Work Header

After The Storm

Work Text:

Author's notes: written for the 2011 Dudley Redeemed fest on LJ

After The Storm

And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up, I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.


George Weasley sighed at the image in his mirror. He was so thin that he could barely recognize himself. He hadn’t shaved in days, and his hair hung dirty and limply at his shoulders. When Fred was alive, they had taken so much pride in their appearances. They always wore the best ensembles and dressed sharply to impress their customers. Now, two years after Fred’s death, George looked like a troll that lived in the bowels of the shop. He was beginning to feel like a disgrace.

George reopened his shop about three months after the end of the war. At the time, he could barely face reality, let alone run his store, but he still understood the need for joy. Luckily, Ron, Angelina, and Lee were there to help him. When Verity turned up at the grand opening, safe and unscathed, despite being a Muggleborn, it was the first time George had felt something besides pain. It was more like joy and relief. For a while, Ron had run the shop and dealt with the customers while George had stayed in the lab making new products, reproducing popular old ones, and trying to figure out how he could continue to manage getting himself out of bed every morning.

He remembered his promise and steadied his courage. A month ago, George had gone to Fred’s grave to talk to Fred, like they used to. He didn’t know what had motivated him to say it, but he had apologized to Fred for living like a ghost. He sobbed against the ground at Fred’s headstone and promised he would do better. He had left overwhelmed with the prospect of putting his life together, but feeling a small glimmer of hope that maybe he could.

However, a few months ago, Angelina had finally had enough. She didn’t force George to be happy or the social butterfly he used to be, but she demanded he enter the real world a few times a week. It had started by him helping her do the shopping for the store. He would help her get his laughing potions orders and exploding cauldron supplies every Monday and Wednesday, which meant interacting with people, and George had found himself slowly being reintroduced to the world. Soon, his errands with Angie had begun to include coffee and lunch with her. And then he found himself having the occasional pint at the pub with Ron and Lee. Finally, Angie had convinced George to go out to some clubs with her.
He had known what Angie meant by clubs: She was trying to get him to date. It was common knowledge he was into blokes, and, by Angie’s best estimations, blokes met other blokes at clubs.  George wanted to argue with her logic, but she had looked so hopeful that he had agreed to let Angie and Lee drag him out to nightclubs once every few weeks. He still let himself get too disheveled during weekdays, but now he dressed up whenever it was ‘club night’ and even found himself dancing with the occasional fit gentleman.

“George!” Verity called to him from the shop below.

“Come on up, love,” he said, opening his door.

“Those Knockturn men are back. They are asking for Decoy Detonators this time, and Ron and Lee are out getting supplies. Angelina has her hands full kicking them out, and I’m worried there might be a duel,” Verity said breathlessly. He rushed down into the shop as fast as he could.

“Do you want me to call the Aurors?” George shouted at the three men by the door. Angelina kept her wand steady at their heads.

“You can’t deny our business!” The owner of Borgin and Burkes, a man named Finn Burke, reached for his wand.

“If you draw that, you will die.” George heard a menacing whisper from behind. He turned and saw Ron and Lee’s wands trained on the three men.

“I can deny services from whomever I want,” George said. “See the sign?”

This shop reserves the right to deny service to arseholes.

“I’m pretty sure that people who have had their hands in Voldemort’s pocket count as arseholes,” George said, pulling his wand out and pressing it against Finn’s temple. “Get out.” As the three wizards ran away, George nodded his thanks to his friends, and went back upstairs without staying to talk about the fight that just occurred.



George grabbed his razor and sighed. He certainly loved beards, but he always looked like some homeless, raving drunk with scraggly facial hair. After he shaved, he stepped into the shower to wash his hair. He looked down at his body, wondering where his stocky build had gone. He was still short and solid, but he could see his ribs and his collar bone far too clearly for his own comfort. He tried to eat -- he truly did -- but after neglecting himself for so long, and living on nothing but a dwindling will, his body looked like it was fading away. It would take a long time to get back to normal, if his grief would ever let him.
George pulled out one of two nice shirts that actually still fit him and wasn’t bogged down by tailoring charms. He assumed Angelina had slipped them into his closet while he wasn’t looking, but at least he wouldn’t look like a wet, hot mess. He chose the green one, knowing that he looked great in that jewel-tone shade. He hadn’t been with anyone since…well…it had been two years, and he was determined to start looking for a pull tonight. This was going to be the night that George Weasley would finally start living or risk insulting everything his brother was about, and everything he used to be about.
He combed his hair and charmed it dry, tucked his shirt into very fitted jeans, missing the fullness of his pre-war arse, and slipped into some shiny pointed black shoes. He looked positively dapper, and reveled in the smile he was seeing in his reflection. “I’m ready when you are,” he said to the mirror, sauntering out the door to put on his old dragonhide jacket and meet Angie downstairs.

Night has always pushed up day
You must know life to see decay
But I won't rot, I won't rot
Not this mind and not this heart,
I won't rot.

Dudley Dursley took off his shirt, messing up his hair in the process, and tried to find something else to wear. He didn’t have many clothes. He couldn’t afford to buy them. His parents had thrown him out on his arse after he committed a laundry list of things they would deem as offensive. First, he had worried about Harry when those wizards had taken him away to fight a war. Then, he had decided he wanted to go to culinary school instead of into business management, making his father’s dreams crumble. And finally, the straw that caused his parents to cut him off: He told them he was gay. He screamed it at them and stormed out of the house was more like it.

It hadn’t been Dudley’s shining moment. He had a lover in his last year of school who had left him because he was tired of hiding who they were. Dudley was heartbroken and eventually had promised him that he would tell his parents to get him back. However, by then, the other man had already taken up with someone else. “Someone who is proud to be with me,” his boyfriend had said coldly as he walked away from Dudley forever. Ever since then, Dudley has been living off of his own meager salary as a sous chef in a bistro, with his best mate Piers, and without a single word or quid from his parents. Plymouth was a fine city, if a bit small, and a good place for Dudley to get lost.
“I’m going to make an arse of myself,” Dudley groaned at the full-length mirror, taking off his tee-shirt and pulling a forest-green one over his head.
“Oh come on now, mate! You’ve got to stop hanging out at girlie bars and pubs if you’re going to get laid! Men don’t kiss men at strip clubs.” Piers whipped Dudley with a towel as he walked by.
His best mate had been right. His best mate was usually right. He had been right when Dudley had told him the story about Harry (leaving out the key details of course) and Piers told him that Dudley had to help Harry. Piers had been right when Dudley said his parents wouldn’t listen to him, wouldn’t accept the change of heart he had had, and his best friend had told him he had to get out of there. And Piers was right when he sat Dudley down and said, “I love you, you’re my best mate, and you’re gay. Please stop hiding that.”
After going through all of that with someone, you tend to trust them, but Piers’ idea to take Dudley to a gay bar was something bordering on ridiculous. Dudley wasn’t a very stylish bloke, he was a bloody horrible dancer, and he looked more like a longshoreman than a man of culture, with his large physique and blonde beard. Sure, he had lost a lot of inches and wasn’t in danger of becoming his father, but he still had a little extra around the middle.
“When in doubt, mountain man, go with plaid,” Piers shouted from his bedroom. Of course he was right.

