Sitting in a child welfare office isn't exactly my idea of a good time, but then again, it was for a good cause. The boy next to me was peering at the papers in his hands anxiously, as if looking at them hard enough would change the numbers.
"It'll be OK kiddo," I told him. "You're not going back no matter what happens."
The kid nodded, still not taking his eyes off the papers. I glanced at my watch and frowned. "Where is this lady?"
The door opened and a woman stepped in, her hands full of more paperwork that she was going through. "Sorry about that, urgent call. Now, Mr. Murphy, since you're not a citizen of the United Kingdom this will be a bit sticky, but-"
She woman looked up from her papers at me and the kid and froze.
"Uh, ma'am?" I said, glancing at the desk. "Ms. Macnair? I know I'm not a citizen of the UK, but I do have a steady job and more importantly Harry here knows and trusts me. I've got the references from-"
The papers slid out of the social workers hands all over the floor. "Sweet Merlin," she whispered. "It's Harry Potter."
I shared a look with Harry, who was just as perplexed as I was. "Yeah, I know. It's on the paperwork, surely you read our names? David Murphy, prospective foster parent, and Harry Potter, prospective foster child?"
"I knew, but I didn't think...not the Harry Potter…"
I frowned, standing and putting myself between Macnair and Harry. I'm not tall, so I was only about the same height as the social worker since she was in heels. "Harry, we've gotta go. Now." I put my arm out, ushering the kid towards the door.
"Mr M?" Harry said, his voice suddenly full of fear.
Macnair made a sudden motion and I lept forward, slamming her against the wall. "You reach for a wand and I break your neck," I hissed. "No magic. You try any of that crap on me and-"
"I've no magic!" Macnair squeaked. "Please, I'm sorry, I don't, I didn't…" she trailed off into dry sobs.
I stepped back, grabbing Harry and opening the door. "We're going now. I'm filing a complaint with your supervisor." I wasn't, I was going to get the hell out of England. Christ, I should have grabbed the kid and booked a flight for the states the moment I realized what the hell was going on. At least there I was on my home turf. Sort of.
"No, don't!" Macnair jerked upright, her eyes wide. "I'm sorry, look, I haven't broken the Statue, you don't need to tell the Ministry! I didn't mean to insult you sir, I'm just a squib!"
"Mr. M?" Harry said again, his voice full of panic.
I paused, doing some mental inventorying. Macnair...Macnair….I blinked. "You got a cousin named Walden?" I asked.
"Walden...Walden is my older brother. If he knew where I was…" She trailed off, swallowing and tucking some of her dark blonde hair behind her ear. "Look, please don't tell my supervisor. I'll get you another caseworker. Please, don't kill me or any of my coworkers! I've tried to avoid all of this, I've stayed hidden. My mother put me up for adoption years ago. If my brother or father knew I was still alive, they'd murder me and anyone close to me."
Slowly, I brought Harry back inside and closed the door. "Look, Ms. Macnair, I'm going to be honest. I ain't got any magic. Well, not that I know of at any rate. I'm just a teacher who found an abused kid in his class who needs a home." And, you know, someone who was way the hell in over his head because he wandered into a goddamned children's novel. I looked down at Harry, his eyes wide with fright, his lighting bolt scar red against his bloodless skin. "And, you know, someone who would like Harry and you not to die the next time a bunch of Klan wannabes dress up in their masks and robes and go muggle baiting. So maybe we just all sit down, lay our cards on the table, and pretend this is just a normal foster situation, OK?"
Macnair nodded slowly, then glanced around the office nervously. It was small and cramped, full of too much paper work and tacky posters of children looking happy about being adopted. "Please, sit down. Tell me what's going on, and why an American muggle wants to foster Harry Potter."
I let out a heavy sigh. "You are not going to freaking believe this. You got a couple of hours?"
Macnair smiled nervously. "You were my last appointment of the day. I was going to take the afternoon off since I"m going on vacation tomorrow. I suppose I have some time."
"Are you going to tell her the truth, Mr. M?" Harry asked, clinging to my leg like a limpet.
I sighed and picked the kid up, setting him on my lap as I sat down in the cheap plastic chair. He was getting a bit big for that, but right now he needed comfort, and I was pretty damn sure he'd never gotten enough physical contact with a loving caretaker when he was little. "What did I tell you about the truth kid?"
"'The Truth will set you free,'" Harry quoted.
