Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Rowling is nice enough to let us mess with her characters. I mean no offense to the real men of Easy Company. This fiction is based on the Band of Brother's mini-series with well-known events of the war thrown in. There will be very little magic. Also for one reviewer: Gonorrhea is Guarnere's nickname in the series.
Harry Potter and the War of Choice
Chapter 3: England
Camp Shanks, New York
Harry was thrilled they were heading to Europe. He'd still had some lingering doubt that he'd end up in the Pacific despite actively avoiding that fate. Now that they were in New York like the soldiers he'd talked to before he shipped to Toccoa he was certain Europe was their destination. He was less thrilled that he'd be entering combat and his new friends would become casualties. He was already familiar with the loss of friends in combat and felt that it wasn't fair that these men would soon learn the cost. At the same time he was impatient for something to happen. They'd spent more than a year in training and he was anxious for anything to happen. Patience was a virtue he didn't possess.
New York City wasn't as interesting to Harry as it was to a lot of the guys. He'd spent over a month living there and had seen a lot of the tourist sights already. Furthermore, the guys were annoyed that they had to remove all their unit patches and wear their trousers un-bloused so that German spies couldn't report on troop movements. There was a real risk in letting the Germans know that an airborne division was about to set sail for Europe. Not being able to brag about being a paratrooper dampened the spirits of a lot of men, Harry included.
"Easy listen up," Winters yelled out a few days before they were set to leave. The company was gathered in one of the lecture areas at Camp Shanks. Sobel was no where to be found leaving the most unpleasant and pointless tasks of organizing the men for movement to the junior officers. "The war department has issued some information to help ease our intrusion into England and to prevent any misunderstandings."
He started handing pamphlets to the men at the end of each row. "Think I will disturb the natives, Lef-tennent?" Harry joked to Winters as he reached his row.
"It's reassuring to know there's at least one man in this company that won't start an international crisis, Harry. I'll be sure to send the boys to you if they have any questions."
"Er... thanks, Lieutenant. I'm looking forward to it." Harry took a pamphlet and passed the rest down the row.
"Not that you sound particularly English to us anymore, Harry." Malarkey said.
"You guys are a bad influence, Malark. I've picked up Americanisms." Harry replied in a twangy American accent.
"What the hell was that?"
"Like I said, you're a horrible influence, mate." He flipped the paper over and started reading.
"I want to find a top bunk somewhere," Harry said as the boys made their way down to the cargo area. After loading the Samaria they'd stayed up top to watch as the troop ship set sail. Harry and Blithe, with some of the others boys from Easy, watched as the Statue of Liberty shrunk in the distance. The ship had been built to house 1000 passengers but had been modified to transport 5000 soldiers. There were people everywhere.
"Guess this is it boys," Grant said with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
"Lucky us," Harry replied. "Let's go find a place to sleep." Harry said gesturing to Blithe.
"Yeah." Blithe turned and they followed the other soldiers down to their designated bay.
Harry spotted an open rack and started climbing. "Lookout Liebgott," he said as he climbed to the racks above him. Luz was already lounging in the rack underneath Harry's chosen spot.
"Hey Al, take this one quick before someone else gets it." Harry motioned for Blithe to grab the cot up top next to Harry's. "I'd hate for one of the boys from Dog or Fox to be next to me."
A familiar looking guy the next aisle over replied, "We don't want that neither. We know who the best company is."
"Good for you." Harry replied as he leaned over to grab Blithe's bag. He tossed it on the open bunk and gave a hand to his friend.
"I grabbed a deck of cards from that drugstore Tab took us to. How 'bout a game?" Blithe asked.
The sounds of another conversation interrupted them. "Sobel, that prick's the son of Abraham." Gaurnere said.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Liebgott questioned.
"He's a Jew."
From down below they heard Liebgott throw his cigarette down and jump off his rack. He walked over to Guarnere and leaned into his space. "I'm a Jew," he said.
