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The Perils of Innocence

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Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing with what-ifs in the Potterverse.

This will be the start of an ambitious four-part series that starts before Hogwarts and is completely AU.

 


 

17 February 1986

It was just another Monday at Esperança House. Morning classes were over and the children were scattered around the large room that served as both canteen and lounge. A pair of aides worked their way across, slowly gathering bits of rubbish and wiping up spills from luncheon.

Mary caught Pippa's glance and tilted her head. Pippa looked in that direction and sighed.

"Your turn today, Pip."

She sighed again and deposited her handful of rubbish in the bin. Pushing her cap back on her head, she made her way across to the large picture window and the small boy who stood there.

She paused when she reached him, then knelt and imitated his stance, propping her arms on the sill and resting her chin on her hands. She spent a moment looking out at the snowy scene with him, simply waiting.

The boy raised one hand to push his glasses back up. Pippa mimicked his movement, touching a finger to her nose. She was careful not to look directly at him, but sensed a glimmer of a smile under his solemn expression. After another moment, the boy tucked a lock of his hair behind one ear. Pippa copied him again. Again, that hint of a smile fluttered across his face. He drummed his fingers twice in a soft staccato. She did the same and was rewarded with a faint giggle.

Now Pippa raised a hand and touched her finger to the light frost on the window. She drew a slow circle.

The boy copied her movement.

Her throat tight as she tried not to react, Pippa added eyes and a curve for a smiley-face.

The boy hesitated briefly, then followed her example. Before she could decide what to do next, he added more circles to give his face glasses. She smiled and took up the new game, adding curly hair and her cap to hers. He added spikes to imitate his flyaway hair, then drew a jagged line going toward the eyes.

Pippa paused, confused, and looked at him. He lifted the thick fringe and showed her.

Gently, trying to keep the connection going, she traced the thin scar on his forehead. She stuck her lip out in sympathy and the boy smiled faintly.

Pippa became aware that Mary and several of the children were watching them intently. Unwilling to let an audience spoil her progress, she held out a hand and tilted her head toward the hall.

The boy studied her carefully for a long minute, as if judging her intentions, and finally took her hand.

Pippa kept her song of triumph buried deep as she led the boy to the nearest empty playroom.

Once inside, she waved a hand around, inviting him to select something. To her surprise, he pulled out a board game. While the rules to it were fairly simple, it hinged on strategy as well as the luck of the dice and she would have thought him a few years away from enjoying it.

They set up the board and finally Pippa dared to speak. "What colour would you like?"

"Red, please?" The boy's voice was very low and hoarse from disuse.

She handed him the red tokens. "I'll be blue."

They began playing without speaking and Pippa quickly saw that the reasons the boy was here did not include problems with intelligence. He was a savvy player, challenging her as they raced to be the first with every token in the safe spot. She was vaguely aware that Mary was keeping the other children out of the room, and then aware of a white coat in the doorway, watching for a few minutes.

They played companionably and luck did favour the child as he got the exact number he needed before she did to send his final token home. He looked at the dice and up at her uncertainly. She smiled and said, "Congratulations!"

He gave her his biggest smile yet and moved his token. She held out a hand and he pumped it enthusiastically.

"Want to play again tomorrow? I have to go back to tidying up."

The boy's lovely green eyes lit up at that and he nodded.

"I'm Pippa, by the way. What's your name?"

The child shrugged. "Boy."

Pippa managed to keep her frown slight. "I don't think that's a proper name."

"Freak."

This time she couldn't keep the dismay out of her reaction. "Oh, no."

The child shrugged again, beginning to look upset.

"I know. Can I give you a name?"

He still looked unhappy, but nodded.

"Let's see…how about…Humphrey?"

He shook his head, wrinkling his nose slightly.

"Bartholomew?"

"Ew!"

"Poindexter?"

His "NO!" was actually half a laugh.

"All right, all right. How about something simpler, like…Harry?"

The child stilled, his gaze turning inward as if trying to remember something. Pippa hardly dared breathe herself.

He nodded slowly.

"All right, Harry. It's a date. I'll see you tomorrow after lunch."

 


 

Pippa kept to her rounds but shared a triumphant smile with Mary. After she'd tidied the girls' hall, one of the doctors snagged her.

"Marvellous job this afternoon, Pip! Are you all right to try again tomorrow?"

"Yes, Dr Aymler. Any suggestions?"

"Just keep doing what you did: play with him, become a friend for him. If he keeps interacting with you we'll try and introduce Dr Greene in a week or so. But don't be discouraged if he takes a while; that he's finally spoken after being here six weeks is wonderful in and of itself."

"I don't suppose that family of his has gotten in contact again?"

The doctor's expression hardened. "Pippa, I have a feeling that little Harry Potter is now ours to raise as best we can. And good riddance to those people."