Adam was feeling very pleased with himself. For the first time since he had run away, just over a year ago, he had managed to find somewhere he was able to stay for a reasonably long period of time. He had been living in the back room of an old abandoned factory for just over a month now, and it was working out reasonably well. Every morning during the week a truck would turn up at a nearby factory delivering lunch to the workers there and, if he was careful, he was able to take some food as the driver was unloading. He often suspected the driver knew he was doing it and ignored it. Adam silently thanked him for this every day.
He spent the day wandering around the area. There was a nearby park which had a small stream that allowed him to keep himself more or less clean. The park was quiet today. Occasionally, he would spot children from the local houses playing football and sometimes they even asked him to join in, which he loved. However, he was always careful to avoid any adults and he never told any of the other kids his real name.
Adam wandered back towards his temporary home carrying the small bag where he kept his food. He didn't dare leave it behind; if he did it would go missing. Adam turned onto a wooded path that split off from the main road. Taking the path would allow him to cut across to the industrial area. Adam always took a longer route back to avoid the traffic of workers heading home for the day because he didn't want to attract any unnecessary attention. As he walked down the path he saw two men coming in the other direction. He couldn't see their faces; they both had baseball caps drawn low over their eyes. He had seen these men in the area before. Adam knew that, like him, they lived in one of the old factory buildings, but unlike Adam, they earned their living by breaking into the buildings and vehicles in the area. He had always stayed well clear of them. Wanting to avoid trouble, Adam turned around and began walking back the way he came; he had managed to avoid these men in the past by simply keeping out of their way.
"Oi, kid!" one of the men called.
Adam kept walking. Hearing running feet behind him, Adam began to run back towards the park. If he could get back where other people were they would probably leave him alone. A stone hit the ground in front of him, but he kept running, his heart now pounding. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his knee; he lost his footing and he went flying to the ground, landing flat on his face. Adam tried to stand up using a nearby tree branch to pull himself to his feet, but the men had caught up to him. One of the men delivered a sharp kick to his already injured knee which forced him back to the floor.
"You shouldn't have run kid, we only wanted to talk to you," one of the men sneered. "We've seen you around. You seem to do quite well for yourself. We thought you must have some spare change..." the man laughed, " ...that you wouldn't need."
"I don't have anything," Adam said in a trembling voice as he struggled to pull himself to his feet. He felt the strange burning sensation deep within him begin to build again for the first time in nearly a year.
Adam's face exploded in pain, and he found himself on the floor again. He moaned in pain; he could feel what he assumed was blood trickling down his face. He looked up to see one of the men cupping his fist where he had just punched him. The other man had drawn a small pocket knife. He approached Adam, drew his leg back and kicked him viciously in the knee. Adam felt a sickening crunch and pain flared, causing Adam to scream out.
"Seems you got food in this bag, eh, kid," said one of the men. "We'll keep this for later. Now where's your money? You keep yourself well fed, we've seen you! Where is it?"
"I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING!" Adam screamed as he covered his face with his arms. The strange burning sensation continued to build, despite Adam's efforts to push it down. He moaned softly, "No, no, no."
Another kick to his side caused Adam to cry out in pain again. Suddenly, a large cracking sound filled the enclosed path as the building force inside him released. The two men flew violently backwards and across the path as a wave of energy, originating from Adam, swept across them. They landed in a heap, one of them crashing against a nearby tree.
"What the hell!?" one of the men shouted, his eyes wide with fear. "Screw this," he muttered, and grabbing his companion by the arm, they ran off down the lane.
Adam was shaking violently. His body sagged to the floor as he felt sharp shooting pains in his leg and he felt blood still trickling down the side of his face. He cursed himself. He had lost control again. True, it had probably saved him a beating, but if it wasn't for these things that always seemed to happen around him he wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. If he was normal, he would have had a family. It was always the same; no one ever wanted a freak like him.
Doing these things is the reason you'll never fit in with this family! Adam heard a voice from his past echo through his thoughts.
Adam shook his head. He hadn't gotten where he was feeling sorry for himself. Slowly and painfully, he got to his feet and began hobbling back home, feeling completely drained. He just wanted to lie down and go to sleep.
Sharp pains shot up and down his leg every time he put weight on it, and he was relieved when he reached the industrial park and found a fence that he could lean on. It was slow going, but he was nearly home now.
When he turned the final corner he saw her, an elderly woman dressed in a long black robe. She had black hair and her eyes were focused on him. Adam swore; he realised he had seen her before, that she was the one who had found him last year. She must be trying to track me down, Adam thought. Today couldn't get any worse! Adam turned around and attempted to make his way back the way he came. Maybe she hadn't recognised him.
"Wait!" she called to him.
