Author’s Note: I’m busy clearing the decks here, working on bits and pieces that I’ve accumulated over time but never published.
Set in the summer after Harry’s fifth year; as well as our favourite couple, it features amorous Dursleys — you have been warned.
“I’m sorry, Vernon, he’ll have to come in with you.”
Harry blinked in amazement. His aunt didn’t sound in the least sorry; had they had a fight where his uncle had lost? He couldn’t imagine any situation where his uncle would ever agree to babysit his nephew. Despite his heavyset build and his bullying nature when it came to Harry, he had observed that his uncle could be quite tender towards his wife when he wanted to be. The tell-tale rhythmic creaking of the bed at night and a slightly less obnoxious attitude towards Harry in the morning told him that, disgusting as it was, his guardians were still inclined to give in to their physical attraction to each other. In photos of his uncle as a young man, before the arrival of his middle-aged spread, Vernon Dursley had cut an impressive figure, one honed on the rugby field and the boxing ring. Perhaps that was what his aunt saw when the walrus in the corner had a twinkle in his eye.
“We agreed, Vernon. Today he goes with you and those busybodies of the Headmaster can see how we are treating him.”
“But he’ll blow the bloody place up!”
“He’s sixteen, dear,” replied his aunt, her voice softening in reassurance, “he has far more control that he used to have. And besides, the last time he did something, your sister was responsible.”
For the second time that day Harry was stunned by what he’d heard. He waited for his uncle’s firm rebuttal but it never came.
“And anyway, if I get everything done that I need to, we can have a nice, relaxing evening together.” She leaned forward and patted his arm and offered him a brief, almost imperceptible, smile. Harry shuddered, but then remembered that a ‘relaxed’ Vernon was less likely to make his life a misery.
“And you,” she announced, turning away from her husband towards her nephew, “keep yourself under control and everyone will have a good day.”
“Yes, Aunt Petunia.”
“And make sure you wear those clothes that Weasel woman bought for you. At least she knows enough to make you look respectable, even if she can’t control that tribe of hers.”
Harry bit his tongue at the backhanded compliment paid to Molly Weasley and refrained from letting on that he had more than one set of ‘respectable’ clothes in his school trunk.
The trip to Grunnings was uneventful, as was the morning. However, just before lunch, all hell broke loose and his uncle was in a towering rage.
“I suppose that it was you and your freaky stuff that screwed everything up, wasn’t it, boy?”
Harry had no idea what had gone wrong, but he knew that, despite whatever promise his aunt had made to his uncle, he was in for a rough afternoon. However, he decided that he wasn’t going to stand back and wait for his uncle to take it out on him.
“What’s gone wrong, Uncle Vernon?”
“Broken machinery, that’s what’s wrong. Not that your kind would know anything about that sort of stuff.”
“We know how to fix things.”
“We’ll have none of that bloody stuff here, boy!”
Their conversation was interrupted by Vernon’s secretary.
“Mr Grunning would like to see you, Mr Dursley. Mr Grunning Senior.”
Harry noticed that his uncle visibly paled at the mention of the founder of the business and stood silently as his secretary left. Harry waited for the explosion to come, but his uncle did not speak. Finally, Vernon turned to him, his features tightly controlled, but Harry knew from experience that this was when the man was at his most dangerous. His thought process was unknown to Harry, but he knew that what followed was normally unpleasant, at least for him.
“Stay here, boy. Don’t move a muscle. Visits to Grunning Senior are rarely pleasant, even for someone such as me. If your freakishness has cost me my job, there will be hell to pay and there will be nothing that Headmaster of yours will be able to do to stop it.”
Harry nodded slowly, knowing that words would do nothing but add fuel to the fire. He stared at his uncle’s back as he left the room, wondering what fate awaited him once the man returned.
Two minutes later, the door burst open, but rather than signalling the return of his uncle announcing his fate, it was a tall, gangly young man complete with stained, dark-blue overalls and an oil-smudged face.
