History was not Dudley Dursley's favorite subject.

Actually, to be blunt, he hated it. The Magna Carta, the various wars... it was boring. What did any of it matter? All it was good for was sleeping through. As far as Dudley was concerned, if he never had to attend another history class again, he would be happy. Who cared about a bunch of dead folks, after all? Dudley liked the living, he enjoyed the present.

Music, friends, entertainment—that was what mattered to him, not some stuffy old blokes in books.

History was for nerds, losers, geeks—those people, yes, but not people like Dudley. Therefore, it had no place in his world.

Well... not until Mr. Gawlinski showed up.

It was the fourth period of his first day of secondary school. The course was called Roman to Medieval British History, and Dudley would have skipped it altogether if it wasn't mandatory. He figured he would make the best of a bad situation, bringing his CD player and a few comics with him. That complete, he headed to Room 112.

After taking his usual seat, at the back of the room where he wouldn't be caught for not listening, Dudley munched on some chocolate and waited for enough students to be in the room to block him from the teacher's view. Then he got ready for some serious fooling around.

The bell rang and then he entered the classroom. The entire class of thirty-five eleven-year-olds, all of whom had been talking and joking a moment before, instantly fell silent. And it wasn't surprising. This man had a presence that demanded instant respect and even Dudley could see that women would find the man attractive.

He looked about thirty or so, about six feet tall and had a strong, athletic body. His hair was straight and thick and as dark as a chestnut tree's trunk. His eyes were a choppy dark blue, and his skin was light, but not pale. And he wasn't like the other teachers in matters of dress. He didn't have jeans, or loafers, or corduroys... no, this man wore a perfectly tailored three-piece suit, an expensive looking silk tie, and polished oxford style shoes. And his voice... it was deep and instantly commanding. Even at a near whisper, he spoke with incredible power and authority, causing everyone to pay attention.

"Good morning class. My name is Mr. Gawlinski," He said, with a small smile. "I'll be teaching you British history this semester, but I don't think it will be history as you've learned it before." He paused, looking around the classroom here, and his eyes seemed to meet Dudley's as he paced slowly and purposefully around the front of the room. "History is not just names and dates in a book," Gawlinski continued, "It is about life, how it was lived and, most importantly, why we live the way we do here and now."

Dudley perked up a bit here—finally, a teacher who spoke his language! He could agree with that statement.

"We will be exploring nearly a thousand years of British life, from the year 43 until 1485," Gawlinski said, his voice sure and steady. "And we will do this by sharing experiences with the people who actually lived during those times. We will share their hopes, their dreams, their triumphs and their disappointments. When we are finished, you will no longer just see yourself as Thomas Drake—" he indicated a boy in the front row.

"Or Jack Carter—"

He pointed to a boy two rows back.

"Or Dudley Dursley." And he pointed directly to Dudley.

"You will see that you are part of a great continuum." He sat on the edge of his desk, his eyes still focused on Dudley, "You will learn that your lives intimately connect with the lives of all the people around you, with all the people who came before you, and with all the people who have yet to be born. You will see that every action you take affects both the present and the future. You will learn to celebrate the miracle that is your life."

Dudley was enthralled by the speech and curious, something he had never been in school before. Of all the subjects to take an interest to, he hadn't expected it to be history.

For the rest of the forty-two minute class, he paid attention like he'd never paid attention before. He, and his classmates, stared in awe as Gawlinski talked about the founding of London. As he spoke in words and images that Dudley had never before encountered, he began to feel like he had been part of that incredible building. He felt the pain and fear of the Roman soldiers, as they attempted to build a civilization and fight the natives, the joy at the end of the long-lasting battle to conquer Wales, the building of Hadrian's Wall, the defeat of Scotland. For all intents and purposes, Dudley was a Roman.

When the bell rung and it was time to move onto the next class, Dudley felt sad, as if leaving behind compatriots and people he had known. He looked at his classmate to his right and could see that she felt the same way. Both of them felt a bit weak and they stumbled towards the door.

"See you tomorrow, Dudley, Adrian?" Gawlinski asked as they shuffled past his desk.

