The first sign of disturbance on the otherwise peaceful Dursley household was the sound of the doorbell ringing.
The second came from the excited voice of a five year old.
"They're here! Daddy, they're here!"
"Settle down, Jennie." Dudley Dursley admonished his daughter, scooping her in his arms as she attempted to teleport towards the door. "No running in the hallways. And no yelling."
"Sorry daddy," the little girl said, her apologetic look not nearly good enough to hide her excitement.
"Moira, can you get the door?" Dudley called out, though it proved unnecessary. His wife was already at the intercom receiver.
A muffled voice said something Dudley couldn't hear, but his wife replied happily. "Certainly dear. Remember, on the fourth floor!" before she pressed the buzzer. Their guests had arrived.
She turned to look at him from her position next to the door. "Honey, can you get the boys?"
Dudley nodded and, little girl still in his hands, he turned around and went deeper into the apartment. He opened the first door at the left hand side of the hallway to find his seven year old son, stretched out on his bed and reading a comic.
Jennie was gripping his neck with a lot of strength for a five year old. Her excited chattering about her aunt and uncle brought a smile to Dudley's face.
"Come out, son. Your aunt and uncle are here."
"Wicked!" John replied. He tossed the comic to the side carelessly and all but jumped to his feet.
"Put on your slippers," Dudley instructed the excited boy. "And tuck your shirt in. We have visitors."
"Aw, come on Dad!" John complained, even as he complied with hasty movements. "You know Uncle Harry doesn't care."
"That doesn't matter," Dudley replied, as he usually did.
"Whatever. Happy now?"
"Yes. Go get your brother and join us in the living room," Dudley said as he set his daughter down. "Take Jennie with you and join us all together."
John ran outside, going two more doors down and knocking insistently on the door there.
Dudley turned back towards the living to the sounds of his son shouting.
"Vernon! Come out already, Uncle is here! Come out!"
"Would you quit yelling?!" Came his eldest son's voice from inside.
He returned to the door just as the knock came, and Moira returned from the kitchen, where she was no doubt checking on the food.
"It is I," came a regal female voice from outside.
Moira opened the door, revealing their guest. Blonde hair caught in an elegant ponytail, tall, undoubtedly beautiful and wearing a traveling cloak above a dark blue dress, Daphne Potter was standing there with her purse and a bottle in her hands.
"I greet you," she said as she nodded to the two of them.
"Welcome, dear," Moira said as she opened the door fully and moved to the side. "Please come in."
"Thank you." Daphne said as she entered. She slowly removed her cloak, which Moira accepted.
"Where is Harry?" Dudley asked.
"He is attempting to find a safe spot to land the travelling machine."
At Moira's slightly confused look, Dudley made sure Daphne wasn't looking at him before he mouthed 'he's parking' as clearly as he could. His wife understood and gave him a nod.
Daphne extended her hand holding the bottle and Dudley accepted it. Looking at it revealed it to be a somewhat expensive wine bottle.
"Thank you, you shouldn't have."
"We procured this at the local supreme market. Harry would not allow me to bring something of true quality." Daphne explained, sneering down at the wine bottle.
"Super market, dear. Super market." Moira supplied helpfully.
"Whatever. I care not for such trivial muggle establishments."
"Aunty Dee!" came the excited voice of his daughter, who just entered the entrance hall along with his two boys. Not waiting for a reply, the five year old propelled herself at her aunt, all but jumping at her. Daphne caught the little girl in her arms and held her as the little terror attempted to suffocate her with her tiny arms.
"Hello, little mongrel," Daphne said, her voice flat and unwelcoming, but her hands stroked the little girl's long brown hair and there was a fond warmth in her eyes as she looked down at her niece. "Did you miss me, perhaps?"
"Course I did, Aunty!"
"Let me see you," Daphne said as she set her down. The little girl, stood up straight and flashed her a somewhat toothless smile.
"My my," Daphne said. "You're getting prettier and prettier. It must be a muggle survival strategy, to allow their young to survive into adulthood."
"Thanks Aunty! You're very pretty!"
At this, Daphne cracked a small smile. "As you said, littlest mongrel." This made the little girl giggle.
"Hello Aunt Daphne."
