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A/N: As some of you reading this probably know, I've sworn never to write romance, yet here it is! It wasn't my original intent when I took up BitterEpiphany's challenge, but somehow over the course of writing, it turned out that way. So please let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, or the telephone box. I don't even own Fatburger. Strangely enough, a restaurant with that name actually exists. Not that I've ever actually eaten there though... the name is kind of freaky. That, and I'm a vegetarian... =)



A Telephone Box and a Bus Shelter


Vernon Dursley strutted pompously out of his office at Grunnings, eyeing passerby with a look of utmost disdain. While his day at the workplace had progressed nicely enough, he felt sure that the evening would produce far more satisfying rewards. Before he lay down to sleep, he would be one step higher on the ladder to corporate success. For tonight, he planned to propose to his girlfriend of three years, Petunia Evans. And of course, she would accept. Who could resist the charm, wit, and most importantly, money of Vernon Dursley?

He didn’t love her. Of course not. A wife was not meant to be loved. A mother; perhaps. But never a wife. However, a wife did serve many functions. As his caretaker, she would wash his clothes, prepare his food, tidy the house, and look after the son who would exist primarily for the purpose of carrying on the family name. As an ornament, she would sparkle brightly at corporate gatherings, making him the envy of his coworkers. Her final and most pleasurable purpose… well, he wouldn’t go there. Not yet.

Parking his expensive vehicle in the garage, Vernon wiped his feet meticulously on the doormat before entering his home. No sooner had he hung up his jacket than the blaring ring of a telephone pierced his ears. He cleared his throat importantly before picking up the receiver.

“Hello?” he inquired in the most formal of tones.

“Vernon? It’s Petunia.”

Instantly, Vernon felt his already unhealthy heart rate increase tenfold.

“Ah…Petunia darling…” he spluttered. “What seems to be the matter?”

“Well… unfortunately, I have to cancel our date for tonight.”

What?! Vernon thought angrily. How dare she, the ungrateful little wretch! Cancel, after all the trouble he had been to, booking seats at the most expensive restaurant in town, not to mention the vast amounts of money he’d spent on the bloody engagement ring! But of course she had no way of knowing that yet.

“Vernon? Are you still there?”

“What? Oh, sorry darling. Would you like to reschedule, then?”

“Yes, of course. I’m terribly sorry. But Mother insisted that I come help with the shopping for Lily’s wedding. She seemed desperate for me to come along – Lily’s sense of fashion is appalling.”

Of course, Petunia failed to mention the real reason for her cancellation: trepidation at arousing the wrath of a certain messy-haired, bespectacled young man who was said to be exceptionally skilled in the art of unpleasant jinxes. She couldn’t very well go on a date with the man she hoped to marry sporting lime green hair and cat whiskers. But of course, she could not explain this to Vernon. Even if it had been allowed, she didn’t want to scare away the man whom she viewed as her one possible chance at escape.

“Oh, I see,” Vernon replied cautiously to what he knew was a touchy subject. Petunia hated her younger sister, although she’d never told him why. Any time he asked, she’d change the subject before he could even blink. He’d chosen not to press the matter – the sister was obviously a bad egg, with all that red hair. At least her parents seemed normal.

“Yes, well, I’ve got to be going now. You’ll call me this evening, won’t you? Around eight?”

“Of course,” Vernon confirmed, waiting for her to hang up before doing so himself.

Sighing, he turned to the television, hoping he’d find something to cheer himself up. Serendipitously, the boxing world championships had just started, and Vernon spent the better part of an hour relishing in the sensation of imagining himself onscreen, beating up that horrid Potter boy with his messy hair who caused Petunia so much trouble.

As the tournament ended, Vernon glanced up at the clock. Forty-five minutes until his reservation was scheduled. He wondered if he should go, even without Petunia. He might as well – he’d had to wait six months to get this reservation, and there was no sense in wasting the opportunity for a particularly fine meal.

Picking up the telephone, he dialed his sister Marge’s number. She’d been complaining recently that he’d stopped paying attention to her since he’d decided to propose to Petunia, so this would be a nice way to patch things up with her.

“Hello, Marge. It’s Vernon. How are you?”

“Sick. I’ve had the flu for almost a week now. Not that you would have noticed.”

“Er… I’m sorry, Marge. Listen, I’m calling because I’d like to take you out to dinner tonight. Maybe that will help you feel better.”

