It used to be far easier getting out of the house, but even though the wizards' war was over, Vernon and Petunia were careful about Dudley. He didn't blame them; he didn't want a repeat of his incident with the dementor, especially now that he didn't have Harry around to save him. That thought felt weird still, but three years had hammered it into him just how much he owed his cousin. Dudley knew that if the tables were turned and it was Harry who had been helpless against the soul-eating fear, he would have run. Harry hadn't, even after all the mocking Dudley had made of him and his crying over Cedric-what's-his-face. He was a better man, and it had bothered Dudley ever since. Maybe this was what that old man meant when he said that his parents had mistreated him even worse than they had Harry. At the time, it hadn't made sense—after all, his parents gave him everything he ever wanted—but now he was starting to wonder if he wasn't given the right things.
It was unbelievable how hard it was to find a ruddy owl! How many years ago had it been since whole flocks of them had parked right outside his house? He wanted to go back home in defeat and throw out the envelope without a second thought, but part of him—the small, but growing part of him that wanted to become a better man—insisted that he continue his quest and just be done with it. If he didn't get a reply, then all the better for him.
He finally found a tawny owl in the park, or rather, it found him and scratched at him with its talons. He swore and shielded his face, calling out, "Calm down, you bloody owl! Just work with me here, and we'll be done!" He pretended it was only coincidence that the bird finally calmed down and allowed him to place the envelope in its mouth.
"Take that to Harry Potter, wherever he is," he instructed. "He's probably with that family—the Weasels or something like that. Find them, and you'll find him." The owl took flight at last, and he turned and headed for home.
I'm writing this because I think I have to, not because I want to. Since we're out of hiding, I'm guessing you beat that Lord Whoever and your kind are safe. You probably won't believe me, but I'm glad you lived. The last thing I want is to live knowing you of all people died saving us. If I were you, I'd just run, but you stayed and fought just like you did against the dementors. I guess I'm saying thanks.
Harry flopped down on the couch, suddenly regretting his brilliant idea to buy Teddy a toy broomstick for his first birthday. The toddler, who had only just mastered walking, had zipped all around the Burrow when Harry babysat him, resulting in several broken dishes, a startled Kreacher, and one extremely exhausted godfather. It had almost been a relief when Andromeda came to pick him up. While he'd understood completely when Andromeda requested full custody of Teddy with Harry as secondary guardian, it hadn't quite hit him until recently that he was definitely not ready to raise children on his own.
Moving into the Burrow was a dream come true, even if it had taken him a few months to get up the courage to leave Grimmauld Place. George and Percy had moved back in, leaving Harry with Bill's old room, but Fred's absence still hurt even though the pain was fading. But no one could say that the Burrow was quiet; even if George wasn't making up the mischief his twin was no longer around to help with, there was still plenty of life in the Weasley family. Ginny had teamed up with George as his new partner-in-crime for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, Percy was training Hermione in the art of politics so she could campaign for the rights of all sorts of magical beings, and Kreacher had come to help Molly manage cooking for the ever-growing family. Bill and Fleur had just announced they were expecting, and that only made things better. Now, Harry couldn't believe he'd ever wanted to lock himself up in the barely-livable Grimmauld Place.
Hermes, Errol, and Pigwidgeon dropped off the mail in the kitchen, and Molly was already sorting it out when he arrived.
"Harry, dear, I think this is the confirmation for your new Firebolt," she said, handing over an envelope.
He opened it and read through. "Says it'll take another week. I'll need to borrow Hermes to pick it up. It's too big for Pig."
"Oh, don't worry about that!" Molly insisted. "You know George and Ginny would be perfectly happy to pick it up on their way home from work."
Harry grinned. "That's what I'm afraid of. I want to be the first one to break it in. I'll write them back saying I'll Apparate over once it's in."
An unfamiliar owl suddenly flew in through the window and deposited an envelope. But rather than fly off to its owner, it remained in the kitchen, pecking for food. While Molly got it some food, Harry opened the letter and read.
"What is it?" Molly asked when Harry stared in complete shock.
"It's Dudley," he answered dumbly. "And he's thanking me. Says he had to."
"Maybe he wants to make amends," Molly suggested.
Harry snorted. "You don't know the Dursleys, Dudley especially."
But still, he knew he should write back to at least keep Dudley from sending him any more bizarre thank-yous. He went back upstairs and pulled out a piece of parchment and a quill from his desk and started writing. The tawny owl was still in the kitchen when he returned, so he handed over the envelope and gave instructions not to deliver until Vernon and Petunia were asleep, so Dudley wouldn't have to bother with questions. When the owl flew off, Harry expected this to be the end of it.
I didn't do this specifically for you, but you're welcome anyway. I fought Voldemort because I had to, and he wouldn't have stopped trying to kill me anyway. I never asked to be a hero to anyone, so don't think you're obligated to thank me for doing what I had to to save my friends.
Dudley was up late into the night, playing games on his computer. His parents had gone to bed hours before, leaving him the only one awake when the owl came with Harry's reply letter. Dudley's character was shot by enemy soldiers while he read. There had been no point in pausing the game for such a short note. Finally, he clicked out of his game and opened up his word processor and started to type.
