Warning(s): character bashing (Draco, most of the wizarding world), mentally unstable!Harry, BAMF!Hitman!Dudley, protective!Hermione, character death, torture, wizards are assholes, mentions of infidelity, not a fluffy story, hint of dark!Harry (at the end).
Author's or Artist's notes: Please pay attention to the warnings. Title comes from "Pull Myself Together (Don't Hate Me)" by The Rocket Summer. Written for dudley_redeemed 2012
His divorce had just been finalized, his bank account half-emptied, and his son (that wasn't his actual son, not that it mattered) had been taken across the ocean all so his gold-digging bitch of an ex-wife could latch herself onto the next dull-minded man to fall for her charms. Dudley felt as though he deserved every shot of whiskey he ordered and, with that in mind, he downed his fifth shot before motioning for another.
When he was seventeen, Dudley never thought his life would be like this. Sure, he had just gone into hiding with his parents during a war. He had to leave behind everything he knew just to be safe. His parents grumbled about their lost lives constantly before one of their babysitters snapped that if it weren't for Harry's insistence, they would have been left to die when 'The Dark Lord' came to find Harry. After that, Petunia worried, Vernon still raged, and Dudley just stayed silent.
When the war ended and his parents went back home, Dudley asked if Harry survived. The woman (witch) simply nodded and refused to say another word on the matter. Vernon went back to work the following Monday, Petunia worked on controlling their out-of-control garden, and Dudley felt lost.
He did move out two weeks later, choosing to live with his former best friend, Piers, who seemed to remember doing things with Dudley in the past year that Dudley never did. The one time he spoke with Gordon had turned out the same way and while Dudley did appreciate this, all he really wanted was normalcy in his life. This wasn't anywhere near normal.
Thirty-five-year-old Dudley Dursley took his sixth shot of whiskey and squeezed his eyes shut at the memories. They still came.
Piers ended up getting some poor bird pregnant when they were nineteen. Their friendship had been tested over the past year and a half and this had been the breaking point. Six months into the pregnancy, Piers' new wife demanded that Dudley go, or she would. Piers didn't hesitate before asking for his key back and, otherwise, giving Dudley a week to get his stuff out before it was donated. It seemed nothing was allowed to be normal for him.
Over the next two years, his belongings dwindled down to what could easily fit in his over-sized duffle. He slept where he worked, trying to find a balance in his life that he didn't think anything or anyone could give. He was twenty-two before anything of actual interest happened. He had been in the park, feeding the last bits of his stale bread to the birds surrounding him, when a man in a suit approached him. Dudley had put up a few excuses in his mind, ready to defend why he looked so ragged when he wasn't a bum, but the man simply asked if he wanted a job.
Thirty-five-year-old Dudley wanted to go back and tell his twenty-two-year-old self not to be an idiot, but time travel was impossible. His younger self had said yes and life, or some form of it, finally began.
Boxing had trained Dudley for various physical activities, but nothing prepared him for what the Suit put him through. Dudley had never been given the man's name and, though it was his boss, Dudley still referred to him by the Suit, or Mister S to 'clients' he dealt with.
If only his mother had lived long enough to find out he had become a trained hitman. Thatwould have been interesting to bring up over dinner. As it was, she died two months into his training, before she could even see him slim down to a thin waist and a strong build. His father had seen it, claimed he didn't like it, and his mum's funeral was the last time he had seen the man.
Thirty-five-year-old Dudley was used to the feel of his gun as the trigger pulled. He was used to the spray of blood that would sometimes splatter over his otherwise pristine suit. He became immune to the begging and pleading of wretched men that didn't deserve to breathe. He felt comfortable in the mask that fell across his face while on a mission. He accepted the fact that the dark fires of Hell waited for him in the future.
Twenty-four-year-old Dudley was terrified the first time he had gotten a Kill Order. He was good at the information part, but always felt as though the decision of life shouldn't be in his hands. The first time he pulled the trigger, point blank at a man's forehead, he didn't like the feeling of giddiness that ran through him. He needed something to keep him grounded, to remind him that he couldn't take life as if it were his decision.
He met Maria Stalling shortly after that. His adopted a third mask and married her because she could have kept him grounded. It didn't matter that, a year after their marriage, he found her in bed with another man. Two years after that, it had been with a woman. At thirty, Dudley found out she was pregnant, a son conceived during one of his "business trips" in Ireland.
Now, at thirty-fucking-five, she left him for the father of their child. Dudley let her win with little fight, knowing that he couldn't put up with his third mask anymore. He had a job to do, people to kill, and more to interrogate. Maria had become a distraction more than once, one he couldn't afford.
