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Being away from the magical world was getting easier by the day. Every morning, she would wake up, cast her glamour, and then be on her way to work. She always left her wand in her bureau drawer. No one needed to know, and she didn’t want to draw attention to herself. With Muggle parents, it was easy to just forget everything that had been her life for seven years. Her life was routine and simple, but most importantly, life was without pity or shame.

There were still moments that were difficult…moments that she missed her friends, when she missed the tingle of magic that ran down her wand as she did a defensive spell. Sometimes, living in Muggle Portsmouth made her feel like she was drowning, and there would never be someone there to pull her out of the current. On days like that, she just breathed in deeply, and kept the stinging in her eyes from interfering with her work.

Lavender Brown was one of the best waitresses at Sully’s, a four star restaurant in the seaside city that boasted a high end clientele at dinner. In no time at all, she was given the coveted lunch shift, and served for all of the important business meetings Portsmouth’s finest professional men. She was proud to have the skill, and the tips she earned from the admiring wealthy men helped her to keep a decent flat and a satisfying lifestyle. Even luckier was that she managed to find a job at a respectable establishment, and never had to degrade herself or flirt, but just be her warm and outgoing self.

Lavender walked out of the door of her flat in her black skirt and starched cotton dress shirt, her heels clicking along the wooden floors in the hallway. She stopped to get her mail, checked her reflection to ensure her glamour was in place, and went out into the sunny autumn day. It was a fine morning, and she was happy to see that the hole in her chest wasn’t nearly so big today. She could easily suppress the longing for her other home and get by.

Leaving her wand at home used to bother her, used to make her feel unsafe, but when she first fled to the Muggle world, she didn’t even care if she had died anyway. One and a half years ago, she had suffered an attack while fighting in a battle to save the good in her world. A werewolf by the name of Fenrir Greyback mangled her flesh, and nearly took her life. When Harry Potter felled The Dark Lord and her world was safe, Lavender was left with hideous scars over her face and body. Everyone knew she had them, everyone had seen her injuries.

Once she finally left St. Mungo’s with a light craving for raw meat and hideous scars over her face, things were never the same. Despite glamouring her scars away, everyone still stared at her face and whispered behind their hands. Her friends constantly asked her how she was doing, looking at her with pitying gazes that she knew were just aching to see behind her magic. Lavender couldn’t handle it anymore, and she promptly hid away, asking her mother not to tell anyone where she was at.

As Lavender walked into Sully’s, she was greeted with nothing but warm smiles and ‘hullos’ by her coworkers. She sighed in relief and went about her day. She still ached, but it came at too high of a price. At least in this world, she had dignity.

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To say Dudley Dursley was nervous would have been an understatement. His entire future, his entire life depended on this seemingly harmless little lunch meeting. He was turning his back on the lie he had told for years, turning his back on his parents’ dreams, and taking control of his own life. It took bollocks, but bollocks Dudley had. What Dudley didn’t have was the strength to deal with his parents and their plan for his life for a second longer.

“Fuck!” Dudley shouted, trying to swallow down his nerves. He shot another punishing blow at the bag in front of him, willing any uncertainty to flee through his gloves. His muscles were starting to burn, but it felt so good that he had to keep going. The nervous energy, the anxiety, and the fears were leaving him, and he needed to be more cool and confident than he ever had in his life.

This afternoon, Dudley Dursley was going to have a lunch meeting with the head of the Art and Design program at Portsmouth University. For the past year and a half, while his father assumed he was working toward a Sports Science degree, he had actually been maintaining a liberal arts study and building his portfolio. Dudley was no artsy ponce, but he did have one all-consuming passion that he had to pursue above and beyond whatever his parents thought he should be doing.

He had chosen the nicest restaurant in the city in the hopes of lulling the professor into a satisfied stupor of food and luxury. It took a month’s worth of allowance and a few well placed bets against his opponents in the ring for him to come up with the money, but he was ready to pull out all of the stops. Screw his father, Dudley Dursley was finally ready to do what he loved.

Dudley made his way to the showers and washed up. He stood in front of the mirror in just his smart black trousers, combing his blonde hair down. His mother would throw a fit if she saw him with messy hair, but it was the style and Dudley much preferred it. He carefully shaved, though he just did so yesterday, and applied enough aftershave to wilt a flower. He met his own eyes in the mirror and felt the panic rising in his chest again.

“Hello Professor Vaughn, I’m Dudley Dursley,” He began to say to the mirror. “Why yes, I have my portfolio right here! I can show you the items in person should you need it….No! No! I can show some further examples of my work if you would like…yes that’s better.” Dudley took another deep breath. “Well, here goes everything.”

He had enrolled in university with a boxing scholarship straight from Smeltings. Dudley continued to box competitively, and made a name for himself that his father used as bragging rights all over Little Whinging. Vernon and Petunia Dursley were convinced that Dudley was going to be a famous boxer, and they had been calling talent agents for the past year. But Dudley had other plans, and he was damn well not going to let his overstuffed, uptight parents rule him any longer.

Ever since he was little, Dudley Dursley kept a knife near him at all times. He eventually created an impressive collection when he was older: Bowie Knives, hunting knives, and a variety of pocket knives. His friends all assumed it was just to seem even more menacing, but no one ever saw the treasures he created with those sharp instruments. Any piece of spare wood he could find, be it a stick or a piece of extra lumber, would fall victim to Dudley’s knives and eventually become something beautiful. He started off carving little birds, trees, or cars, but soon he was making things as ornate as people and detailed animals. He didn’t want his father to find out he did something so unusual, so he would leave his carvings on different places on the playground for people to find, on the front doorsteps of girls he thought were nice, and even on teacher’s desks when no one was looking. Dudley became adept at carving, and it was an outlet when the pressures of the world and who everyone expected him to be became too much.