Now the Missus Potter turned towards the two boys. John was smiling up at her, and Vernon was doing his best to look bored and disinterested in the whole affair.
"How was your drive?" John asked.
Even Daphne's perfect breeding could not keep the look of pure irritation off of her face. "Horrible. Muggle transportation is torturous. There were so many machines around us, we would have arrived faster on foot. I'll never understand why we couldn't have just-"
At this, Dudley interrupted her with a cough. Daphne looked at him, askance, and he gave her a meaningful look. Her eyes widened and some color found its way to her cheeks, so Dudley knew she had remembered. His family did not know about magic, and he intended to keep it that way.
"Sorry," Daphne mumbled.
"You don't like the car, Aunt Dee?"
Daphne turned toward Vernon, who had asked the question.
"No, little nephew, I do not like the 'carr' at all. Who would?"
"Bah," Daphne scoffed. "Uneducated muggles and their terrible ideas. I almost pity the lot of you. You come up with worse punishments for yourselves than we ever could, to voluntarily sit in these 'traffic jaamms' every day. Madness!"
Even Vernon cracked a smile at that. Dudley knew their aunt's antics always amused his children. Daphne's particular views were never explained to them, so to his kids it was just their aunt being whacky and talking funny. Not even his wife truly understood. He'd told her she was a kind of extreme hippie environmentalist with some complicated mental conditions and luckily his wife had been too polite to ask her about it. The Potters were a part of their life they'd accepted years ago.
"Go give your aunt a hug, boys," Moira instructed, no doubt embarrassed on their behalf. The boys approached, even Vernon not offering a complaint.
"Hmm. I suppose I can allow your filth on me this once," Daphne said as the boys gave her a hug. Vernon was less than a head shorter than her.
"But Aunty," John said through a giggle of his own, "we had a shower this morning."
"Of course." Daphne deadpanned, though it was lost on the kids. "How silly of me."
A new voice was heard. "Everybody having fun?"
Everyone turned toward the door, which was open, to see Harry Potter standing just inside. The years had been kind to his cousin, Dudley would always grumble. Long gone were the years when he was a scrawny little kid with clothes that didn't fit. Now Harry Potter filled out his very expensive clothes very well, was about as tall as Dudley himself, and had an air of mischief, nonchalance and confidence about him.
"I could've sworn I'd closed the door." Dudley heard his wife's confused mumble. He was about to tell her that she must have left it open, when-
"Uncle Harry!" Jennie screeched. Dudley was too late to hold her back, so the girl shot herself at his cousin at impressive speeds for her slight build. Harry caught her, laughing, and effortlessly raised her off the floor and over his head in a spin.
Jennie laughed uncontrollably as Harry spun around with her over his head, before placing her down.
"Hey there pretty lady."
"Uncle Harry, Uncle Harry! Sweets! Sweets!"
Harry made a show of patting his pockets and looking confused.
"No sweets here. You know your daddy doesn't approve."
Jennie giggled, but wasn't deterred. "But Uncle, you always have sweets!"
"Do I?" Harry smirked and lowered himself until he was eye to eye with Jennie.
"I don't," Harry said, shaking his head. "But maybe you do?"
And then he reached inside the pocket of Jennie's jeans and pulled out what was undoubtedly a piece of wrapped candy.
"See?" he said.
Jennie squealed as she grabbed the candy, quickly unwrapping it among giggles and stuffing it in her mouth.
"Now now," Moira scolded, "dinner will be soon, young lady. And you!" she said, turning to Harry. "Stop giving my children sweets before dinner."
Harry pretended to look around, before pointing at himself. "Me?" he said, voice dripping innocence. "I didn't give her anything. She had it in her pocket."
"Come on, Uncle Harry," Vernon interjected, making Harry turn towards him. "We're not little kids anymore. I don't buy your tricks."
Harry grinned. "Is that so, Vernon? What are you now, eleven?"
"Thirteen!" the young boy answered hotly.
"Thirteen, of course. My bad. Are your pockets empty, Vernon?"
"Of course! What does that have to-" He stopped mid-sentence as his hands, which had reflexively moved to his pockets at their mention, suddenly bumped against something solid. Eyes wide, he slowly pulled out another piece of candy from his own pocket.
