Prologue

And This Long Wake of Phosphor…


And this long wake of phosphor,
iridescent
Furrow of all our travel — trailed derision!
Eyes crumble at its kiss. Its long-drawn spell
Incites a yell. Slid on that backward vision
The mind is churned to spittle, whispering hell.

—Hart Crane (1899—1932), Southern Cross*


(a letter written on ruled notebook paper)

Ginny,

You know I'm not that great at writing letters but I'm giving it a go. I reckoned if you didn't hear from me at some point I'd be in trouble. The thing is I haven't written so far because I'm not sure what to say. Or I'm not sure what to say that won't make you hacked at me.

I don't want you to come with me. Sorry, but that's the truth. The Dursleys have been gone a lot the last few days and I've been sitting here and it looks like a bad idea. How are we going to get you away from The Burrow? Your mum will kill me, you know.

What really worries me is the Ministry. You'll still be under age and if you use any magic then they'll find us. I can't think of any way around that and yes I have tried, I'm not just using excuses. There's no way I'll let you come if you can't use magic to defend yourself.

So I've torn this letter up about five times now and started over. This is the best version, I think. I don't know. I'm not good at writing letters. I just want to know that you're okay and that you don't want to hurt me for changing my mind again.

Harry


(a letter written on blank white stationary)

Dear Harry,

You're a prat. I'm only slightly angry with you. You aren't good at writing letters, but at least you tried.

As for everything else — stop it, Harry. You're thinking too much. You should never be alone, you know that? You're terrible at it! I leave you to your own devices for a few weeks and you fall apart. I want you to get in touch with Scott and tell him to bring you to The Burrow right away. Full stop. Get out of that awful house and come see me. We'll work this out. I'll wager Hermione can think of something for the Ministry problem. Or we can tell Scott to just burn the place down.

Love,

Ginny


(a letter written on ruled notebook paper)

Ginny,

Please don't tell Scott to burn down the Ministry. He might actually do it and we've got enough problems. I don't know how to get in touch with him. He just shows up sometimes. I don't think he would take me to your place. He seems happy enough to leave me here, maybe because of the protections. Makes his job easier, probably.

Last time I saw him he said that Lila was watching out for you and everyone else at the Burrow. If anything should happen, make sure you stick close to her. I told Scott to stay near you as well, but I'm not sure he listened. He usually likes to keep us all in one place. If he hasn't tried to move us he must have some sort of reason.

I said before I wasn't good at writing letters. Well, I'm really really not good at writing letters that are personal. But I miss you. And I still don't see how this is going to work but I hope it does.

Guess that wasn't very romantic. I'm just rubbish at this.

Harry


(a note scrawled on the back of a flyer for a lawn service)

Hey dude

Lil said Ginny was griping

about me seeing you?

For something?

I don't know

Just call me

Even you magic Neanderthals

gotta know how to use a phone

020 7946 0998


(a letter written on heavy parchment)

Harry,

Hey, mate. Thought it was about time I write you since it's been a bit. I've been writing Hermione non-stop though, for a change. I think she likes it. Hard to tell just reading about her day, maybe she's sick of all the letters. You don't think Hermione would ever get tired of letters do you? Maybe I should stop.

Anyway I wanted to ask you something. I saw you'd been writing Ginny. Which is fine, that's nice that you can still be friends and all. But I thought there was something else going on? Gin seems kind of excited when she's writing you. So really what I'm wondering is if the two of you got back together. That's why I wrote.

Write back soon,

Ron


(a phone conversation)

(Ringing)

SCOTT: 'Yello!

HARRY: Hello? Scott?

SCOTT: Oh, hey, Harry. Thought I might hear from you.

HARRY: Well, you did give me your number. How does that work, though, did you just buy a—

SCOTT: Uh, Harry, if we're going to continue this conversation it would be helpful if you'd take the phone out of your ass.

