"Yes, of course." Hermione pulled herself together after giving Harry a good hard stare, "Where's the child?"
"Hiding under all that." Dudley pointed to the closet.
She knelt down, putting her briefcase beside her, but keeping wand in hand. The end of her wand lit, "Hello?"
A little whimper came from the back of the closet.
"Can I come in?" asked Hermione gently. Being smaller than either Harry or Dudley, she was able to wriggle into the spaces between the stacked up rubbish.
Dudley and Harry waited patiently as she had a whispered conversation with the child.
Harry caught words between the child's sobs, "David brings Mummy's medicine...he was...Mummy said...don't know what...sorry...sorry."
He moved a little further away, wondering whether it would be better to muffliato himself. This was not a conversation he wanted to eavesdrop on. Dudley on the other hand had crouched down, taken a small notebook out of his pocket and was giving every sign of writing down everything he could hear.
"Harry?" called Hermione, "The boyfriend's still here. Tim doesn't want to come out until he's gone. And...the boyfriend...well, you better use Revelio."
"Did you take care of the muggles outside?" asked Harry.
"Yes. They won't come in. I told them that it would be better if we handled it."
Harry raised his wand, "Hominem revelio"
On the kitchen counter, the scuttling cockroach glowed a vivid yellow, "Found him," Harry snorted, with a bitter laugh. What had the man tried to do to the child? He picked up one of the filthy glasses and trapped the insect underneath it
Hermione crawled out of the closet on her elbows. She and Dudley came over and stared at the disgusting thing.
"That's clever." remarked Dudley with a grim smile, "The little boy did that? I thought that sort of thing was only taught at your school?"
Hermione replied, "The child's magic did it. That's why you see so few cases of violent rape or child molestation in the Wizarding world. The magical core reacts to it more strongly than less intimate forms of violence."
"Convenient, that." Dudley said satisfied.
"So, what do you want me to do with him?" Harry asked Hermione.
"Move the glass." she pointed her wand, "Finite."
In less than thirty seconds, the cockroach had exploded into a man sitting on the counter.
Dudley jumped back, startled and swearing.
The man on the counter stared at his hands for a second before leaping down at Hermione, lunging for her neck.
Her wand came up, but she had no time to get off a hex before Harry cried, " Protego!". The man was thrown back, across the room. Landing with a crash against the kitchen cupboard. The whole time he was screaming, "I WAS A COCKROACH! THE LITTLE FREAK TURNED ME INTO A COCKROACH. I'LL FUCKING KILL HIM WHEN I GET MY HANDS ON HIM"
He frantically tried to regain his feet, but Dudley threw himself onto the man, "No, you don't." he said, wrestling the man back to the ground.
The room was full as a group of muggle police officers came charging in, apparently hearing the raised voice. Hastily, Hermione and Harry stowed their wands.
"Shit, are we going to have to obliviate the lot of them?" Harry hissed, watching as five officers and Dudley wrestled with the man.
Hermione smirked evily, "Not this time."
"What? But..." she'd been willing to obliviate a muggle for just saying the word "wizard" (Policy on Obliviation was one of the things Harry still debated from his seat in the Wizengamot), what was she playing at now?
"Watch." was all she said.
"A COCKROACH! THE CREEPY LITTLE BASTARD TURNED ME INTO A COCKROACH! A FUCKING COCKROACH!" the man was screaming even as they tried, unsuccessfully, to handcuff him. One of the officers finally pulled out a small device that was employed on the back of the man's neck and he went limp and quiet.
"Are you all right Ms Granger?" Dudley asked courteously, coming over.
"Fine, Mr. Barton." she replied, cordially, "He didn't really get near me."
One of the officers came over, "Where'd you find Mr. Samsa there?" he sneered.
"Passed out in the bedroom, on the floor by the wall, under a couple of blankets." Hermione told him, without missing a beat, "I suggest you take him to hospital for a tox screen. I have no idea what he could have been doing to cause that kind of psychotic break."
"Yeah. Coulda been crystals, I suppose, although all we've found so far is heroine. The mum must have gone off on a nod and forgot that the boyfriend was on a nod too, so she didn't look under anything." The man shook his head disgustedly, "She's out there telling the paramedics that the kid made her boyfriend disappear in a flash of light. I ask you...?" he scoffed, "They must have gotten some stuff tainted with more than the usual shi-uh-stuff."
Dudley and Hermione both nodded, sagely.
"Where's the kiddie, now?" asked the officer.
"Still in the closet." sighed Hermione, "He's pretty traumatized. Could you clear out your people? He's afraid of the police."
