“You'll get the stuffing knocked out of you, won't you?” roared Uncle Vernon,
advancing on Harry with his fist raised. But Harry stood his ground.
“Knocking the stuffing out of me won't make Aunt Marge forget what I could
tell her,” he said grimly.
Uncle Vernon stopped, his fist still raised, his face an ugly puce.
“But if you sign my permission form,” Harry went on quickly, “I swear I'll
remember where I'm supposed to go to school, and I'll act like a Mug—like I'm
normal and everything.”
Harry could tell that Uncle Vernon was thinking it over, even if his teeth
were bared and a vein was throbbing in his temple.
“Right,” he snapped finally. “I shall monitor your behavior carefully during
Marge's visit. If, at the end of it, you've toed the line and kept to the story,
I'll sign your ruddy form.”
He wheeled around, pulled open the front door, and slammed it so hard that
one of the little panes of glass at the top fell out.
Harry didn't return to the kitchen. He went back upstairs to his bedroom.
If he was going to act like a real Muggle, he'd better start now. Slowly and
sadly he gathered up all his presents and his birthday cards and hid them under
the loose floorboard with his homework. Then he went to Hedwig's cage. Errol
seemed to have recovered; he and Hedwig were both asleep, heads under their
wings. Harry sighed, then poked them both awake.
“Hedwig,” he said gloomily, “you're going to have to clear off for a week.
Go with Errol. Ron'll look after you. I'll write him a note, explaining. And
don't look at me like that”—Hedwig's large amber eyes were reproachful—”it's
not my fault. It's the only way I'll be allowed to visit Hogsmeade with Ron
Ten minutes later, Errol and Hedwig (who had a note to Ron bound to her leg)
soared out of the window and out of sight. Harry, now feeling thoroughly miserable,
put the empty cage away inside the wardrobe.
But Harry didn't have long to brood. In next to no time, Aunt Petunia was
shrieking up the stairs for Harry to come down and get ready to welcome their
“Do something about your hair!” Aunt Petunia snapped as he reached the hall.
Harry couldn't see the point of trying to make his hair lie flat. Aunt Marge
loved criticizing him, so the untidier he looked, the happier she would be.
All too soon, there was a crunch of gravel outside as Uncle Vernon's car
pulled back into the driveway, then the clunk of the car doors and footsteps
on the garden path.
“Get the door!” Aunt Petunia hissed at Harry.
A feeling of great gloom in his stomach, Harry pulled the door open.
On the threshold stood Aunt Marge. She was very like Uncle Vernon: large,
beefy, and purplefaced, she even had a mustache, though not as bushy as his.
In one hand she held an enormous suitcase, and tucked under the other was an
old and evil-tempered bulldog.
“Where's my Dudders?” roared Aunt Marge. “Where's my neffy-poo?”
Dudley came waddling down the hall, his blond hair plastered flat to his
fat head, a bow tie just visible under his many chins. Aunt Marge thrust the
suitcase into Harry's stomach, knocking the wind out of him, seized Dudley in
a tight one-armed hug, and planted a large kiss on his cheek.
Harry knew perfectly well that Dudley only put up with Aunt Marge's hugs
because he was well paid for it, and sure enough, when they broke apart, Dudley
had a crisp twenty-pound note clutched in his fat fist.
“Petunia!” shouted Aunt Marge, striding past Harry as though he was a hat
stand. Aunt Marge and Aunt Petunia kissed, or rather, Aunt Marge bumped her
large jaw against Aunt Petunia's bony cheekbone.
Uncle Vernon now came in, smiling jovially as he shut the door.
“Tea, Marge?” he said. “And what will Ripper take?”
“Ripper can have some tea out of my saucer,” said Aunt Marge as they all
proceeded into the kitchen, leaving Harry alone in the hall with the suitcase.
But Harry wasn't complaining; any excuse not to be with Aunt Marge was fine
by him, so he began to heave the case upstairs into the spare bedroom, taking
as long as he could.
By the time he got back to the kitchen, Aunt Marge had been supplied with
tea and fruitcake, and Ripper was lapping noisily in the corner. Harry saw Aunt
Petunia wince slightly as specks of tea and drool flecked her clean floor. Aunt
Petunia hated animals.
“Who's looking after the other dogs, Marge?” Uncle Vernon asked.
“Oh, I've got Colonel Fubster managing them,” boomed Aunt Marge. “He's retired
now, good for him to have something to do. But I couldn't leave poor old Ripper.
