“Dudley,” called Maybelle from the hall. “I’m leaving for Sarah’s now.”
Dudley nodded and grunted in response, digging his hand into the crisps bowl, eyes fixed on the screen.
“Dudley!” Maybelle appeared in the doorway, wearing a yellow sundress over her willowy frame. “Did you hear me?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dudley glanced at her with a peevish grin. “Sarah’s. Tea.”
Maybelle’s lip twisted. “Petunia’s sleeping now.”
“Uh-huh.” Dudley looked back at the screen.
“I’ve set up the baby monitor.”
Maybelle crossed her arms. “If she wakes up, go get her. Don’t just leave her crying.”
“I wouldn’t do that,” Dudley protested, keeping one eye on the television while he looked back at his wife. She stood frowning at him.
“You did it last week.”
Maybelle had hit him over the head with a pan. Dudley rubbed the back of his head. “Which is why I’ll never do it again.” Maybelle was fighting back a smirk even as she tried to look severe. He grinned at her. They were polar opposites: she was getting her Ph.D in French Literature of the 19th Century at Oxford, he’d managed to scrape up a degree in business while becoming a football star. She used big words and ranted for ages about Jules de Goncourt and cried buckets of tears when they went and saw Les Misérables for their honeymoon in New York City. He just nodded and agreed with everything that came out of her mouth, sold hardware, and tried to convince her to watch football with him.
Cheers erupted from the television; he’d missed a goal.
“And remember to actually watch her. You know how she likes the flowers.” Maybelle, a florist in her free time, constantly created complicated bouquets that she placed in strategic positions around the house. Petunia, ever since she could crawl, had loved to grab at the flowers, upsetting the vases and spilling water everywhere.
“Yup,” said Dudley.
Maybelle gave a satisfied nod and left, 4-year-old Bobby Alan in tow. Dudley burrowed deeper into the couch and gave the television his full attention. A scarce ten minutes later, a quiet huff came from the monitor. Dudley froze and held his breath. Static came from the monitor. Then a sniffle. Ecstatic screams from the television. Dudley focused his attention for another three minutes, and then Petunia coughed. Gurgling noises. All right, she was awake, but she wasn’t crying. Dudley let her stay there, babbling happily to herself. He only half-listened as squeaking sounds emerged from the monitor, meaning that she had stood up and was bouncing in her crib.
A shriek of joy from Petunia. Dudley bolted up from the couch surprisingly quickly, considering he was no longer a football star but continued to eat like one out of habit (Maybelle’s cooking did not help matters) and hurried upstairs. Huffing and gasping, he pushed open the door to the nursery.
“Da-da!” Petunia chirruped cheerfully, holding out her hands over the edge of the crib. Dudley entered the room, cautiously, looking for the cause of the crash. He reached Petunia. Her mousy brown hair (both of the children had inherited Maybelle's) hung over her eyes.
“What’ve you got?” he asked, bewildered by the clump of lilacs in Petunia’s fist. They dripped water over her chubby fist. “Where’d you get those?”
“Da-da, up!” said Petunia impatiently, her fingers opening and closing in her free hand. Dudley picked her up and turned around. On the other side of the room was an overturned vase that had been resting on the end of Petunia’s dresser. Dudley blinked slowly at it. The contents of the vase lay strewn across the damp carpet, consisting primarily of greens, baby’s breath, and lilacs. Dudley looked between the flowers on the floor and the flowers in Petunia’s hand. He tried to picture the vase violently overturning on a random draft, flinging flowers across the several feet of space that separated the dresser and Petunia’s crib. He had a hard time getting the movie to run smoothly in his mind, but then, physics were never his strong point.
Dudley set Petunia down (she immediately toddled to the mess and started scooping up the plants with cries of delight) and got down on his hands and knees, gathering up the clumps of flowers and replacing them in the plastic vase (they had hidden away most of their glass ones after she’d broken two).
“Your mum won’t believe me that I didn’t let you knock this over,” he grumbled, prying flowers from Petunia’s hands and making her scream. “Come off it.” He gave her one sprig of lilacs to keep her quiet and hauled her downstairs. His favorite thing about his young daughter was definitely the fact that she could be easily pacified with food and images on the flickering television. She curled against his side and babbled to him happily, eating crisps and waving the wilting lilacs and screaming in excitement every time Dudley cheered or groaned.
“DUDLEY!” Maybelle ran towards him all in a panic, flushed and tearful, when he arrived home from work. “Dudley, I can’t find Petunia!”
Dudley gaped at her. Maybelle was extremely cautious and prudent and she never let their vivacious daughter out of her sight. “Wha?”
“I can’t find Petunia!”
They ransacked the house. They ransacked the outside of the house. Dudley called the police. Bobby Alan watched from a kitchen stool, eyes wide and frightened. The police arrived. Dudley went upstairs heavily to find a good photograph of Petunia for a missing poster. As he passed the attic, he heard a slight shuffling sound. He almost didn’t notice and he passed by. When he returned with the photograph the sounds had gotten louder. He looked at it, blinking. There were definite sounds coming from the attic. Rats, maybe? Perhaps a stray bird? It almost sounded like – no –
They kept the attic locked because it contained their safe with a few bricks of silver and gold (Maybelle was a big believer in keeping precious metals on hand in case the economy crashed one day). Dudley wasn’t even sure where the key was. He pressed his ear to the door and the photograph slipped from his hand. He staggered backwards and without thinking twice, charged the door.
He still had athleticism in him. He crashed into it with a sound like thunder, snapping the wood from its hinges.
“Dudley?” cried Maybelle from downstairs. “What was that?”
Dudley opened and closed his mouth soundlessly as he raced forward and swept up the weeping Petunia. “I FOUND HER!” he manage to roar at last, staggering out, not even noticing the deep throbbing in the entire left side of his body (he’d cracked a rib, they found out later). “I FOUND HER!”
Maybelle was convinced it was a miracle. God had snatched Petunia from the jaws of death and deposited her in the attic where no harm could come to her. It was the only explanation as far as she was concerned. The only key to the attic was kept on the top of the tallest bookshelf in the sitting room, and it was still there, gathering dust. Dudley obediently donated a thousand pounds to their local church in thanks, but there was an uneasy idea in the back of his mind. The last time things like this happened – unexplainable things—it turned out they hadn’t been unexplainable at all. He’d never told Maybelle because it would have sounded insane to her, and he’d been too disbelieving of his good luck that she was willing to go out with him to ever say anything that might jeopardize his chances.
He began to keep a much closer eye on Petunia. For one thing, it was such a relief that she was safe that both he and Maybelle were determined that she would never go missing again. But for another thing, his cousin Harry’s most recent family Christmas card hung in his office on a bulletin board, half-hidden behind old memos, and Dudley found himself studying it more and more often.
One Sunday in late December of 2008, Maybelle had gone Christmas shopping and Bobby Alan was playing next door. Dudley was watching 2-year-old Petunia, who had a bad cold and was dozing in an armchair next to the front windows. All of his worst suspicions were confirmed when she sat up, sneezed, and set the curtains on fire. The fire seemed extremely unimportant, considering what the source had been. Dudley put it out quickly by tearing the curtains from their frame, dousing them with the contents of the nearest three flower vases and stamping on them. Petunia watched the antics of her father with mild interest. Dudley stared at her once the fire was out, puffing again. She frowned at the mess of flowers on the ground as if offended that he had spoiled them.
Dudley swept Petunia up and raced to the kitchen, snatching the telephone up out of the receiver, only to realize he didn’t know what number to call. He put the phone down again and ran to his office, digging out the latest telephone book and running back to the telephone. He plopped the book down on the counter and frantically flipped through the pages. Petunia set her head on his shoulder and went back to sleep.
Dudley punched in the number so quickly he mis-dialed three times before it finally rang through correctly and a familiar, long-unheard voice picked up.
The voice was calm, in complete contrast to excited shrieks in the background.
“The telphony rang! The telphony! Get Mummy! Daddy’s answered the telphony!”
Dudley, quite forgetting any formalities, said all in a rush. “Petuniasetthecurtainsonfire.”
“Sorry?” said the voice.
“Harry, Petunia’s set the curtains on fire!”
The voice became much more guarded. “Uncle Vernon?”
“No! It’s Dudley!”
In the background, “Telphony—telphony—telphony—”
“James, be quiet!”
The voice ignored him. “Telphony—telphony—telphony, mummy!”
“Dudley?” Harry repeated cautiously. Dudley suddenly realized how ridiculous this was. Here he was, calling a cousin he hadn’t seen in nearly ten years about his two-year-old daughter sneezing flames. “Did you say this was Dudley?”
“Yeah,” said Dudley, some of his panic subsiding in the embarrassment.
“Er – how are you?”
“All right,” said Dudley awkwardly. Harry waited, and in the long pause, with a glance at Petunia, Dudley screwed up his courage and asked, “Does your sort ever set curtains on fire by sneezing?”
“Curtains – what? My sort? You mean wizards?”
Dudley shifted uncomfortably. “Er, yeah.”
“I’ve never personally, uh, witnessed that,” said Harry. “Why?”
Dudley felt even more ridiculous. “Could it happen? I mean, normal folk don’t ever set curtains on fire, do they?”
Harry sounded a bit impatient. “You’re going to have to be a bit clearer than that, Duds.”
Maybe it was the use of the old nickname that spurred Dudley into action. “Petunia’s sneezing fire,” he said at last.
“I—Aunt Petunia’s doing what?”
“No, not mum!” huffed Dudley. “Petunia, my daughter!”
“Oh – oh, right,” said Harry, sounding embarrassed. “Wait, are you saying Petunia’s—”
Petunia let out another sneeze. Dudley yelped and dropped the telephone as sparks bounced down the front of his sweater. Petunia sat up and looked at him reproachfully. Dudley scrabbled for the phone, desperate. “She’s done it again! Harry, what do I do?”
