Prompt: #26 - "I don't think you're a waste of space" (take the quote and twist it as much as you want/can. There HAS to be some cousincest this time! haha)
Pairing, or gen: Dudley/Harry
Warning(s): cousincest, boy-lovings, bastardization of several Gryffindors (mainly Ginny)
Word count: ~7,250
Summary/Excerpt: When Harry found his life changing in ways he didn't want, he wished himself to a place where he could be safe. He never expected it to involve Dudley.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all associated characters and settings remain the intellectual property of JK Rowling and her associates. We are very grateful for permission to play with them.
Author's or Artist's notes: Written for dudley_redeemed 2011.
Shores of Devon
This evening at six fifteen, Harry Potter finally defeated the notorious Dark Lord Voldemort. The Wizarding world needs to no longer fear this highly ridiculous name. Celebrations are already underway for the historical moment. This time, it is confirmed that the evil mad man will not return to the living world. Experts in ghost activity are currently checking for signs of a paranormal appearance.
We attempted to gain an interview with the hero of the hour, but close friends insisted he simply rest. However, they were more than happy to answer any questions and, through their stories, we have found out what truly happened.
Harry Potter led his team of friends through the Ministry, searching for a room they had been to two years prior. When asked what they had been doing, Ronald Weasley (youngest son of the Weasley family) said that they had gone to get a prophecy the first time. Hermione Granger (engaged to Mr. Weasley) continued the story, telling us that Harry did not stop until he led the Dark Lord straight into the Veil Chamber.
Many were lost within that room, but Harry made sure that the Dark Lord had his back turned to the large Veil in the center of the room. It is the same Veil where he lost his Godfather, Sirius Black (acquitted of all charges) two years prior. A quick curse later and the Dark Lord disappeared within the wisps, never to be seen from again.
We thank Mr. Potter for all of his hard work and wish for a speedy recovery.
- - - - -
The funerals were the hardest thing for Harry. He was determined to attend every possible one that he could, feeling responsible for each and every death that happened. There were people he knew and people he didn't know, but he didn't care either way. Nobody said anything against his attendance and, for once, Harry was glad that his fame allowed him to be anywhere he wanted. He even insisted on having a funeral for Voldemort, though he called the man 'Tom' and only a few Order members and former Death Eaters recognized the name.
Harry was just glad that they didn't start funerals or repairs until he was healed enough to participate. Several Healers told him not to push himself, but Harry ignored it. He simply picked up his potions at the beginning of the week and went along his way. If those that lost family can pick up and help the community, so could he. Just because he defeated Voldemort didn't mean that his job was done.
Hogwarts was his first stop. He woke up usually before anyone else, and left whatever site they were working on last. Minerva voiced her concerns, but Harry simply shrugged them off. Going to bed with his muscles aching gave him a peace he didn't think he'd ever have. It wasn't until he collapsed midway through a day that he took the new Headmistress' words seriously. As much as he needed to repent for himself, he also needed to live.
Ron suggested fixing up Godric's Hollow. Harry hadn't been sure, but he went along with it anyway. Friends occasionally stopped by to help, but Harry usually spent the time alone, nailing the roof together with his hands instead of magic. Without him truly noticing, the house began to come together. A few long months after he left Hogwarts, his parents' house stood proud and tall among the others beside it.
When the insides were completely finished, Harry let out a breath and stepped over the threshold of his new home for the first time (he had Apparated before). He had it built as close to what it was when his parents lived in the house, using only pictures he had been given. On rooms he was unsure of, Harry decided to take his own liking into account and soon had a mix of both old and new styles. Ron and Hermione didn't understand what drove him to do it, but he didn't care. It was his house, not theirs.
Several boxes sat in the living room, directly as instructed. With a smile, he knelt down in front of one and pulled out the picture frames inside. This particular box had his parents and he spent a few hours rearranging them around the empty portrait frame above his new mantle. He hoped his parents would visit from whatever frame they happened to be in, but knew that nobody had seen their portrait for years. It would happen soon, he hoped.
The next box was mostly from Colin's camera and Harry felt a little guilty for having it. However, only Colin was able to capture a lot of people without their direct knowledge. Candid pictures were always better, in Harry's opinion. Ever single student that died in the war was in his camera at some point and Harry felt as though he needed them. He carried the box to his study and carefully placed them on the wall. They would remind him what he fought for every day. Even if he didn't join the Aurors or the MLE's, he would be fighting somehow.
