A Witch In The Family
Dana Dursley got her Hogwarts letter at ten fourteen in the morning on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. At ten seventeen, she showed it to her parents. At ten eighteen, Mr. Across The Street paused in mowing his lawn to rub his ear aggrievedly, and Mrs. Next Door caught her favorite glass vase before it could vibrate off her kitchen table, as Dudley Dursley's shriek, "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU FREAKS!" reached them. At ten twenty-two, Dana started reading the letter aloud to her parents and her two brothers. By ten forty-seven, Tammy Dursley had her husband calmed down enough to call his parents, the resident experts on 'magical' children. By noon Dudley was desperate enough to call his cousin Harry Potter (Savior of the Wizarding World), if only he had an emergency phone number (these…magical folk were always so inconsiderate). It wasn't until two minutes past five in the afternoon that Petunia Dursley was able to have a private talk with her eldest grandson.
"How are you holding up?" she asked him kindly (and a little nervously), patting the seat beside her encouragingly. "Dick, sweetie?"
Dick Dursley frowned at her. His hair was as blonde as hers before the gray set in, and he was thickset like his father, though thinner than his father had been at his age. He was eleven years old. The most striking things about him, from his grandmother's point of view, were his eyes. They were bright green, the exact color and shape of Lily Evans, Petunia's little sister's, eyes. And those of her nephew, Harry Potter. Dick's twin sister had those same eyes, but it wasn't Dana Petunia was concerned with now.
"Dick, let me tell you a story," she said at last. "About two sisters. Growing up, they were very close. Nobody mattered more to the elder one than her baby sister—and the feeling was mutual. Then one day the younger sister got a letter—a special letter."
Dick had been inching closer; now he asked, "Like Dana's?"
"Yes," said Petunia. "Just like Dana's."
"What did the elder sister do?"
"Well," continued Petunia, looking down at her lap. She smoothed her skirt, wanting to choose her words carefully. "The younger sister was very excited. And the elder sister was jealous. She didn't understand why her sister got to be the special one—why couldn't she go, too? Everyone was paying attention to the younger sister: her parents, the strange boy from Spinner's End, weird people in cloaks…And it just wasn't fair! The elder sister wrote to the headmaster of her sister's new school, asking a few of these questions, and—and begging—to be allowed a place in this new world. But, of course, that was impossible. And so the younger sister left for her adventures, and the elder sister lashed out, in her hurt and anger, and drove away her closest friend, her baby sister. Maybe if she'd realized sooner that one school acceptance letter didn't change who her sister was, and they'd still been close when Lily was turning lettuce orange and flying off swings, they would've had more time together, instead of drifting apart."
"That's a sad story, Grandma," complained Dick. "Why didn't you stay in touch with Great-Aunt Lily?"
"Because I was afraid," Petunia said, at last looking him directly in those green eyes. "I was afraid of not measuring up her new friends, and I was angry that she got to have something I didn't. I always hated being second best. But if I could do it again, I wouldn't have called her a freak."
Dick frowned at that, no doubt recalling his father's hasty words of ten eighteen that morning. Then he brightened. "But Grandma, how do we know my letter didn't just get lost in the mail?" he demanded.
Petunia shook her head sadly. "Dick, sweetheart, these people don't let things get lost in the mail."
His face fell. "Oh." Before he could say anything else, however, the doorbell rang.
Dudley raced into the hall, followed by his wife and daughter. Eight-year-old Jeffrey Dursley looked up from his hand-held video game, sitting on the steps. Petunia led Dick into the hall, too, knowing what she would see, and glad Vernon was out getting the pizza.
Dudley opened the door. On the threshold stood a green-eyed, black-haired, bespectacled man. He hasn't changed at all, thought Petunia wonderingly. Her hand jumped to her hair in a nervous gesture. At least he seemed to be alone—those friends of his always made such horrible messes, without the least regard for who might have to clean them up. She still remembered the day they'd gone back to the house on Privet Drive, a year and a half after they'd gone into hiding. Wizards.
"Sorry it took me so long," said Harry Potter. "Lily just got her letter, too—we had to pry her off the ceiling, she was so excited."
"Harry, help me," demanded Dudley. "Come into the kitchen; Tammy—"
"Hello, Uncle Harry," said Dana primly. She glanced at her mother, and was silent. Tammy mouthed, watch the children, at Petunia, and disappeared into the kitchen with Dudley and that boy—Harry, Petunia reminded herself. It wouldn't do to call him a boy anymore, in any case.
There was silence.
Dick and Dana seemed to be avoiding one another's eyes, but they kept shuffling closer, as though in order to communicate silently. After all she'd seen of the 'magical world,' Petunia guessed Dana would know how to do that in seven years' time. She shook her head—times were changing—and sank down on the step beside Jeff.
"—and how can we possibly afford it?" they heard Dudley shout. "Do you have any idea what it's like, having a job in the real world? And that's assuming they don't get enthusiastic with the layoffs; don't suppose you people know anything about the economic crisis?"
Petunia, straining her ears, heard Tammy murmur soothingly, "Now, sweetheart, you can't blame these…magical people for what's wrong with the economy. These things happen—"
"Actually," Harry Potter muttered, "there may have been a bit of trouble with the new 'free market system' and getting rid of the gold standard—not that it's my department, and I don't really know—"
"I KNEW IT!" cried Dudley. "So how can we possibly afford some namby-pamby magic school for seven years, especially since we won't get any value for the investment! She'll probably be in deadly danger just talking to those people! If you think I don't remember how many people tried to kill you—"
Dana winced. Money she was too young to properly understand, but when her father started talking about her safety, she knew she was being a Problem Child. It wasn't the first time.
