Title: Hogwarts, A Home
Author: Beth Pryor
Rating: T (maybe less)
Summary: After all is said and done, life must go on. This is the story of another member of the Order of the Phoenix who left the Wizarding World immediately following Voldemort's demise. Now, the question is, can you ever really go home? And even more importantly, should you?
Disclaimer: All characters from the Harry Potter series belong to the marvelous J.K. Rowling. I've created a few of my own, but they pale in comparison to her masterful creativity.
A/N: This is my first story with an OC as one of the main characters. I've kept this one to myself, but moms5thchild's recent works have made me bold. Hopefully you'll allow me to indulge myself a little on this one. God (or Merlin) knows the HP world doesn't need any more characters, but I made one anyway. Thanks for reading. Oh, and although I've written a good bit, I'm still not sure where the story will end up. Suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Hogwarts, A Home
Chapter 1 - Yankee Doodle (Witch)
Alivia Ryan folded the newspapers and magazines that were strewn across the sitting room. The area was mainly deserted now except for a few people who were loath to leave their family members, even if only for the night. Alivia smiled at a woman carefully knitting socks for her son. She knew the young man from her many hours of volunteer work over the past four months. Some of the other ladies spoke negatively of those who stayed close by to their loved ones during the long rehabilitation process. Alivia didn't say a word, because she knew that if Mark had made it back she would have spent every possible moment at his side.
She finished her shift and sat down beside Mrs. Lowen and her knitting supplies before she left for the evening. The two of them admired the older woman's handiwork, and Alivia made Mrs. Lowen promise to teach her how to make a scarf before the winter came. Mrs. Lowen agreed and wished Alivia a good night. She pushed through the door into the warmth of the June evening.
The humidity hit her immediately, and she pulled her longish hair into a ponytail as she walked across the square to her flat. She fumbled with her keys a moment before she found the one for the door. She pushed the door open and held it with her foot as she retrieved her mail from the box just outside. Alivia flipped on the light and through the envelopes while crossing the threshold into the kitchen. Junk and bills were all she found. She made two piles on the table and moved to the answering machine. It was blinking. One message from her mother and one from Nellie, the volunteer coordinator, asking if she could switch shifts on Saturday. That was fine with her, she didn't have any plans. She dialed her parents' house, and got only the machine.
She hung up, locked the doors, and undressed on her way to the bathroom. She stepped into the warm flow of the shower and closed her eyes. She still expected Mark to walk through the door and scare her to death while she stood in the shower. But that wasn't going to happen. John-Mark Ryan, her husband, was dead. He had been killed last November while serving his second tour overseas in the U.S. Army, and being a wizard hadn't helped him at all.
Alivia remembered the day after the Final Battle with Voldemort almost three years ago. He'd begged her to leave Britain for good. He had a wonderful idea about what he wanted to do, following in his father's footsteps. Besides, he had insisted, there wasn't much need for Aurors anymore, was there? She had reluctantly agreed to leave her home and family to go with him, and they had finally been married. They'd had only a few weeks together before Mark had been deployed the first time. He'd been gone six months, and then there had been six more months of Special Forces training, followed by another year of deployment. That had been September of last year when he left, just two days before her 25th birthday.
He'd promised he'd be safe, and she had even talked to him on the phone the night before that mission. It was only the second time he'd been able to call in almost two months. She didn't know if this was regular or not, but it hadn't seemed so far apart before. Anyway, he'd told her that they were going out the next day, so not to worry if he didn't email her for a few days. He'd promised her again that everything was fine. She'd had almost suggested that he take his wand with him. Certainly if he'd needed magic, there could be ways to explain it - disorientation, shell shock, heat exhaustion. But then she remembered his wand was in the safe under the bed with hers. Why had he insisted that they not use magic anymore? He had still been talking on the phone as she was thinking all of this. Finally, he told her that he loved her and that he couldn't wait to see her in person. She volunteered to Apparate into his tent during the night, but he respectfully and regretfully declined. She returned her love to him and hung up the phone. It was the last time she talked to him. Three days later, men in uniform arrived at her door. One of them was a chaplain. She tried to be strong as she received the news they had brought.
The memories of all the days before things had gotten so out of control fell across her mind as the water continued to fall onto her back: Standing on platform nine and three quarters at King's Cross the morning of her first year at Hogwarts. Being sorted into Gryffindor. Learning all about the magical world that she was now a part of. Professor Snape's distaste for anyone or thing that wasn't Slytherin, and everyone else's distaste of him. Quidditch, the most amazingly wonderful game she could have ever imagined and Oliver Wood, Gryffindor's overzealous keeper and one of her best friends. The Weasleys, the wizarding family that had so graciously taken her under their wing, especially when she was dating the second son Charlie, Gryffindor seeker, during her fourth and fifth years. She and Charlie breaking up and him leaving her and the team with a seemingly infinite hole. The arrival of Harry Potter, the new and amazing flyer, who took over so well for Charlie after a year of less than reputable fill-ins. And Mark, dashingly handsome with his dark hair and almost black eyes. Mark, waiting for her on Hogsmeade weekends. Mark, kissing her under the mistletoe in the Great Hall, and in the corridor, and in the common room. Mark, promising her to come back for her next summer after he finished his first year at an American University. He called it "college." Collecting the necessary O. and N.E.W.T.s to train as an Auror.