HARRY: Sorry. Sorry, I… (embarrassed silence) God, I don't remember the last time I used a phone. I was putting it too close to my mouth. At least I'm not shouting, some wizards will do that.

SCOTT: Good thing you're no ordinary wizard. The Chosen One doesn't need to shout.

HARRY: (sigh) Right. Like I was saying, did you buy a phone in London?

SCOTT: This is a recent setup. Standard, but recent. This number actually just routes to my com.

HARRY: Okay.

SCOTT: …So did you call for any particular reason, or is this a cry for help?

HARRY: That thing with Lila and Ginny. Ginny wants you to take me to The Burrow as soon as you can.

SCOTT: Why? You changing your mind already?

HARRY: I change my mind about it every other minute. That, and she doesn't like me being alone out here.

SCOTT: Tough noogies. Not much longer to go anyway, you'll be there soon enough.

HARRY: I reckoned you'd say that. That's what I told her.

SCOTT: Well, aren't I predictable. (a loud bang, muffled shouting in the distance) Hey, look at that, I gotta go. Keep it real, H.

(dial tone)

HARRY: Bye…


(a letter written on ruled notebook paper)

Ron,

I know this isn't what you want to hear but the thing I have with Ginny is complicated. I'll just be honest. She wants to come with us. I know that isn't a good idea, but you need to talk to Scott about it more than me. He said some things that

I don't know how to finish this. I'm sort of convinced that leaving her behind is pointless, but then I'm also not because I know that it will be dangerous. I can't say more in a letter. Sorry.

Harry


(a letter written on blank white stationary)

Bloody hell, Harry! I can't believe you told Ron and not in person. He exploded today, no joke, I thought for sure Mum would find out about the whole thing. What were you thinking? You know he's all worried that you're just messing me about. It's unbearable here right now, thanks to you.

Even Dad wants to know why we're fighting and what am I going to say? Couldn't you just keep it to yourself for a few more weeks? Is that really so hard?!

You're such a total prat, Harry. Lucky I like you so much.

Ginny


(a letter written on ruled notebook paper)

Ginny,

I'm sorry. I really am. I just couldn't lie to him. I thought about it. He was going to find out anyway, you know that. He hasn't written back to me. I'm sure that's not a good sign.

I'm back to being glad you'll be with me. I feel like if I could just be with you we could work this out.

I reckon this will last until tomorrow morning, then I'll want to lock you away again.

Harry


(a letter written on personalized pale lavender stationary)

Dear Harry,

I understand you've made quite a mess recently. Ron has been writing me (for once!) and raised a fuss about you and Ginny. I suppose you've worked things out with her, at least for the most part.

I really can't imagine why you told Ron without doing so in person, but what's done is done. I'll do my best to calm him, though when it comes to Ginny you know how he can be. What you really need is for Scott to talk to him. That way, even if Ron tries to hit Scott, we all know he had it coming anyway (that was a joke).

Speaking of which, has Scott said anything about watching me? I could have sworn I saw a blond man across the street last Thursday. He was leaning against a car. I went to the front walk, but by then he was gone. There wasn't exactly a crowd on the street that evening, so I thought it might be him.

I know you're impatient and feeling cooped up at the Dursleys', but it won't be much longer until the wedding. Try to get some rest, Harry — real rest, not the tossing and turning you call rest when you're worried about something. I know you haven't been sleeping well, because I know you.

Affectionately,

Hermione


(a phone conversation)

(Ringing)

SCOTT: This had better be Harry Potter.

HARRY: It is me. Why would it be someone else?

SCOTT: Just getting ready to threaten someone, if need be. You never know. Somebody could have broken into your house or stolen this number from you.

HARRY: And you would have done what, exactly?

SCOTT: I would have told them that I'd rip their lower intestines out through their urethra unless they let you go immediately.

HARRY: Ugh. Can that actually be done?

SCOTT: No. But it would be both painful and fatal when I tried.

