The Sugar Quill
Author: Jane (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Family  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Harry couldn't quite grasp the fact that he was back in his old room (rather Dudley's old room) again. After everything that had happened, he couldn't believe that Dumbledore expected him to put up with his obnoxious family.

"Family," sighed Harry. "They're hardly that. Well, never mind. I've got Sirius now, and Ron and Hermione and Hagrid. I don't need my family, and they certainly don't need me."

Harry hadn't been home long enough to do more than clean the bathrooms and mow the lawn, but it hadn't taken long for Uncle Vernon to begin his litany of complaints: "That wretched owl had better behave. If I see it flying about during the day, we'll have owl soup for supper. Don't think I've forgotten that no magic rule either, you revolting urchin, so no monkey business. And go comb your hair!"

Nothing had changed, he thought as he lay staring at the cracked ceiling counting cobwebs, except that they were even ruder than before. Harry hadn't thought it possible.

A quiet knock at the door startled him, and he listened intently, certain that he had imagined it. No one had ever knocked on his door before. If someone in the house wanted his attention (wanted to yell at him more like it) they walked right in, or even better, they just bellowed up the stairs. When Harry saw the light shift under the door, he approached it cautiously. Almost dying ("Several times," he reminded himself ) made a person suspicious. He raised his hand to grasp the doorknob and began to turn it, bracing himself for whatever awaited him on the other side.

It was a sight more hideous than a Blast-Ended Skrewt. Nastier than a Rita Skeeter article. It was Dudley. He had managed to get even fatter since the last time Harry had been away at school. Dudley had about five chins, although it was difficult to be sure, and had grown so big that he had to have his clothes specially made. Harry had heard his Uncle complain about the cost of Dudley's tailor. But Aunt Petunia pointed out that they didn't have much choice, unless they wanted to send Dudley out in robes like Harry wore at his horrid school. Uncle Vernon turned a violent shade of purple and choked that no son of his, "would dress like one of those freakish nancy boy wizards."

Harry was secretly relieved to hear this. He imagined how embarrassing it would be if another wizard saw a Muggle like Dudley trying to dress like one of them. Things were bad enough without the likes of Malfoy getting wind of the sort of Muggles Harry lived with or he would have an endless supply of ammunition to use against Harry, and against Muggles in general. Not that Malfoy needed an excuse to hate Muggles, but the Dursleys were a perfect example of what was wrong with the Muggle world.

Dudley seemed nervous. He kept glancing over his shoulder, and shifting his feet. His face was sweaty and his piggy eyes darted about like Mad Eye Moody's. Dudley gave Harry a rough shove and stepped into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him.

"What's going on, Dudley?"

Harry stumbled on some books when Dudley pushed him, and had nearly fallen. He shoved his glasses up with his forefinger, and spread his feet apart in a fighting stance. His running days were over, he thought grimly. He had defeated a dragon, faced Voldemort twice, and seen a fellow student die. The Dursleys' held little terror for Harry now. Just disgust.

Dudley's voice came out in breathless wheezes,

"You can do magic."

It wasn't a question. Dudley knew very well what magic was like and it terrified him.

Harry's eyes narrowed as he examined Dudley more closely and noticed that he was actually trembling like a great bowl of sweaty jelly. He looked positively terrified. Harry was suddenly pleased with the idea that he had finally earned Dudley's respect. He straightened his shoulders and tossed back his dark hair, exposing his lightening-shaped scar.

"Of course," he answered.

Dudley's eyes fastened on the scar, and he began to shake more violently.

"You have to use magic on me."

Harry's mouth dropped open. If Dudley had pulled out a wand and conjured up a chorus line of pink-clad Snapes dancing the cancan, he couldn't have been more surprised.

"What?"

"I'm too fat. Nobody likes me. Not even Piers. They all laugh at me when I try to sit down at my desk and my bottom won't fit in the seat." Two chubby tears formed in Dudley's small bulging eyes, and began their long journey up and down the pasty hills of his face. "I heard Daddy talking about sending me away to a place were they only feed you turnips and you run about all day to get skinny. I hate turnips. Daddy doesn't want me around anymore. Last time his boss came over, while you were away, he made me stay in my room."

After this amazingly long speech, Dudley took a deep breath and babbled out what he wanted.

"Use magic to make me skinny."

Hedwig hooted in her cage, puffing up her beautiful white feathers slightly and blinking her round amber eyes in owlish surprise at Dudley. Harry's eyes mirrored the shock in his owl's. His world was spinning away from him again. His hands tightened into fists at his sides.

"Why is everything so unpredictable and frustrating?" he thought in despair. Here was Dudley, the loathsome cousin Harry was so comfortable despising, asking him for help. What was the world coming to? What next? Malfoy and Harry joining forces against Voldemort?

