Authors Note – The premise of this story is that the note given to the students when they leave Hogwarts creates the charm that notifies the Ministry of underage magic. Yes, I know it is not canon, but I am sure JKR originally intended it that way.
And suddenly, their wardrobes were empty, their trunks were packed, Neville's toad was found lurking in a corner of the toilets; notes were handed out to students, warning them not to use magic over the holidays ("I always hope they'll forget to give us these," said Fred Weasley sadly)
When Harry didn't get a note, he wisely kept quiet.
"Hope you have -- er -- a good holiday," said Hermione, looking uncertainly after Uncle Vernon, shocked that anyone could be so unpleasant.
"Oh, I will," said Harry, and they were surprised at the grin that was spreading over his face. "Ididn't get a note telling me I'm not allowed to use magic at home. I'm going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer..."
The ride back to Number four Privet drive after Harry's first year away at magic school was singularly uneventful.
He was smart enough not to try to talk about his time at the detested school, Vernon and Petunia pretended he wasn't even present in the car, and Dudley was so nervous that he squashed himself against the door – as far away from Harry as possible.
Possibly, the whale of a boy was trying to avoid any physical contact, just in case it caused the growth of another tail like the one Hagrid had bestowed on him.
Harry didn't mind though. He stared idly out of the window at the changing scenery and thought about his new friends, and the old enemies he never knew he had. He was missing all the good things from Hogwarts, especially Quidditch, despite not even a single day passing.
So much changed in such a short time that it all seemed a bit unreal; a feeling he knew would get even worse once back in the smallest bedroom of Privet drive.
Before Harry knew it, the car stopped and the Dursleys were piling out. Dudley was in such a hurry to get as far away from Harry as quickly as possible that he didn't even close the car door, but ran for the front of the house as fast as his enormous legs would carry him.
Harry considered this as one of the funniest sights ever, but refrained from laughing aloud at the ridiculous antics of his blubber-boy cousin.
Petunia rushed to unlock the door and let Dudley in while Vernon, checking to make sure none of the neighbours was watching, opened the boot.
"Hurry up and get this freak stuff inside before anybody sees," he whispered in a low voice.
Harry struggled to lift the heavy trunk out on his own.
"Watch you don't scratch the paint, boy, or there will be hell to pay!" warned Vernon, standing where he could best block the view of anybody who might be sneaking a look out of their window.
The trunk thudded heavily on the ground. Harry grabbed Hedwig's cage and tried to balance it on top so he could drag the trunk with both hands.
"Stop playing with that blasted bird and get this rubbish inside!" snapped Vernon, still looking around nervously.
Harry bit back his answer, knowing only too well that it would just infuriate his uncle further. As he struggled to drag the trunk along, he briefly wondered what would happen if he took out his wand, which was currently stuck inside his oversized shirt, and used magic to move it. The imagined image of Vernon Dursley exploding from indignation brought a slight smile to the young boy's face.
He just started dragging the heavy baggage up the stairs when Vernon suddenly grabbed the handle at the other end, almost causing Harry to fall. Luckily, Harry was able to catch Hedwig's cage before it fell off and landed on Vernon's head.
"Where do you think you are going with that, boy?" asked Vernon, his face grinning sadistically.
"Er, up to my room?" answered Harry warily.
"Oh no," grinned Vernon. "You won't be doing any of your abnormality in my house! All of you stuff is getting locked under the stairs until you go back to that freak school."
Harry grabbed the handle of his trunk with one hand and tried to stop it from getting dragged back down, while at the same time holding Hedwig's cage with the other hand. The white owl hooted noisily at the sudden, rough treatment. She was obviously still a bit miffed at spending the return journey in the boot of the car.
"You can't!" pleaded Harry. "I have loads of homework to do over summer."
Vernon paused in his insistent tugging. "I don't care what happens to you at your freak school. You will not be doing unnatural things under my roof, you will keep that bloody bird locked up, and you will not even talk about it while you are here, understand?" yelled Vernon.
Harry was momentarily stunned, but quickly rallied.
"But Uncle, what am I going to tell my teachers when I get back if I haven't done any of my homework?" he pleaded.