"But … how…" he mumbled, face red from embarrassment.
Harry gave him a winning smile. "Magic."
Dudley resisted the urge to bang his head against a wall.
"Uncle!" John shouted. "Me, too!"
As Harry moved towards his youngest nephew, Moira shook her head and turned away.
"I can't watch this anymore," she said melodramatically. "I'm going to go set the table."
At this, Dudley saw Harry turn and give his wife a meaningful look. Daphne gave him a nod and schooled her face into a mask of determination.
"Do you …" she began to ask Moira, before pausing for a second, "...require any assistance?"
His wife let out a hearty laugh. "No dear, but thank you. No need for you to bother. Everything is almost ready, it'll just be a minute."
"Oh," Daphne said, obviously relieved. "Alright. tell me if I can help."
"Kids," Dudley said, addressing his children. "Let your uncle get out of his coat and settle down. Go wash your hands."
With a chorus of 'yes Dad' the three kids ambled away, each munching on a piece of candy. Dudley seriously doubted they'd be able to find those sweets on any store in this world.
"Hey," Harry said as he approached, giving him his coat and extending his hand. Dudley shook it.
"You know I don't want you giving my children sweets."
"Come on, Big D," Harry said, waving him away. "You're being too harsh on the little tykes. A sweet here and there won't hurt them."
Dudley twitched at the use of the nickname. Harry was one of the very few who knew Dudley, age 42, working a 9 to 5 job, ever went by something so silly, and definitely the only one to still use it.
"They're my kids," Dudley reminded.
"And I'm their uncle," Harry replied, as the three of them moved towards the living room and sat down. "I'm supposed to spoil them."
Dudley let out a sigh, before abandoning this line line of discussion. He doubted he'd finally manage to convince his cousin to stop trying to fatten up his kids.
"How're the kids?" he asked, looking at his cousin's spouse. Her constant sour expression turned into one of distaste.
"With the blood traitors."
"She means the Weasleys," Harry supplied.
"That hag has been pestering me for weeks, months even. I swear if she tries to poison my children's minds with her family's special brand of insanity there will be hell to pay."
"Molly wanted to have the kids over for the weekend," Harry explained. "We agreed."
At Daphne's scoff, Harry just squeezed her hand and chuckled. Dudley shook his head. Watching those two never got old.
"And are Lily and … Sirius doing alright?"
"Fine, fine. School complaints, boyfriend and girlfriend trouble, the usual drivel. Don't tell me you still don't like the name Sirius?"
Dudley smiled. "It's a weird name."
Harry scoffed. "You named your kid Vernon. Who names their kid Vernon?"
"You're one to talk," Daphne interjected. "You wanted to name our child 'Severus'."
Color found its way to Harry's face, while Dudley's lit up.
"Really?" he asked. "I didn't know that. Please, tell me more about your naming superiority."
"Hey … shut up. It seemed like a good idea at the time."
They had a good chuckle about almost-Severus, before the topic changed.
"How about you, Big D? All good?"
"Boring work stuff," Dudley said. "Might get a raise soon, if all goes well."
"Finally get that car you had your eye on?"
"Maybe." He nodded. "Or maybe I'll take Moira and the kids and go somewhere nice for a while, with the bonus. Not sure yet."
"That sounds good."
"How's work at the … Ministry?" Dudley asked, testing the word in his tongue. It still seemed strange to him, even after all these years, that such a mundane and organized concept as a ministry would be so prevalent in the world of magic.
"Eh, you know how it is," Harry said. "With the recent holiday everyone's been slacking off. Sports has been picking on Accidents recently and somehow they expect us to referee for them. It's all fun and games until someone has to reattach an ear, I say."
"Right, an ear. Of course."
The kids picked this point to join them in the living room. John rushed over to Daphne's side and sat next to her on the couch, while Jennie went on the other side and sat next to Harry. His cousin pulled his daughter and sat her on his knee, much to her delight. Vernon sat next to Dudley.
John bumped his shoulder to Daphne's side and started nuzzling her.
"What are you doing you dirty little-"
"Look, Aunty!" John cut her off, laughing. "We washed and now we're all clean."
