No one moved for at least an hour…Alright perhaps that was stretching the truth. In reality it was only about 30 seconds, but to Dudley, that letter made time stand still; the same letter that, almost 30 years ago, had turned Dudley's life upside down. It was the same letter that told Harry he was a wizard.
A wizard. But that means- But Dudley could not finish his thought, for Marigold had already broken the silence with her sweet voice.
"Will, look! Another birthday card!" The 9 year old clapped her hands excitedly as Dudley set her down on the floor.
Will blinked before looking around at the feathers, "I guess so! But wow! What was that? A hawk? An owl?" The smallest blonde laughed, "Maybe it was the zoo sending me a special birthday message."
Will was still smiling as he reached for his letter, but Dudley saw another hand move towards the letter, his fathers. Dudley knew what would happen if Vernon Dursley got his hands on that letter. Just like when Harry got his letter, the oldest Dursley man would destroy any letter to Will that he could get his hands on. And just like when Harry was 11, the letters would keep coming until they would become too much for his family to handle. Definitely not something Dudley wanted, even if he wasn't sure what he thought of this letter's appearance.
But if Will got the letter…Oh no…Dudley's mind raced. Did he want his son to read the letter? No, at least, not yet. If William read that letter now, chances are that he would simply discard it as another joke or even become scared at what the letter entailed. Dudley had spent the past 19 years ignoring everything that letter stood for and now he had but a split second before deciding that although he was not against his son reading the letter, he wanted his family to know what they were getting into.
As both his father and his son reached out their hands to grab the letter, Dudley made his decision faster than his right hook, and snatched the letter from both of them.
Will's blue eyes brightened in surprise as his father took his own letter from him, "Hey! Dad, that's mine!"
Dudley tried to ignore his own father's still beet red face, and instead put on his best smile for his son, "I know Will. I just wanted to clean it off before you read it. You wouldn't want to get chocolate icing all over your hands before opening presents would you?" Will looked at his dad for a moment, pondering. Then, to Dudley's relief, he smiled.
"That makes sense dad, do I still get to eat my cake and ice cream?"
Dudley laughed, trying not show any signs of his relief, "Of course!"
At this, Will seemed satisfied, "Ok, but hurry! I want to open my presents!" The smallest blonde was grinning from ear to ear, making Dudley laugh in return.
Diane picked up the plate that held the cake on it, "What have I told you about being impatient William?" She tried to send her son a stern look, but faced with the boys sheer joy, the chastising look melted away as she made her way into the kitchen. Dudley quickly followed with the chocolate coated letter, leaving his parents alone with his children.
Only when he was in the kitchen did he dare look at the letter, his heart pounding loud enough that he swore Diane could hear it from the other side of the kitchen.
There it was, in the same emerald ink as last time, but this time…
Mr. William Dursley
Head of the Dining Room Table
16 Chestnut Avenue
They knew where he was seated…Dudley stared at the envelop. But why was he surprised? They had known that Harry had slept in the cupboard under the stairs for crying out loud. But did this letter really mean that Will's a wizard like Harry? Something about that thought made Dudley excited. Did he want his son to be like his cousin? There was certainly nothing wrong with his cousin, he was a very selfless and courageous man, Dudley would be proud to raise a son with such qualities.
But not all wizards are good, he remembered. Like the wizard that killed his aunt and uncle, Harry's own parents. The same group of wizards had forced Dudley and his parents to flee his house in the middle of the night. Could he live knowing he might have raised a dark wizard?
Before Dudley could answer his own question, the sounds of footsteps rushing past the kitchen door were heard. Confused, the blonde man set the letter on the counter to follow the noise. The sight in the hallway only further confused him.
"Mom, Dad, where are you going?" Dudley couldn't help but ask when he saw his parents putting on their coats and scarves.
Petunia Dursley gave her son a sheepish smile, "Oh Diddykins, I'm sorry, but something's come up. We really must be going..."
Dudley didn't buy it for a second, "You're leaving because of that letter aren't you?" For some reason, the fact his parents would leave his son's birthday party for some letter made his blood boil.
Vernon, who Dudley noted was still quite red, only grunted, "Call us when that blasted letter is destroyed!"
"Oh, and then you'll treat your grandson like he's human?" Dudley grit his teeth, "But what about when the next wave of letters comes? You know they don't just give up. Will you abandon him every time he receives a letter?" Dudley knew he was getting loud, but it wasn't until that moment that he began to see how infuriating his father could be.
The eldest Dursley looked as though he might burst a blood vessel, "Don't you dare speak to me that way boy!"
