Can't Be Held Responsible
by Amy Fortuna

Rating: PG-13 for themes
Spoilers: Kind of through Goblet of Fire.
Summary: A reinterpretation of Harry Potter's life at Hogwarts.

Poor Harry.

Minerva stood on the steps, watching the boy talk to the dogs, who leaped around him as though encouraging him to come and play.

Sweet kid, he was. Intelligent too, just a bit balmy in the head.

His uncle was a tough guy, but a good sort, she thought. Nice to his poor relative who was so obviously round the twist.

As Minerva MacDonald had been told, Harry's parents were killed in a car crash when he was three years old. Harry had been left with an oddly-shaped scar on his forehead and some serious brain damage.

His mind was stuck in a fantasy world, partly due to the brain damage, partly as a way of coping from the brutal reality of his parent's death before his eyes at such a young age. Harry always talked about a school for wizards, how he was special because he was the "boy that lived," about his wizard friends Ron and Hermione.

The dangerous part of these fantasies, the crazy statements that had led his aunt and uncle to take him out of school for good, had started back on his eleventh birthday, when Harry saw an owl flying overhead and started talking about how it was carrying a letter for him.

He tried to run away from home, screaming about owls, and fell into a neighbour's pool. His aunt and uncle were forced to bring him here to Hogmore's Institute, where Dr. Bumbledore examined him.

Eventually pronounced incurable though harmless to all but himself, Harry Potter was given a permanent home at the Institute.

Yes, Minerva thought to herself, folding her arms across her chest, Harry was happy here in a way he had never been at home.

Not that his relatives liked the idea of Harry locked away in a mental institution. Every summer they tried bringing him home for a few weeks. Every time he caused so much trouble that they had to bring him back, shame-faced that they could not control him.

Twice he'd run away (once found by an old lady that lived nearby after two whole days of frantic searching had passed), once he'd caused such a fuss while company was in the house that they simply could not stand to keep him there any longer.

But, oddly compared to the majority of the patients, Harry enjoyed living here. He'd made friends with the two recently acquired dogs, one of whom had given him a bit of a scare by being a bit too enthusiastic at their first meeting. But they'd made it up and were now the best of friends, always together.

He did not bear much fondness for the rat that ran loose in the halls, however. And the cat hadn't been his favorite playmate, yet he'd never mistreated her. No, Harry mostly just stuck to Remy and Siri, as he called them.

Harry spent a lot of time outside, playing with an old broomstick, muttering under his breath about a "golden something." He'd go through the gardens carrying the broom until his eye caught something shiny, and then would dive for it, holding the whatever-it-was like it was a treasure.

Once last year, during a rainstorm, he'd gone out into the garden, not knowing that another patient was also out there, the gentle Spanish boy named Cedric. The kid also liked shiny things, and when they both saw a golden penny, they grabbed for it, and knocked heads. Well, Harry was in the hospital for quite some time, jabbering about how Cedric had been killed by the Dark Lord.

While Harry was in the hospital, Cedric's family moved away back to Spain. That didn't help Harry's impression that Cedric had been killed and that it was somehow his fault.

Those had been dark times. Harry spent a lot of time crying in a corner of the garden, until his relatives came to take him home for the summer -- "one more trial" they said.

But now Harry was back here, and loving it by all accounts. Minerva walked down the few remaining steps.

"Harry!" she called. "Time to come in, look, the sun's going down."

Harry looked up at her with blank eyes, just a hint of recognition in them. "Okay, Professor," he said. Vaguely Minerva wondered why he always called her Professor, then figured it must be part of his school fantasy.

Harry patted the two dogs on their heads and made his way over to the nurse.

"The darkness is coming, you know," he said conversationally. "Look, the Dark Mark in the sky!" He pointed to the odd shape of the dark cloud against the pink and gold. "That will call the Death Eaters! I wonder if Snape will go this time?"

He turned back and looked up at her earnestly. "Is Snape really on the side of the good?" he asked.

She didn't know who he was talking about, but tried to reassure anyway. "Yes, I'm certain of it, Harry. Now, it's time to come in."

"Professor, I don't quite understand the homework for today. Maybe you could help me and Ron with it later?"

Minerva looked down at him suddenly, filled with pity in a way that had become so rare with the years of working here. The boy was so sweet and innocent that it was practically a crime to disturb his childish fantasy.

"It's okay, Harry, you're a bright boy, you'll get it if you keep working on it," she told him.

She took hold of his hand, and walked with him up the steps into the house.

Just inside the house, one of the older patients, a big man who was gentle but unaware of his own strength, fond of playing in the gardens, waved at Harry, who called out "Hey, Hagrid!" and waved back.

In the dining hall, Harry broke away from her and ran over to his table, chattering excitedly to Randal and Hera, his friends and roommates. "I can't believe she took three points from Gryffindor, it's not like I did anything really bad!" Harry chattered at them as his friends stopped talking to listen to him. "And did you hear what that idiot Malfoy said about the team?"

Minerva smiled. Harry may live in his own world, she thought, but whatever it is, it's an interesting place.

Dr. Bumbledore walked into the hall, smiling benignly at the assembled group. The good doctor was too overly dramatic at times, Minerva thought. The patients could get strange ideas. Especially Harry, who incorporated everything into his own world.

A pixie-faced young man served Harry, who was muttering to Hera about the mistreatment of house-elves. It sounded like he was holding an argument with her, both of them talking about completely different things.

Dinner halfway through, Harry spent some time looking across the room, staring at his "crush," Cho Lee, an Asian girl who had a problem with multiple personalities, some of them disturbingly violent.

Minerva sighed. Poor Harry. He could not possibly understand the delicate balance of emotional relationships, and, with Cho's problems added to the mix, was doomed to unrequited love, if he insisted on having her.

One of the youngest in the room, Jenny, a girl who had started a fire trying to kill herself because the voices in her head told her she was nothing, was staring at Harry in her own attempt at unrequited love. Harry occasionally spoke to her, but generally hardly knew she existed.

Poor all of them. No one here could be held responsible for all the pain they made into their worlds.

Minerva was just happy that Harry Potter's world was more fun than most.