He had always been so active as a boy, climbing trees and chasing girls, and yet his muscles ached painfully when he forced them to life. As he moved his arms, and then his legs, he felt consumed by the thought that he had slept away forty years of his life. Nevertheless, one by one, the limbs turned over and flexed as they should. Good.
The first thing that struck him as odd was the quiet. His eyelids felt too heavy to lift, but his open ears heard perfect silence. No–imperfect. He heard a slight swishing motion, and something about it was oddly comforting. It reminded him of the sound of his mother sweeping the stairs at home. Swish, swish, and then she would pause to respond to a querying house elf or to kiss her husband ‘good morning’ on the cheek, and then back to swish, swish without losing her place. He smiled, pleased to see that his facial muscles still worked. Follow the emergency combat checklist, that’s good.
The sound of fabric moving reached his ears. He heard the billowing of a fluffed sheet, and then hands moving over it, smoothing it into immaculate hospital corners. The hands did not stop, however; they returned almost instantly, tucking and re-tucking until perfection had seemingly been achieved. Another smile. Was he back in the barracks? No, active fighting orders were still in place for another week, at least, depending on how the tide turned.
Was it Finnigan? His fellow soldier had been a conundrum: a sloppy drinker and early riser, one who always kept his uniform and bed ship-shape. Work hard, play hard, Finnigan always said. But if they weren’t in the barracks…
He could not recall Finnigan’s first name at the moment.
A window was opened and locked into place above where he laid. He felt fresh, clean air spill onto his skin, teasing the hair on his forearms and ruffling the edges of the sheets slightly. The pads of his fingers on one hand brushed the plain white cloth, finding it to be stiff and industrial, and yet it felt like a cloud atop his exhausted body. The sunlight illuminated the expanse behind his closed eyes, sinking into his exposed pores and releasing an avalanche of warmth. Am I in heaven?
No, no, the sunlight–the barracks were long gone, blasted away by German artillery. He had lost the photograph of his parents. Tears. Winter was the barracks.
Sunlight. The warm atmosphere of the English countryside in spring, with the rain coming nearly every night to temper the heat. Thomas, beginning each morning with his annoying optimism. You should be happy that we were assigned to the trenches when it happened. You should be happy that we’re out here when it’s warm and not in the middle of the bloody frost. You could have lost more than that picture.
Sometimes, secretly, he was jealous of the eternal summer in Thomas’s heart.
Too many hands now, folding and smoothing the sheets in synchronized motion. Not Finnigan, and not Thomas, who had always been reluctant to get out of his bed. It was easy to be hopeful when you never left the safety of your sheets. He felt anger.
He remembered flying. Oh, he had lived for days like these, soaring through the cloudless sky and tossing the Quaffle back and forth with the boys who helped service his father’s farm. Once he had made the mistake of letting a Muggle boy onto a broom, and then there was no more Quidditch until he arrived at Hogwarts.
Hogwarts. The thought was almost as comforting as the sheets and sunlight.
Signing up to help with the war had not been compulsory. There had been two tables in the Great Hall, both of which stayed open until the lists upon them had crossed over onto the backs of the sheets of parchment. He could not remember if his motivation had stemmed primarily from his desire to serve England or the succession of pretty girls signing up across the room to become wartime Healers, but he had been one of the first young men to sell his body and soul to the army.
He had played his final Quidditch game one day before it was time to leave school.
Son, what about your N.E.W.T.s? His father had stood in front of him, his smile slipping as he was informed of the news, still draped in bright Hufflepuff colors.
I’ll come back, Dad, don’t worry. I can finish later. They need my help now.
Well, your mother won’t like it. You know it’ll worry your mother.
How many days had it been since he had seen them? Months? Years?
Tears, warm and wet on his cheek. Mum. Dad.
A scream split the relative quiet, and there was swishing again, accompanied by the sound of footsteps. The beats thundered loudly in his ears, and he twisted slightly in the sheets as he remembered the sound of an army coming to deliver his death. The screaming continued, and the sound of artillery… no, the bed sheets, the sunlight…
He moaned, squeezing his eyes shut until the light in the darkness exploded.
The footfalls died down, as did the muttering that he now realized had followed them. The screams turned to sighs, and then a quiet sobbing, which lasted only a few moments. He listened attentively, like his superiors had taught him to do, but he frustratingly could not tell if the new wave of quiet characterized sleep or death.
Quickly, like removing a bandage, he forced open his grey eyes.
He could not see much from his flattened position, but the room was large, white and clean like his mother’s laundry hanging on the line in the apple orchard. The ceiling stretched up toward the heavens, and owls flew in and out through small holes. He could barely see the edge of a fluffy cloud in an ocean of bright blue sky.
A small black pygmy owl entered the room, and his eyes followed it as it glided down toward the edge of the room. It lighted on the end of a bed where an older man was sleeping. Swish, swish, and a golden-haired nurse in a white cloth dress came over, her hemline barely grazing the floor in her wake. She retrieved a battered-looking letter from the bird, fed it a treat, and smiled as she watched it loop around the room and exit the way it had entered. The letter was placed on the man’s bedside table, surely intended to be a pleasant surprise for when he woke up.
As the woman turned, he saw a bright red cross emblazoned on her upper left arm.
A rank smell filled his nostrils, and he heard a faint groaning coming from his right side. He turned his head slightly, feeling a dull ache in the back of his throat, and grimaced as he witnessed an older nurse reveal a bloody wound in the patient’s side. The woman, apparently used to the scent, covered it with a clean bandage.
The fresh air trickled in through the window, and he inhaled a welcoming breath.
His throat felt like it was on fire. Scorching, burning pain crept up and down his insides like rivers of acid, and no matter how many times he swallowed, it never went away. No amount of deceitfully cleansing air would get rid of the sensation. His eyes closed again, and they were wet with the pain and the memories of his home. He remembered the cherry-red color of his skin, and the way Finnigan and Thomas had yelled at him to take cover, to back up, to get down in the muck of the trench. He remembered the blood coming out of his nose and staining Finnigan’s pristine shirt.
Screaming again, and now the footsteps were rushing to his side, crowding in all around him in a blanket of white. The voices alternated between loud, harsh calls for medicine and soft attempts at soothing him, at just getting him to stop straining.
He felt something cool and slimy fall into his mouth, and then his teeth clacked together crudely as his lips were forced shut. His head began to swim with pain. It tumbled down his throat, causing his stomach to churn and muscles to loosen.
He looked up into the face of a frightened house elf, and then the light disappeared.
Hello! Thank you for stopping by to check out my new story!
As I’m certain you can tell, this is an AU story. You will see some familiar characters, and probably some details you recognize from canon, but the timeline here is set during World War I. The relationship between Muggles and wizards will be explored in further detail as the story unfolds. Of course, as with everything I write, everything taken from canon belongs to J. K. Rowling.
The phrase “eternal summer” was a term that was inspired by famous quotes from William Shakespeare (“But thy eternal summer shall not fade…” – Sonnet 18, written and published sometime in the 1500s-1600s) and Albert Camus (“In the middle of winter, I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Return to Tipasa, 1952).
Also, I’d like to extend some credit to my friends at TGS, namely Missy (forsakenphoenix), Jami (JChrissy), and Susan (violet.vespers), for helping me construct the story summary. Do let me know what you think of it, won’t you?
I hope you enjoyed this opening chapter – please consider leaving a review! Updates should be posted on a weekly basis, barring major real life stress.