A/N This is my first fic, so please let me kow what you think of it. I'm trying to stay true to canon, but I want to twist the plot a bit. I realize my chapters are quite long, but if you do get through them please take a second to leave a review. It would really help me keep going. Thanks everyone!
Chapter 1: Different Dudley, New Nightmare
A shrill scream from the kitchen of Four Privet Drive was the first sound to meet Harry Potter's ears on his first day of summer holidays. Harry had intended to sleep in his first morning home from school, if he could call this place his home, but instead the high-pitched screech of his horse-faced aunt Petunia woke him from his slumber.
He opened his eyes drearily and looked around the room to see what could possibly have been the matter, but he found that nothing was in focus and rubbed his eyes to try and see better. Realising the problem, Harry reached across his bed with a pale fumbling hand and grabbed his thin-framed glasses from the bedside table. Placing the glasses on his face, the room instantly cleared of the blind haze that once surrounded it. He immediately started scanning the room to see what he might have done to offend aunt Petunia, but then again the Dursleys never really needed a reason to despise him.
His search was abruptly cut off by another shout, but this time a frighteningly low growling voice.
'GET DOWN HERE BOY!' Uncle Vernon's voice rushed up the stairs to the meet the fifteen-year-old boy who as of yet did not know what he had done wrong.
Harry's eyes darted around the room one last time and landed on Hedwig's open golden cage.
'Oh no!' he muttered to himself as he grabbed a pair of joggers and ran down the stairs to try and save his owl from whatever torment the Dursley's had surely made her suffer. He ran down the stairs jumping three at a time, ignoring the squeaking banister and forgetting to duck at the end of the staircase. WHACK!
Harry fell backwards and landed hard on his shoulder as he threw his arms around, grabbing for something to soften the fall. He looked up from the hard hallway floor to see his uncle's robust form waddling as quickly as it could towards him.
'Get up off the floor you lazy boy, always lounging everywhere!' Vernon said as though his nephew was not within earshot.
'I fell down uncle Vernon,' Harry spat at him, anger evident in his bright green eyes, as he held the growing welt on his forehead.
'What are you holding your head for? Worried what's left in there might spill out?' Vernon laughed an unusually high laugh at his own joke, clearly pleased by the reaction he was getting from his despised nephew.
Harry, used to his uncle's constantly lame jokes about his intelligence, normally would have let it go unnoticed, and not given him the satisfaction of a reaction. Although this morning, he had been rudely awoken by his screaming aunt and bashed his head on the plaster above the stairs; not exactly incentive to think straight.
'No uncle Vernon, I'm trying to cover my eyes so that your ugly face isn't the first thing I have to see in the morning.' Harry regretted this the moment it came out of his mouth.
Vernon's fat purple face became darker by the second and he lunged forward grabbing Harry's ear between his sausage like fingers and pulling him forward.
'Now you listen to me boy. Your ruddy kind might allow that sort of ungrateful talk, but in this house you will respect myself, your aunt Petunia and your cousin Dudley. Do I make myself clear,' Vernon shouted in Harry's face so closely that spittle rained down onto it.
Wanting to escape from his uncle's sweaty clutch and his disgustingly putrid breath, Harry nodded quickly and pulled himself free of his uncle's grasp to wipe his face off. After a final glare in his uncle's direction, Harry strode into the kitchen ignoring the throbbing pain in his forehead and looking around for his pet owl.
He immediately spotted her, as it would have been difficult to miss: she was perched on the butter dish in the center of the dinner table, nibbling bacon off of aunt Petunia's breakfast plate. His aunt looked on in disgust from behind the kitchen counter where she couldn't be touched by the foul creature, while Dudley held his ground at the table, stuffing as much food into his mouth as he could.
'Look at what your filthy creature has done!' Petunia shrieked through abnormally pronounced, gritted teeth. She pointed a long, bony finger at Hedwig and cringed as the owl dipped its head down for another snippet of bacon. Vernon walked into the room and stood behind Petunia, his face fat and blotchy.
'If you don't get that ruddy beast out of our kitchen this instant, I will lock it in its cage forever!' he threatened, opening a drawer and pulling out a padlock for Harry to see.
Harry rushed forward, intending to grab Hedwig and bring her to safety, but stubbed his foot on the back of Dudley's chair and stumbled forward. Dudley, thinking that Harry was about to knick something from his plate, took a swing at him and sent a jug of orange juice spilling across the table and toward the neatly preened owl.
