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Hat in His Hands

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The knock on the door came as a bit of a shock. They had, naturally, warded the home against all but friends and family. Others could come in with invitation, but no one who needed to knock could step foot on their property unbidden.

Forever cautious, Harry Potter grabbed his wand before moving to answer the door. Though Voldemort’s more outspoken allies had been locked away, there would always be those who didn’t appreciate that Harry had vanquished the Dark Lord.

The occupant of the Potter’s doorstep was most certainly no supporter of Voldemort, and Harry’s first reaction, surprisingly, was relief that his wards hadn’t failed him.

This was quickly followed by immense shock.

“Dudley,” Harry said, surprise coloring his tone, despite his best efforts at masking it. “Hello.”

The man in question was awkwardly wringing his cap, and had jumped a bit when Harry had first opened the door. He hadn’t changed much, and yet he managed to look like an entirely different man as he stood, slightly stooped, before Harry.

“Hey Harry. I’m sorry to just show up like this, but...well, you see…”

Harry took pity on the man, who was clearly struggling for words. “Would you like to come inside?”

The hope on Dudley’s face was almost painful as he asked, “Are you sure? I’d understand if you didn’t want me inside your home, after what I’ve put you through.”

It was Dudley’s final comment that pushed Harry to open his door all the way, stepping aside to allow the very relieved man into his home.

“Hello, Dudley,” Harry’s wife, Ginny, greeted the man. “Harry, I put the kettle on. I’m going to go upstairs and try to get some work done.”

She kissed him on the cheek, giving his arm a gentle squeeze as she moved past him and up the stairs.

“Have a seat, if you’d like,” Harry awkwardly gestured towards the sitting room.

Dudley thanked him, moving to sit in one of the armchairs as Harry entered the kitchen to make tea, which Dudley accepted gratefully.

“Your wife?” He asked, waving towards the stairs that Ginny had gone up.

“Yeah, Ginny,” Harry confirmed.

“She’s lovely.”

Harry thanked the man, and they sat in an uncomfortable silence for a while.

“No little ones?” Dudley asked a while later, looking around at the quiet home as he spoke.

“Three, but they’re all at their grandmother’s,” Harry replied.

“I’d like to apologize,” Dudley said abruptly. “As I got older, I realized that the way that we treated you wasn’t at all right. I know that I can likely never make up for what I did, but I have to tell you how sorry I am for it all.”

Harry was stunned.

“Thank you,” He said, unsure of how else to respond.

“I’ve been wanting to come and tell you for a while, but I haven’t had the nerve until now,” Dudley continued.

“What made you come and do it?” Harry asked.

“I’ve got a little one of my own, and I walked into her room yesterday to find her favorite rubber duck floating near the ceiling,” He said simply.

Harry felt the urge to laugh, but he stifled it quickly.

“I know, I know. It’s punishment for all the years of torment I put you through.”

Harry allowed himself a chuckle.

“I just...I want her to grow up knowing that she’s not...well…”

“A freak?” Harry offered.

“I was going to say ‘abnormal’,” Dudley said sheepishly.

Harry laughed at that. “What are you proposing?”

“I wouldn’t want to put you and your wife out any,” Dudley assured him. “I just thought maybe she and her sister could go to that you and your family. I understand if you don’t want me along, but I would just like them to be around people like her from time to time.”

“Ginny and I would happy to have you and your family around occasionally,” Harry said, praying that he wouldn’t regret it.

“Thank you Harry. That’s so good of you. I promise you, my girls are well behaved. They’re really the sweetest kids you’ll ever meet; we won’t cause you a single issue,” Dudley gushed.

“Don’t mention it. I’d like to think that someone would do the same for my kids,” Harry admitted. “Although, I’d make sure your wife is prepared for Diagon Alley. It can be a lot when you’ve never been exposed to any sort of magic.”

“Oh,” Dudley said, sadly, “No. It’s just the girls and me.”

Harry opened his mouth to apologize, but Dudley spoke before he could.

“My wife, Bea, passed away last year. She had cancer.”

“Dudley,” Harry gasped, horrified. “I’m so sorry.”

