"It's not as uncommon as you might think." Doctor Anderson gave the child's father what he hoped was a sympathetic, but not condescending, look. These conversations were always delicate, and you never knew how the average parent would react. Certainly, the man's blank, staring face was impossible to read. Coughing, Doctor Anderson went on. "What you might call the technical term for your child's condition..."
"Son," Mr. Dursley interrupted, the sound so gruff and low that Doctor Anderson nearly mistook it for a bark.
"He's got a willy, hasn't he?"
Doctor Anderson felt his face flush. He was beginning to get the feeling that Mr Dursley was not your average parent. "Yes," he said, haltingly. "However..."
"And nothing else, like?" Small, somewhat piggish eyes peered out at Doctor Anderson above a clearly displeased nose.
"There are no external female sexual characteristics, no." There isn't a fanny, he added mentally, wishing he was the sort of person who would say that out loud, and in the sort of position where he could.
"Then he's my son, isn't he?"
Doctor Anderson cleared his throat, wondering how many times he could do that before it started to sound ridiculous. "Mr. Dursley; I'm not entirely sure you understand. Your child is what's known as intersex, which means..."
"If he's got a willy," Mr. Dursley's booming voice interrupted, "he's a boy, and he's my son, and I'll have no more of that medical jargon of yours, thank you very much." He shifted his considerable bulk in his chair, narrowing his eyes in challenge.
Sighing, Doctor Anderson took his glasses off and began to clean them. They weren't terribly dirty, but having them on his face right now wasn't helping him see terribly clearly either. Steeling himself, he tried again. "I understand what you must be going through," he began.
Mr. Dursley shifted again, with an audible grunt.
"...but this isn't something that will go away if you pretend it isn't there. Your child will grow up, and eventually ask questions."
Mr Dursley merely stared at him, the challenge in his eyes now mixed with ill-hidden contempt.
"What I'm getting at, Mr Dursley, is that you are you are going to have to consider what you're going to tell your child about this."
There followed an awkward pause, after which Mr Dursley rose, stretching his back in clear discomfort. "Thank you, doctor," he said, looking at some point above doctor Anderson's shoulder. "That will be all."
The door shut, and Doctor Anderson replaced his glasses. He picked up the child's file again, rifling through the pages. Then he sighed, and replaced the contents in its folder. In the end, you could only do so much.
Six-year-old Dudley Dursley stood in the lounge, looking at the kitchen door in shock and bemusement. Sheila, the little girl next door - she was six years old too, but girls were always little; everyone knew that - had run home crying, yelling for her mum. Dudley's bottom still stung from where Dad's hand had smacked it, the skin prickling underneath shorts and underpants.
It was all very confusing.
Sheila had come over to play while her mum did the shopping, and Mum had asked Dudley to play with her, even though she was a girl, and that made her different, and Dudley wasn't supposed to like her. Except that you should like girls when you got older, Dad had said, but when you were little, like Dudley, you weren't supposed to play with girls. But Mum didn't know that, it seemed, and had scoffed at the suggestion that Harry could play with her, because Harry wasn't fit company for a young lady, she'd said, in a singsong voice.
Sometimes, Dudley wondered if Mum was a bit stupid. There were a lot of things she simply didn't seem to understand, and Dad laughed whenever she got something wrong. Women! he'd say, and shake his head. Mum would laugh too, eventually.
She wasn't laughing now. When dad had come home, he'd given a great big yell, and his face got all red, and that's when he'd smacked Dudley and made Sheila cry. Then he'd pulled Mum into the kitchen, and now there were angry voices and shouts, and then Mum was running out, and her face was red too.
"Don't worry, darling," she said, smiling in an odd sort of way. Her voice was funny too. "Mummy didn't know you weren't supposed to play with girls." Her voice got even funnier when she said that word, so Dudley started to laugh.
Sheila stopped coming around after that, and the next day, Dad took Dudley to see Arsenal play. It was kind of boring, but Dad kept grinning and saying how much fun it was, so maybe it was.
Harry was shit at absolutely everything. He was eight years old, just like Dudley, but he was just shit. Dad made fun of him, and Mum did too; you had to, really. He was so small and skinny, and he never laughed at any of Dad's jokes, no matter how funny they were. His clothes didn't fit right, and it took him ages to mend them when they got torn or too worn to wear. No one had to mend Dudley's clothes; Mum just got new ones. (Harry, dad had explained, wasn't allowed new clothes, because he wasn't really part of the family, and should be thankful for what little he got. If he ripped his shirt or tore a hole in his jeans, well, that was a sign of disrespect, wasn't it?)
