? Does he think i'm bloody stupid? I know she had a will! Her husband came from old money, so I know he had to have one too! If the godfather, Potter's friend Something-or-Other Black, couldn't take him he was supposed to go to his godmother to be raised, some "Longbottom" woman Lily was friends with at school that had had a boy the same week. I think her name is Alice. She told me the very last time we spoke, when she apologized for not being able to choose me as godmother because of the war. And the reason hasn't even changed, according to him those Death Eaters are still going to be out there at least for a while." Petunia seethed, her voice still weak from sobbing the night before.
"And, not to be crass, but we already have a boy of our own! How are we supposed to take care of two with no support from his parents? Surely there must be some kind of inheritance!" Vernon immediately realized his mistake as Petunia all but hissed at him. She's so beautiful when she gets that fire in her, he thought to himself as he said, "Love, if we're going to keep the boy-"
She snorted at him, "If indeed."
"Then this may actually help. This Dumbledore fool's right that the boy shouldn't grow up with hero worship. He'll get a big head. And you saw how creepy that article was about Harry, if they're all like that he'll…" Vernon waved his hands distractedly, "I can't even begin to think what that kind of upbringing would do to one of them. But a normal boy growing up like that would be a useless layabout just like your sister was supposed to be." He held his hands up defensively as Petunia brandished her, how empty glass, glaring at him, "Now, Pet, calm down. I understand why you said what you did about them. This Potter bloke sounded like some kind of Special Forces in that news article and I understand the need for cover stories in situations like that!
But you have to see what I mean," He continued, "If we raised him otherwise we'd have to deal with all these fre-wizards poking around. He's already being given a bloody nickname by their newspaper like he's some kind of celebrity! At one year old! This way, the man's promised 'no magical persons will have any contact with you until the child is ready to return to us'. That sounds like something I can appreciate. If we're going to raise him."
Petunia's eye widened in shock, "Vernon, if he's as insane as he seems by putting Harry out there all night, he's probably not smart enough to realize that I still interact with the magical world." She sighed at the blank stare she got from her husband, "Oh seriously dear, I received the magical newspaper last night. I also have potion ingredients shipped here and convert normal pounds to their money by mail to pay for it! If no one in the magical world can find us then when I need more ingredients we are going to have to drive into London proper! Also, if that's the case, I'm going to need to go in the next couple days, Dudley needs more teething ointment. Harry will too."
Vernon gaped at just how much contact his house had with the magical world without his knowledge while Petunia took a few calming breaths as she looked at the sleeping forms of Dudley and Harry, "I don't appreciate how he seems to make it look like Harry's situation is James and Lily's fault somehow. It's so wrong and out of place, it makes me think he wanted us to resent them or something since our cover story on their side was that we had a falling out. What do you think Vernon?"
Vernon started at that, he was a very successful sales representative at Grunning's for a reason, and now that he was thinking about it this did seem like a sale. Somehow. But what would he be selling in a 'here's your penniless orphan nephew, now you have to take care of him' note?
"I think you're right, Pet. It's almost like he thought you and Lily weren't close, but then…" Why would he put the boy here if he thought that? What if he was counting on it? Petunia looked at him, watching the gears turn, "Yeah, he's the 'Chief Warlock' which, I don't know, but it sounds like maybe a government committee head or perhaps some kind of magic general or something, but also the headmaster of their school?"
How can anyone have two positions of such importance, that are that different, and exercise each of them to satisfaction? There's no way. What kind of society do they have that one man can have all that power?
"You said there was just the one school for them in the whole country right? So he should have known every single family in Britain with magic children, why did it have to be here? Those ward-shield-things sort of make sense; but really, if that school is so special why wouldn't they take him there for a time, at least until they'd found all these other crooks?"
"And Lily had told me that the headmaster was some famous wizard too. Her first year she was so happy to be in the same house that the headmaster had been in. Apparently there was an evil wizard. Maybe his name was 'Wendell Ald'? Working with Hitler; and Dumbledore defeated him in '45 in a duel. Like, an actual man-versus-man duel like medieval knights. Lily always wondered why Dumbledore didn't just go after this new evil wizard, the one the papers called "You-Know-Who". I think she said his name was Shoal-de… Something french sounding with 'mort' at the end. I know enough frog-speak to recognize 'death' but the rest was in one ear and out the other. Anyways, he had been causing trouble since the fifties and Lily thought that if Dumbledore ever confronted this 'Mort' fellow then there would be peace in a week. Instead he was leading some kind of guerrilla warfare nonsense."
That sounded wrong to Vernon. What kind of war hero who single-handedly beat magic Hitler becomes timid only five years later?
"What if he couldn't? What if there was something saying he couldn't. Some magic doohickey perhaps, or some trick Mort used. He turns to hit-and-run to figure it out, but whatever happened last night happened and interrupted him. You do the same thing in sales sometimes. You bring the product to hard customers in different ways, pitch it fast until you find the right fit that speaks to that client." Vernon had a truly scary thought, all of this should have led this 'Dumbledore' to be thankful for being pulled from the fire. Should have, unless Dumbledore was exactly the salesman Vernon was starting to suspect, if Dumbledore thought he had beaten Mort and someone else was getting the credit, "someone like a baby." He muttered in growing horror. A hero whose star was fading, a new threat he couldn't beat, and a child that did it for him.
When did the boy get dropped off here? Vernon looked up at the front door, to the inside light switch for the front porch. A light switch that was still clearly in the 'on' position.
"Did you turn the porch light off last night Pet?" Vernon asked with concern creeping into his voice.
"Hmm? I don't… No, actually. When I went to do so I peeked out the window and saw it was already…" She froze at the look of horrified realization on her husband's face.
"Pet, you should take the boy, today, and look for that magic alley you were talking about. If that man is doing this as some kind of petty revenge against Harry we need to make sure their kind and can help us. We know at least two families that his parents thought could keep him safe in their world. If he really is vindictive, and I'm starting to think he is, we'll need to keep ourselves from attracting attention. The note made it clear that we couldn't move, so they'll probably be watching for that. I think the man draws a line a killing an orphan for prestige. But I think he was expecting you to hate your sister, maybe she told people (perhaps even him) that to sell her separation from you, and that hate was supposed to transfer to the boy. It would explain why his letter to us tries to hard to blame the boys parent's for his circumstances."
Vernon frowned deeper, "I'm not sure I understand. It seems he thinks Harry stole his spotlight, but at the same time he intends to drag the boy back into their world in ten years. In his shoes I'd drop Harry off here and tell the magical world he died."
"How can he think he can get away with this?"
"It's right there in what you said they call us, love. Muggles indeed. To them, we're just dumb Mugs that they can make do whatever they want."
While Petunia took a cab into London, Vernon contacted child services. The man on the line happily congratulated him on so generously adopting his nephew immediately after Vernon gave him his address. Vernon began to get creeped out by the monotone, repetitive responses he was getting from the man when he pressed for more details on how that could possibly already be finalized and hung up. Apparently it was pretty easy to tell when someone was bewitched, at least once you knew that was even in the realm of possibility. Petunia returned only a few hours later with Harry.
Despite going there many times both alone and with Lily (though not at all in the last three or so years), Petunia could not find the entrance to Diagon Alley.