A/N: This is the first section of a three-chapter story I wrote for the Dudley's Turn Challenge at SIYE. The subject of the Challenge is that Aunt Petunia discovers that Dudley can perform magic and goes to Harry and Ginny with her problem. Their solution is to hook Dudley up with a witch who will teach him the ways of the magical world. This chapter explains the backstory for what is to come in the next two chapters. I hope you enjoy it and will feel compelled to leave a review. I need to thank Mutt n Feathers, Rebecca Ripple, RSS and Manatoc Fox for their invaluable input, which helped clear up a few things and make the chapter better. To my beta, Aggiebell, thanks for your help in publishing this story here at Phoenix Song.
Late August 1995
Although it was the middle of the day, the drapes in Dudley Dursley's bedroom were tightly drawn, shutting out as much light as possible. Instead of natural light, the room's source of illumination was a blaring telly, which was currently playing a repeat of the program "Spitting Image." However, the single occupant of the room wasn't watching the telly. Instead, Dudley was sprawled on his bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking about the one thing that had occupied his mind ever since his cousin had left two weeks ago: the things he'd seen when the Dementoid had hovered over him.
Yes, he had seen the thing, and not just felt it! That was the scary part, mostly because Harry had said something about Muggles only feeling the Dementoids' effects. But Dudley had seen the floating, gliding Dementoid. He had heard its rattling breathing, felt its ice-cold fingers on his wrists, smelled its rancid breath, and seen the horrible, gaping hole it had for a mouth. URGH! After Harry had chased it away with that horse-ghost thingy of his, Dudley had lain on the ground shaking from head to foot, trying desperately to get the awful vision out of his head. It had only been the appearance of batty old Mrs Figg that had snapped him out of his fright enough to let Harry drag him home.
The rest of the evening had flown by in a blur of raised voices, a procession of owls and the very comforting thought that Harry had dug himself into a very deep hole because he'd done magic when he wasn't supposed to. Dudley had clung to that happy thought in the days to come whenever thoughts of the Dementoids crept into his mind. This happened so often that Piers, Gordon and Malcolm had complained that Big D wasn't his usual robust self. Dudley had throttled Piers hard the last time he mentioned that Big D wasn't any fun any more, putting a stop to the complaints. Unfortunately, that did nothing to stop the nightly dreams…
Dudley's dreams had always been a pleasant mixture of his own fantasies and the memories of bullying the neighbourhood's younger children. After Harry left, though, Dudley had begun dreaming of that night and couldn't help wondering if Harry was suffering from nightmares, too. When the visions became so frequent that he'd begun seeing them during the day, Dudley had made his excuses to his friends and shut himself in his bedroom. It was easier to think about what had happened in the alley with the drapes closed and the telly for cover noise.
Currently, Dudley was reviewing what he'd seen flash through his mind as the Dementy-whatsit had hovered over him. He didn't like the feelings of utter helplessness— something he hadn't felt in a long time—they engendered because they reminded him of how he used to be…
The Demented-thingies had dredged up a very early memory that Dudley had sworn he'd buried deep in his subconscious. It had taken place when he was five and was his first real memory from primary school. He had waddled up to a group of older boys standing in the schoolyard during break, because one of them was holding Dudley's ball. The boys had thought it very funny to hold the ball high over his head and make him jump for it. They called him Fatso when he began crying in frustration and when he kicked one of them in the leg, they turned mean, kicking and punching him until the bell rang. As he'd followed the boys back inside, his shirt torn and a lump forming on his head, Dudley had vowed never to let anyone make fun of him again; from then on he'd be the one doing the hitting and kicking, thank you very much. And he did. Within a week, Dudley had pummelled Piers, Gordon and Malcolm into being his followers and now, after years of helping them become bullies like himself, they were a tight-knit group feared by the neighbourhood children. Even so, there were times when being the biggest bully on the block wasn't satisfying anymore…
The feelings of inadequacy and jealousy had intensified when Harry turned out to be a much more popular person than Dudley had ever dreamed of being. It had all started with those damned letters delivered by those owls Dad hated so much; not only were they from the stupid school Harry attended, but they came from his group of friends, too. On top of that, three summers ago, one had called him on the telephone, making Dudley's dad extremely angry. Dudley had laughed when Harry had been punished, but for some reason he hadn't enjoyed his cousin's discomfort nearly as much as he normally would because of one thought: Piers, Malcolm and Gordon don't call me… I call them.
