The Spectrum Ghostly
Age: 4 years, 10 months, 2 weeks
Born: August 29th, 2014
Adopted: 2 years, 1 month, 1 day ago
Adopted: June 16th, 2017
- Level: 4
- Strength: 11
- Defense: 10
- Speed: 10
- Health: 10
- HP: 10/10
- Intelligence: 5
- Books Read: 5
- Food Eaten: 1
- Job: Stock Worker
Dudley’s mother believed that there are few things more telling of a person than the photos that they keep. Everything—size, paper, frame, location, subject—all of that is a calculated gesture meant to make a statement in the most subtle but all-encompassing way. So the Dursley home is filled with them: scenic holiday vistas on the walls, individual portraits on the side tables, family and wedding portraits and compilations of Dudley’s most significant milestones atop the mantle in full display. Tasteful frames of strong dark wood, soft backdrops, and neatly organized albums are Petunia’s weapons of choice in presenting a comfortable and ordinary home.
Naturally, Dudley is one of her favorite subjects, with his round cheeks and angelic dimples. And for as many pictures of Dudley there are in the Dursley home, there are equally few of Harry. Almost all of them are squirreled away in the back of a skinny little nondescript book, crammed in the back of the album shelf. At the very least, Harry’s got school pictures, reluctantly allowed because to not do so would invite talk amongst the PTA mothers, and Petunia would not have that, oh no. So she had always made a half-hearted effort to dress Harry in Dudley’s nicer hand-me-downs on those days, lest a teacher send a note asking if she’d like to retake the photo—good heavens!—and perhaps spent some more time attempting to wrangle that boy’s untamable head of hair into submission. If she had lingered on trying to frame his bangs around his green, green eyes whilst hiding that nasty scar of his, no one ever commented, but Vernon was obtuse by nature and back then Dudley had been too young to notice.
There is only one photo of the two boys together. Dudley unearths it entirely by accident when, in the effort of finding a picture of Harry to include in a family tree project for Mrs. Havisham of the third grade, he gave a frustrated and particularly violent shake of one of the many Dudley albums. It flutters out, and Dudley accidentally crinkles one of the corners in his efforts to paw at it. The boys in the picture are young and seated in high chairs, decked out in brightly colored bibs while Petunia, off camera, tries to feed them. Dudley—sweet, photogenic boy that he always is—is smiling and reaching out with a chubby baby hand for the spoon. Next to him, Harry—always smaller, always slighter—has his face scrunched up and his eyes bright with tears. There’s a sizable lump of porridge on his buttercup yellow bib. The scar on his forehead is red and angry.
Even in Dudley’s earliest memories of Harry, that freaky scar had been nothing more than a thin line of dark tissue, the kind that only managed to advertise how weird Harry was if you got too close to him. Dudley can’t remember this screaming red thing. He doesn’t even remember having anything remotely close on himself, and he picked up bruises and scrapes from romping around like he did sweets at teatime. His mother would have never allowed such a thing on him; she’d have swooped in immediately with kisses and antiseptics and bandages in her quest to fight off the pain.
Looking at the photo, with this angry red scar screaming on a little pale baby, Dudley wonders why Harry’s mum didn’t battle the mark off of him.
He does not use that photo for his school project.---
Dudley’s father is a heavyset man who clunks rather than walks, and stomps rather than steps. He believes in announcing and projecting his presence onto the scene with all the grace of a bull in a china shop, and this is all good and well until he’s stomping around upstairs and Dudley’s mother is worrying about the floorboards. Vernon laughs—what a joke! That they can’t build sturdy houses that can take a few good strolls around in these days in good ol’ England—and doesn’t stop stomping.
Dudley is smaller than his father, so he’s not as good at announcing his presence as Vernon is. He tries, though, because it makes his father hold his rotund stomach and squint his eyes and laugh until he’s red and it’s a funny sight. Harry, in those moments where he’s feeling vocally brave, tells him that he probably should find it more concerning than funny. But what does weird, friendless Harry know? Nothing, that’s what.
Vernon’s presence is especially loud on the stairs as he stumps his way up and down them. Mum always says that stairs are dangerous, so Dudley tries to hustle up and down them as fast as he can. But, well—he’s got to practice this presence thing somehow. So he chooses the segment of the stairs just above Harry’s cupboard, and he jumps up and down as hard as he can. One day he’ll be big enough that he won’t need to hold the banister and jump with both feet—he’ll just need to lift up one food and then the other—but for now, this will have to do.
That Harry emerges from the cupboard wiping dust from his glasses and with a spider in his hair is just a bonus, really, and so it becomes a morning habit before Dudley can quite wrap his head around it. Petunia sighs, greets them with a half-hearted plea to keep the timbers of of her poor house in mind and a sharpish reminder to Harry to get rid of the spider, and kisses Dudley’s cheek while Vernon does that laugh of his.
“He’s learning from the best!” he booms, while Petunia shows Harry how to ease the eggs out of the pan. “That’s what ol’ dads do! They give their sons the best!”---
Dudley is all Vernon’s son, except for his eyes, which are as watery a blue as his mother’s. His mother says he has beautiful eyes, that everything about her Diddlykins is beautiful, but sometimes when Dudley and Harry manage to exist quietly side by side he’ll catch her looking at them with her mouth pressed in a thin line and a tighter grip on her handkerchief than usual. Dudley’s mother hates Harry’s eyes as much as she loves Dudley’s, and Dudley supposes that they are so bright that they’re kind of creepy but they’re actually kind of pretty? With all that green?
“They look like your aunt,” his mother says tersely, that one time he was brave enough to ask, and his dad scoffs like he always does at the mention of Dudley’s aunt not-Marge. It takes Dudley two days to realize that he and Harry share this trait, having eyes like their mums, and he has mixed feelings about this. He hates sharing anything with Harry, but he’s also not blind—green isn’t a very fetching color on him, not like blue is.
They pass the summer that they’re both ten in some sort of weird truce, while Dudley mulls over blue and green. Dudley finally decides that he’s done thinking about it a week or so before his birthday. And it’s the worst birthday: his glory knickerbocker isn’t big enough, the animals don’t even do anything, and he gets stuck in the python exhibit.
It goes downhill from there, and Dudley thinks that he hates green; he hates it, he hates it, he hates it. Hates the green of the churning sea; the green of the frosting on the rock hard birthday cake he nips at; hates the green of Harry’s eyes because they’re the eyes of his freak aunt.
It’s easy to forget how much he hates green at Smeltings, because there’s nothing but grey at Smeltings. It comes back full force in the summers though, when Harry comes back from his school of freaks. It’s easy to ramp up his torment of the other boy, then, because Dudley grows wider as Harry gets lankier, and when Harry gets angry his eyes are less green and more storm, and that’s better, because Dudley hates green, because green is the color of freaks that scare him and Harry is—
In the middle of a mean right hook Dudley stumbles—entirely by accident—onto the truth that it’s the freaks and their sticks (and even the freaks with no sticks) that are scary but not Harry. Harry has never been the scary one. Mum and Dad might have always been afraid of Harry but Dudley wasn’t. Harry had always just been the boy with no mum to fight off his scars and no dad to teach him how to project a presence. He over-rotates and spins himself into the fence, and Harry snarks at him but still lingers around, weirdly, as if he’s trying to talk some sense into himself and leave while Dudley’s still wrapping his head around this new truth.
Dudley hates green, and he hates the toffee that made his tongue grow to unreal size, and he’s scared of the freaks with the sticks but—
“I don’t think you’re a waste of space,” he tries out, eventually, maybe, and even though the words crawl up his throat like a very fuzzy caterpillar they are surprisingly easy to say.