I nodded, looking into Macnair's eyes. "Damn right. So that's what Ms. Macnair here is going to get. The truth. Sit down, ma'am. This is one hell of a yarn. Hoo boy. Not sure even I believe it, and I lived it. It all started about four months ago…."
I had woken up in a strange bed. This, in and of itself, was to be expected. After all, it was summer vacation, and I'd flown back to the mainland to visit my folks over the summer. Some people would say I was crazy for leaving Hawaii in June to visit Phoenix Arizona in the month of June. They would probably be right, but I loved my parents, and my grandparents weren't doing too well and I wanted to see them while I still could.
I groaned and rolled over, stepping out of bed and yawning. It took me a moment to realize that the room wasn't the guest bedroom in my parents house. I frowned, but it wasn't time to start panicking yet. I recognized a hotel room, and when I looked around I saw my things. I supposed I'd checked into a hotel. Oh right, Charles was staying over at my parents, I must have just been so tired I'd fallen asleep in the car when he took me to a hotel. I scratched myself and reached for my bag a nice maroon suitcase my parents had bought for me years ago, and got out a change of clothes. I stepped into the bathroom and showered and changed.
Bracing myself for the early morning Phoenix heat, I stepped outside the hotel room. I looked around, and my stomach did a flip. Ok, now it was time to start panicking. I was not in Phoenix. My astute powers of observation determined this because not only was a gentle rain falling in June, but the buildings were all wrong. No stucco, no adobe, but lots of wood and brick. I dashed back inside and dug around for my smart phone. No dice. In fact, when I reached into my pocket and dug out my wallet, a passport fell out. I frowned and reached down to grab it. I had left my passport back in Hawaii since I hadn't been planning to go out of the country.
When I held the passport, my heart did another flip flop. This wasn't my passport; it looked like something from the last century. I opened it and read the bio. Murphy, David, date of birth April 11, 1958. I did a double take. "1958?!" I exclaimed. "What the hell? That's 31 years too soon!" The rest of the information was right, with my place of birth and State of Issue. I flipped to the back of the passport and scanned it. A stamp for entry into the UK, July 8th, 1986 at Heathrow International Airport.
I sat down, trying to piece together what was going on. After a moment, I dug through my bags, my heart beating fast. I found an envelope with some papers in it and dug through them one caught my eye.
"Dear Mr. Murphy,
We are pleased to accept your application as a Year 1 teacher at Saint Gregory's Primary School. New teachers are to report to their campus on July the 14th for orientation and training.
C. Roemmele, Headmistress."
There was some other stuff, directions, my work visa, and various important documents, but the letter held the most interest for me. I did a quick inventory of what I had, and found some clothes, money, and a bank card stamped "HSBC." Grabbing whatever looked important and the room key, I hurried down to the hotel lobby.
The attendant looked up at me and smiled. "Hello sir, need anything?"
"Yeah, a paper and maybe advice on where to get something to eat?"
"Of course sir, we provide a complimentary breakfast in the lounge. Papers should be in there as well. It's right over there."
"Thanks." I decided not to ask any questions that would make me look stark raving mad, and hurried into the lounge where there was a decent breakfast spread and some papers. Grabbing a piece of fruit, I sat down and quickly read through the paper. There was a lot of stuff I didn't really get since it was all about British goings on, which frankly I was pretty uninformed on even if it had been the right year and not 20 odd years in the past. So, basically, the paper was zero help. I went back up to my room and dug around some more. I had a calendar with some appointments on it, mostly with the school and a realtor.
I sat down and took a deep breath. OK. So, it was July, 1986, three years before I was even born and a whole damn ocean away. I had some money and a bank card and apparently a job teaching year 1 kids. I had taught K-5 for a few years, so hopefully year one kids fell somewhere in that range since I remembered the UK used some crazy system that did not correlate to US grades.
I needed a plan, so I made one. First I got down on my knees and prayed, hard. I might have cried a little, but only Jesus saw that so my manly honor was intact. Then I went to the bank with my shiney new bank card. The teller was happy to show my my balance, which was a respectable 4291.83 which was more in dollars but God help me if I could figure out 1986 exchange rates to 2017 exchange rates in my head and I sure wasn't asking the teller. I just thanked God there were no shillings to deal with because frankly my head would have exploded. The last thing I did was call the realtor and confirm the appointments and properties. I talked to the clerk, who was happy to review my itinerary. I played the part of the idiot American hard and it mostly worked.