He lifted his seventh shot to his lips, ready to let himself get truly pissed before the night was over. Before the liquid touched his lips, the glass was gently pulled out of his hands and a brown-haired woman downed it instead.
"I needed that, thanks," she said, putting the glass onto the counter with a rough clinkof glass on wood. "Hey, Dudley."
Dudley's job was to know everyone he ever spoke to, but he couldn't place this girl. "Who…?"
"Right, you wouldn't remember me." She held her hand out, the appendage shaking just slightly. Dudley doubted it had been out of nerves. "Hermione Granger."
Hermione Granger. Witch. Magic. Wizards. Harry. "Ah…"
"Yes, indeed. I need your help."
Dudley groaned and let his head drop onto the bar, glad when blackness claimed him.
The room smelled of moth balls, lavender flowers, and some kind of animal droppings. It wasn't the most pleasant smell mixture to become aware to, but Dudley would take it over some of the other combinations he had been subjected to while working. He attempted to get a better read of the room, but something had fiddled with his ability to think clearly. As carefully as he could, he lifted his eye lids just enough to get a view of the room.
An owl perched next to the bed on a chair, its eyes staring straight into his own. The wall behind the creature had peeling wallpaper of various colors and he couldn't tell how many old layers there were. The tattered curtains were closed and while Dudley could seethe sunlight through them, no light actually came into the room.
Whiskey. Hermione Granger. Witch. Magic. Wizards. Harry.
Dudley closed his eyes, holding in a groan at the pain he just realized coursed through his body. He worked in pain before; he almost died the day some target broke a rib and punctured his lung, but he still brought the bastard down. The Suit had lectured him about paying better attention, denying him a paycheck that time to pay for his medical expenses. Not that it had really mattered; killing people brought him more money than he knew what to do with.
The stairs outside the door creaked, but otherwise there was no warning that he would be soon obtaining a visitor. He feigned sleep, wanting to know more about the situation before he further opened his eyes to the world. The door opened silently. A cup rattled slightly on its saucer. Eggs and bacon soon joined the horrible smell in the room.
"Don't do that," Hermione Granger said. The tray slid across a nightstand. "My alarms went off to let me know when you woke up."
Magic, right. He kept silent.
Hermione Granger didn't seem fazed by it. "I brought you some food and a potion to help with your hangover. Harry once told me that you didn't like magic much, but it works a lot better than pills." The bed dipped by his right knee and her buttocks rested against him from where she sat. "This would be easier if you would just open your eyes. I'm not going to hurt you."
Dudley remained still. She let out a sigh.
"Fine, okay. I'll let you stay silent if you want, but you're going to listen to me."
She spoke quickly, getting more agitated the more she revealed. The ending of the war had not been pretty and Harry's best friend, Ron, had died trying to save Harry from some kind of snake. She listed other deaths of people he didn't know; Fred, Tonks, Remus, Colin, Snape, Moody (who names themselves 'Moody'?), and various other so-called innocent people. For the next four years, their world focused on rebuilding their lives with Harry at the front of it.
Dudley realized that his life started to pick up when Harry's started to go down.
After the last brick was settled into place and the world rebuilt, people had tried to be normal. Then the whispers started about how so-and-so did something to make the war longer. The rumors got more and more vicious and Dudley was not pleased to realize that he made his first kill on the day Harry was first accused of assisting the supposed Dark Lord. Harry had backing, but not for long.
On Dudley's wedding day, Harry's girlfriend, Ginevra Weasley, had an apparent suicide with a note explaining how Harry had secretly been helping a man named Tom. The disgust at the note was evident in Hermione Granger's voice; Dudley's fist clenched without his realizing he had done it. At that point in his life, Harry was thrust into the spotlight as a criminal. He spent a few years fighting before willingly going to prison.
Dudley had his eyes open now, watching the shaking figure of the witch. She didn't look at him, but it was obvious she was holding back a mixture of tears and anger. Honestly, though, Dudley wasn't sure how he could help. Nobody knew of his job and Suit had built a damned good back story for him as a consultant for security systems. She could want him to protect Harry, but weren't magical protections better than his?
The world had not been happy that Harry was suddenly so close to what she called Death Eaters (it was the stupidest name Dudley had ever heard). As a high-ranking Ministry employee, Hermione offered to take Harry under her roof with a house arrest, but the public wouldn't have it. Instead, Harry went to a man named Draco Malfoy.
That name he remembered. Harry talked a lot in his sleep when they were younger and, after that first year, he alwayscomplained about the Malfoy prat in his sleep. Part of Dudley hated him just because he was the only one allowed to torment his cousin and no other bastard was allowed to take that from him.