"They'll never find your body, muggle dog! Don't touch me!" Daphne threatened as she tried to scoot further away from the boy, only to bump into her husband who refused to budge and looked away. With a grin, Harry wrapped an arm around his wife's shoulders, thus she could not move from her spot and had to suffer John's nuzzling.
"I will not stand for this!"
"John," Dudley admonished. "Don't pick on your aunt."
With that the middle Dursley kid pulled away from Daphne, still laughing.
"Sorry, Aunt Dee."
"Laugh it up. See if you receive any birthday presents from me this year."
John's face turned from laughing to scandalized. "You wouldn't!"
"Watch me," Daphne challenged, glaring at her nephew.
His eyes filled up with what Dudley knew to be crocodile tears, and he aimed his best devastated look at his aunt.
"B-but I only wanted a cuddle Aunty. Why can't I have a birthday present, don't you like me?" He said, fat tears running down his face. Dudley tried to conceal a smile at Daphne's panicked look. John had worked out how to cry on command almost a year ago, and could use it to devastating effect.
When her husband offered no help beyond a mad grin, Daphne was forced to return her attention to her nephew.
"No, spawnling, I was only jesting," she said, hurriedly gathering the weeping seven year old into her arms. Dudley caught his wife's smile from across the room as they both elected to ignore John's dramatics.
"Then you like me?" John sniffed from her lap, rubbing his nose on his sleeve.
Daphne winced and patted his arm awkwardly "You and your siblings have a certain, lowly charm about you. I may have grown... slightly attached to you, over the years," she admitted reluctantly.
"An mm presents?" came the muffled voice from her lap.
"Harry shall buy many mundane presents for you on your birthing day, as always," she said, giving up entirely.
"Thank you Aunty!" he said happily, nuzzling into her solder all tears mysteriously gone. Daphne sighed and shook her head, before levelling a menacing glare at her husband.
"Speaking of presents!" Harry exclaimed suddenly, looking down at his niece. "Jennie doll, could you be a dear and bring me my coat?"
Jennie jumped off his knee and ran over to the armchair Dudley had let Harry's coat on. She clumsily carried it over, almost unable to see over the fabric.
"Thanks kid," Harry said, taking the coat and ruffling her hair, making her giggle. He reached inside the coat to a pocket and rummaged inside. His hand seemed to slip further in than the pocket would allow. Bigger on the inside? Dudley was glad his kids were too excited to pay attention.
"Aha!" his cousin exclaimed, as he suddenly held three small boxes in his hands.
"What are those, uncle?"
"Those, my dear Vernon, are your presents. Hand picked by me and your aunt."
Daphne's reply was a sniff as she looked to the side. Dudley knew that counted as agreement.
"First for Jennie," Harry said as he offered a box to his niece.
"Yay!" The five year old tore into the gift wrapping like a hurricane, and was soon holding what Dudley recognized as a simple, but beautiful bracelet.
"It's great, Uncle Harry!" she said, wrapping her tiny hands around his arm.
"Your aunt picked it out."
"Hug me and lose a finger, littlest mongrel," she threatened, having just got her lap freed.
Jennie giggled. "You're funny, Aunty Dee. This is awesome. Thanks."
A smile touched his cousin-in law's lips. "You are welcome."
"Hey Jennie, wanna know a secret?" Harry said, leaning closer to her and lowering his tone. Jennie's breath hitched and she nodded furiously. "That bracelet, it's actually magical."
Her eyes widened. "It is?"
Dudley frowned at his cousin. What was Harry playing at?
His cousin nodded at his daughter, keeping a serious face. "You wanna know what it does?"
"Please tell me."
"If you stay up really, really late and keep really, really quiet, the bracelet will speak to you. You wanna know what it will say?"
She nodded, slowly this time, refusing to blink as she waited with baited breath. Harry leaned in closer, in order to whisper in her ear. He waited a few seconds for dramatic effect.
"Go to sleep."
Jennie giggled, giving Harry's cheek a kiss before putting the bracelet on.
"And for you boys." Harry said as he carelessly tossed the two remaining boxes at his nephews, who fumbled to catch them.
"What are those?"
"Those, dearest John, are wristwatches."
