Curses, Foiled Again

Curses, Foiled Again
Prompt 028: Curse
Summary: Aunt Marge and the Very Big Mistake

"So!" Aunt Marge barked as she sat down at the kitchen table for lunch.  "Still here, are you?"

"Yep, still here," Xander replied with a shrug.  Aunt Marge had arrived in all her tweedy splendor bringing her loud, blunt attitude and her little demon dog with her.  Xander had told himself it was just a week and he could handle anything for a week.  He was a Director in the International Watcher's Council.  He could handle one small-minded, loud-mouthed Aunt.

"Don't you reply 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 the orphanage if you'd been dumped on *my* doorstep."

Then again, maybe he couldn't. 

Xander blinked thoughtfully for a moment and finally decided on a plan of action.  He gave Marge a goofy smile.  He couldn't quite remember how Harry had responded to his Aunt Marge other than he'd blown her up sometime later in the week.  Hopefully, his week would go a little easier than Harry's had.

"Completely understandable attitude, ma'am, considering your sterling reputation and no-nonsense character," he responded with a thoughtful nod.  "But the whole neighborhood here on Privet Drive knows just how kind and generous Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon are for taking me in and for taking such considerate care of me despite my many, *many* faults." He looked at his gaping Aunt Petunia with an adoring expression.  "But they can't help it.  Maybe it's the milk of human kindness, maybe it's their vast compassion but they are both definitely full of something."

Three adults and one portly cousin just stared at Xander with open-mouthed astonishment. 

"Oh, come on, Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia," he continued with an earnest expression. "You both *know* what kind of reputation you have here.  Why just yesterday, Mrs. Smithson from two doors down, complimented me on having such distinguished relatives - with such a fine yard too - and chastised me for being such a burden."  He shook his head sadly.  "I told her I would try my best to do better and she advised me I could have no better role model than Vernon Dursley."

Xander beamed at his Uncle.  Marge's eyes had just about bugged out of her head before they narrowed to slits as she glared at her brother's nephew.

"Now see here, boy," she snapped as she tapped the table with her knuckle.  "I don't know what you're playing at but you'd better keep a civil tongue in your head." 

Xander just looked at her in confusion.  "I don't understand, Aunt," he said slowly.  "Are you saying that Uncle Vernon is *not* a good role model?"

Marge blinked and looked quickly at her brother, who was still flummoxed by his nephew's performance. "I said no such thing!" she sputtered but Xander continued as he glanced at Dudley.

"I mean Dudley is growing up just like his Dad so I assumed Uncle Vernon was the man to emulate around here," he stated grandly as he turned to his gaping cousin.  "Just think, Dudley," he said in a confiding tone.  "At the rate you're eating, you'll soon look just like Uncle Vernon."  Xander gestured towards the heavy, bull-necked, bug-eyed man at the end of the table whose mouth was hanging open in shock.  Then Xander's eyes brightened as he continued.  "I bet you'll even work at Grunning's just like your Dad."

Xander didn't think he imagined the look of panic that crossed Dudley's face at the word, 'work'.

"Err, right," Dudley managed to stammer before Xander slapped him on the shoulder and stood.

"I bet there's no feeling quite like knowing you'll grow up to be just like your Dad, eh, Dudders?" he said as he sighed.  "Well, I'd better get to my chores, right, Aunt Petunia?  I know you asked me to weed the garden so I'd best get to it."

Xander smiled and gave the stunned and silent group at the table a nod before he sauntered out into the early afternoon sunlight.


Five Days Later

Xander was on his fifth day in Hell. 

Stunning as it was to think, he actually looked back fondly on life at Privet Drive before the Coming of Marge and Ripper.  Xander had chuckled to himself the first time he'd seen the drooling little bastard clutched in Marge's grasp.  He thought fondly about what Giles would say considering the librarian had gone by the same moniker during his young and wild days.  Xander had to admit that if Giles had been as irritating and downright evil as Marge's mutt, he understood how the man had fallen in with Ethan Raine.  Next to Marge and Dudley, Ripper had been the bane of Harry's existence and the dog definitely tried to live up to his previous performances during this visit.  

Xander, fortunately, had a better means to deal with Ripper.  He gave the dog a few chances, tried to discourage his habit of chomping on Xander's ankles.  He had to really work at not drop kicking the furry little demon across the back yard more than once. 

But after the fifth time the dog made a bee-line for Xander's defenseless ankle in the front hall without the protection of his overbearing and loud mistress, the boy just dropped to his knees, caught the dog's beady little eyes and let out a little of the hyena - which amazingly had followed him into this new reality - with a deep, almost sub-sonic growl. 