“To Fatburger?” Marge perked up instantly.

“Er, no. I’ve got a reservation at The Victorian.”

“The Victorian?” Marge echoed, shocked. “But, Vernon…”

“What can I say? I love my sister. I’ll be there to pick you up in about ten minutes.”

Humming cheerily to himself, Vernon donned his jacket and stepped into the garage. Glancing at his watch, he saw to his satisfaction that he could collect Marge and drive to the restaurant with at least fifteen minutes to spare. Perfect.

As he sat, stopped at a red light, a flash of blonde caught his attention. Petunia? No, it couldn’t be. She wouldn’t be caught dead in a neighborhood like this. Normally, he wouldn’t even drive through it, but it was the shortest route to Marge’s, and he couldn’t bear the idea of potentially arriving late. In any case, the woman couldn’t be Petunia. He was just thinking about her, that’s all.

Yet there was something about the woman he’d seen out the window that reminded him distinctly of his fiancée-to-be. He snuck another glimpse. This time the flash of blonde was accompanied by a flash of red, a flash of messy black, and two flashes of grey. Vernon turned away, breathing heavily. He couldn’t believe it. His Petunia, skulking around the ghetto with that no-good family of hers! Sneaking another glance, he was happy to note that at least she didn’t look too pleased with her predicament.

The light turned green just as the Evans family turned the corner. On a spur-of-the moment impulse, Vernon decided to follow them. He made sure to keep well behind them, as his car was hardly inconspicuous. Luckily, Petunia’s sister and her fiancé seemed too wrapped up in each other to notice anything else, while Mr. and Mrs. Evans had occupied themselves with reprimanding an extremely distraught Petunia. For some reason he could not comprehend, the thought of people hurting his Petunia angered Vernon immensely. He had half a mind to stop his car and give them a piece of his mind, but figured that it would be best to wait until after he had secured her hand in marriage before enduring public humiliation on her behalf.

The Evans’ chosen path seemed random, with many unexpected twists and turns, and after tailing them for five minutes, Vernon was about to give up. Shifting into reverse, he almost didn’t notice them stop directly in front of an obviously dysfunctional telephone box situated next to a dingy office building. Vernon squinted out the window as the Potter boy entered the box and picked up the receiver, beckoning to the others to follow him.

Vernon hurriedly clamped his hand over his mouth to stifle a laugh. There was no way all those people could possibly fit into such a tiny enclosure. Yet somehow they managed it. If he believed in magic, he’d have said they shrunk. Either that, or the box got bigger. He blinked several times before gathering the courage to look again. When he did, he almost fainted. Within the telephone box, his Petunia and her family appeared to be sinking into the ground. The next time he glanced in their direction, they had disappeared altogether.

He must be hallucinating. He was just very upset about not being able to propose to Petunia that night. The mere fact that a woman could hold such power over his mental well-being would normally have disturbed Vernon greatly, but after what he had just witnessed – no, thought he had witnessed – nothing seemed unusual anymore.

Vernon let out a small groan as he glanced at his watch. He should have been at Marge’s two minutes ago. Luckily, they still had enough time to make it to the restaurant, although his usually ravenous appetite had strangely dissipated. Still, he didn’t want to risk the wrath of his ever-temperamental sibling. So he set off once again for her flat, this time at a remarkable speed.

Marge was pacing impatiently up and down the sidewalk when he pulled up. “You’re almost eight minutes late,” she chastised.

“Sorry, Marge. I just, er, got distracted. That’s all.”

“Distracted?” Marge leered knowingly at him. “This wouldn’t have anything to do with your precious Petunia, now would it?”

“Er, yeah,” stammered Vernon, glad that she’d provided him with an excuse. Creativity had never been his strong point. “She called just as I was about to leave.”

Unfortunately for Vernon, this was definitely the wrong answer. Marge launched into a self-pitying rant about his lack of care for her which lasted almost the entire car ride. Vernon, however, was still so shaken from his hallucination that he barely took notice of her, and she had to scream at him as they almost passed the restaurant.

Pulling up to the valet parking, Vernon offered Marge a hand getting out of the car, but she didn’t take it, instead walking stonily past him into the restaurant.

“Dursley, reservation for two,” she demanded authoritatively, flinging her fur coat at the receptionist.

