Disclaimer: The recognizable characters do not belong to me. I make no money with this. No plagiarism from other fanfictions is intended.
"Can I crash here tonight?", Harry Potter, The Boy-Who-Lived-Twice asked his best friend Hermione Granger, employee at the Ministry of Magic as he was standing on the doorstep of the flat she shared with Ronald Weasley, Auror, her boyfriend, or probably fiancé. The status was quite unclear.
"Sure, Harry. Come in.", Hermione wasn't as surprised as she pretended to be. Poor Harry. He had never gotten over the war – had never understood why it had been him that had survived and why so many others hadn't. Why he had been the Chosen One. Why people still fawned over him, three years after the war had ended. Why his relationship to Ginny wasn't going as smoothly as he had hoped – as all of them had hoped.
She draped an arm over his shoulder and smiled tenderly at him. "Ron's got the nightshift. Sorry."
"'S okay.", he mumbled.
Hermione chuckled. "You name it. Ron's taken a liking to muggle liquor."
He grinned – but Hermione saw through it. Fake, fake grins, fake smiles, fake happiness. Harry needed to change something. Probably therapy. Damn survivors guilt. They all had it. And he, the saviour of the wizarding world, had probably lost more than anyone, and felt all the more guilty for surviving. "Gin Martini?"
"If you insist.", she laughed, walked over to the drinking cart Ron had brought into their flat and mixed a dry Martini while Harry sat down on their old couch, brought over from the Burrow.
"So?", she asked.
"So what?", Harry looked at her with tired eyes.
"Is there a reason you want to stay the night or…?"
"Jusdidnwannabealone.", he mumbled, gratefully Hermione had given him the drink and he had something to hold onto.
"Alright.", she understood Mumbelese quite well these days. She opened a can of Diet Coke and settled down on the couch next to him. "Want to talk?"
He shook his head. "No, there's nothing much to tell." He downed his drink. "Can I use the guestroom?"
"Sure, it's all ready.", she still smiled at him. "You sure you don't wanna talk?"
He nodded again and stood up heavily. He hugged Hermione tightly and gave her a peck on her cheek. "Night, 'Mione."
"Night, Harry.", she looked after him worriedly. That wasn't the same person she had gone to school with. That depression had to be taken care of. No matter how. She sipped on her Coke and scratched her head. Tomorrow. She would have to talk to him then, but that night, she still had a bit of work to do and he probably needed rest.
"Je voudrais un ticket, oh, bugger it, I'd like a ticket to Genova, Italy, please. The next train, please.", the dark man, in dark denim trousers, a dark shirt and a black leather jacket requested at the train station ticket counter.
"Mais oui. 'ow vuld yu like to pay, sir?", the blonde clerk asked.
"Cash.", he replied.
She wondered why this man had absolutely no facial expression. Maybe a kind of paralysis. She smiled winningly. He wasn't bad looking, except the huge scar on his neck. She gasped when she saw it. Nobody could survive such a cut. Or, were those…snakebites?
He had a facial expression. He scowled, banged a few Euro notes on the counter in France, made sure his British passport, even though he heard he didn't need it at all, was securely in the inner pocket of his leather jacket and took the ticket, walking away, still scowling at the woman.
"I should hex her if I could.", he mumbled to himself, fingered the scars on his neck and waited for the train to come. He pulled a hip flask from the other inner pocket of his jacket and took a swig. Better, much better. Italy would be good. Better than France. Too close to home, that. Too many wizards there. Too big the risk to be recognized. Even after all those years.
"Harry?", Hermione knocked on the door to the guestroom. There was no noise inside. Only – gurgling. "Harry?", she knocked again, then opened the door slightly and glanced inside. And then, her breathing stopped.
"Harry!", she shouted, rushing into the room. "Oh, for heaven's sake, what have you done?". She ran to the bed, the normal-sized bed for grown ups. And a baby was on it. A naked baby. A year old, maybe one a half, she had no idea. What did she know about babies? About toddlers? "Oh God, oh God, oh God.", she said over and over again. "What have you done?". She leant over the boy, intuitively wrapping a blanket that lay next to the little thing, around it, while panting heavily. "That's not you, Harry, is it? Oh God, oh God. I've heard of de-aging, but it's not you, Harry, please, it's not you. You have a kid, right and you put it here because…oh God.", she was near hysterics, brushing the hair from the child's forehead. There was no lightning-bolt-shaped scar. Nothing. It was just a forehead. A baby forehead but if he had really de-aged himself, he would have done so before Voldemort had given him that scar. "Oh God", she muttered again and sat on the bed, next to where the baby was now sitting.
