Harry was lying on the floor when he woke up. Judging by the fact that he’d woken up at all, he didn’t seem to be half as dead as he’d been expecting. He had no idea how long it had been since he’d arrived back at the Dursleys, but it felt like an eternity. Someone had told Vernon about Sirius getting killed and Vernon had decided to take out two years’ worth of pent up aggression all at once.
He really didn’t want to think about what the last however many weeks had been like, but the combination of pain and grief and the betrayal he felt toward Dumbledore for not only shoving him off with the Dursleys again, but telling them about Sirius’ death was immense. He hadn’t really expected it to matter because he’d been absolutely convinced that Vernon was going to kill him very soon. When he’d passed out, he’d not expected to ever wake up again.
He realized as he cautiously sat up that he didn’t hurt at all. He hadn’t felt in such good health since he’d gotten back to Privet Drive. He couldn’t see anything, which was unnerving. Had he gone blind, or was he just in a dark room or something?
Cautiously, he reached out to his surroundings. The floor was carpeted, the walls were close on two sides, and there seemed to be stairs a short distance to his left. He was in a corridor. He carefully made his way to the stairs and descended, beginning to make out shapes as he neared an area that had windows with wane light drifting through.
So he wasn’t blind. That was a relief.
A brief assessment of the area assured him that he was still at Number 4 Privet Drive. After several long minutes of standing in the middle of the living room and staring at nothing, he recalled his promise to himself. Some time ago, Harry had promised himself that if he somehow managed to survive, he was getting out of here and he was never coming back to Privet Drive. Period.
Fuck Dumbledore. Fuck the war. He wasn’t going to go through this shit anymore.
He walked back up the stairs and entered his room, only to stop short when he realized that… it wasn’t his room. It looked like a storage room still. He hurried to check the loose floorboard where he’d kept his wand, cloak, and photo album.
He managed to pry the board up, but the hollow beneath was empty.
He stood up again and backed away quickly, struggling to figure out what the hell was going on. This wasn’t right on many levels, but he didn’t dare stick around to try to figure it out. If Vernon woke up, he’d have to flee or be beaten and locked up again.
Feeling extremely lost, Harry headed for the front door, prepared to get the hell out of the house and then try to figure out what was going on. He opened the door and nearly tripped over a large basket. He blinked down at it for a long moment, unable to comprehend what he was seeing.
There was a basket on the doorstep. A basket bearing a baby with messy black hair and a lightning shaped mark freshly scabbed over on his forehead. There was a familiar blanket tucked around the child with the initials HJP sewn into it. And next to the baby was a letter.
Swallowing hard and scanning the street for signs of life – there were none, not even a suspicious tabby cat – Harry opened the letter and read through the note from Dumbledore to Petunia, threatening that if she didn’t take in young Harry, she’d not be protected, and would end up dying a painful death along with the rest of her family.
Fucking Christ! No wonder they’d taken him in even though they’d hated him.
It wasn’t until he’d finished the letter that the reality of the situation really hit him and he sagged against the doorframe.
Baby Harry Potter was sitting on the Dursleys’ doorstep. Meaning that this had to be early November 1981.
Holy crap. He’d gone back in time. Somehow. And he was looking at his baby self, who’d just been condemned to the torment of the Dursleys by fucking Dumbledore.
Harry scowled darkly. Merlin, he hated that man.
He spent some time trying to figure out how the hell this could have happened. He remembered that Vernon was beating on him again. He’d tucked himself into a ball as much as he was able. He kind of drifted away, as he’d learned to do during the beatings. It still hurt, but his mind wasn’t processing each individual pain so it was easier to take. He remembered that he’d felt really hot, and then everyone had went black. The next thing he knew was waking up in the corridor, completely healed and clean and not even really hungry despite the fact that he really couldn’t remember when he’d last been allowed any form of food.
Had his magic done this? He’d read about some powerful wizards and witches whose magic had manifested in strange ways when they’d been in serious danger. He’d stumbled upon the book in fourth year while he was trying to prepare for the Third Task. It hadn’t been the sort of book he’d thought, but it had been interesting enough that he’d wasted a few hours reading it.
