In this World and the Next

Not for Weasley fans, dark beginning and rating is for safety. A Re-do with payback on the menu H/Hr Complete

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5627314/1/In-this-World-and-the-Next

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14. Chapter 14

Neville sat down to breakfast and was soon joined by Millie, "Morning Neville, where's Harry and Hermione?"

"Oh hi Millie, they have some business to take care of in the muggle world. Hermione's parents are going to become Harry's guardians, you need to be at least sixteen before you can marry there. This move will cover them legally and stop eyebrows being raised at them living together."

Millie was thrilled, this was the most Neville had said to her so far. She had quickly recognised his almost paralysing shyness for what it was and her determination to coax him out of that shell of his seemed to grow stronger with each passing day. She'd known what Harry and Hermione were doing today, but Millie was resolved to use any tool or technique available to her in her bid to get Neville talking and comfortable in her presence.

This was going to be a long term project but Millie was positive the results would be more than worth it. She may have been amongst the first to recognise the wizard that Neville could grow into but she sure wouldn't be the last. Millie's plan was a fairly simple one, become Neville's friend, hopefully girlfriend before the better looking girls came sniffing around and she lost any chance she had. Nice guys like Neville were extremely hard to find, Hermione didn't waste anytime in taking her boy off the market.

Neville was also thrilled, he'd just managed to hold a conversation with a girl without stuttering, stammering and generally behaving like the village idiot. He liked having Millie as a friend but the girlfriend rumours and the accompanying teasing made him blush, surely she couldn't be interested in him? It was also a revelation to be gently teased by his friends, a far cry from what he expected boarding the Hogwarts express.

Glancing around the hall he could quickly see the trend that began after their trip to the theme park was not only continuing but spreading, people were sitting with their friends irrespective of house.

The only table not to participate was of course Slytherin, it remained exclusively attended by students bearing green on their robes. There were five Slytherin first years spread over the other three tables but no one else had risked sitting at their house table yet. Malfoy's almost permanent scowl and Weasley's eating habits might have had something to do with that though.

Millie asked Neville a question about his Herbology homework and he agreed to meet her later in the library to help, maybe she was interested in him as a boyfriend? Until he met Harry and Hermione he'd never even had a friend before, his utter dread of rejection would probably mean Millie would need to ask him out!

Neville though was totally unaware that Millie, being a very smart girl, had already figured that out. She would just bide her time and wait for the right moment.

-oOoOo-

Harry was disappointed in the courtroom, too many years of spying from his cupboard as his Aunt Petunia watched her legal dramas left him expecting more. There was no jury and the judge didn't wear a wig, as he was follically challenged Harry thought this might have made Judge McGhee appear a bit more impressive. Although this was Harry's first dealings with the muggle legal system, he had been tried twice and instigated his godfather's trial in the magical world. Although the outcome of the last one was everything they could have hoped for, Harry was hoping for a bit less drama here today.

Appearances were apparently deceptive as the balding, middle-aged judge missed nothing. He interrupted the Grangers' lawyer in mid flow. "Mr Wilkes, I am perfectly sure that the paperwork will have every T crossed and I dotted but this is a child's welfare we are dealing with here. I have no intention of granting anything until I personally hear from the lad in question."

Donald Wilkes thought this might happen, McGhee was one of those judges who needed to see things with their own eyes. Although the case was unopposed, he still wanted to speak to Harry. "Your Honour, Mr Potter is here now and more than willing to answer any questions you may have."

Harry was wearing what he now considered was his lucky suit, it had been worn on the day Sirius gained his freedom and the umbitch got her just deserts. He received hugs from all his family except Sirius, the marauder didn't want to cloud the issue of his godfather sitting there and not applying for custody so was currently in Gringotts on business. There was also the question of why he didn't intercede sooner that they really couldn't answer. Finishing with a hug and a peck on the cheek from Hermione, he made his way to the indicated chair, thankfully without the attached chains.