He pines if he's away from me.”
Ripper began to growl again as Harry sat down. This directed Aunt Marge's
attention to Harry for the first time.
“So!” she barked. “Still here, are you?”
“Yes,” said Harry.
“Don't you say yes' in that ungrateful tone,” Aunt Marge growled. “It's damn
good of Vernon and Petunia to keep you. Wouldn't have done it myself. You'd
have gone straight to an orphanage if you'd been dumped on my doorstep.”
Harry was bursting to say that he'd rather live in an orphanage than with
the Dursleys, but the thought of the Hogsmeade form stopped him. He forced his
face into a painful smile.
“Don't you smirk at me!” boomed Aunt Marge. “I can see you haven't improved
since I last saw you. I hoped school would knock some manners into you.” She
took a large gulp of tea, wiped her mustache, and said, “Where is it that you
send him, again, Vernon?”
“St. Brutus's,” said Uncle Vernon promptly. “It's a first-rate institution
for hopeless cases.”
“I see,” said Aunt Marge. “Do they use the cane at St. Brutus's, boy?” she
barked across the table.
Uncle Vernon nodded curtly behind Aunt Marge's back.
“Yes,” said Harry. Then, feeling he might as well do the thing properly,
he added, “all the time.”
“Excellent,” said Aunt Marge. “I won't have this namby-pamby, wishy-washy
nonsense about not hitting people who deserve it. A good thrashing is what's
needed in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. Have you been beaten often?”
“Oh, yeah,” said Harry, “loads of times.”
Aunt Marge narrowed her eyes.
“I still don't like your tone, boy,” she said. “If you can speak of your
beatings in that casual way, they clearly aren't hitting you hard enough. Petunia,
I'd write if I were you. Make it clear that you approve the use of extreme force
in this boy's case.”
Perhaps Uncle Vernon was worried that Harry might forget their bargain; in
any case, he changed the subject abruptly.
“Heard the news this morning, Marge? What about that escaped prisoner, eh?”
As Aunt Marge started to make herself at home, Harry caught himself thinking
almost longingly of life at number four without her. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia
usually encouraged Harry to stay out of their way, which Harry was only too
happy to do. Aunt Marge, on the other hand, wanted Harry under her eye at all
times, so that she could boom out suggestions for his improvement. She delighted
in comparing Harry with Dudley, and took huge pleasure in buying Dudley expensive
presents while glaring at Harry, as though daring him to ask why he hadn't got
a present too. She also kept throwing out dark hints about what made Harry such
an unsatisfactory person.
“You mustn't blame yourself for the way the boy's turned out, Vernon,” she
said over lunch on the third day. “If there's something rotten on the inside,
there's nothing anyone can do about it.”
Harry tried to concentrate on his food, but his hands shook and his face
was starting to burn with anger. Remember the form, he told himself Think about
Hogsmeade. Don't say anything. Don't rise
Aunt Marge reached for her glass of wine.
“It's one of the basic rules of breeding,” she said. “You see it all the
time with dogs. If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something
wrong with the pup —”
At that moment, the wineglass Aunt Marge was holding exploded in her hand.
Shards of glass flew in every direction and Aunt Marge sputtered and blinked,
her great ruddy face dripping.
“Marge!” squealed Aunt Petunia. “Marge, are you all right?”
“Not to worry,” grunted Aunt Marge, mopping her face with her napkin. “Must
have squeezed it too hard. Did the same thing at Colonel Fubster's the other
day. No need to fuss, Petunia, I have a very firm grip...”
But Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were both looking at Harry suspiciously,
so he decided he'd better skip dessert and escape from the table as soon as
Outside in the hall, he leaned against the wall, breathing deeply It had
been a long time since he'd lost control and made something explode. He couldn't
afford to let it happen again. The Hogsmeade form wasn't the only thing at stake—if
he carried on like that, he'd be in trouble with the Ministry of Magic.
Harry was still an underage wizard, and he was forbidden by wizard law to
do magic outside school. His record wasn't exactly clean either. Only last summer
he'd gotten an official warning that had stated quite clearly that if the Ministry
got wind of any more magic in Privet Drive, Harry would face expulsion from
He heard the Dursleys leaving the table and hurried upstairs out of the way.
Harry got through the next three days by forcing himself to think about his
Handbook of Do-It-Yourself Broomcare whenever Aunt Marge started on him. This
worked quite well, though it seemed to give him a glazed look, because Aunt
Marge started voicing the opinion that he was mentally subnormal.
