Chapter 1: Where the Summer Began
The summer would not go well, Harry was sure. Sitting in the Great Hall, playing with his food, and trying not to think about Sirius or even Cedric, he attempted to pay attention to the eager ramblings of his friends. Dean was busy boasting about the trip to Ireland his parents had planned, and Hermione was enthusiastic about a new book store opening near her hometown. Even Ron had aspirations: his first summer job, working at a Muggle ice cream store.
Harry nodded and smiled, trying to conceal his bitterness. He would go home, once again, to Number 4 Privet Drive, to spend another summer relentlessly working at petty tasks, with little to no food or water, and plenty of punishments should he fail to complete his tasks.
Of course, his friends' families wanted them; Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia made it very clear he was an ungrateful burden endangering their family. Harry knew that was true – Dumbledore had drawn him aside the first time he had complained about his home conditions and carefully explained how important the wards were to Harry's safety and thus the wizarding world's safety. If Harry stayed with someone else, he could condemn them to death. That had settled in Harry's mind – if the headmaster thought it was necessary, then Harry would not be the weak link that got someone else hurt. He'd done entirely too much of that already in his life, so he was determined to endure the Dursleys.
Endure it and enjoy it were too entirely different things, however, as Harry was painfully reminded when he finally said good-bye to his friends. As if Uncle Vernon didn't already have enough reasons to be angry at Harry – for example, being alive, making Uncle Vernon pick him up at the train station with Hedwig, breathing, existing, etc. – Moody and Lupin had taken the initiative to threaten the Dursleys, hoping to bully them into treating Harry better.
It was a nice gesture, Harry thought, as his uncle shoved him in the front door, slamming him into the ground, but otherwise futile. Vernon may not have been the smartest Muggle in the station, but he had some cunning and he knew Dumbledore would never interfere as long as he sent the boy back in relatively one piece; Vernon could continue to collect the monthly check for Harry's maintenance regardless of Harry's condition. On the plus side, Harry reminded himself, nursing a bloody nose as he dragged his trunk the closet, he would be the only one hurt this summer – his pain could keep them safe.
Snape had watched the scene with Potter's guardians with mild interest. Of course he knew the brat didn't enjoy living at his aunt and uncle's, but why the boy's fan club thought they could make threats willy-nilly on Potter's behalf was beyond him. What, did they make the precious Chosen One do chores? Or, God forbid, not permit him the same insolent disobedience he displayed at Hogwarts? Granted, the boy had seemed – as always – genuinely nervous to be headed back home, eating less at meals and growing dark circles under his eyes. Perhaps, Snape chuckled, he was worried a new celebrity would spring up over the summer and steal his thunder.
Dinner that night was a quiet affair for Snape. The thing he missed the most while at school, he mused as he sipped his wine, was the peace of a solitary evening. While his gratuitous use of detentions certainly enhanced his reputation, it did have the unpleasant side effect of having to spend more time with his students and, although he genuinely enjoyed teaching, he also enjoyed his privacy. A fire crackling, the crisp pages of a new book, and the soft whisper of the wind in the curtains were all he needed tonight. Eventually, of course, Dumbledore would force him to leave his solitude and private potions lab to attend to Order business, and the Dark Lord had already given him a rather substantial list of potions to brew, but at least none of those activities required having anybody else scampering underfoot.
He didn't even have guard duty at Privet Drive for two weeks, he thought cheerfully, grateful once more that Dumbledore insisted the guards notify no one – not even Potter – of their presence. All he had to do was sit, concealed, and make sure no one or nothing magical entered the area. If only all of his tasks could be that simple, he sighed, before returning his attention to the book before him.
The next morning, Harry awoke to Aunt Petunia's screeching. He has forgotten just how sharp her voice was, he decided, as he threw on clothes, noting the bruises already forming on his arms and cheek where Vernon had voiced his opinion on Harry's friends interfering. Vernon must have impressed his anger upon Petunia at well, who slapped Harry as soon as he made it to the kitchen – apparently, getting ready in five minutes made him lazy and shiftless - and shoved a list of chores in his hand, noting with a gleeful disdain that Harry could only eat when his tasks were complete.
His first glance at the list convinced Harry he would not be eating for a while. At least that was nothing new – he never ate much during the summer. He hadn't eaten much after Sirius' death either; somehow satisfying his own appetite while Sirius lay dead, by his head, seemed infinitely wrong. Almost everything seemed infinitely wrong when he thought of Sirius. So he didn't, returning his attention to painting the fence.
By the time, Aunt Petunia called him in to wash up from supper, he was physically exhausted. It had been a rare, sunny day (that Sirius would never get to appreciate) and Potter's fair skin had been burned badly. He was silently relieved to be welcomed back into the air conditioning, even if it was just to wash dishes. At least this way he had a chance to sneak some water – he was dying of thirst, and Aunt Petunia rarely cared if he finished the water in their cups when washing up.
By the time he finished cleaning up, though, he was ravenous, and beginning to feel the aftereffects of overexposure to the sun, but he nevertheless returned outside; he still needed to weed the rather substantial garden. Luckily, the sun had gone down, but that meant the temperature had as well. Still wet with sweat, he began to shiver, the weeds irritating his bare hands.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, his aunt opened the back door and snapped for him to come in. He tried to move quickly, stowing his supplies in the shed, and hustling to the door, but he still earned a sharp cuff to the ears as he entered.
Luckily, her mood had improved and she granted him ten minutes in the bathroom – enough to sponge bath and gulp some water down before being locked into his room for the night. Despite his burns and hunger, he managed to fall asleep quickly, his exhaustion and pain overwhelming him. Yet, his feeble attempts at emptying his mind failed, and his dreams quickly turned
Harry gasped in pain as his uncle shook him awake from yet another nightmare. The man slapped him, hard, across the face. "Don't wake us up, boy!" he hissed, before slapping the still somewhat dazed boy again. Harry tried to not to struggle – that always made it worse – but he could not help but pull back from his uncle's tight grip. Another punch and the man left, waddling out of the teenager's room.
Harry waited a few minutes, then slowly staggered to his feet, wincing as his fingers probed the new addition to his bruise collection. There was no point in going back to sleep now, he realized, glancing at the clock on the wall – one of the few unbroken objects in the room. He looked out the window, wishing desperately that there was someone he could talk to, anyone. Not that he would have told anyone anyway, he thought, about the chores, lack of food, nightmares or bruises. No, he would not have told but it still would have been nice to receive a note or something – some contact with the human world beyond the back of his uncle's hand or cousin's fist. A tear slowly rolled down his cheek.