|Beth H (bethbethbeth) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2010-05-04 13:22:00
|Entry tags:||beholder_2010, dudley dursley, fic, het, millicent bulstrode, millicent/dudley, rating:pg13|
FIC: "When Dudley Met Millicent" for meri_oddities
Title: When Dudley Met Millicent
Pairings: Millicent/Dudley (background Harry/Dean, Ron/Pansy)
Warnings: football, EU regulations, obscure garden problems
Summary: Dudley didn't know what to expect as a visitor in his cousin's world. He certainly wasn't expecting her.
Author's/Artist's Notes: A humble bouquet of thank yous to bethbethbeth for running this excellent show and to my beyond brilliant beta, femmequixotic. meri_oddities, I hope you enjoy this version of your wonderful idea.
Dudley's shoulders didn't slump until he pulled into the parking space and turned off the car. He'd been back at the office for thirty-six hours but had had little time to catch up. The team from Hungary were on site--he hadn't been able to leave until almost eight, and his internal clock was still a little off from the last four weeks he'd spent in Seoul. Normally it only took him half a day to adjust again to the time change, but this trip had been harder somehow. For one thing, everything seemed strangely proportioned. Even here at home, the garage, the stairwell, everything appeared different. It was like an odd form of spatial jet lag.
He took his coat and documents case and laptop, sliding out of the car in a slow shuffle. Fuck the shirts. He'd bring them in tomorrow after his morning run. It would be one more reason to get up early and would force him out of bed. Perhaps. Chances were good he'd end up sleeping in again and cursing as he ran out to the car. He stopped himself. No. Wait. Closing his eyes the way his life coach had told him to do, he visualised himself successfully awake, coming in to the car after a 2 mile circuit to get the shirts. Visualisation was half the road to success, Harrington always said. The other half was a mystery punctuated with hard work. Whatever that meant.
As he lumbered up the stairs, he wondered how many messages Mum had left today. She wanted him to come help at the weekend with some mysterious garden problem and had left several messages detailing the precise arrangements. He'd honestly tried to understand them at first, but his mind would wander the minute she began talking about the water pressure--and he'd no idea what she was going on when it came to the beetles. She needed distracting now that she was alone, if only to keep her from asking for the hundredth time when he was going to find a proper girl to settle down with; Dudley was resolved to help her find more ways to get out, but he needed the time to think about how.
Dudley drew up short when he saw his cousin waiting at the top of the steps. "Harry."
They hadn't seen each other in ten years, not since Dudley and his parents had been taken to a oddly smelling hiding place by strange people in robes and Harry had come to see them after a day and a half of uncertainty and queer food. When Dad had died of a heart attack a few months ago, Harry had sent an impressive floral arrangement to the graveside and a letter and more flowers for Mum, but he hadn't bothered to attend the funeral. Dudley couldn't blame him, really, for staying away. Dad had been anything but kind to Harry, and Harry probably wanted to forget that he ever had a cousin.
Seeing him now, it was as though they were boys again. There was something so shockingly familiar about him. Harry was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, although these actually fit him, and he looked the same as he had ten years before, down to the messy hair and smudged glasses. Perhaps he was a bit more muscular, less scrawny, a little more stern, but he'd always been a bit on the tetchy side.
They faced each other in the fluorescent lit hallway. "Dudley." Harry sized him up quickly. "Would you like help carrying?"
Dudley handed him the garment bag rather than refuse. It saved talking. He fumbled one-handedly for the key and opened the door to the flat. Harry came in behind him and closed the door.
After stowing his various bags, he offered Harry a beer and they sat in awkward silence in his small front room near the enormous television set he'd purchased after his recent promotion on the international team. The can of lager was chill in his hands and he didn't know where to look. Harry took a few minutes to survey the room.
"I'm sorry about... about your dad," Harry said finally.
Dudley finished his sip of lager and took a moment to speak. "They say he didn't suffer much."
Harry nodded. "How's your mum?"
"She's managing. She really liked the flowers." He looked at Harry. "Thank you."
Harry started to say something, then stopped. There was a protracted silence. Finally Harry nodded to the signed photo of Thierry Henry on the side table. "I hear Arsenal are all right these days."
Dudley' s head snapped up and he stared at his cousin, who'd never taken much interest in football when they lived together. "Uh, yeah. Fourth in the league again last year, but overall they're much more competitive in the FA Cup than they were when we were kids. Since when do you follow the rankings?"
"Since I started dating a Spurs fan," Harry said.
