The Sugar Quill
Author: Moon Goddess (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Breach In the Wall  Chapter: PART ONE Chapter One: Dudley's Deepest Desire
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Dudley's Deepest Desire

A/N: This chapter contains a profanity.


PART ONE


Dudley’s Deepest Desire (begins as OotP ends)

===

Aunt Petunia looked both frightened and embarrassed. She kept glancing around, as though terrified somebody she knew would see her in such company. Dudley, meanwhile, seemed to be trying to look small and insignificant, a feat at which he was failing extravagantly. – OotP p 868


“The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you.” – Dumbledore, HBP p 55

===

Petunia gaped in horror as the group approached, anxiously wanting to flee. What could they want? After Dumbledore’s howler, she no longer knew what to expect. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Usually, it was like there was an invisible wall that separated the two worlds. Usually, they simply waited near the entrance, detached and disinterested, until Harry said his goodbyes and was ready to go. Only then did they acknowledge his existence with anything more than an occasional, impatient scowl in his direction. And only then did Harry acknowledge them. But today, at King’s Cross, he was heading straight toward them, accompanied by a posse of ten, including two young girls. Is one of them, her? Has Dumbledore betrayed me? Am I about to be exposed? Here? Now? Would they be so insensitive as to confront me, without warning, in public, with no chance to prepare Vernon or Dudley? The thought of Vernon’s reaction terrified her. Wishing she could disappear, she glanced around, but there was no escape. So instead, she furtively studied the girls. One of them had red hair -- a different shade than Lily’s, but not that different. Is that her? Longing, resolution, and a vague sense of relief churned beneath the fear that swept over her. But no, Petunia realized that all six of the redheads in the group had a family resemblance. And the other girl had been greeted by a couple that she resembled, so it wasn’t her either. Were Dumbledore and her daughter waiting nearby then? She quickly searched the surrounding faces for any familiarity.




Dudley slouched and stuck his hands in his pockets, quickly adopting the practiced look of many fifteen-year-olds. A look that stated, ‘these embarrassing people can’t possibly be with me, and if they are, then I’m not really here.’ It came quite naturally and seemed to work. While attention was focused on his dad, he even managed to shrink backwards toward a pillar. Trying to look totally disinterested, he removed a sweet from his pocket, unwrapped it and stuffed it in his mouth. On the pretense of throwing the wrapper in a rubbish bin -- which he purposely missed -- he slipped around the pillar, leaving his parents to deal with any unpleasantries. They wouldn’t mind. They treated him like a child that needed protecting from every little thing anyway. He had felt the fear for as long as he could remember. A stifling fear that prevented him from trying new things. Afraid that I can’t manage even the simplest things on my own. Afraid that I’m incapable, inadequate, not good enough, stupid! He thought about that joke where turkeys drowned in a rainstorm: too dumb to close their beaks when looking up to see where the rain came from. That’s how they made him feel. So Dudley bullied others to prove that he could take care of himself -- at least to himself, if not to his parents, who remained naively oblivious. With all the underlying belittling fear, and simpering pampering he experienced, Dudley would have thought they would show some interest in, or inkling of, his real life. But, it was Harry who garnered all their attention. Oh of course, they doted on Dudley, offering praise and compliments, especially when Harry was there to see, but in reality, they were much too busy watching, worrying and complaining about every little thing Harry did, to do much more than buy Dudley off with sweets and gifts. Dudley had to admit being glossed over in this manner had its advantages. He got everything he wanted. He got away with everything. Still, it hurt to know their actions were motivated more out of hate for Harry than regard for their own son. Someday I’ll prove to them that I deserve some respect. Then they’ll stop treating me like a pampered puppy. ‘Good Boy, here’s another biscuit and a squeaky toy. Now go and play so that we can get back to our unceasing Harry this and Harry that . . .’ not that he ever wanted to be treated like Harry. No, he feared how completely they could withhold their love.


Before he found out that Harry was a wizard, he had no idea what Harry had done to deserve their wrath, but was thankful that he had somehow avoided the same fate. Still, there were times when he was envious. At least they always treated Harry like he should, and could, take care of himself. Non of that sickening, ‘poor little Diddykins! Did you get a booboo today?’ that he endured even now, after one of his boxing matches. How embarrassing! How demeaning! He hated it. He was sick and tired of being treated like a baby. I’m not a child anymore! I can do things on my own. I’m not as stupid as everyone thinks. I’m sick of being, ‘the Dud!’


