"Popkin!" said Petunia Dursley in the same infuriatingly syrupy tone she always used when addressing her piggy son Dudley. "Look what Mummy's made for your birthday!"
The June afternoon was blistering a matter not helped by the fact the Aunt Petunia's oven had been blazing at several hundred degrees for the past half hour, nor that Harry's hands were submerged in near-boiling dish water, scrubbing the spatulas and mixing beaters his aunt had used to make the monstrosity of a cake she was currently showing off to her portly six-year-old with pride.
Dudley seemed to be salivating with glee as he eyed the layers of fudge cake on the counter. Aunt Petunia had set a single layer on a platter and was at present smearing it with a coating of a glutinous, cherry concoction.
"Isn't it marvelous, sweetums?" she cooed, as Dudley's eyes widened. "Black Forest is Dudder's favorite, isn't it?"
Dudley made a noise that sounded so swine-like that Harry nearly toppled from his step stool into the sink.
"Watch what you're doing!" hissed Aunt Petunia in his direction. "You slop that wretched water all over my clean kitchen floor and you'll be mopping it when you've finished with those dishes!" She flopped another fudge layer on top of the cherry goo and began to spread a thick coating of chocolate frosting on the cake.
Harry rinsed the last of the dishes and muttered, "I'm done."
"Go outside, then," grumbled Aunt Petunia, as she battled the frosting, which seemed to be melting in the heat of the kitchen.
Harry hopped down from the step stool and bolted out the back door, hearing his aunt's voice call after him that if he tracked dirt back in from the garden, she would scalp him.
It was hotter than blazes in the garden, but Harry didn't care. It was better than being shut up in the house with his aunt and cousin. Even though his uncle was still at Grunnings, the drill firm he worked at, it was little consolation when he was still being badgered by his aunt and knocked around like a punching bag by his cousin.
He settled himself in the grass and pushed up his glasses, which were sliding down the bridge of his nose on a steady stream of perspiration. He leaned back and reclined on the neatly trimmed lawn, gazing at the puffy clouds rolling by in the otherwise brilliant blue sky. Harry loved looking at the shapes and imagining the clouds were different things. He knew this pastime would surely have infuriated the Dursleys, but that fact made it all the more pleasurable for Harry. He squinted at a fat cloud and thought it resembled a pig. Then he snickered to himself and mumbled under his breath with amusement, "Not a pig more like Dudley."
As if he had heard his name being called, Dudley Dursley trudged out of the house and into the back garden. Harry moaned and flipped over onto his stomach, hoping against hope that if he thought hard enough, he could make himself invisible.
No such luck.
"Look what Mum and Dad bought for me," said Dudley smugly.
Curiosity got the better of Harry and he flipped over and saw the shiniest, most handsome red bicycle he had ever laid eyes on. The paint on the bike reflected the summer sunlight like a scarlet beacon itspolished spokes twinkled and glittered as Dudley wheeled it around the patio. The little bell on the shiny handlebars made sounds like music to Harry's ears and his little five-year-old heart burst with envy as he gazed covetously at his cousin's birthday present.
"So," muttered Harry, trying to sound indifferent and flipping back over so he wouldn't have to look at the lovely bicycle any longer.
It wasn't anything new that Dudley was getting extravagant gifts. It wasn't like he didn't get showered with toys and presents every other day of the year. He was astounded that Dudley even got excited over his birthdays actually every single day resembled Dudley's birthday in Harry's eyes since Dudley's overindulgent parents Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon saw fit to spoil him rotten, while all but neglecting the other child in their care.
Harry wanted to kick the ground hard as jealousy overwhelmed him. It was just a stupid bike, after all. He buried his face in his folded arms and wished Dudley would go away.
Time had passed and Harry grew uncaring to the fact that Dudley had received the most attractive children's bicycle on the market for his birthday. Somehow becoming uninterested in the bike was easier since Dudley had deflated the tires less than two days after receiving it, no doubt a direct result of single-handedly consuming an entire Black Forest cake in under ten minutes a new record, even for him.
But today, not having anything to look forward to like a shiny, red bicycle or even a shiny, red bouncing ball made Harry feel terrible inside. Today was 31 July Harry's sixth birthday. If he were lucky today, his uncle would grunt and toss a pair of ratty old socks at him. If the day went like his last birthday, however, he could look forward to a day of Dudley and his friends Gordon, Piers and Malcolm treating him to an afternoon of Harry Hunting.
He flicked a spider off his knee and opened his cupboard door. Miraculously, he was the first one up. He couldn't hear a sound in the house, except for the rigid ticking coming from the clock in the hallway. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and noticed the time the little hand was on the ten was it 10 AM? Aunt Petunia never let him sleep that late
He padded into the kitchen and saw a note neatly printed on a piece of lacy paper lying on the kitchen counter. Harry picked up the note and sounded out the words.
"Mrs. Figg " He recognized the mad old cat lady's name straight way. " is coming. BE GOOD!"
Harry didn't know what kind of crisis could have come up that would have afforded him the luck of being left alone without supervision. He reckoned that's why his aunt had allowed him a lie in, but he guessed that batty old Mrs. Figg would be tottering up the walk any second now. If he wanted a little birthday fun today, he was going to have to do some fast thinking.
His stomach grumbled and he immediately thought of Mrs. Figg's bland cuisine. He skidded over to the fridge and scanned the contents. The pudding from last night's dinner was in a bowl on the second shelf. Harry grabbed a spoon and bolted half of it down in three bites. Dudley would have been proud, he thought as his tossed the spoon into the sink and slid the half-eaten pudding back in its place on the refrigerator shelf.
He thought about raiding Dudley's toy chest, but a red gleam from the back patio caught his eye Dudley's bicycle was there, propped up on its kickstand. So what if the tires are flat? Harry thought. Just to be able to sit on it and sound that bell
He dashed to the patio, hoping that Tibbles or Tufty had got loose and that Mrs. Figg would be late for having to track down an escaped cat, and sat on the vinyl seat, which had once been plump and cushiony, but was now flattened from his cousin's colossal backside. He sounded the bell, which, when new, had sounded like music, but now merely sounded like grinding metal but Harry didn't care. He imagined the bike was brand-new and he imagined that his parents his loving, doting parents had presented it to him just that morning with beaming smiles and big hugs. He knew nothing of his parents, but he knew he just knew that they had to have been the kind of people who would have given hugs. He imagined a deep voice a fatherly voice saying, "That's my boy look at him ride!" and a cooing voice a motherly voice saying, "Oh, he's such a natural!"
Harry put his grubby trainers to the pedals and began to ride it wasn't a smooth ride in the least, thanks to flat tires, but he was still lost in his reverie, imagining a set of parents he had never laid eyes on as they cheered him on.
He'd probably pay dearly for it later, but Harry cared not, for this daydream was well worth it.
THE END Author's Note: The title is nabbed from the Monkees'song. And I'd also like to give many thanks to Sherylyn for a splendid beta job and for pointing out some more of my silly D'OH moments. ;-)