Could that be what had happened? His magic had reacted violently when he’d been at Death’s Door. Had it both saved him and given him a chance to save his younger self from suffering the same fate?
It seemed crazy, but given the evidence, it was his best guess.
Which meant that the question now was, what the hell he was supposed to do with a fifteen-month-old baby? Even if the kid was him, he didn’t know the first thing about taking care of a baby. But he couldn’t just leave the kid here. And he couldn’t very well leave him in an orphanage, and take the chance of Dumbledore getting hold of him and bringing him right back.
What the hell was he supposed to do? He had no money, no wand, and if the world believed Harry Potter to be a year old, then he didn’t even have a name he could use, much less a vault at Gringotts.
But he’d been powerful enough to send himself fifteen years into the past. Surely if he could do that, he could figure out how to do this.
Right, he nodded to himself with somewhat less conviction than he’d have really liked. He’d just take it one day at a time.
No money. No wand. No name. He needed a place to sleep, and they’d both need food soon enough.
Harry glanced down at his own body and grimaced. Damn. He was shirtless and wearing just a pair of soiled, oversized jeans that used to belong to Dudley. He had nothing on his feet at all. Little Harry didn’t seem to have anything with him except what he was wearing. They’d both need clothes soon.
He needed to figure out his options here. Without going to Dumbledore or getting found out by him, what options remained? He couldn’t go to the Leaky Cauldron because there was too great a chance of being found out. Plus, he hadn’t even a knut to his name. He couldn’t go to a muggle hotel without any money.
He squeezed his eyes shut and struggled to think.
From what he remembered of people talking about the past, the wizarding world was going crazy right about now, reveling in Voldemort’s fall while the Death Eaters tried to avenge him or cover their own asses and the DMLE worked overtime trying to round them up. That might make it easier or harder for him to blend in. Easier just because of the wild parties that must be taking place in the streets. Harder because the DMLE would probably be extremely suspicious of anyone who didn’t quite fit the mold.
Damn, he’d kill to have Hermione with him right now. No doubt she’d have an idea. She knew so much more about both the wizarding and muggle worlds than he did.
This would be so much easier to figure out if he didn’t have to factor in having a baby with him. He could go for days without food and he could sleep in a bush or behind a bin without any trouble, but the baby was going to need nappies and frequent feeding, and somewhere warm to sleep. He gave serious thought to just leaving his younger self where he was and coming back for him as soon as he could.
But the very idea of subjecting this baby to even a single day with the Dursleys tied his stomach into knots. He knew from experience that his baby self would be better off sleeping in the cold and missing a meal or two than he would be with the Dursleys, who’d stuff him in a lightless cupboard and quite possibly forget to feed him.
Harry really thought that he’d hated Albus Dumbledore as much as was humanly possible a few days ago. He’d just now reached a whole new level. It was Dumbledore’s fault that he was in this position. Dumbledore’s fault that baby Harry was in this position. Dumbledore could have given the baby a place to sleep, food to eat, loving caretakers.
But he hadn’t.
Dumbledore wouldn’t be stuck with problems like having no money, no clothes, no wand, no… anything.
Finally, Harry just sighed and went back into the house. Moving silently, as survival had forced him to learn as a child, he went to the coat cupboard and stole Vernon’s winter coat and a pair of boots. The boots were a little big and the coat was like a small tent, but it was better than nothing. He found a snowsuit that seemed to be designed for a beach ball with limbs in the cupboard and took that too.
Pleased with his theft, he scooped up the baby and pocketed the letter before starting off down the street. He’d figure it out as he went.
Two hours later, Harry was obscenely relieved that little Harry was a heavy sleeper, as he’d yet to do more than coo and stretch before falling fully asleep again. He was also acutely aware of just how heavy a fifteen month old could be after holding one for so long. And he was aware of a multitude of blisters the oversized boots had put on his naked feet, but at least pain was easily ignored. Pain was an old companion.
By the time they entered the city proper, Harry had decided that at fifteen months, his younger self should be able to eat real food, so long as it was soft as he didn’t yet have many teeth. At least, he hoped so, because baby formula would be extremely difficult to manage without proper kitchen facilities with clean water and some way to warm it. Merlin, he’d kill for a fucking wand! He couldn’t believe how much he’d taken for granted before. He’d always had either basic muggle amenities or a wand.