The opened them and stared at two handsome watches. The straps were leather and the faces were clear, and Dudley could see the brass gears turning beneath the hands. Vernon looked to Dudley, who nodded encouragingly, so the kid put it on. Dudley opened his mouth to tell them to be careful because they looked expensive. Then he looked at his cousin and closed it again. He somehow doubted that those watches would ever scratch or break, whatever the boys did to them.
"Thanks, Uncle Harry."
"Trust me boys, keep those watches on. They won't be bothered by water, they look very stylish, and girls love them. Oh, they also tell time," Harry told them with a wink.
Dudley gave his cousin a look and locked eyes with him. Harry's face turned serious, if only for a second, and he gave him a nod. Dudley's suspicion was confirmed. He didn't know what Harry had done to the watches and the bracelet, but whatever it was he knew that he should be grateful for it.
"Everyone," Moira called from further inside, "You can come in, everything is ready."
They moved to the dining room, where Harry and Daphne gave the appropriate compliments and they began to eat. Daphne would make the occasional strange proclamation that even to Dudley made little sense, but other than that conversation was positive and friendly.
Right after dinner, they moved back to the living room where the adults opened the wine bottle and the kids enjoyed a round of ice cream.
Not long after that, Dudley was sitting next to his wife, watching his cousin entertain his kids. Even Vernon, who'd been in a 'I'm not a little kid!' phase lately, was paying close attention and laughing at his uncle's tricks. Daphne was sitting next to them, answering the occasional question from the kids and otherwise just slowly drinking her wine.
Dudley heard his wife gasp as Harry started pulling a long scarf seemingly from thin air next to John's head, before she chuckled.
"Your cousin's a very good magician," she complimented. "I have no idea how he did that."
Dudley wet his lips. "Err, yeah. He's very good."
"Has he explained to you how he does it? Is it the long sleeves?"
Dudley shrugged. He always had trouble lying to his wife. "Maybe. It's a good idea. He's only told me a few things." Technically true.
"Tell me one of them?"
"Eh? Oh. Well, it's a secret. I'm not supposed to tell." Also true.
"That's a shame."
They watched for a while longer.
"He's very good with kids. I wouldn't be surprised if they thought he could really do magic."
Dudley kept silent, instead choosing to sip from his wine again. His cousin-in-law's not so secret smirk did not help matters.
Time flew fast, and soon the Potters were rising and gathering their coats.
"Can't you stay a little longer uncle Harry, aunt Dee?" Jennie pleaded, eyes moist.
"Now now, little princess, don't cry. You know I'll be here if you really need me. Besides, we'll visit again soon. Right, love?"
Jennie's teary eyes turned to Daphne, who stared back for half a minute before scowling.
"You are the only muggles I find tolerable. If we're to visit anyone, it will be you."
"You're the best, aunty Dee!" Despite Daphne's sputtering, she returned Jennie's hug with minimal fuss.
"See ya later, uncle Harry."
"Bye kid. And remember, no matter how old you get, never lose your belief in magic. Magic is everywhere. All it takes is for someone to believe in it."
Vernon chuckled, clearly disbelieving. "Sure thing, uncle."
"Thanks for the food Moira, it was great as always. When will you ditch Dudley and teach Daphne how to cook?"
"Your humor is not appreciated, husband."
Dudley's wife smiled at their banter. "Sorry, Harry. You'll have to do with miss Potter for the foreseeable future."
"Alas, cruel fate. Well, goodnight."
The door closed behind the Potters, and Dudley was left staring at it. The kids left, trotting back to their respective rooms or bathroom.
Moira held his right arm in both of hers.
"Everything okay, honey?"
Dudley turned to look at her, taking in her worried but smiling face. He made up his mind.
"I gotta say something to Harry," he said. "I'll be right back."
Dudley followed the Potters out the door and into the hallway.
"Harry!" he called out, hoping that they hadn't left already. Luck was smiling on him, as they had just reached the elevator down the hallway. The turned to the sound of his voice as he jogged towards them and came to a stop in front of them.
"What's up, Dud?"
Now that he was here, looking at Harry's smiling, patient look, he wasn't sure exactly what to say. He cleared his throat, trying to put his thoughts in order, and didn't say anything for a few seconds.
"Can I … have a word?"
Harry raised a curious eyebrow, but didn't refuse. He turned to Daphne.
