Author's or Artist's notes: written for dudley_redeemed 2011
They had been used to living with wizards by Christmas, but Petunia and Vernon never truly liked them. Every now and then, Dudley would catch his mother speaking to one of them, saying that they were lazy with their wand-waving nonsense and they should get on their hands and knees to do real work. After the third or fourth time he heard it, Dudley realized that his mother was actually jealous. He had to admit it would be easier to do chores or homework with a wand.
Vernon was getting restless by the time Valentine's Day came around. By this point, the wizards watching over them lost the calm demeanor Dudley came to expect. Instead of smiles, they wore bags under their eyes and would say less and less about the war. Dudley occasionally managed to steal one of their magical papers and see Harry's picture plastered all over the front with "Undesirable No. 1" above it. He knew he was never close to Harry, but he also never thought he'd see him on the top of a Wanted list. Dudley made sure his parents never saw these papers.
Harry showed up in the middle of a bright day in May, his clothes bloody and torn. They were all gathered in the living room, Vernon and Dudley watching the telly as Petunia went around trying to clean the already spotless room. When they realized who had just shown up in the room, Petunia screamed at the sight, backing up until she hit the wall. Her hand flew up to cover her mouth, and then she didn't move even as small trinkets fell around her. Vernon stood quickly, mouth agape at Harry as if not believing he still lived. Dudley just looked up from his spot on the floor, eyes travelling over the wand still gripped tightly in Harry's fist.
Harry looked at each one of them, a slight waver in his stance the only indication that he was exhausted. "Kingsly told me where to find you," he finally said. "I just want you to know that it's over. He's dead and you don't have anything to fear." Harry looked toward Vernon. "Any remaining Death Eaters know that you mean nothing to me." He looked toward Petunia. "They know killing you won't make me angry." Finally, he looked to Dudley. "You're free to go back."
Before the Dursleys could say anything, Harry was gone.
***Two Years Later***
Dudley packed away his speech material into his bag, letting out a sigh as he did so. Six months on the road, telling people about his experience in being a bully and he could not wait to go home. Home was just a two-bedroom apartment he and Piers rented, but it was the most comfortable place Dudley could find himself in. Piers attended University getting his engineering degree; Dudley tried taking classes, but nothing seemed to fit him.
The dean had given him the idea to be a motivational speaker after she saw him defend a student on campus using nothing but words. Dudley was honestly just trying to help the kid since he looked like Harry, but he had to admit speaking to people about his mistake was almost spiritual. Sure, the truth was played with; not everyone could know Harry was a wizard, of course. Dudley played him off as an autistic boy who died two years beforehand. When the war nobody knew about ended.
Other than his parents, only Piers knew the truth. His friend had pulled it out of him months after he came back, not believing for a moment the lie Dudley spouted from his mouth. He did help Dudley set up the lie laced through his speech after that. Dudley appreciated the help and they never spoke of the real Harry again.
When Dudley was an hour away from home, he called Piers to let him know he was almost there. A short argument later, Dudley found himself agreeing to meet at their favorite pub for a "welcome home" meal. Dudley may have lost some of his weight, but he was still a sucker for fried, greasy food.
The Madam's Scarf was run by three triplets. They were in their forties now, but Piers swore that he had slept with all of them. He would wink at each one when they walked in before proceeding to flirt with whatever one stood behind the bar. Dudley would always shake his head; he never did understand his friend's preference for older women.
Tonight the bar was overloaded with men watching some sport on the telly. Dudley didn't bother trying to see what it was; he grabbed the first empty table and sat down. Piers was either late or in the back with one of the triplets. It really didn't matter to him.
A skinny, blonde waitress popped a coaster on the table and gave him a fake smile around the gum in her mouth. "Hey there. I'm Lisa, but your actual girl is running a bit late and be with you later. What can I get you to drink for now?"
Dudley frowned at her, not sure if she was really supposed to say that, but he shrugged and ordered anyway. "Whatever's on tap." He motioned to the seat next to him. "And he'll most likely have scotch when he gets here. Drop some pop in it too, thanks."
"Sure thing." She winked at Dudley and walked off.
He sat there for another five minutes before Piers walked through the door. His long-time friend made a face at the table, but sat down anyway. Lisa came back with their drinks, winking at Piers (who ignored it) before leaving again. Dudley downed half his glass before any word was spoken.
