“Up! Get up! Now!” screeched the voice outside the door, banging loudly on the thin wood. Dawn and Harry woke with a start, even as their Aunt knocked again. “Up!”
Green eyes stared into blue, the brother and sister sharing a slight smile and a pulse of affection before rolling out of their shared bed, shaking the thin blanket and settling it on the lumpy mattress.
They dressed quickly, tossing clothes to each other without being asked. Dawn passed Harry his glasses last of all, being careful not to displace the sellotape holding them together.
A loud thud came from above them, dust and bugs raining from the darkness under the stairs. “WAKE UP COUSINS!” bellowed Dudley, jumping again. “We’re going to the zoo!”
Dawn rolled her eyes at Harry, swatting away the spider that landed on her head. Harry chuckled at his twin’s expression, and the annoyance he felt from her, as they both rolled out of bed, Dawn opening the cupboard door just as Aunt Petunia was about to knock again.
“Get into the kitchen,” she snapped. “And don’t you let anything burn, I want everything to be perfect for Duddy’s special day.”
Dawn stared at her aunt, her eyes cold and flat. The woman shuddered, turning away quickly. Dawn coughed, heading for the kitchen, Harry on her heels, rubbing her back to help as much as he could. They separated at the kitchen door, Dawn heading for the stove while Harry reached up into a cupboard and grabbed the bottle up there. He poured the viscous yellow liquid into the medicine cup, nudged Dawn away from the stove and handed it to her.
“Drink it,” he told her firmly when she grimaced, feeling her disgust, even as he set about flipping the eggs she’d cracked into the frying pan. Dawn swallowed the sulfur-based antibiotic, gritting her teeth and forcing herself not to cough again.
“That’s nasty,” she complained, and Harry nodded his sympathy. She’d been on the ‘banana’ flavoured antibiotic for a week, ever since she was taken to the accident and emergency from school after she collapsed, unable to breathe. She was found to be suffering from aspiration pneumonia, caused, their aunt claimed, by inhalation of water on a fictitious trip to the lake, when in actuality, Dudley had held her head in the toilet for so long she’d breathed the water. Her aunt and uncle had ignored the cough, the difficulty breathing and the fever, refusing to take her to the doctor, not wanting a visit from children’s services.
They finished cooking the breakfast, ignoring Uncle Vernon’s complaints about Harry’s hair and Dawn’s cough. Dudley was carefully counting the presents that covered the entire table, so Dawn carefully set the plates and the food down on the minimal surface available around the presents.
“There’s thirty-six,” said Dudley slowly, as Dawn and Harry passed food to their aunt and uncle then served their own, one egg and two pieces of bacon apiece, leaving the lion’s share for Dudley. “That’s two less than last year.” with a glance at each other and a pulse of anxiety, the twins started to eat quickly, to avoid losing their breakfast if Dudley decided to turn over the table.
“Darling, you haven’t counted Auntie Marge’s present, see, it’s here under this big one from Mummy and Daddy.”
“All right, thirty-seven then.” Dudley didn’t look convinced.
Aunt Petunia spoke up quickly, also sensing trouble in the offing. “And when we go out, we’ll get you two more presents, Duddy. Two more, how’s that?”
“So then I’ll have thirty…thirty…”
“Thirty-nine, sweetums,” Aunt Petunia soothed, and setting his plate on the table in front of him. The boy calmed down and everyone finished eating. ~~~@@@~~~
Dawn curled between the car door and Harry, her head on his shoulder as she suppressed another cough, her body shaking with the force. Dudley and Piers Polkiss took up two seats in the back, leaving the twins to cram into the last one. Harry had been careful to place himself between Dawn and the two boys knowing how they would torment her if given the opportunity.
“Stop that infernal noise!” roared Uncle Vernon from the front seat when one of the coughs escaped Dawn’s stifling hand.
“Yes Uncle Vernon, sorry Uncle Vernon,” Dawn croaked, eyes glued on the floor.