He took a week to set up his house exactly the way he wanted it. When he was finished, he had his bedroom, several guest rooms in case his friends came over, a study, a small library, a kitchen and living room, a dining room, and a small breakfast nook. It was perfect for him, even if it was a bit large for just one person. One day, there might be the pitter-patter of feet, but Harry knew that day would be long in coming. After all, when you were gay, you normally weren't allowed children.
The day he went to get a job, the Ministry seemed to fight over who would get him. Harry asked to be treated as a normal person looking for a job, but the final two men fighting simply stared at him and laughed before asking when he could start. Frustrated, Harry told them both "never mind" and went back home.
When he got there, however, he found his lights on and soft music coming from inside. Harry wasn't sure what kind of burglar would be turning on music he didn't even have, but he still entered cautiously with his wand out. As he reached the living room, he was shocked to see a familiar red-headed girl reading a book on his sofa.
"What are you doing here, Ginny?" He lowered his wand, confused.
Ginny jerked slightly and looked up. "Oh, Harry! You gave me quite the scare."
Harry glanced around the room before stepping closer. "Ginny…"
"I thought you would be home later or else I would have started dinner. Silly me." She marked her page and got up to go to the kitchen. "I'm glad that I got here in time. Your kitchen was an absolute mess! It's a good thing I'll be here to make sure your dishes are in order. And the bedroom – oh my. I got that cleaned up as well."
Harry followed her into the kitchen. "I don't—"
"I'm just glad mum is okay with this," she continued, ignoring him. "Living with your boyfriend before you're married was never truly accepted, but since you're Harry Potter… well, I suppose some things can be looked over." She turned suddenly and pulled him in for a small kiss. "Oh, Harry. We must throw a party to let everyone know the good news. Don't you agree?"
"Er…" Harry took a step back, running a hand through his hair. "Gin, I'm not sure—"
"Oh, it'll be fine! I'm sure mum will help make sure there's enough food." Ginny opened a few cabinets. "Especially since you don't seem to have much. We'll have to adjust that soon. We can't live on scraps, after all! And what if we have children? No, no… I'll go shopping first thing in the morning."
Shocked, Harry could do nothing but watch as she moved around the kitchen, attempting to cook.
- - - - -
Ginny planned a party the following week, inviting more than just their friends to celebrate what she called a house-warming party. Harry numbly took the congratulations, unsure of why he was even doing so. He hadn't wanted a party for this house. It was his and his parent's. He still wasn't sure why Ginny still made herself at home or announced that they were together. She was just a sister to him.
Ron approached with a grin and clapped a hand on his back. "Nice job with the house, mate. You and Gin made it look nice."
"Thanks, I guess." Harry put his half-finished drink down. "I think she over decorated a bit."
"Maybe, but that's how girls are. You should see what Hermione's done with our place."
Harry had seen it and he was glad she wasn't living with him. Hermione recently found that she enjoyed floral arrangements and thus they ran amok around her house. At least Ginny hadn't gotten to that stage yet and, when she did, Harry would tell her to leave. Hopefully she would.
"Have you at least gotten around to dampening the smell?"
"Not yet." Ron tilted his head and sniffed his shirt. "Ug, I smell like roses."
Harry laughed. "I'm surprised you can tell what it is."
"It was her thing before she left to find her parents." Ron nudged Harry's arm. "Don't worry, I'm sure Gin will find something. And it's our job as their men to stand by and let them."
"Is that so?"
Ron slung an arm around Harry's shoulders. "Just don't come crying to me when she decides to like something girly. Weasley women like to have their own things, but us Weasley men know how to get our way in the end. And I couldn’t be happier to welcome you almost officially into the Weasley household."
Confused, Harry kept silent and just stared ahead.
- - - - -
Boy-Who-Saved Settles Down
Harry Potter has rebuilt his parent's home in Godric's Hollow and now resides there with his long-time girlfriend Ginervra Weasley. The two can be seen occasionally outside together, though Mr. Potter spends most of his time indoors. Miss Weasley tends to the garden and other landscaping needs.