Not wanting to set talons in the sticky substance, Hedwig jumped across the table knocking all the trays of breakfast around the floor and finally spread her wings to set off. Harry lunged forward to try and stop her but he wasn't quick enough, as she set off over Petunia's head and out the opened kitchen window into the cool backyard.
'It tried to attack me!' Petunia shrieked, wide eyed and terrified 'Did you see it Vernon, it nearly pecked out my eyes,' she sobbed into her burly husband's chest, while he tried to comfort her. Vernon looked up at his nephew through thoughtful eyes, and Harry knew that whatever it was he was planning it couldn't be good.
'Boy, go and get your school things from your room and bring them down here this instant!' he said in a low tone as though daring Harry to challenge him. Not wanting to lose control of his accidental magic, Harry turned quickly and walked out of what seemed to him like a lowered kitchen doorway.
He walked up the creaking stairs, not bothering to avoid the ones he knew made noise, and entered the first door on the right hand side of the hallway. His small dark room did not possess much furniture and contained even less personal belongings as he never received gifts from the Dursleys, and only received them from his friends during the school year or on his birthday. Besides, the few treasured items he got from his friends were more or less magical and were not tolerated by the Dursley's, therefore were kept hidden in his trunk.
Harry looked around the room once again quickly, knowing that he wouldn't find any of his 'school stuff' in the open, other than Hedwig's cage that remained on the top of his only bureau. He slumped past his desk and leaned down at the foot of his bed to grab his school trunk, which still laid unpacked from his fifth year at Hogwarts.
This was terrible. How was he supposed to do his summer assignments if his trunk was locked up again for the summer? Professor Snape would show no mercy.
'Hurry up boy!' Vernon shouted up the stairs, the irritation evident in his voice. 'Don't make me come up there.'
Harry quickly opened the top of his trunk and rifled past the books on top to find the most important item inside. He dug deep and reached around until finally he felt his fingers wrap around the slender piece of holly. Pulling his wand out of the trunk, he snapped the top back down and clicked the buckles closed, before rushing over to his bedside. There he got down on his knees and pulled up the fourth floorboard from the wall to reveal a tiny hollow containing a small tin canister. He opened it quickly a placed his wand on top of some old birthday cards he had received from Ron and Hermione.
While he could survive without his textbooks and invisibility cloak, Harry knew that he must notrisk being completely defenseless and without wand. Too many life or death situations presented themselves to Harry for him to be found unprotected. Snapping the floorboard back in place, Harry grabbed one of the handles to his trunk and began dragging it to the top of the staircase, trying his hardest not to bang into any of aunt Petunia's collectibles sitting in cabinets lined along the hallway.
Harry was sweating more than his uncle did regularly, and by the time he reached the bottom of the staircase with the heavy supplies, his T-shirt was clinging to his back. Vernon stood waiting with lock and key outside the cupboard under the stairs. The cupboard in which Harry had spent the first eleven years of his life sleeping and being punished.
The thought of the damp dark space, and the dirty spider infested mattress, made Harry cringe as he brought his trunk over to his uncle. Harry watched as the large man before him carefully opened the trunk's latches and slowly lifted the top to peer inside. Petunia had appeared at the doorway and was watching intently as her husband delved into her nephew's privacy while he was forced to watch in silence. Vernon looked up at Harry with a warning glance and asked him about the trunk.
'You haven't set anything funny in here have you? Nothing out of the ordinary will happen if I poke around will it?' he asked, not taking his eyes off the trunk's contents.
'Of course not,' Harry answered reluctantly, wishing now that he had set some Filibuster Fireworks to go off if opened by anyone but him.
Vernon carefully reached a stubby hand into the trunk and shoved some of the books around, carefully counting the contents. Harry almost said something when his uncle's grubby fingers pulled a shiny silver cloak made of a flowing material from the bottom of the trunk. Luckily, he had no clue what it was and discarded it to the side commenting on it as being Harry's pretty silver dress.
Just as uncle Vernon was about to close the lid again, he spotted something that clearly piqued his interest. Putting on a smug expression, he reached into the trunk and pulled out an old pair of his grey wool socks.
'Now isn't this interesting Petunia,' he said holding the socks up for her to see. She turned her nose up at the old socks, wanting nothing to do with the ragged things. 'I believe we gave these to our dear nephew several years ago as a Christmas present. Isn't it touching to see that he holds them so dear as to have kept them in here all these years,' he finished with a smirk spreading across his face and a hand on his heart, making Harry look away in disgust.