Most importantly though, Harry was different. When Dad said the word, his eyes would narrow, and his chins would waggle, like he was trying to scare it off. Different, Dudley knew, was the very worst thing you could be.
Harry did OK in school, but school wasn't important, not really; not until you got older and got into a proper school, like Smeltings, which Harry never would, of course. For now though, Dudley and Harry went to school together, meaning Dudley was stuck with him for hours and hours during the day, which was boring and annoying. You had to make your own fun, though, like Dad always said, and you could have a lot of fun with Harry, if you knew how. For example, Dudley liked to wait by the exit with a group of friends - it was easy making friends when you always had lots of pocket money, and if you were big and loud and knew what you wanted - skipping the last class to make sure they were there when Harry came out, and then they had a routine. It required four people working together, and went like this:
The first person would pretend to bump into Harry just as he was coming out of the door, pushing him back inside. This would annoy the other pupils trying to leave, and just watching him get thrown about like a scruffy ball in a big game of pinball. It was funny, but that was only the beginning.
The second person would be standing on the other side of the door, pushing Harry back out again when he'd gotten bashed about for a bit. This would send him careening forward, making it easy for the third person to trip him. Dudley's friends would often bet on how far they could get Harry to fall, or if they could make him do little tricks as he flew down the stairs. One memorable day, just before Christmas, they'd nearly made him do a summersault.
The fourth person would apologize and try to help Harry up, and then punch him in the stomach when he'd finally gotten to his feet. Dudley was always the fourth person.
The most annoying thing about going to school with Harry, though, wasn't his tardiness or his stupidity or his silly clothes, or the way he'd sometimes smirk when he got an answer right in class, like anyone ever cared about that. The most annoying thing about Harry was that when they did phys ed, Harry never wanted to be excused, and didn't worry about going in the showers with the other boys, with all their naked, obvious bodies; he seemed to enjoy it all. He'd run across the football field with a grin on his face, and if someone tackled him and threw him to the ground, in a close, claustrophobic hold, he'd laugh, like he was genuinely happy.
Harry was shit.
Maybe it was the fact that Dad seemed to have gone absolutely mental recently, but Dudley didn't feel at all reassured by his constant insistence that 'everything was going to be all right'. When you're eleven years old, and you've just grown a pig's tail, you tend to get a bit cautious.
"Dad," Dudley asked, as the taxi drove away towards the hospital, "are they really going to get it off me, Dad?"
"Of course, son." Dad shifted in his seat, sharing a glance with Mum, who was sitting on the rickety seat opposite, where you couldn't see the driver; but that was all right, as he wasn't foreign or Muslim.
"They can do that?"
"'Course they can. Stands to reason."
Mum leaned forward a little, lowering her voice discreetly. "Some people are born like that, you know, darling. These sorts of operations are done every day."
"Really?" Dudley didn't think that sounded all that likely. But something else about what Mum said struck a chord, and as they rode on in silence for a while, Dudley mulled it over. "Born like that?"
Mum blushed, slightly. "Yes, dear. People are born with all kinds of things, and the doctors just fix them up right away."
Dad coughed really loudly, making both Mum and Dudley jump. He stuck his hand in his pocket, and tried to get his wallet out. "I expect we'll be there soon," he said, his voice booming. Then he shot Mum a look that made her look out the window and bite her lip, and neither of them said anything at all until the taxi stopped, and they all got out.
Later, in the waiting room, Dudley nudged Mum's knee, judging her to be the better person to ask. She smiled back and squeezed Dudley's hand, and suddenly things felt just a little bit better.
"You reckon magic could change a person into anything?"
Mum started at the word, leaning over to keep Dad, who was dozing quietly in his seat, from hearing. "Don't you even think that!"
"Yeah," Dudley insisted, pulling at her skirt, "but could it? Like, could it turn someone into something else?"
The look on Mum's face was about as frightening as Dad's when he'd read one of Harry's letters. Her mouth turned to a thin, white line, and then she opened it, but the nurse came out to call them in, and later, Dudley forgot all about it.
That summer though, when Harry came back, Dudley would sometimes stare at him as he did his chores or walked past him on the landing on the way to the room that wasn't Dudley's anymore, and wonder.
Smeltings was a proper school, and the boys there were all proper too, from nice families. At the age of thirteen, Dudley hadn't made a lot of friends, but you didn't need friends to get ahead in life; you needed know people. Dudley knew a lot of people. Practically everyone in the school, really, and those who didn't soon learned that they'd better.