He hoped that he’d made the right choice in taking Harry – um, little Harry. He questioned that and convinced himself all over again several times on the walk into the city. What it came right down to is that his meager means couldn’t deprive the child much more than the Dursleys would do willingly, and he at least knew that he would never scorn, ridicule, and hate the boy. He would never strike him in anger. He would never deliberately hurt him physically or emotionally. Honestly, almost anyone was an improvement over the Dursleys.
Stupid, arrogant, heartless fucking Dumbledore. How could that man wrap his conscience around leaving him with those monsters? Or was it that the conscience he’d always shown Harry had been a clever façade and he did not, in fact, possess any such virtue?
He shook the unhelpful thought with an effort and turned his focus to their most immediate needs. Harry was slightly hungry, but he knew that he could go a week without eating before it started to get debilitating. He wasn’t feeling the pain and exhaustion that he had been before coming to the past – just as he wasn’t injured now – so he could only assume that he was starting from a pretty neutral point health-wise. For the most part, he was trying to avoid putting too much thought into exactly how and why he’d gone back in time fifteen years. Though he was very curious, there was nothing constructive to their immediate situation that could be gained by pondering that. And they had a lot of immediate needs. Little Harry particularly.
Yes, Harry – um, sixteen-year-old Harry – could go for days without food fairly easily. It wasn’t pleasant, but he’d had long practice at enduring the torture of starvation. Little Harry, on the other hand would probably be demanding food in a few hours, and he was likely to become highly unpleasant if he didn’t get it. Not to mention that his much smaller body probably wasn’t capable of surviving so long without food. Plus, children so young grew a lot. He’d need food to keep him healthy. And the last thing Harry wanted was to see the little boy end up stunted like he had been by lack of food during these important years.
So, first things first, Little Harry, at least, needed food. It would be a lot easier to find something now than to try to do it tomorrow when the kid was screaming with hunger. The problem, of course, was that he didn’t have any money. He kind of wished that he’d risked sneaking into Vernon and Petunia’s bedroom and seeing if he couldn’t lift Vernon’s wallet. He’d just wanted to be away from them so badly, and he was, sadly, quite scared of his uncle after so many years of enduring his abuse.
Abuse. Harry still cringed at the word, but he’d come to recognize that that’s what it was. That realization had come after third year. He’d thought, for the first time, about what his life might be like with Sirius, and he’d had to finally admit that the way his aunt and uncle treated him was generally considered child abuse – he’d found a book on it at the public library.
He shook that thought, too. It didn’t help now, and with any luck, he’d never have to waste another minute of his life on the Dursleys.
So, he needed food, but he didn’t have any money. Considering that he had neither the time nor the ability to hunt or farm, that meant that he either had to steal food or steal money. Neither sat particularly well with him. Oh, the minor theft from the Dursleys didn’t bother him. A considerably larger theft from them wouldn’t have bothered him. As far as he was concerned, they were horrible people who fully deserved every unpleasantness that could come to them. Stealing from random strangers, however, didn’t sit so easily on his conscience.
Baby Harry shifted in his arms and made a rather cute little cooing noise and Harry smiled slightly at the kid he’d rescued. He really didn’t have a choice, he reminded himself. They had to survive. And it’s not like he was killing anyone.
With that firming conviction, he started sorting his options. He had no weapon with which to rob anyone – not that he’d want to do that anyway – so that option was out. He could try picking pockets or lifting wallets, but he was pretty sure that that required some substantial skill to do without getting caught. And considering that he was holding a baby, he wasn’t exactly going to be blending into the background or moving too quickly. He could try robbing a house when no one was home, but again, that would be a trick with a baby to worry over. What if they had a guard dog? He couldn’t hope to outrun it with the baby and he’d be endangering his younger self.
