Dudley had to take a breath when he got to the pub a little earlier than scheduled. He had rushed here, not wanting to be late. It would look like he had regretted or he was trying a power grab or something like that and that was the worst second first impression to make. Now he was breathing hard and probably pink in the face. He couldn't see Harry anywhere thankfully, so he had a chance to get a drink and calm down.
He swallowed half his lemonade in one go before he considered that maybe he should space it out. Nerves were overtaking him and he had to stop his foot tapping against the floor when the woman on the table next to his gave him a weird look. This was a momentous occasion, the first time he and Harry had seen each other since that dark wizard had tried to come after their family. It was also the first time they had really interacted without Dudley's parents being there, after the Dementor attack Dudley hadn't the nerve to approach Harry, instead leaving cups of tea outside his door in the hopes that Harry would understand the token of reconciliation and be the braver of the two.
Another glance at the door and Dudley swallowed drank some more of his drink. It was too early for lunch, just gone midday, so the pub was relatively empty. It was a sunny spring day but the wind was too cold to sit outside, though some people were valiantly trying in the pub garden. Dudley watched a little girl pet her shaggy, golden dog and laugh up at her dad and wondered if his daughter would do that as well. His girlfriend was due in August and every time he looked at her stomach, he couldn't believe that soon he was going to be a dad. It was also the push he needed to contact his cousin and get a chance to set things straight. Harry might tell him to push off home and never attempt to contact him again but at least Dudley would have tried. He didn't have much family, only his parents and his aunt and neither he or Jenny would let her family anywhere near their kid. His daughter would be related to Harry and she deserved a chance to know him.
"Dudley?" The familiar voice had Dudley startling, nearly spilling the rest of his drink over the table. His cousin stood there, tall and lean as ever. His bright green eyes shone out of his tan face and his hair still looked the same as when Dudley's dad would yell at Harry to comb it.
"Harry, hi." A split second delay and he held his hand out, feeling ridiculous but knowing it would have been far more awkward if he hadn't done so. Harry looked bemused but shook his hand all the same and sat down opposite Dudley at the table. Behind Harry there was a vaguely familiar lanky redhead with pale, freckled skin and a woman with bushy brown hair that seemed to add a couple of inches to her height. They were staring at Dudley and not in an altogether friendly way.
"Ignore them, Dudley," Harry said and Dudley turned back to his cousin. Harry was looking at the two strangers with a fond look on his face. "They're my friends, I couldn't get them to stay at home. Ginny's looking after James otherwise I think she would be here as well."
That was a lot of names Dudley didn't know but it was also more than Harry normally said to him so he really didn't want to interrupt.
"Are they going to come over here or...?"
Harry shook his head. He was looking at Dudley now, examining him carefully and Dudley wondered how he was measuring up. He knew that he had grown into his face and shoulders and thanks to continuing his boxing and relatively careful eating, his physique was more broad than round but he still had the same round face and blonde hair that did nothing but lie flat against his head. Not even gel could do much with it. "I was surprised when I got your letter." Harry's voice became a lot quieter when he said this, as if he didn't want anyone to overhear.
"Yeah, I can guess." Dudley looked down at his drink and took a deep breath. He had practiced what he was going to say but now he was here, he couldn't remember a single word. "The thing is, I wasn't sure whether you would want to hear from me. My parents... I love them but they were shit to you." And it had taken a long time for Dudley to see that. It was hard to reconcile that him loving them because they were his parents and them being horrible people weren't mutually exclusive
"Yeah, yeah they were." Dudley looked up to see Harry giving him a wry smile, though there was no humour in it. "Sometimes I feel sympathetic towards them. It can't have been easy to deal with a magical child with a Dark Lord after him being dumped on your doorstep after all." Harry glanced over at the two people who had accompanied him. "But then I look at James and I think if someone treated him the same way they treated me, I would kill them." Harry's tone didn't change, didn't become angry or quiet or anything, but there was something in his eyes that said he meant the words. "I know this probably wasn't what you wanted to hear."
