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Old November 9th, 2006, 8:55 pm
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Join Date: 19th June 2003
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Re: Harry Potter and the War Within - Rewrite

Chapter 9 Hello, Aunt Marge

Uncle Vernon took Wednesday off so that he could meet his sister at the station and smooth the transition to having her in the house. Over breakfast, Harry and the Dursleys discussed how to make Aunt Marge's visit acceptable to all. Harry tried to ask Uncle Vernon about his upbringing, but it was shrugged off.

"I don't really remember all that much, to tell the truth, Harry, er, rather, Potter - I'd better get back into practice just calling you Potter again. I remember Smeltings very fondly, of course. I stayed over many of the holidays there, although I can’t recall now why, but it was always fun to have the run of the place. As for home life, let’s see: I can remember Marge and me playing pretend games together, but that's about it."

"What kind of games?" pressed Harry.

Vernon was clearly uncomfortable with this line of thought and tightened his face into a remarkable likeness of a disgruntled English bulldog. “PRETEND – small children do that, or have you forgotten!? Is this necessary, Potter?” said Uncle Vernon gruffly. Harry couldn’t tell if this reaction was Uncle Vernon still ‘getting into character’ for Marge’s arrival, or if he was that uncomfortable discussing his childhood.

“Uncle Vernon, we all want this visit to come off without a hitch. I know I neither want to interfere with your relationship with your sister, nor to lose my temper. She can be very trying to me, you know, and Reverend MacBoon has impressed on me how coming to understand how she came to be like she is builds empathy for that person.”

"Oh, very well then, let me think," said Vernon as he stroked his large jaw and looked up at the corner of the kitchen to search his memory. "She's four years older, so she would take the lead. It seems she often wanted to play war games, but we wouldn't be fighting actually; we'd be hiding in foxholes or trenches. Of course, it was actually under the bed or in a cupboard or a wardrobe or the attic or such, sometimes even under the house. We'd have to be really quiet so the Nazis wouldn't get us. Or sometimes, we played Battle of Britain and pretend we were a London family trying to avoid the bomber raids by staying in the dark. We'd whisper as quietly as possible about the terrible things that might happen if the Gerries found us."

"That’s odd,” said Petunia.

“Now you’re in on this, too!?” snapped Vernon.

“Not really, but it is interesting. You’ve told me so little about your childhood. You know so much more about mine. But what seemed odd was that you’d have to stay silent while playing Battle of Britain.”

“Why is that odd?” asked Harry.

“The Battle of Britain was an air war – the Germans tried to bomb us into submission and we used our fighter planes and anti-aircraft artillery to knock their planes out. My parents – your grandparents – told me all about it. They had to turn off all the lights and fires so that the Germans would have trouble locating cities – navigation and radar wasn’t near what it is today – but they didn’t have to be silent. The German air crews certainly couldn’t hear people from half a mile up.”

“Petunia,” replied Vernon, “what you’re saying makes sense, but I’m telling the game as we played it.”

“I see," said Harry. "I wonder if Marge had a reason she wanted the two of you to keep silent and out of sight. Don't you remember outdoor games or play?"

"No, not at all; outdoors was always work. Stepfather thought it was shameful for a person to be idle or unproductive at any time - wise thought there. But, you know, I can't even remember what he looked like - he died my last year at Smeltings. My mother got rid of all pictures of him, burned them - said it was showing due respect. That's all I can recall, Potter, and all I care to. Don’t push it any further: I really am quite uncomfortable about it. Now as for the visit, if you need to get away, use the cue word, or if you can't work it in, do something we can punish you for. We'll send you to your room and you can do what you need to. Mostly we'll figure it out as we go. We know that there are times you have to make calls and that there are limits to patience. Okay?"

"Sure, Uncle Vernon. I can’t thank you enough for working with me on this."

"It’s for us, too. We don’t want problems like we had before. Besides, it seems you’re helping to save lives and this is a small contribution we can make to that. Well, then, does anyone want to go to the station with me to pick up Marge?"

Dudley was already ready to go. After all, it was worth an extra twenty-note to meet her there. Aunt Petunia wanted to do additional cleaning. Harry did not even need to say that he didn't care to go. Harry was surprised to find that even though he had misgivings about her visit, he was looking forward to it. Cameron kept telling him about learning to love even the unlovable, but so far Harry had trouble imagining what that was like. He loved his friends, and really most people he knew, though differently. But those were people who were nice to be around, not someone who so delighted in digging at him. What would it be like to love someone like Marge? Harry shuddered at some of the interpretations those words led to, and then he remembered that Cameron said that the love he was learning was not affection, but a choice to care about that person. Harry was going to force himself to care for Marge.

Harry spent the time while Uncle Vernon was away making sure that any wizarding things were well out of sight, except, of course, his wands, which he never went without, and Hedwig. Harry thought about sending her to Ron or Hermione, but then figured that even though an owl is a very unusual pet for a muggle, it is a pet after all, and as a dog breeder Marge should react well to someone who keeps a pet – not that it made any difference on her last summer visit.

After about an hour and a half, Harry heard the car in the driveway.