Harry sounded thunderstruck. “I’m not – wow, I didn’t – look, mate, don’t panic, it’s nothing to be alarmed about –”
“Nothing to be alarmed about?!”
A female voice from the background, “Harry, who’s that?”
“Dudley,” said Harry, voice muffled.
“Dudley?” the female voice also sounded thunderstruck. “Your cousin Dudley?”
“What do I do??” Dudley repeated.
“Just keep an eye on her, okay?” said Harry. “I don’t think it’ll hurt her. And then, uh, why don’t you bring her over for tea next weekend?”
“How am I going to explain this to Maybelle?”
“Just tell her the truth, I s’pose,” said Harry uncertainly. Dudley didn’t answer this, trying and failing to imagine that conversation. He didn’t have a very good imagination.
After hanging up, Dudley held Petunia at arm’s length and studied her as if she were a foreign object he’d never seen before. Petunia gazed back, poking at a charred hole in his sweater.
Dudley checked and re-checked and triple-checked the address on the piece of paper in his fist, the pencil marks smeared almost beyond recognition from the number of times he’d looked at it and folded it and unfolded it and smoothed it out and folded it again. He stared suspiciously at the house which looked quite innocuous along the line of other ordinary houses, except for the rather large barn owl that was sitting on the porch railing, picking apart a dead mouse with his talons.
“Don’t look, Flower,” he said, disgusted at the bloody mess, but Petunia observed the bird and his lunch with interest as Dudley climbed the stairs, hesitated, then rang the doorbell.
A very pretty, athletic-looking ginger-haired woman that Dudley recognized from the Christmas cards answered the door. Dudley was relieved to see she wasn’t dressed oddly at all, but in long respectable pants and a cardigan not unlike what Maybelle wore sometimes – besides of course the striking fact that this woman was obviously pregnant.
“Hello,” she said pleasantly. “You must be Dudley. And this little firecracker must be Petunia.”
Dudley wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be a joke or not. If it was, he thought it in very poor taste. “Hello,” he said bravely, stepping inside. He braced himself for – he didn’t know what, explosions? Flocks of owls? Pet gargoyles?–but the interior of the house, while it had somewhat peculiar decorating, didn’t look all that unusual. Petunia put her fingers in her mouth and gazed about her.
“Hey, Dudley,” and there was Harry in the doorway to the dining room, looking much more grown-up, but still with those same glasses, that same black, wild hair, and that same lightning bolt scar that Dudley had been so jealous of.
“Hello,” Dudley repeated bravely again, sticking out his hand. Harry shook it and they stood looking at each other in deafening silence.
“Well?” said Harry’s wife a bit impatiently. (Dudley struggled to remember her name.) “Shall we go sit down?”
“Right, of course – er, Ginny, Dudley. Dudley, Ginny.” Harry introduced, then led the way through a door on the right and into a sitting room. Two boys, one of whom looked to be Petunia’s age, looked up from where they were playing with what looked like model dinosaurs. That was normal. Dudley nodded to himself in approval, relaxing a bit more. He sat down in a large armchair, balancing Petunia on his knee.
“Daddy!” she whispered, tugging on his collar and pointing to the table beside them. Dudley looked down and nearly jumped out of his skin. The photograph looked like the one from the last Christmas card, but in this copy the family waved frantically and beamed and pushed each other, laughing. He gaped at the picture for several seconds – it was obviously not electronic, the frame was perfectly ordinary— long after Petunia had lost interest and was struggling against his arms to be set down. He put her down and she toddled over to the boys.
“Play nicely,” said Ginny to her sons as they looked up at the newcomer.
“So,” said Harry. “That’s James, and that’s Albus. And this is Petunia?”
Dudley nodded mutely, distracted by a feather duster that floated on the opposite wall, dusting off more moving photographs. Ginny looked where he was looking, then hastily pulled a stick out of her sleeve and flicked it at the duster. The duster obediently settled onto a table next to a vase of red and white flowers. Dudley had the distinct impression that she had done it to make him feel at ease, but it only made him feel worse.
“Nice bouquet,” he blurted in the thick, awkward silence. Ginny and Harry blinked at him. “Lilies and carnations, yeah?”
“I dunno,” said Ginny. “Mum gave them to us. Early Christmas present.”
Harry looked very confused. “Er, you, er, like flowers, Dudley?” he said curiously.
Dudley went a little red. “My wife, Maybelle, she, er – does bouquets a lot.”
“Oh,” said Harry. He cleared his throat. “So, er, have you told her about…” he nodded in Petunia’s direction.
“No,” said Dudley.
“What exactly made you think she’s magical?”
Dudley wished he would put it a little more delicately. He quietly explained about the flowers, the locked attic door, and the sneezing, like it was a private medical issue.
“You knocked down a locked door?” Harry looked impressed. Dudley puffed out his chest a bit.
“’Course. No big deal.”
“I didn’t know Muggles would try to do that without bombardo,” said Ginny, looking interested. “Dad’d love to hear it.”
“Without – what?” said Dudley. Harry elbowed her.
The conversation actually turned casual, and they actually chatted. Dudley did most of the talking, reminiscing about his football days and how he’d met his extremely smart wife. It felt very bizarre, but it wasn't altogether unpleasant. The children got louder as they became more used to each other, and when it was time to leave Dudley was both relieved and exhausted. It was only when he picked up Petunia (who protested heartily) that he realized what he had taken for dinosaur models were actually in the shape of dragons, and they moved on their own, stomping their feet and flapping their wings and even breathing steam and occasional spouts of green fire. Dudley wished they had chosen a different toy – he didn’t want Petunia to get any ideas.
Dudley began to regret taking Petunia to the Potters because she constantly pestered him to take him to the place with the “moving toys.”
“What’s she talking about, Dudley?” Maybelle finally asked. Dudley shuffled his feet and admitted he’d taken her to see her cousins and they’d had some mechanical toys.
“You went to see your cousin?” said Maybelle looking bewildered. “Why, that’s – wonderful?” and she cast a suspicious glance at the Christmas card, barely visible through his office door. She’d asked about the Potters before and the only thing Dudley would tell her was that they were a bit…different.
Another year passed and Maybelle let out a scream. Dudley rushed into the kitchen and found Maybelle on her knees, holding out her arms. “Don’t move, don’t move, don’t move, sweetie—”
Petunia looked exceedingly unperturbed as she stepped through midair to get to the biscuit jar. Dudley was also alarmed, but he was more alarmed about her losing her concentration and falling, so he grabbed Maybelle’s shoulder and waited until Petunia had settled on top of the fridge. Then he said sternly, “Flower, come down right now.”
Petunia gave him a reproachful look, and he went forward, grabbed her arms, and pulled her down. Maybelle was shaking and crying.
“It’s all right,” said Dudley.
“How is it all right?” Maybelle exclaimed. “Did you see what she just did?”
Petunia glared at Dudley and he absent-mindedly took down the biscuit jar and gave her one of the treats, while trying to think of how to explain this to his wife. “Er, remember my cousin?” he said cautiously.
“We have to take her to the hospital – oh, god –”
“It’s normal,” said Dudley slowly.
“How can you say it’s normal?” Maybelle shrieked.
“I mean, well, not normal, but do you remember my cousin?” Dudley tried again. “He’s a—er—he’s a—wizard.”
Maybelle gaped at him. Long story short, they had a fierce argument, Maybelle screaming that he was insane, that they were all insane, which ended with her grabbing both of their children and leaving in the car. Dudley stood in the doorway watching them go, stunned and furious with himself. If he’d said something differently – if he maybe knew some words to properly explain the situation—if he wasn’t so damn stupid—He sat down on the steps and put his head in his hands, feeling a greater hatred and loathing for his cousin than he ever had before. Why did this have to happen to them?
He tried following Maybelle, tried calling her, took a bus to her mother’s house and only got the door slammed in his face, and then her mother threatening to call the police and get a restraining order. Dudley spent a very miserable week.
Then, quite suddenly, Maybelle came back, Bobby Alan and Petunia holding either ones of her hands. She looked at Dudley, red-eyed, and whispered, “So what about your cousin?”
She had witnessed some sort of action from Petunia – perhaps a whole string of them – and, frightened and confused, she’d decided to come back to the only person who seemed to be calm about the whole insane idea. Dudley took her to see his cousin, and Ginny and Harry very awkwardly but very gently tried to explain the whole thing, showing her very small pieces of magic to calm her. Maybelle did not seem convinced by any of these things. The small talk went very poorly as well.
“So what do you do for a living?” Maybelle asked Harry politely.
“I just got promoted to head Auror at the Ministry of Magic,” said Harry.
“Auror. Dark Wizard-catcher.”
“Oh,” said Maybelle faintly.
It wasn’t until she sat very quietly for half an hour while Dudley spoke to his cousin, watching their children playing together, and Petunia and Bobby Alan’s delight with the moving toys, did she seem to decide that she was all right with this. She very politely wished a good day to the Potters and they returned home. Dudley and Maybelle were silent in the car, but Petunia and Bobby Alan were talking very fast and very loudly and constantly over each other. They got home and it took a very long time to put the very excited children to bed.
Dudley was sitting on the couch when Maybelle came downstairs. She sat beside him and took his hand.
“OK?” said Dudley.
“No,” said Maybelle, bursting into tears. Dudley put his arm around her and waited. When the flood finally abated she said angrily, “Why didn’t you tell me earlier? It wouldn’t have been so perturbing!”
Dudley didn’t know what ‘perturbing’ meant, but he could guess. “Didn’t know how,” he said.