"Aye, yeah. I 'spect his mum told him all kinds of horror stories. I hate cases like this. I don't know how you lot can stand it. I really don't." the man walked away shaking his head and calling his people back out of the room.
When they had all gone, Hermione went back to the closet and crouched on the floor, "Tim? They took David away. You promised me you'd come out if they did."
A little boy with blonde hair and blue eyes hesitantly crawled into the light. He was wearing a filthy t-shirt and pants. He withdrew a bit when he spied Harry and Dudley, but Hermione said, "It's all right, they're with me." she turned and used her wand to summon one of the blankets off the bed. SHe wrapped the boy in it and drew him onto her lap, heedless of the dust he was covered in.
"Are you really a good witch?" he asked in a breathless whisper, "Like on telly?"
"Mm-hm." said Hermione, "Now, they took your mummy to hospital, so my job is to look after you."
"Will I see her again?" the boy asked. Harry's heart turned over in his chest.
"I'm going to wait outside," he whispered quietly to Dudley. Dudley gave him a nod.
As an Auror, Harry had only ever had to deal with a few cases that involved children, fortunately. Usually, they didn't affect him like this, though. He supposed it was just because it was coming on the heels of his evening with Dudley.
After the War, Harry'd gone to see one of the mind healers at St Mungo's. She'd helped him work through many of his issues, and she prescribed potions for his nightmares and depression. Harry reckoned he was going to need to see her again after tonight.
The paramedic he'd seen earlier walked over to him as he leaned against Dudley's car, "All right?" she asked.
"We're wondering if we need to stay around, or if you're going to transport the kiddie yourselves?"
"I think we'll take him in my car." said Dudley from behind the Paramedic. Hermione was walking with him and held the blanket wrapped child in her arms, "Less scary. I have a car seat in the boot."
The paramedic nodded and walked away as Dudley fussed with the car. Harry went to look at the bundle Hermione held in her arms.
"He's asleep." Hermione said, "I thought it would be easier. I don't like to apparate with him, so Dudley offered to drive me to St. Mungo's."
"Dudley said he worked with you before?" asked Harry quietly.
"Yeah, a couple of times. He kept asking awkward questions. If I'd have known it was your cousin, I'd have told you." Hermione said.
Harry smiled, knowingly, "No you wouldn't. You'd have told Ginny and let her decide whether to tell me."
"You two coming, then?" called Dudley.
They buckled the sleeping boy into the car seat.
"So where are we going? " asked Dudley.
Hermione smiled ruefully, "I better drive. You won't find it, it's got muggle repelling charms. It's unplotable for a start."
"I'll sit in back with the little one." offered Harry, sliding in next to the sleeping child.
"Ms. Granger? Mr Barton?" the police officer was calling, "I need some forms signed..."
Dudley and Hermione walked back to the police car.
The child beside Harry shivered, whimpered and opened his eyes. He gasped when he saw Harry, "Where'd the witch lady go?" he asked frightened.
"She's just over there," Harry nodded to where Hermione could be seen in the car headlights, "Will I do? I'm a wizard."
"The witch lady had a magic wand." said the boy, doubtfully.
"I've got one, too." said Harry pulling out his own. He noticed that Hermione hadn't had a chance to clean to clean the child up, nor dress him properly, and the evening was just a little too chilly for him to be wandering around in his underwear, even with the blanket, "I'd like to tidy you up a bit. Can I?"
The child bit his lip and nodded. Harry slowly lifted his wand. In the car seat, there was a limit to how much he could cringe, but the child did anyway. Harry cast a gentle Scourgify, knowing that Hermione would have taken photos of the boy's state before she'd brought him out to the car. Hermione never deviated from procedure.
"Ooooh!" the child cried, astonished, "You are a wizard!"
Harry smiled broadly, "Uh-huh. Now, what's your favorite color?"
Harry pulled out a handkerchief and transfigured it into warm green pajamas, "D'you like these?"
The boy nodded uncertainly. Harry was holding them one minute and then they were on the boy's body the next.
"Oh!" the boy stared at Harry. "I..." he couldn't seem to go any farther, and started to cry, quietly.
"All right, it's all right," Harry soothed, remembering from his own childhood that he only ever cried when he felt safe enough. He reached into his pocket and transfigured a bit of fluff into a small teddy that he handed the child. smiling a little as the boy latched onto the stuffed animal and buried his head in it "You've had a long night."
Makes two of us, he thought ruefully. He put his head back on the back of the seat. He and the child might've fallen asleep at the same instant.