Dudley wondered how wearing his usual ensemble of a plaid button down shirt and jeans was going to go over at a nightclub, but the thought of wearing a form fitting black shirt and trousers was just ridiculous. He combed his hair carefully, but the blond locks just remained completely unruly, so he let his hair fluff up that way. He trimmed his beard to keep it close to his face and tucked in his shirt to his relaxed jeans, and stood back from the mirror again.
“Maybe I’m not so bad,” Dudley thought, smoothing his clothes over his body. He was very tall, and his shoulders were much broader than his waist. He did carry a bit of extra fluff around the middle, but he still cut an impressive figure and stood out from the crowd. He nearly had hope that maybe he’d finally find a bloke tonight. Since he came out a year ago, he hadn’t exactly had many offers…or any.
He followed Piers out the door, pulling his jacket over his head to block the rain on the way to their car. “I can’t believe you’re taking me to a gay nightclub. Can you imagine what our fourteen-year-old selves would have thought?”
“You would have punched yourself.” Piers laughed, hitting his arm.
“I would kick my arse though!” Dudley answered, flexing his bicep at Piers as they drove away from the curb. Dudley’s brief career in boxing had left him with a lot of upper body strength that certainly would have made his younger self jealous. Piers was just as tall as him, but so wiry that Dudley was inclined to call him “Noodle” on a regular basis. They definitely stood out in a crowd together.
“You’re a self-involved wanker is what you are!” Piers smacked his hand on the dash.
“What would my father say if he knew I was going to a gay nightclub to possibly pull?” Dudley said, the humor leaving his voice.
“Vernon can eat shit, Big D. Don’t do this tonight. Your mum will come around, and your father can jog on,” Piers said, putting a hand on his shoulder. The pain of his parents turning their backs on him completely was still pretty fresh. Before, when he was just being a bleeding-heart weirdo-lover, they still spoke to him. Now, they wouldn’t even acknowledge his existence.

Piers directed Dudley to a club, called “Flame”, and Dudley had to snort. “That’s a little on the nose, isn’t it?”
“I’m offended by that stereotype! I love women and I’m more flaming than you, ya big poof!” Piers exclaimed. Dudley parked the car and got out slowly. His nerves were tap dancing all over him. He took a few deep breaths and reminded himself that he could drink plenty and just get a cab home.
“Oh come on, is it going to be that bad?” Piers said, noting Dudley’s obvious state of distress.
“I don’t know, mate,” he whispered, watching as two very good looking blokes in very good looking clothes sauntered by the doorman with a casual and familiar wave.
“If it doesn’t go well, everyone here will know you as DJ anyway, no one needs to know you’re Dudley Dursley, so if you fuck up, you can start fresh on the next outing! And your last name shall henceforth be Smith, you anonymity master!” Piers assured him.
Dudley wasn’t very fond of being a Dursley at the moment, and he’d never liked his first name. His middle name was Vernon, so that was out of the question. One day, he just decided to take the Big D thing and tone it down a bit. His friends were more than happy to call him DJ, and that’s even what it said on his nametag at the café he worked at. Dudley was looking forward to the prospect that he could go his whole life without being called Dudley, or Didikins, or Dudders, or any variation thereof ever again.
When they got in, Dudley ordered a rum and Coke and got Piers his usual ‘whatever is going to get me drunk the fastest’ drink. He leaned up against the bar, resting his elbows on it so that he could watch the dance floor, and wasn’t even remotely surprised when Piers got right in the middle and started dancing. Piers politely shook his head at any men who made a grab for him, but still danced, like a fool, to every upbeat song there was. Dudley was happy to just sit aside and people watch. When a slower song came on, Piers rejoined him.
“You haven’t talked to one bloke in the hour since we got here, unless you count the bartender. He’s not your type though.” Piers smiled knowingly.
“And how the hell do you know my type?”
“Hey, I knew you were gay before you did. Give me some credit! I see what you watch!” Piers smiled, tipping back another drink, though he seemed to have already hit his buzz mark.
“I’m listening…” Dudley said, glad he had decided to drink a little more slowly.
“You like ‘em flashy, but not you know...”
“Watch your words, Polkiss,” Dudley groaned warningly, not in the mood to deal with the real stereotypes.
“Someone that is bright. That’s all I’m saying. You like someone who stands out. I think it’s some sort of rebellion against the ho-hum life on Privet Drive,” Piers finished, smoking an imaginary pipe. The bass began to pick up and so did Piers’ spirits. “Shit! I love this song!”
Before Dudley could blink, Piers had found himself a statuesque dark-skinned woman with long braids to gyrate maniacally on the dance floor with him. They looked ridiculous, but definitely were having more fun than Dudley had managed to have in months. He laughed into his drink, decided that maybe he had to get pissed as well. He frowned. It took a lot more booze to bring down his body.

