"It's good to see you, Harry," Dudley said, raising his hand in greeting.
Harry took the proffered hand and shook it. "You too, Big D."
"Let me show you the problem." Harry followed Dudley into the building and they climbed two flights of stairs before they reached the door to Dudley's flat.
Harry took a deep breath and braced himself. He really didn't mind his cousin anymore but dealing with his aunt and uncle still didn't exactly thrill him.
Dudley opened the door and they both went inside the small flat, made all that much smaller by the fact that the sitting room was full of Dursleys.
"You're back, Dudders!" Petunia said. Harry watched as her expression changed almost comically as she took sight of him. Eyes wide, she mouthed, "Harry?"
He grinned. "Hello, Aunt Petunia." She nudged Vernon but he couldn't seem to draw his eyes away from the telly Dudley had mounted on the wall.
It was rather nice. High definition, forty-two inch widescreen, and LCD with internet. Harry had actually had his eye on the same model but he was hoping the price would come down. He moved closer to the telly, almost as if drawn by magic….
That thought made him jump back and turn toward Dudley. "Bloody hell."
"Yeah," Dudley said. "I couldn't get up off the sofa for days when I first got the thing."
Harry caught a glimpse of the football match out of the corner of his eye, suddenly desperate to know how Newcastle were doing this year, but he realised what was happening and shook his head to clear it.
"Can we go in the kitchen or something?" he said. "Have a beer? I think I need one."
Dudley started walking away but called over his shoulder, "Actually beer seems to make it worse."
Once out of the range of the telly, Harry was able to think more clearly again. "I've never seen anything like it."
"There were several models just like that one—" Dudley started but Harry cut him off laughing.
"That's not what I meant." Dudley poured two glasses of sparkling water and handed Harry one. "Thanks. I meant it seems like there is some sort of spell or enchantment on it."
They sat down at the kitchen table. "It doesn't seem like it affects Mum the way it did me and Dad. Although there was a day that BBC had half the current series of Antiques Roadshow on and she barely moved."
"Interesting." Harry looked at Dudley and furrowed his brow. "How did you get free of its thrall?"
"Well, as I said, at first it was terrible. Honestly, I would just watch programme after programme, constantly flipping through the channels to find something new to watch."
"Do you have Sky?" Harry asked, finding himself a bit jealous. Grimmauld Place really needed a revamp if he was ever going to be able to watch Top Gear.
"It's brilliant! Let's go back out there and I'll show you." Dudley's eyes took on a glassy look and Harry gasped.
"No, Dudley!" Dudley blinked a few times and shook his head.
"Wow, thanks, Harry." Dudley finished his drink. "You see the problem?"
"I do. Now I just have to figure out what to do about it."
"Dudley, dear?" Petunia called from other room. "Would you bring your father some crisps? He loves the prawn ones."
Dudley got up and went to the pantry door.
"Are you sure that's a good idea, Dudley?"
"What do you mean?" Dudley turned holding the bag of crisps.
"Well, you said beer seemed to make it worse, right?" Dudley nodded. "Maybe eating crisps and that sort of thing does as well. When was the last time Uncle Vernon took a break from the telly?"
"He's been sitting there since yesterday. We just pulled out the sofabed and he and Mum slept there."
"You see what I mean? We need to find a way to get him away from the telly."
"Let me give him the crisps and then we'll figure something out."
"All right. That'll work." Harry watched as Dudley went back out to the sitting room. He was so lost in thought that he didn't realise how much time had passed but when he heard the clock chime four, he jumped up and ran to the sitting room.
All three Dursleys were enthralled by the telly, his aunt and uncle on the sofa and Dudley in a chair.
"Dudley!" he said but Dudley shushed him.
"Second half just started. Chelsea scored just before the half." He then turned back to the telly. Harry found his eyes drawn to the pretty green grass, the little white ball that flew down the pitch. It was just like magic….
Forty-seven minutes later, Harry blinked. Then blinked again.
"What the bloody buggering fuck just happened?"
"Language, boy," Vernon said, the first words he'd spoken to Harry directly the entire afternoon. "Chelsea managed to squander their lead is what just happened."
"That's not what I meant!" Harry groaned. How had he been sucked in as well? He had to get out of Dudley's flat and think.
"Who wants fish and chips?" Dudley asked.
"Remember the mushy peas, Dudders. Your father needs his veg," Petunia said, cuddling up to Vernon's side.
Harry felt sick. "Listen, Dudley, I have got to get out of here to try and figure out what's going on."
"But Harry, Top Gear is on later."
"Top Gear?" Harry swallowed.
"Uh-huh." Dudley grinned.
"Bring me the haddock if they have it then, I don't care for the cod."
"Will do." Dudley left the flat and Harry, unable to resist the pull any longer, sat down in his chair.
"I'm getting a beer for your uncle," Petunia said, somewhere to his left. "Would you care for one?" Harry turned slowly, convinced he was imagining things but his aunt was standing there, expression cross, but clearly waiting for an answer.
"Thanks, Aunt Petunia, that'd be great." She made some sort of noise and headed toward the kitchen.
His aunt had offered him a drink. Harry sat in stunned silence until she returned, not really believing it wasn't a joke until she handed him a cold bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale.
He was halfway through the bottle when Dudley returned with the fish and chips. They spent a companionable evening together, the telly their constant companion.
Perhaps the world had gone mad, Harry thought to himself as he curled up in Dudley's guest room. Well, it was his tiny office and the bed was a fairly uncomfortable put-me-up but he sighed happily.
Who would have ever thought he could spend a day with his aunt, uncle, and cousin and not want to kill anyone?
