"I need you to go to check on Harry, Severus," Dumbledore said seriously. "He's not been answering any of the letters that his friends have been sending him, and we're worried that he's being abused by his aunt and uncle."
"Potter? Abused? Unlikely, but why me? You've got that Squib, Figg, living in the same road. She can do it, it's her job to do these menial and dreary tasks."
"Arabella Figg is unable to get inside the house, and I have forbidden Harry to leave it. That poses a slight problem for her, does it not?"
"That'll be why Potter is acting like a three year old having a tantrum then. He's too arrogant to understand that he's confined for his own safety."
"Severus, I trust you. You're one of the only people I feel will be able to make an impartial and informed judgement whatever you see. I'm going to have to insist upon this."

That had been in the morning, and it was evening now. Severus Snape was feeling hard done by. Why had he ever agreed to this stunt, rather than making someone like that idiot Tonks do it instead? 'Go and check on Harry' Dumbledore had said. He might just as well have said go to the moon at this rate. Potter wasn't allowed out of the house, and there was no way a wizard would be invited in to such a disgustingly Muggle household.

He sighed. As far as he could see there was only one possible method to proceed. He must fly in and look through Potter's window. How juvenile did that sound? Really, it was something brats like the Weasley twins would delight in, but no self-respecting wizard would even dream of it. He'd borrowed one of the school brooms for the night, not that it was up to much even compared to a Nimbus let alone a Firebolt. It was only then that Severus realized that he didn't know exactly which bedroom was Potter's.

Sneering at his own incompetence - maybe Gryffindor stupidity was catching - he renewed his Disillusionment charm and swerved in to check the first of the upstairs windows. Moving back the curtains with a flick of his wand, he saw an enormously huge man sleeping with his horse faced wife. Muggles were so disgustingly ugly. This must be the aunt and uncle, despite neither of them bearing any resemblance to either Harry or Lily. The next room that he came to contained a grossly overweight boy, Potter's cousin supposedly, snoring loudly in a bed surrounded by piles of the most expensive toys available.

That meant that the next room must be Potter's. If Dumbledore knew the amount of effort that this mission was taking. Why oh why couldn't he have sent his pet werewolf or one of the many Muggle-loving Weasleys? Severus pulled his broomstick up sharply. This couldn't be Potter's bedroom! There were bars on the window, for one thing, and no curtains. The door, as he could see with very little effort, was bolted shut from the outside, and the bed was surrounded with old, broken toys that were covered in dust. It wasn't quite the sort of room he'd envisioned for the 'Boy Who Lived', but he was sure that the discipline would do him good if he couldn't be bothered to keep his own room tidy.

But it was.

On the bed lay a boy that was unmistakably Harry Potter, although he looked thinner than Severus remembered him to be, and he was tossing restlessly around in his sleep, muttering to himself. Suddenly he screamed and shot up, white faced and trembling. He was facing Severus now, although Severus was intelligent enough to have maintained his Disillusionment charm even though Potter was reputed to be blind without his glasses. Severus could see tears were pouring silently down the boy's cheeks, the wimp.

The door burst open and Potter's uncle stood framed in the doorway. Snape watched as Potter swiftly wiped his face with his sleeve, the disgusting boy.
"Shut your bloody noise!" Dursley yelled so that Severus could hear him easily even through the glass. "Do that one damn time more and I'm sending you back to your old bedroom, understand?"
"Yes Uncle Vernon," Potter replied quietly, Severus had to read his lips to catch that, and he could see that the boy's eyes were like daggers.

Vernon Dursley stomped out, banging the door shut behind him and slamming the bolts shut again. Potter huddled down in bed, crying again. Severus had no sympathy for him whatsoever. If Potter had concentrated on learning Occlumency instead of rifling through his memories, he wouldn't be having nightmares about Voldemort's nighttime activities.

Severus decided that he'd seen enough, and returned to report to Dumbledore. There was nothing wrong with Potter at all, he was just getting a taste of the discipline that he deserved.

