As they entered through the gate, Ginny spotted her mother waiting at the door to The Burrow. She was obviously waiting anxiously for their return.
"Oh, thank Merlin you're alright!" she exclaimed when she saw them trudging up the path.
"Where's your father? And where's Adam?" Mum questioned rapidly as the group approached the house. "Ginny? You look pale. Are you alright?"
"Mum, I think we should talk about it inside," Bill said gently.
Once they were all sitting in the living room Bill began to tell the story of the attack by the Death Eaters.
"We thought it was all over and then someone conjured the Dark Mark in the forest," Bill concluded. "The next thing we know Ginny, Dad and Adam come out of the forest with a load of Ministry wizards and Aurors."
"Bill, was the Dark Mark that big skull in the sky?" Ginny asked hesitantly. "What is it?"
"Yes. It's the symbol for You-Know-Who," Bill replied.
Ginny sobbed. How could they think that Adam would conjure the symbol for You-Know-Who?
"Ginny, do you know something?" Mum asked gently.
"Y-Y-Yes, Adam and I got separated from the others, we were near where the skull appeared in the sky and we ran away from it. The Ministry wizards nearly Stunned us. Adam dropped his wand and they found it in the forest and said it was the wand that made the Mark."
Ginny looked up with tears in her eyes, and saw the shocked faces of everyone in the room. "But he didn't do it! I was with him the entire time! They took him away and Dad went with him," Ginny sobbed, wanting desperately to defend her friend.
Ginny suddenly felt her mum envelop her in a hug.
"Oh, Ginny! I'm sure they will let him go! As you say, there's no way he could have done it!" said Mum, her voice turning to anger. "I can't believe the Ministry! Accusing a young boy of such a serious crime!"
"Dad will get him out, Ginny," Ron added confidently.
Ginny looked up and saw Hermione also smiling encouragingly.
"Right, you all look tired, I guess you didn't get much sleep before the attack. So off to bed all of you!" Mum ordered, seeing the tired looks on their faces.
Adam August 23th 1994
Adam was miserable. He was sitting on a small bench in a tiny room with no windows. The only way in and out was a door that was currently locked. The only other feature in the room was the small toilet in one corner. Adam estimated he had been in here several hours now.
He felt angry and betrayed by the Ministry. How could they think that he had conjured the Dark Mark? Mr Weasley had explained exactly what he had been accused of as he had been pushed through the throng of reporters and flashing cameras at the entrance to the Ministry.
Once past the press, Adam had been taken to the department for Magical Law Enforcement, searched and then put in this room. He knew Mr Weasley was outside somewhere trying to get him out, but that was of little comfort. All Adam wanted to do was go home to The Burrow and sleep. He was exhausted and hungry. The bench in the room was hard and uncomfortable. The Ministry hadn't even given him anything to eat or drink since he arrived.
Adam heard the click of the lock opening and his head snapped around to look at the doorway. The door opened and Professor Dumbledore strode in, his robes billowing behind him. Adam leapt to his feet.
"Professor, I didn't do it!" he exclaimed.
"I know, Adam, I know," said Professor Dumbledore sympathetically. "I have spoken to the Head of the Department and she has agreed to release you. She now believes there is no way you would conjure the Mark."
"Thanks, Professor," Adam replied tiredly and allowed himself to be led out of the cell by Professor Dumbledore. Once outside he felt a hand on his shoulder.
Looking up he saw Mr Weasley. "Let's get you back to The Burrow, son," he said as he began to guide Adam out of the Ministry.
As Adam stumbled out of the fireplace of The Burrow a short time later, he was immediately wrapped in a hug by Mrs Weasley. "Oh, welcome back! I can't believe the Ministry!" she exclaimed.
Adam smiled tiredly. "Thanks, Mrs. Weasley. Um, could I have something to eat and drink? They didn't give me anything."
"What?" Mr Weasley exclaimed in an alarmed voice. "You were there over four hours and they never even gave you a drink of water?"
Adam shook his head.
"Disgraceful! I hope you will report this, Arthur?" Mrs Weasley exclaimed.
"I most definitely will,” Mr Weasley replied angrily.