Dudley tilted his head back against the pillar and frowned at the ceiling. He could feel the pressure building behind his eyes and squeezed them shut to stop it. Look Mum, I’m drowning. Smirking slightly at his own joke, Dudley noticed how cool the tiles felt against his back. Cool and reassuring. More than he could say about his parents. They never made him feel reassured or self-assured about anything. Well, at least he could act cool. Duh!

 

Damn Dementors! He didn’t feel cool. He felt depressed. Damn Dementors! Damn Dementors! It had become his internal rant. He resumed his slouch, wishing he had a fag. Not that he could smoke it with Mum and Dad around. Instead he chewed at a ragged fingernail. At the sound of laughter he lifted his gaze. A group of girls was giggling and shyly glancing his way. Maybe, he thought ironically, I should thank those damn dementors.


He had been sick after the dementors’ attack; couldn’t keep much of anything down for most of last summer. By the time he returned to school, he had lost some weight. His coach decided he’d be more successful in the middleweight class, instead of heavyweight, plus that’s where the boxing team was weakest, so Coach put him on a strict diet. Since he was feeling down and had lost much of his appetite, anyway, Dudley didn’t mind. He was still hefty, “brawny” as Dad called it, but more muscled than he had ever been. And girls seemed to find attractive his new sullen, brooding attitude. “Something different in the eyes,” he had overheard one whisper as he had sauntered past a group of girls after winning one of his bouts this spring. He had only recently begun testing his new found popularity and under normal circumstances, he would have made eye contact, smiled and hoped for the best. But these weren’t normal girls and he didn’t want anything to do with them. He was about to return nonchalantly to his fingernail when another of the girls glanced his way. Dudley caught his breath as their eyes met for the briefest of moments. Then she turned away, unaware of her effect on him. Dudley’s mouth dropped open. Frozen, he continued gazing after her. He had never seen anyone more beautiful.


“I’ve heard a rumor there’s a mirror at our school that reflects not your face, but your heart’s desire.”


Dudley jumped at the unexpected voice beside him. “Huh?” he mumbled as he reluctantly twisted his head toward a girl with large protruding eyes and stringy blond hair.


“I was just saying there’s a mirror . . . but you obviously don’t need it.”


“Get lost,” Dudley snapped, returning his attention to the lovely vision on the other side of the platform. But the girl continued to study him with certain fascination, much as if he were an unknown object that she was trying to make sense of. After a few moments, Dudley could no longer ignore her annoying presence. He turned so that he was towering over her, a mean, intimidating smirk on his face. He leaned in until he was only inches above her and snarled, “Scram, you’re too ugly to stand near me.”


The girl looked up at him with her large, misty, slightly familiar eyes. Dudley had the feeling that she was looking deep inside of him. Then a satisfied smile played across her lips as if someone had whispered a pleasant secret in her ear. “Doesn’t work anymore, does it?” she asked quizzically, tilting her head to one side.


“Huh?” Dudley grunted, surprised by her friendly reaction and perturbed that she hadn’t taken offense or backed down.


“Trying to make yourself feel better by making others feel worse. Hasn’t worked since the dementors, has it?”


“WHAT!?” Dudley involuntarily shrank back, his face pale with horror.


“Oh, I’m sorry. I guess it’s not polite to bring them up. They are a really unpleasant experience, aren’t they? But, I’m curious, if you don’t mind. I overheard some kids saying that Muggles couldn’t see dementors, and if they couldn’t see them, they wouldn’t believe in them. But I think they’re mistaken. I believe in lots of things I can’t see. And I think Muggles do to. Or perhaps, you’re a special Muggle and actually saw them? After all, you are Harry’s cousin, aren’t you? I saw you with him just now. My dad wrote about you and your encounter with the dementors in his newspaper, The Quibbler.


“Why’d he write about me? I didn’t do anything,” Dudley mumbled. And then louder, “Get lost, will ya?” After a moment, and for no reason that he could name, Dudley gruffly added, “Please.”


