I don't own Harry Potter.
Chapter 10 – Meetings
"Okay Harry, spill," Hermione sternly said the next morning, her arms crossed. "Whoever called you last night obviously upset you, so 'fess up; who was it?" Harry sighed; he was hoping that Hermione would forget or somehow overlook the fact that he was supposed to talk to her about the call that he had received from Dudley, but it was a fool's hope.
"It was Dudley," Harry finally said. Hermione's arms dropped to her sides in surprise.
"Dudley? As in your cousin, Dudley?" she asked. "Why? How did he even get your number?"
"Vernon," Harry said simply. "Apparently, Dudley has just been released from prison, and asked me if he could see Carla. I told him that I'd think about it." Hermione sighed as she rubbed her forehead.
"I think you should do it," she finally said. When Harry looked at her in confusion, she explained. "Think about it, Harry. He's been in prison for most of Carla's life, so he probably wants to see how she is. I know that you two have a lot of negative history, but you managed to reconcile with your aunt; maybe he's changed too. Just give him a chance." When she saw that he was still hesitant, she added, "But you should probably ask Carla before you decide anything. This does involve her, you know." Harry ran his fingers through his hair as he considered her words.
"Alright," He finally conceded. "I'll talk to her after breakfast." After that, he left towards the kitchen to prepare said meal while Hermione stayed behind, knowing just how dangerous she was in the kitchen. After nearly burning the house down trying to make dinner one night, she refused to perform any cooking operation more complicated than reheating something in the microwave.
The smell of cooking bacon soon permeated the house, rousing the children from their slumber. The two children, still dressed in their pajamas, came down the stairs, led by the mouth-watering scent. Once Harry slid the food onto the plates and set them on the table, the four began to dine on his exceptional cooking.
"Carla, could you help me wash the dishes?" Harry asked as he gathered the plates. Carla wordlessly slid out from her seat and followed Harry into the kitchen. While Harry scrubbed the dishes in hot soapy water, Carla stood on a stool with a towel in hand to wipe them dry. "Carla, how would you feel about meeting your father, your real father?" Harry asked the young girl. Carla shrugged neutrally as she fiddled with the towel in her hand, so Harry handed her a clean fork to dry. "So, it's okay, then?" Harry pressed, trying to elicit a verbal reaction from her.
"Yeah, I guess," Carla said, shrugging again as Harry passed her a plate to dry. Harry sighed to himself; her apparent apathy was not making things any easier for him.
"If you don't want to do it, we don't have to," Harry tried another route.
"It's okay," Carla said. Again, her voice did nothing to betray her emotions on the subject. Harry sighed again and sent Carla off to brush her teeth, dwelling in his thoughts. As he finished washing the dishes by himself, Harry came to a decision; he dried off his hands and grabbed the phone off of its cradle and began dialing numbers.
"Yeah?" Dudley asked from the other end of the line.
"When are you available?" Harry asked.
"I'm free today," Dudley replied. "So you've decided then?"
"Is Hyde Park at eleven good?" Harry continued, overriding Dudley's query.
"Sure," he agreed. "Where?"
"The Weeping Beech is a good spot," Harry suggested.
"Alright, I'll meet you there," Dudley said. "And Harry, thanks for this. You don't know how much this means to me."
"And I hope I never have to," Harry replied as he ended the call. He exited the kitchen to find Hermione sitting at the table writing a report. "Where'd Teddy disappear to?" he asked as he sat down next to her.
"He went upstairs to feed Tribble," Hermione answered, looking up from her papers. "So, did you think about what I said?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "We're meeting him at Hyde Park at eleven." Hermione nodded in satisfaction as she returned to her work.
"It's good that you're giving him this chance, Harry," she said to him. Harry sighed and ran his fingers through his hair nervously.
"I suppose, but I can't help but be suspicious of him," he admitted.
"That's understandable, but like I said earlier, he might have changed. Think if it this way: If you were sent to prison and you got out, wouldn't you want to see Ted?" she asked. When he nodded, she continued, "And how would you feel if you were denied that? And Carla at least deserves an opportunity to get to know her birth father."
"I suppose," Harry said sullenly. "I guess it's not only my bad history with him, but…" he trailed off.
"But you're afraid that Carla won't want to be with you anymore," Hermione finished his sentence. Harry shrugged his shoulders uncertainly. "It's perfectly understandable, but Carla loves you; I don't think you have anything to worry about."
"I guess," Harry conceded with a sigh. "Tell me again why you didn't go into psychology?" he asked her.
"Because I have enough grief listening to your angst; I don't need to hear other people's problems too," she replied with a straight face. They stared at each other for several seconds before they both burst into laughter.
At the top of the stairs, two young children were listening in to the commotion happening below.
"What was that about?" Carla asked curiously. Ted shrugged.
"I dunno; grown-ups are weird," he replied.
