Summer had been hot that year. The humidity was through the roof on top of nearly triple-digit temperatures. Any sane person would be inside their homes, with the air conditioning piped up to arctic chill, sipping ice cold lemonade. Since most of the community in Surrey was sane, many lemons were sacrificed to bring about the bittersweet thirst-quenching drink that families drank together. Huddled around the tele, ice clinking against glass every so often as the tart liquid was slowly consumed, a pleasant streak of sunlight shimmering through the gauzy curtains to the living rooms of the people of England. Today, no one in their right mind would be outside.

Unfortunately, he was not in his right mind. Well, at least according to the papers.

Harry chewed on a blade of grass. He lay on a bed of dried, crisping lawn just next to the flowerbed his aunt had him tend, when there was no drought to worry about. The window above him was closed tightly against the wave of heat that swept over Privet Drive. Harry continued to swelter in the head, his white tee long since soaked through to his skin. He felt sticky. The position he had commandeered at least offered a small sliver of shade where the sun just began to settle in the west, casting the slightest shadow against the house. He lay on his side, keeping his eyes half-lidded and downcast to protect them from the bright white light. It also provided him with enough shade to keep most of his body out of the direct rays of heat. Just barely, though.

Harry's stomach growled. A rumble above him answered as his relatives shifted. Harry hear the television flick to life, a small pop he sensed more than heard. He could imagine the fizzle of the static as the bulky brown box protested waking. His head provided a litany of slurring curses and insults to the technology as Vernon or Dudley Dursley began to tweak the rabbit ear antennae, their fat, gamely hands continually nudging the metal rods just this side of perfect.

Blasted ruddy thing, one of the men would curse. Most likely Uncle Vernon, but lately Dudley had been picking up his rotund father's verbal habits. These bleeding...things wouldn't be needed if that boy hadn't been doing his freak things.

Why can't we get a new tele? Dudley would warble, his many jowls jiggling. His cousin had collected far more chins than his father and did not appear to be stopping any time soon.

Once this bloody economy picks up.

And then Vernon would go into a tirade about the government raising prices and levying more taxes, all the while his hands trembling more and more until he knocked the ears off the television. Then his aunt would flitter in after the resounding crash, soothing her husband while she fiddled with the antennae just so, her hands steadier than her husband or her son. Once the reception was perfect, she would tsk her way out, going back to whatever project had tickled her fancy.

Harry shook his head. At least they weren't making him do anything. No, they were downright ignoring him, letting him have free reign of the outdoors during the daytime. Of course, they locked him in his room at night, slipping a sandwich or some toast through the cat flap as his meal. If he wanted anything beyond scraps for dinner and leftovers for breakfast, he had to find it while wandering the surrounding neighborhoods. Surprisingly, he had taken to this challenge with writing for more books, sending Hedwig out to Flourish and Blotts.

Surprisingly the bookstore had a small section with some muggle books and connections on how to get more, if needed. After a small correspondence with Blotts himself, he received a few books on foraging for food in the non-magical community. There were enough edible weeds, bark and other flora around to keep him going through the day, though his first few times eating such tasteless drivel had him retching constantly. Getting through the hunger pains, helping them subside, was what had brought him to finally be able to stomach the scrounged meals. Literally.

He ignored them at the moment, though. They weren't that bad yet. Besides, it was too bloody hot out to be moving. Even the small movements of his body, as he tried to shift a pesky pebble out from under his hip, were nearly too much. His eyes were heavy with exhaustion from the heat.

Of course, it could be one-hundred and ten degrees outside and the Dursley's could care less. Harry himself could be dying of heat and dehydration but at least he wasn't soaking in their precious air-conditioning.

He pillowed his head in his hands, trying to keep his mind blank. The heat was bad enough, but he hadn't heard hide nor hair from his friends. No letters, no packages, not a whisper, even from Dumbledore. Harry was surprised that Blotts even talked to him, considering the rumor mill.

Harry, the Wizarding World's favorite go-to for gossip and slander, was in the papers again. After being deprived of information for so long over previous summers, Harry had been sure to subscribe to The Daily Prophet this time. At least he was keeping track of what they were saying about him, even if none of it was good.

Boy-Who-Lived, Murderer!

Harry Potter: Deranged Sociopath!

A New Dark Lord? Trouble in the Wizarding World.

Harry could hardly believe what he had been reading the past few months. Wizards and witches were speculating that he was turning dark, going insane, or being controlled. It had leaked that Harry had had visions, directly influenced by Voldemort himself, throughout his fifth year. And once that lead to deaths of some very prestigious supporters of the light, they had begun questioning on whether or not he had done it on purpose. Among those dead: Shaklebolt, looking to be the new Minister of Magic after Fudge's blundering idiocy; Benjamin Bristleby, a foreigner who had come to Britain as a reporter, and became one of the most staunch of Dumbledore's supporters as well as one of the few who reported the truth, and not all this gossip-mongering that was taking over; and Sir-...Si-...his go-...

He pulled viciously at his mind. That death was being lauded, the end of the only convict to escape Azkaban.

In the meanwhile, hearing nothing from his friends, his allies, was putting him on edge. He wondered if it was because of the letter he had sent them just after school let out- about his sexual preference -or if they somehow were starting to believe that he willingly let Voldemort into his head, working with the insane dictator to end the lives of those the Light held dear. Even if they didn't know how dearly they had held the invisible work and support of the last.

The sun was closing to the horizon quickly now, the darkness flooding in, shadows lengthening to meet and embrace the night. He could hear the murmuring of the television set, hear the chairs creak as his uncle and cousin got up, presumably for dinner. If he was lucky and judged it just right, he could most likely sneak up to his room a little early tonight and strip off his filthy clothes. He wouldn't be able to shower the grime off, but he was getting very good at giving himself a sort of sponge-bath out of the water with his supper and scraps of material ripped from Dudley's overly-large hand-me-downs.

Spitting out the bitter blade of grass, Harry pulled himself up. He stretched, hearing the vertebrae in his back pop, and moved to head inside.


A.N: This WILL be HPDM. This WILL be Dark Harry. I am also going to keep my ending notes as short as possible, answering any questions that arise while also keeping my readers informed about my progress. If I still have some old readers. And if you're reading this, please choose the appropriate response:

Old readers: Holy shit, you remember me! That's...wow. Thanks for reading.

New readers: Welcome and thanks for reading. I always appreciate good critiquing and suggestions for my stories.

Until next time.