He found Judge McGhee's gaze to be penetrating but in a kindly manner, his whole purpose appeared to be ascertaining what was best for Harry. He couldn't say that about too many people he'd met in his life.

"Harry, could you please introduce me to the people who accompanied you here today?"

Harry imagined himself in this position when he was eleven and acted appropriately, "Oh this is mum and, sorry it's Mr and Mrs or should that be Dr and Dr?" Harry knew he was laying it on thicker than with a bricklayer's trowel but was playing it for all he was worth today. The mum and dad slip had been deliberate, as was the Dr comment, this was something he really wanted. "This is Dan and Emma Granger, the young lady with them is my best friend Hermione."

The joy on Harry's face as he spoke about his family couldn't be manufactured by the best child actors, the judge picked up on this immediately.

"Would it be fair to say you like staying with the Grangers?"

Harry adamantly shook his head, "No Sir, I love staying with the Grangers. Like is reserved for less important things, bacon sandwiches and coca-cola. What it means to me to stay with the Grangers goes way beyond like!"

The sincerity in Harry's words shone through and had already made the judge's mind up on the placement. What disturbed him was why this case was uncontested, this was highly unusual given the child had stayed with the Dursleys for ten years.

"Harry, I understand from the paperwork your aunt and uncle were as happy to see you go as you obviously were to leave. Could you please tell me in your own words what happened the day you left?"

Harry thought of the best way to put this across, "Hermione has been my best friend for many years and I get on brilliantly with her parents. We were all sitting chatting when I let slip some facts about my living conditions at my aunts, ten minutes later I was in the Grangers' car heading over there. Since they claimed I was dumped on them, and they never wanted me in the first place, they couldn't wait to sign the forms. In my short time at the Grangers I've finally discovered what being part of a family feels like."

The judge had been doing this for nearly twenty years and had developed a sixth sense when someone was spinning him a tale. Since his bullshit detector was currently sending out no alarms, he was left with the option that the boy was telling the truth. This was obviously not the whole truth though it raised some other points that would have to be considered.

"Harry I'm left thinking that your home life with the Dursleys was not all it should have been. I understand you have a cousin, this leaves me wondering if that young man is in any danger in that house?"

Harry tried not to laugh, he really did. It took a couple of minutes for him to regain his composure enough to be able to answer the judge. "Sorry about that sir, the only way my cousin would be in any danger in that house would be if he hurt himself in a temper tantrum. Even they are restricted to the odd occasion that he doesn't get his own way. As I've never seen one lasting longer than two minutes before his parents give in, the danger is minimal."

The judge thought about this before deciding he would have them investigated anyway, something didn't ring true here. He then passed one of the easiest judgements he'd done in a long while. "Mr Potter, I've rarely seen a boy more in tune with the people who've applied to be his guardians. I have no hesitation of awarding that right to the Grangers."

The smiles coming from the now family of four illuminated the room.

-oOoOo-

Albus felt a tightness in his chest as Remus escorted the Potters' lawyer into Hogwarts for their appointment with Minerva. The headmaster felt like a trapped animal, aware of the approaching storm but unable to do anything about it. All the experience and advantages he'd spent decades building had been whittled away until even his own students no longer respected him, far less held him in the reverence Albus felt he'd not only earned but deserved.

He could find no trace of this mystery author who was writing a devastating expose of his life, nor it would seem do anything to stop both Potters and Black dragging him to court. The Potters had very effectively courted the support of the ministry, the British wizarding public as well as the staff and students of Hogwarts.

Dumbledore was left not only without allies but facing trouble and condemnation no matter which direction he turned. It all hinged with the Potters, Albus could no longer think in terms of just Harry. That wife of his was as fierce as a tiger in defence of her mate, leaving the old headmaster with no idea where to turn next.

He had cast his bait into the water and now, like fishermen the world over, was forced to sit patiently and wait for the fish to make its move. Albus was worried that any trial could see him out of the castle for a prolonged period, leaving your hook unobserved was the surest way of losing your bait. In this high stakes game he was playing, that was not an option he could contemplate.