“Where’s Dursley? And who are you?”
“My uncle has gone to see Mr Grunning Senior. I’m—”
“You are his criminally insane nephew, Potter.”
“Well, I’m not sure …”
“Don’t look mad to me. Still, appearances can be deceiving. So the Walrus has gone to see the Old Man, has he? Rather him than me. Dad’s in a bit of a mood this morning. Accountant’s told him that he can’t afford the new machinery until the next tax year and now the thing’s conked out.”
“So why is my uncle getting the blame?”
“Because he’s the Production Manager and even though he told the Old Man last year the thing needed replacing, he’s managed to keep it going until now. Bit of a wizard when it comes to machinery, your uncle.”
Harry tried and failed to stifle a laugh.
“Yeah, hard to believe it, but the porker knows his machines. Well, as he’s not here, you’ll have to do. Come on.”
“What do you mean? My uncle told me to stay here, or else.”
“Well, I’m the owner’s son, and I say you have to move. So put your arse in gear and give me a hand.”
And without waiting for Harry, he marched out of the room and down the corridor. Harry rushed after the retreating footsteps, wondering what on earth he was getting himself into.
“Ah, there you are, Samuel. And you have the wayward Mr Potter with you, as well. Caught him trying to steal stuff from the stock cupboard, I’ll be bound. Don’t know why you brought the lout in with you, Vernon.”
“Actually, Father, young Harry here appears to have inherited some of his uncle’s talent for machinery.”
Harry couldn’t decide what was funnier: the idea that he was directly related to his uncle or the man’s dismay at his being useful.
“So what did the young wastrel do, then?”
“He just appears to have the knack fixing for things. You remember the cogs on C machine, how they’re always popping out of alignment?”
His father nodded.
“Well, five minutes of work from Harry with the spanner and she’s running good as new.”
“No doubt skill learned from breaking and entering, eh, Vernon?”
His uncle could only nod in agreement as he stared at his nephew. “Well, boy,” he said eventually, “what do you have to say for yourself? Speak up, that’s Mr Grunning himself talking to you.”
“Well, sir,” replied Harry, mustering all the fake humility he could muster, “my uncle is always talking about different methods he is going to try to fix the machine and I just remembered one of them and I thought I’d give it a try. I do like repairing things, so—”
“What do you think—” his uncle started to interrupt him, but Gunning Senior stopped him.
“I’m pleased to hear that things are now running smoothly on the shop floor, Dursley, but the boy shouldn’t be let loose around the place. I will be having words with young Samuel here about that. Wouldn’t want the health and safety boffins closing us down because the boy wasn’t trained in how to breathe in an industrial environment or some such nonsense as that. Take him home and have a half day yourself. And tomorrow we’ll see if we can talk that accountant into letting us spend some of our hard-earned money on a replacement.”
The journey home was conducted in silence apart from the call that his uncle made on his car phone.
“Yes, I’m coming home early. No, I haven’t been sacked. No, the boy didn’t do anything wrong. Yes, I’m amazed as well. I’ll explain it all once we’re home. And,” he glanced at Harry, “I’m sending him to Mrs Figg’s for the rest of the day. Dudley is at his friends for the night, isn’t he?”
Harry didn’t have to guess at the response as a smirk crossed his uncle’s face.
They pulled up outside Mrs Figg’s house to find a familiar face waiting to greet him.
“Ginny? What are you doing here? Not that I’m not glad to see you.”
“Mrs Figg called to say that you were here for the afternoon and did anyone want to come over. Ron is grounded for talking back to Mum once too often and Hermione is in Tuscany with her parents. So, you get me.”
She smiled broadly at him, a smile he found impossible to resist. He couldn’t help returning her smile as he clambered out of his uncle’s BMW and it pulled away.
“Come on in, Mum’s sent a whole pile of food that even Ron would struggle to get through.”
And with that, she grabbed his hand and the two walked happily towards Mrs Figg’s.