Both of them shared looks and looked back at the man, "Oh yes," both students said, grinning as they left.

When lunch came around and Dudley spoke to his friends about Gawlinski and the interest he had started to take in history, his friends stared at him as if they had never seen him before. The more he went on about the subject, the more irritated his friends became until Piers, Dudley's best friend, could take no more.

"Are you mad?" He inquired, munching on a sandwich, "You're talking about history. Nobody who's anybody cares about that subject."

"It's not like that," Dudley tried to explain. "It's Gawlinski's history class. I mean... when he talks about the past... it's like..."

"Like?" Piers demanded.

"Like he actually lived there."

"Oh come off it!" Laughter from Gordon, who shook his head, "Really D, listen to yourself!"

"I'm serious!" Dudley said, clenching his giant hand. "And it's… he makes us feel like we lived there. Like right now... I could tell you what the Romans ate in between fights. I can practically draw diagrams on Hadrian's wall. And I know how it feels to lose a comrade in battle."

"Who cares?" Piers asked, rolling his eyes. "Those people are all dead. I care about the living—and lunch!" He took a large gulp of his juice as he said this.

The others laughed in agreement but Dudley shot him a venomous look, "You should care," he said, "without them, we wouldn't have our language, quite a few roads, laws—"

The others groaned and rolled their eyes and Malcolm spoke, "D, man," he laughed, "whatever you say, fine. But I think Piers is right: lunch is more important right now. I'm starved." With that everyone nodded and began eating lunch.

"Oi, watch this," Dennis said with a grin and turned, using his Smelting stick to hit another student across the knees, making said student stumble, causing his custard to go all over him. Dudley laughed with the others as the smaller boy stood, until a voice spoke.

"I don't find this amusing."

Dudley looked to see Gawlinski standing there, eyes roaming over the table. The laughter died.

"It was just a joke," Piers mumbled, not recognizing the teacher.

"It wasn't a very funny one," Gawlinski retorted. He looked at them all again, and Dudley looked down, not wanting to see the disappointment in the man's eyes. It had just been a joke… "Right. You lot have detention. Colin, go get cleaned up."

The other boy nodded and ran off, Gawlinski walked away and Dennis glowered. "Detention!? Who does that git think he is?"

"I don't know," Piers said, shrugging.

"That's Gawlinski," Dudley answered quietly.

"Him?" Malcolm scoffed. "Well, he's a jerk. Glad he's not my teacher."

Dudley faked a smile and nodded, unsure about what to say to that.

The day finished all too quickly and soon Dudley was in Gawlinski's office with his friends, awaiting detention.

The man looked at them, indicating Piers, Malcolm and Dennis, "You three will be helping in the kitchen. Perhaps making food will give you a greater appreciation for it. You two," this was said as he indicated Dudley and Gordon, "will be cleaning."

Cleaning? Dudley couldn't even remember the last time he had had to clean. But he knew protesting wouldn't help. He nodded while the others glowered but did the same.

And so a few minutes later, Dudley found himself in the gym, cleaning up. Ugh. It smelled. He felt sick having to be here. The body odor was horrible and the bleach he used wasn't really helping.

"We aren't janitors," Gordon complained.

"It's our detention," Dudley said.

"Well that teacher can sod off. Detentions are supposed to be lines or something." The other boy threw his rag back in the bucket. "Come on, let's go."

"I don't want another detention for not doing this one," Dudley answered. "I'll just say you're in the bathroom if someone asks."

Gordon grinned, "Thanks." He left quickly while Dudley persisted in cleaning and serving his detention, curious about the equipment he was cleaning.

Many breaks and panting and sweating later, Dudley heard the door open.

"I think you learned your lesson," Gawlinski's voice said quietly, making Dudley look over at him. "Unlike your friends, who all complained to the Headmaster and now have to serve a week's worth of detentions copying lines."

Dudley swallowed hard, unsure about what to say to that. All of them had complained? Even Gordon? How stupid could someone be? Dudley had said he'd cover for him.

