"Marge'll be here for a week," Uncle Vernon snarled, "and while we're on the subject" - he pointed a fat finger threateningly at Harry - "we need to get a few things straight before I go and collect her."
Dudley smirked and withdrew his gaze from the television. Watching Harry being bullied by Uncle Vernon was Dudley's favorite form of entertainment.
"Firstly," growled Uncle Vernon, "you'll keep a civil tongue in your head when you're talking to Marge."
"All right," said Harry bitterly, "if she does when she's talking to me."
"Secondly," said Uncle Vernon, acting as though he had not heard Harry's reply, "as Marge doesn't know anything about your abnormality, I don't want any - any funny stuff while she's here. You behave yourself, got me?"
"I will if she does," said Harry through gritted teeth.
"And thirdly," said Uncle Vernon, his mean little eyes now slits in his great purple face, "we've told Marge you attend St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys."
"What?" Harry yelled.
"And you'll be sticking to that story, boy, or there'll be trouble," spat Uncle Vernon.
Harry sat there, white-faced and furious, staring at Uncle Vernon, hardly able to believe it. Aunt Marge coming for a week-long visit - it was the worst birthday present the Dursleys had ever given him, including that pair of Uncle Vernon's old socks.
"Well, Petunia," said Uncle Vernon, getting heavily to his feet, "I'll be off to the station, then. Want to come along for the ride, Dudders?"
"No," said Dudley, whose attention had returned to the television now that Uncle Vernon had finished threatening Harry.
"Duddy's got to make himself smart for his auntie," said Aunt Petunia, smoothing Dudley's thick blond hair. "Mummy's bought him a lovely new bow tie."
Uncle Vernon clapped Dudley on his porky shoulder.
"See you in a bit, then," he said, and he left the kitchen.
Harry, who had been sitting in a kind of horrified trance, had a sudden idea. Abandoning his toast, he got quickly to his feet and followed Uncle Vernon to the front door.
Uncle Vernon was pulling on his car coat.
"I'm not taking you," he snarled as he turned to see Harry watching him.
"Like I wanted to come," said Harry coldly. "I want to ask you something."
Uncle Vernon eyed him suspiciously.
"Third years at Hog - at my school are allowed to visit the village sometimes," said Harry.
"So?" snapped Uncle Vernon, taking his car keys from a hook next to the door.
"I need you to sign the permission form," said Harry in a rush.
"And why should I do that?" sneered Uncle Vernon.
"Well," said Harry, choosing his words carefully, "it'll be hard work, pretending to Aunt Marge I go to that St. Whatsits -"
"St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys!" bellowed Uncle Vernon, and Harry was pleased to hear a definite note of panic in Uncle Vernon's voice.
"Exactly," said Harry, looking calmly up into Uncle Vernon's large, purple face. "It's a lot to remember. I'll have to make it sound convincing, won't I? What if I accidentally let something slip?"
"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."
© 1999 by J. K. Rowling. Reprinted by permission of Scholastic Inc.
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