Thank you, ivy, for your enthusiastic and
eye-opening beta reading, and for saving me from my own cyber-illiteracy! I
truly appreciate all of your thoughtful help.
this little character sketch as a service to any of you who just might be
anxiously anticipating the release of HBP: if you read my piece, you will be
ten minutes closer to July 16th!
He Rolls Along ***
the RUDDY HELL do you mean, you thought you’d use your imagination?”
thought, it was, well, an idea, you know...f-for boosting sales. If I could
“In case you’ve
forgotten, I am your boss. If you want to use your imagination in my
department, you can go and find yourself another job. Is that clear?”
course, Mr Dursley, I-I’m sorry. I simply wanted –”
And. Sell. Drills,” Mr. Dursley enunciated as if addressing a naughty
two-year-old. “In case you need to be reminded. Drill production does not
require daydreaming, creativity, or imagination. Stick to facts, and get it
finished before I arrive at the office.”
Mr Dursley, depend on it.”
didn’t become great because of bleeding creativity!” He punched the carphone
button to hang up, nearly spraining his finger. Jumped-up young show-offs who can’t remember their places.
Imagination, creativity... what is this world coming to?
Dursley’s morning commute was shaping up nicely. The dull grey cloudcap was
beginning to burn off, and the June sun could be seen peeping through and
shining down onto the rows of rooftops in Little Whinging. The company car’s
motor was humming, and the hardworking and upright –and, at the moment,
slightly purple-faced--manager from Grunnings had just finished his first
carphone call of the morning. Always good to make contact with the office, first
thing: keep his underlings on their
First turning, onto the main road. Since he’d started at Grunnings, all
those years ago, he’d never once varied his route. The routine comforted him,
as did thoughts of his success. He’d gotten where he was in life through hard
work and dedication to his company, and he knew he was the envy of his
neighbors – his status, his perfect wife, the most pride-inspiring son to carry
on the Dursley name, his new company car, his respectable position – he and his
family had everything they wanted. Oh, yes, he told himself firmly – perhaps a
bit too firmly – they were perfectly content, and they had everything they
As he drove past the gym where Dudley had trained last summer, he
indulged in a satisfied smile. What father wouldn’t, with such a son? The pride
of Smeltings; such a fine young man, his Dudley. And in a few short days,
Dudley would be home.
That reminded him: Petunia would be putting Dudley on a special
training diet, first thing, and most probably that meant that Petunia would be
extra strict about Vernon’s diet, too. He made a mental note to stop for a
sticky bun at the bakery across from the Grunnings car park. But even as he
thought of it, he remembered his dear wife’s wish: she did so want him to slim
down a bit and be elegant, since Grunnings’ all-England managers’ conference
and gala dinner was only a month away. Not that she hadn’t reassured him, angel
that she was, that he already cut a dashing figure. Perhaps he would skip the
bun... he did so want to please her, especially because lately he sensed that
she had been a trifle uptight...
The carphone rang. He saw on the display that it was her. Almost as if she’d read my mind he thought, before
chastising himself: mindreading didn’t exist, after all. He took a deep breath
to clear his own mind from such thoughts, and punched the button.
Vernon. Lots of traffic this morning?”
usual. Anything new?” Hardly likely, since he’d only left the house ten minutes
yes. Good news.”
news? He tried to remember if anything scandalous was going on at the
neighbors’. :“What is it, dear?”
not coming to visit next week as planned.”
why the sudden change?”
about not being able to reschedule her electrolysis appointments.”
that’s good news, dear.”
certainly is, Vernon,” was the dry rejoinder.
the electrolysis, I mean, dear. My poor sister, it’s about time she—”
if you really want to know, I meant that her not coming is the good news.”
Petunia,” he began, in his sensitive, pacifying way. “She’s not that bad…”
it’s not her, Vernon, it’s that horrid
bulldog, drooling all over my floors, digging up the garden... why, last time
she visited in the summertime…”
was a pause on both ends of the line. Vernon could have screamed. That damned
boy: they hadn’t seen him since last August, and still he managed to work his
way into his poor aunt’s thoughts. Still, Vernon didn’t have the courage to
bring up those
After all, maybe she had only wanted to complain about the garden.
