Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
There were more cracks in the pavement than Harry had thought there would be.
He stepped gingerly over them, walking slowly and carefully towards the shelter. He had left school early, as he had been unable to sit still in his seat. Miss Goodwin hadn’t noticed, but the rest of the class had. His face had burned as James had leaned closer to his classmate and whispered in his ear. Their soft laughter felt mocking and Harry had tried to ignore the glances James had thrown his way.
He wasn’t at all eager to reach the shelter, but eventually the yellowing lawn came into sight. There were two cars parked next to the grass that only seemed to further show the poverty of the area. The glint of the metal lid of a can winked brightly from underneath a car’s tire caught Harry’s eye as he pushed open the gates.
The sign on the gates had never before made his insides ache.
The gates crashed into the fence with more force than was necessary.
His knocks on Mr. Benoglio’s office door were timid and gentle in comparison.
The scene he opened the door to would later become a just a blur in his mind, something he knew had happened but couldn’t recollect. At that moment, however, he was hyper-aware of each movement made and each sound spoken.
The jangling of the woman’s earrings as she whispered something to the man beside her was the first thing he heard. Mr. Benoglio’s comment asking him to please sit in the chair beside his desk was the second.
He didn’t take his eyes off the couple sitting just a few inches away from him and even though he avoided looking at their faces he could feel their eyes on him. His attention was only torn away when Mr. Benoglio cleared his throat and introduced them.
“Harry, this man here is Theodore Thompson and his wife Rosa.” The lady—Rosa—reached across her husband’s legs to shake his hand.
“Hello Harry. I, I mean we, look forward to getting to know you.” Her voice was full of warmth and her hand was soft to touch. When he finally gathered enough courage to look her in the face, he saw a large smile dominating her face and curly strands of black hair framing her face. Her smile only broadened when their eyes met.
“And this is Ms. Carter, the social worker in charge of this case.” The social worker was sitting slightly apart from the group, legs crossed and eyes keenly watching their interactions. She gave a slight nod at her introduction.
“Now Harry, as I told you last night, Theodore and Rosa are looking to adopt a child. They have already been approved by the board as prospective parents and are ready to begin the next step in their journey. Ms. Carter is trying to find them a child to bring into their family.”
Harry, they’re hoping to adopt you.”
Harry squirmed in his seat as everyone looked at him. “But, uh, what about my aunt and uncle? I mean, I know they don’t want me or anything, but don’t they still…” Harry couldn’t figure out how to say it, “Have me?”
Mr. Benoglio’s face softened. “After the visit we informed you about, we visited them again to discuss your legal custody. Since they had already renounced you, it was simple to have them sign the papers that would release you from their guardianship.”
Rosa’s grasp had tightened as Harry had spoken and it hadn’t gotten any looser.
Ms. Carter’s voice was raspy when she spoke a few moments later. “How do you feel about this?” Her eyes were focused on his face, as though she could read his thoughts if only she concentrated hard enough. Harry found it unnerving and looked towards Rosa instead as he spoke.
“I, I don’t know. I have friends here—Joel is really nice and Darius is my-” Harry hesitated at saying ‘brother’, “-best friend! I don’t want to leave them!” He was looking pleadingly at Rosa. He didn’t know quite what he wanted her to say, but he wanted her to say something. Anything. This was confusing, so new and unknown to him.
Rosa nodded, squeezing his hand. She exchanged a quick glance with her husband and said, “You can still go to your current school. We live in the district.”
Harry nodded, but he wasn’t reassured. Ms. Carter cleared her throat and spoke, her tone leaving no room for argument. “Harry, you are a minor. The law states that you need a guardian.”
Harry looked down at his lap again and sighed. “Will they be allowed to come over, at least?”
“Of course!” Rosa’s reassurance was warm and enthusiastic.
Harry didn’t see a way to say no. He had to be adopted—he had nowhere else to go. He had less than a year before he would be forced to leave the shelter and he wouldn’t go back to Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia’s. He couldn’t, even if he wanted to.
This couple seemed nice enough—Rosa was how he pictured a mother would act: warm and caring. She wasn’t at all like Aunt Petunia. Her husband, Theodore, wasn’t at all fat like Uncle Vernon and he was willing to adopt Harry… They would probably be kind and they seemed to have money, if the cars outside were any indication. At least he wouldn’t starve.
Rosa’s eyes filled with tears at his softly spoken agreement. Theodore leaned over and placed his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close.
Ms. Carter’s mouth twisted slightly upwards and her eyes focused once more on Harry.
“Now that you’ve agreed, you will have several visits with them—to their home, to a park, to the zoo, wherever you choose to have them. You will get to know each other better and eventually you will move into their home. I will be accompanying you on several of the visits to observe your interactions and decide if this position is suitable for all involved. Do you understand?”
Harry nodded, though he had several questions.
“You may ask questions, Harry,” Mr. Benoglio added.
“Um, where would I stay? When I’m not visiting, I mean.”
“You’ll stay here,” said Mr. Benoglio.
“How long will it be until I move in?”
