It was six o'clock in the godforsaken morning, thought Harry Potter, as he trudged wearily through the front door of his little house in Godric's Hollow. At least he didn't have to deal with people trying to talk to him; Hermione had put such powerful protective charms on his house that even people who had license to visit and could see the building if they stood near it usually couldn't actually remember where he lived. But seriously, it was way too late. Ron was still in the office yelling at people, because when the Chief Auror and his Deputy got into a fight like that with no warning whatsoever it meant that someone somewhere had royally fucked up, but someone had hit Harry with some kind of exhaustion hex, and he wanted to be asleep eight hours ago. He didn't even bother turning on any lights, just stumbled groggily into the bedroom, tripped over Arnold the Pygmy Puff, and swore slightly too loudly.
Ginny jumped as if electrocuted, and three seconds later Harry was flat on his back on the floor with her foot on his ribcage and her wand at his throat, feeling suddenly much more awake.
He held very, very still. "Ginny. It's me. It's Harry. The war's over. You won. It's okay."
Sometimes people at Quidditch games gave him these ridiculously hateful looks, like getting the Harpies' star Chaser to marry him by being Harry Potter was somehow cheating. As if they thought if only they were rich and famous enough, they could get famous successful Ginny Weasley to cook them dinner and be their decorative social event date, or whatever it was they expected. The vast majority of people, Harry found, did not even consider the fact that famous successful Ginny Weasley had been possessed by Voldemort when she was eleven, had co-led a violent resistance movement when she was barely sixteen, that she had spent her sixth year of school being assaulted at random moments and fighting for her life against, in some cases, her adult professors. There was a darkness in her, a sharp poisonous bite of vengefulness that didn't quite go away with the end of the war. She slept with her wand and had a faster draw time from a cold start than most Aurors. She flinched at sudden noises and cried in her sleep.
She sat awake with him when he had nightmares, too, and sang him gentle lullabyes. She tutted at him about the state of his poor broomstick which had seen entirely too many firefights, and fixed it for him when he wasn't looking. Ginny was terrifying and a little broken, but so was he, and he loved her like nothing else in the world. He cooked for her, usually, and the way she smiled - sudden and bright, like fire catching - was one of his favorite things in life, somewhere up there with unassisted flight. Still. He suspected the strangers who gave him hateful looks when she jumped into his arms straight off her broomstick did not actually realize how frightening Ginny was if you woke her up unexpectedly.
Harry didn't move. Ginny was shaking all over, but her wand hand was very steady. "I love you," he added, in the same even, soothing voice. It was still mostly dark and she couldn't actually see him very well, he knew, but the look on his face right now was probably unbearably sappy anyway. Sometimes Ron made affectionate fun of him for it, because he wasn't actually doing it on purpose, but generally only after it had sufficiently done its job of convincing Ginny that he was, in fact, Harry and he did, in fact, love her and he was not, in fact, going to try to murder her in her sleep. "I love you and you're safe and please breathe, okay?"
Seven AM found him lying in bed petting Ginny's hair, and no one had been injured and everything was okay. It was fine, he'd skip work tomorrow, Ron had things under control, Ron was great like that. Right now he had important things to do. He drifted off to sleep to the sound of Ginny murmuring, "Love you."
Harry Potter woke up.
He felt immediately wrong.
For one thing, he was cold. He'd gone to sleep warm, under a thick down quilt and with his wife wrapped up in his arms. He was now lying under a thin, threadbare wool-ish blanket, and he was very alone.
For another thing, he felt claustrophobic. His bedroom was an wide, airy space, with big windows and a high ceiling. He was now, he was pretty sure, in a very small, dark, confined space.
For yet another thing, he felt ... tiny?
"Lumos," he said, out of sheer habit, and nothing happened. Usually that worked if he was within arm's reach of his wand.
Quick physical examination yielded the information that he was not injured in any meaningful way - all his bones were where they belonged and he didn't appear to be bleeding anywhere - but he didn't have his glasses and also he was perfectly clean-shaven. And he was much, much skinnier than he should be.
He felt around him a little bit, and found that there was a small shelf, a very small pile of probably clothes, a string for a light, and a wall within arm's reach in both directions. He turned on the light and found that he was somewhere alarmingly familiar, and wearing too-large clothes that he knew had once belonged to his cousin Dudley, when Dudley was ... probably three or four. He was less blind than he should be, for not having his glasses, which probably meant he was Polyjuiced as someone who wasn't blind. But he didn't feel like he was under Polyjuice, the feeling was distinctive once you'd done it enough times, your skin sort of itched faintly and magic was a little bit more difficult. When had he gotten glasses? When he was six or seven? Right now he was in a body that looked like it was ... five, maybe.
"If this is some kind of prank, I am going to set someone on fire," said Harry aloud. The Weasleys didn't do pranks anymore, as a general family agreement, and anyway none of them would have been this cruel. Anyone who decided to kidnap Harry, force him into the body of a small child, and throw him into a convincing facsimile of the cupboard under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive, was almost definitely doing it on purpose to hurt him. Although who thought that could possibly be a good idea was still a mystery to him. Nothing happened in response to the words, so he sighed and cast about him for further clues. Nothing looked strange, here. Small pile of hand-me-down clothes. A couple of small broken toys Dudley hadn't wanted, which looked vaguely familiar in a haven't-seen-them-in-two-decades kind of way. Flickering single light bulb. Miscellaneous spiders, joy. No signs of magic, obvious or otherwise.