During one such outing, we managed to get an interview with the lovely Miss Weasley. She was happy to answer our questions. When asked how she and Mr. Potter were faring, she smiled and told us, "We've been great! Fantastic, even. I'm returning to Hogwarts to take my last tests, but then I'm coming back home so we can start our lives."
Miss Weasley also agreed that she would try to convince our Savior to come out every once-in-a-while to answer our questions himself. The Wizarding World enjoys speaking with him and would like Mr. Potter to know that he is welcome to approach us at any time.
- - - - -
Hermione returned about a week after Ginny threw the party, her parents happy to be home. There had been some unease about their memories being erased, but they understood the situation and forgave their daughter easily enough. A few days after she returned, Harry stood in the middle of a grand hall, a glass of champagne in his hand. In front of him, Ron twirled his new wife around the dance floor, laughing happily.
Harry really wasn't sure what happened or how Ron and Hermione got engaged. One moment he was telling Hermione that he was happy for her family, the next he was being pulled to a wedding with a suit he had never seen before. Ginny latched onto his arm the entire time, talking about how long it took to plan this wedding and how happy she was to make Hermione's day come true. Part of him wondered if he had slept for an entire year; he never thought Hermione would jump into a marriage like this. The last he knew, she wanted to sit for her NEWTS and go into politics for both worlds.
He left the wedding early, not completely surprised when nobody had actually noticed his absence.
Harry felt as though he just got used to the fact that his friends married when Hermione's owl came to tell him that she was pregnant and her baby shower would be in three months. Concerned, Harry went over to his fireplace and pitched a handful of Floo Powder in. Holding back a shudder (he never really got used to the flames), he stuck his head in the fire and called out to his friend. There was a bustle of movement before she came in view of the fire.
"Harry! Oh my god, you can come through. Please, come!" She waved her arms frantically, a grin on her face.
Harry pulled him head out and tossed more powder in before stepping through. "How are you doing?"
"Fantastic! Ron's training with the Magical Law Enforcement right now. He's a bit upset that the Aurors wouldn't let him in without NEWTS, but he understands. Not everyone is you." She waved her wand and a tray of tea came floating in. "Ginny's been telling me that you're still deciding what to do."
"I might go back to Hogwarts," Harry admitted. "Ask McGonagall what her opinions are."
"Oh, please. You don't need to go back." Hermione took a cup of tea and sipped it slowly. "Mmhm, perfect. I'm not glad Molly shared her secret of great tea with me."
"Right. Um, can I ask you something?"
"Of course." Hermione set her tea down and leaned back. "Anything, Harry."
"I got your owl—"
"Isn't it fantastic? Ron and I are so happy. Our first time and we got pregnant." Hermione let out a soft sigh. "I just couldn't wait to start a family."
"What about Hogwarts? Or doing work for both Muggle and Wizards?"
"Oh, Harry, that's just too much work for a wife. Ron's job can keep us both happy, especially since he's getting benefits for being a war hero."
"Benefits?" This was the first time Harry had heard anything about benefits – and he had certainly never received any.
"Of course. Double pay for those that helped slay Voldemort. Ron was very sought after, too, even without his NEWTS. His training is half as long and within a year, they'll even assist us in getting a larger house. A few years after that and he might be running the department himself! It's all quite lovely."
"Don't you worry." Hermione smiled, picking up her tea again. "I'll still be able to study between children and soon enough I'll be able to work from home in helping the Wizarding population."
"It just doesn't seem like you," he said softly.
"People change when they get married." She winked at him. "I'm sure you'll find out. Ginny and I have already been discussing baby names. She wants your first to be Agatha or Bernard. Or perhaps Judith."
- - - - -
Hermione was nearly six months along when Ron bursts into his living room with a large box and an annoying, singing card. Confused, Harry simply stares at his friend before deciding that it isn't worth questioning anymore. He simply takes both items and sets them down on the counter.
"What's the occasion?"
"Don't play dumb with me." Ron grinned and clapped Harry on the back. "Gin came by today to show us! I'm here to wish you congratulations and to bring you to the party."
Ron laughed. "Your engagement party, Harry. Merlin, you can be daft. Did you think we wouldn't find out?" He tossed Floo Powder back into the fireplace. "Come on, mum's already getting a bunch of people together to help celebrate. It's about time you married her, too. We were wondering if you were ever going to do it."
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. "Ron, there's just one problem."
