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And Then an Owl Flew into the Kitchen

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Vernon and Petunia Dursley loved their grandchildren.

They visited often—but not too often: Dudders needed time alone with his family, of course—and they always brought presents. Or money. Or both. Mortimer was going to Smelting’s soon, and much of the extra funds needed for this expensive private school were to be provided happily by Vernon and Petunia. They were already looking into upstanding girl’s private schools to send May to when she was old enough. She was only six now, but it was never too early to start saving.

Vernon thought that Mortimer might be involved in politics, while May would make an excellent secretary for a CEO somewhere in London. Petunia didn’t particularly care what the grandkids might become as adults because she knew they were being raised right and would choose something sensible. They decided when Mortimer was born to leave the house on Privet Drive in all of the grandkids’ names, so that at least one of them would be guaranteed a nice suburban home to move into when they wanted to settle down.

They had it all planned out, and they were very happy. Just like Dudley was.

None of them gave a thought to magical world; not since they’d been released from their protective captivity with a very strange witch who compulsively peeked out through the curtains of their well-hidden house and a tiny excitable wizard who, when he wasn’t snoring, talked in his sleep about grindylows wearing Father Christmas hats. Dudley would remember Harry and his kind occasionally, as one might remember an unpleasant childhood memory, but that was all.

Until, of course, one day when he was forced to give Harry quite a considerable amount of thought.

Dudley was walking briskly to his car one evening just after getting off work, eager to return home after a hard day behind the desk playing Solitaire (his best score was currently 10,639, including the time bonus), when he found himself stuck behind two slow-moving women bent over something between them and whispering excitedly. He was about to step off the curb briefly to dodge around them when he heard his cousin’s name for the first time in 15 years.

“Absolutely sensational! Honestly, I don’t know who to side with…Harry Potter’s really done it this time…”

Dudley stopped dead for a moment. Then he shook himself and hurried to catch up to the ladies.

“Excuse me,” he said, and they turned in surprise. His usual reserve about approaching strangers and admitting to overhearing them was completely consumed in his sudden and inexplicable need to know. “Did you just say, ‘Harry Potter’?”

The women narrowed their eyes at him. “Yes…” one of them said cautiously.

“Well…” Dudley faltered. “Sorry, but…what exactly were you saying about him?” He winced. His mother would be appalled at his behavior. He glanced down nervously and saw something in one woman’s hand. “What’s that?” he asked, and the woman held it up as if she herself had forgotten what she was carrying.

It was a book. And on the front cover was…

“Harry!” Dudley cried, and the women jumped. He took the book from the lady’s hand, causing a yell of shock that he didn’t hear. He stared intently at the cover. It was unmistakable. Harry looked much older, of course, but that was definitely his cousin waving at him. Dudley looked up and a sudden, unprecedented impulse came over him. “I want to buy this from you,” he said.

The women gaped at him.

Dudley dug into his pocket and pulled out a small handful of bills. He gave them two 20’s without thinking about it and said, “you can exchange this for your money, right?”

Perhaps just eager to be rid of this crazy Muggle, the two women nodded, their mouths still agape.

“Thanks,” Dudley said, and he turned and ran to his car, leaving the women behind, still blocking the sidewalk from other tired home-goers.

The book was titled, Two Wands, One Feather: An account of Tom M. Riddle and the Boy Who Shared His Soul; it was written by the award-winning author Susan Bones and overseen by Harry Potter himself.

Despite his instinctual trepidation, that night after the kids had gone to bed and his wife was still cleaning up, Dudley had sat down and torn through the first several chapters in one sitting.

The book described the birth, life, and defeat of Tom Riddle and recounted those of Harry’s adventures at school that were pertinent to the complex and intertwined relationship between the two men. The book largely skipped over the 10 years of Harry’s life at the Dursley’s before he became a Hogwarts student, with only a brief mention of being raised by Muggles, which Dudley felt a bit slighted by (though later he realized that he might not want to be mentioned, considering their not-so-great relationship growing up). But why Harry had decided to write such a book was beyond Dudley. He didn’t know who Tom Riddle was, but if he was half as famous as Harry, shouldn’t their kind know all this stuff already? What made it so “sensational”?

And perhaps most intriguingly: why was Dudley so fascinated with it? The book was dark and terrifying, filling in holes in Dudley’s knowledge of the magical world that he would much rather have been left empty.

Dudley had been absolutely horrified to learn that Tom M. Riddle was Lord Voldemort; the very same man who had in effect forced the Dursleys into hiding for nearly the entirety of Dudley's 17th year, and who had murdered his own aunt and uncle. Not that Dudley had known or liked his aunt and uncle, but they were blood family. And also, their murder was the reason that Dudley had to grow up with such a strange and terrifying cousin as Harry Potter in the house. But it was mostly because he’d actually felt some amount of empathy for the poor, abandoned orphan before he disappeared from Britain to learn the Dark Arts, that really made him feel horrified. This man was a human before he was a monster, and Susan Bones and Harry Potter made him feel sorry for the guy. Dudley shuddered. He didn’t like to feel such unpleasant things.

Glancing at the clock for the first time in hours, Dudley realized that it was well after midnight. Half-wondering why his wife hadn’t asked him to come to bed, he closed the book and hid it in his tiny office so that his family wouldn’t find it, and went to bed troubled for the first time in many years.