Disclaimer: This story is mine, but it's characters and concepts belong to JK Rowling, and I am neither getting paid for this story or receiving any compensation from it (other than the personal satisfaction I receive from reviews ;) ).
Since there seems to be some confusion from reviewers, this story is based on a concept from paganaidd's story "Dudley's Memories" and as such is Dudley's reflection on his past in the form of a memoir published in the muggle world. Everything still happened according to canon, details were just changed to protect the Statute of Secrecy and to keep people from believing him to be a crazy person. I hope this clears things up for some of my readers. Now, enjoy your extra long chapter!
Turning and Turning
My second year at school was much like my first. I was now respected by those who had already been made aware of my combination of trigger temper and sadistic sense of humor and I quickly showed the new firsties why they should stay out of my way. I continued to charm my teachers with obsequious compliments and my "innocent" face, which I had perfected into an art form. I was a skilled liar, able to look any adult in the face and spin a story without the slightest niggle of guilt. I'd been lying for years about the boy, after all, and by this point it came as naturally to me as truth, if not a bit more so.
Towards the end of term, I got a call from my mother, informing me that she had bad news. It seemed the boy had fallen down an oubliette while searching for a young girl that went missing and been bitten by an adder. He had been found before too much time had passed however, and both he and the girl, who had also fallen, had been rescued. Unfortunately, my mother said, he would make a full recovery. The school, she had sniffed, had wanted to inform her of his heroic rescue of the girl, as his shouts had been what had let them find the unconscious child, and to let her know that she needn't be concerned about his health. She was very disappointed that we had come so close to being shut of him, only to have him walk away unscathed once more.
I was a bit chilled by her attitude. I could tell that she meant it. That she wouldn't be fussed at all if the boy were dead. I had often wished for the boy to be gone, to have never been sent to live with us, or for him to run away or be taken away by some long lost relative, but I had never thought of him dead. And if I were honest with myself, I had never really wanted him gone. Not really. If he weren't there, who would I have to chase about the house? Who would serve as my own personal punching bag whenever I was frustrated? Who would I ridicule with my friends? Who would I blame when something happened that I knew would make my mother fuss? Who would my father spend all of his time complaining about at the dinner table? While of course I didn't like the boy and of course I wanted him gone, he was a constant in my life. I wasn't sure what my life would be like if he were actually gone and we didn't have to spend so much time and energy wishing he were elsewhere.
By the time he returned from the school, he was looking well again and my mother decided to re-implement the policy of ignoring the boy until he went away. He was given back his usual chores of course, but no longer locked in his room, as bringing him meals was really too time consuming. I myself mostly tried to avoid him. I had taken up semi-permanent residence in the kitchen, as my mother had recently bought a television for the room, and allowed her to feed me continuously all summer. She felt that I was being sorely neglected at school, and that I needed some home cooking to put me to rights. The boy spent most days alone in his room, reading I presumed, or some other such rubbish.
The tenuous peace was broken by the arrival of my father's sister Marge in July. My Aunt Marge was a large, forceful woman very like my father. They had the same large build, the same hair (moustache included), and the same low opinion of the rest of society. Together, they could spend many happy hours roundly abusing everything from the state of the economy to the way that young people dressed nowadays. Her favorite topic, other than her yappy bulldogs, was the boy. Unlike my parents, who wished to see him as little as possible, it gave her great delight to have the boy sit beside her so that she could point out all of his faults in a loud voice. There were many to choose from and she could do so all day, if she chose.
One day, while he was stuck listening to an enumeration of his character flaws and I was avoiding another wet, whiskery kiss, I was struck by boredom and wandered into his bedroom. It was once my toy room, after all, and my parents had never bought much of anything for him. In my mind, most of the things in the room still belonged to me, and that made it still more my room than his. I spent some time digging through his school trunk, which was still completely packed up, as if he anticipated leaving at any time. I found mostly uniforms and school books that I was certain would send me into a coma from boredom before I even finished the first page. There were writing utensils, notebooks full of scribbles, empty candy wrappers, and awards for his cricket performance and school accomplishments. Most of it I discarded immediately as being unworthy of my time, but an oddly shaped book caught my curiosity.
It was bound in soft brown leather, obviously expensive, and tucked away in the bottom of his belongings like something secret or precious. My first thought was that it was a journal of some sort, and I would find some dark intrigue to hold over his head. Seeing that first page was a shock. My grandparents had died before I was born, but my mother had some photos of them in an album. This was obviously a family portrait and I stared at the two little girls pictured with them. One was my mother, her blonde hair and long face unmistakable even on the body of a nine-year old. Strange as it was to see my mum younger than myself, it was the pretty little girl beside her that most caught my eye. Though I had never seen any pictures of her before, she was obviously my mysterious aunt. Though they were sisters, she could not have been more different from my mother. Her hair was a brilliant red and her eyes were green, the same green as the boy's. It was her smile though, beaming from that heart shaped face, which really set the sisters apart. It was wide and happy, showing off the gap where two of her teeth were missing. She had her arms wrapped around my mother's waist and looked very very…alive. For the first time, seeing her sitting there with my mother and my grandparents, she became real. It struck me that she really was a part of my family, the same way that my Aunt Marge was. She was my aunt and she was dead. It made me feel a strange twinge of sadness, even though I had never known her, even though she was the boy's mother and the reason that we were stuck with him. My father had only the one sister and his parents were also dead, so I had never grown up with family about, never had anyone other than my parents. Seeing that photo of people I should have known sent a shiver up my spine.
