When Dudley and Harry were growing up all the little things were always blamed on Harry. Dudley's little cousin was punished when their teacher's wig turned blue one day, or when all of Dudley's toy cars rebelled and drove away from Privet Drive in full view of all the neighbors, or when Harry somehow jumped all the way to the roof while running away from Dudley and his friends. Whatever bizarre and unfortunate thing happened, to Dudley's parents it was always Harry's fault. So, Dudley came to think so, too.
Still there were things that Harry was never punished for. Things that Dudley for some reason could never tell his parents.
Once, when they were five Harry was weeding their small back garden and Dudley was sticking around trying to get a raise out of his cousin and get him in trouble since he had nothing else to do. Harry didn't react to Dudley's insults at all, so after a while Dudley got a little more physical with him. When Harry stood up to move to the next flower bed Dudley pushed him roughly making him stumble and drop the bucket he had put the removed weeds in. Harry blinked owlishly several times but still didn't react. He simply bent down to pick up the scattered stems without saying a word.
Just as Dudley was getting frustrated with the silent treatment, Harry sharply looked up at him from the ground. He still wasn't saying anything but Dudley forgot all about his little game. All thoughts flew out of his head and he just stared into his cousin's eyes, captivated. Dudley noticed for the first time that they were endlessly, beautifully green.
"Go jump out of the window," Harry mumured and something in his eyes shone.
The next thing Dudley remembered was his mother frantically trying to drag him away from an open window in his bedroom while he flailed around with all the strength of a five-year-old trying to get back on the sill no matter what.
Dudley never told his parents but something in him broke that day. It always felt like he failed to do something, like a part of him got stuck at that moment on the window sill and could never quite move on.
There was another occurrence. It happened when they were ten. Dudley went to the kitchen to grab an apple and was about to go back to his room when an idea struck him. He pocketed the apple and opened the door to the closet where his little cousin lived. Messing with Harry was always fun.
The light in the closet was on and Harry was sitting on his cot reading a tattered book. He didn't even bother looking up.
"Wha'cha readin' here?" A short struggle ensued where Dudley was trying to snatch the book and Harry was trying to dodge his cousin's grabbing hands. Harry put up quite a fight but in the end he had too little room for movement and Dudley had an advantage in both height and weight. Panting Dudley finally straightened and looked at the cover of his prize. "Fairy tales, really? What are you, a girl?"
"Give it back," Harry said quietly, probably not willing to attract attention of his aunt and uncle.
"Why should I?" asked Dudley feeling some sick excitement as he leafed through the pages to the part where the paper was crumpled from their struggle. "I should just tell the guys at school. That's just rich."
"Give it back," snapped Harry and the next moment the book in Dudley's hands burst into flames.
Dudley yelped and dropped it nursing his burnt hands and Harry picked it up. The fire appeared to do no damage to the book itself.
"I-I'll tell Dad!" Dudley pointed his red finger at Harry. "Y-you know what he'll d-do to you!"
"No, you won't," his cousin replied carefully setting the book aside.
The next moment suddenly Dudley's back was slammed into the wall and Harry stood in front of him.
"You won't tell anybody," Harry said and another shiver of disgusting excitement ran through Dudley only this time for a different reason. His throat closed off and he couldn't draw a proper breath. Harry leaned towards him and Dudley's heartbeat sped up even though something was still blocking his wind pipe. But his cousin only plucked the apple from his pocket and took a bite of it.
His eyes were so green. His lips were red and slightly glossy from the juice. His skin was pale and his hair black. Something clawed at Dudley's mind as his vision darkened around the edges.
Then Harry was back in his closet and Dudley doubled over greedily breathing in. His parents never heard a thing.
There were little things about Harry. Something about the way he smiled beatifically when a huge snake was wreaking havoc at the zoo. Something about the way he looked standing next to a giant who came to pick him up - he was so tiny, yet so unafraid. Something about the way he never once looked back walking away from Dudley into the crowded train station in London. There was some hidden ache in Dudley's insides that never went away.
