Chapter 2 : Chapter 2. The Dursleys Discharged
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The atrium of the Ministry of Magic seemed busier than usual as harried-looking witches and wizards bustled about in every direction. What was unusual was that most of them seemed to be in a slightly euphoric mood, giving each other elated grins and nervous laughs as they bumped into each other in the corridors. The coloured paper-aeroplane memos flapping above the heads of the smiling, bustling wizards gave the Ministry an air of festivity.
Mr Weasley had given Harry instructions on who to speak with about the Dursleys and Harry headed towards the lifts. He knew everyone felt that with Voldemort dead the problem was solved, but Harry still wondered about the other Death Eaters. Maybe they would stay safely in hiding until flushed out by the aurors. Maybe.
“Fourth Floor, Department of Muggle Security” said the lift as the golden grill doors opened, allowing Harry out. Sitting behind the desk marked Muggle Security was a harassed-looking wizard in dirty green robes. Garrison Eagleby, as the gold name plate in front of him read, looked as if he hadn’t slept in a week. Perhaps he hadn’t, thought Harry grimly, it had been a big week.
“Can I help y- Merlins Beard! Harry Potter! Is it really? Harry Potter!” Garrison dropped the papers he was holding and reached across to wring Harrys arm. “Harry Potter! You …I ... Harry Potter! You did it! He’s dead!”
Cringing at the attention this portly man was drawing to him, Harry tried to tell Garrison quietly that he was here to release the Dursleys from wizarding protection. Around him witches and wizards seemed to pause in what they were doing and look in his direction.
“Well, yes, of course, Mr Potter,” said Garrison Eagleby. “You just need to fill in this form, ah there it is” he said, shuffling through the papers he was holding. “Now as you can imagine, we have a backlog of these requests, now that it is finally safe to bring people out of hiding, so I expect the delay to be about 3 weeks”
“ Oh.. I .. uh..” said Harry, realising all of a sudden he was at the centre of a large crowd of wizards all staring at him. “ I was er- hoping to visit them before leaving next week”
“Leaving” gasped Garrison Eagleby, his green robes flapping in distress “You aren’t leaving us now are you?” Murmurs broke out in the crowd around him. A short, dark haired wizard with heavy eyebrows, and a tall dark haired witch beside him, both wearing matching iridescent purple robes gasped, while others around them seemed to take a step closer to Harry, hanging on to every word being said
“Er, no. Well yes, but only for a month or so” muttered Harry, trying to keep his voice low. The sigh of relief that passed through the crowd was audible.
“Oh a holiday then,” breathed Eagleby loud enough that the crowd took a relieved step back. He picked up an owl quill and handed it to Harry to fill in the form .
“Yeah, sort of.” said Harry awkwardly. Feeling the pressing curiosity of the wizards still crowding around him, he added “I’m helping a friend with some curse breaking in Peru” Immediately Harry wished he hadn’t said it.
Whispers broke out in the witches and wizards around him
“Curse breaking's just a holiday!”
“Well to him it probably is though, isn’t it? I mean, what’s a few curses compared to You-Know-Who?”
“But he’s so young!”
Above the murmuring an accented voice called out “Aren’t you at school then? Von’t you have to go back to Hog-vorts?” and the crowd became silent. Harry turned to see it was the short heavily browed wizard, with the iridescent purple robes. He stood next to the tall witch with matching robes, and the effect was eye-watering. Harry blinked. “I - er” he said, not really knowing how to answer.
Fortunately at that moment Mr Weasely seemed to appear in the midst of the crowd.
“Ah, there you are Harry,” Mr Weasley pushed through the matching purple-clad pair, and stood with his red hair clashing horribly against the iridescent purple robes that surrounded him.
“Bill is waiting outside. He has finished with the Magical Immigration Department” Something in his voice sounded tired and weary. Harry knew neither he nor Mrs Weasley were particularly pleased about him leaving. Or with Bill leaving. Neither of them had the strength to argue though, they just looked tired and defeated. Harry pushed his completed forms to Garrison Eagleby, who stood staring at Harry’s signature for an overly long period.
