His back blisters and, with a wince, he switches hands and plucks the few errant weeds from the dirt, tossing them in the designated bucket. It's a quarter-full with weeds, the whole yards pickings, in consideration to the size of it. It is a rare sunny day in Surrey, an odd pigeon twitters and hesitant insects scurry about.
His back hurts. His throat hurts.
Harry takes a longing look at the door to the kitchen, through the window Aunt Petunia sits, sewing a tear in Dudley's new overalls at the kitchen table. He had ripped them when he tried to bury Harry in mud during lunch break, took the rip and cut and pointed a sausage-finger at a mud-caked Harry with tear-filled lids.
He hadn't meant to look guilty but, together with his lack of notes during class, Ms. Summers took one look and to the Principal's office for his bad behavior. Ms. Summers said he had also cheated on the test last Tuesday, but he hadn't. He hadn't. And, he wasn't a liar.
Aunt Petunia said he was a liar. She was called from her Sunday brunch with her friends to a meeting with the Principal, and to collect Harry. Since then, he has been doing the weekend chores – tending to the garden, organizing Dudley's collection of DVD's and CD's, and cooking extravagant meals.
He was still stuck on the weeds and the sun was only starting to go down. His back hurts.
Her bony knuckles rapped, "Harry!" Aunt Petunia was muffled, hawkeyed features stern and severe through the door's window, and her spindly hands flickered to the garden, ordering him back to work.
His throat hurts.
Aunt Petunia checked the watch hanging off her wrist, clutched it to herself, unlocked the door and called: "I'm off to collect Dudders from school. You best be finished before we get back," Aunt Petunia nodded, proud in this direction, and before Harry could swallow an askance, she'd locked the door again and vanished further inside.
The wind hissed and while the sun beamed, his school shorts did little to protect him from the cold. His back hurts. His knees hurt.
Harry crept to the last of the weeds, ripping them out and doing a double check of the various flowers for any stray weeds. It looks clean, his vision is a little blurry though – blurrier than usual, a little dark at the edges.
He shakes onto his boots, a large old pair of Dudley's, and staggers to the kitchen door, tries it despite knowing it's locked before he sits in the small shade allowed from the door stop upon the stone stairwell. The backyard isn't completely locked off from the front, but he'd have to scale the gate, and he'd still be stuck outside.
His back hurts and his throat hurts. His breathes harsh, tight around his ribs. Harry winces as he fingers the already peeling skin on the back of his neck. Aunt Petunia says he can't be sunburnt because of his skin color but that's also a lie. His shoulders feel tight, and he is thirsty.
Then, between one moment and the next, a silky cool sits upon the nape of his neck, like a dream of icepack on his back, and for the first time in a long time, Harry feels like he can breathe. This is the first time Harry, unknowingly, feels his soulmate.
He has a tattoo on his forearm, just above his wrist, Uncle Vernon declared it evidence that his parents were crazy alcoholics, who hadn't wanted him except as a drawing board for all their ugly scribbles. When he feels scared and alone, he circles the braided line on his forearm, and knows that at least his parent's existed.
Sometimes it feels like he landed in the Dursley's yard from nowhere: just appeared one day, a wisp of smoke set to vanish another, just as quickly and not missed for it.
It's those times he likes to think he knows one thing about his parents: they have tattoos, and so whenever he spots someone with tattoos when helping Aunt Petunia grocery shop, he thinks they must be a little like his parents. Sometimes they look mean, studded and sharp and scowling, but one time a large girl with turquoise hair smiled and wiggled painted fingers at him, and he didn't have time before Aunt Petunia dragged him away to wave back.
It makes him think that, maybe, it's a possibility, that his parents were kind, or at the very least, nice.
When Harry's arm snapped, twisted behind his back, and he yelled out – Dudley dropped him, when Aunt Petunia told Harry off for the noise, bundling Dudley home and shooing Harry back with them. He sat in cupboard, unlocked because it wasn't nighttime yet, but the family wanted to watch TV together, he clutched his itching arm and shuddered at the lightening striking up and down, fingers to shoulders to back.
This time the cool starts at his elbow, a blanket like liquid suffocating all the feeling in his arm and up to his shoulder. It scares him, it doesn't feel right, alien and numb, but he bites his mouth and keeps silent. It's family night, and he shouldn't bother them.
By the time the panic dies, he can flex baby-chubby fingers and only winces slightly and untucking his elbow from his side. He is really tired, so he naps, clutching his numb arm to himself so he doesn't hurt it.
