The Harry Potter world is not mine. J.K.R. planted this garden, I am just adding a few weeds of my own. Any similarities to any real people alive or dead, is either a total accident, or was with their consent.

Chapter 35

Harry Potter, the boy who lived, moved, stepped and dodged like his life depended on it. After a childhood of being kept on the edge of starvation and neglected development Harry was finally starting to fill out as he approached his sixteenth birthday. For the majority of his life his two forms of exercise had been force manual labor at his aunt and uncle's house and running from his physically abusive cousin. If Harry had been in better health, with proper exercise and diet, escaping his cousin, Dudley, would have been easy. Dudley's two major forms of exercise were over eating and beating up Harry.  But things had changed in the last few years.

Dudley Dursley who had grown up with the practice of eating everything in reach had undergone a change in attitude and diet just two years ago.  After struggling with an enforced diet imposed by his school nurse Dudley was exposed to a sample of George and Fred Weasleys' work.  A confection now featured at Weasley Wizard Wheezes known as Ton Tongue Toffee.  For the first time food had betrayed Harry's cousin.  The shock of that incident had curbed Dudley's appetite for sweets dramatically.  Becoming a member of the school boxing club had also made a difference.  Dudley had found discipline and enjoyment in physical activity.  Still far larger then his cousin, Dudley had become like a young bull.  While he still had a noticeable amount of fat clinging to his frame, Dudley was showing toned muscles in his arms, chest, and legs.

Harry had gone through some changes of his own.  He was starting to grow taller and to fill out his previously thin frame.  Quidditch practice and caring for magical creatures, in addition to chores at the Dursleys' and running from his cousin had made Harry's muscles into hard cords.  The events of the last two years had their impact on Harry's mind as well.  For much of his life he had tried to live by the practice of keeping his presence as unobtrusive as possible.  He knew that would no longer work.  The wizarding world was watching for "The-Boy-Who-Lived."  Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters were on the hunt for him.  Harry understood that hiding was not an option.  With recent exposure to the violence and death caused by the dark wizards that followed Voldemort something primal had awaken in side of Harry.  The Fight-or-Flight instinct is a part of everybody.  Deep in side Harry something was tired of running.

The most recent change in the two cousins was a thin layer of respect.  It had started the day after Harry had come home from Hogwarts.  Harry was in the back yard carefully tending Aunt Petunia's flower beds after washing up the breakfast dishes when Dudley came out side.  Harry's cousin leaned against the house for a moment watching the other boy work.  Harry noticed his cousin but hoped he would be left to work in peace.

"So," Dudley said slowly.

"So," Harry returned.

"Who was that girl at the station?" Dudley asked.  This got a puzzling look from Harry.

"Why do you want to know?"

"Well…  She seemed awfully found of you."

"Her name's Cho.  She goes to my school."

"Hmmm," Dudley expressed his thoughts.  "Smeltings is an all boys school."

"Hmm," Harry acknowledged.

"Girls and boys have separate classes at your school?"

"Nope," Harry said.  "Same classes.  Even have to work together sometimes"

"Alright, now I know you're just making it up."

"Nope," Said Harry as he tried to suppress a grin. "Except for the dorms and washrooms boys and girls can go just about wherever they want."

"Hrmph," Dudley's face became sour.  Harry realized that his cousin, enrolled in an all boys' school, was jealous.  He thought briefly about rubbing it in but decided to take the conversation in a different direction instead.

"At least your school isn't in the middle of nowhere," Harry said.

"Wha' do you mean?"

"Well it takes a day by train just to get to my school.  Then we are only allowed a day in the nearest village a few times a year.  The Quidditch teams only play each other too.  You're a regional boxing champ.  You get to go to other school to compete don't you?"  Dudley's pride came through when Harry acknowledged his boxing status, even if he did not know the whole title.

"Yeah I do," he said proudly, puffing up his chest and standing straighter.  He deflated a bit after only a moment.  "Still, don't get to see many girls."

"That could be a good thing," Harry said as he remembered Terrie Shire.  "Some girls love a champion."


"Yeah. They love a champion but they don't give a fig about you."  Dudley gave a snort.

"What would you know about that?"  Harry gave his cousin a cool, level look before finishing up his work on the flower bed.

"Just forget it."  Dudley frowned and looked at Harry with the same scrutiny he had learned to use when sizing up a boxing opponent.  He watched his cousin as Harry put away the gardening tool and washed his hands under the garden tap.

"You do know something, don't you."  It was a statement.  Harry stood for a moment and looked his large cousin in the eye.

"I know some girls only notice you if you're famous.  Or come from certain families.  Or have money.  I also know that there are some girls that can like a guy no mater what."

"So tell me."  Dudley insisted.

"Your parents don't like me talking about my kind of people."

"Well they're going out to a play tonight," Said Dudley.

"What?" Harry was curious.  The Dursleys had never been much for theater.