"I never asked Ginny to marry me. Hell, I never asked her to move in!"
Ron snorted. "Don't twist your knickers. She came over and showed us the ring you bought her. It's gorgeous, by the way. Hermione is completely jealous of it. Now come on or we'll be late."
"Harry." Ron reached out and grabbed Harry's wrist. "Stop being shy and let's go."
Before Harry could stop him and argue further, he was pulled through the fireplace. He coughed as he came out the other side, stumbling over the Burrow's threshold. He had to learn to stop doing that, but he didn't think he'd ever figure out how. Not that it mattered; almost immediately after he got out of the soot, he was surrounded by hands clapping is back and voices all telling him congratulations.
"Oh let him relax!" Harry wasn't sure how, but Molly's voice became shrill as she got closer. "Oh my baby boy is finally my son!" She wrapped her arms around Harry, pulling him into her embrace.
Embarrassingly, Harry found his face almost squished between her breasts. He squeezed his eyes shut and hoped that she would stop soon.
"Mum, let him go." Ron pulled Harry back. "Little bugger's trying to hide it from us."
Molly put her hands on her hips. "Harry James Potter, how dare you! We're family here and just because you want to keep Ginny to yourself—"
"I promise, I didn't—"
"Harry!" Ginny bounded out of the hallway, interrupting both of them. "I'm so happy you're here!" She wrapped her arms around Harry's waist, latching onto him. "I just couldn't wait to tell them. I'm sorry we did it sooner than you wanted to. Forgive me?"
Harry looked around for help, not wanting to answer her question. Sadly, nobody seemed to want to help him as they were far too excited about the idea of their wedding. Even George, who hadn't cracked a smile since the final battle, was sitting in an armchair, watching them with a serene expression. When their eyes locked, his lips twitched upward just a fraction and Harry knew that he couldn't deny what Ginny had done. If George was smiling, he owed it to him to keep him happy.
"I forgive you," he told Ginny quietly. "It's fine. I'm sorry I was angry."
Ginny beamed and pulled him down for a kiss. "I knew you would understand, Harry, I just knew it! This is going to be the best wedding, I promise. You won't have to worry about a thing."
Harry sighed and let himself be pulled to the loveseat. "I'm sure I won't," he muttered, though nobody seemed to hear him.
- - - - -
Harry Potter to Marry Hogwarts Sweetheart, Ginervra Weasley
Harry Potter and Ginervra Weasley announced today that they were engaged. Mr. Potter popped the question sometime last week amid what Miss Weasley described as a "beautiful and romantic evening." When asked for further details, Mr. Potter simply shrugged and stepped back inside his home. Miss Weasley stayed outside and gave the Prophet an inside scoop on what we can expect from the biggest wedding of the century.
"We're renting out Hogwarts for our wedding," she told this excited reporter. "Headmistress McGonagall agreed that it would be the perfect setting since it's Harry's favorite place to be. The final renovations are also almost completed, so it will look just like it used to. We can't wait!"
Miss Weasley will be giving us a copy of the guest list along with an address to send owls if you wish to petition your way onto said list. She told this reporter that she may allow a few extra people in if they have the room.
When asked whether or not media would be invited, Miss Weasley handed us an invitation right on the spot. We at the Prophet cannot wait to attend this sure-to-be beautiful occasion!
- - - - -
Harry stared at himself in the mirror, wondering not for the first time how he let things get like this. His dress robes had arrived without him even ordering them. Harry had checked his accounts and nobody had taken any galleons out of them, so he wasn't completely sure where all of this was coming from. The only ones who got large war stipulations had been Ron, Hermione, Neville, and a few Order members. Harry had refused the money himself, choosing instead to donate it to Hogwarts. As far as he knew, Ginny didn't get anything.
He looked up in the mirror toward the door as it opened. Ron grinned and shut the door behind him. "You look great. Ginny's going to love it."
"I'm sure she did when she picked it out." Harry tugged down on the coat. "I look horrible."
"You wanted a Muggle wedding. She told me." Ron stepped up behind Harry. "Merlin, I'm glad this day came. It's about time you married her."
Harry shrugged. "I guess."
"And after you return from your honeymoon, it's time to work. Kingsley is excited that we'll both be there." Ron patted Harry's back before taking a seat. "Just think, it only took two weeks for our Auror applications to get approved."
