CHAPTER 46: HOME

For as long as he could remember, Jimmy O'Bannon loved history. Learning how decisions and actions from previous decades and centuries helped shape the world today, the personalities of the people involved in those events.

London was a place full of history. Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace. O'Bannon's parents took him to see all of them, and he enjoyed it.

For the most part.

Sometimes he looked around at the people in his tour group, or who were just walking throughout the city. None of them had a clue of the darkness gathering around them.

At one point, when he was at Trafalgar Square, he shivered, imagining all the buildings around him reduced the smoldering rubble, and the people lying amongst it, dead. Just like Cedric Diggory.

Would that be the fate of London if Voldemort won? And Paris? And Moscow? And New York?

And Boston?

Time and time again he wondered if he was cut out for this. Right now Dumbledore only wanted him to convince his fellow students at Salem of Voldemort's return, and see which ones might stand against the dark wizard, or join him. But what about after graduation? What if Voldemort attacked openly? He knew from History of Magic class, and from Rosa's and Jared's parents, that the Big War wasn't like the wars he saw on TV, with the fighting thousands of miles from his living room. Voldemort and his followers attacked everywhere! Villages, market places, schools, individual homes. There was no single battlefield.

Could he actually take on a Death Eater?

The day before they were to fly home, O'Bannon's parents took him to the Imperial War Museum. Instead of being fascinated by all the exhibits, he felt apprehension with every step he took. All the tanks and planes and rifles and missiles on display only reminded him of the reality he, and everyone else in the Wizarding World, faced.

Why is this happening? Why can't Voldemort be dead?

He just had to hope Dumbledore and his allies could stop the dark wizard before things got really bad.

And what if they can't?

Dread crushed his stomach as he walked past a row of framed photographs. He barely glanced at them, until he came to one of Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Beneath the photo was a plaque titled, GENERAL EISENHOWER'S LETTER TO THE ALLIED INVASION FORCE, JUNE 5TH, 1944.

O'Bannon stopped and read it.

"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

"You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arm on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people's of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

"Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

"I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

"Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

Chills went up O'Bannon's spines as those words echoed in his mind. He thought of the soldiers who had read that letter before storming the beaches of Normandy. How many had been just like him? Regular guys, probably just a few years older than him. They'd been farmers or cab drivers or bartenders or mailmen, or in the case of Ted Williams and Milt Schmidt, professional athletes.

O'Bannon had even heard of teens his age, even younger, who lied about their age so they could fight the Nazis and the Japanese.

They knew what was at stake. They knew the risks, and still they went to war.

If those men could do that fifty-plus years ago, surely he could.

It wasn't like he had a choice.

He took a breath, burning the words into his brain, letting them fill him with confidence, and more importantly, hope. A smile formed on his lips. He doubted General Eisenhower could have imagined his words on the eve of D-Day would apply to another war, in a whole other world, decades later.

O'Bannon walked away, taking one final glance at Eisenhower's photograph.

"Thanks, Ike."

XXXXX

The next morning O'Bannon and his parents woke up early, very early, so they could catch their 6:50 flight out of London's Heathrow Airport. They had a two-and-a-half hour layover in Dublin to switch planes, then began seven-hour trip back to the United States. He passed some of the time talking about some of his experiences at Hogwarts – that didn't involve the third task or Lord Voldemort – with his parents. Mom seemed particularly interested in Mireet, and why he hung around "those Weasley twins" when all they did was get him in trouble.

"C'mon, Mom. They didn't get me in trouble all the time."

That answer didn't seem to satisfy her.

O'Bannon read part of a Tom Clancy paperback, ate the lunch served by the flight attendants, which was tolerable, and watched the in-flight movie, The Brady Bunch Movie, which he actually enjoyed.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the captain's voice came over the loudspeaker. "We are beginning our descent into Boston's Logan International Airport. Please return to your seats, fasten your seatbelts and put all tray tables in their upright position. We should be on the ground in about twenty minutes. Current weather in Boston, partly cloudy, with a temperature of seventy-seven degrees."

A jolt of excitement went through O'Bannon. Not long now before he was home.

He looked out the window, watching the thick white clouds go by. His thoughts turned to Jared, Rosa and Artimus. Merlin's beard, it had been nearly a year since he saw them. As much as he missed his friends in Britain, he was chomping at the bit to see his friends in America. He had so much to tell them about his time at Hogwarts.

Both the good and the bad.

Nearly eleven hours after taking off from Heathrow, their plane touched down at Logan International.

"Home sweet home, Jimmy." Dad slapped him on the shoulder.

"Yup." He bounced in his seat a little, anxious to see the Boston skyline again, along with Fenway Park, the new Boston Garden, Freedom Trail, Boston Common and the sailboats and rowers in the Charles River.

Most importantly, he couldn't wait to be back in his house again.

They exited the plane, retrieved their luggage, and made their way through the terminal. They were heading to the walkway leading to the parking garage when O'Bannon spotted a group of people ahead him.