Almost timidly, Vernon followed her to their table. To his immense relief, Marge’s mood lightened considerably after the food arrived, and she spent most of the meal chattering happily about her new puppies. Although he found himself slightly disgruntled by the fact that she had taken care to order all the most expensive items on the menu, her presence did wonders to distract him from the agonizing self-doubt looming over his thoughts.

After dropping Marge back at her flat, however, his mind wandered unceasingly back to Petunia. He was sure that what he thought he’d seen couldn’t possibly be real, yet he couldn’t help but worry about her. After pacing nervously around his sitting room for over half an hour, he finally picked up the phone and dialed.

“Hello, Evans’ residence. This is Lily.”

“Hello,” Vernon replied, trying his best to be polite. “Is Petunia available?”

“Sure. I’ll go get her.” A soft click signified Lily setting the phone on the table.

As he waited, Vernon was acutely aware of the voices conversing in the background. A deep laugh, followed by the word “fellytone.” Was Potter making some sort of joke? It certainly wasn’t funny. What Vernon heard Lily say next, however, almost made him stop breathing.

“…entrance to the Ministry… that old telephone box…”

Before he had the sense to hang up, however, Petunia picked up the phone.

“Vernon?” she enquired dreamily.

“Petunia.” He acknowledged coldly.

“What’s the matter, darling? Did you have a bad day?”

“Yes, you could say that.”

“Why? What happened?”

“As I was driving over to Marge’s, I witnessed the strangest thing,” Vernon began shakily. “Someone who looked exactly like you, accompanied by people who looked exactly like your parents, your sister, and her good-for-nothing fiancée, going into an out-of-order telephone box -”

“No!” Petunia screeched.

Silence.

“Petunia?”

“It wasn’t my fault!” Petunia exclaimed hysterically. “Please listen to me, Vernon! It’s Lily, she -”

Vernon hung up, more out of shock than anything else. He certainly hadn't expected her to acknowledge the anomaly. It was only after he heard the fatal click that he realized what he’d done. Cursing, he picked up the phone and dialed again. No answer. Well, he’d have to go see her in person, then. The fact that he’d so efficiently managed to push aside for the last year or so had now reared its ugly head, and he could deny it no longer. Despite the horrific delinquents she had for family, he did, in fact, love Petunia Evans, in his own strange little way. Not even bothering to grab his jacket, Vernon raced to his car.

Petunia, on the other hand, collapsed on the floor, her face cadaverously pale. Slowly, anger built up inside her until she could control it no longer. Rising stiffly, she made her way to the sitting room, where her sister and the Potter brat were snogging unabashedly on the sofa.

“Lily,” she demanded, her voice cold and deadly.

“Yes, Petunia?” Lily replied, breaking away from her fiancée.

Petunia slapped her. Before Lily could retalitate, she ran out of the house, leaving a long stream of curse words behind her.

Stepping out on to the street, Petunia began to sob uncontrollably. Why did Lily always have to ruin everything? She couldn’t even spend a moment in her own home without being forced to witness some unsettling demonstration of freakiness. One thing was certain – she most certainly could not stay there tonight. Not after what Lily had done. Perhaps she’d go to Yvonne’s. She let her mind wander as her feet took her to the nearest bus shelter.

Sitting down on the bench, she sighed, massaging her ankle. It might be a half hour before the next bus came. She had only waited ten minutes, however, when she glimpsed the shadow of a large man approaching. At first, she shrank back in fear, but soon felt her heart leap in her chest as she realized his identity.

“Vernon?” she inquired tentatively.

“Petunia, darling, I’m so sorry. I was just shocked, is all. I tried to get over to your house as fast as I could, but in my haste I punctured a tire…” His voice drifted off into silence as he waited for her reaction. When she said nothing, he ventured, “would you mind explaining?”

Vernon sat in a shocked stupor, holding Petunia in his arms, as she spilled out all her family’s terrible secrets; her sister’s true nature, and her own fear of the supernatural. Magic couldn't be real; it just couldn't. But if what he'd seen today wasn't magic, then what was it?

“Oh, Vernon, you have to help me,” Petunia sobbed melodramatically into his shoulder.

Vernon glanced around nervously, praying that no one they knew would be present to witness the spectacle. Luckily, the vicinity was completely deserted except for a large black dog lying on the sidewalk.

“Please, Vernon?” she continued. “Won’t you save me from those awful freaks?”

The black dog growled menacingly. Vernon ignored it.

“Of course, darling,” he soothed. And with that, he slipped the ring on her finger.

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