Harry squinted in the sunlight as he left the station and made his way to his uncle's car. Noting that it was a more expensive version than he remembered, he opened the boot and heaved his trunk in while the Dursleys stood and watched from the shade of the station's entrance canopy. He could just hear Uncle Vernon utter the words "Nothing changes…" before yelling at him to be careful and making threats of what would happen to him if he dared mark the paintwork.
Harry held the car doors open for the Dursleys and noticed a very 'pleased with himself' grin plastered all over Dudley's face. Harry hardly had time to close his door, fasten his seatbelt and wonder what that was all about, before he found out.
"I don't know what you're smiling at, boy, but if you think that little display by your friends is going to make any difference to you this summer, you are very much mistaken."
"Vernon, are you sure? I mean, they looked… well, we don't want to upset their kind," his aunt said very quietly. She was looking round all the time as if she expected Mad Eye's head to pop up from the dashboard.
"Very sure, Petunia, very sure." Fixing Harry with a very malevolent stare, he continued, "And anyway, they are never going to know. I will see to that, and not another word from you, boy, until we get home."
Fighting back the urge to tell his uncle that he had not yet said a word, Harry sat back and quietly planned the letter he was going to write to Ron's dad, Arthur Weasley, as soon as he dropped off his trunk in his bedroom.
Unfortunately for Harry the traffic heading back to Little Whinging was just as bad as it had been on his relatives' journey down. He soon exhausted all the possible ways to write his letter. Not wanting to let his mind wander and start to dwell on recent events, he looked round for something to do, and he noticed an old copy of Little Whinging Gazette sticking out from under his aunt's seat.
There were the usual sort of stories about local issues, such as the councils "Tidy the Town" campaign. The story that really caught his eye, though, was one about a pensioner's house that had mysteriously exploded, leaving just the toilet and a Welsh dresser still standing. It turned out that it had happened in Middle Wallop, a small village not far from Little Whinging. The cause of the explosion was still unknown and the woman had been visiting relatives at the time and so was unhurt. Harry had not quite finished the story when his uncle jolted him by shouting right into his ear, "GET OUT OF THE CAR, BOY!"
Chortling at the look of shock his nephew's face, Vernon Dursley walked in to the house.
His head reappeared a moment later only to yell, "Bring those things straight into the kitchen, boy. You need to know a thing or two about this summer..."
Once again Harry was left alone to remove his luggage from the back of his uncle's car, being extra careful not to scratch the paintwork. Lifting Hedwig's cage out last, he gently placed her on the drive and slipped an Owl Treat between the bars. "There you go, girl. Give us some support in there, will you?" As ever, Hedwig seemed understand him perfectly and gave his finger a gentle nip as she took the treat.
After closing and locking the car, Harry brought all his things into the kitchen, where he noted Dudley had the largest glass of Cola Harry had ever seen. His aunt and uncle were drinking tea from little flowery cups that reminded Harry of Madam Puddifoot's, the tea shop in Hogsmeade he had visited with Cho; of course there was nothing for Harry.
"Welcome home, Harry…" Harry murmered.
"Stop muttering, boy! And sit down," said his uncle. Harry, not wanting to sit next to his cousin, sat on the floor and leant against the wall.
"Now, as I told you in the car, boy, there will be none of your funny business this year." As he was talking, his uncle stood up and walked over to him, and where once Harry would have cowered, now he stared his uncle defiantly in the eyes. His uncle did not seem to notice this change in Harry and continued, "And how do I know this? Well, for a start, you can put that thing, " pointing at Harry's wand, "in there." He moved his finger to a new addition to the kitchen, where Aunt Petunia's dishwasher had once stood now contained a large grey, very solid looking safe.
"And since you're over there, you can put in every one of those things you write with, and every book and bit of paper you have."
It was with this last instruction that it dawned on Harry he was not going to be able to write to Ron's dad that evening as he had hoped. This must have shown on Harry's face, because his uncle's lips formed themselves into a very tight smile. "Oh don't worry, boy, you will still be able to write to your friends. I'm not stupid enough," Harry barely suppressed a cough at this, "to risk a visit from your bodyguards. No you will be writing to them every three days as they asked you to, only I will be telling you what to write. This time you see I have thought of everything, and there will be NO REPEAT of last summer."
At this, Harry's anger finally broke and he shot up, making his Uncle fall backwards in shock.
"EVERYTHING? YOU HAVE THOUGHT OF EVERYTHING! HAVE YOU? WELL WHAT HAPPENS WHEN LAST SUMMER HAPPENS AGAIN? BECAUSE IT WILL. YOU THINK LOCKING MY WAND AWAY WILL MAKE YOU SAFE?" Harry's yelling was interrupted by a smash and a whimper as Dudley dropped his glass on to the tiled floor.
Lowering his voice to barely a whisper, though losing none of its power and intensity Harry added, "You think if I had not had my wand last summer your precious Duddikens would still be here today?" He was pleased to see both his Aunt and Dudley turn pale at this last question.