She pounded his chest with her fist with each syllable, but her swing wasn’t very strong so it didn’t hurt. “Dud—ley—you—great—id-i-ot!”
Maybelle, to Dudley’s great relief, finally took things into her own hands. She peppered him with questions that he answered as best he could, but often with a bewildered expression on his face. Dudley Dursley, the expert on magic in the household. It was a very strange title. Maybelle warned Petunia to be careful every time she did something out of the ordinary, especially when they were out in public. Petunia quickly figured out that she could do things that the rest of them couldn’t, and she became very gleeful about it. But Maybelle would have none of that. When Petunia levitated one too many times to get to the biscuit jar, she punished her by promptly grounding her – literally. She was tied to a heavy chair by a short cord, so she could only hover a few inches off the floor like a deflating helium balloon, much to her indignation. Maybelle also took Dudley aside and ordered him to take Bobby Alan out every weekend for football and ice cream so he wouldn’t get too jealous of Petunia’s abilities.
They were both very careful to warn Petunia and Bobby Alan to not say (or do) anything out of the ordinary when around Grandma Petunia and Granddad Vernon.
Harry received a frantic telephone call two days before Christmas a few years later.
“Haaarrryy!” wailed an all-too familiar voice at this point.
“What is it now, Dudley?” asked Harry, irritated. Dudley was constantly calling him these days, always in a frenzy, always asking for advice with how to deal with some new antics of Petunia--despite Harry's repeated mantra that they couldn't really do anything. These things just happened with magical children. What's more, today Dudley had interrupted him in the middle of refurbishing some of the twigs on his beloved Firebolt, which was still in excellent condition. Given a few more years it would become an extremely valuable antique.
Dudley’s voice was unintelligible.
“Slow down, Dudley,” Harry sighed, pulling up a stool and sitting down. “What about a letter?”
“I’ll read it,” said Dudley, and there was the rustling of papers. Dudley read slowly, pausing before carefully pronouncing the long words – he correctly pronounced most of them. Harry resisted the sincere urge to compliment him, aware it would sound like an insult. “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Dursley – we are aware of several instances of magic—occurring on a regular basis at your—residence. While these instances are un-der-stand-a-ble for inexperienced wizards and witches, as your daughter is now of a – reasonable age to resist practicing magic, we must warn you that this—frequency is generally not tolerated. Continued instances may –require further –investigation, which may –jeopardize your daughter’s—eligibility to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If you feel your daughter has extra difficulty, do not—hesitate to contact the ministry to request an—exemption.”
“Huh,” said Harry thoughtfully.
“What do I do?” said Dudley, back to the wailing tone of voice. “She can’t get expelled before she goes! She’ll be so miserable!”
Harry’s eyebrows shot upwards in surprise. Dudley was actually worried that Petunia would not successfully be extremely ab-normal? “Good for you, Duds!” he said without thinking.
“Wha?” said Dudley.
“Er,” said Harry. “I mean, I’m sure it’ll be fine. You can write to the Ministry like they said and tell them Petunia can’t control her magic.”
“But she can,” said Dudley. “She does it on purpose most of the time.”
“Really? That’s actually really impressive, Dudley. She must be really talented.”
Dudley sounded a little encouraged, but still very bitter. “What good is that if she can’t go to school?”
Harry pinched his lip. “Oh. Well, have you talked to her about it?”
“Yes,” said Dudley miserably. “She just laughed. She thinks it’s a big joke. Me and Maybelle can’t get to her.”
“Hm,” said Harry thoughtfully. “Are you still coming for Christmas dinner?”
“Yeah, I guess,” said Dudley.
“I have an idea.”
Bobby Alan and Petunia were extremely excited to be going to Cousin Harry’s for Christmas dinner. They filled their small car with their favorite Christmas presents and chattered loudly all the way over, Maybelle yelling at them to shut up, and Dudley nervously going over the plan in his mind. He’d alerted Maybelle so she wouldn’t be taken by surprise, and presumably Ginny also knew, but none of the children did. They burst through the front door of the Potters in an explosion of noise and within a quarter of an hour they had sat down dinner. It was always awkward for the parents to find things to talk about, their worlds were so far removed, but at least the awkwardness had become a little bit of a running joke now, so it wasn’t too painful. When they had gotten to the pudding, a large owl clattered against the kitchen window, holding a red envelope in its beak.
“Oh, I wonder what that could be,” said Harry theatrically. “Sending an owl at Christmas? Must be serious!” Harry sauntered over to the window, opened it, and took the envelope. The owl fluttered away. He turned around, eyes wide behind his glasses. “Petunia, it’s for you! And it’s – a Howler!” One could almost hear the orchestral doom sound-effects in the background. Ginny rested one elbow on the table and pinched the bridge of her nose, but Petunia stared with wide eyes as she took it from Harry.
“What – what’s a Howler?” she asked nervously.
“Open it, quickly,” said Harry, as the envelope began to smoke.
Petunia squeaked and dropped it, and then with a small explosion the Howler burst open. Dudley and Maybelle had been warned beforehand, but they both still jumped. Bobby Alan fell backwards off his stool as the envelope began to scream:
“PETUNIA DURSLEY!!! WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOU HAVE BEEN PRE-EXPELLED FROM HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY!! YOUR BEHAVIOR HAS BEEN REPREHENSIBLE! WE HAVE ON GOOD AUTHORITY THAT YOU HAVE BEEN DISOBEYING YOUR PARENTS AND IRRESPONSIBLY PERFORMING MAGIC LEFT AND RIGHT WITH NO REGARDS TO THE CONSEQUENCES! YOU ARE A SHAME TO THE WHOLE WIZARDING WORLD!! IF YOU DO NOT REFORM IMMEDIATELY WE WILL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO ARREST YOU. SINCERELY, MINISTER OF MAGIC KINSLEY SHACKLEBOLT.”
Shacklebolt had not sent the letter. It was from Harry, who had either done something to his voice to change it, or he was a very good voice actor. Petunia stared, horrified, as the letter burst into flames and rained ashes all over her pudding. James, Albus, and Lily looked on, shocked. Bobby Alan poked the top of his head up over the table so that only his eyes were visible, apparently too nervous to emerge the rest of the way.
“Well,” said Maybelle briskly. “That’s that.”
Petunia turned, tears filling her eyes. “Daddy, they can’t!” she whispered. “They can’t!”
Dudley, looking into that stricken face, felt extremely guilty. “They just did, Flower,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“We tried to warn you,” said Maybelle callously.
“But—no!” Petunia began to cry. “What if I write and tell them I’m sorry? I promise to be good, I’ll never do magic on purpose again—”
“That’s what happens when you don’t listen to your mum and dad,” said Maybelle.
Dudley felt dreadful. He quickly said, “Maybe Harry knows someone—”
Petunia immediately turned to him. “Cousin Harry!” she pleaded. “You know the minister of magic, don’t you? You’re friends? Please tell him I didn’t mean it, I’ll do anything—”
“Hmmm,” Harry sat down and rubbed his chin, looking very thoughtful. “I don’t know…ow!” he sent Ginny a quick glare. She was still pinching the bridge of her nose. “Do you promise to obey your mum and dad from now on?”
“Yes! Yes!” Petunia pleaded.
Harry studied her, frowning, as if trying to decide whether to believe her. At last he said, “All right, I’ll write Shacklebolt and get you un-expelled. He owes me a favor.”
Petunia sighed in relief and put her head on the table. Dudley still felt extremely guilty. “Here, Flower,” he said, pushing his plate towards her. “You can have my pudding, there’s no ash on it.”
After dinner, the five children ecstatically showed each other their presents, though the Dursley children quickly abandoned their non-magical presents for the Potters’ magical ones, much to Dudley’s disgruntlement.
“Look, look,” said James importantly, the oldest of the five, holding out his brand new broomstick. The children gathered around.
“Oooooh, woooow!” breathed Petunia. “Can I ride it? Please?”
“Nope,” said James smugly, mounting the room and zooming around the large living room.
“Not in the house!” scolded Harry.
“Oh, let him,” said Ginny, sitting back with her feet up on the coffee table. “It’s Christmas, and I don’t want to go out to an abandoned field so they can fly.”
The children ran after James, who was laughing hysterically.
“Plleeeaaaassse!” they wailed.
“No!” said James.
“James,” said Harry.
James’ face fell. He landed. “Oh, all right, fine,” he grumbled.
“Daddy!” Petunia ran to Dudley. “Daddy, let me ride it, pleeeaaase?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea –” said Maybelle.
Dudley looked into Petunia’s wide, pleading eyes. “Oh, let her,” he said. “It’s Christmas.”
“All right,” Maybelle relented.
“Yes!” cheered Petunia. She tugged on Dudley’s hand. “Help me on, Daddy. Help me on.”
Dudley didn’t know the first thing about broomsticks, but he hefted himself out of his chair and obediently walked over, awkwardly holding the broom for her while she got on. Harry came over to help. “Put your hands there, don’t hold it crooked, kick your feet up—there, you’ve got it!” Petunia wobbled into the air, laughing nervously. Dudley stood back. Petunia took a slow circle around the room, falling back to the ground multiple times, but catching herself, and frowning in fierce concentration. At last she got up a few feet in the air and started flying more smoothly. Dudley stood in the middle of the room, watching her go.
“Daddy, look at me! Mummy, look!”
“We’re looking,” said Maybelle.
“Come down,” said James. “I’ll give you a fast ride.” Petunia landed and James climbed on behind her. They zoomed around the room, Petunia shrieking with laughter.
“Watch this!” said James enthusiastically.
Ginny stood up. “James! No tricks—”
It was too late. James tried to do some sort of loop in the air, the end of the broomstick hit the mantle, and the two children came hurtling through the space and crashed straight into Dudley’s stomach. He fell over flat on his back. The floor shuddered.
