Adolph Ehrlichmann sat studying his friend as he bustled around his spacious kitchen. The faded yellow star marred his rough brown coat. Chayim Eberstark looked better than most of the Jews Adolph knew, and only because Chayim was smart enough to let him help in any way he could. If only Adolph could convince Chayim of one last thing.
"My friend, you have heard about the camps, have you not? Once you enter, you do not come back. They have already begun to round up Jews in Berlin itself to make them live in one area. I am afraid the conditions will not be humane. You must flee this place, you need to hide, it is only a matter of time before they come for you. Soon it will not matter that they think I own your farm and that you are my worker. They will either see through the façade or not care."
Chayim seemed to hold his breath during Ehrlichmann's speech, as he finished Chayim shook his head before he could speak. "What can I do? Zalman cannot run he is only 4 years old. I cannot leave him behind. And what of Avigail? She is not yet a year old, she cries when she cries and there is no hiding that. What would you have Ahava and I do, if we try to run, they will find us, and they will kill us. I must keep my family safe."
Adolph's face seemed to pale. "There is one way to keep your children safe. I heard a man speak yesterday about a program out of England, to help Jewish children. I can sign them up and Ahava and you are free to escape. You can join your children again in England."
"How will they help? I have heard of no such thing?" Chayim asked, clearly not wanting to get his hopes up.
"It is a Kindertransport, they select Jewish Children to travel to England, and they then live with families there. Zalman and Avigail are young; a family will select them. When this war is over, and you know yourself that a war is brewing, they will be reunited with you. If you decide to run, you can meet them in England. You will know where they are."
Chayim seemed to be fighting with himself, his face contorted between horror and hope. "How can I send my children away? How can I, Adolph? I love my children, I cannot abandon them."
Adolph's temper began to flare, "Abandon, you would not be abandoning your children, you would be saving them. Do you think if the Nazis got a hold of them they would survive? Remember to them you are nothing more than an animal. This is their, and your, best hope of survival. The Mandelbaum's are planning to send their Aviva. I have their application right here," he said brandishing a stack of papers. "Do you think they do not love their child? You know me Chayim, I have only tried to help you through this absurdity, if I was caught helping you I would be killed. Please do not pass up this opportunity. I do not know how long it will be before the transports stop. Talk to Ahava at least. But remember, this may be your children's only hope of survival."
Chayim's face fell. "Do you really think they would kill them?"
Adolph could only frown at Chayim as he said, "They are setting up work camps, and do you think that Zalman and Avigail will be fit to work?"
Once Ahava finished putting the children to bed for the night she joined her husband at the same kitchen table.
"You made tea? What is the occasion Chayim? You never make the tea." She said lovingly to him.
Chayim's smile did not meet his eyes. "We need to talk. Adolph brought something to my attention and I think he may be right."
Ahava looked over her husband's anxious face and fear began to build up inside of her. "Well, tell me then."
Chayim explained all about the Kindertransport and Adolph's fears for the children. He explained the plan to try to send the children to England and then try to escape themselves. All through this Ahava listened not liking what he was saying. She was angry even at the suggestion of her sending her babies away to strangers who didn't even speak Yiddish or even German. How could a stranger protect her children better than Chayim or herself? She waited to speak her concerns until he was finished.
"So, you are suggesting that I send my children away, that I trust strangers to care for them and love them?" she snarled.
Chayim knew that it was not going to be easy to convince his wife to this plan, but he knew he had to try. "I am trying to save our children; do you remember what happened to the Rabbi and his family? They did not hesitate to kill them. Little Levi was only three months old; they bashed his head in on the street. I do not want that for our children. I want to give them a chance to survive. I will endure the heartache of sending them to another country into the arms of another family as long I do not have to endure their deaths. We will see them again; I will do anything to ensure that."
Tears coursed down Ahava's cheeks, mirroring those on her husband's. "But is this really the only way?"