"I DON'T CARE!" screamed Vernon, his face again turning the violet colour Harry knew so well, as he started tugging on the trunk again. "TELL THEM YOU ARE A LAZY, GOOD-FOR-NOTHING, FREAK!"
Through long experience, he knew that, when his uncle's face went that shade, it meant all hope was lost and Harry would just have to endure whatever was going to be done to him.
"FINE!" he yelled, letting go of the trunk.
The sudden lack of resistance to Vernon's pulling meant the trunk easily slid back down, and Vernon fell backwards on to his behind, letting out a loud, "OOMMFF!"
"You can take the trunk and lock it up, and when I get back to school I will tell them exactly why I haven't done any of my homework. I'LL TELL THEM YOU WOULDN'T LET ME DO IT AND LOCKED MY STUFF IN THE CUPBOARD THAT USED TO BE MY BEDROOM!"
Vernon's outraged face froze in shock, and Harry heard a gasp from the door leading into the kitchen. He looked over to see Petunia standing with both hands clamped over her mouth. Her eyes were as wide as saucers, and Harry knew she realised what he was threatening.
From a very young age, Harry understood that he wasn't to tell anybody anything about how the Dursley's treated him. On more than one occasion, he was punishment if the subject, of his bedroom in particular, came up with any non-Dursley in hearing distance.
If anybody ever questioned Petunia, Vernon, or even Dudley about it, Harry was called a liar and left locked in his cupboard with no dinner.
Therefore, he had been careful never to tell of all the terrible things that happened to him living while with his mother's sister and her family, mainly because there was nowhere else to go, or anybody he trusted to tell.
Now he had seen the wizarding world, and met people who seemed to care for him, and he had friends who he knew would help him out. Now he had something more than his uncle, aunt, and cousin, and he wasn't afraid to use them.
"Well uncle?" he asked Vernon, who was still sitting open-mouthed on the bottom step; Harry' trunk across his legs were it had fallen. "Are you going to take my trunk away then?"
Vernon's face purpled again as he struggled with conflicting emotions. Harry could tell he desperately didn't want to let Harry do any magic, but he definitely didn't want to have to explain his actions to any "freaks" that may come to look into "the boy's" claims.
It was easy enough when it was just a schoolteacher or other busybody, but he would never be able to bluster and lie his way out of it if somebody like Harry's first friend in the wizarding world, Hagrid, ever came knocking.
Harry guessed Dudley wasn't the only one still having nightmares about Hagrid's last visit.
The silence dragged on for a full minute while Vernon struggled with his problem. Harry held his breath, and by the look of it, his aunt may have been too.
Finally, Vernon angrily pushed the trunk off his legs and stood up.
"All right, ALL RIGHT, THEN. You can take your blasted trunk and do your homework, but DON'T LET ME SEE OR HEAR YOU DOING ANYTHING UNNATURAL, OR THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY AND I'LL DO MORE THAN JUST LOCK UP YOUR STUFF! AND KEEP THAT BLOODY OWL OUT OF SITE TOO. THE NEIGHBOURS HAD BETTER NOT SEE IT, OR ANY OTHER FREAKINESS."
Harry nearly smiled, but caught himself before he enraged his uncle further. Jumping down the stairs he grabbed his trunk and, carrying Hedwig's cage in his other hand, went as quickly as he could to his room.
Just before she disappeared out of sight into the kitchen, Harry caught a glimpse of his aunt's face as Vernon stormed past her. She was staring at Harry, and her expression held nothing short of absolute fury.
Harry stood in the park under his invisibility cloak and waited until there was nobody else there. When the moment finally arrived, he raised his wand.
"Wingardium Leviosa," he whispered, pointing his wand out from under his cloak.
A rock several feet away obediently rose into the air.
Quickly, Harry let his spell go and ran to hide behind a tree.
The Weasley Twins explained that the note held the spell that reported magic use outside of school, and accepting it meant activating the Trace, but Harry was still uncertain.
On the night Hagrid brought Harry his letter, Aunt Petunia said Lily returned after first year and was turning 'teacups into rats', so Harry knew there was definitely some way around the restriction, but he wasn't entirely certain the twins were correct.
