A four-year-old Harry Potter sobbed as the broom handle cracked down on his shoulders.
"Sorry! M'sorry! Please don' hit me!" he wailed at his furious Aunt Petunia. She lashed out again.
"Don't speak unless you're spoken to!" she shrieked. "You're a bad boy! You-" she was interrupted as Harry's Uncle entered. He scowled upon sighting Harry.
"What's he done now?" Petunia swelled up.
"He asked for breakfast and then asked why he had to wear Duddies old clothes!"
"Ungrateful bastard!" growled Vernon Dursley. Harry flinched at his glare. He actually knew perfectly well why he wore Dudley's clothes. First, it saved the Dursleys money. And most importantly, were so big that they hid all his bruises and cuts from the beatings.
Skinny and small, Harry had received his glasses only a little while ago. His unruly hair was jet black and nearly covered his emerald eyes in Aunt Petunia's attempt to hide the jagged lightning scar in the middle of his forehead. The summer had begun a few days ago, but Harry had missed the last two weeks of daycare due to a bout of the 'flu'. This meant he had had too many obvious injuries to risk an adult being near him. (he had yelled at Dudley when the chair his porky cousin was sitting on had suddenly shattered, bringing the boy to the floor with a thump.)
In two months it would be his birthday, but he didn't believe he would get anything. He was a bad boy; Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon said it often enough. Grown-ups were supposed to be smarter than him, right? But he still wished that maybe someday he'd get a real birthday or Christmas with his mom and dad, even though they had died in a car crash only three years before, leaving him to the dubious care of his relatives.
Their constant yells, complaints and beatings had made him quiet. He was naturally friendly, but Dudley drove away everyone and everything, leaving Harry on his own and very timid when his relatives were in an 'angry mood.'
Which they were now.
Uncle Vernon began to rant on. Be grateful…good for nothing…load…curse…and a very very very bad boy. When he saw Harry looking at the floor he became red in the face and seized the boy by his arm.
"Look at me when I'm speaking to you, brat!" Shaking the terrified boy, Uncle Vernon dragged him upstairs.
Harry squirmed frantically. He knew what was coming, but Uncle Vernon just slammed him against the wall and had Dudley kick him as a prod to go forward.
Harry was led into the upstairs bathroom where Uncle Vernon grabbed a brush with wire bristles before handing Petunia his nephew, who cowered away.
She, in turn, grabbed his hair and shoved his head into the toilet, his lips smashing against the porcelain.
Under the water, Harry was unable to breathe, and he began to panic; thrashing his arms and legs he still couldn't rise before he began to inhale. Again and again he sucked liquid into his lungs until his movements ceased asides from the occasional twitch.
That was when Aunt Petunia hauled him out and dropped him on the floor. Dudley grinned. He knew his part in this game. He jumped onto his cousin's stomach and off just as quickly; barely avoiding the stream of water and what little Harry had eaten yesterday.
Before the boy could finish gasping enough to remember what was going on, Uncle Vernon yelled for him to get up. Bewildered, Harry began to comply, wiping at water with grubby hands.
Harry howled as the bristles connected with his cheek, knocking him down as blood began to flow.
"I said get up!"
Harry tried – he really did – but Uncle Vernon got there first.
"Worthless-little-imp," grunted his uncle between blows. Soon Harry gave up trying to comply and covered his mouth so the neighbors wouldn't hear.
When the beating finally ended, Aunt Petunia threw a clean outfit at him and they continued to berate him as he changed out of his soggy and bloody garments.
"Do you think he's sorry, Dud?" Uncle Vernon asked his son. Dudley smirked.
"That's my boy!" smiled Uncle Vernon, "Can spot a liar with the best of 'em." His voice became menacing as he turned to Harry. "So we will have to give it a better lesson. Come on you!"
The entire 'family' clambered into Uncle Vernon's company car; shoving little Harry in as well.
Vernon drove them to London, explaining his idea all the while.
"Because it-" Harry winced, when he was 'it' the punishment was always more severe, "-has been so bad and ungrateful, it may live without us providing for it. If we feel that it has learned its lesson, we'll come back in a few days, so you better stay in the same place!" he warned. Harry was confused, but knew better than to ask questions, and knew that whatever was happening was definitely not good for him.
The car stopped in a rather empty parking lot.
"Get out," Uncle Vernon directed Harry. He stared back at his uncle numbly, but ran for it when the brush started an arc in the little car.
As he tumbled out, the door snapped shut and the car drove off, all three Dursleys laughing without a single backwards glance.
Harry sat stunned, and would have likely remained that way if a shabby old man hadn't chased him out of the lot.
Harry must have fallen asleep, because when he looked up, the sun was shining, and there were lots of people walking outside his alley.
Happy to see anyone, Harry jumped up and ran-limped to the mouth and out onto the sidewalk.
So many people! All walking around, and none noticing the little wandering in their midst except to push him out of the way or occasionally drop him a quarter.
Confused and scared anew, Harry began to run, darting this way and that until he bumped into someone who shoved him back. He landed on his rump in the streets.
Only knowing he was in an open space, the four-year-old stood before someone screamed and he was knocked down and held to the ground as a huge truck passed inches above him.
When the truck was gone, Harry jumped up and onto the sidewalk before turning to thank whomever had saved him.
Severus Snape was visiting the Leaky Cauldron, and became quickly bored after his shopping was done. A spur-of-the-moment desire for tacos had lead him to venture out into Muggle London. Walking quickly, he was five blocks away from the wizarding pub when a tiny, dark-haired shape dodged past. Irritated, Snape turned to see what it was.