After all that though, it was only noon, so I went and got something to eat. There was a little pub nearby and I went with a comforting fish and chips along with a nice sugary soda.
While I ate, my mind raced. Suddenly it dawned on me. I groaned and rested my head on the table.
"Christ, now I have to prevent 9/11!"
Look, if you don't know what that is, either I succeeded and it's after 2001, or, you know, it's before 2001 and if you're reading this, tell the US Government that some Al Qaeda terrorists are going to fly two planes into the World Trade Center in New York, one into the Pentagon, and United 93 was a fourth flight but it was stopped from crashing into a national monument by its brave passengers. This all happens the morning of September 11th, 2001, and a lot of Americans die. Oh, and bet on the Diamondbacks to win the win the world series that year, they win all their home games and lose all their away games. Trust me on that.
Unless you're a Death Eater. Then you can go kill yourself please. Oh, right, the Death Eaters. I'm getting there, honest.
Anyway, I'll skip the heart pounding terror of that night, the next day where I met Catherine (Mrs. Roemmele) and got trained on how to teach UK kiddos. (turns out year one is kindergarten, the English just didn't feel like stealing a perfectly good German word and went with something more boring). Essentially I spent the rest of my summer getting moved into a flat, prepping my classroom, wishing that the internet was still a thing, daydreaming about acquiring a blue party hat in Runescape when it came out, and realizing that I now basically had precinct knowledge of the stock market and gleefully getting a stock broker to invest everything I had into Microsoft and Apple despite him trying to convince me to invest in more traditional options. I decided not to tell him that I planned on invested an enormous quantity of cash into Magic the Gathering cards and making out like a bandit in 20 years.
OK, so maybe time travel wasn't all bad: I now had the chance to become filthy stinking rich. Sadly, the only major sporting events I had any recollection of were pretty far in the future and I was fuzzy on the details anyway, but hey, at least I could play the stock market like a pro. Still, I missed my parents (I did not look them up, they were barely married and I was a bit worried about erasing myself from existence if I fiddled with that) and my friends, and my old students, and living in Hawaii at my dream job teaching Special Education K-5 in a small town. The good news was no one knew me and I didn't know anyone so I fit in pretty well. I started going to a small church, made a few friends at a local hobby store, and generally settled down into life.
And then I got my class list and I just about had a heart attack.
You see, there were two names on that list that just about made me flip my lid. The first was Dudley Dursley. That made me swallow a bit of Mars bar wrong and I just about choked to death before I calmed down. I told myself that Dursley was probably a real name, and that while Dudley was a bit out there, it couldn't be that unusual. This was a kid in my class, not some character from a book. Right? And then I saw the other name. Harry Potter. I said a few things that I won't repeat, but suffice to say I was a bit of a potty mouth. Once I was done with that, I forced myself to calm down.
"I bet they're not even cousins," I consoled myself. "I mean, come on. Magic isn't real." Said the guy 31 years in his past in a country he'd visited once in high school.
So, school started. And I met Harry.
OK, let me back up a bit. I had first met Harry Potter in the early 2000s in the form of a children's book series. Despite the fact that I was a prolific reader, I did not read Harry Potter until after the fourth book came out because I came from an Evangelical Christian family and reading about Harry Potter was frowned upon. I did, however, read Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Ursula Le Guin, so my mom and dad decided that I could handle Harry Potter.
Right, so, Harry Potter was a book series written by a woman in the UK named JK Rowling. It was an international hit, seven books covering Harry Potter's life at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It was so popular that they even made eight movies (yes, seven books, eight movies, it started an awful trend I don't want to go into right now) and then did a spin off series and a really bad Broadway show that I hope to God turns out to be a bunch of fiction but then again I'm meddling in things so who the hell knows. Anywho, Harry Potter in the books was described as being scrawny, having a lightning bolt scar on his forehead, black hair, green eyes, and glasses.
So when on September 1st, a scrawny, lighting scared, black haired, green eyed bespectacled boy showed up in my classroom, I had to work very hard not to have a panic attack. Thankfully, on the first day of school, most year one teachers are half a step from a panic attack as children cry for their parents, wet themselves, fight with one another, complain about being hungry, and are generally typical five year olds. I tried not to pay special attention to Harry, but I couldn't help it. I mean, here was this kid who was supposed to be some sort of chosen one destined to a dark and terrible fate, and he was sitting in my class singing "Down by the Bay." Hey, at least Raffi was really popular in the 80s so no one looked at me funny. I was gonna have to be real careful about what Disney songs I sang at circle time though.
