Seeing the Dursleys at King’s Cross was like seeing one’s parole officer right before they hauled you off back to prison. Ron had barely spoken ten words to him since the Exploding Snap incident, so only Hermione was there to give him one last hug. “Less than twenty four hours.” She whispered. “Keep your head down and hold hard to your temper. I’ll see you soon.”
He nodded, offering her a wan smile, before trudging over to where his corpulent uncle waited impatiently.
“So, we’re stuck with you for another year, are we? Too bad you didn’t manage to get yourself killed or expelled at that freaky school of yours.” Vernon wasted no time firing the first shot.
Harry finished climbing over the back seat of the delivery van they had bought while he was gone before replying. Dudley had surpassed the weight limit of the previous car, so they had needed to upgrade. It actually worked out better; his cousin had the middle all to himself, while Harry had the barrier of an entire row between them.
“So sorry about not going and getting myself knocked off. I’ll try harder next year, I’m sure.” He retorted, only half joking. “As for being expelled, did it ever occur to you that if they kicked me out or my school closed, as they nearly had to do last year, then I would be here with you, all year long? Eating your horrible food, breathing the same air as you, reminding you that I exist…” He snorted. “You should’ve signed that permission slip, uncle, it could’ve been asking for me to stay at school permanently.”
“Why you little – “
Harry watched, entertained, as his uncle turned an impressive shade of cranberry and began sputtering incoherently in outrage as Petunia tried to soothe him. Dudley was oblivious in the middle seats, his headphones on and staring intently at the latest electronic device his parents had appeased (bribed) him with to continue with his diet.
Vernon finally stopped yelling and turned around with a snarl, jerking the van into drive and pulling abruptly out into traffic, nearly side swiping the oncoming car. He replied to their yelling with a rude gesture, and continued on his way. Harry rolled his eyes, slumping in his seat.
“Get in the house.” Petunia ordered as they finally pulled up. “Straight upstairs, trunk in the cupboard, and not another word.”
Harry did as he was told, stowing his trunk away and not bothering to watch as his aunt locked the cupboard before glumly heading towards his room upstairs. Twenty more hours…
Hermione watched her best friend trudge out of sight after his corpulent relatives, before turning with a sigh to find her mother. Steven Granger had not dealt well with having magical in laws – or a daughter that had magic, despite the fact that his wife didn’t have it either. He had lasted through Hermione’s 2nd year, and then taken off with his dental assistant to parts unknown, leaving behind a signed copy of the divorced papers.
If she were honest, Hermione was rather glad that he was gone; he reminded her of Ron in some ways, with his lack of motivation and his defensiveness and jealously when it came to money and status. Hermione’s mother had been a surgeon before she was a dentist, and had only returned to school to appease Steven, who wanted a partner in his practice and had intensely disliked that she knew more than he did.
She looked back in surprise, recognizing the male voice. “Mister Potter?”
“Please, call me James.” Harry’s father said quickly, tugging the baseball cap lower on his head. “Nice to see you again, Hermione. Come along, your mum’s this way.”
Bewildered – would she ever not feel off balance near this man? She wondered – she followed him to a dark luxury sedan.
“Hello darling.” Mari greeted her, kissing her on the cheek as James got into the passenger’s seat. “You’ve lost weight, my Ami.”
The teen smiled affectionately; her mother had greeted her with the same observation every day after school, and all three years at Hogwarts. “I haven’t lost weight Mum, I’ve just grown up instead of out!” She replied, completing the mini ritual. “Hello again, Professor.”
“Hermione, I’m no longer your teacher; you don’t have to call me Professor.” Remus smiled at her. “Remus or Moony will do just fine.”
She smiled politely without actually answering. He would soon learn that she always used the titles of the people she respected, whether or not they still held that position.
“Mmm.” Mari shook her head. “Did you forget to eat again, Ami?”
Hermione blushed slightly. “Maybe once or twice. But the homework was just so fascinating! We actually learned some practical work in Defense this year, and I started Arithmancy and Ancient Runes…” She prattled on for a good five minutes before noticing James, Remus and her mother exchanging an amused look in the rearview mirror. “What?”
“You are so much like your aunt that it is a bit scary.” James laughed. “I was having a déjà vu moment.”
“My aunt?” She frowned. “Mum, I didn’t know you had a sister.”
“Two, actually, neither of whom I have spoken to in years.” Mari said sadly. “One is…out of reach at the moment, and the other,” she grimaced. “We’re going to visit right now. She has something that should’ve been mine a long time ago, legally, so it’s past time to set that right.”
Hermione frowned again, thinking furiously as they pulled up in front of a neat little house. It was pretty, she supposed, in a cookie cutter, trying too hard to be normal type of way. At least the flowers and grass looked to be well loved and maintained.
James stayed in the car as Remus, Mari, and Hermione got out. “This is your mother’s show.” He explained with a grin when Hermione glanced at him in question. “Besides, it’s better if I’m not seen by too many people just yet.”
Intrigued, the teen followed her mother and Remus up the walk. Both of them were dressed in elegantly posh, well-made business clothing. Remus rapped sharply on the door with his cane, which had an onyx howling wolf head topping it. Hermione caught a glimpse of the address just before the door opened: Number 4 Privet Drive. “We’re here to rescue Harry?”
Mari winked at her, before assuming a stern expression as the door opened.
“Uncle Remus? Hermione? What are you doing here – oomph!” Harry staggered back as Hermione launched herself at him for a hug, nearly squeezing the life out of him.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but something’s afoot.” She whispered in his ear. “Stay with me, quiet and out of the way. Do you have your wand?”