HARRY: Uh, anyway… Hermione wrote me. Were you outside of her house last Thursday?

SCOTT: Yep.

HARRY: (relieved sigh) Okay, good. I was worried that if it wasn't you, maybe someone else was looking for her.

SCOTT: They'd better not. I wouldn't like that at all.

HARRY: Me, neither. So everything has been okay?

SCOTT: Ron and Ginny are safe in The Burrow, Lila is still spending a lot of time there. Most of her time, actually. Hermione has been fine at her house, you've been okay at yours so far. Neville is holed up in his not-so-humble abode, and there's so much magic around there I can't get too close to it, I'm worried I might break something. Luna… Luna is okay for now. I caught a Death Eater sniffing around her place.

HARRY: What?! Already? Why her, she can't possibly be considered such a threat—

SCOTT: Relax, I took care of it.

HARRY: You can't be everywhere at once. Why don't you let me go and stay with her for a while, just until we can all get together.

SCOTT: No. You're staying right where you are.

HARRY: Luna is in danger, I can't just sit here on my arse!

SCOTT: You can and you will. I told you, I took care of it.

HARRY: Took care of it how?

SCOTT: I told Neville about it.

HARRY: You… Ah. I see. Sometimes I forget how sneaky you are.

SCOTT: No, you don't. Luna is now enjoying an indefinite stay in Neville's hospitality.

HARRY: I'm surprised he could convince his grandmum.

SCOTT: I don't know if he bothered to ask. So is there anything else, or were you just checking in?

HARRY: I — er — might have told Ron about me and Ginny. With a letter.

SCOTT: I know. Lila is currently having a high old time watching the two of them quietly seethe at each other.

HARRY: He hasn't written me back.

SCOTT: Probably saving his fingers for punching.

HARRY: …Er — about that. Hermione thought it might be best if you talked to him.

SCOTT: Hah! Yeah, I bet she did.

HARRY: Would you? I think he'll listen to you if you explain everything. Tell him what you told me.

SCOTT: And save you from being assaulted?

HARRY: Come on. You wouldn't want your Priority One to take a beating, would you?

SCOTT: (laughter) You picked that up quick. I'll make a Primare out of you yet!

HARRY: So that's a yes?

SCOTT: That's a maybe. I'll look into it. Talk to you later.

HARRY: All right. Later, then.


(a letter written on heavy parchment)

Just because I'm writing doesn't mean I'm not still bloody angry about the whole thing. But I guess I'm not blaming you as much. As much! Ginny is giving me the cold shoulder like you wouldn't believe, it's effing freezing in here. I know how she gets when she wants something. I thought you already settled things.

Lila had a few words with me. She and Ginny are best mates now, apparently, who knew. So I've got two narky girls in the house, that's brilliant. You don't think if we make Ginny stay at The Burrow, that Lila will take her along anyway? Fucking hell. I know Gin is good in a fight, but my mum will kill me. It'll be on my head, somehow.

Scott sent me a letter, sort of. Lila showed it to me on that little Muggle wireless of hers and says he wants to talk. I don't know what he told you, but it'd have to be bloody spectacular to work on me.

Ron


(a note scribbled on the personal ads page of the morning paper)

Talked to Ron

He wasn't feeling reasonable, but

we worked it out

Truth hurts

Keep an ear out for the phone

Lila wants to talk to you

S.K.


(a phone conversation)

(Ringing)

HARRY: —It really is for me! Yes, I get calls too. At least I think — hello?

LILA: Is there a problem?

HARRY: This is Lila, right?

LILA: Right.

HARRY: (distantly) I told you it was for me! This doesn't have anything to do with you—

(DISTORTED SHOUTING): —my telephone, boy, you'd better believe it's my business—

HARRY: Not this time. Just back off, all of you! Lila? You still there?

LILA: Present. Obviously there's some issue with my calling, so I'll make this short. Ginny wants to see you as soon as possible.

HARRY: Um… I don't know how I'd manage that.

