Harry wasn't an only child, but had an identical twin, who died at birth. He's been hanging around ever since.
"But there's only thirty-six!"
Harry winced as Dudley's face began to turn red. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon seemed to sense the impending tantrum as well, and his aunt quickly took evasive action. "No, no, sweetums. You missed one, see? Under this big one from Mummy and Daddy."
His cousin stared at the package for a few seconds, recalculating. "But... but that's still only thirty-seven!" he protested. "That's one less than last year!"
Harry put Dudley's breakfast on the table, trying desperately to hold in a snort of disgust. Considering the best present he'd ever gotten from his "family" was an old pair of socks, it was utterly rich that the fat tub of lard would complain over getting only thirty-seven presents.
Behind him, someone else snorted, and he nearly jumped. As he moved away from the table, Harry threw a glare at his brother, who was watching the proceedings not only with disgust, but with anger.
"We need to get away from these people, Harry," he said, gesturing towards the other three. "It's not right. I've been in some of the other homes around here. No one gets treated like you do. It's not /right/."
"And where else would I go?" Harry murmured back, fairly sure his family wouldn't hear him over their negotiations with Dudley. Not that it would really matter- they, too, subscribed to the theory that he was out of his gourd. "Find me one person who cares, and I'll be out of here so fast their heads will spin."
After a moment James looked away, and Harry nodded in resignation. Getting away from the Dursleys would only ever be a dream, something that made the days both easier and harder to bear. But all it would ever be was an "if only."
Harry was an orphan, which meant there was no one there to protect him. His family never outright abused him, so no one could take him away from them even if they wanted him.
It was the way things were, and he'd come to accept it. Oh, but /if only/...
The phone rang, and Aunt Petunia pulled her attention away from her mollified son to answer it. The rest of her little family watched as she listened to the person on the other end of the line for a minute or so, her lips thinning. Then she nodded and said goodbye, hanging up. "Mrs. Figg's broken her leg," she said flatly, looking only just short of pissed. "She can't take him."
"We could phone Marge," Uncle Vernon suggested, frowning beadily in his nephew's direction.
His wife snorted. "Don't be silly, Vernon. She hates the boy."
"Nice to be loved," James muttered sarcastically. "Seriously, you'd never imagine they didn't want us here..."
"What about what's-her-name, your friend-- Yvonne?" The discussion continued.
"Vacationing in Majorca," Aunt Petunia snapped, crossing her arms across her chest. Of course- she wouldn't want to expose any more people to his "unnaturalness" than necessary.
"You could just leave me here," Harry suggested dryly. It wasn't like they'd care if someone broke in and abducted him; probably would thank the man for taking him off their hands, in fact.
"And come back and find the house in ruins?" his aunt snarled, looking as though she'd just swallowed a lemon.
"I wouldn't blow up the house," Harry grumbled, even as James brightened at the idea.
"Are you sure? It'd only be just desserts..." the ghost pleaded, and not for the first time his brother wished there were some way of elbowing him in the ribs. Senseless destruction was tempting, but it wouldn't be worth the consequences.
Not that his family was listening anyway. "I suppose we could take him to the zoo," Aunt Petunia said slowly, "...and leave him in the car..."
Uncle Vernon quickly nipped that idea in the bud. "That car's new, he's not sitting in it alone..."
Dudley was looking back and forth between his parents, not liking the direction the conversation was going. His face started turning red again, and large crocodile tears began rolling down his cheeks.
"Dinky Duddydums, don't cry, Mummy won't let him spoil your special day!" she cried, flinging her arms around him in what was obviously intended as a comforting hug, though Harry couldn't see how her bony frame could be in any way comfortable.
"I... don't... want... him... t-t-to come!" Dudley wailed in between fake sobs that shuddered them both. "He always sp-spoils everything!"
"What a ham/...'' James muttered as the spoiled boy shot his cousin a nasty grin through the gap in his mother's arms. "Is /everything about him piggish?"
Harry was unable to hold back a snicker that would undoubtedly have earned him a great deal of trouble had the doorbell not rung at that precise instant. "Oh, good Lord, they're here!" Aunt Petunia said frantically, rushing out of the kitchen to answer the front door. A moment later Dudley's best friend, Piers Polkiss, walked in with his mother. His rat-like face paled as he spotted Harry there.
Piers was the only one of Dudley's gang who was afraid of Harry, even though they all had heard the rumors of his insanity, because he alone of all of them knew there was some truth in them. One day when Harry was eight, Piers had cornered him alone after school, intending on continuing the newly-begun tradition of Harry Hunting. But with no one else there, and with his brother's help, Harry had felt safe enough to stand up to the other, bigger boy.
And now, whenever Piers saw the young orphan when the rest of the gang wasn't there at his back, he remembered the chill that had sunk into his bones, and the way the shadows had seemed deeper, more alive and more menacing, than they ever had before...
Half an hour later, he was even paler, as he sat stiffly next to Harry in Vernon Dursley's brand-new car. Harry himself could hardly believe his luck; here he was, on the way to the zoo for the first time in his life! His aunt and uncle hadn't been able to think of anything else to do with him, but before they left, Uncle Vernon had taken Harry aside.
"I'm warning you," he had said, putting his large purple face right up close to Harry's, "I'm warning you now, boy-- any funny business, anything at all-- and you'll be in that cupboard from now until Christmas."
Harry had just nodded, ignoring his snickering brother. It was a sad fact that around him, strange things simply... /happened/. He never knew what caused them, and over time had come to accept them as extensions of whatever weirdness it was that let him see his brother's and, on occasion, other people's ghosts.
There was a cemetery near Privet Drive. Whenever Aunt Petunia sent him to the store to pick up something, he had to walk by it. If time permitted, he stopped and chatted with its residents for a few minutes, since by their own admission, conversation among themselves was rather dead.
But this time, nothing weird was going to happen, if he had any say about it. Spending the day somewhere that wasn't school, his cupboard, or Mrs. Figg's cabbage-smelling living room was well worth doing so even in the presence of Piers and his cousin.
While he drove, Uncle Vernon complained to Aunt Petunia. He liked to complain about things: people at work, Harry, the council, Harry, the bank, and Harry were just a few of his favorite subjects. This morning, it was motorcycles.
"...roaring along like maniacs, the young hoodlums," he said, as a motorcycle overtook them.
"I had a dream about a motorcycle," Harry murmured absently to his brother, who was hovering in between his aunt and uncle in front. "It was flying."
He'd forgotten Uncle Vernon could hear him. He nearly crashed into the car in front of them. The large man turned right around in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like a gigantic beet with a mustache: "MOTORCYCLES DON'T FLY!"
Dudley and Piers sniggered, the latter a tad nervously.
Harry looked at his uncle as though it were he who had suggested such an impossibility. "I know they don't," he said, not noticing the way James suddenly looked thoughtful and almost puzzled. "It was just a dream."
Vernon subsided, his face still red, but Harry wished he hadn't said anything anyway. By bringing up something that was out of the ordinary, he'd violated the most important unspoken rule of the Dursley household: "Don't be anything but normal."
The problem was that he wasn't sure anything he did fit the Dursley definition of "normal".