Harry trembled as he lay in the dusty old cupboard. His fingers worried into the sheet curled around the rotten mattress. Tiny fingers pulled at moth bitten holes in the fabric, smaller fingers than should be possible, certainly smaller than he remembered them being.
He shook his head sharply and tried to swallow the panicked gasps that had threatened to overtake him since he’d woken up this morning.
‘I am fine. Absolutely fine.’ He thought.
Elphias Doge had said yesterday evening, that both Harry and Dudley were fine. Whatever potion that had exploded over them on their way home, it hadn’t been deadly. Doge hadn’t known what it was, but he swore that it hadn’t been deadly, just that he didn’t know what potentially might happen.
Harry wished Doge hadn’t left him alone, or that he’d taken Harry with him.
‘I am fine though,’ Harry thought again. ‘Absolutely fine. Just a scrawny, grubby kid, rather than a fifteen year old. I went to bed yesterday as a fifteen year old, I just hadn’t woken up this morning as one. I am fine though. Absolutely fine.’
Was he fine?
“Yes,” Harry whispered to himself. “I’m fine, why wouldn’t I be? I’ve slept in the cupboard before and I’ve been a kid before.” He said, thinking that if he said it aloud, it might feel more true.
He was fine. He was sure.
He’d tried telling Aunt Petunia this morning that he would be absolutely fine, even if he didn’t look it, though she’d been far less concerned with how fine he was, and far more alarmed over his abnormal freakishness.
She’d shrieked loud enough to wake Uncle Vernon when she’d seen him stumbling into the loo and attempting to balance on far smaller legs than he was used to. Uncle Vernon had appeared in the hallway seconds after Aunt Petunia’s scream, his large face quickly turning from worried to flushed and horrified.
The day had gotten significantly worse when Dudley appeared shortly after, also roused from the noise, with a stupid look on his face and similarly de-aged.
Harry’d half thought they were going to kill him. They hadn’t, they’d threatened to, but they hadn’t. Uncle Vernon had thrown Harry headfirst back into his bedroom instead, with an order to write to someone who could fix it immediately.
Then they’d closed every curtain, locked the doors and hid inside where they could safely throw Harry poisoned looks from the comfort of their living room.
Dudley at least seemed to be eleven or twelve, but it was difficult to tell given his general intelligence, and Harry had been smacked upside the head twice for asking how Aunt Petunia could know for certain.
Harry felt that he was as small as a six year old. None of the Dursley’s had made any attempt to guess or help him figure out for sure, though he knew they hadn’t cared. He couldn’t say for sure why Dudley was a few years older than Harry either, only that Dudley had been more of a bystander in whatever had exploded over them, whereas Harry had been covered.
They were fine though, both of them. They’d just aged down a bit, only physically; mentally they were still all there. No amount of screaming about their safety despite their current appearances had gotten through to either his aunt or uncle though.
It was as if he truly was six again, and he’d committed some horribly freakish act. Aunt Petunia was livid, and she stared constantly at him with her thin mouth pinched and waiting, as if he’d snap his fingers any moment and declare it all a prank.
It wasn’t until several hours later, that there was a knock at the door, and Doge had appeared for the second time, bedraggled and pale. Likely worried by the state of Harry’s note. His handwriting at six wasn’t nearly as clear as it was at fifteen. He’d taken one look at Harry and Dudley’s small faces and told them he’d send someone along shortly, before he turned and fled.
That hadn’t gone well for Harry.
They’d had no issues stuffing him into the cupboard under the stairs the second Doge left. It was as if they’d forgotten he wasn’t actually six, and just looked small. He wasn’t meant to stay in here anymore, they would realize soon—
His heart clenched painfully, throbbing in his chest.
They wouldn’t. They’d never realized, not when Harry was actually six, and they certainly wouldn’t now, not after what happened to their son. What they thought he’d done to their son.
Why had he thought they’d change? He’d known, even when he’d been actually six that they would never let him out.
Why had he even considered it?
Harry breathed out slowly, trying to take his mind off of the potions effects and focusing instead on remembering what had happened to get them here.
Aunt Petunia had given him a list of chores yesterday morning, a relatively short one, given it’s usual length, as Uncle Vernon was supposed to be entertaining a client that evening and she’d wanted Harry out of the way until after they’d been and gone. He’d gotten the list done, with minimal remarks from Aunt Petunia on his vile character and abnormalities, and escaped sometime after she’d let him have a bit of toast for lunch.