“You’d better come down and make an appearance, Harry,” called Aunt Petunia.

“Of course,” said Harry.

Marge came in larger and louder than ever, with her favorite bulldog Ripper tucked into an arm like some other woman might carry a Yorkie. Harry’s memory had dimmed in the intervening years, and he had come to remember her as a more typical person, so he was surprised.

“Petunia,” bellowed Marge, bumping cheeks in an affectation of a kiss. “You look lovely. The years are really adding character. My, you are fortunate to have two such handsome men living with you. Dudley’s become so solid, and I barely recognized Vernon for the thick head of hair. What’d you do, put him on Minoxidil? All you need now is a bottle of Viagra and you’d have the perfect man.” She bellowed in laughter at what she thought was very witty, very adult humour.

Harry could see although Aunt Petunia’s face was locked in a smile, her teeth were grinding as this was being said. He was very tempted to use his legilemency to see the real attitude of each of them, but decided against it.

“Marge!” replied Petunia. “So lovely to see you again. I’m so glad that you could stay for such a nice long visit.”

“Yes, yes. I hate to be so close to the city so long, but the construction of the new kennels makes the place unlivable. Colonel Fubster was such a sport to take the rest of the dogs for me. Of course, I couldn’t leave my dear Ripper behind.”

She hoisted Ripper like a toy. Ripper looked over Marge’s shoulder at Harry and began to growl. Only then did Marge notice Harry.

“What are you doing there, boy!” she barked.

“Just here to greet you, Aunt Marge,” replied Harry calmly.

“Probably expecting some kind of a handout, I’ll wager. I can see the makings of a mooch. Well, there’ll be none from me. I’m no mollycoddle for your kind, like Vernon and Petunia. You’d better be grateful to them for taking you in!”

Harry smiled. “Oh, I am, Aunt Marge. I appreciate this home very much.”

Marge eyed him suspiciously. “You’re up to something. You’ve always been an ungrateful, scurrilous brat. I’ll have my eye on you. Go get my bags from the car. Be snappy.”

“Yes, Aunt Marge, I’d be glad to,” replied Harry, heading toward the front door. Vernon started to hand Harry the keys to open the trunk.

“Vernon!” Marge bellowed. “You can’t give car keys to that sort. He’ll be stealing the car and creating all sorts of mayhem in a flash. Let Dudley take care of it.”

“Now Marge,” said Vernon, “he’s had the keys before and never taken the car. He’s really been growing up into a better sort.”

Marge was hearing nothing of that. “Vernon, you’ve always been too soft with the boy. You can’t make a purebred out of a mutt. He may toe the line long enough to get something he wants, but mark my words, he’ll be off terrorizing the area before long! You can trust him with the keys when my stuff’s not in the car, but so long as it is, I’d rather Dudley had them.”

Vernon handed the keys to Dudley, rolling his eyes as he did so, though out of Marge’s sight. Harry had to suppress his laughter.

Harry couldn’t resist the opportunity to goad Aunt Marge. “Oh, there’s no need to come out, Dudley. I don’t need keys to open a car.”

Aunt Marge’s eyes bugged out. “I knew it – I knew he was a common thief!”

Dudley’s eyes also bugged out and he looked around at his parents to let him know what he should do.

“Potter!” barked Uncle Vernon. “We’ll not have OUR car opened any way but with the key! Dudley, go on out there and open it up.”

As they closed the front door and headed to the car, Dudley shook his head. “Y’know, Harry, I always knew she was kind of abrupt and rude with you. I just didn’t notice how bad she could be.”

“Oh, this is nothing so far. I think you’re only seeing it now because we’re friends now.”

“Are we, Harry?” asked Dudley genuinely. “Are we friends now? I didn’t exactly treat you so well for quite a few years.”

“I think we are. You were a pain alright, but it really was the way you were taught. I can see that now, and we’ve been doing okay for over a year.”

“I like that,” said Dudley, extending his hand. “Friends, then.”

Harry shook his hand and smiled. “Let’s hope Aunt Marge doesn’t see that.”

“So what if she does? I’m her only nephew – what’s she going to do? And I’d rather be friends with you anyway.”

Harry smiled inwardly. This made up for any nasty thing Marge had said. “Let’s get the bags then. Or, rather, I’d better get them – Marge wouldn’t understand you helping me with a job.”

“You know, this play-acting could actually be some fun, couldn’t it?” said Dudley.

“Yeah, I reckon it could, if things don’t get too tense. But I don’t just want to fool her – I want to figure out what makes her tick,” said Harry.

“Well, if you insist. Sometimes it seems to me it’s better to just get past something. There may not be an explanation.”

Harry grabbed two of the suitcases and lugged them into the house.

“Lazybones! What are you doing with only two of them!?” shouted Marge, sloshing her cup of coffee onto the hardwood floors of the hall, making Petunia cringe.

“My arms aren’t big enough to carry more than that, at least without scuffing them, Aunt Marge,” explained Harry.

“I’ll take none of your sass, boy. See that you don’t mar my bags. Be quick about it then!”

“Yes, Aunt Marge,” said Harry gently, as he headed up the stairs.

