“It would have to be a big car if it is going to fit all of us,” Justin pointed out the next morning. “Even then, I doubt we’ll actually have enough seatbelts. You may or not realize this, but it is hard to come by a car with enough seats for six people, and still has room for luggage,” Nesta said when informed of the plan the next morning.
“Not to mention, Dudley has to fit in it comfortably enough to drive,” Justin teased.
Dudley scowled at his friend then hunched his shoulders in attempt to make himself smaller. It wasn’t his fault he was so tall!
Naturally, Dudley’s reaction instigated a chorus of laughter at his expense. Hazel gently touched his arm, “Don’t worry Dudley. You’re like Roald Dahl’s BFG.”
Dudley, who hadn’t the foggiest idea who Roald Dahl was, had no idea what she was talking about. But he liked it when Hazel touched his arm, so he brightened at this statement.
“Dudley, you realize you’ll be driving on the other side of the road, right?” Justin asked.
Dudley hadn’t thought of this. It was true that he had only ever driven on the left side of the road. But how different could the right side be? “That won’t be a problem,” he said confidently. It would have been wrong of him to say otherwise. His friends were counting on him, who was he to let a little cultural difference get in the way of that?
Lunet stifled a giggle, embarrassing Dudley. However, the group either failed to notice this or chose to ignore it.
“Then our best chance is a delivery van,” Hazel said matter-of-factly.
“That’s an idea!” Owen said excitedly. “They’re much more common than large passenger cars anyways and we won’t have to cram ourselves into a smaller car!”
“Plus we’ll have room for any luggage,” Hazel added.
“So it’s decided?” Justin asked. “We’ll hijack a delivery van?”
“I guess it is,” Owen said when no one else said anything to object. Suddenly everyone was very nervous and excited. Only Dudley was completely unfazed. After all, this wasn’t his first time stealing a car.
“Wait! You’ve stolen a car before?” Lunet shrieked.
“Err…” Dudley shifted awkwardly. ‘You realize you just shouted that out loud, Lunet?’
“You WHAT?” Nesta practically shouted at him.
Justin turned on him, “Seriously? When?”
“How?” Owen wanted to know.
Finally Hazel asked quietly, “Why?”
Hazel’s question broke Dudley’s heart. He had been clinging onto the idea that she might see him as a good person, someone worthy of her friendship. She might have let go of the fact he had been driving illegally for two years, but this? This was much worse, and Dudley knew it.
There was no point in lying to them; Lunet wanted to know the truth just as much as anyone else. And to a certain extent, they deserved to know.
“The summer after I turned 15,” Owen didn’t miss the significance of this age. The fact that he had sighted this as the age he started driving wasn’t lost on Hazel either. However, the two stoically awaited the rest of his story without making any comments. Dudley continued, “My friends and I saw this really nice vintage BMW convertible with the top down. It was much easier than we thought it would be… Piers had read about hot-wiring and thought he would try it. Once we got it running, it was only natural for us to take it for a spin. I guess we were bored,” Dudley couldn’t meet Hazel’s eyes. “We left it about a block away from where it was originally parked. The bloke who owned it probably got it back alright.”
When Dudley looked back up at his friends, Hazel’s brow was furrowed. “Do you think you could ‘hot-wire’ a car by yourself?”
Dudley felt like laughing. He couldn’t count the number of times he had stolen cars after that first day. He didn’t always sell them afterwards. Sometimes he and his friends hadn’t even returned the cars. Sometimes they had sold their spoils on the black market and made quite a bit of money. But he would rather the rest of the group remain blissfully unaware of this. Dudley looked sternly at Lunet who nodded to him, her eyes full of concern. ‘It’s better this way,’ Dudley thought. ‘They don’t have to know just how awful I was, just that I have certain skills that might be useful.’ Lunet nodded again, but didn’t say anything.
Nesta and Justin were examining a map that Justin had summoned for the best route to a highway. At least that’s what they were supposed to be doing. The two seemed to be flirting much more than they were making plans.
“Owen, how about some wand practice?” Lunet suggested to her brother.
“Why not?” Owen stood up from his seat on a log. “I’m probably out of practice. That won’t be good if we’re going to face any death eaters when rescuing those French students.”
Dudley and Hazel were completely entranced as they witnessed their first duel.
Owen and Lunet were both very skilled duelers; anticipating each other’s moves and shooting counter curses out of their wands.
“Stupefy!” Lunet shouted at her brother. Her wand emitted red sparks as she flawlessly executed the spell.