Now, thoroughly depressed, Dudley rolled over and faced the wall, wondering if he was good enough to make and stay on the boxing team this coming term.
Downstairs in the kitchen Petunia Dursley sat at the table sipping a cup of tea. She was worried about Dudley, but knew that if she said anything to him, he'd just snap at her to leave him be.
What was worrying her most were some unnatural things she'd seen him do since Harry had left. There were tell-tale signs that her precious Dudders was a wizard, things like moving objects and blinking lights that he'd caused when he seemed to be emotional, things they normally blamed on Harry. The other night, when Vernon had told Dudley to get washed up early for bed, the lights had suddenly dimmed in synchronization with his angry refusal to do so until his program was over. Vernon had remarked about the striking utility workers causing trouble with the power plants, but Petunia had noticed that none of the other houses on the street had flickering tellies or dimming lights.
"Oh, Dudders," she sighed in despair, "can't you suppress your unnatural tendencies and be the normal son we've always wanted you to be?"
If she had to admit it to herself, she was afraid to tell Vernon what was happening because of his reaction. She didn't want him to rupture an artery during the angry outburst that was sure to happen when he learned Dudley just might be magical…
They had been in the safe house since the last of July, and by now Dudley had become friends with Dedalus Diggle. When Dedalus and Hestia had first brought them here, he'd shied away from both of them until the day Dedalus had caught Dudley thinking about making his bed and actually doing it from across the room…
"Dudley, my boy!" the tiny little man exclaimed in delight from the doorway. "I knew there was magic in your blood! You can't be Lily Potter's nephew and not be a wizard! Oh, wait until I tell Petunia!"
Dudley gulped and shrunk back onto his bed. "No, Mr Diggle, please don't tell my parents!" he had begged. "You know what they're like. I don't want to anger my dad."
"Come now, Dudley," Dedalus said kindly, coming into the room, "doing accidental magic isn't a crime, it's a gift."
"Not to my mum and dad," Dudley told him. "I know what they did to Harry to try to crush the magic out of him. I don't want them doing that to me!"
Dedalus hopped up beside him and laid a hand on his elbow. "I won't tell them unless you want me to." Dudley sagged in relief at that, but Dedalus wasn't finished. "Dudley, how do you feel about magic?" he asked. "I want your own opinion, not your parents'."
Dudley thought long and hard, trying to assimilate his true feelings. In the silence, a biro he had left on his desk rose an inch above the essay he'd been writing the night before and began floating across the room towards him. Dudley turned to Dedalus and snapped, "Don't do that! You're distracting me!"
"Dudley," Dedalus squeaked, "I'm not levitating the pen. That's your magic making it float."
Sighing, Dudley whispered, "I guess I know my answer. I'm afraid of magic, of being a wizard. I don't want these things to happen, but when they do, I'm happy I have enough magic to do stuff like that."
"So what you're saying to me is that you're conflicted about magic," Dedalus summarised.
"Yeah, but it's more than that. I… I think I've been jealous of Harry since he started doing magical stuff; he could do things I couldn't and I wanted to do them, too. That's why I've always been horrible to him and because I thought I was helping my dad squash the magic out of him, he wouldn't be better than me, then."
Dedalus chuckled. "Dudley, you can never squash magic out of a wizard. It just makes them angry enough to blow things up."
The memory of Aunt Marge bobbing against the dining room ceiling flashed across Dudley's consciousness and he couldn't help the snort of mirth that escaped him.
"What's so funny?" Dedalus had asked.