Those were the only ways that he could think of stealing money at the moment. That meant that he was going to have to steal food. How the hell was he going to manage that? Well, there were always garbage cans. There was a lot to find behind restaurants, he remembered from his own childhood – okay, honestly as recent as last summer. If it was just for himself, he’d have been okay with that, but he was very hesitant to feed garbage to a baby. Granted, Harry himself had never gotten sick from it. He assumed that that was his magic helping him out, as he’d reasoned when he’d gotten older that he really should have ended up with food poisoning at least occasionally. It stood to reason that his younger self would have the same protection. Unfortunately, he had no way of knowing if he’d been that resistant at such a young age. He’d been three before he’d started picking food from the Dursleys’ trash, and five before he’d started looting public bins. It was just the ones behind his primary school at first, and then he’d branched out into the restaurants along the route between the school and Privet Drive or the local library – his three most common destinations.
So no. Maybe he could steal enough for Little Harry and loot bins to feed himself.
He finally worked up his courage and entered the next all-night petro station that offered a small selection of groceries. As he entered, he busied himself needlessly adjusting the blanket around Little Harry as an excuse to avoid meeting the clerk’s eyes. He was sure that his intention to steal would be written all over his face.
He’d never felt guilty lying to or stealing from the Dursleys when he was young, he recalled as he moved slowly through the aisles, browsing his options. He’d never felt the slightest bit bad for lying to anyone he had to lie to in order to keep the Dursleys from hurting him. He’d had a thousand excuses ready-made to explain away any bruise that might be noticed, just why he wore long sleeves on a hot day, why he wore clothes that made him look like a beggar, how it was possible that he could seem like an intelligent boy and still do worse than Dudley on his tests – some of his teachers had been baffled by his ability to not get more answers right by accident. He’d actually been forced to learn a lot just to avoid doing that very thing. It was the only way to do worse than Dudley, who was so stupid that it was impressive.
Yes, he recalled, he’d been a very accomplished liar prior to Hogwarts. In some ways, he’d never quit that habit. He’d never told even his closest friends just how bad the Dursleys were. Really, he’d told them about the prophecy – a life and death kind of secret – but he’d never even considered telling the truth about the Dursleys. He’d never felt badly about it. He’d never had the slightest difficulty in spinning his lies or smiling naturally when he felt like screaming. He was a good liar. Until Hogwarts, he’d never had a reason to be honest.
Then he’d been sorted into the House of the Noble, and he’d been incredibly happy about that. It had felt like a second chance at life. First discovering this new world, and then somehow getting sorted into Gryffindor when he knew deep down that he was just a slimy, sneaking, cruel Slytherin like Ron and Hagrid hated so much. He’d worked so hard to earn his placement in that house. He’d forcibly made himself a Gryffindor. He’d embraced the ideals of the House entirely.
He’d never really thought about it like that before but… He hadn’t changed at all.
Ah. Baby food. Perfect. Now why did it have to come in such inconvenient jars? He wouldn’t be able to conceal more than two or three of those on him without worrying for their clinking and giving him away. A casual glance around, disguised as an interest in the other merchandise around him, proved that there was one of those rounded mirrors to allow the clerk to monitor him. He cast a cautious glance into it and was pleased to note that the man had his back turned.
Harry quickly stuffed one jar into each of the large coat pockets and slipped another into Little Harry’s coat. Another surreptitious glance proved that the clerk was still looking the other way. His heart racing, Harry picked up one of the jars at random and was just about to leave when he spotted the nappies. Merlin, how could he have forgotten?! Little Harry was going to need a change soon… Actually, by that smell, he probably needed one now.
That meant that he needed nappies and some of those wipes to clean him. How was he supposed to fit that into his coat?? Merlin, he would kill for a sodding shrinking charm right now! He located the proper size – thankful beyond belief to find a key to the sizes printed on the back of the package. It was about the size of a bludger. Even in Vernon’s oversize coat, there was no way in hell he was concealing that. He wished for a moment that he was female so he could have pretended to be pregnant.