Adam knew he had to run for it, but as soon as he placed his weight back on his leg, pain exploded again and his leg collapsed, sending him crashing to floor in a painful heap. Determined not to be caught, Adam slowly and painfully climbed to his feet, and tried to back away. The expression on the woman's face was curious and almost as if she was friendly. Adam dismissed this: no one would help him, it must be a trick. He continued to back away. It was to Adam's great relief and surprise that the woman suddenly turned around and left the lane, leaving him all alone.
Minerva July 27th 1992
Minerva dashed towards the Headmaster's Office, a letter clasped securely in her hand. She knew it. The Ministry obviously hadn't been looking for the child as Albus had assured her they were. She had returned to the address that was on the previous letter on many occasions to search, but the child was long gone. Finding a lone child in Muggle London was simply beyond her means and to be fair to Albus she had trusted the Ministry to do their job as well.
Reaching the Headmaster's office she stormed through the door with barely a courteous knock.
"Albus! There's another letter in this year's batch," she announced relieved to see that the Headmaster was alone.
"Pardon?" Albus enquired curiously.
"Another letter with no name, similar to the one last year," she replied handing him the envelope. "It has another strange address. Albus, this child is sleeping on the street. We must bring him or her to Hogwarts!"
Albus sighed deeply. "It appears the Ministry has not put their resources to finding this child as they assured me they would."
"Albus, I am going to find this child and I will continue looking until I do! I'm not giving up as easily as last year," said Minerva passionately. "I'm going to London. If I can't find him at this address, I would like you to arrange for others to help with the search."
"Very well, Minerva," replied Albus, his expression blank. She couldn't tell if he approved or if he was upset at their failure, but she was at least confident he would not interfere.
Minerva promptly left Hogwarts to travel to the address on the envelope.
Arriving at the location, she noticed the area was considerably more industrial than the area she visited the previous year. She wandered along the street taking in her surroundings. The road she found herself on bordered an industrial area on one side and on the other side an open grassed area, presumably for Muggle sports, separated the road from what appeared to be a cluster of houses.
The letter had instructed her to find unit fourteen, so Minerva wandered the industrial area searching for any distinguishing features. The industrial area consisted of a set of buildings enclosed by fences. A road wound its way through the area and a series of smaller footpaths ran between the units. This allowed her to easily leave the road and move between the buildings.
Minerva was walking down one of these paths when she first saw him. It was early evening and the industrial estate was deserted, with all the workers presumably having gone home for the day. Her eyes were drawn to him immediately; he was short and had long, unkempt, light brown hair. He was desperately thin, and wore ripped, stained clothes that seemed to hang off him. His face was bruised and there was blood staining his face, fresh blood she realised, a recent injury. He was leaning heavily on the fence, trying to keep his weight off his left leg. Minerva's eyes met his, and she saw his eyes were grey, that they seemed bright with intelligence, and now widened in fear. He spun around and started in the opposite direction.
He was obviously in great pain. She shuddered to think what must have happened to the boy, to make enduring the pain of walking on an obviously injured leg preferable to being caught by her, even though she had taken no hostile action against him.
"Wait!" Minerva called as she strode towards him.
On hearing her voice, full-blown panic seemed to overtake the boy and he tried to run. As his left leg hit the ground, it gave way and the boy screamed in pain as he fell to the ground. Clawing at the fence, he regained his footing and once again tried to back away from her.
This gave Minerva pause, and she considered her options. If she continued after him he would bolt and hurt himself even more; she could Stun him, but that would hardly gain his trust and would risk injuring him further. Coming to a decision, she turned on her heel and walked back the way she had come. As she walked, she glanced over her shoulder and saw the boy watching her, relief that she was leaving evident on his face.
Once Minerva was out of sight she transformed into Animagus form and, leaping over the nearby fence, dashed away, hoping that she could get back to the boy before he disappeared again.
She finally caught up to him on the far side of the estate, slipping through an open door of what appeared to be an abandoned building, number fourteen. The room the boy had set up in was small and dirty. It had a single dirty window through which a limited amount of light entered. The boy had obviously been staying here for a while; a makeshift bed had been constructed out of what appeared to be old clothes, a collection of food wrappings, and empty tins built up in one corner.
The boy, upon reaching the makeshift bed, sank slowly and painfully into a sitting position. He sat completely still for several minutes, staring into space, and then, as his body seemed to relax, he started to sob. This poor child had obviously been through something traumatic today, attacked or injured somehow. Minerva decided she was going to help as best she could.
Minerva approached the boy in her tabby cat form and rubbed up against the side of his body. He jumped when he felt her, but relaxed upon seeing the cat. The flow of tears began to slow and he began to stroke her fur.
