Dudley sat on the edge of his bed, eyes unfocused. He couldn't fall asleep, though his mother had tenderly tucked him in more than an hour before. He didn't really want to think about the events of tonight but they kept unspooling in his mind, playing over and over. He shook himself. Maybe if he had something to eat? No, some of the Scotch in the living room was much more likely to make him feel better. His parents had gone to bed ages ago. They'd never hear him and as for his cousin- well, he'd just love Harry to interfere.
Dudley trod quietly across the room and opened his door. He listened carefully for a moment; nothing was stirring. He walked across the landing and eased down the stairs, avoiding the damp patches in the hall where sickness had been wiped up a few hours earlier. He picked up the decanter, but no, better not. If he took half: he could make it up with water, Dad wouldn't notice. If he did, he could probably be made to believe Harry had drunk it. Dudley's hands curled into fists. He carried the decanter into the kitchen, poured half into a large glass and filled the decanter at the tap. He set it back into its place and silently climbed up the stairs to his room. He sat down and studied the floor. Dudley raised the glass and took a large gulp, gasping as the liquor burned his throat. Hurriedly putting the glass down, he took some deep breaths and blinked rapidly. The back of his head was feeling awfully funny and he remembered hazily that he had not eaten dinner. Nothing since lunch, in fact. He took a smaller sip. Warmth spread along his limbs, making his fingers tingle. He swayed, sitting on the bed. This was better.
As his will weakened, the events of the night rose up in his mind. He remembered with some satisfaction the young kid backing away from him, being caught by Piers- held with hands hard behind his back- the fear in his eyes; he, Dudley, had not even had to touch him, the kid had dissolved into tears and begged to be let go. They had let him go, too, tonight. Unpredictability was always more intimidating than simple violence. He grunted a stifled laugh. But then the pictures continued: Harry needling him, teasing him- Harry, whom he was unable to punish like he deserved, who had that unfair advantage- Dudley's hands were curled into fists again. He knew about Harry's abnormality; he knew it and hated it. He had always hated Harry. Before, it had been enough that he was there, in Dudley's house, taking attention- meagre attention but some- from Dudley. Now it was worse, more deadly.
He took another sip and another. Harry. Mum and Dad said it was a disgusting abnormality and of course it was but it was so unfair- why should Harry be able to do magic? To have a wand- to be able to cast spells- to ride a broomstick- Dudley had broken into the cupboard under the stairs several summers before; he knew what Harry possessed. He'd even read parts of some of the textbooks. Harry was learning to change- stuff- into other stuff, to do charms- to make things fly and disappear. Dudley had no doubt that at some point Harry would learn to make gold if he wanted to, he would never have to work. He would be rich. He would be able to make people like him- curse people he disliked- have girls hanging off him- it was so bloody unfair. The injustice burned in his mind.
As he took another sip, the memory of the attack returned. Dementors. Dudley shuddered. That was worse than unfair. In Dudley’s view, placing him at risk of such an attack was worse than anything else Harry had done. In all his life, Dudley had never known anything so dreadful. He had felt that everything was at an end, remembered every horrible thing, recalled the mortification of seeing and hearing nurses and one very well-paid surgeon snigger at his tail; the early times at Smeltings when he'd not had the power or status to face down the older bully boys; his private misery when he had overheard comments about his size and unimpressive academic achievements. His parents could try to soothe and explain away his results but Dudley knew the truth. Even there, Harry beat him.
Dudley knew Harry had never seen his own school reports. As his guardians, the reports were addressed to Mr and Mrs Dursley. His parents threw them out before Harry knew they had come; he might not even be aware that they were sent, Dudley did not know. But Dudley had retrieved them from the dustbin and looked through them. Harry achieved far better marks for his weirdo subjects than Dudley managed in his own. He shook his head; he did not want to think about school at all.
No matter how many times he tried to get the upper hand- tried to squash his cousin down- Harry always managed to wriggle out of it somehow.
He sipped the Scotch again and his mind returned to the alley. He writhed to remember that after the aching cold and ghastly memories had receded, he had stayed curled up on the ground. That mad old woman had kicked at him to get up but, sick and faint, he was incapable. Harry helped him up and supported him home. His face burned as he remembered vomiting in front of his parents and cousin. Even though Harry looked to be in all kinds of trouble with those in charge of his weird, deviant lot, Dudley was still filled with shame by the knowledge that he had witnessed Dudley’s reaction to magic. It was unbearable that Harry had seen him like that. Dudley felt sick again, knowing that he was powerless to hurt Harry when Harry had ruined his life, simply by being there and moving year by year towards autonomy and privilege.
He realized- with ferocious anger- Harry's autonomy came at the cost of their safety- his, his mother's, his father's. Whatever mess and rubbish his aunt and the low-life she married had been involved in, it had cost the lives of herself and her husband, orphaned her son and put her sister and her sister's family at risk. No facile ability to create gold or popularity was worth it, Dudley decided. His father was right: magic was a delusion and a snare, an abnormality that lured decent people into a revolting, base and sordid way of life where nothing could be depended upon, everything was twisted and- and just plain wrong.
The most horrifying thing for Dudley was his mother giving legitimacy- credence- to those creatures and to have seen in her some kind of wordless appreciation for the rubbish Harry had been saying. As he finished off the Scotch and fell back onto the bed a shocking memory flashed briefly into his mind: his mother receiving an owl post, a personal communication from one of them. It must have been a threat, he realized through his alcoholic haze. His mother would never voluntarily have contact with them; no doubt she had to go along with their demands and keep her nephew here, lest they take revenge on her or her family. On him, on his father. Through increasing dizziness, he knew his security demanded the eviction of his cousin from his house and his life. As he turned over and darkness began to blanket his mind, he grimly vowed that somehow, someday he would get rid of him. Harry would pay.