So you're not a hero. You just did this to save the people you care about. Big deal. You could have run and hid like Mum, Dad, and I did, and you'd have been just fine. Your friends would have been safe in hiding with you too, so why run into danger to stop this guy? Why not leave it to the people who could?
The tawny owl returned when Harry was playing Quidditch with George, Ginny, and Ron. He'd borrowed Fred's old broom and played Chaser against Ginny while Ron was his Keeper. Hermione kept score from below and warned him when the owl came flying by.
"Bloody hell, you nearly hit that thing!" Ron cried, shocked at how close the Quaffle came to the owl when Ginny threw it. She elbowed her brother in response.
"Another letter?" Harry asked.
"Who from?" Ginny asked.
"Dudley," Harry answered. "I got a letter from him just yesterday, thanking me."
"Wait," Hermione interrupted. "Your cousin Dudley?"
"Are you sure he's not a Death Eater in disguise?" George asked, half-jokingly. "I'm sure you could slip him some U No Poo just in case."
Ron was already laughing when Harry said, "If it isn't, he'd know better than to eat it after the Ton Tongue Toffee."
"I still say keep that in mind," Ron insisted.
"So what are you going to do?" Ginny asked.
"Doubt I can ignore it," Harry answered. "He'll just keep writing. I wrote him back last time, and now this one came."
"Well, do you want him to keep writing?" Hermione asked cautiously.
"I don't know!" Harry declared. "It's been weird ever since I left the Dursleys' for the last time! I guess I can understand why he was trying to be nicer to me and said I wasn't a waste of space, after the dementor fifth year and what Dumbledore said to them sixth year. But I felt homesick just before I left, and I have no idea why. I don't even know why I'm writing him back!"
"At least you got a new owl out of it," Ron said. "Not that I'm saying you're replacing Hedwig or anything, but you do need a new one. Errol's getting on, so Dad's relying more on Hermes, and George and I need Pig for work."
"She really is beautiful," Ginny insisted, stroking the feathers.
"She needs a name," Hermione added.
"Marise," George said with a grin. "That's the name of one of Fleur's beautiful part-Veela cousins, and I'm sure she'd be pleased that you name such a beautiful creature after her." Ginny rolled her eyes.
"Still, it's a nice name," Ron agreed.
"Yeah," Harry answered reluctantly, still a little unsure if he wanted a new pet. "Marise it is, I guess."
There was no one else who could. Voldemort had something that kept him alive, and I had to find it. Dumbledore wanted me to keep this a secret so Voldemort wouldn't find out, and the Ministry was already infested with spies. I destroyed most of Voldemort's experiments, but it turned out that I was the last one, so I nearly died trying to make sure he would go for good.
If you're going to continue writing to me, then I'm sending you some parchment with a spell over it that ensures the only two who can read it are the sender and the recipient. My friend Ron sells it at a joke shop his brother runs, so it works. And don't send the letters with Marise—the owl. Send them to the Grangers—their address is enclosed. They're my friend Hermione's parents, so they'll pass it along to me, and they're Muggles so your parents won't get suspicious. Just come up with a good reason for why you keep sending letters off to them.
Harry and Dudley kept correspondence for several years, and when Dudley moved out, he sent letters via Marise until he got married, when he resumed sending through the Grangers. In the seven years this continued, Harry had had two children, both boys, and Dudley's wife was expecting their first, a girl. Dudley tried to be happy through it all, calling his mother to help buy frilly dresses and baby toys. But there was one looming fear that kept him from fully enjoying any of it. When he could no longer sit through the fear, he took out a pen and the spelled parchment and composed a letter.
My wife is expecting, and I don't know what to do. What if the baby turns out to be one of your kind? Mum would never stand for it. I doubt she ever considered the possibility that this could happen. After all, she was normal and I was normal, but you and your mother weren't. Does this sort of thing skip generations? Could I pass it on? And if I do, what do I do then?
Marise flew in and deposited the letter on the kitchen table. Kreacher scooped it up and said, "Master Harry, a letter for you."
"Thanks, Kreacher," Harry replied, taking a welcome break from taking care of the babies. It had been decided soon after Al's birth that Ginny would handle most things revolving around the new baby while Harry would try to contain the damage from James's toddler-hood. Now that at least the little terror was down for a nap, he could take the opportunity to relax. However, with such an urgent letter from Dudley, relaxation was not going to come easily.
"He'll be wanting to hear back from me as soon as possible, I expect," he murmured, pulling out the parchment and quill.
First of all, don't panic. I'm not entirely sure how magic is passed down; most of the research was effectively banned with the new Ministry to ensure that no more discrimination against Muggleborns and half-bloods could continue. But I think your bloodline is safe. I've been keeping up with some studies on genetics, though. Your mother displayed no magic despite having a magical sister, and your father had no magic either. Whatever genes magic may come from, they probably only were passed down to my mother and skipped yours entirely.
But if the baby does turn out to have magic, do not let them suppress it. The magical energy needs an outlet, and if it isn't used, it will explode violently. Your parents may not approve, but if this happens, you must accept it and your child's power. Otherwise, things will end tragically.
I wish you the best of luck.
Harry Potter and all related characters are the property of J.K. Rowling. While a good deal of the information I have in here was contradicted by Rowling's post-Deathly Hallows interviews, the majority of this takes place early enough that careers could indeed change.