LILA: I'll be managing it for you. Be at your window tomorrow night at ten. Okay?

HARRY: Er, yeah… Yeah, I'll be ready.

LILA: Good. See you then.

(Click)


(a letter written on blank white stationary)

Thought I wouldn't go through with it, I'll bet. I won't say where we're meeting over the post, but it's neutral ground. Lila handled everything very nicely. I think she's better at this Prime stuff than Scott is.

I'll see you soon, Harry. And don't start worrying.

Gin


When ten o' clock came around, Harry was sitting on his bed with his hands clasped nervously in front of him. Despite Ginny's parting words, he had, in fact, been worrying. What was he going to say to her? After all the times he'd changed his mind on the issue of her accompanying him on his mad quest, no doubt she was ready to slap him senseless.

It didn't help that the weeks of separation left him craving her company. She wanted to talk (or fight), and all he wanted to do was snog.

"Fuck," he muttered. It helped a little.

Lila was coming, and Ginny was waiting. Harry didn't know how to deal with Lila, which was mostly why he was keenly missing Scott's presence. Harry's interactions with the Lila had been limited, at best. Her demeanour had always given him the impression that she didn't much care for him. He couldn't think of anything he had done to make her feel that way…

Well, except becoming the Chosen One and getting her assigned to his hopeless cause.

Did she resent him for that? Harry felt a bit angry at the possibility. It wasn't his fault she was assigned to this mess of a mission. He hadn't asked for her, or Scott's, help. He hadn't exactly refused it, but…

He was uptight and jumping to conclusions. Lila had been steadfast in her protection of Harry's friends during the attack, and hadn't flinched from the fighting or her duty. Scott might have seemed more dedicated to the task at hand in comparison, but he had also been a very visible presence for over a year, now. Harry hadn't seen much of the other sibling. He supposed her conduct that night at Hogwarts was proof enough of her ability. And, besides, Ginny was apparently on good terms with Lila, so that was important to keep in mind.

Harry didn't know how he'd be hailed, but he half-expected another rock pinging against his windowpane. Instead, a glaring beam of light swiftly appeared, traced its way across the ceiling, and then vanished again. It repeated this motion twice more before Harry made his way over and opened the window.

Below on the grass stood Lila, holding a torch in her hand as she flicked the switch on and off. When Harry stuck his head out, she tucked the light into one of her jacket pockets and motioned for him to descend. Obviously, she had the same faith in Harry's climbing abilities that her brother did.

Once again, Harry carefully lowered himself out the window and dropped the remaining distance. In a repeat of the last occasion, Lila caught him just as Scott had. The embarrassing key difference was that Scott didn't possess a large (and firm, a distant and very male portion of Harry's mind assessed) pair of breasts for Harry to be squashed against as he was prevented from injuring himself. Lila didn't comment, letting go of him without a hint of awkwardness, and Harry found himself thankful that the Kharan siblings weren't entirely similar.

There was a car parked across the street. Lila lead him to it in silence, sliding into the driver's seat whilst Harry sat in the passenger side. It took him a moment to remember how to buckle his seatbelt, fumbling with the straps and feeling more chagrined by the second. Lila's supposed opinion of him wasn't going to improve if he couldn't even ride in a car correctly.

But Lila said nothing, starting the car and driving down the street without so much as a glance in Harry's direction. Her silence didn't invite conversation. Despite his feelings of awkwardness, Harry chose to stare out the window rather than find something pleasant to say. It was obvious that Lila wasn't interested in talking.

As they drove, the Muggle world flashed by in patches of illumination: street lamps and houses, shops and petrol stations. A suburb dissolved into a field, which in turn grew back into a car park. With a growing sense of displacement, Harry realised that the normalcy outside the window seemed more alien than wands and wizards. When was the last time he had gone for a car ride of any distance, one that didn't involve flying? Nobody in the buildings flashing by knew that their future was in doubt. He had only been in the car for ten minutes, and already the wizarding world seemed small.