Mrs Weasley pulled out a chair for Adam in the kitchen and bustled around, placing a sandwich and a glass of pumpkin juice in front of him. Adam ate them greedily.
"All the others are in bed and you look exhausted, so go upstairs and try and get some sleep," Mrs Weasley ordered kindly as Adam finished the last of the sandwich.
Adam trudged upstairs. Tiredly passing Bill on the stairs, he slipped into his room, undressed and sank exhausted into bed.
Adam was just feeling his eyes flutter closed when he was jerked back to wakefulness by the sound of his door sliding open. Suddenly he felt the bed shake as something jumped onto it.
"You're back!" Ginny's voice came from the darkness.
As his eyes began to adjust to the darkness, he saw Ginny kneeling at the end of his bed, she was wearing her usual blue nightgown. Without warning, she leapt forward and hugged him.
"I couldn't believe it when they took you!" said Ginny in a shaky voice. It surprised Adam how much this had affected her.
"Professor Dumbledore sorted it out and they let me go," Adam replied.
Ginny seemed to have collected herself by now. "Good! I hope he kicks their bums for arresting you!" she said, smiling. "Well, I better get back to bed. Mum would freak if she caught me in a boy's room at night," she said with a wink and then leapt agilely off the bed and slipped out of the door.
Ginny August 23th 1994
When Ginny slipped out of Adam's room. she decided to head downstairs to get a drink. As she approached the kitchen, she heard raised voices from inside.
"Who exactly is he?" she heard Bill ask.
Ginny froze, pressing her back to the wall outside the kitchen. She listened. The fact that Bill had waited until he thought they were all in bed told her this was a conversation he didn't want her to hear; this made her all the more keen to eavesdrop.
"He's Ginny friend," she heard her mum respond. "What's brought on all these questions?"
Ginny felt herself flush with anger; they were talking about Adam! She fought the urge to storm into the kitchen.
"The Aurors made some pretty serious allegations against him," Bill said softly.
"Son, those allegations were completely untrue," replied her dad.
"It was cast using his wand!"
"And it could have been cast with your wand; it wouldn't mean you did it!" replied her father sharply. "Do you honestly believe a thirteen-year-old boy could call the Dark Mark?"
Ginny felt a surge of gratitude for her dad. He was sticking up for Adam.
"What about the trouble he's got Ginny in both years she's been in school?" Bill interjected.
"Bill! Adam saved her life in her first year! And last year, well, I suspect that was as much Ginny's doing as Adam's. You know she's always had a knack for getting into trouble," said Mum. Ginny could hear a touch of anger in her voice now.
"But, Mum, don't you feel it's odd that Ginny is so close to a boy? Shouldn't she be friends with girls her own age?" questioned Bill.
How dare they say who I can and can't be friends with! Ginny fumed.
Ginny heard her mother sigh. "That's what comes from growing up in a house full of brothers; Adam is a good boy and neither I nor your father has a problem with him being here."
"But why is he always here?" Bill demanded. "Charlie and I are sharing with Ron and Percy, and he has my room."
"William! You are here for two nights; Adam is staying with us all summer. It's unfair to turf him out just because you're here for a short time. If you were moving back here, then yes, we would have to look at moving him in with Ron..." replied her father. He was sounding exasperated now.
"That's my point. Why is he here all summer, taking advantage of your hospitality?" Bill replied hotly.
"The doors of this house are open to any friends of our children!" Mum said in a harsh tone.
"Bill," her father's voice was soft now, "Adam is here simply because he has nowhere else to go. The boy has no family, no one to look out for him. The Ministry seems incapable of providing for him correctly and it was us he came to for help. We're just the family of his friend, but we were the only people that he felt he could turn to."
There was silence in the kitchen. Ginny hoped that her brother was looking suitably ashamed now.
"Your mother and I are quite happy with the way things are. Adam and Ginny are good friends," Dad replied.
"But..." Bill attempted to interrupt weakly, "what if...what if they..."
"Bill, I know what you're trying say, but Ginny is too young to be dating. If her relationship with Adam changes, then we will deal with it," Dad continued.
"But..." Bill sputtered again.