And then after her second year of training, the Dark Mark had appeared at the Quidditch World Cup. Voldemort had come to Hogwarts and killed a student, Cedric Diggory, during the Triwizard Tournament. Things had gone from bad to worse. Mark hurriedly finished his classes so he could return to help the ministry while Alivia had fought with the Order of the Phoenix. Sirius Black had been lost, and then Professor Dumbledore, even before the Final Battle had begun. So many more people had killed or tortured into insanity by the time that it was all over. Alivia hated to think about it, and that's why Mark had wanted to leave everything behind them, to start a new life in America, the country where he had been born. He'd wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and join the military. Alivia wasn't sure why a wizarding family would choose such an occupation as their legacy, but being Muggle-born, she didn't find herself in a place to question this. She simply packed her things and moved across the ocean with her husband shortly after their marriage at Hogwarts castle.
After Mark had been gone for a month or two, her friends and family couldn't bear to watch her sit in her house staring blankly at the wall. One of them, she didn't remember who, suggested that she volunteer at the Army hospital in Washington, DC. So here she was, spending her days at Walter Reed with the wounded soldiers and veterans. At first, it had been so difficult for her to go in the door, but over time, she had built relationships with the patients and their families. In fact, two of the men had girlfriends visiting next week, and she had offered her apartment for them to have a more private dinner setting. Some days she imagined that somewhere, maybe in a hospital like this one, Mark was enjoying the company of a volunteer like her. But then the realization hit her like a bus. Mark wasn't being cheered up by some girl somewhere. Mark was dead, and he wasn't ever coming home to her. She finished her shower and quickly toweled off before falling into her single bed. She knew that it was of very little use to her, thinking about things in the past that she couldn't change. Alivia didn't even bother to imagine the future. There had been one dream she held for her life, and it had been broken several times over.
The next week, the two girlfriends arrived at her door a few hours before the dinner party was to begin. They explained that they had left the guys to see if Alivia needed any help getting things ready. She put them to setting the table as she finished the dinner preparations and retreated to her room to change. When she returned she noticed six places at the table, but before she could question this, the doorbell rang. She opened it to find Jeff, Greg, and another patient, Rick, outside her door.
Rick was from Georgia, and a few weeks ago, he had caught Alivia crying on the wards. He'd assumed she had been upset by the wide array of injuries that the soldiers around her had suffered, but before she had known it, she'd told him her life story. Well, some of it, anyway. They'd formed a close relationship, something that Alivia cherished but also held at arm's length, the necessary distance for her to fully see that she was still wearing her wedding rings.
Amy and Maria jumped in quickly saying that she hoped that they hadn't minded them asking Rick to come, as he'd been all alone, and they just couldn't bear leaving him. Alivia smiled and agreed with them as she showed the men into the sitting area until dinner was served. She reckoned that everyone had had an exceedingly good time. The two couples thanked her profusely as they left, but Rick hung back to help her "clean up."
As Alivia began loading the dishwasher, Rick turned to her, a very serious look in his eye. Before he could speak, she stopped him
"No, Rick, please don't. I didn't come here for this. I'm not what you need."
He nodded his head, almost imperceptibly. But he still spoke, "Ali, I'm going back over. Not for awhile longer, I've got more therapy, and they've got to get the foot right for the sand, but they've already started letting amputees back in the field, and I'm going. I just wanted you to know."
Alivia faced him, stricken, "Where did you hear that?"
Rick was confused, "What? I've already talked to the people I need to. It's all set."
Alivia responded, shaking her head, "No. Where did you hear to call me Ali?"
Rick shrugged, still not realizing how angry Alivia was becoming, and didn't choose his words very carefully, "Uh, Jeff said that's what your husband had called you. He apparently never stopped talking about his Ali."
Alivia grabbed the counter to keep from falling to the floor. Rick saw her begin to swoon, and he reached out to catch her arm. He moved her onto the couch and a moment later, handed her a glass of water. When she regained a bit of her composure she finally asked, "Jeff knew Mark?"
Rick explained that the two men had crossed paths about a month before Mark had been killed. Jeff had said that Mark had done his best to keep up everyone's spirits even though conditions were abysmal and morale was low. And he'd barely gone fifteen minutes without mentioning his wonderfully gorgeous wife Ali waiting for him at home.
Alivia looked up at him, tears streaming down her face. "Please leave."
Rick didn't say another word, but turned and left, locking the door behind him. Alivia lay silently in the dark on the couch for what seemed like hours until she heard a noise beside her.
She looked over and rubbed her eyes in disbelief. She sat up slowly and cautiously inquired of the figure in front of her, "Wood, is that you?"