Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling.

Chapter 2: By any other name

There was a beeping sound on her left. Constant. Kitty was in an actual bed, and the air actually smelled more sterile than the Dursley's— probably tasted that way too, but her mouth felt gross and dry.

She was alone— nobody else was breathing in the room— so she opened her eyes, crusty with sleep. A hospital. She'd seen pictures, in the school books. It was night. She was bandaged. Her arm was in a cast and her leg and chest wrapped. How long had she been out? What day was it?

What day had it even been?

She took a deep breath. Her breathing was easier, at least. That was something.

There was a call button on the bedside table.

She wondered if she could get out of there. She could pull the needles from her arm, get out of the bindings. Find her clothes. Get out of the hospital unseen.

She had no idea where she was. How to get out. She was still hurt. Not as bad, but still hurt. Her leg ached, a constant consuming pain. She was pretty sure it wasn't supposed to do that.

Could she outrun the nurses and doctors? Maybe. It would be tricky in her current state, and that was if she knew the way out.

Maybe it was like the school, and she could find maps with fire escape routes? Hospitals were public buildings, right?

She took a deep breath and moved to her arm, pulling out the needles attached to the bag, then the wires and suction cups that came away— not easy. But she really wanted them to come off despite whatever glue they used. The beeping turned into a continuous sound and she winced, before crawling out the bed, testing her weight on her leg carefully. She pulled the weight off immediately as pain spiked through it. Nope. Nowhere near healed, even if it wasn't broken anymore.

She glanced at the door. Maybe if she used the wall as a crutch?

There was someone coming her way, bustling loudly.

She looked around the room, noting the bathroom and the other, empty bed. There were curtains around it, hanging from the ceiling and she bolted for them, using them to hide from the door.

The person, people walked in. The first— female, nurse? Looked around, while one of the men with her jogged off, speaking into a walkie—talkie— she didn't know what he was saying.

"Hello?" The nurse was searching the room.

Kitty knew she couldn't move. And that she didn't have a very good hiding spot. But maybe she would be overlooked if she stayed quiet?

It was not to be. The nurse walked around the curtains and gestured something to the guard outside. And then she was crouching across the way from her, coming down to her level.

"Hello. I'm Nurse Abagail. Who are you?"

Kitty stared at her, but remained silent. The nurse was an unknown, and she couldn't help her. No one could.

But more importantly, if they didn't know who she was, they couldn't make her go back.

"Are you hurt?"

Kitty frowned, and shook her head negative.

The nurse Abagail smiled. "That's good, can you come back to bed? It must be uncomfortable in that corner."

It was uncomfortable in the corner. But she'd been all but tied to the bed. She didn't want to go back.

But staying in the corner didn't make much sense, either.

She stood, ignoring the pain in her leg, keeping her back to the wall as she made her way around the Nurse Abagail, who made no move toward her, and took a glance out the open door. There was a security guard there. Or maybe a janitor— she couldn't tell.

She settled in the previously empty bed, and curled her uninjured leg up in front of her, watching the nurse like one might a rabid dog.

"Can you speak? Your throat doesn't hurt, does it?"

She blinked at the woman. Not speaking was a perfect excuse not to give her name. She wasn't giving it up.

The woman frowned. "Do you want something to drink? I can get you some water."

Kitty frowned, but nodded, hesitantly.

Her throat burned.

The nurse beamed at her and went off to get her some water.

Kitty stared at her back like she was the strangest thing she had ever seen. In truth, she wasn't far off. What kind of person was so happy to go get her water? Shouldn't she be more upset that she wasn't talking to her? She pulled the blanket up around her with a frown. She didn't like it here.

It didn't make any sense.

They trapped her— there was a man outside the room so she couldn't run, but they were being suspiciously nice to her.

But it wasn't the Dursley's.

It wasn't the Dursley's.

They gave her food. Readily. Good food too. Not scraps. Jello. And pudding. And soups. And occasionally microwave—like meals like Dudley liked to eat as snacks, though Dudley's smelled better.