“JAMES!” hollered Harry.
“PETUNIA!” shrieked Maybelle.
“Oof,” said Dudley, sitting up.
James scrambled off of him, eyes wide. “Oh gosh, I’m really, really, really, really sorry, Cousin Dudley—”
“It’s okay,” said Dudley. “I have lots of padding.”
Albus and Lily giggled. Petunia and jumped off of him as well, looking a little subdued. Harry and Ginny dragged James away by the wrists, lecturing him.
A small voice broke through the excitement, “Can I ride it?” Silence fell and everyone looked at the speaker. Bobby Alan stood with his hands behind his back. “Well, can I?” he asked when nobody answered him.
“Er,” said Harry.
“The thing is, Bobby,” said Maybelle. “Only magical people can ride brooms. It doesn’t work for the rest of us.”
Bobby Alan got very red in the face. “That’s not fair!” he burst out. “Why does she get to do everything? Why’s she get to be special? How come I gotta go to a stupid Muggle school, and she’ll get to go to a magic one?” He spun around and viciously kicked the coffee table. “I HATE being a Muggle!”
Silence blanketed the room.
“Your mum and me are –er—Muggles,” said Dudley at last. Bobby Alan kept his back to him. His fists scrubbed at his eyes. “Hey,” Dudley got an idea, and he looking pleadingly at Harry. “Maybe one of your cousins could take you for a ride on a broom. You know, a big one.”
“Yeah, that’s an idea!” said Harry immediately. “What do you say, Bobby?”
“I want a ride on a big broom!” said Petunia at once.
“No,” said Dudley.
“WHY NOT?” Petunia wailed.
“You’re too young,” said Dudley. This seemed to cheer Bobby Alan. He turned around.
“Dudley,” said Maybelle in a worried voice. “I don’t know if this is a good idea—”
“Mum!” protested Bobby.
“I could take him, if that makes you more comfortable,” Ginny volunteered. “I was a professional Quidditch player.” Harry looked mortally offended at this insinuation, but he didn’t say anything.
“Quidditch?” said Dudley blankly.
“Wizarding football, Dad,” Bobby Alan reminded him impatiently.
“All right,” said Maybelle slowly. “If Ginny takes him.”
Either the real broom ride pacified Bobby Alan, or the fact that Petunia couldn’t have one did. As did Maybelle cornering him later and explaining that if it weren’t for his sister none of them would have anything to do with magic at all.
“So why don’t we get magic presents, then?” Bobby Alan complained.
“Because your mum and me aren’t magical,” grumbled Dudley. “Stop whining.”
Harry received another telephone call, but this time it wasn’t frantic.
“Harry, where’s this – diagonally, eh?”
“Yeah, whatever. Ruddy thing doesn’t show up on any Google searches—”
Harry grinned. “No, Dudley, it wouldn’t. You can’t expect us to have shops selling magical stuff out in the open.”
“Why not?” grumbled Dudley. “Make it a lot easier to find—”
“Does this mean Petunia got her letter?” Harry asked eagerly.
“Yeah. Came yesterday.”
“Yeah,” There was definite pride in Dudley’s voice. “She’s all excited, but Bobby’s mad again, think I’ll buy him a present at diagonally.”
“Diagon Alley,” corrected Harry automatically. “Sounds like a good idea.”
“So where’s it at? Do we gotta stand in a circle and say magic words and throw salt over our shoulders or what?”
Harry snorted with laughter and quickly turned it into a cough. “No. Tell you what, are you free on Saturday? You could go over with us.”
“Can you be over here by nine?”
“Bloody hell, Harry, I don’t get up until ten on Saturdays.”
Harry sighed. “Fine. Eleven, then?”
Dudley was very confused. When he and Maybelle were trying to get their kids ready to go somewhere, they yelled at them to come to the front hall, but Ginny and Harry were yelling at their children to come stand in front of the fireplace. Harry finally alleviated their confusion by explaining the mode of transportation.
“We gotta do what?”
Harry explained it again.
“Couldn’t—couldn’t we just go in the car?”
Ginny shot Harry what was clearly an ‘I-told-you-so’ look. “If you want to, Dudley,” said Harry, looking extremely put-out.
“I want to go in the fireplace!” said Bobby Alan. “You’re so boring, Dad.”
Dudley glared at Bobby Alan, then looked back at Harry. “OK, what do we do?”
Harry explained for the third time, then had Ginny go first with Lily and Albus, then James by himself. Petunia and Bobby Alan were clamoring to go next. Dudley straightened his tie and marched into the fireplace, both of his children holding onto his coattails, stooping a bit because of his height and feeling ridiculous.
“Oh, and Dudley, make sure you pronounce it Diagon Alley,” said Harry, slowly and clearly. “If you don’t you might end up on Knockturn Alley.”
“I think I can pronounce the ruddy word,” said Dudley grumpily. He hollered, “Diagon Alley!” and emerged in a cloud of dust, coughing, with Bobby Alan laughing with glee and Petunia looking a bit green, in a room where the other Potters were waiting for them.
“Good, you’ve all made it through first try,” said Ginny as Maybelle and then Harry appeared. “That’s more than Harry did. Harry, I’m going to get started book-shopping. You go with Dudley.”
“I think we can manage school supply-shopping,” said Dudley with dignity, looking at the list. “Guess we’ll get started then. She needs a wand.”
“You’ll want Ollivander’s,” said Harry. “Old Ollivander’s died, sadly, but his son’s running the place and it’s as good as ever.”
“Right then,” said Dudley, and he marched out into the sunlight, blinking hard at the sudden explosion of noise and bustle and the swamp of swishing robes and cloaks all around them. He felt as conspicuous as a pink elephant in a small room. He stood staring all around him, clinging to the hands of Bobby Alan and Petunia as they squealed in excitement, jumping up and down and trying to pull him in opposite directions. Dudley turned to Harry, slightly mollified. “So where’s this Oldevandy’s?”
“Ollivander’s,” corrected Harry. “This way, follow me.”
They followed Harry through the crowd, Maybelle pressing close to his side. It seemed bizarre, surrounded by all of these people in pointed hats and dark robes. Harry and Ginny wore robes, of course, after dressing normally for the Dursleys’ first few visits, and Dudley had gotten used to them doing it – it was just another way in which the Potters were a bit odd. It was quite different being surrounded by people just as odd.
“Here we go,” said Harry, and they went in.
“Hello, Mr. Potter!” beamed a handsome, middle-aged man as he pumped his hand. “I knew you’d be coming back this year, is this Albus?” He grinned at Bobby Alan, who looked crestfallen.
“No,” said Harry quickly. “He’ll be coming in later. This is my cousin, Dudley Dursley, and his wife Maybelle. They need a wand for their daughter, Petunia.”
“Ah,” Ollivander studied them. “Muggles, are you?”
“Yes,” Dudley puffed out his chest, silently daring Ollivander to make a disparaging comment. Ollivander just smiled.
“Very good, always in need of fresh blood,” he said cheerfully. “All right, step right up, Little Lady.”
Without being aware he was doing it, Dudley shrank back several steps, as did Maybelle, as they stared in awe and a little in fear at their daughter, who was making several small explosions as multiple wands were rejected. Bobby Alan smirked every time this happened, and Petunia looked more and more miffed. But at last, she took a wand of Rowan wood with a Unicorn Hair core (Dudley wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly), and then he took another step back as a golden wind swirled around his daughter, whipping her mousy hair about her face. Bobby Alan looked awed, and Dudley was dimly aware that this might mean Petunia would rub it in her brother's face. But she merely studied her wand with a thoughtful look on her face.
Dudley stepped forward, getting out his wallet.
Harry smacked his forehead. “Merlin’s beard, Dudley, I completely forgot you need money!”
“I have money!” Dudley protested, extremely offended. He addressed Ollivander, “Do you take VISA?”
Ollivander looked at him blankly. “I beg your pardon?”
“Dudley,” Harry said, looking embarrassed. “Sorry, you need Wizarding money.”
“I need what?”
“Wizarding money,” Harry repeated. “We have to exchange it at the Wizarding bank.”
“Your sort have different money?” Dudley blurted. “What, are you British citizens or aren’t you?”
“We are,” said Harry. “But the Wizarding world uses their own money, that’s all. Here,” Harry pulled a drawstring bag out of his pocket. “I’ll pay for this, then we’ll get your money exchanged at Gringotts and you can pay me back.”
Ollivander looked amused. Maybelle looked embarrassed. Dudley was furious, both with himself and with Harry, but Petunia thought it was funny. “Your face is red, Daddy.”
They purchased robes, a cauldron, and an owl next. Dudley didn’t like the idea of buying an owl at first (he felt he must have been permanently traumatized by them because Vernon had ranted constantly about how terrible owls were ever since that fateful 11th birthday of Harry’s), but when Harry explained that there really was no way at all to communicate with Petunia unless they used a wizard’s owl, and it would be much more convenient if Petunia had her own owl, Dudley relented and purchased a small one. It was plain and brown, but Petunia was delighted. “It’s so cute, Daddy!”
Bobby Alan became more and more subdued, and he looked near the breaking point when he longingly read the titles on Petunia’s new schoolbooks as they rummaged through the bookshelves.
“Maybelle,” said Dudley. “I’m going to take Bobby and get some ice cream.”
“Good idea,” she said, looking a little frightened at the prospect of him leaving her. “But, hurry back, won’t you?”
“Come on, Bobby,” said Dudley, taking his son and disappearing through the doors.
“Hey,” said Ginny, joining them half an hour later in Slug and Jiggers Apothecary. She looked all around. “Where’s Dudley and Bobby?” Harry had somehow not realized until that moment that they’d vanished, he’d been having such a fun time with firecracker Petunia.
