Ever since Dudley Dursley turned twelve, and his education started in earnest, he could no longer claim that what happened in his house was normal. Now, normalcy was something Dudley had been taught to worship, so this realization was slow in coming. Still, it came, one day at the time.
Of course he had heard some of his friends complain over the years how their parents favoured a sibling, usually a younger sister. That had always made him feel secure – to know that how his cousin was treated was no different. He himself had just been the lucky one.
As the years went by, however, he had to come to the sad conclusion that their friends had somewhat exaggerated. The little sisters may have been a tad bit spoiled – fathers especially seemed to be overprotective of little girls – but his friends weren't doing chores all day long. They got to eat. They weren't hit with frying pans. They didn't sleep in cupboards under the stairs where they were locked for days on end. They got presents for their birthdays.
One day at school, a guest speaker came and talked about child abuse and a phone number people could call if they were abused or thought that a friend was being abused.
Was Harry a friend? Dudley would have said no. Then he began to realize he had no idea if Harry was a friend, because he did not know Harry at all. Of course, after all he had done there was no question of a possible friendship anymore.
It took him two more years. Two more years of biting his lip whenever his parents were unfair to his cousin, two more years of pretending that everything was normal, two years of slowly stopping his own harassment. Then one day, when they were fourteen, Dudley was overjoyed when Harry's friends threatened his father at the station. Now the maltreatment would stop. Harry's friends would come for him, and everything would be alright.
How wrong he had been.
His father, outraged by the threats, cuffed Harry around the head so hard he hit the wall and slid to the floor. Being dragged by the scruff of his neck to his room didn't help. For three days Dudley saw hide nor hair of his cousin, and knew he could not have written to those friends of his, because the owl – Harry's owl – had been left in the garden. Dudley had been secretly taking care of her in his own room. Yet the freaks did not come.
Harry had been without food and water for three days. Dudley cried for an entire night as all illusions he had about his parents shattered around him and his world came crashing down. The selfish, spoiled, arrogant, stupid, naïve boy was lost that night and a new Dudley rose from the shards.
He snuck food from the kitchen and pushed it through the catflap to Harry. He even managed to put in a small bucket to use as a loo and didn't gag or protest when he had to later empty it. He picked the lock on the cupboard under the stairs – having criminal friends DID have its advantages – and slowly, one by one, snuck Harry's things to his room. His wand, that cloak of his, books, parchment, quills.
At least four letters should have been written already, and hadn't. Yet no one came.
A week later, Dudley stood in a phone booth, a good distance away, with a crumpled leaflet in his hands. The leaflet he had gotten that day in school, two years ago. He dialled the number, sure whoever was going to pick up the phone would hear his heart beating in his throat.
"Hi…" he managed after the man on the other end had made his introduction, "I'm…I'm Dudley, Dudley Dursley. I'm calling about my cousin…Harry…"
They called him brave, they called him a hero, and as promised they came and collected both Harry and himself from their home. Though it pained him to see his parents being taken away in handcuffs, Dudley could not help but feel they deserved it. Everything would be different now.
That same evening they were all back at the house. A white-haired wizard had come, a man that looked about a thousand years old. He told the elder Dursleys that everything had been taken care of, that the police had no trace of the report nor the arrest, and the neighbours had been Obliviated. Then the man had turned to Harry. Thin, pale, obviously ill Harry.
"Now, my boy," he admonished, "I know you understand why you have to stay here. I have no desire to come back to solve a thing like this again. Don't be trouble for your aunt and uncle. I will see you in September."
"But…" Dudley started, "are you leaving him here?"
The old man smiled kindly. "Yes, of course, this is his home."
"It's NOT," Dudley protested, "That report wasn't wrong! They did…they did do everything it said!"
The old man let his gaze rest on the elder two. "An unfortunate misunderstanding, I am sure."
And he left. He left.
His parents had clearly realized they had nothing to fear. Harry was back in his room in no time, dragged by his hair. Dudley had retreated to his own room, the shock so great he felt sick to his stomach. He had been sure, so sure that once he called that number Harry would be better. Harry would be alright.
As his parents slept, that night, he snuck out to talk to Harry.
"Hi, Dudley," Harry said, his face sad as they both lay on the floor in front of the cat flap, each on one side of the locked door.
"I'm sorry," Dudley blurted out, "I wanted to make things better for you."
"I know," Harry reached through the flap with a thin hand – the food Dudley snuck him was enough to prevent him deteriorating, he needed much more to actually get well.
"Thank you, Dud."
"I'm going to find another way," Dudley promised, "there must be some way."
A soft, hollow laugh. "That was Albus Dumbledore, Dudley. If he decides something, mere mortals aren't going to change anything."
A cough. "Goodnight, Dud. Get some sleep."
Dudley returned to his room, tossing and turning. In the early hours of the morning he dressed, and once more snuck out of his room. They would escape. They would flee to wherever it was together. He packed a bag and managed to get the keyring from his parent's room without waking them up.
Finally he opened all the locks on Harry's room, one by one, taking care not to make a sound, and pushed open the door.
Harry's face was white, but he smiled, gently, looking more relaxed than Dudley had ever seen him. His body swayed softly from the belt that used to hold up Dudley's old pants. The toppled chair made it obvious what had happened after both Muggle and Wizarding world had abandoned the boy. Dudley dropped his bag. It wouldn't be needed after all.
Harry Potter had found his own way out.
A/N Yeah, yeah, I know. Angsty and depressing. I actually meant for Dudley and Harry to escape together to all kinds of adventures and I think I might still write that story someday. It could be interesting to see what they get up to.