Nurse Abagail was around often, and there was another woman, old and greying who came in and asked her questions that she didn't answer. Like who she was. And about who had hurt her.

She liked Abagail better. She played games with her. And read her books.

They gave her paper and crayons and had her draw things. Which she did.

"That's a pretty picture. What is it?"

She blinked at the woman. What made her think she'd say anything if she hadn't before?

"You should sign it."

She gave the woman a sideways look.

"All great artists sign things. And I can tell you're going to be a great artist someday."

She gave the woman a deadpan glare. Did she think Kitty was stupid? The woman was pouting at her, as if it would change her decision. Maybe Abagail was that stupid?

She frowned, and put her crayon to the paper. Sign it, would she? In purple letters, at the bottom right of the page. N. O. No wasn't a name though. Maybe Noel? Like the carolers? Or the songs their school class had been taught? No. That was peaceful and happy. Maybe... Nome? It sounded like a name. No me? Not me? Sure.

Nurse Abagail was giving her an exasperated look, half disappointed, almost amused.

M And E settled in the corner of the page, and she gave the nurse a teasing grin. As if she'd been pranking her by signing it no.

The nurse giggled, but there was a triumphant glint in her eye. "Nome. It's a good name."

Kitty froze, as if in absolute horror. Terror coursing through her. If they knew her name, they could send her back. It wasn't her real name. It wasn't that hard to act, either. Fury and fear were interchangeable, occasionally, especially when she knew actions in fury could get her into much more trouble than whatever she'd been in. And she could calm it. Really, she could.

And Abagail had tried to trick her into giving away her freedom.

She threw the crayon away and tore up the picture, even as she crawled backwards on the bed so far as the suction cups glued to her chest could take her. Tears gathered in her eyes.

"Nome. Oh god. What's wrong? I didn't mean to—"

She flinched at the name. It may be a lie, but now it was her name. If she never wanted to go back, she had to sell it. "You'll make me go back." Her voice was thin, rough from disuse. Hysterical. She had to be hysterical. "If you know my name, you know who I am, and you can make me go back."

"Oh. No. You're not going back. Never." Abagail sounded half surprised, half horrified, panic well hidden under the authority of the statement.

Kitty. Nome, Curled into herself. Crying. It was a lie. She knew it was.

"I promise you. You're never going back there. Nobody is going to make you go back to people who hurt you."

Kitty choked on a sob. She couldn't promise that. The cloaked men— the other Freaks had tracked her down in London, and they could probably track her down here. Or anywhere else she went.

Kitty sniffled, glaring at her over her knee. She hated this bed. She couldn't get her back to the wall.

Abagail didn't leave. She had picked up the pieces of the drawing, and laid them to the side. And stayed where she was, murmuring false promises, and apologizing for scaring her that way.

Kitty didn't respond, simply looking at her over her knee.

"You wouldn't be sent back if your family hurt you, Nome. We have evidence. If they tried to take you back, they'd go to jail."

She made sure to flinch at the name. Abagail didn't seem to notice. Or ignored it, more likely.

"I know you're a smart kid, Nome. You're good at puzzles. And you've been reading chapter books easily."

They never brought her anything really interesting.

"Nobody here is going to hurt you. Or let you get hurt. Not if we can help you. I promise."

Kitty blinked at her over her knee, and didn't respond.

Because she couldn't promise that.

She woke up in a new place. Beige, vaguely golden walls. Large windows. Thinner air. Sick beds lined up against either wall.

"Are you certain she's completely healed?"

She didn't turn towards the voice. (Male. Drawling, very stiff upper lip. She couldn't name the accent—)

"Yes, those Muggles. Barbaric." (Female. Almost Motherly. Less aristocratic—)

"Good." The man reached out and grabbed her shoulder, wrenching her around to see him: black eyes glaring out over a crooked nose, limp black hair, a stick pointed at her face, wearing a robe. "Obliviate. Your injuries were less than they seemed. The doctors sent you back."

She blinked at him. Head still heavy from whatever had put her under. No reaction. She wasn't supposed to react to this. The Dursleys's hadn't, she remembered.

A flash of red darted from the end of the man's wand and blackness claimed her.