“Right, Harry Potter then, Memorise this address then destroy it” he handed Harry a piece of paper with an unfamiliar address on it “and please be at this safe house by 10:30 am on Friday morning and we will arrange for the release and debriefing for the ...ah... Dursley... family for you.”
“Thanks” muttered Harry to Mr Weasley as they left the Ministry to join Bill.
“Don’t mention it Harry,” said Mr Weasley as the left the ministry. “And I mean that. Don’t mention it. Especially in front of Molly. Don’t mention your muggle family or your trip with Bill, or …”
“Yeah, anything. I know” finished Harry for him. Mr Weasley wiped his forehead wearily.
“She would feel much better if you just stayed with us Harry. You are family to us. We are your family. You don’t have to go off to Peru. Peru! Of all places! And Bill leaving me with Molly AND Fleur! What is he thinking?”
Harry didn’t know what to say so he just nodded, concentrating on memorising the address he had just been given
Eighty-five Magnolia Crescent, Greenfield Gardens
That week Harry stayed at The Burrow, preparing for his trip away. It was an awkward week. Harry spent most of his time trying to hide in his room. What he really wanted to do was fly, he thought, just fly and fly and fly. He missed his lost Firebolt. He did have money in Gringott’s, he could just go and buy another broomstick. But it wouldn’t be the same. His Firebolt was a gift from his god-father and had seen him past angry dragons; winning the Quidditch Cup; even escaping from death eaters.
One morning, unable to bear being inside any longer, he snuck out before anyone else was up and borrowed Fred’s broomstick from the broom-shed. He felt guilty doing it, as if he were stealing or perhaps even defiling Fred’s broom. Somehow though, Harry knew Fred would have been happy to lend Harry his broom; and Harry felt sure that if he asked anyone in the family they would have given him permission. The thing was, thought Harry, mounting the broom and feeling the glorious rush of the wind in his hair once more, it wasn’t something he could actually ask for. Not at a time like this anyway. He stayed out for several hours, the peace when the noise around him was just the rush of wind in his ears, and the sounds of the world had faded away renewed Harry’s spirits. For the first time a prickle of hope began to rise.
He had defeated the Dark Lord. It was over. They had won.
Hours later, when he furtively tried to return the broomstick to the broomshed without being seen, he felt sure he saw the flash of brown eyes watching him from Ginny’s bedroom window. They were gone before Harry could tell whether they were sparkling with anger, or tears, or whether it was something else that had made them seem so bright from this distance. He resolved not to take the broom out again, just in case. He still hadn’t spoken to Ginny properly, and right after being caught with her dead brother’s broomstick in hand did not seem like the appropriate time. Harry stayed for a moment in the broomshed to compose himself before heading inside to find Ron.
“Do you want a game of chess?” Harry asked Ron.
“What about –“
“Harry, I get what you are trying to do ok? And I appreciate it mate, I really do. But right now, I just need to lie here and stare at the ceiling. Alright?”
Harry stood in the room he shared with Ron feeling helpless and awkward. He shouldn’t be here now. Ron had lost his brother because of him, and here was Harry trying to get him to play games. Hermione would have known better how to deal with this type of situation. She was good with stuff like that – emotions and understanding people. But she was in Australia, and Ron was here, lying on his bed as he had done most days since returning from Hogwarts, staring at the ceiling unmoving. Harry wandered outside again and desperately wished that it was time to leave already.
Thursday night dinner at the Burrow, where Harry and Bill had spent the week preparing to leave, was a subdued affair. Harry had not specifically mentioned that he would be going to see the Dursleys tomorrow, and yet everyone seemed to know about it. George sat in his usual seat, but kept turning towards the side as if he still hadn’t quite worked out what was missing. Harry was actually a little concerned about George. Madame Pomfrey had given him some potion to stop him talking and laughing to himself, and instead George sat, silent and lost, occasionally turning as if to say something to Fred. Percy sat stiffly beside his father as they exchanged desultory remarks about the Ministry. Percy was back working in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, and currently involved in trying to communicate to the International Wizarding Communities that Voldemort had been defeated. Definitely this time.
