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Grazed Knees

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They’re down by the lake just after Charms, the first day of spring and the sun sulky-sultry on their winter skin, when Luna turns to her and says, “It took nearly a year, but I think the ground’s finally stopped rumbling, you know.”

And it must have been something about the way Luna leaned back on the heels of her hands when she said it, or maybe the way she tucked her wand behind her ear like a secret, but Ginny’s whole body goes still like nighttime shadows, and then she’s leaning forward into the air they breathe between them, closer and closer until she’s kissing her there on the lakeshore, one hand at her wrist, the other fisted in the brittle grass, and Luna pressing closer as if she knew what was coming all along. Blame it on the lemon drop moon hanging wild in the afternoon sky, blame it on the wind; by the time she pulls away, her head is throbbing like a heart, and the world is lurching forward again without her, violently, ceaselessly.

Luna’s head is still tilted towards her when Ginny turns back to the lake with the sun in her eyes, and she finds herself—somewhere between the head rush and her own trembling fingers—thinking, Shit, shit, I can’t even get this right.

On the way back to the castle, when Luna starts talking about the message from Sanguini she found while reading the Prophet backwards over breakfast, Ginny says, “Let’s never talk about this again, right?”

Luna pushes her hair off her shoulder, smiling, saying, “Oh, maybe.”

The thing about a war is that it’s never over when they set off the fireworks and sound the trumpets and blot out the small print with the heaviest headlines: WAR WON! BOY WHO LIVED VICTORIOUS, REMAINING DEATH EATERS ON RUN FOR MISERABLE WICKED LIVES, WIZARDING WORLD FREE ONCE MORE! REJOICE!!!

Anyone with two neurons to rub together could tell you it’s all loads of filthy tosh; that’s never how it works. The ashes from a war flow far, and settle very slowly, so that weeks, months, years afterwards, you’re still finding splinters to pull from your heart and wounds to nurture, always; no matter how many times the claw catches you, there is still blood in you left to bleed, and Ginny feels it, stretched piecemeal over her bones in the deepest and darkest of nights when she lies awake and tries to fill in the gap left from loss and longing with the sound of her own heart, beating fast and red in the emptiness, marking time, over, and over, and over.

Sometimes, just before she wakes up like this, she swears she can see Fred, standing there with George and a hundred dumgbombs and calling for her to come watch; sometimes, it’s her mother, or Ron, and she’s eleven years old in Flourish and Blotts again; sometimes, it’s Harry, smiling his smallest smile, his mouth closed, sorrow-quiet, and she tries to move her lips. Tries to say, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

They always blur into shreds of smoke when she opens her eyes, dissolving with the consummate grace of memory, and then she’s left with a hand broken from a clock, her mother’s old watch, a letter she still hasn’t answered, written from London and pressed between the pages of her Potions book: figments she can no more occupy than her own skin, as drowned as youth, as heartbreak.

“Did you know,” Luna is asking, her face and neck hidden behind the dingy, faded green of the enormous Advanced Divination textbook she’s holding up to her nose, “I got a Norwegian Ridgeback in my last teacup?”

Ginny, who has long since said a silent bollocks-to-this regarding NEWT preparations and all they entail, pushes her parchment aside and sighs. “Wasn’t a dragon, it was a bloody bird or maybe two. And yes. You’ve told me three times since this morning.”

“A Norwegian Ridgeback,” Luna continues, undeterred and unassuming, “means life changes. Good life changes.” She lowers the book and blinks, cocks her head at Ginny; she wonders, increasingly so, if Luna knows just how that’s made her insides twist for years now, if maybe it’s some weird sort of ongoing experiment on her digestive system. “I think something’s going to happen, and I think it’s going to happen soon.”

“You always think something’s going to happen. For all you know it’ll be a trip down the stairs and gnats in your marmalade.”

“It could be that,” Luna nods, smiling at her. It’s hard, Ginny thinks, not to feel a little brighter, a little more beautiful, when she does that. “You sound angry. You didn’t get a bad one, did you?”

“I don’t really pay attention to my tea leaves unless I’m being graded for it,” says Ginny, running a quill idly through her hand, smiling. “I’m just tired, is all.”

Which is true, and wouldn’t Luna know it, too; sometimes, Ginny feels like they’ve lived two hundred years between them, ancient blood and bones masquerading in eighteen-year-old bodies still learning how to walk on solid ground again. From the other end of the library sofa, Luna shuts her book and shuffles over closer, until she’s right beside her and their knees and elbows touch, and Ginny has to fight not to lean into her, to curl up against her, sink into her for as long as she can.