He let her pull him to one side to let the adults enter, even as he shook his head slightly and cocked it towards the cupboard door. Her eyes narrowed, and she edged closer to the closet, her wand tucked in her sleeve.
“Hello Petunia.” Mari said coldly. “It’s been a long time.”
Petunia’s nostrils flared as her head jerked up, making her look even more horse like. “Marigold. Why are you darkening my doorstep after all of these years?”
Mari didn’t reply, merely raising a brow at Remus, who cleared his throat pompously. “My name is Romulus Moon, from the law firm of Moon, Paddleton, and Prongsby.” He announced, his accents and voice exaggeratedly crisp and posh. “And, to cut right to it, you’ve been served.” He held out a stack of papers. In his other hand, his wand flashed to point straight at Vernon. “Dursley, this has nothing to do with you. Sit down and be silent.” He warned, even as he suited actions to words and forced the other man down, freezing him in place and placing a Silencing spell on him for good measure.
“In other words, Tuney, I’m suing you.” Mari said sweetly.
“What? Why? We never wanted the boy in the first place – take him, please!”
“Oh, I will. Along with your house, car, and everything else of value to you.” She snapped, her brown eyes flashing with fury. “Thirteen years, Petunia, that you had Lily’s child. How dare you?”
“He’s a freak, just like she was! An abomination, unnatural and strange! It’s not my fault that old man Dumbledorff forced the brat on us! Some nonsense about blood wards, even though I tried to tell him that I shared no common blood or bond with Lily! Stupid fool never returned, and I had no way of contacting him even if I wanted to!” Petunia said shrilly. “I also had no way of contacting you, you useless cow, so don’t you dare take that high and mighty tone with me!”
Beside Hermione, Harry slumped against the wall. “Blood wards.” He whispered. “Why is blood so damn important to these people?”
“I don’t know, Harry.” She replied quietly, touching his arm to get his attention. “Hey, look at me.”
He reluctantly met her gaze, those green eyes full of anguish and hot anger, and her heart broke for him. She pulled him into a hug, ignoring the byplay and arguing of the adults.
“Hey. All that matters right now is the blood that we apparently share.” She said, managing a tremulous smile. “Your mum and mine were sisters! Harry, that makes us cousins. We were already family – or getting close to it – so this just makes it official. You and me against the world. You can be the beauty, and I’ll be the muscle and brains.” She teased, flexing an arm just to make him laugh.
“After that right hook on Malfoy, I’m fine with that. Next encounter with a bad guy, I’m standing behind you.”
She snorted; it was more likely that he would try to shove her out of the way. “You know as well as I do that we’ll be shoulder to shoulder, protecting each other’s backs, same as we always do.” She met his gaze and held it, until he nodded reluctantly. They both turned to the still arguing adults, watching quietly for a minute.
“So. Cousins, huh? Guess that’s why Sirius and Remus both called you the smartest witch of our generation. Although I don’t know how I feel about that anymore, now that I know you were channeling my mum!”
She snorted again, shoving him lightly away. “Does this mean that when I remind –“
“-you and Ron to do your homework, that you’ll actually listen?”
“I always listen to my favorite cousin.”
“I’m your only cousin.”
“More like older sister, come to think of it. Ooh! Does that mean I get to give the protective brother speech to Ron if and when he finally pulls his head out of his arse?”
Hermione scoffed, fighting to ignore her blush. Even though she was still uncertain about her feelings towards the redhead, it was nice to have outside confirmation that he was actually harboring a crush on her. “Look, maybe they’ve finally come to an agreement. They’ve stopped yelling.”
Harry hid his grin, turning obediently to the adults, who were reluctantly shaking hands.
“Very well. Let me go over the terms one more time so we’re all clear.” Mari said briskly. “I agree to permanently lease Number Four Privet Drive from Petunia Dursley from now until Harry James Potter’s twentieth birthday. As such, I will assume all magical, legal, and financial responsibilities pertaining to the aforementioned properties and minor in question, excepting only that Petunia Dursley will retain her name on the property. I will also transfer the equivalent of fifty thousand Gaellons into her account, twenty five immediately, and the remaining amount once visual proof has been sent and confirmed that she and her family are far, far away.
As a result, Petunia, her husband Vernon, and their son Dudley will vacate the premises forthwith, as well as the continent altogether.” She paused to look up pointedly. “I don’t care where you go, Petunia, just make it far away from Britain. Australia, perhaps. Or Antarctica. Somewhere on the other side of the world, where our paths will never cross again.”
“Yes, and good riddance to bad rubbish!” Vernon snapped. “Where do we sign?”
Remus showed them, and the teens watched as the Dursleys scrawled their signature in the indicated places.
“Let’s go collect Marge and get out of Dodge.” Vernon ordered.
“The money will be in your account before you reach the freeway.” Mari said faintly, stepping back.
Petunia nodded stiffly. She opened her mouth and shut it a few times, hesitating. “She’s alive, you know. Lily. Well, she’s not dead anyway.”
The magicals stared at her in shock.
“What?” Harry whispered.
“She had one of those magical portraits done, when she came to tell me that she went and got herself knocked up with you.” Petunia shrugged, her mouth twisted into a malicious smile. “Wanted to give it to us as a gift, so that we would have a way of communicating or some such rot like that. As if I would have allowed such unnaturalness in my house, much less kept a single portrait of her.” She met Mari’s gaze and smirked. “She’s locked up in the attic, along with all of your mother’s junk. Combination code is Lily’s birthday. Good riddance to bad rubbish, if you ask me. We’re well rid of the lot.” She pulled on her jacket, and stalked to the door, yanking it open. “Vernon. Dudley. Let’s go.”
The door slammed behind them, echoing in the silence.