Dudley told him the story and ended it saying, "Harry was always enlarging things or making them shrink. Inflating Aunt Marge was bound to happen because of how spiteful she acted towards him. After the Accidental Magical Reversal Squad left, I realized that a very dull evening had turned out to be the best I'd ever had around Aunt Marge. That night, Harry did what I'd wanted to do for several years! I was so jealous!" He paused and then asked, "Is it true that if someone, a non-magical person, has been around magic all their life, can they 'catch' magic or take it from someone?"
Dedalus slid off the bed and stood before Dudley. "I have a very definite answer to that question, laddie. The answer is 'NO.' You cannot steal magic or 'catch' it from someone because witches and wizards are born, not made. Have you been reading the rubbish they're still printing in the Daily Prophet Hestia insists on leaving around this house?" Dudley nodded. "Well, just take that drivel with a grain of salt. Eighty percent of what's published in that paper isn't true, especial that nonsense having to do with the Muggle-born Registration Commission. They're saying that a third of the magical population has stolen magic from pure-blood witches and wizards and that's not accurate at all: it's just another way the Death Eaters' are terrorizing the Wizarding community."
"This Muggle-born Registration Commission… is it true they're ruining the lives of Muggle-born wizards and witches?" Dudley asked.
"Yes, it's very true. That fact is one of the few the Daily Prophet has reported factually," Dedalus replied. "They're taking the wands of innocent witches and wizards, people who were born magical, and throwing them in Azkaban just because they had the misfortune not to be born to a pure-blood family. It's history repeating itself all over again!"
Dudley was shocked by the comparison. "Are you referring to what happened in World War II to the Jews?" he had asked.
"I am indeed. You-Know-Who and his followers are just like Hitler and his Nazis were fifty years ago. It's as if no one has learned from past mistakes!" Dedalus exclaimed.
"That's not right!" Dudley burst out.
"No, it's not," Dedalus answered, "but it's the truth of what's going on in Ministry politics right now and the reason your cousin is on the run trying to find a way to right a very big wrong."
"I hope he does," Dudley said. He sat quietly for a while, practicing levitating the biro while he struggled to wrap his mind around his most pressing question.
"So…" Dudley said at last. "Am I really a wizard?"
"You have to tell me, lad," Dedalus said. "Do the things you're doing feel magical to you?"
Again, Dudley pondered the question. At last he nearly whispered, "Yeah, they do. I… I think I'm a Muggle-born wizard."
That had been a couple of months ago, and since then, Dudley had been working in secret with Dedalus on controlling his magic. Staying away from his parents wasn't too hard, even though there were five people in the safe house: Petunia and Vernon stayed in their bedroom most of the time with the door locked, coming out only for meals or to use the loo. Their behaviour was such that it seemed to Dudley that his mother was secretly helping him by occupying his father's time. With them avoiding him, Dudley felt free to learn as much as he could from the funny little wizard.
Dedalus was different from any teacher or coach Dudley had ever had. He was kind and infinitely patient and never ridiculed Dudley's failures, even going as far as giving Dudley a wand to practice with until he could get one of his own. Because of some weird notion that the wand hadn't chosen him, Dedalus encouraged him to focus on the things he was doing accidentally, so that he would learn some control. They started with levitation and things like trying to consciously make a bed. The first few times he intentionally tried levitating an object, it stayed on the floor while other objects flew about the room, bashing against windows and walls and making a horrible racket. The only thing Dedalus did when that happened was to ask Dudley to stop and take a few calming breaths before focusing again on the one object. In time, levitation without a wand became easier and now Dudley was lifting all sorts of objects magically, which made cleaning his room amazingly easy!
Next, they moved on to changing the colour of an object—the subject of today's "lesson"—because he'd begun making spots of colour appear in odd places, both accidentally without the wand and with it.
"This is very advanced magic," Dedalus said as he held up one of Dudley's white school shirts. "The thing is, you're doing it naturally, so we'll work on what feels right to you. Now, think of the colour you want this shirt to be and focus on it. Hopefully, we'll see a bit of colour appear somewhere on it, like you did yesterday."
Dudley closed his eyes and concentrated on turning the shirt his favourite shade of blue. Somewhere inside him, he felt a familiar stirring, reached for it, and then thought, "Turn the shirt blue."