“You’re very warm today, it’s like having a portable fireplace right next to me.”

“Thanks. I’m trying to generate enough heat for this miserable end of the Reference Section,” she says, flushing at the softness of Luna’s bare skin on her wrist and swearing viciously (silently) as it reaches her face, burning in her temples.

“We could always move over towards the fire.”

Well, they could, but that would mean a table or sofa somewhere with more light and more people, less damp chill, more space between her shoulders and Luna’s shoulders; Ginny swallows, and turns so her body is curled very slightly into Luna’s, hip to hip, arm to arm, close enough to breathe the same air, close enough to share the same time. “Here’s good,” she says, and feels Luna nod beside her.

“If you like, I can share my tea fortune with you,” says Luna, pressing against her side, knocking their ankles together. “It’s big enough for two.”

“So, what, I get half a good thing?”

“I reckon we could make it a whole good thing, between us,” says Luna. Her hair slides against Ginny’s neck when she leans her head against her shoulder, morning-pale, and Ginny can’t quite suppress her shiver—can’t quite suppress the quickening of her heart in her chest. “You don’t need a good teacup to make good things happen, you know.”

Ginny would agree, but her eyes are already half-closed, her dreams already half-spun, her long limbs wandering across the sofa to tangle with Luna’s, dark and secret, just before she drifts.

Every other Hogsmeade weekend—or just when he can make it—she has lunch at the Three Broomsticks with George, who sometimes brings his latest filthy masterpiece and sometimes Ron or Percy instead; in recompense, Ginny sometimes brings Luna, or shoves enough Honeydukes at him for a fortnight and pays for lunch herself. This afternoon, they take their crumbs to the birds near the Shrieking Shack, and Ginny thinks, as she can never help thinking now, how he’s only a little bit taller than her, not quite as thin as he was a few months ago, but somehow smaller—diminished, the way they all are without Fred to set themselves against.

It’s funny, the way she never realized how much other people truly are a part of you until they’re gone, how their solid bodies and their beating hearts can influence anything from the rhythm of your own breathing to your laughter down to your taste in toast and jam, as inseparable from you as your very soul; they live in you, in the three lumps of sugar you take in your tea and the joke you make even if it’s been done before, and looking at George at the edge of the afternoon, she thinks he’s finally learned how to listen to his own pulse in his ears, and not the silence howling in the empty spaces behind his eyes.

“You look good, you know,” she tells him, tossing an apple core up the hill and frightening a crow away.

“Thank you, Ginny, but I know I’m a bloody devastating bloke. It’s the classic profile,” he adds, grinning in that way that makes it look like he’s all teeth, and she laughs. “A right shame, you know. A lesser man wouldn’t let things like clothing or public decency laws hide such Apollonian perfection, but unfortunately, I am a lesser man.”

“Tosser. That’s not what Angelina says.”

“But that’s what she thinks,” he says, biting into the last of his apple. “Speaking of—Alicia Spinnet stopped by the shop the other day, wearing a stunning Muggle sundress if I may say so, and I do.”

“And?”

“And,” he drawls, “you fancied her for yonks. Before Harry, even, and I’m told she’s free and unattached! Thought you might do with that hot, juicy piece of information what you will.”

“Ah,” she says, craning her head back and showing her neck to the noon-sharp sun. “I think I’m all right, actually.”

“More like you’ve got eyes on blonde knickers in Ravenclaw Tower.”

Excuse me?”

“How dare you, I said nothing,” he says, hiding his smile beneath his half-eaten apple; it makes him look so young. “Anyway, I’ve a new spell for the you-know-whats and I’m almost certain this one won’t have any unexpected lasting effects, care to do me the honor?”

“You know I do, just don’t let mum find out.”

George scoffs, twice, then a third time, just for the sake of old dramatics. “Percy’s not roaming around, she’ll never know what hit you and she’ll definitely never know what hit him. Now—” He throws the rest of his apple down the hill, extending his hand for Ginny to take, and she does.

“Maybe we should get a bit farther away? Hogsmeade’s full of vulnerable people, animals, all that stuff that’s no good for exploding.”

“And we can’t be doing any lasting harm,” he nods, and tugs her past the Shack. It’s another step or two, together, before George says, “You know, you look good, too.”

“We’ve got bloody brilliant genes,” says Ginny, squeezing his hand.

“Bet Luna Lovegood knows all about your genes,” says George, “inside and out,” and she shoves him, and they laugh, and laugh, but she never lets go of his hand.