Maybe she hadn’t been thinking about the freaks at all. He cleared his throat
and quickly thought of a cheerful comment to lighten her mood. “Petunia, did I
mention to you that the Grunnings production estimates for next trimester are
due out today?”
continued with clenched teeth and as if she hadn’t heard him: “Not that Ripper
is as bad as that wretched owl I put up with every summer.”
So she had been thinking about those things, after all. She had been bringing
it up lately, as the summer approached, or rather, not bringing it up, just sort of semi-implying it. The coming of summer
tended to be hard on Petunia, and no wonder: the freaks always turned up and
ruined things in the summer. And they seemed to be getting more and more
creative at it, with each passing year, almost as if they throve on it. He felt
himself begin to shake with rage at Petunia’s sister and her lot. Was it too
much to ask for his family to have a normal, quiet, dignified summer?
realized that the silence on the line was continuing. Evidently, a topic more
cheerful than Grunnings’ production estimates seemed to be required to distract
her, and Vernon fished around for a moment, before exclaiming, “Well, maybe
it’s best this way, if Marge postpones her visit. After all, Dudley’ll be
coming home from Smeltings, and it’ll be just the three of us, as it should
Even that comment would bring her train of
thought around to a certain nephew who would be back the week after Dudley. He
heard her sigh, then say resignedly, “I hope you weren’t offended by my not
wanting Marge here, but you are right, Vernon, that with Diddykins coming back,
it’ll be good being alone, just the three of us.”
those boring, law-abiding neighbors of theirs.… Why couldn’t something,
anything, happen right now, next-door, to get her mind off things? But there
wasn’t time for him to think up any distraction for the light of his life,
since he had come to that intersection near the filling station, where the
phone usually faded out, and today was no exception, although, in this case,
the predictability brought him no comfort. She would call him at lunchtime, as
she did ever day, but still: was it too much to ask for a man and his wife to
have a nice, quiet conversation without being cut off? “Ruddy mobiles, ruddy
phone company, that’s what we get for going multinational, no quality service…”
lost contact with Petunia, he pulled into the filling station, as he did every
second Thursday. There was enough wrong here to distract him from the darkest
of thoughts. The foreigner working at the pump surely came from a country where
cars were a rarity, and came so close to scratching the paint that a lesser man
than Vernon Dursley would have given him an earful – if he’d thought there were
any chance of being understood. He left the windscreen so streaked that it
looked worse than before he’d begun washing it, and, after the sloppiest oil
checking on record, slammed the bonnet hood with a clang to waken the dead. And
he was so slow! Vernon held himself back as long as he could, being a
gentleman, but when he went to pay, he felt that a tirade was necessary.
the cashier, he unleashed his righteous anger: “What is this country coming to?
Petrol prices up to the stars, ruddy foreigners everywhere, and honest,
hardworking Englishmen, on their way to earn their daily bread, made to submit
to unthinkable incompetence!”
cashier simply smiled, apologized, and wished him a good day. Vernon did not
smile back. But as he slipped his credit card back into his wallet, he glimpsed
his photo of Petunia and Dudley, and the thought of what they all meant to each
other calmed him. It was good to keep things in perspective, and Vernon prided
himself on being a rational man.
the road, it was more of the usual: never a policeman around when there were
tickets to be handed out. Another one of those hoodlums passed him on a
motorbike, so fast it seemed as though he were flying…No! Motorbikes didn’t
fly! He almost opened his mouth to remind himself to stop it!, but he would never actually
talk to himself, of course…still, with all that abnormality that had poisoned
his home all these years, could it be any wonder that his thoughts kept
Enough! Somehow, without realizing it,
he had begun pulling great tufts of hair from his moustache. Don’t let it get to you…
breath. He was rational, and he was calm. A well-respected pillar of the
community didn’t let himself get riled up in the face of insignificant matters
that had no bearing whatsoever on his life. Besides, if his mind drifted to
thoughts of that
lot every once
in a while, he knew quite well that there was no one to blame but the cause
itself: raising that ungrateful bit of abnormality had put a strain on them
all, in so many ways. But as he drove on, Vernon felt proud that he was not
letting it get to him: he would not allow a perfectly good start to the day to
be ruined. Not even the old-fashioned green car that slipped past him in the
traffic could perturb him, although, as he shifted gears, he wondered how it
had managed to pass him when there was hardly room for his own car…. It was
nothing! It’s perfectly normal!
the next red light helped in giving him a distraction: there was a new espresso
bar opening up on the corner. “Hope they all enjoy wasting their money,” he
grunted, noticing the small crowd that had gathered, and not realizing that he
was talking to himself. “Why anyone would rather drink that rubbish instead of
a good cup of tea is beyond me.”
by his little beverage-based reflection, Vernon let his thoughts jump ahead to
the evening, when he and Petunia always enjoyed a quiet cup of tea together.
