Sixteen year old Harry Potter hurried down the stairs and to the backyard where Vernon Dursley awaited his arrival.
"Listen here boy, I want this yard raked, weeded and mowed and the pool shining by this afternoon!," yelled Uncle Vernon at an unhappy Harry. Harry, who was already used to being treated like nothing more than an inconvenience, didn't even dare to ask why, he just picked up a rake and started to work.
It was around six in the morning when Harry started and as the time went by, the yard seemed to be getting bigger and more impossible to have ready by this afternoon. The sun was already beginning it's slow climb down the sky and he had not been allowed to take even a single break, but then again, Harry expected nothing less of the Dursleys than to be treated like this, though he thought this was definitely too much. As he worked from one side of the garden to the other, yanking out weeds, he kept seeing Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia hustling about inside. From what he could tell, Aunt Petunia seemed to be cleaning while simultaneously preparing food , and Uncle Vernon was dragging lots of bed sheets upstairs.
How strange,mused Harry. He suspected someone must be coming over, someone very important. Oh please don't let it be Aunt Marge thought Harry. He loathed no one more. After a visit from Marge, life with the Dursleys seemed almost bearable. He now wished more than anything that he could just go to Ron's home at the Burrow (he knew he still had two more weeks until he could go; he had marked it on his calendar on his first day back from Hogwarts). He always had so much fun there, he felt so…accepted, even loved. But most of all he enjoyed nothing more than spending time with his best friends: Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. Hermione, though at first glance appeared to be nothing more than a stuck-up bookworm, was actually very friendly, extremely logical and level headed, and in all honesty, someone he truly admired. She was always there for him; she had that caring gentleness only a female could provide. He still remembered back to the Triwizard Tournament, and how she had believed that he didn't put his name in the goblet of fire. Her trust in him had meant more than he could have ever put into words. Looking back now, he knew that even though he was the one doing the actual task, he would not have made it through even the first one without Hermione's help. Whereas Hermione was driven more by sensible logic, Ron was driven by emotions. Harry quietly chuckled to himself, thinking about all those times Ron had attempted to make fun of Victor Krum, the famous Bulgarian Seeker that had dated Hermione last year. It was not that what Ron had said was actually that funny, just that in doing so Ron had completely revealed his crush on Hermione without even realizing it. Poor guy thought Harry, he probably still won't admit to it. He'll just be Hermione's best friend until someone else comes along and dates her, and then embarrass himself all over again.
"Hurry up boy! We have company coming over in an hour!" yelled Uncle Vernon breaking rudely through Harry's thoughts. On no Harry said to himself as his fears of company coming over were confirmed. Knowing there was nothing he could really do about it he dismissed his fears regarding Aunt Marge. No point in wishing against the inevitable Harry thought. He now looked down at his watch and realized it was almost three in the afternoon. Harry stopped for a second to admire his work. He was quite proud of all that he had accomplished so far. The grass had been mowed, the flower beds weeded, all the lawn furniture cleaned and he was now working on cleaning the pool that the Dursleys had had installed this summer. It was very nice. It had a waterfall and a concealed jacuzzi located on the other side of the pool under an overhang of flowers and other beautiful greenery. It had been a present to Dudley on his 16th birthday. Though most people would love to have a pool in their backyard, to Harry it seemed more of a curse. Not only did it add to his already horrible list of chores, but even the possibility of looking out the window to find any member of the Dursley family in their swimming apparel, was enough to make Harry vomit.
Finally Harry finished cleaning the pool and was heading inside to put the chlorine away when he heard Aunt Petunia's voice coming from the foyer.
"Oh it is so nice to finally meet you," she was saying, "Please come and sit down, you must be tired."
