Harry read on until an hour before sunrise when he fell back asleep with the journal resting on his chest. Sunlight streaming through the curtains woke him before Hedwig's pecking did. He lazily opened his eyes to see the annoyed owl glaring at him as he looked through the open curtains of the window next to his bed at her.
Slowly, he got out of bed and opened the window for the bird before heading back to sleep. First though, he closed the journal and put it away before hiding under the sheets again. How he managed to get sleep after that nightmare was hard to believe. He only hoped that he could get some more sleep in before going downstairs to get questioning looks from everyone about the dark rings under his eyes.
Just as he was in a blissful state of slumber, Ron bounded into his room and sat on top of the pile of sheets camouflaging Harry. Coughing and sputtering, Harry shoved Ron off the bed and sat up with an annoyed expression on his face.
"Morning, mate!" Ron said cheerfully.
"Go 'way!" he growled as he scowled at his best friend.
"What's with you?"
"I don't know…maybe it's because you sat on me?" Harry snarled as Ron got off the floor.
"Sorry 'bout that. I thought it was a pillow," he said with a smirk.
"I'll get you for that comment. Now why is it that you, a Weasley, are up this early and so incredibly excited?" Harry asked as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.
"I'll tell you why! You're going to love this!"
"Cut the suspense and tell me."
"Boy, you are grouchy…"
"Ron Weasley!" Harry yelled, exasperated.
"Alright, alright…you know that the Quidditch World Cup is in America right?"
"Yes, they moved the game to an earlier date because the UK can't host any more games until the war is over. I know, so?"
"Guess what Charlie managed to do?"
"Get us tickets?"
"You got it! The game is a week before school starts…that is if you're going…"
Harry had thought about the possibility of school during his stay at the Dursleys and had considered not going. Then, when he arrived at the Burrow, he talked with Arthur and Remus about his decision and asked for any input they may provide. The three had talked long into the night considering Harry's reasons for leaving school early as well as his desire to complete his education. His ambition to become an Auror finally won out.
"Professor Dumbledore would have been pleased," Remus told him as they left the kitchen table to put away their tea mugs.
"I'll owl Professor McGonagall in the morning for you," Arthur told him. "I'm sure she will be pleased."
Yawning, the three men parted ways; Arthur and Harry to go up to bed and Remus Disapparated back to Grimmauld Place with the promise to see Harry soon.
"Yes, I'm going," Harry whispered, but Ron did not hear him in his excitement over the news.
"So, we've got to get ready to go in a couple of weeks since Dad wants us to do some sightseeing there and all. Wow, America! I wonder if their Quidditch team is any good," Ron excitedly said before rushing out of Harry's room to tell Hermione.
Harry's thoughts drifted to the last World Cup match he attended. So many bad things had happened that year that he was rather reluctant to try going this year. He just didn't want to experience the terror of rampaging Death Eaters all over again. This year's trip needed a lot of thought before he'd commit to going.
Just when he was thinking about the Dark Mark in the air, he heard a loud scream followed by a slamming door from downstairs. He smiled as he thought of what Hermione might be doing to Ron for waking her so early and went downstairs to investigate.
Ginny was sitting at the table with her hair pulled up and her eyes still squinting in the bright morning light. As she sipped her tea he moved to sit across from her. She looked up and gave a small smile before looking over to see Ron, his hair ruffled and his face covered in welts from being hit by Hermione's spell, as he limped into the kitchen covered in soot.
"What happened?" Ginny asked as Ron sat next to Harry.
"Hermione," he answered, dabbing at a small cut on his cheek with a serviette.
"Why would Hermione…?" she asked, but Harry stopped her.
Hermione came into the room brushing ashes from her shoulders and glowered at Ron as she sat down next to Ginny. Ron returned her icy glare with one of his own while Harry and Ginny were debating amongst themselves whether to leave or not when Hermione's parents came in. Her father chuckled at Ron's dishevelled condition.
"Hermione, my dear, there really was no need to be so violent when told good news. The poor chap. Are you all right there?" Mr. Granger asked Ron.
Ron looked up at him, grimacing, while Mr Granger glanced over at his now blushing daughter who was trying to hide behind her teacup. Mrs Weasley and Mrs Granger entered at that moment and Ron's mum rushed over to examine her son's face. Mrs Granger graciously explained what had happened.