But I digress. When school was over, an annoyed looking woman with a pinched face swept Dudley up in her arms and kissed him, then came over to me. Harry trailed behind, looking nervous.
"Hello, you must be Dudley's mother," I said, holding out my hand. "David Murphy. Kids call me Mr. M."
"Petunia Dursley, I'm Dudley's mother," she said, shaking my hand.
I forced a smile onto my face, and prayed that what I recalled from the books was wrong, because I freaking hate child abusers. "And Harry's aunt, right? You're his guardian?"
Petunia made a face. "Oh, Harry wasn't misbehaving was he? He's always lying and stealing at home, don't unnatural-"
"Mrs. Dursley, Harry was an exemplary student today," I interrupted. "You should be proud of him. He followed directions, and he even got to clip up to the top of our rainbow today," I pointed to a chart with clothespins that had the kids names and pictures on them; Harry's name was on purple with a couple of other students. I smiled at Harry, who immediately brightened and smiled back, his green eyes sparkling.
Petunia narrowed her eyes when she looked at the chart. "Duddles is bellow Harry."
"Oh, Dudley had a fine first day; he's on blue which is very good. Getting to move up to purple is only when we have our very best days. Harry remembered to put away his crayons after art time; Dudley needed a reminder. Both your sons did very well."
"Harry is no son of mine," Petunia snapped, turning to glare at me.
I put up my hands in a calming gesture. "Sorry, your nephew." I knelt down to get eye to eye with Dudley and Harry. "Great job today guys, hi five. I know we're going to have a great day tomorrow!"
Dudley sulked a bit, but hi fived me anyway. Harry on the other hand was very enthusiastic, slapping my hand and giggling a bit.
"Hmph. Well, if you have any trouble with Harry, make sure to use a firm hand with him. And if any unnaturalness happens, you let myself or my husband know straight away. Our family is perfectly normal, and we expect Harry to fit in."
With that, Petunia strutted away, cooing at Dudley that he deserved ice cream as Harry trotted along behind, carrying his and Dudley's backpacks.
My jaw tightened and I ground my teeth. When all the kids had gone, I headed up to the headmistresses office, knocking on the doorframe.
"Cathrine, do you have a moment?"
The elderly headmistress looked up and smiled at me. "Of course David, please, come in. How was your first day?"
I stepped in and shut the door. "The kids were great; no problems there. However, I have some concerns about a parent. I don't have any solid proof yet, but I'm worried that one of my students may be in an abusive home."
"Oh? It's not the Davers girl is it? Born out of wedlock, her mother marrying that brute of a man. Very improper."
"No ma'am, Olivia was fine. It's Harry Potter, and his aunt Mrs. Dursley." I outlined my concerns, mentioning the state of Harry's clothes, the cold way in which he had been treated, and what his aunt had said about him.
"Well, Mr. Murphy, I understand your concerns, but I know the Dursleys. They're a good family, perfectly normal. I know Vernon's sister, Marge. We're in the kennel club together. I'm certain they're treating young Harry properly. This is England, perhaps we do things a bit differently than you did back in the States."
"Alright, thank you, good to know," I said, standing. "Still, as a teacher it's my duty to keep an eye on the students. I'll let you know if anything more develops."
Catherine waved her hand and looked back down at the papers on her desk. "Of course, of course. Good day, Mr. Murphy."
I started keeping a journal. Harry was always unusually hungry. He often had dark circles under his eyes, as if he was not sleeping well. Dudley and his little band of friends often verbally harassed Harry, and I once had to break up a shoving session. It was nothing concrete; it was nothing I could build a case on. But I watched. Not just Harry of course, but I paid special attention to him. I still hadn't decided if I was mad and that nothing I remembered about Harry Potter was real, but still, I kept an eye out.
Then, one day, October 9th, Harry stayed home from school while Dudley came. I noted it, but didn't really think anything of it. Kids stayed home from school for all kinds of reasons. I asked Dudley, "Where's Harry?"
He smirked. "He got what he deserved."
Alarm bells went off. "Got what he deserved?"