“How do you think it is that the only two straight people in this entire club have managed to find one another?” a smooth, clear voice sounded on Dudley’s right. He looked over to see a man with bright red hair down to his shoulders holding an ostentatious purple drink. Dudley tried hard not to take him in and rake his eyes obviously over the other’s form.r32; 
“And how do you know those two are straight?” Dudley asked, gesturing to Piers and Angelina who had taken to grinding naughtily against each other and flailing their arms. “I mean, besides the fact that they are terrible dancers.”
“Well I know because I came here with her, and he’s leering at her like she’s the manifestation of Venus herself.” The ginger man smiled, sipping his drink and grinning at Dudley. He was drawn to the mischievous glint in the other man’s eyes and could feel his body heat up just at the implications.
“And you assume that everyone else here is…um…un-straight?” Dudley asked, taking a bigger drink of his beer.
“I’d like to say that my educated guess is based on the fact that you’ve had your eyes on me, but alas, it’s all the other blokes on the dance floor that tickle your fancy,” he replied, turning up his nose.
Dudley could feel his face heating up and his body tense. Was this man flirting with him? He could scarcely believe it himself, but the bloke was fit and vibrant, and Dudley really wanted something to work out in his life…so he went for it. “Can I make it up to you by buying you a drink?”
“Something brightly colored and delicious,” George answered, smiling warmly.
Dudley fetched them some fresh drinks and found a table in a far corner of the club. He still had to shout over the music, but at least he could hear himself think. “I’m DJ.” He held out his hand. The other man took it with a strong, warm grip that set Dudley’s nerves on fire.
“George,” the other man smiled.
They talked for nearly an hour as the thrumming bass began to slow into slightly more mellow tunes. Piers and Angelina only left the dance floor for refreshments, and then went back to the sweaty writhing of the group in front of them. Dudley saw Piers getting more and more pissed as the night wore on, and he was worried that he’d have to leave George to take care of his best mate. Even with that prospect, he couldn’t help but laugh as Piers lifted his leg and wrapped it around Angelina’s waist.
“I have to say, though, I didn’t expect her to go for a guy like your mate,” George said, laughing as Piers almost fell over.
“He’s not so bad,” Dudley started.
“It’s just that he’s not her type. He’s too tall and stringy,” George answered, leaning in closer to Dudley to explain himself better. Dudley caught his scent buried in his warm body, and tried not to be obvious as he leaned into the other man.
“What are your facts based on?” Dudley asked. He was growing a bit cautious. Piers liked to have fun, sure, but he also had a tendency to fall hard. Dudley did not want to be picking up any pieces right now.
“She likes blokes that look like me.” George puffed his chest out a little bit. Dudley’s heart began to sink. What was he playing at?
“I see,” he answered, trying to hide his disappointment.
“She dated my twin brother,” George explained. His jaw clenched and his face looked grim.
“Twin?” Dudley suddenly had a very sharp sense of déjà vu. There was no way he could have forgotten the man standing next to him, but the mention of a twin had his mind spinning for some reason.
“Not anymore. He’s dead,” George said quietly. Dudley reached out to touch his shoulder, but George turned away and downed his drink. “Nothing to talk about now!” he exclaimed, slamming his glass on the table.
“Want another?” Dudley asked, unsure of how he should react. He wanted to put his arm around George, but he knew he would look like an absolute fool.
“Brother? Nah. I’ve got four others,” he waved his hand dismissively, though Dudley could still see a lot of pain in his eyes.
“That’s not what I-“ He began to panic.
“I know. Hey, do you want to get out of here?” George asked suddenly.
More than anything. “Yeah, why not?” Dudley answered, as casually as possible.
“I’m sure we can get together enough cash to put them in a cab,” George winked at him.
Dudley was done for.
“Ooooooooh! You are done for, Weasley,” Angelina whispered into George’s ear, her long body leaning against him and her arms draped over his shoulders.
“And so are you, Johnson, ya damn pisser!” George said, swatting at her affectionately.
“I’m talking about DJ over there. He’s just your sort of bloke now, innit he?” she purred, pointing at DJ. He looked up and George immediately swatted her hand down.
“I don’t have a type. I’m an equal-opportunity shagger,” George responded, adjusting his lapel.
“Nu-uh,” Angelina contradicted.
“What a well-crafted argument, Angie!” George was at risk of falling into hysterical fits of laughter at Angelina’s behavior.
“I’ve seen who you like to check out. You couldn’t stop drooling over Pucey in school, that Slytherin slob, and don’t deny it! You like ‘em big and meaty, don’t you?” Angelina was nearly doubled over with laughter after her last question, and George shot a nervous glance at DJ.
“If you keep up with this imagery, I’m going to become very hungry and end up eating the bloke before I can even shag him!” George exclaimed, playing into her drunken hand. Before she could say something about gristle or goose liver, George decided to find his quarry.

George took DJ’s hand and led him to the floor. The music was so loud near the speakers that his body vibrated from the bass. DJ’s hands were slightly calloused and quite large, and George found himself not wanting to let go, even to begin showing off his dance moves. He began to shake his hips to the high-energy song pulsing through them, and then turned to see if DJ was dancing as well.
DJ was moving… slightly. He kept hunching his shoulders and shuffling a little without yielding to the rhythm of the song. George met his eyes, and Dudley smiled and blushed, turning to walk off of the dance floor. George grabbed his arm and dragged the larger man close to him. He saw DJ’s eyes widen as he put his arms lightly around George’s shoulders. George leaned into the touch, guiding DJ to sway with the motion of the music and pick up the beat.
George felt good. He felt amazing, really. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt so content and so at ease in his own skin. He hadn’t felt really whole or safe since he lost Fred. But there, trying to find excuses to touch DJ, George felt like maybe it was time to move on. He began to think that maybe there was more out there for him than fleeting degrees of happiness in between bouts of crushing grief. He pulled his body just a little closer to DJ’s and felt his chest vibrate separate from the music. George could almost hear the sound of his groan, and he decided the mention of coffee, and the prospect of quiet, was beginning to sound very appealing.
George brought his lips up close to DJ’s ear, making sure they brushed against his sensitive skin when he said “Let’s go get that coffee.” Angelina chose that moment to let out another gleeful shriek. He looked back to see she had leapt up onto DJ’s mate and the wiry man was struggling to keep his balance as he held on to her bum. “After we deal with wingus and dingus here.”
“We’ll call them a cab, send them home, and then I’ll take you to a little place I like,” DJ said, smiling in a way that made George want to bite his own lip like a giddy child. DJ pulled out his fellytone and called a ride, and within five minutes there was a cab at the front entrance. George was suddenly very nervous, and masked it by attending to Angelina. He walked up to DJ’s mate.
“You listen here, sir. She is drunk. You are drunk. Don’t take advantage of her. You have to wait until you are both sober, or I will rip off your balls,” George said, grinning the whole time. When Piers smiled back, George frowned at him and clenched his fist in the other’s shirt. “I mean it though.”
Piers nodded and led Angelina very carefully to the cab. George looked back at DJ to find him shaking with jubilant laughter, his face bright red. George threw his head back and laughed with him, excited to see what the evening had in store. They walked out hand in hand.


r32;And I took you by the hand
r32;And we stood tall,
r32;And remembered our own land,
r32;What we lived for.

