In response to:
Challenge # 7: Harry encounters problems at school (Muggle or Wizarding) because his guardians are a same-sex couple.
For The Good Of The Child
Esmerelda Tupping felt horrible as she healed the cuts and bruises on her student and cast Scourgio charms at the mud and blood on his clothes.
“I’ve owled your godfather. He’ll be by to pick you up soon. I’m sorry, Harry,” she apologized again. “I never meant for this to happen.”
Eight-year-old Harry Potter, the infamous Boy Who Lived and symbol of hope for all Wizard-kind, scowled at her accusingly. “No, you just don’t think my family is good enough.”
Esmerelda sighed. That was the root of the problem, wasn’t it? His family. His guardians. The two men entrusted with the care and raising of the most important child in the entire Wizarding world.
The caring wasn’t the problem. She’d seen herself how much Mssrs. Black and Lupin loved their charge. No, it was the ‘raising’ part she wasn’t too sure about. And it had led her to a decision she only partially regretted now, for the consequences it wrought if not for the intention of it.
She looked into the green eyes she knew so well from having them stare trustingly at her in class all day long. They were hard and slitted right now, with none of the brightness so typical of the easy-going student. One eye, the left, was swollen and slowly blackening from the punch it had taken before she’d been able to break up the fight.
“It was never my intention to separate you from your godfather, Harry—“
“Just Remus then?”
“—or his, uh, partner,” she finished, giving him a little disapproving frown for interrupting. “I know they love you very much, that’s not in question. But I am concerned about you.”
Harry’s tough act dropped instantly. “Why?” he asked plaintively.
Miss Tupping wrapped her arm around the boy’s shoulder. “Every little boy should know a mother’s love.”
“But I have a mother!” Harry cried in frustration.
“Lily Potter is dead, sweetheart.”
“So? That doesn’t make her any less my mum.”
“No, but it means you never knew her,” she added gently.
“Yes, I do,” Harry asserted stubbornly. “Sirius and Remus tell me about my parents all the time. I know all about them. I love them, and I know they loved me.” He crossed his arms in childish obstinacy, lower lip stuck out in a pout.
Miss Tupping sensed she was treading on dangerous ground and wisely changed the subject. Or more accurately, tried to go about it from a different angle.
“You’re eight years old now, Harry,” she said, mending a rip in his shirt. “In a few more years, you’ll be going off to Hogwarts.”
Harry stared at her balefully. “Yeah, so?”
“So you’ll be away at school, learning new things and meeting new people.” Esmerelda smiled hopefully. “I think that’ll be good for you, is all.”
Harry’s brow furrowed as he tried to puzzle out her statement. “So you don’t think I’m good right now?”
“No, no, that’s not it,” she denied quickly, squeezing his hand in reassurance. “You’re wonderful, Harry, really. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just... I’m not so sure your living environment is the best thing for you.”
Harry looked at her doubtfully.
She tried again. “Mr. Black and Mr. Lupin are both wonderful people, Harry. And they’re very good with you, I know.” Or at least Mr. Lupin was. She’d had the unfortunate pleasure of dealing with Mr. Black during the last parent-teacher night, and had quickly discovered who was the responsible father of the notorious pair and who the source of young Harry’s occasionally irrepressible sense of humour.
“Uh huh,” Harry agreed, still watching her dubiously.
“But there are things you need to know, things you should have learned already, which your guardians cannot teach you,” she continued, struggling to find the words to explain her concerns without offending her student.
Luckily, Harry was an exceptionally bright young man, one of her most gifted students in intuitive understanding if not rote book-learning. She saw it in his face when the meaning behind the conversation reached him.
“This is about Sirius, isn’t it?” he asked, exasperated. And so he should be, as he’d spent nearly his entire lunch period with the Headmistress squirming uncomfortably as she lectured him on the ‘natural order of things’ before shooing him out of her office with a pat on the head and an admonishment to “be more like the other boys in his class and less like his godfather”.
That was where Harry’s troubles had started, from what he could tell. Mrs. Hearthwop’s public declaration had been overheard by some of the older boys, and Harry’d been ambushed on his way to the floo after their last class. They’d dragged him outside behind the huge balustrades and begun an interrogation more frightening and intense than anything Mrs. Hearthwop could throw at him. When his answers had failed to impress them, they’d resorted to name-calling and talking with their fists.
Miss Tupping had saved him. She’d heard the fight from her open classroom window and rushed to his aid, wading into the fray to draw him from their clutches. Harry had initially been pleased to see her, his usually mild and friendly teacher looking fierce and angry as she doled out punishments and threatened the bullies with expulsion. Mr. Gloderus, who’d arrived just after Miss Tupping, had helped her usher the trouble-makers into the school and contact their parents. He was waiting in the detention hall with the older boys while Miss Tupping saw to his wounds and sat with him until Sirius arrived.
What Harry hadn’t expected was for Miss Tupping to apologize for her part in this fiasco. That she’d been the one to ask Mrs. Hearthwop to talk to him in the first place had never crossed his mind. He didn’t understand what she and the others were going on about. As far as he was concerned, there were worse things he could be than just like Sirius.