Chayim nodded weakly, "if I could think of any other way to guarantee their survival I would not do this."
Before they headed to their bed for the night, they filled out the paperwork Adolph Ehrlichmann left earlier that afternoon. They completed it by attaching a picture of each of their children to the top of each of their stacks of paper.
Chayim knocked quietly on the cottage door at the front of his property. Adolph cracked the door open, before flinging it aside at seeing his old friend. Adolph's wide smile was not mimicked on Chayim's face, instead his face was sad.
"We have completed the paperwork. Once you turn it in for us, it is out of our hands. I can only pray they will be kept safe," he said turning around without another word and headed back to his own cottage.
Adolph quickly grabbed his coat and hitched his horse to the cart. He was taking a load of vegetables into the city to sell to cover his dropping the paperwork for the three children off. An hour after leaving his house, he arrived in Berlin. The changes that had been wrought on the city in the last few years were disgusting. Every shop had signs forbidding Jew entrance, the store that once were run by Jews were either under different owners or the windows still broken and boarded up. Adolph hated to see the city painted by hate; he used to love walking around the bustling city, now it just made his heart ache. He stopped at the local market to sell the vegetables, making a nice profit, since the owners did not know Jews cultivated them. He then made his way to the office of the representative for the Kindertransport. He was sad to see the stacks of papers already littering his desk. Adolph only hoped that Avigail and Zalman's ages would endear them to some family. He hoped that he wouldn't have given the Eberstarks hope in something that would not come to be.
For three months, the adults had to wait to hear anything about the Kindertransport. Three long months when the world seemed to be falling down around their ears. On August 18, 1939, they received a knock at the door. Adolph was sitting at the kitchen table of his cottage when the knock came. Fear pierced his heart when he did not recognize the individual at his door but gathered all of his courage to open the door.
"Yes, may I help you?" he said placing a kind smile on his face.
"I am looking for the parents of Avigail and Zalman Eberstark. My name is Heinrich Kauffman; I am here about their resent request."
Ehrlichmann could not help but clap the man on his back as he led him to the Eberstark's cottage. "Right this way sir, I have taken over the main house, they are in the foreman's cottage." Adolph hoped that Kauffman understood his meaning; he did not want him to think he was taking advantage of this war instead of helping his friends. Not long after Ehrlichmann knocked on the door, Chayim opened it with a mix of fear and hope on his face.
"I am here to tell your children have a place on the next transport. They will need to be ready to leave on September 1; they may each have one bag, but know Zalman must carry Avigail and the bags. Also they bags may be searched; the German government wants to make sure that no valuables are being smuggled out of the country. If they find anything of value, they may not let your children board the train. I will leave their tickets here, you must not lose them, if you do we cannot let them board. I am sorry this is a short visit, but I must go and see the Mandelbaum family now."
With that, the man walked away, leaving the three adults both heartbroken and hopeful.
September 1st arrived before anyone was ready. Chayim and Ahava tried to explain to Zalman what was going to happen, but he did not seem to understand. They settled on telling him he was taking a trip and they would join him soon. Being four he was excited to take a train and a boat, not yet realizing he may never see his parents again. Bags had been carefully packed including only clothes and pictures. Avigail's bag also included bottles for her. The Eberstarks were careful to make sure that these would be allowed before including them. Not wanting to endanger their friend anymore, they bid Adolph farewell at their house before riding into Berlin in their horse and buggy, knowing they may well have to walk home.
Arriving at the station, they were met by the site of a hundred children, all bearing the yellow Star of David on their jackets milling around the platform. The family joined the queue in front of a table behind which sat four adults. Once they made their way to the table, a kind looking woman asked for the children's names.
"Here we are, Zalman and Avigail Eberstark, numbers 95 and 96. Pin this number securely on their coats. This will help keep track of them on their journey. They will be staying with a Charlus and Dorea Potter, in Salisbury. Here is a copy of their address. You have 10 minutes before the children must board the train."
