A Second Chance
Every public swimming pool in London reached full capacity by late morning. The scorching heath made it difficult to cool down. The noise that makes every child jump with excitement was heard miles away from the city park.
"Got any money?" the young boy asked.
"No," said the other. The two small children sighed with disappointment and ran towards their parents.
"Daddy, can we have some money for ice cream?" the girl asked breathlessly.
"I gave some to James. He's over there in the line up," the girl's father replied. With that, the children quickly made their way over to the line.
"James, can we have some money?" she asked her nine year old brother.
"No Lily, get our own," he teased. James saw that a tantrum was about to erupt from his little sister.
"James! Daddy said you have to give me and Hugo money to buy ice cream," Lily said, making their conversation audible to everyone around them.
"Just give her the money," said Rose, Lily's older cousin. James decided it was too hot to argue and gave her enough money to buy her and their cousin, Hugo, and ice cream cone.
It felt like hours had passed before they got their refreshing snack. It wasn't long before James left the group to be with his mates, while Lily, Hugo, Rose and Lily's eight year old brother, Albus, sat at a nearby picnic table.
"I'll be back, I'm going to give the left over money back to daddy," Lily said as she made her way to her parents. She was running carelessly though the park, when she was suddenly knocked to the ground. She looked up and there stood a large, beefy man towering over her.
"I'm so sorry!" Lily said, as she bolted up, so the large man seemed slightly smaller and less intimidating.
"Oh don't worry about it! Accidents happen," he said, cheerfully. "I should've seen you coming. Here's some money for a new ice cream cone," he looked at her ice cream melting on the fresh summer grass.
"No, it's okay. The ice cream truck is gone now. Hi mum!" Ginny walked towards her young daughter, and glanced at the middle man she'd been talking to.
"Lily, what did I tell you about talking to strangers?" Ginny said, with a disapproving expression on her face.
"Not to. But mum, I accidentally ran into him and I was apologizing," the innocence in her voice convinced her mother that she was telling the truth.
"I'm sorry. It was my fault that I knocked your daughter over. I should have been watching where I was going," he explained to Ginny.
Perhaps it was rude of her, but Ginny stood in silence for several seconds, staring at the man. She knew she had seen him before, she just can't remember where, or who he is for that matter.
"Oh it's alright. Hi, I'm Ginny," she said, shaking his hand and expecting a name in return.
"Hi Ginny, nice to meet you. I'm Dudley," she felt a sudden disrespect for this man. The name vaguely brought back memories. All of them unpleasant, all of them told by Harry and none of them involved Dudley performing any kind of magic. At that moment, Ginny realized that the man that she and her daughter had been talking to was Harry's Muggle cousin, and childhood bully, Dudley Dursley.
Ginny was unsure of what to do next. Would she walk away and never mention this to Harry? Would she continue with the conversation and see where it takes them? Maybe it's possible that he's changed after all these years. Besides, Ginny has never personally met him before; she has only ever seen him briefly. But, she has heard countless stories of him that convinced her that she should leave this meaningless conversation.
"Mum, I'm thirsty," Albus said, as he came running up to his mother, struggling for breath.
Dudley's eyes widened as he looked down at the eight year old. He was silent, and Ginny could tell that he was deep in thought.
"Aunt Hermione—" Albus ran off before she could finish her sentence.
"Lily, why don't you go and play with Hugo?" Ginny suggested, with hope that she could talk to Dudley in private.
"If you want me to leave, just say so," and with that, she quickly made her way over to the old, wooden picnic table under the oak tree where her cousins were just finishing off the last bit of their ice cream.
"Your son reminds me of someone I knew when I was growing up," Dudley said. Albus did inherit many of Harry's traits. And out of their three children, Albus resembled Harry the most.
"Yeah?" was all Ginny could think of saying.
"He reminds me of my cousin. My parents raised him since he was an infant. He wasn't even seventeen when he was split up from us and I haven't seen him since. I receive the occasional Holiday card from him though," he explained to Ginny. The tone of his voice was not happy or even matter-of-factly. It was depressing and regretful. Ginny suddenly formed a new image of him in her mind. Dudley had changed. He did not know who Ginny was, and yet he sounded truly sorry for contributing to Harry's miserable childhood.
"Well I guess I'll be off now. Nice meeting you," he couldn't leave yet. He deserved to know who he had been talking to.
"Wait, Dudley," Ginny said, hoping he wasn't in any kind of a hurry to go.
"Yes?" he responded.
"I'm your cousin's wife," it was difficult for her to tell him this, but she managed to force the words out.
"Excuse me?" his confusion mimicked Ginny's several minutes ago.
"My husband is Harry Potter. He's told me about you," Dudley stared in disbelief.
"Is... is he here?" he asked nervously.
"Yes, he's over there," Ginny pointed to a nearby bench where the trio was sitting.
Dudley didn't say another word to Ginny. He began to take small steps towards Harry.
"I'm sure he'll be pleased to see you," hopefully that statement would give him the confidence to comfortably walk up to him.
"We weren't necessarily on the best terms as kids," he stopped and faced Ginny.
"I know. Apologize and he will work on forgiving you, I know my husband," she told him. He hesitated slightly, and walked confidently over to Harry.
"Harry?" Dudley was so quiet that Ginny was surprised when Harry looked up at him. Harry stared at him blankly for a few seconds, and then a mix of emotions could be seen from him. Dudley backed up, and Harry continued to stare, unable to find the right words to say to his cousin who he hasn't seen in sixteen years.
"Hi... Dudley?" Harry was nearly as quiet as Dudley.
"I ran into your wife and daughter and your wife told me that you were her husband. I haven't seen you for so long; I had to see how you've been. Harry, I'm sorry about the way I've acted when we were kids. I was young and influenced by my parents. I wish I could make it up to you. I hope you accept my apology," he spit out everything he had to say so fast, it was barely understandable. Harry could tell how nervous he was, and seemed to understand parts of the mess he had just spoken.
"Yeah, I accept," the smile he gave Dudley relieved the tension between them, and Dudley felt the weight lift off of his chest. A feeling of completion rose upon him, and he smiled back.
"Listen, we have to get going soon. But how about our families get together tonight? We do some introductions and catch up on the years we've missed." Dudley was comforted to hear this from Harry, and delighted about the suggestion.
"That's a great idea! Whose house?" Dudley asked.
"Well we'd hate to place a burden on you, but could we have dinner at your place?" Ginny said before Harry had the chance to speak. Harry was perfectly fine with this idea. He knew that Dudley couldn't come to Grimmauld place as it was not visible to Muggles.
"Oh no! It's no problem. We love having company. My wife makes a delicious steak. How about you come over at around five o'clock?"
"Sure, that sounds good. What's your address?" Ginny quickly searched her bag for a pen and paper. The large knapsack was filled with miscellaneous objects, which made Ginny take longer than usual to gather what she was looking for. Hermione looked at her, disappointed with her lack of organization.
Once she had the pen and paper in hand, she quickly scribbled down the address that Dudley told her. After quick directions to his house, several laughs were shared and goodbyes were said. Tonight would be a night to reunite two people who never got to know each other because of the rivalry that stood between them.
The moment that Dudley apologized, the moment he invited his cousin over for dinner and the last moment Harry spent with him sixteen years ago, proved that Dudley was not the same Dudley anymore. He grew up and realized that life was too short to spend making enemies. Dudley deserved a second chance.