A/N The major mistakes have now been edited as of 31st of August 2010. If you have already read this story and have received notification of a new chapter, sorry, it's just the editing process.
"Harry, are you alright?" Hermione asked anxiously. The trio were sitting on the Hogwarts express. It was the end of fifth year, and Harry's friends were worried about him. They knew that the Dursleys didn't treat Harry right, but they didn't know to what extent the muggles would go. Ron knew that Harry was being plagued by nightmares; after the events in the ministry, who wouldn't? But they couldn't do anything.
"My mum has asked Dumbledore to let you come over during the summer Harry." Ron said. "We wanted you at the beginning, but Dumbledore said no. I'll send you a letter when he says that you can visit."
Harry nodded. He had his face pressed up against the cold window. He couldn't bring up any anticipation for the visit. His mind was too filled with despair. Sirius's death was still haunting him, and the prospect of the coming summer didn't help relieve his depression. His friends realised that he didn't really want to chat, so they left him alone for the duration of the voyage.
The train shuddered to a halt at platform nine and three quarters. Harry was still looking out of the window, so immediately saw Uncle Vernon waiting for him. He got off the train with his luggage as quickly as possible; no need to raise Vernon's ire by dawdling. After saying good bye to his friends, he approached Vernon warily. His uncle grunted at him before ordering,
"Put that stuff in the boot Potter. Hurry up. I've got other things to do than just ferrying you to a freak school's train." Harry tried, but the trunk was slightly too heavy for him. "And don't scratch the paintwork, or it'll be the worse for you." Vernon's voice was projected out of the front door. Harry managed to get the trunk in just before Vernon came up behind him. He was just turning around when his uncle started screeching.
"Look at what you've done to my beautiful car!" he pointed at an almost non existent fleck on the bumper. Harry was sure that it hadn't been done by him, but he knew better than to protest. Vernon grabbed Harry's shoulder, darting his eyes around the crowded station and bringing his face close to Harry's. "Wait until we're back home Potter. You'll wish you'd never been born by the time I'm finished with you." He tightened his grip until Harry winced, and then shoved him towards the back seat of the car. Harry opened the door with a wishful glance towards the congregating families in the station. Before his uncle could shout at him, however, he got in and shut himself into the car.
Severus Snape had taken the Hogwarts express to do an errand for the headmaster. In truth, he could have apparated or taken the floo, but he told himself that he wanted to see the students safe off the train. After all, the news from the ministry confirming the return of the dark lord was likely to have impacted many. Really, however, he wanted to see how Potter was coping with the death of that mutt. He had noticed the rings around the boy's eyes, and the pinched look at breakfast. Obviously the child hadn't been sleeping lately.
Snape disembarked and stood surveying the chaos. He caught sight of the boy-who-lived heading towards a fat, red faced man. He watched as Harry tried to lift the trunk into the boot, snorting softly to himself. The saviour of the world probably had too much pride to ask anyone's assistance. However, a bemused expression crept on his face as he watched Vernon shouting at Potter, and Potter just taking it. He would have expected the arrogant brat to have some cheeky comeback ready to throw in his guardian's face. Even stranger was when Potter winced at the grip on his arm, but made no effort to defend himself. Snape continued watching until the car drove away.
Two weeks later.
The floo roared in the fireplace, and Albus Dumbledore stepped out gracefully into the dungeons. Serverus Snape looked up from the pile of papers he was filling out.
"Albus, you could have just called." He said reprovingly.
"Think nothing of it Severus. I'm just popping by. How are you doing?"
"The ministry gives me a pile of paperwork, just so that I can relate what the dunderheads in my class spend their lessons on. I'm about halfway." He stretched.
"That reminds me. Could you go and check on Harry Potter sometime this week please." Snape groaned.
"Can't someone else go to check on Harry bloody Potter?"
"No. The rest of the order are busy."
"Busy? Well so am I. I've got the rest of this paperwork to do, then there's the potions you want made, all on top of the spying. Besides, you've never checked on him before. Why now?"
"It'll only take a couple of hours. The reason I want you to visit now, is because he's had a recent bereavement. I don't think that the muggles will be giving him the support he needs." Snape interrupted.
"What? You think that he needs a bit more coddling than normal do you. You spoil that boy Albus."
"Yes Severus. I have heard you express that opinion before. I just want you to go to Privet Drive and have a little talk with Harry's family. If possible, it would be nice if you talked to Harry, but since you can't even look at him without sneering, I doubt that would help him." Indeed, Snape was sneering at that moment. He studied Albus' face, but saw nothing but anxiety for Harry.
"I hope that this isn't another attempt to try to get Potter and me to get along, is it?"
"No Severus. After the fiasco that was the occlumency lessons last year, I have given up on that plan." Snape looked at him again. As far as he could tell, Albus was telling the truth, but then, the wily wizard had many years experience in hiding his emotions.