" Shit. That's horrible." Dudley raised his eyebrows. He took a moment to assimilate the new information and to tap down a flare of jealousy. Not about the Spurs fan, mind. But Dudley wouldn't mind dating every once in a while. He'd been so busy lately he'd forgotten what it was like to take a girl to the cinema or out for dinner. "Congratulations anyway. Dad and I..." Dudley stopped. "Yeah. We used to go to matches fairly regularly. I still have his tickets for the season."
After the second beer and a take-away order for Thai, the cousins began to talk a bit less haltingly. After the fourth beer, it was decided that Harry would come to the next match with Dudley, the evil Tottenham Hotspur influences of Harry's new boyfriend be damned.
Arsenal v. Sheffield, 23 Sept
Harry met Dudley for the walk to Emirates wearing a navy shirt and grey jumper and slacks. It was a chilly day and the game was an utter rout. After the fourth goal, they began chatting about the stadium and the upcoming season. Dudley didn't have to explain much to Harry - he was proud of his cousin's ability to follow the game, even if he clearly wasn't a hooligan.
"Don't you lot have football of your own?" Dudley asked.
Harry smiled. "We lot? We have Quidditch. It's a bit ... different"
"Is there a ball?" Dudley asked.
"Three," Harry said, "and another, special one for an extra scoring process."
"Why's it special?"
"Well," Harry lowered his voice casually, "it, uh, flies."
Dudley nodded and sipped at the bitter, weak beer. "I see. So..."
"The whole game's played in flight, actually." Harry glanced around, making sure that they weren't being overheard.
"Are people like me allowed in? To a match, I mean." Dudley didn't know what prompted the question, but he had a sudden curiosity for this odd game with flying and extra scoring procedures.
A strange look crossed Harry's face. "I've never really asked. Let me ask a few people and see."
Wimbourne Wasps v. Montrose Magpies, 30 Sept
Dudley met Harry at the field in his car. Harry was already dressed in long black robes.
"You can park here. We'll have to... There's a special procedure to get us there. I have permission for you to travel with me. I think you've done this before."
Dudley nodded cautiously. He put on the robes Harry handed him and prepared himself for the process. He travelled a lot. How much different could it be than, say, the Czech Republic? They might be wizards, but they were still English wizards. He remembered the process of the odd thing, "portkey" it was called, from ten years ago and shivered.
When he touched the squash bottle that Harry held up, he was transported instantly into a throng of robed people, jostling and laughing and looking like nothing he'd ever seen. His eye couldn't take in all of the differences from a normal outing. He calmed himself as he was used to doing and just walked through the strange, active little world that his cousin was at home in.
Harry had explained the basics, but Dudley was not prepared for the fierce aerial attacks and the speed at which the game would be played. The color and sound were distracting, as were the odd announcements, but all in all it was a fantastic spectacle and once he'd got the Quaffle business sorted and saw the Beaters in action, he began to take a more active interest.
He also realized slowly that Harry was a very big deal indeed here in this particularly weird world. He'd known his cousin was something of a hero, and his mother whispered about his aunt and uncle once--telling him that they'd been some sort of spies or something--but it was entirely different to see the respect and even awe with which Harry was greeted. Many curious glances were aimed in Dudley's direction, but no one spoke to him directly.
And then the announcer singled them out in the middle of the game, during a pause in the action for a broken broom, and Dudley was greeted as "Harry Potter's Muggle cousin" and the crowd cheered for them a bit, which was very strange indeed. Harry seemed not to like it, but was clearly used to this amount of attention.
"A Muggle is what you call us, isn't it?" Dudley asked.
"Yeah." Harry looked apologetic. "It's wizarding slang for non-magical people."
"That's okay." Dudley said. "I'm sure your wizards here would be called worse on a regular street."
They also received free food and some strange thing called beer that wasn't really. After one try, Dudley stuck to the whiskey-ish drink, which seemed fairly normal.
The colours were beautiful on the field and as the action progressed, Dudley could even see the Snitch when Harry pointed it out, a faint golden glimmer here and there.
Dudley felt like he was floating after the match. They walked back to the field and he didn't feel as though his feet quite touched the ground.
"How did you get used to this?" Dudley asked. "You didn't know anything more about flying whatsits than I did."
"I got my first broom." Harry grinned at him. "After that, it all made sense."
"You played then?"
"Yeah. At school.
"Yeah. I was."
"I envy you. Did you want to turn pro?"
"I was given a couple of offers, but no. I wanted to be in, well, you know, it's like the Muggle police. So I play sometimes. I have an old girlfriend who's a pro."
Dudley nodded, still marvelling inwardly at the presence of female players and Harry's casual attitude to... well, everything, really.
