"Nagini, my beautiful sssserpent, we have a new missssssion." Voldemort circled around his followers, his snake slithering behind him. He couldn't see their faces, but he could sense that they were terrified. As usual. They were in a dark forest, illuminated only by his wand, giving out a faint white glow. It cast Voldemort's face in a menacing light, as well as the huge snake behind him. He gave a dark chuckle, and stopped before the robed figure he knew was Lucius Malfoy. "Lucius," he said in a menacingly soft voice. "Tell me again, what we will be doing."

Malfoy bowed his head, hiding his ornate mask under his robes. "We will be attempting to raid an Order house for information on the prophecy, my Lord." After he had said this, he knew the mistake he had made.

"Attempting, you say?" Voldemort asked, leaning in farther. "Oh, Lucius. You know that we will have no attempting in the inner circle." He turned his back and looked around the ring of Death Eaters, his eyes resting on one follower taller than the rest. He trusted this individual, an honor not given to everyone. "Severus."

The masked figure inclined his head. "My Lord?" he asked seriously.

"Do you think it is appropriate to punish Lucius, here?" the Dark Lord asked him stretching out his wand hand.

"You shall do whatever you please," Snape said. Voldemort looked satisfied at his reply.

He spun on his heel to look back at Malfoy. He had a slight, sinister smile on his face. "I say that he deserves a Crucio. What do you think, Malfoy?"

The masked figure repeated after Snape. "You shall do whatever you please," but in a slightly shakier voice.

Voldemort hummed, his brow creasing in mock sympathy. He pointed his stark-white, bony-looking wand at him. He said softly, as if consoling a little child, "Crucio."

Miles and miles away from where that was happening, Harry Potter sat up, twitching from the aftereffects of the curse. His scar kept burning, and he shivered and pulled his meager blanket up to his shoulders. He was in his room, locked, of course. The place had a very small bed with the mattress' springs poking into him. The rest of the room was in no better condition, with the paint almost peeling off the walls and creaking floor. He stood up carefully, as to not let the floor make a sound, and took a pencil from the floor under his bed. He had told Hedwig to stay with the Weasleys', because he knew that the Dursleys would not let her out, like they'd done in previous summers. He also had a packet of notebook paper that he had snatched from the kitchen earlier this summer. Thankfully, no one had suspected it was Harry that had taken it.

He winced at this small movement. His Uncle Vernon had gotten a bit rougher with him, ever since Mad-Eye had told him to take good care of him. More like threatened him. It really wasn't serious, he thought. It wasn't like he went after him every night. Usually he just got a few smacks, and on occasion, a punch. Now that there was no looming threat of a 'murderous' godfather -Harry shuddered with guilt- it seemed like he was fair game to everyone.

He pulled out a new paper out of the pack. He had gotten a habit of writing down his dreams, so he could remember them later. Voldemort seemed to have stopped caring if he saw into his daily evil doings or not, thus resulting in dreams that plagued him every time he went to sleep. In earlier dreams, Harry had seen Nagini and he knew that she was at least his familiar. He wrote the dream down, making a point in underlining Snape's name. Harry just knew that he was a Death Eater! It was too bad he couldn't contact Dumbledore- he was probably being betrayed right this second! Harry slid the papers back below the bed, and climbed under his blanket. He needed to find out what was going on.

Voldemort was alone in a huge mansion. There was actually a roaring fire in the hearth in front of him. He was talking to his snake again, stroking down her back. She was twined around his torso. "Nagini… did you hear what we will be doing tomorrow?"

"Yesssss…. I did. I think it issss a good idea. Although..." Nagini broke off, looking away.

Voldemort looked down at the ginormous snake. This was very unlike her. "What is it?"

Nagini looked straight into the Dark Lord's eyes. "I know a sssnake den closssse to the housssse you are attacking. I would… apprecsssiate it if you were to leave them alone."

Not much could surprise Voldemort anymore, but that request did. He tried not to show the shock on his face, and he hissed, "Of coursssse, Nagini. I would never harm your brethren."

The serpent looked satisfied, if that expression was even possible on a snake's face. "Of coursssse, Masssster. You would rather harm yourssssself than me."

He spared a rare, authentic empathetic expression down at her. "That, my dearessst, issss very true."

Harry spent the rest of the night in rare, restful sleep.

"Harry! Potter, you better get up right this instant! Dudley needs his breakfast in just a few minutes!" he heard his Aunt Petunia screeching outside his door. He heard the sound of a dozen various locks being opened, and she stormed back down the hallway and down the stairs. Harry groaned and sat up. At least Uncle Vernon had left for work already; usually when he was home during breakfast, he always found something wrong with his food, and that was an excuse to give him a well-placed slap. Harry got the paper out from under his bed and quickly scrawled down the dream he had.

Harry went to the bathroom, changed his clothes, and speed walked down the stairs. Petunia was rushing around the kitchen, preparing pancakes for his cousin.

"You took too long up there! You ungrateful little brat! We provide for you, and this is how you repay us? I had to start making breakfast!" Harry refrained from telling her that she had locked him in there.

Harry took the skillet from his Aunt, and resumed making breakfast, ignoring Petunia's cutting remarks. Man, he thought. At least I have some great practice ignoring insults, thanks to Snape. Then, that led him to think about the second dream he had the night before. Voldemort had seemed almost… kind… to his snake. He wondered why. He had thought he had no capacity for consideration for anyone besides himself.