"Don't expect me to wait for you," she warned. "I won't sit around in that metal prison, waiting, only to be subjected to the same torture as when we came. I'm apparating home."
"You're the best."
"I know that, stupid."
Daphne entered the elevator, and the doors hadn't quite closed before Dudley saw his cousin-in-law's form disappear from inside and heard the slight pop that he often associated with Harry's sudden appearances and disappearances. Such an overt display of magic jolted him, bringing his concern to the forefront of his mind once again.
"What is it, big guy?" his cousin asked.
Still, Dudley did not know where to begin.
"Maybe we should sit?" Harry suggested. At his nod, they both sat on the stairs next to the elevator. Not the most comfortable, but they'll do.
"Here." Dudley looked up, and saw a bottle of freezing beer being offered at him. "I find that it helps loosen the tongue."
"Thanks," he said as he accepted the bottle and popped it open.
"Don't thank me, it's from your fridge."
He took a swing, and decided to start from the easy stuff.
"What'd you do to the bracelet and the watches?"
"They're just good luck charms."
Harry smiled. "I am serious."
"Ah." So magic could also affect such things as luck itself? How did that even work? Dudley shook his head. He'd never be able to understand such things.
"Out with it, man. This isn't like you."
"Do you think … I mean, is it possible that my children could be, y'know…"
"Smart? Bratty? Cute?"
Harry looked at him quizzically for a second, before his eyes widened slightly. "Oh". He said. "Like me."
"You think your children are magical?"
"No!" Dudley exclaimed, louder than he'd meant to. He shook his head. "Sorry. I'm just asking. Could they?"
"Well …" Harry took to rubbing his chin. "I guess the possibility is there. Their grandmother was a witch, after all."
"Dudley, are your kids magical?"
"I … don't know."
"Who? All of them?"
"Just … just Jennifer."
Harry's eyes widened. "You've seen Jennie do magic?"
"Not as such. But … sometimes, I dunno. I have my suspicions. Sometimes I think something she did doesn't make sense, or she will look guilty about something that she couldn't possibly have done. She kind of reminds of you from back then, actually."
"Have you told Moira?"
He shook his head. "No. She doesn't know, and she won't until I'm certain."
"So that's how it is."
"What do I do, Harry?"
Harry tilted his head to the side. "What do you mean?"
"How am I supposed to deal with this? What if … what if she does turn out to be a witch?"
"Is that a bad thing?"
Dudley let out a noise of frustration from the back of his throat.
"I don't know. It definitely complicates things."
"Are you seriously asking that? I don't want to lose her, Harry."
He frowned. "Who said anything about losing her?"
"Look at what happened with your mum and mine. I don't want that for my kids."
"They don't have to go down that road, Dud. You'll know and prevent it."
"What if I can't? What if they end up hating each other just because one of them was born different? What about Jennie herself?"
"What about her?"
"She'd have to go to this Hogplace, wouldn't she?"
"Hogwarts. Yeah, I suppose."
"If even half of the shit you've told me about your school is true, I don't want her anywhere near that place."
Harry let out a nervous laugh. "I guess you haven't heard a lot of good things, have you? Those were extreme circumstances, very much unlikely to happen ever again. Hogwarts is the best school of magic in Europe, if not the world. The teachers are some of the best practitioners and most responsible people you can find. Trust me."
"I don't know Harry. When I think of all the things that happened to you over the years, it scares me. I can't help her if she goes there. Hell, I won't even be able to understand her."
"That's not true."
"Isn't it?" Dudley challenged. "You can't see it Harry, but from our perspective, your world seems very scary. We know nothing about it. What about that normal friend of yours, the Granger girl? How'd her parents deal with the whole mess you guys were part in?"
Harry wasn't able to hide his wince. "Point."
"I just … I don't know what to think. I know that you guys aren't that bad. You told me the bad times were over years ago. But I don't like this, Harry, I don't like any of this."
There weren't many ways Dudley could convey his feelings on the situation. If Jennie proved to be magical … he didn't know what he'd do. All his examples of magicals born to normals were not very good. Dudley's own aunt, Harry's mother, had been estranged from her family and ended up hated by her sister. Not to mention her untimely death. And Harry … the less said about Harry, the better.
