He had to be the most bored wizard in all Britain, Harry decided. There wasn't anything to read at 4 Privet Drive besides his old textbooks, he wasn't allowed to do magic, and couldn't even leave the neighborhood due to security concerns. His friends apparently didn't think to write him any letters, either. Furthermore, the Dursleys left for a trip one week into the summer holidays, leaving him all alone in the house. He had already cleaned the whole place from top to bottom, just like Aunt Petunia requested – nay, ordered – before departing, and was currently out of his mind with boredom. Not that he missed his so-called 'family', mind you – it's just that all the endless chores had a wonderful effect of making Harry forget certain events. Like witnessing the death of a fellow student, or being a guest of honor at a rebirth party of an insane dark wizard.
Great, he was thinking of that day again.
Harry sighed and got up from the bed where he had been lying for the past half an hour, contemplating a very interesting crack in the ceiling that kind of looked like a spider. He stretched and decided to go downstairs for a drink. As he was passing the door to Dudley's room, he got a sudden idea and stopped.
Surely it wouldn't hurt to take a look?
Dursleys didn't deem him worthy of knowing how long their family holiday would take, but he figured it would be at least a week. They left very clear instructions regarding how much food he could take from the fridge, how much water he could use, and which places in the house were off-limits to him. The latter included Dudley's bedroom as well.
He shrugged and opened the door, feeling a bit excited about defying his aunt and uncle, even though he knew it was silly.
Dudley's room was surprisingly tidy, he noted, a sure sign that Aunt Petunia had been there to clean up recently. It was quite a bit larger than Harry's and was furnished with a sizable bed, some shelves which contained assorted records and Dudley's old comics, a wardrobe, and some expensive-looking electronics. A music system, a TV, a computer...
Harry turned around to leave, but then his curiosity got the better of him. He entered the room and considered the computer. Harry knew a bit about those from his classes back in Muggle primary school, and he remembered his old classmates talking about something called the internet. According to them, all sorts of interesting stuff could be found there. Perhaps it would be enough to keep his mind off darker things.
Decision made, Harry pressed the power button and was pleased to see that the machine was booting up. When it was finished, he sat on the surprisingly comfortable chair and went for the familiar Internet Explorer icon. A website called MSN opened up, offering him to do a web search. Now, what should he look for first?
The young wizard leaned back on the chair, trying to figure out what his biggest desire was right now. He didn't have to think very long. Reaching for the keyboard, he typed in:
'Sexy naked girls'.
"OK guys listen up, I want groups 1 and 3 on the right side, 2 and 4 on the left. Group 5 is the add group. Until I have aggro, you are going to DPS very, very slowly. And by slowly I mean fucking slow!"
Harry sighed, annoyed at one of his online companions.
"No, Mogris, trust me. I've dealt with dragons before, all right?"
A brief pause in the conversation ensued, with Harry entirely focused on the action happening on the screen. He was leading a raid party in a new MMO that he purchased on his shopping trip a few days before. The food Dursleys had left him ran out in two days, so visiting the nearest supermarket was a matter of survival.
"Adds about to spawn, stay in position so you don't aggro all of them at once".
The raid leader took a swig of an energy drink, but nearly spit it out as he saw what was happening in the game.
"Oh my god... he just ran in."
Furious button mashing, trying to fix the situation.
"Group 5, handle it! Now!" he ordered tersely. Things weren't going well though. His raid was wiping, and he doubted he would get a chance at leading another one after this fiasco. All because one bloody idiot.
"Goddammit, Leeroy... you fucking moron."
Harry sighed, listening to his guildmates voice their complaints. The usual epithets of noob and scrub were tossed around, some in his direction. Harry felt his anger rise.
"Why don't you shut the fuck up, you little prick. I'm in no mood for your bullshit."
"What the hell did you say?!" a voice behind Harry roared.
"I said," Harry shouted into the headset angrily, "shut the hell up before I..."
He really didn't want to turn around, but that was just delaying the inevitable.
"Hello, Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia. Hi, Dudley."
All things considered, everything went better than expected – Harry was still alive, after all. His uncle flew into a fit of rage, shouting at the shocked teenager at full volume, his face redder than Harry thought was humanly possible. Vernon then dragged his nephew downstairs, and started a more coherent rant about how everything that was wrong in the world was Harry's fault. The usual, really.
"And don't think I'm not on to you, boy," the obese man snarled and pointed his finger right in the wizard's face. "I've taken a look at the water meter, and you used way too much!"
"Really, I don't even know why we put up with you," sniffed Petunia. "I've never seen a more ungrateful, shifty little..."
"Freak!" Vernon interrupted his wife, flying off the handle again. "A nasty little freak, that's what he is! I bet he looked at all sorts of vile, perverted things on Dudley's computer while we were away".
Harry's face colored a little. His uncle wasn't too much off the mark. Oh well, no choice but to use his trump card.