Hermione Granger didn't get much further in her explanation about what happened in Harry's life. She broke down, burying her face in her hands and letting her tears flow. It wasn't the most comfortable situation Dudley found himself in, but he had dealt with worse.
"Where's Harry now?" he asked, startling her out of her tears.
She wiped furiously at her face. "Here, but I didn't want to bring him into the room until you were ready."
"He really needs my help?"
Dudley frowned at her. "Why me? I tormented him as a child."
Hermione finally turned to him. "Eight years ago, Harry told me that if anything were to happen, he trusted you above any other Muggle and I should hide wherever you were."
Something he hadn't felt in a long time stirred in Dudley's chest. "He did?"
"I wouldn't lie when it comes to Harry. He's all I have left that's worth anything."
Getting involved would make his life twice as hard, but Dudley couldn't let his cousin down. Not this time. "Hand me that headache thing."
The smile Hermione gave him as she handed the vial over seemed to promise that things would work out fine. Dudley sincerely hoped so.
Dudley didn't recognize the person he stared out and he surely didn't believe that this pathetic thing could be his cousin. The cocky attitude that hid under his shy exterior wasn't there. The determination Dudley used to see every day had disappeared. If it weren't for the small bits of black hair and the stupid scar across the forehead, Dudley would have killed Hermione Granger for her prank and just went home.
The fact that Harry didn't acknowledge him, simply staring across at the wall with blank eyes, scared Dudley.
"What happened?" he asked sharply, turning a glare to the girl. "How did he get like this?"
"Draco Malfoy." Dudley knew whom his next target was, paid or not. "Nobody really knows what happened while he was in that house, but he came out like this. Malfoy declared him cured and said Harry admitted to helping Voldemort during the war. He said now Harry would never betray them again."
She looked away and Dudley resisted the urge to grab her chin and turn her back toward him. "Except nobody really believed it. They started blaming him for things out of his control. Think what you want, but him being like this probably saved his life. I don't know if you remember the Weasleys—"
"I do, but I don't want to think about them."
"Right, well… They were like his surrogate family. Ron and Fred's death they didn't blame him for at first, but once Ginny died? And then the rest of the wizarding world started putting more blame on him?"
"I get it." Dudley stepped away from Harry. "What do you expect me to do?"
"I just need to hide him. I can't keep him here forever and they'll come here eventually to look for him."
"And you think they won't come to me?"
Hermione smiled a little. "Harry isn't as dumb as people think he is. He's been telling people that he hated your entire family since school. When he told me he trusted you, he also told me that he wanted a place to fall back on. Just in case."
A younger Dudley would hate to be used like that, but he knew better now. Being a cover story didn't bother him as much as it used to. "What are you going to do?"
"Try to survive." Hermione handed Dudley a bag. "This is the only things he has left. Please keep him safe."
Dudley was glad the bag was a normal backpack and he shrugged it on his shoulders. "Keep in touch, that's all I ask."
Together, they maneuvered Harry into Dudley's arms. Hermione gave him a warning before placing an object into his hand. Before he could ask what it was, there was a tug behind his navel and, after a dizzying swirl of color, he landed in his living room.
He didn't want to know how she knew where he lived.
Family leave was not an excuse to ignore the job, but Dudley told the Suit he didn't really give a shit and ignored them anyway. There had been a tense argument in his living room before Dudley dragged his boss to the bedroom and simply pointed at his cousin. He explained that Harry had been tortured and needed him.
Much to his shock, the Suit simply nodded and said, "Take all the time you need."
Three days later, Dudley finally fell into a routine around the house. He would wake up, clean up any mess Harry made during the night (it had only really happened the first night; Dudley really wasn't sure he wanted to know how it got cleaned after that), cook breakfast, and spend most of the day trying to convince Harry to eat. He knew that if he left the tray of food in the room it would be gone in a few hours, but Dudley wanted his cousin to respond to him. He wanted to see the light back in his eyes.
Hermione came when she could, but the times were sporadic. She left him any papers or bits of news she could and Dudley spent any free time he had reading through them. It gave him a good distraction from his sham of a marriage and its divorce.
He had been so caught up in his reading that he didn't notice when Harry first shuffled out into the living room and settled on the couch. As far as he knew, Harry didn't move unless nobody was in the room. A hand reached out, sliding carefully over a scar that ran down the length of his arm before disappearing under the sleeve. Dudley twitched a little, but otherwise kept still at the questioning fingers, letting Harry explore as much as he wanted. His mind flew through questions, wondering why Harry decided to come out of his shell now.
