"What do you do when your hands are not enough? What do you say when your words will not help things? Remember, always: the future is informed by the past, and it is the past you cannot change."
Primare Macawi Qaletaqa (Integration Corps)
"Visus Verum." (Sight True)
-Primarius Combat Corps Designated Marksmen Maxim
"You can still hear me, right?" Harry said nervously, touching a finger to his ear.
"Yes. Stop touching your ear," Scott said, his voice tinny and distorted.
Harry quickly dropped his hand. It wasn't that he doubted the technology — he had more faith in Muggle devices than most of his companions, maybe even Hermione. It was more that he had substantially less faith in his ability to utilise it properly. The receiver in his ear was working, but he was plagued by the persistent feeling that it might be a bit clearer or a bit more comfortable if he adjusted it just a little more…
He tried not to think about it, and tucked his hands into the front pockets of his light jacket to keep them from wandering. The hood of the jacket was pulled up over the hat with the enthusiastic fox on it that Scott had given him before, along with the rectangular glasses. The dark blue of the garment matched neatly with a pair of excessively baggy black trousers (with an extra tight belt in case he needed to run) and a ratty set of red trainers. All together it made him pretty anonymous, he thought. He could be any London teenager with a taste for hip hop and a contempt for authority.
Ginny was less unremarkable, but even more transformed. Her hair had been turned a light brown, streaked with bright pink stripes and styled at the front with a perfectly edged fringe that fell to her eyebrows. Her lipstick and mascara were dark, highlighting her expressive eyes and the white of her teeth. She was wearing tight, low-slung jeans with stylish holes in all the right places and a lime green t-shirt which had some kind of big-eyed Japanese mascot and lettering on it. There were multiple earrings in both of her ears (only the ones in the lobes were real), a tiny diamond stud on the side of her nose and a small silver ring in the left corner of her mouth (both fake). She was a veritable punk rock princess ("I look like a drummer for the Weird Sisters!" she had exclaimed).
Harry thought she looked hot. He wasn't all that keen on the brown hair, though.
"Enjoying the view?" she teased, noticing his scrutiny. She waggled her tongue at him, showing off her faux-tongue stud.
He needed to be focussing on a different view. "I wonder what your mum would say?"
"Nothing, unless you count shrieking," Ginny snickered.
The two of them were sitting in a Muggle park, huddled together on a bench while they waited for Scott to find a good position. Ron and Hermione were doing the same at an intersection several streets away.
"Any luck?" Harry tried again, this time making sure not to fiddle with the device.
"Yeah. I just jumped a fence and found myself in Muggle-charm territory," Scott said. "Shouldn't have to worry about company on this side of the ridge."
"There's a charm where you are? A Repelling Charm?" Hermione questioned.
"Yeah, I think so. It's familiar enough," Scott replied.
"Do you see any reason why?"
A short silence. "…I didn't think of that, that's a good point. There must be something up here, but I don't see it. I'll let you know if I run across anything, but I'm moving on."
The fact that the Muggle-Repelling Charm didn't even try to work its aversion magic on Scott implied some things about the shape and what he was. It was the sort of stuff Hermione probably thought about. "Right, just let us know. Uh, break," Harry said.
Scott had devoted about half an hour the previous day to a lecture on the vast array of KRAF communications protocols. Harry had held on longer than most, but finally spaced out when Scott began detailing the command codes between squad, element and company leaders, whatever that even meant. Sophie had capped off the presentation by pointing out that strict adherence to protocol was irrelevant as there were only five of them in the field.
"Don't get stilted, Red-Lead. Just talk when you have to, Sophie already ruined my fun."
"Copy, Highground," Harry replied with a small grin.
"Technically applicable, since I'm functioning as forward observation and sniper support, but as the ranking Primarius asset in the field I would probably be Sword-Lead. 'Scott' will also work."
Ginny had little interest in such specifics. "Are you ready yet?" she said edgily.
"Soon. I see a tree I like the look of."
Ron's voice came booming over the hiss of the radio. "For climbing or peeing?"
"Keep it down, Ron, I can hear you just fine. And the tree will serve both purposes nicely."
"Now we have to sit here while he pees," Ginny muttered.
