Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter and I am making no profit from this story.
AN: This was written for Rizaidym because he's the one who put the idea in my head. It's not quite complete, and I'm not sure it ever will be, but it can still stand alone. It's Harry/fem!Dudley, but - for now - very mildly. That'll change if I update it, but...*shrugs* I don't know when or if that would happen.
The first time Harry actually thinks of his cousin as a person is in primary school. At home, she's always been Rosie-Posie Princess, Daddy's Little Girl. She's been perfect and spoiled and just so precious – a brat, in Harry's opinion, but he's a freak so what does his opinion matter?
School is different. Rose Dursley is no one's princess here. She's not smart enough for the teachers to adore her. She's blonde and blue-eyed, but overindulgence has made her fat and she's not that pretty to begin with. She's spoiled and mean and cruel, and no matter how much Aunt Petunia likes to dress her up in frills and ribbons and bows, nothing on earth will make her girly.
It's their second week in school when Harry finds her crying on the back steps. She hasn't made the best impression – neither has he – and girls are cruel. They look and they judge and they giggle behind their hands as they huddle in little groups with their dolls. They remind him of Aunt Petunia.
"What do you want?" she asks him as he sits next to her – a safe distance away; Rose has a mean right hook.
"It gets better," he says, "if you keep your head down. Just pretend that you don't exist and they'll ignore you." He doesn't look at her when he speaks. He doesn't want to see her cry. Really cry, not have fake, brattish tantrums. She's crying real tears, like he does in his cupboard sometimes, and it makes his insides squirm.
"What would you know?" she asks. He doesn't say anything. Telling her that her parents are worse than the girls who made her cry would get him punched and – once she'd told – locked in his cupboard without meals for a few days, so he keeps his mouth shut. They sit together in silence.
They're seven when Harry finally gives in and helps Rose with her homework in return for her not telling her parents when he does something freakish in school. It's blackmail on her part. Their teacher's hair turned blue when she was telling Harry off, and while the Dursleys have never given either of them an exact definition of what they mean by 'freakishness', Harry knows that this will fall under it. So he agrees to help her. He already keeps his marks lower than hers – he'd be locked up if he didn't – but they both know that he's the smart one.
He's surprised when he actually learns something. Rose isn't as stupid as he thought she was. She just doesn't like reading much, and the school doesn't give them other ways to learn.
He was running from Polkiss and his gang when he ended up on the roof, and even Rose couldn't hide that kind of freakish display from the Dursleys. Not when the school calls them directly to let them know that Harry has been caught climbing school buildings. It was the last day of school, too, and there's nothing now to stop them from locking him in his cupboard for the whole of half term.
He's watching a spider make a web when there's a soft thud from outside the door. Rose's voice filters through the thin plasterboard door. "It's like how school is, isn't it. 'Cept when Anna and Catherine and Eleanor call me a freak it's because I'm fat. And 'cause I don't like dolls." Thousands of Barbies have met their doom at Rose's hands, but her parents keep buying them. "Or horses." Privately, Harry thinks Rose would prefer a bike or a skateboard or an air rifle or anything that wasn't pink or doll related.
"I get food at school," he says. It's the only real difference. People seem to hate him no matter where he goes. But school lunches are free so even he's allowed one.
Rose is silent for a moment. He wonders if she's left. Gone to tell on him. But then she speaks up again. "Why do Mum and Dad hate you?"
"I'm a freak."
"Yeah. But how?"
He shrugs, but she can't see it. "Dunno."
It's the nicest conversation he's had with her outside of explaining the times tables, but he's still surprised when she opens the door – it's easy to get into from the outside; just bolted instead of padlocked – and shoves a couple of fish fingers and a few chips, wrapped in a paper tissue, through the crack.
Harry's a wizard, not a freak. Or, rather, his freakishness is because he's a wizard.
He's the Boy Who Lived, the one who saved them from the Dark Lord. His scar – the one feature, other than his eyes, that he's ever actually liked – is the only mark left from an evil curse that should have killed him.
So maybe he's still a freak after all.
Rose is different when he comes back from first year. She scowls and yells more and walks with her shoulders slightly hunched. But she sneaks into his room at night and asks him to tell her stories about magic – and he does – and she shares her chocolate with him as she bitches about algebra and the horror that is her school uniform (an orange plaid skirt with a maroon blouse and white knee socks; it suits nobody).