"Well, that's what you get, Ronald Bilius Weasley. Waking people up just to talk about Quidditch, honestly! You're lucky she did not hex you with something worse; otherwise there would be nothing I could do. Now come over here so I can get rid of these welts." And taking Ron by the elbow, she led him over to the window, pausing only to pluck The Healer's Helpmate from amongst the books lining the mantelpiece.
As they left, everyone remaining at the table, including Hermione, began to laugh. Ron's really was a funny predicament.
Breakfast was an eventful affair with talk of the upcoming journey and what they might do once there. Hermione wanted to visit museums (Harry, Ron and Ginny rolled their eyes with that comment); Ron wanted to see what sports Americans play while Ginny wanted to see the theatre, which surprised Harry to say the least. Harry, on the other hand, had no clue what to do during his visit, but he hoped for the best.
After breakfast, while everyone went about their daily activities, Harry went to his room to read some more of the journal. He decided to go back to the beginning so that he could understand who J. Harrison was before the war. There was a lot of back history he had skipped that left him baffled at all the mystery surrounding this man. Entries ranged from peace time during the 1920's before he became involved in the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Harrison's accomplishments during the Spanish Civil War, and some talk of World War I since this war was linked to the Second World War.
He especially liked one entry dated in the summer of 1940 with snippets of a speech made by Winston Churchill. It stated: Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealths last for a thousand years, men will say, 'This was their finest hour.' He reread this passage just to absorb the meaning of those words. He knew that this was meant for the people during tense moments of WWII, but it still held meaning to him.
He continued on to read more about Harrison's involvement in the war and some back history that started to intrigue him. World War II is fascinating but hard to understand all the politics involved, he mused as he read another passage about a little known peace agreement, the Munich Agreement, signed in October of 1938. He read on that Hitler absolved this agreement and marched his troops to war later the next year. As he read on, he saw that the Prime Minister of the time had resigned after his vote of confidence fell and the treaty fell into pieces; then died shortly after his resignation in 1940. Harrison had put a comment that the Minister of Magic had seen him before the resignation and noted a 'sad air' the man had before leaving Parliament for good.
Soon, he closed the journal to rest his eyes for a moment. He rubbed the bridge of his nose to stop his head from throbbing due to the overload of information. With that thought, he smirked since Hermione would be so proud of him reading about history…that is, if she knew about it. After resting a moment, Harry went back to where he left off last night. The contents rang true with every single page and it felt as though his ancestor was living like him; in fearful trepidation that each day might be his last.
30 July 1944
We're still en route northeast and we're getting too many close calls on being caught by the Germans. Just yesterday we left a village and not moments later it was blasted to bits as the Nazis roared in, hot on our heels. Someone must have tipped them off that we were hiding in someone's attic. Had we not left and taken cover when we did, I and my companions would have been taken prisoner. Blimey, this is bloody awful! I am not one for going out just for slaughtering innocent people like that. It's too much like Grindelwald and what my family has to deal with.
At least I got an owl from them today. It was a tawny owl that blended in so well, I almost did not see it until it hooted next to my ear…
Harrison jumped a foot off the ground when the owl appeared. The others looked at him for only a moment and then returned to their survey of the area for Nazi scouts while he recovered from the shock of the noise. He snuck off to a secluded copse of trees to get the parchment from the owl's leg and let the beautiful bird hunt for field mice in the forest they were in.
While the owl hunted, he opened the parchment to find a letter his brother had written to him from the wizarding front lines. The letter did not go into too much detail; Jeremiah didn't want the owl to be intercepted by the wrong people, but it did tell of a possible victory that could come soon if they planned correctly.
Breathing a sigh of relief for his brother's safety, he wrote a quick note of luck and gave it to the owl once it returned from its hunting. As the bird flew off, he felt a hand grab his shoulder and he jumped again.
"Easy there, it's just me," Ron said behind him.
"Don't do that," Harrison said, shrugging off Ron's hand.
"Sorry. I forget that we're all jumpy as of late. Listen, the guys and I are sort of planning a birthday something for you since your birthday is tomorrow," he said with a smirk.