"I did in fact look up all sorts of things on the internet, uncle," said Harry calmly, speaking for the first time in the last ten minutes. "And the thing I learned was how to contact Child Protection Services".
Now that was a bombshell. Harry enjoyed watching his relatives sputter indignantly for a few moments.
"There's no way they would–"
"Perhaps they'd be interested to hear how I lived in the cupboard under the stairs until I was twelve," he pressed on. "Perhaps I should tell them how you locked me in my room and put bars on my windows. Or how you attempt to deny my basic hygiene needs while Dudley gets to shower for as long as he wants".
Harry wasn't entirely sure this would work. He didn't think his case was strong enough, but he hoped the possibility of a scandal alone would give his aunt and uncle a scare.
His relatives didn't disappoint. Petunia bristled under the accusation, but stayed quiet. Vernon attempted to reason with him.
"Now, boy, you wouldn't really contact social services, would you?" his Uncle asked in what he probably considered a cordial tone.
"Of course not, uncle," Harry replied in an equally sweet voice. "I'm sure we can come to an agreement".
One hour later, Harry was back on his computer. He whistled a tune as he scoured the net for something useful. 'Useful' in this case included everything from prank ideas to tips on self-defense. At first, Harry wanted to look for some neat things his friends would enjoy at the online shopping sites. That would have to wait, however, since he used up all of his measly 'emergency fund' of Muggle currency that he had kept in his trunk to buy off the Dursleys.
The agreement was fairly simple. Harry would purchase the slightly outdated machine for two hundred pounds. He would also start paying a weekly rent. In return, the Dursleys would leave him to his own devices. That meant no more chores, no more getting on his case for no reason, and no harassing if he showered under hot water for longer than five minutes.
The fact that he had no cash left was an issue, but it was nothing a quick trip to Gringotts wouldn't fix. As for the amount itself, Harry wasn't too concerned. If what he heard about the exchange rate from Muggleborn wizards back at Hogwarts was any indication, he should have no problems paying the rent for two months a year for the rest of his tuition.
Oooh, this prank looked like something Fred and George might be interested in. Harry got out his notebook and jotted a few lines. He turned around when he heard a knock on his door.
"Harry," Aunt Petunia addressed him stiffly, "there doesn't seem to be any tissues left in the house. Did you use all three boxes?"
"...I, uh, I had a cold, Aunt Petunia".
There was some tension in the house during the next few days, but Petunia and Vernon adapted to their nephew's new status fairly quickly. It was amazing how well Harry and his relatives got along when they stopped pretending to be a family and agreed on a business-like relationship. Harry briefly wondered why Dumbledore, in all his wisdom, didn't think of such an arrangement, but decided to save that thought for later.
Harry quickly settled into a routine where he would wake up at noon, make his own food whenever he was hungry, and go to sleep at about 4 AM. He spent most of the time in his room, which seemed to suit the Dursleys just fine. A few days after the 'incident', he made a quick trip via the Knight Bus to Gringotts, and exchanged enough of the golden Galleons into pounds to pay his rent and have some left for his own needs. It was about time he got some new Muggle clothes, and Harry was pretty sure that his old glasses needed replacing, too.
Most of his days (and nights) were spent on the internet. Harry was amazed at the wealth of information and entertainment available at his fingertips. He researched all sorts of things that he thought might help in the upcoming fight against Voldemort and his minions. Harry didn't learn anything in the way of magic spells, but he did find a treasure trove of info on non-magical weaponry and explosives, and printed everything that might be of use.
As for entertainment, Harry tried everything from movies to video games to anime. He also read quite a few sci-fi and fantasy stories available online, especially enjoying the fascinating ideas that Muggles had about magic. It helped him forget the whole Voldemort situation for days, and he found that he slept better when his head was filled with all the useless, yet awesome information after a busy day of doing nothing productive. Even Harry himself thought that this level of escapism was unhealthy, but it's not like he had an alternative. He doubted Dursleys would want to discuss Voldemort's resurrection and Harry's role in it, and he couldn't write about anything of importance to his friends.
Speaking of which, Ron and Hermione did finally grace him with a letter (a single one from both of them) two weeks into the holiday. Short as it was, most of the message was a warning not to reveal any sensitive information via owl post. The rest hinted at his two friends being at a secret location, doing... secret things. Ron seemed particularly happy about knowing something Harry did not. Harry snorted with contempt and penned an equally uninspired reply.
He actually had more active correspondence going on with Fred and George. The Weasley twins were more than happy to listen to suggestions from their main investor, especially if they were actually good. He declined to inform them that most of his ideas were borrowed from the net.
As time went on, Harry ventured into the darker corners of the internet. He was shocked and disgusted at some of the things he found there – such as gore and human suffering – but for some perverse reason he just couldn't look away. As fucked up as it sounded, all those morbidly fascinating pictures and videos somehow helped Harry deal with what happened that night in the graveyard.
Harry's familiar routine was only interrupted at the beginning of August. He was owning some noobs at Counter Strike (everyone with half a brain knew that CS was the best FPS ever, while CoD sucked ass) when he noticed an unusual chill in the room. He sighed, got up to put on a recently-bought jumper, and went back to his game.