“This is really good Mum” said Ginny in a small voice that Harry hated hearing. Mrs Weasley turned blank eyes to her daughter. Ginny had spent the week trying to encourage her mother, but with little success. Ginny was almost as lost as George in way. She had been so close to the twins when they were alive and it seemed as if she had lost them both. Fred was gone and George really wasn’t himself. Ginny coped with the strength that Harry had come to expect from her though. Trying desperately to cheer her mother up and be the strong one, it was just her red-rimmed eyes that gave her away, thought Harry, trying not to appear as though he was watching her. That and he had heard her crying in her room on several occasions when the door was locked, and she had thought everyone else was asleep.
“Ginny,” sighed Mrs Weasley, pushing her plate of inedible food away from her. “Maybe you should take over the cooking. I just can’t seem to…” she started to break down.
Harry looked at his plate
“Molly, eet eez alrigh’. You juz’ need to let me ‘elp you” said Fleur in her throaty voice “Just unteel you are no longer upset”
Mrs Weasley seemed to stiffen at the suggestion that she would ever not be upset, but then glanced at her food and sagged again, looking defeated.
“Thankyou” she said bleakly. Somehow her resignation and willingness to accept help were even worse than her determination to keep fighting.
Harry looked at Bill, who met his gaze with a desperation that would have been comical in any but these circumstances. ‘We definitely need to get out of here.’ Harry didn’t need legilimency to be able to read Bills’ thoughts.
Ron had been using his wand to poke at the food on his plate, his usually voracious absent. He burnt the sausages still further black, and had, instead of reducing the lumps in the mashed potato, turned it instead to the consistency of a grey jelly, smooth and rubbery. Harry felt another stab of guilt. He was heading to Peru with his Best friends brother, and hadn’t even thought to invite Ron. In fact when he told Ron what Bill had in mind, Ron had simply stared uncomprehendingly. “But why?” seemed to be his only response, before going back to lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling. Now, at this gloomy table Harry wondered again if perhaps he was abandoning his friend in his hour of need.
To Harry’s enormous relief, the tension was relieved by the sudden appearance of a grey feather duster that flew in through the window, crashing into the side of Ron’s head, before bouncing into the gravy plate.
“Pig!” Ron muttered in disgust, as he fished the bird out and attempted to clean him “Scourfigy!”
The gravy on Pigwidgeon, Ron’s overly excitable owl, didn’t vanish completely but seemed instead to become dry and crumbly. This mean that Pig was not quite clean, but definitely a lot less messy to handle.
Ron unrolled the parchment and Harry watched as his face seemed to come alive.
“Hermione’s found her parents!” His excited voice seemed much too loud for the dinner table and everyone seemed to flinch as they turned towards him.
“She said they were really worried about her when they remembered everything , but glad to have her back, and are planning on starting their own business in London. She said she thinks the un-modifying spell worked – well of course it worked Hermione, you did it-” Ron interrupted himself. “Anyway, she wants to stay with them another week, then was wondering…” Ron trailed off, his ears going pink. Harry suddenly became a lot less guilty. Hermione would do a much better job of looking after Ron in his ‘hour of need’. Or distracting him. Harry choked off that thought quickly.
“Mum it’s alright if Hermione comes to stay for a bit next week isn’t it?”
Mrs Weasley sniffed a little as she replied “Of course it is. Maybe by then I will have…” she gestured helplessly to the burnt sausages, lumpy potato and watery gravy in front of them. It seemed that grief had rendered her unable to even make a cup of tea without somehow ruining it.
“I weel ‘elp you to cook” said Fleur in her throaty voice, steely determination kicking in. “You need ze ‘elp and I weel give it to you. Ginny can ‘elp me too, and you mus’ rest.’