“So, I don’t mind aimlessly wandering the streets of Plymouth, but where are we going?” George asked after they had walked a few blocks.r32;
“Well, are you hungry?” DJ looked strangely hopeful as he asked, and George knew he couldn’t disappoint.
“I could eat,” he answered casually.
“I know of a little place,” he said, smiling cryptically. George was nervous. He certainly liked this bloke, but he wasn’t sure he was ready to go back to his place if that’s where it was heading.
Suddenly, DJ stopped in front of a little storefront settled in the middle of a quiet street. They seemed to be in a quiet part of Plymouth. There were even individually-laid bricks on the pavements and in areas along the street. He looked up at a hand-carved sign that said ‘Millie’s Café’ in simple lettering. He hated how charmed he was by the little Muggle shop so quickly.
“I hate to break it to you, buddy, but Millie’s doesn’t look to be a twenty-four-hour diner,” George smirked. DJ just chuckled and pulled a set of keys from his pocket.
“But I make all of Millie’s food -- well, nearly all -- so I can come in whenever I want and fix attractive men late night snacks,” he explained as he fiddled with the padlock on the door.
“You cook?” George asked, his mouth suddenly watering. He hadn’t really been much of a celebrated eater since he lost Fred, but imagining DJ preparing food for him was making him ravenous. r32; 

“Yeah, I do most of the owner’s cooking back here. Millie lets me make up some recipes sometimes. It’s been really good training,” DJ said, dipping a small spoon into a bowl he had pulled from the fridge. “I hope you don’t mind leftovers. It would take too long to make you anything from scratch at this hour.”
“I don’t mind at all. So, you want to be a chef?” George asked, trying not to admire DJ’s arse as he reached down into the industrial cooler for more items.
“Yeah. I never cooked when I was younger. I had no idea I loved it. And then one day I was sittin’ in my new place, and Piers was griping about how hungry he was, so I said I’d go and get food. I found myself at a shop, and picked out a few things. I made an excellent pot of spaghetti and the rest is history.” DJ rose up, holding a large metal pot and placed it on the shiny silver cooker.
“I bet your parents are glad they have a cook in the family,” George said, thinking of family meals filled with his mother’s magnificent cooking. When he looked up though, DJ was frozen, and his shoulders tensed.
“Not even in the slightest. It’s been one of a long line of choices I have made that have made them turn their backs on me,” he said softly, resuming his preparations. He took out a large ladle and stirred the pot gently. “I hope you like this tomato bisque. It’s hearty, but I’ll make some crostini to go with it.”
“It sounds good. I haven’t eaten much lately, to be honest,” George said. It was an understatement. If DJ knew how thin he was in comparison with his pre-war physique, he’d probably just begin shoving food down his throat. “Do you mind if I ask what other choices…?”
George wasn’t sure how to finish his sentence, all he knew is that DJ’s expression was becoming cloudy and a little sad. He moved closer to DJ against the cooker and began to stir the creamy red soup while DJ reheated some sort of buttery oil. He finally managed to catch DJ’s eye, and the taller man just shrugged. George reached out and put a hand on his arm.
“It started with my cousin,” he said, pulling out something that looked like a paint brush and dipping it into the now-warm butter. “There was this… um… war, and my cousin had to go away to help with it. My parents were always ruddy awful with him; they were supposed to take care of him and instead my parents starved him, made him work very hard and never showed him any caring at all. He had to live under the fucking stairs for Christ’s sake!” DJ was slicing up bread with much more anger and vigor than what was required, but George was more focused on the outstanding coincidence that they would both know orphans who lived under stairs. His heart was beginning to race.
DJ continued, “When I was little, was more than okay with that, because I still got what I wanted. But when he left, I just… he saved my life once! And then he was just gone! I cared, and I couldn’t help it. When I asked my father if I could go and help, or at least send him a letter, my father blew his lid.”
“Why were they so awful to your cousin?” George croaked. He was coming to a startling realization: Dudley’s cousin was a mistreated orphan who fought in a war at a young age. He tried to picture DJ with shorter hair, no beard, and extra weight around the middle. Suddenly, he had a hard time denying he was ready to snog the pants off of Dudley Dursley. The little boy who made Harry’s life miserable had grown up into a warm, loving man.
“Well he was… um… a special guy. They found him to be a freak and didn’t want me to associate with freaks.” Dudley smiled slightly as he laid his bread, now covered in that strange butter, into the oven. “After that, I dropped out of business school and told them I was gay. They haven’t talked to me since.”
George wanted to throw his head back and laugh at the situation he found himself in, but at the crestfallen and vulnerable look in Dudley’s face, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. This was a man standing before him, and a good one. This was not the boy who made trouble for an innocent kid, this was the bloke that George met at a club a mere four hours ago and was already falling for. He only had a brief moment of indecision before he sidled back up to Dudley, put his arm around the other man’s broad shoulders, and pressed the side of his head gently to his upper arm. Dudley turned to him, lifted a wooden spoon to George’s mouth, and the delicious soup warmed his lips.  

“That’s brilliant!” George said. He watched Dudley pull a spoonful up to his mouth, dribbling a bit on his beard. George reached up and wiped it off with his thumb. He reveled in the way Dudley leaned into his touch.r32;
“I’m going to burn the toast,” Dudley whispered, kissing George’s fingertips as he pulled his head away. He put on an oven mitt and pulled out the bread, and George was assailed by an herby, garlicky scent. Dudley pulled one off, tossed it between his hands until it cooled, and then ladled some tomato soup into a dish. He set the tip of the toast in the liquid and bowed as he offered it up to George. The wizard found himself almost giggling and had to bite his tongue.
Dudley hopped up on top of the wooden chopping counter in the center of the kitchen and sat with his bowl balanced in his large hands. George followed his lead, sitting across from him and dipping the seasoned bread in the soup. Dudley smiled warmly between bites, and George ate with gusto. He finished his soup in record time and had to keep himself from licking the bowl. When he looked up, Dudley was staring at him with his golden eyebrows raised high.
“That was very good, and I’m not just saying that because I want to get into your pants.” George grinned.
“I don’t think you have to compliment my soup to get into my pants anyway.” Dudley blushed.
“I just haven’t really cared much about food in a while, and, well, I got a bit carried away.” George laughed as he wiped his mouth. He couldn’t help but noticed that Dudley was staring at his lips.
“All I do is care about food. If I didn’t box so much, I’d still be a little porker.” Dudley grinned. George had to admit the thought of that man hitting something with force was sending all sorts of chills throughout his body. “Have you been too busy to eat?”
“I’ve been a bit distraught these past few years. I’ve lost a lot of weight,” George said, looking away and staring at his empty bowl.  Suddenly, Dudley felt a lot closer, and George looked up to see him standing on the floor in front of him.
“I’m sorry you lost your brother,” he whispered, wrapping his hands on either side of George’s waist.
“I’m finding it hurts a little less just now,” he answered, his voice croaking.
When their lips met, George felt immense warmth. He felt at ease, safe, and whole in a way he had never felt. As Dudley’s hands moved up his sides and George threaded his hands in the blond’s curly locks, the warmth quickly turned into heat. George pulled his body closer to Dudley’s until their chests were pressed together.