When he reached university, Dudley started to create bigger pieces that he didn’t have to hide. His entire flat was furnished with chairs, a table, and a cushioned wooden sofa that he designed. He father complimented his taste and asked for the store where he bought it. He said he bought it custom from someone at the school, and considering his parents never thought he could do something like lying, he was home free.

With the end of his general education approaching, Dudley couldn’t take it anymore. He didn’t want to hide from his father, he didn’t want to box professionally, and he certainly didn’t want to be the sports professor at some snobby little private school. He wanted to show off his creations, to make money off them and make other people smile. For once in his life he was good at something that didn’t cause blood and wasn’t fueled by anger, and Dudley wasn’t going to let that go.

In just forty five minutes, Dudley was meeting the head of the Fine Arts program at Portsmouth University. This program would give him a firm standing in his craft, and would only take him a year. After that, he hoped he had enough marketable work to be hired on by a craftsman or even to go into work himself. If he didn’t get this chance, he was going to have to face a life of head injuries and eventually following in his father’s footsteps at the drill company. Dudley took one last deep breath as he buttoned up his dark green shirt and tucked it into his trousers.

Dudley walked into the restaurant, the fragrant aromas and the warm atmosphere doing nothing to ease his anxiety. He shifted a little at the doorway, unsure if he could even take the next step. Lunch patrons were walking in past him, some of them eyeing his overbearing size, as he tended to take up much more space than the average man, and some not even noticing him at all. His feet seemed to be glued to the simple tiled floor.

“Hey there! Welcome to Sully’s. Can I help you?” A woman spoke behind him.

“I…yes…I just…” Dudley didn’t even look up from his shoes, afraid his nerves would get the best of him.

“Do you have a reservation?” She said gently, putting a hand on his shoulder.

Dudley looked up and for a fleeting second, all of his anxiety has vanished. The waitress was breathtaking, and Dudley literally couldn’t breathe as he looked at her. She was average height, with unimaginable curves, long and shining blonde hair, and sharp minty green eyes. She had this warm glow around her that could ease even Dudley’s massive, muscular shoulders with just that simple glance.

“No…I mean yes. I have a reservation I’m just…” Dudley said, going back to shifting his weight from foot to foot. The waitress smiled softly.

“I’m sure you’ll do wonderfully. You seem like a nice guy,” she said, putting her hand back on his arm. He looked down and marveled at how her long, elegant fingers seemed to fit so perfectly there. “We get a lot of business meetings and interviews here. But if you’re nervous, that means you really care, and I’m sure that will shine through to whomever you’re meeting.”

Dudley was about to say ‘Thank you’ and ask her name, when the door opened and Professor Vaughn walked in. She was a striking woman with pale skin and a medium build. She had her hair piled messily on the back of her head, and errant strands draped down over the cardigan sweater she had wrapped over her shoulders. She wore a floor length skirt decorated in blues and greens and a blue beaded necklace around her neck that held a bird charm on it.

She looked approachable, and Dudley immediately smiled.

“Professor Vaughn?” Dudley said, reaching out his hand. She seemed to allow himself a moment of surprise, taking in his appearance, before shaking his hand.

“Mr. Dursley, lovely to meet you.”

“Thank you for taking the time to consider my application,” Dudley said, feeling immensely more at ease. The hostess began to lead them to a table, and to his right, the blonde waitress walked by and subtly winked at him.

It was going to be a rousing success, Dudley could feel it.

An hour later, Professor Vaughn was finished gushing over his portfolio, and Dudley felt like he would burst with personal pride for the first time in his life. They tucked into a succulent dessert, one Dudley was sure he didn’t ask for, and talked about art and the department he would be a part of at Portsmouth University.

The beautiful blonde waitress brought them the check, and Dudley grabbed it and immediately pulled his cash from his wallet. She took away some of their empty plates, sharing a smile with him that he was sure held some sort of secret. He looked down and saw a message on his bill.

See? I knew you’d be brilliant!
xxx Lavender

Dudley felt a blush creeping to his face that stayed there even as he shared genial goodbyes with Professor Vaughn.

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If I have alarmed you, I didn't try
I'm tongue tied
I've got to be honest, I'm terrified to fly blind

The next day, Dudley couldn’t help himself, and he went back to Sully’s for a drink and another expensive lunch. He just wanted the chance to see Lavender and thank her…and maybe ask her out if he didn’t stumble too much over his words. He pulled out his credit card, the one his parents said was only for emergencies, and smiled. Let them get angry, at this point, he didn’t care.

He spent all morning boxing and lifting weights, but it didn’t do anything to lessen the anticipation. This time, however, Dudley was happy to be looking forward to seeing someone for really the first time in his life. Before Portsmouth, Dudley’s life was spent being showered with attention by his overbearing parents, and bending to their every wish. Their little Duddykins didn’t date; the girls were never good enough to sully their perfect little boy.

The truth was, no girls wanted Dudley. He had such a weight problem when he was younger, that he was subject to derision from practically everyone…until he started bullying. After that, no girls would even look at Dudley because they honestly feared him. By the time he had turned all of his fat into muscle, he had a reputation. He felt like it could never be changed, so he didn’t bother.

In college, everything changed. He could be a completely new person, unknown by his past and able to start over. He pulled so many birds his first year that he lost track…and that was followed by a year of self-loathing for having so many anonymous encounters. Now he was looking for a friend, a lover, anyone who would understand him. It was Dudley’s impression that no one did.