Dudley was bigger than everyone; tall, certainly, but mostly large, at least twice the width of most skinny Smeltings Third Years. Sometimes, new boys, or boys with more guts than sense whispered the word 'fat' when Dudley walked by, and then they didn't whisper or speak or anything at all for rather a long time, while their lips and jaws healed. Dudley was rather good at punching people.
There were lessons, of course, but they weren't as important as what happened in between them. There was you, and your gang, and then there was everyone else. It was sort of game, really; if you could get the most people on your side, you won. Dudley aimed to win.
Some of the boys had starting talking about girls. Dudley liked girls, and lately, something had changed about how. Not that there were any girls at school, but girls in magazines started looking different, even though they were still the same, and they made you feel different. Sort of tingly, sort of hungry, in a very new and different sort of way. Dudley's body was changing too, but that wasn't anything you talked about, like Dad said. The school nurse did, one mortifying afternoon when half the class was just watching the way her breasts struggled to fit into her tight uniform top, but Dudley didn't pay much attention. It was just talk anyway. None of it sounded all that familiar.
One day in early June, when everyone was sick and tired of school and exams and just pining for summer, some of the boys in Dudley's crew smuggled in a pack of cigarettes, half a bottle of gin, and two girls from Crumbwell School For Young Ladies. They all drank the gin, and the girls just sat around giggling and pretending to smoke, but Dudley couldn't look away from them. They were beautiful, and the way their breasts moved underneath thin cotton tops, the perfect way their stockings fitted their slim legs, tapering into black leather shoes with buckles; Dudley could watch it forever.
One of them sneaked off with Ginger Cartwright to the broom closet and got caught, all of which went into Dudley's report - everyone from the groundskeeper to the headmaster knew that Dudley would be the mastermind behind something like that. Dad smiled when he saw that part; it softened the blow of the bit about the diet.
Dudley liked food; it wasn't terribly complicated, overall.
You couldn't eat all the time.
Fourth Years at Smeltings were allowed to take up boxing, and Dudley took to it like a natural. All boys were encouraged to do sports, but nothing else had appealed to Dudley, overall. You did need to do quite a bit of running and some boys jumped rope, like little girls, but Dudley wasn't having any of that. When you were good at something, Dudley found, people tend to make exceptions for you.
Being strong was so much better than just being big. Oh, Dudley was still big and broad, but now it was backed up by muscle, which made the uniforms fit better and stopped the school from complaining about proper nutrition. Harry noticed, Dudley saw. That little spark of fear in his eyes almost made the jumping rope seem like an option.
Girls noticed too.
Over Christmas holidays, Dudley snogged a girl for the first time, in the bus shelter behind the supermarket on New Years Eve. The busses weren't running anymore of course, but it was snowing, and Dudley's boys had all run off from their makeshift outdoor party, each with a bottle and a girl on their arm, finding their own little havens. Her name was Ellie. She wasn't all that pretty; her nose was too wide (you could see up her nostrils even if you looked at her straight on), and her voice was a shrill and grating scouse. Her eyes were all right, though, dark brown and promising, and after they had tangled tongues for what seemed like half an hour, she asked, "Would ye like to put yer
hand down me pants?"
"Yeah," Dudley said, because why not? It was warm and wet and a little bewildering, and Ellie squirmed when Dudley's fingers moved, exploringly. It felt good, and exciting, and then very good, and then Ellie squealed and shifted a bit and it was over, apparently; she pulled his hand out.
"Ye can touch me boobs now, if ye like," she said, so Dudley did.
Harry didn't have a girlfriend, not that this was much of a surprise. Dudley didn't have a girlfriend either, but there were a lot of girls, and Ellie wasn't the last. As it turned out, quite a few girls really liked 'big' and 'tough'. When they were both home for the summer, Dudley saw Harry sneaking about, spying, probably planning something, but keeping his space, oddly enough, like he was smart enough to know what was good for him. Harry had changed, too. He was confident; Dudley could tell, the way you could tell how long it would take a kid to run screaming to mummy, or how tough an opponent was in the ring. Harry needed to be re-broken. Urgently.
When Harry just presented himself as a target, even fucking taunting Dudley with his magic, it was almost too good to be true. It wasn't just fists and force that could hurt you, and Dudley knew the things Harry cried about in the night. It was just a matter of pushing the right buttons, wasn't it? Just push and poke right there, and everything would fall apart. It was there in Harry's face; there was the crack; there was the weakness...
...and then everything fell apart.
They didn't talk about it for almost a year exactly.
Dudley turned sixteen, Mum making a huge fuss about it as usual, inviting long forgotten childhood playmates that came because they feared what would happen if they didn't. Dudley sat among them, half-heartedly opening present after hastily-wrapped present, and slowly realizing that the room was full of guests, not friends.