Albus decided to wait until Halloween before thinking of removing the stone from Hogwarts, if the Potters and Sirius Black were successful in the courts then he didn't think he would be spending Christmas in the castle. He wasn't worried about being flung into Azkaban, Fawkes would have him out of there in a flash. His greatest concern was losing the position of Headmaster, that would start the downward spiral toward becoming Albus Nobody.

His biggest problem at the moment was not being in control of everything, this was something Albus had not experienced for many, many years and he definitely didn't like it. At the moment he didn't even have control over his own destiny, far less anyone else's. No, Albus Dumbledore did not like this feeling one bit.

Ron Weasley had to do something, his entire Hogwarts experience was turning sourer than last month's milk. He tried hard not to stare at how the rest of his year mates were spending lunchtime, talking, laughing and joking with each other, comparing this to what he had available to him did not make for pretty viewing. Draco was so insanely jealous of Potter that he wouldn't actually speak of it, only his father's direct orders stopped the blond boy from plotting some form of revenge. Pansy was Pansy, the only thing she was interested in was Draco. Crabbe and Goyle were harder to get a read on, that could be because there was nothing there to actually read!

Ron couldn't spend the next seven years like this. He never expected to be the centre of attention but to be sidelined and completely ignored was as unexpected as it was unacceptable. Again his mental focus shifted to what the redhead attributed the root of all his problems to, Potter!

He needed something to bring the golden boy down a peg or two, just to let everyone see their idol wasn't perfect. Ron decided the hat must have placed him in Slytherin for a reason, it was time to be sneaky about the situation. One gesture wasn't going to turn this around but any dent in the golden git's shininess would be a start.

He then had a brainwave, challenge the arse to a duel at midnight. Not only would he be safely tucked up in bed, he would make sure Filch and that bloody cat of his were lying in wait for them.

A spell of detention should tarnish the gloss of Mr Perfect and spoil any plans they had for the weekend, it wasn't much but at least it was a start. His pause for thinking over, Ron went back to what he does best, eating.

-oOoOo-

Harry was also having lunch, sitting in a very nice restaurant with his new legal guardians, his godfather and of course Hermione, his wife who wouldn't tell him what she was cooking-up that required the help of the goblins. While Harry had been at Quidditch practice last evening, Hermione had used the map and cloak to remove a certain item from the room of requirements. After handing Ravenclaw's diadem over to Barchoke for removal of Voldemort's horcrux, she had casually said that the matter she had written to him about could now proceed.

It had been a very busy meeting with Barchoke confirming that the purchase of the Gaunt and Riddle land would go ahead within days. He also provided brochures of plots of land for sale in their preferred Australian locations, Hermione's attempt to slip that past was caught by her husband. Between her refusal to tell him what she was up to and the constant 'wait and see' reply from Sirius regarding his plans for the diary, Harry would normally be working himself into a strop.

This was not a normal day though, today he never had to see the Dursleys ever again while mum and dad officially became just that, mum and dad. Nothing was going to spoil his good mood today, especially since he was conducting his own correspondence with the goblins, he was just sneakier about it.

Both Harry and Hermione felt a bit like jugglers as they tried to keep their eyes on everything that was happening around them, they agreed though that this was so much better than bumbling about with only the meagre clues Dumbledore saw fit to drop in their direction. It was also important to them that they did not step over the line where they were manipulating people, Remus and Tonks aside, they were letting people see different options and allowing them to choose for themselves.