Even if Hermione was practicing casting spells before going to Hogwarts, and it was obvious that the Slytherins at least were exempt from the rule (probably thanks to Snape), it didn't mean the twins weren't lying (in order to get Harry into trouble, for a laugh).
So here he was, testing out the theory that no note meant no monitoring.
After ten minutes, it didn't look like anything was going to happen, so Harry cast another spell and made a branch fly all the way to the other side of the park.
Once again, nothing happened. No witch or wizard suddenly jumped out from behind a bush and started telling Harry off, no magical police force came to break his wand, and no letter-bearing owl appeared expelling him from Hogwarts; it was safe. He could do magic outside of school!
The summer suddenly looked very bright indeed.
Dinner that night went quite well, considering.
Vernon ignored him completely, Dudley, with an astuteness that was quite surprising, was torn between trying to keep a fearful eye on a very cocky looking Harry and watch the television at the same time, and Petunia grudgingly gave Harry a full plate of vegetables, but no meat.
Harry wasn't bothered. With his invisibility cloak, he knew would have no problem sneaking back later to get more to eat if he wanted it.
After washing and drying all the dishes under the watchful eyes of his aunt, as usual, he retreated to his room.
Hedwig slept in her locked cage, but Harry would magically unlock it and set her free as soon as the Dursleys were safely in the arms of Morpheus.
It was still too early to go to sleep, and there was no way he was going to do any homework in the first week of his holidays, no matter what Hermione said. Neither Ron nor Hermione had replied to his letters yet, but Harry figured they must have been off doing exciting things.
Harry browsed Dudley's never opened books on the shelf of his room. There were a few well-known stories he heard of before going to Hogwarts, and a few of them even looked interesting, but reading just seemed too much like doing homework.
Eventually, Harry decided he would write a letter to Ron anyway, hoping another reminder might inspire his best friend to write back.
The next five minutes passed with Harry digging around in his trunk for a quill and some parchment or paper. With the usual forethought and consideration of boy his age, he had simply jammed everything he owned into the trunk before leaving Hogwarts, and now, of course, he couldn't find a thing.
Frustration mounting, he began dumping everything out onto the floor.
There was no way his aunt would tolerate such a mess, so Harry knew he would have to hang his pathetic clothes up in the tiny wardrobe, and hide his books away where nobody could see their titles, but for the moment, he settled on making one big pile out of everything.
Just when he finally had a quill, a bottle of ink, and some parchment, a brightly coloured, crumbled pamphlet poking out of a schoolbook caught his eye. Not immediately recognising it, he flattened it out to read.
It was an owl-order form from the wizard bookshop in Diagon alley where he and Hagrid bought his schoolbooks last year. It came inside the bag with his other books and he never got around to throwing it out, or even reading it.
He vividly recalled standing in the store looking at shelves that extended to the roof, all overflowing with books on every subject imaginable - and many completely incredible.
Hagrid prevented him from buying a book on hexes he wanted in order to curse Dudley. Not that Harry would have been able to use it anyway - at that time he didn't know how – but the book was something he really could have used, especially when dealing with Draco Malfoy.
That visit to Diagon alley was one of the best days ever for Harry, especially when it ended with Hagrid buying Harry his first ever real birthday gift since his parents died; Hedwig the owl.
Harry looked at Hedwig, and then looked back at the order form in his hand, and a plan started to come together.
Harry lay on his small cot holding his very own copy of 'Curses and Countercurses (Bewitch Your Friends and Befuddle Your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue- Tying and Much, Much More)' by Professor Vindictus Viridian.
The book was not on the order form, so he sent Hedwig off with a letter asking for a more complete list of books. The catalogue cost a whole galleon, but the thick, magical tome contained an entry for every book in the store.
Tapping the listed name of a book caused the page to change, pushing all of the other writing away to display an in-depth description of the selected book in question. Brutally honest reviews were available on the next tap.
"Load of rubbish," says O.D. Art from Lucktinshire about the Hot Book of Inflammability Charms – "I wasted my money buying this nonsense and I can't even burn it in the fireplace to be rid of it!"
Even with the amazing catalogue, it took Harry nearly a whole day to find the book Hagrid previously stopped him from buying.