He’d spent a good hour in the park, sitting on a cracked and sun faded swing, baking in the heat as he bitterly composed letters to Ron and Hermione. He thought of different ways to ask for any new information, though he doubted they’d reply. Neither of them had been forthcoming all summer, despite him knowing that both of them had been around Dumbledore and the others. They’d sent plain, short letters, telling him to push through the summer with the Durlsey’s, as well as a few care packages, but had been mostly silent otherwise.
It was almost enough to make him snap, and he’d been slowly marching towards an outburst for the last few days.
All he thought and dreamed about, was the graveyard. How he’d been targeted, pretty spectacularly, and yet, not a single person had told him anything about Voldemort’s current movements or plans.
He wanted to know, and to help plan, how could they expect him to just sit back when he’d been thrown so clearly into the forefront of Voldemort's war? He had attempted to sit on the sidelines last year, begging them to let him out of that stupid tournament, but they hadn’t let him! Now they didn’t want him?
What was he supposed to sit and do? All he did was think of where Voldemort was, what he was doing, who he was hurting.
He couldn’t escape his memories either, not when little things took on a life of their own, insidiously reminding Harry of that night.
The washing machine in the kitchen whirred at the same pitch that portkey’s whistled, and he’d find himself thrown back in the graveyard. The little lights on Dudley’s game controllers were the same color as the killing curse, and if he so much as blinked at them, he was back in the graveyard. He’d picked up a knife to prepare dinner, but barely made a cut before finding himself pinned to Tom Riddle Sr’s headstone, watching as blood ran down his throbbing arm.
Everything reminded him of the graveyard. He closed his eyes at night, only to reopen them, surrounded by tall tombstones that sank nto the sodden, muddy grass, crowding the already tight space. The nauseous feeling of being watched by something in a silent cemetery, unseen and unknown crawled up his back. Voldemort’s high pitched voice bursting from the darkness. Cedric’s flashing eyes, wide with fear as they darted towards the source of the sound.
Bright green light that exploded into the space next to Harry.
The refrigerator in the kitchen began humming loudly, jerking Harry from his memories with a painful flinch. He’d forgotten the noises the house made at night, and how much louder they were from his cupboard.
‘I’m fine.’ He thought again, inhaling shakily as he peeled himself up off of the sweaty and damp mattress to twist around.
“Fine, just small, but fine.” Harry repeated, ignoring the concerning wobble in his too high voice.
His chest pounded and his fear spiked again, despite his mantra. It ached painfully, creeping down his stomach and pushing him closer and closer to throwing up.
At least there was a bucket in his cupboard now, he could use that if he needed to.
“Oh my dear, Diddykins, that awful boy can’t hurt you now.” Aunt Petunia’s crooning voice echoed from up the stairs. “Don’t worry sweetums, Mummy’s got you.”
Harry tilted his head into the mattress, feeling an alarming lump in his throat. He shivered harder, trying to will the tears from his eyes. He hadn’t cried over something Aunt Petunia had said in years. He wasn’t about to start now, six year old body or not.
He hadn’t caused this, no matter what Aunt Petunia said. He hadn’t. Her shrill voice rang in his ears from this afternoon though, angry and cruel.
“You disgusting boy! Look what you’ve done to him!”
“I didn’t do it!” Harry had shouted back, dodging out of the way of Uncle Vernon’s massive hands. “Someone threw something at us, we were just coming back and—” Uncle Vernon grabbed him tightly around his upper arm, wrenching him upwards as he tossed Harry into the cupboard.
“Don’t lie you little freak!” Uncle Vernon snapped, “I bet you had such a laugh making this up for our Dudders, but you’re feeling pretty stupid now that you messed yourself up as well eh? I hope it was worth it! Dudley’s going to need more medical care than you know!” Spittle flew from Uncle Vernon’s purple face, and he slammed the cupboard door shut, throwing the lock quickly. “You’d better pray your freaky little friends can fix this,” Uncle Vernon’s voice dropped into a harsh whisper and he pressed himself tight against the slats in the door. “Because otherwise, you won’t have to worry about some crackpot lunatic hunting you—”
“I didn’t do it!” Harry screamed, kicking the door in a fit rage. “Let me out!”
Screaming hadn’t helped his case either, it only left him with a sore foot and a locked door.
They’d neglected to open the door since then. Harry’d gone without food plenty of times before, but his rations were all upstairs in his room, hidden beneath the loose floorboard. He hadn’t thought a six year old’s body would get as hungry as his regular one, but he was learning that that may not be the case. He didn’t even have a watch, and his trunk was upstairs as well, along with Hedwig, who he knew hadn’t been let out. He didn’t even have his wand. As much as he wished for it, he couldn’t think of where he would have stowed it. The only things he was wearing were Dudley’s old shirt, worn like a smock, and an old, ragged pair of underpants that he’d bunched together at the elastic and twisted a rubber band around.
