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Trials of a Brave Heart

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Joss O'Hara was working out in his garden, pruning the roses he and his wife had planted when they had first moved into this little hideaway cottage in the middle of the valley. They had liked its small size and remote location which gave them an added sense of security. This was because the house stood alone amongst the rolling hills and meadows which seemed to extend into the horizon with nothing else in sight.

Joss stood up momentarily to give his reddened knees some reprieve. As he stood, he looked out to admire the view, before turning back to survey the other gardens he still needed to attend to. The lawn featured a dozen different gardens which he took care of daily while he waited for his wife to return home. Looking towards the front of the house, he decided the roses were good enough for the day and moved on to the next garden. This one was specifically for vegetables which his family used regularly to prepare their meals, especially since it was late in the summer and most of the vegetables were ripe to eat.

Joss enjoyed spending most of his days outside, especially while his three-year old daughter slept in her room upstairs. She was the perfect child, so full of life and curiosity. She did not fuss often and lavished in the attention he and his wife gave her. Joss smiled as he thought of how his life had unexpectedly turned out; a caring wife he never thought would agree to marry him and a house centered in a beautiful meadow away from the rest of the harsh and deceptive world. But the best thing him and his wife agreed was the blessing which was their daughter; whom he would give his life for. Despite the war he had more in his life than he had ever anticipated. This is why he wished it was him risking his life in order to protect his family…

After Joss picked the vegetables, he got up to tend to the side garden to water it. It had been a hotter season than normal, and this had become his routine. Spending all his spare time attending to the yard, mostly because it was all he could do. Just wait and watch the skies for anything peculiar. Any signs telling him to flee at a moment's notice. Watching for any sign of his wife or the other Phoenix members in need of help. Joss had been on edge for the past three years while his wife, Lena, had gone to join the Order of the Phoenix alongside their friends James, Lily, Remus, Sirius, Alice and Frank, among others. It angered Joss to think that he was of no use; it was his world too and he could do nothing to prevent the evil that was coming.

By now the sun was shining overhead, as bright as it had been all summer. But before he could move to the next garden, he heard an unexpected noise coming from the house. It was his daughter, Marnie, screaming in her bed. Joss always left the windows open so he could hear her cries or squabbles. Often Marnie woke up giggling which would alert him that she was awake. This time however was different and almost terrifyingly unusual. He quickly started heading towards the house before he stopped momentarily in his tracks. Off in the far distance, there was a dark greenish-purple hue invading the light sky. This was it… they were coming.


Eight years later…

I woke up to see the sun just visibly showing over the distant hills that surrounded my house from all sides. I always loved watching how the sun changed the scenery and colouring of the meadows depending on what time of day it was. So far, the sun made the tops of the hills glow almost as if they were engulfed in a golden blaze. I smiled as it felt like the flames were filling my body with a bubbling excitement like I was about to explode. I had been waiting for this day my entire life.

With the sudden realization that today was actually the first of September, I threw off my covers and catapulted myself out of bed right to my bedroom door. I opened it with excitement and briefly paused to hear the sizzling sound of bacon on the pan. No sooner had I realized this, I could suddenly smell the hot grease wafting up the stairs from our small kitchen where my dad was no doubt preparing breakfast for the two of us. I bounded down the stairs and took a running slide through our sitting room in order to reach the kitchen which was at the back of our house. We lived in a small cottage which seemed detached from the rest of the world. This had apparently been a major selling factor for my parents when they bought the house during the war, especially since me and my dad had both been vulnerable targets. Ultimately my mother's life became endangered due to her family choices. I briefly frowned at this thought as I looked up to see my dad placing what looked like a pound of bacon onto a serving plate. He turned around and smiled at me as he set the plate down on our small table in the so-called dining room which was just off our kitchen. Since we live in such a small house all of our furniture is also fit to size. I thought of this as I looked down at our table which was covered in food including pancakes, bacon, sausages, beans, scrambled eggs and waffles as well as our ancient looking tea pot which had belonged to my mother's family.

Dad kept smiling as he rearranged the food to fit the final serving plate and looked up at me when he finally had everything on the table.

"Well I know this may not compete with the Hogwarts feast you'll have later tonight but I do think the O'Hara house feast is pretty spectacular" my dad exclaimed as he sat down in his usual seat which was closest to the kitchen. He also gestured for me to sit down across from him which was my usual seat.