“They went to get ice cream,” said Maybelle. “Bobby was feeling left out.”
“Oh, well,” Harry felt a little guilty. “Right. This is our last stop, Ginny, what about you?”
“Ours too,” said Ginny.
“All right. Let’s go find them.”
They searched and inquired at Florean Fortescue’s, and were told that a man and boy matching their description had come in about half an hour ago, but they’d left almost immediately. So the whole troop went down the street, poking their heads into various shops.
“Harry,” said Ginny. “You don’t think they’d be at Weasleys’, do you? That’s a good place for any kid, magical or not.”
They hurried to the shop. “Oh no,” said Harry, as roaring laughter that had an uncanny resemblance to Uncle Vernon’s burst out through the doors.
Ginny gave him a reproving look. “What?” she asked.
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
They squeezed through the doors into the crowded room, where Fizzing Whizzbees constantly flew through the air, children were constantly trying to shoplift small items, and where, at this moment, a small crowd of laughing children surrounded Dudley Dursley while he tried prank item after prank item, laughing his head off. Bobby Alan was there too, doing the same, primarily with Headless Hats.
George Weasley stood to the side, looking amused himself. “Hiya, Harry!” he waved, looking delighted. “Hi Sis! Shopping for Albus?”
“Yeah,” said Harry, watching Dudley suspiciously.
“Isn’t it great?” grinned George. “I love it when Muggles come in here, their reactions are twice as good.”
“Yeah,” said Harry. “That’s my cousin, Dudley.”
George looked thunderstruck. “Dudley! The Dudley? The ton-tongue toffee Dudley? Blimey, I thought he looked familiar!”
“That’s the one,” said Harry grinning.
“Blimey, you don’t mean to—has he got—”
“This is his daughter—” Harry began, but Petunia had raced off into the crowd. “Well, he’s got a daughter—”
“Blimey,” said George. “A Muggle-born Dursley. It’s a miracle.”
“Dudley’s not so bad,” said Harry defensively, even though he’d thought the same thing himself for years. It was incredible that anything could survive contact with Uncle Vernon’s genes.
Dudley and Bobby Alan both left Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes in extremely buoyant moods and disconcertingly full pockets. Petunia complained that she ought to be allowed just as much spending money in the joke shop as Bobby Alan until Dudley said lightly, “All right then, as soon as we return your owl,” and she quickly rescinded her argument.
Harry’s unease was thoroughly justified when, for weeks afterwards, he opened letters from the Dursleys, delivered by Petunia’s new owl (which she’d name Cupcake), and got blasted in the face by Exploding Whizz Poppers. Ginny walked in on him the first time, investigating the sound.
“What in Merlin’s name was—” then she saw his ash-covered glasses and burst out laughing.
Harry opened any letters from the Dursley’s with great caution from then on, until James and Albus started racing to see who could get to them first and receive the treat of having your hair blasted backwards.
Until one day when the excited children opened a non-exploding envelope and were very disappointed. Harry took it from them and read the note,
Sorry about all the pranks. Here’s something to make up for it.
The envelope contained several pieces of what looked suspiciously like Fever Fudge.
“Oh, honestly!” said Ginny, throwing the contents in the bin over the protests of the three children.
Dudley called a few days later. “I got you, didn’t I?” he said gleefully. “Got you, eh? The candy was from the joke shop too!”
“Oh, yeah,” said Harry dryly, listening to Dudley’s laughter. “I was sick for days. Good one, Duds.”
“You want me to come with you?” asked Maybelle, worriedly.
“No,” said Dudley. “Better if I do it myself.” And he set off in the car to visit his parents.
“Diddy!” gushed his mother Petunia, pulling him in and planting a kiss on his cheek. “It’s so good to see you, come in, come in." She took his hat and coat and ushered him into the living room where Vernon was watching television.
“Dudley!” he said, grinning massively. “Good to see you looking so sporting, old Maybelle’s feeding you well, isn’t she?”
“Yeah,” said Dudley with a nervous grin. He sat down. Petunia held out a platter.
“Take a biscuit, popkin,” she said. “No, take three. There you go.”
“So how is Maybelle? And Bobby Alan? And Little Petunia?” Petunia beamed and poured him a cup of tea.
“Good,” said Dudley, still grinning, his face feeling stiff and frozen. “All good.”
“So where is Petunia going this fall?” asked Petunia. “You’ve been rather vague.”
Right to the point, then. Dudley took a deep breath. “Er, well, the thing is…”
“You are sending her somewhere, aren’t you?” said Petunia, looking worried.
“Well, yeah,” Dudley shifted. “Um, I’ve been visiting Harry a bit…” Vernon and Petunia both flinched, like he’d said a dirty word. “And well, er, we’ve decided that Petunia will go to school with Albus.”
There was a long silence.
“Albus?” said Vernon. “Who’s Albus?”
Dudley tugged on his shirt collar. “Harry’sson,” he mumbled.
“What’s that, dear?” Petunia went pale. “Did you say…his son?”
“Where’s his son going, boy?” demanded Vernon.
Dudley kept his eyes on the commercial playing on the television, but he didn’t see it. “Harry’s school,” he said at last.
Petunia gave a little scream. Vernon went purple and spluttered unintelligibly. Dudley looked at them both defiantly. “Thing is,” he said bravely, “Petunia needs to learn how to manage herself.” He’d rehearsed this speech many times. Maybelle had helped him. “She needs to know how to use her abilities, she can’t keep them all bottled up. She likes them anyway. And look what happened to Harry when you tried to keep him bottled up. Set a python on me at the zoo accidentally, didn’t he? And look what he did when he was all trained up, saved me from Dementors, didn’t he?”
“You shut your mouth, boy!” roared Vernon. “Don’t say those words in this house, under this roof!”
“Dudley,” gasped Petunia, fanning herself with her hand. “You don’t mean to say—”
“Petunia’s a witch,” said Dudley, and this was the first time he’d said it out loud.
Petunia screamed again and Vernon hauled himself out of the chair, waving his arms. “Don’t—say—that—word!” he bellowed. “Don’t mention those—you can’t let her, boy, you can’t let her grow up to be like those – those – freaks of nature!”
“Harry’s not a freak,” said Dudley quietly.
“SENT US FROM THE COUNTRY, THOUGH, DIDN’T THEY?” shouted Vernon. “SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET MIXED UP IN THEIR SORT?”
“They saved our lives,” said Dudley. “They were protecting us. It wasn’t Harry’s fault. Wasn’t the other wizards’ fault either.”
“DON’T SAY THAT WORD!”
“Dudley,” said Petunia tearfully. “Dudley, please don’t – just talk to Petunia, send her to a nice school, I know it’s alarming now, I know it didn’t work with Harry, but he was an incurably criminal boy—”
“Harry’s all right,” mumbled Dudley. “We were awful—”
Petunia went on as if she hadn’t heard him. “—and Petunia’s very sweet – I know the oddities will melt out of her if we just leave it alone—”
Vernon sat back down, panting, and looking a little calmer. “Right, right you are Petunia, right,” he said. “Freakishness will just melt away. Right.”
A sort of calm rage swept through Dudley. This was their granddaughter they were talking about. This was his daughter they were talking about. Dudley stood up, grabbing his coat and hat. “Petunia’s going to Hogwarts, and if you don’t like it, you can stuff it.” Petunia and Vernon gaped at him. “And don’t call Harry or Petunia freaks. If you do I’ll never speak to you again.” And with that he went out the door, down the steps, to his car, and drove back to his house.
Petunia and Vernon didn’t speak to him for six months, but they gradually started contacting him again. Rather than calling Harry and Petunia freaks, they simply cautiously steered the conversation away from any and all sensitive subjects. But Dudley had to begin to buy Christmas presents for Petunia and pretend they were from Grandma and Granddad so that Bobby Alan wasn’t the only one getting any from his grandparents.
Considering all of the bizarre things that seemed to happen on a daily basis now, Dudley almost wasn’t surprised when they had to run through a wall to get to the train. His mother Petunia and Vernon had never let him come with him to pick up or drop off Harry, as they wanted his contact with the freak’s world as limited as possible. Petunia clambered onto the train just as it pulled out, already chattering with Albus about a thousand different things that Dudley didn’t understand. He shrugged it off, used to it by now.
Maybelle had had to go to a meeting to present her latest paper on French literature, but Bobby Alan had insisted on coming along, and he stood watching the train pull out at Dudley’s side, face grim.
“Dad,” he said as they bid the Potters goodbye and walked back to their car. “Do you wish you were a wizard?”
Dudley didn’t have to think about it. “No!” he said earnestly.
Dudley had to ponder this question for a good long minute while he started the car. “Don’t have television for one thing,” he said at last. “Don’t use computers, can’t even send email. Er – have to rely on owls to talk to anybody. Bloody impractical. ”
“But you could do magic,” said Bobby Alan.
Dudley shrugged his broad shoulders. “If I was your mum I could read French and German, but I can’t. Don’t really care. I like where I am.”
Bobby Alan was quiet for several minutes. Then he said out of the blue, “I’m going to join the robotics club at school.”
“Robots, eh?” said Dudley. “Good for you.”
“They have a championship every year,” said Bobby Alan. “They give out lots of awards.”
“Championships, so they play football or something?”
“No, Dad,” Bobby Alan sounded exasperated. “They have to do certain things, like throw balls or go up ramps and do pull ups or something.”
“Throw balls? Sounds like football to me.”