“Watch that tone, you hooligan!”

Harry felt like he could use house elf lessons to deal with this. “Love is patient,” said Harry to himself.

Harry had hoped that Marge would be uninterested in seeing him and Dudley box, but to his disappointment – and Petunia’s visible relief, which amused Harry – she insisted on coming along. She made a point of giving Dudley pointers, even though he rolled his eyes at the things she was saying. She praised Dudley’s massive physique, which was clearly more solid than before he started boxing, but was still sheathed in the excess pounds the Dursleys so readily acquired. She openly ridiculed Harry’s flat etched chest and abdomen, and his slender but muscled arms and legs. Her eyes squinted up with glee at the prospects of Dudley flattening his much smaller cousin. As Harry dodged punch after punch, she shouted insults at his cowardice for not standing still to fight. She cried foul whenever Harry landed a fist. When Dudley took a punch well, it was because of the Dursley toughness; when Harry took a punch well, it was because he had no brains to rattle.

“Love is not easily angered,” thought Harry, consciously fighting to hold onto that thought.

Barely a half hour into the spar, his scar began to ache with warnings of a new round of attacks. He got Dudley into a clench and whispered through his mouthguard that he had to make a call.

“The mirror’s in your bag, isn’t it?” asked Dudley as he pretended to try to break free.

Harry nodded.

“I’ll punch at your face when we separate – say you got something in your eye and take your bag to the locker room.”

Harry nodded again and let go of Dudley. As he stepped back, Dudley’s fist came across Harry’s face, just grazing the forehead.

“Ahh! My eye!” shouted Harry, covering the eye with one hand and spitting out the mouthguard into the other. “There’s something in it – I’ve got to go wash it out.”

Harry ran to get his gym bag.

“Hah! What an obvious ruse. You’re the referee, Vernon, don’t let him go. The boy obviously couldn’t take any more so he’s running away like the coward he is,” yelled Marge. Then she took on a babyish, singsong voice. “Ickle baby Potter, can’t handle any pain. He has to wun away and cwy-y-y!”

The voice was too reminiscent of Bellatrix LeStrange at the Ministry of Magic. It pushed Harry beyond all his good intentions and his face contorted in rage as he kneeled by his gym bag and placed his hands on his wands.

Uncle Vernon stepped over to him, at first shocked and afraid, but then regaining his composure. Loudly he said, “I can see in your eye, Potter, that there’s something causing you pain. I’ll call a break for you to take care of it.”

Harry continued to breathe deeply in his anger, so Vernon added, only loud enough for Harry to hear, “Who d’you want to be like, Harry?”

Harry closed his eyes and nodded. Anger and revenge was Voldemort’s way. He’d rather take the right path, that of love and forgiveness, even for those who don’t ask for it or even understand that they ought to do.

“Thanks, Ref. I’ll be right back.”

As Harry ran to the locker room, made sure it was empty, and called Remus, he could still hear Marge’s taunting that he was running like a little baby from the beating he was getting.

After reporting to Remus the impending attacks, Remus asked, “Harry, are you okay?”

“It’s just my Aunt Marge. She’s being, uh, …”

“She’s being Aunt Marge. You’ve told me about her. Take a deep breath. Call me later. I’ve got to send out squads. Bye.”

Harry smiled. It was certainly calming just to talk to Remus. He would have to remember how soothing it could be to take a break with someone who cares.

The rest of the week was much of the same. Marge never missed an opportunity to malign Harry or his parents. He was annoyed but kept his temper. This was made easier by the Dursleys very actively intervening regularly, insisting that St. Brutus’s counselor had demanded that Harry be given lots of time in his room to reflect on proper behavior. Petunia sent him several times on meaningless errands when she felt she would have lost her temper at Marge’s conduct if she had been Harry. Still it was a welcome respite to have another session with Cameron Friday afternoon and then to leave for Ernie McMillan’s house after Friday’s sparring. Of course, Marge was told that he was being sent to a disciplinary boot camp run by St. Brutus’s.

Before he left, Harry sent letters to Ron and Hermione and told Hedwig where he would be when it was time to come back to him. She hooted indignantly at the suggestion that she had to be told how to find him. Harry smiled and ruffled her feathers over her proud yet affectionate manner.

“You and I have been through a lot, haven’t we Hedwig?”

Uncle Vernon took Harry in his car, saying that he had to get Harry to the bus for the boot camp. When Marge said that she would like to go on the ride, too, Vernon insisted that the crowd at the special bus stop was too rough, so they only allowed men. When they were down the block, Harry thanked him.

Vernon smiled. “It’s good for me, too, Potter – a pint and some football down at the pub would be a welcome break. I love my sister, but everyone needs some time away on occasion.”

Harry thought that was one of the wisest things he had ever heard his uncle say. “Aunt Petunia must be feeling that way, as well. She doesn’t have work to go to.”

“Good point, Potter. I’ll make sure she gets out this weekend. Be careful.”

And with that, Harry disapparated from the passenger seat, and guided himself by Ernie’s wand to the McMillans’ drawing room.


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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
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