Harry opened his mouth to refuse Dudley, but stopped as he looked at Dudley's quivering face. He knew how scared Dudley was of magic, and he was reluctantly impressed with this unexpected display of courage. He was reminded of Neville. Suddenly, he felt sorry for Dudley. It wasn't easy being different. At least at Hogwarts Harry was the butt of only about a quarter of the school's jokes.

"Erm, Dudley. I'm not allowed to do magic during the summer. I could get into a lot of trouble. I could get expelled if I do. It's a serious crime for wizards like me."

Dudley lunged forward and wrapped his beefy hands around Harry's slender neck.

"You don't want to help me. You hate me. You're jealous of my family!"

Desperately, Harry yanked at Dudley's fingers, but he couldn't pry them loose. Dudley was hysterical, and his strength was tremendous. He heard Hedwig hooting frantically, and imagined he could feel a cool breeze from her fanning feathers.

"I have to use magic before he kills me," thought Harry.

A loud yelp, followed by the sweet rush of air into his lungs, interrupted his thoughts. Dudley was swinging wildly at Hedwig who had escaped her cage and was clawing at Dudley's face. Bloody-faced and winded, Dudley collapsed on Harry's bed and began to sob in loud, gurgling gasps that had Harry rushing to the door to listen for Aunt Petunia's footsteps on the stairs. How could he explain his way out of this one?

"Dudley, I'm sorry. I really can't do magic like that," he croaked. "Especially on a Muggle. I'm not allowed, but even if I was, I'm not sure if I could do it with out making you disappear altogether. Or worse." He added the "or worse" in a voice as foreboding as he could muster. It seemed to do the trick. Dudley rolled over, lifted his large head and sniffed a disgusting, wet snort ending in a throaty swallow that had Harry gagging and turning away.

With a shuddering sigh, Dudley struggled to sit up on the bed. It was such a pitiful sight that Harry reached over, grabbed one of his cousin's flailing hands, and pulled him with all his might. Dudley sat upright on the bed and stared at his feet. Or rather, where his feet would be if he could see past his stomach.

"I hate myself," Dudley whispered.

Harry was shocked, again. He wasn't sure if his heart could take it. "Dudley...," he trailed off. What could he say? He hated Dudley, too. At least, he always thought he had, but looking at the forlorn mountain sitting on his bed, he felt ashamed. What would Hagrid think? Harry didn't think he would give Dudley a pig's tail now. Hagrid knew what it was like to be hated because of his size. And Hermione. What would she think? Look how she defended the rights of the house elves with that ridiculous S.P.E.W. business. She believed in standing up for the underdog. This was his family. His cousin. He had to do something to help.

"Er, listen. I don't hate you. You're...," Harry's mind raced for a compliment. Smart? Funny? Nice? Handsome? Good Heavens! "...my cousin, and I have an idea that just might help you. I saw the nurse's notes on the fridge. I could help you do those exercises and eat right, and so on." Harry tried not to wince as he pictured the two of them jogging up and down Privet Drive.

Dudley looked up and stared at Harry. "You really want to help me? But that diet business is horrid. I hate grapefruit."

"I can't shrink you down, but I have some friends who invented some powder that makes everything taste like chocolate." He didn't mention that they were the same friends who invented the Ton-Tongue Toffee. He was certain that Fred and George could find a way to neutralize the nasty side effects of the chocolate powder. "Just sprinkle it on the grapefruit and it will taste brilliant."

Dudley gaped at Harry, and his eyes lit up like an open refrigerator. "Chocolate?" he grinned slightly.

"And I can get you some magical no-calorie sweets. I heard some girls at school talking about them." Harry felt more confident when he remembered this.

The bed began to groan dramatically as Dudley tried to push himself up with his hands. Harry reached out and grabbed Dudley's arm to haul him up. Dudley glanced down at Harry's hand and then back at Harry's face.

"Thanks." He said it so quietly that Harry hardly heard it. "Let me know when you've got that magic choc powder." Then Dudley left the room, peering around the corner to make sure that his father wasn't nearby, and lumbered down the hall to his own room.

After Dudley left, Harry plopped down on his bed, completely befuddled by the unexpected actions of his cousin.

"My cousin." He said in wonderment.

Suddenly, Harry's heart felt lighter at the thought of having relatives.

"Maybe we do need each other," Harry thought as he lay down on his pillow and stared at the ceiling, this time looking past the cobwebs and imagining the sky above.

Crash!

As he lay on his broken bed, listening to his Uncle bellow up the stairs, "Harry Potter! You disgusting little rotter. What have you done now? You'll have to pay for it," Harry closed his eyes and dreamt of orphanages.

//
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