Dudley began to run his hands up and down George’s back, until his shirt became untucked and the other man’s large palms were running smoothly up George’s sensitive skin. He arched his back and his erection pressed against Dudley’s. George felt a growl deep in his throat, he was so caught up in how much Dudley wanted him that he thought he could die, happy in that moment. He whispered Dudley’s name when he started kissing the wizard’s neck.

Dudley froze and George fought back the urge to curse loudly. “Did I tell you my name?” he whispered.

“I think Piers called you that at the bar,” George said, pulling Dudley toward him and brushing his erection against Dudley’s. The other man seemed to accept the answer and George marveled at the way Dudley’s beard felt against his exposed skin.

George unbuttoned the first few buttons of Dudley’s shirt and kissed the soft skin he found there. Where George had a generous smattering of ginger hair, Dudley was much less hairy, and George loved the feeling of his skin along his own sensitive lips. Suddenly, Dudley grabbed George’s hips and pulled him hard against his body. Dudley’s strength was enough to send him over the edge.

“Please tell me your flat is nearby,” George said breathlessly.

“Around the corner.” He was already pulling George off of the table.

“Fuck, let’s.” The redhead groaned.

Dudley pulled him out of the restaurant, and after he locked up, George slammed him against the window and snogged the life out of him, desperate to continue their tryst. Dudley groaned, the sound coming from deep within his chest. He pulled along the other man with gusto, almost making George fly from his feet.

“George!” Dudley suddenly lunged forward just as three hooded figures emerged from the alley and slashed their wands at the two men. Violent purple lights spread across Dudley’s chest as he collapsed to the ground.

“We want your wares, and we won’t take no for an answer, Weasley.” Finn Burke sneered. “It took us days to track you from that hair we found in your shop, but we didn’t realize you’d be cavorting with Muggles! You are such a fool.”

“Weasley?” George heard Dudley moan from the ground. He looked over and saw Dudley‘s shirt was stained with blood. George tried to run toward him, but he found himself petrified. He fell to the ground with a sickening thud. And as everything turned black, he heard Dudley whisper, “Harry.”


And now I cling to what I knew
r32;I saw exactly what was truer32;
But oh no more.r32;That's why I hold,r32;
That's why I hold with all I have.
r32;That's why I hold.

Dudley heard a strange serious of popping sounds, and then found he was alone in the alley. His head was spinning and he felt like he would pass out from the pain, but in the fog of his panicked thoughts, a spark ignited: George was a friend of Harry’s. Dudley remembered the day he ate a toffee that made his tongue swell and grow to six feet long, and the ginger twins that had laid it at his feet. George had a twin brother, and the same last name as Harry’s best friend. There wasn’t any doubt in Dudley’s mind that Harry knew George Weasley, and he was going to find a way to get George help.

He took a few deep breaths and shakily rose to his feet. Just up the back stairs of the building, in his apartment, was a small box that Dudley had secreted away from his parents’ prying eyes just after Harry left to fight his war. It had in it all the things that Harry had left behind when he had packed -- little pieces of memories, in case his cousin never came back. At the bottom of that box was a letter, covered with stamps, with the return address of someone named Weasley. He climbed up his steps, picturing the box in his mind, and hoping against hope that Piers was home. It wasn’t like he couldn’t call the police to get help, but maybe Piers would patch him up.

He limped in and found his flat dark. He was having trouble breathing through his pain, but when he grabbed a clean sheet and tied a torn piece around his torso, he found the pain lessened substantially. He knew he had to get to George’s house and get help from the only wizards he could fathom finding, and he had to do it before he lost all of his blood. He tried not to jostle his wound as he began to dig through his closet.

Dudley felt a wave of relief wash over him when he found the stamp-covered letter, and flipped it over. In very small print, at the top of the page was the return address:

Molly Weasley
Ottery St. Catchpole
The Two Track Lane
Just past the River Otter
The Burrow

It looked like the letter that Harry had got when he was eleven, one of the many letters that his father nearly went mad over trying to stop. He didn’t quite understand the locations, but Dudley did know Ottery St. Catchpole. It was right there in Devon! And he and Piers had once gone fishing in the Otter River. He would be able to make it to George’s home within a half an hour if he drove like mad. Dudley grabbed Piers’car keys and flew out of the house, ignoring the pain in his side, and focusing on the hope that he could get George help in time.
By the time Dudley drove over the bridge above the Otter River, he was having trouble seeing. He thought the headlights might have been fading, but he realized with horror that his vision was becoming foggy. He looked to his right and saw a barely-used lane. There were two groove marks in the grass indicating that it was indeed a drivable path, and he prayed that Piers’ little car would make it. He drove as fast as he could, with the rocky bumps causing white hot jolts of pain to rip through his body.

He came over a hill, and upon a rickety house, which stood with unfathomable dimensions where the top was bigger than the bottom, and one side leaned slightly. He knew this house was being held up by magic… either that, or he was hallucinating. He got out of the car, and the simple act of slamming the door caused him to cry out in pain. He fell onto the front steps of the home, and warm light poured out on him.

“Oh my dear! What in the world…” A stout woman with in an apron spoke through the door.

“George…help! Harry…” Dudley croaked as his world descended into blackness on George’s front porch.


Dudley woke up gently, with a warm, moist cloth on his head and a dull, throbbing pain in his side. His wound felt like nothing more than a bad hit to his stomach. He groaned with relief. In the next moment, his head shot up and the pain was fresh in his side at the movement. He cried out and fell back against the sofa he was sprawled upon. The woman with the apron rushed into the room.