Dudley remembered when they were thirteen and his aunt Marge came to visit. She said some nasty things about Harry's mum at dinner and the next moment Harry was watching calmly as aunt Marge grew bigger and bigger floating towards the ceiling while Dudley's parents screamed in horror.
Some weird freaky people arrived a couple of minutes later and set everything back in order making aunt Marge forget all about the incident. Mum and Dad were very cross at Harry and locked him in his room after some angry yelling and Dudley had nightmares that night where all of his family blew up and sprayed the walls with their entrails while Harry watched Dudley with his green green eyes and blood trickled down their faces.
The next morning another group of freaky people arrived. There were seven of them and they were all ginger and wore all black. Dudley's dad let them in only because he was afraid that the neighbors would see them on their doorstep.
Harry was allowed out of his room to talk to the gingers since apparently they had promised to take him away for the rest of the summer. When he came down the stairs and saw the red-heads he stopped short.
"Mrs. Weasley?" he asked the short woman with teary eyes who stood at the center of the room.
"Harry, dear boy! Dumbledore's allowed us to take you to the Burrow for the rest of the summer," she paused a little uncertainly. "If you don't mind that is?"
"Don't mind?" Harry asked incredulously. "I… I didn't even think you'd want to see me anymore." His gaze swept over black clothes and tired faces of the group but they all shook their heads and smiled at him.
"Now, why would you say that?" the woman asked. "You know that it was not your fault…" tears began to leak out of her eyes and her breath hitched.
Two identical gingers hugged her from both sides and spoke, "Really, Harry-"
"Don't be daft-"
"You are a part of the family, too, you know?"
"We can't lose you, too."
The fat woman nodded vigorously. Harry swallowed and rushed to hug her. Then he climbed back up the stairs with yet another red-head in tow. Heavy silence hung in the air between the Dursleys and the gingers. The woman called Mrs. Weasley sniffed, then looked at Dudley's Mum.
"Harry's such a sweet boy. He really is like a son to us."
"It's good to have him around," said a man in his forties who stood behind Mrs. Weasley.
"Ah, and after Ginny, our youngest…" the woman's breath hitched again. "It was so horrible. Harry and Ron tried to save her, but…" She burst into tears.
The twins hugged her closer and murmured soothing words. The Dursleys stayed silent. Something clawed at Dudley's insides that he couldn't quite understand. Some idea was there, something… He never told anybody but sometimes he felt that everything around him was wrong and strange and he had to find something that would tie everything together and make sense of things around him. Like Dudley was missing something important, something that Harry certainly understood, that was as easy as breathing to him.
Later that day when Harry and seven redheads filed out of the house and left the Dursleys for another year of calm Dudley sneaked into Harry's room. He did that every year after Harry left. Just stood there in his room listening to the soft sounds coming from downstairs and looking at the empty bed and cleared wardrobe. He thought he could catch a faint trace of Harry's scent here.
The room was lined up with shelves that kept Dudley's old toys and books that nobody in the house read anymore. Dudley idly looked from one object to another. One book caught his attention for some reason. He traced its spine with one chubby finger then took it out and looked at it.
It was an old book of fairy tales. It seemed familiar to Dudley. Like it was tied to some memory. He leafed through the pages until he found page spread that was seemed torn and wrinkled. Sitting down on Harry's bed he began to read the story of Snow White.
Things were clearer to Dudley after that. Something was still broken and wrong in him but at least he knew how things tied in in Harry's world.
Because Harry was Snow White. His skin was pale and smooth, his hands small and delicate. His lips were red and his hair was black and he had the greenest eyes in the world.
He lived with the seven ginger dwarfs but still had to come to Dudley's home every summer to make sure that the Evil Queen didn't harm them. Apparently, she had already killed the youngest ginger.
