Prompt: 42- Dudley was pants at school because he had a learning disability of some sort. As an adult, he works as a teacher/mentor/something with kids. He recognises something...odd about that one little
Pairing, or gen: Dudley/Draco, Dudley/Neville, Draco/George (mentioned)
Word count/medium: ~4300 words/fic
Summary/Excerpt: The strangest things can prompt a long overdue apology letter...
Author's or Artist's notes: Beta'd by hoffn; audienced by lillyluna44. I know that the prompt said 'that one little girl', but I hope you don't mind that I changed it to 'boy' because Scorpius Malfoy is awesome. [Mods: Am I allowed to do that? I doubt the gender of the kid matters too much...]
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all associated characters and settings remain the intellectual property of J. K. Rowling and her associates. We are very grateful for permission to play with them.
I know you know that my first apology letter was way overdue. But I'm not sure you're aware of how overdue it is. I've been through quite a bit, and while it's nothing to what you've been through, it's a still a shitload for me- even to just witness- and a hell of a long story to tell.
But you wanted to know, and who am I to deny you the whole story? Here goes…
Ever since Dudley was little (well, young, Dudley was never really little), he had a learning disability. Dudley learned about his disability from his school counsellor at fifteen years old. While his parents took it lightly, not wanting to tarnish their perception of their perfect little Dudders, Dudley himself didn't. At the time, he was without the support of his parents- who Dudley discovered were a lot less than what his ideals of them were. While distancing himself from his parents, he also managed to lose quite a bit of weight.
As an alternative to trying to make his parents understand that he needed help, Dudley would often go and chat with his guidance counsellor at school. The counsellor helped Dudley become motivated about well, not failing school. He found that he processed his information a lot slower than his classmates, and that his lack of understanding lead to his lack of motivation. Later, Dudley researched coping methods under the guise of boxing practice (which he did actually have, but skived off of).
All through secondary school, Dudley continued to struggle until he discovered a way for him to absorb the information. He studied harder than he had in all his years of school to not completely flunk out. He and his gang no longer had time to beat up to little kids, and without that common ground, their friendships fell apart. By the time the end of his Year Twelve, Dudley had managed to bring his grades just up to the standard level.
One day, Dudley suddenly realized that he wasn't the only person in the world with a learning disorder and that he wanted to help others that would have to go through the same struggles he did, if only to repent for his previous bullying days. One thing lead to another, and the next thing Dudley knew, he had completed and passed his A-levels. He couldn't afford to receive more post-secondary education on his own and he refused to take more charity from his parents after college. Despite this, he went through a couple of jobs and somehow miraculously ended up working with kids with learning disorders.
I've had this job since I was twenty-two. It's not dull per se, but I know what to expect. That is, until the youngest kid I've ever worked with came along and brought a bunch of surprises with him.
The youngest in Dudley's group was an odd kid. He was smart, introverted at first, and he had ADD- or so it seemed. Whenever something odd happened, such as an exploding light bulb or a desk tipping over when there was no one near it, he would always be the first to be distracted by something else. That, however, wasn't what concerned Dudley about Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius always had this arrogant air about him, which was okay in itself - if he didn't put down everyone else with his comments. Everyone else's patience had just about run thin with the boy, and Dudley knew he had to do something about him before he started negatively affecting the other kids too badly.
Dudley jumped as water from the tap burst with a pressure that hit the ceiling, which, admittedly, wasn't too high. After the class stared in wonder (which was something, since these oddities were more of a normality now), Scorpius spoke right on cue. "Hey, guys, look! A helicopter!"
"Okay, guys. Our time is just about up anyway, so you can go. I've got to get someone in to fix this tap anyway."
As everyone left the classroom, Dudley called out. "Scorpius, can you stay back for a few minutes? I'd like to talk to you."
Scorpius sniffed. "And why would I stay for you?" The handles on the tap shot off the sink. "You've got a shitty tap, by the way."
Dudley sat back in his chair. "I didn't ask you here to talk about the… odd occurrences in this room, which I notice have started ever since you joined this group, Scorpius."
"Then what did you want to talk to me about?"
"Your attitude. I don't want to kick you out of the group, but I can't have you slowing down anyone else by putting them down with your high-and-mighty attitude."
"Please. Kind words are wasted on the likes of you; I'm only here because I'm forced to be. There are plenty of ways I can get around my disorder."
Just then, the classroom door opened and a man peeked his head through the door frame. "Scorpius?"
"Coming," Scorpius replied.
"Scorpius," said Dudley. "We're not done with this."
