"Can I get you something?" called Dudley from the kitchen, "I can make some tea, or coffee."
"Tea would be lovely." Ginny supplied, watching Harry who found himself voiceless. Had Dudley really just offered Harry tea?
Dudley entered the living room having changed into a tidy lavender shirt with black trousers.
The three wizards still stood near the mantlepeice. Dudley's eyes flicked to the portrait, "Saw that already, did you?" he asked quietly, "It's the best I could do."
"You did that?" asked Harry astonished.
"Yes. I.." a tinny version of a song Harry thought he recognized as an old Beatles tune began playing from somewhere, interrupting Dudley. Ginny and Minerva looked around the room for the source as well.
Dudley reached into his pocket, "Sorry, I need to take this." he said, apologetically.
Out of his pocket Dudley took a small black device. He looked at it, pressed a button on it with his thumb, held it up to his ear like a telephone. After moment, Harry realized it was a telephone. Harry remembered that the mobile phones had been becoming common when he'd last been to muggle London. He also remembered Hermione trying to make one work for her. It'd taken alot of effort-in the end she'd had to make a magic one from scratch since the magic seemed to interefere with the electronics in the devices-they kept coming to rather incendiary ends.
"Hello, sweetheart." Dudley paused, sighed, "You're kidding." pause, Dudley shook his head, "All right, we'll sort it. Is Eleanor all right?" Dudley smiled apparently with relief, "Good. Listen, love, my cousin's here." Whoever was on the other end of the phone exclaimed loudly, "Yes. Not sure how long." Dudley looked at Harry, "You don't mind meeting the family?"
"Uh, No, we..." Harry replied, then stopped as Dudley turned away. He looked a little desperately towards Ginny and Minerva who both shrugged, equally at a loss.
"All right, see you in a minute." Dudley said into the phone. He clicked the button and put it back in his pocket.
Minerva cleared her throat, "I beg your pardon, Mr. Dursley, but we have actually come on some business about your daughter, Eleanor." wanting to bring the meeting back to the point.
Dudley was brought up short, "Eleanor?" he said blankly, "Eleanor? What about her?"
The three wizards looked at each other. Ginny started to speak, but Harry beat her to it, "Dudley, she's a witch."
Harry waited for the explosion. Harry waited for any kind of reaction.
Dudley stood completely still, looking not unlike the last time Harry had seen him, as if he were processing a concept just a little too difficult to understand. He opened his mouth after a second, but nothing came out.
The kettle began to shriek.
"Would you...stay for dinner? Clearly there's a great deal to discuss." said Dudley, finally, the sound seeming to bring him to his senses.
"Yes, that would be a fine idea." Said Minerva
Dudley turned to go back into the kitchen, muttering to himself. He pulled his phone out of his pocket again, pressed a few buttons "Love? Will you stop and pick up some take away?" he turned back to the wizards, "Indian all right with you?"
The three wizards all nodded. This was going rather oddly, even given the circumstances. Dudley left the room.
Harry took a deep breath, glanced at Ginny, who gave him an encouraging nod, "He asked us to dinner. That's a good sign, right?" she whispered.
"Let me go talk to him." Harry whispered back.
Dudley was leaning over the sink. His shoulders were shaking.
The kitchen wasn't much changed from when Harry had lived there. Even the smell of the cleaning products were the same. It was eerie, Harry felt that Petunia would walk in any second and snap at him to get dinner started.
"Dudley..." Harry wasn't sure what to say. He had expected anger, not tears.
Dudley swung around, took a step forward.
For a moment, Harry flashed on Uncle Vernon. Walking toward him with a malevolent smile. Harry was thirteen again and waiting for a beating.
Harry couldn't help it, his wand was in his hand, without conscious thought. He fell back into a fighting stance, his heart racing.
"Harry!" Dudley said in a low cautious tone, snapping Harry back to the present, "It's okay." he took a step back, hands held out with the palms down, making little "calm down" motions, "Just go easy with that." he indicated Harry's raised wand with his chin.
Harry looked stupidly at his wand before lowering it, "Sorry." he said.
Dudley's face was dry and his eyes showed no sign of tears. Had he been laughing, then? His face held no humor now. Just a sad little smile, "It's hard for you to be here, is it?" he said crossing his arms and leaning against the sink.
Harry sighed, slid his wand back into his sleeve, "I'm fine." he lied.
Dudley shook his head, "You always said that when things were bad and one of the teachers asked you if you were okay. The kids I work with do that too. I'm pretty certain it translates from abused childese into something like 'Well, I'm still breathing'"
Harry felt like he'd taken a bludger to the head. That was a bloody strange thing to say.