It went back and forth like this, Harry attending matches with Dudley when they were both available, Dudley going to another Quidditch match and even riding on a broom at a pickup match with Harry. It made him queasy, he confessed later, like the London Eye, but it was really interesting. And his cousin was good, really good it seemed to him. He'd never thought of Harry as the sporting type, but the wizarding world was very different.
The Halloween Spurs-Arsenal match was a thrilling and difficult event. Harry sat with his boyfriend Dean, the diehard Spurs fan, and Dudley brought a friend from the office. They met after on neutral ground for drinks and dinner. The four-four tie was wrenching, at least for Dudley. Dean crowed about the Spurs' last minute rally and Dudley gave back good-natured retorts. At the end of the evening, just before leaving, Harry invited Dudley to a dinner at their house to meet some of his friends. Dudley accepted and acted as thought it weren't another perceptible opening of Harry's secret world to his presence, as though they hadn't anything at all in common other than common habitation while young and some figment of common blood.
"He's a little different, your cousin," John remarked after they watched Dean and Harry walk off.
"You mean gay?" Dudley asked, waiting for the slur.
"Nah. Not that. Just different."
Dudley smiled, knowing what John would never imagine but obviously perceived anyway. "Yeah. He's always been like that."
Dudley stood on the stone steps in front of the dark blue door, clearly a door that he would be the only person using. Harry had given him directions and a special locator thingy to get to the house. He could see the windows lit and imagined activity beyond in the warm glow. The evening street was almost totally empty. He clutched his bottle of wine and contemplated fleeing.
This was a nice house. A very nice house. The wizarding police must pay well if Harry could afford this area and this property. Or maybe it was Dean's. But Dudley knew it was his cousin's, just as he'd learned to recognize Harry's confidence in his stature among Wizards. Dudley had a brief moment of the panic that always hit him before unknown social situations: that he was underdressed, that he was overdressed, that he'd forgotten to shave. He counted to ten and then calmed himself further by recalling what people had worn at the Quidditch games he'd been to. A grey jacket and good trousers were far better than some of those horrible robes.
Harry was at the door almost immediately after Dudley knocked. There was an amazing, savoury waft of warm air—something with rosemary and roasted vegetables—as Dudley walked through into the lit hall beyond.
"You found it." Harry's grin was genuine.
"Yeah." Dudley shrugged. "It wasn't too hard."
"I didn't know if you were going to come in," Harry said softly.
Dudley stammered. "Of-of course I was. I was just..."
Dean emerged from the kitchen with oven mitts and a scowl. "Offer the poor man something to drink."
Harry immediately took Dudley's coat and the bottle and then set about providing him with a glass. With a bit of prodding from Dean, Harry showed Dudley around the house, explaining almost apologetically that he had inherited it from his godfather.
"Was that the one who was in prison?" Dudley remembered some tirade of Dad's, years ago. Then he remembered his father and that he was gone and as it always did these days, his heart sank.
Harry was strangely quiet. "Yeah. It's a long story."
Dudley nodded, and they descended the staircase in silence.
Friends began to filter in through the fireplace. After jumping at the first green flash and spilling most of his whiskey on himself, Dudley decided to wait out arrivals in the kitchen. He helped Dean with a few preparations until Dean shooed him back in. "Come on. You need to meet people. And Harry wants to introduce you."
Harry did introduce him to everyone who arrived, and Dudley gamely put on his social face and walked through time before dinner in a fog of pleasantries and very little actual consciousness. At dinner, Dudley was circumspect and everyone was polite, except Dean, who took every opportunity to rib him about the match and tout Tottenham's miraculous recovery. The others at the table look mildly bemused at this language Dean and Dudley spoke, although one or two clearly knew what they were talking about.
Halfway through dinner, there was a flash in the hall.
"Finally," said Dean and stood up.
He returned with a dark-haired woman in a navy skirt suit, well put together and with a clear aura of command.
"Sorry, everyone." she said. "More waffle than you can imagine. What did I miss?" Her eyes surveyed the room and stopped on Dudley's face, before travelling to his neighbor, an airy blonde woman with a pleasant demeanour.
The dark -haired woman's seat was diagonally across the table from Dudley. His neighbor asked Millicent--for that was her name--something about an endangered creature and European wild species regulations. Dudley wasn't quite sure what was at issue, but the look on Millicent's face was familiar from his own experience of discussing matters in company that were not even tangentially related to what he actually did.
