January 3, 1945
There weren't many people left at school during the Christmas holidays.
Harry would be one of the few who were.
Although it was considered sad to stay on grounds during Christmas, at least Professor amenities were much better than the student dormitories - something he was privy to during his stay in the student dormitory during first-year, where the space was limited and there was little to no entertainment; even wanting to read a book meant having to don your clothes and shoes before trekking to the library.
Harry sat at his desk, unmoving; even if the Christmas dinner in the hall was beginning, he had no intention of moving.
The book in his hands seemed engaging, at least, yet even with his eyes glued to the page, he hadn't turned it in a long time.
He just couldn't manage to lift his spirits today.
The crisp sound of a glass cup hitting the table beside his hand caused Harry to draw his attention to the present situation.
"Thank you, Tom." Harry lifted the cup by its handle, acknowledging the other.
"M-Mr Potter…" Harry was startled by a sharp and agitated voice, the coffee in his cup almost overflowing.
Harry hurriedly raised his eyes; the speaker was a Hogwarts house elf.
"P-Professor Dumbledore asked (1) Tom to bring dinner…" The house elf looked at Harry with wide eyes, wavering voice belied the tears ready to spill from them. "Mr Potter! Mr Potter actually said 'thank you' to Tom!"
Harry listened to the house elf's babbling, and suddenly found it funny. If Tom, that child, knew that even a house elf had the same name as him, he'd probably become hostile, wouldn't he?
"Excuse me… Who named you?" Harry just couldn't hold back; holding the scorching coffee, he asked with a smile.
The house elf raised his hand and gestured cheeringly. "Professor Dumbledore!"
I knew it, Harry thought with slight distress.
After he sent away the small house elf the whole room seemed to look deserted again; the emptiness was annoying.
Why didn't you think this office was so empty before? Harry thought as he sat down on the other side of the desk and picked up the book by the corner.
Tom was very hard-working and naturally talented, but he was similarly serious. There wasn't even so much as a blank space in his book, the pages densely packed with written commentary, and the font was beautiful and uncrowded. He could see how much work Tom put in his studies - who could be always excellent without effort?
Harry put the book back in its original position a little dejectedly, and slumped onto the icy-cold table.
Tom wasn't here. Tom, who he thought he would spend Christmas with, decided to travel. His companion… Was a girl he met once - a girl who'd never stayed behind for any of Tom's birthdays.
Harry felt a little unaccustomed to the silence.
He wasn't accustomed to evenings where nobody would read or grade homework with him, wasn't accustomed to nobody putting coffee beside his hands, and wasn't accustomed to not celebrating his birthday with him on December 31…
He didn't know when it began, but he'd already grown rather used to Tom. Comfortable, even.
After 14 years together, how could he not?
The arrival of a brown owl slightly uplifted Harry's spirit. A letter from Tom, maybe?
Forgive me for my untimely request, but I'm afraid you must agree to it.
The German Dark Lord has fallen, which you must know is the problem.
When the Dark Lord was still around, some of the small Dark forces didn't dare be so arrogant. But now that the Dark Lord has fallen, there are those who are becoming more agitated and unruly without a kingpin keeping them in line. The Aurors of the German Ministry of Magic have suffered heavy casualties, and are unable to deal with this situation. The Ministry of Magic sent me to lead a team of Aurors as support, but they either already have a task on hand, or they're unwilling to perform tasks during Christmas holidays. So, I implore you to join us; the mission won't take long, just five days.
Please be sure you'll join us!
For Joan to write so many brief and thoughtful words, they're probably being driven crazy. Harry wrote 'okay' at the back of the note, then rolled the parchment for the owl to hold before releasing it.
Tom wasn't here, and he had no intention of staying any longer.
Harry pulled himself out of his emotional slump, and threw himself into preparing for the task.
Working was the easiest way to forget all his troubles.
Germany was even colder than Britain.
Harry wanted to zip his clothes to the top of his head. His bones were beginning to ache again, as if there was a worm staying dormant in his bone marrows, wriggling and gnawing from the inside-out; the pain was long and unbearable.
"I couldn't tell earlier, but... you're actually really uncomfortable in the cold." Joan amusedly watched as Harry wrapped himself tightly.
The woman with neat, short hair shook her head and gathered all the team members together, passing each of them a copy of a file she had. "This is the general information; most of them are insignificant forces. There are a few we need to pay special attention to, which I drew out. Although this isn't particularly dangerous, it's important to remember that your life belongs to you; not to any country."
"Wait…" Alphonse, who used to be a (2) judge with him, pointed to the file and asked, "Joan, how come this force doesn't have any information? D7234?"