Dedalus' exclamation of "Well done, laddie!" made him open his eyes and smile. He looked up to see the old wizard smiling widely and holding the now peacock blue shirt up for him to see. A grin threatened to split Dudley's face at this accomplishment, but then he looked past his magical friend and into the disapproving eyes of his mother. They stared at each other for a few long seconds before she sniffed audibly and dropped the pile of laundry she had been holding on the floor.
"Oh, no!" Dudley whispered as she disappeared down the hallway. His secret was out.
Petunia had heard voices as she approached Dudley's partially opened door with an armload of clean laundry and thinking nothing of it, she'd pushed it open a tiny bit further so she could see who her son was talking to. The door swung open wider than she'd meant it to, giving her a perfect view of the scene within the room. What met her eyes was a scene out of her nightmares: Dudley was practicing magic—with a wand, no less—and seemed proud to be doing so! In her haste to get away from her son, Petunia dropped Dudley's clothes unceremoniously on the floor and fled to the farthest corner of the property where she stood trembling and crying harder than she had cried in years.
"Oh, Dudders, my precious Dudders!" she wailed. "What have they done to you?"
The tears streamed unheeded down her cheeks. She had tried so hard, so bloody hard, to keep Dudley from doing magic these last few years and it was all for nought: in the presence of multiple witches and wizards in this magical safe house, their concentrated magic had activated Dudley's latent magical tendencies and turned him into a full-fledged wizard, just like her despicable nephew. And because there was no one else to talk to, Dudley had become entranced by their encouragement and begun practicing magic. Oh, what was she to do? Who could she blame?
The answer came swiftly, just as it always did: Lily, horrible, perfect Lily who could do no wrong because she was a witch and Petunia wasn't! Oh, how she'd wanted to be magical like her little sister! It wasn't fair that Lily had gone off to boarding school, leaving Petunia stuck in Spinner's End. The resentment had set in as soon as the witch who had brought Lily's letter had exited their home. As the years went by, Lily returned home each holiday more beautiful and confident in her abilities. She brought home stories of magical friends, trips into Hogsmeade and eventually, her romance with a popular and handsome wizard that made Petunia's life seem dull by comparison. It had taken years for Petunia to suppress her jealousy and find happiness with Vernon. Later, when Harry had been dumped on their doorstep, the bitter feelings of abandonment by her little sister had come roaring back, making her determined that her precious Dudley would never, ever want to explore the magic Harry's presence had awakened in her son. She and Vernon had been quite successful at convincing Dudley he wasn't magical, even going so far as to punish Harry for any accidental magic done by both boys. In addition they had even managed to intercept Dudley's Hogwarts letter and decline the invitation when it arrived, thus keeping their son completely ignorant of his being a wizard. That is, until the Dementor attack two and a half years ago. Afterwards, after Harry had been taken away, when Dudley had confided in her that he'd actually seen those beasts, Petunia had known all was lost. Still, she had persevered in her campaign to keep Dudley 'normal,' despite the fact that he was obviously affected by the magic within his body.
Sighing, Petunia took out her handkerchief and blew her nose loudly. What frightened her most was Vernon's potential reaction to the news that Dudley was indeed taking after those unnatural people. She loved her husband, but as narrow-minded as he was, he'd never understand why she condoned Dudley spending time with Dedalus and Hestia while still hating the "M-word". She needed a plan, one that would discourage Dudley from practicing magic while at the same time, keep her husband from discovering her son's secret—yes, she knew she could no longer dismiss the inevitable because no matter what she and Vernon did, Dudley would persist in practicing his magic. The latter part of the plan forming in her mind was easy: Vernon refused to interact with their caretakers, preferring to hole himself up in their bedroom for most of the day. The former would be more difficult, especially now that Dudley was so successful at controlling his magical tendencies. She needed to talk to him and determined that there was no time like the present.
"Dudley," she called as soon as she returned to the kitchen, "would you come out here for a moment, please?"
The sound of lumbering footsteps told her Dudley was on his way. "Yeah?" he asked as he headed to the cold cupboard and searched for the Muggle drinks cans Petunia insisted be in stock all the time. "What do you want? I'm rather busy."