He dimly heard Dudley and Hermione climb into the car, "That's cute." observed Dudley, sounding amused.
Hermione laughed a little.
"Y'know," Harry heard Dudley say a while later, "I don't understand why Harry never turned my dad into a cockroach. It would have suited him."
"I assume its because Harry's magic never felt sufficiently threatened." replied Hermione, "And before one is trained, it's strictly instinct. And sometimes, depression or fear can make the magic get bottled up. Wizards are still human, we seldom defend ourselves against our caregivers magically. You'll notice little Tim didn't turn his mother into a bug, just her boyfriend."
"Yeah. I just...has Harry told you about our childhood?"
"Some. I mean I know he didn't get along with his family and we used to send him food every summer holiday, because..." she trailed off. By her tone of voice, Harry could imagine her face, pink cheeked and biting her lip as she always did when she'd said more than she intended.
"Because Mum wouldn't feed him properly."
"Took me years to get over my compulsive eating." Dudley said slowly, "My therapist theorized it was because I was trying to repress all the guilt I was feeling over Harry. Even when I was little, I knew somehow it wasn't right...But you know how kids are. Mum and Dad said he was the devil incarnate and spoiled me rotten. But they never wanted to know me. Y'know? All they ever wanted was their perfect little Diddykins who was a carbon copy of Dad.
Harry had never really considered before how their childhood would have looked to Dudley.
Harry must have drifted back to sleep, because the next thing he knew, Hermione was calling his name.
"Hmm?" he said.
"I said, we're there. Wake up, so you can give Dudley directions to Grimmauld place." she was unstrapping the child and picking him up, "Thanks for putting him in something warmer. You didn't clean his underclothes, did you?"
"I know how to collect evidence, Hermione." Harry said opening his eyes. "I didn't clean him up that thoroughly. Just enough to make him more comfortable."
"Of course. Now, Ron and I will meet you and Ginny and Dudley and his family at the Leaky Cauldron on Saturday. I'll owl Ginny about it in the morning. Or rather later in the morning." She hefted the boy onto her hip and headed down the narrow, badly lit street that held the entrance to St. Mungo's.
Harry opened his door and slid into the passenger seat that Dudley had just vacated.
"So, she informs me that she and I are related by marriage?" asked Dudley.
Harry nodded, smiling.
"You don't mind meeting up on Saturday?" Dudley said tentatively.
"No, I'd like that. To be honest, tonight turned out really different to what I thought. I'm glad to see you again." Harry didn't know if that had come out right, as tired as he was. Something occurred to him, "What's the book you and Phillip were talking about?"
"Oh. That." DUdley smiled a little sheepishly, "It's the one I wrote. I thought you might see it. There's a copy in my briefcase there."
Harry picked the case up off the floor, snapped it open. A large hardcover was in it. Harry lit his wand so he could better read it.
Growing Up In The Shadow of Abuse
By D. Dursley
"I used Dursley because I wanted you to see it." said Dudley quietly, "I tried to find you while I was writing it, but it just never worked out. Your friend Hermione's good. I knew there had to be a witch on some of those cases, but I was never sure enough to actually confront her."
Harry turned to the back cover to read the blurb,
It is not unusual for one child in a family to be singled out for abuse and neglect. Often the other children in the household even participate in the abuse of the scapegoat. Dudley Dursley examines the appalling damage that this does to every child within the family system.
"Look on the dedication page."
I'd like to try again to be a family.
Harry didn't know what to say. He swallowed hard. They drove in silence with Harry only speaking to say "Turn right here." or "Next left." and, finally, "Stop here."
Dudley turned to Harry, "See you Saturday?" he asked hopefully.
"Count on it." smiled Harry, "Can I keep this?" he held up the book.
"Yeah." Dudley beamed.
Harry opened the door to number twelve as Dudley drove away. A light down in the kitchen proved that Ginny was still awake.
"Hi," Harry said, surprised, "You didn't need to wait up."
Ginny was sitting in her dressing gown, reading a stack of forms. She smiled at him, "Have a good night?"
"Yeah." said Harry after a moment of consideration, "I really did. A bit strange, but..." he smiled at her lopsidedly.
"Hermione just sent an owl with these." she indicated the paperwork, "She wanted to know if we still wanted to apply for a foster care licence. Apparently, she has a little boy in need of an emergency placement. She said you knew something about it. She didn't give me a lot of detail, but she said you knew something about it already. Anyway, it's likely to become permanent, according to the evidence the healers have found."
Harry's heart lifted at the idea of adding one more to his family.