"Daddy?" the door slammed, and a high pitched, slightly tremulous girl's voice called from the front hallway.
"In the sitting room." called Dudley, standing up again to meet the girl halfway.
"I blew another one up!" the girl flew into the room and threw herself at Dudley, "I don't know what happened!" she didn't seem to notice the other adults in the room as she was quite distraught, "It-it just..." her words were lost in a flood of tears.
Dudley caught the child in his arms, "All right, love. All right. Your mobile again?"
They couldn't see much of the girl as she buried her head against his chest. She was tiny compared to Dudley, with dark hair bound up in a pony tail and a blue school uniform.
"Same as last time." said a man's voice, resignedly, from the hallway, "She said she was worried because I was running late. When she tried to call me, the thing started smoking. She dropped it before she burned herself this time." there was some noise of putting things away in the hallway, "Let me just put the dinner in the kitchen"
Dudley patted the girl's hair, looking relieved, "Well, I'm glad you're all right, popkin." he said to her.
Slowly, Harry's stomach was unclenching. Dudley was looking after Eleanor the way he, Harry, would console Lily. Dudley wasn't recoiling from the girl in horror as Harry had been still half afraid he would.
Ginny pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket and handed it over to Dudley, who took it gratefully, "This would be Eleanor, I take it?" she said kindly.
The child started, finally taking in the wizards' presence.
Dudley grinned, "Yes. This is our young lady."
Eleanor turned around slowly, taking the handkerchief from her father, "Hello." she said very quietly, not meeting their eyes. Clearly embarrassed by their witnessing of her tears, she twisted the handkerchief around in her hands and looked at her feet.
Dudley sighed, "That keeps happening. Anytime she's upset and she tries to use the thing. And the laptops...Not so bad with the desktops for some reason."
"What keeps happening, Mr. Dursley?" asked Minerva.
"Please, Professor." Dudley said with a shudder, "Mr. Dursley was my father. In answer to your question, her phone keeps blowing up. Especially, if she tries to make a call when she's upset." with dawning comprehension he looked at the three wizards, "That's why you lot use owls, isn't it?"
"I'm given to understand the the more delicate muggle instruments don't do well with magic." replied Minerva.
"Huh." Dudley shook his head. "Phillip?" he called to the man in the kitchen, "Need any help?"
"No, no. Shall we eat now? I can soon put the plates on the table. There's just six of us?" The man called.
"This is a conversation that should include both parents Mr...ahh..Dudley." Minerva said kindly, "My information says that Eleanor lives with both her parents."
"I do have both my parents here." Eleanor said sharply, looking up, defiantly. She put her hand in Dudley's, "Phillip Barton is my papa and this is my daddy."
Harry stared at Dudley as the penny dropped. He could well imagine Vernon and Petunia's reeaction to this.
Dudley faced them with a set jaw, clearly apprehensive of how his family would be viewed by Harry and his lot.
"Oh, I beg your pardon." said Minerva, smoothly, "I should have realized." She smiled reassuringly at Dudley and Eleanor. Dudley for his part relaxed a little.
"Eleanor, this is Professor McGonagol and your Uncle Harry and your Aunt Ginny." said Dudley. She wiped her hand on her skirt and held it out. Ginney smiled widely at the girl as she shook her hand. Minerva held out her hand with due decorum, although Harry could see the crinkle around her eyes that said she was entertained by the girl's earnestness.
"Hello, Eleanor." said Harry taking the girl's hand in turn.
"So are you the famous Harry Potter?" asked the other man, who had just come in the room. He was shorter than Dudley with black hair. Over his expensive shirt, he'd donned an apron. "I'm Phillip. Dudley's told me alot about you." he held his hand out to Harry with a friendly smile.
"Hello." Harry stood up to shake the man's hand. He was feeling a little bemused.
"This is Harry's wife Ginny and Professor McGonagal." Dudley supplied. He turned to Harry, "This is my partner and Eleanor's papa, Phillip."
"Delighted to meet you, Phillip" said Minerva, "We have a great deal to talk about."
"Well, dinner's on the table." said Phillip brightly, "I'm starving and we can talk and eat, can't we?"
"That was quick." said Ginny surprised.
Harry remembered that Ginny had never had muggle take away, "They bring it home in boxes, from the restaurant." he explained.
"Oh, that's very convenient." Minerva said as they followed Phillip into the kitchen. Phillip heard the exchange and looked at them a little oddly, but didn't ask what they meant.
"I wasn't sure what everyone liked. And SOMEONE neglected to inform me how many we would be for dinner, so I bought a little of everything." Phillip grinned. The table was loaded with several Indian dishes, a large plate of rice and a stack of flat bread. Sure enough, in the rubbish was tin foil and take away boxes.
When Harry was growing up, Petunia and Vernon wouldn't have had a meal like this in the house if they were paid. Rarely, Petunia would make something she called curry, generally with leftovers from the Sunday roast. Harry would get a bigger share of this meal than usual since Vernon always complained that it caused him indigestion. Then Vernon would spent the rest of the evening ranting on about "the bloody Paki's".