"On of dad's clients had them over for tea and the bloke's wife wanted to talk about the latest shows," Dudley said with a malicious grin.  "Well you know how mum and dad are about proper appearances.  They looked right common.  So they started going out to shows so they can be all snobs with their friends about it."  Dudley gave a snort and a shooing gesture with his hand to express his opinion about it all.  "Listen tomorrow and they'll all be down on this actor's delivery or that one's dancing."

"I'd rather shovel manure," Harry said with a snort of his own and a jerk of his head towards the flower beds.

"You don't really like these damn posies do you?"

"No.  But looking after them for years has come in useful."

"What?"  Dudley was surprised.  "How'd that come about?"

"Well up at school we have to work with plants," Harry explained.  "And when we do," Harry shrugged.  "I've had plenty of practice so I get better marks."

"What do you have to muck about with plants for?"  Harry waved at the house.

"I'm not allowed to talk about those kinds of things here."

"Hmmm," Dudley said

That evening, as Dudley had predicted, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley dressed up fancy and went out.  As soon as the sound of Vernon's car faded off in the distance Dudley paid a visit to Harry's room.  He rapped on the door once with his knuckles as he pushed to door open.  Harry, who had been sitting at his desk reading his Auror's manual, looked up to watch Dudley intrude.

"Right. Now then," The youngest Dursley said.  "Ther're gone.  What's this you're not supposed to talk about now?"

"Which," Harry asked.  "The girls or the plants?"  Dudley let out a frustrated snort.

"The girls, of course."  Dudley sat on the edge of Harry's bed.  "You said you know about girls that like you for money or family or whatever."

"Ahh," Harry paused to gather his thoughts.  "Well you know how you've always had friends because you were bigger and stronger?"  Harry left out the part about his cousin being a bully and it was safer to be his friend then not.  Dudley nodded his head with impatience.  "Well it's a little like that.  But it's more then that also.  You've seen the news shows.  If one of the prices stand next to a girl at a party for more then a minute people start to ask questions.  If some girl were to date, Prince William say, she would be famous all over England in a day."

"Yeah," Dudley agreed, nodding.

"Now what if the girl wanted to date a prince just so she could be famous?  How do you think the prince would feel?"

"Don't know," Dudley shrugged.  He had never thought about that before.  The intense look on Harry's face made it clear that he had thought about such things before, and maybe knew about them first hand.  "You don't have anybody famous up at that school of yours, do you?"

"Two, actually, if you count the headmaster.  But only among other wizards and witches."

"Two?  Who's the other one?"

"Me," Harry said with a bitter tone.  Dudley let out a loud laugh, but stopped when he saw the look on Harry's face.  It was the same kind of look boxers had just before the first bell; all seriousness.

"You're serious," It wasn't a question.  "What did you do?"

"I lived," Harry pointed to the scar on his forehead.  "The man who killed my parents, and tried to kill me, he's so evil most are afraid to even say his name.  When he tried to kill me his spell blew up in his face.  He was gone but I lived with just a scar.  All over England I'm famous for being 'The-Boy-Who-Lived'."

"But you were only a baby," Dudley said.  "How'd that make you famous?"  There was a heavy note of scorn in his voice and a hint of jealousy.  "It's not like you actually did anything."

"I lived when nobody else that Voldemort wanted dead did.  When a kid lives through a car crash that killed everybody else in the car it makes the nightly news.  Several nights running if it's a slow news week."  Harry paused long enough to see Dudley nod in understanding.  "Now imagine if instead of a car crash it was an IRA bomb that killed a family but a baby survived with just a scratch?"

"The brat would be all over the telly for a month," Dudley said with his typical scorn.

"Right.  Now if it had been one bomber that had been blowing up people and sometimes whole families for years, but this one time the job that the baby survived killed the bomber…"  Harry left the thought hanging.

 Dudley's face became a scowl of concentration.

"Yeah.  The baby would be famous.  The pansies that run the BBC would probably run the story every year too.  One of those 'Where are they now?' jobs."

"Only instead of some IRA bomber it was their leader…" Harry threw out. 

Dudley thought about that for a minute.

"Bullocks!  And that's what happened to you folks?"  His eyes went wide as he looked at his scrawny cousin.

"It's a bit worse then that," Harry said in a flat voice.

"How could it be worse?"

"Voldemort wasn't just their leader.  The Death Eaters, the people that followed him, thought he was some kind of hero.  With Voldemort to lead them they killed nearly anybody that got in their way.  When they came to kill my family they lost their hero that had brought them together and let them wallow in their own stupid ideas about how better they were then everybody else.  Whole bunches of them got captured and sent to prison.  But a few skated free and they wanted their Master back."  Dudley could hear the capitol 'M' in that.

"If you're so famous how come we got stuck with you?" Dudley wanted to know.

"Dumbledore is hiding me.  He says I'm safer living with a 'normal' family."

"Safer then what?"

"Those Death Eaters that skated free want to kill me.  They hoped that killing me would bring their master back or at least they would have revenge."