"Yeah, I taught him a lesson. No more of his unnaturalness, like mum says. Dad said he got what he deserved."
The day couldn't be over fast enough. I popped my head into the office five minutes after the bell rang. "Cathrine, I'm doing a home visit. Do I need to fill anything out? A school official need to accompany me or anything?"
She looked up, surprised. "Well, no. We don't normally do home visits, but as the teacher you are free to call upon parents at any time. Is it the Davers girl?"
"Thanks, I'll let you know," I said. I grabbed my jacket (England is freaking cold in October if you've been living in Hawaii), my polaroid camera, looked up 4 Privet Drive and caught the bus. A short ride and a quick walk later, and I found myself out front of the Dursley's home.
My heart pounded as I walked up the immaculate walkway. I hummed the first few bars of the Hogwarts theme from the movies, then made myself stop. This wasn't a movie, this was one of my kiddos. I didn't give a damn about dark lords, ancient prophecies, or magic of any kind. I had to make sure my student was alright.
I knocked on the door, and after a moment Petunia opened it. "Oh, Mr. Murphy, what are you doing here?"
I gave her a winning smile and held up a tacky plastic medal. "Dudley won student of the month! I wanted to come by and present it to the proud parents." I waved my camera as well. "Wanted to get a picture of you and him when I award the medal as well so we can put it on our Wall of Fame."
I actually wasn't making the Student of the Month and Wall of Fame bit up, just that Dudley had won anything. He was a bit of a bully and often pushed other kids around, and to get student of the month you had to treat others with kindness in my room (as an aside, awarding student of the month to 5 year olds based on academic performance is dumb. At that age, what they know is thanks to their parents work, not theirs. Awarding them for good behavior though, is something they have a larger hand in).
Petunia clutched her chest and let out a gasp. "My Dudders, student of the month! Oh, please, do come in Mr. Murphy! Dudders, Dudders your teacher is here, he's brought you an award!"
I stepped into the hall, and my heart sank when I saw what I was looking for: a cupboard under the stairs with locks on it. "Hey, where's Harry, maybe he can join us for the medal presentation?" I asked.
Petunia glanced at me and frowned. "He's sick, and he's been very naughty. He can't come out of his...room. And he had best be very silent!" She said the last in a raised voice, then smiled sweetly at me. "Please, come into the sitting room, Dudders is just watching the telly, I'll get him from his room."
With that, Petunia raced up the stairs, calling for Dudley. The moment she was gone I tapped on the cupboard. "Harry, are you in there? Are you OK?"
There was silence, and for a moment I hoped I had been wrong. Then something rustled. "Mr. M?" Harry's voice was hoarse and ragged, as if his throat was raw or he was in pain.
"Hold on kid." I flicked open the locks, thankfully they were just a deadbolt and a latch, then opened the cupboard. What I saw broke my heart. Harry's right eye was blackened, and he was peering at me from utter darkness. He was a thin mattress that was stained with old sweat. Thankfully it looked clean and free of pests. Broken toys and crumpled drawings from school lined the filthy walls. I lifted my camera and took three quick pictures. Then I reached in and pulled Harry out.
"Mr. M, I'm not supposed to come out," Harry whispered, but he clung to me anyway.
"It's OK kiddo, I'm here." I took two more pictures of the insides of the cupboard, then let the camera hang on its lanyard and stood, picking up Harry as I did so.
"Mr. Murphy, I was thinking, perhaps out in the garden where the light is best, I do so want the best side of my Dudders and- what are you doing?!" Petunia had paused on the stairs, glaring down at me. Dudley was behind her, peering down at us from between the banisters, grinning spitefully at Harry.
"Mrs. Dursley, I believe I could ask you much the same question." My voice was cold, and seemed to be coming from someone else. I held Harry tight, and he clung to me, burying his face in my shoulder to hide from the vengeful glare of his aunt.
"You leave that boy alone! I don't want his unnaturalness ruining my Dudley's award ceremony! Put him back right this instant!" Petunia demanded.
"No." I returned Petunia's glare with one of my own, but she didn't back down. "I just found one of my students, locked in the dark, injured. Care to explain how he acquired this black eye?"
"He fell. Little boys do that," Petunia sniffed. "He was in there as a punishment for misbehavior. You have no right to-"
"I HAVE EVERY RIGHT!" I roared. "Harry is mine. Dudley is mine. They're all mine. My kids. You do not screw with my kids." I looked down at Harry, realizing that my shoulder was wet. He was crying. "Kiddo, you want to go with me? Somewhere safe?"
