Learning to Be
The sign in the front said that the playground was an area where people may go for recreation. To make it simpler, they should have said, "Playground: To have fun."
Families and friends head out to playgrounds when they feel as if nothing else could entertain them. The older members of the family would sit themselves at the picnic table and fondly watch as the youngsters scamper to the seesaw or the monkey bars. The mothers would nervously call out to their children while their husbands would talk with their mates about the football game on Friday.
Summer was the time of birds, sun, and laughter. Kids ran around, laughing and breathing hard at the same time as they played their invisible games. You go there and I will go there and then…They never have a set of rules. They didn't care. Rules? What rules?
To Dudley, the playground was not only the place to remember the joys of life, but it was also a place to clear the mind. The one that he was currently standing in was his former playground. He lived nearby as a kid. He remembered when he was little, when he was an innocent being, he loved swinging.
It was the act of pumping your legs just so you could get at a certain height. When you finally get to the highest point, you jump.
You don't care how high or how far; the excitement makes you carefree. And once you finally land on your feet, you smile widely as if you just defeated the hardest obstacle in life.
Dudley missed it of course. He missed the days before he turned into a bully. No one followed him around and no one expected him to beat up a kid 'cause he was Big D. He scoffed softly; it had only been 5 years and he was already regretting his past.
Five years had changed him. He went to the university, earned a business degree, fell in love, and well, life was fine. Dudley had changed. He practiced weight-lifting and wrestling in college, but stopped competitively. Instead, he focused on losing weight rather than gaining. It worked. He was now able to wear a trench coat without having to look like The Hulk. His body seemed to lengthen and he was taller, therefore appearing skinnier but still muscular.
Dudley sighed in his reverie and ran a hand through his brown hair.
He turned around, eyes seeking the little voice that called for him. His daughter, Mary, waved energetically at him and pointed to the swings. Dudley sighed, smiling softly. He nodded, causing his daughter to jump up excitedly and race towards the swings.
"Remember how we used to beat up some kids here?"
Dudley turned his head and saw Piers Polkiss smiling down at him. He immediately stood up and the two friends shook hands. They were both busy with family and work so they never got the time to meet up with each other.
"Hey, Piers. Andrea went to book club too?"
Piers made a face and answered, "Yeah. I figured I should take care of the kids before Andrea yells at me." He and Andy met around the same time that Dudley and Ally met. Piers had also changed for the better though his tough qualities would sometimes resurface when something pisses him off. The last time Dudley talked to Piers was 2 weeks ago because he had to go on a business trip.
Both of them laughed and then lapsed into silence.
"Yeah, yeah. Bullying others was a hobby of ours a long time ago," Dudley said, keeping his eyes on Mary.
"We were horrible, weren't we?"
Dudley shrugged. "We can't deny it...but at least you changed. At least I've changed. I mean, look at us! We have kids! You and Andrea have two and another one coming along. Me and Ally...well, we have Mary."
"It's odd to think about it. How we terrorized the other kids but we don't want the same to happen to ours," Piers. He took a small sip from his coffee cup and waved at Heather, his four-year-old daughter who was climbing the monkey bars with agility. When she climbed up to the top she lifted up her arms and squealed. "Heather is so angelic. She definitely inherited that from Andy."
Dudley saw his daughter mounting the swings. She quickly gained height and was now giggling as she swung back and forth, her long brown hair flying behind her.
"Same with Mary. Wouldn't hurt a fly," he whispered. He soon noticed a gang of boys her age approaching the swings. His stomach suddenly sunk as he realized what was happening. Fatherly instinct kicking in, Dudley slowly stood up from the picnic table and was about to head over there when Piers put a hand on his arm.
"Hold on. Mary's a strong one. Let's see her deal with this."
"But those boys--"
"Mary'll take care of them. If she can't, she has you and me."
Dudley looked at Piers uncertainly. He was letting his daughter deal with those kids for the first time. What if they hurt her? What if she breaks down and cries?
Mary dug her heels into the sand, and her swing suddenly came to a stop. The smallest of the boys, the leader ironically, sneered and said something. His cronies laughed.
Mary merely looked at him, chin raised high and body rigid.
Dudley smirked. Never mind. He shouldn't doubt his own daughter. He turned to Piers and said, "Yeah, you're right. She's gonna be--"
"Henry!" A woman shrieked.
The young group of boy already scattered, but only one remained with Mary. It was leader. Dudley thought the boy just decided to stay, but as he and Piers rushed over, he realized that Henry couldn't move.
"What happened to him?"
"Marge, what's wrong?" A man, her husband, approached the woman and grasped her by the arm.
The motherly woman named Marge shook her arm away. "H-he's paralyzed! He can't--oh, honey! Say something to Mum," she pleaded as she knelt down and shook her young son. The little boy's eyes moved from side to side, in yet his body remained frozen.
"We should call the ambulance," said Piers and rushed away to do just that.
Dudley swore under his breath and looked over at his daughter. The swing was empty but Mary stood next to it, holding the metal string with win hand, gazing at the frozen boy with wide eyes. He saw tears beginning to form. Immediately, he knew what he had to do.
