Author: Vane (vane_nt)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Written for: liliaeth
Prompt: Harry and Dudley meet up again, Dudley's grown up and it takes Harry a moment to realize just how much.
Archive: No, please.
Genre: Gen, family, some humour, some het.
Main Character(s): Harry Potter and Dudley Dursley, with mentions of Cho Chang and Luna Lovegood.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling and her legal licensees.
Word Count: 2308
Summary: Harry meets Dudley after four years of no contact with the Dursleys. His cousin tries to talk to him, but Harry isn't exactly a willing listener.
IS DUDLEY DURSLEY AN INSECT?
Harry didn't have any reasons to complain about life. He was mostly happy.
Voldemort had been gone for four years, which meant that Harry didn't have to lose any sleep over his dearest ones' safety anymore. His career as an Auror was fulfilling and rewarding. His love life was doing very well too; some months after his amicable break up with Ginny, Harry eventually found love again in his friend Luna.
Harry had yet one more reason to be happy: with the end of the Second Wizarding War, he had the chance to cut ties with the Dursleys for good. He never had to return to their house and subject himself to their orders and humiliations. He didn't need to keep in touch with them, or even think about them. The only time during those four Dursley-free years when he actually thought about someone from his former household had been the day he heard the shocking news about Dudley's girlfriend. Harry had felt sorry for Cho Chang for some minutes, thinking of how unwise she had been to welcome a Dursley into her life. But soon he had forgotten about that topic. After all, he was too busy enjoying his Dursleyless days.
It was on a sunny Saturday morning when Harry found out his Dursley-free phase had come to a halt.
At first, Harry didn't want to believe his eyes. Surely, that was not his cousin showing up in the entrance hall, talking to the receptionist, walking towards the bench where Harry was and finally sitting by his side.
It had to be an illusion.
Harry had been to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes before coming to that training centre. Maybe George had cast a spell on his spectacles to pull a prank on him.
"Hi Harry," a visibly awkward Dudley greeted him.
Harry had to discard the prank theory. It all looked and sounded real. Too real, despite the fact that meeting Dudley there of all places was a most unlikely event. They were in the lobby of a wizarding training centre after all. A place for witches and wizards only. For "freaks," as the Dursleys would say.
While Harry muttered a response, he thought of Dursley's girlfriend. She might be attending the same course as Luna. Cho worked in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office, which explained how she had had the chance to meet Dudley--but didn't explain what she had seen in him. Anyway, if there were one person who might want to attend a course entitled Muggles: News Discoveries, Old Approaching Techniques, that would be her.
"So, what are you doing here?" Dudley asked, still sounding rather awkward.
The long answer was that Harry was waiting for Luna's class to be over, so he would take her to lunch, and that he had actually objected to Luna's idea to attend that course in the first place. She could learn all about Muggles from him, as Harry had argued. But she had claimed that if she wanted to keep an open mind and improve as a journalist, she couldn't limit herself to viewing the world only through Harry's eyes. Harry had felt a bit put down by her claims, but he couldn't do anything about it. All he could do was to agree that for the duration of the eight-weekend course, he'd pick her up at the training centre and go out with her after classes.
Naturally, those issues were none of Dudley's business. Thus, Harry gave him a short answer:
"I'm waiting for my girlfriend."
"So am I!" Dudley said, now sounding a bit more excited. "Which course is she taking?"
His reaction to Harry's answer was marked by some more excitement:
"Cho is taking that course too. Cool!"
Harry considered asking whether Dudley realised that Cho's participation in such a course indicated that she probably didn't trust him to be a reliable source of information on Muggles. But a less provocative question occurred to him, and that was what he ended up asking instead:
"How have you got here?"
"What?" Dudly frowned.
"You aren't supposed to be able to find the building's entrance," Harry pointed out.
"Oh... yes. Of course." Dudley put his hand inside his jacket, pulled a small pendant out and smiled while he showed the object to Harry. "Cho's given me this."
Harry quickly realised that the silver drop-shaped pendant was in fact a Free Muggle Pass, a kind of magical object that some wizards and witches gave to Muggle relatives to allow them into places to which they normally wouldn't have access.