There were also dozens of other interesting sounding books, including a whole section of books on household charms Harry now used to get through the burden of chores his Aunt and Uncle were making him do.
Not that he could do magic in front of them, and Petunia seemed to be watching him like a hawk. One false move and Harry was certain his wand, trunk, and maybe even himself, would be back under the stairs for the rest of the holidays.
Tension was still running very high in the Dursley house. Both Petunia and Vernon looked at Harry as if he was going to sprout another head any second, and Dudley, although he had finally stopped clutching both hands to his bottom every time Harry walked into the same room, was still obviously terrified.
Harry skimmed through a fair portion of 'Befuddle Your Enemies'. Most of the spells seemed either too hard for him to do, or not subtle enough for him to be able to get away with using on any of the Dursleys.
Unlike his textbooks, 'Befuddle Your Enemies' did not have pages and pages telling the history of each spell and the theory behind it. It contained a few very brief passages that told you exactly how to do each spell (and its counter), and nice, labelled diagrams of the wand movements required. Some of the pictures even moved, demonstrating exactly what to do.
Now he just needed a plan to make sure his revenge was as sweet as possible.
Harry was sitting on his cot again, bored.
Locked in his room because Vernon suspected his nephew of having something to do with Dudley continuously dropping his trousers (after bullying small children at the local park), Harry was already sick of homework.
He had in fact bewitched Dudley's pants, but since he was hidden under the invisibility cloak at the time of casting the spell, there was no way anybody could have seen him. So Vernon really had no reason to be blaming him, except for the fact he had not been in his room at the time of the 'incident'.
Harry suspected the trouser dropping thing was just the straw that broke the camel's back. There had, after all, been several other 'incidents'.
First was the nasty rash Dudley and Vernon both suddenly developed in places not talked about by decent folk.
Then there was the problem with all of Dudley's underclothes slowly shrinking after he put them on, gradually making the fat boy extremely uncomfortable as the day wore on.
The finale of Dudley's pants spontaneously falling down, combined with the fact Dudley going 'commando' due to the rash and underpants problem, was the proverbial cherry on the cake for Harry.
Especially when it happened while Vernon attempted to entertain some important clients at dinner.
Along with Dudley-baiting, Harry also managed to use magic to do many of his chores, although he had to be very careful not to get caught. Much of the yard work could be done from his bedroom window before any of the Dursleys were up - Hedges and lawns were immaculately trimmed, leaves and other rubbish were completely absent, and even the paintwork on fences and buildings gleamed brightly as if it just touched up.
Overall, there was very little work to be done, and what there was got done very quickly indeed, thanks to the wand concealed in his sleeve.
Petunia was shocked at just how clean places like the shed and garage became after leaving Harry to do the supposedly laborious tasks. So much so, that she unconsciously started to feel the inside of the house was no longer as spotlessly clean as it should be.
It didn't help when strange patches of mould and fungus started appearing in spots all over the rooms normally forbidden to Harry.
Of course, the invisibility cloak meant Harry was able to frequent these areas undetected, and the curses he placed were slow acting and quite resistant to normal cleaning methods.
Even the inside of Vernon's constantly locked company car wasn't safe from the infestation.
When her endless cooking of special treats starting going horribly wrong, Harry made sure he was nowhere to be seen. The constant and inexplicable failures were getting to Petunia, and Harry knew she was starting to crack up.
None of these incidents could be directly traced back to Harry. Dudley's underwear even returned to its normal size once removed, making it impossible for anybody to prove they were actually cursed.
Nevertheless, the Dursley's were in the habit of holding him responsible for everything anyway, so Vernon and Petunia put locks on the door to keep Harry inside unless he was working on the garden.
Many of the curses would keep working for months though; like the one that caused the ensuite toilet to regurgitate ever fifth or sixth use; so locking him up wasn't going to make a lot of difference. There was also the option of using his broom to get in and out of the window, if he needed to, but flying under the invisibility cloak was difficult.
So here Harry sat, bored again. Schoolbooks lay around him; his homework a messy pile. He just couldn't get enough enthusiasm up to finish, especially potions. Why in the world would anybody want to spend all their time in a smelly dungeon brewing even smellier concoctions?