"I got that jumping over a fence." Dudley kept his voice soft and his eyes adverted. "It hurt like Hell, too. Goes all the way to the shoulder."
Harry's hands pushed up the sleeve to see the end of the scar.
"I could have healed most of the scar, but I kind of like it." Dudley leaned forward to set the papers down. "It reminds me of stuff."
Harry squeezed Dudley's wrist. Dudley didn't have the heart to move for a very long time.
The next time Hermione visited, Harry had gotten some intelligence back into his eyes. He still tended to stay in bed, but only if Dudley was out or sleeping. Otherwise, he shuffled behind him around the flat, reminding Dudley of a lost puppy. It was adorable, though still a little sad. Hermione had been thrilled when she saw Harry and she talked for nearly an hour about how this was better than Harry had been since The Incident (as she called it).
Personally, Dudley didn't care what she had to say. He knew his target, and he knew his goal.
Getting information on Malfoy was more difficult than he cared to admit. He was a mere man, while Malfoy held a wand and power Dudley didn't fully understand. Could wizards dodge bullets? What about the blade of a knife? An arrow from his hardly-used crossbow? Poison? There were too many factors and not enough information. After three days of constant research on the requested items Hermione brought, Dudley wanted to pull his hair out.
"Your world doesn't make sense," he told Harry, leaning back on the couch. Harry said nothing, as usual, and just shifted so he could better rest his head on Dudley's shoulder. "I mean it. There's no solid form that indicates how it's held together. Magic can do one thing, but not another? It doesn't make sense."
He had started talking out loud to Harry two days before. Part of him realized it was absolutely crazy to talk to someone who wouldn't talk back, but Dudley was tired of the quiet. He had gotten used to Maria humming around the house, or their son crying because Dudley didn't really know how to handle him. The silence felt as if it were pressing in on him, and talking to an unresponsive Harry was better than letting himself panic.
Dudley shifted the papers so Harry could look at him too, as if he were paying attention. "I'd fix this if I knew where he was. I'd take care of this and make sure he couldn't hurt you anymore. Nobody but you knows, Harry. You and the bastard himself."
He tossed the papers on the coffee table. Not caring about them for the moment, he kicked his feet up, dislodging some of them. A map of France fluttered to the floor and Dudley made a face. Just another country where Malfoy couldbe. The bastard had manors everywhere it seemed, and most of them what Hermione called Unplottable.
He was so used to Harry's warmth on his side that he was startled when his cousin was suddenly gone, leaning over the couch to pick up the map. Dudley froze and watched with both curiosity and pride; this was the first time Harry had actively reached for anything. He didn't want to ruin the moment by asking questions, afraid that Harry would draw back into himself if pushed.
Dudley should have known he didn't need to worry. Harry settled the map on Dudley's lap before pointing to a place just above Lyon. Harry then looked to Dudley and nodded; Dudley wanted to dance. This was progress.
Just as Harry seemed to come out of his shell, he retreated right back. As if he were burned, he pulled his hand away from the map and scrambled to the edge of the couch. Dudley put more distance between them, falling to the floor so he could scoot back on his bottom.
"It's okay," he said, his voice calm. "It's okay, Harry. Nobody's going to hurt you. See? I'm over here. I'm away. I won't hurt you."
Harry looked wildly around the room before his broken gaze settled on Dudley. Tears poured down his cheeks and he reached his arms out, a sob escaping between his lips.
Draco Malfoy was a dead man and Dudley was going to have his head on an old and rusted platter because the bastard didn't deserve the good china.
Draco Malfoy was going to regret the day he touched Harry Potter.
"Please… please! I'll do anything! Don't kill me!"
Dudley let out a sigh at the pleading, growing more and more tired of it by the minute. Though he shouldn't be that surprised at the easy fear since it had been entirely too simple to find him in the first place. A small bit of information here, some jab about Potter looking for him there, and Malfoy practically threw himself into Dudley's waiting grip.
He had barely even touched him and already Malfoy was crying. All Dudley had done so far was tie Malfoy's wrists and ankles to a chair before blindfolding him. This was Basic Restraint 101 for any situation and he wondered if someone had simply taught Malfoy how to torture while forgetting to teach him how to resist. He couldn't wait for a real job, one where the people he did this to at least knew how to fight back. This was pathetic.
"I want information," Dudley said, cutting off Malfoy's pleading. "If you give me the right kind, I'll let you go."
"Yes, anything you want!"
"Do you remember Harry Potter?"
Malfoy frowned and his fists clenched. "This is about bloody Potter?"