'And he says we never give him anything, or treat him right,' aunt Petunia added, now also smirking in Harry's direction, her horsy teeth daring to jump out of her mouth.
'I only kept that sad excuse of a gift to muffle the sound of a -' he started to say but then stopped realising that he would be punished for saying the name of a magical device in the presence of his aunt and uncle.
'Go on then.' Vernon prodded Harry hard in the ribs, 'What is it you're hiding in here,' he asked as he poked his fingers into the bundled socks and pulled out a small round device. Harry began to warn him against it, but it was too late. A low humming sound escaped from the contraption as it began to spin wildly in Vernon's hand, making him instantly drop it and the socks to the floor.
The whirring noise continued to rise in volume and pitch as the small object whirred across the floor at their feet. Harry had to suppress a laugh at the look on his uncle's face. The feeling to laugh soon evaporated as uncle Vernon's bewildered face became blotchier than before and darkened with rage to a shade of puce that would have made a blackberry jealous.
'YOU SAID THAT THERE WOULD BE NO FUNNY BUSINESS!' he shouted, spit shooting all over the place.
'I'd forgotten all about it uncle Vernon, I swear it,' Harry said, wringing his hands nervously before reaching out quickly to pick up the tiny defense system and stuff it back into its home in the centre of his uncle's old socks.
'What was that confounded contraption?' Vernon asked the boy standing in front of him, having calmed down slightly to a proud purple.
'It's a -'
' -sneakoscope,' Petunia interjected, 'It spins like mad and makes a loud humming noise whenever danger is near.' At this she shifted her eyes around the room quickly and looked all around behind her. 'Are we in danger Harry?' she asked, 'Are there Death Eaters nearby, or could it be Voldemort himself?'
She shuddered suddenly in what looked to Harry like fear, and once again covered her mouth with a pale bony hand as she looked around.
Harry stood open-mouthed, gaping at his aunt. Did he just hear her correctly, or was he imagining it. The words sneakoscope, Death Eaters and Voldemort could not have just come out of her mouth. Where could she have learned about dark Wizard alarms and the cowled minions of the Dark Lord?
Last year she had reacted in the same fearful way at the mention of Voldemort, but he didn't understand why she would be so quick to mention him.
'What did you just say?' Harry quietly asked his aunt, looking from her searching figure to the wide-eyed gaping expression on his uncle's face.
'You heard me boy, now answer me,' Petunia's shrill voice cut through the silence as she fixed her wandering glare onto him. 'Have they come to get you? Is HE here?' she repeated more urgently this time.
'No, of course not,' Harry answered his aunt, and then watched her figure relax slightly as relief flooded her body. 'You know they can't get me here,' he added, 'I'm protected, remember?'
Vernon remained still, only opening and closing his mouth like a fish, no sound escaping as he stared in shock at his wife.
'Oh, close your mouth Vernon. You heard the boy, we're safe, no need to worry,' she stated plainly and walked out of the room as though nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred in the hallway of number Four Privet Drive.
It took Vernon Dursley several minutes to return from his catatonic state, but when he did it was as though nothing had happened. He slammed the lid to the trunk shut and locked the clasps tightly, ensuring that nothing abnormal would get out. He then proceeded to open the cupboard behind him and ram the trunk and all of its contents inside.
He pushed and shoved with all his might, as Harry watched from the doorway with crossed arms. Harry started to smile slightly and laughed inwardly as beads of sweat dripped down his uncle's forehead and his tidy grey hair became a ruffled mess. Several labour intensive minutes later the trunk was stored in it's new summer resting place, and the cupboard door was locked with the click of a key.
Vernon was tired from the immense effort of putting the darned trunk away, and was puzzled by the difficulty he had in doing so. It was almost as though the trunk was pushing back and refusing to go into the dark hiding place. Despite being tired out and slightly worse for wear, Vernon was pleased with himself for having taken away his nephew's few cherished items.
'Now I've told Dudley to keep a close watch on you, to make sure you're not up to any funny business around this cupboard. I've counted all of the items in that blasted trunk and if you even try to get your filthy hands on any of your rubbish, there will be severe consequences,' he said shaking a fat purple finger warningly in Harry's face. 'And where has that ruddy owl of yours got to now?'
'She's probably out in the backyard, perched peacefully in a tree and minding her own business,' Harry answered truthfully, wanting to get this over with so he could go on with spending his summer holidays miserably.
'Right, that's what you'd like us to think. The ugly thing's surely gone off to warn your freaky friends that we've been terrible to you or some other dreadful lie. Petunia and I welcomed you into our home and have given you so much out of the kindness of our hearts, and in return all you offer is disappointment.'