He nodded frantically. "Yes," he whispered.
I glared back up at Petunia. "We're leaving. Now. Do not try and follow us."
"How dare you! I'll call the police!"
"Oh, please do!" I held up the photos I'd taken. "I'm sure the police would love to see these pictures and Harry's black eye.
Petunia froze, but after a moment she straightened. "You have no right, barging in here and taking my nephew. When my husband gets home he will-"
I didn't wait to hear what Vernon Dursley would do. I had never met the man, and frankly, that was probably for the best. If I did, I might try and reenact Kindergarten Cop and deck the bastard. Look, I know it's not out yet, but when it does come out, go see it. You'll know the scene I'm talking about.
I stalked out and carried Harry down to the gas (er, petrol) station. There was a pay phone outside, and I dialed 911. When nothing happened, I groaned, hung up, and dialed 999.
"Operator speaking, please state the nature of your emergency."
"Hello, this is David Murphy. I'm a teacher at St. Gregory's Primary School. I was doing a home visit, and I've found an abused child. I believe I'm going to need an officer to speak to. I'm at the petrol station on Farlane in Little Whinging."
"Oh my. I'll dispatch an officer right away. Please remain on the line. Do you have the child with you?"
I adjusted Harry on my shoulder. "Yes, I've got the student with me now. Harry Potter. I removed him from the Dursley Residence at 4 Privet Drive."
"Very good, the officers are on there way."
The rest of the day was utterly soul crushing. The officers came and took Harry and I to the police station. I handed over my pictures and camera as evidence, and then filled out several reports. Harry stayed with me; when the police had tried to separate us, he cried and begged and pleaded not to be taken from me.
"If it's alright with you, I'll come along and Harry can stay with me," I told the detective.
"Well, alright. You're Franklin's boy's teacher, aren't you?"
"Alex Franklin? Yes, he's in my class; Harry is his schoolmate."
"Well, I suppose we can trust you then, Roger has had nothing but praises for the Yank teacher. You'll need to be quiet while we talk to the boy though."
It was heartbreaking to listen to Harry talk to the detective and social worker.
"Sometimes they would send me to bed without supper if I didn't get all my chores done."
"I hadn't had any water since breakfast. They gave me a glass and a piece of bread but I was so hungry and thirsty I ate it all."
"I was in the cupboard because I was bad. One of Dudley's toys floated out the window, and he punched me. Aunt Petunia put me in the cupboard for making the toy float and being mean, but honest I just wanted to play with it, I didn't make it float." Well, so much for magic not being real. Awesome.
Hours later, a smiling middle aged woman came into the interview room. "Alright Harry, we've got a place for you to stay. You can come with us now."
"No!" Harry cried. "No, I want to stay with Mr. M!"
"Sorry kiddo, you'll have to go with this nice lady. You can't stay with me. But I hope you can come back to class and see me every day. Will that be OK?"
"Oh, he won't be returning Mr. Murphy, not in this situation. With his cousin in the class, it wouldn't be proper."
Harry wailed and clung to me ever tighter. I frowned at the social worker. That was not the right thing to say in front of the traumatized kiddo. I put my head down next to Harry's. "Hey, it's gonna be alright. Maybe I can come see you some time. You'll be alright." I looked up at the social worker. "Where is Harry going?"
"I'm going with Mr. M!" Harry cried, and there was a flash.
The social worker and I both blinked and rubbed our eyes. She looked at the paper, pursing her lips. "I'm afraid that's confidential but...Wait. You're David Murphy?"
I frowned at her. "Yes."
"David Murphy of 12 Paisley Avenue, Little Whinging Surrey?"
"That would be my address," I agreed. "Why? I thought you said I couldn't visit Harry?"
"My apologies, but it seems Harry is actually supposed to stay with you, Mr. Murphy. It says so right here."
She handed me the paper. It said no such thing. The form was entirely blank, but I didn't say anything. Instead, I handed it back. "You're sure it says David Murphy?"
"I am perfectly capable of reading the form, Mr. Murphy. I'll just need to escort you back to your home, do a quick inspection, and then have you sign."
I looked down at Harry. He looked so hopeful, so happy. I sighed and looked back up. "Alright, but we'll need a ride. I don't drive."