“The process takes several months, at the very least.” Harry relaxed. He would have time to adjust to the change, at the very least.
The meeting finished shortly after, the important points having already been discussed. Ms. Carter promised to keep Mr. Benoglio informed and Rosa assured Harry (or perhaps herself) that the first visit would be soon. Harry followed them through the hall to the door and outside.
The sun was shining brightly and Theodore and Rosa were distracted talking with Harry, trying to learn more about him, which was why the damage to the cars wasn’t noticed sooner.
Ms. Carter was the first to notice, stifling a gasp that alerted the rest of the group.
The windows of one of the cars had been smashed and shards of glass lay scattered in the grass and on the seats of the car. The reflection of the sun glinting off them was oddly pretty but Harry knew better than to try to touch. He had already cut his fingers once on the sharp edges of a piece of glass.
“Harry, don’t get any closer, okay? We don’t want you to get hurt.” Rosa’s arm disappeared from around his shoulder as she approached her husband, who was already examining their car.
“Was anything stolen?” Ms. Carter asked, trying to peer into the car from a safe distance. “Did you leave anything valuable in the car?”
“The locked steering wheel is probably the only reason they didn’t take the whole car. Approximately one car is stolen every three minutes—we’re lucky we still have the car.” Theodore’s approach seemed to be more analytical than anything else. Rosa only sighed.
“I suppose. Can we still drive it home?”
“I’m sure we can.” Theodore opened the driver’s door and turned the key. They heard the sound of the engine turning on and smiled.
“That’s one blessing at least.”
“Are you going to report this to the police?” Ms. Carter stepped carefully on the ground, trying to avoid the glass shards.
Theodore looked thoughtful. “I think we will, though I doubt what they’ll be able to do. This isn’t a busy street and there were likely no witnesses. I hope that the insurance company will accept our claim though.”
Rosa turned towards Harry and smiled. Harry loved the way it spread across her face. “This was an ugly end to a lovely meeting. I’m so happy to have met you Harry.” She hugged him and Harry tightened his arms around her shoulders. He was happy to have met her too.
The future was looking brighter than it ever had before.
The newspapers that came out the next day, however, disagreed. Headlines blared from the front page, stating that at least twenty people had died and a hundred more injured when a ramp collapsed onto the road below.
Engineers and city officials were confused, citizens were panicked and afraid. There had been no reason for the collapse. It hadn’t been old or unstable and it had been inspected recently by a city safety worker. To everyone, there was no explanation.
That is, there was no explanation for muggles. Several wizards were well aware of the true cause of the collapse and many more suspected.
Professor Quirrell found it very hard to teach his lessons the day the news had been printed in the Daily Prophet. There was a furious pressure building at the back of his head and he stuttered more often than usual. He finally dismissed his last class early and stumbled back to his quarters.
“Summon Pettigrew.” The hiss permeated the room and echoed in his head. He frantically nodded and scribbled out a note with a trembling hand.
He desperately wished they could apparated in Hogwarts. He didn’t own an owl—they weren’t practical to take on cross-continental trips—and the Owlery was several floors away.
The distance was difficult to travel with his angry headache and shaking limbs. The cold stones provided no relief for his pain and irritated the skin on his palms when he held onto the wall for support. Lord Voldemort would not risk revealing himself by yelling at him, but Professor Quirrell didn’t doubt that there would be hell to pay once alone in his quarters if he didn’t send the note off soon.
Peter Pettigrew would remove himself from the castle if he spotted an owl before changing back into his human form. The process was much simpler, though not as quick, if Pettigrew hadn’t finished his last task and was off the castle grounds.
It wasn’t more than an hour later when the magical wards surrounding his quarters sensed Pettigrew’s magical signature. He jerked the door open just wide enough for the rat to scuttle in, then spelled it shut.
The rat grew grotesquely into a scraggly-haired, yellow-toothed lump of a man that glared at Quirrell. Quirrell shrank back, his hands busy unwinding his turban. A hissing sound once again filled the room, worming its way into their ears.
“Peter Pettigrew,” Lord Voldemort’s voice was barely more than a whisper, yet it was the only sound in the room. “Can you explain to me why the Daily Prophet—the rubbish paper that is completely incapable of writing intelligent articles—has informed the public of a suspect muggle attack? Can you explain to me why my Death Eaters took it upon themselves to reveal my presence to the world?”
“M-my L-lord, w-we-”
The Dark Lord interrupted Pettigrew, his voice rising in volume. Pettigrew was shaking and chewing nervously at his brittle nails. “Can you explain to me why you thought it would be a good idea, when in fact this was one of the stupidest things you have ever done? You nearly ruined everything! They are not to know of me, of my existence in this world. I wish to operate secretly, without their knowledge. I am unable to do so if my followers are so incompetent.”
“Y-yes my L-lord.”
“Inform the others of this. Remind them that I am the Dark Lord. If they displease me so again, you will pay the price.”
“Y-yes my L-lord.”
And then Quirrell was once again left alone with Lord Voldemort.