He didn't want his family broken apart. He didn't want his daughter to feel more and more estranged from her own family because she was becoming more and more integrated into a world and society they knew nothing about.
And then there was the fact that Jennie herself would probably face a lot of hardship.
"What about the whole prejudice business?" he asked.
"You mean blood purity?"
"Is that it was called? Yeah, what about that?"
Harry scratched his chin in thought. "There's not too much of that nowadays. It's very hard to change traditions aging back centuries, but we're giving it a decent shot."
"Are you really? What about your wife?"
"You know she loves your kids. She means no harm, it's just the way she was raised."
Dudley nodded. "Which is my point, isn't it? If even Daphne, who loves my kids, talks like this, what will happen to Jennie when she meets other, less friendly people? She doesn't know what any of what Daphne is saying means now, but she will eventually find out. What then?"
Harry leaned back on the stairs, finishing off his beer.
"You know, I'd never thought of it like that," he admitted. "I didn't think Daphne's attitude was troubling you. You never said anything all these years. Daphne is … a complicated person. Part of her does believe in blood purity, but it's not the same ideology that was driving the Death Eaters. She doesn't view you as lesser. I'm not sure how to explain it, really. You'll just have to trust me. I'll have a talk with Daphne."
"Please don't. The kids like her and find her funny. That's not the point here."
"I see where you're coming from, Big D. I really do. You know, years later, it's been getting easier and easier to understand just how scared your parents were. I may not forgive them, but I don't hate them. Your fears are not unfounded."
He paused, probably taking stock of his thoughts.
"I won't be able to help her, Harry," Dudley admitted, revealing his greatest fear. At his cousin's look, he continued. "Ever since me and Moira had Vernon, I've tried my best, you know? I tried to be a better person for them, to make sure they'd be safe and have the happy childhood I did without the problems I created. I think I've done well so far, even with John and Jennie. But if it's like this, if Jennie is a witch … she'll be alone. Moira and I will do what we can to support her but she'll be alone. As we are now, our family is united, normal, happy. And you are the uncle who spoils them. Why does that have to change? Why do my sons have to grow up in envy for something none of them can control? Why does she have to go to such a scary place alone?"
Harry didn't say anything for some time, laying there on the uncomfortable steps in silence.
"If Jennie is magical .. it's her birthright, you know? She needs to learn to control her powers, she needs to be with people who face the same troubles and experience the same joys. It's your choice, but I guarantee you that if you choose to not tell her, to not send her to any magical school, Jennie will never be all that she could be. She will never reach her full potential, never fully grow as a person. To not explore her magical heritage would be a crime against her. Do you want that on your conscience?"
Dudley did not reply. He said nothing, instead finishing his own beer and putting his face in his hands. Some minutes later, he was considering getting up and heading back inside when his cousin spoke again.
"She won't be alone, you know."
Harry turned to him, giving him a smile. "She won't be alone. If Jennie is a witch, even if you can't be there for her all the time, she won't be alone. She'll meet people and make friends. She'll have her professors. She'll have Lily to talk to. James should start Hogwarts not long after Jennie does. I'm sure Sirius would love nothing more than to play the cool older brother, even if he'll have graduated by then."
Despite himself, Dudley smiled.
"And she'll have me," Harry added. "Me and Daphne both. We'll look out for her when you won't be able to."
That … actually made him feel much better. It was like a weight was lifted off of Dudley's chest and he could breathe freely. He hadn't realized exactly how much he'd been worrying until he overcame some of it.
"You guys will?"
"Of course. We both love Jennie like we love our own kids. Nothing bad will happen to her, you have my word."
"But you're a ministry employee, aren't you? Important in the government and all that?"
"I guess so." An understatement, Dudley was sure. After all these years, he could read his cousin like an open book.
"I know how busy you are, Harry. At least, I know what you've told me. How will you be able to keep an eye on her and keep the Ministry in order?"
Harry's reply was late, but when it came it caught Dudley completely by surprise.
"They want me to be Minister, did you know?"
"Minister? You?" Dudley asked, unable to mask his disbelief. His cousin, in the greatest position of power in Britain? Seriously?
