When Vernon's life is threatened, he learns that mere death might not be the worst fate awaiting him.
Saturday, June 21, 1997
"Calm down, dear," Petunia simpered.
"How can I calm down?" Vernon retorted in a 'whisper' that could almost pass for a shout in most people. "I have to sit at that bloody front table, eat a damn bad meal of underdone chicken and greasy cold chips, and then I have to make a speech saying that damn doddering old fool has actually led the company well instead of nearly running us into the ground."
"And after you eat the meal and make the speech, I'll give you a dose to settle your stomach, and then Monday morning you move up to Vice Chairman of the Board," Petunia pointed out reasonably. "You have to suffer tonight to be rewarded later."
"I suppose you're right," Vernon grumbled. He glanced around, verifying that no one was within hearing distance. He lowered his voice into a genuine whisper. "If this weren't all bad enough, You-Know-Who comes back next week," he hissed.
"I know," Petunia agreed. "Still, he turns seventeen in just over a month. I'm sure the little ingrate wants to leave almost as much as we wish we had never seen him. All the reasons we've had to put up with him start to end at that point, no matter if he stays or leaves, so I'm certain he'll leave."
""Good, and good riddance to him," Vernon growled. "Is my tie straight?"
"Yes, dear; you're very handsome," Petunia said. "Now, here comes Mrs. Sackville-Bagshot. You may be under everyone's eye, but I have to sit next to her. So, be good."
"Yes, dear," Vernon managed to say. He greeted the widow of the previous Chairman of the Board of Directors with a nod, and made his own way to the front table. As he walked, the frown left his face to be replaced by the professional salesman smile which had helped him gain his present level of authority in his company.
The dinner was as bad as Vernon had expected. He was not one for fancy or foreign foods, but he liked his plain British cooking done well, and this was neither done well nor well done - everything was undercooked and barely warm. As he made small talk with the men on either side of him, he hoped he wouldn't get food poisoning from the chicken. He knew he would get indigestion.
The food was not only under-cooked, there was not very much of it. Seeing the retiring and next chairmen hungrily chewing on the chicken bones off their plates, Vernon decided he could allow himself the slight social faux pas as well. He picked up the remains of a chicken leg and began to gnaw on it hungrily.
Vernon was a bit too enthusiastic. A small sharp piece of bone and a thick piece of gristle caught in his throat. The airway was blocked.
Vernon tried to cough. He tried to swallow. Neither worked.
Vernon Dursley choked. He tried to stand, but the spots before his eyes were dancing, and Vernon pitched forward.
* * *
Vernon took a deep cleansing breath as he pitched forward into the extremely bright white light. "Where am I!" Vernon demanded, getting up from his knees with more ease than he had in several years. "Hullooo! What's going on!"
"What do you mean, 'what's going on'? What do you think happens to people who eat so fast they choke on chicken bones?"
Vernon twirled around, shocked. "Mother?"
The medium-height, florid stout woman did resemble the redoubtable Violet Andrews Dursley, but one around the age of thirty instead of the fifty-one she had been when she had died of a stroke. "What? Whom did you expect to see?"
"When you die, you stupid boy. What? Did those years of going to Church, not to mention the Chapel at that ridiculously-priced school of yours, not teach you anything?"
"I'm dead?" Vernon demanded, aghast.
"Well, at the moment you seem to still be dying. You chewed on that chicken leg like a savage and choked on a sliver of bone. They might have easily saved you - that hippy Personnel Manager managed to get you to cough it up, but the point had made a nick in a vein, and you're choking on the blood. It would take a miracle for you to survive until the ambulance gets to you. So, you're dying."
"But. . . ."
"No 'buts', boy! Come along and die peacefully!"
"What's it like?" Vernon asked, still resisting.
"It's different for everyone. We exist in time for a while, and think about our lives. I don't know what it will be like for you."
"You don't, but we do," said an unknown voice.
Vernon turned and saw a tall, somewhat gaunt man glaring at him. Two more forms were coming towards him, but were still obscured by the glow surrounding them.
"Who are you, and what do you want with my son?" Violet Dursley demanded.
"My name is Sirius Black. I am here to see justice done for Harry Potter."
"What? What do you mean, 'justice'? That brat. . . ."
"That 'brat' is your nephew and your responsibility!" another voice, a known voice, said in anger.