None of it made any sense either. Put an ingredient in one potion and it done something. Put it in another potion and it done something completely different! How was he meant to remember all of the hundreds of combinations and effects each ingredient had?
Not to mention hating the Potions teacher. Greasy slime ball would most likely give Harry a zero and take away house points for having the nerve to even hand in his homework.
Nope, Potions was the worst. Even history of magic had something interesting going for it, what with all the brutal Goblin wars and such.
Harry tossed the potions book away and stared around his room.
The opposite end was still full of Dudley's old, broken toys. Dudley would be sure to rise an almightily howl if Harry threw any of it away. Then his uncle and aunt would find some menial task to punish Harry for upsetting the blubbering tub of lard.
The old alarm clock next to Harry's bed was Dudley's, but he not noticed it missing from the junk pile, even after Harry fixed it. Chances were Dudley couldn't tell the time anyway.
He was proud that he managed to fix it all by himself last year before going to Hogwarts. He used an old screwdriver he found buried in the garden to open it up, and twisted the broken bits and pieces together, sometimes using other bits of wire scrounged from the bin. When he put it all back, it worked perfectly.
Of course it would have been easier if he had used magic, but back then he did not even know he was a wizard, let alone how to cast a spell.
Another plan began to form in Harry's mind, one that strangely enough involved a potion.
He hunted around for the book of household charms and started searching for repairing spells. Sure enough, right near the front of the book was a charm for fixing most broken things.
Designed to repair anything from the simplest breaks and bends right through to cups smashed to pieces, it was the most powerful and versatile spell Harry had seen. It didn't look that hard, and he was eager to try it out, but first he had to take a few precautions.
Taking his wand, he made some complicated motions and spoke the words to a spell mastered earlier that week.
"Silencio," he muttered quietly, trying not to make any unnecessary sound in case somebody should hear him.
As before, Harry's room became much quieter. He could no longer clearly hear the blare of the Dudley's bedroom television. Only a dull hum penetrated the now silenced room.
This was one of the first spells Harry really practiced. After Vernon came in yelling during the night because Hedwig was supposedly hooting too loudly, Harry found the spell and made a real effort to master it.
It did not completely block out all sound, and only lasted a couple of hours, but Harry found it invaluable to hide the sounds of him practicing magic.
Harry walked over to the pile and randomly picked up a box. It was full of toy soldiers that Dudley and his friend Piers had 'tortured as prisoners of war'. Many were melted, but quite a few just had various limbs snapped off.
Sitting back on the bed, Harry tipped the box out and then tried to assemble a complete soldier out of the body parts.
"Reparo!" he said loudly as he waved his wand, no longer afraid of anybody outside of the room hearing.
The toy soldier did not move; its replacement head lying disconnected near the body.
Harry frowned and tried putting lying it down so the head actually touched the neck, then tried casting the spell again, with the same failure.
After several more attempts with different soldiers, Harry finally concluded it wouldn't work. He wasn't trying to fix something that was broken; he was trying to stick two pieces from different soldiers back together!
Sighing loudly, Harry began putting them back into the box. As he picked up an unfortunate victim of Dudley's simulated flamethrower attack, he decided to try again, since this one was not actually missing any bits.
"Reparo!" he commanded again, willing the toy to fix. There was a sudden bang and a flash, which startled Harry and made him drop the mutilated, plastic conscript.
Holding his breath and sitting perfectly still, Harry listened to hear if anybody was yelling at the sudden noise.
The hum of the television continued unbaited. No other sounds joined to indicate an enraged Vernon rushing to investigate. Harry picked up the soldier.
The toy looked almost new; he fixed it!
He very nearly jumped for joy, but decided to try some other things first.
Repeating the spell time and time again, almost everything he tried to fix was eventually repaired. The air rifle unbent, as did the pushbike, the broken trucks and cars all returned to store-window condition, so long as they were not missing any pieces.
Turning the wand onto others items in the room, Harry soon found he could get the bed and other furniture into much better condition, and that was before he thought about using cushioning and expanding charms to improve them.
Even the CD player and television started working again, although Harry was a bit worried about that, since he hadn't plugged either one in to the power socket!