"I'll get John for that…" he said lightly.
"Come on back to camp. The area is safe and no birds to make you jumpy," Ron jokingly said before leaving him.
Harrison remembered the first time an owl landed in their camp with a letter. He was out on patrol at the time; instead, Ron tried to retrieve the letter from its leg, but was mercilessly bitten by the rather irritated owl. Ron didn't know what to think of an owl with a piece of paper in its talon. It wasn't until Harrison returned from rounds that he saw Ron just staring at the owl in fascination and bewilderment while wrapping his bleeding fingers in some bandages.
"That is for you," Ron said while nodding to the impatient owl. "But why is an owl delivering mail and how did it know you were here?"
Harrison snickered at his friend's reaction as he sat down on the moist ground.
"I think you need to know this, and don't interrupt me until I'm done."
"Fine then. Are you an animal trainer of some sorts?"
"No," Harrison said after laughing at the statement. "I'm a wizard actually."
"A wizard? Like hocus pocus, Harry Houdini and all that sort of thing?"
"Well…not quite like that. It's more refined than that actually. However, I'm a Squib, which is a wizard with very little or no magical powers at all. My family has magical abilities. It just happened that I didn't get as much of it as a normal wizard."
"I don't think disabled would fit you in this context," Ron joked, looking Harrison in the eye. "I believe you though. If you want, you can tell me more about a wizard's life."
That conversation lasted the rest of the day as Ron asked countless questions while Harrison did his best to answer them. As twilight descended over the camp, Ron promised to keep Harrison's wizarding past a secret. However, in the days to come, he would tease Harrison if the occasional owl happened to show up.
Looking back at where his friend was earlier, Harrison smirked at Ron's comment before he too went back to the camp.
He walked into the camp after his morning guard duty to see a piece of paper with the words "Happy Birthday" written on it had been tacked to one of the trees. Around the edges of the paper his friends had written him personal notes. A brief smile flickered across his face as he read his makeshift birthday card.
Earlier that morning, he had been grouchy at Ron for waking him up for the early morning guard duty when it wasn't his turn. However, the more he thought about it, the fact that the squad wanted to celebrate something good in the midst of a terrible war made sense to him and didn't come as much of a surprise. He hated to be the centre of attention, but he sighed and slowly let down his guard on the misty morning of 31 July1944, his 25th birthday.
Later in the day, Harrison opened his gifts. Although they weren't expensive, the gifts evidentially came from his comrades' hearts: a flask of whisky (which he eventually shared), a deck of cards, and a dog-eared copy of The Thirty-Nine Steps. Ron gave him a new pen, some Muggle stamps and some letter paper so he could write to his family. It was a peaceful moment midst the chaos, a time when he dared to hope that he and his friends would survive the war and live to see many more birthdays...
Harry opened his eyes to see Hedwig perched on his knee. He shuddered with a chill because the dream he was living was so real he could feel it. He looked at his fingers swearing that he could feel the lingering twinges of a flask that was in his hand only moments ago.
"What?" he asked the white owl.
She cocked her head to the side and extended her leg to present him his mail. He took the letter and told her to go to Molly for some food because he had run out of owl treats. She nipped his finger in irritation before flying downstairs while Harry listened for any clues to what his friends might be up to.
The house was quiet as he headed for the shower and it was still silent when he descended to the kitchen a half hour later thinking about what Mrs Weasley might have prepared for lunch. Unfortunately, the kitchen was empty of anyone with red hair and as the minutes passed he began to feel alarmed. To calm his worries, he thought he would search the lower floor of the house before going outside.
He almost left the kitchen when he heard someone coming out of the fireplace. The person seemed to be having difficulty, landing in a messy heap on the hearth. Harry snuck around the room holding his wand tightly and hid in the hallway where he could see, but not be seen. The heap started to get up and shake the soot off while Harry peered into the room.
It was Bill.
"Bill. What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be with Fleur?" Harry asked, emerging from the hall while Bill dusted himself off.
"Yes, well, that…she's in a bit of a mood right now. Something about missing 'her time' or something like that. Where's Mum?"