Ten minutes later, his hands were still freezing, and the cold was starting to affect his aim. Now that was unacceptable.
Grumbling about stingy, tight-fisted Dursleys, Harry lumbered down the stairs, expressing his displeasure by making as much noise as possible. The house's heating system was controlled from the kitchen, so that's where Harry was heading.
It was even colder downstairs. When Harry entered the kitchen he found his aunt nursing a cup of hot tea, while his dear uncle was looking at the heating control panel with a stumped expression on his face.
"I'm cold," Harry said in the way of a greeting.
Vernon just grunted in response and began jabbing the buttons on the thermostat with more force than was strictly necessary. Harry waited a few moments, but neither his aunt nor his uncle seemed interested in making a conversation, so he wandered over to the window and glanced at the thermometer.
"Damn, but it's freezing out there! What do you think..." Harry trailed off when he noticed a familiar dark shape floating above the road, leaving slight wisps of fog in its wake. He swallowed. This was bad. This was really, really bad. He wasn't ready to go back to the craziness of the wizarding world yet. There still was this sweet RPG called 'Mask of Betrayer' that he absolutely had to finish.
Checking his right pocket for his wand (it was there, thank Merlin), Harry tracked the Dementor through the window until it floated out of view. He then walked briskly to the front door, and cracked it open just enough to poke his head outside. The holly wand was grasped firmly in his hand, a suitable memory already prepared.
Well, this was getting better and better.
There wasn't just one Dementor circling his house, but two; however, they didn't seem intent on attacking him, at least at the moment. A most unusual behavior for a soul-sucking monster, as far as Harry was concerned. He frowned in thought: were these two creatures hunting him? Guarding him?
After a few minutes of observing the two Dementors moving around his house but never crossing some invisible boundary, Harry closed the door and turned around. He was startled to see his relatives standing behind him, peering at him him in silence.
"Explain," barked Vernon, eyeing Harry's wand with apprehension. "Is your kind responsible for some unnatural happening again?"
"Well, uncle, the good news is, the thermostat isn't broken," replied Harry more cheerfully than he felt. "The bad news is... there are two Dementors circling this house, and I have no idea why."
Petunia's and Vernon's reactions couldn't have been more different. While his uncle just looked utterly confused at Harry's announcement, his aunt blanched and took a few steps back.
"What–what are they doing here?" she asked in a trembling voice. Both men stared at her in shock.
"You know what Dementors are, Aunt Petunia?" Harry asked incredulously.
She nodded mutely, then clarified, "I heard about them from Lilly. They guard the wiz– I mean, they guard your prison, don't they?"
Harry nodded, studying his aunt's face with interest. She seemed too afraid of what should have been just a name to her, a mere abstraction, but he didn't press for details.
Vernon, who had been rather comically gaping at them in turn, finally found his voice. "Well then, do something about it boy! These dementy-thingies are here for you, they must be, as the rest of us have nothing to do with your kind!"
Harry noted with satisfaction that his uncle was being a bit more civil, just like their agreement entailed. At least, the word 'freak' no longer entered the conversation. Calling Harry by his name was beyond Vernon's abilities, he supposed.
Still, his uncle made a valid point. Harry realized perfectly well that the wardens of Azkaban must have come for him – and he couldn't just leave them flying around Privet Drive as they pleased. The rest of his summer holidays were at stake. However, he had no idea what to do. The obvious solution would be informing Dumbledore, but he didn't want to risk Hedwig, and although he was aware of the possibility of using his Patronus to deliver messages, he had never done that before. Not to mention it would probably get him expelled from Hogwarts, as that would be his second offense.
The choice was soon made for him, however.
"Little Duddy!" Petunia screeched somewhere in the whereabouts of his right ear.
Indeed, there his cousin was, waddling home along the pavement and paying no attention to the dark figures swooping above the house. Harry watched in fascination as the Dementors stopped their circling and turned towards the approaching boy. They looked like predators who had just sensed their prey. 'Big D' stopped and shuddered as the cloaked fiends drew closer.
"What is going on?" Petunia asked fearfully.
"I think the Dementors are about to suck Dudley's soul out," Harry reported dutifully.
"No, not my son! You have to save him!" Petunia shouted, gripping Harry's shoulder with surprising strength and causing him to wince.
"I don't know..." he drawled, watching the foul creatures grab Dudley with their slimy, rotten hands. "I would have to do magic, and I'd get in trouble for that."
"You will help Dudley if you know what's good for you, boy!" Vernon roared, concern for his son overcoming his fear of magic.
"Please, Harry," pleaded Aunt Petunia, watching Dudley getting choked by the invisible hands squeezing his neck.
"Oh, very well," Harry murmured resignedly. "Expecto Patronum!"
A/N: This story is going to be rather cracky and filled with completely unsubtle references. It is rated M mostly for coarse language.