Still well before sunrise that same morning, because
his head felt as though something was drilling right into it, Vernon Dursley
decided to get up. Since he sold drills, this was somewhat ironic, but he
wasn’t in the frame of mind to appreciate such humor.
He could no longer sleep, so Vernon
decided he might as well get something done. Flicking on a light and heaving
himself off the couch in the dark living room, he sighed, and began cleaning up
the mess from last night. He was glad that Petunia and Dudley weren’t there. Petunia hates messes.
Standing had made his head throb
even more. Aspirin.
As he passed the kitchen table,
turning on more lights to dispell the long shadows, Vernon saw the vodka bottle
left from last night, now almost empty. Holding his head, he slowly, gingerly
reached above it, opening the cabinet for the aspirin.
The letter was still on the floor,
crumpled, right where he’d left it. Picking it up (ow, the head), he read:
to inform you that, due to unfortunate circumstances, your son will not be able
to attend our academy this year. We are sorry, but…”
That was enough. He threw the
letter back down.
They had been so
certain Dudley was going to get in. The school had had a few
last-minute openings, and they’d jumped on it. In fact, Dudley and Petunia
were in London even now, taking a few days to buy supplies and uniforms. Dudley
was growing up, becoming more mature, and for some reason Smeltings just didn’t
seem to meet his needs any more. Dudley
will be so disappointed.
He walked to
the sink for a glass of water. The other glass, empty, sat on the kitchen
table. Just a few hours earlier, he’d been sitting there, staring into space,
nursing his drink, when he’d heard a noise in the garage.
had come into the garage much earlier that evening, he’d seen boxes still left
on the floor. Facing the other way, Harry was putting a canister of Petunia’s
old garden tools up on a high shelf, and didn’t see him. Vernon had told Harry
to clean up the garage that morning, and for him to be done with it by that
night. Obviously, he wasn’t.
Vernon was tired of his
instructions not being followed, and quite angry from the letter and its
contents. He slipped up behind Harry. With the flat of his hand, he whacked him
hard across the back, almost knocking him down.
“What the –”
Caught by surprise, Harry stumbled and whirled around.
when were you going to finish this?” Vernon
He gestured at the
garage. Red-faced and exasperated, not waiting for an answer, he cuffed Harry
sharply across the face.
“You know you’re leaving for school
tomorrow!” He slapped him again.
At first, as if to strike back,
eyes flashing, Harry suddenly drew himself together and clenched his fists.
Then, just as quickly, he stopped. Instead, closing his eyes for a second, he
took a long breath.
Face set, he said through gritted
teeth, “You’re drunk.” Turning his back on Vernon, Harry started to go up
through the garage to the house.
For Vernon, things seemed to move
very fast after that. Surprising himself, he jumped to block Harry’s way,
grabbing him by the arm.
“Just like you to take off with
Still holding his arm, Vernon
backhanded Harry. As he tried to hit him once more, this time Harry ducked,
then looked at him with blood in his eyes. Holding his jaw while still facing
Vernon, he jerked and twisted away. He backed into the house, Vernon right on
It was as if the Dursley home had
suddenly become an obstacle course, as they began to bob and weave, zigzagging
their way sideways around the furniture. With his face very dark, Harry was
quick enough to block Vernon and his flailing jabs a couple of times, but he
did not strike back. As they moved through the room, Vernon knew that Harry was
trying to get to the stairs before losing control, but he didn’t care.
Due to Vernon’s poor aim and great
girth, a chair fell, then a picture off the wall, then a vase and flowers,
narrowly missing Harry. While causing all of these mishaps, Vernon’s
single-minded anger registered none of them.
Although much larger than the boy,
Vernon was not nearly as fast. Even in close quarters, most of his swinging
punches were only able to hit air. Frustrated, using most of his considerable
weight, Vernon finally lunged towards him. He reached far enough to push Harry
back with both arms, hard.
Unbalanced, Harry fell back. Below
him, his foot tangled under the living room lamp cord. The cord drew taut and
he stumbled. As he tried to catch himself, it pulled tighter against his ankle
and he tripped.
The unsteady lamp pulled loose from
its socket. It thudded into Harry, to smash him against the wall. Then, as if
in slow motion, the knotted snarl of wires, electricity, and human being fell,
crashing, to the floor.
Vernon never liked to see blood.
Usually, he’d been able to avoid it.
The room was suddenly very still,
and Vernon thought to himself that he might be sobering up. The only sounds
that could be heard were cars from the street outside. At that moment, however,
he also heard a rap at the front door and froze. Before he could answer, the
forgotten and unlocked door opened.
luck! It was a dratted
Weasley kid. He wasn’t sure, but thought he was the one Harry was friends with,
though to him, they all looked alike. An
odd family, even for their kind.
Without stopping him, without
moving at all, Vernon saw the redheaded boy come in like he owned the place. Don’t his people know better than that? he thought to himself, distantly. Ron was
blathering something about having gotten his dad’s car a night early, although
by this point Vernon wasn’t really listening. He thought he heard the boy say
that he wanted to show Harry around town. Ron reached the living room off the
landing and stopped.
watched as Ron observed the condition of the room. Ron noticed the knocked-over
furniture. He caught sight of the fallen lamp, with Harry under it. He spotted
the bunched-up rugs and the open door to the garage. He even saw the wall,
blotchy with color.
Now slowly attempting
to get up, Harry had almost made it to his knees. Swaying and wobbly, hands
slipping, he looked like he didn’t quite know where he was. The treacherous
cord snaked across him, while all around the betraying remnants of lamp lay in
glittering, accusing shards. He put a shaky hand to the back of his head, then
removed it. He stared, blinking, surprised at the blood.
Without saying a word, and while
looking sideways at Vernon as if to keep an eye out, Ron cautiously moved into
the room. Still studying Vernon, he helped extricate the dazed Harry out from
under the jagged, twisted mess of what once had been a heavy floor lamp. There
seemed to have been quite an explosion of broken glass, with Harry caught in
Seeing Ron’s white face, Vernon
thought to tell him that it was an accident, that Harry had tripped, that Ron
could go ahead and ask Harry himself if he wanted to. From what Vernon had
heard about that wizard school, while there, Harry had spent half his life in
the infirmary. The good-for-nothing boy had always been mighty clumsy, and
besides, this time the story was true.
However, he couldn’t seem to get
his jaw to work properly. Somehow his brain was not connecting to his mouth.
Words would not come out.
After helping Harry up, Ron bent
down and gently pulled his arm way over his shoulder, almost lifting him off
his feet. Without taking his eyes off Vernon, indeed while watching him as
though he were a double of that crazed convict Sirius Black, he half-dragged
and half-pulled his friend, feet snagging through the carpet, back across the
At the foyer, Harry, quite dizzy
now, almost fell over. Ron caught him just in time, before they went to the floor.
As Harry’s head dropped to his chest, Vernon noticed bits of glass in his black
hair, reflecting the light. If possible, he thought the boy’s skin looked even
paler than normal.
Somehow they both managed to
stumble back into the night, out through the open front door, Vernon watching
them wordlessly. He never saw Ron blink.
He dropped, exhausted, onto the