"Oh, you'd have to pay special attention to that one. That force is pretty new and illusive; they suddenly appeared around early December. No one knows who they are as they dressed in hoods and don face covers. They don't have any evil intentions; they probably just want to merge forces."
Joan took the file, looked it over, then complained, "For a month, the German Ministry of Magic couldn't find any information; for them to still use a code name is truly ridiculous."
Harry fixed his gaze on the random string of numbers, his heart beating like a drum in his torso.
Something was ringing in the depths of his subconsciousness, ready to surge out, but was sensibly suppressed by him.
Come on, don't scare yourself. Tom's changing; can't you see that?
Harry smiled, and deliberately forgot the bad premonition.
The bad premonition, once confirmed, would only morph into desperation.
They quickly received their first mission: to encircle a small Dark organisation.
But when they stealthily surrounded the gathering place of that organisation, they clearly saw six or seven people in black robes and hoods standing in the middle, negotiating with people from other forces. Everyone's faces were hidden under their hoods; even their hair was tightly covered.
The moment spells were shot at wand point, the people in black robes quickly and tacitly withdrew from the circle of battle - not making any attempts of resistance, and leaving swiftly. Brooms, Animagi, Invisibility Cloaks… They disappeared from the Aurors' sights in various ways and fled.
But this one seemed to react slowly.
"Hey, don't try to run!" Alphonse cast a binding spell, his eyes and hands swiftly attempting to tie up the black-robed man trying to escape; but the other slipped away, and ran to an intersection holding his wand.
"Harry!" Alphonse shouted. Harry, who stood at the intersection confronting a tattooed person, quickly restrained his enemy whilst casting a Trip Jinx to stumble the black-robed man to the ground; the hood in his head loosened, revealing a little bit of his curly black hair.
He was extremely intelligent, and immediately raised his wand to Apparate. No wonder the German Ministry of Magic couldn't catch them; how could they possibly catch those who could save enough magic to perform an Apparition after a battle?
Harry disregarded the person in his hands; as soon as he turned his elbow into their abdomen he pointed his wand to the black-robed man. In the blink of an eye, the spell hit him - "Expelliarmus!"
"Fuck!" Harry heard the man curse before crazily running out of the battlefield, as if extremely afraid of his identity being discovered.
Harry hurriedly caught up and threw himself forward without any regards; he grabbed the man's hood and tugged it fiercely.
It was night, so his vision might not have been as clear and bright compared to the day, but then light scattered over the side of the road, allowing Harry to vaguely distinguish this person. He wasn't close with this person, but he recognised his hooked-eagle nose and sinister eyes - Karkaroff!
Harry felt his breathing stop.
Karkaroff's pupils suddenly contracted.
The moment the name popped into his head, Karkaroff knew what would happen to him.
He saw it; it was over.
He knew how much that person cared about this person; they probably made all of them wear black robes and hoods to, in addition to building momentum, hide it from his adoptive father - Harry Potter. He didn't dare imagine how that person would torture him; the mark on his arm was in searing pain, making him want to cut it off. His abdomen could still remember that cramped feeling; the Cruciatus Curse was no longer worthy of a surprise for him…
Alphonse caught up and quickly tied Karkaroff, who didn't struggle. Rather than fleeing back to that person, it was better to follow these Aurors; at least they wouldn't use the Cruciatus Curse on him.
But… Could the mark on his arm be erased? It couldn't.
No matter where he went, that person could still punish him.
Alphonse wiped the sweat off his forehead. Germany's temperature in January could easily make water solidify enough to pass through cars, but there was still sweat beading over his forehead.
Tying Karkaroff with a binding spell, Alphonse breathed a sigh of relief and glanced at Harry. "Hey! Harry, are you okay? You don't look so good… Are you cold? I'll lend my coat to you…"
Harry felt cold everywhere, from top to bottom, inside-out. So he smiled dazedly, reluctantly at Alphonse, took his warm coat, and shakily slipped it on.
"It's inverted, Harry." Alphonse looked at him amusedly as he put his left arm into the right sleeve; the audible reminder woke him from his daze, allowing him to wear the coat in the right way.
Alphonse seemed to notice Harry's absentmindedness, and asked with a frown, "Are you alright? It's almost over; why don't you go back first?"
When he said 'go back', he meant back to the German Ministry of Magic guest house.
Harry's face was pale, his complexion similar to the moonlit snow. His glasses were crooked on the bridge of his nose; the fierce fight had peeled back a crack on his lenses. The originally green eyes were as cold as death in the dark night. Harry looked at Karkaroff, who was trapped aside with a grim expression, and shook his head.
"No, I want to watch you guys interrogate him."
(1) Tom - Just in case you guys were confused, the house-elf's name was Tom
(2) Judge - Triwizard Tournament judge
Update: This story's also on , so if you'd like to read it there as well...