Scott had been right. It would be easy to get lost out there, and disappear.

"I'm glad Scott isn't here," Lila commented.

She had been quiet for so long that Harry actually jumped when she spoke. "Oh?" he said after he caught his breath. "Why's that?"

"He'd be making some stupid comments about the locale," she huffed, sounding irritated even though Scott wasn't present to make said comments. "Every time we're in the English countryside, it's Straw Dogs, and every time we're in the American south, it's Deliverance. He watches too many movies."

Harry felt that this conversation was only confirming his estrangement from his Muggle roots. "That sounds like him," he said, deciding that was a neutral response.

"Either that, or he'd want to listen to Village Green Preservation Society over and over again. Which is fine, for the first couple plays. I like it. But he never gets tired of it. It's like he thinks his life needs a soundtrack."

That was a very odd description of Scott, and yet, somehow it fit him perfectly. "I think sometimes he's waiting for the band to strike up, when he makes a big entrance or something."

Lila smiled. "Hah! Yeah, he wishes."

Harry leaned back in his seat, feeling more relaxed. Maybe Lila wasn't harbouring a deep dislike for him. "So, um, where are we going?"

"My apartment. Ginny is already there, though I'm sure that doesn't make you feel any better. She didn't look violent when I left."

Harry winced. Ginny had plenty of time to get violent before he arrived. "All right…"

"This is a one time thing. We found an opportunity and we took it, but just because the Death Eaters aren't looking for a car doesn't mean they won't be in the future," Lila warned.

Harry glanced back outside, peering upward into the overcast sky reflexively. Even if there was someone on a broom up there, there was little chance he could spot them. "I don't think they know exactly where I'm staying."

Lila nodded. "If they did, we'd have already run into them. But just in case, Scott is making some noise to keep them occupied."

That brought Harry's head snapping back around. "What? What is he doing now?"

"We found a Death Eater supply cache in a building over in Knockturn. Well, Scott found it. I don't think he was actually looking for it, but he's been following a few Death Eaters around while you Primes have been holed up." Lila checked the clock on the dashboard. "About… sixteen minutes ago, he set fire to the place."

Harry frowned. "Why would they have a supply room? They can keep their things wherever they want by now, probably."

"Maybe 'supply cache' isn't the right term," Lila amended. "There was some stuff in there, mostly robes and masks, but it was also a meeting area. A recruitment centre, we think."

"They'll just move somewhere else," Harry muttered. A familiar sense of hopelessness tugged at his heart. Wizarding Britain was being poisoned from within, and there didn't seem to be any way to stop it.

Lila merely shrugged. "It will get their attention for the night, and that's all we needed."

Maybe every victory was temporary, Harry mused, turning away from Lila and staring out the glass. They all had been so far. Every year at Hogwarts had brought another minor success, and it had never done anything but delay the inevitable. Voldemort had shrugged off his defeats and was stronger than ever.

As the dim outlines of trees flashed past outside, Harry felt like he was standing still. Even if he avoided death or capture and successfully sought out the Horcruxes, doing so would take all of his time and energy. Meanwhile, the rest of the wizarding world would be swallowed by the dark, piece by piece. What was the point of killing Riddle if, at that end, there was nothing left to save?

"I see what she meant," Lila interjected into the silence, making Harry jump again.

"Huh? What who meant?"

"Ginny. She told me you shouldn't be allowed to think alone," Lila said wryly.

Harry didn't reply, crossing his arms in a disgruntled fashion. Whatever Ginny thought, she didn't have to say that sort of thing to Lila, of all people.

Lila looked over at him with an amused expression. "I would say the same thing about Scott, personally. I understand where she's coming from."

"Scott?" Harry scoffed. "He's too spastic to brood, or whatever it is you think I'm doing."