Harry shrugged and both went into the kitchen for some tea. Hedwig hooted loudly at them from her perch above the sink where she was waiting for the owl treat Harry had promised her. She flew over and landed on his shoulder, giving his ear a painful nip to show how put-out with him she was. Bill hid a snicker when Harry glared at his owl and handed her an owl treat, but stopped laughing when Harry turned his scowl on the older wizard.
"So," Bill said to break the silence. "How are you doing? I haven't seen you since the wedding."
"I'm here. That's about it."
"Interesting book there?"
"Oh, this?" Harry said, holding the journal in his hand up for Bill to see.
"Yes. It looks really worn and well read. What's it about?" Bill said as he took the book out of Harry's hand.
"It's…uh…well, it's a good read."
"It must be. The pages are all worn and yellowed and the cover is tearing apart at the seams. Paperback novels don't last that long, even in the Wizarding world. Where'd you find it?"
"In Diagon Alley. I…" Harry started to say, slightly bewildered.
"Must be from Flourish and Blotts," Bill said quickly. "They usually don't have books like this except on the discount shelves."
"Yes, that's it."
They sat silently again while sipping their tea. Harry couldn't understand why Bill saw a paperback book while he saw a leatherback journal. Just as this thought formed, he realized why. Harrison was a Squib with limited magic. The only way for him to keep a journal while in the service, since journals could be taken from POWs and deciphered, was to enchant the cover to look like a harmless paperback. This Harrison person was very smart about the use of what magic ability he had or he'd had someone like his brother help him out. Another thought occurred to Harry: If only he could see the real diary, maybe it was enchanted so that only a true Potter descendent could see the book for what it was. But why hadn't the Revealing Spell he'd performed indicate such an enchantment? That was an idea to possibly ask Bill about...
Harry finished his tea first and summoned a chess set.
"Might as well keep ourselves busy. Who knows where everyone went to," he told Bill as he set up the pieces.
It was well past two when the household returned from wherever they were. Harry was rather annoyed with everyone for not informing him of their whereabouts while Bill kept quiet. Molly gave him a hug as an apology while Arthur explained why Harry had been left at the Burrow. It seemed that the Daily Prophet had learned that Harry was going to leave Hogwarts before finishing his schooling and Rita Skeeter and her acid green Quick Quotes Quill had already published a less than truthful article on the subject. The article went on to say that this "Wizard-hunt" was the newest stunt that The Chosen One would do just for publicity sake. Fuming, Harry accepted the answer and went back to moving his chess piece while Bill retold his story of why he was not with Fleur. As he finished the story, Molly grinned with excited glee and was practically bouncing from foot to foot.
Harry was about to ask when Molly burst out joyfully, "She must be pregnant, then! That would explain it! Let me head over there and see how she's feeling. Be back later!" She threw some Floo powder into the fire and was gone before the men standing in the kitchen could react to her pronouncement.
Bill stared stupidly at the dying green flames while the rest of the house started to laugh. Harry smirked behind his hands and watched the banter unfold in front of him before leaving them and returning to his room. When he shut the door, he took the journal out and started to read.
17 September 1944
Autumn is always a sombre season for me. Every year, the leaves change to beautiful shades of orange, red and brown to signal the coming of winter and to give the trees a new look before they fall off. Here, it is no different with the leaves changing much like they do in England. I have managed to send a few more owls since the one last week and I've even let Ron use one to send a letter out to his family.
He was quite surprised that these birds can do such a thing. He went on about the Pony Express America had between 1860 and 1861 before technology made it easier to deliver mail. Of all things to use, they used horses! What a strange, yet brilliant, idea for them, but I find it lacking a bit. An owl system would be a good idea as a means of communication between the Generals, but Muggles are not that keen on seeing owls intelligent enough to do something like that. If they did, then I wouldn't be needed as much, except for keeping the owls in line. There is a usage of pigeons between the companies, but I think those have been intercepted by Nazi falcons of late. It's quite disturbing to see some of their corpses lying on the ground with some Jessie ties still attached to their feet.