"Slow down there, Dud." Piers laughed, resting his own glass against his cheek.
Dudley put his glass down and shrugged. "Can't help it. I don't drink while on the road."
"I know it's been nearly a month, but still." Piers looked toward the bar. "Bloody pricks stole our seats."
"I'm sure you'll still get a good look at the girls."
"True." He straightened. "Look, here comes your type."
Dudley opened his mouth to argue that point, but hesitated when he saw who Piers was talking about. The girl actually had curves with a decent chest on her. The hair was cropped shorter than Dudley liked, but it framed her face in a way that made her look cute. For the first time, Dudley actually thought that a woman looked stunning. Her obviously sexist uniform didn't even deter him away from that thought either and he wasn't exactly sure what that meant. He normally didn't go for anyone at these places.
Lisa pointed her toward the two of them and Dudley frowned when he saw her make a face in their direction. Still, she came over and stopped at their table with a friendly smile on her face. "Hi boys. My name is Danni and I'll be your server. You want something to eat?" She turned her smile directly at Dudley and he felt his heart stop.
Piers raised an eyebrow at him before laughing. "Chips basket for both of us. When that's done, give us an order of those delicious chicken things they make so well here."
Danni nodded. "Sure thing, boys. It'll be out in a bit." She turned to go toward the kitchen. Dudley leaned a bit in his chair to get a good look at her behind as she went.
"You know, you haven't dated since Smeltings," Piers pointed out. "Maybe she's single."
Dudley flushed and turned back to his drink. "Don't be stupid. I'm travelling too much for a girlfriend."
"Yeah, but you've got that two-month break thing coming."
"So? That doesn't mean anything." Dudley downed the rest of his beer. "Christ, I just want to relax."
Danni came back and put two baskets down. "Shelly knows you two well. Already had this waiting. Would you like to order another beer?"
Before Dudley could answer, Piers leaned forward. "He'll take that or your phone number."
She and Dudley both blushed. Dudley pushed the glass over to her. "Just the beer," he said softly. "Ignore him, please."
Danni got her composure together quickly. "No problem. We'll just not serve him any more alcohol."
"Hey! I'm nowhere near drunk!" Piers shot Dudley a look. "You're such a bastard."
"I'm not the one flirting with her."
Piers leaned back with his glass. "Maybe you should be."
Dudley groaned and did his best to ignore his friend the rest of the evening.
Not even a week later, Piers dragged Dudley back to The Madam's Scarf. Danni served them again while Piers went between making lewd jokes and asking her out for him. Dudley was glad she just smiled it off and, from the slower-than-normal progress of Piers getting drunk, she was holding back on his liquor. Dudley had to applaud her efforts to get him to spend more money.
Dudley stepped outside to smoke about halfway through the meal. Piers made a comment about sucking on something more fun, but he just ignored his mostly inebriated friend. Gay jokes aside, Dudley did hate his small addiction. Gordon put him on it before he went into hiding with his family. The wizards had given him a magical supply that he managed to sneak off with. Now his box never emptied, which mostly made more trouble for him.
He heard the back alley door slam and a small scream of frustration. Curious, he shifted so he could see down the lightly lit area. Danni stood there, looking over some kind of newspaper. Hoping that Piers would leave them both alone if he tried to talk to her, Dudley stepped closer.
"Everything okay, Danni?"
She crumpled the paper before looking to Dudley. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just a long week." She sat down on a crate. "I just gave your friend another two drinks."
Dudley smiled. "It'll keep him occupied."
"And trying to hit on my bosses more." Danni laughed, brushing crumbs off her skirt. "It makes their day, though."
"I'm sure it does. He tries to have a way with women." He took another drag. "So, Danni. What are you doing tonight?"
Her eyes widened. "What?"
"I'm not trying to lift your skirts or anything," Dudley insisted. "Just a date. A simple, coffee-styled, late-night date."
Danni watched him for a long moment before smiling. "By the time you bring your friend home, I'll be getting off. Coffee sounds good."
Dudley blushed a little and flicked his butt away. "I'll go bring him home, then."
One date led to another. A year later, Piers graduated early and Dudley purchased a decent home. Between his own money and a stipend from the Wizarding community, he didn't even need a loan. Danni made the choice to move in with him and the two went about making the place look like their home complete with used furniture and a growing collection of pictures.