"Only because the Scott you know isn't the one I know," Lila told him with a hint of what he thought was smugness. "You know proto-Scott. Scott Junior. Remember, he grew up, same as the rest of us. He just aged down for your convenience."

"Yeah, I know, but he still has all his memories, he's still an adult, just not… physically."

"But it's not the same. You'll see."

It was troubling to think that Harry's new found friend and ally might not be the same person anymore. And he didn't like the way that Lila seemed to be rubbing it in. "Whatever," he grumbled.

Lila rolled her eyes. "Scott isn't schizophrenic. He'll be different, but not that much. If I were you, right now I'd be more worried about Ginny."

That excellent point brought Harry up short. His meeting with Ginny was fast approaching and he didn't know if she wanted to smack or snog him. With any luck, she'd snog him first and then smack him after, when he'd be feeling no pain.

Who was he kidding? Ginny had a good arm.

Harry passed the rest of the trip in a pensive silence. Lila must have found that amusing, if her expression was anything to go by. Harry still wasn't sure where things stood with her. He wasn't certain that she didn't like him, but now he wasn't sure that he liked her.

After some time, the surrounding area began to look a little familiar. Harry thought he might have glimpsed parts of it from the air whilst playing Quidditch in the Weasley's garden. When they entered the town, he recognised most of it, having passed through before.

He did not, however, recognise the squat, two-storey building they arrived at. Lila drove the car around to an alley, and parked in a narrow space that seemed designed for a slightly smaller vehicle. A worn brick staircase climbed the back of the structure. Lila ascended it with Harry behind her, pausing to use a key at the door.

Inside, a small window overlooked the street to Harry's left; to his right, a blank hallway stretched out, punctuated by doors along the left hand side. Lila led him to the nearest one, marked number three.

"If you're going to fight, keep it down," Lila warned Harry as she inserted her key into the lock. "I share a wall and a floor with some people who are probably asleep by now."

When he entered the flat, Harry noticed the layout only peripherally; two bedrooms, a toilet and a kitchen attached to the sitting room. The fact that Ginny occupied a chair opposite of the door demanded the majority of his attention. She was wearing jeans that accentuated her slim form, coupled with a yellow, thin-strapped top with a hem about an inch too short to conceal a tantalizing strip of pale skin. After weeks apart, she seemed more stunning than ever.

Harry didn't want to fight. He wanted Lila to leave so he could get Ginny onto that sofa with him.

"Hey, Gin," he managed to get out, making a feeble attempt to keep his eyes on her face.

"Quit staring at my tits, Harry," Ginny said without much ire. "We need to talk. Again."

Lila brushed past him while he internally fumbled for a response. "I've been told that tits are for staring at, among other things," she noted. "But there's a time and a place. Like I said, no shouting. I mean it."

"Yeah, okay," Harry grated out. He watched with relief as Lila disappeared into one of the bedrooms and shut the door. He was already tired of her intercession in what he thought was a private matter, and the last thing he wanted was to suffer her snarky asides while he talked to and\or snogged his girlfriend.

With Lila out of the way, he looked back over at Ginny, only to see her eyes narrowing. "You'd better not have been staring at her tits," she said, crossing her arms.

"What? No!" Harry said, aghast. Lila's chest was undoubtedly impressive, but not even close to the first thing Harry was thinking about whilst dealing with her.

"And why not? I thought blokes went for that sort of thing, the bigger the better and all that."

He couldn't win. He couldn't— "What the— I— No! That's not even always true, you… You're taking the piss, aren't you."

Ginny laughed, muffling it with her hands. Harry just gaped back at her, dumbfounded. She was jiggling a little as her shoulders heaved, and he was rapidly developing a problem that he'd need one of the many pillows lying about to hide.

"I'm sorry, Harry, but you should have seen the look on your face when you came in," Ginny chortled. "You didn't know whether you wanted to hide or snog!"

He knew which one he wanted to do now. "It was all worth it just to hear you say 'tits'," he told her (and it sounded like a joke, but it wasn't, really).

