Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it's not mine. Just playing with the what-ifs of Rowling's world.


18 June 1990

Harry finished the book he was reading and shut it with a satisfied thump. He clambered out of his favourite squashy chair in the lounge and moved to replace the book on its shelf. As he did, he glanced out of the picture window at the children who were playing in the puddles left by the morning's sudden cloudburst.

A car was coming up the drive, slowly, careful of the children. It was the wrong time of day for the staff to change and it was a nicer car than most of them could afford anyway. Curious, Harry grabbed another book and moved to sit on one of the benches near the main entrance.

After a short delay, Dr Greene came striding forward just as the doors opened. From behind his book Harry could see a well-dressed couple, each with a suitcase. They looked around with a mixture of appreciation—the entrance was done up quite tastefully—and worry. Harry recognized that look: they were parents bringing a new resident.

And following behind them was a girl. She looked to be about Harry's age, with lots of rather frizzy brown hair. She had a satchel over her shoulder and clutched a stuffed dog in her arms. By the set of her shoulders she was miserable at the idea of coming here. By the haunted look in her dark eyes, she knew it was necessary.

As Dr Greene talked to the parents, she looked around. Harry continued to watch her over the book. She turned his way unexpectedly and their eyes locked. He froze, feeling something pass between them, a recognition. Somehow they were alike.

She seemed to realize it as well. With one glance at her parents, still in conversation, she came over and sat down on the bench beside him. "What're you reading?"

He hesitated, then looked at the cover. "A Little Princess, I guess." When she looked at him, he grinned. "I just got a book from the shelves. I wanted to see who was arriving."

"Oh." She shifted the satchel off her shoulder and onto the bench beside her. "So you don't read?"

"I do! Finished a Roald Dahl not ten minutes ago!"

She giggled at that. "Which one? I really like Matilda, and The Witches was good, too."

"The BFG. It was all right. Have you read the newest one?"

"The one about the vicar? Not yet."

"Maybe we can get it from the library. There's an outing twice a month."

The girl's eyes lit up at that. "Really? Is there a limit to how many books we can take out?"

"Don't know. I've never gotten more than three at once myself."

They had gotten so engrossed in the conversation that they both jumped when Dr Greene cleared her throat. She smiled down at them as she addressed the parents.

"Mr and Mrs Granger, your daughter's new friend is Harry Potter. Harry's an orphan, been with us since he was five and he's one of our nicest residents. Harry, these are Robert and Viola Granger and their daughter Hermione. She'll be staying with us for a while."

Harry stood and shook hands politely. Dr Greene continued, "Now, normally I take a family on a tour and settle the new resident into their room, then go over the admittance papers with the parents. But I think I'd like Harry to give your daughter a tour while we do the paperwork, and then we'll meet up in Hermione's room. You up for it, Harry?"

"Yes, ma'am, I'll be happy to."

"Meet us in room 18 in about half an hour. Hermione, you can leave your things here and the aides will move them to your room for you."

Hermione nodded and put the satchel with the suitcases, but held onto the dog. Harry gave her an encouraging smile and led her toward the lounge so he could replace his book. He noticed how her eyes scanned the loaded shelves eagerly. He began showing her around, explaining where the important things like the playground and the tuck cupboard were. Between her being quite sharp and him explaining things in the practical view of a resident, she picked up the layout of the facility quickly. They found her room with her suitcases ready and Hermione began to unpack, starting with the satchel that was full of books.

As Harry handed them to her she began putting them in order on a shelf. They were chatting amiably about writers they liked when Harry noticed someone in the doorway. He turned, reflexively putting himself in front of Hermione.

"So, Potty, whatcha doing in a girl's room?"

"Go away, Moffat. Dr Greene knows I'm here."

Moffat was a large and rather pudgy blond boy who sparked an instinctive dislike in Harry that went far beyond his bullying behaviour. Moffat leaned in and spotted Hermione. "Oi, new girl. Whatcha here for?"

"Leave her alone." Harry took a step forward, feeling that odd pressure in his head that sometimes led to one of his accidents. He tried to tamp it down.