"Auror appli… Ron, what about the MLE?"
"What about them? They were okay, but you know I've always wanted to be Auror. And hell, they were thrilled that you finally decided to apply and when they heard I helped convince you, they let us be partners."
Harry stared at Ron through the mirror, frowning. "I don't remember—"
"Hear that?" Ron jumped up. "Shit, we're almost late! Come on!" Ron grinned and left the room, leaving the door open behind him.
Harry stared at the open door for a long time before stepping away from the mirror. It was time to get married, probably add a few children to his house, and wonder what the hell happened. He didn't want to be an Auror, but he didn't know what else to do with his life. Did he want a family anymore? Could he start one with Ginny of all people?
"Harry, over here!"
Harry smiled at Neville, reaching out to take his hand. "Hey, Nev."
"This looks really nice." He motioned around the Great Hall. "Ginny said it was your idea."
"Seems like a lot of things were my idea."
Neville hesitated. "I thought so. Most of this doesn't seem like you." He leaned a little closer. "I personally thought you were, you know, queer."
Harry shook his head and pulled away. "Don't worry about it. Things will work out." He gave Neville another smile before settling himself beside Ron at the makeshift altar.
He had to admit that the place looked beautiful. Candles still floated in the ceiling, but they switched between scarlet and gold. The tables were pushed closer to the back, leaving rows of chairs lining the rest of the room. When Ginny walked in, she would follow the gold ropes down a scarlet walkway. Thankfully those were the only two places the Gryffindor colors came out. The rest of the hall had an ice blue color and silver laced throughout. It was elegant and fitting for the bloody Savior.
All Harry wanted to do was charm the colors no matter how nice they looked.
He did straighten as the music started playing softer. It wasn't at tune he recognized, but it was obviously time for Ginny to come down. The many people who came to watch him get married turned around to watch the doors; Harry took this moment to try to figure out how many of them he actually knew.
Not many, actually.
The Weasleys were there in a group, beaming smiles on their faces. Behind them sat most of the Hogwarts' professors. A few of his classmates were on the other side of the aisle, most of them from the D.A. Other than that, Harry really didn't know the other three hundred or so people in the room. Who had made the guest list? Who sent the invitations?
What the hell was he doing here?
Ginny smiled as she stepped through the door, looking at everyone around the room. She waved at a few and blew a few kisses. Arthur walked with his daughter, waving just as much. This wasn't them.
How could he let them do this to him?
Ron patted him on the back and whispered something in his ear, but Harry didn't hear it. The blood rushed to his head and he felt as though he would pass out. This wasn't want he wanted. The Auror application, the wedding, the wife.
Could he really go through with this?
Before he could panic, Harry closed his eyes and took deep breaths. He didn't want to walk out on Ginny, but perhaps a divorce. Would she accept a divorce?
He wanted to be somewhere else.
Just not here.
There was a soft breath of magic around him and Harry could suddenly smell the sea. The sea and a small hint of fish. It was a nice trick and he was glad for the small reprieve, but he had to get back to reality. He counted to ten and opened his eyes.
Ginny was not there. Instead, he was in the middle of what looked like a run-down cottage staring straight at his cousin Dudley.
- - - - -
Ministry Still Searching for Boy-Who-Disappeared
Four months ago today, Harry Potter disappeared from his wedding to Ginervra Weasley. The couple did not even reach each other when Mr. Potter vanished into thin air, never to be seen again. Ronald and Hermione Weasley (nee Granger) have been longtime friends with Mr. Potter and have put out a reward for any information leading to his location.
"It's just hard to believe that after he's destroyed the most terrifying wizard," said an emotional Mrs. Weasley, "that someone would just take him. And especially from his own wedding!"
Her husband nodded in agreement, though he did admit that he was too angry to say things that we could print. We appreciated the honesty and know that Mr. Weasley is devastated and wants nothing more than Mr. Potter returned as soon as possible.
Ministry officials are currently suspecting a hidden Portkey. All wedding guests are being questioned for the third time during the week.
- - - - -
Harry woke just as the sun rose and poured into the room. It was how he had learned to live now that he stayed with his cousin, and he found himself enjoying his new life. Dudley didn't use alarm clocks (or any clocks in general) and tended to spend his day judging time by where the sun was located. It was a shock at first, considering that Harry had still thought of him as the lazy, fat relative he had to see two or so months a year.