It continues to happen: his knees are scrapped bloody when he trips running from Dudley and his friends, only to be completely healed after an itchy tingle tickles it ten minutes later; and the indigo bruise from knocking into a shelf in the cupboard is cleared after a few hours; and the spider bites barely blistering before they're healed; and the bloodied stump of his baby toe after he kicked at the staircase during a nightmare is completely healed and fine by the morning, despite how it looks like his entire nail peeled off; and the bruise on his forehead from where he'd bashed it when cleaning beneath the sink – it all vanishes, in a cool and numb blanket as it disappears.
He doesn't think it happens to Dudley. Sometimes when Dudley is bruised it takes days to vanish, turning all the colors of the rainbow, or even when he gets a papercut it takes two days to completely heal.
So, Harry really is a freak. He knows by now. Except, this does not feel like Harry – it feels different, separate, and like it belongs elsewhere but the leftovers have sprayed over the edge and sunk into Harry. He doesn't know who it belongs to, but he knows he isn't alone then.
It's probably bad but sometime Harry is happy when he is hurt, because it means that sooner or later, someone else will do something 'magical' and it'll wash back into him, like a low tide, like from those TV shows that played after the family fell asleep in front of the telly and forgot to lock him away.
In class, one day a few from Dudley's birthday, he blinks at a strange burn in his knees, it – it hurts, Ms. Dawson is facing the board, so Harry ducks, lifts the too large school gray trousers up to his knees and blinks at the scuffed skin of his knee. It feels like there should be a scrap, a large one, blood flecked and blue on his knees, but it's just a little dirty.
His other knee is exactly the same – his knees ache – "Mr. Potter, roll down your trousers this instance," Mrs. Dawson exasperated, another issue he sparks.
"Y-yes," he squeezes his mud-scuffed knee and feels a twinge back, "Sorry, Mrs. Dawson," Harry says and drops them back down. His fingers press bruises into his knees, until the ache twitches to an itch, before it cools, leftovers of numb and cool blankets smoothing over the ache until it vanished, washed away in a single sweep.
His fingers dig into bone. Then, he jumps at a sharp smack to his leg. It wasn't anyone in his class, and it wasn't Harry. It was like Uncle Vernon trying to get the neighbor's dog to back off, a newspaper raised, hard and quick. His heart thunders, adrenaline squeezes his fists, knees freed, several classmates snicker but, in it all, he smiles and knows that there's someone there.
There's someone on the other side of his body.
Harry is ten years old, pinches at his skin in random intervals in the solitude of his cupboard, unable to sleep and the light having dimmed several days earlier. He hasn't managed to take a bulb from storage to fix it yet. So, Harry sits in the dark and pinches, in circles and zigzags, until his skin feels hot.
The heat feels nice. The sting and ache less so.
He doesn't understand what the pressure is, tight around shoulders, hard to breathe, a warm surface massages at the hurt on his arms, and it's definitely not from Harry. He sinks into it. The suffocating and tight warmth, drowsy in the knowledge that there's someone there.
It keeps happening. Harry will pinch and prod, in solitude, in his cupboard or during break, or between chores; he'll pick and pluck his skin, until a sharp smack tingles back at the offended area; and then, then sometimes the tightness will return, almost hot, and the pressure feels nice, sometimes at his shoulders or around his back and ribs, and in those moments, Harry thinks he knows what it's like to be loved.
Every so often, the tattoo on his wrist flares hot, like a hand is holding it tight; and Harry circles it back, a dull throb of another someone through it. He thinks if all tattoos feel like this, he knows why those that do, usually have so many.
He is eleven when he learns magic is real. He is eleven when he learns that he is a wizard. He is eleven when he learns that the braided band tattooed on his wrist is a soul-mark. He is eleven when he learns that he had parents who loved him.
Hagrid tells him to keep the soul-mark above his wrist a secret, tells him it will cause him a lot of trouble, him and his soulmate. "Wait a – a soulmate?" Harry insisted. It feels like a daydream projected into common knowledge, and it shakes him, "Hagrid." Does it mean there is someone there?
Hagrid quickly hushes him, beams a nervous grin at the crowd pressing in on them, as he gently guides Harry to a robe store. "Right on you young Harry. Now, you'll get y'ur robes, for school that, and I'll be back in a jiff." Then Hagrid is swallowed by the crowd,
Instead of brave the cacophony, the bell dings as he enters Madam Milken's robe store, there's racks of materials and clothes, clothes rearrange and smooth themselves onto shelves, and several instruments flutter above an older woman's head as she pins and pricks a boy's robes in place.
"Be with you in a moment, dear. Hogwarts, I presume?"
"Yes," Harry nods and steps up to the stand beside the boy as is requested, the older woman – possibly Madam Milken's herself – hums about, disappearing into the back destined to arrive back soon.