He was glad his theory about Dumbledore appeared to be correct, that of a powerful old wizard living off his past glories. He hadn't taught a class for forty-five years and his contact with students appeared to be observing them at mealtimes, no wonder he had a hard time understanding two muggle raised students. The old wizard may be a powerful genius but his eccentricities would have generated multiple alarms in the muggle health care system. The alternative to this view would mean Dumbledore was aware of far too much to remain a light sided wizard. Harry's treatment at Privet Drive, Quirrell, the Basilisk, Sirius being innocent, Crouch Jr and that bloody tournament were just some of the things that sprang to mind. If Dumbledore was the all-knowing, all-powerful wizard he tried to portray himself as, these events must have been at least known, if not engineered by the headmaster. Dealing with one dark lord was quite enough without having another orchestrating events from the wings. Yes they intended to ruin Dumbledore's reputation but when the alternative was watching him die, Harry had no qualms about what they were doing.

He was also delighted to see the change in Hermione since they decided they would be heading out of the country after Halloween, knowing she didn't have to face Ginny after Ron's date with the troll had brightened her mood considerably. Whether the move became permanent would depend entirely on the British magical community, they had provided some nudges and even downright pushes but it was still going to be up to the people to decide. One thing was for sure though, they wouldn't be caught coming back to Britain unawares this time. If things went pear shaped again, they would just make Australia their home and coax as many of their friends to join them as they could.

After lunch they were all travelling down to the new home, Hermione's portkey necklace had an extra destination placed on it for easier commuting. She didn't bother asking how the goblins knew the location, she just correctly assumed that Harry was having top of the range wards installed there as well. The owner of the building firm had promised to be on site to meet with them, when Harry mentioned he had a proposition for him the man appeared very eager to be there. He and Hermione figured it would be easier to have the same contractors build an exact copy of the house they'd just finished, only difference would be the location. They would have to be leaving soon to keep their appointment. Mum had been on a high since the court room, the pictures in the brochures increased her excitement and they were now going to visit their new Devon home. Probably just as well she didn't have any wine with lunch as she was already high enough!

Harry had misread the situation though, visiting her new home and planning on where to build their next one was very exciting for Emma, but it didn't even come close to what happened in the courtroom this morning. Today Emma Granger got the son she'd always wanted, just not in a manner she could have envisaged.

-oOoOo-

Charlie was getting short on time, he still had to visit Muriel and collect mum's clock. Ginny though was insisting that he visit the site of their old home. Charlie was reluctant but it would make his sister happy and mean less time to spend with Muriel, how could he say no to that?

Emma's day was getting better and better, their new home was all they had dreamed and designed. The real clincher though was being told they could move in at the end of the month, realism then hit Emma with a vengeance. That was next week and they'd never be ready!

Hermione could see where her mother's mind was racing, "Mum, don't panic. You have three people who can perform magic staying in the house, we can shrink everything into a couple of trunks before driving down here and expanding it again.

Harry then revealed some of his secret dealings with the goblins by handing Emma a credit card in her name, "This is to buy anything you need for the house, please also use it to book the flights once we've settled on a destination."

This earned Harry a massive hug from his new mum and a 'you'll be explaining that later' look from his wife, both left him feeling very happy.

The contractor meanwhile had been having a quick word with his workers, all were very keen to head off to Australia and build their second Potter home. When he considered the prestige, the profit and missing a month of the British winter to enjoy Australian sunshine, there really was no decision to make. They would all be spending the month of October in Australia.

Harry and Hermione heard the voices of their friends calling on them, turning they immediately spotted Luna and Ginny running toward them. That they were accompanied by Charlie caused Hermione to draw her wand, she didn't expect to need it but appearances had to be maintained.

Charlie's mixed feelings about seeing his old home disappeared the instant he laid eyes on the site. The area before him bore as much relation to the Burrow as a Komodo Dragon did to a Hungarian Horntail. It wasn't just the beautiful house either, the entire landscape had changed beyond recognition. As he watched his sister and Luna race to greet their friends, he was rather surprised to see the girl draw her wand and hold it at her side the instant she caught sight of him. He was not surprised that she then tracked his every movement, Charlie was positive that if his behaviour was in any way threatening, this girl would be firing curses first and asking questions later.