He was glaring hatefully at the inconveniently large package, when it suddenly shrunk down to the size of a large button. Shocked – he hadn’t done accidental magic since the summer before third year – but grateful, he slipped it into his pocket, praying that he could figure out how to reverse the shrinking charm later or that package of nappies would be about as useful as a dust bunny. Well, he supposed, desperation did have its uses. When Little Harry demanded his nappy changed, Harry suspected that he could probably reach the proper level of desperation to work a finite without a wand. The small package of wipes was easier to slip into his pocket, and he turned his attention back to fussing at the sleeping baby in his arms as he approached the clerk. Reminding himself that this lie was even more important than lying about the Dursleys, he forced himself to stay calm.
He set the single jar of baby food on the counter and smiled tiredly at the clerk – not that difficult as he was rather exhausted – as the man scanned the jar and asked for a little less than a pound.
Harry made a show of reaching for a non-existent wallet, frowning in confusion, and then quickly checking all of his other pockets while carefully maneuvering the sleeping baby in his tired arms. Finally, he sighed and looked at the clerk apologetically. “I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten my wallet,” he said with a combination of embarrassment and annoyance that he imagined he’d be feeling if he’d gone for a single jar of baby food in the middle of the night only to realize that he hadn’t brought any money.
The clerk, a middle-aged man with laugh lines and a balding head of salt-and-pepper hair gave him a commiserating smile. “Ah, don’t worry about it, son,” he waved, reaching into his own pocket and drawing his wallet to settle the price.
“Oh, no, I couldn’t,” Harry said automatically, shocked that the man he was stealing from was offering him money.
“Don’t worry about it, lad,” the clerk dismissed. “It’s not much. Go on, now.”
“Thank you,” Harry murmured as he scooped up the jar, realizing belatedly that he actually couldn’t afford to reject the kindness that he didn’t deserve. It wasn’t for him, after all.
“Have a good night,” the clerk called as he stepped out of the store.
Harry just waved over his shoulder and kept his pace as even as possible as he took the first corner that he could to get out of sight of the shop. He took the next few as well, just in case the man noticed any missing items.
Nope. He really hadn’t changed at all, he thought grimly as he began to search for a place they could sleep undisturbed for a few hours. Oh, he was a Gryffindor. He’d succeeded in breeding that personality into himself. Mostly, anyway. But he was Slytherin, too. He hadn’t changed his personality. He’d just… added another. There was the Harry that he’d been up to his eleventh birthday, and then there was the Harry that he’d built for Hogwarts. He liked the Gryffindor better. He had more fun.
Unfortunately, at the moment, “fun” was the last thing he cared about. He was in one hell of a pickle right now, and he knew that he’d be much better off if he’d embraced his Slytherin at Hogwarts. He’d definitely be a lot smarter, because his Slytherin side was a paranoid control freak who’d have learned every scrap of knowledge available in Hogwarts at the earliest possible opportunity. He’d never have trusted Hermione to tell him things, because that part of him didn’t understand the concept of trust – at least not any more than to think it was something done by other people. People whose temperament bore an unfortunate resemblance to wooly herd animals.
He’d trusted no one and nothing before meeting Hagrid. The magical world had made a great first impression on him though, and he’d been able to let down his guard enough to learn how to be a Gryffindor. It was a whole new world. It had been distressingly easy to convince himself that everything about it was inherently different.
But it wasn’t. He’d let himself trust Dumbledore implicitly. He’d let himself trust that Hermione would always be there to tell him what he’d been too lazy or distracted to learn.
He forcibly shoved those thoughts away. They accomplished nothing. Later, when he had time, he could indulge in all the self-recrimination that he wanted. Right now, he didn’t have that luxury. He had a child to care for. A child that surely wouldn’t sleep placidly much longer.
He needed to find somewhere that they could settle down for the day – and it was nearly day by the slightly off-black color growing in the sky. They needed somewhere that they wouldn’t be bothered. Somewhere that no one would charge him money or ask questions – which pretty much meant something like an abandoned building.
He wished it was June instead of November. He had a feeling that this was going to be a really long winter.
Little Harry was just starting to get fussy and Harry’s feet were most likely bleeding when he finally found a likely place to spend the day. It was some kind of commercial building that seemed to be undergoing renovations, but by the look of it, those renovations hadn’t been touched in probably a few months. He didn’t know or care why that would have happened. He was just glad that it had.
