INTRODUCTION:

In her Epilogue to "Deathly Hallows" JK Rowling invited us to think to the future… yet left a lot of questions unanswered; although "What happened to Dudley?" isn't one that actually occurred to me, initially.

I'm not even sure how this story DID occur to me. I perhaps it was in wondering if Harry ever got in touch with Dudley again. Maybe it grew from my profound sympathy for all the witches and wizards who had to deal with Vernon during the long months they were in hiding.

However it occurred to me, here it is with thanks to Charles for arguing the plot points with me and HiBob for encouraging me to write…

Fifteen years after the events of "Deathly Hallows" (not counting the Epilogue, natch.)

ONE: THE DOORBELL

"Daddy! Daddy! Someone's at the door!"

"Who's at the door, Daddy?"

Billy looked up from his comic at his younger siblings, "Why are you yelling at Dad? You two go open it if you want to know!"

Dudley paused at the sitting room on his way to the front door, "How about all three of you stop yelling at the top of your lungs, you're all three feet apart! Besides, that's no way to behave in front of your grandparents!"

"Oh, that's all right, dear," Petunia purred, "Grammy doesn't mind if her little popkins are a bit rambunctious!"

This statement was treated to an eye-roll from the eldest, but beams of appreciation from little Elizabeth and Charles.

"That's right! blustered Vernon, "Just shows the boys have healthy lungs, the girl too! Why, I've always said-"

Whatever Grandfather Vernon always said was interrupted by another jangle from the doorbell. Dudley started a bit, having forgotten what started the conversation in the first place.

"Dudley, the door!" came a voice from the kitchen (which, though yelling, didn't approach the volume of the three youngsters) even as he turned to hurry to answer.

"Just a Moment!" Dudley called to the door, more for the benefit of those in the house than for whoever was waiting. He opened it hastily, to find two men of about his age crammed one in front of the other on the small stoop. The one in front was clearly visible as a friendly-faced chap of about his own age whom he did not know. It was hard to tell much about the second aside from the fact it was another fellow.

"May I help you?"

"Hello," the man in front began, "Are you Dudley Dursley?

"Yes. What is this regarding?" he asked warily.

"Mr. Dursley, we need to speak to you about your son, William." the man paused, but Dudley stood frozen. He neither said nor did a thing.

"It's a conversation best held in private, I think" the man continued, then paused again.

"May we come in?" he asked, more pointedly.

The sharper tone seemed to bring Dudley back to himself. He glanced back up the hall toward the noisy sitting room then back at the gentlemen on his doorstep.

"Yes," he replied in a sotto voice, "do step into the hall."

Dudley stepped back, again glancing up the hall toward the sitting room. He glanced back at the two gentlemen. The first was extending his hand toward Dudley as the second closed the door.

"I am Professor Neville Longbottom," the first said as the second turned back from the door, "And this, as you may know, is Mr-"

"HARRY POTTER! Finally! At this exclamation was followed close on by another of

"WHAT?" from the sitting room after which all noise from that room ceased and Dudley once again glanced up the hall, apprehension clearly etched on his features.

"Dudley," Harry smiled, "I thought you'd remember me, but I wasn't quite sure. How have you-?"

Before he could finish, several voices spoke all at once.

"Dear who is it?"

"Who's Harry Potter, Grammy?"

"Let's see!"

"No, poppets, wait!"

"POTTER HERE? WHY I'LL..."

A purple-faced Vernon emerged from the sitting room at the same time a plump younger woman did from the kitchen. Her smile of welcome faded, however, as her father-in-law began to sputter.

"POTTER! IT IS YOU! I thought we were rid of you fifteen years ago, you miserable ingrate! I told you to stay away from my family I did! After all we went through because of you! No, it won't happen again! I won't have you back in our lives, I say! I don't care why you're here boy, if you-"

"DAD!" Dudley interjected, stemming the tide. "Enough."

"But this, this... Why is he here, boy? I ask you that, why?" Vernon yelled back.

"I don't know. I thought he might be about to tell me when you started shouting," Dudley replied tensely.

"Disrespect! He breeds it around him, I say!"

"Dad," Dudley said again with a note of warning. Vernon opened his mouth than shut it glaring at Harry, Dudley, and even Neville in turn. When he was sure his father had subsided for the moment, Dudley turned back to his guests.

"Sorry," Harry said immediately, "We had no idea that you already had, er… guests."

"Yes," interjected Neville, "Perhaps we should return at a better time - later this week perhaps?"

"Are you off your nut?" Dudley asked, "I've been waiting for you to come for ages... years really, especially since... well, that is to say... No, don't go. I'm sorry, Professor, is it? I'm sorry about my father, please don't go."

Harry regarded his cousin with a shrewd look, "You know why we're here, don't you?"

"Yes, as I say, I've been expecting you and, frankly I'm-"

"Expecting him? Expecting him?" Vernon spluttered, as anxious eyes appeared around the sitting room doorjamb. "You mean to tell me you invited this... THIS... to be around MY grandchildren?"

Dudley closed his eyes and balled his fists with the air of one whose patience was at an ebb. His wife moved forward with a knowing look to put a soothing hand on his shoulder.

"Maybe," she said softly, "whatever's going on is a bit much to deal with while your parents are here. Didn't these men offer to come back?"

Dudley took a deep breath and turned slightly to face his wife.

"No, Sarah, this is too important and I've waited a long time, wondered a long time... I need answers and so do you. We'll have to tell them eventually, so..."

"Tell them what?" she asked, still whispering, though her tone had grown anxious.

"Well for one," Dudley replied, "Why William isn't going to Smeltings." ---