Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ You'd Never Know ❯ You'd Never Know ( Chapter 1 )

[ A - All Readers ]
Harry Potter and its associated characters are the property of J.K. Rowling.

Mediaminer readers, I apologize for the lack of italics.

Not everything's over.


A young man is sitting at a cafe table, the jacket hitched up around his shoulders making him look even bigger than he really is. He seems light and heavy, like a veteran in enemy territory and not sure whether the truce will hold.

A young man his own age, mid-twenties, slips into the chair next to him. Dudley looks up, taking in the glasses and the same old scar on a new, full-grown face. It’s amazing how normal he looks, Dudley thinks. You’d never know.

The other man doesn't move, as if he's used to waiting for Dudley to figure out how to react. Finally, Dudley says, "I want to give you this," and hands him a fancy envelope. The other man frowns at it. "I didn’t know your address," says Dudley. "Came back undeliverable."

The second man turns the envelope over as if he isn't sure what it is. Dudley exhales, settling his heavy arms. The second man looks him up and down, as if he'd expected this to be a prank.

Dudley's cousin has always treated him like some kind of stupid brute and he probably always will, but the way Dudley sees it, the guy who saved his life gets an invite, even if he's a snob—and he did save his life. It took him a while to put it all together, but those things had been going to kill him. A lot of things took a while to put together. The way Dudley used to see it, Harry brought him injuries and humiliations, one of which put him in the hospital right before his first term at Smeltings. It took him until he was an adult to realize that just because Harry was there didn't mean it was his fault, and even longer to realize that the injuries and humiliations he dealt to Harry weren't just the way boys are supposed to be. But sometimes you had to get big before your own voice is louder in your head than your mum's and dad's.

Harry’s eyebrows shoot up into his hair, crinkling the scar that somehow seems more inert than it used to. He doesn’t talk for a while. Then he says, "Do I get a plus one?"

Dudley blinks. Of course Harry might have a girlfriend. Why hadn’t he thought of that? "Sure, but, uh…"

Harry just looks at him, and he seems like a hedgehog putting out its quills, like he thinks Dudley's going to bite.

"Yes," Dudley says. "Yes you get a plus one."

A second too late, Dudley knows what he meant to say: What if she doesn’t know how to act normal? What if she shows up dressed like a weirdo? Mum’ll be angry enough just seeing Harry. Then he remembers that Harry had a friend whose parents were dentists. Someone like that would know how to act like a regular girl. She might even be a regular girl, a non-magic type. He opens his mouth to ask if she is or not but then decides not to.

Harry doesn’t admit it, but he considers taking Hermione as a friend or even Luna or going stag, but Luna’s out of the country and he and Hermione are past the point where they could go platonically and he just does not want to be there alone surrounded by old memories and Dudley’s friends, whom he imagines (correctly) to be beercan-on-head Crabbe and Goyle types. Instead, he asks Ginny if she wants to see a muggle wedding.

Harry hasn't been in therapy. He’s the Chosen One and currently trying to re-structure the Ministry; he cannot show weakness. It took a while, but he's realized that the thing he needs therapy for isn't Voldemort.

Ginny shows up in a dress that she bought in a muggle shop. It's not quite formal enough for a wedding, but it will pass. She forgot to remove the tags, so they slip into the cloak room at the church and have a fun moment or two putting it right.

Harry knows he’ll see Petunia and Vernon again. He walks in deciding to be the bigger man, to make this about Big D's big day. He’s going to try to enjoy the open bar and be the groom's cool cousin. Besides, he wants his aunt and uncle to see him full-grown and successful with a beautiful woman on his arm, happy and alive and a bona-fide adult despite their efforts to the contrary.

Dudley probably should have told Petunia that he'd invited Harry, but he didn't. Her hand tightens on Vernon's arm when she realizes whom she's looking at (she’d been staring at the redhead in the off-the-rack sundress), but she doesn't say anything. Petunia doesn't hate Harry as much as she used to, mostly because she doesn't have to see him every day any more, so when she speaks to him she is civil and keeps up appearances. To anyone not in the know, it would look like a nephew greeting a distant aunt whom he'd rarely met growing up. Harry's not sure how he feels at her polite and distant smile or at how quickly she stifles her disapproval when she's introduced to Ginny. On one level, he'd have felt more comfortable if she’d yelled or sneered or pretended he wasn't there the way she used to. It feels like she wants to act like it didn't happen, and that makes him angry. Or it will make him angry later. For now, he can't feel it.

The wedding isn’t either as fun or as bad as Harry had thought. They're at the table with the other hard-to-place folks, a few of Dudley's wife's single friends and a work acquaintance or two. (Aunt Marge is dead.) They seem a little stupid and don’t have much to talk about, but no one's mean. They talk about the menu, the music, how everyone knows Dud and Trish. From the top table, Uncle Vernon does some grumbling about letting "the ingrate" eat his food again, until Dudley’s wife, a stocky, thick-fisted woman, reminds him that Vernon and Petunia hadn't paid for any of the reception. Vernon expects Dudley to set the woman straight, but Dudley kisses her hand—how come she's so smart? She always figures out what to say so easy. (Oh but Vernon’s in for it in the years to come.)

Harry ends the day able to shake Dudley's hand and mean it when he says, "Congratulations." He's glad he went, if only because his imagination would have cooked up something worse. This was one more way of making peace with his past and with the man and woman who ignored him, imprisoned him and let their son use him for a punching bag. This was a way of forgiving them.

As they're preparing to leave, Ginny excuses herself for a moment. When Harry isn't looking, she fills Petunia's car with the smell of rotten meat. It bubbles up from under the seats, between the cushions, inside the glove compartment, and no matter how Petunia vacuums and spritzes and scrubs, she cannot make it clean. Worse, the smell sticks and stinks like body odor, like something dying of starvation and neglect. Her friends "helpfully" recommend doctors and diets and deodorants, not-so-secretly smug that the immaculate Petunia is flesh and blood after all.


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