The air was cold, and by the time he got to Sully’s his nose was bright red. He paused at the front window and cupped his hands over his face to try to fix it. Satisfied that he didn’t look like a clown, he went inside and asked the hostess to seat him near the window. He hoped Lavender’s section would not change from day to day. Sure enough, there she was, her notepad out and the most brilliant smile he had ever seen stretching across his face.

“Hey you! It looked like you were successful yesterday. How did it go?” She said, looking both ways before leaning a little more closely to him and resting her hand on the back of his chair.

“Great! You’re looking at the newest student in the Fine Arts program at Portsmouth University!” Dudley puffed out his chest a little bit.

Lavender stood frozen, looking him up and down. He almost chuckled at her scrutiny. He surely didn’t look like a starving artist with his obviously athletic physique, choppy haircut and gruff demeanor.

“I know I know, I don’t look like I could inspire much art,” Dudley laughed nervously.

“I learned a long time ago to never take things at face value,” Lavender said carefully, a dark look flashing across her face.

“Well then…ummm…” Dudley started.

“I get out of work at seven,” She smiled. “Meet me here…?”

“Dudley. Dudley Dursley.”

“Dudley,” She whispered, the smile still gracing her face. The sound of his name on her lips hit Dudley harder than anything in recent memory. He didn’t know if he could last six hours.

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I tried to disarm you I played this part a thousand times
The hunter's the hunted
I'm terrified
I'm open wide

Having to keep so many parts of yourself locked away from someone you're falling in love with was heartbreaking. Lavender had been dating Dudley for one month now, but she knew she had never wanted anyone more. Keeping her magic secret from a Muggle was easy; she understood the necessity and was familiar with the practice. But never letting Dudley do more than kiss her, never telling him about the past few years of her life, and never spending more than a few hours with him because of her glamour was getting daunting. She wanted so badly to tell him everything and beg him to love her despite her scars, but it scared her. How could anyone love someone so deformed?
Lavender warred with herself so often that she was getting headaches from the worry. Dudley was more than she could ever have imagined, and it pained her to keep him at such a distance. Dudley was patient with her moods, and with the fact that she never wanted to go further than a snog. Sure, he had a tendency to be vulgar and lose his temper, and he was passionate about a violent sport, but the way he looked at her made her weak in the knees. He was funny, creative, and if she were honest with herself…gorgeous. His broad shoulders, muscular build, and messy blonde hair drew her in every time she looked at him.

She stood in front of her full-length mirror, getting ready for a breakfast date with Dudley. Oftentimes, Lavender couldn’t handle her reflection. Even with the glamour, she knew what her real face looked like. However, on this day, she happened across her naked body as she walked across her room, and she couldn’t help but stop. An angry, thick red scar cut across her body, going between her breasts and wrapping around her side. Another one bisected it below her ribcage, making it look like a morbid cross marring her torso. There were three horribly long scars stretching down her back, and she shuddered remembering the one that even cut across the curve of her bum.

Her face was the worst though. Fenrir Greyback’s claw had sliced away the delicate skin of her cheek. Madame Pomfrey had managed to replace the skin, but because of the werewolf’s attack, the scars would always be there. The horrible slash across her face had caused scar tissue to form like a pointed line through her left eye. Lavender lifted her hands to trace the prison of her scars, and wasn’t surprised to find a tear there.

Lavender put on her work clothes. She needed to be in after she met with Dudley. He often offered to take her out to breakfast and walk her to work. Her day always seemed a little better when he was there in the morning. She cast the glamour over her face, grateful that her arms and legs hadn’t needed one as well. Lavender had taken to carrying around her wand, just in case Dudley surprised her and wanted to go out. She was still paranoid that her charm would wear off, but the wand gave her peace of mind. Just as Lavender tied back her long hair, there was a knock at her door.

Dudley stood there in a black tee shirt and worn jeans, a basket in his hand. “I’ve got some fruit and yogurt. I thought we could have a picnic!”

Lavender feared the glamour would fade, she could feel herself blushing so hard. She grabbed a jacket and bounded off after Dudley down the steps. He never ceased to amaze her. Beneath his harsh exterior, he was truly attentive. She longed to bring him to her bed, but knew that could never happen. Even in the dark, his large hands would inevitably still feel her scars.

After breakfast and a copious amount of snogging, Dudley walked Lavender to work, holding her hand tightly. She used the main entrance so that she could kiss him goodbye, but as she leaned in to meet his lips, there was a shout from the waiting area.

“Lavender Brown!” Ernie Macmillan was standing there, his mouth hanging open. The slightly portly Hufflepuff was too familiar, and she began to shake at the sight of his wide eyes.

“Ernie…” She whispered. Panic was coursing through her. He would tell everyone where she was, he would tell Dudley what happened. She immediately ran out the door, trying to make it back to her flat to gather some things and apparate away quickly. She heard footsteps behind her, and attempted to pick up the pace even in her heels.

“Lavender, wait! Everyone has been missing you! Have you been here all this time?” Ernie shouted behind her. “Just let me tell Neville you’re okay, he’s been losing his mind. We all have!” She could hear him catching up to her.

Lavender turned to Ernie and drew her wand. She was desperate, and if she had to stun him to keep herself in hiding, she would. However, when her wand hit his chest, she saw Dudley standing right behind Ernie, his mouth open slightly and a question in his eyes.

“Lav, I’m sorry. I’ll just…sorry,” Ernie stuttered, but Lavender was paying no attention to him now. He walked away without her paying any mind.

“Dudley I…” She began to try to explain. She thought maybe she could convince him she was holding a harmless stick and she was trying to use it as a weapon.

“You’re a witch?” Dudley whispered, stepping closer.

“I have no idea what…” Lavender started.

“It’s alright. I know all about Hogwarts and all that stuff!” Dudley smiled cautiously, finally closing the distance between them. “My cousin is a wizard.”

