Harry hadn’t intended to ever see the Dursleys again. Their parting at Privet Drive felt final like a proper close to their relationship. That was until he’d viewed Snape’s memories and suddenly he’d been burdened with questions of his mother that no one else could answer.
Not for the first time, he wished that when he was fifteen he had been able to appreciate Lupin and Sirius’ relationship with his parents, taken the time to ask the proper questions and for stories about his parents from their best friends. But they were gone now and his last remaining link to his mother was in the women who had detested him from the moment he’d been placed in her care.
“You don’t have to come with me,” Harry had said weakly to Ron and Hermione when he shared his plan of visiting his childhood home for a final time.
“Don’t be silly Harry,” Hermione said at once, “Of course we’re going to go with you.”
“Yeah,” Ron said, diverting his attention from the laundry he was folding. “Who do you think is going to do the memory charm when you blow someone up again?”
Hermione rolled her eyes as Harry laughed and had agreed to let them accompany him.
Petunia looked as shocked as Harry felt to see him grace her doorstep once more. They stood there for a moment, staring at each other. When she came to her senses she looked hastily around the street to see if anyone was watching and ushered them inside.
“You remember my friends, Ron and Hermione?” Harry said once the door was firmly shut.
Petunia paid them little mind as she guided them into the sitting room where on the large couch sat, Dudley. He was staring at them, open-mouthed as the television program he’d been viewing turned to a commercial. He was the first to recover from the shock, taking them each in turn as Petunia began to fret over the curtains, indecisive on whether to close them as to block out prying eyes or if having the curtains drawn in the middle of the day would cause more of a scandal.
“You’re the one who gave me that sweet that made tongue swell,” Dudley said in greeting, staring at Ron suspiciously.
At once Petunia gave up her indecision and went over to Dudley, sitting down next to him so she was putting her boney body between him and Ron as if she could protect him.
Ron grinned. “That was my brothers, Fred and George. They run a joke shop, they invented all types of pranks like that.”
“A joke shop?” Dudley repeated stupidly. “That was a joke?”
“Well, it was meant to be,” Ron said, his smile fading. “It wasn’t exactly a final product, they’ve managed to make it so you don’t choke and the swelling goes down after a minute now.”
“Ah,” he nodded. “They invented that?”
“Yeah,” Ron said. “They invited loads like that. Puking pasties, they make you vomit so you can get out of work, Nosebleed Nougat, Cannery Creams, they make you sprout feathers all over.”
“Why would anyone want to have feathers?” Dudley asked, his forehead knitted together in confusion.
“You give it to someone unsuspecting, like at a party. They think they’re eating a cake and then they have feathers,” Ron glanced over at Harry’s face and added, “It goes away after a few minutes like I said, pranks.”
“Ah,” Dudley said again, apparently done with the conversation and turned to look at Harry. “Hestia said you defeated Lord Whatshisname.”
“Voldemort,” Harry said, ignoring the choked sound both Ron and his Aunt were making. “I did.”
“He’s really dead this time?” Petunia asked in a hoarse voice.
Harry looked at her and nodded. “We’ve spent the past year making sure he could never come back.”
“Thank-you.” Petunia looked as surprised as he did that the words came from her. At once she got to her feet calling “I’m going to make tea,” as she disappeared from the room.
Perplexed, Harry glanced at Ron and Hermione. Ron looked just as surprised as Harry but Hermione was wearing a sort of satisfied smile. Hoping she would provide some explanation later, Harry turned back to Dudley who he could feel staring at him, wanting to say something.
“Are you adjusting to being back?” Harry asked when it seemed Dudley was not going to speak his mind.
He sat down on the unoccupied loveseat, Hermione joining him at once while Ron stood guard over them both, leaning against the wall.
“Mr. Diggle told me lots of stories about you,” Dudley said instead. “Lots of really weird things, like that you defeated a snake and that Voldimart took your blood.”
“Yeah,” Harry said, unable to suppress a grin at the mispronunciation. “I did.”
“And that you watched people die,” Dudley continued, hesitating ever so slightly when they didn’t deny it. “And that you were in some kind of tournament where you had to fight a dragon.”
“I didn’t fight a dragon,” Harry chuckled. “I just had to get its egg.”
“It’s egg?” Dudley asked.
He looked to Ron and Hermione for help. “He was in a tournament against other magical schools,” Ron said. “The first task was to get the egg because inside was a clue to the next task. Harry flew on a broom—“
“That broom you had actually flew?” Dudley asked, bewildered. “Dad always told me you had to have one at school for chores.”