Harry and Hermione had told the children to dress for the cold February weather and took the Knight Bus to Hyde Park; the magical vehicle's powerful notice-me-not charms made the nearby Muggles ignorant of two adults and young children appearing out from nowhere, as well as the loud bang as the bus arrived and departed. They walked (or rather, the adults walked while the children chased each other) to the snow-covered Weeping Beech. Harry and Hermione watched while Carla and Teddy played together in the snow. As eleven 'o clock neared, both children expressed their need to use the loo; Hermione volunteered and took them to the nearest public lavatory. As Harry stood out in the snow waiting for them, he heard a familiar voice behind him.
"Harry?" it said. Harry turned around to see the person that had addressed him. The man's hair had been cropped short, and he had lost much of his infamous girth, but his watery blue eyes gave away his identity.
"Dudley," Harry replied cordially. For several moments, the two cousins simply stood in awkward silence. "So…you look different," Harry observed, breaking the silence.
"Umm, yeah," Dudley agreed, "I spent a lot of time at the gym; figured that I should start taking care of myself." Several more awkward seconds passed in silence. "So…where's Carla?" the larger man asked.
"Using the loo," Harry responded. As if on cue, Hermione appeared with two giggling children. When she saw Dudley, she looked down at Ted and said, "Why don't we leave Carla and Uncle Harry alone for a while?" Hermione pulled Ted away, leaving Carla with Harry and Dudley. Upon being left with Harry and a stranger, the normally easily excitable girl suddenly became shy, trying to discreetly hide behind Harry. Dudley got down on one knee and swallowed nervously.
"Hi there, Carla," he said gently. The girl looked up at Harry for guidance.
"It's okay, Carla, say 'hi,'" he whispered. Carla turned her gaze back to Dudley and shyly waved.
"Hi," she said softly. Dudley ran his large hand over his short hair as he tried to think of something to say to his daughter. "Are you my real daddy?" she suddenly asked, catching him off guard.
"Err…yes, I am," he said.
"Why did you go away?" Carla continued. Dudley cringed slightly at the question, and wondered how he was supposed to answer it. Harry was also curious as to how Dudley would respond.
"Umm…" he hummed hesitantly. "I…hurt someone, very badly, and I had to go away to try and make it better." Harry raised his eyebrow at him, impressed. Meanwhile, Carla seemed unsure of what to say next, so Harry laid a hand on her head.
"Why don't you go play with Teddy and Mum while we talk, Carla?" he asked. The young girl noticeably perked up and ran off towards Ted and Hermione, who were currently working on the beginnings of a snowman. Dudley stood up and wiped off the water and snow clinging onto his trouser leg.
"Well, she seems like a nice kid," Dudley observed, "kind of quiet, though."
"She's not normally like this," Harry defended. "But she's not exactly used to talking to strangers, so I guess it makes sense." They both watched as Hermione and the two children fooled around in the snow.
"Harry," Dudley began, "I know that you don't trust me, and for good reason, but I want to fix that. I want for you to be able to trust me, to know that I truly am sorry for everything. And I want to be a part of Carla's life. I won't take her away from you, it's clear that she's happy with you, but I want to be there for her. I missed out on almost five years of her life because of my screw-up, but I'm here now, and I want to make the most of it, if you'll let me." Harry looked at his cousin, fighting to keep the incredulity that he was feeling from showing.
"I'm surprised, Dudley," Harry said evenly. "That's probably the noblest thing that you've ever said in your life. Alright, I'll consider it."
"That's all I ask," Dudley conceded. He looked down at his watch and sighed. "I should go now; I need to get back to job hunting. It was good seeing you again, Harry."
"You too," Harry muttered absently. Harry turned his attention to his girlfriend and children, and seeing that they were not watching him, bent down and scooped up a snowball. Hiding it behind his back, he snuck over to them and threw it at them, where it impacted on Hermione's back. She glared at him indignantly, and he shrugged innocently before he was suddenly pelted by fistfuls of snow.
After pelting each other with snow, they walked to a nice warm diner for lunch, then took the Knight Bus home to 12 Grimmauld Place and changed into fresh, dry clothes.
"So, how did your meeting with Dudley go?" Hermione asked. Harry shrugged neutrally.
"Okay, I guess," he said indifferently. "Things were a bit awkward at first." They both sat down on the couch and Harry draped his arm over Hermione's shoulders. "You know, I'm still feeling a bit chilly," he said, pulling her closer. "Maybe we could put the kids down for a nap and…warm each other up," he added, kissing her on the cheek. She giggled lightly as he began placing kisses along her jaw line. She turned her head and kissed him on the lips.
"That…is a brilliant idea, Mister Potter," she whispered. With a smirk, she released herself from his hold and left, presumably to find the children and put them to bed, Harry right behind her.
This chapter was a real pain to write. I had a rough time trying to write the interaction between Harry and Dudley in a believable manner, and I hope that I succeeded.
Don't forget to review.