"Well, You know what? I don't care. I don't care if Voldemort and his Dementors come for me, because I have just lost…" Harry stopped before letting the Dursley's, know too much, "the worst year I've ever had." He continued. Harry's voice was barley audible now, but the Dursley's could hear every word. "So fine, you can keep this in your safe." Harry ripped open the door and stuffed his wand inside, stormed over to his trunk and lifted out everything but his clothes and stuffed them in as well. He slammed the door shut and threw the key at his uncle, "AND WITH ANY LUCK HE WILL TAKE YOU LOT OUT FIRST SO I CAN WATCH!" He caught sight of their stunned faces before running up the stairs and slamming his bedroom door shut. Harry fell onto his bed, and did something he had tried not to do for weeks. He started to cry.
It was the sound of the Dursleys' telephone ringing that woke Harry the next morning, but he decided to let it ring as it never be for him. Realising a few rings later that nobody was going to answer it, Harry threw back his covers to answer it himself, and as he did so the phone stopped. Cursing, Harry decided to get up anyway and find out where the Dursleys were, and why his Uncle was not yelling at him for not answering the phone.
Slipping into some clean clothes, he padded barefoot over to his window, which overlooked the perfectly manicured front lawn. It took a moment or two for Harry to realise that his uncle's car was not in the drive. That was odd, he knew his uncle did not work on Sundays, but they wouldn't have left him on his own, surely?
As he made his way downstairs, it seemed that they had indeed left him on his own, but any thoughts he had of having an easy day were soon ended by the piece of folded paper on the kitchen table, simply labeled Your Jobs. He glanced at it briefly before deciding that he really needed something to eat before starting to read it.
A short while later as he finished off the last of his bacon, he turned his attention to the letter.
Your Aunt Petunia and I have taken Dudley shopping for some new clothes and a haircut.
Each day your Aunt will leave a list of chores on the fridge door, YOU WILL do them, and if you complete them to your Aunt's satisfaction, we may let you go out in the evenings.
And for last night's little outburst, in addition to today's chores, I expect you to paint the garage door. If you get paint on the drive, you can expect to spend the evening cleaning it up.
We are visiting your Aunt Marge on the way home and we expect you to have tea ready for six sharp. Have yours before or afterward, I don't care. You will not be eating with us this summer, as your cousin has a delicate balanced diet to keep to for his boxing and I will not have you upsetting it.
Deciding that it was better to get the painting out of the way before the hottest part of the day, Harry left the kitchen and made his way to the garage, shooing a sparrow away from the door, so he could open it. Once inside, he spotted the paint and paintbrush his uncle had got ready for him. It was, of course, the smallest brush possible and Harry knew straight away that this was going to take most of the morning.
As Harry got in to the rhythm of brushing the paint on he noticed the colour reminded him of Dolores Umbridge's office, who last year had been the Hogwarts High Inquisitor, Defence against the Dark Arts teacher and for a short period Head Teacher. Harry really could not bring himself to care about how she had treated him, he was just glad to have the year behind him.
Finishing the last part of the garage door, Harry stowed the paint away and cleaned the brush off in the sink at the back of the garage before returning indoors to see what chores his Aunt had left him.
And so this was how Harry's first few days back from Hogwarts passed. Harry did not mind completing chores left by his aunt, he had spent most of his life at the Dursley's doing their chores and could complete them quite quickly allowing himself time to rest before starting dinner.
"Ah, good, tea," Uncle Vernon said, as he threw his coat at Harry and sat down, one evening about a week later "There's some things in the car. Go and bring them in, and make sure you lock it properly." Harry only just heard these last words as his uncle had just put a full chicken leg into his mouth and proceeded to chew.
When Harry opened the car boot, he found a second hand TV and what looked to be every newspaper published. Just looking at those on top he could see titles like The Times, The Mirror, The Guardian, and a copy of The Little Whinging Gazette and those were just the top few. Shaking his head and wondering what his uncle was up to, he emptied the boot and carried everything into the kitchen.
As Harry started to clear away the dinner plates and start washing them, his uncle stopped him. "That can wait. Come here." Harry moved over towards where his uncle sat, leant against the counter and folded his arms.
"Less of the petulance from you, or you will not get that TV you just brought in."
Harry's mind had to rerun his uncle's words a couple of time before he was sure what he thought he had heard was correct.
"Yes, the TV is for you. I am not going to have you lurking in the garden again this year, where the neighbours can see you. You are going to watch every news bulletin and read every paper, and if you see anything that might be that Volt Le More fellow. I want you to tell me, so you can write to that school of yours and get some protection for me, Dudley and your aunt. I expect you to get a copy of that paper your ruddy lot read as well."
Harry was certainly not going to inform his uncle that Number 4 Privet Drive was probably, second to Hogwarts, the safest place away from "Volt Le More." But he wasn't about to tell him that, especially if it meant being able to have newspapers and a TV. I may be moody and short tempered, he thought, but I'm not stupid.
"Err... Uncle Vernon, I'm going to need my quill and parchment to place and order for the Daily Prophet."
"I know that, boy! And while you are at it, you may as well write to your friends again. We wouldn't want them to be worried, would we?"
A/N: As ever thanks to Imogen, Pooca and LadyChi for the beta work.