At last, at long last, the final evening of Marge's stay arrived. Aunt Petunia
cooked a fancy dinner and Uncle Vernon uncorked several bottles of wine. They
got all the way through the soup and the salmon without a single mention of
Harry's faults; during the lemon meringue pie, Uncle Vernon bored them A with
a long talk about Grunnings, his drill-making company; then Aunt Petunia made
coffee and Uncle Vernon brought out a bottle of brandy.
“Can I tempt you, Marge?”
Aunt Marge had already had quite a lot of wine. Her huge face was very red.
“Just a small one, then,” she chuckled. “A bit more than that... and a bit
more... that's the ticket.”
Dudley was eating his fourth slice of pie. Aunt Petunia was sipping coffee
with her little finger sticking out. Harry really wanted to disappear into his
bedroom, but he met Uncle Vernon's angry little eyes and knew he would have
to sit it out.
“Aah,” said Aunt Marge, smacking her lips and putting the empty brandy glass
back down. “Excellent nosh, Petunia. It's normally just a fry-up for me of an
evening, with twelve dogs to look after...” She burped richly and patted her
great tweed stomach. “Pardon me. But I do like to see a healthy-sized boy,”
she went on, winking at Dudley. “You'll be a proper-sized man, Dudders, like
your father. Yes, I'll have a spot more brandy, Vernon...”
“Now, this one here —”
She jerked her head at Harry, who felt his stomach clench. The Handbook,
he thought quickly.
“This one's got a mean, runty look about him. You get that with dogs. I had
Colonel Fubster drown one last year. Ratty little thing it wasWeak. Underbred.”
Harry was trying to remember page twelve of his book: A Charm to Cure Reluctant
Reversers. “It all comes down to blood, as I was saying the other day.
Bad blood will out. Now, I'm saying nothing against your family, Petunia”
she patted Aunt Petunia's bony hand with her shovellike one “but your sister
was a bad egg. They turn up in the best families. Then she ran off with a wastrel
and here's the result right in front of us.”
Harry was staring at his plate, a funny ringing in his ears. Grasp your broom
firmly by the tail, he thought. But he couldn't remember what came next. Aunt
Marge's voice seemed to be boring into him like one of Uncle Vernon's drills.
“This Potter, 5) said Aunt Marge loudly, seizing the brandy bottle and splashing
more into her glass and over the tablecloth, “you never told me what he did?”
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were looking extremely tense. Dudley had even
looked up from his pie to gape at his parents.
“He—didn't work,” said Uncle Vernon, with half a glance at Harry. “Unemployed.”
“As I expected!” said Aunt Marge, taking a huge swig of brandy and wiping
her chin on her sleeve. “A no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger who
“He was not,” said Harry suddenly. The table went very quiet. Harry was shaking
all over. He had never felt so angry in his life.
“MORE BRANDY!” yelled Uncle Vernon, who had gone very white. He emptied the
bottle into Aunt Marge's glass. “You, boy,” he snarled at Harry. “Go to bed,
go on —”
“No, Vernon,” hiccuped Aunt Marge, holding up a hand, her tiny bloodshot
eyes fixed on Harry's. “Go on, boy, go on. Proud of your parents, are you? They
go and get themselves killed in a car crash (drunk, I expect) —”
'They didn't die in a car crash!” said Harry, who found himself on his feet.
“They died in a car crash, you nasty little liar, and left you to be a burden
on their decent, hardworking relatives!” screamed Aunt Marge, swelling with
fury. “You are an insolent, ungrateful little —”
But Aunt Marge suddenly stopped speaking. For a moment, it looked as though
words had failed her. She seemed to be swelling with inexpressible anger—but
the swelling didn't stop. Her great red face started to expand, her tiny eyes
bulged, and her mouth stretched too tightly for speech—next second, several
buttons had just burst from her tweed jacket and pinged off the walls—she was
inflating like a monstrous balloon, her stomach bursting free of her tweed waistband,
each of her fingers blowing up like a salami —
“MARGE!” yelled Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia together as Aunt Marge's whole
body began to rise off her chair toward the ceiling. She was entirely round,
now, like a vast life buoy with piggy eyes, and her hands and feet stuck out
weirdly as she drifted up into the air, making apoplectic popping noises. Ripper
came skidding into the room, barking madly.