Author's Note: This story was originally written for the Dudley Redeemed fest. Huge thanks to my beta, Little Miss Artemis, and all of the mods at Dudley Redeemed.
He sat alone in the kitchen, wearing nothing but a pair of sweatpants, eating straight from a can of chili. He was glad that the dining table had survived the attack, even though it was just something to rest his elbows on during breakfast. This was one of the three best parts of his day. The other two were lunch and dinner. After all these years of diets and exercise and work, food remained his source of comfort, the thing he always came back to.
He had gone through all of the perishables first, starting with everything in the broken refrigerator. No point in letting the milk and meat go bad, just because his world had ended. He had made sure to ration it out, always eating the things that were about to go (or had already gone a bit) first. Ignore the yellow bananas, the brown ones had to be eaten now. But he had apparently been too cautious about saving for later, and eventually had to admit that the fuzzy white hamburger at the back was no longer safe. So he moved onto the cans.
By his reckoning, he had another two weeks on three meals a day. He knew he should cut down to two meals, or perhaps even one, to make it last longer. But he couldn't bring himself to pass up one of the only things he looked forward to every day. The television was broken, his computer was buried underneath rubber, presumably smashed, and there was only so long any book could hold his attention. There was nothing to do here but eat. And wait for the food to run out.
He had given up hope of being found before he starved. Obviously normal people couldn't break through the magical barriers surrounding the house. And apparently they had been worried that his father would have stormed out at some point, because the spells worked both ways. No, the only people coming in would have wands. He would rather die alone than let that happen again.
Hell, he would rather he died before next week. That would be a lot of issues taken care of. He wouldn't have to see the last of the cans go. He wouldn't have to contemplate going into the drawing room again.
He wouldn't have to see the moon again.
Nine more days, according to the calendar. But what about the beginning, when he had blacked out for stretches? Who could say which night it had been, when the last thing he remembered had been morning? How much time had he lost, and when would he have to face the next full moon? The calendar had lunar symbols, though. If he lived long enough to worry about it, he would have a solid answer on the date. A solid promise that he had spent two months of his life here, in this cage that used to be his home.
He finished off the chili, scraping the inside of the can with his spoon to gather every last drop. He rinsed it in the kitchen sink and drank the sauce-filled water; he wasn't going to waste anything. Threw the can into the overflowing bin and went over to the calendar hanging beside the ever-silent telephone. He had spied Jones using it plenty of times, when she thought that no one was listening, but for every time he tried, there was no dial tone, and no amount of button mashing made any difference. He marked the first of three X's on the square for that day.
Now it was just a matter of finding something to occupy himself with until lunch.
He figured he could go wash up and get dressed. The level upstairs was largely intact, and the piping all seemed to be working, so at least he didn't have two month's worth of dirt and muck on him. And the gashes in his side were bad enough without infection setting in. Sure, he wanted to die, but he'd rather go get friendly with a steak knife than rot away bit by bit, decomposing by day and falling to pieces at night.
The same way the beings in the drawing room were decaying.
His clothes kept growing larger and larger. Some of them must have shrunk during his attempt at washing them in the tub, but despite that they still hung off of him in loose folds. He reflected upon Diggle's long dragging robes, and wondered if he would ever end up looking that weird.
No. He'd probably just end up looking like his cousin, wearing bigger people's hand-me-downs. Or whatever you called it when the people were the same age. Hand-me-acrosses?
He pulled on a faded blue jumper over his head, careful to not brush the bandages too much, pausing every now and then to figure out how best to avoid the pain. The jumper was still a bit damp; Diggle and Jones would do everything with their wands, so they didn't see a need for a washer or dryer. And they never expected a time where they wouldn't be there. Diggle and Jones were supposed to be around all the time to take care of everything, so no problem there.
No problem at all.
He had considered getting mad at them, right after it happened. Weren't they supposed to be the ones protecting the family? Weren't they what made it a "safe" house? But the anger had died out relatively quickly; he simply hadn't had the energy to keep it up. The two weeks directly afterwards had been a hazy blur, punctuated only by meals. By the time he was all the way back in his mind, he was just too numb to care. And besides, it seemed in poor taste to speak ill of the dead.
Four and a half more hours until lunchtime. He was clean, he was dressed, and he was ready for whatever the day had in store.
He stared out the window for two hours.
The house was as clean as it was going to get, with the wreckage all pushed to the sides and the bloodstains mostly mopped away. He had reached a particular boring part in the book he was slogging through and his side hurt too much for weight training. Boxing with the shadows got old after a while. If he went back to bed, his whole schedule would be off. So he sat. And he watched. And he waited.
The house was one of the only landmarks in sight, aside from scattered trees here and there that dotted the skyline. There was a small town over the hills, but way out of sight and far out of reach, so who cared? He had gone there a few times, escorted by Diggle, who had warned about "the dangers of too much time in limited company".
A thin road wound past the house, and a few times a day cars would drive by as they went on their business. He watched those, and wondered who might be in them. He watched birds. He watched trees. It's like a very slow television show, he told himself. And he had killed plenty of hours watching those types of shows over the years. This was no different. This was the new normal.
Two and a half hours until lunchtime.
Muggle-Borns and Other Expatriates Begin Return to England
Officials have noticed a large rise in the number of people returning to Britain as it passes one full month since the defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Those who previously felt ostracized by the Ministry of Magic, or threatened by the power of the Death Eaters, are now quietly optimistic that it is safe for them to return to their homes and businesses. This raises hopes that the healing process has begun, and that life may return to normal in Britain.
Of course, the surge of people also means new challenges and complications. Many fled the country under questionable circumstances, and it may be difficult to determine between those who went into hiding out of general fear, and those who wished to run from a trail of guilt. Some worry that, amidst the crowds of good, honest people returning to their homes, there may also be an influx of undesirables, who mean further threat to the wizarding world.