Harry got yanked out of his thoughts by Dudley coming down the stairs and into the kitchen. "Potter!" he shouted, and yanked Harry's hair. Bacon grease splashed on his arm, making him yelp. Dudley grinned like he had just won an award for Smartest Person on Earth and made his way to the table. Harry glared daggers at him, and he just laughed back at him. Ever since Vernon had started beating on Harry, it was like Dudley had gotten an extreme ego boost, not like he needed one. That kid already had pride the size of Voldemort's snake.

Hmmmmm… Voldemort's snake. Harry delved back into his deep thoughts. She seemed happy enough with the ever-so-evil Dark Lord as her "master." Then again, Harry thought, they are kindred spirits. (A/N: No pun intended.)

Harry eventually got done with preparing breakfast, and he set it down on the round table. Dudley, upon seeing the food, lunged across the table to grab at the bacon, eggs, and pancakes. Well, he lunged as well as he could, him being the size of the average baby killer whale. Harry typically didn't get any food, but he was expected to do an entire list of chores that his Aunt handed him every day.

Dudley pounded his fork and butterknife on the table in a display of awful manners, and demanded another serving of bacon. His cousin had already scarfed down what could have sustained a small family. Harry reluctantly placed another full plate at Dudley's spot, and he gobbled that up as well.

Harry wandered back to the kitchen, deep in thought. He seemed to do that a lot these days, it took his mind off more pressing matters. Like, his living conditions. Not that they were too bad, he wasn't implying that, of course. He set to work cleaning the dishes, running the sink until the water was hot. He washed the multiple plates Dudley had eaten off of in the duration of the meal.

Eventually, he got done with the plates and pans he had used while making the meal, and Aunt Petunia beckoned him over to the table again. She handed him a meager strip of bacon, and shoved at him a list of the chores he was supposed to do that day. "Now, I don't want to even see you relaxing until you've completed this list." Harry nodded meekly and took the list of chores from her. Now, this may not seem like Harry Potter at all, but he usually didn't get anything for breakfast, much less a piece of bacon. He must have a lot to work on today.

Harry spent the rest of the day mowing the lawn, pruning the bushes back, mopping the kitchen, watering the indoor plants, washing the car, putting up the dried dishes from earlier, vacuuming the lounge, cleaning the windows (even though they were spotless in the first place), making lunch, doing the laundry, scrubbing the baseboards, and dusting the furniture. By then, it was dinnertime, and he had just managed to sneak a drink of water from the hose outside a few times.

As Harry was setting the table for dinner, Vernon came home. He glanced at Harry, who was retreating back into the kitchen, and said, "Boy, if there's a spot of dirt left on those walls, you'll wish you were never born." Of course he was bluffing, intimidation was all he understood, and Harry knew that. He started cleaning the dishes, again.

As you can probably see now, Harry's summer so far was one huge cycle of wake up, work, clean dishes, work, clean dishes, work, go to bed, dream disturbing things, repeat.

As he was working on a stubborn stain on one of the pots he had used to warm up the chicken noodle soup he had made yesterday, his Uncle stormed over, grabbed him by the hair, and yanked him up to look at him. What is it with people and my hair, today? a corner of Harry's brain supplied while Vernon was roaring in his face.

"Why did you heat up leftovers from last night?" he yelled. "You know that you need to cook new things every. Night!" He slapped a hand over his cheek, leaving a stinging path across his face. Harry stood stock-still as he raged about how they took him in and supplied for him, and this is how he repaid them? Yeah, typical stuff.

Although, he did seem a bit angrier than usual. Maybe he had scalded the bottom of the soup, making it taste a bit burnt? Who knew.

Soon he did know the answer, because it was quite literally in his face. "I DIDN'T GET THAT PROMOTION TODAY BECAUSE YOU KEEP ME UP WITH YOUR SCREAMS AT NIGHT!" Oh, that. Occasionally, when his dreams were particularly horrific, and it didn't wake him in time, he woke up screaming hysterically. That… that was the only time when Vernon really started punishing him. Not like he deserved it, but still.

Vernon shoved Harry back onto the counter, and said menacingly, "Boy, you're going to get the beating of your life." He stalked (more like waddled) back to his chair at the table, and resumed eating his soup with a sour look on his face. Yeah, sure. Like Vernon would scrounge up the energy to truly beat him.

Harry let out a small breath and turned back to the sink. He resumed the monotony of cleaning the dishes, pensive, again. Thinking about his dreams caused him to think of Snape and his Occlumency lessons. His professor seemed to be on his mind a lot, but not in a positive way. His mood darkened even further, and he scrubbed at the pan with even more vigor. If he had just taught him instead of screaming in his face that he was supposed to "Push him out," then he might not be having these dreams.

Harry choked back a sob. He might've still had Sirius.

But, who was he kidding? It was his fault, too. If he had just not reacted to his stupid, god-forsaken hero complex, he wouldn't have drawn his godfather to the Department of Mysteries.

It hurt to do so, but Harry pushed those thoughts to the back of his head. He didn't need to get depressed. It wouldn't do him or anyone else any good. He set the pot on the rack, giving up, and he trudged upstairs.

"Go take a shower, boy! You smell like we don't take care of you!" Vernon shouted up the stairs. Harry had to hold in a snort of dark humor at that statement. Like he had ever cared about him. Harry hadn't had a shower in a few days, and most likely, Dudley had complained about the smell, and he got the privilege of washing up.

He entered the bathroom and peeled his sweaty, dirty clothes off his body. He climbed in the shower, relishing the cool water. He scrubbed the grime off of him and rinsed out his hair. This process only took about two minutes. Even so, Vernon was waiting for him outside the door. The bad part was, Harry was only wearing a towel around his waist. He scowled down at Harry and growled at him, "You took too long in there. Get some trousers on. Leave your shirt off."

Harry blinked. That sounded ominous…