"C'mon Mary, we have to go," he whispered earnestly, beckoning her to come. His daughter raised her arms and Dudley picked her up, cradling her softly as she held him by his neck.
"I-I didn't mean to, Daddy," she sobbed softly as the two walked away. Dudley could still hear the mother shrieking and the men calling for help. He closed his eyes and breathed through his nose.
The swings. The frozen boy. Mary. It's happening.
It's been years since he saw strange, unexplainable things like that. Those were the years where his cousin still lived with him.
But how could it be possible? He was a Mug—Moogle?—Mongrel! There, that was the word. Ally was also the same as him so how could Mary be…
"I know, I know," he said, stroking his daughter's back.
"He was making me get off the swings. I didn't want to! I wanted him to go away, to stop, and--" Mary cries increased by a tenfold.
Dudley smiled nervously as he passed onlookers who were wondering about the commotion. He shifted Mary in his arms and hugged her tighter. "We'll talk when we get home. Don't worry, love."
To his surprise, the police arrived and were already spreading yellow tape around the park's perimeter.
"Sir, I'm sorry, but we have to keep the park closed. The ambulance will be arriving soon and their EMT will investigate the boy and see--"
"We have to leave," Dudley loudly interrupted the officer, moving quickly to the side.
The officer, who seemed to be around Dudley's age, appeared to be shocked at his direct tone. He quickly recovered and stood his ground. "That is not possible at the moment, sir. We need to--"
"I wanna go home," his daughter whispered in his ear.
"There might be something dangerous in the perimeter so we need to--"
"I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU NEED TO DO! NOW MOVE BEFORE I PUMMEL YOUR FACE!" He suddenly yelled.
Mary hiccupped and whimpered.
Dudley took a deep breath and lowered his voice, "Look...my daughter is extremely upset. She needs her mother. She needs to be home."
A distance away, they heard a joyous yell and they turned around to find the mother hugging her son fiercely. Henry seemed to be able to move now.
"Well, I guess you can leave n-now..."
Dudley heard no more and rushed past the man with his daughter in his arms.
"…and every since 5th year, I've been playing Quidditch," finished Ginny.
The conference erupted in applause and cheers. The sound of cameras clicking and flashes blinded Harry even as he stood in the back of the room. Auror training let out early. He managed to slip in unnoticed five minutes ago, and so far, everything was fine. The media's attention was focus on Holyhead Harpies and the applause was for Ginny, his girlfriend.
"I'll take the next question," she said, smiling. All of the reporters yelled for her attention, and she finally picked someone near the back of the room. A mousy young man stood from his seat and nervously cleared his throat.
"Uh…Miss Weasley. It's very well known that you are dating H-Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived…"
"Yes?" Ginny asked sharply. She just noticed Harry standing in the back.
Harry swore under his breath, wondering if there was a way to get out.
"Hey, there he is!" Someone from the front exclaimed. This set off chaos. The reporters ran from their seats and sprinted to where he stood, poking him with their pens, shoving their magical microphones in his face. He pushed all of it away with his arm and yelled, "No comment!"
Luckily, an opening formed behind him, and Harry was able to escape.
He hated this side of life. He never seemed to get away from the media. After running for more than a minute, he glanced behind and saw no one coming. He apparated on the spot, not even bothering to think about his destination.
He collapsed to the ground at an unknown location and finally breathed. No wonder he was so good at Auror training. Running away from rabid creatures was his niche. Hopefully, Ginny won't be too mad at him.
Harry stood from his crouched position and looked around. Now he knew where he was. He was home.
After the Final Battle, him, Ron, and Hermione went back to Hogwarts to make up their seventh year. Everyone passed, earning high N.E.W.Ts. Many people expected the Golden Trio to drift apart; that was what life after the school days was all about. In yet, they were proven wrong.
Harry needed his friends in Hogwarts, and he still needed them now. The Trio all decided to move in together.
In the Muggle World.
Now, Ron argued profusely when they put out the suggestion. Harry and Hermione loved the idea; they grew up as muggles, but have been living in the wizarding world half their lives. Ron was greatly uncomfortable. He knew nothing about electronics and all the confusing rituals that Muggles participated in.
He finally gave in when Harry and Hermione suggested bringing some Wizarding items and such into their home. The house on 52 Forest Wood Road looked normal from the outside. It was painted a delicate shade of blue and had dazzling colors of red, purple, and yellow flowers in its garden. The lawn was well managed, green and healthy in the summer.
But inside was something different. The house had three floors counting the basement. The first consisted of the living room, a small bathroom, and a kitchen. The second were the bedrooms, each equipped with full bathrooms. The last was the attic. However, in Wizarding terms, it had 6 floors. The attic was not the top floor as it should be. Instead, if you said a magic word and waited, another staircase would appear and lead you to a massive library that held more than a thousand books.
No guess is needed to figure out whom that room belonged to.
The floor on top of that was the Quidditch Room.
Again, easy to figure out.
The last was the Quiet Room.
It belonged to Harry. He called it the Quiet Room because it was the one place where sound could not penetrate through the room. Hermione helped him ward and construct it and therefore, she was the only other who knew how to get in.