Things always look a little brighter with her feet off the ground, so she takes to the air in the night quiet after Quidditch practice until the air turns brittle with springtime cold, her own shadow an ink splotch against the darkness of the grounds; it’s so strange, the familiar brown-and-green patchwork of the forest is shooting up the way it always does, as if it never knew the symphony of war or destruction with all its sawblade teeth, even though Ginny knows better: The earth remembers, long after it will become a faraway fable for the rest of the world.

Coming down with the starry dusk, she can see Luna sitting off to the side of the broom shed, stopping to tap the ground with her wand occasionally when she isn’t watching Ginny sweep back and forth with the first of the nightbirds, her eyes like the flicker of a candle, like a warmth Ginny craves.

“You fly nearly as well as I imagine Snape did in his prime,” says Luna, standing, dusting off her skirt, “and you don’t even need bat wings. That’s pretty impressive.”

“I could’ve kicked Snape’s bat-arse to Wales and back and you know it,” she says. It’s colder, now that she’s not moving; she shifts until she’s pressed against Luna’s side, a little slowly, a little uncertainly, until she feels Luna press back into her. “What’re you doing out here? And what—where are your bloody trainers? It wasn’t that warm this afternoon.”

Luna wiggles her toes in her sandals, her nails the deep, frigid blue of an autumn sky. “I can’t find them, actually, I thought I misplaced them, but I think the Nargles might be catching on. I’m missing a sock, too.”

“That dire, is it?”

“It will be,” answers Luna, resting her head against Ginny’s, “and it will be for you, too, if you keep associating so closely with me. They’ll find you and mangle your shoes.”

She laughs and turns her head, breathes in Luna’s hair, warm and lilac-sweet. “I’ll take my chances,” she says, and tries not to feel the twist in her belly when she thinks about how easy this is, how close they are—how much closer she wants to be.

After another moment or two, the wind murmurs in the trees, and she closes her eyes against the chill just as Luna asks, “So, why were you out here?”

Ginny pulls back a bit, just enough to find Luna staring back at her when she loses the thread of her words, and looks down at her feet. “Just felt like it, yeah? Nice night for flying.”

“No,” says Luna, her eyes still fixed like crosshairs on the side of Ginny’s neck, “you just don’t know how to live in your own head sometimes. It gets loud, I know.”

When she sighs, she knows Luna can feel it, just like she feels every breath Luna takes as if it’s filling her own lungs, her own throat. “So why were you out here, then?”

“Because the castle is all stuffy and I was alone, and besides, I wanted to watch you.”

“Oh.” Something jolts through her, fluttering in her chest before it settles in her belly and blooms, heavy, like the white swell of the stars overhead. “I—I’m glad, you know. I like it when you come to watch.”

“You’re beautiful, on a broom,” says Luna, and Ginny startles, but Luna is looking at her like she just told her the grass is green and Crumple-Horned Snorkacks are very, very shy. “You always are. Don’t you know that? I mean, it’s only that you should, if you don’t.”

Anyone, she thinks, would envy Luna’s unparalleled ability to cut through the bullshit—because Luna does not spout bullshit, and anyone who thinks she does probably eats dry toast and wears reasonable shoes—and just say what she means, just the way it comes to her, just the way you need to hear it. She wishes she could do that, too, just say, I’m tired and I’ve been tired for years and I’d like the whole planet to stop turning for a bit. I’m still scared. I’d like a do-over. I’d like to kiss you stupid.

It’s hard to pick up and stir yourself with the rest of the world when there’s still so much anger, so much regret and loss and pain echoing inside you so that you almost can’t hear the hope when it whispers to you in the middle of the night, begging to be let in.

“Is there ever a time when you stop missing your mother?” Ginny asks abruptly, reaching out for once and saying with her fingers what her voice will not: her hand in Luna’s hand, her heart beating out of time against Luna’s heart.

A shrug, a tug of her wrist. “No,” says Luna, “and I wouldn’t want to. I don’t think that ever goes away, though.”

“Wanting to be ten years old again and have done with it?”

“That,” answers Luna, pressing closer when Ginny runs her thumb across her knuckles. “And the little holes you keep getting yourself stuck in, sometimes. We can take ourselves out of the war, but we can’t take the war out of ourselves, I suppose. You just plant things as you go along and watch them grow.”

“I’d like some dirigible plums,” says Ginny, touching the tip of her nose to one of Luna’s earrings, and then to the soft skin of her neck, right where she feels the pulse run steady and warm. “Think I could make that happen for you?”