The kitchen was clearly Phillip's domain, at the moment. "Sit down, before it gets cold." he said, "This one's the vegetarian." he said pointing out one dish, "This one's very spicy lamb, and this one's mild chicken. Here, tich, hand me the plates" Eleanor handed them down from the cupboard and took her own seat between Phillip and Dudley.
Harry felt very strange to be sitting in this kitchen. When he was a child, he hardly ever sat with the Dursleys when they ate dinner. Vernon used to tell him to go pretend he didn't exist. When he was in primary school, Petunia reckoned they fed him enough at lunchtime during the school year and during the holidays she'd tell him to make a sandwich and get out of her sight.
There was a little silence as everyone served themselves.
"So, Harry, did you come because of the book?" asked Phillip. That was the second time Harry had been asked about a book.
"Uh no...Actually I'm not sure what book you mean." said Harry, "No, Minerva asked us to come because..." Harry wasn't sure how to tell Phillip the news. He glanced at Minerva who smiled encouragingly, "She wanted to offer Eleanor a place at my old school."
Phillip stared at Harry, then looked at Minerva and finally to Dudley. Harry realized with an internal wince that Dudley may have kept up the fiction with his partner that he went to a school for "Incurably Criminal Boys".
"Oh, but that's wonderful!" Phillip smiled enthusiastically, "That's a school for the gifted, isn't it? Dudley! You didn't tell me you put in Eleanor's name for that!" He put his arm around Eleanor, "Good for you, darling." he told his daughter. Eleanor looked startled and a bit confused.
The wizards glanced at each other, relaxing a bit more.
"Ah, yes, about that, Phillip." Dudley began nervously, "Ah, when I said gifted, I wasn't able to tell you what type of gifts. Remember I said Harry was..."Dudley glanced at Harry apologetically, "Different?"
Phillip shrugged, "Well, yes. And Petunia went on about it enough." he turned to Harry, "SHe went a bit funny at the end. Do you have an extra limb or something? I assumed the way Petunia used to carry on that you must at least have three eyes." he turned back to Dudley, "Well, what is the big secret? I've never been able to work it out."
"Hogwarts is a school for wizards." said Minerva, "Your daughter is a witch."
"Sorry?" said Phillip after a second.
"You know how her mobile keeps exploding?" said Dudley with a half smile, "It's her magic doing it."
Eleanor was looking as though she suspected the adults of making fun of her.
"Have you ever had strange things happen to you?" Harry asked Eleanor quickly. He remembered this terrible moment from his own childhood-that sense that what one was hearing just couldn't be true, but oh how one wanted it to be, "Maybe when you're afraid or angry? Or you've seen things you can't explain?"
Slowly, Eleanor nodded. Her eyes were enormous, "My mobile blows up every time I get upset. And...oh...when I was little I could make my dolls move, without touching them. Is that what you mean?"
Harry and Ginny nodded smiling and Minerva handed her the Hogwarts letter.
Phillip leaned over and read the letter over Eleanor's shoulder. Dudley looked at the wizards, "Does that big bloke still work at Hogwarts? The one who brought Harry's letter?"
Minerva smiled, "Yes, he teaches Care of Magical Creatures."
"I'd like to meet him again." said Dudley.
"You're kidding!" said Harry surprised.
Dudley grinned at Harry, "I'd love to meet the one who wrecked the living room too."
"That was my dad!" exclaimed Ginny.
"Is that a good idea?" Harry asked. Did Dudley want to give them a piece of his mind? "I mean, I'm sorry, things were always so..."
"Harry, calm down." Dudley suddenly looked concerned again, "I'm not still annoyed, if you're worried about that. I just...I don't know any wizards except for them. And the few I ever met seemed so fond of you." Dudley's face turned wistful, "I always wanted to know more about your world, but you know how Mum and Dad were. And when I turned out gay, they just assumed you had something to do with it. Mum wanted me to go to 'therapy'" he gave a snort of unpleasant laughter, "to become 'normal' and Dad...well, I'm just glad he'd insisted on those boxing lessons."
"Why?" Harry asked slowly.
"It taught me to take a punch without going down." replied Dudley tightly, "I would have loved to find you that night."
"Oi." said Phillip, "We can talk about family history when there's no so many here." he looked pointedly at Eleanor.
"Quite right," agreed Minerva. Apparently feeling that she had enough credence from Eleanor's parents, she launched into her prepared speech that she gave the parents of muggle-borns that explained in the simplest terms the new world they were entering.
It was two hours later when she stood up and bade them good night. Thanking them for the fine dinner and the celebratory wine Phillip had opened. Ginny had promised to come and take them to Diagon Alley to get Eleanor's school things the next weekend. She also promised to bring Lily with her the next time she came.
Harry had sat very quietly through all this, watching Dudley and considering what he'd said. When they all stood to go, Dudley followed Harry outside.
"Go on Ginny, I'll catch up." Harry told her.
Ginny gave him a kiss, "Take your time, I'll expect you when I see you." she disapparated with a crack.
A/N OK so maybe its four chapters. For the record, Dudley's cell phone tone for Phillip is "All You Need is Love".