"H-H-Hello, Kitty," he stuttered at the now purring cat. "W-w-will you keep me company tonight?" He shifted his body to allow the cat to sit, giving a small gasp of pain as he moved his leg. "I'm sorry I don't have any water for you. I'll try and get you some tomorrow if you'll stick around?" He gave a short laugh. "I'm talking to a bloody cat!"
He continued to stroke Minerva's fur for some time, obviously finding the action relaxing. Finally, he painfully straightened his injured leg, lay back on the makeshift bed and slowly drifted off to sleep.
Once Minerva was confident he was soundly asleep, she made her move. Extracting herself carefully from under the sleeping child's arm, she transformed back into a human. After casting a mild Sleeping Charm on the boy, to ensure he would not wake up for several hours, she rummaged through his belongings that were scattered around the small room. She found nothing of value, other than the old clothes that were used to make the bed. He appeared to have nothing other than the clothes on his back.
Minerva gently picked up the boy, holding him securely in her arms and brought out her return Portkey. She always carried one with her in case she needed to return to the school quickly. She activated it and, feeling the familiar tug, Minerva and the boy vanished from small room.
Adam July 29th 1992
The first thing Adam noticed when he awoke was the softness of the bed he was lying in, and the differences in the room. He probably should have panicked, but he was just so damn comfortable in this bed. He sat up slowly and took in his surroundings. He was lying in a soft bed covered in a white sheet. There were curtains to either side blocking his view, but across the room he could see a window through which sunlight poured into the room, making it seem unnaturally bright. His body felt well rested. He put his hands up to his face. It was clean and there was no trace of his previous injury. He lifted his sheets to look at his knee. Someone had dressed him in a clean set of white pyjamas. Pulling up the leg of his clothes, he noticed that his knee was no longer red and swollen, as it had been when he went to sleep.
Adam swung his legs to the floor and stood up. He felt a dull ache in his knee as he put his weight on it, but was happy to find it supported his weight. He walked gingerly across the room and looked around. The room contained many beds like his, each divided by a set of curtains, and there was a large door set in a stone archway at the far end of the room. The door looked strange to Adam, in fact, the entire room did. It was almost as if he was in a historic castle.
Adam made his was slowly towards the door. He didn't know where he was or how he got here, but he needed to find a way out. He turned the handle. It was locked.
"You should be in bed, young man!"
Adam froze; he slowly turned around to find the source of the voice. It belonged to a reasonably tall woman who was wearing what Adam vaguely recognised as a nurse's uniform, although, like everything in this strange place, it seemed somehow old fashioned. Adam knew that he couldn't get out of the room, so he stood completely still, eyeing the nurse apprehensively.
"I didn't spend my time healing that knee of yours for you to be injuring it again by being out of bed," she informed him.
"Y-y-you fixed my knee?" Adam questioned shakily. "Why?"
"I help everyone who comes in here. Now back to bed, please," she replied kindly. "I bet you're hungry. I'll go and get you some lunch, and when I get back, I want to see you in bed."
Adam watched as the nurse disappeared behind the door at the far end of the room. He was trapped, but this woman had healed his knee and his face. Maybe he had found someone who would help him; well, at least until he had another accident. He didn't want to trust these people, whoever they were, but it wasn't as if he had much choice at the moment. Coming to a decision, Adam walked slowly back to the bed and sat down on it; he would stay here for now. If things went bad, he would find a way to escape later.
"Ah, there you are, young man," the nurse said as she returned with a tray.
At the smell of the food Adam's stomach churned and growled; he was starving. He looked down at the tray that had been placed in front of him; he felt his mouth begin to water. Sausages, bacon, beans, a hot meal. He hadn't had a hot meal since... he couldn't actually remember the last time he had a proper cooked meal. Remembering that he had to use a knife and fork, Adam wolfed down the food in front of him.
When he had finished, Adam looked up to see the nurse sitting in a chair next to his bed watching him.
"My name is Madam Pomfrey. Would you tell me what your name is?" the nurse asked.
"My-my name is Adam. Where am I?" Adam replied.
"Do you have a surname, Adam?" she asked, ignoring his question.
"W-Winters," Adam replied.
"Well, Adam Winters, nice to meet you. You are at a place called Hogwarts. You were found injured, so we healed you," she replied.
"When can I go?" Adam asked. He couldn't stay here too long, it would be best for him to leave; if he stayed, someone would get hurt.
"Adam, we had hoped you might like to stay here with us," Madam Pomfrey replied.
Adam shook his head. "No-no-no. I'll have to go, I can't stay here!"
Adam noticed the shocked expression on Madam Pomfrey's face. She didn't understand. If he stayed here, people would get hurt.