"It's better than if you had tried to justify it," Dudley replied honestly. If Harry had sat across from him and said that they didn't treat him that bad or it could have been worse, Dudley might have hit something and they would have been thrown out. He didn't hit people anymore, apart from when he had his boxing gloves on, but sometimes he had trouble managing his anger. Jenny had helped him hang a punching bag in their garage because she had told him that if he ever raised his fists around her or their kid, she was leaving and not coming back. It helped but the boxing at the gym helped more. "So what happened with the Voldy guy? Dedalus and Hestia left to go fight and then someone came back to tell us that Voldemort was dead and we were free to go home." Not that there had been much of a home to go to. His dad had been spitting mad for weeks until his mother had enough of the yelling and told him it was better off than all of them being dead.
Harry let out a breath. "You're going to want to get another drink for this." Dudley obeyed and as he worked his way down his second lemonade, he listened to Harry give an abbreviated account of how he defeated the Dark Lord Voldemort. Harry was a crap storyteller, he kept having to explain bits to Dudley that he missed out, but it did leave Dudley with an impression of what his cousin had to do. The bad wizard who had killed his parents and hundreds of other people and then he was told that he was the only one who could defeat him.
"Holy shit," Dudley said when Harry was done. "That sounds... fucking hell, Harry." He couldn't imagine what he would do in the same position. Probably change his name and run away to Australia.
"Yeah, I know right?" Harry grinned and this one was far more genuine. "At least it's all over. The Wizarding World is still rebuilding and that is going to take a while but it hasn't even been ten years yet. There's still time." He took a sip of his own drink, coke from the looks of it. He hadn't had to refill his drink but it never seemed to run out from what Dudley saw. "How about you, Dudley? What have you been up to?"
Dudley thought back over the years since he had last seen Harry. The first few years had been pretty shit, his grades were too bad for uni and his parents hadn't really worried about him finding a job. He had started working with his dad, living at home, and then become depressed. His mum and dad were clueless about to deal with him, especially when Dudley started to question exactly why they hated magic so much as to treat a kid like they had Harry. They were not good years for him to think about. "Lots of things," he said, brushing over the worst of it. Their first meeting in years was not the time to bring up how Dudley got fired from his job because his attitude got worse the worse he felt or how his father and mother had had screaming arguments about how to deal with him after that. "My girlfriend, Jenny, she's pregnant, about six months along."
"Congratulations, Dudley," Harry said sincerely, raising his glass for an impromptu toast. Dudley clinked their glasses together and gave a small laugh.
"Doesn't feel real to me yet." It probably wouldn't until he was holding that baby in his arms. "What about you? You said something about Ginny and James?"
Harry nodded and reached for his pocket of his jeans. Dudley was surprised he had turned up in normal clothes but Harry hadn't seemed to be too into the long dresses the other wizards and witches had worn. "Yeah. I've got a picture." He pulled out a photo and Dudley had to do a double take as he saw it was a moving photo, like a miniature video in a picture. Harry was there, holding onto a squirming child with bright blue and green striped hair. He was laughing at a pretty, red-haired woman who was holding a bald baby chewing on his fist and grinning around it at the camera. "That's my godson, Teddy. He's pretty unique, even for a wizard, because he can change his appearance at will. That's why the hair. Then there's Ginny and she's holding James, our son."
"She your girlfriend?" Dudley snuck a glance back at the witch and the wizard who had come in with Harry. They had gotten their own drinks and were talking quietly at the bar but Dudley's glance confirmed the resemblance between the man and the woman in the picture.
"Wife," Harry replied and then looked strangely guilty. "We're sorry we didn't invite you to the wedding, Dudley."
Dudley waved it off. There was a faint sense of disappointment, mostly because it would have probably been the only magical wedding Dudley would get a chance to see, but he could well understand why he wasn't invited. "Your family looks great." Next to the new, moving picture, the picture of him and Jenny he pulled out of his wallet was dog-eared and dull in its stillness but he handed it over all the same.
"That's Jenny. She's about a month pregnant in this picture but we didn't know at the time." Harry took the photo with a level of care that made Dudley smile and examined it closely.
"You look really happy," he murmured as he looked at the photo. Dudley wondered what he was thinking about. Jenny was beautiful, but she had a large port-wine birthmark across her face and neck. Her parents had made her feel self-conscious about it, especially considering they hadn't bothered to follow up on the laser treatment to help make it fade, and people's stares didn't help. But Harry had a great big scar on his forehead, if anyone knew about unnecessary staring, it would be him. "Do you know what the baby is going to be?"