"This discussion is over," her father stated.
Ginny blushed deeply at her dad's words. She had never thought about Adam in that way before. Suddenly realising that her brother and parents may well be coming out of the kitchen, Ginny darted behind the sofa. She was extremely tempted to stand there and give her brother a piece of her mind, but that would mean admitting she had been eavesdropping. She was furious that they didn't trust her choice of friends.
Eventually Bill left the kitchen and stomped up the stairs. Ginny waited to ensure that her parents weren't following him; then she slipped back up the stairs and into her room. She decided that she wouldn't tell Adam what she had heard tonight. He'd had enough on his plate the last few days and was still sensitive about people not trusting him from their first year.
Adam August 24th 1994
As usual, on the first full day after the incident at the Quidditch World Cup, Adam was the first awake. He stumbled down the stairs half-awake, his hair in its usual messy state. Looking at himself in the mirror, Adam decided he needed to try to get it cut.
When he arrived in the kitchen, only Mrs Weasley was there stirring something in a big bowl.
"Morning, dear," she said brightly. "Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes."
"Morning, Mrs. Weasley," Adam replied.
He sat down in his usual seat to wait for breakfast. On the table was a copy of the Daily Prophet with a massive picture of the Dark Mark on the front cover. Adam pulled the paper over to his place.
Scenes of Terror at Quidditch World Cup By Rita Skeeter The Quidditch World Cup was the scene of a terrorist attack by Dark wizards targeting the local Muggle population and visiting wizards. The Dark Mark was sighted above the area during the attacks. The security put in place by the Ministry of Magic was unable to disrupt these attacks for quite some time. One Ministry source stated: "This attack was obviously caused by hooligans seeking to incite panic and cause chaos. They placed a symbol in the sky that bore a striking similarity to that used by You-Know-Who. They obviously intended to create further panic among the visiting wizarding population." The Ministry only made a single arrest: a Hogwarts student named Adam Winters. He was held under suspicion of placing the Dark Mark look-alike but was released several hours later. So the question remains, was Adam Winters a victim of the Ministry's incompetence or was he involved in this sinister plot? (Continued on Page 2)
Adam turned to the second page of the paper and discovered that two photographs dominated the page. The first was a photograph of the occupants top box; Adam could clearly spot himself, Ginny, Hermione and Ron, with Scabbers, standing near the front of the stand. The second photo was of himself being led away after he was arrested.
Adam closed the paper with disgust He hated that he had been singled out in the paper; he didn't want to be different.
"What's the matter, dear?" Mrs Weasley asked, obviously picking up on his annoyance.
"There's photos of me in paper," Adam replied quietly.
Mrs Weasley grabbed the paper and quickly read the story. She promptly threw it back down on the table.
"Don't worry about it, Adam. That Rita Skeeter is always exaggerating all her stories. No one believes anything she says. It will all be forgotten in a few weeks," Mrs Weasley reassured him as she busied herself again at the stove.
Adam was just starting his breakfast when Ginny entered the room. As usual, she seemed only half-awake.
"Morning," Ginny mumbled.
"I'm in the paper," Adam stated sullenly.
Ginny looked up, surprised. "Huh?"
Adam grabbed the paper off the table and passed it to Ginny. "Have a read," he said.
Ginny began reading the paper. "So, Adam, were you involved in this sinister plot?" she said, laughing.
Adam snorted in response and continued to eat his breakfast, his spirits lightened slightly. A short time later Bill and Charlie entered the kitchen and sat down at the table.
"Morning," they both said, greeting the family as they sat down for breakfast.
Adam finished up his breakfast and watched the Weasleys interact; he wondered if Mrs Weasley somehow magically enlarged the kitchen; no matter how many people were in the room, it always seemed cosy and never cramped. He glanced over the table to see if Ginny had finished her breakfast. Adam fancied a bit of Quidditch or a game of Snap, anything to take his mind off the previous day or his pictures in the paper. Ginny, however, was only half-way through her breakfast. She was slowly eating the last of her sausages, shooting Bill a death glare. Adam wondered what had upset her. Obviously, Bill had done something to annoy her; Adam decided to ask her about it later.
