Harry wasn't an only child, but had an identical twin, who died at birth. He's been hanging around ever since.
They couldn't go back.
They'd meant to. Harry, for one, knew that with the Dursleys, even if it wasn't as much as he'd have preferred, he still got things like food, clothing and shelter. He knew they had no money, and no job skills, and that even if he had had any, it would be illegal for anyone to hire someone his age. There was no way he could survive on his own, or he would have left his 'family' years ago.
They really meant to go back to the Dursleys, with none the wiser that Harry had received his letter and knew what he was. But when they tried, the window he'd left through had locked behind him. Forcing their way in, or even walking around to the front door and knocking, would wake up Uncle Vernon, and then he'd know.
And Harry had a horrible suspicion, one that James agreed with and came close to panicking over, that afterwards life in the Dursley household for him wouldn't be worth living.
They weren't sure what to do after that. Even had the Dursleys not made sure to drag Harry's name through the mud whenever they spoke to the neighbors, his supposed "insanity" was well-enough known throughout the neighborhood that anyone they went to for help would just send him back to his relatives. Mrs. Figg, Harry's usual babysitter, had been a brief hope, but a quick knock on her door had revealed no one home.
Now they just walked. They had no plan, no destination; anywhere away from the Dursleys was good enough for them.
The road the two boys were following was the same one Harry had taken whenever Aunt Petunia sent him to the store. It curved around the outside edge of the neighborhood, passing a few low-built office buildings made of what was supposed to look like old brick, the local branch of the Royal Post, and last of all the two-hundred-year-old cemetery that was the last remnant of the town that had been demolished to make way for places like Privet Drive back in the fifties.
Harry would have passed the cemetery without a second glance if it hadn't been for the voice that called out his name. "Harry, darling! Stop and chat a minute!"
The boy's steps faltered automatically, James floating to a halt beside him as he turned and saw Mrs. Rodgers waving at him cheerfully. Her bouffant curls waved in opposition to her energetic movements as the Potters shared a debative glance. "Why not?" James wondered out loud with a shrug. He'd been keeping an eye on his younger brother, and could see that the long walk on top of no breakfast and little dinner the night before was taking its toll. Resting for a few minutes wasn't a bad idea.
A look from Harry told him he wasn't being as subtle as he'd hoped, but James didn't care, since with a wry twist to his lips his brother started towards Mrs. Rodgers. The lady beamed happily at them. "It's good to see you, dear," she bubbled, moving towards Harry. "It's been much too long since we had a decent tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte."
Long experience kept Harry from flinching back as she brushed his cheek with cool lips. "It's been a while since the Dursleys let me out of the house for anything but yard work," he replied, settling himself cross-legged on the cemetery's grass, a little dry and crinkly from the summer heat. James elected to lounge about on top of a nearby tombstone instead.
Mrs. Rodgers made a little moue of distaste at the mention of his family. Years of hearing unflattering stories about them had made her dearly long to be able to go and drive some sense into their thick, uncaring skulls. Harry was a polite, gentle, thoroughly delightful child, one she would have loved to have raised as her own.
Most of all, though, he was the complete opposite of his troublemaker of a brother.
"Here now," she called out, turning in a circle atop her grave. "Wake up, all you lot! Harry's here to see us!"
Slowly, the sound of murmuring voices began to fill the cemetery as other ghosts floated up out of their graves. Old Mr. Blanchard popped up first, grumbling as he usually did about nothing at all. Nervous young Richard, who been killed only a few years ago by a hit-and-run at age 22, was next, to be followed by wasted Mrs. Ross, her transparent, silvery skin pulled taught over her bones by the cancer she'd died from.
"Harry!" a voice squealed behind him, nearly sending the boy out of his skin. He twisted to see a tiny, translucent six-year-old beaming at him as she twisted one of her pigtails between her fingers. "You're here!"
Harry smiled at her, keeping his eyes away from the gash in her throat where her father had slit it with a pocket knife with the ease of long practice. "Yeah, April, I am. I don't know how long I can stay, though."
Mrs. Rodgers sniffed. "Your relatives want you back soon, then?" She would never insult her young friend by referring to those people as his family.
Harry hesitated, sharing another glance with his brother, who had been watching with interest the traditional quarrel between Mr. Blanchard and Mrs. Ross that occurred whenever the two were above the soil at the same time. Should he tell her? It wasn't like she could tell anyone else... well, no one living and therefore in a position to anything about it, anyway. "They... they don't know I'm here," he admitted quietly. "We've sort of... run away."
The ghost stared at him for a long moment, visibly taken aback. Then she took a deep breath, almost seeming swell to twice her size as she did, before turning and unleashing on Harry's unsuspecting sibling. "/James Potter/!" she roared. "How could you?!"
James nearly fell off his tombstone in surprise. "What? What'd I do?" he asked, his eyes wide and, for once, genuinely bewildered.
"I cannot believe you put the idea in his head to run away! I know the Dursleys are not the model family, but even they are better for Harry than for the poor boy to have to survive on his own!" She looked to be about to head into a good rant before Harry hastily stood, waving his hands in front of him in rebuttal as the rest of the ghosts in the cemetery looked their way.
"No, no! It wasn't James!" Really, a couple of harmless pranks and Harry was sure Mrs. Rodgers would never trust his brother again in her unlife. "I... I found out something they didn't want me to know," he explained, his voice growing quiet. "It's not safe for me to go back there anymore."
She bit her lip unhappily, still shooting James suspicious looks, but finally the ghost nodded. "Alright, dear, but if it's not safe you need to tell someone. I'm sure the bobbies will help if you're in danger..."
Harry suppressed a grimace. "Maybe," he allowed, though he extremely doubted it. Uncle Vernon was well-respected in the local community, if not very well-liked, since he donated to a couple of charities every year and made sure to talk about it in a loud voice whenever he happened to meet up with a neighbor or two. Searching for a way to change the subject, he looked around until a flash of silver where he hadn't expected one caught his eye. "Who's that?" he wondered out loud, watching the very pregnant ghost of a young woman who knelt insensate on top of her grave.
"Oh, she's new," Mrs. Rodgers answered, the distraction successful as the prospect of gossip beckoned. "Just buried yesterday. The funeral was very beautiful." She sniffled a little, undoubtedly remembering her own burial nearly forty years ago.
"She hasn't quite come to terms with it yet, has she?" Harry observed, seeing the slump of the young would-be mother's shoulders and the blankness of her gaze. Still standing, he brushed blades of grass off his pants and started to wander over.
The dead were the only ones who had ever cared for him. Whenever possible, Harry tried to return the favor.