"That's mental!" Dudley barked, sounding outraged at the idea. 

Harry gave a snort. 

"Now after all of that, some girls want to hang on my arm just so she can brag about being my girlfriend."  Harry shook his head and rolled his eyes expressively. 

Dudley mimicked the gesture.

"Well that can't be all bad," Dudley said with a leer.

"If you like being a trophy, sure.  My school's in an old castle. Couples are always finding convenient places for a quick snog." 

That really grabbed Dudley's attention.  It confirmed that there was more then just schooling going on, and that he was missing out because his father thought Smeltings was such a grand school.  Briefly he wondered if he got kicked out if he just might get to go to a mixed school.

"Of course if you get caught you get in trouble," Harry went on.  "Would you want to miss a match because you're in detention for enjoying a cheep feel in the broom cupboard?" 

That reminded Dudley that there is more to life then quick pleasure.  He looked at Harry and saw something in his face that made Dudley feel insecure.  Harry was becoming more of a man then Dudley.

"But these are your kind of girls, aren't they," Dudley said in a snide tone.  "All warty and what not." 

Harry let out a laugh.  He saw what Dudley was trying to do.  Instead of arguing he just stood up and went over to his school trunk.  After less then a minute he handed a stack of wizarding photos to his large cousin.  Dudley gave him a suspicious look before accepting them.  When he looked at the top photo his eyes bulged and he nearly dropped the lot.  Harry had picked out the most suggestive pictures he had received from total strangers after the Triwizard Tournament.  "Wha… Where…?"  Dudley's voice was strained; his mouth and throat had obviously gone dry as he continued to stare at the top picture.

"Fan mail," Harry said smugly.

"Because that Voldiwhatsits snuffed it?"

"There's more to it then that," Harry said with a shrug.  "And Voldemort's not dead.  Not anymore."

That first evening had set the stage for the summer.  Dudley, in a mix of curiosity and typical teen-aged rebellion against his parents, asked Harry about the wizarding world, and the girls there of.  Harry gave carefully edited accounts of his experience.  He toned down some of the more fantastic experiences and played up the things that made witches and wizards more like muggles.  Telling about his own awkwardness during the Christmas Formal the year of the Triwizard Tournament made Dudley grin.  Tails of how the girls at his school turned any social event into a competition had both boys laughing at times.  Whenever Dudley's parents were out of the house he was ready to ask more questions and hear more stories.

Harry saw an opportunity in Dudley's curiosity.  One evening he saw his large cousin shadow boxing before supper.  He watched the way his cousin moved and threw punches at the air.

"You've got fast hands," Harry said casually.  Dudley just nodded, not wanting to break his rhythm.  "Almost as fast as mine." 

That statement brought Dudley up short.  He looked at where Harry was finishing cleaning up the garden tools.

"You think you're faster then me?" Dudley challenged.

"Way faster," Harry answered.  Dudley glowered at his cousin for a full minute.

"Alright," He said in a serious voice.  "Come here." 

Harry approached his cousin carefully. 

"Hold you hands up, like this," Dudley demonstrated by holding his bare hands in front of himself with the open palms facing forward. 

Harry copied the position. 

"Let's see how long your hands last." 

That was all the warning Harry got.  Dudley jabbed a fist forward at Harry's left palm.  Harry jerked his hand away, barely escaping what would have been a stinging blow.  With the same hand he reached out and slapped the knuckles of Dudley's fist before the other boy had finished pulling it back.  After that Harry and Dudley started practicing together.  It was just a couple afternoons a week.  Harry would most often hold a large pad that Dudley would attempt to rain blows on as Harry weaved back and forth on his feet.  Sometimes Harry would put on a pair of padded gloves and try to land punches through Dudley's defense.  The two boys were nowhere near the same weight class.  If any of Dudley's blows were to connect with Harry's head it would be an instant K.O.  Harry's punches were about speed and accuracy.  He connected with Dudley's head and torso about half the time, but never with more then enough power then it had taken for the larger boy to feel it.

Petunia Dersley wasn't happy about the way her son and Harry seamed to be less adversarial.  She didn't want her son influenced by those she thought of as abnormal.  Vernon Dersley didn't see a reason to be concerned.  When he saw the boys practicing he puffed up with pride and shouted encouragement at Dudley. 

Harry and Dudley were not trying to be close friends.  Instead they had a business arrangement.  Dudley got the benefit of keeping up with his training with someone that could help improve his speed and coordination, with the bonus of hearing the kinds of things his mother would never approve of.  Harry enjoyed the work-out and welcomed the chance to improve his own coordination and speed.  Harry was always looking for tools to help him survive the war against the death eaters.

            Thank you all for reading.  I have, at long last, reposted this story and now I will declare it finished.  JKR has finished with the Potterverse.  I will try to expand my weeds through her garden by exploring the wizarding world that would follow after book 7. 

Wish us all the best of luck.