"Congratulations. Now get your nose out of my face," Gaurnere replied pushing back on Liebgott's chest.
Liebgott lunged at his fellow paratrooper.
"Sure, Al. Sounds a lot better than fighting about Sobel," Harry replied watching as the guys tried to separate the two Easy troopers. Blithe settled on the rack next to Harry, propped himself up on his things, and started passing out the cards.
"Come on Harry. Give a guy a break. I know you don't smoke 'em anyway." Luz said to Harry poking him through his bunk during their eighth night on the Samaria.
Harry shifted as another jab from Luz hit him in the right shoulder. "Maybe you should have thought about that before betting them yesterday."
"How was I supposed to know you were any good at poker?"
"Skip and Malark taught him." Al joined in the conversation, "You can blame them."
"Yeah," Harry said, "Get them to replace your pack of cigarettes. Or you can buy them from me. Your choice."
Luz jumped down. "Skip! Hey Skip! I need to talk to you."
"What are you gonna do with all those cigarettes you've won?" Albert asked. He was laying in his bunk with his arms crossed behind his head.
Harry smirked, "No worries. I have plans for them. Just as soon as we're off this ship. You eat anything today?"
"No. I'm glad I didn't join the Navy. " Al mumbled looking a little green. He rolled to his side and scrunched up.
"If we have to fight as soon as we're off this damn ship the Germans are definitely going to win the war," Penkala said.
"It's not the ship. It's this nasty English food they keep serving us." Skip replied walking sideways through the aisle.
Trying to give Albert some space, Harry sat up and hung his legs over the side to watch the other guys. "Don't know why you boys are complaining, I'm doing just fine."
"Imagine that, Malark. The English boy can tolerate English food." Skip climbed into his bunk. "I think we'll have to make sure he continues the privilege of his home fare when we reach land."
"It's been nice to get some proper tea for a change." Harry responded. He pat the cargo pocket on his left leg that had a small tin of tea bags he'd traded for cigarettes from some of the crew. "How'd you get rid of Luz?"
"Gave him a cigarette. He went topside. Why do you keep taking them when you don't even smoke?"
Harry laughed, "You'll see."
The ship lurched violently and Albert moaned. "It's not just the food."
Harry started to climb down. "Al, I'm going to find Doc Roe. Maybe he can give you something to settle your stomach."
"He doesn't get sick in the air, but he's motion sick from a boat?" Skip asked in disbelief.
"They sure are happy to see us." Floyd Talbert said as he hitched his bag over his shoulder. The dock was filled with civilians calling out and waving to the troopers.
Harry looked over, "Of course they are, Sarge. We're actual proof that help is on the way and they've been at war for four years."
"I'm just happy to be on solid ground again. I'd rather be on a plane than a boat," Blithe said walking behind them. He looked exhausted and drawn out.
"Anyone know where we're headed?" Christensen asked.
"I'm pretty certain we're going to Berlin," Skip responded.
"Not the best choice of a vacation spot, Berlin," Luz joked as they were put in formation.
Lt. Welsh walked up from the front checking on the company. "Let's head out boys, hubba hubba."
"Where are we headed, sir?" Blithe asked.
"You'll find out soon enough, Blithe."
"Well he's cheerful today." Luz said hitching his bag over his shoulder.
"What do you expect? The officers have been sharing quarters with Sobel the last two weeks." Guarnere responded walking by them to hook up with Second Platoon.
"Guess our accommodations weren't too bad after all." Liebgott said as he took the spot behind Harry.
"So Potter, where do you think we'll end up?" Liebgott asked him as the convoy hit the road. They were walking in two long columns down the road. Albert was to his left. Liebgott was directly behind him.
"How would I know, Joe? I haven't been in England in years."
"Well you're the one most suitable to telling us."
"I think you have me confused with Nixon. He's the Battalion Intelligence officer. Bet Sobel knows too as CO. I personally try to limit how much time I spend asking Sobel questions. Feel free to question him if you like."