A short time later we were back at my rented flat. It was small, but thank God it was mostly clean at the moment. The social worker inspected the place, then nodded. "Good enough, though I don't see a child's bedroom."
"Harry can sleep on my bed, I'll take the couch."
"Very good, very good. Sign here please." I took the offered pen and signed. "Thank you, Mr. Murphy. This is just a temporary placement of course. Another social worker will be by in a few days to check on you."
And then she was gone, and I was alone with the Boy-Who-Lived. I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to collect my thoughts. Obviously, Harry had turned that form into something that resembled Dr. Who's Psychic Paper. I had to think, had to figure out what was going on. I'd been so focused on keeping up with work and making sure Harry was OK that I hadn't thought what I would do if something like this happened. I had figured some wizard, coughDumbledorecough, and then Harry could go live in the magical world and I would probably never hear from him again. That, or it would turn out magic was a load of bunk and Harry would just go to a loving family. Either way really.
But he was here now. So, I turned and smiled. "Alright kiddo, what do you want for dinner?"
Harry looked up at me, his eyes wide. "But Mr. M, you're the grown up, you get to pick?"
I smiled and knelt down. "Yeah, but you've had a rough day. So let's take a look in the fridge and you can pick out something for me to cook." When Harry's eyes started to water, I drew him into another hug. "Hey, it's OK. What about pancakes, you like pancakes?"
Yeah, yeah, I know, pancakes are American. So sue me. Turns out you can still buy corn syrup in the UK, and Harry did indeed want pancakes. I had him help me cook, and he was pretty darn good at it. We greased a skillet with butter and I made Harry a large stack along with some scrambled eggs.
"Aren't you going to eat first, Mr M?" Harry asked when I set him down at the table.
"No, but you can wait for me if you want," I said, pouring some more batter.
Harry nodded and sat patiently, which was pretty surprising for a five year old. I hurried it up and sat down, taking out a carton of orange juice. "Want some? Or would you rather have some milk?"
When Harry nodded, I poured him a small glass (never had a five year old a full glass unless you want to be mopping it up) and sat down. Harry reached for his fork and started eating, but stopped when he noticed I wasn't. "Mr. M?"
"Why don't we say grace," I said, smiling at Harry.
He cocked his head to one side, but when I bowed my head he copied me. "For food, for raiment, for life, for opportunity and friendship and fellowship, we thank thee O Lord, amen."
As soon as I took a bite Harry started devouring his own food. He finished before I did, and I nodded to the stove top. "You want another one?"
"But I don't need seconds," Harry said, sounding a little worried. "Those are for Dudley and Uncle Vernon."
I had to fight to keep a smile on my face. "You see either of them here?" Harry shook his head. "Well, then seconds are for anyone who's still hungry. You still hungry?"
"Yes," Harry said quietly.
I stood, leaving my half finished pancake. I was sick to my stomach anyway. "Well, then why don't I make you another one? More juice?"
After dinner, Harry helped me wash up, then I had to cast around for something to do with him. I didn't own a television, never having been terribly interested in TV in the first place and utterly bored by all the offerings from the current time. I had children's toys, but they were all at school. "Hey, you want me to read you a story?" I asked.
"I like stories," Harry agreed.
I went to my small bookshelf and searched around for something age appropriate. I settled on Watership Down, which was a favorite book of mine. I'd have to bring home some picture books and other stuff for Harry.
Still, Harry was more than content to listen to me read about kickass rabbits for a half hour, until his eyelids started drooping.
I glanced at the clock. It was only 7:45, but kiddos needed to go to bed early. I figured it was close enough to time. "Come on, let's get you a bath, clean clothes, and bed," I said.
Harry flushed and looked down. "I don't have any clean clothes."
I slapped my face and groaned. "Aw crap, you're right. Sorry kid, we'll get you clean clothes tomorrow. Still, best to have a bath."
I felt bad about putting the kid back in his dirty too large second hand clothes, but it was what we had on hand. I settled him on my bed, tucked him in, and went to the door. "Goodnight Harry, sleep well. I'll see you in the morning." I turned off the light and started to close the door.
"Can I stay with you? Forever?"
It felt like someone had just stabbed me in the chest. I looked away, fighting against the onions someone had started cutting. "For as long as you can, Harry. I promise."
Yeah, I know. Don't go making promises you can't keep.