“Yeah Mum” Ginny put in valiantly “It’s alright, Fleur and I can take care of everything.” Harry knew what it must have cost Ginny to be willing to work with Fleur. Then he wondered whether such petty issues really mattered any more. He avoided making eye contact with Ginny, there still seemed so much to say between them, yet Harry didn’t have the first clue where to begin. He hated hearing her sound so small and vulnerable.
Mrs Weasley turned to her daughter, the ever-ready tears suddenly welling in her eyes “ Oh, you are both.. so…good! ” Ending on a wail, she bust into sobs.
All in all, Harry was almost relieved to see the Dursleys the next day. He knocked on the door at Magnolia Crescent, which opened silently. Harry assumed that whoever had written the address he had memorised was secret keeper to the safe house. He also assumed it was unplottable, and had been disappointed that it had not squeezed up between houses like Grimauld place did. Perhaps this was a different magic, because it just looked like and ordinary muggle house.
A small wizard wearing a mauve top hat greeted Harry at the door. Harry recognised him as Dedalus Diggle, who had been put in charge of keeping the Dursleys in protective custody so long ago. He stood and gave a little bow as he allowed Harry to enter. “Harry Potter, welcome, welcome. Such an honour to see you again!” Harry found his hand being shaken enthusiastically. “Congratulations! I must say we are so very grateful. Defeated! He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is gone! The entire wizarding world – and indeed, the muggle world, if only they knew it, owe you their lives.”
“Er-” said Harry, as Dedalus swept him down the hallway. Sounds of a play station game echoed from upstairs and Harry grinned. Dudley hadn’t changed much.
The wizard led Harry to the living room saying “Mr Eagleby will be arriving by Floo shortly.” He and Harry entered a room with large, comfortable looking couches and a few scattered rugs on the floor. Vernon Dursley and Petunia Dursley sat stiffly with a tray of tea and small cakes in front of them. Neither looked happy, nor comfortable. When he saw Harry, however, Uncle Vernon appeared to become very angry.
“You!” He growled, slamming down his teacup and cracking the handle off “You! This is Your Fault”
A noise from the fireplace interrupted him, and in a flame of green, Garrison Eagleby stepped into the room, dusting floo powder off his shoulders.
“Ahh, yes, It is nice to reunite families isn’t it,” he said not noticing the cringe of both Harrys’ Aunt and Uncle as he entered. “Well as Harry has probably filled you in, the Dark Wizard is no longer, and you are now able to return to your normal lives.” Garrison Eagleby smiled pleasantly at the Dursleys, as if that settled the matter.
“Our normal lives!” sputtered Uncle Vernon, turning a deep shade of red. “Our normal lives? I had to LEAVE MY JOB you dolt! What normal lives? You ruined our Normal lives. HE -” Uncle Vernon turned to stab a meaty finger towards Harry “He ruined our lives!”
Harry stood silently. It somehow didn’t seem to upset him anymore that these people, so long the reason for his misery, still saw him as something detestable. Nothing Vernon could say had any impact on him any longer. Harry supposed that had to do in part with the spell of his mother’s magic finally being broken now that he was of age. He no longer felt any ties to them. Aunt Petunia just stood stock still. Harry found himself wondering what exactly they HAD been doing for the last twelve months.
Just then Dudley appeared at the door, and Harry gasped – contrary to his expectation, Dudley had changed. No longer a hulking tank of a teenager, in the space of one short year Dudley seemed to have shrivelled away. He had dark circles under his eyes as if he had not been sleeping, and his once powerful frame seemed more haggard now than anything else. To look at him Harry thought critically, you would think he was the one who had been plagued by nightmares, was being bullied at school and constantly running in fear from his life.
Uncle Vernon seemed to confirm this with his next words “See – THAT BOY even ruined Dudley. Look at my poor boy. Unable to sleep – nightmares, bullied at school, scared of his own shadow. Blast it, he is becoming a shadow! Look at him! And this is YOUR fault!” Uncle Vernon was turning purple by the end of this tirade and stood for a few minutes, gasping for breath. Harry was surprised to hear this shell of Dudley speak in the silence that followed.