The company's been sheltering in an abandoned barn on the outskirts of a deserted town, and we've managed to get some rest and even a bath or two! Oh how nice it is to actually feel clean for once …
Harrison just finished changing and was towel drying his unruly hair when Ron came out of the barn, smiling and twirling his towel like a whip. Rolling his eyes, Harrison walked away from his prankster friend before the towel snap hit his arm and left a stinging pain where it hit. As Ron was about to snap the towel again, Harrison, using what could have been Seeker reflexes, grabbed for and caught the end before it touched his skin. Ron was so caught off guard by the sudden grab that he dropped the towel and grinned sheepishly at his friend.
We're acting like school boys, Harrison thought as he took the towel hostage and walked back to his bed roll where it lay just inside the barn door. Ron followed him inside and they were in deep conversation about their families when the first explosion came.
"What in Merlin's name is that?" exclaimed Harrison as he and Ron grabbed their guns and helmets and ran to join the rest of their squad.
The fighting was fast and furious with bullets flying everywhere. Harrison's comrades fought valiantly, but were soon routed from their positions and everyone scattered to claim new cover in the foxholes they had dug around the perimeter of their camp. Harrison did not think as he grabbed Ron and ran in the opposite direction, hoping to find cover so that they could radio for back-up.
They raced through the woods, cutting their faces as they whisked past low branches and stumbled over outcroppings of rocks. If they could make the stream, the over-hanging banks might provide enough cover for them to send news of the ambush.
As they ran along the leaf-strewn ground, listening to the screams of their dying comrades, they noticed a black owl flying over their heads. Ron reached the stream first and tried to call the owl down so they could give it a letter, but the owl would not listen. As he waited for Harrison, Ron took this brief opportunity to radio for back-up. There was so much static that any hopes of a message being received would have been a miracle. Harrison soon came to Ron and saw the owl fly down and perch on his shoulder while Ron got some paper out with a pen. He glared at the bird before they both wrote quick notes to their loved ones to be delivered. Nothing long at all, they needed to.
There were gunshots in the background as they finally attached their notes to the owl's leg and watched the bird fly off through the canopy before taking off down the stream again. The water was deeper here, the bottom covered in slippery rocks. In their haste, they slipped and slid, grabbing at each other for balance and not making much progress as their splashing reverberated loudly down the stream bed.
Suddenly, a single loud gunshot split the air behind them and almost instantly Harrison felt a searing pain in his shoulder. Dropping his gun, he grabbed his shoulder as the pain intensified. His hand came away covered in blood. Horrified, he scooped up his gun and set out again after Ron.
Ahead of him, Ron glanced back over his shoulder as Harrison stumbled from the bullet's impact. He stopped in the middle of the stream, his eyebrow raised in inquiry, but Harrison only gestured further down the stream; they had to keep going.
Harrison caught up to Ron and the two continued their journey at a slower pace, keeping their talk to a minimum.
"Can you keep going?" Ron asked in concern as the stream angled sharply to the right.
Harrison only nodded in response. He gritted his teeth against the pain as he ran, every step pure agony. They rounded another bend in the stream and froze. Directly ahead was a group of four Nazis, one of them holding the owl Harrison had just sent away. The bird wasn't moving; its feathers were sticking out at odd angles and its head lulled to one side, obviously broken.
Ron exclaimed, "Oh—" but Harrison never heard the rest. He lost consciousness when he realized the owl was dead...
Harry shuddered as the images of the passage formed in his head. How awful, he thought before closing the journal. He could understand the feeling of racing from the enemy; that happened two years ago at the Ministry when he and his friends went to rescue Sirius. He shut his eyes tightly to stop the tears from forming as he thought of his godfather. He had thought he was over the worst of the grief, but Dumbledore's death had proved him wrong and he still mourned equally for both men.
He was so deep in thought that he didn't notice Ginny had entered the room until a floor board creaked. Startled, he looked up to see her smiling down at him. He patted the bed next to him, inviting her to sit down. She sat without saying a word and laced her fingers through his. Her touch was comforting and in the silence that followed Harry mastered his turbulent emotions enough to smile back at her a little.
"Harry?" she murmured after a while.
"Are you all right?"
"I wish I knew…" he trailed before silence took over again.
They sat in silence for another five minutes until Molly called them for dinner. Harry glanced at the clock on his bedside table, startled to see how much time had gone by: the heady aromas of roasting chicken, onion and some sort of herbs had finally wafted their way into his room, making his stomach rumble hungrily. Despite his melancholy frame of mind, he smiled.
