It was on a scorching Tuesday afternoon under an engorged orange sun that Harry Potter finally understood what the expression, ‘the dog days of summer’ meant. He couldn’t quantify exactly how that knowledge had come to him, only that it had. This foggy burst of information in actuality had a very obvious source: his brain was frying.
He was slumped on a swing whose rubber seat seemed to be melting into the bottom of his jeans. There was no shade and not even a hint of a breeze in the playground. Shimmering waves rippled off the pavement and the car roofs as they baked in the sun. The metal bars that made up most of the play park’s construction were blistering to the touch. The urban surroundings seem to trap the high temperature like a furnace, a sweat-sticky summer in the asphalt heat. It was probably fairly similar to hell, except that in hell he’d have a lot more company. Unsurprisingly, the play park was deserted. He supposed there could have been an Order member watching him from somewhere nearby. He might have raised his head and looked around, but under the crushing noon heat it seemed like too much work.
He never should have left the house. And he wouldn’t have, had the unbearable weather not driven Aunt Petunia to rarely seen levels of irritability as she was forced to watch her carefully manicured garden wilt below the brutal sky. After spending his morning dodging both job assignments and the occasional household item, he had decided to try his luck outdoors.
In one way, the scorching climate was a blessing. He was able to concentrate fully on his discomfort, and in so doing, didn’t have to think. He was tired of thinking. It got him nowhere, the same circular patterns wearing themselves onto the inside of his skull like tracks in sand. He’d rather sit in this kiln of a play park while his skin melted and ran than crawl back into his darkened room for another round with his demons. Madness lurked behind the drawn shades. Memories turned his room into a killing jar.
It hadn’t been the best of summers. And with his past record, that was saying something.
He wouldn’t think about it. He absolutely refused to. The play park had been designated a thought-free zone, an environment sterile of emotion or impulse. There was only the sun, the heat, the swing, and the gravel beneath his feet. Anything else had been sanitised. The sun would cook away all impurities, boiling his rage and regrets off the top of his head to dissipate in the atmosphere.
He sighed and tried to open his eyes against the blinding glare before giving it up as a bad job. If anyone decided to sneak up on him, he’d just have to hope he heard them first. It was too hot to see.
As if the thought had somehow summoned noise to his position, he heard the crunch of the play park gravel. Caution banished his uncaring stance. No matter how attractive apathy was, he couldn’t bring himself to surrender entirely. He opened both his eyes, using his hand to shield them from the sun.
Another young man about his age was in the process of sitting down on a nearby bench. There didn’t seem to be anything particularly remarkable about him, though Harry couldn’t discern much in the brightness other than his raggedy blond hair.
It was public property, after all. The other boy could sit on the bench if he felt like it. Really, Harry wished he had thought of it first. The swing was an adequate seat but didn’t support his back, and that lack of bracing was slowly developing into an unpleasant stiffness. But the blond-haired teen probably had not the persistence born of desperation that Harry did. He’d move along eventually and surrender his choice seat. Harry couldn’t imagine anyone else willingly subjecting themselves to the midday climate for long.
Sure enough, no more than five minutes passed before the boy rose from his position. Harry would wait until he trudged away, and then take the bench. But instead of moving along like he was supposed to, the blond made his way to the swing set on which Harry was perched and slid into the next swing over.
It was public property, Harry reminded himself again. There was nothing to say that the stranger couldn’t sit wherever he wanted. Harry only hoped he would not attempt to start any sort of conversation. He was not feeling at all sociable and preferred for the time being to be left to his misery. Brooding might be hard on the back but it was easier than doing anything constructive.
The other boy said nothing. Harry said nothing. Then they both said nothing together. In a scene that would have looked bizarre had there been anyone around to witness it, the two sat next to each other for over half an hour without exchanging a single word. Small circles of shadow lengthened beneath them. Neither of them moved.
After quite some time had elapsed in this way, Harry thought he’d better get back to number four, Privet Drive before he became dehydrated. The last thing he needed was to pass out in the middle of the play park — his relatives certainly wouldn’t come looking for him, and he didn’t know if he could count on the stranger to help. Maybe that was why the boy was sitting there. He was waiting for Harry to pass out so he could not help. The bastard.
Harry thought his brain must be liquefying. He was feeling a little light-headed, so he’d best be moving. Standing painfully on knees inflexible from disuse, Harry shuffled over a few feet of gravel and started the walk back to the house.
“Nice talking to you, Harry,” the blond boy said.
Harry turned and stared at him. The boy met Harry’s green-eyed gaze with a grey-eyed one of his own. Neither backed down. Slowly, Harry reached one hand to his right pocket and slid his wand out from where it was hidden beneath his shirt, being careful to let his arm conceal it.
The boy blinked owlishly. “I don’t have a wand. If you’re going to let me have it, then just get it over with. Anticipation is sometimes worse than pain, you know.”
Harry didn’t put his wand away. “That’s an American accent,” he said slowly in a voice rusty from a day of neglect. “I don’t know you.”
“American? Maybe. Home is where the heart is, after all — work, church, school, a jar of formaldehyde,” the boy mused before continuing. “And I don’t know you. But I do know of you, and you don’t know of me. So where does that leave us?”
“It leaves us,” Harry growled, “with you answering some questions before I hurt you.” It wasn’t entirely false bravado — he wouldn’t mind hurting someone in his current mood. A pointless fight picked with some wizarding admirer might be just what the doctor ordered.
“I’ll tell you anything you want to know,” the boy said, shrugging.
“Who are you?”
Harry frowned. “Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
”It’s the answer to your question. It’s not my fault that it doesn’t mean anything.”
“Come on,” Harry scoffed. “You were obviously looking for me, you know what a wand is, and you’re an American in the middle of Surrey. What do you want?”
“Maybe I want to talk to you.”
“So talk. I’m right here.” Harry was tired of not knowing what was going on in his life, and rage was an easy remedy for impotence. The anger fuelled him, stole his clarity back from the heat.
“No, not here. Let's go to your house.”
“Do I really look that stupid?”
The boy — no, ‘Scott’ — grinned at him in obvious amusement. “Don’t ask questions where you might not like the answers.”
“Just tell me what you want,” Harry said coldly. “I don’t want to play games. Just tell me.” His fingers twitched on his wand. He was ready to fight, run, or both. This ‘Scott Kharan’ — presuming he’d told the truth about even that much — was quite possibly a Death Eater and there weren’t any guarantees he was the only one around. Harry held tightly to his wand, but knew that his feet might well serve him better.
“Dumbledore sent me.”
Harry hesitated at that — but then, it was an easy thing to say. “Can you prove it?”
“No, because it’s a lie. He didn’t really send me. But I did talk to him before I came here.”
“If you’re trying to gain my trust—” Harry glared at the boy. “—then you’re doing a bad job