Harry Potter & the Ritual of Merlin's Choice

Chapter 16

Crack!

Harry was startled out of his contemplation by the sound of someone Apparating onto the lawn of his family home. Moments later, a dark-haired wizard burst into the parlour, wand raised.

The wizard stopped short at the sight of Voldemort's dead body in the middle of the floor. Then, catching sight of Harry, he launched himself at the younger wizard and enveloped him in a massive hug that could have given Hagrid a run for his money. "James! When Peter wasn't home and I could suddenly remember your address, I realized at once that the Fidelius must have collapsed. I came as quickly as I could! Are Lily and Harry...?"

"Sirius," wheezed Harry, "can't breathe."

"Oh!" Sirius released Harry, and stepped back. Catching his first true look at Harry, he took another step back, startled, "You're not James!"

"No, I'm not," agreed Harry, "But James is fine, and Lily, and Harry. I sent them to hide in the Shrieking Shack while I took care of..." he gestured to the corpse.

Sirius nodded in relief, but then his grin faded abruptly, and his expression turned suspicious, "Who are you?"

Harry groaned, "Oh please, not you too!"

Sirius gave him a curious look, but did not respond.

"Would you believe me if I told you that I'm baby Harry all grown up?" asked Harry, hopefully, "You did just mistake me for my father..."

Sirius took a hard look at the wizard before him, logic warring against what his instincts were screaming, "Harry?"

Harry let out the breath he hadn't known he was holding, and sighed in relief, grateful that not everyone in 1981 was as suspicious as his parents, "Yes."

"But—but—how?" stuttered Sirius.

"That," answered Harry, "is a long story and I'd rather tell it only once. Go find Remus—he needs to hear this too— and meet me at the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts."

Sirius, his mouth still gaping in disbelief, didn't move.

"Please," Harry prompted, "I promise, I'll explain everything, once everyone is together."

Finally, despite a great show of reluctance, Sirius Apparated away.

Harry found himself alone once more—except for Voldemort's corpse. He hesitated for a moment, then reached down and placed a shaking hand on the dead wizard. Concentrating, he Apparated them both to the Shrieking Shack, arriving just in time to hear James ask Luna, "So, are you 'Harry's' girlfriend?"

Harry spent a moment wondering how exactly Luna had succeeded in engaging his parents in friendly conversation—instead of winding up tied to a chair like he had—before registering the sarcasm in James' voice and realizing that she was tied to a chair and had both James' and Lily's wands pointed in her direction.

His parents looked jumpy and unsure of themselves; Luna sported her usual dreamy expression and didn't seem at all distressed.

"Oh good, you're back, Harry!" Luna cheerfully interrupted his train of thought, "And you've only got one body this time!"

Harry nodded, his expression grim, "One enemy, instead of two more friends to mourn..."

Luna smiled, "They'd be glad—a battle where only the enemy dies is a double victory."

"We're not done yet," answered Harry, "there's still so much to do…"

"Spoilsport!" said Luna pouted briefly, then abruptly changed the subject, "Do you think you could convince your parents to untie me? I'm starting to lose feeling in my fingers and toes."

Harry shook his head and drew her attention to Lily's wand, which though trembling was now pointed his way; James' wand was still directed at Luna. "I don't think they trust me enough to do anything I say."

"Even though you just killed Voldemort?" she asked.

"Apparently, or they wouldn't still be pointing wands at us." Neither wand wavered.

Harry turned slowly towards James, raising his hands in surrender—again. While he was pleasantly surprised that they hadn't cursed him yet, despite having had ample time while he and Luna had been talking, he wasn't taking any chances. "I thought we covered all this back at the house, before you untied me," he addressed James, unable to keep the disappointment out of his voice, "Don't you think that, if I meant you harm, I would have attacked you then? Or—better yet—I would have avoided getting tied up at all, by taking you both out, before removing my Cloak?"

"Possibly," James conceded. His wand wavered, but he didn't lower it. Neither did Lily. "But then again, this could all be part of some elaborate trap… Dumbledore warned us that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has an unhealthy interest in our family."

"What kind of trap involves killing Voldemort and bringing you his corpse?"

"How do we know that's really You-Know-Who? Or that he's really dead?" asked Lily, unsure what to believe.

Harry groaned in frustration—the pair of them were worse than Mad-Eye Moody…

Luna, fortunately, wasn't quite so easily discouraged. After a moment of contemplation, she asked, "Do you think Veritaserum would convince you?" her expression pensive.

"And where do you propose to get Veritaserum?" asked James.

"At Hogwarts, of course," she answered, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world, "The Headmaster is bound to have some, and we need to talk to him anyways."

Harry was quick to agree, "Sirius and Remus are meeting us at the Headmaster's office."

"Why are you meeting Sirius and Remus?" demanded James, his voice edged with suspicion once more, "You trying to brainwash them too?"

Harry sighed. "I ran in to Sirius at the house before I left. He's not half as distrustful as you, and promised to go get Remus. There was no brainwashing involved."

"And I suppose you expect us to just lead you through the Hogwarts wards—into Dumbledore's stronghold?" asked Lily.

"Would it help if I let you tie me up and take away my wand?" Harry offered, struggling to control his growing frustration. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be! His parents were supposed to love him, no matter what, not hold him at wand point.

A small nod from Lily was the only warning Harry got before his arms were magically wrenched roughly behind his back, and his wrists tightly bound. Her next spell drew his ankles suddenly together and he found himself toppling over, with no way to catch his fall. Were it not for a third spell arresting his downward momentum, he would most likely have landed flat on his face.