Now Dudley knew that one day a Prince would save Harry from the Evil Queen and then they would live happily ever after. He often wondered who the Prince would be and whether or not Harry had met him already.
Things were clearer to Dudley but somehow that sad and twisted longing inside him only worsened.
When they were fifteen Dudley learnt the name of Harry's Prince.
He was watching Harry sleep one night. He had kind of made a habit out of this ever since he figured out the fairy tale. His little cousin always looked so peaceful when he slept. Dudley liked to imagine what it would be like for Prince Charming to kiss him awake when time came. What Harry's lips would feel like to the Prince, what it would be like to touch his soft skin. Dudley couldn't actually remember when was the last time he had any kind of physical contact with Harry. Somewhere along the line he had realized that his cousin's skin was not for his grubby fingers and ever since he had developed a habit of looking down at his hands self-consciously whenever Harry was close.
So, Dudley was watching Harry sleep standing near the door of the small room and not daring to come any closer and disturb his cousin's dreams. That night, however, Harry seemed restless. He was twisting the sheets and jerking violently from time to time. Dudley stood there fascinated by Harry's naked chest rising from the bed each time he shuddered. Black-haired boy was mumbling something in his sleep and Dudley allowed himself to step a little closer to make out the words.
"Cedric…" murmured Harry and it first it sounded like a random sound to Dudley but then his cousin repeated a bit louder, a desperate note to his voice, "Cedric, please… No, no, no… Cedric…" There was a pause and then, "No! Don't! Not Cedric!"
It was then that Dudley's mind caught up with him and he realized that he was leaning over Harry's form so that their faces were just a few inches apart. "Cedric!" Harry called again and Dudley wrenched himself away from the bed, out of the bedroom and back into his own room. Cedric must have been the prince Harry was calling for. Some heavy weight settled upon Dudley's already heavy body.
It seemed only natural that as he was hobbling out of the room Harry's voice behind him was chanting, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry… I'm so sorry. I never meant to… I'm sorry."
They were seventeen when the fairy tale ended. Harry looked subdued and closed off that summer and it seemed that one icy cold look from him stopped Dudley's parents from even trying to give him any chores. He spent most of his days in his room that was now firmly locked at all times, so Dudley couldn't continue his hobby of Harry-watching. In the evenings little cousin sometimes sat in the back yard under the lit window of the living room. Ever since Harry went to his freaky school the flowers in the garden had withered and died and nothing Dudley's Mum did could bring them back to life. So, Harry sat in what used to be a flower bed and stared at the sky.
One night he ventured off to Mrs. Figg's house instead and spent the evening there. The next morning crazy cat lady was seen putting her cats' cages into a large truck and moving out.
Dudley knew that something was coming to an end. It made him feel a bit better because in his mind it meant that this horrid gnawing thing inside him would finally go away.
He never told his parents, though. They were worrying about him for quite some time now. It probably had something to do with reports from his concerned teachers. Or maybe with the fact that Dudley was always so confused. It seemed he never could connect the dots between actions an their consequences or follow other people's line of thought. Dudley often thought it was because there was no place for his character in the fairy tale where they all lived. He was simply misplaced and put in the world he couldn't quite comprehend.
His parents shouldn't have worried, though. Things were going to end very soon, Dudley just knew it. The spell would be lifted, the Snow White would wake up and maybe then Dudley would be able to move on.
On the night of Harry's seventeenth birthday there came a knock on the door. It sounded so quiet and unobtrusive yet for some reason it woke everyone up and almost compelled Dudley's mum to go downstairs and open the door wearing only her night gown. From his observation point atop of the stairs Dudley saw her rising in the air and turning upside down as several cloaked figures walked inside.
