Note: Remember, this is a Christian family. I had to figure out something to explain the wizarding community.
Chapter 5: Back to School
New Years passed with a rare snowfall and watching the ball drop in Time Square over the TV. But then it was back to school. Hermione gave Jimmy a tearful farewell as she and her family left to board a plane back to England, promising to write as often as possible. She planned to send the letters by owl to her parents, who had agreed to send them on through the non-magical mail to get them to him in America.
Gwen and the kids were still staying with them because Gwen had much more experience with home schooling and had agreed to help ease them all into it, as well as teaching her own children. She'd graded his assessments, and had helped Carlene and Mike to buy the right books for him, and now it was time to get him caught up to grade level before the next fall semester started at the local high school.
Sirius had his own learning to catch up on, but he was able to do that from the local wizarding community. He bought a house in San Antonio's magical district and convinced a retired teacher from the local school of magic to help him get caught up on American magical life and history. The news of his being given sanctuary by the MACUSA spread like wildfire, and Britain was screaming to get their prisoner back, but no one knew how to stonewall like the Americans.
Jimmy was in an accelerated program that focused on core subjects without any room for electives because of the sheer amount of work he had to get caught up on in so short a time. He only had eight months to do four years worth of learning in time to be a high school sophomore. Luckily, with the one-on-one teaching, they were able to move much faster than they would have been able to in a school-room setting.
Jimmy was happy to learn that the high school he would be attending had an ROTC program for the U.S. Air Force. He would have to keep his grades at an acceptable level in order to get into the program but he would do anything he could to ensure that he made it because there was nothing more he wanted than to be able to fly again. Gwen helped him tailor his education to ensure that he would be in good standing once he was ready to start school in the fall and that he would be able to join the ROTC immediately.
She also insisted that he maintain his physical fitness. He was used to climbing stairs all day, and she didn't want him to lose his conditioning. He would need to be both a good student and physically fit for his chosen career. Mike also understood this need, so he would take him every day to the same high school he would be attending, having reached an agreement with their principal, and had him running laps up and down the bleachers and around the football field. They also allowed him into the gym, and Mike started showing him how to strength train, using many of the same kinds of calisthenics they used during Basic Military Training. Mike was a veteran himself, and he wanted Jimmy to have experience with the exercises before he had a training instructor shouting about them in his face.
Between his school work and his training, there wasn't much time left during the week for fun, but Saturday was completely free and Sunday was for spiritual matters but also had a very relaxed atmosphere. He got to know all three of his foster siblings well, as they all spent as much time at their parents' house as possible, and it was Adam who introduced him to American football. He, in turn, introduced the family to what they called soccer, and since everyone already knew how to play chess, there was often a game going in the dining room on the weekends. He also helped take care of the chickens and the dogs every morning and helped Carlene make breakfast every once in a while. But he didn't have to do it all the time, like he did at the Dursleys'.
He was learning a lot in church, as well, and he could always come to his new family with any questions he had. When the subject of witchcraft came up in one of their lessons, Mike and Carlene sat him down and explained that they saw magic as one of the spiritual gifts. "The witchcraft that the Israelites were warned against is nothing like yours. It's what Hermione calls Muggle magic, and God didn't want his people involved in that sort of thing because it was both dishonest and often dangerous, both to the conjurer and the customer. It also involved serving foreign gods, and our God is a jealous God. So don't worry, Jimmy. Those verses have nothing to do with you personally. After all, you didn't get your power dishonestly. You were born with it, and you only gave it up to save your life."
When news of Sirius Black requesting sanctuary in America first hit the Daily Prophet, Albus realized that Harry was no longer staying with the Dursleys. He immediately called Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley to his office to question them. Professor McGonagall brought them in and stood behind them as they took seats in front of his desk. He offered both lemon sherbets, but they told him no. "I'll just get right to it, then, shall I? It has come to my attention that Harry Potter never returned home. He seems to have run away. Do either of you know where he might have gone?"
Ron and Hermione looked at one another. Should they tell him?
He encouraged them, "I assure you, he's not in any trouble, but we're worried about him. He may be in grave danger if he does not return there."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. "I do know where he has gone, but I assure you he's in no danger. He doesn't want people to know where he is, and since he's no longer your student, I don't feel like it would be appropriate to tell you where he's living now. I will tell you it's all perfectly legal, though."
Albus frowned. "Not all things which are legal are wise, Miss Granger. I'm afraid I must insist."
But though Hermione was very respectful of authority, Jimmy had made his wishes plain where it came to the magical world. If he wanted someone to know, he would be the one to tell them. "And I'm afraid I must refuse. Harry doesn't want people knowing where he is, and I will not betray his confidence."
Ron had been looking unsure, but with the way she worded her response, his own resolve hardened.
Sure that he wouldn't get anything out of them this way, he simply said, "Very well. You may go."