"No way." He slowed, mouth agape. "No friggin' way."

Jared, Rosa and Artimus all smiled at him, with Jared holding up a crude handmade sign that read WELCOME HOME JIMMY. Behind them stood Rosa's parents and Jared's parents.

"Oh my God." O'Bannon started toward them. "I can't believe you're here."

Rosa bounded over and leaped on him. "Jimmy! Merlin's beard, I missed you!" She pecked him on the cheek and gave him a suffocating hug.

"I missed you, too."

Rosa released him and looked him over. "Did you get bigger?"

"A little. I was doing a lot more lifting this year." He flexed his right arm.

"Yeah!" Jared strode over to him. "The ladies aren't gonna be able to keep their hands off you now."

O'Bannon laughed and clasped hands with Jared. They both pounded one another on the back. "Good to see you again, bro."

"You too, man. Welcome home."

O'Bannon then turned to Artimus. "Art. Glad you made it here." He also clasped hands with him and pounded his back, though not as hard as he did with Jared.

"My step-mom convinced my father to let me come, and we side-along Apparated with Jared's parents and Rosa's parents."

O'Bannon nodded. Normally Ulysses Rand forbid Artimus from visiting him in the Muggle World. He only relented whenever his trophy wife of the moment wanted some alone time.

The Infantes and Diazes hugged or shook hands with O'Bannon before greeting his parents.

"Thank you for welcoming Jimmy back," Mom said.

"Oh, it's the least we can do, Ellen," said Mrs. Infante. "Besides, I don't think these three could wait another minute to see him again."

"Hey, can they come back to the house with us?" O'Bannon asked his parents.

"I don't have a problem with it," Dad answered, then looked at the Infantes and Diazes. "So long as it's okay with you."

"Of course it's okay." Mr. Diaz nodded. "These four have a lot of catching up to do. Just Floo us when you're ready to come home."

"You got it, Dad," said Jared.

The Infantes and Diazes bid their farewells, then when off to find a secluded place where they could Apparate. O'Bannon followed his parents to their minivan, with Rosa, Jared and Artimus in tow.

"So, guys," Dad said as they turned onto I-93. "How does pizza sound for dinner?"

"Ooooh yeah!" O'Bannon grinned wide. Much as he enjoyed the food at Hogwarts, pizza had not made it onto any wizarding menus. Man, he was jonesing for a few slices.

"Maybe we can do some Dunkin' Donuts for dessert," Jared suggested, a hopeful note in his voice.

"I think we can swing that, too."

"Yes!" Jared raised both arms. "You rule, Mister O'Bannon!"

O'Bannon couldn't help but chuckle. Jared's Dunkin' Donuts obsession never ceased to amuse him.

For the remainder of the trip, his friends grilled him about his year at Hogwarts, with Rosa asking, "So how cute was Harry Potter?"

"Man, how should I know?"

"Yeah, Rosa." Jared shook his head. "Jimmy wasn't looking to make time with Harry Potter. He had his sights set on that tall French witch. What was her name again?"

"Mireet," he muttered, then stared out the window, the smile fading from his face.

Am I ever gonna see her again?

"So what was she . . . ouf!" Jared got cut off when Rosa elbowed him in the side, gave him a stern look and shook her head. She then gave O'Bannon a sympathetic smile.

Dad stopped off at a Dunkin' Donuts on the way home. When the minivan pulled into the driveway, O'Bannon grinned wide as he took in the red, two-story clapboard house in front of him.

Home.

They went inside. While Dad called a nearby pizza place, O'Bannon led his friends upstairs to his room.

"We're just gonna chill out until the pizza comes," he told his parents.

"Okay, Jimmy," Mom answered.

O'Bannon bit his lip. Chilling out was the furthest thing on his mind right now.

"Take a seat, guys," he told them when they entered his room. "We gotta talk."

Rosa and Jared sat on the bed, while Artimus took the chair at his desk.

O'Bannon closed the door, his hand still gripping the knob. He closed his eyes, gathered his thoughts and turned to face them.

"There's something I gotta tell you. I couldn't say it in front of my parents." He paused. "Not everything was fun and games over at Hogwarts. Something bad . . ." He snorted. "Bad. This is so far beyond bad."

"You-Know-Who's back," Rosa said.

O'Bannon's eyes widened. "You know?"

"Of course we do," said Jared. "Our parents told us."

"They worked with a few anti-You-Know-Who groups during the Big War," Rosa explained. "Some of those people got in touch with them the day after that kid at Hogwarts got killed."

"Well that's good. Maybe they can convince the Department of Magic You-Know-Who's back, because Britain's dumbass Minister of Magic just wants to bury his head in the sand and ignore the whole damn thing."

Jared frowned. "Sorry to disappoint you, dude, but that ain't happening."

"Are you kidding me?"

"I wish."

"But your Mom's an auror. And Rosa, both your parents are aurors."

"Yeah," she said. "But they're aurors without any proof."