August 30th 1994
After the drama of the Quidditch World Cup, Adam's summer had settled into a regular pattern and he had enjoyed his time of relaxation. Tomorrow was the day he and the Weasley family were going to collect their Hogwarts supplies and the day after it was time to go back to school. All his homework was completed, so Adam was determined to enjoy this last day with nothing to do.
The day was hot so he and Ginny were sitting outside enjoying the sun and playing a game of Exploding Snap.
"Adam! Ginny! Come inside, please," Mrs Weasleys voice called from the back door of The Burrow.
They made their way back inside. When they reached the living room, Adam was surprised to see that the twins and Ron were already sitting there. Adam took a seat on one of the free chairs.
"I've just had a message from your father at the Ministry and he wanted me to warn all of you," said Mrs Weasley. Adam noticed that she had a sheet of parchment in her hand.
Mrs Weasley held up a photograph, it was of a very scruffy-looking man with very long hair, he had a crazy-looking grin on his face and he almost looked as if he was laughing.
"This is Sirius Black. He escaped from Azkaban this morning," said Mrs Weasley.
The four Weasleys gasped; Adam was confused: who was this man?
"Now, I don't think I need to say that this man is very dangerous and if any of you kids see him, you need to keep away from him and get help immediately," continued Mrs Weasley.
Adam nodded along with the others. "Mrs. Weasley, what exactly did he do?" asked Adam, voicing his confusion.
"Oh, well, of course you wouldn't know, dear, would you?" replied Mrs Weasley. She sat down on one of the chairs and continued. "Do you know how the war against You-Know-Who ended?"
"Yeah, didn't he die when he attacked the Potters?" Adam replied, slightly uncertainly.
"Exactly. Well, the Potters were hiding from You-Know-Who. Sirius Black was the one who told You-Know-Who where they were." Mrs Weasley looked suddenly sad. "Such a shame, he was supposed to be their friend..." Mrs Weasley sighed. "Anyway, he told him where the Potters were hiding; afterwards, he was tracked down by one of the Potters' friends. Black killed him, along with twelve Muggles. Eventually the Aurors caught him, and he was sent to Azkaban."
Adam absorbed this information carefully. He was always interested in the history of the wizarding world. He still couldn't believe that the wizarding world was able to hide itself so completely from the Muggle world.
"So you see why he is so dangerous; he killed thirteen people — with one spell, they say," Mrs Weasley said. "I don't think he will come anywhere near Hogwarts, but we will need to be on our guard in Diagon Alley tomorrow."
"He wouldn't attack Diagon Alley, would he?" Ron asked, looking slightly concerned.
"Your father says the Ministry is putting extra security there, but you can never be too careful," replied Mrs Weasley. "But don't worry about it. I just wanted to warn you kids in case you do see anything. Now go back to whatever you were doing and don't let it worry you," she continued with a smile.
Well, at least this will get my picture out of the Daily Prophet, though Adam.
Mrs Weasley stood up and left the room; once she had gone, Fred and George chanted in unison, "Quidditch!"
Adam grinned as the four Weasleys jumped up. He eagerly followed them out to the orchard. This would probably their last chance to play before they went back to school.
Remus September 1st 1994
Remus heard two voices that attempted to penetrate the fog in his mind like gnats. Couldn't they see he needed his sleep? Remus was exhausted. Albus had contacted him late last night asking him to travel to school on the train. That meant he had to be up at a ridiculous hour in order to be at the station on time and it had forced him to stay up late packing. Remus would have much preferred to spend today packing and then Apparate to the school in time for the evening feast, but Albus was his boss now, so he had to do as he wished.
Remus was not fully awake yet and only bits and pieces of the conversation in the compartment penetrated his sleepy brain.
"...who is this?" one voice said.
"...new professor..." said another voice, this one was higher pitched, probably female.
"...should we leave?" enquired the first voice.
"Adam! This is the only compartment!" said the female.
Hearing that name caused Remus to jolt fully into wakefulness. He carefully kept his eyes closed, not wanting to let the occupants of the compartment know he was awake. Remus hoped there was more than one student named Adam in the school and coincidence hadn't landed him in a compartment with Harry, the one person in the school that he hadn't been able to mentally prepare himself to meet.