"Yes, you vile pig of a brother-in-law! You violent, nasty, brutal, abusive, cruel swine! It's Lily!"
"And it's not just Lily!" the third figure stated. Vernon was not surprised to see it was James Potter.
"You hurt a child!" Lily accused. "My child!"
"You enjoyed hurting that child!" Sirius added.
"And for that, you will pay," James stated.
James turned to Violet. "You were right. He must not have listened very well in Church." He turned to Vernon. "Tell me, did they teach you anything at Smeltings other than how to be a bully?"
"Now see here, Potter. . . ." Vernon tried to bluster.
"Did they ever mention Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera?" Sirius asked, with a sly smile.
Vernon was puzzled. "Who?"
"The 'Solemn Ones', or 'Kindly Ones', or perhaps the 'Angry Ones'" James intoned. "In short, the Furies. Spirits that avenge the misdeeds of mortals."
"What nonsense is this?"
"No nonsense," Sirius said with an evil sneer. "Behold! They come!" He pointed.
Vernon unwillingly looked to where Black was pointing, and saw three voluptuous female forms moving towards him. He saw they were tall, wasp-waisted, and very full-bodied. As they approached from the near-blinding light, Vernon saw they were wearing very little.
When they got closer, however, he saw that while there were only wearing sandals and leather belts, there were very nasty looking knives and a variety of riding crops and whips attached to those belts. Their lips were blood red, and they seemed to be sporting fangs. The eyes of two of them looked cruel and heartless, while the third looked like she would be laughing at the punishments she would inflict.
As the three Furies came very close, they each removed a whip. As they did, they changed. The first morphed into a black-robed James Potter, armed with a long bullwhip. The second, who had looked like she would enjoy and laugh at his pain, morphed into Sirius Black, holding a short dog whip, with a pair of sharp steel braids at the end, which would rip the flesh as well as cut it.
The third Fury morphed into Lily Potter. Before she could draw a weapon, however, her attention was diverted.
"Well, isn't that interesting," the real James said. "Can you hear that, Dursley?"
"Hear what?" the terrified man managed to ask.
"Two people, people you despise as 'freaks', are debating on if they should save you or not."
"They should!" Vernon shouted.
"Why?" Lily asked.
"I want to live!"
"No," she said, "you just want to avoid your punishment. You'll still die someday, Vernon Dursley, and the amount of time that passes won't matter. The Furies will wait."
"I can change!" Vernon said, pleading. "Let them save me! Please!"
"You couldn't be nice to Harry if your life depended on it!" James snarled.
"I . . . I can at least leave the boy be!" Vernon said. "That must count for something!"
"Tell me, what will you do if one or more of your grandchildren is magical?" Lily asked. "Will you push Dudley to beat the magic out of her? Would you lock a grandson in a closet? Do anything but love a magical grandchild, and the Furies will be even worse. Treat Harry well, and truly love any magical grandchild, and you'll at least have some chance of avoiding a bit of this punishment."
"Or say the word, right now," Sirius told the quaking Muggle, "and die now! Accept your punishment like the man you've always claimed to be!"
"No! Let me change! At least let me try!"
The bullwhip cracked in front of Vernon's eyes. The Fury, once again the being she had always been, leaned in close. "We will watch you, Vernon Dursley. Remember!"
Vernon slowly became aware. His chest hurt, and his throat hurt worse. He heard Petunia saying, "Thank you for saving him. I know you didn't really want to."
"You know how we feel about how you've treated Harry." Vernon recognized the voice as that freak's who had blown apart their fireplace a few years back. "Still, since you both know about us, I wouldn't deprive Harry of a family member, no matter how poor of an excuse of an uncle he's been. Try and remember your husband would not even be alive if I hadn't been available."
"I won't," Petunia promised.
"The Muggle healer will be along in a moment. He doesn't need any further attention, but that's up to you. Good evening."
"Thank you again," Petunia said.
There was a 'pop', which Vernon knew meant the man was gone. He opened his eyes.
"Oh, Vernon! Did you hear?"
Vernon nodded carefully.
"I couldn't let you die. . . ."
Vernon nodded. He wondered if what he had experienced was real, merely his imagination brought on by a lack of oxygen, or some hallucination the freaks had given him. He decided he had best act as if it had been real.
Just in case.
Author notes: As the Greeks would have said, respect the 'Kindly Ones', or else!