Dudley had made fun of him several times today over that, but Harry had thought it’d been a fairly clever idea.
His small body curled tighter together, and shivers wracked through him beneath the massive shirt. He wished there was something to use as a blanket, something more substantial than castoffs. When he’d slept in here before, he used to burrow into his clothes if he needed another blanket, but he’d at least had a blanket to begin with.
Rotten luck, that’s what this was. The most rotten. Horrendous. Why did these things always happen?
Someone knocked sharply on the front door, startling him from his misery. He climbed to his feet and peeked through the slats in the door. His bare toes curling inwards atop the dirty cold floor. There wasn’t enough light to see, no matter how much he wished to know who was here. The lightbulb that used to be in here had burnt out years ago, and no one had bothered to replace it.
Dust fell overhead, tickling Harry’s nose as Aunt Petunia’s careful footsteps crept down the stairs, as if whomever was at the door could already tell how abnormal and wrong her day had been.
Harry flinched backwards when her hand smacked roughly against the cupboard door, and her sneering face peeked through from the wooden slats.
“You’d better hope this is one of your friends here to fix this,” She whispered, her thin face fierce in the dim light. “I’ll not tolerate any more misbehavior towards Dudley.”
She stepped quickly over to the door and looked through the peephole, flinching back much like Harry had done moments ago.
Whipping around she stalked back to Harry’s door, flicked open the latch and threw the door open with a sharp movement.
“Tell him to go away, anyone but him, I’ll not have it!” Aunt Petunia reached in, grabbing Harry tightly around his arm and yanking him out. She tossed him at the door with a furious look. “Tell him to go away!”
“Why?” Harry asked with a glare as he picked himself up. “You just said you wanted Dudley fixed?”
“I want Dudley fixed, but that awful boy won’t fix him. I refuse to allow him in here, now go!” She snapped her fingers towards the front door. “It’d be in your best interest If you fancy eating sometime soon.”
Harry stared back at her, having to force his ever present temper down.
Her face flushed darker with every second he wasted, until finally he pivoted and stepped over to the door. He was feeling more concerned by the second at whom his aunt could possibly hate more than she hated Harry. Someone who she hated so much, that she was willing to wait for Dudley to be fixed.
He stared at the door, and the bland painted wood stared back at him, almost tempting him to find a step ladder or climb the walls to see through the peephole.
Aunt Petunia likely wouldn’t be pleased with either of those options, but he didn’t want to open the door without knowing. Given that his head came up little over the mail slot, he could look out through that, but the flap opened upwards, and all Harry would get was a pair of legs on a dark front step. Hardly helpful information.
He brushed a finger along the shiny brass slot, wishing he knew a spell that would see through doors.
“Get on with it!” Aunt Petunia whispered loudly. “I don’t have all day, Dudley needs to go to sleep soon, now that he’s—” Her voice caught in her throat and her hand came up, massaging along her long neck. “Younger.” She finished dumbly.
“But what if it's,” Harry paused, unsure how to finish his sentence, as he didn’t know who he was worried might be on the other side, it could be Sirius for all he knew.
Aunt Petunia would despise seeing Sirius, so at least this reaction would make sense, although Harry wasn’t sure how much Sirius could help with this. He could take Harry away though.
“It’s not your ridiculous dark lord, so just get a move on!” Aunt Petunia said, shoving him towards the door again and before slipping backwards to a safer distance. She slid a pink handkerchief from her pocket, bringing it to her nose and sniffing daintily, her free hand still clutching at her neck.
Harry reached up onto his tiptoes and unlocked the tumbler, his small sweaty palms struggling to twist the polished door knob open.
He was thrown onto the floor as the door flew open, as if whoever was on the other side had gotten sick of waiting.
Severus Snape’s pale face appeared in the doorway, and he glared down the hallway at Aunt Petunia.
A strangled sound echoed from her at the sight of his face, and she clutched her handkerchief tighter. Her disgusted grimace morphing into livid anger at the sight of him.
Snape pushed the door open further, only stopping when it hit Harry a second time, he tilted down, turning his sneer towards Harry only to jerk to a stop. Harry froze as well, feeling every inch of his small size thrumming with an overwhelming mix of fear, humiliation and worry. Dudley’s old shirt and his cleverly rubber banded pants solution turned to ash in his mouth, as a blush lit up his cheeks.
He’d never felt so defenseless in his life.