“You better be, or your brother will be,” threatened Uncle Vernon, the only threat that worked on Dawn. The only thing that she cared about was Harry; Vernon could do what he wanted to her, and all he would get was the flat stare and polite non-answers, but as soon as he punished Harry Dawn suffered. ~~~@@@~~~
In the snake house, Dawn stared at her cousin and his friend, eyes coldly furious as she knelt by her twin, her own ribs twinging from the hit Harry had taken. Her eyes suddenly sparked green, not that anyone was looking at her to notice, and the glass disappeared from under Dudley’s pudgy hands, as well as from every enclosure of non-venomous reptiles.
The anaconda slid past, hissing softly. “Brazil here I come. Thanks, amigos!”~~~@@@~~~
“You’ll be in that cupboard from now till Christmas. And no meals for a week!” shouted Uncle Vernon, shoving the two through the front door ahead of him. “Only reason I don’t take that medicine away is because you’d drive us mad with that stupid, incessant noise.” ~~~@@@~~~
Dawn sat at the table, tracing her fingers lightly over the scar on the palm of her hand, a straight line across the palm with a half circle above it, with half-a-dozen short slashes surrounding the circle. All in all, it looked like a child’s drawing of a sun, and Dawn enjoyed tracing it because it made Harry twitch. When she asked him about it, he would say that it tickled.
The brother and sister had read several studies about the connection between twins, and assumed that what they had was a variation on that bond – they could sense each other’s emotions and feel each other’s pain.
Just then, the letterbox clicked, breaking her concentration.
“Get the post, Dawn,” ordered Uncle Vernon as they heard the flap rattle.
“Make Dudley get it,” she sniped, sneering at her overweight cousin where he sat, swinging his Smeltings stick.
“Hit Harry with your Smeltings stick, Dudley,” ordered Vernon. Dawn was immediately on her feet and moving towards the hall. She grabbed the mail off the matt and flicked through it, stopped by two identical letters, thick parchment addressed in emerald green ink with spiky, old-fashioned writing. They were addressed to:
Mr. H. Potter
The Cupboard Under the Stairs
Number 4, Privet Drive
Little Whingeing, Surrey
Miss D. Potter
The Cupboard Under the Stairs
Number 4, Privet Drive
Little Whingeing, Surrey
Dawn thought quickly and, grabbing the two envelopes, started to stuff them under the door of the cupboard to hide them. Unfortunately, she had taken too long collecting the mail, and Aunt Petunia had come into the hall to see what she was doing.
“What do you think…Vernon! VERNON!” Aunt Petunia had seized the letters in shaking hands and was staring at them as though expecting them to turn into poisonous snakes.
“Give them back! They’re ours, they say so!” Dawn yelled, furious. Her Aunt’s hand flashed out, catching her hard across the cheek, but Dawn didn’t even flinch.
“Get in there,” the woman hissed, eyes suddenly full of fury. “Bring the boy, Vernon,” she shouted, as she forced Dawn into the cupboard. A few seconds later, Harry joined her, and they sat, huddled on their tiny, motheaten bed, Dawn relating in hushed whispers what had happened. ~~~@@@~~~
More than a week had passed. The twins now slept in Dudley’s second bedroom, although still in the same bed and without enough blankets for one of them to sleep on the floor. Numerous attempts to obtain even one of the letters had failed, and now the twins served afternoon tea to a smirking Uncle Vernon.
“I love Sundays,” the man said, sitting back with a sigh and sipping from the tea that Dawn wished she could lace with cyanide. “Anyone know why?”
“Because there’s no post on Sundays,” Harry replied coldly.
“That’s right, Harry!” cried Uncle Vernon jovially. “No post on Sundays. No ruddy letters today!” As he spoke, there came an odd whirring noise from the chimney, and a cloud of letters came flying out of the fireplace.
Dawn and Harry were both snatching, trying to grab just one, when Uncle Vernon tackled them. He dragged them into the hallway, up the stairs and threw them through the door of their room.
“Pack your clothes! We’re leaving!” ordered Uncle Vernon, slamming the door and, from the sound, jamming a chair under the handle.