"The room looks good. You did a good job." The teacher looked at Dudley, eyes practically boring into him. When Gawlinski spoke, he was calm, but his tone demanded attention and Dudley looked at him. "Mistakes are how we learn, Dudley. Hurting someone for amusement is not funny. It is cruel. It degrades you as a man."

No one in his life had ever said that before.

If anything, his parents and aunt... they had all encouraged Dudley's behavior. His friends too, of course. He was a Dursley, and Dursleys "didn't take crap from anybody," as his father would say.

"But it was just a joke," Dudley said, shrugging. "We weren't bullying him."

The man looked at him intently, as if he were studying Dudley. "Would you have liked it if that had happened to you? If someone in a group attacked you and humiliated you in front of everyone? And you can't fight back because you are outnumbered."

"We have the Smelting sticks for a reason," Dudley mumbled back, fidgeting. "It's good training for later in life." That was what his father had said, wasn't it?

"Yes," Gawlinski said quietly. "It's good training for restraint."

The boy looked at him with confusion.

"It isn't for hitting others when you think no one is looking, Dudley. It is a reminder of balance, similar to a cane, and restraint. Many times in this life you will be angry and have the ability to express this, be it physically or in other ways. In giving you all something that is like a weapon, you are being taught to not use it. To use logic even when you want to give in and beat something."

Dudley looked down, unsure of what to say to this.

"Trust me, Dudley," the man said quietly, making him look up. "Detention on the second day of school is not good. That behavior is not what you want to be known for." The man gave him a smile. "Now get yourself cleaned up. Your supper is waiting."

"Thank you, sir," Dudley said, nodding and shuffling off as quickly as he could. His stomach was grumbling but he was still miserable and smelly from his detention.

He made his way back to the dorm and took a shower. He was too tired to eat and so he made his way to the dorm and just fell asleep.

The next morning he was starving and so he was down in the cafeteria a bit earlier than usual. His friends joined him afterwards. "I can't believe you didn't just complain and get lines," Malcolm said, shaking his head and eating his bacon.

Dudley shrugged, "A day is better than a week."

"If you say so, D," he replied, looking at his schedule. Dudley did the same and soon the group separated for classes.

The next few days were typical class ones, though his friends managed to get him into another cleaning detention for throwing books in the library… and then another one for making a boy fall down the steps.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, Dudley," Gawlinski had said as he watched the boy clean the workout area yet again.

"What does that mean?" Dudley asked, panting.

"It means that sometimes you have to start small to achieve great things," the teacher explained. "Perhaps… obtaining the courage to distance yourself from certain people could be an example for you."

Dudley sighed, "Mr. Gawlinski—they're my friends. They don't mean to get anyone into trouble. People here are just too strict."

The teacher gave him an almost pitying look, making Dudley turn his head and determinedly clean. His friends were funny and liked him. They weren't bullies or anything, they were just having a bit of fun. Everyone did it.

It was the last week of September, and Dudley had actually managed five consecutive days without any detentions, when Gawlinski announced everyone in class would be doing presentations on something that was covered so far in lessons. He passed out the requirements and the bell rang afterwards, signaling the end of the period.

Dudley took a minute to look at the assignment that Gawlinski had assigned and glanced at the clock. His next class was swimming, one class he shared with his friends. Mrs. Haddock, the instructor, was nice. She probably wouldn't penalize him for being late when it was a legitimate reason…

And he was actually doing very well in history.

"May I help you?" Gawlinski asked, giving Dudley a smile.

He would just ask the teacher for a note. "Yes, I was curious about what we can do for the presentation. I know it says 'Be Creative' on the paper, but I really can't think of anything."

Gawlinski nodded, thinking. "Well, what do you enjoy?"

"Games," Dudley answered truthfully, thinking. "And watching shows on the telly…"

The man nodded and smiled, "How about a news report then? The video department head will be glad someone is taking an interest and if you're careful, I'm sure she'll help you."

A news report? Dudley thought for a few minutes before jotting this down on the assignment sheet. "Perhaps a 'Live from Hadrian's Wall' broadcast…" He jotted more, a bit interested now at the concept. "Thank you, sir."

Gawlinski smiled. "You're welcome. Now then, what class are you supposed to be in?"