"Chicken?" he inquired.
"Skirlie Stuffed. And what did you think it was?"
"Mmm? I was thinking that your mum may get odd when celebrating Bill's news and that she would have gone all out."
"At least it's not as bad as when she found out she was pregnant with me," she said, smiling at the memory.
"Why? What happened?"
"I was told that she made Dad get some dragon meat to celebrate," she nonchalantly told him.
Harry blinked slowly and stared at Ginny in disbelief. She held her hand up like she was taking an oath and smiled broadly before going downstairs. Sighing, he followed her down to find Molly preparing the table, madly directing pots and platters with her wand, while the other Weasleys stood as far back as possible from the chaos.
Arthur held an arm out to block Harry's progress into the room and gave him a warning look before slowly going to his wife.
"Love, I think you've done enough. It's now time to enjoy dinner," he said slowly.
"I will in a minute, Arthur. Let me get this last platter on the table. This is a joyous occasion! I'm going to be a grandmother, and you should be happy too!"
"I am, but all this? I haven't seen you do this since you were carrying Ginny."
"That was a good celebration…" she said, pausing long enough to catch her breath. "The dragon steaks were good."
Hermione and Harry looked at her, gobsmacked, while the rest of the family shook their heads and sat down to eat. When the two remained rooted to the floor, Fred and George led the two gaping teens to the table where everyone partook of Molly's fantastic dinner of, thankfully, normal proportions.
There were ropes tied around his wrists when he woke up. Looking around, Harrison found that he and Ron were lying on the floor of an office and that they were guarded by four burly German soldiers. The ropes were starting to cut his wrists and his shoulder wound ached terribly. He let out an involuntary moan as one of the guards kicked him in the side.
Biting his lower lip, he kept quiet while looking at Ron who seemed much calmer in this situation than Harrison felt. His fringe was hindering his view of the room and he carefully turned his head to move the offensive locks out of his eyes. As he did so, he looked up to find a Nazi officer looking down at him. That blokewould have been perfect for Slytherin, he thought ruefully as the officer wrenched him onto his feet by the arms and forced to look at the officer sitting behind the desk. He stood before the desk willing the pain to go away.
The officer began yelling rapidly in German, but Harrison didn't understand even though he recognized a word every once in a while. He tried to do what the officer wanted, but couldn't seem to please the man. When that happened, Harrison would be hit whenever he did not answer or answered too soon. He hoped that Ron had not been treated like this and when the interrogation finally ended, they were taken to a lorry and forced inside none to gently.
"Harri…" he heard Ron moan beside him.
Harry. The name seemed to fit him more than Hank, he thought to himself as they rode toward their destination. He decided that if he had to have a nickname, "Harry" would be it.
He could barely see Ron shivering against the opposite wall of the lorry as they heard the lorry start up. As quietly as he could, he moved towards his friend and managed to nudge him on the shoulder as a way to let him know that he was there. That gentle nudge was a silent pledge for Harrison to be there for Ron as long as it takes. Come hell or high water, he would get him out alive or so help him Merlin, God and any other deity who witnesses this.
After a while, they began talking quietly to keep each other's spirits up during the ride, telling crude jokes and ribald stories that would have been offensive before they were captured, anything to keep their minds off the horrors they might find at the end of their journey. Finally, when they could think of nothing else, they began talking about their families. Ron wondered if he would ever see his wife and sons again.
"I'm so proud of my little men," he choked out. "I want to see them grow up."
Harri talked about his father and his brother who were going through their own war. Ron was no longer fazed by the wizarding world and listened to what this new world had that his own did not. Harry told some of the stories he'd heard from Jeremiah about Hogwarts and answered all of Ron's questions about the subjects wizarding children took each year to the best of his ability. Ron, fascinated by what he was hearing, tried compare his American schooling to Jeremiah's and found they were somewhat similar in nature.
The ride seemed to last for years until the doors of the lorry were opened and hundreds of sunken eyes looked in their direction…
Harry jolted awake and looked around while trying to slow his breathing from a racing pant to something calmer. Not again! He rubbed his eyes and looked at the clock: ten past four in the morning. He had gone to bed at a decent time that night and had not read the journal after dinner like he usually did. The further into the journal he read, the worse the war became, and he had deemed it sane to not read such passages before bed.