Dudley let out a wry smile. “No need to apologize. She had a long fight, and it was her time. I’m just sorry that the girls are too young to have known their mother. She was the most amazing woman I ever met. So kind and wonderful…”

Harry risked asking Dudley where he had met the woman.

“At uni,” He said. He chuckled at Harry’s look of surprise. “I’m aware that I wasn’t the brightest child, but I do have a degree. I went on a sports scholarship, don’t worry. Barely got in with my grades and all.”

“What sort of degree do you have?” Harry questioned.

Dudley laughed. “Law.”

Harry couldn’t stop his jaw from dropping.

“I know, it surprised even me. I started off with psychology, but I failed a few classes my first semester, and they threw me off the team. They threatened to kick me out of university all together, and that was when I realized that it was time for me to get my act together. I had already met Beatrice, and I knew that I wouldn’t see her again if I left university. She was so brilliant, she had years ahead of her before she was done with schooling. She was, ironically, a doctor. So I threw myself into my work, and settled on law. I started off with the hopes that, with years to try with Bea, I would eventually get lucky and catch her fancy. It really became my passion though, and ironically that was what made her notice me. She said she hadn’t ever met anyone with the same passion for what they did as she felt for her career.”

“That’s incredible, Dudley. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Dudley shook his head. “No, I’m just grateful for the years I did get to spend with her. She was the love of my life, and a far better woman than I deserved.”

Harry smiled timidly at the man sitting before him. “Ginny and I will get the kids back tomorrow. Perhaps you’d like to meet us for lunch?”

Dudley lit up. “That would be wonderful. Are you certain your wife won’t mind?”

“I don’t mind at all,” Ginny spoke from behind the men. Both jumped, as neither one had seen her come in from the back staircase. “Sorry for eavesdropping, I just came down to look for a file I’ve misplaced.”

“The green one?” Harry asked. “It’s in my study on the bookshelf. You left it there when you came in earlier.”

“Well, aren’t you observant!” Ginny laughed. “Thank you.”

“I only know it’s there because I knocked it over earlier,” Harry whispered conspiratorially to Dudley.

Dudley laughed. “You two seem very happy.”

“We are!” Ginny called cheerfully.

“Well, thank you for having me Harry, Ginny, but I must be going. I left the girls with the lady next door, but I really don’t know what I’ll do if something starts flying with her around.”

Harry chuckled, “Well, you’d best head home then. Thank you for stopping by, Dudley.”

“It was nice having you, and we look forward to seeing you and your girls tomorrow for lunch,” Ginny added.

“Oh!” Harry exclaimed suddenly. “Write down your address so that I can tell you where we’re meeting.”

“How will that help?” Dudley questioned.

Harry smirked. “I’ll send you an owl, of course.”

Dudley’s eyes widened, but he wrote his address down regardless. Harry knew that their owl would likely find him even without an address, but he had wanted Dudley to know what he was getting himself into.

Dudley left much the way he came, hat in his hands and hunched over slightly as he thanked the Potters repeatedly for their kindness. This time, however, Harry was able to appreciate the gentleness in his face that hadn’t been there when they were young.

“So how long were you listening in?” Harry asked, once the door had closed behind Dudley.

Ginny flushed. “I didn’t think you would mind, or I wouldn’t have.”

“I don’t mind,” Harry replied.

He put his arm around her, and the couple watched as Dudley climbed into his car and drove away.

“Where are we taking him?” Ginny asked.

“I was thinking the curry place in Surrey. It’s not far from where he’s living, and it will be a nice way to introduce him to magic slowly.”

“That’s kind of you,” She said.

“Yes, well. I thought about taking him to Diagon Alley, but I don’t want him to have a heart attack,” Harry chuckled.

“He seemed far more muscular than you described him,” Ginny observed.

“That’s because he’s a good deal more muscular than when I knew him,” He countered.

“I’m interested to get to know him,” Ginny spoke after a while.

“Me too,” Harry spoke softly.

Both stood in silence for a while, lost in thoughts about the man who had arrived on their doorstep mere hours ago. Both had a feeling that they had just invited Dudley Dursley and his daughters into their lives permanently, and neither one was as bothered by it as they once would have been.