Living with Dudley opened his eyes to how much his cousin had changed. Not just since the war, but possibly as early as the Dementor attack.
Harry rolled over in the bed to see that Dudley had already gotten up, which was normal. Dudley had been doing this for over three years now since this was where the Dursleys had hidden during the war. While his aunt and uncle returned to Surrey, Dudley stayed behind and kept the job he had earned. The house they used to hide in was destroyed (as a precaution, Dudley had told him), so the house now was bought with Dudley's own money. Harry was proud of his cousin.
A lot of things had changed the day Harry arrived in the living room two years prior. Dudley only had one bedroom, so Harry simply expanded the bed and explained that sometimes it helped the nightmares if someone were with him. He tried not to do much magic, but Dudley just shrugged off whatever needed to be done; the house warded, some furniture transfigured, and a table added were just a few things. Since then, Harry's wand lay in the top drawer of his new dresser, a thin layer of dust already covering it.
The smell of eggs and burnt toast finally dragged Harry completely out of bed. He visited the loo first and took care of his morning business before shuffling into the small kitchen. Dudley stood at the stove, pushing around some eggs in a pan. The toast, burnt for Harry and lightly crisped for Dudley, rested on the table already.
"Good morning," Harry said around a yawn. "Want me to finish breakfast?"
"I'm good." Dudley pulled the pan off and separated the eggs into two portions. "Already done anyway."
"Thanks." Harry took his plate and sat down. "I thought you'd be gone by now."
"I got halfway there when George came up. He's got a leak in his boat, so we're treating this as our day off this week."
"I'm surprised you didn't go help him, then." Harry stuffed a piece of toast in his mouth. Dudley made it perfect, far better than Harry had been able to do himself.
"I figured we'd spend the day together," Dudley mumbled. "We don't get time off at the same time…"
Harry smiled softly. "I could see about making our schedules match. I'm sure Jessie wouldn't mind."
"It should be fine. It doesn't hurt to ask, after all." Harry shrugged. "Don't worry about it, Dudley. I wouldn't mind having our time off together."
Dudley's eyes widened a bit, and then he smiled. Harry was glad that his cousin wanted to know him more and was more than happy to accommodate him. Even with the two years here, they had a lot to catch up on.
- - - - -
When Harry first arrived, Dudley had taken a week off of work, claiming a family emergency. George allowed it and came to visit to make sure everything was all right. When he heard their story on Harry's almost-forced marriage and general publicity stalking, he had simply nodded and told Dudley to take all the time he needed so they could get settled in the small house together. Harry had forced Dudley to go back after that original week, but it didn't stop both his cousin and George from worrying.
George had offered Harry a job on his fishing vessel, but Harry turned it down. He was tired of physical labor and just wanted to relax. George used to date Jessie and knew that she had a recent opening at her library, so he recommended Harry for the job. Jessie was told the story and hired Harry before even meeting him. While Harry hated the fact that he got the job based on who he was, he took it. There was no use in hoping Dudley's simple income could support both of them.
Jessie had been shocked when she met Harry. She was a cast-out Squib in her family, given away when she didn't get her Hogwarts' letter. When she asked about her sister, Harry told her that he hadn't been in Slytherin, and thus didn't hear if Pansy Parkinson had ever mentioned an older sister. Jessie had nodded and promised never to let anyone know where he was hiding, especially since she still followed Wizarding newspapers and suspected that Harry had never wanted any of what he was given.
Between George and Jessie worrying about him outside of the house and Dudley worrying from the inside, Harry soon grew comfortable in his new surroundings. There was nobody trying to run his life or decide things for him. For the first time since the end of the war, he felt relaxed about not only his life, but who he had become. The bags under his eyes disappeared and his hair slowly went from being just messy to a nice, calm, wind-swept look. Jessie even mentioned one afternoon that she could barely see his scar anymore. It also helped, she had said, that he had gotten his eyes rechecked and decided on a frame that fit his facial structure better.
Things between Harry and Dudley got better every day. It helped that they shared a bed and they were forced to be close, but Harry found himself getting feelings for his cousin that he knew he shouldn't get. Every day he found himself watching him more closely, comparing this fit version of his cousin to that of the fat bully. It seemed that with the more weight Dudley lost, the more hatred went with it. It wasn't uncommon anymore to find both of them curled on the small sofa for warmth, a blanket tossed carelessly over their laps. The constant cool weather gave them plenty of opportunity and excuses to share warmth.