This time, however, it had not worked.
He slipped out of bed and went downstairs in search of some tea to calm his nerves from the nightmare. He could feel each punch, each kick, each sensation of pain from his dream and it made him edgy. That feeling was something he had lived with a good portion of his fifth year after seeing Cedric die and Voldemort returned to his body at the end of his fourth year; however, those nightmares seemed petty compared to the ones he was experiencing now. He found it hard to believe that someone had actually lived through such hell and had not gone completely mad during the process.
There was a light on in the kitchen and Harry stopped a few steps from the bottom; Ginny was sitting at the table with Crookshanks on her lap, staring out the darkened window and absently stroking the cat. He almost turned to go back upstairs when she called to him. Slowly, he descended the remaining stairs and approached the table. Ginny had made tea and had brought an extra mug to the table. Harry filled it before sitting down next to her. When she didn't speak again right away, he tapped his finger lightly on the tabletop, attracting Crookshanks' attention. The cat batted a paw at him as Ginny finally spoke.
"Can't sleep?" she asked pensively.
"Yes, and you, too?" he whispered, not trusting his voice.
"Mm-hm," she nodded.
"Is everything all right?"
"No. Not really. I just wish…oh…I don't know. I just wish that this bloody war would end soon."
"I'm working on it," he said grimly, gazing intently at his mug.
"It's not all up to you," Ginny noted calmly, although there was a hint of hardness to her voice.
"Yes, it is. I know you won't believe me, but it's true. There's proof. I really can't say much about it, but it's there."
"Is that why you broke up with me?"
"Yes…" he choked as he looked away from her.
"Why? I was a target long before you even noticed me. Why should this be any different?"
"Because he's ruthless and will use those I love to kill me!" Harry snapped as the mug in his hands shattered. He swore as the hot liquid burned his hands.
They looked at the mess in surprise; Harry hadn't done accidental magic since before his third year and an incident this serious showed just how frayed Harry's nerves had become. In fact, Harry did not even notice that his hands were bleeding from several deep cuts he'd received until Crookshanks started to lick the wounds. He stared at the cat while Ginny quietly cleaned up the tea and pieces of broken pottery.
"He did it once before, and I fear that he would use you again," he sighed solemnly when she finished.
Ginny directed the towel she had used back to the sink, startling Crookshanks enough for the cat to leave the table. "Harry," she said, taking his face in her hands, "it would not matter if I was someone you loved or someone you hated; Voldemort would still try to lure you to him because he knows you care about others. You went after me once because you cared about Ron. That's not stupidity, that's someone who's noble and kind. Your nobility may get you in some trouble, but it is a good quality to have."
"It gets me in trouble too much, that moral fibre…"
Ginny ignored his comment. "It's been said that Godric Gryffindor had a nobility problem as well. So with that being said, you're just what's normal in Gryffindor House," she said matter-of-factly as she backed away a step or two.
Harry had to smile as she let his face go. The instant her hands drew away, he missed them. One part of his mind began yelling at him to get her back and snog her absolutely senseless as an apology while the other part insisted that he would be hypocritical for breaking up with her and then suddenly deciding to go out again.
He was brought out of his musings by Ginny's hands cupping his face again and he purred quietly with the pleasure of the contact. However, she didn't seem to be done for she lowered her head and swiftly closed the distance between them.
He was surprised more than anything as they kissed in the dawning hour of morning while the cat meowed at them from his perch on top of the kitchen bureau. Harry almost brought his hands up to her face when he remembered that they were cut up, and he ended the kiss with a playful peck on Ginny's nose.
"Hey!" she pouted.
"What? Do you want blood on your face?" he asked innocently before going to the sink to wash his hands.
"Oh, that. Mum has a good potion to remove cuts."
"Nah. Let me keep them in remembrance of a good morning."
"Harry! That's awful! You want to keep scars?"
He nodded before wrapping his hands in dishrags and taking her to the living room to watch the sun rise in silence.
Only moments before the rest of the household began to stir, he looked to her and smiled.