"Your first year, is it?" the pointed and stark-haired boy questioned. He takes Harry's suspicious nod in full stride. His pointed face tilted by smugness, "Mine too," he declares. "I've already decided I'm going to be Slytherin – that way I can be just as great as my father." He proudly whispers, silver eyes glinted, "He says I can be on the Quidditch team this year. Usually first years aren't allowed," he clarified, at Harry's bewilderment.
Harry curls a tight hand around the mark above his wrist, anxious at the stream of information, and the prideful attitude. Usually, that ends with him face-down in the dirt after a game of Harry Hunting, or, a swat to his neck after polite company has disappeared.
He feels a stretch of alarm, it builds as the pointy-chinned boy just stares at him, frowns at him, and Harry swallows. He has words, somewhere but none come out, and the pointy-chinned boy's eyes glint, puzzled and pulling at his inseams, and something does not feel like him – and he is poked in the cheek.
Harry twitches back, "Hey!" as his body thrums aflame, burns in a mixture of liquid violet, throbbing each of his senses to a zinged point. His wrist splits and snatches, as if the braided brand has tightened, tickles up his arm to jolt his muscles. He rubs his soul-mark through his sweater, feels flushed cheeks reflected back at him: "What was that for?"
"I – Your –"
Harry jumps at a hard knock, it's Hagrid at the window, bushy and beaming, holding a snow-white owl in a copper cage up to Harry's inspection. Hagrid happily waves, Harry attentively waves back, feels a searing urge to turn his head back, and Madam Milken's reenters with a "there you go, Mr. Malfoy, all done, tell your mother she can have them collected a week from now." The pointy-chinned boy looks startled, head flickers back and forth, caught on a dignified nod, before he switches to Harry, mouth hauled to talk but Madam Milken lays cloth over Harry's shoulders, "arms up," she says, and "everyday school robes and dress robes, is it?" she asks.
Harry's entire focal point is the pointy-chinned boy, a lighthouse in the dark storm, but he shakes it off, fights to keep freakishness at bay, and nods: "Think so," Harry manages. Madam Milken's hums, begins to pin and pluck the robes into place. The pointy-chinned boy – Mr. Malfoy – shudders at the edge of Harry's sights, and something deep yanks, pulverized in Harry's sternum.
It is difficult to breathe, "Alright there, dear?" Madam Milken asks, busy hands plucking along, as the pointy-chinned boy does something out of Harry's line of sight.
He manages a nod, "Yeah, sorry."
"That's quite alright, dear."
The door chimes shut as the pointy-chinned boy leaves.
Madam Milken's tuts between the pin in her mouth, "Didn't even say thank you that young man," she murmurs to herself. Harry inhales, sharp and pain-filled, it's like Dudley is sitting on his ribs, or it's the height of summer and he's locked in his cupboard. It's hard to breathe.
Hagrid feeds him famously delicious ice cream and it tastes sour. But he catches sight of the magic in the air and the heavy pressure recedes somewhat. For the first time, it's the someone on the other side who pinches Harry first, in the delicate skin above his elbow. It feels sharp, the day having exhausted him, Harry squeezes the spot – hopes it as calming as the pressure usually given back.
Is that someone his soulmate? "Hagrid," Harry asks before its too late, "What is a soulmate?"
Hagrid smooths his beard, fiddles with his pockets, rocks back in huge boots. It's just them, outside Privet Drive, the deck light hasn't been left on but the street lamp is enough. "Sometimes 'arry there's a being, and they're separated or – ah, there's two but their together I – uh, I really don't know 'arry, isn't really my specialty. Best ask the Headmaster when you see 'im," he shrugged.
Hagrid still beamed, clapped his hands, the thud shakes the knock at the door. "Never mind that right now, tomorrow you'll be starting Hogwarts. Best rest up," he pats Harry shoulder, it knocks him forward into the door. Hagrid knocks and Aunt Petunia peeks out in a night cap, curlers in, she distrustfully simmers at Hagrid and waves Harry in.
Aunt Petunia set to slam the door shut. Harry barricades it, "Wait I – thanks Hagrid, for today, really." The massive giant outright beams at him, strokes his beard and pats his chest in pride. He didn't want to be rude like the pointy-chinned boy. His chest twinges.
"Your very welcome 'arry," is heard before Aunt Petunia pulls Harry inside, slams the door shut, locks it tight with three locks and chains it down, slim chest heaving as she watches with a beady eye Hagrid vanish through the keyhole. Then, when he tries to head for his cupboard, ushers him up the stairs like one would a fly to a window.
Harry has a bedroom now. He doesn't know where Dudley's second bedroom things will be put. It's not like Harry will be using it a lot. He starts Hogwarts tomorrow. The bed is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Harry holds the braided band around his wrists, strokes it soft. In the dim moonlight, it almost looks different.