“Oh now, Dudley! You shouldn’t have moved,” she said, drawing her wand and waving it over his abdomen. “You were hit by a nasty curse. I’ve sealed it up and given you some pain potions, but you’re going to need to take it easy until Arthur can finish brewing the Murtlap.”

“What?” Dudley said numbly, focused on the woman’s ginger hair with its white streaks. He knew this had to be George’s mother, though he wasn’t sure why.

“I’m sorry, love. I should have explained. My name is Molly Weasley, and you fell at my door, saying something about George and asking for Harry. You’ve been attacked by a wizard, but that’s about all we know right now,” she said, moving the cloth from his forehead.

“George! They have George!” Dudley grabbed her apron strings, ripping them in the process. It didn’t seem to faze Molly at all.

“I think someone has hurt you pretty badly. I’ve checked my clock and George is not in any danger, though it does say he is traveling,” she explained. Dudley just stared blankly at her, trying to process what she had said. “It’s a good thing Arthur recognized you. We’ve summoned Harry.”

“We were in the Alley outside of my shop! These men with hoods-“Dudley began, until but he was interrupted by a loud, slamming door.

“Molly! Arthur! I got a Patronus saying it was urgent. Is everyone okay?” Harry shouted from the next room. His voice was deeper, but Dudley knew it was him.

“I’m not sure now, Harry,” Molly answered as Dudley’s cousin came into the room. Harry’s hair was still mussed, but he was taller and more filled out than he had been all those years ago.

“Wait, Dudley?” He jogged to the couch.

“He was attacked by a wand, though I cannot tell you whose,” Arthur said, coming in with a small pot in his hand.

“And he keeps saying that George was attacked, and he said something about men with hoods!” Molly said, standing up and wringing her hands.

“I’ll go find him, love,” Arthur said, his face panicked.

“They have him! They have him!” Dudley shouted, shaking.

“Dudley…” Harry started. “Who are ‘they’?”

“I’m not sure, Harry! They weren’t those floating things that almost killed me. They were people! They said something about George not selling them something, and then popped away.” Dudley was shaking with fear. “I can take you back there! Maybe they left something behind!” Dudley tried to rise up from the couch.

“You are still too hurt,” Molly said, putting a hand on his shoulder and coaxing him back down.

“You were with George tonight? George Weasley?” Harry asked, and Dudley nodded. “Cheeky bloke, ginger hair, snappy dresser?”

“Yes! We were at the club, then I took him to my work and made him soup and then…they took him away!” Dudley put his head in his hands, hating himself for not being able to do more.

“Shhhhhh, it’s okay. Take it easy there, sweetie. We’ll get to the bottom of this,” Molly soothed. “Now let’s get some salve on you.”

Though his heart was racing and his body shaking, Dudley laid back and allowed George’s mum to move open the cut folds of his shirts. As she rubbed the mixture over his abdomen, Dudley’s pain ebbed significantly and he sighed deeply. He accepted another potion for his pain, and one that was supposed to calm him down. Immediately, his heart rate began to slow slightly. Just as he was about to ask Harry what he could do to help, he heard George shout his name from somewhere outside.

“George,” he whispered. “George!” Dudley struggled to get up.

“Oh for Merlin’s…will you just hold still!” Molly admonished him, and it was enough to quell him slightly.

“Dudley!” George came rushing in. “How did you get here? How did you know?” He knelt down next to the sofa as Molly and Harry dispersed. “Oh, Gods, you’re hurt!”

George was trembling as his hands began to flutter over Dudley’s wound. His face was swollen on one side, with an angry bruise centering on his eye, and his shoulder was slashed open and bloody. He finally laid his hand gently on Dudley’s body.

“I looked for you everywhere! No one was at your flat, but there was all this blood,” he said, shuddering. “And then I went over to Angie’s and Piers was on her couch. When he came back with me, he said you had taken his car. He phoned every hospital and you weren’t there! He even called your parents!”

“Oh shit! I really don’t want Uncle Vernon coming here.” Harry piped up from the background.

“There’s no threat in that. We’ll talk later,” Dudley said. “When they said your name, I remembered you, and I knew how to find you from a letter your mother once sent to our house.”

“You drove all the way here while you were bleeding all over everything!” George exclaimed. He was still shaking, and Dudley grew concerned.

“Will someone explain what’s going on?” Arthur called from the doorway. “I’ve got two injured young men here, and no real story about how that happened.”

“Not to mention…” Harry started to speak, but pursed his lips as though he thought better of it.

“Finn Burke has been sniffing about at my shop for some time, and of course I won’t serve him. I don’t care if he got probation, I will not serve Deatheaters!” George said. Everyone nodded in agreement. Dudley decided to save his questions for later. “Well, he tracked me down, and attacked with three other blokes when I least expected it.”

“How did you get away?” Dudley whispered. George chuckled slightly.

“Deatheaters, in addition to being absolutely hideous, are also stupid. So they took me back to my own shop. All I had to do was get a wand from any one of them, activate the emergency security charms, and anyone who wasn’t keyed into the wards would be tied up instantly!” George said, flicking a drop of blood from his face. “They just had to beat the snot out of me first, I guess.”r32;

Dudley sat up to reach out to George, not caring about his wounds any longer, and let his shirt fall open as his hand went up to lightly trace the bruise around George’s eye. George leaned into the touch, and someone cleared their throat in the background. Dudley looked up to see Harry staring at him wide-eyed, with his mouth opening and closing. Suddenly, George was leaning back and shaking, his hands gripping his knees.

“They just showed up out of nowhere. I couldn’t get to you in time! You were bleeding and you fell…I just…I couldn’t do anything,” George was whimpering to himself. One moment ago, he was smiling with Dudley, and now he appeared to be falling to pieces. He tried to get up and reach out to the wizard, but Molly came over and kneeled next to him.

“Oh Georgie, you know that none of this is your fault. There was nothing you could have done,” she whispered in a careful, practiced manner.

“It should have been me that got hurt! It should have been me!” He was shouting now, tears in his eyes and his hands gripping his long hair. He began rocking back and forth, his body quivering. Dudley gasped as his hair moved and he saw an old, burned-looking scar where George’s ear should have been.

“Arthur dear, could you get the potion?” Molly said, as she tried to soothe her son. Dudley sat up, dumbstruck. Harry sat down next to him and put a hand on his shoulder.

After Molly fed George the potion, he calmed down significantly, and looked up at Dudley.