“Your…but…I can’t…” Lavender couldn’t find her words as he wrapped his arms around her.

“Yeah. My cousin, Harry. He’s our age, skinny, speccy git with messy black hair and a scar on his forehead. I think he’s a big deal with your people!” Dudley was beginning to get excited.

“Harry Potter is your cousin!” Lavender wasn’t thinking straight any longer. All she knew was that she had to get away. Dudley would tell Harry, and Harry would tell him all about what happened to her. Dudley would become just another man looking at her with pity and disgust. She couldn’t handle it.

Without thinking on it any further, Lavender apparated away.

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The distance is spanned between you and I
Can I see you tonight?
When the pen in our hands and our best laid plans
Will stand alone on our side

For the first twenty four hours, Dudley waited. He didn’t sleep, he didn’t eat… he just waited by the phone and paced around his flat. He carved so many things, from table legs to figurines, that his fingers were sore and blistered. He did anything to try to keep his mind from thinking of the worst possible scenarios:

Lavender hated him so much, that she vanished the moment she knew she could.

There was some sort of hit-wizards after her for holding magical secrets.

She was sick, dying, or hurt somewhere.

On the second day, Dudley was nearly in tears, and couldn’t take the waiting any longer. He sat at his kitchen table and wracked his brain for a way to find her, to get to her, and to tell her that he loved her no matter what secrets she seemed to hold. He never told her, and now it might be too late. After a few minutes of frantic thinking, Dudley remembered his Christmas card from Harry. Another few minutes of digging around his kitchen and he found the envelope he had saved just in case.

Dudley grabbed his coat, shoes and wallet and barreled out of the door so fast, he almost forgot to lock up. He jumped into his car, another gift from Dad for being his “prized athlete” son, and headed North to London. Harry had to be able to find Lavender; he was magic, wasn’t he?

His drive to London went by in a blur of coffee and flashing lights. The sun was shining as it set in the sky, and Dudley thought it was so misplaced, that he actually wished for rain. When he turned down Harry’s street, his adrenaline was running at full speed, and he could actually feel the muscles in his arms clench and shake as he pounded on Harry’s door.

A strange looking little creature thing answered the door.

“Can I help you, sir?” the thing croaked in a rough, low voice.

“Holy fucking shit!” Dudley shouted, and he stumbled back, flying off of the cement steps. He never hit the pavement though, and instead floated gently back to the ground. He turned around to find Harry standing there, his wand out.

“Dudley?” Harry said, lowering his wand. He stood a bit taller than the last time Dudley had seen him, and he had a little rough stubble around his jaw line. His clothing fit him nicely, and looked brand new, which struck Dudley as a little disconcerting and unfamiliar. He wanted to run away, but thought of Lavender’s pain-filled face before she vanished and took a deep breath.

“I need your help, Harry. There’s a girl, a woman…a witch…and,” Dudley stumbled. Harry lifted his hand and gestured toward the door before going up the steps. Dudley followed reluctantly, cautious of the little wrinkled creature who answered the door.

“Kreacher, can you get Dudley and me some tea?” Harry asked. The funny little thing, the literal Creature, shuffled off down a set of stairs.

“Dudley, you were saying something about a witch,” Harry said, his brows furrowed. He sat uncomfortably in his chair, bouncing his feet up and down, as though Dudley was about to pound on him at any second.

“She, I didn’t know she was when we met. She was just this beautiful waitress. We got to talking, and started dating. We’ve been seeing each other for a month,” Dudley said, trying to ignore the Creature who had just set down a steaming cup of tea.

“Well then how did you find out she was a witch?” Harry said, his eyes narrowing. “There are secrecy laws.”

“Well, some guy recognized her at the restaurant, and she didn’t want him around her apparently. She took off, and he chased after her. I followed them. I thought she needed help,” Dudley said, the tension in the air. “Then that Ernie bloke shouted after her again, and she turned around and drew a wand.”

“Yeah, he was a pudgy fellow named Ernie. Lavender aimed her wand right-“ Dudley was cut off by Harry’s gasp.

“Lavender Brown?” Harry whispered.

“You know her? Because when I said it was okay, that I knew about your world and then mentioned your name, she panicked and just vanished.” Dudley said, allowing a small glimmer of hope.

“She’s been missing for over a year. No one has heard from her. Everyone has been worried. Her parents are Muggles, so we had no way of knowing what happened to her when she got out of the hospital. She just disappeared,” Harry said with a far off look on her face. “No one was going to judge her…”

“Hospital? Harry, what’s wrong with her? Is she sick?” Dudley said, worry flooding him yet again.

“Couldn’t you tell…wait…what did Lavender look like?” Harry said, something sparking behind his gaze.

“Perfection. She has long blonde hair, soft skin, green eyes, and this smile that just…” Dudley started.

“Glamour,” Harry whispered.

“Well I wouldn’t say glamorous…”

“No, it’s a spell…it hides…never mind,” Harry said, his eyes suddenly going wide.

“Hide what? Harry, is she sick? Is she hurt? I swear no matter what it is, that’s not going to change how I feel about her!” Dudley said, leaping up from his chair.

“It’s not my business to tell you. If she didn’t want to, I don’t want to do it for her,” Harry said grimly. “It’s her secret.”

Dudley’s mind was spinning. He couldn’t even fathom what Lavender was hiding. She always felt like she was keeping herself from him, but when he found out she was a witch, that’s what he thought it was. To find out she borne some huge thing on her shoulders beyond that sank Dudley’s hope a little bit. Obviously she didn’t care enough about him to let him in, and he didn’t think she’d ever come back to him.

“You know, just, can you just find out if she is okay?” Dudley sighed in resignation. “I can see she obviously wants me to be no part of her life, but I just want to make sure that’s all it is.”