And as the boy walked out the door, Dudley realized that even though he hadn't intended to bring up the subject, Scorpius had managed to deter the subject away from the odd- dare he say, freaky- incidents that occurred in his classroom.
…and then a week passed. Scorpius wasn't in class that day, so I called his guardian for an explanation. He said that Scorpius was in court that day, and that it wouldn' t be prudent to discuss it over the phone. We talked, and that somehow lead to us meeting for lunch.
"Longbottom," interrupted the man.
"Right. Not Scorpius' father. I'm sorry, I keep forgetting."
"It's fine," replied Longbottom. "You wanted to know about the trial?"
Dudley nodded. "Out of my own curiosity, yes. In official capacity, I only need to know that Scorpius is safe."
"Well, alright. How's Scorpius doing in class?"
"Scorpius is having difficulty with putting his… Well, let's put it this way. Learning disabilities come in two main categories: input and output, input being how the brain processes the information given and output being how it spits it out. Scorpius has output problems. He can speak his mind just fine; he just has trouble putting it down on paper."
"How's he interacting with everyone?"
"I've actually spoken with him on his attitude. I was going to bring up the subject with him again before bringing it to you, but now's a good time as any."
"Stubborn as hell, that one," chuckled Longbottom.
Dudley cracked a grin at that. "He won't believe that he isn't better than everyone else." Dudley sombered up. "I would know; I was the same at that age. My parents spoiled me to no end. I managed to get expelled out of three different private schools until my parents managed to find one they could bribe to keep me there."
"Are you going to disallow him into your class?"
"You mean kick him out?" When Neville replied in the affirmative, Dudley sighed. "Unless he manages to get a handle on how he treats everyone else, I won't have a choice."
Longbottom nodded in understanding. "Yeah, I understand. He gets it from his grandparents, you know."
Dudley raised an eyebrow.
"Well, I thought you'd want to know why Scorpius acts like that. The Malfoy family goes back centuries, and until recently, they've always been raised to believe that they're perfect. Scorpius' father- Draco Malfoy- managed to disillusion himself of his parents' views. Then he was thrown in jail."
"Nothing," scowled Longbottom. "His parents- Lucius and Narcissa- couldn't understand how their perfect son suddenly thought that the family was lower than dirt, so they framed Draco for crimes he didn't commit. Scorpius was three at the time and the court gave him to his grandparents since his mother refused to take custody. The trial that Scorpius was at is for Draco to regain custody."
"Where do you come in?"
"I run the orphanage he's staying at. Lucius and Narcissa kicked him out when his private tutor told them he has a learning disorder."
Then his lunch break ended, and he left to pick up one of his charges from wherever and I went home.
This is probably redundant to you since Neville said that it was all over your news, but bear with me here. Scorpius' grandparents kicked him out for having a learning disability, something he couldn't help. It made me think. What kind of guardians would kick their own kin out for something that wasn't their fault and raise him with such prejudices?
But of course, I already knew the answer to that.
Dudley rushed to the Muggle-Wizard relations office- the one that he always knew was there but never went to because his cousin was always the one to initiate their exchange of Christmas cards every year.
"Hello, welcome to the Muggle-Wizard relations office, can I help you?" said the man behind the counter in a bored manner.
"Um, yeah. I'd like to send off a letter."
"Alright, who are you sending this letter to?" asked the man in the same bored tone, uncaging an owl.
"His name is Harry Potter." At the name, the man stuck the owl back into its cage.
"I'm sorry, but Mr. Potter doesn't accept fan mail, he only accepts letters from people on his list."
The man sighed. "Mr. Potter is quite famous in the Wizarding World and would prefer to only receive letters from people he knows." Then, under his breath, he muttered, "Muggles."
Dudley ignored the quip. "Well, what happens when someone sends him a letter without going through your office?" Dudley wondered.
"Mr. Potter's wards-"
"Warts?" asked Dudley, confused.
The man sighed again. "Wards, sir. Magical security. They will only let in the owls belonging to the people he trusts to keep away fan mail. Well, and Ministry owls. Government, before you ask."
"Check the list," said Dudley. "I'm his cousin."
The clerk took out a clipboard from under the counter and skimmed through the pages. "Nope. You're not on the list."
Dudley put his hands on the top of the counter and stared him in the eyes. "Look at me, " he said. "I'm a muggle. Harry Potter isn't famous here, he never was. I wouldn't have heard of him in a newspaper or a magazine and I wouldn't know to lie about being his cousin. I really have to get this letter to him, it's long overdue, so could you please do me this favour?"