Dumbledore was more concerned, unfortunately.
"He was having a nightmare?" the Headmaster asked.
"Yes," Severus replied.
"About Voldemort?"
"How am I supposed to know Albus? He didn't exactly tell me about it!"
"Severus!" Dumbledore said, appearing shocked at the unusual outburst.
"I apologize sir, it's been a long night for me."
"Of course, of course. I want you to see if you can get into the house next time. It should be educational for you at the very least. I will arrange a dinner invitation for you."
"Professor!" Severus moaned, then caught himself. How did this old man make him feel fifteen again every time he was stupid or was told to do something he didn't want to do? If there was one thing he hated, as all of the staff should know by this time, it was formal meals.
"I'm serious Sev. If Harry is having visions again, we must know and he has cut off all contact. He doesn't even write to Ron Weasley or Hermione Granger any more."
"Its about time. They're a bad influence on each other."
"Just the same as Quintus and Cassandra were to you," Dumbledore said sharply.
"Albus!" the harsh potions master said, his face crumpling. "You promised!"
"Oh Severus, I'm so sorry."

By the time the contacts had been set up, Severus Snape had recovered his composure, and was reluctantly going to attend a business dinner at the house of Mr Vernon Dursley.

~~~~~~Harry's POV~~~~~~~

Harry sighed, history appeared to be repeating itself. His uncle was mad at him, yes, that had happened before more than once. Dudley had abandoned his diet, that was no surprise at all. He'd been threatened with his cupboard, yet again, and a businessman was coming to dinner. A typical birthday for your average teenager.
"Let's run through tonight's schedule," Uncle Vernon said briskly, as he always did when they had prospective customers to dinner, especially the ones that were rich and he hoped to get huge orders from.
"Our guest's name is Monsieur Rogue (very clever ~ this is Snape's name in the French books, no?), he's French Petunia, so remember that. He's not married, so he will be unaccompanied, of course. We should all be in position at eight o'clock, since I told him half seven in his invitation. Petunia, you will be -?"
"In the lounge," Aunt Petunia answered promptly. "Waiting to welcome him graciously to our humble home."
"Good, good, and Dudley?"
"I'll be waiting to open the door." Dudley put on a foul, simpering smile. "May I take your coat, Mr Rogue?"
"He'll love my darling Popkins!" cried Aunt Petunia rapturously. Uncle Vernon looked stern.
"Monsieur Rogue, Dudley," he corrected. Then he rounded on Harry. "And you?"
"I'll be in my bedroom, making no noise and pretending I'm not there," said Harry tonelessly, trying not to fall asleep while all this was going on. Really, it was too much to ask him to stay in his room all evening and be silent. Merlin! He was a teenager, after all.
"Make sure you remember it, boy," said Uncle Vernon nastily. "I will lead him into the lounge, introduce you Petunia, and pour him a drink. At eight fifteen - "
"I'll announce dinner," continued Aunt Petunia as she always did on these occasions.
"And Dudley, you'll say - "
"May I take you through to the dining room Monsieur?" said Dudley, offering his fat arm to an invisible man. Harry thought that if he tried to be any sweeter (he was failing miserably) he'd be less sweet than a dead rat.
"No! No!" Uncle Vernon exclaimed. Stressy, stressy, thought Harry smugly. You really should remember to keep your temper if you want to get the most out of your subordinates (a quote from one of the many books Hermione had sent him over the last few weeks).
"May I show you the way through, Monsieur?" Dudley said dully, correcting himself, as he knew he was meant to. Was there anyone who actually liked these business dinners? Harry was confined to his room, Dudley had to pretend to be a normal, polite boy (very hard for a potential mass murderer in Harry's opinion), Vernon had to suck up and Petunia had to cook extravagant meals herself, instead of getting Harry to do it.
"Better," Uncle Vernon conceded. Then he asked viciously. "And you?"
"I'll be in my room making no noise and pretending I'm not there," Harry said, running on automatic now.
"Precisely. Petunia, you and Dudley should go and change now. Mummy's put your dinner jacket on your bed, Dudders, so it'll be neat for you. And you," he snarled at Harry. "Stay out of our way!"

Harry trooped upstairs, knowing that he was going to miss his supper for the third time that week. He took a seat leaning against the wall of the landing, in a small alcove from which he could see what was happening downstairs without (he hoped) being seen himself.

The doorbell rang at precisely eight o'clock. Harry stayed seated in his niche, and picked up his cousins unused French dictionary. Knowing that the visitor was French, he had decided that he'd have it just in case something was said that he didn't understand. A French visitor was a novelty, most of them were just fat businessmen much the same as Uncle Vernon, and Harry had no interest in them at all. After all, this might be the only entertainment he'd get all summer!

Dudley sprang forwards and pulled open the door.
"May I take your coat, Monsieur Rogue," Dudley said helpfully. Harry almost choked, he wondered how Dudley managed to avoid being bottom of his class with such an atrocious accent. The man handed it to him, saying with a very pronounced French accent - not a fake then, Harry thought.
"Merci, thank you âne, zat is ver kind." Harry looked up âne quickly, assuming it was French because it was so unfamiliar to him. Donkey? Hardly polite. Who was this guy anyway, he obviously had some style if he dared to insult Harry's family to their faces. They deserved it too.

Uncle Vernon led the rude Frenchman towards the lounge, and, for a split second the tall dark man looked up. Harry gasped as he saw the head beginning to move, and shrank backwards, but it was too late. He'd been seen. His jaw dropped as his bright green eyes met a pair of pitch black ones that were all too familiar. Harry scrambled and dived for the safety of his room. What on earth was Professor Snape doing buying drills? Had Dumbledore sent him? Was he doing it for Voldemort? Was Harry going to be sent to Azkaban for causing his godfather's death?