“Yes,” says Luna, “I think so, if you haven’t already.”

The night unfurls over the evening stars and the high grasp of the forest, but neither one of them moves to go back inside; they just breathe, and all around them the trees creak and sway, but the earth holds, even here—even now.

Probably, part of the problem is that she still spends too much time deconstructing the whole thing for nearly a month after it happens: the kiss, the sun on her starved skin, the silver slip of Luna’s hair against her neck in the midafternoon haze, and she thinks that maybe it was just always going to happen this way, no matter what she did. Stars aligning, moons waning, chaos theory—all that rot.

Until she’s skirting around the edge of the Forbidden Forest with Luna one balmy-soft Saturday evening, on the hunt for a rogue Kneazle they’d spotted from the Astronomy Tower and stuffing wild strawberries in their mouths along the way, Luna’s hand on her waist when they stop to rest at the mouth of a mossy grove, and she thinks, she can make this happen. She can make this happen, if she wants.

Suddenly, she’s pushing Luna up against a sprawling oak, blood heating her temples, restless and burning to break out of the fog of post-war and duty and a thousand ancient regrets carved into her bones, ready to spark—so, Ginny leans in, and kisses her hard.

“I thought we weren’t talking about this ever again,” says Luna, breathless, blossoming underneath her; Ginny arches into her, straining for the fingers riding over each rib and down to her hips again.

“We’re not talking about it,” she murmurs at her neck, a hand dragging up Luna’s belly, a hand around her thigh. “See? This isn’t talking. I don’t break my own rules.”

“But I never promised,” Luna mutters, strawberry and lemonade, oh, right against her mouth. “Is this—is this all right?”

Ginny can feel her chest expanding with hers, their bodies slotted together like glass tumblers, her breasts tight against her own, and she gasps like the breath of the forest, whispers like the leaves. “Yeah,” says Ginny, thrilling at the heat of Luna’s palms on her spine, the shapes they make in the low light, “this is bloody perfect,” and it doesn’t matter what happens next, it doesn’t matter where they’ve been; Ginny kisses her, the base of her spine igniting quicker than a flame, ready to pound an impact radius like a fist.

If war can truly teach you anything worth knowing, Ginny thinks it’s probably how to grab what you love and hold on with the ruthlessness of both hands, dig in your heels, match anyone else blow for blow and hurt for hurt; she wonders, though, if she wouldn’t have done that anyway, if she wouldn’t have grown to have the same firm voice and the same unsent letters and the same repertoire of hexes or the same feet that jump straight to the frontlines, when they’re needed. Maybe she would have liked that better, or at least the chance to grow into it with the unhurried hush of the years rather than brutal necessity, but time doesn’t flow backwards, and it does no good to lose yourself in the undertow.

On the anniversary of the last battle, she visits Fred’s grave and has dinner with the rest of the family in Hogsmeade; she doesn’t cry, not because she doesn’t want to or she can’t, but because it’s never done her any good before and Fred and George only ever made her laugh until she stopped, anyway, and George hasn’t quite learned to pull it out of her on his own yet. He stays with her after the rest are on their way home and takes her to the Hog’s Head, orders them both Firewhisky, and they get through it quick enough to be gone by the time the dungbombs go off in the loo, laughing all the way down the alley to the Shrieking Shack where they stop, and sit, and the green springtime promises clamor in the trees, in their hair.

“Next year we’ll do the Ministry,” he says, eyes on the moon hanging full in the clouds. “Or maybe just the loos on the station, actually, don’t want to aim too high too fast. How’d you get into the men’s room anyway, I was all ready for Phase Three and you’d already beat me to it. ”

“I have to preserve some of my secrets or else you’ll put them in a how-to guide, and then how will we have a new toilet seat for Fred every year,” she laughs, full of the night air and the bloom of the stars, and, for once, she feels eighteen whole years old, reckless and wanting.

Luna finds her out by the broom shed, halfway through a cigarette pilfered from George; she lies down on the grass beside her, heedless of the damp from last night’s light rain as she runs her fingers through the weeds and takes Ginny’s other hand to trace the throne of Cassiopeia, or, alternatively, the Great Fire Crab. Ginny loves this, loves the way they can sniff each other out when they need to, no matter where in the wide open world they are.

“George says hello,” she says, taking one last drag and exhaling a slender string of smoke into the dark, watching it melt when Luna twists her fingers through it. “Did you get any work done? You must have pined away for me.”