Somehow, it all felt wrong, now, celebrating. The things Dudley had seen that day - what Harry had done... you couldn't just go back to normal, after that. Harry seemed to realize that too; there was a knowing look in his eyes these days; not acceptance, perhaps, but possibly something worse, and Dudley didn't much want to find out.
Some things though... some things needed out. Oddly enough, it was Harry that ended up doing the asking.
"I don't get it," Harry said, coming downstairs one evening when Mum and Dad were out. Harry must have known, or he wouldn't have come, which had to mean he was listening. Shifty little runt, keeping his ears to the wall, that's what Dad would say, but well, Dad was out.
"Don't get what?"
"You're not supposed to be able to see them. I don't see why you did."
"Well, I did." There was no question as to what 'they' were. Dudley would never forget that. Never could, not for lack of trying.
Harry's eyes narrowed in scrutiny, and for a moment, Dudley thought he was reaching for his wand. "What did you see?"
No. Not this. Not in front of Harry. "Why do you care?"
Harry scoffed. "You're not even supposed to be able to see them! And anyway, I don't see how it would work."
Dudley frowned. There seemed to be an actual conversation going on, with was weird. "Work how?"
"Dementors." Harry explained. "They show you your worst memory."
Dudley met Harry's green and unrelenting eyes steadily. "Yeah? So?"
"Well, you wouldn't have one, would you?"
"Don't give me that; you know what I mean! You've never had a care in the world; life's been all flowers and sunshine for you, hasn't it! So what could they possibly show you?"
He genuinely meant it, Dudley thought, staring back. And maybe, a stray thought suggested, he's got a point. It certainly did explain things though, not that Dudley was about to blab about it to Harry fucking Potter. "Don't know. Don't care."
Stalemate. They stood for a moment, watching one another carefully. "All right," Harry said, eventually, "it doesn't matter, anyway."
Walking away, Dudley felt like those deep green eyes could see into the soul they had supposedly saved; straight into Dudley's mind, and the image therein. The image of an eleven year old child, naked in front of a mirror, rubbing the spot where a tail used to be, hidden by a bandage, and looking at what hung down in front. And to the side, on a bedside table, a pair of scissors, the child's eyes straying to them. But never quite daring. Never quite.
When Dudley came back, Harry was in his room. They didn't talk much, after that.
Harry never mentioned the tea, which was probably for the best, anyway. Dudley had felt embarrassed and odd immediately after placing it outside his door. It wasn't the sort of thing a big, strong, burley seventeen year old was supposed to do. Then again, there was rather a long list of those things, wasn't there?
They had breakfast together one morning, just the two of them; truly a freak occurrence, but Dudley didn't sleep that well these days, and by the looks of him, neither did Harry. It was still dark outside, and the toast was burnt, but neither of them much cared. In an odd sort of way, it was... nice.
They didn't talk, of course, but by the time the more edible bits of toast had been consumed and Harry had cleaned the plates away, Dudley couldn't keep from asking. "Do they let you do magic now, then?"
Harry stared, apparently taken completely by surprise by the question. "Not until my birthday. Why?"
Dudley nodded, then, realizing that wasn't much of an answer, added a shrug.
"Why?" Harry insisted, setting the plates down. "What are you up to?"
"You can magic a person, right? Change them, or... whatever?" Dudley spoke quickly, as though odds would improve with speed.
"What exactly do you mean?"
"Like me... when you gave me that tail."
"That wasn't me, Dudley." Harry sighed, picking the plates up again, heading towards the dishwasher. Mum had gotten Dad to buy one, finally; he used to say it was a waste of money when they had Harry around.
"Whatever! Can you?"
"Look," Harry said, his head inside the huge, steel monstrosity (Dad had gotten the largest, most expensive one) "I'm not going to cast any spells on you. I promise, all right?"
The dishwasher door slammed shut, and Harry emerged, glasses slightly askew. He adjusted them, irritably. "What? Do you want me to turn you into a piglet?"
"Of course not!" It was getting light out; Mum and Dad would be up soon, Dudley remembered, it wouldn't do to shout.
"Well, what, then?"
Dudley swallowed, casting a quick glance into the lounge, pointlessly; you could hear Dad coming a mile away. "Can you change my... body?" Fuck, it sounded ridiculous; absolutely ridiculous, coming out.
Harry stared. Then, far too loudly; Dad would hear for certain, he started to laugh. "What?! What are you asking?"
"Shut up," Dudley hissed, taking a step closer, but Harry only laughed harder.
