Standard disclaimers apply!
I do not own Harry Potter. I have nothing to do with Scholastic, Warner Bros or Bloomsbury. I'm not JKR and I am certainly not making any profit out of this.
"So ..." Ron cast about for a topic of conversation while Harry waited at the counter to order three coffees. "What do you do for a crust, Dudley?"
"Dad got me a job," Dudley said, staring out the window at the trains rolling past. "It's kind of shit, but I didn't do so good at school ... so yeah. Better than being on the dole," he shrugged.
"What's the dole?"
"Don't your lot have that?" Dudley looked back at Ron. "It's when the government gives you money if you can't find work, but it's not much."
"Yeah, we've got something like that, sort of."
Harry slid into the seat beside Ron. "They'll bring the coffee out," he muttered, clasping his hands together and resting them on the table. "So, how are they? Your Mum and Dad."
"The same as usual," Dudley sounded slightly bitter. "I gotta ask, how did you do it?"
"Live with us," Dudley explained, "and still turn out right."
"I was lucky," Harry shrugged, eyeing Dudley, "I got out when I was 11."
A waiter bought their coffee then, and they took refuge in sugaring it.
"Yeah, well." Dudley looked up from his coffee and directly at Harry. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry."
Ron cleared his throat, glancing from Dudley to Harry and then back again. "I'm confused," he stated bluntly.
Dudley shrugged. "I've had a lot of time to think."
Harry frowned thoughtfully. "It was the dementors, wasn't it?"
Ron visibly shuddered while Dudley nodded.
"What did you see?"
"I was you," Dudley said simply.
"I didn't know they worked like that," Ron looked to Harry for confirmation, "did you?"
"Hestia said they don't usually," Dudley put in, "but maybe I didn't have many really bad memories, so they gave me yours because you were being attacked too. That's what Hestia thinks, anyway." He sighed heavily and stirred his coffee again, more to have something to focus on than anything else. "That started it but it was being in hiding with Hestia and Dedalus that really did it." He looked back up again. "They're alright, you know? Dedalus' kind of mad, but he's an alright bloke and Hestia's great."
"Fair enough," Harry nodded. "Um ... so you're working now?"
"Yeah, I was just saying to Ron that Dad got me a job."
"Better than being on the sole, apparently," Ron chimed in.
"The dole, mate, the dole," Harry said automatically. "You're at Grunnings?"
"Yeah. Sales. It's really boring, but," Dudley nodded at Ron, "better than being home all day."
"Oh?" Harry raised his brows.
"We're, uh, they've been really clingy since all this war business," Dudley explained, "even more than usual."
"Understandable though," Harry countered.
"You're feeling stifled," Ron stated.
Harry shot Ron a cheeky look. "Well done, Weasley ... looks like you've learned something from Hermione after all."
"Haha," Ron rolled his eyes in good humour, "had to happen sometime, Hermione must have rubbed off on me."
"I don't want to know what that means," Harry grumbled with a short laugh, and turned back to Dudley. "Trust me, you don't want to either."
"I already know all about Ron and Hermione and you and Ginny," Dudley chuckled, "Dedalus thinks its soooo romantic." He put a hand to his brow and pretended to swoon. "Star crossed lovers forced to keep their feelings at bay by the ravages of war and all that."
"Oh Merlin," Ron snorted. "That sounds just like Dedalus."
"Doesn't it?" Harry agreed. "He was in raptures, I'll bet."
"Yeah." Dudley grinned, but then frowned as he glanced at his watch. "I really have to go," he said, with a certain amount of regret, "but it was good talking to you both."
"Yeah, it was," Harry agreed, as all three stood and Dudley shook both their hands in turn.
"Maybe we can, uh, catch up again sometime," Dudley suggested tentatively. "Um, owls and stuff at the house probably aren't such a good idea ... but if you're ever in the area, you know? Hestia or Dedalus could ..."
"Yeah, we could do that sometime," Harry agreed. "Or if you're ever around Devon ..."
"Uh, good. OK. Well, see you." Dudley gave half wave and left the cafe quickly.
"Well ..." Harry looked over at Ron, shaking his head in disbelief.
"That was interesting," Ron grinned. "Anyway, let's get out of here."