A week later an owl crashed into their sliding glass back door in the evening, making Maybelle and Dudley jump. Bobby Alan had left for school now too. Dudley, pretending like he knew what he was doing, went over the door and let the owl (it was Cupcake) in. It settled onto his shoulder and hooted, promptly dropping the letter. Dudley pushed it off his shoulder, making it flap and hoot angrily, then retreat to balance on the back of the couch. Dudley bent down and retrieved the letter.
“It’s from Petunia,” he said, even though that was obvious. Her letter had obviously been written very quickly, the handwriting scrawling sloppily across the page, the sentences running together and surrounded by very large ink blots.
Dear Mum and Dad,
I’m having so much fun! Hogwarts is fantastic. It’s so big and there are these gigantic stairs that change all the time I’ve gotten lost every day. I’ve made seven friends and apparently there’s a Quidditch house cup and a normal House cup and we get or lose points depending on how good you do. I lost lots of points this week because I keep getting to class late because I keep getting lost but they say that’ll stop eventually but I was very good in charms class so I gained them right back.
Oh and also speaking of houses I got sorted into Hufflepuff which I’m happy about because I love yellow and the badger is so cute. Professor Longbottom is my favorite teacher he's the nicest person even though he keeps telling me I can’t ask questions that aren’t about herbology every five minutes n his class which I think is stupid because I’m asking everybody because I’m muggle-born and everybody knows so much more than me so how else am I going to find out? oh well at least I can visit him outside of class and he gives me lots of biscuits.
I have to go because James is going to fly his broomstick outside my first flying lessons were really fun too.
“Flying lessons?” said Maybelle. “They aren’t teaching eleven-year-olds to fly around on broomsticks, are they?”
“I dunno,” said Dudley. “Sounds like it. It’ll be fine,” he said at the horrified look on Maybelle’s face. “Brooms are their cars, it’s just driver’s ed, I’m sure it’s not dangerous.” He wasn’t sure, but there wasn’t anything they could do about it now. Maybelle peered back at the letter.
“Sorted?” she said in a lost tone of voice. Dudley looked back at the letter.
“The hell is a Hufflepuff?”
The bewildered parents wrote back, congratulating her on being in the Hufflepuff and agreeing that yellow and badgers were superb, telling her to be polite to the Professors even if she thought the rules were stupid, and cautioning her to not fly too high. Then they put the letter in an envelope and looked at the owl, which was preening on the chair.
“What now?” asked Dudley. Cupcake looked up, saw the letter in his hand, and fluttered over to them. Dudley tried to give it to her, but the owl blinked at the paper, then looked at them as if waiting. Maybelle nudged him.
“I think we need to write her name and address.”
Dudley looked at the envelope from Petunia. “What’s the Hogwarts address?”
“I don’t know,” Maybelle took the letter and wrote ‘Petunia, Hogwarts’ on it. “How’s that?” She addressed this to Dudley, but it was the owl that answered with a hoot. It snatched the envelope out of her fingers and took off, soaring through the open back door into the night.
“I guess it knows the way to Hogwarts, anyway,” said Dudley. “Like carrier pigeons.”
Petunia did not stop talking once during the Christmas holidays, her eyes bright and shining as she eagerly filled them all in about Hogwarts and details about the wizarding world and everything she was learning in her classes.
“I dunno why we gotta write essays,” she complained. “S’long’s we can do the magic.”
Bobby Alan had difficulty getting a word in edgewise, but it didn’t seem like he minded. In any case, Petunia got sent to bed earlier than him, which meant he had the whole evening to himself with his parents, in which he talked a lot about his robotics club. Dudley listened and nodded to everything he said, interjecting, “Wow,” and “That’s good. Really good,” occasionally just like he did with Petunia, without understanding a word of what either of them were saying.
“S’long, Nerd,” said Petunia at the end of the Christmas Holidays. “Make sure you tell me how the Destroyer’s doing.”
“S’long, Tuna,” said Bobby Alan with dignity.
“Don’t call me Tuna!”
“The Destroyer?” queried Maybelle after Petunia had left.
“That’s what she keeps calling our robotics project,” explained Bobby Alan with a roll of his eyes. At the confused looks of his parents he added, “You’re not the only people she sends letters to.”
Dear Mum and Dad,
Our Quidditch team is dismal. Don’t tell anybody I said that. I would try out for the team next year if I had a broom of my own. James is giving me extra flying lessons. He’s on Gryffindor’s team and he’s really good, but that only makes sense because he has Harry who was the youngest Seeker in a century as a dad and a professional Quidditch player for a mum.
Dudley told Petunia a little indignantly that he was certain Muggle football genes would count for something in Wizarding football too, while Maybelle and took the opportunity to send a worried letter to Harry and Ginny asking them to tell James that while they appreciated him helping Petunia they were really very nervous about him teaching her to fly without adult supervision. Harry wrote back saying he would ask James to at least make sure there were very experienced Quidditch flyers around, and also assured them that even if Petunia had an accident Madame Pomfrey could to impressive things like regrow bones and reattach limbs, which did nothing to soothe their fears. Ginny sent anther letter about five minutes later correcting Harry’s letter and telling them that while Madame Pomfrey could certainly do these things these were not the sort of injuries that regularly happened during Quidditch matches, which unfortunately did not really make things sound any better.
Dear Mum and Dad,
I heard the Destroyer crushed the competition. Tell the Nerd congrats for me, I don’t have time to write another letter right now; gotta go watch the dueling club.
By the way second-years are allowed to try out for Quidditch but you really need your own broom if you have any hope at all.
“She’s getting passive-aggressive, isn’t she?” said Maybelle, poking her head over Dudley’s shoulder.
You aren’t getting a broom until fourth year at least, so stop asking.
Dear Mum and Dad,
[insert long and detailed analysis of the best types of broomsticks around, broken down by price and special features, and also 2nd-year is going swimmingly, and also Albus has his own broom now, and he made the Slytherin team as a chaser even though he’s nowhere as good as James, it’s probably just because he’s a Potter, but don’t tell him or Cousin Harry/Ginny I said that]
Dudley and Maybelle had an argument.
“But what if she’s the only student around without a broomstick?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Dudley, there are lots of other Muggle-born students there and I’m positive their parents are just as sensible and don’t allow their children to go whizzing about on little sticks of wood either.”
“She might get made fun of.”
“I’m certain the teachers would put a stop to that sort of nonsense, if she didn’t herself. Besides, broomsticks can be horrendously expensive.”
“What if we gave her one for next Christmas? It’d be too late to use it, so she still wouldn’t try out for Quidditch until she was fourteen.”
An email from Bobby Alan:
Dear Mum and Dad,
C’mon, give the kid a broomstick. If I get one more letter filled with nothing but magical gobbledygook and wind resistance and anti-slipping charms I’m going to lose my mind. Besides, broomsticks are basically the magical equivalent of a bicycle. What kind of parents wouldn’t give their poor kid a bicycle?
Dudley left work early one day to sneak to Diagon Alley and buy a broomstick. He made sure that was not returnable before going home with it.
Christmas morning of Petunia’s third year, Bobby Alan affixed a note to the ribbon on a very long, obviously-shaped package.
You’re welcome, Tuna.
She threw a fit at the nickname, but then slipped a note under his door that night.
Dear Mum and Dad,
Worst day ever. Didn’t make the team. Hexed some Ravenclaw kid named Lorcan because he tricked Danni into giving him her Honeydukes candy. Got in trouble of course because it happened in the middle of Herbology, and the rules are stupid, he deserved it, and now I’ve got detention with Longbottom and he'll probably make me write like 500 lines.
It was accompanied by an animated drawing of a waterfall of tears. Dudley was so impressed by the animation and so relieved that she would not be flying about a mile in the air on a regular basis it took him a long time to work up the appropriate doleful response.
Don’t worry, Flower, I’m sure with some more practice you can make the team next year.
Much to his dismay, she did, receiving the position of Chaser which, according to her, was the position that scored all the goals. Dudley was consoled by this, and thought it a very appropriate position for his daughter, and walked about his workplace for the next month with a somewhat puffed-out chest, boasting to anyone who would listen that his daughter had made the prestigious football team. (They told everyone she went to a foreign exchange school in Nova Scotia so they wouldn’t ask too many questions about its whereabouts.)
The Easter holidays of Petunia’s fifth year were a massive stresser on everybody, because Grandma Petunia and Granddad Vernon were coming to dinner. Dudley went about the house, taking down moving photographs and moving miniature Quidditch player models to bedrooms and storage closets.
“I should have just stayed at Hogwarts to study,” griped Petunia, slamming down plates on the kitchen table as she set it for dinner. Grandma and Granddad were due to arrive any minute. “The OWLs are killing me – stupid writing sections, honestly, the practical exams are much more sensible – who cares about theory, so long as you can actually do it—” She threw silverware across the tablecloth. “And we have to use these stupid quills—it didn’t matter so much the first few years, but my hands ache all the time now! I tried to bring nice ballpoint pens, and Flitwick told me straight away I couldn’t use them because they couldn’t put anti-cheating spells on them—as if I would cheat, I’m in Hufflepuff what do they expect?”
“Flower,” said Dudley distractedly, wiping sweat off his face with a handkerchief. “Remember not to talk about OWLs at dinner.”
“Oh, sure, Dad! I’ll just keep my mouth shut, shall I?” grumbled Petunia, flinging water glasses across the table at an alarming rate. Fortunately for them all, she’d gotten a hold on her temper and was polite, if not very warm, towards her grandparents when they came through the door. It had been a few years since they had visited (usually Dudley and his family went to their house, rather than vice versa), and Vernon’s gaze darted everywhere, as if scathingly searching for anything abnormal. Dudley was relieved he had remembered to move the pictures that seemed so normal to him now.
“So good to see you,” said Maybelle, coming in from the kitchen and giving the two of them quick kisses. “Dinner’s ready now, so hang up your coats and come into the dining room.”