Vernon stepped closer to Harry, fixing his eyes into an accusing glare before continuing. Harry looked around for an excuse to get away, hoping that something would help to free him from the torment of his uncle's lecture and insults.
'After all we've given you, you still send that ruddy creature with letters full of lies to those freaks you call friends and that good for nothing convict of a Godfather.'
'DON'T YOU TALK ABOUT HIM!' Harry screamed, all of a sudden unable to control his emotions, the rage pouring from him towards his uncle. 'DON'T YOU DARE TALK ABOUT MY GODFATHER! HE'S MY ONLY REAL FAMILY, NOT YOU!'
The air in the hallway began the crackle and the lights began to flicker as the potential for magic rushed around the house. Petunia and Dudley walked into the hallway to see what the shouting was about and stopped dead in their tracks at the sight before them. Petunia gasped and covered her mouth with a bony hand as she looked on.
Harry stood in front of Vernon, seemingly taller than before and his already unruly hair rushed in an unfelt wind as the shadows cast from the flickering lights danced and swirled in an increasingly quick circle around the fifteen-year-old boy. Harry's eye's narrowed and the usual sparkling emeralds darkened to a forest as he clenched his teeth and balled his hands into fists at his sides.
'I'VE SAT AROUND FOR YEARS AND DONE NOTHING WHILE YOU INSULTED ME, MY MOTHER, MY FATHER, AND ALL OF MY FRIENDS. WELL NOT ANY MORE. THEY HAVE WARNED YOU AND NOW I AM WARNING YOU, YOU WILL TREAT ME PROPERLY AND YOU WILL NEVER, AND I MEAN NEVER, SPEAK OF SIRIUS AGAIN!'
Two nearby lights on the wall shattered, littering the gathered family with shards of glass and causing them all to jump. Harry Started toward the kitchen and the Dursleys all pressed themselves tightly against the wall so not to touch him as he passed. The instant he left the hallway and walked out the kitchen door into the backyard, the wind disappeared and all the lights, save for the ones that shattered, returned to normal.
'M-mm-master,' a tiny voice stammered from the doorway of a malevolently dark room. 'The others have just returned.'
The squat figure sunk back toward the doorway slightly, clearly afraid as he waited for his master's response.
'And ... did they bring me what I asked for?' a second voice hissed coldly from the shadows, carrying with it the intense cold of a winter's wind.
Shaking and stammering more than usual, the squat shape of Peter Pettigrew lowered his head to his master before delivering his news.
'N-nno m-my Lord, they were not able to p-penetrate the p-protection left by Lily-'
'DON'T YOU SPEAK HER NAME!' Voldemort's chilling voice rang from his shadowy hiding place, and a shadow seemed to slip away from the rest, toward the quivering servant.
Two glowing red eyes traveled closer to the twitchy balding man and made him shake even further.
'You speak, Wormtail as though you still had feelings for that filthy mudblood woman, which leads me to believe that those feelings must extend to her son as well.'
Voldemort's bony figure loomed over Wormtail's cowering body as he lifted a pale bony hand to punish his follower.
'N-no please my Lord,' Wormtail stammered, 'I am only loyal to you. I d-do not know why I used that filth's name, and I assure you that the boy means nothing to me. If it weren't for your n-needing him, I would take p-pleasure in killing him myself,' he finished, looking up at his master with fearful eyes.
Voldemort's cruel high-pitched laughter filled the room as he lifted his wand in Pettigrew's direction, and said with a tinge of pleasure from beneath his cowl, 'All the same, CRUCIO!'
'Noooooo!' Harry woke up in a panic and sat bolt upright, throwing his hands to the searing pain in his forehead. Yelping again, he pulled his hands away quickly, feeling the white-hot sensation burning his unmarred flesh. His scar had never reacted quite like this before; he was not sure what to do. As the pain slowly ebbed away, Harry looked around him to see where he was, and why he was sitting on the cold ground.
The scene surrounding him was one of warmth and cheer. The sun was shining brilliantly from it's perch in the mid-afternoon sky, where it rested untouched by the few clouds that danced though the powder blue sky. Harry scuttled backward a bit so that his back rested upon the trunk of a large oak tree in the Dursley's back yard, and he was bathed in cool shadow offered by the outstretched branches overhead.