She woke up again at the Dursley's. Her casts gone, arm and leg and scars healed, no evidence as to how she'd gotten there. She'd known this was coming. Prayed that it wouldn't.

It was not to be.

She cussed, punching the wall by her head, and flinching back, shaking her hand out with a few choice more swears.

Aunt Petunia rapped on the door. "Up! Get up! Now!" Kitty grimaced, stretching and trying to find herself in her cupboard.

The dust was still there, and the blood from the previous beating had set in to the old sheets she'd managed to put together for her cot. Her aunt rapped on the door again. "Up!" she screeched. Kitty heard her walking toward the kitchen and then the sound of the frying pan being put on the stove.

She didn't have a change of clothes— she'd taken those when she left the first time, and she was wearing... something rather nicer than she'd had previous. It looked like pajamas and they fit— definitely not something the Dursley's would allow her, which only left them.

Shit, shit, shit. Her Aunt wouldn't like that, and she couldn't hide it unless— Wait. There was the really old rags-for-clothes that she'd shoved under the stairs a while back. A quick scamper had the pajamas, a powder blue, she noted, stashed away and the rags, still larger than her and covered in dust, on.

She'd have to seriously clean her cupboard during her chores today, but not with anything harsh, as she'd probably be stuck in it. Hopefully the blood didn't set in too far... Her aunt was back outside the door. "Are you up yet?" she demanded.

"Nearly," said Kitty.

"Well, get a move on, I want you to look after the bacon. And don't you dare let it burn."

Kitty clenched her fist, biting down any obvious response. It would get her nothing, but after almost a month on the street, it was rather more difficult to simply take the abuse as she had to. "Yes, Aunt Petunia."

She walked away, and Kitty made her way out of her unlocked cupboard, stretching as she did so, testing her limbs.

Okay. So the Cloaked Men, the other Freaks. They could heal broken bones in days. And scars. They could erase memories and knock people out in a flash of red. They could paralyze people. Silence noise. Teleport. Track her down. Make others ignore something they really shouldn't.

That likely just scratched the surface of their abilities, too.

And whoever they were, they were... adamant she remain at Number 4, Privet Drive, in the... care of her Aunt and Uncle. Against the will of every individual involved.

And she'd thought she'd never meet anybody or group of bodies that she hated more than the Dursleys.

A quick trip to the kitchen, and she started breakfast. Rashers. Eggs. Hash browns. Sausage. Full English, of course. Far be it that Uncle Vernon and Dudley starve themselves. Or lose any of their weight whatsoever.

Aunt Petunia bustled over after a moment. "What are you wearing? It's filthy."

A swat to her hand and Kitty pulled away from the stove. "It's what I have. All my clothes are missing, after the..." She didn't finish the statement.

Aunt Petunia looked like she'd smelled something horrid. Or like she'd eaten a lemon.

"Go clean up. I won't have you tracking dirt through my house, girl." She turned to mind the stove. "Handling our good food like that—"

Kitty scampered before her aunt could decide she needed to be punished for the transgression, heading to the laundry room and finding some of Dudley's newer castoffs folded off to the side, she took those— it was clear they weren't going to be worn by him anymore. They were a size smaller than his newest clothes in the hamper and had a few holes and stains in them beside. A quick— very quick shower and change, and she was back in the kitchen, taking her job back from her Aunt, who sniffed about ungrateful brats and then went back to setting out a chore list among other things.

Crisis averted.

School was... interesting upon her return. Rumor had it, she'd been in the loony bin for a few months there, after a psychotic break. She was... patently unimpressed, until she found she could snap her teeth at people and have them recoil. It got her in trouble with the teachers, sure, but quite frankly, there was very little they could do to her.

Detentions simply kept her away from the Dursley's, who'd been getting more violent since her... survival and miraculous recovery.

Outside of that, she spent time in the library. Learning ahead, planning ahead.

Because she was up against people far more powerful than her. With abilities she couldn't quite comprehend. They wanted to control her, to cage her, to stop her from being what she dreamed she someday could be.

And she wasn't going to let them.