It had been eight years since Voldemort's defeat and Harry Potter had to face one more demon: his Aunt and Uncle. He was standing outside the door of a house he had never wanted to see again. After the war, the Dursleys were allowed to move back in but Harry hadn't come to visit. What purpose did he have with the people who made his life hell for seventeen years? He was married now, with a family. But he had to know and he had to come back.
Walking up the drive, Harry noticed a small blue car with little boxing gloves hanging on the rear view mirror. 'Dudley must be in to visit Mummy,' Harry thought derisively. He almost didn't have time to finish the thought before something burst his hearing.
"Harry!" Dudley unmistakable but older voice shouted...happily. Harry was confused. Suddenly, he was gripped in a giant hug.
"Oh, Harry, old man! So good to see you!" Harry took his first real look at Dudley now. Gone was the pudgy Mama's boy of yesteryear. Dudley was a grown man. He had slimmed out considerably, his muscles less bulky, more streamlined. He was a handsome man with a seemingly handsome disposition.
"Um, Dudley, not to be rude but..."
"You think I'm sick, don't you?" Harry shook his head. "Well, you could say I am well now. Harry, I was a mean boy; I'll admit to that. I did a lot of things that I'm not proud of; how I treated you is one of them." Harry was having a hard time comprehending what Dudley was saying.
"I'm confusing you, aren't I?" Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, well, after seventeen years of hate and eight years of silence-"Dudley shrugged his own shoulders. "Come on in, I'll explain it to you."
Harry dumbly followed Dudley into the house, trying to clear his head. Just what in the name of Merlin was wrong with the boy? Sitting down at the kitchen table, Harry took in the familiar scent of over cleaning; of dish soap and a lack of germs. Dudley set a glass of water in front of him and sat across from him.
"After you left, you know, to fight in your war, I took a look at myself. As dumb as it will sound, I didn't like what I'd seen. To be honest, Harry, I don't think I liked what anyone seen." Harry still had nothing to say. Dudley just kept on. "I saw a hate-filled brat who overate, partially to make sure his mother baby-ed him and partially so his cousin would have to wear ugly old shirts." He chuckled. Harry sputtered a little.
"Did you really?" Dudley laughed.
"Told you I was a brat."
"That I was a porker?"
"Yeah, just a little bit."
"Well, I guess that's true a little bit." He took a sip of his water and Harry laughed a little. "So, while you were fighting a war, I was fighting myself. I decided that it was time to be a better person, the kind of person you would save if taken hostage. And I started with body. I started eating better. I also decided that if you ever came back, that I...I-"
"You'd what?" Harry was more curious than hostile.
"That'd I'd ask you to be my brother." Harry choked on his water a little.
"I know that I made you miserable. I know I did you wrong, that I never treated you like a brother but...we were raised together. Brothers always fight but...I think that brothers can make up too. If you don't want to accept, I understand."
"No, Dudley...I think-" Harry wasn't sure. He made the Weasleys his brothers. Could he forgive Dudley?
"I think we can. We may never be the closest of brothers but if you can change, then I can forgive." Dudley cracked a big smile and held out his hand.
"Brothers." And Harry shook his hand firmly. Dudley laughed and Harry, for the first time in his life, laughed with him.
"I never imagined..."
"Neither did I." Dudley agreed.
"Hey, Dud, where's Vernon and Aunt Petunia?"
"Harry, Dad's dead."
"Well, after you left, I think guilt started to eat at him. Mum would cry at night, I was a nervous wreck watching the news to see if you were mentioned or anything about your war...I think he felt bad that you were fighting for people you loved and we hated you. He had a heart attack one night. He wanted us to apologize, really he did. He did it to himself." Harry couldn't believe Vernon, Vernon, had worried himself sick; sick to death.
"I'm sorry, Duds."
"It's been a few years. Mum had a hard time, thinking she would die before you came back."
"Where is Aunt Petunia?"
"She should be coming home soon." As if on cue, the door opened and a lovely, feminine voice floated through the house. "Dudley, we're home."
"That would be Amanda. Did I forget to tell you I got married?"
"I can't wait to meet her. Some time, I'll have to bring my wife, Ginny, here to meet you. You remember those ginger boys who made your tongue swell?" Harry couldn't help but snicker. Dudley's face seemed to screw up with the memory.
"Mum tried to rip it out of my mouth..."
"Their sister." Dudley looked a little frightened. "Don't worry. Motherhood's tamed her down a bit."
"You've got a kid?"
"James." All this time, noises of jingling keys and coats being hung sounded through the kitchen. Dudley and Harry sat laughing at the table, Harry handing over a moving picture of the little family at Christmas, Dudley pointing out things like James' everywhere hair. A startled gasp upset the quiet little reconnection and a breathy voice seemed louder than the most violent of screams.
"Hi, Aunt Petunia."