Aunt Marge's Big Mistake (PA)

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Inflated Aunt Marge.

Aunt Marge's Big Mistake is the second chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

July 31, 1993

When Harry Potter goes downstairs for breakfast the following morning, he finds Petunia, Vernon and Dudley sitting around the kitchen table watching Dudley's welcome-home-for-the-summer welcoming gift: a television. None of them acknowledge the fact that it is Harry's birthday (CS1).

The telly shows a report on a dangerous escaped convict, Sirius Black; Vernon points out that that man's appearance already reveals how insane he is: Black has an elbow-length tangle instead of regular hair, which makes Harry feel rather well-groomed. When the newswoman switches subjects, the Dursleys complain that the place from which he escaped was not revealed, and eventually conclude that hanging is the only way to deal with madmen like Black.

Marge's train is scheduled to arrive at ten o'clock, and Vernon stands up to leave. Upon hearing this, Harry, who had been thinking of his Broomstick Servicing Kit upstairs, voices his shock. Aunt Marge is Vernon's sister; she lives in the country, where she breeds bulldogs; since she cannot stay away from them for long, she hardly ever visits.

The boy remembers all her appearances, though:

  • When Dudley turned five, she whacked Harry around the shins with her cane to stop him from beating his cousin at musical statues;
  • A few years later, she came for Christmas, bringing a computerised robot and box of dog biscuits for Harry;
  • Her last visit was three years ago, a year before Harry started at Hogwarts. He had stepped on the paw of Ripper, her favourite dog, and it had chased him around the garden and up a tree. Marge hadn't called him off until past midnight.

Vernon tells Harry that Marge will be staying at number four, Privet Drive for a week. The boy agrees to behave (if she does). Mr. Dursley then tells him that Marge believes that Petunia and Vernon have their nephew attend St. Brutus' Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys, and instructs Harry to stick by that story.

Vernon invites Dudley to come along, but he does not wish to do so. Dursley leaves, and only then does Harry realise that he can gain something from this. He asks Vernon to sign the permission slip for Hogsmeade visits (PA1) in exchange for a promise of his best and most Muggle behaviour.

Marge's visit

Harry sadly puts away all his magic items under the loose floorboard in his room, and sends Hedwig away, along with Errol, with a note to Ron explaining everything. He hides the cage in his wardrobe and broods for a short while, until Petunia calls him downstairs to welcome the newcomer.

Harry is appointed to open the door, and the large frame of Marjorie Dursley is behind it. Like her brother, she is beefy and purple-faced; she, too, has a mustache, and is carrying both a huge suitcase and an evil-tempered bulldog.

Dudley comes to hug her, because he is well paid for it; as usual, he leaves the embrace with a twenty-pound note in his fist. Petunia greets her sister-in-law as well, and Vernon offers her tea. She accepts, and adds that Ripper can drink from her saucer.

Having had the full weight of Marge's suitcase thrown on him, Harry stays back, taking as long as possible to take it to the spare bedroom upstairs. By the time he returns to the kitchen, Marge is having tea and fruitcake, and Ripper is lapping noisily in a corner (Aunt Petunia winces; she hates animals).

Colonel Fubster, a retired friend of Marge's, is watching over her dogs while she's away, but she couldn't leave Ripper behind: the dog is far too attached to her.

Ripper growls when Harry sits at the table, which draws Marge's attention to him. She lectures him for seeming ungrateful for Vernon and Petunia's generosity. Harry gives her a forced smile and she warns him not to smirk at her; she then deplores the fact that his manners have not improved since their last meeting.

When asked, Vernon promptly replies that he sent his nephew to St. Brutus', "a first-rate institution for hopeless cases."

Marge asks Harry whether he is physically punished at school and, at Uncle Vernon's sign, the boy replies that he is—loads of times. Marge is disappointed by his nonchalant tone, and encourages Petunia to write to St. Brutus' to require harsher punishments.

August 2, 1993

Vernon, Petunia and Harry were more than satisfied to keep the boy away from Marge, for fear that he might snap, but she would have no such thing. She likes having him near her so she can criticise him at all times. Comparing the two cousins was also a favourite past-time of hers, and so was buying Dudley expensive gifts right to Harry's face.

At lunch, on her third day there, she starts yet another rant about the many things that are wrong with Harry. The boy's hands shake and he tries to remind himself of the Hogsmeade form. She reaches for the glass of wine.

"It's one of the basic rules of breeding," she says. "You see it all the time with dogs. If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup —"

Her wineglass explodes, causing shards of glass to fly in every direction. The Dursleys panic, but she reassures them, claiming that she did the same at Colonel Fubster's the other day. They are not fooled, however, and glance at Harry with open suspicion; he decides to skip desert and leave the table as soon as possible.

Outside, he takes deep breaths and, alarmed, remembers that he cannot risk losing control and receiving another warning from the Ministry of Magic (CS2).

August 5, 1993

Harry lived through the next three days by forcing himself to think of the Handbook of Do-It-Yourself Broomcare whenever Aunt Marge started ranting. It worked well enough, but his constant absent looks gave her the impression that he was mentally subnormal.

When the last evening of her stay finally arrives, Petunia makes a fancy dinner, and Vernon uncorks several bottles of wine. Everything is fine for three entire courses; during desert, in fact, Vernon bores them with a long talk about Grunnings.

Petunia then makes coffee, and Vernon offers his sister some brandy. Dudley is eating his fourth slice of pie. Marge praises his "healthy" appearance, and glares at Harry who, according to her, has a "mean, runty look about him". She can see it as plainly as if he were a street dog—weak and underbread.

The Dursleys, with an inflated Marge in the backround, fanart by Makani.

Harry struggles 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, 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 can no longer block her voice out. He stares at his plate. Both Vernon and Petunia are extremely tense.

Marge asks them what James did for a living, and Vernon replies that he was unemployed.

"As I expected!" she exclaims. " A no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger who —"

"He was not," Harry interrupts her, causing everyone else to be quiet. He is shaking, and has never before felt this angry. Vernon tries to send him to his room, only to have Marge insist that the boy stay and defend his parents who went and got themselves killed in a car crash, probably drunk.

Harry jumps up from his seat, and says indignantly that his parents did not die in a car crash. Marge, swelling with fury, calls him an ungrateful liar, and starts arguing, only to find that she no longer can.

Her face expands, her eyes bulge; the buttons of her tweed jacket start bursting away, and her fingers blow up like salamis. She inflates like a balloon, and floats off like one, now looking perfectly round. Vernon attempts to get a hold of her, but he nearly floats off himself as well. Ripper sinks its teeth into Vernon's leg, forcing the man to stay on the ground.

Harry runs from the dining room before anyone can stop him; his wardrobe bursts open by itself when he approaches, and he hurriedly throws all his things in his trunk, along with the empty cage.

Vernon, now with a bloody leg, calls Harry to come back and fix Marge, but the boy grabs his wand and threatens his uncle with it. "She deserved it," he says breathlessly. "She deserved what she got. You keep away from me."

And thus Harry leaves number four, Privet Drive, with no idea of where to go.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
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