"Look, I understand your argument, but we have a very strict policy here and I can't let you use our post owls."
"Wait," came a voice from behind Dudley. He turned to see Longbottom walking up to him. "I'll vouch for him, whoever he's sending that to. Neville Longbottom."
The man rolled his eyes, perused the list again, and nodded. Dudley furrowed his eyebrows. "Mr. Longbottom, you're one of them?"
Longbottom smiled wryly as he and Dudley walked out of the office. "If by 'one of them', you mean wizard, then yes. And I suppose you can call me Neville now."
"Well, then you can call me Dudley. What exactly were you doing there?"
Neville looked away abashedly. "I'm on a break I went to pick up this-" he held up a pamphlet titled Fitting in with Muggles "-up so I wouldn't let anything slip the next time I saw you, but I gather that I won't need it anymore."
Dudley grinned. "Well, Neville, I reckon you have to get back to your job. We do have more to talk about, now that I know about this... development, though. Meet me tomorrow for coffee?"
"But of course."
Oh, and that reminds me. Can you put my name on your list? I don't want to go through all that again just to get a letter to you.
…Oh, fuck. I just realized that I'll have to get Neville to vouch for me again.
Anyway, there's more. When I got home, I discovered a few things I never knew about my boyfriend.
"Honey!" called Dudley. "I'm home!"
"Honestly," muttered Dudley's lover of four years, "must you do that every day? Especially when I'm right in front of you?"
"Oh, come on," Dudley rolled his eyes. "It's fun, alright? And it's become a habit."
"Fine, whatever," came the resigned reply. "Listen, Dudley. We need to talk, there's something I really need to tell you."
"Sure, Sebastian. What's up?"
"I'm not sure how to tell you this," said Sebastian, "but… Alright, I'm leaving."
Dudley's eyes widened, but only by a small fraction, before he calmed himself down. "Leaving… what do you mean? Indefinitely or temporarily? What for?"
Sebastian plopped down on a couch. "There's a lot you don't know about me. I'm-" he took a deep breath "-I'm not from here. I'm not allowed to tell you where I'm from, but long story short, I was exiled for things I didn't do and now they're letting me back in because they realized they were wrong."
"Okay," said Dudley. "I can't say I'm not surprised, but I suppose I'll have plenty of time to figure this out. When do we leave?"
"I'm leaving today, and you're not coming with me," said the other man softly. "When I left, I had to make a new identity, change my history, so people who hate me back home won't hunt me down. Sebastian Black isn't even my real name. I'm not allowed to take you with me, and even if I was, I wouldn't."
"And you can't stay, can you?"
"I wouldn't," Sebastian- or whatever his name was- shook his head and blew away a lock of his stray blond hair. "I didn't dare hope they'd ever let me back into society, so I made a life here. Along the way, I met you. I do love you, you know, but…"
"You need your life back there more," sighed Dudley. "I can't say I understand, but I can't stop you, either, can I?" Dudley, blinked, suddenly realizing something. "Is this why you wouldn't marry me? Hell, is this why you wouldn't do the things that regular couples do, like go out on dates or talk about work? So you wouldn't become attached?"
Sebastian put his head in his hands. "Gods, Dudley, I'm sorry. You don't know how sorry I am."
"Yeah, well. Bye," said Dudley, not knowing what to say. As Sebastian stood up and dragged a packed suitcase toward the door, Dudley stopped him. "Wait."
Sebastian turned. "Yes?"
"What's your real name?"
"It's Draco Malfoy. You won't find me, though, trust me on that."
Dudley's face broke into a sad smile at the irony of it all, knowing why Draco wouldn't take him with him. "Oh, I know. Have a good life, Draco Malfoy."
Okay. Let me jump back in time a bit for you, Harry. I discovered I was gay when I was nineteen. I was clubbing and I met up with Piers Polkiss. Remember Piers? My best friend during childhood? Anyway, we ended up having a one-night-stand, though it didn't get any further than that one night.
Later, Piers talked me into coming out to my parents a year later. They disowned me. I thought of you, and how I should have written you. But I didn't. It just... slipped out of my mind by the time the drama blew over, I suppose.
Before that, I had plenty of chances- and turning points- to apologise and I didn't. I shouldn't have been bullying you like I did in the first place, but I think I can put part of the blame on my parents in my younger years. I first realized that I should have been treating you better, freak or not, when I was told I had a learning disorder. I was a freak too, not being able to process information properly. But… what did normal matter? Eventually, I was able to get past the disorder and understand things better. You also saved me from those dementoids. I still owe you for that, you know, and yet I still stayed away from you like a coward.
