Christmas at the Dursley Household
This story was originally published in September 2004 and published on the now-defunct pottersplace.org.uk
Harry woke with a start, nearly hitting his head on the low ceiling of his small cupboard. It took him a second to remember where he was in the oily darkness that surrounded him.
Instinctively he felt for his glasses on the box beside his bed. He pushed them into place and stared around him, trying to figure out what had disturbed him.
It was then that he heard the noise. It wasn’t a particularly loud bang, but it was so unexpected that it made Harry jump, and he banged his head on the sloping ceiling.
As he massaged the top of his head he saw a flash of light through the vent in the cupboard door.
Straining as hard as he could to try and pick up even the slightest noise, he could make out a faint rustling noise. Harry wasn’t sure what to do, his first thought was that it was burglars and that he should stay put, be quiet, and pray they didn’t find him, but curiosity got the better of him and he decided to try and find out exactly what was making the noise.
Very carefully, Harry slid out of bed and edged his way over to the door. He knelt down and tried to peer between the slats of the vent. He couldn’t see anything but the occasional flash of light, usually accompanied by a thump and some rustling.
After what seemed like ages, he summoned all his courage and decided to go on. Slowly he put his hand on the doorknob and gently began to turn. He took great care to make as little noise as possible. When the door was slightly ajar, Harry stuck his head out and looked around the dark and empty hallway.
He decided that the sounds were definitely coming from the lounge. Gradually, and as silently as possible, he made his way across the hallway and pressed himself flat against the wall beside the lounge door.
For a moment he stood, barely daring to breath, let alone move. Then, still shaking like a leaf, he cautiously poked his head around the doorframe.
The scene that greeted Harry couldn’t have been further from what he’d imagined; on the floor lay piles of wrapping paper, under which he could just make out a few objects: some computer games, a CD player and a remote control car. Kneeling in the middle of all this was Dudley. Dressed in his favourite green pyjamas - which barely fitted - and with a torch at his side, he was tearing the wrapping off a box on the floor in front of him. Dudley, it seems, was opening his Christmas presents early.
Harry was so relieved he let out a big “sigh” before he could stop himself. Dudley, who must have been far more alert than usual (probably because he knew he was doing something wrong), heard it immediately. He grabbed the torch, spun round and pointed it in Harry’s direction. The light blinded Harry, forcing him to close his eyes.
‘Dudley,’ whispered Harry coarsely.
‘Oh, it’s you,’ whispered Dudley back. He lowered the torch.
‘What are you doing? You’re not supposed to open those until the morning.’
‘It is the morning.’
‘Fine, you tell Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia that when they see what you’ve done.’ Harry turned to leave.
A sudden realisation dawned on Dudley. He knew exactly what their response would be, and he didn’t like the thought of it one bit. ‘You have to help me,’ he hissed.
‘No way, you’re on your own.’
‘If you don’t I’ll…I’ll…’
‘…I’ll tell them…’
Harry could almost see Dudley’s brain straining to work.
‘…you did it.’
A sudden wave of fear shot through Harry. A ball of ice formed in his stomach, and his mouth instantly became dry. He swallowed hard. ‘Yeah, that’s what I’ll do, I’ll tell them you did it.’
‘You…You can’t,’ stammered Harry.
Dudley got up and stalked across the room, sending wrapping paper this way and that. As he reached the doorway Harry shifted positions to try and block his path.
‘No, you can’t do this.’
But Harry was no match for Dudley, not that Dudley was particularly strong, he was simply much heavier. He had no trouble in barging Harry out of his way.
Harry started after him.
‘Please Dudley, I’m begging you,’ said Harry, careful not to raise his voice. It was no use though; Dudley had already decided what he had to do. Harry tried to grab Dudley.
It was a mistake, and he knew it was the moment he did it.
Dudley shrugged him off, turned on him and drove both arms into Harry’s chest.
Harry flew into the lounge and ended up in a heap on the floor amid the piles of wrapping paper.
Dudley didn’t even stop to see what had happened to Harry, let alone care. He was already on his way up the stairs.
Harry got up and listened intently to Dudley’s footsteps as they clumped up the stairs, across the landing, and into Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia’s room.
Harry heard a muffled noise that sounded like “what.” He knew it must have come from Uncle Vernon. It was quickly followed by footsteps that sounded more like small explosions rocking through the house.
Harry’s mind raced, he was imagining Uncle Vernon’s reaction. Then he imagined all the punishments he would inflict on Harry; each one worse than the last.
The footsteps were slowly getting louder and louder. Harry started to shake uncontrollably.
As the footsteps reached the bottom of the stairs Harry heard Dudley saying, ‘I found him when I came down for a glass of water.’
Harry knew that Dudley had never drunk a glass of water in his life without having it forced down him, but that wouldn’t do him much good now.
He saw the silhouetted figures appear in the doorway. The one that must have been Uncle Vernon reached for the light switch.
Harry screwed his eyes closed as tight as he could. He tried to prepare himself for the impending outburst.
There came a ‘click’ as the light was turned on.
Harry didn’t dare move, but slowly, carefully, opened his eyes.
Before him stood Uncle Vernon, dressed in navy blue pyjamas and tartan slippers. He was scanning the room with his beady eyes. Behind Uncle Vernon stood Aunt Petunia; dressed in a pink dressing gown with a frilly collar, pink slippers, and with rollers in her hair, she looked like a bird of prey as she craned her head back and forth, looking for evidence.
It was Dudley’s face that would remain forever imprinted on Harry’s brain; his eyes were wide open and his mouth wider still.
After a few seconds Harry relaxed a bit and started to look around the room, trying to figure out what they were looking for.
The first thing he noticed was the floor; there wasn’t any wrapping paper in sight, no presents either. Slowly he turned around, and to his amazement all he could see below the tree was a neatly stacked pile of presents, all perfectly wrapped.
It was Uncle Vernon who broke the silence, ‘Well, what’s all this about unwrapped presents?’
Harry turned back to face Uncle Vernon. ‘I don’t know what you mean, Uncle.’
Uncle Vernon looked down at Dudley. Dudley looked up, his mouth still agape.
After a few moments staring at each other, Uncle Vernon said, ‘Get to bed, both of you. And if I hear a sound from either of you before morning, there’ll be no presents for anyone.’
‘But…But…,’ stuttered Dudley.
Harry was still thinking about the incident on Christmas day afternoon. They had indeed made it till morning without further incident, although it had taken quite some time before Harry had drifted off to sleep. Then they’d opened the presents, or rather Dudley had. He even opened Harry’s – which turned out to be a pair of Uncle Vernon’s old socks. Needless to say Harry wasn’t wearing them, he would have needed a belt on each sock just to hold them up. Not that Harry minded, all he could think about were the presents. How had they re-wrapped themselves? It was just amazing, and just a touch strange.
Little did he know what was to come…