~~~~~~Sev's POV~~~~~~~

Severus, or Monsieur Rogue as he was now calling himself, shook his head disbelievingly. Harry Potter, hiding, scared stiff by the thought of being seen, studying with a dictionary!? The world must be coming to an end if stupid, know it all Potter was choosing to study without Granger standing over him with a wand.
"This is a delightfully small family," he commented blandly. "In my house in la belle France, zer are twelve of us. It is absolut chaos."
"Yes, three is a good number," Vernon said appreciatively. "Dudley has lots of friends in the neighborhood, so he is perfectly content being the only child in the house. Children are so much sturdier if they have their parents full attention for the whole of their lives, especially when they're young." Severus tried not to gag at the thought of gross Dudley being described as sturdy, and attempted not to think about the kind of mudblood friends the boy would have. But why hadn't the man mentioned Potter, he did live here, didn't he?
"But please," Petunia gushed. Severus sighed inwardly. "Tell us more about France, we're dying to hear about it. I've always wanted to go abroad."
"Your wish is my command, Madame," he forced himself to say gallantly, however dryly.

The evening dragged on and on for Severus. He wondered what Potter would be doing upstairs, and excused himself from the table.
"Excusez moi," he said politely. "Ave you une toilette?"
"Yes of course. Upstairs, the first door on your right," Petunia said automatically, although Vernon looked concerned.
"Zank you."

Snape walked up the stairs, pulled out his wand and pressed it lightly to Potter's door. There was no light in the room, because the ceiling bulb had been removed, and as the door became a one way window, Severus could see Potter kneeling on the floor with a torch, next to a bed so neat that it appeared unslept in. The boy's books were spread out on a ragged carpet and he was scribbling desperately on a piece of parchment. The books, which Severus had assumed were school textbooks from what he could see, appeared to have covers resembling those of Muggle novels. Had Potter transfigured them?

Severus smiled thinly. At least the boy did some work during the holidays, if very little. He paused a few moments, then found the bathroom and flushed the toilet that had been his original reason for coming up.

At last, he felt it safe to excuse himself, promising to call Vernon's company the next morning to place an order. As if! What use did a wizard have with a whole shipload of drills?