The girl tilted her head in the other direction and Dudley had an odd sense of vertigo. He thought for a moment that her eyes might roll off her face. When he regained his equilibrium she was speaking in an amazed tone. “You’re really quite modest. I didn’t expect that. I know Harry drove them off with his Patronus, but you survived the attack. I’ve heard that some wizards have been driven crazy by their encounter.”


Dudley felt uncomfortable and shifted his feet. He wasn’t used to anyone talking to him like this and wasn’t sure how to respond. To hide his embarrassment he returned his attention to the girl with the long braid who was laughing with her friends. It was a wonderful, musical, lilting laugh.


“I know her name.”


“Who?”


“Your deepest desire. She’s very pretty, isn’t she? She’s in Hufflepuff and she’s actually very nice . . . even to me.” Dudley searched for a biting retort, ready to attack at the first sign of weakness, but there was no hint of self-pity in her voice as she continued. “Do you want to know her name?”


Dudley sucked in his breath. The exquisite beauty was walking away. “No!” he exclaimed, emphatically louder than necessary. Under his breath, in an almost inaudible whisper he added, “some dumb, silly witch isn’t my deepest desire.”


“No, of course not. But that’s not the reason you don’t want to know her name. It’s because you think you’re not good enough and that she could never like you. That we’re too different. But you’re wrong.”


“WHAT!?”


“Well, you are a little different from us. I mean you’re not a wizard, but you’re practically one of us, and very much like us, being Harry’s cousin and all.”


Dudley puffed himself up and snarled, “What do you mean us? We ain’t anything! You’re one of them. I can’t even stand to know that you exist. How can you think I’m anything like you?”


“Because, you are.”


“I don’t even know you. We have nothing in common.”


Her eyes held steady for once, but their dreamy focus was behind the surface of his face. Again he felt strangely unbalanced and vulnerable. “Are you sure?” she said, smiling.


“Damn . . .”


“Dementors?” She softly inserted.


Dudley stared at her. “YOU’RE . . .YOU’RE CRAZY!”


“Actually ‘loony’ is the word you want. That’s what they call me at school. But let’s not talk about me.


“Huh?”


“You know, you can be whoever you want to be. You’re capable. It’s your choice. My dad says that no one is the sum total of their history. That one can always choose a new tomorrow. . . . Oh, I almost forgot. It’s here somewhere . . . the reason I came over in the first place.” The girl rummaged through her pockets. “Harry looked kind of busy. . . . Here it is.”


Dudley watched stunned as the girl pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket, and opened it to reveal a half-eaten chocolate frog with one leg still twitching. She popped the frog into her mouth, then smoothed the paper as best she could against the pillar. Folding the wrinkled paper into quarters, she held it out toward Dudley. “Will you please give this to Harry for me?” she mumbled around the chocolate frog.


“No, no I can’t!” Dudley jumped back as if she was offering him a poisonous snake.


“Please, it’s important.” Then as if suddenly understanding his alarm she added, “It’s not magical. It won’t hurt you. I’d never intentionally hurt you. I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone unless I had to. I think I feel that way because we’re all connected. One big spider web, you know.”


“I – I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” Dudley stammered while backing away. “And I’m really sorry, but I can’t. You see, Harry and I . . .”


The girl, following him around the pillar, was still holding the folded piece of paper out toward him, but her eyes were seeing beyond him and Dudley realized that she was no longer listening.


Distractedly she murmured, “Oh, okay. Never mind. Is that your mum and dad? I would like to meet them. I suppose I’ll just give the note to Harry myself . Or maybe I could get my dad to bring me by your house later for a visit. I’m sure he would love to interview you all.


A shiver of fear sped down Dudley’s spine. His parents would be outraged if they found out he had, even inadvertently, “invited” this strange girl over. He grabbed the note. “I’ll give it to Harry. No need for you to come by.” And with that he stuffed the note in his shirt pocket and pivoted so quickly that he banged his knee on the rubbish bin.


He was just a few short steps behind his parents. His face matched theirs, twisted with fear and horror. Dazed, he barely heard as the one with the weird eye said, “So, Potter . . . give us a shout if you need us. If we don’t hear from you for three days in a row, we’ll send someone along . . .”


His mum whimpered, but he was too stricken to follow the rest of Harry’s goodbyes. Finally, Harry smiled, raised his hand, and mercifully led them out of the station and onto the sunlit street.

//
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