Harry Potter & the Ritual of Merlin's Choice

Chapter 12

"James, Lily, and Harry Potter are hiding at number 5 Cherry Road in Godric's Hollow."

Harry couldn't help but be disappointed. He'd spent weeks trying to convince a Mind Healer to use Peithomancy on him, and to ask the questions he wanted. Apparently, finding her and setting up the initial appointment had been the easy part…

First, he'd endured several sessions, during which she'd tried to get him to talk about his feelings. Then, he'd put up with being labelled with about a half-dozen psychological diagnoses that he'd never even heard of, when he refused to co-operate. In the end, he'd only convinced her to do as he asked by promising to be more co-operative once she'd done so—a promise he had no intention of following up on.

So, to go through all that effort, only to find out that the secret was phrased in such a way that he wouldn't be able to evacuate any of the Potters without causing the charm to fall the moment they were no longer hiding in Godric's Hollow…disappointed was an understatement. He didn't want to tip his hand before Voldemort showed up at Godric's Hollow on Halloween, or to do anything to prevent him from showing up… His entire plan hinged on Voldemort showing up…

But, how could he keep them safe—which was the point of this whole endeavour—if he couldn't evacuate them? The question echoed through his thoughts his whole way home and if it hadn't been for Luna reminding him of all the other things that they had to worry about, he probably would have spent the next month obsessing over the question.

And, there was plenty to do without focusing on the one thing that he couldn't change. Fine-tuning their plans and gathering supplies for their Antarctica expedition, was only a small part of what needed to get done. For there to even be an Antarctica expedition, first they'd have to find a way of getting themselves positions as general operation assistants with the specific group of American Muggles that would bring them closest to their ultimate destination.

It wasn't a simple task, especially since they were operating from halfway around the world. There were countless Muggle documents to forge and hundreds of phone calls to make— most of them international. Then, there were bribes to offer foreign Muggle dignitaries —a task that had first required Harry to convince the goblins to hand over his money, something they were wont to do, given the grudge they insisted on harbouring over his successful break-in several months prior—and perhaps a few instances of illegal mind control.

It would have been a lot simpler if they could have just Apparated, but in addition to the exorbitant distances involved, they lacked a clear visual of their destination and a clear understanding of the defences surrounding the Ring.

So, as they struggled with the seemingly impossible task of securing themselves places on the American Ford Range expedition, Harry found himself increasingly grateful for Luna's company. He could not imagine doing it all on his own. While she might have been useless at making phone-calls—she still couldn't figure out which end of the phone to talk into—but she'd done a lot of the legwork, including some research and spell-work he himself had struggled with.

Even with all the efforts they put in, Harry was left with a feeling that it had all been too easy, when they finally did manage, to secure the elusive positions by the end of August. Perhaps it was Fate's way of making up for the rotten hand she'd dealt him thus far?

Finally, on September first—they were cutting things a little close as far as timing was concerned, since they were expected in California that very same day, but Harry had chosen the date for its personal significance—they stood in the entrance hall of Grimmauld Place with their bags packed.

Harry paused to say his goodbyes to Kreacher. "Luna and I are leaving on a trip, and we don't expect to be coming back. When you feel our bond break, I want you to go stay with my godson Theodore Lupin and his grandmother Andromeda Tonks; they're to be your new Masters."

Kreacher didn't take the news well, "Has Kreacher failed to serve Master well, that he desires to rid himself of Kreacher?"

Harry pushed away the memories of a time when he would have liked nothing better than to rid himself of Kreacher, had it not meant him running straight to the Death Eaters his former Masters had idolised. Instead, he focused on the loyalty the elf had shown ever since Harry had first shown an interest in helping him fulfil Regulus Black's last request, "No, Kreacher. You've been a very good elf, but you can't follow where I'm going. So, I want you to take care of Teddy for me—I love him very much too, and I can't bring him along either."

Kreacher burst into tears. "Master…loves... Kreacher?"

Harry sighed and awkwardly patted the elf on the back, "Yes, Kreacher. So take care of yourself. No getting depressed and staying in this house with only Mrs Black to talk to. Promise?"

"Yes...Master...Kreacher...promises," the house-elf managed to say through his tears.

Having secured the desired promise, Harry stood to leave, glancing back only once as he and Luna gathered their bags and left number twelve, Grimmauld Place for the next phase of their journey.