It wasn't until Harry heard Dudley's bedroom television switch off that he stopped fixing things.
Before he finished practicing the spell, there was no longer a bang, flash of light, or cloud of smoke. It was as if his practicing made him better, and the noise and smoke were by-products of spells cast poorly.
There was not point in risking more noise though, not tonight anyway. The first part of his plan was complete. The next part took a few more hours and involved sneaking out of his room through the window, but Harry felt it would be worth it.
The next morning, Petunia let a yawning Harry out to do more chores. Dudley came outside to drink a large glass of ice-cold lemonade Harry had previously mixed up, while watching Harry enjoying the easy work under the baking sun.
Seeing Dudley taking a long pull from the glass made Harry smile.
"Hey, Dudders," he said, sitting up from his weeding.
"What do you want, freak?"
He was cocky again, perfect. There was never any doubt in Harry's mind that his cousin would quickly revert to old habits.
"I want to give you a gift."
Dudley's pig-like eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"What could a freak like you have that I would want?"
"I managed to fix a few of your old toys," said Harry. "You want them back?"
"How can you fix anything? You are too stupid to fix anything," sneered the obese boy rudely.
"If you don't want them then just say so," said Harry, shrugging and turning back to his work.
Harry imagined he could hear greed warring with suspicion in Dudley's mind. Greed won, just as Harry suspected it would.
"What do you want?" asked Dudley.
"Nothing, I just want to get some of your old things out of my room, so I fixed them for you to have them back."
"What I am going to do with a load of old toys?"
"I don't know, maybe you could sell them or something."
Confusion was an expression Harry saw Dudley wear often - just like now. The fat boy's face looked blank as his tiny mind tried to sort out conflicting thoughts. Harry didn't need magic to read what was going on in Dudley's minute brain.
After a solid five minutes, the obese lad finally made up his mind.
"Okay," he said. "Give them to me and I'll decide if I want to keep them."
"You will have to wait until I have finished weeding the garden," Harry said, turning back to his work.
"Can't you do that any faster?" Dudley whined impatiently.
"Yes," answered Harry. "But I don't think your mum and dad would like that."
Dudley stared uncomprehendingly at Harry for a full minute.
Harry resisted the temptation to slap a dirty hand on his forehead in frustration.
"I can, you know, do something," said Harry, wiggling his fingers mysteriously.
Understanding hit Dudley like a bowling ball and he involuntarily took a step backwards, away from Harry.
"You, you, you can't," he stuttered in terror. "Dad said you weren't allowed to."
"They won't know, unless you tell them."
Once again, Dudley was caught in a dilemma, and for the second time in a single day found himself having to think.
In order to get what he wanted, the fixed toys, he had to allow Harry to disobey his parents. No problem there, Dudley disobeyed them almost everyday in one way or another. Worst that could happen is Harry would get into trouble, but Dudley had to let Harry do something terrifying; magic!
It took a lot longer for Dudley to agree this time. So long, in fact, that Harry was worried he may have forgotten what he supposed to decide. Maybe his lard-based mental cogs got jammed or something.
"O-Okay," whispered Dudley nervously.
Harry took his wand from the sock without letting Dudley see where it came from. Instantly Dudley started shaking when he saw the stick appear, seemingly out of nowhere.
"Calm down, Duds," reassured Harry. "I am just going to cast a spell to pull all the weeds out, okay?"
Dudley nodded without taking his eyes off the wand in Harry's hand.
Harry concentrated on the spell he had read and practiced. It was from the household spells book and promised to do in seconds what would normally take Harry hours by hand.
"Runcorior!" he said clearly, while waving his wand in the proscribed manner.
There was a moment of utter stillness, then the ground in the garden bed in front of Harry started to quake. The next second every weed erupted from the dirt and flew up into the air to come down in an earthen rain all over him.
Harry spat out a mouthful of dirt and shook the dirt from his hair. The spell had worked, but a bit too well. Instead of piling up the weeds in a single heap, the weeds had soared up at least six feet before coming down on Harry's head.
The unmistakable sound of Dudley's laughter interrupted Harry's thinking. The monstrously fat child was laughing so hard that Harry was worried Petunia would hear and come to investigate.
