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.