Harry was astonished still at his Uncle’s unwillingness to accept anything remotely magical entering his home no matter how obvious.
“Is that how you got here then?” Dudley continued. “On a broom?”
“No,” Harry said. “My broom was destroyed a while back, we got here by apparition, its where you disappear one place and reappear in another.”
Clearly impressed, Dudley was unable to hide his joy from his face. Therefore his next question stunned Harry. “Why did you want to go back when all of those terrible things kept happening to you?”
“I had friends,” Harry said when he understood what Dudley was asking, looking over at Hermione and then Ron. “I found a family, I had a purpose. I was happy Dudley.”
“Even with all the bad stuff?” Dudley questioned.
“Because of the bad stuff sometimes,” Harry nodded.
Dudley turned his attention back to the TV to process. “I’m sorry for making fun of you over Cedric.” He said after Harry thought the conversation was done. “I didn’t know you’d watched him get murdered.”
It was hard to recognize the person sitting across from him and Harry felt a tightness in his throat at the genuine apology. Before he could answer he heard someone clear their throat and he swiveled around in his seat to see Petunia standing in the doorframe.
“I have tea in the kitchen,” she said to him and Harry took it that she didn’t want Dudley hearing their conversation.
Harry rose at once, Ron and Hermione trailing him through the hallway. He paused for a moment at the cupboard under the stairs where he had spent the first eleven years of his life and was immensely grateful when Hermione gripped his hand assuringly.
Petunia was already sitting at the table, a steaming cup in front of her and three empty cups next to the pot. At once Ron began pouring the cups as Harry sat down next to his Aunt and looked at her.
“You knew a man named Severus Snape.” He said without pretext.
Her eyes widened at his question but she nodded. “He lived across town. Was always a troubled boy, his father was rather awful so he spent most of his days in the park near my home.”
Harry bit his tongue at the irony that she could recognize cruelty in others but not her own family. “He was friends with my mother.”
“He and Lily always had an odd bond,” Petunia said, pursing her lips. “From the moment they met Severus was obsessed with her. Lily was always partial to freaks, she took pity on him I think. It wasn’t until we were older that I found out what they were doing together.”
“And that was?” Harry asked, though he already knew the answer.
“Magic,” Petunia hissed. “He was teaching her magic even though he wasn’t supposed to. I thought he was telling her all these lies, fantasies, to get close to her. Imagine my surprise when it turns out it was all real.”
“You wrote to Dumbledore, asking him if you could go to Hogwarts,” Harry stated. “You wanted magic.”
Petunia’s lips grew very thin and her face seemed to drain of color. Her eyes darted suspiciously to Ron and Hermione as if they would spread this news.
“I was young and wanted what my sister had.” Petunia said in a voice so quiet Harry struggled to make out the words. “When we’re children we all want to believe we have magic, it’s a very normal thing to want as a child.”
“So then why did you spend the rest of your life trying to squash the magic out of me?” Harry demanded. “If you hated me so much why did you try so hard to keep me from Hogwarts?”
“If it weren’t for magic I would still have a sister,” Petunia whispered looking Harry fully in the eyes for the first time. “The least I could do for her was try and keep you alive. When we took you in I vowed that you wouldn’t suffer like she suffered. But of course, they came and took you anyway. When we got the letter at the end of your first year explaining how you’d been put through this awful set of challenges I knew that you’d be safer away from it all. Vernon didn’t want you here but I knew you’d be safer in our world then you’d ever be in a world with magic.”
“If you were trying to keep me safe,” Harry said, trying to keep his tone even despite the anger inside of him, making his blood boil. “Then how could you have allowed me to sleep under the stairs? And not feed me or stick up for me against your husband?”
There was a tense silence that seemed to last for ages. Harry was just about to give up, give up on any form her admitting on having a part in what had happened to him when she spoke in a small voice.
“I know I might not have always treated you fairly, but I loved my sister very much,” Petunia admitted in a small voice. “I didn’t want you to end up as she did.”
“No!” Hermione burst out, the first thing she had said since coming through the door. “You don’t get to play on Harry’s sympathies as if it erases everything you’ve ever done to him. You owe him an apology. You were an adult when you lost your sister, you had a whole life with her while Harry had nothing. He lost his mother and you were supposed to fulfill that role for him and you’ve done a miserable job at it.”
“Hermione,” Harry said weakly.
He found himself not wanting to listen to anything more of what his aunt had to say. Suddenly he realized it didn’t matter and whatever resolution he had come here searching for would never be realized.