“I’ll see what I can do, Dudley,” Harry said, sounding distant.

Dudley felt an immediate pang of guilt, the same guilt that had been weighing on him since after Harry saved him from those awful floating monsters years ago. Harry had so much pain and sacrifice in his life, and Dudley and his family had just made it worse. As he realized that, he learned to leave Harry alone. He had no idea how to even begin to apologize, so he just turned his head and didn’t contribute to the constant berating Harry suffered at the hands of his parents.

Now, Dudley was sitting in Harry’s living room, asking him to find someone, without ever having contacted him beyond a Christmas card. He felt lower than low.

“Listen Harry, I’ll do whatever I can to make it up to you. I’ll see if I can get you money…” He knew the moment it left his lips that it was the wrong thing to say.

“I have money. More money than you could ever imagine. I don’t need shit from you or the Dursleys. Not like you ever gave me anything anyway, why start now?” Harry stood to meet Dudley, his eyes burning a hole through Dudley’s delicate countenance.

“I know, Harry. I’m just…I’m desperate here. I have been sorry for what they did to you, for what I did to you, for a long time. When you were still living at home sometimes, I wanted to come up to you and tell you that, I just didn’t know what to say. I used to make you little carved owls and leave them…” Dudley started.

“That was you? I thought my friends were sending them to me, or Hedwig was picking them up from somewhere. How did you do that?” Harry said, walking over to a cabinet next to his picture window.

“I dunno, always liked carving I guess. I actually got accepted into the Fine Arts program at the University of Portsmouth for my work,” Dudley said, turning red when Harry pulled out one of the small carved birds from the cupboard.

Harry lifted one up and held it near his face. He turned it over in his hands, a small smile glinting across his features. He ran a hand down one wing.

“This one looks like Hedwig,” Harry said quietly.

“Yeah, I made that one right before you came home that last time…kind of a goodbye present I guess,” he shrugged.

“Hedwig died that night you guys left,” Harry whispered.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. I still miss her, but I’m fine. I lost a lot that year…”

Dudley stood in silence as Harry sighed, transfixed by the small carved owl. He eventually took a deep breath and set the bird back in the bureau. He sat heavily in his chair, and Dudley joined him. He couldn’t help but bounce his feet nervously. He had an urge to hit something, there was too much going on inside of him and he needed the release.

“Listen, you don’t have to find her. I’ll figure something out. I didn’t mean to bother you,” Dudley started.

“Let me ask a few friends for some favors. I might be able to track her. I’ll find her and check on her. Come by tomorrow morning and we’ll see what I found out,” Harry said, smiling softly.

The overwhelming weight in his chest lifted slightly, and Dudley returned Harry’s smile graciously. He walked forward and held out his hand, starkly reminded of the last time he had wanted to shake Harry’s hand. He really thought he’d never see his cousin again. This time, Harry took his hand and shook it firmly.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Big D,” Harry smirked.

“Yeah, sure thing Potter,” Dudley smiled, turning and walking out Harry’s front door.

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I wanted to have this under control
The story told
You came and rewrote it opened the door I've never known

 

Lavender threw another stone angrily at the small pond in the field behind her parent’s summer cabin. The look on Dudley’s face had turned her stomach, and she hated herself so much for being such a coward, that she hadn’t moved from her spot in the grass for hours. She ran over that last moment with him again and again in her mind, each time it was a new knife cutting through her thoughts.

She let the glamour fade away, daring someone to come along and see her. She wanted the judgment, she wanted the piercing gazes of strangers to wash over her and make her pay for leaving the happiest parts of her life behind out of fear. Fear was going to destroy her, and she was ready to just give in. She lay back to look up at the sky when she heard a familiar ‘pop’.

Despite her wishes, Lavender still found herself hiding her face before she spoke to her visitor. “Who’s there?” she said. She almost hoped it was someone dangerous. At this point, she would welcome it.

“Lavender, are you okay?” A slightly familiar male voice hovered above her. She opened her fingers and saw the distinct messy black hair of Harry Potter outlined in the glare of afternoon sun.

“How did you find me, Harry?” Lavender asked, sitting up so her hair could hide her face while she looked for her wand. She attempted to sound disconnected, but her voice was shaking.

“I asked a friend for a tracking spell,” Harry said, the grass rustling as he sat down next to her. She felt the cool tingle of the glamour take over her features and sighed in relief. “You don’t need to do that, you know.”

“I don’t care what you saw, this is the only way I can face anyone,” Lavender said, finally meeting his eyes. His gaze was soft and understanding, which Lavender found condescending in her current state.

“So why did you disappear?” Harry said, though Lavender could tell he knew the answer.

“Dudley can find out everything now that he knows I’m a witch. He probably has already found out, which is why you’re here instead of him,” Lavender said, wrapping her arms around her knees. Harry must have told Dudley about her scars, and Dudley washed his hands of her. Before Lavender could admonish herself internally for not being more careful, Harry spoke up.
“I didn’t say anything to him. He’s convinced you don’t want to see him, and he begged me to make sure you’re okay.”

Lavender’s head was spinning. She could go back to Dudley and pick up where they left off. She didn’t have to hide her magic because he’s Harry’s cousin, and she could continue the glamour with Dudley none the wiser. She wanted him to love her back so badly that she was willing to keep up the secret until he eventually got tired of her.

“You’re not going to tell him, are you?” Lavender said, looking frantically at Harry.

“No, but…”

“Then I can go back! Where is he? Is he at your flat? Take me to him, please!”

Harry shook his head slightly but held out his arm. The familiar pull of apparation was nothing compared to the butterflies in Lavender’s stomach.