Harry heard another voice answering, "Oh, yes, thank you Mrs. Durmly. That drive was much longer than I had anticipated. I am quite tired to tell you the truth." The voice which sounded oddly familiar, belonged to a woman. Harry listened intently as Petunia corrected the woman and stated her surname was Dursley not Durmly, after which the woman began apologizing and going on about how her husband had a horrible memory and must have messed up the name. Before Harry had the chance to place the voice or even see who it's owner was, Uncle Vernon came bustling in to the kitchen.
"Now listen here," he said sternly to Harry, "These people are very important to me and to my career. They will be staying with us for the next two weeks and if you do anything, and I mean ANYTHING to make them question our respectability or normalcy I will kill you myself!!" He threatened him once more that same day. "If all goes well, they are willing to give me a hefty amount of money to expand my business. So you better make sure you do not do anything to screw it up! Now go outside, collect their bags and take them to the guest bedroom upstairs," Vernon barked. Harry nodded dumbly and headed towards the living room when Vernon yanked the collar of his shirt nearly choking him.
"Not through the front," hissed Uncle Vernon, "I don't want them to see you. Go around the back!" After saying that Vernon turned around and proceeded to the living room leaving a startled Harry in the kitchen.
Slowly Harry made his way around the back of the house pausing once to look at his reflection in the window. His hair was a mess, he had dirt streaks all over his face and clothes, and his cotton shirt clung to his body from all the sweat he had produced while gardening. I look like hell thought Harry but on the plus side I did get a slight tan. He smirked at himself and continued around the side of the house until he reached the front. Every muscle in his body ached as he trudged forward. I'm just going to go to the car, get the bags, take them upstairs, then take a shower and go to bed. It sounded like an excellent idea and it made him feel a bit better.
Now where's the bloody carthought Harry, as he was very tired, but just then he saw a very expensive looking beige car parked in the driveway with its trunk and one of its doors open. He stopped walking and stared into the open door. There was someone leaning into it, pulling out book after book and creating quite a large stack on the roof of the car. It was a girl. She was wearing a light blue tank top, denim shorts, white keds, and had brown curly hair held back in two pig tails. Harry took a second glance at her shorts and decided it was his favorite part of her whole outfit. As he walked forward to the car he now began to wish he had finished his chores earlier and squeezed in a shower. He stopped slightly behind the girl and went to tap her on the shoulder. Time to make an excellent first impression Potter he thought while quietly chuckling to himself at how dirty he looked. The girl stopped unloading the books and turned around to face him.
"Hermione?!" gasped Harry as his best friend's face broke into a smile, "What are you doing here?" he asked quite stunned.
"I'm here with my parents," replied Hermione excitedly, "What are you doing here?"
"I live here."
"But I thought you lived with the Dursleys?" questioned Hermione.
"Yeah, I do. This is where they live!"
"Oh my gosh!!! Well, I'll bet you anything that my dad just messed up their name. He told us we were going to the Durmlys," she chuckled. "He has a very bad memory. In fact, I can tell if he's not listening to me because he calls me Hermee-on!"
Harry laughed out loud while it sank in that Hermione was going to be staying with him for two weeks! Hermione!! He was so excited.
"It's so great to see you," said Harry smiling. "You look great," he blurted out before he could stop himself.
Hermione blushed a bit and was just about to inquire why Harry looked so dirty when Petunia came out and began yelling at Harry.
"What are you doing?" she shrieked as she realized that Harry, instead of getting the bags, was talking to their guests' daughter.
"I was…," Harry began as Petunia cut him off.
"I thought Vernon told you to get the bags?" Petunia questioned.
"He did," answered Harry.
"Well then, do as you are told boy," Petunia barked back. "Honestly, after all we do for you, you can't even do something as simple as that?"
Petunia turned her attention towards a startled Hermione as Harry began unloading suitcases out of the truck.
"Oh don't mind him dear," she said he an amazingly sweet voice, "he's always up to no good, never listens. Just try and keep your distance. If he bothers you again do tell us," said Petunia as her glance shifted back towards Harry, " I'm sure his uncle can find an old belt to use on him. And what are you wearing?" Petunia hissed now seeing Harry's dirty clothes, "You could have at least attempted to look presentable."