“She’s right,” Ron defended at once, glaring at Petunia who was attempting a brave face.
“Your sister died because she was brave and because she believed in a fair world.” Hermione continued, “And this is how you’ve honored her memory.”
“Say what you will,” Petunia answered defiantly. “But look at all he’s done—“
“He defeated Voldemort in spite of what you did to him.” Hermione interrupted. “He is brave and kind and that is in spite of how awful you treated an innocent child. When you had no justification.”
“You sent him a bloody hanger for Christmas, you gave him old socks and a note asking if he could stay for the summer holiday,” Ron cut across. “ You say you were trying to keep him safe but you could have done that just as well while making sure he was happy too.”
Both Hermione and Petunia looked horrified at this memory that even Harry had forgotten.
“I don’t have to explain myself to you children.” Petunia in a final tone.
“You’re right,” said Hermione coldly, standing up at once, her chair making a loud noise as it scraped across the kitchen floor. “You’ve no way to explain what you’ve done.”
To Harry’s surprise, Petunia did not retort, staring silently with wide eyes at Hermione. Hastily Harry got to his feet, finding himself suddenly with nothing more to say to his Aunt and followed Hermione out of the kitchen door with Ron trailing behind them.
Dudley was still sitting in the sitting room and Harry gave him a small wave of parting as he followed Hermione’s determined march out of the home.
“I’m sorry Harry,” Hermione said at once, sounding horrified as they exited to the front lawn. “I didn’t mean to—“
“It’s alright,” Harry said assuringly. It was nice to have someone else defend him, let someone else’s blood boil over the treatment he had endured. “I know you’ve been wanting a go at her for ages.”
Hermione gave him a weak smile, “You deserved better.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, looking at them both fondly, “I’ve found better.”
He glanced back at number four Privet Drive for what he knew now would be a final time only to find the door open and Dudley’s fat face peeking out.
“Harry,” Dudley called when their eyes met.
Harry hesitated for a moment before turning back to face his cousin. They met on the stoop as Dudley shut the door firmly behind him.
“I’m sorry for everything that happened,” he said with an anxious expression. “When we were kids, I never realized, I mean, I did, I just didn’t—“
He trailed off, but Harry understood. “I know.”
“I’m glad you’re alright,” Dudley muttered, looking at Harry more closely now, his eyes raking over the scar on Harry’s forehead. Even though a month had passed since the battle it was still raw and painfully fresh.
“Could I write to you?” Dudley asked suddenly.
Harry found himself touched by his cousin. He hadn’t come here intending to continue any form of relationship with his family, truth be told he had been hoping to get his Aunt alone and cease all contact with the Dursleys, but suddenly felt open to it all the same.
“Yeah,” Harry answered, “I suppose that’d be alright.”
They stood uncomfortably for a moment and it was Dudley that stated the obvious. “How can I get in contact then?”
“Oh,” Harry said, feeling stupid that he hadn’t realized the issue. “Er, I’m not exactly settled anywhere right now, but if you give it to Ms. Figg she knows how to get in contact with me.”
“I thought you inherited your godfather’s house?”
“I did,” said Harry. “It was mostly destroyed when the Death Eaters followed us home. We’re trying to put it back together.”
“Ah,” Dudley answered worriedly “But you have somewhere to stay right? You’re not on the street or anything?”
“No, I’m staying with Ron’s family,” Harry told him looking over to his friends who were watching him still. “I’ve spent most of my breaks there since I started school.”
“Good,” Dudley nodded, following Harry’s eyesight and looking at Hermione he added, “She’s pretty.”
In all of his life, Harry would have never thought he would be discussing women with his cousin, particularly not when he was complimenting the friends the Dursleys had always called freaks.
“She is,” Harry answered hesitantly.
“Are you two together?” Dudley asked.
“No,” Harry chuckled. “Hermione is Ron’s girl. Always has been.”
As if on cue Ron put his arm around Hermione and began to speak to her in a low voice that did not carry. Harry smiled at his friends.
“It must be lonely,” Dudley said, studying Harry’s expression.
“No,” Harry answered truthfully, tearing his eyes away from them. “It’s nice to see my friends happy together. Especially after everything they’ve done for me.” He had nothing to prove to Dudley but suddenly found himself wanting to share. “Besides, I’m sort of involved with Ron’s younger sister.”
“The cute redhead that was hanging around you at the station?” Dudley asked and Harry nodded. “I hope I get to meet her then, one day.”
“Yeah,” Harry answered, and finding for a moment the idea of one day having a proper conversation with his cousin didn’t repulse him, “I hope you do too.”