Dudley's hands were in tight fists, "So I'm 'boy' now? I thought you only called Harry that-"
"Don't ever mention him in front of me Dudley. I never want to hear the name of that fr-"
"DON'T!" Dudley couldn't stand it anymore, he had to put his foot down. Literally, causing some of the wood flooring to vibrate, "Don't call him that dad. I don't ever want you to use that word in this house again. If you call Harry that, then you're calling Will that. I don't know if you had some reason to dislike Harry, but I know you love Will. Or at least you did not even 15 minutes ago when you were congratulating him on his birthday. Letter or no letter, Will is still your grandson, dad."
"Until he goes off to that school. Then he'll be one of them, just as unnatural and disturbing," His father bit back, "Then he'll be a freak."
Dudley saw red, but instead of giving in to the urge to pummel his father into a fatty pulp, he instead marched right past them and to the door, opening it for them.
Vernon Dursley was almost purple, giving his best intimidating look, "What did you say boy?"
Dudley wasn't fazed by his father's temper tantrum, "I will not just stand here and let you insult my son and my family. Unless you want to accept what your grandson is, I suggest you leave until you can." The blonde's grip on the doorknob was almost a death grip, staring down with his father. Each Dursley man was challenging the other, and it was just a battle of wills now.
Finally, after a tense few seconds, Vernon Dursley stormed out of the house, "Come on Petunia!"
Petunia, who had been quiet the whole time, slowly made her way to the door. When she passed Dudley, she tried her best to give her son an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, Dudley… I know Will's a good kid. Your father is just…"
"Mom." Dudley watched as his mother pursed her lips the way she always did before continuing, "Don't apologize for him mom. If he wants to be Will's grandfather, he'll have to get over his hate for Harry."
To his surprise, his mother nodded, "I know Dudley, but you know how stubborn your father is about these things."
"People can change mom. I did, there's no excuse for him to abandon Will like that." Dudley took a deep breath, "When dad's ready to apologize and move on, I'll be listening."
For the longest time, Petunia Dursley just stared at her son, not sure how to respond. Then the older Dursley woman stepped forward and embraced her son.
"Will's going to be a great wizard, Dudley." She looked up at her son, "I'll call tomorrow to check and see how the family is reacting, would that be alright?"
Despite his anger at his father, Dudley couldn't help but smile at his mother, "That would be greatly appreciated mom, I think Diane might need a woman's support in all this."
Perhaps the family would be alright, after all...
"PETUNIA!" Vernon Dursley's voice what heard clear across the yard and into the house, disrupting the tender moment between mother and son.
Reluctantly, Petunia stepped away from her son, "I have to go…but I will call tomorrow."
"I'll be expecting it mom." Dudley said as his mother left to get into her husband's car. Slowly but without hesitation, Dudley shut the door behind his mother, only to lean heavily on it once it was shut.
It felt odd, reprimanding not only his father, but his own mother about the situation. And over all things, it had been because Will was now a wizard. Dudley snorted, surprised he hadn't seen the signs before. William was always getting into trouble because of unexplained phenomena. Like setting his teachers toupee on fire because he was angry at being punished for his socks…
Of course Will would end up being a wizard, he had even said just that morning that he never wanted to be normal. And he had gotten his wish, even if he wasn't aware of it yet…
The sound of his children bickering in the next room shook Dudley out of his thoughts as he walked away from the door.
"Mari, you can't open a present, they're mine!"
"I want to help!"
Dudley poked his head into the dining room to check in on his children, "Mari, Will is right. This is his special day." Will grinned at his father while Mari pouted, "But if you wanted to be nice to your sister and let her help open some of the bigger ones Will…" Dudley gave his son a wink, knowing that Will understood that it wasn't a suggestion his father gave him.
Dudley was glad that his children hadn't overheard the argument he had with his parents in the hallway. He had always told his children that yelling never solved anything, he would have hated being called a hypocrite…
Better help Diane with the cake… At this thought, Dudley chuckled. Knowing Diane, she had already cut the cake and scooped the ice cream before storing the rest for leftovers. All Dudley would have to do it take the cake to his children.
Or so he thought. The moment he walked into the kitchen, he knew something was wrong. The cake had yet to be cut.
"Dudley," Diane said slowly with her back to him, leaning over the sink, "what the hell is this?"
Dudley opened his mouth to ask what she meant when he saw it. The opened envelope. Diane turned to face him, brow furrowed and her hands clutching the letter.
I guess I have some explaining to do…
"Dudley, if this letter is your idea of a joke, it isn't funny."
Dudley made his way over to his wife, "I know it isn't funny Diane…because this isn't a joke…that letter is real." Well that sounded convincing Dudley, he reprimanded himself.