"Everything all right?" Ginny had come out into the hallway. She was the usual six or seven feet behind Harry when she announced her presence. Even the children knew not to come up on Harry without making some noise.
"We're fine." called Dudley, "Just bringing the tea."
Dudley picked up the tea tray. Harry had the weird impulse to take it from him, Aunt Petunia's voice in his head berating him for letting "Diddiekins" do all the work.
Dudley sat down, putting the tea tray on the coffee table, pushing the books aside. The computer folded up rather ingeniously, the thin screen laying flat on the keyboard. The last time Harry had seen a computer, it had been an enormous affair that took up the whole desk in Dudley's room.
He handed tea first to Minerva and then to Ginny who had resumed her seat on the settee. "You still take sugar?" he asked Harry, who was standing uneasily in the doorway.
Harry nodded, coming forward to take it. He couldn't sit for the tension, so he stood by Ginny who reached up to pat his arm.
"So, Mr Dursley," Minerva said after another moment of uncomfrotable silence, "I have come to offer your daughter a place at Hogwarts."
"Please, call me Dudley, Professor." Dudley said genially, "I will admit this is a bit awkward, but it would certainly explain some things. How did you get Eleanor's name?"
"Eligible student's names appear in the admissions books." Minerva replied.
"Harry's letters came by owl." Dudley said, glancing at Harry.
"Harry's parents were wizards, and it was assumed by the then-Headmaster, that his aunt and uncle would have been comfortable with owl post. As Eleanor's parents are muggle's it is usual for someone from the school to bring you her letter. I prefer to do it myself when possible. I'm currently Hogwart's headmistress."
A momentary expression of disappointment flitted across Dudley's face, "So the old headmaster- Dumbledore I think?-he's retired?"
The three wizards glanced at each other. After twenty years, it was an old grief.
"Professor Dumbledore died the June before my 17th birthday." Harry said quietly.
Dudley looked wistful, "Really? I didn't know. I only met him the once. He made a great impression on me."
"Yes, Professor Dumbledore was wont to do that." Minerva replied.
"Do you remember what he said to Mum and Dad, Harry?"
Harry shook his head, the only thing he remembered of that meeting was the little glasses of elf made wine Dumbldore had conjured hitting the Dursleys over the head.
"He said that the best that could be said of my parent's treatment of you, was that you escaped the appalling damage they visited upon me." replied Dudley, with a little laugh, "It took me a year to work out what he meant. And it took my parents a lot longer than that."
"What do you mean?" asked Harry, "And where are...your parents?" he wasn't entirely sure why he was asking, maybe morbid curiousity.
"Dead." said Dudley, "Dad dropped dead of heart attack, oh, sixteen years ago. Mum had breast cancer, she died a year or two after that. The only one left is that old bat Marge and she's too mean to die."
"Oh." Harry said a little stunned, an odd sort of emptiness was in his stomach now. Grief? He couldn't possibly be feeling grief for the Dursleys, could he?
"I did try to get hold of you," Dudley was saying, apologetically, "But you're not in the phone book. I've Googled you and it always comes back with a million hits that aren't you."
Harry was only following half of what Dudley was saying, "You looked for me?"
"Yes." Dudley looked down at the teacup in his hand, "For a few years now. I wanted to talk to you. Philip's wanted to meet you too. I've never told him about the magic business, of course, but I told him about how we were raised. How Mum and Dad used to treat you. How they encouraged me to treat you." Dudley looked up again, "I'm sorry, Harry."
Harry dropped his teacup, "Damn. Sorry." he said scrambling to pull out his wand.
"I've got it." said Ginny moving faster. Harry realized that his hand was shaking and Ginny didn't want him accidentally blowing a hole in the carpet. With a deft flick, Ginny cleaned up the spill and returned Harry's cup to the coffee table. Harry sat down next to her.
Dudley didn't turn a hair at this blatant display of magic, Harry was surprised to see, "Well, I'm sorry to hear about your parents." Harry said.
"Don't be." said Dudley a little flatly, "Marge was the only one to turn up at Dad's funeral. She made sure to tell me that it was all my fault. And Mum...well, the cancer didn't do anything for her personality. She blamed you for everything that ever went wrong with her life. Including what was wrong with me."
"What did she think was wrong with you?" Petunia never ever found fault with Dudley. And in the little time he'd been in the house, Harry hadn't seen anything Petunia could have found fault with.
Dudley smiled, a bitter smile that looked out of place on his face. "Tell me Harry, what was the one thing my parents hated more than wizards?"
Harry drew a complete blank.
A/N Can you guess what Dudley's cell phone tone is?