"How am I supposed to walk with my legs tied together?" he complained, struggling to right himself.

"You don't need to walk," answered Lily, as she dug around methodically in his pockets for his wand, her expression carefully blank.

She was so agonisingly close that Harry could smell her, the scent calling up subconscious memories of unconditional love, comfort and protection. A wave of emotion flooded him—he wanted so badly to hug her, for her to hold him in her arms—but bound as he was he had no way to act on the impulse. If she noticed the silent tear that fell down his right cheek, as she located his wand and placed it in her pocket, she gave no indication of it.

Stepping back, she used her own wand to cast Mobilicorpus on both time travellers, and on Voldemort's dead body. Finally, she directed all three towards the entrance of the tunnel to Hogwarts. James followed in silence, pausing briefly to collect a sleeping baby Harry from the cot his mother had conjured for him.

Fortunately, there weren't any students up and about at such a late hour, so although they caught the attention of a number of portraits, the unlikely procession avoided running into anyone on their way through the castle. They stopped short upon reaching the seventh-floor entrance to the headmaster's office; none of them knew the password.

Harry was all set to start guessing Halloween treats, but Luna cut him off. "We've got urgent business with the headmaster, Gus," she addressed the office's guardian gargoyle, "Could you let him know?"

"Gus?" asked Harry in confusion, but Luna didn't answer.

A moment later, the gargoyle leapt aside, and Lily wasted no time directing her prisoners up the stairs. From his vantage point hovering a few steps behind Voldemort, Harry had the rare pleasure of seeing the headmaster look momentarily shocked. However, by the time Lily deposited her prisoners and the rest of the group had made it up the stairs and into the office, Dumbledore had regained his composure. The older wizard's eyes were twinkling once more as he greeted James and Lily, offering them each a lemon sherbet and a seat, but ignoring the bound forms of Harry and Luna.

When no explanation of their identity was forthcoming, after several minutes, he finally asked, "What brings you out of hiding and to Hogwarts tonight? And how did you come upon your prisoners? The unconscious one looks remarkably like Voldemort, and this other one bears you an uncanny resemblance, James," he indicated Harry.

"He just showed up at Godric's Hollow claiming—" James began to explain, but Harry cut him off, "The dead body looks like Voldemort, because it is Voldemort—or one sixth of him anyways," he explained, "and I look like James because he's my father, a fact that I can't seem to convince him of."

"I see," Dumbledore regarded Harry intently and the young wizard allowed the headmaster to meet his eyes. He didn't resist as he felt the Legilimens begin to skim through his thoughts, subtly at first, then more intensely as he sensed Harry's willingness.

Finally, seemingly satisfied by what he'd found, Dumbledore withdrew from Harry's mind. "I do believe the situation warrants a more in depth explanation," he said, his eyes twinkling once more, "I'm quite intrigued."

Harry nodded. "I've already promised my parents that I'd explain everything under the effects of a truth serum, but," he hesitated, "I'd prefer to not having to repeat myself. Do you think we can wait until the others get here?"

"Others?" asked Dumbledore, "Who else did you invite?"

"Just Sirius and Remus."

The Headmaster nodded, "I see no harm in waiting for them, though perhaps you'd like to sit down too while we wait; you're the only one still standing."

"Thank you, Headmaster," Harry sunk gratefully into the armchair that had materialised behind him. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to untie me…" he asked, as he struggled to find a comfortable position that accommodated his bindings.

"Alas, Mr Potter—it is Mr Potter, is it not?"

Harry nodded, "Harry Potter, sir."

"Well, Mr Potter, despite the fascinating memories you shared with me just now, I do think I would prefer that you remain bound for the moment. Just until we've gotten everything cleared up? The mind is a tricky landscape, capable of misdirection, and one must be cautious in these difficult times."

Harry sighed and thought it ironic to hear this from a wizard that would one day hire Quirrell, Lockhart, and Crouch Junior disguised as Mad-eye Moody to teach schoolchildren.

"That's not to say that I'm disinclined to make you more comfortable, while we wait."

He pointed his wand at Harry causing the ropes binding his wrists to shift so that they were bound to the chair instead of behind his back.

"And perhaps, while we wait, one of you would be so kind as to introduce the quiet young lady tied to the other chair."

"Luna Lovegood, sir," Luna spoke up, "It's good to see you alive and well again, Headmaster."

"Lovegood...." pondered Dumbledore, stroking his beard as he did so, "You wouldn't happen to be a relation of Xenophilius Lovegood , would you dear?"

"He was—is—my father," Luna replied, stumbling over her verb tenses.

"You came with Mr Potter?" asked the Headmaster.

"Yes, sir," she replied.

"And where did you both come from?" he asked.

"We came through Merlin's Ring," she answered.

Dumbledore's eyebrows rose abruptly, "Truly? But it's regarded as only a myth…" he shook his head in disbelief, "I'm quite sure that there's a fair bit more to that story…" He appeared to hesitate for a moment, but seemed to decide against asking anything further just yet.

Instead, the group fell into an awkward silence, which fortunately didn't last long. After only a minute, it was broken by the sound of shouting coming from the bottom of the spiral staircase, "Let me by you stone buffoon, the Headmaster's expecting me."

Harry recognized Sirius's voice but before he could comment, the yelling was replaced by two sets of footsteps coming up the stairs.

It was time to tell his story…

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