After an excellent dinner of glazed lamb and couscous followed by pear trifle, the well-fed company staggered into the sitting room. They split into little groups of twos and threes, with a larger, louder group in the kitchen. Dudley stood with Harry and his friend Ron as they talked to a sharp-tongued woman with a dark, shiny bob about the Quidditch division rankings. It took Dudley a few minutes (and the observation of one embarrassingly intimate kiss) to realise that Pansy was Ron's girlfriend. When Millicent walked past them, Dudley surreptitiously watched as she opened the door and went out to the balcony. With a start, he realized that she was checking her BlackBerry, the first he'd seen since he'd been among wizards. When his eyes swung back, he saw Pansy watching him closely.
As soon as he could detach himself, Dudley moved over to the side of the room where Millicent was standing. He didn't know how to strike up a conversation, but as he approached, she smiled and held out her hand.
"I don't think we've met yet. Millicent Bulstrode."
"Dudley Dursley. I'm Harry's cousin."
After a few moments, they figured out that they had several things in common, not least of which was international travel and European regulations. Millicent was with a wizarding bank named Gringotts--Dudley had heard the name before, it seemed to have a bit of a monopoly--and did her fair share of wizard-Muggle liaison work. He told her about his work with expansion and development of new stores for a large supermarket brand and his European, Asian, and recent North American supervisory work. She not only knew of his division but also new several of the market challenges they had faced, and they spent a fascinating hour talking about the impact of oversight changes and various development hurdles.
A cough sounded from the doorway, where Dean stood with a tired look on his face. Dudley realized that the room had emptied entirely except for the two of them. Millicent also looked a bit surprised.
They both apologized to Dean and Harry and thanked them for their hospitality. In the hall, Dudley offered Millicent a ride, then remembered that she would probably take the Floo.
"Thanks anyway. I really enjoyed talking with you." She smiled and reached into a bowl of powder on the mantel. A toss of her hand and she was gone in a whisper of green flame and the lingering memory of smile.
Dudley said goodbye to Harry and avoided a few significant looks from Dean. Harry elbowed Dean and thanked Dudley for coming. They agreed to meet soon.
As Dudley was walking to his car, a business card came through on SMS. Hers. He stopped and stared at it for long moment before tucking away his mobile with an elated grin.
from Dudley Dursley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to Millicent Bulstrode < email@example.com>
date Wed, 12 Nov, 2008 at 19:59
subject Getting in touch
I really enjoyed meeting you at Harry's party. Our conversation on market oversight and European prospects was fascinating. I do hope your report was well received. I'm in Kuala Lumpur at the moment but thought we might continue our conversation the next time we are both in London.
Here's the analytical piece I told you about (attached).
With sincere regards,
from Millicent Bulstrode < mbulstrode @gringotts.co.uk>
to Dudley Dursley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date Wed, 12 Nov, 2008 at 21:04
subject Re: Getting in touch
How exciting to type to KL. Isn't it 3 in the morning there?
I was in Singapore for the Wizarding World Bank conference last year, but didn't make it to Malaysia. I'm going to be in Turin for most of the month (I think I mentioned the work when we spoke.) Perhaps in December?
Thank you. I shall read through and have several questions, I'm sure.
For the next few weeks, Dudley checked his inbox even more frequently than usual. He had to make an unexpected trip to Chicago, and Millicent stayed busy in Turin, but their correspondence via email flourished.
After Arsenal won a match against the hated Chelsea, Dudley's spirits rose even higher when Harry told him Ron and Pansy had visited Millicent in Italy and she'd mentioned corresponding with him. While Dudley fiddled with his glass, Harry suggested rather matter-of-factly that he should ask her out. He didn't look half surprised when Dudley informed him that he already had.
Millicent came back to London on December third.
Dudley spent the entire day in his own personal fog, not really believing that the promised day had actually arrived. Luckily his team had a slow day and wasn't on heavy analytical duty, or he would have had a hard time ghosting through on minimal brainpower. But half-five finally arrived, and he left the office and began his preparations for the evening.
At eight o'clock exactly, he stood waiting in the foyer of the small French restaurant. At 8:05 Millicent appeared in the doorway, a vision in navy and dark curls. As they were led to the small, white clothed table, Dudley was suddenly much shyer than he'd been as he sent her breezy emails all month or talked banking policy at Harry's party. It was as though they were strangers again.
The room was warm and the wine was very good. After started, Dudley began to realize that Millicent was very tired. He asked her delicately about work, but she waved her hand and said, "Don't mention the war."
Dudley laughed and remarked as how wizards much watch a lot of old John Cleese. When this reference drew a blank look, Dudley informed her of the saying's provenance and the necessity of her watching the entire Fawlty Towers catalogue tout suite. She laughed gamely and agreed to try.