Once the two children had left his office, he turned to Professor McGonagall. "I'll send him an owl, put a tracer on it. He can't hide himself from them now that he has no magic to cast an owl obscuration charm."
She frowned at him. "Why, Albus? Why would he run away?"
He shrugged and sighed as he leaned back in his chair. "I can't imagine he wants to be anywhere near his mothers relatives. They've never been kind to the boy. But that does not negate the powerful protections I put on that house. It truly is the safest place for him, given the fact that Voldemort may return any day now."
Hermione didn't trust that Professor Dumbledore would leave it alone, however. She sent an owl to her parents, and they phoned the Evanses to warn Jimmy that people were looking for him.
When Mike and Carlene told him about it, though, he nodded. "I knew he'd try to send me back there. That was why I went through the trouble of changing my name both legally and by way of Gringott's. The owl won't be able to find me unless someone tells him my new name."
Carlene was hopping mad. But Mike asked, "Don't take this the wrong way, Jimmy, because I'm very glad you came to us. You're ours now, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But why were you so intent on getting out of there in the first place? I can see not wanting to be reminded of magic all the time. But why leave your aunt?"
Jimmy sighed and realized it was time to tell them the full truth. He made himself small, curling up in the corner of the sofa and staring into his coffee cup. Then he said, "It's not really a secret that Aunt Petunia never loved me. I think she was jealous of my Mum, because she had magic and Petunia didn't. But Dumbledore put me there anyway, because of something Mum had done, some kind of protection spell that was based on blood." He took a sip of his coffee. "She hates me, Mike, and Vernon is worse. Dudley does too, but I can avoid him. They don't like to feed me, or let me do my home work, they'd hit me once in a while if they were particularly angry at something or other, though that was fairly rare. Honestly, I just didn't want to be raised by them without any hope of reprieve. At least when I had my magic, I could escape for most of the year to Hogwarts. But now I can't. And honestly, this is a better life than I've ever thought about having!"
Mike nodded, sifting through the information. "Well, it's not like they can take you from us. You did everything by the book. It's legal here and in the UK."
Jimmy nodded, "Not as long as you still want me."
Carlene was sitting next to him in just a moment. She enveloped him in a hug, careful not to upset his cup. "Of course we want you. Your aunt's an idiot not to see what a great kid you are."
"It didn't matter to her. All she cared about was seeming normal or better than her neighbors, and I was the freak she was hiding in the cupboard under the stairs, her dirty little secret." Bitterness had crept into his voice, and Carlene's arms only tightened around him.
"She's still a fool."
Winter gave way to early spring, and the Evans homestead came alive. Along with his school work and physical fitness, Jimmy started helping with the planting and care of the vegetable garden, the herb garden, the fruit trees and the vineyard. There were new baby chickens to introduce to Hedwig so that she wouldn't think they were food, and to chase around the chicken yard. The hardest thing was keeping the dogs and local predators out of the pens. It was similar, he supposed, to keeping his Aunt Petunia's flower beds, as it used many of the same skills, but there was never the need for perfection, nor the conviction that he wasn't good enough, and he slowly began to lose his fear that they would some day get tired of him.
Gwen was easily one of the best teachers he'd ever had, even though she'd never taught his grade level before. He was surprised at how she was able to help him draw out the nuances in what he was reading, and at how she never judged him, only helping him to get better at what ever the skill was at the time. It didn't take very long for him to get up to grade level in reading or writing, and those skills brought him up to speed quickly in history and geography, and aided him in both science and math, which were honestly his biggest hurdles. None of his classes in Hogwarts were able to prepare him for them, and he had missed three full years, plus what he would have learned in this year. It was a long climb, but by the time June rolled around, Jimmy had reached grade level in math and was only a little behind in science. He would be able to bring that up within the month on his current schedule.
July found them picking crabapples for pickling and jelly, and found Hermione's family back in the States again, to be joined by the Weasley family for a couple of weeks. Fred and George were under strict instructions not to prank the Muggles with anything magical, as the American wizards didn't look at such things with any kind of humor. That didn't stop them from pulling a couple of things, though, because they'd gotten proactive and bought a few Muggle pranks through an owl-order catalogue. Mike and Carlene introduced them to the joys of mucking out a chicken pen without magical aid.
Mike took Arthur under his wing and showed him what a few things really were that he had no real idea about, introduced him to the reality of electronic devices and the joys of cable news and weather. Carlene showed Molly how to use a non-magical kitchen, and shared some of her favorite recipes, a few jars of crabapple jelly, and one spectacular crabapple pie.
However, while Jimmy was quite happy to see his friends again, he was irritated and unsurprised when Dumbledore finally found him thanks to Molly Weasley's interference.
It was two days before his birthday, and he was completing his last science assignment while everyone else finished dinner. He was finally up to grade level and would be able to begin high school like a normal student come fall! He got up to show his work to Carlene, when the pleasant meal was interrupted by the crack of Apparition.