Dudley didn't seem to know that Harry had a small crush on him and since Harry wasn't sure if Dudley liked blokes, he kept his mouth shut. It wasn't worth ruining what he gained. Jessie noticed and Harry eventually confided in her about his feelings. They were poring over a new shipment of books at the time and she listened as she pasted the card holders in the front covers.
When Harry was finished trying to explain what he felt, she just looked up and said, "Go for it. We all know Dudley needs someone in his life. You've already stuck your foot in the position, so you might as well step into it."
Harry had flushed and stared down at the cards he was dating. "You think I should?" he had asked.
"Of course I do." Jessie leaned forward and raised his chin. "I've seen you two together. He stares at you more than you stare at him. Try talking to him tonight."
And Harry had. That night, he went home and cleaned up their small house. He got dinner started and set the table for the both of them, hoping that Dudley didn't try to invite George over for food. He watched out the window for Dudley's approach and when he finally spotted his cousin, his palms grew sweaty and he was unsure whether or not he really wanted to do this.
Before he could change anything, Dudley opened the door to the house. "I'm home." He started to toss off his jacket, but paused as he took in the house. "It looks… wow."
Harry shrugged. "It's nothing. Dinner?"
"Thanks, I'm starving." Dudley gave Harry a soft smile and sat down. "What's the occasion?"
"No reason." Harry served Dudley first, a generous portion of fisherman's pie. It was Dudley's favorite. "I'm not allowed to cook like this?"
Dudley laughed. "Normally you only go through this trouble when you're guilty."
"I didn't do anything," Harry said quickly. "I mean, I have no reason to be guilty."
"Oh really?" Dudley took a bite and moaned, pulling the fork slowly out of his mouth. "This is amazing. Did you use magic?"
"No, I did it myself." Harry found himself blushing; from anyone else, he would have taken that as an insult, but it was different with Dudley. "You like it?"
"It's amazing. I love it." Dudley took another bite, closing his eyes in bliss.
Harry found that he couldn't stop looking at his cousin. Still a bit pudgy, he had this charm around him that drew Harry in. He figured it was the gentleness that he wasn't used to, but there was definitely something else. Something that cased his heart to beat twice as fast and his palms to sweat like a third year. There was no use pretending anymore.
Dudley opened his eyes from his latest bite. "Yeah?"
"Can we talk?"
His cousin's fork dropped to the floor. Harry held back a wince at the look in Dudley's eyes. "Harry?"
"Er… I can understand if you don't want to, okay? I just… I talked to Jessie and she thinks…"
Dudley pushed his plate away so he could lean his elbows on the table. "You're going back?"
"What?" Harry shook his head. "No! No, I love it here and I love yo-oh..." Harry flushed and stared down at his lap. "I mean, I have these feeling for you and I thought—"
Harry looked back up to his cousin, not sure if he heard the wonder in Dudley's voice or if it was just his mind playing tricks. Dudley's eyes were wide, a soft blush to his own cheeks, and Harry suddenly had hope again. This might work.
"I do. And I would like to act on it, if you don't mind."
When Dudley didn't object, Harry stood and slowly made his way around the small table to Dudley's side. They stared at each other for a long moment before Harry leaned over and pressed their lips together. It didn't take long after that for them to make their way down to the bedroom.
- - - - -
Jessie left early in the morning to meet with a tourist that caught her attention. Harry had teased her about finally finding a man, and she had shot right back by asking how much his own sex life picked up. Harry had blushed, embarrassed, before the two of them laughed it off. He didn't need her to tell him how much happier he was. The shift of his and Dudley's relationship a month back had changed a lot of things.
The weather outside was starting to take a turn for the worst and Harry prepared himself for another slow day. Despite it being a library, people still avoided it during hard rain. Harry always thought it would be the opposite since a library offered a shelter from the rain, but it never truly bothered him either way. After all, the slower the business, the more he could read for pleasure.
He made it about halfway through a collection of Edgar Allen Poe when the jingle above the door alerted him to a customer. Harry looked up to greet whoever it was, but the words never left his mouth. Hermione stood there, staring at her feet as she tried to gently shake out her coat. Panicked, Harry ducked below the desk. The door jingled again and he hoped she left, but that hope soon disappeared. It was Ron.
