Harry raced downstairs, two steps at a time. There, just inside the front door stood Mr. Weasley and Ron, clutching his fathers arm.
Mr. Weasley’s hair was looking thinner than ever and he had large, dark circles underneath his eyes, as though he had been very busy and worried lately. Ron, on the other hand, looked exactly the same as when he and Harry had last seen each other, except that his hair, which he had been growing out, looked much shorter. Harry guessed that Mrs. Weasely had not been as patient with his long hair as she was with Bill’s and Ron had been on the receiving end of an at-home haircut.
“Nice hair, mate”, Harry joked and Ron’s face transformed into a dark scowl.
“That was the first thing hat happened when I got home”, he grumbled, “No hello’s, how are you’s, isn’t it nice that your not dead yet’s, no nothing. It isn’t fair, why is Bill allowed to keep his hair long?”
“This is not the time or place.” said Mr. Weasely in a voice that suggested that this was not the first time that they had had that discussion, “Very nice to see you, Harry and – ah, your aunt and uncle!”
Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon entered the room. Although they had only been one room away, they had waited for Harry’s entrance before they greeted the Weasely’s. Harry could only guess that they did not want to be alone in the room with wizards who were not even their flesh and blood. Given the choice, they did not even spend time in the same room as Harry.
“And how’s your cousin doing, Harry?” asked Mr. Weasley kindly. Mr. Weasely believed Dudley to be a wee bit on the crazy side and felt pity for him.
“What does it matter to you?” Vernon growled.
A flash of confusion went over Arthur Weasley’s face, but before he had time to reply Harry said “He’s still upstairs in bed, he’s as well as ever”. Harry knew very well though that Dudley was hiding upstairs in fear. All of his previous experiences with wizards had ended unhappily.
“How about Ron and I go upstairs to take care of your trunk?”, Mr. Weasley suggested, “and we’ll leave you alone to say goodbye to your aunt and uncle”.
“You hang on there, Weadly!”, shouted a panicked Vernon, “there is to be absolutely no magicking of any kind under my roof!”
Mr. Weasley gave Uncle Vernon the type of look of amused understanding that one might give to a two-year-old child who is refusing to put on his shoes before going outdoors.
“We cannot possibly carry all of Harry’s things with us first to the ministry and then all the way home”, he tried to explain, “They would too much of a nuisance. Anyway, it’s really quite easy to send them home, your neighbours could not possibly notice unless they were staring into the window.”
The Dursley’s both looked as though this was a very likely possibility even though Harry’s room was on the second floor.
“Vernon…” said Petunia, while resting a comforting hand on Uncle Vernon’s arm. She turned to the Weasley’s. “Do what you must”, she said in a voice of tight-lipped defeat, “But no matter what, close the blinds first!”
As Mr. Weasley and Ron headed towards Harry’s bedroom Aunt Petunia turned to Harry. “Well, Harry…” she began.
“…Goodbye at last!”, interrupted Uncle Vernon hurriedly, “Now, Petunia, what do you say that we go into the kitchen and you make me some lunch?”
Petunia hurried into the kitchen, but instead of settling at the counter, she returned with a bag in hand. “Here’s a bit of lunch for you” she said to Harry.
Harry mumbled to brief but surprised thanks as Uncle Vernon seethed. He then put the lunch into his rucksack, which already contained his moneybag and Quidditch Through the Ages, in case he had to wait for a while during the Apparition test.
“So”, began Harry, “I guess this is it”. He wasn’t sure what to say. It seemed as though Petunia was actually making a belated effort, but Uncle Vernon was unchanged. After seeing during the past few years what human beings were capable of Harry was much less hasty to judge the Dursley’s. They were not perfect people by any count, but neither were they evil. They were weak, ignorant, superficial and blind in many ways, but they would never kill for personal gain nor torture a person for pleasure. Harry remember being told that you could not divide the world into the good and the Death Eaters but he suddenly realised that neither could you divide the world neatly between good and evil. There were some truly good people, like Dumbledore and even Arthur Weasley and there were many evil people - Harry’s mind sprang immediately to Voldemort, Snape and Umbridge. But in between these two extremes, the black and the white, there were countless shades of grey, a category in which the Dursley’s and, if he was being entirely honest, even himself fell.
Before any awkward verbal exchanges could me made, Ron and his father came back downstairs.
“Well, that’s taken care of,” said Mr. Weasley, “now we’d better get a move on if we want to get home before dark”. He turned to Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia. “Mister Dursley, Mrs. Dursley, it was a pleasure.” He held out one arm each to Harry and Ron. “I’ll only be guiding you,” he said, “so put your mind into it. Remember we’re headed front desk in the Ministry.”
With a jolt, Harry remembered his last trip to the ministry and the tragedy that had followed.
“Three…two…” counted Mr. Weasley
“Goodbye” said Harry to his guardians.
“One!” finished Mr. Weasely and Harry felt the now familiar sensation that came with apparition and he thought hard about their destination.
As the Dursley’s entranceway disappeared from Harry’s sight, however, he faintly heard Dudley’s voice from the top of the stairs; “Can I have Harry’s room, too?”.
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