Ripper froze, staring up into brown eyes just barely glowing with a wicked, green light.  Then he piddled on the floor and took off in the opposite direction.  Xander hadn't been bothered since.  Ripper went out of his way to avoid Xander and the Boy-Who-Lived enjoyed his brief respite.

If only the dog's owner could be driven off so easily.  Marge, when she finally noticed her dog's new avoidance of the boy, threw him suspicious glares every chance she got.  Obviously he'd done *some*thing to her angelic little pup.

Xander, for his part, tried to stay out of her way by doing various chores that the Dursleys dumped on him.  Marge didn't like that.  She liked to have him around "where she could keep an eye on him".  Besides, while she loved to indulge "her favorite nevvie," Dudley, with affection, sweets and money, Xander quickly realized that she liked best of all to indulge Dudley when Xander was around.  She seemed to like the smug grin that Dudley would flash at him.  

Finally, after a day or so under MargeWatch, Xander loudly pointed out to Vernon that as long as Marge kept him in the house and at her side, the chores were not doing themselves.  That is, unless Vernon *wanted* the chores to do themselves which Xander would be happy to facilitate.  He smiled innocently and waved his hand.  Vernon turned an unhealthy purplish color and quickly shoved him out the back door.

Xander got to do his chores but alas Marge didn't give up that easily. 

While he tended the garden, weeding and planting and whatever else Petunia demanded, Marge brought her teacup and her demon dog outside and badgered him about how he was weeding the garden wrong and he'd better not mess up Petunia's prized begonias. Xander just sat back on his heels and eyed Marge as she stomped across the yard to talk with Petunia who was gossiping with a neighbor.  Xander then transferred his glare to her demon pug dog that had stayed behind. 

Ripper looked at him with a gaze that questioned what had happened earlier in the week.  Xander just smiled slowly and let out another low growl as he idly wondered if his inner hyena might not like a chew toy.  Ripper, in the process of working up to growling at him, froze again and then took off after his mistress.  Xander went back to pulling weeds.

The next day, Xander had chosen to clean out the attic thinking that Marge would never climb the wobbly stairs into the stifling ceiling room.  He was soooo wrong.  Not only did she climb up there and spent a good hour deriding his work, but he definitely pulled something in his back helping her back down the stairs to the second floor when he was done.

Towards the end of the week, he'd been sent up to the roof to clean out the gutters during one of the hottest days yet this summer.  Marge just grabbed a glass of iced water and she stood at the bottom of the ladder, calling out instructions on how to properly do the job.  After about thirty minutes of Marge's loud comments, Xander had stared down at her for a long moment and then smiled.  Two minutes later, he'd 'accidentally' dumped the contents he'd so far scraped out of the gutters on her head and continued on with the job listening to her screeches. 

He'd gotten that night and the next day locked in his room, allowed out for only bathroom breaks, which was fine with him as his room was obviously a non-Marge zone.  He was given hardly any food but that didn't bother Xander.  He had the bright idea of calling Dobby, who was ecstatically happy to supply Mr. Xander Harris sir with whatever food his heart desired. 

That was when the week descended into a deeper hell. 

Xander found out that house elves didn't know what twinkies were and thus, couldn't provide them.  The next morning when he was allowed out, he asked Dudley, whom he knew had consumed every snack known to man, if he'd ever had a twinkie.  Dudley just looked at him suspiciously and told him there was no such thing and Xander had better not be talking about the 'M' word.

The Boy-Who-Lived considered falling into depression.

Finally the end of the week arrived and Xander began counting down the hours before Marge's departure.  She was leaving in two days time and he just had to keep his cool until then.  He'd remain at the Dursleys for a little while longer and then maybe the Weasleys would come and get him.  He really did want to see the Burrow.

So absolutely no Aunt Marge Bloatage for him this time no matter what had happened to Harry in the book.  That's not to say he didn't *think* about blowing up his aunt several times over the past week.  Those thoughts, however, consisted mainly of using explosives rather than magic.

These were the thoughts running through Xander's head as he completed dinner for his family and was serving it up quietly, trying to remain unnoticed. 

One thing he had quickly gotten used to since his arrival was that on the nights when he wasn't stuck in his room, Xander made dinner for the Dursleys, relying heavily on his Harry-memories of how to cook.  Xander's previous idea of cooking dinner consisted of a phone and a full folder of take-out and delivery menus.  Now, however, he realized he had a vast knowledge of recipes forced upon him over the years by his aunt.