You say that you hold them, the sands of time
You never lie
They pull like a current
I call to shore
There's no reply

When Lavender arrived in Harry’s home, Dudley was standing there by the fireplace looking anxious. Her whole body seemed aware of his presence, and she was immediately drawn to him. When he turned and saw her, he smiled and enveloped her in his open arms. He was so large, so strong that Lavender felt safer than she had since long before the war started. She sighed deeply at his scent.

She felt a light kiss on the top of her head and gripped his shirt more tightly. She never wanted to pull away from him again. As long as he never saw her real face, Lavender was sure she’d never lose him.

“Are you alright?” He whispered, his bright eyes connected with hers as he brushed a lock of long hair behind her ear.

“I’ll be okay.”

“I’m sorry I scared you, I don’t know what…”

“Let’s not talk about it. Can’t we just go back the way things were before Ernie found me?” Lavender hoped against hope that Dudley would agree.

A flash of sadness showed on Dudley’s face before his thick features melted into acceptance. Lavender wanted to question his answer, but when he nodded and kissed her lips softly, all questions were gone. Lavender held out all hope that she could finally be in love, and loved, without the specter of her injury and her past floating between them.

(((((((((((((((()))))))))))))))))(((((((

((((((((((())))))))))))))))))

The distance is spanned between you and I
Can I see you tonight?
When the pen in our hands and our best laid plans
Will stand alone on our side

(2 weeks later)

Lavender sighed as Dudley’s arms wrapped around her waist and his lips trailed up her jaw line. She threaded her fingers in his soft, smooth hair as he nipped at a sensitive spot behind her ear. She was so caught up in the feeling of him so close to her that she almost didn’t notice his hand creeping under her shirt. Her mind went to her scars, and she tried to subtly move his fingers away. Dudley sighed in disappointment.

“I’m sorry, Dudley. I love you, it’s just…”

“You don’t love me,” he murmured.

“How could you say that?” Her chest constricted tightly.

“It’s the truth, Lavender. You don’t trust me, so how can you possibly love me?” Dudley stood up from the couch, his voice gaining volume with every word. “If you were uncomfortable with going any further, that’s one thing, but you’re hiding something. You never let me get too close because you’re hiding something!”

“Dudley, you’re paranoid.” Lavender said, trying to keep her voice calm. “I just don’t feel comfortable…”

“Bullshit! If you trusted me, you’d tell me why you were in the hospital, and what secret Harry seems to think you’re keeping!”

Lavender flinched as Dudley’s voice began to bellow across the walls. He was so loud, and his face was so red that she felt like she was about to be caught in the cross fires once again. She closed her eyes tightly and waited for him to keep ranting. She just wanted the shouting to be over.

“I would do fucking anything for you. I love you so much, but I can’t be this person for you. I can’t let everything go and let you keep your cards so close to your chest. If you can’t trust me…”

“No, Dudley! I swear I do, I just…”

“No! No more excuses! I thought I could take it but I fucking can’t!” Dudley threw a lamp across the room, and the shattering glass made Lavender’s body tingle with fear. She pulled out her wand and pointed it at Dudley.

She stood there trying to catch her breath as Dudley eyed her wand. He didn’t look afraid, he looked hurt and angry. He met her eyes once, a small question blinking across his gaze, and then turned to leave. The door clicked shut, and the sound echoed heavily in her empty room.

))))))))))))))))((((((((((((((((((((((((((((

She found him in the first place she looked: The university gym. He was throwing punches mercilessly at a bag in the corner, his impressive body moving with such a force that Lavender was temporarily transfixed. Faced with the prospect of giving up the one thing that made her forget about her attack, Lavender steeled herself and approached Dudley before she lost the last shred of nerve she had.

As she got closer, the sound of Dudley’s glove hitting the bag had gotten so loud she was flinching with every swipe. He grunted when he dealt a particularly strong blow, and she had to close her eyes to swallow her fear. This was her chance to lay it all on the line and hope that he still loved her. The thought of losing Dudley was far worse than the thought of him seeing her scars.

“Dudley,” she said, too quietly and too meekly to be heard over his struggle.

“Dudley,” she said loudly. The rhythmic smacking ceased, and she closed her eyes to the deafening silence of the nearly empty university gym.

“Lavender, what…”

“Don’t talk. Just please…don’t,” She finally met his eyes, her hands shaking as she balled them to fists at her sides. “I just need you to listen.”

Dudley stood frozen for a moment, but then nodded gently. He reached up on top of the bag and grabbed a towel. He wiped at his face before wrapping it around his neck. He held on to the dangling edges of the white towel so tightly that Lavender wondered if cotton fibers could be crushed into oblivion. He stared calmly at her, though, and she felt a little of the weight she always carried begin to disappear from her shoulders.

“Voldemort had brought the war straight to Hogwarts, but we were as ready as we could be. The defense club Harry had started was still meeting, and we prepared all we could while the school was controlled by the enemy. I was fighting really well. My best friend Parvati, her sister, and I had taken down so many of them that our bodies felt like pure adrenaline. Harry, Ron and Hermione were there to end it all, and it felt like we’d either make it through or die trying. It’s a freeing feeling really,” Lavender wrapped her arms around her. She could almost smell the burning and the dust of the battle. Dudley put a large hand on her shoulder but didn’t say a word.

“We were running down the hall, and I stopped just for a second. I lost Parvati and Padma. I didn’t mean to go off on my own…I swear I didn’t!” Lavender was stuck somewhere in between the past and reality, and she could feel her magic pulsing through her.

The haze behind her eyes lifted slightly as she felt Dudley’s hand close around hers. He led her over to a bench near the free weights and sat down, pulling her down next to him. He put an arm around her and whispered, “It’s okay, Lavender. Everything is okay now.”