Little lights went on in every room. Vaguely Dudley thought that it looked like people in the dark robes were illuminating their house for Christmas. Then he and his Dad were dragged down into the living room where his Mum was dangling from the ceiling with her face covered by the skirt of her nightgown that had fell down and exposed her underpants. Sick, sick feeling twisted Dudley's gut. Somehow he never thought what would happen to them when the Evil Queen came to poison the Snow White. His mind just skipped over that part. His Dad struggled in vain with magical ropes that have bound him in almost impossible ways tying his ankle to his head and his hand to the back of his thigh with the arm firmly attached to his stomach. His mother was wailing pitifully begging the men to stop, to spare her precious son, to just take the bloody freak from upstairs and leave. Dudley realized that there were tears running down his own face. It all felt so grotesque and wrong... Then he saw Harry.
Harry entered the room fully dressed and calm holding the hand of one of the cloaked men. The man must have taken off his hood while he was upstairs. He had a very handsome face with high cheekbones and intelligent dark eyes. His black curls framed his visage perfectly. Yet from the expression of - was it hunger? was it adoration? - on his face when he looked at Harry the man certainly knew that Dudley's little cousin was the fairest of them all.
"How do you like your birthday present, love?" he asked Harry gesturing to the other people in the room. The robed figures took off their hoods, too, and it turned out that one of them was a woman with a mass of dark curly hair and a mad glint in her eye.
Harry looked at Dudley and his parents and his expression closed off even more becoming an unreadable pale mask. Dudley thought he was steeling himself for something.
"Not the way I want them, yet, but we'll get there," his little cousin said in a light nonchalant tone flicking his eyes to the man beside him. Then he took out his magic stick that always made Dudley's Dad furious and always scared Dudley to tears. Harry pointed the stick at Vernon and said some strange word that Dudley missed over the sound of his own hiccup. Vernon screamed.
He was thrashing on the floor in his uncomfortable binds practically smothering his face in the carpet when he turned on his stomach and couldn't turn back around. At least the carpet muffled the screams somewhat.
The crazy woman was laughing and Dudley's mum was shrieking all kinds of curses at Harry and at the same time begging him to stop. The handsome man had a contented smile on his face. One of his arms sneaked around Harry's waist and pulled the boy closer. As Dudley's Dad stopped screaming and the woman grabbed his Mum by the hair a sudden realization hit Dudley.
The fairy tale was ending all wrong. The Evil Queen was really the Evil King. He won. And he got Harry as his prize.
It was so unfair. Dudley started sobbing for real. He was so immersed in this tragedy of his own little world that he only half payed attention when the woman took out an exotic-looking dagger and - just like in his nightmares - his mother's blood sprayed the walls of their sitting room. He hardly understood what happened when a flash of green light blinded him for a second and his father stopped his panting. This all just could not be happening. He couldn't connect the dots right and understand what led to this grotesque finale.
Dudley woke up somewhat when a wave of pain - horrible, twisting, excrutiating pain - washed over him. His thoughts cleared and he saw that the Evil King was pointing his stick at him. His parents were silent. Dudley made some wild bellowing sound and tried to crawl closer to Harry. He had to understand. He could explain this disaster to Dudley.
Their gazes connected. Harry's eyes were still so incredibly green. All the other people in the room went quiet and also looked at Harry who held up one hand halting them.
"There's no need," he told the others. His eyes were still on Dudley and they seemed so kind. "You know what to do, Dudley."
And Dudley knew. He stood up on shaky legs and went up the stairs paying no heed to the blood that was trickling down his neck.
Maybe that's what went wrong. Maybe he was the part that upset the balance of the story. Maybe he could still make it right. Dudley just didn't think his bedroom window would cut it this time.
So, he took out the small ladder that led to the attic and then climbed out the trapdoor to the roof. Just as Dudley got up on his feet a cloud of green smoke rose from their chimney. Dudley only vaguely noticed it taking the shape of a giant skull in the sky.
Everything was so slow, it felt like he was in a dream. Dudley carefully moved to the edge. Down below the people in black cloaks exited the house. Dudley thought he saw Harry glancing up at him but he couldn't be sure. He was five again. And he had an important mission. He had to set this fairy tale right.
Taking a deep breath he jumped.