Dudley moved behind Malfoy so he could whisper in his ear. "Among other things." Really, he shouldn't be thrilled when Malfoy jumped. He should be disappointed and disgusted. If Malfoy knew anything, he would figure out where Dudley was from his other senses.
Still, there was something about making him squirm.
"I-I don't know where Potter is," Malfoy said. "I left him to the wolves, quite literally, when I was finished with him."
"Liar." Dudley trained a finger down Malfoy's arm. "The media journalists, while savage, are not really wolves. Wolves would have been kinder." Dudley pulled at Malfoy's fist until his hand came flat. "Tell me why you did it."
"He was helping the Da— Ah!" Malfoy screamed as his finger was pulled uncomfortably back. "Okay! Okay! I did it because he deserved it!"
"Why did he deserve it?" Dudley let the finger fall back.
"He ruined everything."
Dudley jerked Draco's head back roughly by his hair, ignoring when he cried out. "You need to explain more than that, Malfoy." Dudley made sure Draco could hear the sound of his knife sliding out of its protective pocket. To fully drive the fact of the steel blade home, he pressed the tip into his upper arm, right at the tender muscle.
Malfoy flinched, but it was obvious he knew the danger. He opened his mouth and left out nothing. He told Dudley of growing up admiring Harry, and then of his disappointment when Harry refused his friendship over a "lesser wizard." Dudley didn't care about that and he dug the point of the blade just a bit deeper.
He continued on through the war and how his family had been ruined. Malfoy blabbed about fortunes and political standing and later how easyit had been to convince others that maybe Potter had dragged the war out to get more casualties. It had taken only two months for the wizarding world to go against their savior.
By that time, Dudley had heard enough, but he needed to know. He forced himself to remain calm, and he demanded that Malfoy tell him exactly what had been done to Harry. Something came across Malfoy's face and he seemed to forget that he had been captured.
He gleefully told Dudley the start of Harry's torture and pain. Of testing Harry's magic and its ability to naturally heal him. Of the endless nights where Harry lay bleeding in a darkened room.
Dudley meant to keep him alive longer, he really and truly did. He meant to be calm about the execution of Draco Malfoy. He meant to make the man beg for death and mercy. He meant to do so many things while he had his cousin's tormentor tied up and waiting for slaughter.
In the end, however, death was still death and Dudley saw that wizard screamed and bled just as much as normal men did.
The first thing Dudley did when he returned home was pull an unresponsive Harry into his arms. Slowly, he felt the muscles and the tension relax in the body he held. He was glad when they finally reached the point Dudley remembered and he vowed to himself that he wouldn't leave Harry until his cousin was well enough to be left alone. Sure, he trusted Hermione to an extent (she did care for Harry while he was gone), but the girl was still active in the corrupt wizarding world. He couldn't allow them constant access to each other anymore.
"I got you a gift," Dudley whispered into Harry's ear. "I went to Lyon and I got you a gift. Would you like to see it?"
Harry nodded, though if Dudley hadn't been looking for it, he wouldn't have noticed. It was a slight twitch of the head, hair barely brushing skin.
"I went to Lyon with a target in mind. A target that I was going to make suffer for what he did." Dudley pulled away, ignoring the way Harry tensed up again. "I couldn't let him just continue on with life, thinking he did something good."
Hermione sucked in a breath. "Dudley, you—"
"So I went to find him," Dudley continued, ignoring Hermione. "I lured him out and we had a nice… chat. I asked questions and he eventually answered them. Eventually." Dudley pulled his bag closer and reached a hand inside. At least the blood had dried on the way over. "You ready?"
Harry nodded again, this time a bigger movement. Dudley pulled out the last shirt Draco Malfoy ever wore. It was ripped in several places and the one pristine white was now covered in red. In blood. The bastard's blood. Dudley shook it out a bit so Harry could see where all the cuts were, though he doubted his cousin could see the true picture the shirt painted. His cousin probably only saw blood.
"I told you I would take care of this," he told Harry, unable to stop the smile of satisfaction on his face.
"Oh, Merlin. Is that Malfoy's shirt?" Her outburst got Harry's attention a bit more. Dudley ignored her in favor of still watching Harry. "Dudley, what did you do? You can't just go kill the man who is now considered the Prince of the Wizarding World! They're going to find out! They're—"
The smile that moved across Harry's face had Hermione shutting her mouth immediately. Dudley opened his arms just enough that Harry could slip into them, his skinny arms sliding around Dudley's waist. The breath against his neck was even and warm - alive. Then, as if the smile wasn't miracle enough, Harry opened his mouth and spoke to Dudley for the first time since they were two stupid seventeen-year-olds.
"I hope he screamed."
Dudley laughed, holding tighter.