Petunia scowled at her son. "Dudley, sit down, please," she ordered as she busied herself with the teapot and kettle.
Startled by her serious tone, Dudley sat down and opened his drink.
"Dudley, dear," Petunia began in what she hoped was a normal tone as she poured water into her teapot, "I was wondering what you and Dedalus were doing upstairs when I brought your laundry."
"Oh… er… we um… we were… oh, bloody hell, Mum, you saw what we were doing. Why are you making me tell you?" Dudley asked, scowling at her over the top of the can.
"Because I want to hear it from you," Petunia said pointedly.
"All right, keep your hair on, Mum. Dedalus was helping me change the colour of my shirt with magic. He's been helping me make things levitate and learn to control my 'accidental magic' as he calls it," Dudley huffed. "We're not doing anything illegal, if that's what you're worried about."
Petunia made a rather big production of bringing her teacup and the pot to the table and pouring her tea. She waited until she'd taken her first sip before she said, "I want you to stop practicing, Dudley. Magic isn't natural and I don't want a freak for a son."
Dudley, who had just taken a large slurp of his fizzy drink, choked and sprayed liquid all over the table. "No! You can't do that to me, Mum!" he gasped in a stricken tone. "I… I'm not… I'm NOT like Harry! I'm NOT a FREAK!"
"Dudley, anyone who does the things you're doing is a freak," Petunia said coldly, even though the horrified expression on her son's face was killing her inside. "I forbid you to associate with Dedalus and Hestia unless your father or I are in the room with the three of you."
"Why are you doing this to me, Mum?" Dudley asked. "Why now? Are you afraid I'll end up as a no-good lay-about like Harry's parents?"
The reference to her long-dead sister took Petunia by surprise and she fought hard to keep the hurt from her expression. "That's exactly what I'm trying to prevent from happening!" she hissed.
"Well, I'm not like them or him! I'm not a freak!" Dudley said forcefully.
"If you practice magic, you are doing things your father and I consider unnatural."
"I don't consider doing magic unnatural! Dedalus told me I'm a wizard and I believe him, because being a wizard explains so many weird things I've done in the past few years. I like doing magic!"
"Then your father and I disagree with you, Dudley, and if you're going to continue to be part of this family, you will desist from doing any more magic."
"If that's the way you feel about it, then I reckon you don't have a son any more," Dudley said, pushing back from the table. "Dedalus told me that in the Wizarding world I'm considered an adult at seventeen, and I've been seventeen since last June. Since you and Dad don't want a freak for a son, I'll go get my things and move into the tack room in the barn." Dudley stood up and left the table.
As he passed her, Petunia reached up and caught hold of Dudley's wrist. He stopped and looked down at her.
"Why do you want to do magic?" she asked.
Dudley sighed dramatically while pulling his wrist from her grasp. "I like learning magic, Mum. It makes me feel complete. Dedalus helped me understand that accepting being a wizard is part of who I am and why I've felt different since my birthday last year."
Petunia raised an eyebrow. "How have you felt different?" she asked.
"I discovered a part of me I didn't know existed, an energy lurking inside me waiting to be used, something that I now think you and Dad knew about all along and did your best to suppress in me. Then, when Harry turned seventeen and we had to come here because his protections were going to fail, I realized that I'd been an adult wizard for a month and hadn't known it. I like what I can do with this energy and nothing you and Dad do will make me give it up." Dudley took a few steps towards the door.
"What are you going to do now?" Petunia asked, not looking at her son.
Dudley's footsteps stopped. "I'm going to keep on with my lessons with Dedalus until Harry's done with whatever he's doing out there. I'll stay away from you and Dad as much as I can," he said, sounding discouraged and sad.
"Good," Petunia said, picking up her cup and taking a small sip. "See that you've vacated your room by dinner. I still expect you at the dinner table one last time because you need to explain that you're no longer willing to follow our family's rules to your father."
Dudley didn't respond, but trudged out of the kitchen as two fat tears rolled silently down Petunia's cheeks. She made no effort to wipe them away.