Charlie said hello to the Grangers and was introduced to Sirius Black before he felt compelled to say something about the situation. "Excuse me Miss, I mean you no harm. There really is no need for you to have your wand in hand."

Hermione's response was not what Charlie expected. "I'm not a Miss but Lady Hermione Potter. You claim to mean us no harm but experience has taught me that, until I get to know them then no one can be trusted."

"That's a pretty grim view of life you have there Lady Potter."

Hermione came right back at him, "When you're sitting in school eating breakfast and your husband gets attacked by a madwoman, there really isn't a lot of options left open to you."

Charlie had no answer to that, especially when Ginny threw in her two Knuts worth. "Mum would have gone for a repeat performance in the Leaky Cauldron if dad hadn't silenced and put a full body bind on her. Sorry Charlie but Hermione is right to be careful, I know you would never do anything like that but they don't. Fred and George got the same treatment until they were found to be trustworthy."

This actually drew a semblance of a smile from Charlie, "I'm not sure whether to be more upset that Lady Potter doesn't trust me or that she trusts the twins more. I don't think I've ever been so insulted in my life."

This broke the ice between him and the Potters though Hermione still didn't put her wand away, appearances had to be maintained. "If you don't mind, the twins are friends of ours. I've never met a sensitive Weasley before, far less one who's a dragon handler."

Ginny couldn't help but burst out laughing at Hermione's quip, the idea of Charlie being sensitive was just too funny.

Harry was smiling too as he spoke to their friends, "Girls we hope to be moved in here by next weekend, you know our door is always open to you. Hermione now has a portkey that will bring us directly here so we'll meet you at this house on Saturday."

Luna had to ask, "What are you guys doing here, shouldn't you be at Hogwarts today?"

Hermione actually blushed at the explanation, even though she was really nineteen, missing school was not something to do lightly. "We had court this morning and bunked off school for the rest of the day. We just had to see how the house was progressing."

Charlie was surprised but delighted at how well the four youngsters got on together. Hearing Ginny talk about her friends was one thing, seeing them interact was totally different. The young girl may have introduced herself as Lady Potter yet there were no airs or graces between the three girls. Charlie understood the 'lady' bit was a defence mechanism against being treated like a child.

Ginny had told him the girl was very smart and extremely powerful, the dragon handler was beginning to come down on the side of the Potters. Ginny was happier than he'd seen her and the twins were singing their praises too, Ron was the lone voice of discontent. If dad and Bill had no trouble with the young couple, who was Charlie to rock the boat!

-oOoOo-

Charlie's visit to his aunt's was short but certainly not sweet, that woman would still be sour if she was buried up to her armpits in sugar. He hated to think of Ginny staying with this vile woman, she wouldn't be the happy, vivacious young girl he saw today if she lived under this roof. Charlie was forced to listen as this septic old spinster denounced and degraded every single member of the Weasley clan, by the time her rant had reached Ginny he'd had more than enough. Charlie dealt with real dragons daily, as poisonous as Muriel was she's a pale imitation to the real thing.

The anger in his voice was unmistakable as he gave the bitch a taste of her own medicine, "My sister is far better off where she is. Not only does she have friends and people who care for her, she doesn't have to endure your grating voice proclaiming how worthless she is at least four hundred times a day. I have a younger brother who's missing and all of your concern is focused on a perceived slight upon your person! I shall be writing to my parents tonight and recommending they change the name on the Hogwarts contact list to me. I can get to Scotland reasonably easily and I can't imagine any of my family approaching you for help."

Muriel was beyond angry and three streets past furious, these ungrateful Weasleys had no sense of gratitude whatsoever. With speed that belied her age, she drew her wand and blasted Molly's clock to smithereens. "Take your trash and yourself out of my home, neither you nor any of your tribe will ever cross my doorway again."

Charlie was well aware that was his mother's prized possession this vindictive old bitch had just destroyed, there was also no doubt Muriel understood exactly what she was doing.