Being generous as always, he thought of what he might do to cheer her up this
evening. Maybe he could surprise her with…
hated surprises as much as he did.
flowers might be nice. After all, she had had a hard week, shopping for all of Dudley’s
welcome home presents, on top of her usual work. And work she had had indeed,
all these years…. Raising two instead of one, he knew, had been practically
like raising twins. It had been hard on her, never being able to devote enough
attention to Dudley. And yet, Dudley had turned out perfectly, despite all the
hardships: why, look how he had bounced back after those Dementoid things…
doing it again, so stop it!
moustache was taking quite a beating this morning.
forced himself to think of a time when that unnaturalness would no longer taint
their existence. When the runt was finally old enough for them to kick him out,
then things would look up, surely. He had been planning something for a while
now. He knew how much Petunia envied the other women in the Smeltings Mothers’
Club, the ones who knew all about computers. (Petunia never complained about
this, of course, since it was in her nature to bear her burdens with a smile, but
he knew her well enough to know how she felt.) He would have Dudley’s second
bedroom redone once it was empty, and make it into a nice little studio for
her. She could take a computer course, and learn all about all that modern,
on-line stuff. And the window in that room looked down on the street, so she
wouldn’t miss anything new going on in the neighborhood. That would be perfect
for her: his Petunia had such a curious mind, such a need to branch out and be
in touch with the whole world. As soon as the boy was gone, they could do that.
He would remind her of that this evening, if he could find a gentle way to
bring it up without straining her nerves.
on planning good things. Once they were rid of the costs of raising the
ungrateful brat, they could live better, he was sure, and he looked forward to
it. After all, a decent, hardworking man like him liked to have something to
show for all the years of toil and sacrifice, and Vernon wanted to pamper his
dear wife a little. They would buy that holiday home of their dreams in Majorca,
settle comfortably into middle age, and live their dignified, stable, perfectly
normal lives as nature intends people everywhere to do.
was upon them, and summer would bring Dudley, in just a few short days. Vernon
thought of summer, and tried to relax and think of the good things the season would bring.
Time with Dudley, perhaps a short holiday, and later a visit from Marge. The
Grunnings gala dinner, in a month’s time. The prospect of a couple of huge
drill orders, that might let them shop for real estate in Majorca earlier than
they could have expected. Yes, there would a great deal going on, as there
always was in a family of their status, and he would not let his life be
disrupted this summer. Of that much he was sure, as a principled and reasoning
man. He would dwell on the good things, and not worry about the weirdoes. As
long as they took the boy and left right away, who cared what sort of nasty
surprise they would spring on him this time? After those Dementoids last time,
it was anybody’s guess, but as long as his family wasn’t harmed, he admitted
that it was almost worth a visit from that lot, to be rid of Potter. They could
take him and get the hell out, quickly, and without any fuss that might attract
the neighbors’ attention. Just so long as…
again! Stop mentioning them! His principles were wavering. To
make matters worse, the people in the next car had seen him muttering to
himself, and that made him feel almost ridiculous, not a word often associated
with Vernon Dursley, to be sure.
dignified manager took a deep breath, and calmed down. He was in control, and
maintaining this perfect control, he arrived within sight of his company.
pulled into his reserved place in the Grunnings car park, took his briefcase,
and locked the door. The workday stood before him with its promise of
hard-earned satisfaction. He would go into the office and continue having a
good morning, with no distractions. He would yell at his underlings, take some
phone calls, yell some more, look through the new production estimates, and get
matters off his mind.
What matters? How could he get something off his mind that had no influence on
him in the first place?
convinced himself quickly that it was so, and walked in, ignoring the furtive
looks the employees were giving him: it wasn’t the first time he had walked in
with tufts of his moustache missing, and, at any rate, no one would actually
dare mention it to him.
morning commute did wonders to clear your mind and make you feel on top of the