"Mrs. Haddock's class. Swimming."

"I'll walk you—I have a free period and I would hate for her to think the note may be forged."

Dudley smiled, relieved, and walked with the man, the two discussing possible ways Dudley could do his project, and just as they reached the pool, the school nurse ran by them inside, the headmaster following after.

They entered quickly, Dudley confused, and he saw Haddock helping one of his classmates, who was coughing and soaked.

His friends were standing away from the others in the class. Everything was silent except for the lapping of the water in the pool.

"What happened?" The headmaster asked.

Mrs. Haddock stood, pointing at Piers, Gordon, Malcolm and Dennis. "They," she said furiously, "thought it would be amusing to push him," and here she indicated the student she had been helping, "into the pool and not let him come up for air!"

The headmaster frowned severely. "I see. My office then. All of you."

Piers looked at Dudley, who was looking back at them, and the headmaster turned. "Were you involved in planning this?" He asked Dudley.

Dudley shook his head, still quite confused. "N-No, they're just my friends…"

The headmaster looked at Gawlinski, who nodded, "He was with me. It's why I walked him here, I didn't want Joyce to think he had a forged note or the like."

"Would you mind taking the class for a study period, then? I'll need Mrs. Haddock in my office so we can have things done quickly."

"Of course headmaster." Gawlinski looked over the class, "Uniforms on, meet me in my classroom, room 112. Hurry up now."

The rest of the class scurried away while the headmaster nodded and left with Dudley's friends and Mrs. Haddock. The school nurse left with the person they had almost drowned, who was still coughing slightly. Dudley watched them leave, wondering what would happen. Detention? For some reason he doubted them writing lines would suffice for this.

Perhaps suspension, then? That was certainly strict…

He followed Gawlinski back to the classroom he had just left, thinking about what could happen.

Over dinner, Dudley learned the verdict: expulsion.

"Bullying has never been and will never be tolerated here at Smeltings Academy. We teach you to be honorable men and not bullies."

The boy would be spending the night in the hospital—the nurse had been concerned over something.

But expulsion for a joke? Yes, it had been a bit over the top, but Dudley was surprised that they were actually expelled.

But that wasn't bullying, what his friends had done… just a good laugh, they wouldn't have drowned anyone…

It was just things similar to what they did in primary school. Nobody had cared back then, they had just laughed. Nobody had ever called them bullies. Nobody had ever been expelled for it…

Or had other people been too afraid to speak up?

And so the boy started off his October feeling quite lonely and confused. He would just get a small lunch from the cafeteria. Being by himself in there wasn't much fun. He would eat his lunch quickly and then go to the gym or library or computer room. Sometimes other students would hassle him now too, perhaps bored or perhaps because his friends had put a classmate in the hospital.

'Hey Piggy, that's my seat!'

'I can't understand oinking, sorry.'

'Someone call the wildlife foundation, we found a beached whale!'

After he had gotten a detention for hitting someone and starting a fight because their friends jumped in, Gawlinski told him to just ignore the comments and they would die down.

Dudley tried, but it was very hard to do and he didn't like it very much. He had taken to avoiding places with the other students whenever possible and it wasn't even a week that his friends had been gone! Some places he couldn't avoid though—bathrooms, classes and the lunch room.

Like now. He had gone through hell trying to get to the lunch line and not beat someone with a tray.

It was going to be a miserable next few years, he was sure of it. The thought was interrupted by a voice.

"Y-You could eat with me, if you want," Jake Christie said nervously, standing behind him.

Dudley turned, surprised. He hadn't eaten in the cafeteria for a while now. Jake seemed nice enough, though. He was smart, top of their class, and usually in the library or computer room.

"S-Sure," Dudley said, nodding. He was surprised and a bit pleased. He hadn't expected anyone to want his company. He followed the bespectacled boy to a table and sat.

The two ate in silence for a bit before Jake spoke, "I… I see you in the computer room sometimes."

Dudley nodded, "I see you too." He paused, "You're really good with computers. I don't know how to use a lot of the things on these. The only things I know are games!"

Jake grinned, "I like reading and stuff, but I love video games."