Three hours later, they found themselves on a plane to Boston, Massachusetts— courtesy of a few forged documents and one Confundus Charm on an overly diligent teller— to join up with the UCSB geophysics expedition onto which they had conned their way.

Harry managed to get Luna settled into her seat, with her seat belt fastened, and get her through the safety demonstration without incident. It probably helped that she spent most of the safety demonstration marvelling at the television screens which displayed the accompanying video, and that she probably didn't understand or care for some of the more technical terms being used. She didn't even react adversely to take-off—unless one counts a comment about barigigglers making her ears pop.

No, the first sign of trouble occurred when the captain came on with his greeting, after take-off, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Good afternoon and welcome aboard British Airways Flight 203 with non-stop service between London Heathrow International Airport and Boston Logan International. We have reached our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet now, so I am going to switch the seat belt sign off. Our flying time is about seven hours. We should be arriving about six o'clock local time."

"What did he mean 35,000 feet? How are we going to breathe?" Luna gripped Harry's arm; she was becoming increasingly agitated.

Harry stifled a laugh. Luna was usually pretty unflappable and he'd never seen her so nervous before. "We'll be fine as long as we stay on the plane," he said, trying to reassure her. "Think of it like a giant Bubblehead Charm."

She did calm down after that—to the point that she fell asleep on Harry's shoulder when the flight crew turned the lights down. Harry, unfortunately, didn't manage to fall asleep and the rest of the flight was uneventful but long.

Still, before they knew it they were conning their way through customs in Boston, and catching another seven hour flight to Los Angeles. There they met with the recruiting officer that had been sent to greet them, a grim-looking man with a crew cut who seemed incapable of smiling. "You the couple of GAs that we're expecting from Boston?" were his only words of greeting.

"That's us." Harry extended a hand, in an attempt at a friendly greeting.

The recruiting officer didn't take it, "Nick Parker, Raytheon Polar Services. Follow me. You're the last to arrive."

"We caught the earliest open flight," Harry lied, in defence.

Nick ignored Harry's comment, instead choosing to remark, his tone derogatory, "You sound like a couple of Brits."

"We're rather recent immigrants," replied Harry, not deigning to clarify that they had been on US soil less than twenty-four hours and that their immigration status would definitely be considered illegal if anyone dug deep enough. "Haven't lost the accent yet..."

"Humph," was the older man's only response.

The rest of the walk was spent in silence. Finally, they reached a small private bus with the Raytheon Polar Services logo parked outside the airport. Nick climbed aboard and took a seat near the back, walking straight past the bus driver, and not bothering to check that they were still with him.

"Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood, GAs for the Ford Range expedition," said Harry as way of greeting, in response to the bus driver's raised eyebrows and inquisitive look.

"I don't think Nick likes us," whispered Luna.

The bus driver laughed, "Don't let him get to you; he's like that with all the rookies. Go ahead and find yourselves some seats. It's not too long a ride."

After stowing their luggage, Harry sank gratefully into one of the seats, closing his eyes; the strain of fourteen hours of flight, a two hour layover, and an eight hour time zone jump was really beginning to take a toll on him.

Unfortunately, Luna didn't let him rest long. They had just pulled out of the airport parking lot when she poked him and asked, "Harry?"

"What?" he answered, trying to hide his annoyance. Wasn't she tired too? Of course, she'd slept on the plane; he hadn't.

"Shouldn't we be on the other side of the road?" she asked, a little too loudly for Harry's comfort.

Harry shook his head. Holding a finger up to his lips, he whispered back, "No, they do things backwards here in America." Before closing his eyes once more, determined to get some rest.

He'd only had his eyes closed a minute, when he felt her squeeze his hand. "Harry?"

"Yes, Luna?" he answered, without opening his eyes.

"Thanks for bringing me along."

He did look at her then, and couldn't help but smile back, unable to stay mad at Luna for long.

She patted her shoulder. "Get some sleep, Harry. You can rest your head on me this time."

Unfortunately, the drive from the airport to the Raytheon Polar Services Company's Los Angeles Briefing Centre, which would be their home for the next few weeks, was too short for him to actually fall asleep, but the gesture was appreciated, particularly since Luna didn't find any other ways to annoy him, or blow their cover…

As Harry relaxed into his seat, his head leaning on Luna's shoulder, he hoped the worst of the hassle was over. He was so wrong. The next few weeks were going to be trying…

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