The family walked further onto the platform before stopping. Chayim and Ahava leaned down to their children.
"Now be good, listen to the Potters. I am sure they will take good care of you. We will be with you again soon." Chayim cooed to his son taking him into a long, loving embrace. He took Avigail from his wife to hug and kiss her for what might possible be the last time, while she spoke to Zalman.
"Here are your bags, remember to feed Avigail when she gets hungry. You are my little man; I know you will do me proud while you are visiting. I will see you soon. I love you!" She brought him into a tight hug, breathing in his scent one last time before he would leave her for the first time in his life. All too soon, their time was up and they had to help Zalman onto the train. Once he was on, they handed over his baby sister into his care, hoping someone would help him during the three-day journey to London.
The Eberstarks did not realize yet how lucky their children were to leave on that train. Two days later Great Britain entered the war and no other trains carried children to safety.
Charlus Potter waited at the train station, upon hearing the plight of the Jews in Germany he wanted to do his part. He was never one to hold stock in prejudices, believing that everyone has the potential for being great, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, Pureblood or Muggleborn. Dorea was more than happy to agree with his proposition of taking on two children during the war. She fell in love with the pictures of Zalman and Avigail. The Potters had only been married for year, they knew they wanted children of their own, but relished in the idea of sharing their home for a while with two unfortunate children, even if they happened to be muggles. Charlus checked his watch and noticed the train should be arriving any minute. The sound of it approaching made him raise his head. As the train pulled to a stop and children began pouring out of the cars, he began scanning the crowd. He soon spotted a small boy with black hair and brown eyes holding a baby. Charlus approached him, and upon seeing the number 96 pinned to his coat, called his name.
The boy looked terrified but gladly handed over his sister when Charlus offered to take her. Their conversation was difficult since he did not speak German and the boy spoke no English. Through gestures, he indicated the boy should follow him. Charlus grabbed the two bags quickly shrunk them while no one was looking and then grabbed the young boys hand. Zalman help tightly to this small touch and looked up at Charlus with a small smile. Afraid to scare the boy so soon after meeting him, they traveled back to Salisbury by muggle train.
A while later they were standing outside a beautiful manor house. Zalman's jaw nearly dropped seeing the large house. Dorea came running into the hall as soon as the three entered the house. She knelt down next to Zalman and gave him an affectionate hug and a kiss on the cheek. She led him upstairs to the room reserved from him, talking all the while. Zalman for his part quietly took in the dark haired beauty. Her hair was black like his, but she had piercing blue eyes that stood out beautifully against her porcelain skin. She was younger than his mother (being only 19) was but still had a maternal air about her. Zalman for the first time since leaving his home felt truly safe.
Charlus Potter stood outside of the room they had prepared for the boy watching as his stunning wife showed him around. He cradled the sleeping girl in his arms. When Dorea left the boy to explore his new room, she gently took the slumbering child into her arms. Across the hall a nursery had been set up painted a soft pink. Before Dorea laid the child in her crib, she kissed her gently on the fore head. The couple stood watching the sleeping girl and Dorea said, "They are just lovely aren't they. Thank you for wanting to do this Charlus. This house feels so complete now that there are children about."
The weeks passed, and Zalman slowly began to learn English, soon rudimentary communication could be had between the Potters and the young boy. He could communicate his basic needs but still they could not get him to open up to them. Avigail adjusted much more quickly, her eyes would light up at the sight of the young couple. The Potters for their part were careful about using magic in front of Zalman, afraid of scaring the already shy boy. This was one aspect of his life that was the same, as at his parent's home; to him magic still only existed in fairy tales. Charlus had even sent away his trusty house elf, Namby, to his brother's house so as not scare the children. Namby was resistant to go, but once Charlus explained she was not being sent away for disobedience, she relented.