The Dursley family drove back to Privet Drive in the dead of night and quietly moved back into their house in almost a reprise of how they had left it a year previously. Petunia was dreading the state of her house as Vernon's car pulled into the drive and Dudley clambered out and walked back to open the boot. He grabbed the three suitcases and set his parents' on the ground. He disappeared into the house as soon as Dedalus pronounced the place safe.
Petunia sighed. The last seven months had been very difficult. Although Dudley had been grudgingly accepted back into the family by his father, there was still a great deal of tension between the three of them due to Dudley's continued study of magic. She wondered how long it would take before they felt like a family again, if ever…
The next morning, Petunia was up with the sun, her cleaning things at her side as she wandered from room to room making note of what needed to be dusted, polished and vacuumed. Last night, they had found the back door unlocked and evidence that people had been inside the house. Surprisingly, the only thing in the house she'd found broken had been an old wind-up alarm clock of Vernon's that had somehow found its way under their bed. It made her wonder if someone had come in a day or two ago to "tidy" broken furniture and china just so the house would look just as she'd left it.
Now she was in her element as she prepared to make war on the dust that had accumulated all year. Her first priority was the kitchen, because Vernon and Dudley would be up soon and in need of a hearty breakfast; she couldn't possibly cook a meal in a dirty kitchen. With that in mind, she donned her rubber gloves and began wiping down every kitchen surface she could reach.
"Morning, Mum," Dudley yawn, wandering into the kitchen some two hours later. He flopped down onto his chair at the table still looking quite sleepy.
Petunia pushed the refrigerator back into place, having moved it to mop the floor underneath. "Breakfast, Dudley?" she asked.
"I'll get it," he replied, standing up and wandering over to the cooker. He took out a frying pan and placed it on a burner, then waited until she was clear of the refrigerator to take out eggs, butter, bacon and milk—Petunia had found the appliance stocked with the basics last night and had mentioned it to Vernon and Dudley at the time. Taking everything to the worktop, he began preparing breakfast.
Petunia stood rooted to the floor and just stared at her son. "When did you learn to cook?" she asked in a small voice.
"I had to eat something while I was living in the tack room," Dudley replied. "Do you want me to make enough for Dad or will you make his breakfast?" he added as he melted butter in the pan and then broke three eggs into the fat.
"I'll… I'll wait to eat with your father," Petunia said quietly, and picked up her cleaning supplies to take them into the dining room where she kept a sharp ear out for signs of culinary distress while she took all of the china out of the bureau in order to dust it thoroughly. When she next peeked into the kitchen, Dudley was stabbing toast soldiers into the yolks of his eggs, a thunderous expression on his face.
Several hours later, Petunia climbed the stairs to begin working on the bedrooms and the bathroom. As she passed Dudley's room, she suddenly had the urge to poke her head inside and see how he was faring with his own cleaning. The sight that greeted her eyes riveted her to the floor, hoping that her son wasn't aware of her presence. Apparently, he wasn't because as she watched, he stood in the middle of his room with a look of concentration on his face and before she could move her feet, the dust covering most surfaces and the floor coalesced into a dense ball which suddenly disappeared with a small pop! He then opened his suitcase and stepping away from it, murmured, "Unpack." It was as if a line of invisible people walked past the suitcase, selected a garment and then took it to the wardrobe or the bureau and gently placed the item inside. With shaking hands, Petunia turned away from Dudley's room to attack the germs in the bathroom with renewed vengeance.
Two days later, Petunia walked into the lounge where Dudley was watching a programme.
"Hey, Mum, can you hand me the remote?" he asked without looking up at her. "I'll switch channels for you."
"Just a moment, Dudley," she said. "I need to put down our lunch."
Dudley glanced over at her. "Oh, no need, then Mum," he said and casually lifted his right hand off the arm of his chair as if to beckon something to him, and revealing the wand taped to his forearm. The remote, which had been on the mantelpiece, zoomed into his hand and he casually switched channels to her favourite daytime drama.