"Dudley, sush! Your mum will hear! Quiet!" he urged.
Dudley clamped a hand over his mouth and muffled the roaring that he could not control.
Incredibly, for the first time in Harry's memory, he found Dudley's laughing at his expense to be infectious, and Harry started giggling too.
This made Dudley laugh even more, and soon the pair of them were sitting or lying on the ground trying to keep the noise down. Whenever one of them managed to gain enough control to stop laughing, he would look at the other one and start laughing again.
Eventually they calmed down, although both their faces and sides hurt. It was the first time ever Harry shared something with Dudley, and it felt surprisingly good.
"What else can you do?" asked Dudley excitedly.
Harry fetched the box with the fixed soldiers in and gave it to him.
"I fixed all of these, although I couldn't do them all."
Dudley looked in amazement at the new-looking toys he remembered breaking.
"Wow," was all he could say.
For a second, another battle of thoughts threatened to rage war in his head. His instincts were telling him that he should be threatening Harry with exposure, ridiculing his efforts in some way, or forcing him to fix other things, but the laughter they had just shared somehow made these obvious choices less than appealing.
"I can probably fix a few more things," Harry told him, "if you want me to..."
This was where Harry was worried it might all 'go south'. If Dudley didn't accept the bribe, if his normal behaviour reasserted itself, Harry was sunk
"Hey Dudley!" came a voice from the doorway behind them. "What'cha doing? Is the freak waiting for another lesson or something?"
It Piers Polkiss; one of Dudley's henchmen, and another of Harry's antagonists.
Dudley shook his head as if trying to clear out the conflicting desires.
"Hey Piers," he said. "Look what I got – Army men!"
"Cool," said Piers, grabbing a man from the box. "I though we busted all of them. Where did these come from?"
Dudley looked at Harry, who shook his head.
"Harry found them for me," he said, ignoring the smaller boy's warning.
Harry groaned. If Piers thought Harry had been 'holding out' on them, or may have had other toys in hiding, there was going to be trouble.
"Where did you get 'em from, freak?" Piers said, throwing a kick at Harry who dodged out of the way. "You steal 'em from somewhere?"
"Hey!" shouted Dudley suddenly. He looked surprised at his own words, but kept speaking anyway. "Leave him alone. He went to a lot of trouble to get these for me."
Piers looked at Dudley as if he had grown another head, but then seemed to come to an understanding.
"Oh I get it. Make sure you keep bringing them freak, or it'll be back to using you instead of the Army men."
Harry chose to wait and see how Dudley reacted.
"Yeah," said Dudley weakly. "Something like that. Let's go."
He walked off quickly without waiting for Piers to follow. Piers took a swing at Harry, but without anybody holding him, Harry was much too fast and got out of the way easily.
Once Piers and Dudley were no longer in sight, Harry breathed a loud sigh of relief.
The curse seemed to be working.
It was a charm to help people feel friendlier towards the caster, but was complicated to do. 'Befuddle your enemies' listed it as one of the hardest curses to get to work because it took several steps, including brewing a potion the intended target had to drink, needing to know the target very well, and have them accept a gift from you. Once completed, your enemy would become your friend, eventually.
Harry ruthlessly quashed any qualms at casting such a manipulative spell by recalling all the times Dudley and his gang drove off any potential friends.
With a bit more work, and maybe another casting or two, all of Dudley's previous animosity would turn into a desire to be nice to Harry.
The change in his attitude was going to drive Petunia and Vernon to distraction, but they were not going to be able to do anything about it, since Dudley himself would defend his new attitude and honestly believe nothing was wrong.
Piers and Dudley's other friends would be at a loss too, since they would never be able to understand how Dudley could suddenly start treating Harry so nicely, but they were not going to cross Dudley just to pick on his cousin.
It was going to be a sweet revenge, and this was only the start.
"More dinner, Harry?" asked Dudley hopefully.
For a moment he looked far too much like the over excited House-elf, Dobby, who had tried to convince Harry not to return to Hogwarts.