"If Sobel's supposed to get us there we'll be marched into the Channel." Liebgott replied as he lit up a cigarette.
"Looks like rain," Blithe said looking up as always.
Harry looked at his friend and then looked at the sky. "Get used to it. I for one will not miss the Georgia heat."
Their destination turned out to be a train station. They were packed into passenger cars and sent to Aldbourne. Unfortunately, their arrival at Aldbourne just meant more training operations.
"Why do we always end up on Sobel's team during these exercises?" Harry said to Luz as they made their way across another random English field.
"You should feel bad for Tipper. He's the one trying to teach Sobel how to read a map." Luz grinned at Harry and took a drag off his cigarette.
"It's not like anyone else wants to deal with him either. Our damn CO can't read a map after a year of this, but we're supposed to follow him into combat?" Perconte turned around and joined in their conversation. He grabbed Luz and said "Georgie, you know you want to give your pal Frank a cigarette."
Luz shrugged off Perconte's arm. "Get your own."
"Christ, it's starting to rain again. All it ever does is rain on us." They heard Liebgott's complaint from the back of the line.
"Should've been in Second or Third. I could be with Heyliger or Winters or somebody." Dukemen said.
Harry watched as Sobel, Tipper, and First Sergeant Evans surrounded the map. Sobel and Evans nodded in agreement and Evans turned to approach the group.
Harry whispered to the others. "Here comes Evans."
"Find cover along the fence, guys." First Sergeant Evans ordered the platoon.
They all looked at the fence that sectioned off the field. It was a section about twenty feet long made from split wood.
"What cover?" Albert mumbled to Harry as they made their way over.
"You're kidding right? We're kind of exposed here. Shouldn't we try to find our objective?" The complaints of the platoon started to get louder.
"Light and noise discipline!" Sobel shouted before climbing over the fence and looking through his binoculars towards a group of trees. Harry watched as Tipper shook his head and pointed towards another section of the map. Evans took the map from Tipper and Sobel resumed studying.
Harry leaned against a post. His helmet was tilted to the left as he looked to the horizon. The rain started to get heavier; only his feet were dry, protected by his regularly polished jump boots.
"Think we'll find the objective before or after we're ambushed?" he asked.
"At the rate we're going, we'll probably drown in our own foxholes." Perconte replied. He was crouched down with one knee on the ground. "You're standing in the open, Potter."
"I want to provide a clear shot for a sniper. Why couldn't he get us to the trees if we were going to stop moving?"
"There's someone in the trees." Shifty gestured to the tree line in front of them.
"I don't see anything." Luz said.
Albert replied, "Me neither."
Harry focused on the area and saw a glimmer. It was probably a reflection off someone's rifle or wristwatch. "Shifty's right. Probably one of our other platoons. Looks like we'll be ambushed before reaching our objective. Funny enough Sobel just looked over there with his binoculars."
"Don't warn him, I'd rather lose another exercise and be done for the day." Perconte rolled his eyes. "We're always getting rained on."
"He'll just make us run. You know it's our fault he can't read a map." Harry looked down the line as the group of forty men tried to take cover from the ever increasing rain behind a tiny wooden fence.
Dukemen wiped the water off his face and said, "Is it our fault that he always leaves us out in the open?"
A hundred yards in front of them Second and Third Platoons popped in sight.
Sobel looked surprised and stood there while the other officers from Easy joined him in the middle of the field.
"Well that's that, gentlemen. Any bets on who gets chosen as casualties?" Liebgott said as he hopped over the fence.
"They'll drown in all this rain," Perconte mumbled picking up his gear.
First Platoon picked themselves up and went to join the other enlisted men in the trees. Harry walked past Winters on his way across the field.
"Private Potter," the red-haired lieutenant said to him as he walked by.
Harry walked over to him, "Sir?"