He very carefully maneuvered himself and Little Harry through the gap where the chain-link gate was held by a chain fastened loosely enough to leave just enough space for him to slide through after he got Little Harry through.
He climbed into the building through a window that had never been put into the hole obviously prepared for it, and bounced the baby a little bit like he’d seen mothers do when the child started to fuss. He scouted out the area but soon decided that the areas that would be warmer away from the open windows were too dark and he didn’t even have a single candle, nor did the building have electricity or electric light fixtures yet.
With a resigned sigh, he situated them in the back of the building in a room with two empty windows providing light, but no clear line of sight to any areas likely to be populated as the day progressed.
Changing his first diaper proved to be a lesson in both tolerance and forbearance of the sort he had never before encountered. First, it was nasty. It stunk to high heaven and had a consistency that convinced him he’d probably never eat pudding again. Second, controlling a fussy, shivering one-year-old and trying to read the inadequate instructions provided on the nappy turned out to be nearly impossible. He ended up getting the foul substance all over himself and the room as he tried to hold the child and wipe and get rid of the soiled nappy – and then chase the filthy boy around the room when he escaped.
By the time it was over, he felt like he’d run a marathon, then gone a couple rounds with Voldemort, and then rolled around in the thestral stalls just for kicks. Merlin, please tell me it gets easier, he begged silently while wasting half the wet wipes trying to manage some measure of cleanliness for himself and his… self.
And then it got even better. He hadn’t quite comprehended the fact that a one-year-old could talk until the little boy finally looked at him curiously and said, “Mamma.”
Harry’s stomach clenched painfully. Yesterday or maybe the day before, this child had had a mother. And a father.
“You’re going to stay with me for a while,” he said as cheerfully as he could manage. “I’m Harry.”
“Hawy,” the boy repeated, stabbing his finger into his own chest.
Shite. Of course. The same name thing was confusing enough for him, he couldn’t expect the baby to make sense of it. “Um. Right. You’re Harry. I’m… ah… Har… Hars… Harrison,” he corrected randomly, hoping that he wasn’t just confusing the kid more. When it seemed that he wasn’t understood, he poked his thumb into his own chest and announced, “Harrison.” Yeah. He could get used to that.
“Mamma!” the boy said again, more forcefully.
Harry – Harrison, now, he supposed – gave a strained smile. “Are you hungry?” he deflected.
“Ya, ya, ya!” Harry giggled and bounced, clapping his chubby little hands.
Harrison chuckled under his breath. Well, the boy was old enough to remember his parents, but at least he was still young enough to be easily distracted. He went through the four jars of baby food and settled on peaches. He had always liked peaches as far as he knew. Then again, he couldn’t think of anything that he wouldn’t eat. Starving kids don’t develop a picky palate, after all.
He was briefly stymied by the realization that he didn’t have a spoon, but soon remedied that by pouring some of the strained peaches onto the cover and using that. It was way too big to put into the baby’s mouth, but the peaches were runny enough to kind of pour them. It was obscenely messy, not least of which because the boy kept trying to grab the cover and hence got his hands covered in it. Those hands then went everywhere, spreading the goo.
Harry seemed quite pleased when the jar was empty. Harrison felt like a failure. Their only clothes were filthy – though it was, admittedly, a significantly preferable substance to find himself slathered in than the last. Despite having not really washed properly after the nappy change disaster from hell, Harrison had zero qualms about the state in which he found his food. He’d eat just about anything that smelled even vaguely like food. And he was hungry. He licked off his hands and carefully cleaned every drop of strained peaches from the jar and cover.
Then he did a quick inventory of the building, Little Harry on his hip or toddling at his side. He found some slightly dirty rags probably used by the construction team when they’d been here, and he used those to divest them of the remaining peaches to the best of his ability. They’d have to find a public loo later and do a better job, but it would do for now.
Every time the boy got bored, he’d start demanding mamma or dada or sometimes Pa’foo or Moo’y – never any variation of Peter or Wormtail, curiously. Harrison slowly developed the ability to hear that without his stomach knotting, and he set about answering each request with a gentle reminder that the boy was staying with Harrison – it became Uncle Harrison at some point – from now on, and then he’d distract the boy by tickling him or doing something else that made the child laugh.