Everything changed the following morning when Aunt Petunia insisted on watching The Morning Show but Uncle Vernon was having none of it.
"It's just one little programme, Vernon, darling, and then you can watch whatever you want," Petunia soothed.
"What am I supposed to do now?" Vernon scowled at her.
"Why not take a nice bath? You've been rather attached to the telly the last few days, after all."
Harry turned away, not wanting to think about how long his uncle had sat there without showering.
"All right," Vernon grunted. "When I get back, we're putting on my programme."
"Of course, dear." Petunia turned back to the telly, eyes glued to the actress or whomever it was being interviewed. She was a rather attractive woman, not that Harry was all that interested in women but he knew what a good looking one was supposed to look like.
"Hmm." He turned back toward Dudley.
"What are we going to do? I had hoped to have my parents gone sooner rather than later." Dudley looked hopeful and Harry felt a bit guilty he'd been drawn in by the damnable telly himself.
"Sorry, Dudley. The thing is rather addicting, isn't it?"
"You should see Formula 1 in HD. It's bloody brilliant." Drawn into the new conversation, Harry once again was lost.
It was two, possibly three days later when a knock came to the door. Dudley looked at Harry who shrugged.
"I'm not expecting anyone."
Dudley opened the door and nearly jumped back, white as a sheet. Harry's brain finally caught up with what he was seeing. The scowling countenance of Severus Snape, darkening Dudley's door.
"It's for me, Dudley." Harry jumped up and shut the door behind Snape, while Dudley went and stood behind his parents, who fortunately were too enthralled by Cash in the Attic to be paying any attention. "What are you doing here, Professor?"
"I might ask you the same question, Professor Potter." Snape was trying to put on a frightening expression, Harry was sure of it, but once you'd seen a man nearly die, somehow it didn't have the same effect as it used to. "You have been away from Hogwarts for three days."
"Three days? It can't be." Harry thought back over the programmes they'd watched and realised perhaps Snape was right. "Today's Monday, then?"
"Precisely. Your classes have been informed you are unwell which is certainly true."
"Hey!" Harry frowned, although he was rather disgusted with himself.
"May I ask what exactly you are doing here with these Mug—" Harry would have laughed but he didn't dare when Snape's eyes travelled over the other occupants of the room. His eyes widened and then narrowed when they fell on Aunt Petunia. "No…." he said more to himself than Harry.
"Oh, yes. That's Aunt Petunia. Let me re-introduce you." Harry walked between the Dursleys and the telly, practically the only way to get their attention.
"Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, might I introduce my employer, Headmaster Severus Snape." Vernon turned first, his face screwed up immediately.
"Another freak, like you, boy?"
"Pretty much, yeah." Harry grinned. Petunia's face went through the same series of expressions as Snape's had which made it doubly funny.
By then Snape had got his bearings though and gave a mock bow. "In the flesh, Petunia."
"Oh my," Petunia said, barely more than a whisper, and she slumped over in a faint.
"Well, as lovely as this reunion has been, might we leave now, Potter?" Snape said, arms crossed over his chest.
"Actually, Professor, I came in the first place because my cousin needed my help." Harry indicated Dudley who was white but still upright. "His telly is under some sort of spell or enchantment. We can't seem to get away from it for more than a few moments."
Snape walked toward the telly and examined it closely. Keeping his wand out of view, he cast several spells on it then frowned. Slipping his wand back into his pocket, he reached along the top and bottom of it. Just when Harry was about to ask what he was doing, the screen went black.
"What have you done?" Vernon cried out, his face purple with rage.
Snape whipped around and glared. "I turned it off." He looked at Harry with an expression of utter revulsion. "There are no charms, no magic on the item in question. The only compulsion to keep watching the damn thing comes from the programmes themselves, which if I recall, are fairly mind-numbing, hence the inability to get off the sofa."
"Yes, 'oh'. Now if you'd like to return to your job, Potter, we should be going." Snape walked over and stood at the door, clearly waiting for Harry to say his goodbyes.
Dudley came out from behind the sofa when Harry went to shake his hand. "Thanks for coming, Harry."
"Thank Professor Snape," Harry said laughing. "If it was just me, we might have been stuck here forever."
Dudley's eyes widened again as he looked over Harry's shoulder at Snape. "I'll just let you thank him for me, yeah?"
"Sure thing, Big D. As soon as your mum comes around, I'd take them both home before someone gets the idea to turn the thing back on. And you might want to limit yourself to one programme a day. I don't want to have to come back here."
"Not even if Top Gear is on?" Dudley smiled wickedly and Harry burst out laughing.
"Maybe for that." Harry looked at Snape again, who was looking impatient, although really that wasn't all that unusual. "I'd better go."
Dudley nodded and clapped him on the back. "See you at Christmas."
"Definitely." Harry walked by his aunt and uncle, who was cowering on the sofa, and grinned when he reached Snape.
"My hero," Harry said and pressed a kiss to Snape's cheek. The colour that flooded Snape's normally sallow cheeks made the risk of imminent death more than worth it.
"What on earth are you on about?" Snape seemed flustered in spite of his harsh tone.
"You've rescued me yet again. You seem to do that a lot."
"You clearly need a minder," Snape said and pulled the door open, stepping back so Harry could walk through first.
"Are you applying for the job?" Harry asked, enjoying the byplay.
Snape pulled the door shut and then stepped closer to Harry, their bodies only inches apart. "Are there any other applicants?" he said softly, breath tickling Harry's cheek.
"No." Harry let his eyes fall closed and pressed his lips to Snape's. It was brief and chaste but when Harry opened his eyes, the heat in Snape's made his knees weak.
"Good." Snape grasped his arm and they Disapparated away.