Listening to the cheerful chirping of the birds in their haven among the top most branches, Harry let his eyes wander over the landscape before him while he calmed himself. The back of the Dursley's two-story townhouse was in just as pristine a condition as the front of it. The paint was perfect, as were the angles of the shutters. The lawn in the backyard was cut evenly and trimmed along the edges of the numerous well-placed gardens that followed the walking path through the tiny property.
Each of the gardens contained several bloomed specimens used as Petunia's claim to fame. She tried so hard every year to win the blue ribbon at the garden show for their neighbourhood, but never surpassed the second place. Nonetheless she doubled her efforts every year, hoping that she might be made president of her block's garden club, resulting in a more splendorous garden each year.
A five foot white picket fence stood guard around the Dursley residence, giving the illusion of security and privacy, when really it just allowed Harry's aunt the opportunity to work in her garden and speak aloud so to gloat to the neighbours as she pretended they could not see her. Looking to his left he saw the Wilson's dog Sparty poking his head through one of the slots and nipping at some of the brilliantly purple violets nearest to him.
Harry's face hardened as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes to think about what had just happened. This was not good, not good at all. He had let Voldemort into his mind again, without any resistance whatsoever. Who knew what the monster could have claimed as his own while he roamed through the intricate pathways that were Harry's private thoughts and feelings. Why was he so weak!
Twisting his fingers in the grass at his side in frustration, Harry pulled hard and removed a clump of grass before sending it sailing over the fence and sending Sparty trotting over to inspect it. And what had that dream meant. Why was Voldemort so concerned with Wormtail's feelings for his mother? Everyone knew how much he had despised her even when he had still been friends with the other Marauders. And why would Voldemort try and get Harry during the summer while he resided within the walls that offered him the protection of a mother's love? It didn't make sense at all.
Harry tried his best to remember all the sinister details of his invasive dream, so that he could later relay it to Dumbledore or one of the other members of the Order. He suddenly realised that at some point this summer he would be removed from the care of his aunt and uncle and returned to the dark Black Manor that served as Headquarters for the Order of The Phoenix.
Harry sighed and closed his eyes trying not to think of his late Godfather, his image almost constantly tugging at the back of his mind serving as a constant reminder of what he had lost. Harry was still being tormented in his dreams by the death of Sirius Black almost every night, despite his efforts to clear his mind. Harry understood the importance of Dumbledore's warnings about Occlumency. Although he was not able to practice the art during the summer, he could practice clearing his mind in order to prevent Voldemort from entering his mind during the late hours of the night, and learning valuable information about the Order. This was the first time in a month that Voldemort had broken through the barriers set by Harry for his thoughts, but that he thought was far too often.
Pulling a strand of his unruly black hair out of his eyes, Harry opened them, and brought his mind back to the present, where he could contemplate his new dilemma. He had used magic once again outside of Hogwarts and thus broke the decree for the use of magic of underage witches and wizards. He would surely be expelled this time and no matter what help Dumbledore offered it most certainly would not be enough to keep him out of Azkaban. Considering the trial he underwent last year, and the anger he saw in Fudge's eyes, Harry would have bet all the galleons in his Gringott's vault that the Minister would be out for blood.
A thought suddenly struck him. He hadn't used his wand and it had been accidental magic; perhaps the Ministry of Magic had not even caught wind of the incident. No Muggles, other than the Dursley's who already knew about his being a wizard would be the wiser, and as far as he could tell no one was injured and the wizarding world was left uncompromised.
Harry lay back on the soft grass and thought about what happened, while running a hand through his hair and again checking to see if his scar had returned to what he thought of as normal. In the Dursley's hallway he had simply lost control of his magic as he did every summer away from Hogwarts. This time was different somehow and Harry could sense that he had changed for a moment in front of his family. The Dursley's had never looked so afraid before. Their fear is not what bothered Harry so much, but rather what it was they feared; he had seen the look of utter terror in his cousin's eyes as they watched the room become cast in shadow's, and not once did his family members remove their eyes from him.
He wondered what exactly had happened to him to strike such fear into people that he knew had quite a strong resolve.
Pushing his thoughts aside, he propped himself up on his elbows as aunt Petunia came strolling out the kitchen door in a summer dress and pearls, an iced beverage in one hand and pruning shears in the other. It was time for the afternoon show Harry liked to think of as 'I'm better than you are', starring Petunia Dursley.
His thoughts were abruptly cut short as his aunt shouted over one of her perfectly pruned rose bushes at him.