Dinner passed tensely, but not unpleasantly. Bobby Alan, Dudley, and Dudley’s parents did most of the talking, about things like football and sales and computer programming. Petunia sat silently with a sulky expression. Everything went swimmingly until they had moved to the sitting room and were drinking coffee. Bobby Alan just finished explaining about his Honors paper, and they were all silently drinking coffee and eating biscuits when Petunia said, very loudly and abruptly,
“My schoolwork’s been going well too, in case anybody cares to know.”
Vernon and Grandma Petunia acted as though they hadn’t heard her. Dudley shot her a warning look.
“Petunia, darling,” said Maybelle quietly. “Could you refill the biscuit platter for me, please?”
“Sure, Mum,” snapped Petunia, snatching up the platter and flouncing out of the room.
“So that football game last Friday,” said Dudley in the following, tense silence. They had already talked about the game, but they talked about it again, delving into the miniscule details about the players. Dudley was so engrossed in keeping the conversation going he didn’t notice when Petunia came back in the room- not until Maybelle spoke suddenly.
And Vernon looked up and his face turned that same old purple color. Petunia glided into the room carrying the biscuit platter. But instead of carrying it with her hand, she was carrying it in midair, one hand behind her back, the other out in front of her, wand held loosely in her fingers. She flung the platter onto the coffee table with a bang. It slid, knocking over a coffee cup, which smashed onto the ground and shattered.
“Oops,” said Petunia casually. With another wave of her wand the coffee cup flew back together, the coffee flew back inside of it, and the whole ensemble flew back up onto the table.
“Petunia!” gasped Dudley, “You’re not allowed—”
“Biscuit, Granddad?” asked Petunia loudly. She waved her wand and a biscuit shot from the platter and slid onto his plate. “Biscuit, Grandma?” and she did the same thing for Grandma Petunia.
Vernon got up out of his seat. “We’re leaving,” he choked out. “Boy—expected better than this from you—inviting us here—just to shove our faces in—”
“Dad,” Dudley jumped up. “Look, it’s not—”
“We’re leaving,” said Vernon, his voice rising. “Petunia, come on!”
Grandma Petunia pushed herself up out of her chair and gripped Vernon’s hand. They bustled out of the room, Dudley running after them, protesting. “Look, Mum, Dad, she’s not supposed to—just been frustrating for her—she’s a little upset today—”
The front door slammed. Dudley came back into the room red in the face. “What did you do that for?” he yelled.
“Do what?” Petunia yelled back. “Do what I’ve been learning for the past five years? Do what I was trained to do at the school you sent me to?”
“YOU KNOW IT UPSETS THEM. YOU DID IT ON PURPOSE.”
“THEY HATE ME ANYWAY!” shouted Petunia. “I DON’T CARE WHAT THEY THINK!”
Dudley was flabbergasted and it took him a moment to gather his thoughts. “They don’t hate you!” he scolded. “That’s a terrible thing to say! They’ve been sending you presents every year, haven’t they?”
He had stopped shouting, so Petunia did also. Instead she looked towards the front door with an expression of utmost loathing. “Come off it, Dad. I’ve known since I was thirteen that their presents are from you.”
Dudley blushed scarlet. “Even so," he stammered. "—they’re my parents—I asked you specifically not to upset them—you did it anyway—very disrespectful—and now you’re going to get in trouble for doing magic outside of school—”
Petunia either didn’t seem to hear this last part, or she didn’t care. “Disrespectful?” she cried, back to shouting. “Disrespectful?”
“Go to your room!” Dudley ordered. “We’ll be getting an owl any moment—you’ve been completely disobedient—complete disgrace—go to your room!”
Petunia burst into tears and raced from the room. Her footsteps pounded up the stairs, and her door slammed. Dudley collapsed into his chair, fuming silently. He’d tried so hard to make this work, and she’d gone and ruined the whole thing just because she couldn’t keep quiet—that terrible temper of hers—
Maybelle sat with her hand over her face, but Bobby Alan looked at Dudley grimly. “That was really unfair of you, Dad,” he said quietly.
“Unfair!” Dudley exclaimed. “Me, unfair!”
“Yeah,” said Bobby Alan.
“I only asked her to not talk about magic for one night—”
“What if Grandma and Granddad didn’t like computers?” Bobby Alan interrupted, looking angry. “What if they had horrible prejudices against computer programmers? Would you hide all of my school awards? Would you move all the pictures of me with my friends to moldy, dusty storage cupboards? Would you make me sit silently and let Grandma and Granddad treat me like I’m some sort of scum on the bottom of an old boot that they can’t bear to look at or acknowledge?”
Dudley stared at him. “That wasn’t—I’m not—that’s different!”
“How?” Bobby Alan demanded. “How is it different?”
“Well—it’s—” Dudley spluttered, and Bobby Alan got up without waiting for an answer.
“I’m going to bed,” he said bitterly, and he too went upstairs. But Petunia’s weeping suddenly got louder, and then quieter again as he went into her room. A few minutes later, the door opened again (Petunia’s weeping was no longer audible) and Bobby Alan went to his own room and quietly shut the door.
Dudley looked helplessly at Maybelle, who finally dropped her hand and looked back at him. “He’s not right, is he?”
Maybelle’s gaze dropped. “I know they’re your parents, but…” she trailed off.
It took several minutes, but Dudley at last got to his feet and heavily climbed the stairs. He reached the door and knocked. A moment later it flew open and Petunia flung her arms around him, still sobbing (but more quietly) and hiccupping.
“Daddy, I’m s-s-sorry—hic—I didn’t—hic—I just got so mad—hic—I have a t-t-terrible t-temper and I’ve r-r-ruined it—hic—I know you’ve been p-planning this for—hic—w-w-w-w-weeks—”
Dudley crushed her too him. “Not your fault, Flower,” he said, vision blurring. “Not your fault, it’s mine. And theirs. I’m getting all your pictures back out. They’ll never come here again.”
The Potters’ owl fluttered up to the house soon after the start of the Christmas holidays. Dudley didn’t even flinch when it tapped against the window. Bobby Alan didn’t look up, tapping away on his laptop and frowning on the screen, reaching up occasionally to scratch behind his ear.
“Owl for you, Flower,” Dudley called, because it almost always was for her. Petunia clambered down the stairs, a gangly sixteen-year-old, looking sulky. She and Maybelle had had a massive argument earlier that day when she’d returned home with aqua-colored hair.
“But Muuuuum! Teddy Lupin wears his hair spiky and pink and nobody cares!”
“Who’s Teddy Lupin supposed to be?”
“Harry’s godson, of course! He’s a metamorphmagus and changes his hair all the time to all sorts of colors—he got it from his mum, so it’s a perfectly normal thing to do—she’s dead, but she used to wear it pink too—”
“That settles it then. When your father dies you can change your hair to blonde in his memory. But in the meantime we’re going to visit Cousin Harry’s to see if they can change it back.”
Petunia took the letter. She scanned it, then looked up, excitement shining in her eyes.
“Dad, Al says we’re invited to a family Christmas party.”
“OK,” said Dudley, unconcerned.
“Big deal, Tuna,” said Bobby Alan. “We visit the Potters all the time.”
“Don’t call me Tuna!” said Petunia in a surprisingly cheerful tone of voice. “You don’t understand, it’s not the Potters—well, it is, but they want us to come visit everybody—their whole family! The—” she looked back at the letter. “—the Weasleys, Tonks’, Delacours—it’s not at the Potters’, it’s at the Burrow—Dad, it’s all our Wizarding relatives at once!” Petunia looked ecstatic.
“Er,” said Dudley with an unpleasant twisting sensation in his stomach.
“Woah,” said Bobby Alan, looking up with wide eyes, pausing in his typing. “That’s some party.”
“Can we go, Daddy? Pleeeaase?” Petunia bounced on her toes.
“Sure you can,” said Dudley.
“No, Daddy,” Petunia got down on her knees next to his chair and leaned her head on his arm, looking up into his face. “You have to come too! Please?”
“Er,” said Dudley. “I’ll have to ask your mum.”
“And you too, Bobby!” said Petunia, looking over at her brother.
Bobby looked back at his laptop, scratching behind his ear again. “Gosh, Tuna, I’d feel so weird surrounded by wizards when I can’t do a thing.” Dudley silently cheered him on.
“Don’t be stupid!” huffed Petunia. “How do you think I feel, spending my whole summer surrounded my Muggles? Other than you all, of course,” she added quickly.
Bobby Alan shrugged. “I’m going to regret this, but okay, I'll go…IF you force James and Al to not prank me by charming my shoes to dance when I put them on.” He looked up with a rather watery expression. “They’re not going to give me enough peace to work on my code, are they?”
Petunia giggled. “It’ll do you good being separated from your tech, Nerd. And you’re very good at jiving.”
“They can’t sneak up on me under the Invisibility Cloak either.”
“Aw, come on—”
“And absolutely no Nosebleed Nougats mixed into my yogurt at breakfast.”
“Just kill the fun before it starts, why don’t you?”
“Promise or I’m not coming.”
“All right, all right, I promise!”
Dudley hoped that Maybelle would come up with a rational excuse to put her foot down and insist that Dudley not go. Unfortunately, ever practical, though she looked a little ill at the prospect of being the only Muggles surrounded by extended family they’d never set eyes on before, she rationally said they would both go, and at Dudley’s dismayed expression she scolded him and said it would be extremely impolite to refuse, as they didn’t have any other plans.
As was their custom when going anywhere new in the Wizarding world, the Dursleys went to the Potters so they could travel together. They went by fireplace, emerging in an explosion of laughter noise and bright colors in a big kitchen.