Anger lines dug into O'Bannon's face. "Headmaster Dumbledore said it. What, the word of one of the greatest wizards in history isn't good enough?"

"Not in this case," said Rosa.

"Okay, so what about the kid who actually blasted You-Know-Who's ass, Harry Potter?"

Jared grimaced, then turned to Artimus. "Yo, Art. You better show him."

Artimus nodded, then pulled a copy of The All-Seeing Eye from his pocket. "Look at the international section."

O'Bannon took the newspaper and turned to the appropriate page.

"Aw, bloody hell." He scowled at the headline.

WIZARDING HERO SUFFERING FROM DELUSIONS?

Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived. For years he has been considered a hero to the Wizarding World. But stories are surfacing out of Potter's native Britain that all the fame has gone to the 14 year old wizard's head. Following his successful completion of the resurrected Tri-Wizard Tournament, a magical contest involving students from Hogwarts School, Beauxbatons Academy and Durmstrang Institute, Potter began making up wild stories about the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

"These claims are completely false," said British Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge. "Clearly Harry Potter enjoyed all the attention that came with the Tri-Wizard Tournament a bit too much. He does not want it to end. But to make up a lie like this goes beyond irresponsibility."

The followers of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named committed numerous atrocities, not only in Britain, but in dozens of other countries, including the United States, during the Big War. But Minister Fudge reassured the magical public that You-Know-Who is not back.

"All is well in the Wizarding World."

O'Bannon didn't read the rest of the article. He crumpled up the newspaper and threw it on the floor.

"Son-of-a-bitch!" He exhaled an angry breath. "This is bullcrap! I was around Harry after the third task. I saw how he was. He didn't even want to be in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Rita Skeeter ran hit pieces on him. He was miserable for days after Cedric Diggory got killed. Trust me, the last thing he wanted was attention."

"Whoa, whoa." Jared held up his hands. "Ease up, man. We believe you."

O'Bannon drew a calming breath. "Sorry. I'm not mad at you guys."

"We know," Rosa said. "But now you see what the problem is. This Fudge guy may be a dumbass, like you said, but he's still the Minister of Magic over there. He's the top official for Wizarding Britain, and lots of people are gonna believe him over a fourteen year old kid and a school headmaster, no matter how famous they are."

"And it's like my Mom and Dad said," Jared chimed in. "There are people who don't want to accept the possibility You-Know-Who could ever come back."

"Then their idiots!"

"Yeah, maybe they are. But you've heard all the stories from our parents about what it was like during the war. And my brother, Esteban. I mean, he was just a little kid back then, but he's told me he remembers everyone being scared, like, all the time. Some people, they just don't wanna believe that can happen again."

"Well it can, and it will if we don't try to yank people's heads out of their asses."

"What do you mean?" Artimus asked.

O'Bannon told him about his meeting the Dumbledore the night before he left Hogwarts.

"He wanted me to do two things. One, try to convince as many people as possible that You-Know-Who is back. Two, try to identify students who may want to fight You-Know-Who, and students who may want to join him. And that's where you guys come in."

He took a breath before continuing. "You're my best friends. Hell, you're my bros – and sis." He flashed a brief grin at Rosa. "I'd like for you guys to help me."

"We're in," Rosa and Jared blurted a split-second apart.

"Yo, guys, hear me out. Dumbledore said this isn't a game. Who knows what else we may have to do? We may have to actually fight one day, and a lot of people got killed fighting You-Know-Who the last time."

"Jimmy, we both grew up with parents who fought in the Big War." Rosa nodded to Jared. "We know better than most people what'll happen if You-Know-Who wins. There's no way we want to live in a world under his rule, if the evil slimebucket even let's us live."

"Yeah, what she said." Jared pointed to his cousin. "We're with you, man. Whatever you want, just say it."

O'Bannon nodded, then turned to Artimus. "Art, what about you?"

Artimus shifted in his chair, his eyes flickering in all directions. "Um, yeah. Yeah, okay. My father can't find out about it, though. He believes that article in The All-Seeing Eye."

A smile grew on O'Bannon's face. "Thanks, guys. You're friggin' awesome."

He looked around at the three purebloods, images of his friends from Britain forming in his mind. He still missed them a lot. Hell, they'd become more than friends. They'd been a team.

Luckily, he had another team here in America.

Confidence rose inside him. No matter what happened down the road, he knew he could face it so long as he had Rosa, Jared and Artimus by his side.

THE BEGINNING


AUTHOR'S NOTE: What's in store now for Jimmy and his friends? Find out in their further adventures, all currently posted on fanfiction-dot-net. Here they are in order . . .

"Air of Disharmony"

"Dark Horizon"

"Midnight's Blood"

"In the Grip of Darkness Part I"

"In the Grip of Darkness Part II"

Enjoy.

Be sure to check out my original novel "Sea Raptor." Ex-Army Ranger Jack Rastun must stop a sea monster's deadly rampage along the Jersey Shore. Available at Amazon.