Shocked, Petunia nearly threw his lunch at him and retreated to the kitchen where she set her own lunch on the table and sat staring into space, wondering what she was going to do with her son's blatant refusal to act like a "normal" person while her tea grew cold and the bread on her sandwich began to dry out.
Everything came to a head at the end of their first week home together while the three of them sat in the lounge after dinner. Just before the late news came on the telly, Dudley stood up and wandered into the kitchen. Vernon was snoring in his usual place on the sofa when Dudley reappeared clutching a fizzy drinks can and a large bag of crisps and floating a plate of cheese and crackers before him.
"Dudley," Petunia hissed, hoping to catch her son's attention. "Two hands. Your father. You promised!"
Dudley glared at her and returned to his seat next to Vernon, still levitating the plate. Petunia frantically swept her gaze between the plate, the wand tucked under Dudley's armpit, and her sleeping husband as Dudley's snack descended through the air to land with a gentle clatter on the coffee table. The sound woke Vernon. Dudley dropped his wand between the sofa cushion and the armrest.
"Dudley," Vernon asked, "were you floating that plate or carrying it?"
Petunia watched in horrified fascination as Dudley answered his father. "Floated," he answered, glancing guiltily at his mother.
Vernon's reaction was instantaneous. His beefy fist shot across the distance between them and connected with Dudley's face, catching his son squarely in the jaw. Then, he hauled himself to his feet and stood towering over Dudley.
Tears of surprise appeared in Dudley's eyes as he reached up to touch the place where his father's fist had connected with his face. "What did you do that for?" he asked.
Vernon bent over as far as his immense belly would allow, his anger tinting his face purple. "DON'T YOU EVER SHOW THAT UNNATURALNESS IN THIS HOUSE AGAIN!" he thundered, raising his fist to strike Dudley again.
"Vernon! STOP!" Petunia cried, finally finding her voice. She hurried over and sat down next to Dudley. "Let me see, Diddykins," she coaxed.
"No, Mum. This is between him and me. Get away before he hurts you," Dudley said, not taking his eyes off his father's purple face.
As Petunia shrank from her son's rejection, he hauled himself to his feet and stood facing his father, his fists balled in a fighting position. Vernon took a step back, putting the coffee table between them. Dudley followed. So did Petunia, who in a sudden spurt of bravery, put herself between the two men.
"Stop this, both of you!" she cried, trying to get their attention. It worked, but not how she anticipated; Vernon's meaty fist flew in her direction and landed in her stomach. Petunia staggered backwards, clutching her abdomen and gasping for breath as both Dudley and Vernon dropped their fists and came to her assistance.
"Petunia, darling, I'm sorry," Vernon said, looking worried.
Petunia glared at him. "How dare you punch me! How dare you raise your fists to Dudley! This is a house, not a boxing ring!" she ranted between gasps. "You'll be spending the night on the sofa, Vernon." And as soon as she could straighten up, she beckoned to Dudley and headed upstairs, leaving a very surprised-looking Vernon standing in the lounge.
"Mum, are you all right?" Dudley asked as they reached the top of the stairs.
Petunia turned to him. "I think so, Dudley. Let's go to bed. Maybe we can talk this through without resorting to fisticuffs in the morning," she told him. Dudley nodded and disappeared behind his locked door. Petunia turned the lock on her own door and readied herself for bed.
Dudley awoke with a start, wondering what had brought him out of his troubled sleep. The sound came again, this time accompanied by a jarring of his bedroom floor. Curious, Dudley rolled out of bed and went to open his door. That's when he heard his father shouting from the bottom of the stairs:
"Boy! Get down here! You have work to do!"
Huh? Harry isn't here, Dudley thought, puzzled. He shrugged and went back to bed. Five minutes later, his door banged open, revealing his father silhouetted against the hall light.
"Boy! When I tell you to do something that means you do it!" his father bellowed, advancing into the room. "You have two minutes to get dressed and get downstairs to make my breakfast. I will be leaving for work in half an hour! Now MOVE! And if I catch you doing anything unnatural, you'll be sorry!"