The door was locked from the outside, naturally.
Well. He wasn't going to just sit here and wonder what the hell was going on. Guess I'll do the obvious thing.
He was five years old, apparently, but he was a magical five-year-old, because that would be true even if they'd Polyjuiced him into a Muggle kid.
Magical children could, under stress, eat the kind of damage that would outright kill Muggle adults.
Heeeere goes nothing -
There was a loud crunching sound, as his elbow went through the wooden door like it was tissue paper. Faintly, he heard someone shriek. He reached through the hole he'd just made, unlatched the door, and stepped out of it, carefully, looking around him.
He did, actually, appear to be in the front hall of the Dursleys' old house. There were pictures on the wall of Dudley - ages one through five - just like there ought to be, and this looked plausibly like he thought it probably had in, what year was he five years old, nineteen eighty-six? Yeah. Wow, there was even an old rotary telephone, he thought in amusement. Someone was trying really hard for this charade. There was the dated-looking television and the carefully vaccuumed floor and the couch, and -
"What the ruddy hell do you think you're doing, boy?"
- and there, apparently, was Vernon Dursley, storming down the stairs and looking enraged and not at all like he was fifty-ish years old. Harry honestly did not know how old his uncle was supposed to be. He knew Dudley was his age, and Vernon had probably been at least twenty when he married Petunia, so he was probably somewhere between forty-five and fifty-five. But this guy looked maaaaaybe thirty? And still was clearly, visibly, Vernon Dursley. Had someone broken into the Dursleys' house, stolen Vernon's hair to Polyjuice into him, and then taken De-Aging Potion, just to look convincingly like the version of Harry's Muggle uncle who'd existed twenty years ago? Harry basically understood the cruel intent of causing him to wake up locked in a cupboard, the idea was probably for him to panic from PTSD, but this seemed a little bit like too much effort for too little gain. Whoever it was had managed to kidnap him right out from under a very stressed Ginny's nose; that that point they might as well just kill him if they hated him this much.
"Um, this is a really strange prank," said Harry. Maybe they'd tried to kill him, freaked out, and invented a bizarre fictional setup to try to cover their tracks? A lot of people still didn't realize that he was immune to the Killing Curse, funnily enough. He usually ducked that one out of habit anyway, and it wasn't like he went about publicizing the fact that being Master of Death had apparently made him permanently immune; he hadn't even known about it for five years after the Battle of Hogwarts, and most people who found out got arrested in fairly short order. For, well, trying to murder the Chief Auror. So it wasn't common knowledge, and people tended to panic when they encountered it ... that really didn't adequately explain this, though.
Also, fake-Vernon was now yelling at him. Harry tuned in. " - feed you, clothe you, and this is how you choose to repay us, you little freak of nature - "
Well, that was familiar. "Are you an actor or did someone force-feed you Polyjuice and an Imperius Curse?" he wondered bemusedly. The yelling continued more or less uninterrupted. "Oh, wait, yeah, you can't answer that if you're Imperiused, sorry," said Harry after a moment, frowning. Fake-Vernon bellowed something about him not listening, which to be fair was a legitimate complaint, and tried to grab him. Harry sidestepped, felt a vague sense of absent muscle memory, and wished for a wand. With a wand he could, for instance, hit this guy with a finite incantatem and see if his behavior changed. He didn't want to hurt the guy if he was some random innocent, possibly Muggle, guy who'd been enchanted. "Who the hell managed to put together such a convincing fake, anyway? Most people don't even know I've got a cousin - wow, don't hurt yourself," he added, as fake-Vernon's wild swings at him, increasingly furious, nearly propelled the ponderous man into the wall. Point in favor of him being Polyjuiced, most people weren't that clumsy in their own bodies. Although it was possible that actual Vernon Dursley really was that inept, given that over the course of seventeen very unfriendly years he had never actually managed to seriously injure Harry.
"What the hell are you talking about, boy?"
Okay, this line of question was going to go nowhere, he could tell. "Accio wand?" Harry tried, making the relevant hand gesture. That usually worked if there was a reasonably compatible wand within a reasonably close range. A certain night of dragon-induced stress, and a tendency to get disarmed whenever someone managed to reflect his favorite spell back at him, had made him good at that spell in particular. Ron could do a better wandless blasting hex, Ginny could occasionally manage Disillusionment, and Hermione could block most jinxes without her wand or her voice, but none of them could put a candle to Harry's summoning charm.
Nothing happened. He could feel his magic flex, feel the spell go off - but nothing happened. There weren't any wands within range. So this guy was probably actually an innocent Muggle enchanted to believe he was Vernon Dursley and that he should be extremely angry at this little boy who has just broken part of his house, not an evil wizard in disguise. Although, really, it was starting to get implausible that anyone who disliked Harry enough to set this up actually had enough background information about the Dursleys and his relationship to them that this charade hadn't broken down into pieces yet. He wasn't really listening, but he was pretty sure there was some convincingly insincere yelling about magic not being real in there, and it was hard to fake that precise kind of willful, angry self-delusion.
But if it wasn't a fake ... as was seeming increasingly likely ... that would imply that he was ... actually, really, in 1986.
Which seemed even less plausible, to be honest. And much, much worse.
"Faaaaantastic," sighed Harry. "This is going to be a great day, I can already tell."