"What do you reckon he will be teaching?" the slightly deeper voice asked; he guessed this was Harry.
"I don't know. I didn't realise any of the Professors had left." He heard a giggle. "Let's hope Snape has left!"
Remus eavesdropped on the two children's chatter. He was relieved to hear that Harry appeared to be interacting with his fellow students relatively normally. Remus, having spent the previous year investigating the history of the boy, had feared that he may have problems; I guess this proves just how resilient children are.
A short time later, the train drew to a jarring halt.
"We're not there yet!" the girl exclaimed. "Why have we stopped?"
Remus realised that if the train had stopped and they were not yet at Hogwarts, then something must be wrong. He opened his eyes and scanned the compartment. He spotted the girl first; she was short and had red hair. Remus then turned to look at Harry. He struggled to keep his surprise from showing on his face; the boy was obviously older than the photograph Remus had seen. He had very light brown hair and grey eyes, but if Remus looked carefully, he could make out similarities in his facial structure between him and James. Unfortunately, the different hair and eyes completely overpowered any other similarities if you didn't know what you were looking for.
"Sir?" Harry asked. "Do you know why we have stopped?"
Remus was temporarily speechless. James and Lily's son was sitting in front of him! Talking to him! Remus attempted to get his self-control back; the boy didn't know about his past; he had promised Albus.
"Professor?" Harry asked again.
"Um, I don't know. I'll go and check," Remus replied, doing his best not to stammer.
Remus stood up and strode to the door of their compartment. Harry and the red-haired girl followed him.
"Stay here," Remus ordered.
Remus stepped out into the corridor and looked either way; the corridor was deserted. Suddenly all the lights on the train went out. Remus dashed back through the compartment and glanced out of the window. He couldn't see anything. It was pitch black, unnaturally dark for that time of day.
"What's happening?" asked the girl.
"Quiet," he ordered.
Remus felt what was causing the darkness before he could see it. He gradually felt a sense of despair building inside him. Remus focused his mind and watched as a cloaked figure became visible in the doorway. A Dementor. Remus felt his body begin to shake as the creature extended a skeletal, decayed hand and began to pull itself into the compartment.
Coming to his senses, Remus realised he needed to clear the Dementor out of the compartment; it could hurt the children. Remus raised his wand and cast his Patronus towards the creature; the bright white ball flew towards the creature, forcing it out of the compartment and back down the compartment. As it fled, Remus felt the sense of despair fading and his racing pulse began to calm.
Shortly after, the lights in the train came back on. Remus glanced around the compartment and saw that Harry and the girl were slumped unconscious on the compartment seats. The Dementor must have had a bad effect on them, he realised. Remus approached Harry and shook him on the shoulder; he didn't respond. Remus gave him a soft slap on the face. Harry opened his eyes, which darted around the compartment as if in panic.
"Ginny!" he exclaimed and he rapidly slid across the seat to reach the girl and shook her.
Eventually, the girl came around, looking just as dazed as Harry had.
"Eat this," Remus instructed as he passed out chocolate to both of the children, who took it eagerly.
"What happened?" Harry asked. "Did you scream, Ginny?"
"I don't know," Ginny replied uncertainly. "I don't think I screamed."
Remus felt the train shudder slightly as it got underway. "When did you hear someone scream?" Remus asked.
"When the thing came into the door, I thought I heard someone scream and saw a bright flash of green light," Harry responded. "Do you have any idea what that was?"
"The thing was a Dementor, but I didn't hear anyone scream," Remus replied.
"You think I'm hearing things?" Harry asked defensively.
"I don't know," Remus lied. He had a very good idea what Harry had just seen. He just didn't want to tell the boy that; no child should have memories like that. Plus, Albus wanted him kept unaware of his past.
"I need to go and talk to the driver," Remus stated suddenly.
Remus stood and rapidly left the compartment. He needed to make sure the driver didn't allow the train to stop for any reason. The Dementors should never have been allowed on the train. He would have to have a word with Albus about this.