Their first night together after everything was settled, Dudley proposed. Danni didn't hesitate in her answer. Four years after Dudley came out of hiding, he had a pregnant wife, a home, and a life he could be proud of. Not once did he tell his beautiful wife about Harry. She received the same story his audience did and while he felt bad about lying to her, he didn't know how to tell her the truth. He wasn't even sure he was allowed to tell her.
It was the same dream she had been having for years.
She stood in the center of the destruction, still unsure if she had seen everything correctly. The Dark Lord, Voldemort, was dead. Her father limped toward her, blood flowing freely down his side from a wound in his black cloak. The mask on his face was cracked and barely hanging on. Her mother and sister stood a ways behind her, tears streaming down their faces as they held onto each other. Finally, they could be a family again.
They had been neutral during the beginning of the war. Once the Dark Lord took a significant stand, they had to take one as well. Hiding and waiting were no longer options. The family separated in the only way her parents thought to be safe. The patriarch sided with the Dark Lord out of duty, and the others took their chances within Hogsmeade near the center of the Light. Aberforth found them and gave the three shelter until Harry Potter arrived. He had changed everything.
The war was bloody. Both her parents now called to her, saying nonsense things about being together again. About rebuilding their life. She couldn't stay here any longer. Her father reached out to her and she jerked awake, her breath coming out sharply. Beside her, Dudley shifted and rolled onto his back.
It would be useless to try to sleep now. Carefully, she got out of bed and went into the office she and Dudley shared. She pulled out a letter her sister had written her and looked over it once more before deciding that she could do this one, easy thing. Her sister wanted to marry, but couldn't until she was either proven dead or married herself. The letter had been pleading for a response.
Breaking her own promise to herself to never contact them, she quickly penned out a letter giving her sister permission to take over the family duties. Careful not to wake her husband, she opened the window and leaned out. The same owl was still in the tree and she softly called it over. Taking a deep breath, she attached the message to its leg before sending it off. Dudley was still snoring away, bless him, and he didn't have to know.
She rested a hand over her stomach and hummed softly, relaxing back against the window sill and into her Muggle life now that the owl was gone.
*** Six Years Later ***
Five-year-old Colin Dursley ran through the house screaming. "Mamma! Mamma! Come see!"
Since Danni was tending to two-year-old Dora Dursley, Dudley came out to greet his son. "What's all this yelling for, huh?" He picked the boy up and swung him around. "You're upsetting your sister."
"Sorry, daddy." Colin squirmed so he could point toward the kitchen. "Daddy, there's an owl in the window!"
Dudley hesitated before putting the boy down. "There's a what?"
"An owl!" Colin looked toward the stairs and beamed. "Momma, you have to come see!"
It could have been from Harry. He was the only one in the Wizarding world Dudley knew. Or it could be about Harry. Dudley panicked. "I'll go see. Don't want your mother being eaten by an owl, do we?"
Both Dudley and Colin looked toward the stairs. Danni stood, clutching Dora in her arms.
"I mean, it's probably nothing. Piers playing a trick on us or something, dear"
Dudley pushed Colin toward her. "I'll go see. Don't worry, it'll be fine." He gave her a smile and went into the kitchen, heart pounding. That had been close; he couldn't let her find out.
There was an owl in the window, just as Colin boasted about. It clutched an envelope tightly in its feet. Dudley opened the window and held out his arm (he had seen the other wizards do that), but the bird flew right past him. He panicked, tripping over a chair in his haste to try and catch it. Dora started crying and Colin laughed in the other room; Dudley swore. How was he going to explain this to his wife?
Giving in to his fate, he got off the floor and went into the living room. The sight was not one he expected as the owl sat perched on Danni's shoulder, preening its feathers. Dora rested in her mother's lap, staring up at the bird with a thumb in her mouth and tears in her eyes. Colin bounced next to them, trying to pet it. Danni read the attached letter, a frown on her face.
"What's going on?" Dudley asked, raising his voice to try and distract them. "That's my letter."
Danni folded the letter and placed it on the table, seeming not to hear him. "Colin, take your sister upstairs and play."
"But I want to—"
Colin made a face, but did as he was told. He helped Dora down and the two slowly made their way upstairs. Dudley didn't take his eyes off Danni and she didn't stop staring at the letter. Once they heard the bedroom door close, she looked up.