It looked up in her eye in earnest, then began to cry. "Oh no.", Hermione had no idea how to handle children. What did she know about those anyway? Fleur and Bill's baby, yes. But she always ran when someone wanted to put that in her arms.
She furrowed her brow in concentration and then picked the baby up gingerly. It couldn't be so difficult, could it? She tried desperately to steady her breathing and luckily, the child was quiet as soon as she had sat it on her lap.
It certainly looked a bit like Harry. Not a lot, the hair was lighter, but the eyes were brown. Or brownish-green, his nose was a bit different. But then again, she had only seen a few pictures of baby Harry.
"You're not Harry, are you?"
"Hawwi…", the baby babbled happily smiling.
"Okay.", she panted. "Okay. Breathe, Granger, breathe."
"Breass…grubby grubby.", it gurgled again, smiling, spit on both corner's of its mouth. Hermione nodded at it absently. There were clothes. Clothes in a corner. Harry's…
"No.", she scrunched her eyes closed. "You didn't.", she sighed deeply. "Why?", she looked around. "A letter, Harry? A note? Please?"
Her eyes scanned the room rapidly until they fell on a single, white sheet of paper.
The man leaved quickly through his touristy dictionary. "Quando parte la prossima nave per Napoli?", he stuttered.
"Come dice?", a toothless woman replied, smiling and revealing her gums.
"Bloody Italians.", he muttered, then went to look for a sign. Something. He waved dismissively at the woman, then strode away. The jeans were definitely too hot for this kind of weather. But he could stay there. Genoa would be alright for a while. He could always go to Naples later. Or not Naples at all. Rome. Florence. Something. He didn't know anyone in Italy. Nobody would know him. He could travel until his Euros ran out. And that was a long time coming.
He discovered a little café near the harbour and went to the barista. Again, he looked into his dictionary. "Un caffè, par favore.", he tried to speak very clearly, pronouncing every word.
"Al banco?", the barista asked and the man didn't know what he meant, so he simply nodded.
He was surprised that he didn't get a cup of coffee but a tiny little cup of espresso. He would have to learn Italian if he wanted to stay there. Especially in the muggle world.
I know it's unfair. I know you'll be raving and ranting and I know that you'll be angry at me. I can explain. No, I'm lying, I cannot explain. Please just try to understand me and please don't be angry at my younger self for doing this. For basically dumping myself on your doorstep (or in your guestroom).
Hermione, I don't want this life – as I've had – anymore. I don't want to die either, otherwise I would have pulled the plug, or however you want to call it, long before. But last week, Ginny told me that she had been unfaithful and that's when I decided to brew this potion that I found in an old book we had discovered during a raid. I confiscated the book – even though there was no reason for it. I researched a bit – good old Half-Blood Prince – it's irreversible. If you're interested nevertheless, it is called Babies Breath (quite poetic, isn't it?). I understand this potion is illegal, because it was used some decades ago by criminals, to escape prosecution. But I've taken precautions against this. You will see.
I write this before I took the potion and I hope that I brewed it correctly. It certainly wouldn't do for you to have a dead Harry Potter in your apartment. If I am dead – Hermione, I'm sorry for the inconvenience. There are baby clothes in my bag. They will fit. I hope I calculated this correctly and I'm not a newborn but just as old as I was when my parents died.
Anyway, I'm quite optimistic that it will work, it has the right colour, and smells right (like a nappy – don't let the name fool you). I understand that it will also slightly alter my appearance. I will get more features of my mother, will look less like my father. Maybe you will find out why this is. I do not care. As long as that damn scar is gone, as long as I get a second chance at life. Please Hermione, I know I'm imposing. If I'm here, in front of you, as a baby, please – I rely on you. If you cannot take me yourself, find a good family for me. Any family, muggle or not, that will raise me as a child should be raised. I don't want to be famous, I don't want to be looked at as if I were an alien. I want a normal life. Not one where I'll be on the cover of the bloody Daily Prophet every other day just because I got indigestion.
My wish, but that is quite selfish of me, I know, is that you take me. You, even though you would never believe it yourself, will be a good mother to me. And I trust you that you will do the best you can – no matter what you decide to do – that you will grant me my wish.
I would very much, of course, like a new name. Nothing that could link me to Harry Potter. Pick something. Anything. I've always kind of liked Jack. Plain, simple. But it's up to you.