I'm sorry it took someone else's misfortune for me to finally get off my ass and say sorry.
BUT I already covered that, so I may as well move on with what happened next.
"Neville, I need you to tell everything you know about Draco Malfoy."
Neville looked confused. "Why?"
"Four years ago, I met a man named Sebastian Black," growled Dudley, "I moved in with him three years ago and proposed to him last month. He said no, and yesterday, Sebastian came up to me, telling me he was leaving because he was under exile when he was dating me and now he's not so he's going back to what he considers home. And it turns out that his real name isn't Sebastian Black. It's Draco Malfoy."
"Whoa," said Neville, looking shocked. "You've been calling him the wrong name in bed."
Dudley's eyes widened, realizing that it was true. Then he shook his head. "Just… what do you know about him? I need to know how much of our relationship was a lie, considering he never even mentioned having a son."
"Alright," sighed Neville. "You know that Draco wasn't actually in jail, he's in exile, and for something he didn't do."
"How do you know Draco?"
"I knew Draco all through Hogwarts. School. He was an ass and a playboy in his later years. Do you know about the Wizarding War?"
"The one involving Moldywarts? Yeah, my cousin was in it and my family and I had to go into hiding."
Neville burst out laughing. "Oh, gods. Moldywarts! It's been used to make fun of Voldemort, but it never gets old. Yeah, that war. Draco was a Death Eater; he worked for Voldemort. But not of his own accord, though," he said, becoming serious again. "Draco was raised with certain family values, but he realized that he didn't want to be a Death Eater. Not because he didn't want to be a bad guy, at the time, he agreed with Voldemort's cause, but because he didn't believe that a Malfoy should bow down to anyone.
"We- the light side- ended up winning the war, and Draco's parents should have gone to jail. They all got a full pardon because the Malfoys are rich and have connections, so they bribed everyone to let them go free. Draco was the only one who deserved his pardon. He was seventeen at the time; we'd just graduated Hogwarts.
"When Draco was nineteen, his parents set him up to get married to Astoria Greengrass, the daughter from another rich prestigious family. The Malfoys have always done arranged marriages for heirs. Tradition, you know. Anyway, Draco married the girl, had Scorpius within a year, and divorced her three years after. It was an amicable divorce, but…"
"The Malfoys weren't happy." It wasn't a question.
"No. That was when Draco realized that that he was more than just a role his parents stuck him into, that what he was taught was wrong, and that was when his parents framed him for crimes he didn't commit. And the thing is, nobody knew why he gave up the Malfoy principles that say babies are made to carry the family name proudly and then make more babies for the same reason." Neville snorted. "Well, actually, we do know now. He's gay, and knowing his parents, they tried to 'fix' him before they realized that he didn't want to be fixed and got the government to exile him for Death Eater crimes he didn't commit."
"What's going to happen to his parents now?"
"Hopefully, they'll be going to Azkaban. Uh, that's our jail."
"Draco managed to get custody; he'll be leaving the orphanage in a week. Draco's probably going to pull him out of the group and hire him a new tutor who can work with kids with learning disabilities."
Dudley furrowed his brow. "Isn't your orphanage a magical orphanage? How come you sent Scorpius here?"
"It's a war memorial orphanage funded by the Ministry. But the orphanage doesn't have the money to hire tutors, so we make the kids fake muggle identities so they can at least get some free education. Scorpius just happens to have one more muggle-funded government class to go to."
"I just want to know," said Dudley, "do exploding lightbulbs and bursting taps have anything to do with Scorpius?"
"Accidental magic, yeah. Well, that or you have a terrible electric and water system."
Dudley chuckled. "I'm going to miss talking with you when Scorpius leaves."
Neville smiled. "We don't need a magical kid with a learning disability to go for coffee together. Although your knowledge of magic makes things a lot easier. Who is your cousin, by the way? Not many wizards have an exclusive list of people who are allowed to owl them. If he's a war hero, I probably know him, or at least know of him. And what was so urgent about the letter you sent him?"
"My cousin is Harry Potter, and I had to send him an apology letter. When we were kids, my parents would treat him like dirt. He slept in a cupboard until he turned eleven! And I would beat him up every now and then, and my friends and I would play a game where we would chase him." Dudley shuddered. "It was horrible. I'm ashamed it took so long for me to just say sorry."