“Something like that,” Luna says, and laughs. Her smile stretches out honey-slow against Ginny’s neck until she slides up to kiss her, hands on her waist, tongue flicking an answer between her lips.

“D’you know,” asks Ginny, threading her fingers through Luna’s hair, “there’s hardly a time when I’m not thinking about you? It’s gotten right pathetic.”

“No,” whispers Luna, the laugh in her voice reverberating against Ginny’s chest the way she loves. “I think it’s completely marvelous, and it makes us even, too, since I spent half the afternoon waiting for you, right here. My mother used to say, on nights like this, if you looked to the South Star, you could always find the things you love.”

“There’s not a South Star,” she says, squeezing Luna around the ribs with cold fingers and making her breath hitch.

“There is. My mum didn’t just make these things up, she knew.”

She takes Luna’s hand and tugs it between her breasts, right where her heart still beats like a war drum, nothing but the new leaves on their branches and the bowl of the night sky to hold them, memory welling up between them like a river overflowing. “Tell me,” she says. The moon rises high, and neither one of them sleeps until dawn.

Two a.m. in the Ravenclaw girls’ dormitory, twilight-blue curtains pulled tight with the sheets kicked down to their feet, and Ginny muffles a laugh into the crook of Luna’s shoulder, as close as they can get even for these unreasonably warm late-May days, that rarest of seasons; she shifts up against Luna, skin on skin on cotton, and wraps a leg around her knees, feels the secret rasp of her skin like rainwater, shivering here, both of them folded away from the world and neither one with any sense of direction at all but each other and their own hands, their own mouths.

“How’d you do on your Divs NEWT?” she asks, sliding her ankle across the backs of Luna’s knees. “See any shaggings or broom shed skullduggery in your future?”

“I don’t need Divination to know that, especially when it’s right there, ready to push me under the stairwells every time I turn around. Or don’t turn around. You’d make a good Niffler, maybe you could open up a whole new occupational area after we graduate? I think there’s untapped potential.”

“You flatter me,” she says, reaching down and squeezing Luna’s bottom, laughing with her. “I’d rather get a place in London, maybe get paid to play Quidditch. Maybe blow up Ministry toilets.” The curtain shimmers in the breeze, their single tiny candle casting infrequent shadows across the sheets; Ginny watches the fluid curve of Luna’s hip up to her waist and ribcage and the gentle swell of her breasts, tries to stamp out the curl of fear pressing against her belly. “I don’t know how you’re supposed to know what you want to do, when you’re eighteen. Half the time I just want some cheesecake and a nap, and I still can’t figure out where I’m going, and we’re the one who’re supposed to help rebuild everything. Mad, right?”

Luna just shakes her head and smiles, stretching out against her so there’s not a thread of space between them, unfurling lazy-sweet like summer heat. Harder, it is, to feel so frightened of the forward years with someone else’s beating heart underneath your palms, someone else’s voice breaking through the fog. “I think that’s how most people feel, really,” says Luna. Ginny loves her like this, a cage of moonlight in the blue of the night, open and full up with wonder and knowing, for the world and for each other. “They just learn to act like they know what they’re doing. And it’s apple pie for me, by the way,” she adds, running her fingers beneath Ginny’s breasts, dusty-warm.

“Reckon we could go down to the kitchens and make that happen. I’d shield your nudity with mine.”

“Or,” says Luna, pushing Ginny onto her back again, swinging one leg over her hips, “we could stay here, since you’re already being illegal.”

“I’ve never been illegal in my life.” Her thigh rocking up between Luna’s legs, her yearning hands, her slick, sanguine mouth. “You’re going to ruin my reputation.”

“It’s all right,” Luna whispers, guiding Ginny’s hand to her belly and down lower, lower, leaning in, “it’ll turn up again. Or you can build a new one just as easy.”

“Always got an answer, don’t you.”

“Yes,” says Luna, hands on the sides of her face, eyes brighter than any flame. “You just have to figure out which one works,” and Ginny kisses her, and kisses her.

In another few hours, she wakes abruptly, her heart a small, trapped bird, her hands scrabbling wildly for the lifeline of the sheets, the nightstand, Luna’s arm beside her, but she sits up to see Luna already awake: the duvet bunched up by her hips, her eyes dark with the ache of history gnawing at her bones under the moon, things long done and long gone hissing in her belly and her bones. Ginny swallows breath after breath, the exquisite silence of the night in her ears, stillness beneath stillness, and doesn’t know whether she wants to break something, or scream, or hex someone, or cry until morning, when the castle comes to life; she never knows what she wants any more than she knows how the sun can rise on this place at all, sometimes, but when she reaches for Luna—when Luna reaches back for her in the inky hush—she stops feeling so churned with it, so shattered. She pulls the duvet back around them, breathes when Luna breathes, all their pieces holding together. She does what gravity cannot.