He turned abruptly and left the room. Dudley could only stare at his retreating back.
Downstairs, he found his father fully dressed, ready for work and sitting at the table, buried in the morning paper. He looked at Dudley over the top of it as he spat, "Make me three eggs, scrambled, four sausages and toast. And no hocus-pocus to make it cook faster. You hear?"
Ten minutes later, Dudley set two plates of scrambled eggs, sausage and toast on the table and poured two cups of tea from the family pot. His father pulled his dishes behind his newspaper and began to eat, ignoring Dudley completely. Shrugging, Dudley addressed his own meal.
His mother entered the kitchen just as Dad was finishing. She nodded curtly to him and came over to the table. "Family meeting tonight at dinner?" she asked as she sat down.
Dad shook his head. "There's no need for one. I've made myself clear. There will be no unnaturalness in this house and if Dudley doesn't want to abide by that rule, then he can leave," he said menacingly. "As it stands, I expect everything on this list to be completed by the time I get home. Maybe some physical work will remind Dudley that he is part of this family and not your long-dead sister's."
Mum gasped, a look of horrified hurt on her face, as Dad threw a list onto Dudley's empty plate and stalked out of the kitchen.
Dudley followed his father's retreating back with his eyes as he picked up the list. It turned out to be almost the same as one of Harry's old chore lists from several years ago: weed and mulch the flowerbeds, wash all the downstairs windows, sweep the garden path, mow both lawns. There were several other items on the list and for the first time ever, Dudley wondered how Harry had ever completed his chores before midnight!
"I'm not Harry!" he muttered as he went out to the garden shed to fetch the mower.
The rest of the week was quite similar to that first morning, and even though his father had forbidden him from doing magic, he still found time to practice. He couldn't make the mower run itself, but the day he had to wash the first floor windows, he did levitate his bucket of cleaning supplies to the top of the ladder. Of course, Mrs Number Six saw him do it and made a point of telling Dudley's father what she'd seen when, which resulted in Dudley spending the evening confined to his room without dinner. Needless to say, Dudley fumed and paced his room until he went to bed.
The next day was Saturday and by then, Dudley had had enough, especially when he was awakened at half-past-five by his father and told to make breakfast before going out to wash his dad's car.
"No, I won't!" Dudley declared while looking his father in the eye, for indeed the two were the same height and nearly the same build. "I'm eighteen and of age, so you can't make me do those stupid chores."
"If you want to live in this house, you will," his dad blustered. "I'll not have an unnatural lay-about sponging off my hard earned wages, just because he's turned eighteen! Now get outside and wash my car!"
"No, Dad! You can't make me, not like you made Harry do all those things just because you were trying to punish him for being a wizard," Dudley retorted. He grabbed his hoodie from its peg beside the front door. "I'll be back later."
"Where are you going?" Mum asked as he opened the door.
"Out," Dudley replied curtly. "I'll be back in time for lunch." He slammed the door and walked down the garden path and onto Privet Drive, headed vaguely in the direction of the park.
The next few weeks fell into a similar pattern to this first one. With Vernon off to work on weekdays, Petunia helped Dudley with his list of chores while keeping an eye on her son to make sure the neighbours didn't catch him using his wand to levitate anything or cause things to operate themselves. Still, if they finished the list faster than anticipated, Dudley would retreat to his room and she would hear things up there that indicated to her that her son was still trying to practice his magic. She even tried to intercept several owls that had begun hanging about Dudley's bedroom window, just as Harry's owl had done in years past. This worried Petunia immensely and as much as she didn't want to do so, she finally determined that the only way to save her son from being thrown out of the house by his father and to preserve peace in her home, was to write a letter to her nephew asking for his help.
It was with a heavy heart that she walked to the corner post-box to mail her envelope to the address Hestia Jones had given her—one she'd sworn never to use—that would send her letter to a London owl post office. How long would it take for the owl to find her nephew? Petunia didn't know the answer to that question. Would he write back to her? She didn't know if he would and, if she was honest with herself, she was doubtful he would agree to help her help Dudley. Even so, she hoped Harry would respond…