"Why should I? Gotta be properly introduced, don't I? New girl, I'm Piers Moffat and I'm in charge around here."

Before Harry could react, Hermione replied in a soft but firm tone, "I rather doubt that. I'm Hermione Granger."

Moffat frowned at her. "Hermione? What kind of daft name is that?"

"It's from Shakespeare."

"Whatcha doing with a daft Shakespeare name?"

"It's no more daft than the Old French form of Peter. Perhaps we should call you Petey instead."

The bully paused, unable to parse the shift in the conversation. Harry snickered, which brought him out of his confusion. He advanced with a fist raised. "No one laughs at me, Potter!"

As Moffat stepped forward, a floor lamp toppled over in his way. It clattered loudly and the light bulb shattered. Moffat's face turned pale and he shouted, "Nurse! Potter did it again! Nurse!" He turned and ran down the hall, shouting.

Harry blinked. "But that wasn't me this time!" The pressure in his head was still there, ebbing gently rather than vanished as if he'd expelled it.

He heard a sob behind him and turned. Hermione was clutching her stuffed dog as if it were a life preserver and crying. "Why? Why does that happen?"

He stepped forward, uncertain about what to do to soothe her. He settled for putting a hand on her arm. "That happens to you, too?"

She looked up through her tears, astonished. "You, too?"

He nodded. "Things falling over or moving, things changing…"

"Things I was looking for just appearing, stuff breaking…"

"Once I seemed to arrive in the kitchen in the blink of an eye. That was when my aunt and uncle left me here."

Hermione bit her lip. "A plate window shattered near me. I was mad at my mum because she was making me enrol for ballet lessons. The straps had already broken on the shoes and the barre had fallen from the wall. And when Mum yelled at me that I was going to do something to get my nose out of books, the window flew apart… I still don't know how no one was hurt."

Harry absently rubbed his hand up and down her arm. "It'll be okay. It doesn't happen to me very often here anymore. It helps to try and not be too mad or scared."

She scrubbed the tear stains from her face. "Thank you, Harry."

At that moment Dr Greene entered the room with Hermione's parents. She looked at the damage and then at both of them. Harry tilted his head slightly toward Hermione and the doctor nodded.

"Are you two all right?" At their nods, she pulled a radio from her pocket. "Room 18 needs a tidy-up, a lamp fell over and we have broken glass here." She waited for her summons to be acknowledged, then turned to Mr and Mrs Granger. "I think we're all set, if you'd like to say your goodbyes for now. Hermione will be in good hands here."

Harry joined Dr Greene in the hallway while Hermione said goodbye to her parents. She raised an eyebrow at him. "So, lamp?"

"Moffat was in here and started in on Hermione. He got mad and moved in like he was going to hit one of us. That's when the lamp fell over."

"And it wasn't you?"

"Definitely not. I still felt like things were building up."

"So we have someone else like you here. Think you can help her out?"

"Yes'm."

"Good lad. I know I can count on you."


Harry stuck by Hermione the rest of the afternoon. He led her to luncheon, chatting about the new canteen and how a full kitchen had failed to improve the undercooked peas. He gave her a chance to look through the books in the lounge and helped her carry a few back to her room. When she shyly asked if she could see his room, he led her toward the boys' hall.

Harry paused when someone called his name. Mary, one of the aides who had been there since before his time, trotted down the hall to him, waving an envelope. "I've a letter from Pippa!"

Harry brightened. "What does she say?"

"She's finished her exit exams! She'll be back as a full nurse next month!"

Harry cheered and hugged Mary, who swung him around. He turned to Hermione, who smiled hesitantly at his enthusiasm. "Pippa used to be an aide here. She was my first friend. She went back to uni to get her nursing credentials. Come on, I've a picture of her in my room." He seized Hermione's hand and pulled her along, unaware of Mary watching them with a smile on her face.

Hermione looked around as Harry went to his desk and picked up a framed photo. His room looked lived-in but not terribly untidy. His shelves had some books and a row of toy motorcycles.