"'Mione, why are we here? We have bookshops at home."
"This is a library, Ron. Not a shop."
"I'll catch up with you at the pub, okay? I just want to look."
Ron sighed. "All right. One hour, okay?"
"Already set my alarm. Now go."
The door jingled again. Harry risked her seeing him by peeking a bit over the desk. Hermione had already picked up a book, scanning through it to find whatever she was looking for. Harry ducked down again and searched for a sheet of paper, anything, he could write on. He grabbed a local flyer for the town grocery and then grabbed the first pen in reach. As quickly and quietly as he could, he wrote down a simple note explaining that all books were lent out free today.
When he glanced up again, he couldn't see Hermione at all. Letting out a breath, he settled the note on the desk and turned to leave. If Hermione hadn't changed, she would be too distracted by the books to even realize someone else was in the building. Luck was not on his side.
Almost to the door, Harry ran straight into Hermione as she came around the corner of a shelf. Her shocked face froze Harry and he wasn't sure what to do. He didn't even have his wand to erase her memory. They stared at another for a moment, Harry slightly annoyed when her eyes drifted up to his barely-visible scar.
"I have to go." Harry pushed past her and out the door.
Harry pushed out the door and ran as fast as he could. He saw a silvery wisp pass him and head for the pub, but he couldn't think on that now. This was not the way he wanted to end his day. He wanted to be with Dudley, curled on their too-small couch while complaining about the rain. Why couldn't they just leave him alone?
Out of breath, Harry slammed open the door to the house. Dudley jumped at the sound and just stared as Harry leaned against the closed door. Concerned, he got up and approached his cousin. Without a word, he slid a calloused hand down Harry's damp cheek before leaning forward to place a kiss to his forehead.
"Hermione's here," Harry said softly. "She and Ron. Holiday, I guess. She saw me." Vaguely, he wondered where their children were, if Hermione had any after the first.
Dudley kissed Harry again and pulled him off the door. "Get out of those wet clothes. Trust me to take care of this."
Harry nodded and shuffled his way to the bedroom. He heard the knock, and Dudley's not-so-friendly greeting. He couldn't hear Hermione, but he heard Ron clear enough when the redhead demanded to see Harry. He knew he should go out there, but Dudley said to trust, so with his ear against the door, he would trust.
"He isn't available to you," Dudley said calmly. "You've upset him and I think you should leave."
"We've upset him?" Harry could almost feel the anger in Ron's voice. "He disappeared on my sister's wedding day!"
"Did anyone ask Harry if he wanted to be married?"
There was silent for a moment before Hermione answered. "Ginny told all of us how he proposed."
"That's funny, because Harry told me he never did."
"Hermione, please. Don't you recognize who this is? Harry's fat pig of a cousin! He's lying!"
Dudley snorted. "I wouldn't lie about this."
"Harry was always telling us what you thought of him," Ron snarled. "Like you would change your mind."
"What Harry and I think of each other is none of your business. However, since I know you won't go away with just that… I love him. He isn't a waste of space to me. He completes me. I don't care if you have a problem with that or not. You need to leave us alone."
Harry could hear Ron storm off, swearing as he did so. Soon enough, the front door closed and Dudley made his way down the hall. He opened the bedroom door slowly and offered Harry a smile.
"I thought I told you to get out of those wet clothes." He reached forward to pull Harry's shirt up. "You don't listen well."
Dudley tossed the sodden shirt into a corner. "Hm?"
"I love you, too."
Dudley looked up at Harry and then kissed him. They didn't leave the bedroom for quite some time.
- - - - -
Harry stood on the shore, watching a fishing boat slide across the water's surface. Hermione had sent him an owl, asking forgiveness for scaring him. She asked if she could keep correspondence, but Harry had yet to answer. He sighed and looked down to where Dudley sat in the sand beside him.
"You read it?" he asked.
"I did." Dudley shifted his legs. "It's up to you."
"I can't ask my partner's opinion?"
Dudley shrugged. "I hurt you as much as they did."
"And you gave me a second chance."
Harry hugged his arms around himself. "Yeah, I guess I did." He looked up to see an owl drift past. "I guess I did."