"You are unbelievable! You want magic liposuction? Or what? Instant abs?"
"Shut up, freak!" He hadn't guessed. Oh god, he didn'trealize. Relief flooded Dudley, mixing awkwardly with embarrassment and fear.
"You're a fine one to talk! What; you think I can just..."
Dad's voice boomed from the landing, and Dudley breathed a sigh of something akin to relief.
They came for Harry a week later, and everything went a bit mental after that. In later years, Dudley didn't remember much of it. Life went on, as it usually did. You got a job. You found a girl. You got married. You had kids. Well, you tried.
When Dudley's wife had not gotten pregnant after three years, they both went to the doctor, who took some tests and looked up their medical history.
Then she asked to speak to Dudley in private.
In the end, they decided to adopt.
Dad never asked, and Mum just seemed thankful to have grandchildren. It was all just smiles and pats on the back and expensive presents, and for the first time, Dudley wondered how they were able to keep it up; the complete and utter refusal to acknowledge that their daughter in law had never been pregnant; children merely appearing, suddenly, in between visits. There was no point in speaking to Dad about it – or anything else - and Mum... Well, it seemed unfair to drag Mum into it.
Only much later did it occur to Dudley that there was someone else that might listen.
It took Dudley nearly a year to write the letter, most of which was spent trying to figure out whether or not to write it at all. Then there was the matter of whatto write, and how, which took almost as long as the actual writing itself, and that was bloody hard.
There followed the unexpected complication of how to send it off, but, just as Dudley was ready to give up and forget the whole thing, Harry sent an owl himself. Dudley took what was there of the letter, writing off hastily mid-sentence, and gave it to the bird, hoping it would know what to do. It looked at him with obvious scorn, but must have taken pity in the end, because a fortnight later, Harry sent a reply.
Dudley sent one in return.
And so it went as the months went on, and when Christmas came, Harry asked if he and Ginny could bring the kids over; not for Christmas Day, of course, but later; boxing day, perhaps?
They settled for the day after boxing day; Dudley and Harry settling into the couch while the ladies gossiped in the kitchen and the kids tore the lounge to shreds. It was surprisingly comfortable, just sitting there, the two of them. Knowing that Harry knew. Neither of them broached the subject that day, but Dudley felt like a weight had lifted by the time the kids had worn themselves out, and the girls were done talking and had started on the cooking sherry.
The third time Harry came 'round, Dudley started to apologize, but Harry waved a hand.
"Ancient history," he said, looking older and more tired than Dudley had ever seen him. Well, they were both pushing 30, now.
Dudley nodded. They sat in silence for a while, until Harry added, as though he were asking about the weather:
"You're not a man, then."
Dudley shrugged. "Don't quite know. Never felt right, not quite."
Harry nodded. "But you like..." He trailed off, his eyes following the children. Dudley smiled at the none-too-subtle implication.
"Yeah. I like women."
"It's nothing to do with that."
"No, right. I suppose so."
That was good enough, Dudley supposed, remembering the doctor's office, and the charts she'd produced out of nowhere; all this information just sitting there for more than twenty years, while Dudley was stuck figuring things out alone. "I s'pose I had an idea for quite a while. When I was little, you know?"
Harry looked as though he wanted to acknowledge this, but didn't quite know how. He settled for a slight nod, and a slight hint of a smile. "I can't say I'm surprised they never told you," he said, finally.
There was nothing to reply to that, so Dudley didn't, taking another sip of the beer Ginny had brought them both. Dudley liked beer. And football. And tits. Everything men did, really. If you had a wife and a cock, and liked both of them well enough most of the time, didn't that make you a man?
Harry was staring. Sometimes Dudley wondered if they taught you to read minds, in that poncey school of his. "There are things that can be done. Magically, I mean. It's just not an issue for
witches and wizards; they just fix these things discreetly. At least," he added, hurriedly, "that's what I've heard."
"Right," Dudley said, finishing the rest of the beer. Discreetly. Just like that, and no one would ever know that you'd ever been a freak.
Harry shifted, uncomfortably. "It's off limits to muggles, of course, but I'm sure I could pull some strings. Hermione works for the Ministry now; if you owled me your medical records I could get her to..."
"Yeah," Dudley interrupted, "I'll think about it."
Dudley nodded, and reached across to take Harry's untouched can of lager, chugging half of it in one go. It went down more easily than expected; decently cold, and bitter and familiar. Harry said nothing, and when they said goodbye, hours later, they both knew Dudley would never send that owl. It didn't really matter, Dudley thought, shaking Harry's hand.
In the end, really, there was only so much magic or medicine could do. Ideas were much more important.