Things were going well until late one October night a terrible storm began to brew. This was the first storm to hit since Zalman and Avigail had moved in. Thunder shook the house and lightening illuminated the dark ominous clouds. Dorea was just getting Zalman out of the bath when the storm hit. The terror was evident in the small boys face and he took off down the hall to his room in nothing but what they lord blessed him with at his birth. Dorea ran after him, wanting to comfort the poor child, but as soon as he entered his room, the door slammed with an almost deafening bang. Dorea reached for the knob and a shock ran up her arm. She tried again and while receiving no shock, the knob would not turn an inch. She tried to unlock the door by magic, but still it remained firmly shut. Fear began to grip the young woman as well; she called frantically to her husband. As Charlus rushed up the stairs, he could feel the hairs stand up on his arms. Magic was pulsating through the hallway, coming seemingly from the boy's room.
"Dorea, did you put a charm on his room?" he asked.
Once Dorea explained what had happened a sad smile crept across his lips. "I think the boy may be a wizard. It is lucky we are the ones who took him in; others may not have understood what was happening. I wonder if he showed any magic abilities before coming here." In actuality, Zalman had not. After all four is still relatively young for a Muggle born wizard to show any of his powers. "Maybe this is why I felt so drawn to him. I saw his picture and I knew he had to come live here."
Charlus knocked softly on the boy's door. "Zalman, I know the storm is scary, but if you come out here, we can have hot chocolate." He soothed to the boy.
A moment later, they heard the padding of naked feet across the hard wood floors of the room on the other side of the door. All Zalman had understood was hot chocolate, but it was enough for him to steel his courage and face the storm. Charlus helped him dress while Dorea went to the kitchen to make hot chocolate. While pulling on the boys warm blue pajamas he decided he would need to speak with an old friend about how to deal with this new revelation about his ward.
The following Saturday found Charlus walking up a wide path towards Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He had owled his former professor and friend seeking advice and received an invitation to tea. As he entered the castle, he saw several older students he knew, but only politely waved before continuing on his way to the man's office. As he raised his hand to knock, he heard a familiar voice tell him to enter.
"Ah, Mr. Potter, welcome. I hope all is well in your household." A man with long Auburn hair and matching beard said as Charlus entered.
"Professor Dumbledore, it is as well as I could hope with the war. I know when I wrote to you I was a little vague on the details of my wanting to meet. I thought it best to leave some things out of a letter, you never know when an owl may go astray." He answered giving Dumbledore a sad smile.
"Very true, I assure you this room is safe from eavesdroppers, you may say whatever you like without fear of being overheard."
Charlus explained about bringing Zalman and Avigail to safety from Germany. He went on to describe the incident of Zalman's accidental magic. "I just don't know how to precede Albus, he is not our child, but who knows what will happen to his parents. He also does not understand what we say most of the time. How can I explain this to him? He is already scared and shy; I do not want to frighten him anymore than he already is. We have not been using magic around him, so as not to alarm him, but what should we do?"
"I speak German myself would you like me to speak to him? Maybe I could come around a few times just to visit at first and if he takes kindly to me, I can explain to him about his magic. I must say though that it is a good thing that he was brought here. Even without this horrific war over there, he would not have been taught to control his magic. Durmstrang will not take muggleborns, especially not Jewish ones. I am very proud of you and Dorea for taking in these children. You may well have saved their lives." Albus said with a tear in the corner of his eye.
"Would you come around for tea tomorrow, Dorea was upset that she could not come along to see you today. I would like you to see Zalman yourself. I am sure it will do him a lot of good to have someone there who can communicate with him properly.