"I have something to tell you, but you can't freak out," she said softly. "Do you promise not to freak out?"
Dudley looked from her shaking hands to the owl. He sat down beside her with a sigh. "So you're a witch, then?"
Startled, she jerked to look at him. The owl on her shoulder made a disgruntled noise and flew to a nearby chair. "You know about us?"
"Yeah, my cousin wasn't autistic. He's a wizard." Dudley motioned to the letter. "I thought that might be him. What's it for, then?"
"Class reunion." Danni picked it up and handed it to Dudley. "Want to come? Your cousin might be there."
Dudley opened the letter, not sure if Harry would really want to see him. He glanced to his wife. "Who's Daphne Greengrass?"
"I changed my name when I moved to the Muggle world." She shrugged, clasping her hands in her lap. "I'm sorry I never told you."
Dudley handed her the letter back. "Do you want to go?"
"Do you? I don't mind." He kissed her forehead. "I have a question, though."
"What is it?"
"Why change your name? Daphne suits you better than Danni."
She laughed softly and leaned against his chest. "It's a very long story. Maybe I'll tell you later."
Dudley rubbed her back. "At least this explains the random times Colin finds chocolate cake in the house."
She groaned. "Fantastic. He's going to be trouble."
Dudley just laughed.
Now that Dudley knew she was a witch, Daphne (he truly did like that name better) used her wand all the time. Colin and Dora took to the change with ease and soon all Colin talked about was Hogwarts. One day he wanted to be a potion's master and the kitchen suffered, the next day it was a herbologist ("A herb-low-gust, daddy. Get it right!") and the garden suffered. Watching him, Dudley swore that his parents could never know. His father would have a heart attack.
The closer the reunion date they got, the more nervous Daphne became. She would tell him about the war a little every day. Dudley had to admit he was curious, especially when she talked about Harry. He never found a good time to mention it, so she still didn't know the truth. He wasn't even sure if it would be wise to tell her since Harry never wanted to see him again.
Since Dudley was a Muggle, they had to take the long way to Hogwarts. Thanks to a special charm created by a witch named Luna, Muggles with magical children could step through the barrier at King's Cross. Daphne led the four of them through the wall and into an empty compartment. Despite being excited, Dora and Colin fell asleep quickly.
Dudley watched his wife carefully, trying to figure out how she felt about all of this. He cleared his throat. "You never told me why you left."
Daphne leaned her head against the train window, her hand running through Dora's hair. "It isn't exactly a bedtime story."
"War never is."
"I know." Daphne sighed and looked to Dudley. "My family was neutral, but when the final battle came, we were forced to take a side. My father joined the Dark Lord while my mother took my sister and I to Potter's side. I fought with them, the Light side, and a boy named Colin Creevey saved me from some debris." She smiled softly at her son, sleeping peacefully against Dudley's side. "He asked if I was okay and I never got a chance to answer. He was killed by a curse."
"That's why you wanted the name Colin?"
"Yes. He needed to be remembered." Daphne shrugged. "I wasn't sure how else to do it."
Dudley motioned to Dora. "Her name, too?"
"Yes, in a way." Daphne shifted Dora to a more comfortable position. "She and I were fighting back-to-back at one point. Before we separated, she told me she had found my mother injured and sent her to a safe place. My mother survived because of her. Nymphadora Tonks. Well, Lupin at the time, I think."
Dudley made a face. "I'm glad she's just Dora."
"I didn't think you'd like the full name." Daphne laughed softly. "Dora's perfect anyway." She sighed again. "I left because I didn't want to handle the aftermath. Living through the war was hard enough."
"So why are you going back?"
Daphne shrugged. "I miss my family. And it's about time I came out of hiding. Slytherins don't hide."
"I'll pretend I understand."
She grinned. "Draco will have a heart attack once he finds out I married a Muggle. I can't wait."
Daphne was pulled away as soon as they arrived. Fellow classmates and friends demanded to know where she had been. His wife, the cunning witch she was, shoved Dora and Colin to the front and soon they were all talking about their own children. Dudley stood by the food bar, sipping what someone called a Butterbeer. It wasn't his favorite taste, but it was something.
Dudley reached over to grab another glass, but a voice stopped him. "What are you doing here?"