Neville laughed. "Seriously? Harry?" He frowned. "The mistrust in adults... the hero complex... Now that I think about it, it does explain a few things. Do you know he was the one who saved us all?"
"Well, I do now. And I really am sorry."
"If it helps, I know he'd forgive you. Harry's a very forgiving person."
"That's- heartening," said Dudley, a soft smile playing at his lips mirroring Neville's. "Thanks for telling me."
"We should probably introduce you to our friends. You'd love them."
"Yeah. I'd like that."
And I wasn't kidding, I would like to meet up with you, put the past behind us, and perhaps someday, meet your friends.
I'm almost done with the story here. All that's left is Scorpius, who, believe it or not, I'll miss. The Saturday after that talk with Neville, Scorpius was back for his last class.
"Is this about my attitude again, sir?" Scorpius asked.
Dudley shook his head. "No, Scorpius. I just want to know, is this your last class?"
"I dearly hope so. I'd enjoy learning from a less plebeian person."
"I heard your father adopted you again. How do you feel about that?"
"I will admit that he is an upgrade from the orphanage. However, my father is still a disgrace to the Malfoy name and does not deserve what he has."
"Magic, you mean?" At Scorpius' ruffled countenance, Dudley laughed. "Relax. Harry Potter is my cousin; I know about you guys. But that wasn't what I asked you. How do you feel about your father?"
"I- suppose I'm grateful that he was able to conceive me, despite being a homosexual," said Scorpius hesitantly.
"I should have known you're homophobic, too. You'll have to get over that eventually and hopefully your father will work on your attitude toward non-magical people. We can't help who we are. Just like you can't help your disability."
Dudley bent over on his chair and looked Scorpius in the eyes. "I used to believe that magic was a freak of nature, but I was wrong, and so are your grandparents. About both homosexuality and their values on magic. And, well, even if we aren't, what's so bad about freakishness?"
Scorpius seemed to hold back a disbelieving snort. "At least I'm trying to fix my problem."
Dudley sighed. "Your father's got a lot of work put out for him, and contrary to your grandparents' opinion, he's a good person. Most of the time, at least," added Dudley under his breath, remembering what had transpired the previous week. "And I know that you are, too. Treat him well, yeah?"
Scorpius was silent, which Dudley took as an affirmative.
"Good." When Dudley sat back up, he saw Draco Malfoy standing in the doorway. "You should get going, Scorpius." The boy nodded.
As Scorpius walked toward his father, Dudley saw his ex-lover's mouth open and close. "Like I said," shrugged Dudley. "Have a good life."
So that's it. Sebastian- Draco- is gone, Scorpius is gone, and Neville and I are meeting once a week, every week, for coffee and breakfast in the morning. I'm going to miss Draco, but he was the one who decided to leave, not me.
I hope we can meet up soon. It'd be nice to start over fresh with you and actually be cousins. And, well, if not, then I'll say to you what I said to Draco.
Have a good life,
Three men walked into a bar.
"Well," said the first, "this is a surprise."
"It is," said the second. "Life's done well for you two. Are you together now?"
"We are!" grinned the third.
"What are you two doing now?" asked the second.
"I'm still working with kids with mental disorders," said the first.
"He's even managed to get himself a degree," added the third proudly. "And I'm studying botany!"
"Say," said the first, "what exactly are the wizarding world's views on homosexuality? I'd hope they aren't all that bad considering we're in a gay bar."
"They've improved since before the war," said the third. "But not by much. Homosexuality and gay marriage are legal now, but nobody approves because they don't want the lines of magic to run out."
"A shame," said the first, "but at least you're improving, right?" He handed a box to the third. "I'm sorry that there's no fancy proposal, but now that I know it's legal, I can ask you this… Marry me?"
"Gods, yes!" answered the third, a wide smile breaking across his face as he pulled the first into a kiss. When they broke apart, he turned to the second. "Hey, no hard feelings, right?"
"Of course not," replied the second. "In fact, I'm supposed to be meeting a date here."
"Who is it?" asked the first.
"It's George!" beamed the second. "I know it's odd, but-"
"Wait, George Weasley, right?" the first tried to clarify. The second nodded.
"Oh, gods. You. And a Weasley. I never thought I'd see the day," said the third.
"Hey," scowled the second. "I've changed!"
"Of course," drawled the first. Just then, a flaming (in more ways than one) redhead walked into the bar.
"Dudley, Longbottom, I'd love to stay and talk, but my date is here," said the second.
"Enjoy it, Draco," replied the first. "We'll see you around."