'Get up off your lazy arse and clean up the mess you made. You might think you can get away with whatever you want, but you are sadly mistaken.' Lowering her voice to such a whisper that harry had to lean over the shrub to hear her, she continued, 'You are only safe while you are under my supervision. It is my blood that keeps HIM away, so don't you forget your place,' she finished and turned to her gardens.
'Now go do the dishes. You slept through lunch so I put a plate of food on your bed,' she added from over her shoulder as she pulled several stubborn weeds from their strongholds in a flowerbed.
The weeks went by slowly in Privet Drive, and Harry still had not heard from either of his best friends, so he decided that it was time to send Hedwig on a flight. He walked over to his desk and opened the top drawer to pull out some spare parchment, when he realised that all of his school supplies were still locked up in the cupboard under the stairs. He would have to get them out soon or else the rest of the summer would be quite bleak.
Lying down on his bed, Harry stared up at his ceiling and thought of a possible way to get some parchment from his trunk. Maybe he could bribe his cousin for help. Although aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon acted as though his "tantrum" as they put it, did not occur, Dudley had begun to act strangely. He had become almost rebellious toward his parents and less hostile toward Harry. He rarely insulted Harry and over the past two weeks had even let him watch the television in his room three times. Harry thought it quite strange that his oversized cousin could show such kindness and didn't dare question it, but took full advantage instead.
Perhaps he could approach Dudley while no one was around and ask him not to tell his parents what he had planned, and if that failed he could always offer him a week's worth of his desserts. Dudley, still on his mother's dreadful diet, would surely be unable to turn that down.
There, it was decided. He simply needed to wait for a time when Dudley was all alone, and then he could propose the trade.
Picking up some of his oversized second hand clothes off the ground, Harry quickly tossed Hedwig some owl treats before heading downstairs for supper. Not in a rush, Harry avoided the creaking stairs and was sure to avoid cracking his head at the bottom of the staircase.
He stopped and inspected where he had hit his head those weeks before and was shocked to see how much lower the plaster arch seemed to him than the previous summer. Surely he had grown taller over the year but he didn't think it had been that much.
Thinking about his height and looking over at the newly installed light fixtures in the hallway as he passed them, Harry strode into the kitchen to find the three Dursley's already sitting at the dinner table enjoying their meal. It was no surprise to him that they started eating without him, but what shocked him was that Dudley and his parents were having a bit of a row, something almost unheard of.
'But son, you can't always have everything you want, there are others to think about,' uncle Vernon was saying to his hippo of a son.
'You see mum, it's already begun. You're forgetting all about me, and soon you won't even love me any more,' Dudley said in a hurt voice to his mother, who rolled her eyes and placed her hands on the table next to her untouched dinner plate.
'Of course we're not going to stop loving you Duddikins,' she preened in what she thought was a sweet tone, 'We just can't go spending the lot of our money on every little thing you ask for.'
Harry made his way around his aunt's chair and sat down in his regular seat to serve himself. As he reached out to spoon some mashed potatoes onto his plate he was caught off guard when aunt Petunia's pale hand reached out and grasped his wrist, stopping him. In all the years he had lived with his aunt she had probably only touched him intentionally a handful of times.
'You can have my plate Harry,' she said, 'I'm not feeling all that well and there is no sense in wasting a perfectly nice plate of food,' she ended, sliding her plate of dinner in front of her nephew.
'Not again tonight Petunia,' Vernon asked sounding slightly distressed. 'That's three times this week already, and it's only Thursday.'
Uncle Vernon shook his head then flattened his neatly parted grey hair to his head nervously.
'So,' Dudley started, directing his comment at Harry, who had just taken a bite of steak and peas from his aunt's plate of cold food, 'tell me again Harry, what was it that my aunt Lily did for a living?'
Aunt Petunia stared at Dudley through wide eyes as though he had just uttered a disgusting swear word.
Harry choked on a pea as he began coughing madly to try and clear his airway of the piece of meat he had swallowed unintentionally. With tears in his eyes he looked up to see the astonished looks on his aunt and uncle's faces as they looked on at their son. Harry gulped down some water from his glass, and stared at Dudley for a moment trying to understand what he had meant.
Dudley broke the awkward silence and started to speak to Harry once again.
'Well, my mum and dad never speak of her and Uncle James, so I figured who better to ask than their own son. Was she a magic teacher or a magic cop or a magic secretary-' he continued on as though this was a completely normal conversation for them to be having.
'Dudley! What do you think you are doing,' uncle Vernon shouted suddenly, steak sauce dribbling down his chin and blending in with some of his face's blotchiness.