Ginny moved over to the sofa and patted the seat next to her. "Come on, sit down. If you're lucky, maybe I'll say tits again."

No, if he was lucky he'd get to see some tits, not just hear about them. But luck had never been one of Harry's primary attributes, and he reckoned whatever good fortune he had was spent. Ginny wasn't angry, and that was about as lucky as he could see himself being.

He slumped onto the sofa and stared straight ahead at the blank television, too nervous to meet Ginny's eyes. "…So what did you want to talk about?"

"Like you don't know," Ginny scoffed. "Did you change your mind again on the ride over? Or are you waiting for my next letter?"

"I was waiting for your next letter," Harry replied in a monotone.

Ginny sighed. "And I suppose you've been too busy worrying about that to actually think of how we can make this work."

"Yes."

"Well, I've been talking to Lila—" Ginny began, and Harry immediately knew that he wasn't going to like any sentence that started that way, "—and she says that me being under-age shouldn't be a problem. There's a spell attached to me, she just has to get rid of it."

"All right. Does she also have a fantastic plan to stop your mum from killing me?"

Ginny shifted a bit in her seat. "We weren't going to tell her before we leave, right?"

That was the worst idea Harry had heard in awhile. "No!"

"Exactly. We'll just skip out at the first opportunity and take care of those Horcruxes." Ginny reached over and took Harry's hand, gripping it firmly.

She made it sound so easy, but Harry was a long way from sharing her confidence. Still, she was holding his hand and wasn't angry about his letters, so he said nothing and leaned into her slightly. There was no point in disagreeing and possibly starting a real row.

Without warning, Ginny released Harry's hand and turned over to straddle his lap. This put her breasts at eye level (as well as putting a few other things in close proximity) and it took a great deal of willpower for Harry to look up and meet her eyes whilst she moved her hands to the back of his neck.

"You'll be glad I'm there when it comes down to it. I know you're not happy now, but you'll see," Ginny murmured, pressing herself closer to Harry. "There are benefits to having me around, you know."

"I can think of a few," Harry said in a low voice, moving his thumbs to stroke her waist where he held it.

Ginny leaned in for a kiss that wiped every doubting thought from Harry's mind. It started off innocent enough, but when she opened her mouth and squeezed herself against him in an almost desperate manner, things became very interesting. Harry was suddenly very conscious of the fact that this was about as far as they'd ever taken things, and Lila was right in the next room.

Even as he pulled his lips from Ginny's and gently pushed her away, he was already regretting it. But Scott's sofa was not the ideal place to try the sorts of things he really wanted to try with her.

"Too fast?" Ginny asked. She was breathing hard and eyeing Harry's mouth hungrily.

"No, just about perfect," Harry told her. "But, you know, Lila is right over there…"

"Bugger her," Ginny said tersely, moving in closer again.

"I heard that!" Lila's muffled voice said from behind the door. "No sex on my couch! I want to keep it clean!"

Ginny sighed, slumping downward and resting her head on Harry's shoulder. "I bet if it were Scott, he wouldn't care if we had sex on his couch," she murmured humorously.

"If it were Scott, he might be giving us advice," Harry managed to choke out. Ginny's clear implication that she wouldn't mind having sex with him left his tongue uncooperative and his pants even tighter than before. He really hoped she wouldn't move a great deal while she was positioned on his lap. He was dangerously close to embarrassing himself.

Ginny raised her head to look him in the eye. "So, are we good now? No more doubts?"

Harry dropped his chin and gazed at that delicious strip of skin near her navel. "Like I've ever been sure about anything," he muttered.

"But more sure, I hope. I know this is hard. I don't always understand why, but I'm trying. You can't do this alone. And I want to be with you." She cupped the back of his head and kissed him, hard and possessive. "Please let me help."

"Okay, Ginny. I… Okay."

She placed her head back against his shoulder, holding him close. "You didn't really want to leave me, did you?"