Dick reached out, almost touching Dana's shoulder. She turned toward him, and he dropped his hand quickly. They resumed silent twin communication.
"It's not like that now!" Harry shouted back. "Voldemort is gone, there's no danger!" Softly, he added, "Dana will be fine, Dudley. You'll see. And you won't be doing her any favors keeping her from her birthright."
"It's true," added Tammy. Dudley made a startled noise. "My niece, Janie, graduated from that place a few years ago. She's got a job, lots of friends—she's doing all right."
"Your niece—!" began Dudley in outraged tones. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Would it have mattered?" Tammy asked dangerously. Petunia grinned, thinking of the first time Vernon had met her sister. "Do you mind?" she'd asked, later. He'd assured her he didn't, that it didn't matter between them. Of course, that had been before Harry Potter got dumped on their doorstep…
"Of course not," Dudley said at once. "So…what about the money?" he asked, perhaps feeling he had better retreat from such shaky ground.
"Financial assistance is available to those who need it," Harry assured him. "In fact, I suggest you bring it up with Neville—Professor Longbottom, he's a friend of mine, and the Deputy Headmaster—when he arrives to discuss things, and show you how to get into Diagon Alley."
"Well," sighed Dudley. "All right. But she's coming straight home every holiday!"
"Of course, dear," said Tammy fondly. "Of course."
"Pizza's here!" Vernon announced, opening the door and letting in a blast of lukewarm air. "What's going—you!"
Harry had just walked out of the kitchen.
"That's Uncle Harry, Granddad," said Dana in an informative tone.
"Hey, is there any pepperoni?" demanded Jeff, looking up from his video game and eyeing the pizza boxes hopefully.
"Hello, Uncle Vernon," said Harry cheerfully. Although she would never have admitted it, Petunia admired his sangfroid. It still astonished her that this boy, her sister's son even if he did look just like his laughing father, had saved the world. In another way, of course, it made perfect sense. "How've you been?" Harry asked.
"What are you doing back in my—my son's house?" demanded Vernon.
"Now, Vernon—" Petunia began nervously. She wanted to avert a scene, but Vernon always got so upset over anything unexpected.
"Dad, it's okay, I asked him here," sighed Dudley. He and Tammy had also emerged from the kitchen, and Petunia was surprised to see that, having been argued out of all his principled objections, her son actually looked relieved. "You know, about this whole thing with Dana."
"The whole thing where Dana's a witch," added Tammy helpfully.
"Does that mean you'll get to fly on a broomstick?" Jeff asked Dana eagerly, finally taking some interest in the proceedings.
The mention of broomsticks was too much for Vernon. "Absolutely not!" he bellowed. "My granddaughter isn't going to do anything so unnatural! This is ridiculous! Dudley, son, you don't have to allow it!"
"Sure I do," answered Dudley easily. "Harry reckons they might give her financial aid, and of course she'll be back here for the holidays. And it's not like this is so unexpected, is it?"
Vernon struggled for words. Petunia laid a hand on his arm, and whispered in his ear, "I know, Vernon dear, but it is Dudley and Tammy's decision, you know. We can't stop it." She only hoped he wouldn't get too carried away in his disapproval. Petunia would never allow him to stop visiting his only granddaughter. Magic might be difficult, and unnatural, and even wrong, but blood was thicker than water, after all.
She glanced around, and saw Dick and Dana holding hands. "Congratulations," Dick whispered.
"You're not mad?" asked Dana, always the shyer of the two—in spite of a few truly impossible, extraordinary, magical incidents she might have caused as a small child.
"Nah," answered Dick. "Write me every week, though, okay? I want to hear all about it."
"Okay. You're my twin, no matter what. And I won't forget about you," Dana said seriously.
"What about me?" whined Jeff, breaking into their moment.
Dana laughed. "Not about you either, Jeffie. How could I?"
"So, now that that's all settled," said Tammy briskly, "let's have something to eat." She took the pizza boxes from Vernon, who had been numbly holding them. Petunia tried to remember if they had any ice—poor Vernon's hands were probably burned.
"I'd better go," said Harry uneasily, as Tammy carried the pizza toward the table and Dick and Dana went to get some plates.
"No," said Dudley impulsively. "Stay. Have dinner with us."
Harry looked uncomfortable. "This is a family occasion, I don't want to intrude—"
"Uncle Harry, you are family. Aren't you?" asked Jeff curiously.
Dudley laughed. "Couldn't have said it better myself. Join us, I insist."
"All right. Thanks very much," Harry agreed, after glancing at his watch. Petunia saw it had strange shapes instead of numbers. She winced.
Even after all these years—even after she'd made peace with her sister's memory, depended upon two wizards for everything from food to survival for a year, and watched her own granddaughter brandish a letter written on that strange, thick parchment paper—she still couldn't be at ease with magic. At first, she'd thought it made things easier. Then she'd thought it made them worse. Now, at last, she told herself, I know it just makes things complicated. Magic was like an extra ingredient—like a spice. You wouldn't put pepper in cake, but it added a good deal of flavor to soup.
Petunia was especially pleased that Dick and Dana seemed to be reconciled. Perhaps, in this small way, she could atone for the way she'd treated Lily. The separation might be inevitable, but at least they wouldn't lie to each other and themselves, and say they were glad of it.
'Parting is such sweet sorrow,' Petunia quoted to herself, and smiled before she could help it. Harry, who happened to be seated across from her, stared in astonishment. Feeling decidedly unlike her usual pristine self, Petunia winked.