“Relativity teaches us that simultaneity is an illusion; that, as there are no privileged points of reference, all observations of time are equally valid. There is no absolute truth of sequence: all we can do is equate.
The shape tells us otherwise, depending on the form it is given (or perhaps chooses). That in itself is a valuable lesson, for by coming to accept that there are worlds in which not even causality is fixed we must at last learn that it is not only time and opinion which are subjective, but in fact the entirety of reality. Each universe creates its own structure, follows no rules but its own. That they appear so similar in our experience may be the greatest misperception of all: the most dire overcognizants speak of things we dismiss as impossible ravings, but someday we may realize that when we looked out into the Multiverse, we found only what we were capable of understanding.
The difference between truth and lie is of the beholder and no truth can ever be complete, whatever the intention behind it.”
-Dr. Joseph Carnahan, New Constellations
It had been about an hour since the locket had been destroyed. Harry was sitting on his bed, staring at the wall. There was nothing interesting about the wall, but his head was swimming and at least it didn’t offer any further distractions. The traumas of the night were stacked on top of each other, and it was a small mercy that remembrance of a man’s head disintegrating was temporarily blotted out by Locket-Ginny expressing what he feared was the truth.
‘Small mercy’… Who was he fooling? The more recent horror was far worse than yet another witnessed death in a long line of them.
The real Ginny was in the shower. Her ablutions were giving Harry time to think, the last thing he needed. And once she returned she would be determined to discuss what the locket had done. He didn’t want to talk about it. He wanted to forget it ever happened. Confronting emotional problems was well outside his comfort zone. Too bad the locket had understood at least one avenue to his wounds.
A shadow fell across the doorway. “Are you all right?” Hermione asked tentatively, leaning in.
“No,” Harry said honestly.
She sighed. “Well… that’s not good, but I still prefer forthrightness to your usual avoidance.”
“How about you?”
“Same as always: stressed, anxious and storing up a nice pile of post-traumatic stress for when this is over,” she said.
“Just be glad you didn’t go into the house with Scott,” he said dryly.
She flinched slightly. “Yes… I wondered if you weren’t making a mistake.”
Harry clung to the shreds of his stoicism. “I have to get used to it sometime.”
“Oh, Harry, I hope not, for your sake,” she said sorrowfully.
He just wanted to change the subject. “Did you need something?”
She hesitated. “…I thought you might be discouraged, seeing as that was the only Horcrux we had to destroy. I wanted to remind you that we aren’t entirely without clues.”
“It’s not much good to know what something is if we don’t know where it is.”
“I have to disagree. In this case, knowing what may very well lead us to where.” She stepped closer. “Scott told us there might be a Horcrux to the north. That’s not very specific, but I would bet he could tell us more if we were closer. And you said you wanted to go to Godric’s Hollow?”
He did, and had for some time. He’d never seen the place that might have been his home, or his parents’ graves. “I still do.”
“I’m sure you’ve considered the danger. But I’ve found another reason to go.” She was clearly excited by whatever she had to say. “Did you ever read A History of Magic?”
‘Read’ was a strong word. “Sort of.”
She gave him a disapproving glance, but continued, “Bathilda Bagshot, the author, is still alive, and she lives in Godric’s Hollow! We’re hunting for historical artefacts of magic, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified on the subject.”
Harry didn’t allow himself to feel much hope, but Hermione was right. It could be a real breakthrough. “We have to try, anyway.”
She beamed at him. “Exactly! We’ll start planning soon.” She turned to go, and then stopped. “Oh, and Harry?”
“Do talk to Ginny about what happened tonight. Don’t let it fester.”
“Are you going to make Ron talk?” Harry asked accusingly.
“Then I guess we’re both buggered,” he muttered.
Hermione left him and he returned to his contemplation of the wallpaper.
His mind wandered. The patterns on the wall became Ginny, scorning him, rejecting him. Like he had rejected her, and not just recently. He had ignored her for years. He had turned from her attentions without even knowing it. He was tormented by the idea that such unknowing (uncaring) disregard was worse than a conscious decision. It was as if she hadn’t even been worth the finality of a proper rejection — he had strung her along instead, breaking the young heart she had placed in his careless hands. And he could never be bothered to see what he had been handed.
Perhaps what the locket had shown him was cruel, but just. He’d pushed her away without trying, and then at last drawn her close only to push again. How could she be blamed if she left? Even Ginny had to take a hint eventually. Even her stubbornness could only cushion her spirit so many times.
He shook his head so hard that stars burst into his vision. The thoughts were more than he could stomach; he fought against them, wiping his clammy palms on his trousers as if he could wipe away the very idea, and then without warning was ambushed by a memory:
The door splintered, broken by the inhuman force of the kick. It would have rebounded off the interior wall but Scott was in the way, shouldering through with shotgun raised. The Death Eater on the right barely had time to react. He swivelled in his chair, cards falling from his fingers. The gun barked, acute and deafening. As if an invisible hand had grasped the back of his robes and pulled, he was ripped from the chair, sending it tumbling when his legs caught on it. The robes over his chest shredded and caved inward, turning to dust and whirling scraps. Blood flew out of the gaping cavity where his lungs should have been.
He had not fully come to rest when the second Death Eater was shot in the head. This time the robes concealed little — his hood fell off with the impact and his head shattered like an egg. The tightly-grouped buckshot, each the size of a musket ball, hit at the corner of his right eye. His cheekbone caved in, flesh splitting away from his nose and forehead. When the leaden wad tore through his brain and smashed into the rear of his skull his head snapped back with such force that blood spattered across the ceiling.
Scott continued without hesitation. The limp corpse was thudding on the floor when he stepped forward and tugged the tablecloth off the end where it had been shunted, apparently in the way of the Death Eater’s card playing.
“Go out and stall the others for a second. They don’t need to see this,” Scott said.
And Harry did? He supposed he had volunteered.
The last sight before he stepped out was of Scott using the corner of the tablecloth to sweep brain and skull fragments from the wall.
He snapped out of it at the sound of Ginny’s voice. “Y-yeah?” he stammered. He realised his heart was racing.
“What’s wrong? What happened?” She touched his forehead with one hand, still warm and damp from the shower. ““You’re not getting sick, are you?”
He laughed shortly. “Just in the head, maybe.”
Her mouth thinned. When she sat next to him he noticed with a start that she was wearing one of his old grey t-shirts. It hung down to her thighs before giving way to her long, slender legs. They were marred with scratches, a legacy of her insistent bravery.
She noticed his scrutiny and rolled her eyes sheepishly. “