Anyway, there are papers in my bag. If you want to keep me, there will be a magical binding contract in there. If you sign twice (you know how it works – real ink, a quill), I will be officially adopted by you. If you have found a family, let them do it. No need to get the bloody Ministry involved. I wouldn't want to end up in an orphanage, Hermione. Please.
I will have no recollection of my life before I de-aged myself. And I'm happy about this. I'm sorry to be such a burden. It wasn't an impulsive decision, please believe me. I've thought about this for a long time and only now, I found the right potion to do it.
So sorry, Hermione that this letter is a mess. I was a mess before I took the potion. Now, I only want my life to be better.
I love you with all my heart, Hermione. You were the best friend a guy could hope for. I'm sorry.
PS: I left a letter in my flat. It explains that I took off - an around the world trip. Never intended to come back. You'll see. Nobody will suspect that this baby is the famous Harry Potter.
Hermione wiped tears from her eyes, the baby, turned around in her lap and looked inquisitively at her. She cuddled it close and kissed both his cheeks. She smiled under her tears. "I will take care of you, Jack.", she whispered and hugged the baby close to her. She carried the drooling, babbling baby in her arms over to the corner where Harry's bag had been dumped on the floor. There were a lot of paper-things in there, a few nappies, footed sleepers, a few clothes that babies wore during the day, a couple of t-shirts and trousers, socks, underwear. She sighed.
"We'll manage, eh?", she asked the baby, kissing it again on the cheek. It was so soft and smelled so…not like Harry. But this wasn't Harry anymore. This was Jack. Jack Granger.
The young woman placed the baby on the bed. "Let's get you dressed then, mh?", she smiled and pulled a face as she made sure he lay still and pulled the bag closer. She chose a t-shirt and some trousers and carefully dressed the baby in it after putting on the nappy. Hermione Granger was a smart woman but nappies were complicated things. It only took her three tries to get it on though, and the baby made happy noises and smile. "You're a happy little one, aren't you?".
It got easier after that. Jack sat nicely on her hip (holding a baby wasn't that difficult after all) and she took the papers in the living-room. She would sign them. She owed her old friend Harry this. She sat the toddler, infant? – what was the right word? on her lap and laid the official looking parchment in front of her. She read it through carefully while Harry, Jack, tried to grab the quill. Hermione, absently, gave him a muggle pen to play with. Less sharp, less dangerous. She only noticed after she had done it, that this was probably the first maternal thing she had ever done and she smiled in spite of herself.
However, after she had read through it, after she had filled in the baby's new name (Jack Granger) and birthday (May 2nd 2000 - just an estimate but she liked the date), and just before she signed, there was the sting of a doubt and a deep feeling of loss.
She nuzzled the little one's hair with her nose and inhaled his scent. "Oh Harry.", she choked back a few tears.
"Eek, duh, tsh?", the little one asked, having turned in her lap and she had to smile again, as she had two sticky tiny babyhands on her cheeks. She laughed as he continued his babbling. There was no way she could understand what he was saying but it was cute, especially as it was interrupted by laughter from him.
He wriggled out of her lap, toddling very unsteadily towards the door.
"Jack, you stay here, please.", Hermione called after the little one.
"Yum yum.", he said, looking at her earnestly.
"Yum yum. Are you hungry, Jack?", she grinned and the boy nodded. "Okay, we'll find you something to eat, as soon as I've signed this, okay?"
"Yum yum.", he repeated. "'ungy."
"Hungry?", she laughed.
"Ya.", he nodded and fell flat on his behind. Hermione decided he was safe for a moment there, signed the papers quickly and barely noticed how the parchment folded itself, duplicated and how the original disappeared. The toddler was babbling, talking to himself on the floor, picking fluff off the carpet and wanting to put it in his mouth just as Hermione picked him up again.
"I'm sure I'll find you a banana or something here.", she cuddled the child. "And then we'll wait for Ron and oh God.", she groaned. She had just impulsively adopted a 14 or 15 months old baby. Maybe 13 months old. And her boyfriend, or almost fiancé or fiancé, didn't know about it.
The man had bought a newspaper, had bought another coffee (this time, he had checked for real coffee, not espresso), and perused it for appartementos. He would stay. It would be alright. And all without a wand and without any magic at all. Thank Merlin people thought he was dead.
"'Mione, I'm home.", Ron called from the door and Hermione gave baby Jack, happily munching on a banana (and making a mess of it) an encouraging look and pulled him tighter to her.
"We're in the kitchen."
"Harry?", he asked. He knew Harry was staying a lot at their place. And who else could 'we' be?
"Sort of.", Hermione muttered.
"What's that?", Ron cried, pointing at the baby.