Shaking it off, I quickly flipped the page and saw what must have been the boy's father, with his parents. I assumed that they were also dead, as otherwise, the boy would have surely lived with them. The boy looked exactly like his father, except for the eyes. They shared the same unruly hair, the same thin wiry frame, the same patrician nose. They even wore a similar style of glasses, ironically, as I knew my mother had picked them up at a rummage sale somewhere. It was obvious from the clothes and accessories of this boy and his parents that he came from wealth and privilege. I recognized the air of someone who had been pampered and doted upon, and the look in his parents' eyes was the same that I saw in mine. It was surreal, almost like seeing the boy like that, surrounded by love and affluence, and I once again flipped the page.
The book was packed full of images, all of the two children growing up. Most of them were after the age of 11, clearly taken at a school, which would make it the school that the boy was at now. There were images of parties and school awards programs, cricket games and lazy afternoons on the grounds. The boy was always surrounded by the same three other boys, all of whom had the mischievous air of good natured trouble makers. The girl too had a number of friends around her at all times, and it was obvious that they were both very popular and well-liked. When they seemed around seventeen or so, they began appearing in pictures together and soon after took on the rosy glow of young love. There were pictures of date nights and dances, pictures of their wedding and of the woman growing more and more heavily pregnant.
The final picture in the book was another family portrait, this one of the boy himself and his parents. I looked at it for a long time. The thing that had struck me through all of the pictures of the two together, and was so clear now, was the look of pure love and adoration of their faces, not just for each other, but for the boy as well. They looked like they were both part of the same whole, somehow, like all they needed in the world was right beside them. It was very strange to me. Although my parents showered me with presents and praises, there was no talk of love in our house. I can't remember my parents ever looking at each other with that dazzling affection in their eyes, or even holding hands or kissing. They were quite formal with one another, as if they were playing the role of breadwinner and homemaker. Though they did so very well, it was stilted and regimented, like everything in their lives. They were more like business partners, working together to make sure that their lives were as orderly and ordinary as possible.
When I had gone into the boy's room, I had been looking to destroy or steal something, to have something to hold over him, but I carefully took the book filled with the images of dead people and tucked it back into the bottom of the trunk. Ruining it would feel like desecrating a cemetery and I knew that the images would already haunt me enough without giving them a reason. I put everything back where I found it and quietly left the room.
I spent the next few days mulling over the images, trying to convince them to leave my brain. Things went on much as they had in the preceding days, and if I seemed absorbed no one noticed. On the last day of Aunt Marge's visit, however, everything came to a head.
My father, before she had arrived, had somehow coerced the boy into pretending for the week that he really did attend St. Brutus's Secure Centre for the Incurably Criminal Boy and she had spent much of the time orating on how she had known from the start that he would go wrong. At dinner that night, however, she took it too far for even the mild mannered boy to ignore.
A bit far in her cups, she started in on him once more, this time placing the blame on the boy's parents as well.
"It all comes down to blood, as I was saying the other day. Bad blood will out. Now, I'm saying nothing against your family, Petunia," she told my mother condescendingly, "but your sister was a bad egg. They turn up in the best families. The she ran off with a wastrel and here's the result right in front of us."
She seemed oblivious to the tension that she was causing around the table. The boy was white, his fists clenched and he didn't appear to be breathing. My mother, also, was looking very strange. Her face was quite red and her teeth were biting her lower lip, as if to keep herself from speaking out. I suddenly half expected her to defend her sister, even though I knew that she hadn't been fond of her. Family should count for something after all. My father was also looking uncomfortable, as if he hoped this would be over soon so the lies he had told would once more be safe.
"This Potter," she boomed, taking another swig of brandy, "You never told me what he did?"
"He didn't work," my father bit out quickly, giving the boy a quick glare to remind him to remain silent. "Unemployed."
"As I expected! A no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger who—"
I was suddenly struck by the memory of one of the photos I had come across. The pair had been a few years older than myself, maybe fifteen or sixteen, and the picture had clearly been snapped in the middle of a row. The girl's face was flushed with anger and she was pointing her finger at the boy, clearly in the middle of giving out to him. The boy was attempting to look penitent, but there was mischief in his eyes, as if he had set her off on purpose. My quick eyes had picked up the designer watch on his wrist, the high end cut of his clothes, and the expensive shoes he was wearing. They hadn't looked like wastrels or scroungers or bad eggs in the photograph. They had looked like privilege and promise. He was perfectly at home in his wealth and class, wearing it like a second skin, and she had been secure enough of her place there to risk alienating someone who could have helped her advance in society. Rather than cozy up to him as I would have done and courted his favor, she had fought with him and seemed almost disdainful of him, just as at home in his world as he was. Hardly no-accounts, they had seemed so far beyond the world that I lived in that they might as well have been wearing pointed hats and flying on broomsticks.