Tonight he was cooking something fairly simple, thank goodness, as his temper was quite frayed by all the Marge comments he'd been forced to endure the entire day.  Vernon had decided that Xander hated being with Marge much more than he hated doing chores so he'd made sure all Xander's assigned chores were inside with plenty of space nearby for Marge to sprawl and comment.  Dudley had joined in frequently in the commentary and Xander had had an extremely hard time not knocking the much larger boy on his arse.

Now, however, the day was almost done as he set the dishes of food on the table.  Dudley, of course, didn't bother to wait until everyone else was eating.  He just began spooning food onto his plate and shoveling it into his mouth.  The adults were having some brandy and Marge's face was already somewhat flushed as she glared up at Xander when he set the final dish on the table.

"Now this one here," Marge began as Xander moved back into the kitchen area.  "This one's got a mean, runty look about him."

Xander immediately tried to block out what he knew was coming.  Marge would be gone the day after tomorrow and her opinion didn't mean anything to him anyway.  She was just an overly judgmental, bitter woman with a petty, small-minded life and Xander should only feel pity for her when it came right down to the facts. 

But the facts didn't help him when her voice twisted into his mind.

"A no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger who -"

"He was not," Xander found himself stating flatly, his gaze boring into Marge's eyes, his hands fisted at his sides.  He should remain calm, he heard a distant voice say in his mind but the woman was insulting his family, his *father* who would have loved him in this life. 

And Xander discovered that his thirteen-year-old anger and angst easily overwhelmed his twenty-five-year old rational thought.

Vaguely, he heard his uncle bellowing for more brandy while his brown gaze held Marge's tiny bloodshot eyes.

"No Vernon," she hiccupped, holding up her hand.  "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!" Xander roared as he stomped closer to the table and slammed his fist down on the hard wood.  The Dursleys jumped at the loud noise and they watched Xander with wide, astonished eyes.  "You don't know shit, you small-minded, petty bigot!" he screamed at Marge whose face was flushed with brandy and rage.  "You live in your small-minded, shallow little world and make your all-knowing judgments on people you know *nothing about* but You. Don't. Know. Shit!"

His words were rolling out with a distinctly American accent but no one at the table really noticed.  Marge was just staring at him, her mouth opening and closing in rage and indignation.  Finally, her eyes narrowed and she leaned forward, her gaze hard and malicious.

"Your parents died in a car crash, you nasty little liar and left you to be a burden on their decent, hardworking relatives," she screamed, swelling with fury.  "You insolent, ungrateful little -."

"They're supposed to be *my* relatives too but you sure wouldn't know it by the way they treat me!" Xander replied hotly.  He had more furious words bottled up inside just waiting to pop out but then he noticed that his aunt actually *was* swelling with rage and his anger drained away as he realized exactly what was happening. 

He blinked for a moment as Marge continued to inflate. 

"Oops," he said almost sheepishly as buttons from Marge's jacket pinged around the room.  Ripper suddenly appeared from under the table, barking madly and savaging Vernon's ankle even as Marge bounced off the ceiling.  Xander then decided that he should be elsewhere and ran from the room, leaving Vernon to deal with trying to keep his sister from bouncing out the back door. 

Xander ran to the cupboard under the stairs and wrenched it open.  He'd picked the lock earlier in the summer and had no trouble pulling out his trunk and leaving it beside the door.  He then ran upstairs to his room and collected his other belongings before he thumped back down to his trunk.  Vernon was stomping towards him.

"COME BACK IN HERE!  COME BACK AND PUT HER RIGHT!" the red-faced man demanded but Xander just flipped up his wand and stared at his uncle with hard, brown eyes that gleamed with just a bit of green fire.

"She deserved that," Xander stated in a quiet, chilling voice that had Vernon stepping back a pace.  "If you had bothered to stick up for my parents at all, that wouldn't have happened."  Xander took a deep breath and tried to clamp down on his temper.  "I'm leaving for the summer.  I'm sure the Ministry of Magic will be here shortly to -," Xander smirked, "*deal* with Marge."

He'd savor the panicked expression on his uncle's face at his words later, but for now Xander was out the door, dragging his trunk behind him.  He was operating on pure adrenaline as the trunk was quite heavy but he kept walking, cursing and mumbling under his breath.  He was also berating himself thoroughly for losing his temper.  

He knew what would happen now and he'd just change his plans accordingly.  He wouldn't get to see the Burrow but he would get to roam Diagon Alley for at least unsupervised three weeks. 

Several streets over from Privet Drive, Xander finally came to an exhausted stop.  He sighed and sat on his trunk, looking around the dark and deserted street.  Yeah, it really was stupid to be out here where any old Death Eater could come and find him.  Or any old escaped convict.