That Sunday began a weekly ritual of Albus coming over to the Potter's house for tea. Zalman, who was at first frightened of the tall man with his long hair, beard, and his crooked nose. However, this all changed as soon as Albus began speaking to him in a language the boy knew all too well. From that, moment on Zalman looked forward to Dumbledore's weekly visits. The professor began to teach the boy more and more English and listened to the boys stories of life on the farm. It nearly broke the man's heart when the boy told him of his parents promise to join him soon, only to be asked when they would arrive. For his part Dumbledore, was enchanted by the young boy and his beautiful sister, he cherished the time with them almost as much as Zalman did. These visits also brought about much change with the boys interactions with the Potters. With the communication gap lessening, they could bond more with the child. Even when Albus explained about magic to the boy, he responded with awe and excitement.
The years passed Zalman became more like a son to the Potters, but he still watched for his parent's arrival. Avigail began showing magical abilities as well. The Potters no longer hid their magic from either child. 1942 brought another child into the Potter household; Dorea gave birth to a beautiful son, Jack Charlus Potter. Zalman and Avigail took to the new addition wonderfully. Little Zalman took charge of the children as they played, taking on the role of mediator. Albus, Charlus, and Dorea loved watching the boy interact with his sister and his foster brother. However, they hated to see the sadness that often sprang to his eyes when he did not think the adults were watching him.
One Sunday, just before he was to turn eleven, Zalman interrupted Albus in the middle of their lesson to ask, "Sir, do you think my parents are dead?"
Albus was taken aback by the seriousness of the question posed by such a small boy. "I am afraid I do not know that. I must be honest with you it is possible. However, we have no way of knowing at this time."
Tears rose in Zalman's eyes, gently spilling down his small face, "But sir, you are a wizard, you could save them if you wanted to couldn't you?"
Albus felt as if his heart would break at this innocent question. "It is not a simple question of wanting to save them. I have no idea what is going on over there. I would not know where to look for your parents. It is not safe even for Wizards in Germany at this time."
"I just miss them, they said they would come for us, but it has been six years." Zalman cried into Albus' shoulder.
"I will do what I can." Albus replied. He had been waiting too long to confront his old friend. Spurred by the plight of this poor child, he vowed he would wait not longer. Dumbledore did not return to Potter Manor for three weeks. Charlus tried to calm Zalman, explaining that Dumbledore had not abandoned him. Charlus heard rumors of Albus seeking Grindelwald himself. Potter had faith that if anyone could end Grindelwald's reign of terror Albus could and he hoped that would help end the horrors occurring in Germany and their occupied countries.
Late one night Albus stumbled up to the door of Potter manor. As Dorea opened the door, she called to her husband in distress. Dumbledore's usually neat appearance was disheveled, and his face contorted into anguish. His words were quiet as he whispered to the Potters, "I did it, it is finished. Grindelwald is now imprisoned in his own fortress. I have done all I can do now I must rest." He collapsed into Charlus arms, in exhaustion, anguish, and injury. Dorea nursed him back to health throughout the night. Dreams plagued him as he slept, but Dorea would never speak of the things she heard Albus speak that dreadful night, not even to her husband.
Soon after the fall of Grindelwald, Hitler and the Nazi's fell. Still the Eberstarks did not appear. Zalman continued to plead with his foster parents to search for them. Finally, Charlus took Zalman to the Ministry to obtain an international portkey. He also arranged for papers to expedite the process of looking for Zalman's parents. They began their search at the farm where Zalman spent the first four year of his life.
Adolph Ehrlichmann greeted them warily as he saw them approaching from the farmhouse. Zalman was straining his memory trying to remember details about this place, or the man approaching him.
"Do you speak English?" Mr. Potter responded to Ehrlichmann's greeting.
"A little," he responded a smile finally finding his face. "You are British"
"Yes, my name is Charlus Potter; we are looking for information on the Eberstark family."
A grim look passed Adolph's face. "The children went to England. The parents were caught trying to escape the country, I heard he was taken to Dachau, but she was taken to Ravensbrück. I know nothing else." He then looked closer at the young man accompanying the Englishman. "Zalman? Are you Zalman Eberstark?"
The boy looked better than Adolph could have hoped, he seemed well fed, and his clothes were neat. He did not appear happy, but Ehrlichmann thought his words had something to do with that.