Dudley perked up a bit and immediately asked, "What's your favorite?"

The discussion quickly led into various different games and soon the two had to hurry for class. But after the school day ended, they met again in the computer room, Dudley watching Jake play a chess game.

"How do you even play that?" Dudley groaned, watching. "Isn't it boring?"

"Chess? I love it! Makes you think," Jake said. "You never played?"

Feeling a bit stupid, Dudley shook his head.

"There's a chess club here. Want to check it out? I always did but was nervous to go alone…" Jake trailed off, perhaps thinking he said too much.

Part of Dudley wanted to scoff. Only nerds played chess and the like. But Jake had been nice to him. And he had felt lonely without his friends. And well, the other boy seemed to like the same video games...

"All right," Dudley said, shrugging. "Let's take a look."

Jake grinned at him and the two managed to find their way to the rather busy chess club's room. To Dudley's surprise, Gawlinski seemed to be the moderator.

"Good afternoon," he said to them, making them both reply immediately. One of Jake's classmates called him over, obviously wanting to play. Jake glanced at Dudley, who nodded, and he watched the other boy leave.

"Do you play?" Gawlinski inquired politely, making Dudley turn to look at him.

The boy shook his head. "No, sir." He paused and said hurriedly, "I mean, I... I've never played..."

"Then let us rectify this. Chess is a fascinating game with a long rich history." The teacher beckoned for Dudley to follow, and he did, watching Gawlinski set up a board. "It evolved from a game called 'shatranj,' which originated in Persia and India. Fascinating places. Persia is the old name for the country known as Iran today. It is a country in Western Asia." The man looked at Dudley with a smile.

"Have you been there?" Dudley asked, rather curious.

"I've been all around," Gawlinski admitted with a nod. "But there is nothing like having a place to come back to. Now then, let me explain the rules... this is the pawn. The pawn is the most basic piece. On your first move, it can move forward one or two spaces, but it is only allowed to move forward by one space afterwards. Pawns are only allowed to attack other pieces one space diagonally from it, and cannot move backwards. Like so." The teacher demonstrated, making Dudley blink. Just that and he was already confused...

"Now this is the rook," Gawlinski said, holding up a piece that looked like a castle tower. "It can move horizontally and vertically as many spaces as are available. It can attack pieces in its path." Once more the teacher demonstrated and Dudley had the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that those whispers he had always heard when he was younger were right: he was an idiot, a "pig on two legs," some people would whisper...

"Dudley?" Gawlinski looked at him.

"The rook moves like this..." Dudley mimicked the motion, "And pawns move one space forward but not the first time and attack diagonally."

The man smiled. "Excellent. Well then—this is the knight." He showed Dudley a piece that looked like a horse. "It's actually a bit odd. It moves in 'L' shapes that consist of two spaces horizontally then one space vertically, or one space horizontally then two spaces vertically, in any direction. The knight is the only piece that can jump other pieces. It attacks only the pieces that are in the spaces it stops at."

Dudley had a sinking suspicion he would never truly understand chess.

"This is the bishop," Gawlinski said, holding up a piece that made Dudley think of a cone. "It can only move diagonally, but it can move an unlimited amount of spaces until it attacks."

The boy nodded, trying to keep it all straight in his mind. It wasn't easy work...

"Now this is the queen," the teacher stated, holding up a piece with a circle atop it. "It is the most powerful piece. It can move either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally by any number of spaces and attack from any of those directions."

Okay. Dudley liked that. The queen piece seemed pretty cool.

"And this," Gawlinski finished, "is the king." He showed the piece with a small cross atop it. "It can only move one space each turn in any direction and attacks in the same manner. It is the piece you do not want to lose at all costs, as it will make you lose the game."

Dudley nodded; relatively easy. Don't lose the king.

"Ready to play?" The teacher smiled.


"Well, white always moves first in chess so go ahead."

Quite nervous, Dudley moved a pawn and soon he was thinking hard, focusing on moving his pieces. It was hard, and more then once, he honestly wanted to throw a tantrum and throw the board.

He had a feeling that it wouldn't be taken well though, and he refrained... barely.