A small child with dark hair and oversized clothes was running for absolutely no reason (not that he cared), and suddenly crashed into a snobbish-looking teenaged boy who gave him a shove; sending the tot spinning out onto the road.
Snape's eyes widened as a truck rapidly approached the toddler, who was slowly rising.
Just as someone screamed, Snape snapped out his wand and muttered, "Cado et maneo!" and watched with bated breath as the truck drove over. Was the boy alive?
After the truck passed, a little figure darted back onto the sidewalk. Snape breathed a sigh of relief before anger at the child's stupidity – and the stupidity on the part of his parents – overcame him. He stalked forward to where people were gathered around the boy and snapped, "Where's this boy's parents? And who pushed him?" People looked up in surprise and the child gazed at him in terrified silence. The shover had apparently run for it, so Snape focused on the cause of his trouble, who shrank back a bit, looking lost.
"Well?" asked Snape with an arched eyebrow at the audience; who looked embarrassed and hurriedly shuffled off. He looked back at the boy. "Where's your mum and dad?"
"Dead," said the child bluntly.
"Where's your guardian?"
The boy shrugged, and Snape began to take in the boy. Very young, he was more a waif than anything, but his clothes were of good material if six sizes too large. Messy black hair over startling green eyes and glasses that were taped together on a pasty-pale face the sported a deep scratch that still bled fiercely.
Snape was mad. He had saved a guttersnipe who wouldn't answer his questions or look at him! He angrily grabbed the child by the arm and squatted to his height.
"Look at me when I'm speaking to you boy!" Harry flinched at the grip and familiar words and tried to pull away. Sneering, Snape acceded to the boy's wishes and watched as he ran away.
Seeing a damp spot on the arm of the retreating figure, Snape looked down at his fingers and swore. Blood liberally coated his hands and shone wetly in silent testimony of abuse.
Snape set off rapidly after the child.
Harry ran until he reached an alley. Ducking into it, he was terrified as a bunch of older boys followed him into the dead-end alley and slowly encircled him.
"Wot've we got 'ere?" smirked one.
"A new lad! Doan' luk t'be much uv one though."
"Ow long'v you been 'ere little mate?"
"Las' night," piped Harry in a child's innocent tones.
"Ooo, yer a newbie ain't ye?"
"Well this's our territory see? An' yer gonna hafta leave."
"Ok." Harry was more than willing to comply, but a boy grabbed him by the hair and pulled him up onto his toes.
"Not so fast. You trespassed. Pay up."
"Don' have anything," protested Harry truthfully.
"Newbies've always got sumtin', so give."
"I think you lot want to leave now and leave that boy to me," came some new and silky tones from the mouth of the alley. Harry was released as everyone turned to see a dark (and greasy) haired man stride further into the alley; hands red with blood. "Or else things may get nasty." The bullies immediately slunk off as Harry gazed up timidly at the scary man before him. They stared at each other for a while before the man spoke.
"Come." Harry followed him onto a bench on the sidewalk. And perched cautiously upon it after checking if he was allowed to sit.
"Now, what is your name?"
"Why are you bleeding?" Harry started in fear. Uncle Vernon had warned him to never ever tell! He had tried it once…he wouldn't be doing that again. So he lied.
"'M not bleeding, sir."
Snape sighed sharply in exasperation. "Very well. Where do you live?"
"No. 4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey."
"Why aren't you there?"
"I'm a bad boy, so I'm being punished," said Harry by rote. Snape stared at the fatalistic four-year-old.
"I'm going to take you home now, and if you are ever punished like this again, say: "Iuvo ego Snape" alright?" Why am I doing this; he's only another muggle. Why should I bother? But I do. I hate me. The look on Harry's face took his doubts away though, and he lead the boy several blocks down to the Leaky Cauldron.
"Why doesn't the other peoples see the building, mister?" asked Harry, forgetting his Aunt's restrictions on questions.
"You see it? Really?" asked Snape in surprise. Harry looked scornful.
"Of course I sees it. Why wouldn't I?"
"Nevermind. That's for another day." So he's a muggleborn. Interesting.
They halted just outside the door and Snape held out his wand. With a BANG! a bus materialized before them and a door opened.
Awed, Harry stepped in with Snape and watched with wide eyes as a man named Stan Shunpike took gold and bronze coins from Snape. What was even more startling for the magically deprived four-year-old was that the bus was filled with beds. Lots of beds.
They finally arrived around lunchtime with Harry on a mild sugar-and-thrill high (Severus had bought him some candy) and departed the bus in front of #4 Privet Drive.
Severus rang the doorbell and the sound of a vacuum going ceased. A minute later the door opened, and Snape looked down to see an enormously fat four-year-old boy about three times Harry's size standing in the doorway. Seeing Harry, the boy screamed, "Mum! It's home! And it brought a stranger too!" Snape winced at the loud tones. What a set of lungs!
A horse-faced woman appeared behind the fat boy. Tall and bony, she didn't spare a glance for Snape, but instead began to yell at Harry.
"You brought a stranger home?! Just wait till your uncle hears about this!" and she dragged a now subdued Harry inside (still screaming at him) before slamming the door in the wizard's face.
Blinking in astonishment, Snape sighed and resummoned (that's not a word – sorry) the Knight Bus. Had he stayed a bit longer he would have heard a SMACK! and Harry's small cry of pain.