Everything in this house was worn which I felt gave the cottage a very warm and welcoming feeling. I had spent my whole life here since my parents moved in right after their wedding. They got married just before the start of the Wizarding War and had me six months later. My father has always assured me though that I was not the reason they had gotten married; the war had just sped up their agenda to start a family. I never doubted what my dad told me since we were always honest with each other and I knew he loved my mother dearly. She was the love of his life.

"Dad these are all your special breakfasts combined!" I exclaimed while already shoveling food onto my plate.

Even though I was quite small for my age I usually ate twice the amount of food that my father did for every meal. This made every meal look like we had a larger family than just the two of us.

I was in the middle of scarfing down my waffles when I looked up and noticed my dad staring at me with only his cup of tea in his hand. I swallowed my mouthful and looked back at him with a large grin.

"Dad, I can't believe I'm finally going to Hogwarts. I hope I make some friends on the train right away just like mum! Wasn't that how she met Aunt Alice and Marlene?" I looked at him thoughtfully and watched as the corner of his mouth turned up into a small smile while his eyes sparkled with the tinge of sadness he always got when I mentioned my mother.

He set down his cup and answered my question with his hands folded together on the table. "Yes, your mum sat with Marlene and Alice on her first day and even though she got sorted into Hufflepuff and the others into Gryffindor, they were always the best of friends."

He finished explaining and drifted his gaze to look out the window which features our backyard and the sprawling hills in the distance. He returned his gaze a moment later and looked at me thoughtfully.

"You know Marnie, you will probably have many different experiences than your mother, so do not get discouraged if you don't make friends right away. I do know however that there are a couple families in the area with children starting this year or who are already in school. I am sure there will be many students there for you to meet and befriend."

This statement from my father sparked my interest since he never talked about knowing any of the local families. The only family I knew of was the Lovegood's who were a good five miles away. Mr. Lovegood and my father shared a passion for gardening which I assumed was the only reason we saw any of the neighbours at all. This also meant that I would get to see Luna once in a while whom I really considered to be one of my only friends. It was a good thing we got along quite well and meant that we would spend hours sharing stories in the meadows near my house and picking wildflowers. But I knew she didn't start school for another two years, so my father couldn't have meant her.

My father also liked to keep me close which meant I could never go far and rarely even visited the Lovegood house. I also did not know any other neighbours or anyone from the closest town since my dad preferred to stay at home. I was surprised then to find out that even though I did not know anyone else and never saw my dad go anywhere by himself, that he somehow had knowledge of who lived nearby (and by nearby, I mean like a 20-mile radius). The only other visitor we ever got was my uncle who was accompanying us to King's Cross and would probably be arriving any minute.

As if on cue, before I could ask my father about these mysterious neighbours, I heard a soft rapping at the door.

I stood up quickly and propelled myself from the table to take another running slide towards the front door before almost tripping over my opened trunk which was currently in the middle of our sitting room. I heard my father scold me for being too reckless, but I was too excited to contain all my energy for what was going to happen today.

I threw the door open to see my dad's best friend standing on our little stoop. He was dressed in a worn looking overcoat and dress pants which also looked a little too large for his fairly thin figure. But despite his drab appearance he had a large smile on his face as he looked down at me.

"Uncle Remus!" I yelled as I threw myself onto him which almost caused him to lose his footing. "Today is the day! I get to go to Hogwarts! What house do you think I will be in..? I hope I am in Gryffindor like you… or maybe Hufflepuff like mum was. I will be happy with anything- well maybe not Slytherin" I started to ramble through my excitement as my father came to the doorway to greet Remus.

"I thought you would be done packing by now, especially since I came to pick you up and drive you to King's Cross," Remus inquired as he looked over at my opened trunk which was only half full with articles of clothing hanging out of it. However, he had a knowing smile on his face which showed that he purposefully arrived 90 minutes early for this very reason.

My father returned his knowing smile and explained, "Well, we were up late last night watching movies and playing monopoly. We started that game last week and had to finish it before Marnie left, and she just wouldn't let me win."

My dad then turned a mocking smile down towards me which I returned by crossing my arms over my chest.

"Dad," I huffed, "You are too old for me to let you win, plus, how will you ever learn if I go easy on you? Monopoly requires certain special skills to win." I explained with a devilish grin.

I was always told by both my dad and Remus that I had my mother's competitiveness. It was always something that I loved to hear them say. Dad would also tell me how much I reminded him of my mother in general which always made me feel closer with her.

It was then that Lupin frowned while looking over at Joss. Joss was focusing all of his attention on Marnie with glossy looking eyes and Remus thought it must be hard on his friend to watch his daughter go to school and have her be away from home for so long; all without Lena by his side.