The phone rings. It was an absurd wedding gift from his father in-law, and one which much to Harry’s surprise, had actually worked when he’d plugged it into the landline. Arthur had taken to phoning him on it, just for the pure novelty of the thing—though how they’d managed to get a BT engineer out to the Burrow without causing an incident, Harry doesn’t know. He’s not sure he wants to.
“Uhm,, is this…is this the Potter residence?”
There’s a beat of silence as Harry adjusts the receiver against his ear, not quite sure he’s heard who he thinks he has. “…Dudley?”
“Dudley.” Harry repeats numbly, turning to look at Ginny who is looking at him expectantly, eyebrows raised. “Uh…Christ, Dudley, hi how did…how did you find this number?”
There’s another beat of silence and the crackle of static that might have been a sigh or simply just the line breaking up. “Hi, sorry I know you probably…sorry this was stupid. I uh, I put your name in the computer and this was the only thing that came up.”
“Oh.” Harry breathes, still trying to recover his equilibrium. Ten minutes ago he’d been using his wand to clear away dinner, he’d been getting ready to sit down and read through some reports before putting the kids to bed, and now somehow, he’s talking to his muggle cousin who he hasn’t seen since… “How, how are you?”
“Good, yea” Dudley replies, seeming to rally, “You?”
“Yea, uh, doing well…”
The conversation lasts maybe a half hour, faltering and awkward. But they’re going for a coffee at the end of the week and Harry supposes…that’s…that’s a thing that is happening.
Harry turns and looks up, and looks up some more at the looming figure blocking out the light.
“Dudley,” he says, standing up and hoping the pang of something awful doesn’t show on his face. For a moment he thought he’d been looking at Vernon. “It’s good to see you.”
Dudley gives him a look that says he clearly knows Harry is lying, but is thankful for being humored. “You too, you’re looking good…”
They pass the first few minutes with awkward pleasantries and even more awkward silences. But it’s…nice would be too strong a word, but it’s not bad either. He even manages to get a smile out of him when he calls him Big D, the other man shaking his head with a self depreciating eye roll.
“Dad died,” Dudley says after a while, and Harry feels an icy hot flash go down his spine, curdling in his gut.
“Oh,” he says, not quite sure how he’s supposed to feel about that, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Dudley snorts into his coffee. “Somehow I doubt it.” and it’s not accusing, but Harry still can’t help but feel like he should defend himself. The words they locked me in a cupboard are on the cusp of his tongue but Dudley gets there before him. “There’s a lot of things…looking back…lot of things…” and it’s not an apology, not really. “Took me a long time to realize certain things weren’t right…too long.”
Harry nods at that, because yes, it had also taken him a long time too to understand the full of extent of what had gone on in 4 Privet Drive. He still doesn’t like tight spaces.
“You realize things though, when you have kids,” Dudley carries on, shaking his head, “Like they’re just kids, how can you do that to a kid? They need you for everything.”
And Harry can relate to that too. Lily is three and Ginny is pregnant again and James already has an alarming alacrity for finding trouble and with or without magic Harry doesn’t have enough hands to deal with it all. But he loves it, and he loves them, and the thought of anyone ever treating his children the way he remembers his first eleven years of life is enough to make the electric lights over their head flicker.
“You’ve got kids?”
“Two,” Harry says, “third one on the way. You?”
“Nice. Just the one, so far.” He hands over his phone, the image of a bright young girl with dark skin and tight ringlet curls staring back at him from the grasp of Dudley’s arms. “Effie.” He smiles ruefully at Harry’s obvious surprise. “Dad wasn’t too happy about that either.”
“She’s gorgeous.” Harry says, handing the phone back and pulling out his own wallet to reveal the moving pictures inside.
Dudley flinches a bit at that, but he guffaws broadly when he spies James. “Cor, he don’t half look like you. No glasses though.”
“No,” Harry says, pushing his own glasses back up his nose. “He’s got his mother’s eyes, thankfully.”
“Actually, Harry, there was something I was hoping we could…talk about.”
And ah, there it is. “What about?”
“It’s…it’s about Effie…”
And when he’s done talking Harry just wants to lean back and laugh and laugh and laugh, because of course Vernon Dursley’s granddaughter is a witch, of course she is. But he doesn’t, because Dudley is doing the one thing he can think of to try and help his child, and Harry can’t fault him for that.
They keep in touch after that. Christmas cards, postcards—gifts for the kids on birthdays. The year Effie turns eleven—the same as James—Harry drops a casually long thought out text into the familial void.
“Diagon A this weekend, if you’re up for it?”
The text comes back quickly, a little too quickly for the way Dudders pecks at his phone whenever Harry has seen him typing. “Snds gd, 1st pint on u ;-) - Big D" and a string of beer emojis and winking faces.
It’ll be painfully awkward, it always is. But it’s something.