After a few hours, Harry got tired and Harrison gratefully tucked him into the coat and blanket for a nap. It wasn’t until he was in the process of doing that that he realized exactly why the child seemed immune to the cold while Harrison’s toes were completely numb. His coat and blanket were heated – as with a warming charm. Apparently, Harrison had been casting wandless warming charms on the child without even realizing that he was doing it. He must have started that last night – probably on the way into London. It explained why he’d slept so peacefully.
While Little Harry curled up adorably and slept as though his parents hadn’t just been murdered – one of them before his very eyes – Harrison sat down against the wall nearby and hissed in pain as he eased the oversized boots off his swollen feet to inspect the damage. It didn’t look good, but he’d had worse, too. Luckily, he seemed immune to infection, which was something he’d heard about only in passing. He didn’t know if that was a wizard thing or a Harry Potter thing, but he was glad for it either way. He supposed his magic had had every opportunity to learn to protect him from things when he was little.
He tucked his naked feet under the large coat and warmed them gently with his hands in between cleaning as much dried puss out of the boots as possible with the dirty rags. His mind wandered while he did that, and thinking back, he was able to identify a surprisingly large number of times before Hogwarts when his magic had helped him out. He hadn’t made the connection before. Weird things happened around him. He’d learned not to think about them too much as long as they happened where no one could see.
Despite innumerable cuts and burns and scrapes and broken bones, Harrison had been to the hospital only twice in his life before Hogwarts. The rest had all healed on their own, sometimes overnight, sometimes it took a week. Never longer. He’d never had an infection. He’d never had the flu or even a cold unless it had been when he was very young. Merlin, he hoped his younger self proved just as resilient. He didn’t know what he’d do if the boy became seriously ill.
There were other things, too. Some were obvious. Accidentally apparating onto the roof of his old primary school, turning his teacher’s wig blue, making his hair grow back overnight, and shrinking that awful sweater. Those were all obvious instances of accidental magic that he’d identified right away. There were a lot of smaller things though. How many times had he been unable to sleep at night because his stomach ached with hunger, and after the Dursleys were asleep, he’d found his cupboard miraculously unlocked so that he could sneak out and raid the bin for leftovers from dinner – the cupboards were too risky as it was likely any theft there would be noticed. How many times had he wished that he could blend into a wall and not be found when Dudley was looking for him, only to have the larger boy walk right by without even glancing at him? How many times had he been locked out of the house when it was freezing out, yet somehow survived for hours with only superficial discomfort?
He’d been doing unconscious wandless magic for years before Hogwarts without even realizing it!
Why hadn’t that ever worked when he was being whipped or beaten by Vernon or Dudley? Surely his magic should have protected him.
After thinking on that for quite a while, he could only guess that his magic was acting passively instead of aggressively, helping him to deal with the pain and to heal quickly, to escape or not be found, but never offensively. That seemed odd, given his talent in Defense class extended to light and neutral offensive spells just fine, but… Well, if he’d ever actually used his magic against the Dursleys, he suspected they’d have killed him, even if they’d had to lock him up and burn the house down around him. So, in a way, his magic had been protecting him by not acting aggressively.
He didn’t realize that he was dozing off until he woke to a sharp cry. There was a moment of stunned disorientation, and then another cry brought his attention to the tiny child with his eyes and scar and he remembered. So apparently it hadn’t been a dream…
He hurried over to Harry and found him quite chilly. The warming charm must have worn off. He quickly unbuttoned his own coat and tucked the little boy inside where he could share Harrison’s warmth. He murmured meaningless platitudes to the child while he considered the odds of working a wandless warming charm consciously.
After a minute, when Little Harry was beginning to calm down, snuggling into his chest, Harrison decided that he could definitely do it. If he could do it without even realizing what he was doing then there was absolutely no reason that he couldn’t do it when he wanted to.