Owen deflected his sister’s attack and sent a purple stream of light her way. However, Lunet understandably predicted this choice of spell and deflected artfully. For the first time, Dudley saw how magic could be beautiful. He knew
“It’s remarkable, isn’t it? Watching wizards duel.” Hazel asked Dudley after some time.
“Amazing,” Dudley agreed, looking fondly down at her.
Hazel turned to face him, “Why didn’t you tell me that you had stolen a car?” She seemed genuinely hurt.
Dudley’s heart crumpled, “I didn’t want you guys to think I was a horrible person. I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I’m not proud of,” he said vaguely.
“But you told Lunet,” Hazel said. “You told Lunet but you didn’t tell me.”
Dudley was confused, “I didn’t tell Lunet,” he insisted.
“Then how did she know?”
Finally, Dudley thought he understood. She wasn’t hurt because he had a past; she was upset because he hadn’t told her about it. At least, that’s what he thought she was alluding to. “Lunet knew that I can pick a lock because I offered to do it when we left the safe-house that day,” (not a lie). “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but she is really perceptive,” (also not a lie). “I probably did something when you guys were talking about stealing a car that made her think this wasn’t going to be my first time.”
Hazel narrowed her eyes but couldn’t prove that Dudley was lying. “You know that I don’t care what you may have done, right?” she asked. “I mean, I don’t think you’ve killed anybody and I don’t think you’re a terrible person. I would hardly be human if I didn’t believe in second chances, would I?”
Dudley shook his head. She could never know about how many children he had used as punching bags, how many times he had used his cousin, the ‘Chosen One,’ as a punching bag. She didn’t need to know about the things he had done that were too horrible for him to think about. He couldn’t bear it if she looked at him differently. No, it was his burden to bear. To tell such stories would be selfish.
“No! Under no circumstances are you apparating us again!” Dudley heard Nesta shout for the umpteenth time. He and Hazel obligatorily turned their attention to Nesta and Justin.
“I’m not suggesting that I side-along five people again,” Justin spoke calmly. I’ll take one or two at a time to the nearest highway. It makes much more sense than walking for miles on end.”
Dudley had to side with Justin on this one, but he also didn’t want his friend to vomit and pass out again. That was really, really bad and slightly revolting.
“Are you sure you feel up for it, Justin,” Hazel asked her cousin.
“Yeah, I do,” he reassured her. “Besides, then we can finally have something decent to eat for breakfast,” he joked holding up a piece of the stale bread Hazel had distributed earlier that morning.
Dudley laughed lightheartedly but then something Justin had said registered, “Why are we going to a nearby highway?” he asked.
“So that we can steal a car,” Justin answered as though it was the obvious explanation.
Dudley was irked that everyone always assumed that he didn’t understand the simplest of things and therefore felt the need to explain the painfully obvious. Sure, he wasn’t the brightest bloke around, but he was capable of remembering that they intended to steal a car.
“How are you planning on stealing a moving vehicle?” Dudley asked skeptically. “Especially a moving vehicle in a 60 mile-per-hour zone?”
“By using our wands to break it down when it passes us,” Justin replied as though this was obvious.
Dudley raised an eyebrow, “Then what are you expecting to do with the drivers of these vans once you’ve broken their cars down?”
Justin opened his mouth but then quickly shut it. He obviously hadn’t thought this through. “What do you propose we do then, Dudley?”
“Well,” Dudley began. “If you’re going to apparate us anywhere, you should apparate us to a gas station of sorts. Preferably one that specializes in servicing trucks or larger vehicles.”
“They have such things?” Nesta asked.
“Yes but I think we’d best just look for gas stations in general,” Dudley responded. “I have no idea which are intended for large vehicles, so that won’t do us much good.”
“And we’ll steal the car at the station?” Hazel asked.
“Yeah, once we find one big enough,” Dudley replied.
“You’re sure you can hot-wire it for us?” Justin asked skeptically.
Dudley laughed to himself. “He’s sure,” Lunet spoke for him.
“Then we had better get going,” Justin said authoritatively. He then put his arm around Owen, turned on the spot, and was gone.
“Show off,” Nesta scoffed.
Seconds later, Justin was back. He took both Lunet and Hazel this time, saying he had felt comfortable enough with just one to take two per trip.
Finally, he came back for the last two Dudley however insisted that Justin take him alone, because he was so much bigger than anyone else. Justin didn’t argue, making Dudley confident that his insistence hadn’t been unjustified. It wasn’t long before Justin was back to make his final apparation to whatever gas station he had selected.