"Adam, I will promise that if you don't want to stay, I will let you leave, once you are better. However, you must promise to stay here until you are healthier. I also want you to promise you will listen to someone who will tell you all about Hogwarts," she smiled. "Once you hear about Hogwarts, you may well find you want to stay here."
"Promise?" Adam replied in a quiet voice.
"I'll promise if you will," she replied.
"I promise," replied Adam. If all he had to do was promise to stay here for a bit and listen to someone, then he would do it. Then he could leave.
"Thank you, Adam," she said with a wide smile.
"Madam Pomfrey, I had a cat with me before I came here. Do you know where it went?" Adam asked. He hoped the cat was fine.
She gave a short laugh. "Don't worry, Adam, the cat is safe here. I'm sure she will come and see you in a few days."
Adam July 31st 1992
Adam had just finished eating breakfast when he heard the door open. He didn't pay much attention to it, assuming it to be Madam Pomfrey bustling around the small hospital. When the woman in black robes came around the edge of his curtains, Adam tensed. How has she found me here? he thought, shrinking back to the far end of bed.
"Adam, don't be scared," she called out hurriedly. "I'm one of the teachers here at Hogwarts. I was the one who found you. My name is Professor McGonagall."
It all clicked together in Adams mind: teacher, professor. Hogwarts was a school of some kind.
Madam Pomfrey walked around the curtains carrying a tray with a pitcher and several bottles on it. "Adam, Professor McGonagall is going to tell you a bit about Hogwarts today," she said as she replenished some liquids on his bedside table. "I want you to listen to her and remember your promise and stay in bed!"
Adam relaxed a bit, knowing the nurse obviously got along with the new woman, so he replied, "Okay."
Madam Pomfrey smiled and left his bedside. Adam could hear the sounds of clinking glass coming from a nearby cupboard.
"Adam, have you ever had strange things happen around you?" Professor McGonagall asked with a smile on her face.
Adam panicked. How did she find out? He was sure now they would send him away or to the police. He had to get out here. He pulled back the covers and tried to climb out of bed.
"Adam! Wait! When I was your age, I used to have strange things happening to me too!" Professor McGonagall called hurriedly.
Adam froze. "What?" he asked. "Tell me." She had said she used to have strange things happening to her. That meant she had been able to stop it somehow.
"When I was young, I used to make things float around my house. I even broke things without touching them," she replied.
Adam had done those things, but he had also hurt people. He didn't want to tell her, but if he did maybe she could make it stop, maybe she could make him normal again.
"I-I-I've...I've hurt people," he admitted quietly.
He noticed the smile on her face falter for a second.
"What do you mean, Adam?" she asked gently.
"B-Before you found me, two men attacked me. I was really scared. I wanted them gone. There was a loud crack and they flew back across the path," Adam replied and then hung his head.
"Oh...oh, Adam! That's not your fault. You were only trying to protect yourself. You did nothing wrong," replied Professor McGonagall, relief evident on her face.
"So, is that what happens at Hogwarts, you teach us to be normal again?" Adam asked hopefully.
"No, at Hogwarts we will teach you to control your abilities, so things only happen when you want them to." She pulled out a small wooden stick and waved it at his breakfast tray; the tray rose up floated to the other side of the room where it settled on the floor with a soft clatter. "We can teach you to do that."
Adam's jaw dropped, he gasped, "I could do that?"
"And lots more!" replied the professor excitedly.
Adam felt as if his world had been turned on its head. Suddenly, he began to think that his powers, powers he had always treated as a curse and thought would exclude him from others, could be useful and maybe even fun, but even so, he would always be different.
"I'll still be different, though?" Adam asked.
"Adam, you have a great gift. Yes, you will be different from others, but there are many like you. This year there are thirty children your age starting at Hogwarts and we would very much like for you to be one of them," she replied.
She had said there were others with these powers, so he wasn't different from everyone!
"Why do I have these powers?"
"Sometimes it is because your parents had them, sometimes it can be seemingly random. Take, for example, our best student last year. Neither of her parents were magical," she answered.
"I never knew my parents," Adam replied sadly.
She seemed to want him to continue, but Adam stayed silent, he didn't want to talk about before. While she waited, she pulled a piece of brown-coloured paper out of her robe and handed it to him.
"This is your school letter. It was how we knew to find you," she stated. "Go on, read it."
Adam gulped. "I can't read it, Professor."
"You can't read?" she replied in a shocked tone.
"No-no, I can read... before... I used to have glasses. I needed them to read things close up. They got broken ages ago," he replied, feeling his cheeks going red.
"Well, we will soon sort that out. This is your letter of acceptance for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," she replied proudly.
Adam felt his jaw drop. Witches? Wizards?
"You're a wizard, Adam."
Authors Note: Thanks to my beta, Arnel, for all her work.