"Listen you vindictive old bat, if I have anything to do with it, no Weasley will ever set foot in this house again. My father must have been desperate to even consider this as an option, personally I would rather stay in Azkaban than here. I'll bet dementors would have no effect on you, there would be no happy memories for them to feed on. Hell they would probably recognise a kindred spirit, like them you can suck all the happiness out a room just by entering. I'll bid you goodbye and never intend to set eyes on you again."

Charlie stormed out, leaving a speechless Muriel behind. He was trying to figure out what to do now that his mother's clock was destroyed. He had a glimmer of an idea but would have to move fast if he intended to pull it off.

-oOoOo-

Next morning an owl delivered a thick envelope to the Weasleys in Cairo, it was with shaking hands that Arthur opened it. He pulled out Percy's journal, five small packets and a goblin bank draft, it was the enclosed letter from Charlie that the three were really waiting on.

Arthur read it out loud to save the other two from waiting to read it.

Mum, Dad and Bill,

I spoke to the ministry and Minerva, all are of the opinion that Percy has run away and currently laying low. I have enclosed his diary which gives a very good insight into what he was feeling at the time. Also spoke with the twins and they confirmed that while Percy was apparently sweet on this girl, he'd never actually spoken to her other than normal class time. While the aurors are actively searching for him, it's not being treated as a high priority as they fully expect him to turn up soon. They will contact me immediately they hear anything.

Twins are very well although Ron appears to have some trouble settling at Hogwarts, apart from the strangeness of seeing a Weasley wearing the green there's also the matter of him being friendly with the Malfoy boy. Both have managed to alienate themselves from the rest of the school due to their continual bad mouthing of the Potters. Ginny on the other hand is happier than I've seen her and getting along brilliantly not only with Luna but her new neighbours the Potters. I dread to think what she would have turned out like had she been left in the care of that vicious bitch Muriel.

I have to apologise mum, Muriel was bad-mouthing our family something fierce when I had enough and blew my top. The reason I need to apologise is the bitch destroyed your clock in a childish fit of temper. I know you need a hair from each of us for a clock to work so I raced back to Hogwarts to collect three hairs, followed by a trip to see Ginny and then one of my own should cover most of us. I also included a Gringotts draft for as much as I could afford, the twins and Ginny also contributed. They spent last weekend with the Potters at some muggle attraction and Harry refused to take back the muggle spending money he gave them. The goblins converted it to galleons and added it to the draft, I hope it's enough to help with a new family clock. I also want you to write to Minerva, I don't want Muriel to have anything more to do with our family and I will happily travel back from Romania rather than have her poking her nose in.

Will write again soon and contact you the moment I hear any other news from Britain. Hang in there mum, you know he'll turn up!

Charlie

Molly was crying as she held Percy's journal, Bill picked up the Gringotts draft. He agreed wholeheartedly with Charlie that Ginny was better off anywhere other than Muriel's and was mightily relieved to hear his opinion on the Percy situation. "Mum, if we add a bit to this I should be able to get you a clock made before the end of the week."

She was quietly sobbing as she began reading her missing son's diary, by way of an answer she just pulled out one of her hairs and passed it to her eldest.

Arthur removed one of his own from a rapidly declining source, "Keep that safe, the way things have been going lately I'll soon have none left!"

Bill tugged one from his own head and promised to see about a new clock for his mum today.

-oOoOo-

Narcissa Malfoy almost choked on her breakfast as she read the letter that had been delivered by an unknown owl. Lucius couldn't help but notice his normally cultivated and cultured wife spraying coffee over the table, he enquired who the letter was from.

"It's from the head of the Black family. He's citing you belonging to an organisation that murdered his brother as breaking the contract of our marriage. Death eaters killing the heir to the house of Black is more than enough legal justification for this to be quickly passed."

It was now Licius's turn to do a spit take at the breakfast table, "What? He can't do that! I was under the Imperius curse, everyone knows that."