He pursed his lips. Dudley wasn't a relative of Cho's; he was just her boyfriend. They might have been together for around a year, but they weren't even engaged. Harry could report Cho for irresponsible, futile use of a magical artefact. That might be too drastic an attitude, but Harry knew Dudley all too well; his cousin was not the kind of Muggle he would ever give a Free Pass too. On the other hand, Harry didn't want to cause Cho any serious problems. Maybe he should just have an informal talk with her at the Ministry. He could try to open her eyes with carefully chosen words. Words which he would have to think about later on, because now Dudley was clearly trying to engage him into a conversation. How annoying!
Dudley and Harry had never had anything in common; they had never been friends. Why now Dudley had to act as if the two of them had any reasons to want to chat with each other?
Harry looked at the clock hanging from the wall behind the receptionist's desk. A quarter to twelve. Why had he arrived so early? Then again, how could he have guessed that he would meet Dudley there? If only he could find another familiar face, a person who could give him an excuse to stand up and leave Dudley behind... But there was no one else on the room besides them and the receptionist, whom Harry didn't know anyway. He could pester him with questions about the courses offered at that training centre, but that wizard looked too absorbed into reading the Daily Prophet to give Harry any attention. It seemed that Harry would have no choice but to actually spend the next fifteen minutes chatting with someone he wasn't terribly interested in.
However, there was a way out.
One of the most useful things Harry had learnt from his work at the Ministry for Magic was the ability to pretend he was paying attention to the boring, useless meetings he had to attend. It was a shame that he hadn't learnt this earlier in life: whenever he was uninterested in listening to whatever people wanted to tell him, he imagined that there was an insect buzzing in his ears. From time to time he would smile, nod or make a brief comment to convey the impression that he was paying attention. But for the most part the actual words would be replaced on his mind by that imaginary buzz. This freed him from boring conversations, while he ensured that he wouldn't hurt anyone's sensibilities.
Harry played this trick on everyone from colleagues to friends, and even on Luna sometimes. Now it was Dudley's turn. All Harry needed to do was to let his mind convert most of the words uttered by his cousin into "bzzz."
And he let the English/buzzing translation begin:
"Bzzz, bzzz bzzz bz when mum asked about bzzz bzzz bzzzzz bzz."
Harry shuddered at the mention of his aunt Petunia.
"Bzzz bzzzzz bzzz bzzzzz working with my dad bz bzzzz bzz bzzzz all those drills bzzz bzz!"
Harry shuddered again.
"Bzz Mrs Figg bzzzz bzzz bz may be a Squib, but I think bzzz bzzz bzzzzzzz bzz bzzz."
Does he know Mrs Figg is a Squib? Or was he talking about someone else? Harry wondered, slightly curious.
"Bzzzz bzz? Bzzzz bzzz bz bzzzzzz still like boxing, but football is bzzzz bzzzzzz bzzz bzzzz. Bzzz, if you think about it, bzzzz bzzzz. Bzzzzz football sometimes comes with boxing included when the players punch each other, which's cool and bzzzz bzzz bzz bzzzz!"
Harry rolled his eyes. The fact that Dudley enjoyed watching fights between football players only proved that his cousin hadn't changed much.
"Bzzzz bzzz bzzz Cho gave me that book, bzzz bz bzz bzzzz. Have you read it?"
Caught by surprise, Harry had to lie:
"Uh, no, not yet."
"Bzzz bz bzzzz! Bzzz bz Quidditch Through the Ages is a bzzz bzz bzzzzz. I've read it three times!"
Now Harry was even more surprised.
Did he just say he actually read a book? Three times? Well, maybe he's a bit changed after all.
"Bzzz bz bzzz Cho didn't want to see the Tornados get beat by the Catapults again, of course, so bzzz bzzzz. Bzzz bzzzz bzzz I told her to cast a curse on the Catapults' uniforms."
Harry stared at Dudley, who had now managed to gain his full attention. His cousin forced a smile:
"I just thought that if the Catapults suffered a small accident--nothing too serious, just something to break their legs--Cho wouldn't have to worry about the match's result," he said in a deffensive tone. "But she didn't listen to me," he added, sounding rather disappointed.