"He was not!"
I was brought out of my musings by the boy's shout. Unable to keep quiet any longer, he was now standing on his feet, face red with rage and trembling in anger. My father quickly tried to ply my aunt with more brandy and send the boy off to his room, but my aunt wouldn't allow it.
"Go on, boy, go on. Proud of your parents are you? They go and get themselves killed in a car crash (drunk, I expect)—"
"They didn't die in a car crash!" The boy spat out. I'd never seen him this angry. Never really seen him angry at all. Before he went off to school, he didn't have much of a back-bone. Not that I can blame him after life in our household. He always went about his duties, doing what he had been told, ignoring the verbal slaps and slander that were a daily part of his life. He could snipe back well enough and get his own over on me, but he never dared say anything untoward to my parents or any other adults, for that matter. This vehemence was new.
Marge was beside herself with fury at being contradicted. She too lurched to her feet, her face going an alarming shade of purple and each of her three chins began to quiver.
"They died in a car crash, you nasty little liar, and left you to be a burden on their decent, hard-working relatives! You are an insolent, ungrateful little—" She suddenly quit speaking, seemingly moved beyond words in her wrath. Collapsing back into her chair, her face went white and she broke out into a sweat. It soon became apparent that something more was wrong as she began clutching her chest.
In all of the confusion that followed—my father shouting and shaking Aunt Marge, who had stopped responding, my mother dialing 999 and hysterically giving details to the dispatcher, me trying to finish my pudding before it went completely cold—no one noticed that the boy was gone. It seemed that he had once more had enough, and after the ambulance had left and my father headed upstairs to teach him a lesson, we discovered that he and all of his belongings were nowhere to be found.
Before my parents had even begun to panic about this turn of events, and the threat of exposure that it raised, the doorbell rang and brought with it a whole new world of trouble. Standing at the door were two detective sergeants from the National Counter-terrorism Security Office. They were searching for the boy. Unbelievably, the detectives told us that the man who had leaked the boy's parents location to the IRA and was also responsible for an additional bombing that killed 13 people, had escaped from prison and they had reason to believe that he would come looking for the boy. He had gone a bit funny being locked up in prison for 12 years, and he had been heard to be muttering about the boy, the only person who had ever escaped one of his traps alive.
My mother immediately scented an opportunity and began wailing about how the boy had left for a walk a few hours before and hadn't yet arrived home. She told them that she was beginning to be worried about him being out so late after dark and had just been about to leave the house looking for him when they arrived. She couldn't quite keep the hope out of her voice when she asked them if they didn't think that he may have been murdered already, but I didn't think that the detectives picked up on it. They left immediately, promising to scour the area and do whatever it took to get the boy returned safely. They had known his parents after all, so they would all work especially hard on this particular case.
My parents were both beside themselves all evening. My father went to hospital to see Aunt Marge, who was resting comfortably and would make a full recovery, but my mother paced. I'd never seen her like that before, not even the previous summer when the boy had run off with his friends. Now the coppers were involved, and she was becoming desperate. She kept muttering to herself about hoping the boy was lying in a ditch somewhere, hoping he wouldn't be in any shape to talk. This was the first time it ever really struck me that something was wrong about the way the boy was treated, something was not normal. Of course, the police just didn't realize that they boy deserved it, but my mother still seemed to believe that something bad would happen if he talked about our family. I wasn't entirely sure what it would be, but I was very uncomfortable with the roiling unease filling the air that night.
Hours later, the detectives rang to let us know that he had been found. The boy had hopped a bus to London and had been spotted by an officer as he got off. The detectives seemed to shrug his running away off as a boys-will-be-boys type of youthful indiscretion and my parents visibly relaxed at their casual attitude. They asked if we would mind, in the interests of everyone's safety, if the boy were to stay with his friends for the remainder of the summer. It seemed that the head of the family he had stayed with the previous summer worked for the Ministry, and the home was much more secure than our own. My parents were delighted—free of the boy for the remainder of the summer, with the blessings of the law enforcement and the Ministry. They seemed to assume that if he were going to talk, he would have done so by now, and determined to make the most of the situation. We went on holiday in Majorca, and put all thought of the boy out of mind until next summer.
AN: Wow! I have been blown away by the support for this story. I've never even had a story reach 20 reviews before, and now I am approaching 200. Muchas gracias to all who have reviewed and added this to your favorites and story alerts. To my anonymous reviewers and those of you who have disallowed private messages, thanks a million.