"I've been working in the backyard since six with no meals.," Harry replied coldly, "I only just finished and didn't have anytime to change."
Hermione stared, unable to speak after realizing that Harry had worked outside on such a hot day for nearly ten hours! She was only more shocked when Harry's aunt, instead of apologizing, went on to yell at him some more and told him that he was to go straight to bed with no supper for talking back to her! Then after giving Harry one last cruel look, turned to Hermione and guided her into the house. Hermione was so bewildered that she could do nothing but follow Petunia into the house. She looked back at Harry as he started to heave out another suitcase. She could tell he was tired and that it hurt him to have to lift such a heavy load. After she entered the house, greeted the Dursleys and sat down, she went back to rethink the cruelty she had just witnessed. Harry had told her that the Dursleys hated him but he had never mentioned that they were this inhumane towards him. She looked out the window to see Harry carrying her trunk towards the entrance. She had brought it along with her because she was going to head straight to Ron's after her stay at the "Durmlys." Now she wished she hadn't packed it with so many books as she saw the visible strain in Harry's face as he carried it. She wanted to but some lightening charm on it, but seeing as how her want was in the trunk, she wouldn't be able to. She doubted the Dursleys knew that she and Harry were schoolmates, let alone best friends. They may die of heart-attacks if they knew I was a witch thought Hermione.
As everyone else in the room chatted causally, Hermione kept shifting her eyes back to the window to watch Harry. She noticed he had gotten taller, and that his skin was slightly tanned. Probably from being forced to work in the heat she thought angrily. She felt herself blush a little as she noticed how Harry's sweaty shirt clung to his lean chest. I wonder why he doesn't just take it off? she dreamily asked herself before she realized what she was saying.
Dinner was served in the backyard. Hermione tried to hide her anger at the fact that Harry was not allowed to eat with them, when it was thanks to him that the backyard looked so nice. She figured she would sneak some food upstairs afterwards, that is if Dudley would leave any for her to take. She was also extremely perturbed at the fact that every time she looked up she saw Dudley's piggy little face staring back at her. Eugh, I hope he doesn't have a crush on me thought Hermione as she winced in disgust.
After dinner, while her parents stayed in the backyard to have dessert, Hermione, after complaining of a severe head-ache, headed into the house. She stopped in the kitchen to get some food for Harry and then went upstairs.
It took Hermione a couple of minutes to figure out which bedroom was Harry's. After she found it she knocked on the door and waited. No one answered. She knocked a couple more times before she decided he was probably asleep. She tried to walk away, but she just couldn't. Curiosity got the best of her and she opened the door. He wasn't there. Where is he? Hermione thought. The Dursleys couldn't possibly be cruel enough to make him do anymore chores, could they?
Hermione put down Harry's dinner on a small desk in front of his window before her attention fell to a brown album laying there. She sat down on the bed. Harry's bed she thought as the corners of her mouth curved upward into a shy grin. She picked up the album and opened it. It was a picture of Lily and James Potter holding Harry between them. They were laughing while trying to get a chubby one-year old Harry to look at the camera. Hermione vision blurred slightly while she took in a quavering breath and started thinking of how much it must hurt Harry to know that his happy childhood had been robbed from him. He could have been so happy and sheltered and loved had his parents still been alive. She, for the first time, contemplated if Harry was really as happy as he seemed or if he was just holding it all in. Right then Hermione wanted to hold Harry and hug him as tight as she could. He was just a child and already his parents were dead, he was worked like a slave in his own home, and on top of everything, the entire future of the wizarding world rested on his shoulders. How does he do it? However, before she had time to reflect on her question anymore Harry walked in. Hermione then realized that the reason Harry was not in his room was not because he was off doing some horrible chore, but because he was taking a shower, as evident by the fact that he was standing in front of her in only a towel with his thick black locks dripping wet.