And I believed for a second that he might have changed a bit! Harry thought with disgust.
He decided that Dudley definitely didn't deserve his attention, and resumed his English/buzzing translation process.
"Bzzz bzzz bzzz bzzzzz bzzz I'll have to buy a robe, bzzzzz bzzzz bzz. Bzzzzz bz maybe with a tailoring spell it would bzzz bzzz bzzz."
Harry didn't care.
"Bzzzz bzzz bzzzzzz bz Knight Bus last week bzzz bzzz, bzzzzzzzzz bzz? Bzzzz bzzzz bz bzzz."
Harry still didn't care.
"Bzzz bzzz bz those plants are very dangerous, aren't they? Bzzz bzzzz bzzz Devil's Snare for a potion that bzzzz bz bzzz."
Harry couldn't care less. Honestly.
"Bzzzz bzzz bzzz lost his wand bzzz bzzzz bz. Bzzzz bz? Bzz, bzzz at St Mungo's bzzzzz bzzzz bzzz bzzzzz."
Maybe Harry did care a little. Just a little.
"Bzzzzz bzzz bzzzzz, because mum and dad still don't know what Cho is, and we aren't telling bz bzzz. Bzzzzzzzz bzzzz bzzz. Bzzzzz bzzz, bzzz you just shout Obliviate! and your problems are gone. Bzzzz bzz bzzz!"
Yes, Harry had to care. He was only human, and human beings were curious after all. How could he ignore the fact that Dudley of all Muggles now talked comfortably about magic, as if he had always been interested in the subject?
Harry had to suspend his English/buzzing translation again, because he was dying to understand how Dudley had become so familiar with wizarding topics in just a year. It had taken Harry himself years to lean all he did, and he was still learning new things all the time. Obviously, Dudley had a teacher in Cho. But it was still weird to see a Dursley talk about magic as if it was a perfectly good and natural part of life. That was an un-Dursley behaviour, which made Dudley look rather suspicious in Harry's eyes. There might be something wrong behind all his magic babbling, and Harry wanted to find out what it could be. He would go back to pretending that his cousin was a little buzzing creature later, but he wanted to satisfy his curiosity first.
"Dudley, can I ask you a question?"
"How have you learnt so much about us?"
"About us who?"
"About us wizards, our spells, plants, potions, everything. You seem to know a lot about us now," Harry said with some impatience.
"Cho's taught me everything I know. Isn't it obvious?" Dudley said, rolling his eyes.
"I know, but still, it's interesting," Harry said cautiously. "It's very interesting that you've learnt so much in only a year." Surely you and Cho don't spend all your time just chatting about magic, Harry thought, suppressing a grin.
A proud smile rose to Dudley's lips as he said:
"Cho too says I've learnt a lot. But that's because I always pay attention to everything she says to me. That's the best way to learn things fast, isn't it?"
Something in Dudley's words made Harry shift uncomfortably in his seat. He pays attention to everything she says to him. He pays attention. But he used to be so self-absorbed...
Luckily for Harry, the awkward moment didn't last for long, as the lobby was flooded by witches and wizard who had just finished their classes for the day.
Harry greeted Cho quickly, introduced Luna to Dudley just as briefly, said a casual "see you" and headed to the street, holding hands with his girlfriend.
"You couldn't wait to get rid of your cousin," Luna commented.
"I don't think he noticed it. He was quite busy drooling over Cho."
After an instant of hesitation, Harry asked:
"So, how was the first class?"
"Oh, you're interested! And they say miracles don't exist!" Luna exclaimed, lifting her eyebrows.
Harry felt like a child caught by an adult right when he was doing something very wrong.
"I... of course I'm interested. I'm interested in all about you."
"We both know that you're lying, but I like it that you try so hard not to hurt my feelings," Luna said with a wide smile.
"Come on, love, won't you tell me how the course was like?" Harry asked, trying to change subjects before he succumbed to the need to hide in a hole.
Luna nodded. And Harry promised to himself that this time he would pay attention to all she was going to say.