"I am Zalman; do you know nothing else of my parents' fate?" He managed to say.
"You speak proper English then? I am sorry I know nothing else, but from what I have heard not many could have survived those places for six year." He looked sadly on the child he had helped save.
"Thank you for your time we know where to begin." With that, the two turned and walked back down the lane. Adolph wanted to call them back but any words he could say to the young man were lost on the way out of his mouth.
The news was not good; Mr. Potter soon discovered that Chayim did not survive his first year in the camp. Records stated he was shot trying to escape, whether this was true, they would never know. Ravensbrück was disserted but for a few soldiers who informed them most of the prisoners were sent on one of the Death Marches, Zalman's mother's name was on that list. They went to the place where the American forces intercepted the women walking until they dropped.
The list of the survivors was incomplete, many too sick to speak their own names. Hope was raise when an entry simply read. 'Ahava'. They asked the officer if he could show them to this woman. It was impossible for Zalman to recognize if the emaciated woman lying on the cot was his mother. Her head was shaved and her eyes sunken deep into her skull. Any features that he might have remembered were lost in this woman. He sat by her side, hoping she would survive whether she was his mother or not. Hours Zalman spent holding the skeletal hand as Charlus watched the boy he thought of as a son, mourning for his broken family. Charlus wanted to ease both of their suffering but he knew a wave of his wand could not fix this no matter how hard he tried.
The woman slowly regained consciousness. "What is your name?" Zalman whispered to her.
"Ahava, Ahava Eberstark." She finally breathed closing her eyes again. With conformation that this was indeed Zalman's mother, he informed the soldiers he would be taking over her care. He picked up the woman who seemed to weigh less than her son did and carried her to a clearing before activating the portkey to take him back to England. The ministry employees were disturbed to see firsthand the condition of a victim of a concentration camp. Zalman silently followed one of the only father figures he had left as he carried his dying mother through the ministry to where they could floo to St. Mungo's hospital. Ministry employees acted as a guard throughout their journey through the ministry building. The people they met on their way stopped and stared in horror at the sight. Exiting the floo, they are met by a swarm of healers who converged on the frail woman. None had ever seen such devastation wracked on one person's body.
Ahava stayed many weeks in the hospital; even with magic, her healing was slow. Magic could only erase so much damage done to her body. She had to put on weight naturally; no spell could make her gain body mass. Potions were given to rid her of lice and the infection present throughout her body. Charlus had to force Zalman to leave his mother's side. Six years separation was enough for the boy and he did not want to leave his mother when her condition was so perilous. Ahava did not want him to leave either, once she was conscious for longer periods, she him in like he was a healing potion himself. Charlus tried to explain as carefully as he could about magic and the powers both of her children possessed. While reluctant to accept at first, she could see through the healers and Charlus himself, that witches and wizards were not evil.
Dorea and Charlus kept Avigail away from the hospital so as not to frighten her too much. Although Ahava knew, they had her daughter's best interest at heart but she longed to set her eyes on her baby girl again. She could see looking at Zalman how much time had passed since sending her children to safety. She knew Avigail would have no memories of her, but her husband had saved them as he promised. She missed Chayim dearly, but was glad that his plan had worked. Ahava had seen firsthand the fate that would have fallen to her children had Chayim not convinced her to send them to England. So many children had died in the camps in such cruel ways. Her children were safe, whisked away to England on the last train allowed to leave Germany.
She would forever be indebted to the Potter's for caring so lovingly to her children. They even bought her a small house down the road from them, ready to be farmed if she chose. Charlus vowed to Mrs. Eberstark to make sure they were taken care of saying it was in gratitude for sharing her children with them for the last six years. The time came for the Potters to say goodbye to Avigail and Zalman. Many tears were shed even knowing they would see each other again. It is never easy saying goodbye, even when that goodbye is the right thing to do.