He knew that voice; ten years had passed, but that didn't matter. Dudley turned and tried to act relaxed. "Hey, Harry. It's been a while."
Half the hall was suddenly watching them. Dudley wanted to escape into the ground, but he doubted even Hogwarts could do that. He was sure that it wasn't every day Harry Potter frowned at someone. If you happened to be that someone, you better apologize fast. This was different from what he was used to, but like hell he would apologize now. He wouldn't back down when he had done nothing wrong this time.
"Dudley? Honey, is everything okay?" Daphne came up next to him and looked to Harry. "Is my husband a problem, Mr. Potter? I do apolo—"
"Don't," Dudley said softly to her. "He's just shocked."
"You married a Slytherin?" Harry asked, looking between them.
Dudley frowned, a little confused. "Is that bad?"
"Fitting, more like." Harry crossed his arms.
Daphne took Dudley's arm. "After ten years, I thought you would be past all this house business, Mr. Potter."
"I am, but not with him."
Dudley took Daphne's hand. "Daphne, I'd like to introduce you to my cousin…"
Daphne's gasp wasn't the only one heard, but she was the only one to smack him. "Why didn't you tell me! I told you about my family."
Dudley rubbed his cheek. "Yeah, but I didn't react like this when I found out about you."
"Not now, Colin. Mommy's angry at daddy."
"Wait." Harry stepped closer. "Colin?"
Daphne raised her chin. "You aren't the only one who named their children after those lost in the war, Mr. Potter." Without another word, she picked up Dora and pushed Dudley and Colin toward the exit. Once outside, she sat down heavily on a bench and held Dora as close as she dared.
Dudley put a hand on Colin's head before kneeling in front of his wife. "Daphne, look at me." Dudley rubbed her shin lightly. "Darling, please look at me." When she finally did, Dudley gave her a smile. "I did a lot of stupid things as a kid. I hurt Harry pretty bad, too. I'm sure he's just shocked I'm here, that's all. I mean, my mother did call him a freak his entire childhood."
"She hated magic because her sister had it and she didn't." He shrugged. "I don't pretend to understand my mother and father anymore." Dudley leaned forward to kiss her. "Let's just call it a night. We'll leave in the morning."
"Okay." Daphne shifted Dora in her arms. "It was stupid coming here."
"No it wasn't." Dudley picked up Colin. "You missed everyone. I understand and Harry will just have to get used to it."
Daphne leaned forward to kiss him. "I love you."
"Thank Piers for that, the cougar-loving prick."
"Daddy…" Colin tugged on Dudley's hair. "Daddy, what's a cougar? Does Uncle Piers like cats?"
Dudley laughed. "Yes, Colin. Uncle Piers likes cats. Very, very old cats."
Daphne made a face. "Don't tell him that."
"What? He's only five."
Dora giggled and waved her arms. "Kitty!"
Dudley sat alone in his living room, watching the telly silently. After the reunion, Daphne got back in touch with her family and friends. At the moment, she had the kids in a large play date. Dudley lost track of names after she reached "Albus" and "Scorpius" – wizards had such strange names.
He was proud of himself for not screaming when Harry literally popped into the room and said, "Hey…"
Dudley changed the channel, trying to act as if he didn't care. "Come to yell at me?"
"No. I came to apologize. Your wife gave me the address." Harry sat down, resting his hands in his lap. "I acted out of line at the party."
"You don't need to do this."
"Yes I do." Harry smiled. "My wife wasn't too happy about my behavior."
Dudley frowned. "You don't have to, Harry. Especially if it's just to please—"
"I'm not doing it to please her." He leaned back, sighing. "You've changed and I didn't think that was possible. I'm sorry for assuming so much—"
"You knew my parents, so it's fine." Dudley stopped the telly on a football game. "Call us even."
"Even." Harry looked to the game. "How's Manchester?"
"Hell if I know. I don't watch the sport."
"But… right, noise." Harry was quiet a moment.
"I can't sit in the quiet," Dudley admitted. "Not after the war."
Dudley glanced over to his cousin and they shared a small smile. The rest of the game was watched in silence, though it wasn't awkward or tense. Both shared a small understanding of the other and, starting with this afternoon, began their long road to forgiveness.
Years later, when their children grew and went off to start their own lives, Harry and Dudley could still be found watching a game every Sunday that neither cared about, the announcer and the crowd the only sound in the room.