Jimmy dropped his assignment in surprise. But he wasn't completely caught out, either. He grabbed the nearest thing he could use as a weapon, which happened to be the push broom, and before realizing who was standing in the room, he'd thrown it at the intruder's legs, causing them to fall to their knees.
"Harry! It's me!" Sure enough, Professor Dumbledore was in the living room, sprawled ignominiously in a heap.
Then Jimmy came to his senses and went to help him stand back up. There was a lot of noise coming from both resident and guest, until finally Mike shouted, "Everyone be quiet!" He was quickly obeyed. Then, having retrieved his rifle from the rack over the kitchen door the moment an intruder had come into his house, Mike leveled the weapon at the wizard. "Who are you and what are you doing in my house?"
"I am Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts. I assure you, I mean you no harm."
"I'm not trusting that just yet. Polite people knock or ring door bells, and I know there are some big problems back in the UK."
Thinking quickly, Jimmy said, "Who gave me my Gringott's key when I first learned about magic?"
Nodding in approval, Dumbledore said, "Rubeus Hagrid."
"It's him. He's not Pollyjuiced."
"That doesn't mean he's excused. Step back, Jim." Jimmy did as he was told. "Now don't make me repeat myself," he said to Dumbledore.
Still holding his hands up in a non-threatening manner, the aged wizard said, "I have been looking for Mr. Potter since learning that he ran away from home." He turned to Jimmy. "Why would you do this, Harry?"
"His name's James Evans, sir, and he didn't run away from home. As you can see, he's right here. This is his home, and he is my son. I've got all the paperwork in the world needed to prove it, either to my government or yours." Jimmy's heart swelled at Mike's claiming him as a son, but he put aside the feelings to pay attention to what was going on.
Dumbledore said, "He must return to his maternal aunt's care so that I can re-establish the blood wards on her house. If he can no longer call their house a home, it will be impossible."
"Then it already is, Professor. My adoption isn't just in the Muggle world. Gringott's handled it for me." Jimmy shook his head. "Why does it matter? Owls addressed to Harry Potter will never find me. I'm a Sqib, now. Why should it even matter to the Wizarding world where I'm living?"
The Headmaster frowned. "It may not matter to many of them. But I care a great deal for your safety!"
Carlene stepped up, and put a hand on Mike's shoulder. A look passed between them, and he lowered the gun. Then she turned to Dumbledore. "Did his happiness ever matter to you? Or his being fed? Those people were abusive to Jimmy, and he won't be going back there, not ever again." She stared at him for a few minutes, until surprisingly, he was the first to look away. Mollified, she said, "Now, you've come all this way, and I can see that you care for our son. Would you like a cup of coffee before you go?"
"Professor," said Jimmy, his face unreadable, "you should know that it's perfectly legal for Mike to shoot you. You broke in here without an invitation and you're threatening his family."
"Harry, I'm not threatening anyone."
"JIMMY! My name is James Evans! And I'm never going back there again!" He grabbed his books and homework off the table and scrambled up the stairs.
Hermione took off up the stairs, following her friend, but not without glaring down at the Headmaster for doing exactly what he had been asked not to do. From the kitchen table, Molly asked why it was so wrong that the Headmaster had come, but neither Hermione nor Jimmy heard the rest because Hermione closed his bedroom door behind her.
"I didn't tell him, I swear. Neither did Ron."
"I know. I think it was Mrs. Weasley. She wouldn't have realized not to." He shook his head. "I won't let him drag me back there. For the first time in my life, I have a real family, and I won't let him take that from me."
"And we won't let him force you to. I don't think he can with how Gringott's did your adoption, anyway."
Jimmy took a deep breath. "I know that. But I'm still worried that he'll try something anyway. I'm thinking I might need to get hold of a lawyer if he doesn't go quietly." Hermione sat down on the bed next to him and gave him a hug. She didn't say anything, just sitting there to be a comforting presence. "I just wish—"
A knock came to the door and interrupted his thought. Hermione got up and opened the door a sliver. It was Mike, so she opened it the rest of the way. "He's gone. Mrs. Weasley wants to apologize. We're going to talk to Sirius's lawyer on Monday, see what can be done about keeping wizards that we don't want here out."
Jimmy nodded. "Thanks, M—." He stopped, took a deep breath, then said, "Thanks, Dad."
Mike's eyebrows flew into his hairline. Then he smiled, a great, wide smile that made him look like he'd just won the lottery. "You're welcome, son." Then he left the room.
Hermione had smiled at Mike's obvious joy at Jimmy's acceptance of him. "I think you just made his year. Oh, Jimmy, I'm so happy for you!"
He gave her a watery smile. "If only I could be sure it would last."
Note: Next chapter will have several peeks at Jimmy's life, but skip a lot of time. Then we'll be able to get to the point where the story crosses over into Stargate territory with the following chapter.