It strikes him, one night, as he chews on a piece of Dairy Milk and explains the rules of Quidditch, that he probably shouldn't be telling her this. She's a Muggle. But, he thinks, she already knows he's a wizard.
(And she's easier to talk to than Hermione.)
He writes to her all through second year. After Dobby's visit, she'd snuck him extra food through the cat-flap in his door, so he figures he might as well. He tells her about the Petrifications and the voices in the walls, Dobby and the Heir of Slytherin.
Your school sounds like a horror film she writes back. A bad one. And how can snakes be evil? They're just animals.
It comforts him more than he'd like to admit. Rose looks at the Wizarding world in the way that Harry thinks he would prefer to: as an outsider. Ron and Hermione aren't so bad, but they don't understand that he's not Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the boy they've read about. He's just Harry, and one day, Harry knows, that won't be enough.
Being the Heir of Slytherin is a bit like being at Privet Drive he writes back only with more warding gestures. I can deal with it.
But why should you?
Rose takes his Hogsmeade permission slip as soon as he shows it to her and picks up a pen from his desk. "I can forge Dad's signature," she tells him. "So stop whining about it and tell me what the hell this is about."
She tosses him a copy of Hamlet. He reads it that night and then takes her to the park the next day. She starts to understand it when they act it out behind the gazebo.
"I wish we could do drama at school," she says, flopping down on the grass after Act Three.
"I wish we could do English," he replies. "Potions is awful."
"Your school sucks."
He thinks that she may be right. After Snape, Binns, Quirrell and Lockhart, he's beginning to wonder about whether Hagrid's assertion that Hogwarts was the best school of magic is actually correct. He sighs. "Don't have a choice, do I? It's this or nothing. It's the only magic school in Britain."
She rolls onto her side and studies him for a moment. "I can send you copies of my assignments and stuff, if you want," she says slowly. "And then you might be able to take your GCSEs."
She's serious, he realises. He smiles. "Thanks."
When he finds out about Black – about his traitor godfather – she's the first person he thinks of telling. She's the only person he really wants to tell, but of course, Ron and Hermione were with him and they know as well. They're wide-eyed and horrified, but they still don't quite seem to get it. They've never been woken up by the sound of their mother screaming, and flashes of green light.
His hands shake as he grips his quill and the letter ends up blotched with ink and tears. Ron and Hermione watch him, worried, and they question him. Is he alright? He's not going to do anything rash, is he? Who is he writing to?
I think I'm beginning to see why your parents didn't want me to come here, Rose.
"He turned out to be innocent. There's truth potions and everything, but no one bothered to even give him a trial."
Even as he gives her the full story, he can't help but let his gaze drift downwards. Rose has grown up. She's a girl he realises. Definitely a girl. He can feel his cheeks reddening and he looks away. What is wrong with him? She's his cousin!
"That's sick," she says, and for a moment he's wondering if she's talking about him looking at the way her breasts strain against her T-Shirt. He doesn't think she's noticed. He hopes not.
"I know," he says.
She'll never be beautiful, but she's managed to combine the best of her parents into something that – with age – is becoming passably pretty. There's an optical illusion of sorts, when she tilts her head to the side and bites her lips in thought, where she comes somewhere close to being lovely. She's not skinny by any means, but puberty has started to shift her weight around into something Harry finds kind of attractive.
He wishes he could ask her out without coming off as a total creep. He studies with her instead. They do their homework together on a picnic table in the park; he borrows dust jackets to hide the moving pictures on his book covers and a fountain pen so that he doesn't have to use a quill in public.
Her hair is fine and slightly wavy, and wisps of it fall out of her ponytail and into her eyes. She brushes it impatiently away, but it always falls back. It's in moments like this, he thinks, as he leans back over his History of Magic essay and tries to focus on goblin rebellions again – quiet moments in the warmth and the sunlight, when peace drapes over them like a blanket – that she could outshine Cho Chang.
He glances up at her again, and this time she catches him looking. She smiles faintly and goes back to her work.
(And when the Weasleys arrive to 'rescue' him, he can't help but resent them for it.)