Chapter 1 : The Freaks
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Of course, there were times when he wished much the opposite—that he had been able enough to give his son a decent family life. After all, if being a single parent was hard enough for Dudley, then having only one parent could be pretty tough, too. Dudley remembered his childhood fondly, and he couldn’t imagine growing up without his mother doting on him.
“No trouble,” Dudley said in the most intimidating voice he could conjure. He used to pride himself on his ability to scare five-year-olds. Now, he was lucky if the boy didn’t roll his eyes at him.
“Yes, father,” replied the demon child.
“My cousin is…eccentric, to put it mildly. He’ll—” Dudley gulped and tried to place Harry back into a nice light, but he had trouble imagining the selfless hero the freaks—err, wizards—had described. “He’ll catch you—and if he does, when he does…I just don’t want you to be hurt, Joey. And remember what I told you – about…” Dudley trailed off. It was once a forbidden word in the Dursley household. “magic? They are a weird bunch, Joey. Be careful. Don’t anger my cousin!”
“Speak properly!” scolded Dudley as he made his way to the door. He opened it to find a family of four. A red-haired woman, who Dudley assumed was Harry’s wife, was pregnant. Harry held one of the children, who seemed to be around three, while the other one stood defiantly. Dudley sighed as he realized the child was about his son’s age.
“Come in,” Dudley welcomed his guests inside. His house was much like the one he had grown up in, as the same creatively lacking architect built it.
“Dudley,” Harry nodded at his cousin, and Dudley could feel the man’s nervousness.
A small head of auburn curls popped up between the cousins. “I’m Joey!”
Dudley could see the surprise reflected in Harry’s face. Of course, no one ever expected for a bloke like to Dudley to have a kid. The fat, occasionally sour, and often nasty man didn’t fit the stereotype for a nurturing parent.
“This is my son,” he said.
“Oh! It’s nice to meet you, Joey,” said the red-haired woman, who Dudley assumed to be Harry’s wife. She was beautiful, he thought grimly. Twenty years ago Dudley would have laughed if anyone said scrawny Harry Potter would ever end up with her.
Harry and Dudley stared at each other for several long moments. It was tense, where ghosts that could never be erased loomed between them. Dudley had always been a bit of a jerk to his cousin.
“It’s been too long,” Harry choked out reluctantly. Dudley knew the man didn’t want to be there, and from the redhead’s supporting pat, he assumed that it wasn’t his idea to come in the first place.
“Yes,” agreed Dudley. To break the silence he started again. “Joey here was a bit of a surprise—”
“A good one!” exclaimed the boy.
Dudley coughed a bit. “Er, yes, I suppose. Some blasted organization hunted me down and reunited me with him.”
“That wonderful,” said the woman.
“This is my wife, Ginny,” Harry introduced, “and this is Albus and James, my two sons.”
“A pleasure,” Dudley replied as he shook Ginny’s hand.
He sighed when he noticed that the boys had strayed away now and were talking in low tones with each other.
“I’m sorry.” Did he say that out loud?
“For what?” Harry asked confused.
Dudley hesitated. He hated social situations nowadays because of the awkwardness that would follow his mindless declarations. He clarified, “I only found Joey a year ago – his manners and constant pranks are from his time at the foster home. I apologize for any… improper behavior.”
Ginny laughed at that, and the two men looked at her, their expressions sharply contrasting her mirth. “Well, Dudley, I have to say I was worried about the opposite! Our boys are very mischievous, but a few laughs never hurt anyone.”
“I suppose,” Dudley said, stopping abruptly to keep himself from qualifying that. ‘A few laughs’ were always at the expense of someone’s reputation, usually the parent who merited them. Dudley made every effort to keep up appearances. “Why don’t you come into the kitchen? I have tea ready.”
“Excellent!” Ginny said, ushering her reluctant husband in front of her. “Do you think the children will be alright in the parlor, Harry?”
He nodded. “I gave James a very serious talk before we left. After what happened last night, I don’t think he’ll try anything for a while.”
Ginny just raised a brow, glancing behind her at the children. “James, dear, watch Albus, will you?”
“Yes, mum,” said James, standing up straight, and then saluting Harry.
The bespeckled man just sighed and turned back to his wife. “We’ll check on them in a few minutes.”
The three wandered into the kitchen. Dudley ushered them to the table and poured them both their tea before pouring his own. Only the sound of the steaming hot tea pouring into the china cups interrupted the silence.
Ginny nudged Harry, but when her husband only looked at his hands, which were collected on the table, she spoke, “So, Dudley, what do you do for a living these days? The last time we saw you was after the war, and it was brief, at that.”
“I’ve been working various jobs. I, uh,” Dudley glanced at Harry and then back at Ginny, “worked at Grunnings with my father for a year, but now I work for a telemarketing company here in Surrey.”
“Well, it seems like you’re doing very well for yourself,” Ginny said after a moment, in which Harry awkwardly shifted in his chair. “Your house is very nice.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Harry, say something,” she reprimanded sharply, not bothering to tone her voice down for Dudley’s sake.
Harry stared at Dudley before opening his mouth and then closing it. “I’m sorry,” he said finally. “This is really nice of you,” he indicated the set-up. “I didn’t think you’d agree when Ginny asked.”