With that firm conviction and the knowledge that the cold was only going to get worse in the weeks ahead, he spent the next hour, while Little Harry went back to dozing, struggling to figure out how to get his magic out of his body without a wand to guide it. He knew that wandless magic for anything other than extremely simple spells was supposed to be almost impossible and therefore incredibly rare. Warming charms were a very easy spell though, and he was pretty sure that he’d seen Dumbledore warm his tea with just a wave of his hand before, so this should be entirely possible. Not to mention that he refused to believe it was impossible to do something intentionally when he’d proven that it was possible to do it unintentionally – and multiple times.
Finally, with equal parts desperation and frustration, he hissed the incantation under his breath and started when he felt the blanket wrapped around Little Harry suddenly heat up. Not to dangerous levels, thankfully.
With a grin of elation at his success, he turned his attention to one of the ratty towels in which he’d wrapped his feet. Instead of just shoving at the magic with desperation, he tried to focus this time. Now that he’d finally cast a wandless spell intentionally, he had some idea of what it felt like to pull on his magic without a wand. It felt like it came from the center of his chest, but at the same time… not. As much as it felt like it was inside him, it definitely didn’t feel like a body part or an internal organ. It was… as different from his body as his mind was different, but it was equally different from his mind. It wasn’t as substantial as flesh and bone, but neither was it as insubstantial as thought…
It was impossible to explain or reason. It just… was.
And he didn’t have the inclination to question it too much at the moment. The “how” wasn’t very important as long as he could make it work.
After something like half an hour, he got it to work by speaking the incantation in parseltongue – or a parseltongue translation of the incantation, which wasn’t really the same at all. He wasn’t translating the words so much as the meaning, and considering that he didn’t even understand the full meaning of the words that were based in Latin, but butchered by the influence of various other languages – most of them ancient – and so many years of use. It mostly just… felt right. Which was highly ambiguous, and he didn’t begin to comprehend why parseltongue might work better than the traditional incantations. But again, he’d worry about wondering how and why when he had the time.
A couple dozen more tries and he had the charm working fairly reliably.
He sagged in relief at having managed that extremely vital spell. He could now keep Little Harry warm in the cold – and maybe himself as well, he noted as he hissed wordlessly at the combination of pain and pleasure inspired by feeling returning to his blistered feet.
The pain faded some after a few minutes and the relief was such that he was beginning to drift to sleep again when Harry began to fuss.
Resisting the urge to whimper worse than the baby, Harrison maneuvered Harry inside his coat until he could feel his nappy. It felt soggy, so he steeled himself and carefully unwrapped the child after getting everything else ready to go – wary of a repeat of last time. To his immense relief, the nappy was only wet. He wiped the boy clean with just one wipe and fastened on a clean nappy with more expedience than skill, quickly clothing the now crying child and quieting him as swiftly as he could manage, extremely wary of drawing anyone to wonder why the abandoned building was crying.
Once the boy had warmed and traded crying for simply fussing, Harrison used his newly learned wandless spell to heat the nearly frozen strained peas and again addressed the challenge of feeding the boy. It was slightly less messy than the last time with his slightly greater experience.
Harry only ate about half of the jar this time and Harrison resisted the urge to finish it. Afternoon was approaching and Harrison was feeling the uncomfortable ache of hunger, but he wanted to make sure Little Harry had enough.
Once the boy was fed and dry and as clean as reasonably possible, Harrison decided that it was time to leave their refuge. He needed to try to find some food, and Little Harry definitely needed something to drink. His food was runny, but he still figured the kid could use some water.
He regretfully stuffed his feet back into his boots, wincing as he cinched them tight. It was quite painful to walk still, but after going a few streets, he was able to accustom himself to the ache and push it to the back of his mind. He’d used the rags he’d found to wrap his feet and help take up the extra space inside the boots so at least his feet wouldn’t slide around in them anymore.
The first thing Harrison did was find a public restroom. Once they were locked inside, he gratefully relieved himself, then properly washed his hands before washing out last night’s baby food jar and using it as a drinking glass. He had to guide Harry very carefully to keep him from spilling too much of it all over himself. Once the boy was refusing any more water, Harrison drank until he started to feel sloshy, which calmed his hunger as well as helping with the headache that had been forming due to dehydration.
He then used the available paper towels to bathe himself and the boy as efficiently as possible, and filled the empty jar with water that Harry could drink later.
Finally, he set out to raid some bins for something eatable.