There’s another shakeup at the Ministry, heads being shuffled and re-shuffled to go with the new regulations being pushed through this spring, Death Eater sympathizers still being ousted, trials set and reset. Some days, she wants to get as far away from the screaming headlines and the earthquakes as she can; some days, she wants to dive all the way to the bottom, fill in the cracks, make it work again.

She comes back from Hogsmeade with wildflower seeds, morning glories, dog roses. They throw them to the wind at dusk, the last of the light washing the shadows from their skin, pockets full of poppies and dead words.

If she’s honest with herself, and she usually is, Ginny would probably confess that she used to daydream about this day: The last essay she’ll ever turn in, the shape of her trunk beginning to fill at the end of her bed, NEWTs and exams all taken and filed away, the whole world waiting for her at the end of tomorrow. Depending on the size of her hopes, she might craft herself a flat in London, all on her own with a few coffee can plants and water charmed warm, where she could reinvent herself at will; in another, there was a girl or a boy and a ring on her finger, a Gringotts job or maybe a stint with the Prophet, a sagging farmhouse to conquer on weekends. In another still, born of doubt and loss and fury and the rubble of an entire war at her feet, she rents a place above a Muggle antique shop, finishes a whole pack of cigarettes on her first night, lets the smoke fill the single room from corner to corner.

But the reality of it, these last days spent in the familiar battleground of Hogwarts before the blind leap into life, undiluted, makes her wish she had held tighter to the things she loves the most about this place—the library late at night, the earthy give of the Quidditch pitch after an autumn rain, the winter-sharp smell of Christmas trees in the Great Hall, the way the pumpkins spring up overnight in Hagrid’s patch every October. Time passes in seasons here; starbursts, and the spaces between.

She packs away her skirts, her ties, her trousers, her photos, her broomstick polish, old stockings, chocolate frogs, the wool-and-bottlecap scarf Luna gave her for Christmas; she goes slow, lets them slip through her fingers to remember the shape of them as the years well up inside her like blood in a wound, only stopping when she hears rain boots on the floorboards and smiles like the sun, turning to Luna from the bed.

“Well. Look at you,” she says, reaching out and pulling her over by the hem of her skirt. “All done, and I’m moving slower than cold treacle. Give me half an hour and I’ll get my act together, promise.”

“No you won’t,” says Luna, squeezing her shoulders and kissing the corner of her mouth before she sits. “You’re going slow because you want to. It’s all right, Ginny.”

“Did I ever tell you that you’re the most brilliant witch in—no, listen—in this entire shitty country?”

“I lost count around the fifth, but I really don’t mind hearing again.”

“Get used to it, then,” she scoffs, tangles her fingers in the ends of Luna’s hair and clenches her fingers, gives a gentle tug. “It’s weird, but I almost don’t feel like I got enough of this place. Like we got cheated, yeah?”

Luna knocks their shoulders together, presses her nose to the side of Ginny’s neck. “I know,” she says, right into her skin. “And if I’m honest, I’m a little scared of everything out there. ”

Outside, an owl calls into the dusk, June-red, heavy with stars; her trunk still open, Ginny folds the last of her jumpers, and shuts the lid one more time. “I figure fear’s a terrible judge of character,” she says, “so we probably shouldn’t listen to it, much.”

“I figure you’re right.”

“I don’t—” she blurts out, hands between her knees, “I don’t actually know where I’m going. Just—I just thought I’d make sure you knew.”

There’s a pressure at her side, insistent, concrete. “Neither do I,” says Luna, closing her trunk for her and pushing off the bed. “So I figure we probably ought to get there together.”

Her face is sun-bright, lit up like a lyric and waiting for Ginny to take her own chance on forever, but there is nothing, she thinks, nothing in all the world more beautiful than Luna Lovegood, her hand reaching down and her eyes only for Ginny, ready to step into the darkness and the light alike, wherever that may take them. She can feel her heartbeat coursing through her limbs like a flood, rising, rising, strong enough for all the shrapnel she carries, strong enough for her own two feet.

“We’re all right, you and me,” she says, taking Luna’s hand between both of her palms like a vow.

“We’re all right,” says Luna, and Ginny breathes, and stands up.