“George, I’m okay,” Dudley whispered, trying to comfort him.

The other man just got up and walked out of the room. Dudley tried following him, but Harry stopped him, shaking his head gently. He had no idea what had just happened, but he was frightened that he had somehow managed to ruin everything. He sighed and rubbed his face hard to try to wake himself up.

“Dudley, what in the world is going on?” Harry finally asked, smirking slightly.

“Well, Piers and I went to a club. I met George there. I took him back to my work to eat, we started snogging-“

“Snogging?” Harry asked, coughing slightly.

“Reason number 345 why Vernon and Petunia Dursley want nothing to do with me,” Dudley said sardonically. “I’m gay.”

“Wow. And you didn’t know that he was…” Harry made a vague waving motion with his arm.

“Not until the wands started happening. Then I realized he was the kid who made my tongue swell up!” Dudley smiled. “Is he going to be okay?”

“He just needs a few moments. The war…well…it was very hard on all of us. But George lost Fred, and that hole is going to take a lot longer to patch,” Harry explained gravely. “Right after it happened; George had episodes that he couldn’t really stop. They’ve become very infrequent, but--”

“I can imagine.” Dudley interrupted Harry. “Do you think he’d let me…I don’t know…comfort him?” Dudley could feel his face heat up.

“This is so surreal. I just…I’m at a complete loss for words.” Harry shook his head as though he was trying to wake himself up. “George usually needs a while to settle after he has a calming draught, but I don’t see why you couldn’t…ummm…comfort him.”

“We should go for lunch or something later. I think there’s a lot we both need to catch up on,” Dudley said, standing up slowly and groaning at the dull pain in his side. “But right now, I need to find George.”


r32;I will die alone and be left there.
r32;Well I guess I'll just go home,r32;
Oh God knows where.
r32;Because death is just so full and mine so small.
r32;Well I'm scared of what's behind and what's before.

George was embarrassed. He was so ashamed that he had lost control of himself in front of Dudley that he wasn’t sure how he could go back into the house and face him. He walked along the path by the river, hoping that if he was gone long enough, Dudley wouldn’t feel obligated to stay. He felt a stab in his gut at the thought that he wouldn’t be able to be with Dudley ever again. And right now, he couldn’t face rejection.

After the war, whenever there was a loud noise, a sudden movement, or if someone got hurt, George would collapse in on himself. Every single thing reminded him of Fred, including his own reflection, but the memories of that final battle were the worst things that haunted him. On his bad days, he prayed for death. He prayed that he would have been able to sleep forever instead of facing a world without Fred in it.

His moments of panic and pain had become so few, that George was already branching out and doing more things in public with his family and friends. But when Dudley fell in a chaos of spells and blood, every fear and insecurity he had about his life was back in full force. Seeing Dudley okay didn’t lessen it, but made him feel more guilty for exposing someone to that kind of risk. He kicked a tree hard enough for his toe to throb, but at least it kept his tears at bay.

“You know, it took a week for my tongue to be normal-sized,” Dudley said, suddenly coming up behind him on the path. “I mean sure, your dad shrunk it, but it was still half hanging out of my mouth. Mum kept me home from school. I secretly loved you guys for giving me a reason to stay home and play video games all day.”

“You shouldn’t be walking about -- you’ll hurt yourself,” George said, but found himself very thankful for Dudley’s warm presence, no matter how much he was trying to avoid it.

“Fuck it. I drove for about half an hour with blood gushing out of me. I think I can handle a stroll.” Dudley laughed.

“Why did you do that?” George whispered, still afraid to stop and look Dudley in the eye. He feared he would find only pity there.

“Because I wanted to help you. Do you really think I would have just left you on your own with those men? Damnit, George!” Dudley was suddenly growling. “Tonight has been one of the best nights in my life, and not because of reheated soup. I can’t see this end so soon. I want you.”

“I’m messed up, Dudley. I’m half a person.” George stopped, clenching his fists.

“Whatever you think you are, you’re enough for me,” the taller man whispered, brushing George’s hair back and exposing the scar on the side of his face. He flinched, but Dudley just placed a soft kiss over the marred flesh. George shuddered.

“Deatheater did that, in mid-air no less. Sliced my ear clean off. That’s why I wear my hair long,” George explained, blushing slightly at Dudley’s intense gaze.

“I like your hair,” Dudley said. He brushed a thumb along the side of George’s face and kissed him gently. George pulled backed and searched Dudley’s eyes. He didn’t see pity, but an unmitigated tenderness that made George feel unworthy. He had to look away.

“Maybe we should get you back, and let you rest a bit,” George suggested, shaking more from nerves than from pain this time.

“Hey,” Dudley said, wrapping his large arms around George and pulling him in close. “I’m okay.”

George looked up at Dudley, and suddenly he wanted so many things all at once. He wanted to grabbed his face and kiss him hard and fast, bleeding out all of his desperation. He wanted to fall at Dudley’s feet and cry. He wanted to look up at the sky and shout at Fred that he was sure he was falling in love. He settled for the first, and pulled Dudley down for a kiss, marveling at the way his beard felt against his sensitive skin.

George was overcome with desire in nearly an instant. Everything melted away from him. The fear, the insecurity, and the grief were fading away into the background as Dudley’s large hands rubbed up and down George’s back. George pressed into him and was happily surprised to find the other man already hard and ready for him. George quivered again, wanted nothing more than to take off all of Dudley’s tattered clothes and shag him senseless on the river bed.

Dudley groaned, and George whimpered his name when Dudley’s hand began ghosting over his erection.

“Are you sure? Is this okay right now?” Dudley asked into George’s neck.

“More than okay.” George groaned. “Let’s go back to your flat.”

“That’s a half hour away.” Dudley whined, his hand moving up and down George’s erection through his jeans, guiding it to press up against his hardness.

“Not the way I move,” George answered, embarrassed to find himself practically purring.

“Lead the way, George,” Dudley said, nipping at George’s neck and gripping his arse firmly.

“Take a deep breath and hold it, this is going to feel very strange,” George said. Dudley suddenly giggled at the unintended implications and George found himself breaking into laughter as he concentrated on the landing outside of Dudley’s flat.

When he re-oriented himself, Dudley was leaning against the door, holding his side, and gasping for breath. George drew his wand, opened the door, and led Dudley inside, carefully placing him on the old, worn-out couch. Eventually, Dudley’s breathing calmed, and he looked up at George with watery and accusatory eyes.