Narcissa hated pointing out the obvious, a task that she supposed she should be used to by now with the Malfoy males. "It would appear neither Sirius Black nor the goblins believe that claim, the fact that you never stood trial under veritaserum doesn't help your case either. He's already dissolved Bella's marriage and then banished her from the Black family, he's only writing to me in the hope I don't have the dark mark. He's given me two days to meet him and prove this is not the case otherwise I will suffer the same fate. The goblins have also been instructed that, since you broke the contract, the Black family is reclaiming my dowry, plus interest."

Lucius was feeling sick, it was bad enough they were becoming social pariahs but this on top would finish them for good. His wife would have no name, he would have no money and their son would be a bastard. Lucius had to take action and fast, this situation could not be allowed to happen.

"Write to him at once and arrange a meeting, I'm sure we can come to some sort of agreement." Lucius had his hand on the ever present cane with the snake motif, yes they would soon reach an agreement.

Narcissa knew her husband well enough to guess what was going through his mind, "He's not stupid, Sirius will be in a private room at Gringotts between one and two o'clock today and tomorrow. How bad would this be for us financially?"

Lucius was so far into shock he couldn't even lie to his wife, "Disastrous would not be too strong a word. We would have to sell anything we could and flee the country, there would be nothing left for us here."

The rest of Narcissa's breakfast was forgotten about, she'd become accustomed to this way of life and didn't want to see it go. Lording over some peasants in a god forsaken backwater was not her idea of a pleasant future. "Then I suppose I'll have to meet him and beg for mercy!"

Lucius wore a truly evil grin, "No my dear, I will. By the end of the week Draco could be the new Lord Black and all our financial worries will be over. Sirius is going to discover just what it means to cross a Malfoy, a Slytherin will always outsmart a Gryffindor!"

Narcissa hoped her husband was correct, she really didn't want to be starting over with a lot less than she had now. She always thought the dark mark on her beautiful alabaster skin was a massive mistake, if Sirius laid eyes on it she'd neither be a Malfoy or a Black. Narcissa couldn't abide the shame of being a penniless, nameless single mother with a bastard son. She would have to place her faith in her husband and pray he could handle Sirius.

-oOoOo-

In Little Whining a similar scene was being played out at number four Privet Drive, but for an entirely different reason.

Vernon was wiping off the fruit juice his wife had just spat all over him, his growl demanded an explanation from the clearly excited woman.

"Vernon, you won't believe this but after spending all those years entering my 'stupid' competitions, we finally hit the jackpot! I've just won an all expenses paid around the world cruise for two."

Vernon stared at his wife, awaiting the punch line of this very bad taste joke. Instead she handed him the letter to read for himself. The walrus started to become as excited as his wife as everything looked to be the genuine article, an all inclusive five star cruise around the world. Spending the coming winter cruising sunnier climes for free was certainly appealing., in his mind Vernon was already picturing the both of them on the deck of the cruise liner.

He would have to take unpaid leave as his holidays wouldn't stretch to this, Dudley would have to either spend Christmas at Smeltings or with Marge. He intended to investigate this strenuously before saying a word to anyone. When it proved to be genuine then Vernon would soon ensure that everyone heard that he and his wife would be cruising around the world.

Petunia was daydreaming of finally being able to mix with the kind of people she was supposed to be amongst, her bridge club would be green with envy when they heard of her good fortune. Like her husband, Petunia would ensure they heard about it, oh how they would hear about it!

Jessie Wallace managed to mention her trip to Rome at least every third sentence she spoke, Petunia would be dining at the captain's table while visiting exotic places like Cape Town, Hong Kong and Singapore. She wouldn't have to keep mentioning the Rome Coliseum, Petunia would have enough memories and stories never to have to repeat herself for years.

She was going to have to acquire a new wardrobe though, meeting a better class of people would require the clothes to match. Vernon's credit cards would soon take care of that, shopping followed by a luxury cruise. Could it get any better?

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