"Have you even read this letter Dudley?" Diane said in a heated tone, forehead wrinkled in frustration.
"Er, well…no I havn't" Dudley realized how lame he must sound to his wife as she shoved the letter to his chest.
"Read it. Out loud." She said through gritted teeth as she turned her back to him, focusing on the cake.
Dudley looked at the letter, reading its contents for the first time ever.
"Dear Mr. Dursley,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
Dudley could feel his throat tightening. He had always known what the letter meant, but to actually read it…he could feel a swelling in his chest, was that pride? It must have been, he could never feel anything else for his son. Sure, magic had never been in Dudley's comfort zone, but he wasn't about to let that stop his son from being everything he could.
"Well?" Diane's emotionless voice cut through Dudley's revelry. Although her back was still to him, he knew that his wife was expecting an answer.
"I know you'll never believe me, but Hogwarts," Dudley paused. That was the name of the school Harry had gone to? "Hogwarts is a real school."
Diane sliced the cake a little harder than needed, hitting the plate with a thwack. "Where is it?"
"I don't know."
Thwack "What's it like?"
"I don't know."
Thwack "Will William learning to do virgin sacrifices at this so called school?" That last question was more sarcastic than anything else, but it made Diane's point.
Dudley sighed, "That I'm pretty sure he won't be doing that."
"And how would you know? You don't seem to know anything about this school. Dudley, this is a horrible joke and I won't let you play it on William." Thwack.
Dudley made his way over to his wife, "I never went to Hogwarts, but I swear to you Diane, this is no joke. You saw my parents' reactions, and you know that my parents could never play a joke to save their lives."
Diane suddenly spun around, pointing a very chocolate covered knife at Dudley's chest.
"Don't. You. Dare. Lie. To. My. Face. Dudley. Dursley." With each word, the tip of Diane's knife clicked against the button of Dudley's polo, making her point that much clearer.
Dudley looked evenly at Diane, "I would never lie to you Diane."
Diane pointed to the letter that laid on the counter, "Then swear to me that everything in that letter is true, that this isn't a sick joke you want to play on our son."
Without breaking eye contact with his wife, Dudley took a deep breath, "This isn't a joke. I swear to you that Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a real school and that the reason they contacted William is because he's been accepted, because he's a wizard."
A tense moment hung in the kitchen as Diane looked into Dudley's eyes, searching for something. She must have found it, because the tense gaze in her eyes soften. The knife lowered to her side as her breaths became deeper, trying to calm herself. "He's a wizard?"
"I'm a what?" Both Dudley and Diane jolted at the third voice, turning to face William, who was standing in the doorway.
"Mom? Dad?" Will looked at his parents, unsure what to say. Then his eyes caught sight of his opened letter, and before either parent could stop him, the 11 year old took the parchment letter. His blue eyes widened as he read though the words of the letter. "Dad, you just swore that this is true didn't you?"
Dudley nodded dumbly at his son.
William looked up at his parents, "I don't know where to start…there's so much I don't know."
Dudley sighed, "Unfortunately, I don't think I can explain everything as well as you might want…the only person I know that could help us is my cousin, and I haven't heard from him since-"
But Dudley was interrupted by the sound of rustling feathers and the hoot of the second owl that night. The three Dursleys turned to look at the snowy owl that had just landed on the kitchen counter.
Wait, Dudley thought to himself, Harry had a white owl like that… That's when Dudley saw it. A small charm around one of the owl's legs, almost like a dog tag. But all Dudley saw was the small lightning bolt on one side. Just like Harry's scar. Could he have known that we needed him? Dudley decided not to think too hard on that. Magic had explained a lot in his life; maybe it was just another instance that he just shouldn't question.
"William, get me a pen and paper please." Dudley said quietly to his son, trying not to scare off the bird. Will nodded before rushing from the kitchen.
Diane looked at Dudley, "You have a cousin?"
Dudley nodded at his wife, "Yes, that's how I know about all this. And I think that's his owl that's on our counter. He knows I need to contact him…" Dudley trailed off as Will came back with the paper and pen. "Thanks Will." Stealing another glance at the owl on the counter, Dudley quickly began writing. But how could he explain to his cousin everything that had happened? Would Harry even respond? Dudley's heart was pounding in his chest as he folded the letter and quickly scrawled Harry's name as well as his own address. Did he need a stamp? Dudley had no clue as he looked at the owl.
"Could you take this to Harry Potter please?" He must have looked so foolish to his family, talking to an owl like that. But to his surprise, the owl took the letter from Dudley's hand in its own beak before taking off out the window at break neck speeds.
"Dudley, you have some explaining to do." Diane said behind him.
Yes, yes he did.