Luckily, Justin had managed to pick a gas station with across the street from a tourist center, so there was an abundance of parked and unattended automobiles to chose from. Dudley spotted a large delivery van with an advertisement for an electrical company.
“That one,” Dudley told Justin, who nodded.
“What do you need me to do?” Justin asked.
“Can you make sure the van’s driver doesn’t come back anytime soon?”
“No problem,” Justin responded. He enlisted Owen to help him so Dudley could only assume they planned to use magical means.
Dudley set about his work, picking the lock on the car door.
“You need help with that?” Lunet offered.
“No, I’ve…” Before he could finish his sentence, Lunet had whispered a spell and the door clicked open. “Oh…” Color briefly rose to Dudley’s face. “Thanks.”
Dudley then leaned under the wheel and pried off the plastic separating him from the control wires. He had only started to rub the two necessary wires together when he heard the infuriated shouting from behind him.
“COSA STAI FACENDO!” *
The angry Italian man was quickly shot in the chest by a well-timed spell by Justin. He fell to the ground in a crumpled heap.
“DUDLEY! NOW WOULD BE A PRETTY GOOD TIME FOR THE CAR TO START WORKING!” Justin shouted over his shoulder. Then, “Are you any good at memory spells? I’m rubbish at them myself.”
Owen responded, “Yeah, no problem. I’ll do it now.”
Just as Owen spoke, the van roared to life. Dudley triumphantly climbed into the driver’s seat. “All aboard!” he cried, even though it was cheesy. He had always wanted to say that.
Nesta gave a whoop of glee before opening up the trunk and climbing in. Lunet and Hazel closely followed her, and Justin climbed into the passenger seat next to Dudley. They were only waiting on Owen to finish the memory spell when they heard a woman shriek to their left. She must have just walked out of the restaurant to see the teenagers stealing the van.
“OWEN, GET IN THE CAR!” Dudley bellowed.
He didn’t need to be told twice. Owen sailed into the trunk with the other two girls and the electrical equipment the van’s owner had been transporting. Hazel slammed the door behind him and Dudley threw the car into reverse.
After a few quick, jerky turns, the group was on the highway. They collectively breathed a sigh of relief and continued North. Justin hoped they could reach Switzerland before Dudley needed to stop and rest.
Dudley showed remarkable stamina and drove well into the night. Driving on the highway doesn’t require massive amounts of concentration, just common sense and a reasonable level of attentiveness to the actions of others. However, as their delivery van was often the solo vehicle on the road, Dudley didn’t feel too much pressure about the later. Justin stayed up with him long after the other passengers had fallen asleep. He said he didn’t feel right leaving Dudley to drive alone and for that Dudley was grateful.
“Have you started driving yet?” Dudley asked in a pitiful attempt at small talk.
Justin replied, “I never thought I would need to.”
“Really? You were raised a muggle, but you didn’t think you would ever need to drive anywhere?”
Justin sighed, “I guess I always thought that if I ever needed to learn, I could later in life. While I was at school, I focused on learning spells, potions, things that could help me. Especially after Fourth Year, I just wanted to learn everything I could to protect myself.”
Dudley remembered that Hazel mentioned Harry ‘dueling’ a Dark Wizard so he asked, “What happened in your fourth year?”
“A guy in my house was murdered,” Justin said simply. “When Harry brought Cedric’s body back… That was one of the scariest moments of my life.”
The name Cedric resonated with Dudley for some reason but he couldn’t put his finger on it. “How did Harry get Cedric’s body?”
“Because You-Know-Who killed Cedric in front of him and then tried to do the same to Harry,” Justin explained. “How do you know none of this?”
Suddenly Dudley remembered where he had heard the name before. His sleeping cousin had screamed it repeatedly for almost an entire summer. Dudley was still reeling with this discovery when he remembered what he had done on the playground. He remembered the unfettered anger in his cousin’s eyes when he had teased him about Cedric. The memory made him want to vomit.
Justin noticed this and said, “Hey mate, we can stop if you aren’t feeling well.”
Dudley declined. He had to do something to be useful to this war. Dudley had to find someway of helping his cousin defeating the other monster who had plagued him his entire life.
At 3:47 in the morning, Dudley turned off the highway in search of a place they could safely park the van. Finally, he found a viewpoint on the side of the road that could double as a parking spot. Justin hopped out of the van explaining that he was going to try to disallusion them so no one snuck up on them while they were sleeping. Finally, after a long day of driving and only a few hours of sleep the night before, Dudley took a much-needed break.
*What are you doing?
A/N: Hey everybody! Please let me know what you thought by leaving a review! They make my day!