It was a place where he was separate from the world, where nothing else mattered. The room was painted a soft color of white. The floors were carpeted and always felt nice and lush under Harry's feet. It was also another Room of Requirement for him. He would step into the room and think the word 'quiet' and the shades would fall on the windows. The lights would dim and a small comfortable chair would be conjured. He could spend hours in his room in his own separate peace.
In a sense, each of the occupants had their own two floors.
Living with his best friends was a blessing to Harry. He wouldn't change the way his life was right now, but there were some moments, some indiscriminate times where he would think about his former life.
The former Harry was how he referred to himself in the teenage years or during the times where life just basically sucked. Voldemort was out to get him, and he was the Chosen One. Blah blah.
Even though everything bad had occurred five years ago, the memory of the events leading to the Final Battle still stayed fresh in his mind. Nightmares continued to torment him during his sleep. He remembered the Horcrux hunt and how he used to believe that everything was impossible.
What he remembered the most were the things that happened between him, Ron, and Hermione. Sometimes he'd think about them at night. How did they maintain a strong friendship since 1st year, in yet fall apart during the most crucial times? How did Ron just leave…both Harry and Hermione…They needed him then, but he just left.
The two of them never really talked about it. It was sort of a "forgive and forget" thing. Harry forgave Ron, but he could never forget it. No, you never forget about those sorts of things.
And then Hermione. He'd constantly wonder about his friendship with her. She seemed to be the constant person in his life. Whatever he got involved with, she would follow him. She was always there, but sometimes…he felt like he was never there for her. It was one of those things he would think about and forget about the next second. It was a feeling…a detached sort of feeling that came and went away.
Realizing he had slipped into one of his reveries, Harry shook his head.
He heard a small sound of a laughter coming from upstairs. With a hand on the doorknob, he cocked his head to the side, trying to discern the unusual sound.
For the past few weeks, things had been tense between Ron and Hermione. They got into another argument, something usual that occurred in their relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend. Ron had said something without thinking (like always), and Hermione got hurt (like always). Harry didn't do much to help them console.
He helped them one time, believing that it would be the last. Unfortunately, things fell apart again, and Harry had learned to not get involved.
It was Hermione's laughter, Harry finally realized. He crept up the stairs, taking cautious steps. It was coming for her room…
Harry's face reddened. Maybe he shouldn't investigate. He knew that Ron was also home by this time.
The two of them must have made up….
Suddenly, the door opened, and Ron ran out. He stopped and bent over, breathing hard.
"My God, what a workout!"
Harry's eyes widened.
"Ron, you prat! Rearranging my room is not that hard!" Hermione yelled from her room.
Ron laughed, "You have a whole library of books in there; moving them was a vigorous task."
He dodged the book that she threw at him, chuckling. As he stood up, he noticed Harry standing there uncertainly.
"Oh, hey Harry," Ron said, smiling.
"Hey," Harry said back, almost smiling in relief when he realized that his best friends were not doing anything too disgusting.
Hermione soon joined the two in the hallway. Her nearly tamed bushy hair was up in a messy ponytail and she was wearing a pair of old slacks and a light blue t-shirt. In her hands were more books.
"I thought you were going to take Gin out to dinner…she should be done with the conference," she said, unknowingly letting her books drop on Ron's left foot so that she could check her watch.
"Hermione!" Ron whined, grabbing his foot.
"I ran away," Harry replied simply, ignoring his male best friend for the moment. His other best friend arched an eyebrow.
"Daily Prophet caught sight of me and…that basically caused a domino effect. Eventually all of the reporters were chasing me, asking questions and all those sorts…" Harry trailed off. Hermione got the message.
"But you just left Ginny there?"
"Smooth, Harry," commented Ron.
Harry shrugged. "I'll talk to her later. I just need some time to myself."
"The Quiet Room again? What do you do up there? Watch porn?"
Hermione elbowed Ron in the ribs. "That is disgusting, Ronald."
"I do nothing of the sort, you pervert," Harry said, shaking his head. He made his way down to the corridor to his bedroom, taking off his jacket.
"Well, Harry," said Hermione as she followed her friend, "how about the three of us go out? You've been isolating yourself for the past few days."
Her friend turned around and looked at her expectantly. "Well, I didn't want to go near you and--"
Hermione threw him an apologetic look. "Sorry, we didn't mean to get you in the middle."
Harry shrugged again and sat on his bed to take off his shoes. "At least it's over. You made up, right?"
His female best friend sighed. "We broke up."
"Yeah. It feels great."
Harry leaned back, scrutinizing Hermione. Being a pretty good reader in her feelings, he saw no remorse. In fact, she seemed relieved and happy. "Wow, I can't believe it."
"Believe it," she said, grinning. Hermione cleared her throat. "So anyways…let's go out today. I'm in a good mood."
Harry smiled wickedly, rubbing his hands together. "Great. Let's go to a strip club."
"Yeah!" Ron yelled in agreement from somewhere in the house.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Never mind. You are a pervert."
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Now I'm gonna watch Juno, the best movie ever.