"Fine. I'll talk to the Dursleys, but don't expect me to talk to Potter."
"Thank you. I'm off to the ministry now. They're still having problems with the security of the school. They seem to think that I can't keep the school safe." Dumbledore's voice ended on a note of incredulity that any ministry official could even think of that possibility. Snape snorted as Dumbledore stood up and went over to the fireplace. He took a handful of green powder, tossed it into the fire, and flooed away.
Snape went back to his forms, but the image of Potter kept popping into his head. He cursed under his breath. The damn boy could infuriate him without even being around. How could Albus ask me to go to check on Potter? He know how much I loathe the boy. He got up and drank a fingers worth of fire whiskey. The taste distracted him from his thoughts. He sat back down to finish his job. Harry bloody Potter could wait a couple of days.
Harry Potter sat back on his heels, stretching his back, wincing when the move stretched the half healed scabs.
"Boy are you done yet?" he flinched at the sound of his aunt's voice. He had just finished dusting the dining room.
"Yes Aunt Petunia." He replied tiredly. He was near exhaustion, and it wasn't even halfway through the day yet.
"Good, because I want you to go and mow the lawn before cleaning the kitchen."
She turned away into the lounge. Harry scrambled to his feet, swaying from hunger and exhaustion. He went outside and winced again as the sun burnt through his thin t-shirt, onto his damaged back. He unlocked the shed door, and dragged out the heavy mower. After pushing it up and down the lawn a few times, he was overcome by a fit of dizziness. Only his tight grip on the machine handle, stopped him falling as he swayed. When the fit had passed, he immediately set to work again. It wouldn't do to let Petunia see him slacking. She would probably tell Vernon, and then he'd be in deep trouble.
He finished the lawn as fast as possible, then put the mower neatly away, and reported to the kitchen. He was given the job of cleaning the floor, along with a comment from Petunia, 'and I want it spotless, do you hear? Else I'll tell your uncle.' Harry hated cleaning the floor. The cleaning fluid got in his lungs and stung his skin, the position killed his back and knees, and the job he did was never up to the standard, Petunia expected. Sure enough, when he had finished and was dragging himself to his feet, Petunia came in and started pointing out non existent patches of dirt. Thankfully, Petunia let him off with only a slap and an order to tidy the bedrooms.
Harry did his best in the rest of his chores, despite the growing ache in his body. After five, he heard his uncle's car park in the drive. It wasn't long before he heard the expected -but dreaded- shout of, 'boy!' coming from the living room. He wearily walked down the stairs to stand before his guardian.
"Petunia tells me you shirked in one of your chores today. You know what that would usually mean don't you." It wasn't a question. Vernon tapped his belt significantly. Harry's heart came up into his mouth. Surely it was too soon. The last time had only been a couple of days ago. "But you're lucky tonight. I'm in a good mood, so no food tonight or tomorrow, and extra chores to make up for it." Harry's heart sank. He had barely managed to finish the work today with food last night. How was he going to get through tomorrow and the next day? He made sure not to show these thoughts on his face though. "Now, I suggest that you go and cook the dinner like a good freak." Harry trudged into the kitchen, trying not to show his despair.
Snape strode up Privet drive. He regarded the Muggle houses scornfully. They didn't seem to have any imagination; all the houses were the same, even the cars were similar styles and colours. He strode up to the door of number 4, and knocked on the door. He heard a shout of 'boy' from inside the house. The door was opened soon after by Harry himself.
Harry looked at his most hated professor in shock. After a couple of moments, Snape snidely asked him,
"Well Potter, are you going to stand there gawping like a goldfish, or are you going to ask me in?" the boy flushed, and closed his mouth. Snape heard heavy footsteps, and he saw Uncle Vernon come around the corner from the sitting room.
"What's the hold up boy? Who is it?" Vernon asked. Harry stepped back from the doorway. The men looked at each other for a moment. "Who the devil are you?" demanded Harry's uncle.
"My name is professor Snape. I am from Hogwarts." Vernon started at the name of the school, his eyes darting round to check that no one had heard. "I am here to check on Potter." Vernon's attitude changed instantly to one of benevolence.
"You are, are you? Well come in for some tea then. You can see that dear old Harry is very happy here." He clapped his hand on Harry's shoulder. Harry winced. The 'pat' was harder than it looked. Vernon gestured to the living room. Snape swept into the room, ahead of the other two. Vernon's hand tightened on Harry's shoulder until it was painful, and the man breathed into his ear. "Not one word Potter, or else. We're going to play happy families, and you're going to act along if you want to survive the rest of this summer. You hear me?" Vernon shook the boy until he nodded. They proceeded into the living room to join their guest and the rest of the family, Harry trying to keep his emotions hidden behind a blank face.