It took a hasty Petrificus spell, some fast-talking, and quite a few dire threats, to convince the overly excitable creature to leave off. In the end, Harry received a backlog of returned mail to catch up on and was once again in contact with his friends.
All in all, summer was a lot more fun than he ever imagined it could be. Vernon was perpetually red-faced at Dudley's sudden and unrelenting friendship with Harry, and Petunia was so close to a nervous breakdown that Harry was certain she might even spontaneously combust.
Nobody considered the many strange things happening around the neighbourhood had anything to do with Harry; the spate of disgusting and unsightly diseases affecting every member of Dudley's former gang could not possibly be caused by an almost twelve year-old boy, no matter how delinquent he was.
Even when Piers suddenly broke out in obscene pustules after pushing Harry, it was hours later, when Harry was back in his room, that the vicious infection took hold. Last they heard, Piers was locked in a hospital isolation ward where orderlies wearing spacesuit-like coveralls forcibly washed him with long handled brushes and powerful detergent, twice every day.
The run of bad luck in the area also went mostly unnoticed, with many of Petunia's gossiping busybody friends - the ones who automatically turned their noses up at Harry and always believed the worst of him - suddenly discovering everything that could go wrong did. Interestingly enough, the less these same people were out gossiping, the better the general opinion of Harry seemed to get – at least according to the conversations Harry overheard while under his invisibility cloak.
Not everything occurring was bad though. Many conversations involved praise for the local council who apparently undertook a massive cleaning and urban renewal spree in the area. All the graffiti was gone from the streets, the parks mowed, the bushes trimmed, the garden beds weeded, and the playground equipment so shiny and perfect that it had to be brand new. Best of all, it was all done so quickly and with such little disruption that nobody even recalled seeing the workers.
Most of the local children seemed to be much happier and were spending a lot more time in the newly renovated playground than previous summers. The children noticed the absence of any bullies, although their parents remained oblivious.
Petunia and Vernon consistently trying to blame every bad thing, from dying gardens to sporadic bouts of clumsiness, on Harry, was starting to make people rather suspicious of the elder Dursleys' mental stability. Magically repaired and resized clothes, combined with Dudley's desire to do anything to be Harry's friend, made it increasingly difficult for them to convince anybody that Harry was a mentally disturbed troublemaker.
The pair's frequent trips to various doctors and hospitals for a range of unexplainable symptoms and illnesses didn't help the family image either. Harry had to look up the word Hypochondriac in a dictionary after hearing it used to describe Vernon, and laughed for a long time afterwards.
Nothing his parents attempted did anything to break Dudley of his increasingly extreme loyalty to Harry, and the fat boy insisted on sharing in any punishments given to his cousin. Torn between the satisfaction of seeing Harry punished, and the despair of seeing their Dudekins unhappy, punishments disappeared all together. So did many of the treats they would normally shower their son with, since he invariably shared them with Harry - not that he lacked for anything, this summer, thanks to magic.
It really was quite amazing how clean clothes and nobody bad-mouthing you could change people's attitudes. In no time at all, people were commenting on how changed he was after attending that horrible sounding boarding school, and he was now such a good influence on his cousin, who was still waiting with baited breath for Harry to answer him about a second helping of dinner.
"No thanks, Duds," said Harry, smiling at the scornful glare Petunia automatically shot at him for not appreciating Dudley's remarkable generosity. "I reckon I've just about had enough for a while."
And that was the truth.
A few weeks later, back on the Hogwarts express, Harry and Ron listened as Hermione told them all about her summer, in excruciating detail..
Harry spent the last week of the holidays at Ron's house and filled him in on the whole Dudley episode. Ron was very excited and vowed to make sure not to be given the charmed paper next holiday so he too could do magic outside of school.
They agreed that Hermione would not see the lighter side of Harry's actions, so decided not to tell her until they thought she would be able to handle it without major trauma – possibly after sixth year, or later.
Hermione finally ran out of things to say and turned to an unusually quiet Harry.
"So, Harry. How was your holiday before going to the Burrow?" she asked him, having already heard the abridged tales of the time the two boys spent together.
"Oh, not bad," he said casually. "Not very noteworthy though."
A/N Once again, thanks again to the guys at AFC for their comments and suggestions while writing this fic.