"We're having a girl." Dudley was helpless to resist the smile on his face that came up every time someone mentioned the baby. "We've been talking about names but nothing decided yet. Jenny's a bit superstitious, she doesn't want to buy or decide anything until after we know the baby is going to be alright." He took the photo back from Harry and tucked it back into his wallet. "Mum and Dad want us to get married," he said as he kept his eyes down. "They said it isn't proper for a baby to be born to two unmarried people."
"I think your baby having parents who love her is far more important than whether or not they're married." Harry was serious as Dudley looked up. "How long have you and Jenny been going out?"
"Four years now." He looked out the window and thought back to when he and Jenny had first met. "I wasn't having the best of times when I ran into her at the supermarket. She was looking after a friend's kid and the kid managed to headbutt me in the dick." Harry snorted and Dudley grinned. His mother hadn't appreciated the language when Dudley had told her the same story but somehow he knew his cousin wouldn't mind. "She apologised, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and she bought a cup of tea from the supermarket cafe to make up for it. The kid had fallen asleep in his pushchair by that point and we got to talking. We bought a flat together about a year and a half ago."
"It sounds like you landed on your feet, Dudley."
"Took a while but I got there in the end." There was a few moments where neither of them seemed to know what to say.
"So, who are the people you've brought in with you?" Dudley nodded back at the man and the woman who were having a fairly loud conversation about chess of all things.
The look on Harry's face when he looked over at the two of them - well, if Dudley were Ginny, then he would be a little jealous of it. "That's Ron and Hermione. They're my friends."
"The ones who went soul hunting with you?" Harry had mentioned them in his story but Dudley hadn't connected the two. Well, he had never said he was the smartest bulb in the bunch.
"Yeah, that's them. I think they're forgotten that we're here as well." Harry shook his head and turned back to Dudley. "How have your mum and dad being doing?"
"You honestly want to know?" Harry looked a little conflicted but nodded all the same. Dudley shrugged. "They've not been doing much. Jenny really doesn't like them, they remind her of her parents, and they don't approve of us living together and having a baby without any plans to getting married. Mum keeps talking about the shame of the neighbours finding out and Dad is just disappointed I couldn't make it work at Grunnings. But they're continuing on the same as ever. No real change, unfortunately." It would be a lot easier for Dudley if they would just admit that they had been wrong about how they had treated Harry but even a year of living with a witch and a wizard, though Hestia and Dedalus had been gone more often than not, hadn't softened their view. His dad didn't like to mention magic or their year out at all and his mum had periods of time where she would just stare out the back window at the garden, lost in thought. "I wonder how they'll react if my daughter turns out to be magical," Dudley wondered absently. It was something he had thought about, ever since he found his Aunt Lily was the first magical one in the Evans family. Dudley had magical relatives, there was a chance that his daughter could be magical as well.
"She might not be magical, Dudley, it's best not to worry about it before it happens." Harry was trying to be reassuring but Dudley felt like he had gotten the wrong idea.
"I wouldn't mind if she was magical. At least it would be easier to tell Jenny about our daughter's magical cousins that way." Explaining Harry had been a lot harder when he realised he couldn't mention magic without sounding completely mad. It wasn't like he could prove it after all.
"When she's born, we'll have to get her and James on a playdate together. And I would like to meet Jenny," Harry said hesitantly.
"That sounds great, Harry." Dudley grinned.
"Harry, we really have to go." A woman's voice had Dudley turning to see Harry's friends were standing right there. They seemed more relaxed than earlier and when Dudley mustered a small smile, Hermione smiled back. "Ginny is expecting us back by two."
"That late already?" Harry downed the last of his drink and stood up. "It was great seeing you, Dudley." He pulled out a piece of thick, slightly yellowish paper out of his pocket. "Look, here's my phone number. Ginny hates the thing but we got it installed last year at the same time as Hermione got hers. Give me a call when you get home and we'll arrange another time to meet up."
"Good seeing you too, Harry." Dudley followed the three of them out of the pub a few moments later, only for them to have completely disappeared as soon as he got outside. The pub was on a fairly deserted road, surrounded by fields and woods, making it perfect for dog walkers but it meant there was no other way to travel to and from except by car. They had vanished into thin air.
Dudley grinned. He would never admit this out loud, but he hoped his daughter was magical.