Feeling calmer, Lavender went on, “He just jumped on me. I didn’t even have time to raise my wand. The first swipe of his claws went across my chest. It burned so badly!” Lavender clutched her chest and tried to slow her breathing.

“His…his claws?” Dudley said, so quietly that she could barely hear him.

“His name was Fenrir Greyback. He was a werewolf.”

Dudley jumped, but didn’t leave the bench. His arm didn’t move from around her shoulders. He tightened his hold on her, and she leaned into his touch for a moment before starting again into her story.

“I couldn’t breathe, the pain was so bad. He sliced down my back and across my bum, and then…he…He said that he’d destroy my pretty face before he took a bite out of me. He said I didn’t deserve to leave behind a beautiful corpse.”

Lavender closed her eyes and could see his yellow eyes staring back at her, his toothy grin dripping with her blood. She heard screaming, and didn’t know if it was hers or some other unfortunate person’s. She didn’t care what happened at that point; she just wanted the pain to stop. She wanted to die.

“He ran all of the claws on one of his hands across my face, and then everything went dark.”

She cupped her hands over her face remembering the moment she woke up to darkness and the stifling weight of bandages all over her body. She could see Parvati, Neville, and Seamus leaning over her bed. When she remembered what had happened, she sobbed. Lavender felt the tears falling behind her cupped hands.

“You don’t understand. When a werewolf attacks, those wounds cannot be healed by magic. I’ll always have the scars.”

Lavender looked up and met Dudley’s eyes. He looked afraid, shocked, and a little angry. He looked like he was going to go out and fight someone himself in that moment. However, as Lavender held his gaze the rage subsided and was replaced with an open question. He reached up his hand and traced a finger down her face.

“Well they must have figured out a way to heal you,” Dudley whispered, his hands continued to run along her glamoured face.

She just shook her head. This was the moment to be completely open to him. She hadn’t been at anyone else’s mercy since she left the magical world. Now, she was going to let all those months of hiding fall away with one flick of her wand.

She pulled her wand from inside of her jacket and lifted a shaking hand to the door. She made sure the room was empty before she locked it and cast an imperturbable spell for good measure. Then she looked back up at Dudley. He swallowed visibly, placing his hands lightly on her knees when she turned her body towards him.

With one swish, she lifted the glamour and closed her eyes. Everything seemed to stop; her breath, her heart, and the buzzing of the world around her had ceased. She was ready to accept his shock, his disbelief, and even his disgust.

After what felt like an eternity, Lavender felt the heat of Dudley’s touch coming near her exposed face. She flinched, but his hands gripped her face firmly. His thumb brushed along the scar that stretched over her closed eye. She let out a shaky breath and started to weep. He kissed her face, following the trail of her tears with his lips. When sobs threatened to take over her entire body, he pulled her against his bare chest and held her tightly, whispering “shhhh” as he rocked her back and forth.

“You’re so brave. You’re so strong. I love you,” He said gruffly, twining his hands in her hair. Lavender pulled back, not sure she believed what he said. But when she saw the sincerity in his face, she grabbed onto his arms so tightly a smaller man may have bruised. A rush of relief washed over her so sublimely that she felt like she may float. She didn’t even care if she were dreaming, because she felt more alive than she had since the night Fenrir Greyback took everything from her.

“Dudley, my face,” she managed through the lump in her throat. She had such a hard time accepting his declaration that she had to make sure she wasn’t imagining it.

“It’s real. You look real. You look like the amazing, beautiful, vibrant woman you’ve always been. But now…now I know everything and it makes you real. You’re finally with me, and I’m never letting you go,” Dudley said, the tenor of his voice booming along the bare cement walls.

“Oh god,” Lavender cried. He pulled her against him and kissed her hungrily. The stubble on his face rubbed against her cheek when he deepened the kiss, and without the spell, she could feel every bristle. It was exhilarating, and she immediately understood that realness that Dudley was talking about.

She rose up and straddled his lap, resting her cheek against his shaggy blonde hair and sighing at the feeling of the fine hairs tickling her face. He ran his hands up and down her back, pulling her hips more solidly against his. This was the first time she had ever been so tangled up with him, and the sensation of her center brushing up against his burgeoning erection was powerful and jolting. She let out a gentle moan before kissing down his neck and over his shoulder. She jumped when a drop of sweat hit her hand.

“Oh, heh, I’m sorry. I’m all gross. I’ll just go and clean myself up. You’ll wait, right?” Dudley said anxiously.

Lavender nodded and Dudley turned toward the men’s locker room. He stopped halfway across the room before walking back quickly toward her, kissing her, and turning back toward the lockers. Lavender was overwhelmed at the feeling of lightness inside of her after such a tense day.

After a few minutes of waiting, Lavender laughed at herself. She had spent months keeping Dudley at arm’s length for fear that he wouldn’t love her back, and now that she was certain that she was wrong, Lavender wanted to be next to him every second. She smiled slyly to herself before grabbing her wand and heading toward the men’s.

The shower was running, and there was steam wafting around the tiled room. As quietly as possible, Lavender took off her clothing and did a few more locking spells on the doorway. She stopped at a mirror and wiped the steam from the glass. She looked her body up and down, studying the scars once again. She didn’t love her appearance any more than she had in the past year. She still hated the way she looked, still wanted to hide in a corner under a pile of blankets, and still felt like a pariah. However, Dudley loved her, and she loved him enough not to take herself away from him.

Having love doesn’t make your demons just vanish. It doesn’t take away the sting of your subconscious. Love doesn’t even make you like yourself that much more if you had spent so much time in a pit of self loathing. But being in love had brought back the bravery that Lavender Brown thought was gone forever. She felt a little more invincible, and that was enough.