Aunt Petunia looked paler than usual and as though she was going to faint.
Harry took this opportunity, thinking it would be the perfect chance to get Dudley away from his parents for the trade he had in mind.
'Maybe we could go for a walk down to the park or around Magnolia Crescent" Harry suggested standing up and putting his plate of unfinished dinner on the countertop.
'Oh no you don't!' uncle Vernon shouted, spraying the dinner table with wine and steak sauce.
'I think that would be a marvelous idea,' Dudley said, also standing and walking to the kitchen door behind Harry.
They both walked out the doorway into the dim light of the setting sun, and Harry could see uncle Vernon fanning aunt Petunia from where she lay on the floor, until Dudley's large form blocked them from sight.
The cool evening air was welcomed as it brushed across Harry's face, and Dudley too seemed to enjoy it as he ran a hand through his lengthening brown locks. The sun was just setting for the night and the houses beyond Wisteria Walk were splashed eerily in a crimson light. The faint outline of the moon had already snuck halfway up into the evening sky and faint specks of shimmering light were quickly breaking through the velvety blue above.
Harry and Dudley walked down to the end of Privet Drive in silence, neither one knowing exactly what to say, and neither of them wanting to speak first. It had been extremely awkward for Harry to ask Dudley to go for a walk. It was the first time Harry had elected to do anything voluntarily with his cousin in fifteen and a half years.
Although Harry knew why he wanted to talk to Dudley, he wasn't sure why his cousin had been so willing to talk to him. Did he really want to know about Harry's parents or was he simply using whatever saved up material he had to enrage his parents in an act of rebellion. Harry dug his hands deep into his pockets and took a deep breath before turning to Dudley and starting.
'So, were you really interested in what my mum did, or were you just teasing me, or maybe trying to start a row with your parents?' he said cautiously, hoping that he wouldn't get a fist to the side of his head.
'You're half right Harry, I was tryin' to get a rise out of mum and dad, but I really am interested in what she did. Her and uncle James,' Dudley responded in earnest, kicking an empty soda can onto someone's lawn. 'I'm not goin' all mushy or nothin' but I would never make fun of you for somethin' like that!' he said looking at Harry with a perfectly straight face.
'Well what do you want to know about them Dudley. There's not much I can say that won't involve the magical world,' Harry said cautiously, looking around to make sure there was no one around who could overhear them.
The street was clear and the sun had completely sunk behind the homes ahead. Magnolia Crescent was now bathed in the eerie yellow glow of street lamps and the little light offered from the glittering sky above.
'I know you idiot, I wasn't just born yesterday,' Dudley's voice answered him with indignation; something Harry thought Dudley incapable of expressing.
'All right, well, where to begin. My mum was what the wizarding world calls an Auror. That's someone who catches dark wizards and witches and sends them off to the wizarding prison Azkaban. I guess it's equal to what the Muggle world calls federal agents, and from what I've heard my mum was a darn good one!' Harry said with a rush of pride.
The thought of his mum apprehending dark wizards all over Britain made him feel that he could most definitely be a great Auror as well, no matter what that Hag Umbridge said.
For the next half-hour Harry spoke of all he could think of about his parents from what he had learned from Professor Lupin, Sirius, and Hagrid, while Dudley listened intently, sometimes with wide eyes.
The two boys continued to walk down the deserted streets as Harry told his tale and only stopped briefly to do up their shirts when a cool air swept by. When he was done telling his cousin all that he knew about his parents they had already reached the park at the end of Magnolia Crescent and were sitting on an old vandalised park bench near the side of the road.
Harry looked up at Dudley and saw that he was staring determinedly at the corner of Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk, a dark look behind his chocolate brown eyes.
'What are looking at Dud, is there a cat in the bushes or something?' Harry inquired of the large boy siting next to him.
'Don't you remember it Harry, it was only just last summer,' Dudley said quietly, pointing a sausage like finger at the edge of the road where a white metal fence sat undisturbed near the curb. Leaves rustled in the wind and litter whirled by in front of the lonely fence. The broken street lamp above did not contribute to the leering shadows on the road but remained dark, never having been repaired since that night eleven months before.
Realising what his cousin meant, Harry shuddered at the thought of the foul creatures that had attacked them last summer in plain sight of a Muggle residence, and pulled his shirt around himself tighter to warm up.
'You mean the Dementors don't you?' he asked quietly, not wanting to worsen the feeling Dudley might be remembering; the cold emptiness, and the thought that he would never be cheerful again.