“Is it over?” he asked, hoarsely “Really? Have the demented- whatsies really gone?”
“Dudders!” moaned Aunt Petunia, holding a handkerchief to her mouth and looking teary.
Harry frowned. Had the dementors gone? Harry doubted it somehow, but felt this was not quite the right time to explain that to Dudley
“Yes” said Harry firmly. “They are gone.” Seeing his aggressive cousin looking so small and intimidated almost made Harry feel sorry for him. Almost.
“You did that?” asked Dudley shaking a little and looking at him in some kind of awe.
“Yes” said Harry again.
“And you’re alive?” said Dudley, taking a step into the room.
Harry sighed in exasperation, his next words coming out with more sarcasm than he intended “Dudders, did you hit your head really hard sometime in the last twelve months?”
Dudley suddenly lunged at Harry and before Harry had even thought to protect himself, Dudley was crushing him in crushing sort of hug
“Argh Dudley! Gerroff!” said Harry, taken aback. He broke Dudley’s hold easily; something that a year ago would have been a struggle, but today was pitifully easy.
“Oh Dudders!” wailed Aunt Petunia again, snivelling into her hands while Uncle Vernon appeared thunderstruck, jaw moving, but no noise coming out.
Garrison Eagleby cleared his throat and looked toward the door, as if seeking an escape.
Dudley let go suddenly, turning bright red. “Er - sorry” he muttered.
Harry stared at his cousin. Was this a new Dudley Dursley standing in front of him? Had the Dementors really changed him that much?
Without quite knowing why Harry gave a short laugh. “It’s good to see you too Big D.” he said. Dudley looked up, not quite sure what to make of Harrys grin.
Harry held out his hand “It’s ok, it’s safe now. Just –er- don’t stress yourself sick alright?
Dudley hesitated then grasped Harry’s hand. “Yeah, thanks,” he said, and then gave a tentative grin back.
At that point, Garrison Eagleby broke in, and explained the finer points about the Dursley’s new found freedom. A few memory charms would get them back into their old neighbourhood, with their old jobs. Vernon actually seemed to calm down a little as he listened. Petunia wanted to know if they could use a charm to catch up on the gossip that had happened while they were away “So that we don’t appear to have missed anything” she explained quickly, when Eagleby had eyed her suspiciously. In fact Harry thought it was all going really well. Right up until the moment Dudley, who had been listening too, unmistakeably said “No.”
“What?” said Uncle Vernon, rising out of his seat. He looked between Dudley and Garrison. “My boy’s out of his senses! Doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”
“No.” repeated Dudley “I said NO.”
Harry noticed a stubborn gleam in his sunken eyes, a shade of the former Dudley – the one he knew and loathed – returning. “I don’t want to go back there”
“But Diddykins” said Aunt Petunia, bewildered. “You hate it here. The other children pick on you, and you haven’t been sleeping…”
“Can’t we go somewhere else?” said Dudley slowly, ignoring his parents and turning to Eagleby “I want to start again” He paused and seemed to struggle to find the right words. Eventually he gave up and just repeated, his voice rising with every word. “I don’t want to go back there”
Something in his tone must have penetrated through to his parents because they both turned towards Eagleby. Even Harry recognised that voice as the one that heralded a Dudley tantrum.
“Well, ah- Im sure we can arrange …ahh. It won’t be a problem. We can have that sorted out by...” he glanced up nervously at Harry. “This afternoon if you wish. Would that be alright Harry?” He carried on without pause, not giving Harry a chance to speak “where do you want to go?” He asked the Dursleys, all of them now faced with an uncertain future
This could be interesting, thought Harry watching as they tossed out ideas such as America, London, Australia. Dudley Dursley actually wanted a fresh start. Who knew Dementors could do such good?
And he, Harry, was heading to Peru to give himself a chance at a fresh start. Perhaps it was the time for it after all.
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