He turned to her and saw where she was looking. He blushed a little. "I have this, er, dream, sometimes. I'm riding a motorcycle that's flying through the air. After I told Dr Greene about it, she and Dr Aymler gave me one for Christmas. It's sort of turned into a collection over the years." He plucked one down, shiny with silver and red. "Pippa gave me this one before she left."

"It's nice. I never collected anything but books."

"Not even dolls?"

She shook her head. "No, just books and more books. I always wanted to read more than anything."

"Reading's fun, but we do plenty more here. There's school, of course, although we just started hols, and the playrooms and sometimes people come and teach us crafts. We've got the playground and we get taken to a pool once a week in the summer. I think that's the next big project, now the canteen's finished, to raise money for our own pool." He held up the photograph. "This is Pippa."

Hermione looked at the photo of a young woman hugging Harry from behind, her chin on his head. He seemed to be two or three years younger, with black-rimmed glasses instead of the silver ones he wore now. The woman was in the same blue-striped apron and cap as Mary and had curly red hair. They both smiled out of the picture.

"She looks nice."

"She's brilliant. When I first got here, I had no idea that my aunt and uncle had just dumped me. I kept waiting by the window to see if they were coming back, not that I was sure that I wanted them to. They say I didn't talk at all for over a month. Pippa and Mary would check on me each day. Mary would start talking at me, but I just didn't see any reason to answer her. Pippa usually just sat with me for a bit, but one day she got me to come try a game with her and then she played with me every day and became my first friend."

Hermione blinked at how readily Harry talked about himself. When he paused to smile at the photograph, she zeroed in on the thing that had struck her most.

"What do you mean, you weren't sure you wanted your family back?"

His expression darkened. "At the time I was just scared. Scared of being left in a new place, but scared to go back. They…didn't treat me very well." He set the photo back in place and pushed his glasses up his nose.

She immediately picked up on his meaning. "Oh, Harry!" She darted forward, then paused, rethinking the impulse to hug him. Instead she seized his hand in both of hers. "I'm…I'm sorry."

He nodded. "The doctors here were great helping me sort that out. Don't be afraid to talk to them. Especially Dr Greene."

Suddenly self-conscious, she let go of his hand. "She's the one we met, right?"

"Yeah. Dr Aymler is the bald guy with the big walrus moustache. And we have a new one, Dr Takenaka. He's the Japanese one. I haven't worked with him; his specialty is kids with learning problems."

A bell chimed through the halls and Harry perked up. "Tuck cupboard's open. We should probably wait for the stampede to be over—" Even as he spoke, they watched a small wave of boys thunder down the hall. Hermione recognized Moffat, leading the way. Harry rolled his eyes. "They leave it open for an hour and have tea and stuff out in the lounge every afternoon. What would you like to do while we wait?"

"Can I see your books?"


19 June 1990

Dear Pippa,

Congratulations on your exams! I kept telling you you'd do it and now you're a full nurse, just like you wanted to be. It's going to be so good to have you back.

I told Harry the news and the child fair screamed, he was so happy. You have naught to worry about, he remembers you very fondly and can't wait to see you again.

Now, don't fret. That doesn't mean he's been pining. Just today he's made a friend of a new girl that arrived. He was such the little gentleman giving her a tour of the place. And it was so sweet to see them hand in hand as he pulled her along to show her his room.

Lucky thing that they've hit it off. I overheard Dr Greene talking to her parents and she's got the same history of incidents that he did. He's been very quiet for some time now, nothing since that Nurse Craig's hair turned blue when she was scolding him.

Do let us know when your graduation ceremony is. I don't know who will be able to be there, but we'll try to have a showing for you.

Much love,

Mary


Author's Note: Yeah, I know, I said every two weeks. I'm sticking to that for the foreseeable future; just wanted to be sure I understood the process for adding a chapter to a story while I had time to concentrate.

Thank you so much for the great response to this story so far. Reviews are very nice to read and I welcome comments, especially Brit-picking.