"I couldn't help but notice you standing when the rest of the platoon was trying to find cover."
Harry paused and shifted his weight to his left leg. He moved his rifle strap to his right shoulder then replied. "I saw your platoon in the trees, sir."
"You didn't tell Captain Sobel, Private?" The lieutenant's head tilted just slightly to the right.
Harry risked a glance in Sobel's direction before he responded. "I didn't feel the need, sir."
Lt. Winters turned to look at Welsh who had a grim look on his face. Welsh shook his head. "You are to report any disturbances on the line, soldier."
Harry looked at the lieutenant and replied, "Yes, sir."
Winters joined the conversation with the other officers and Harry walked over to the company. "Way to go guys, that's a fantastic cover you have there," said Malarkey gesturing to the fence.
Harry responded, "I'll join Second, you boys can deal with Sobel for a while. It must be nice traipsing across the English countryside with someone that can actually read a map. Evans and Tipper are always trying to fix Sobel's mistakes, but by that time it's too late."
"Don't say it. Please don't even say it."
"Sobel's lost again."
"It could be worse. It could start raining."
Harry didn't say anything. They'd been in Aldbourne for months and Sobel couldn't find his way out of a paper bag. Sobel was more incompetent than Lockhart. He was all talk. He didn't have any practical skills.
"Why is there a fence here? There should be no fence here. Tipper!" Sobel yelled out.
Standing right beside him Tipper replied with a quick, "Yes, sir?"
Sobel said, "Give me the map," and grabbed it out of Tipper's hands. He turned and said, "Perconte, Luz, Get the men... Take cover behind those trees!"
Luz ordered the group, "All right, let's go. Move it out, fellas."
First platoon grouped up behind the trees.
"Perconte?" questioned Skinny Sisk.
"Sobel's lost again, isn't he?"
Perconte nodded, "Yeah, he's lost."
"Fucking Christ..." sighed Skinny.
Perconte turned suddenly, "Hey, Luz! Can you do Major Horton?"
"Does a wild bear crap in the woods, son?" replied Luz in Horton's voice. The guys around him laughed.
"Maybe the good major can goose this schmuck. Get us moving?"
"No, no way. I'm not gonna." Luz replied shaking his head.
"Oh yeah! Luz, you gotta! Come on," urged Skip.
"All right, just this once. Shh!"
The platoon quieted and looked towards Tipper, Sobel, and Evans. Tipper was gesturing to the map.
Harry watched as Luz took a deep breath to prepare himself and then yelled out, "Is there a problem, Captain Sobel?"
"Who said that? Who broke silence!" Sobel spun around to look at the platoon.
Behind him Tipper was smirking and then said something too quiet for anyone in the trees to hear.
Luz continued his imitation, "What is the goddamn hold up, Mr. Sobel!"
Sobel looked around in a panic and then replied, "A fence, sir, a... God! A barbed-wire fence, sir!"
"Oh, that dog just ain't gonna hunt!" spit out Luz. It was a common thing for Horton to say, but the platoon busted out in laughter.
Luz gestured for them to stop and then hissed a quick "Shut up!"
"Now, you cut that fence and get this goddamn platoon on the move!"
"Yes, sir!" Sobel called out. Harry watched as Evans handed him wire-cutters. They were finally getting somewhere.
After finding the road Sobel made them get in formation and started running to the intersection that was their objective. The captain was running in the front and every so often would yell out, "Hi-yo, Silver!"
"I suppose stealth isn't part of the objective?" Harry asked.
"Don't knock a good thing kid. We're not lost and we're headed in the right direction," Perconte replied.
"We'll be massacred if he does this in combat."
"You actually think he'll last more than a day in combat?" Liebgott asked. "Either our side or theirs will make sure that doesn't happen."
"Looks like Second Platoon took the intersection," Albert told Harry. They watched as Sobel slowed down and looked at Winters.
"Good work, Second Platoon. We took the objective," the Lieutenant informed his men.