Xander stared into the shadows across the street and met the almost feral gaze of a large, black dog.  He shivered for a moment and understood completely how that sight would scare a normal thirteen-year-old wizard.  But Xander wasn't a normal young wizard and he'd been looking forward to this meeting since he'd heard about Sirius Black's escape five days before.

He smiled and held out his hand, palm up.  "Hey boy," he called softly as though he thought he'd scare the dog.  "C'mere boy."

Padfoot stared at Xander for several long moments before he slowly and hesitantly crossed the road, glancing from side to side as if expecting someone to jump out at him.

Xander just waited patiently until the animagus was sniffing softly at his hand.  Then he ran his fingers through the matted fur on the large, dark head. 

"Hello Padfoot," he said gently and the dog froze for a moment before he backed away, growling deeply.  Xander just held up his hands.  "No need to make with the growly noises, Padfoot.  I know you have no reason to trust me but there's no one else here.  This isn't a trap." 

The dog's growling grew softer and then stopped as he tilted his head just a bit.  Xander just chuckled softly.  "Gobsmacked is definitely a funny look for a canine."

Padfoot's dark eyes narrowed for a moment before he seated himself with an impatient chuff of air. 

"Listen, Pads, I would explain here but I've got to run. I'm going to The Leaky Caldron," Xander said as he stood again.  He gave the dog a rather sheepish look.  "I kinda blew up my aunt and she floated away and I want to be out of here before the Ministry shows up." 

Padfoot was on his feet in an instant, his eyes darting around.  "Yeah, I'm sorry about that but Aunt Marge called my dad a good-for-nothing scrounger and well, I lost my temper and accidentally blew her up."  His lips pressed together angrily.  "She's just lucky I used magic and not a bunch of C4 to send her into orbit."

A cold nose pressing into his palm distracted him and he looked down and smiled as he petted Padfoot's huge head.  "Wanna come to the Caldron with me?  You can stay with me until I have to go back to school."

The big dog studied Xander carefully for a moment before he nodded.  Xander beamed down at him. 

"Great!  I'll just call the Knight Bus and we'll be out of here."

Xander held up his wand expectantly but nothing happened.  He looked at his wand in question and then glanced down at the dog beside him.  "Am I doing this right?"

Padfoot gave him the doggy equivalent of shoulders shrugging and Xander sighed.

"What do I have to do, hold up a red flag and pretend the bus is a bull?" he mumbled and held his wand out again, waving it around a bit.

With a BANG, an enormous, purple double-decker bus appeared and stopped right in front of them.  Xander and Padfoot stumbled backwards as they stared up at the pimply-faced young man standing in the doorway of the bus.

"Welcome to the Knight Bus," he read from a small card, "emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard.  My name is Stan Shunpike..."

"Hi Stan!" Xander said brightly before the young man could continue his spiel.  Stan just glanced in front of him and then down before he saw his newest passengers.

"What were you doin' down there?" he finally asked, looking at them oddly.

Xander just sighed and stood up, dusting himself off.  "I tripped," he said.

"'Choo trip for?" the young man asked and Xander sighed as he shared a glance with Padfoot.

"I didn't mean to," he said as he grabbed his trunk and looked up at the young man expectantly.  "How much for me and my dog to get to the Leaky Caldron?"

"Eleven Sickles for you," he replied, trying to look professional.  "But for firteen you get 'ot chocolate and for fifteen you get an 'ot water bottle an' a toofbrush."  He glanced over at the big, black dog sitting quietly at Xander's side.  "I don' know 'bout the dog.  He bus-trained?"

Xander tried to keep from laughing and didn't look at Padfoot at all though he distinctly heard the dog's low growl. 

"Oh yes, Paddy is completely trained for every environment," he said in a sincere tone as he turned around to root through his trunk for his wizard money.  "We went to the space station once and he had no problems what so ever."

Stan just blinked at him a few times.  "Space Station?  Wot's that?"

Xander shut his trunk and held out eleven sickles.  "Oh, just a satellite in orbit around the earth.  You have to call the Knight Shuttle to get there."

Stan absently took the money held out to him and backed up, allowing Xander and his dog entrance.  Stan just stared at him a few more moments before he trotted down the bus.  "Hey Ern," he called, "You ever heard of the Knight Shuttle?"

Xander snickered to himself and found a nearby seat, which fortunately had some fairly sturdy seat belts.  He pulled Padfoot close and rubbed his furry head.  "Hold on, Padfoot.  I hear the Knight Bus is something of a bumpy ride."

Padfoot snorted and Xander could almost hear the agreement.

Then with a BANG, the Knight Bus disappeared.