“Harry,” Ginny scolded.
Dudley shrugged. “It wasn’t too much trouble. I admit that I was curious as to how you’re doing.”
Harry nodded, looking around the kitchen once more. His fingers skimmed the clean countertop. “Do Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia visit often?”
“Every two or three weeks. Sometimes we go there.”
“Yeah, that must be nice.”
Dudley shrugged. “The time we spent that one year in the Wizarding world didn’t do much to them, to tell the truth. They still hate magic – and you.” Dudley stopped when he realized what he said. “No offense meant - I mean…”
Harry smiled bitterly. “I know.”
Ginny, sensing the depth to the cousin’s issues stopped trying to break the silence.
“What did you do during that year in hiding?” Harry asked.
Dudley scrunched his nose, leaning back in his seat for a moment as he recalled the culture shock of it all. He smiled for a moment when he remembered the funny wizard with the big hats. “Well, you wizards are certainly very different. Not at all normal, like us Muggles.”
“Normal is a relative term,” Harry corrected quickly.
Dudley raised a brow. “Maybe, but some things are abnormal by any standards.”
Harry shook his head. “Like what?”
“Like – like …” Dudley trailed off as he remembered vividly something he had been trying for many years to forget. “Like the way you people are always use that blasted stick for everything?”
Ginny giggled loudly, and Dudley couldn’t help glaring at her. His mother would hate her.
“We don’t use it that often,” Harry amended.
“Yeah, you do. Giggle or Diggle, whatever his name was, had to use it for everything! He couldn’t even lift his own toilet seat!”
“I can’t believe you can’t remember his name,” chastised Harry. “And how in the world do you know what he does in the bathroom?”
Dudley blushed. “Well, err, I walked in on him.”
Ginny fell out of her chair, laughing so hard that she had to clutch her pregnant belly. Her eyes watered in mirth and pain. Harry smiled after a quick, concerned glance at his wife. Dudley realized he had never before seen his cousin genuinely smile.
“At least he doesn’t use it to go to the bathroom.”
Dudley shook his head. There it was again. That horribly vivid memory. "Actually..."
Ginny, who had been getting back to her seat fell off it again. Dudley realized with alarm that the pregnant woman’s laughter was turning into sobs. The cousins both looked at her with real concern this time.
“Oh, damn those blasted children!” Harry cursed as he fumbled around his pockets. “James!” he roared.
Dudley heard giggling and a stampede of feet up stairs.
After a quick glance at Ginny, whose sobs of laughter were subduing, Dudley ran after Harry into the foyer, where, to his horror, his son dangled from a chandelier. Thin arms gripped the brass hanging desperately ten feet from the ground.
“James, give me my wand back!” Harry Potter demanded, in complete panic. The five-year-old, who stood at the top of the stairs, shook his head.
Dudley’s eyes were glued to his son’s. Joey looked anxiously down at his father, perhaps more afraid of what would happen when he got down than actually getting down.
“James, where did you learn how to cast a tickling spell?”
“Joey’s the one who said he knew how to swing on that cool hanging thingy. And besides, I didn’t cast it! I just took your wand!” he replied gleefully.
“Then who did cast it, hmm?” Harry asked, and Dudley would have smiled at Harry’s condescending tone if he wasn’t so worried about his own son.
“I don’t know. Joey said he loved mum’s laugh, and next thing we knew, she fell off her chair and was laughing some more!”
Albus, who looked no older than three, nodded and said very seriously, “I think Joey’s a wizard.”
Dudley couldn’t move. No, no, no, no, no….
“And there’s only one way to find out!” exclaimed the older brother. He pointed his father’s wand at the chandelier, and a bolt of light burst from it, hitting Joey’s hand. The two fathers watched helplessly as Joey fell head first from the chandelier…
But in an instant, Joey was gone.
“Where did he go?” wondered Harry aloud, though Dudley was trying furiously to calm himself down.
His son was a wizard! One of them! Oh, how his mother would hate to hear this! His son, a freak! Dudley paused. No, no they are not freaks. Harry is not a freak, he told himself, but as Harry walked back into the foyer with a three giggling boys at his heel and one very angry pregnant woman, Dudley found couldn’t label the family otherwise.
“So I guess he’ll be going to Hogwarts?” wondered Harry.
“Does he have to?” Dudley asked, instantly regretting it.
“I—I don’t know. People don’t usually turn it down…” Harry seemed a bit off balance from Dudley’s words, and Ginny sent a perplexed look at her husband’s cousin.
“I’m going to Hogwarts, Daddy!” insisted Joey.
“I—okay, yeah, uh, you are,” Dudley stuttered.
Joey beamed brightly, and just that smile made Dudley glad he hadn’t turned down his son.
“Tea has been wonderful,” said Ginny as she shook his hand and headed to the door with her two boys. James and Albus waved goodbye to Joey, who stood behind his father with wide and ecstatic brown eyes.
“Good bye, Big D!” Harry called as he shut the door behind them.
Joey nudged his father’s waist. “Who’s Big D?”
I hope you enjoyed this one-shot. If you can, leave a review with your thoughts and critique, or just tell me that you read. I love any type of feedback. :)
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