Gawlinski won the game but encouraged Dudley to play another game with him, citing the "best out of three." A bit miserable about it and his head hurting from having thought more than usual, Dudley agreed.

He played again, not winning the second game either, but a bit more comfortable with the pieces and the game. Gawlinski played with him until a student offered, and before Dudley knew it, he had been in the room for hours!

He helped everyone clean up and was about to leave when Gawlinski called him. The boy looked up, Jake looking over too as the others left.

"I was wondering if you would be interested in boxing," Gawlinski said. "You were good at cleaning the equipment and it seems like something you would enjoy."

Him? Boxing? Dudley liked the thought, actually...

"It will be a lot of hard work if you want to be decent at it though," Gawlinski warned.

"I'll think about it," Dudley said with a grin. "Thank you, sir."

"You're welcome. Now both of you, enjoy dinner." The teacher smiled and Dudley left with Jake.

As the two walked, Jake spoke, "Thanks. For coming with me, I mean. It was fun."

"I liked it," Dudley said, realizing, to his great surprise, that he wasn't lying. Sure it had been hard, but he had liked knowing the game better. "Do you think the boxing thing is a good idea?"

Jake nodded, "You look like you'd be good at it. But homework will be really hard to squeeze in, won't it?"

Dudley blinked. Homework? He shrugged, "Just make something up, nobody really cares."

"Are you mad?" the other boy inquired, adjusting his glasses. "Grades matter very much if you want to get into a good university. Even with sports and the like you need a certain average!"

"University is years away!" Dudley laughed at the thought.

"And they'll look this far back," Jake said, looking quite serious as they entered the line to get their food.

"But I'm rubbish at homework and all that boring stuff," Dudley said, looking and feeling a bit nervous. He didn't know what he wanted to do, but he did know university probably would factor into it.

"We're in different sets," Jake said, thinking. "We can finish up supper and go to the library. I can help you, if you want."

"Really?" Dudley nodded. "The work is hard..."

"We'll finish and get cracking on it," the other boy said with a nod.

Dudley grinned and the two quickly finished their supper, heading to the library. Homework was easier—Jake was good at explaining it. The two worked on all their assignments, Jake emphasizing that getting them done earlier gave them more time later to have fun.

Truthfully, Dudley doubted it, but it felt good having that load off his mind when he went to sleep and Jake had found him a book about boxing training!

When the library closed, the two went to their separate dorms and promising to meet for breakfast. Dudley had borrowed the boxing training book, reading it with interest before bed. He actually set his alarm to be up earlier than usual since the book suggested running.

The next morning, Dudley learned it was much easier to read about working out than doing it. Not even fifteen minutes of using a treadmill and he was soaked... as for pushups and situps he hadn't even managed to finish a set! He was exhausted and sweaty and it hadn't even been thirty minutes. He showered and met Jake for breakfast, a bit embarrassed. How could he have ever thought he would be decent at boxing?

"Well, you just started," Jake said when Dudley mentioned his horrible workout. "You have to keep at it if you want results."

The same thing was stated when Dudley mentioned it to Gawlinski briefly after class.

"It will be very hard for the first few months," the teacher said. "Come after school to the workout room and more people will be there to help you. Everyone was a beginner at some point."

Partially thinking it would be useless but also figuring that boxing would be pretty cool, Dudley nodded and left the classroom.

The school day passed by pretty quickly and Dudley went to the workout room. The people in there smiled at him and Dudley felt a little better; he had expected stares or something, to be honest. He tried the running again and it was similar to last time. He was soaked and miserable in a few minutes.

"Treadmill is tough," an older student said, seeing him. "You're doing good, though. Drink some water and give it another go."

Dudley nodded, panting, and after a few breaks, finished his run. They spotted him for his situps and pushups, nobody saying anything mean when he took his breaks, panting heavily and sweating.

He was tired after two pushups and running, things everyone else seemed to do with ease. Dudley had never cared about his size before but goodness, he was having a hard time with working out. He blushed with pushups because his belly brushed the floor and he couldn't complete a situp.