Harry let out a barking laugh. "I know! Crazy, right? Still, everybody expects me to step up when Kingsley steps down. Hell, even Kingsley himself. I've sort of been going along in the last few years. I mean, why not? If everyone wants me for the job, I might as well try, right?"
"That's … brilliant! Congratulations."
"Yeah yeah, brilliant." Harry nodded along, though without emotion.
"It's … not?" Dudley tried.
"I don't know, Dudley. I've sort of prepared myself for the job, but I never really wanted it. Being a politician was never my dream."
Dudley snorted. At Harry's questioning look, he said: "Don't give me that shite. You've been thrust in situations you didn't want all your life. All you have to make of this one is the same as what you made the others."
"And what's that?"
"Your bitch, cousin. You make them your bitch."
Harry just stared at him incredulously for a moment, before bursting into laughter. Dudley himself followed with a few chuckles.
"I haven't heard you curse in years. You really had me thinking that the old Big D was gone, big guy."
Dudley smiled, as well. "I'll always be Big D. I'm just a father and a husband before that."
"Well spoken. I'd drink to that, but there's no more beer in your fridge."
Dudley shook his head. Who could have guessed that one day he'd be the one to return Harry on the matter at hand, but it was happening.
"Still, won't you be even busier once you're Minister?"
"Hm? Oh, I won't be Minister."
Dudley blinked once, twice. Three times.
"But you just said-"
"I said that everybody expects me to, and that I was considering it. I changed my mind."
"A few months ago."
"So what will you do?"
"Well, I've always been fond of teaching."
"You're going to not be the Minister to become a teacher?"
"A professor actually, but yeah, more or less."
"Are you daft?"
Harry chuckled. "Hey, don't think I'm aiming low. I like teaching, but I've set my sights on another position. I'm going to become Headmaster."
"Headmaster … like that whacky Bumble fellow?"
Harry laughed. "Dumbledore, you mean? Yeah, him. He was my old Headmaster. He taught me a lot, in many ways. I've always admired him and his passion for the school. I thought, if I could be half the man he was and do half of what he did for the school, I'd be able to die in peace, you know?"
"That's a morbid thought."
"I guess so. Death is going to come, however, whether I fear it or not. I try to think of my life as the sum of my actions, such that when I finally pass on I'll be able to be proud of my life up to that time."
"That sounds a little too philosophical for me," Dudley said, letting out a sigh. Now wasn't the time for mental exercises.
"I guess. The point is, by the time Jennie reaches Hogwarts age, I'll be there."
"You'd do this for us? For Jennie?"
He nodded. "For my own kids, for Jennie, and for all the Jennies out there, sure."
"So," Harry continued after a short pause, "so don't go thinking Jennie will be alone. Or that you won't be a part of her life anymore. I won't let that happen."
And Dudley could see it, if only for a little bit. That spark in his cousin. The spark that led him to stand up to Dudley's parents, the spark that made him into the leader and eventual champion of their war. The spark that made people believe in him. Harry Potter was a great man, and he was Dudley's cousin. Perhaps this was what it felt like to have a brother.
It was at that time that Harry chose to chuckle nervously and rub the back of his head in embarrassment. Dudley refrained from palming his face.
"But, you know, all that is hypothetical. First we'd have to see if Jennie is indeed magical."
"How can we do that?"
"There are some things I could try in my next visit, if you really wanted. But Jennie is still very young. If she really is magical it will become obvious to you long before she's due for a Hogwarts letter."
"All the same, I'd like to know."
"Right. We'll set something up, then."
"Thank you for this, Harry. Really."
"Don't mention it Big D." Harry rose from the stairs, painfully cracking his back from the uncomfortable position he was in. "Okay, that hurt."
"You should probably go, yeah? We've been out here a while. Don't wanna make Missus Potter any angrier."
"You'd be surprised at how effective anger can be for a couple's sex life."
"Please, spare me the disgusting details."
"Whatever," Harry waved him away as he summoned the elevator, before turning to him and offering him his hand.
"See ya later, Big D," he said while they shook. "Until next time, yeah?"
Dudley smiled. "Until next time."
As he turned back towards the apartment and the elevator doors closed, he could've sworn he heard Harry say: "I hope she lets me name this one Albus".
"You are seriously weird, cousin."