Their conversation ebbed a bit by the end of the main course. After the crème brulée and coffee, Dudley could tell the evening had gone on long enough.
"You need to sleep."
"I'm so sorry. I've been looking forward to this, but they've kept us up for several nights at this point."
"We'll have other nights. Let me drive you home."
She agreed and smiled at him, and something inside of him melted. It might well have been his tongue; he couldn't speak for a moment or two. But then he settled the bill and went and got the car.
She fell asleep during the ten minutes or so it took to reach her flat. After Dudley pulled the car to the kerb, he looked at her. She looked softer in sleep, with her skin flushed and her dark hair curling over her eye. He couldn't really believe she was real, like a fairytale manifested in his passenger seat. He watched her a moment longer, then woke her gently.
She yawned and smoothed her hair, then kissed him on the cheek before she went inside.
His heart followed her up the stairs and disappeared into the large, well-lit foyer.
At the match against Middlesbrough, Harry asked Dudley how it went.
"She fell asleep," Dudley said dryly. Both cousins tried not to laugh, but failed.
Shortly before New Year's, Millicent was back. She accepted Dudley's invitation and actually went with him to the match against Portsmouth. To Dudley's delight, she knew more than Harry about the essentials of football. When he asked her if Premiere League Football was the new wizarding fetish, Millicent informed him calmly that her brother Alphonse was something called a Squib and a Liverpool fan to boot.
They went to a gastropub after the match. As soon as they were seated, she apologised for falling asleep. Dudley waved her down. "You were exhausted," he said, and he poked at his pile of chips. She was lively and engaging and he noticed how very, very much he liked being with her.
They'd just got to the topic of school and how annoying Harry had been as a teenager when Dudley's phone went off. He went to silence the ring, but then noticed the number. When he took the call, his mother's agitated voice spilled out in disjointed words from the receiver. It took him a walk outside and several minutes to establish that she was having a panic attack and that he'd better go help her as soon as he could. He tried to call Mrs. Figg to go over but couldn't reach her. When he went back to tell Millicent, she offered to come with him.
He refused her at first, but then she said, "You know, we wouldn't have to drive. We could be there in a few minutes."
They found a dark space behind the skip in the alley. At her urging, he created a mental image of where they needed to go and somehow she gathered it from him with a few words. She put her arm around his waist. He smelled something floral and green as he leaned against her. His heart was pounding with worry and also, if he'd admit it, from being near her. She was warm and strong and her hair was soft against his cheek--
--then suddenly he found himself in his mother's sitting room. It was all very confusing, but there was no time to stop and worry about it. He had to calm Mum down and get her to the surgery.
Millicent offered to stay but he wouldn't let her. He thanked her in the too bright kitchen and stood awkwardly until she pushed him back to the room with his mother. "Go."
He heard a sharp crack and knew that she was gone.
She emailed from Zurich to ask about Mum and insist on dinner when she came back.
In the next weeks, their email contact petered out a bit.
By late January, Dudley began to worry that he'd never see her again. He knew it was ridiculous, but he was feeling wretched about the truncated dates. Perhaps he really wasn't that interesting. He'd known it all along, but maybe, just maybe she hadn't known. Yet.
On a frigid Saturday in February, his mobile rang.
Dudley dropped his mobile. He caught it just before it hit the floor. "Hi."
"I'm back. For a few months this time. I've been transferred back to London for auditing work."
"Great! You must be very happy."
She laughed softly. "I am. Would you like to see me?"
"Yes. Yes. Very much so." Dudley sat on the edge of his bed.
"Good because I'm standing outside your front door."
Dudley ran downstairs in his socks, throwing open the door to see her standing on the stoop in a red coat and black hat, a black and red checked scarf wrapped around her neck. Her nose was pink with cold.
"Sorry to presume. I just got back in and I thought- Well, it wouldn't have been the end of the world if you had been busy because-"
Her further words were lost as he stroked her cheek, then leaned down gently to kiss her. Her hand came up to his shoulder; he held her with an arm around her waist. She was nearly as tall as he was and just as lovely to hold as he had imagined.
After several passionate and indiscreet moments, they pulled apart, flushed and almost as if coming back to consciousness. They were standing in the doorway, cold air blowing around them, Dudley in stocking feet.
Millicent's hat was askew.
"I should have done that a long time ago," Dudley said. "Would you like to come in?"
With a nod, Millicent stepped past him. She paused, leaning in to brush her lips against his. "Warm me up?" she asked softly.
"I think I could."
Smiling, Dudley kicked the door shut behind them.