“Harry, dear!” A short, plump witch with grey hair that still retained a few streaks of red flung herself at his scrawny cousin. “How good to see you! Ginny dear, you look wonderful!”
“Harry! Ginny! Harry!”
More robed people all gathered around, exchanging hugs and laughing and talking very quickly. Maybelle, Dudley, and Bobby Alan hung back uncomfortably, but Petunia immediately dove into the crowd after her cousins, screaming out, “Albus! Albus! You promised to introduce me to Fred—does he have the unreleased fireworks line for Triple W yet? AL-BUS!”
“Mum, mum, let him breathe!” One of the multitude of ginger wizards pushed through and hugged Harry, clapping him on the back. “Good to see you, Mate.”
“You too, Ron. It’s been, what, a whole three weeks?” It seemed to be an inside joke; they both roared with laughter.
“Look at that,” muttered Bobby Alan under his breath, gaze darting from family member to family member. “You’d think they genuinely all like each other.”
“Oh, hello dears.” The plump woman turned towards the little Dursley huddle, all three of which were giving very good deer-in-the-headlights impressions. “You must be Harry’s cousins.” She smiled, but her eyes were very sharp and inquiring as she looked them all, especially Dudley, up and down.
“Yeah,” Dudley managed. “Hi.”
Apparently satisfied with what she saw, the woman smiled. “I’m Molly Weasley, lovely to meet you, come sit down, have a cup of tea?”
Dudley was very glad when Maybelle reached out and clutched his hand in a death grip as they managed to find empty chairs. The fireplace kept flaring up, spitting more people into the throng. A breathy, silvery voice broke through the ranks of people.
“ ‘Ow wonderful to zee you, ‘Arry! ‘Ello, Jeeny.”
Had Dudley been speaking, he would have been dumbstruck. As it was he stared for just a moment before looking away and smiling weakly at Maybelle.
“There’s a bit of frostiness,” commented Bobby Alan, staring as the woman with the silvery hair to match her voice shook Ginny’s hand.
“Good trip, I trust, Fleur?” said Ginny politely. Then she turned Fleur towards the Dursleys. “Maybelle, didn’t you tell me you speak French?”
Maybelle’s eyes lit up, as did Fleur’s. “Parlez-vous français?” asked Fleur eagerly, and soon she and Maybelle were chatting rapidly in French. Dudley sank further into his chair and tried not to notice how people kept looking at him, some merely curiously, some rather sharply.
“Bless me, are you Harry’s cousin?” A tall, thin man with very little hair left and bright blue eyes behind his glasses practically ran up to Dudley, struggling and squeezing his way through the crush of people. He grabbed Dudley’s free hand and pumped madly. “Arthur Weasley, delighted you’re here, been dying to meet you—tell me, what do you do for a living?”
“Dad,” another red-haired man strolled by. He was missing an ear and looked vaguely familiar, but Dudley couldn’t remember from where. “Don’t interrogate the man, he’s only been here ten minutes.”
Dudley blinked. “I’m a salesman.”
“Fascinating!” Arthur looked enthralled. Dudley sat up a little straighter. “And you must be Bobby Alan,” he said to Bobby Alan. “Petunia’s older brother? Heard a lot about you.”
“Have you?” Bobby Alan looked startled.
“Yes indeed, don’t you go to a Muggle university? What is it like? What do you study?”
“I’m a computer programmer—”
“Programmer? Of computers? No, wait, don’t tell me…it’s like charms, then, for the computers, which work on electricity, right?”
“Kind of,” said Bobby Alan.
Arthur, Dudley, and Bobby Alan got into such deep conversation trying to explain the minutia of the British economic system, Bobby Alan’s computer code, and how football was really just as entertaining as Quidditch, that it was hard to tell which of the three of them was more disappointed by the interruption which was the call to dinner. Fleur and Maybelle sat together on one of the very long tables out in the large yard, continuing their conversation. The weather was cold, of course, but torches were set up around and Dudley suspected some sort of spellwork had been done because it was rather cozy at the tables. Arthur introduced and re-introduced the two male Dursleys to varying wizards and witches with, “This is Bobby Alan, he does Muggle charms on computation machines. And this is Dudley, he plays Muggle Quidditch.”
“And that’s my kid sister Tuna,” said Bobby Alan, inciting a wail of rage from Petunia. (“DON’T CALL ME TUNA!”) “She drives us up the wall.”
“Harry,” called Dudley, enough at ease to begin raising his voice, “What’s this about your dark-wizard catching, eh?”
“Yeah, Harry,” chirruped George, who was holding the hand of a very pretty black woman. “Regale us with tales of your heroics.”
“Uncle Harry!” piped up one young teen sitting next to Petunia. “Tell the one where Uncle Ron set your hair on fire!”
“Oh no, Fred,” said George dryly. “There’s no possible way you want to hear that one again. Not like you haven’t heard it thirty times before.”
“Oi, now,” protested Ron. “Why doesn’t anyone ever remember it blasted that poison-taloned harpy off of his head?”
“Almost took my head off with it,” said Harry, and everybody laughed again.
In the midst of this rather thrilling tale, while Maybelle began pleading with Ginny to change Petunia’s hair back to a respectable color, and while Arthur began to ply Dudley with questions about finer details in other Muggle sports (which was actually a little irritating, because Harry’s dark-wizard-catching story was very interesting), Bobby Alan suddenly let out a blood-curdling screech and fell over backwards out of his chair. Dudley jumped up out of instinct, there was a minor explosion, and bits of potato and peas sprayed out over the guests. Bobby was choking, on his hands and knees in the grass. Dudley hit him on the back and he spat out a little orange crystal into his hand, which promptly burst into sparks and flew into the air.
“FRED!” the pretty black woman yelled, as Fred, Petunia, Albus, James, Lily, and a pink-haired youth that looked a few years older than Bobby Alan and Dudley could only assume was Teddy, clapped their hands over their mouths to smother their laughter. George had covered his face with his hand.
“YOU’RE GOING TO PAY FOR THAT," roared Bobby Alan, getting up and charging the teenagers, who all scrambled out of their seats and fled, still laughing. Only Teddy remained in his seat. “WHAT DID I SAY, TUNA?”
“You didn’t ban fireworks in your food!” yelled Petunia, skinny legs pumping as she sped away. “You said no nosebleed nougats!”
Dudley sat back down. The pretty woman turned to him. “I’m so sorry about that, those transfigured fireworks aren’t even available to the public yet.”
“Edible Explosives,” said George, his voice muffled from behind his hand, and his shoulders shaking. “ ‘Course, don’t know if they’re actually edible yet – no one can get them down – ”
“It’s not funny, George—they can’t just go pranking a Muggle—”
Dudley grinned and shook his head. “Don’t worry about Bobby Alan. He gets much worse at home. He’ll be planning his revenge already.”
“Dad! Dad!” The chase apparently over, Petunia came racing back and flung her arms around Dudley’s neck. “Dad, we’re going to play football! We’ve decided to show them a thing or two about Muggle sports. Come play on my team, okay?”
“Hang on, I didn’t agree to football!” James ran up after her, panting. “You asked if I wanted to play Muggle Quidditch, I said Quidditch sounded great—”
“What’s the matter?” taunted Petunia. “Afraid we’ll kick your butts?”
“No,” said James immediately.
Dudley got up out of his chair, and Petunia cheered. She made Teddy conjure a referee’s whistle for her, which she blew many times during the game whenever the Quidditch-trained players made an egregious error. Contrary to James’ beliefs, Dudley, Petunia, Bobby Alan, Teddy Lupin, and Fred did indeed kick their butts.
Bobby Alan’s revenge came a short while later. They had moved indoors again, as it was too cold outside to remain out for long, and the teenagers had all decided to play a version of marbles that involved flinging the marbles across the empty space between the spiraling staircase. The game never got started though, because as they all drew their wands each stick turned into a rubber salamander, or fish, or chicken, or weasel.
“BOBBY ALAN WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH OUR WANDS.”
Dudley saw Bobby Alan discretely fist-bump Teddy Lupin.
But beyond all of these antics, the highlight of their stay (though Dudley never admitted it to anyone) was on Christmas Day itself and the families exchanged mountains of gifts. (Petunia and Bobby Alan, who both understood much more about the sort of gifts appropriate for wizards, had been given an allowance of the Dursley family funds to do the necessary shopping.) The exchange happened all at once, so naturally it was very chaotic.
A very confident Albus Potter strutted up to Maybelle and Dudley, plopping two large, soft, lumpy packages into their laps. “These are for you,” he said. “From all the Potters. Petunia picked the colors for us. It was Lily’s idea, but she’s too shy to give them to you herself.” The indicated party blushed and hid her face in her hands. Dudley realized that all of the Potters were watching them from various places in the room. Feeling apprehensive, Dudley opened his package. Inside was a long, pressed, deep blue Wizarding robe. Maybelle had a similar one, but it was a lighter blue.
“Go on, put them on!” James urged, coming from across the room. Dudley and Maybelle glanced at each other, then obediently stood up and put the robes over their shoulders. The Potter children burst into applause. "Congratulations, you are Honorary Wizards," said James pompously.
“Thank you,” said Maybelle, beaming and blushing. “I love it.”
“Oh, very nice,” growled Bobby Alan from where he leaned against the wall, arms crossed. He glowered at James and Albus. “What am I, chopped liver?”
“You have one too, Nerd,” said Petunia sweetly. “Unfortunately, we’ve quite forgotten where we’ve put it, and we won’t remember until you’ve given us our wands back.”
Dudley was very glad that they he not the center of attention at that moment, because for reasons he didn’t completely understand, as he fingered his Wizarding robe he felt his face growing hot and his nose began prickling and he found himself quite unable to say a single word.