"No, never," Harry said honestly. "I just thought I didn't have a choice."

"You always have choices, Harry," Ginny said. "But you need help to see them."

Harry snorted in amusement. "That sounds like what Scott's been telling me."

"Lila told me that, actually." Ginny ran her fingers through his hair, and then tilted her head, bringing their lips near enough to feel the warmth. "She didn't say anything about this, though."

Harry lost himself in her lips, tongue and scent, and for that moment he didn't doubt a thing.


(a letter jotted on the back of a blank envelope)

Had fun at your reunion?

I heard you enjoyed yourself

very much

remind me not to sit on that couch

anymore.

Fuck your balls

Scott


(a letter written on personalized pale lavender stationary)

Dear Harry,

Ginny wrote me a lengthy letter detailing your meeting with her. I'm glad that you've decided (again) to see reason, though I admit I'm a bit worried as to how long it will last. I know Ginny had you convinced at the time, but, as we both know, you aren't very reliable when it comes to this particular.

I've had some doubts (never about my own involvement, Harry!) the same as you, but I do realise that it's not as personal. Still, during our current separation I've given it a lot of thought, and, much as it pains me to put it in writing, I think Scott is correct. Past evidence points to Ginny being as inextricable from this mess as the rest of us. And yes, Harry, we are just as involved as you! Don't you dare mentally stagger off into another bout of solitary despair. You're stuck with us, like it or not. I'd prefer that you like it, but I know you too well.

Please don't distance yourself now. It's so very important that we collaborate in this. I really can't stress that enough. And if, as things may be now, you feel more inclined to listen to Scott, then I know he would tell you the same thing.

Wishing we could talk in person,

Hermione


(a letter written on ruled notebook paper)

Hermione,

I couldn't think of any good way to respond to your last letter which is why this is so late. I felt guilty. I still do. And not about the whole thing with Ginny, I mean that's still a problem I can't get over it just like that. But that you— I would have made you think that your advice doesn't mean anything or that Scott is my only

God I can't do this in writing. I'm not a writer. Scott is my friend, and I think he is yours too, but he wasn't there to fight a troll with us. He wasn't there at the Department or to help Sirius or at any of the million times that you were there for me like you always have been. At all the important parts of my life the worst and the best and come on, Hermione. You and Ron were the first real friends I ever had.

I just hate this thought that maybe I made you feel like what you had to say was second to Scott. Maybe when he's talking about guns. But you know magic and you know me and

Writing this all down has made me realise how stupid I was to even consider trying this alone. Sorry. When you're putting together all the plans that will actually get us somewhere you can laugh about how daft I am. And then Ron can punch me again.

Harry

P.S. How detailed was Ginny's letter?


(a letter written on heavy parchment)

Hermione says that Ginny convinced you all over again that taking her was a good idea. Is it just me or are all the women against us? I'm not mad at you anymore, Harry. I think us blokes need to stick together.

Fred and George were over here a couple days ago, talking about moving you to a safer place. I didn't catch the details. You know those gits, they won't tell me anything.

Anyway, taking Ginny is still a bad idea but this whole bloody thing is a bad idea. Nobody's going to be safe anywhere, not anymore. Guess we have to accept that. It doesn't make me a poof to be scared right? Too fucking right I'm scared. Bloody hell.

Sod it. Almost time to get on with it. I bet Hermione will know what to do.

Ron


(a letter written on blank white stationary)

Harry,

It will be your birthday before too long. I know I told you not to worry earlier, but I guess I am now. You have to promise me you'll be careful.

And for God's sake, don't change your mind about me again. I'll be very cross with you.

Love,

Ginny


*Southern Cross was written by the American poet Hart Crane, and is not of my invention. This initial quote selection will be, from this point forward, the sole exception: the poems and quotes prefacing all subsequent chapters are entirely fictional, and are not excerpted from the works of any actual poets or authors.