But he continued stubbornly until he finished ten of each that day, making the ones watching him cheer encouragingly.

After a shower, the rather exhausted Dudley found Jake in the computer room. "What's that?" He inquired curiously, looking at the odd screen and Jake typing.

"Oh," the boy said, blushing a bit. "I'm trying to make a game..."

"You know how to do that?" Dudley was stunned. He loved playing games, but making them had never crossed his mind.

"Oh yes, here, take a look. It's a simple 'break the bricks' game..." Jake showed Dudley what he was doing and Dudley was fascinated by it. All of these odd codes made his games?

That was cool.

"I'd love to make a bigger game than this," Jake admitted. "But I don't know what."

Dudley thought for a moment, "We both liked 'Smash Crush Destroy 3'... maybe something like that?"

"It'd be hard to do... and the school might not like it." Jake grinned.

A furrowed brow as Dudley thought hard. School approved game... "What about history? That has lots of interesting events. Maybe something from there? Then a little violence can be okay since it's based on something real."

Jake looked at him with surprise and grinned, "That... that might work... but what..."

"We'll figure it out," Dudley said, making Jake nod.

"We should write this down so we don't forget. And you'll have to learn about programming too."

With a half-heated groan, Dudley followed Jake to the library, where his friend began to get some basic books on the subject for him.

With so many things now, Dudley and Jake were busy most of the time. With their classes, homework, chess, boxing, swimming and their mission to make a computer game, Dudley could scarcely believe how fast the first school holiday had come. With Jake's tutoring, Dudley's grades were noticeably improved and he felt good about it.

It was astonishing, to say the least. But the work was interesting and he had help… for so long he had laughed at "nerds with high marks," that he felt stupid. As if getting good grades were an offense…

But yes, Dudley was a bit proud of his marks. And he hoped his parents were too—he was sure the school notified them. But the boy was also a bit worried—his uniform no longer really fit him.

It was loose and he had been forced to make new holes in his belt to keep his trousers from falling off! His clothes were a bit saggy and it was a little embarrassing.

At least the first school holiday was soon, and so Dudley knew that much could be fixed. A few days later, their parents came to get everyone and he exchanged phone numbers with Jake, along with email. They were working on a project together for fun, a history based game.

Gawlinski was helping them with it too, and the teacher had given them his email. He stated he would be checking for it and expected to hear from them, and expected Dudley to keep up with his training.

Dudley had nodded and left with his parents.

Over the holiday, after telling what felt like everyone in the country about his grades, his Mum had him fitted at the tailor's for his uniform. He was glad he had kept some of his old clothes, because all of the ones he was used to were a bit loose on him.

His visit home made him want to groan. His father kept asking when his first match would be, ignoring Dudley's repeated explanations of he was still training, and his mother kept offering him sweets and ignoring him when he stated he was on a diet!

Dudley knew that he couldn't just toss the sweets—his mother would find them and he didn't want to waste good sweets. But he knew that he couldn't eat them or he'd ruin his hard work! What could he do?

A gentle tap at his window made him look up. His cousin's pet bird?

Dudley blushed, remembering how he had treated Harry. He had been on the receiving end of it for a while after his friends had left.

It hadn't been pleasant.

And now thinking about it… his detentions, he had hated them. Cleaning and cooking and everything—and Harry had been forced to do everything his entire life.

Dudley felt ashamed at that realization. He had been a stupid git, pure and simple.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Gawlinski had said it time and time again. And Dudley knew how small groups tended to start huge changes.

It was a small step, yes, but it was better than nothing. He took out his pen and paper.

Dear Harry,

I had a lot of sweets left over and thought you might like some. I'm in some sports at school and they're a bit against the diet plan, so maybe you could enjoy them for me? I hope magic school is going as well for you as Smeltings is for me.



The boy looked at the owl, confused, and held out the paper sack with the note inside.

The owl hooted and nipped his finger gently, not hard at all. Dudley thought it was almost… affectionate. The owl then gripped the sack with the sweets and his letter inside before flying off.

Pleased now, since the sweets wouldn't go to waste and he had tried to bridge that gap with a small step, Dudley began to study.