Godric's Hollow was a sort of quintessential British town: one- and two- story buildings with hedges, pine trees and low stone walls. The cottages crowded together along narrow streets lined with tall black lampposts. Cars were not allowed to park in the village proper, lending it an even more rustic appearance. The air was cool and more than a bit humid. The soil squished beneath Harry's shoes and the roads were strewn with deep puddles.
He could see the hill and the woods rising above the edge of town; Scott was somewhere in those trees, invisible and lethal. It was comforting knowledge. It was also a bit unnerving. Harry felt as if he had an angel of death hovering near, and with the release of a single careless word or gesture would bear witness to a bullet snuffing the life from a hapless target.
That was stupid, of course. Scott wasn't so inept, so random. He wouldn't shoot some poor Muggle in a fit of panic because Harry had sneezed. Scott didn't panic, so far as Harry could tell. That behaviour seemed to have been stamped out of the Kharadjai.
"I'm situated," Scott radioed, his level tone underscoring Harry's thoughts. "Red-Lead, progress. Gold-Lead, maintain."
"I think that means we can go now," Harry said to Ginny, and together they stood and began walking towards the town square.
Harry knew that the graveyard was behind the church at the centre of the village. He didn't know much else, though, so they would have to alter their plans according to whatever obstacles occurred. There were a few other people out and about, on the streets and their lawns; Harry returned the friendly wave from a man tending to his front garden. Ginny's newly styled hair was already beginning to frizz in the damp. Harry's jacket was clinging wetly to his skin, but he knew he'd be just as uncomfortable without it.
He tried to stick to the left side of the street, knowing it was the only chance Scott would have to keep them in sight. It didn't seem to matter much, though; the houses were too close to the pavement, and any buildings with a first storey were probably in Scott's way. Harry pulled on Ginny's elbow, moving her further towards the houses and away from the open street.
She went with him, but shook her head slightly. "It's no good, those trees are still there."
He glanced over; sure enough, the houses had momentarily ended only to be replaced by tall pines behind a fence. "Scott, can you see us at all?"
"Sometimes. Get to the square, it's mostly open. Gold-Lead, maintain but be ready," Scott said.
"We'll be ready," Hermione replied.
"The sooner the better. This bench is rough on the arse," Ron said.
The square was just up ahead. There was little traffic of any kind around, despite it being the hub of the village. A woman on a bicycle passed by, and the retail shops had a few customers visible through the glass window displays. The Parish Church sat at the terminus of the lane which bore its name. It was a very old building, though Harry didn't know enough about architecture to guess how old. The suburbs of Little Whinging were an entirely different sort of England than Godric's Hollow.
"It's quite nice here," Ginny opined, looking around the square. "Bit damp at the moment, but that'll change…"
He looked at her and imagined, for a vivid moment, what life would have been like had he stayed, had his parents lived. He would have met Ginny at Hogwarts regardless; he might have been a better boyfriend, happier, more whole. He could see himself with her, hand in hand, roaming the square, eating at the shops and then going back home for a snog in the cottage garden.
But his parents were dead, the cottage was empty and in so many ways he was as well.
"Harry?" Ginny said softly.
He looked up, realising he had stopped in the middle of the pavement. "Sorry," he said, resuming motion. "It is nice, yeah."
They crossed the square together, avoiding the deeper puddles in the old, uneven road. Groups of birds chattered and pecked at the ground, searching for crumbs and splashing in the pools. Hints of music wafted out from an open window somewhere, echoing faintly. No one seemed to be paying Harry and Ginny much attention.
"What's this?" Ginny said, indicating the obelisk in the centre of the square.
"Memorial," Scott radioed. "I don't know what's on the other sides, but I can see the Air Raid Precautions insignia on the one facing me. Volunteers lost during the Blitz, most likely."
Harry felt somewhat ashamed at that; he was only barely familiar with the organization's existence. "There's a crown with a circle on this one, it says 'AFS'."
"Auxiliary Fire Service. You'll find more than a few women listed on that thing."
Harry approached to take a closer look, and then recoiled in shock. The obelisk had disappeared: in its place was a statue of a family with a small child. He blinked, nonplussed. Obviously the monument had been magically altered…
Comprehension began to dawn just as Ginny spoke again. "Harry… Is that your parents?"
It was. It was strange to see them in stone form, but there was no mistaking it. The infant in Lily Potter's arms was none other than Harry himself.