'Yeah,' Dudley said nodding his fat head, 'and you said that your mum had to work with those things every time she brought a prisoner to Abzakan. She must've been brave,' he added, smiling slightly at Harry before shivering.
'Azkaban,' Harry corrected him, 'But my Godfather was even braver. He spent twelve years of his life in a small cell in the prison, under constant guard from the things.' Immediately after saying this to his cousin, he wished he hadn't; he really wasn't in the mood to discuss Sirius, not yet.
'You freaked out last time you talked about him,' Dudley said carefully, not looking into Harry's eyes in case he threw another tantrum. 'If he's so much better than us why don't go live with him?' he asked Harry, trying to sound as unprovoking as possible, and failing.
Harry looked up at the sky and blinked a few times in an attempt to clear the unshed tears from his eyes before answering. The stars twinkled brightly in the heavens like diamonds cast into a dark hole, and Harry noticed something that he never had before. A peculiar grouping of stars seemed to be shining more brightly than the others, as though five wands were stationed above casting Lumos, and Harry smiled as he realised what he was looking up at.
'There, right there Dud, do you see it?' he asked, leaning closer to his cousin and pointing toward the twinkling constellation. 'That is why I don't live with my Godfather. It's called Sirius, the dog constellation.'
Dudley looked on in confusion for a moment, and then understood what Harry meant.
'You mean he's-'
'Yeah,' Harry said quickly, cutting him off before he could say it, 'At the hands of the same people who have taken away everyone else from me, so if you don't mind I'd rather not discuss it,' he said quietly, before wiping away a couple of tears and standing up.
'Now you've heard all about my family, so what's going on with you Dud,' he asked staring at his cousin, who stood up slowly using the bench for support, and started walking toward home. 'What is it your parents have done that has made you punish them and be nice to me?'
Dudley whirled around and pointed a finger in Harry's face, making him stagger backward over the curb and fall onto the grass.
'I don't really want to discuss it, and I never said that we were friends or anything,' he spat. 'Just because I'm talking to you doesn't mean that we'll be best pals and do everything together,' Dudley continued backing away from Harry a bit so that he could stand himself up again. 'I just figure that if we have to live together, the least we can do is be civil to one another.'
'All right,' Harry said through gritted teeth as he brushed the grass off his clothes, and tried to calm himself after his fall. How could Dudley be such an oaf? He just sat there and listened to him tell all about his parents' lives and then turns around and decides that he doesn't want to be Harry's friend. 'I don't expect you to be my friend,' Harry continued as he walked up beside Dudley, hearing him huff as he trudged slowly back to his home, 'I just thought that maybe every now and again we could help each other out.'
Harry decided this would probably be his only chance to ask Dudley for help with his school supplies. After all, tomorrow he might be over whatever it was he was fighting with the Dursley's for, and go back to hating him.
'So Dud, I was thinking-'
'I'm glad you feel that way Harry,' Dudley interrupted him, 'because I was hopin' you might help me out with somethin'.' He looked up at Harry and began to smile the phoniest smile Harry had ever seen, making Harry crack a smile until the both of them were laughing openly in the middle of the dark street.
'Well it depends,' Harry said slowly, 'on what it is you need help with, and if you'll do me a favor in return.'
'I'll do anything you ask, especially if mum and dad won't like it,' Dudley said, turning quickly to face Harry, causing his many chins to wobble. 'Just please Harry, help me to get as skinny as you!'
Harry wasn't sure how to reply. He hadn't expected such a request and he was almost certain that it was an impossible feat.
'How do you want me to help you?' Harry asked his cousin incredulously, looking him up and down and wondering what had brought on this sudden idea.
'Well, I thought that maybe you could come running in the mornings with me, and then you could show me some of the exercises you do to stay so thin.'
'To tell you the truth Dud, I don't really do many exercises. I just have a quick metabolism.' Harry watched as his cousin's face dropped and he started to turn away from him. He was going to lose his chance to get his parchment. 'But I don't see why I couldn't start running and showing you a few things.'
Harry let out a sigh of relief as Dudley's massive form turned back toward him and his face had a huge grin rolling from one chunky cheek to the other. As they walked back down Privet Drive, Harry told Dudley all the details he had worked out to get his parchment, and just as he had expected, his cousin agreed immediately to help him out.
Walking down the silent and ever curving road in the shadows cast by the overhead street lamps, and talking back and forth, any on-looking stranger would not have thought the pair to have expressed years of hatred and loathing, but instead, to have been old friends.