Chapter 1 : A cup of tea
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Harry was bleeding. Clutching his right hand in his left and swearing under his breath, he shouldered open his bedroom door. He stepped back, startled at the sound of breaking china as he stepped on a cup of tea that had been left on the floor outside his bedroom.
"What in the--?" He glanced around in surprise and saw the massive form of his cousin, frozen halfway down the stairs, staring at him with a mix of shock and terror.
"Nice, Dudley. Really brilliant joke," Harry muttered in disgust, sweeping up the broken pieces of the cup and retreating back into his room to throw them away.
"It wasn't a joke," Dudley stated indignantly. "I just thought you might want some tea while you packed and…forget it." Dudley turned to continue down the stairs.
Harry was taken aback. Had Dudley really just tried to do something nice for him? He watched Dudley waddle slowly down the stairs and felt like he should say something.
"Er...some tea would have been nice. Uh, thanks."
Dudley slowed for a moment and, glancing back at Harry, jerked his head in a nod before continuing downstairs. Harry watched him go in confused disbelief, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Eventually, he remembered that he was still bleeding and continued to the bathroom to clean up his cut finger. As he wrapped it in a bandage, he promised himself to ask Hermione about healing charms the first chance he got. With as often as he had been injured over the years, it seemed ridiculous that he had never thought to ask before.
Exiting the washroom, Harry nearly walked straight into his cousin. Dudley stood just outside Harry’s bedroom holding two cups of tea and effectively blocking the doorway.
"I got more," he mumbled, offering one cup to Harry.
"Oh, er...thanks," Harry replied, accepting the cup with his uninjured hand. Dudley leaving a cup of tea outside his door was one thing, but returning to hand him a cup in person was something completely different. They stood there in awkward silence for several moments until Harry cleared his throat. "I, uh, really need to finish packing."
"Right," Dudley answered, stepping slightly to the side, but making no motion toward leaving. Harry could tell that his cousin had something on his mind and was struggling to find the right words.
"You want to come in?" Harry reluctantly offered before he could stop himself.
Dudley glanced nervously around before he nodded and followed Harry into what had once been his second bedroom. Harry shifted a pile of Daily Prophets so Dudley could sit on the bed, but his cousin stood fidgeting just inside the doorway, looking slightly panicked. "It's alright, Dudley. I'm not going to curse you or anything."
Dudley sidled awkwardly into the room and sunk heavily onto the bed. He glanced around nervously as if expecting an attack at any moment, but didn’t speak. Harry busied himself with cleaning the remaining debris from the bottom of his trunk, more carefully than before. He kept throwing curious looks at Dudley, waiting for his cousin to speak, but after several minutes, Harry sighed.
"Was there something you wanted, Dudley? It's not like you to voluntarily remain in my presence for so long."
Dudley nodded again and fiddled with his teacup for a moment before responding. "Mum said you aren't coming with us," he blurted out.
Harry looked at him strangely, "Right. We've been over this. It's not safe for you to stay here, so you and your parents are going off with some of 'my lot' for awhile. They’ll look after you."
"I thought…” he trailed off. “No one told me that you weren't coming with us," Dudley mumbled.
"Does it matter? You don't even like me.” He didn’t add that the feeling was mutual.
Dudley didn't say anything. He just stared into his tea silently.
"Where is all of this coming from?" Harry asked, trying to make sense of Dudley’s apparent change of heart.
Dudley was silent for several moments. He fidgeted with his tea cup and never once looked up, even as he muttered, "You saved me once, when the dementoids tried to kill me."
Harry gaped at him in astonishment. Dudley had just come dangerously close to expressing gratitude, which was surely an unprecedented feat. He figured he should respond. "Well, not really. The dementors wouldn't have actually killed you, just sucked out your soul..." he stopped at the look of horror etched on Dudley's face. "But, uh, yeah..." he finished lamely. Probably should have left out the bit about soul-sucking, Harry thought to himself as he turned back to the contents of his trunk.
It took a few moments for Dudley to pull himself together. "I just thought you were coming, too," he finally said.
Harry decided it would be bad form to admit that he’d rather face Voldemort than continue living with the Dursleys. "I've got some things to take care of," he replied instead, struggling to ignore the sick sinking feeling settling in his stomach as he thought of the horcruxes and everything Dumbledore had left him to do.
"But why you? You’re only sixteen!" Dudley asked, incredulously.
Harry shook his head. "I’ll be seventeen in a few days. That’s of age in my world, and...it would take far too long to explain, but it has to be me. Why the sudden interest, anyway?" None of the Dursleys had ever expressed the slightest interest in his life. To the contrary, they had forbidden him from ever mentioning it, for fear someone would overhear and think that the Dursleys were anything less than completely ordinary.
Dudley shrugged, "I just wondered where you were going."
"I honestly don't know. Like I said, there are some things I have to take care of..."
"It's going to be dangerous, isn't it?” Dudley interrupted. “Will there be more of those dementoid things?"
Harry hesitated, but figured that there was no harm in being honest. "Yes, probably and dementors are really the least of my concerns. That's why you have to leave. It’s not safe here anymore.” Dudley stared at him, equal parts awe, disbelief, and terror on his face. Harry decided on a bit more truth. “Look, there are people after me: powerful dark wizards, the same ones who killed my parents. I'm going to try to stop them."
"But why you?" Dudley asked again.
Harry smiled slightly. "You have no idea how many times I've asked myself that same question. Look, Dudley, I've really got to finish going through this stuff. The people they're sending, Hestia and Dedalus, they're really good. You'll be safe with them. You don't need to worry."
"But what about you?" Dudley asked softly. "Will you be safe?"
Harry looked at him in shock. "Blimey, Dudley, you almost sounded like you actually cared."
"You saved me," Dudley said again. "I never even said thank you."
And you still haven't, Harry thought to himself in slight amusement, but he was flabbergasted by Dudley's complete change in demeanor. "Uh, well, you're welcome. Blimey, what's gotten into you, Dudley? Did the dementors blow a different personality into you?"
He merely shrugged as he heaved himself off the bed. "Dunno. Good luck, Harry," he held out his hand, and Harry shook it mutely.
Dudley made his way out of the room, but paused in the doorway. "Be careful," he mumbled. "And, uh, maybe keep in touch or something?"
"Yeah," Harry replied in a daze, "er, I'll try. See you, Big D."
Dudley smiled slightly and waddled out of the room.
Harry sank onto the bed that his cousin had just vacated, and stared after him, wondering if it really was possible for a dementor to blow a new soul into someone. Shaking his head, he mentally added it to the list of questions to ask Hermione the next time he saw her and turned his attention back to his trunk.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I've been working on a follow-up to this story and have finally finished it. It was originally supposed to be a second chapter for this story, but ended up fitting in with canon a bit better than it fits with this version of events, so I published it as a separate story called "Family Reunion." If you're interested in my version of Harry and Dudley's post-war reunion, you can check that out and let me know what you think. I'll love you forever :)
“Harry was bleeding. Clutching his right hand in his left and swearing under his breath, he shouldered open his bedroom door.”
---Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pg. 13 (U.S. edition)
“Did the dementors blow a different personality into you?”
---Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pg. 42 (U.S. edition)
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