“Well, in for a sickle, in for a galleon.”

She walked over to the only running shower stall and pulled back the curtain. Dudley jumped and moved to cover himself before the realization settled in that he was staring at Lavender. She had her arms over her chest, covering up the angriest scar as best she could. Dudley stood there, soap dripping down his back, gaping at her.

“I was getting a bit cold,” Lavender said quietly, offering up an explanation that she knew had no merit. Dudley gaped at her for a few more moments before he reached out and pulled her under the spray and against his bare body.

He looked as amazing as she had imagined. He was an average height, only coming up a little higher than her. His shoulders were massive, and his stone-carved body flowed from his muscular chest down to a narrower waist. He was still quite thick around the middle, but the defined lines of his muscles belied a power that made her dizzy. She never realized how much she loved his strong body. His thighs were just as thick and shapely, and his arse was rounded perfect, narrower than his waist. She looked at his cock nestled in his blonde curls and the gravity of what she was doing finally hit her.

Lavender had never been with a man, not to this level. There were fumblings with a few Hogwarts boys, but after the attack, she couldn’t risk the exposure. No one ever got farther than her lips. Now she was standing naked before a man, staring openly at his thick cock jutting red and hard from between his legs. She looked up at Dudley, needing just a little more bravery to get through.

Dudley kissed her softly before teasing her mouth open with his tongue. His hands played in the water flowing down her back. He cupped her arse, and when his fingers followed the scar there, she shuddered, surprised at how sensitive it was. He smiled against her collarbone as his lips traveled down her chest. Lavender couldn’t help the fear at that point. He was gazing openly at her worst scar.

Dudley’s hands cupped her breasts, his thick fingers feeling divine on her sensitive skin. Lavender cried out when his tongue went over the large red claw mark, and she arched her neck. He rolled her nipples between his fingers and thumbs while his lips never left the line on her chest.

“You are fucking incredible,” Dudley said. Lavender didn’t open her eyes, however, until she felt his lips hit her nose. She met his watery gaze. “I’m serious. I could look at you for ages.”

She smiled and kissed him, lifting her hips to brush against his cock. He gasped and she held her breath. Her tension had much more to do with nerves now than with her insecurity. Dudley sensed the change in her countenance immediately.

“Nothing about your body bothers me. It floors me,” he attempted to assure her, his hands resting softly on her shoulders now, the water from the shower splashing up against their faces in the changed in position.

“I’m just a bit nervous now, that’s all,” Lavender felt herself smile even as she admitted it. Feeling jitters about making love for the first time was something she never thought she’d feel.

“You’ve never?”

“No, I haven’t trusted anyone enough to see me…”

“Thank you,” He said reverently.

“I think it’s customary to thank a woman afterward. You don’t even know if I’m any good.”

“No…Thank you for trusting me,” he kissed her again, with so much passion that she thought she would get lost in it.

She watched as his lips traveled down her body, pausing to let his tongue dart into her navel. When he was on his knees in front of her, Lavender was overcome with the beautiful scene. He looked up at her, his gaze so earnest that she felt she might turn to water herself and swirl down the drain.

Slowly, he guided her legs apart, and her feet slid across the tiled floor. She braced herself on his shoulders, her nerves being drowned in the sensation of his hands gliding up and down her thighs. When his hands spread her open, she shuddered at the feeling of being so exposed. Time seemed to freeze in anticipation of what he was going to do.

When his tongue first ran across her folds, Lavender cried out. He hands continued to hold her open, and his mouth was running slow and tentative swipes across the whole of her center. When he inserted a finger inside of her and moved it forward, she slammed her hands on the steamy wall behind her, trying to find purchase on the slick tile.

She couldn’t help but grind against his face as he picked up speed with his mouth and hands. He moaned, and the vibrations sent shockwaves through her. She looked down, and saw his head bobbing over the curve of her breasts. She gripped his hair once again when he added a second finger to the most intimate part of her. As her orgasm built, she wanted nothing more than to have him inside of her. The thought was novel and exciting, and she came, calling out his name louder than she thought she could be.

Her body shook, and she began to sink to the floor when she realized her legs were useless. Dudley’s welcoming arms caught her and pulled her on top of him. She intended to return the favor, but found his erection to be flagging. She wasn’t experienced with men, but she was worried when she realized that he wasn’t “throbbing with desire” as so many of her favorite books often said.

Her anxiety returned, and she questioned in her mind whether Dudley really wanted her, or if he was just going through the motions to not hurt her feelings. She looked up at him, and tried to keep her gaze questioning and not hurt.

“Oh…sorry…you’re just so fucking incredible that I kinda…well…”

“Oh? Oh!” Lavender smiled and kissed him.

He deepened the kiss, running his hands over her wet hair and following the flow of water down her back. They finally broke the kiss and Dudley helped her up, reaching over her shoulder to turn off the flow of water. He left the stall, and in a flash he was back with a towel around his waist and one in his hand. He wrapped the towel fully around her and pulled her tightly to his chest.

“Why don’t we finish this somewhere a little drier?” He whispered in her ear, licking a drip of water off of her neck and causing her to giggle like she was sixteen again.

“Sounds perfect. Your place?” She asked, sighing contentedly as the towel warmed her waterlogged body.

“Mmhmmm,” he murmured, kissing up and down her neck and across her shoulder. If you’re up for it, you could stay over. My parents are coming by tomorrow.”

“Oh I don’t think,” Lavender started, her hand flying to her face.

“You don’t have to take off your magic if you don’t want. Hell, you don’t have to meet them either. I just think they would love to meet my serious girlfriend…the witch.”

Lavender could have sworn she heard a hint of sarcastic glee in his voice.