“Jesus Christ, man.” Dudley wheezed. “I didn’t realize that ‘popping thingy’ you do was so painful.”

“I’m a ruddy arsehole. Is your injury bothering you?” George asked, already tugging what was left of Dudley’s shirt over his head.

“It stings a bit, but I think it was just the jolt,” Dudley answered. When George leaned back and took in the sight of Dudley’s bare chest, the other man blushed wildly.

George grinned and took off his shirt as well, glad he had shed his outer shirt during his search for Dudley. He then lunged forward and kissed Dudley carefully, running his hands up and down Dudley’s bare chest. Dudley arched into his touch, and George was struck by how much power was behind his movements, and how the muscles in Dudley’s body twitched beneath his touch. He straddled Dudley’s hips, desperate to be closer. Dudley moaned when their erections met once again.

George’s entire body seemed to be on fire as Dudley began unfastening his jeans. He had to struggle to keep himself from thrusting against Dudley’s searching hand, and when that hand wrapped around his aching cock, George threw his head back and cried out. He leaned forward and began to kiss up and down Dudley’s neck, thrusting into his fist.

“You feel amazing, George. I want you so bad.” Dudley moaned, lifting his hips so George could feel his erection rubbing against his arse through his jeans. He very reluctantly stood up so that he could get rid of his trousers. Dudley rose and did the same.

The blond man stood in the middle of his living room, looking everywhere but at George, swaying slightly. His chest was smooth, and he looked muscular, but with a layer of softness over his top that seemed like whoever had designed him had decided to smooth out the edges. George could feel his mouth watering as he imagined running his tongue up and down his skin. Dudley’s cock made George weak in the knees though. It was long and thick, nestled in blonde curls and leaking with arousal.

George dropped to his knees in front of Dudley, desperate to taste him, and wrapped his lips around his hard cock. Dudley cried out and put a hand on George’s head. He was shaking with restraint, and George knew he was trying not to thrust into the back of his throat. George looked up to watch Dudley’s face as he slid the other man’s large cock all the way into his mouth, relaxing his throat, before caving in his cheeks and sliding his lips back off. Dudley whimpered.

“Fuck, George. If you do much more of that, I’m going to come before we can get to anything else,” Dudley said, gripping George’s long hair. “Come here.”

George stood up shakily, and Dudley kissed him. He closed his eyes and tried to fathom a million more kisses just like that one, with their bodies pressed together tightly and their breathing heavy. He realized he wanted every kiss to be with Dudley. He’d only known the Muggle for less than 24 twenty-four hours, but there was so much there, and George was already ready to ask for more. When Dudley wrapped his large hands around both of their aching cocks, George whimpered his name.

He wrapped a hand around Dudley’s side, and the other man suddenly flinched. George kissed him softly and let him to the sofa. When Dudley was seated, George straddled his thighs and groaned at the sensation of the head of Dudley’s cock running up and down between arse cheeks. Dudley gripped George’s arse and pulled hims open. He didn’t break eye contact as he wet his fingers and stroked them over George’s entrance. George thrust back and moaned, and one of Dudley’s fingers entered him.

“Oh George,” Dudley moaned. “I need to go and get-“

George put a finger up to Dudley’s lips. He reached out for his wand, and it flew the few inches from his shirtsleeves to his hand. “Accio lube.” A plastic bottle flew from down the hall to his outstretched hand. He smirked at Dudley’s wide eyes.

“You’re a show-off,” Dudley murmured, opening with plastic bottle with one hand and letting the cool liquid flow down George’s back until it reached his entrance. George arched as Dudley pressed two fingers inside of him and opened him up. After moving himself up and down on Dudley’s fingers, and letting loose a string of expletives when his sinful hands hit George’s favorite spot, he decided he was ready and lined up Dudley’s cock with his stretched-out hole.

“Fuck me,” George whispered, easing the head of the other man’s cock into his tight channel.

“Oh shit. Oh fuck, fuck, fuck-- nnnngh,” Dudley said, as George worked himself carefully until he was seated on Dudley’s massive cock. He had to pause to catch his breath and let his body adjust.

“Are you okay?” Dudley’s voice was strained against George’s good ear. “We could go to the bedroom.”

“Fuck, no. We’re not stopping now. Just let me…” George said, then slowly lifted himself up and started moving up and down on Dudley’s throbbing erection.

“Oh, God, that’s so good,” Dudley was practically growling now. His large hands had gripped
George’s hip and were moving him up and down as much as he could. George felt a slight bloom of pain at Dudley’s grip, and it sent chills through his body. He grabbed Dudley’s shoulders to brace himself, and Dudley moved a hand to take George’s cock and stroke in time with their thrusts.

“Oh Dudley, I’m so close. I’ve never felt…oh, Gods, I just…” George couldn’t find his words, but Dudley just pulled him close to his body and kissed him tenderly. George threaded his hands in Dudley’s hair and came hard, pulling back from the kiss so that he could cry out. He felt Dudley’s dick twitch inside of him while he was coming down from his orgasm, and he groaned as his sensitive nerves were assailed by Dudley’s release.

They stayed like that until George could concentrate again, with Dudley drawing lazy circles on his back and kissing up and down his face. When George met Dudley’s eyes and smiled, it felt like missing pieces were filling up inside of him, and he laid his head on Dudley’s shoulder to hide how overwhelmed he looked. He knew he’d be foolish to say anything like that on the first night.

“Do you want to go to my room?” he whispered quietly. George nodded and Dudley slowly slipped out of his body. They both hissed at the sensation. They stood to gather their clothes, and George cast a cleaning charm on both of them, earning a sardonic smirk from Dudley.

He followed Dudley to his room, groaning in relief as he saw a large fluffy and welcoming bed. Dudley crawled into bed and sighed, beckoning George over. George slipped between the covers carefully, trying not to reveal how overwhelmingly nervous he was. Tonight was going to be the first night since he lost Fred that George had ever slept in the same room with someone, and the first time since he was a very small lad that he had ever slept in the same bed as anyone else. He bit his tongue to keep the questions from spewing out.

He rolled over, away from Dudley, and took a deep breath to calm himself. When Dudley’s warm body scooted up against his, George sighed in relief. He leaned his head back, allowing Dudley to rest his whiskered chin on George’s shoulder. It would take a while to get used to, but George finally held on to more hope than he had felt in years. He wanted to laugh out loud for no reason, and for every reason.

He did, a few moments later, and Dudley joined him.

And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.