He told her just that.
Miss Tupping pinched her nose in frustration. “Yes, but you don’t have to be just like Sirius. Do you understand, Harry? You can be better than that, better than him.”
“No one’s better than Sirius,” Harry said, then thought a moment and grinned. “Except for Remus when he makes chocolate pudding cakes.”
Despite herself, Esmerelda chuckled. “Be that as it may, the point is…” She yanked off her glasses and gazed at him earnestly. “You never sit with any of the girls in class, never play with them during recess, and barely seem to notice them being there. Your only friends are other boys. And that’s fine!” she clarified as he opened his mouth to argue. “But we’re worried that maybe you’re becoming too much like your godfather and Mr. Lupin, Harry. They’re boys who only like other boys. For most people, boys like girls and girls like boys. Understand?”
“But girls are boring,” Harry said innocently, tilting his head in confusion.
Esmerelda stared at him shrewdly. “Is that the only reason you don’t spend time with them?”
“Yes?” Harry responded, inflection rising into a question like during class when he wasn’t sure what the right answer was.
”This is not a test, Harry. I’m just worried about you. Worried that because you’ve only seen one type of relationship from your, er… fathers… that you might not be learning about the other types that are more normal.”
And suddenly Harry got it, because Moony had taught him ages ago to expect just this kind of confrontation. To be honest, he was a bit ashamed of himself that he hadn’t seen it coming sooner. But then, he was only eight years old and he still had a lot to learn.
“Jordan’s only family is his mother, you know,” he said suddenly. “His father left them when he started showing magic.”
“Yes, some Muggles don’t react to well to learning about magic.” Miss Tupping affirmed, though she was thrown by the sudden shift in the conversation.
“Neville lives with his grandmother, because his parents got zapped by You-Know-Who and can’t take care of him anymore.”
“Yes, Harry, I know. What does this have to do with anything?”
“Raquelle’s parents died in the war, her older brother is raising her and her little sister on his own.
“Wesley still has both his parents, but his dad is gone all the time on Auror business so he hardly ever sees him. And his mum is real busy at the Ministry, so she’s never home neither. He spends most of his time with the house elves.”
Miss Tupping held up her hand to stop the recital. “All right, Harry, I get your point.”
“Do you?” Harry demanded. “Sirius and Remus are great parents. Sirius plays with me and jokes with me and sneaks me snacks and gives me presents all the time. Remus curls up with me in front of the fireplace and helps me with my homework or reads to me. Sirius is always ruffling my hair and Remus always has a smile for me even when he doesn’t feel well. There’s always food to eat – Sirius makes the best waffles! – and whenever I’m sick or have a nightmare, they sit with me and hold me until I fall asleep.”
“And they do it all because they love you very much and couldn’t imagine life without their little Prongslet there to make their days and nights brighter and happier.”
Startled, both Esmerelda and Harry swung their heads around to stare at the door and the men now standing there. It was the tall, handsome, dark-haired man who crossed the threshold first who’d spoken.
“Padfoot!” Harry exclaimed happily, jumping up to run and give his godfather a hug. He was surprised when he was swept up into the man’s strong arms, as he was getting to be too big to be carried, but gleefully wrapped his arms and legs around Sirius without protesting.
“Alright then, Harry?” Remus asked, brushing the hair off his forehead and assessing the black-eye critically.
Harry pushed his head into the petting without loosening his grip on Sirius. “Mmm hmm. I’m hungry, can we go home now?”
“In a minute—“
“Yes, of course, Harry,” Moony cut across Padfoot’s lowly growled words with a significant look and nodded his head slightly. “Sirius, why don’t you take Harry home and I’ll be along in just a minute.” It was not a suggestion.
Grumbling, arms wrapped tight around his godson, Sirius threw one last glare at the teacher before hefting his boy higher and making his way out of the room. They were gone in moments, leaving Remus to confront Miss Tupping alone.
“I trust the boys who attacked him will be properly punished?” he asked mildly.
Miss Tupping raised her chin indignantly. “Of course, Mr. Lupin. We do not sanction violence in this school.”
Remus raised an eyebrow. “But you do sanction prejudice and bigotry?”
Esmerelda gasped. “Absolutely not! I resent the implication—“
“Then what do you call what just went on in here?”
Her mouth snapped shut and she stared at the suddenly stern man helplessly.
Remus Lupin shook his head sadly. “Harry is one of the most loved and most protected children on the planet, Miss Tupping. We fought hard to get him after James and Lily died.” The usually gentle man’s eyes turned cold and hard, a flicker of something frightening flashing in their amber depths. “We won’t give him up willingly.”
Esmerelda stared at him, saying nothing.
“Good day, madam.”
Author's Notes: This wasn't the story I'd intended to write, being much more serious and dark than my usual wont, but it is what wanted itself written. Hope the challengee isn't too disappointed. Thanks to xwingace for the last minute beta.