Harry Potter & the Ritual of Merlin's Choice

Chapter 19

"Perhaps we should let young Mr Potter start things off."

Harry looked up startled. When his mother had told him that Dumbledore was expecting them in his office that afternoon, he'd assumed the older wizard would be running things in his usual fashion. He certainly hadn't expected Dumbledore to calmly set aside the ancient journals he'd been perusing, and then proceed to turn control of the meeting over to someone else—especially him.

"He has the most complete picture of the situation, as it stands now," the headmaster continued.

Was Dumbledore just fishing for more information? Harry glanced around the sunlit room uncertainly. Luna, the one person whose attention he sought, was the only one not paying him any attention; instead, staring intently at Fawkes who stood preening on his perch, as if in the middle of some silent conversation. Sirius and Remus were staring at him expectantly, and the Potters were smiling encouragingly and nodding.

Harry cleared his throat nervously, "Um, yes... well... I dumped a lot of information on you all, last night. I don't know how much of it any of you remember… So…uh…the most important thing to remember is: Voldemort—" he ignored the hitched breaths his cavalier use of the Dark Lord's name elicited, "is not dead. And unless we destroy every single one of his Horcruxes—"

Sirius, who was sitting near the door with Remus, shuddered. Harry paused briefly to make sure his godfather wasn't the only one to recall what he was talking about. Most of the group was frowning, but no one interrupted to ask, so he continued, "he has five, right now, though he meant to make a sixth last night—he will never die. He can and will come back. So hunting down and killing each and every piece of his soul needs to be our priority."

All the men in the room nodded their agreement, particularly Sirius, who had a determined glint in his eyes, but Lily seemed to disagree; Harry felt her bristle beside him. Remembering his earlier promise, he added, "But, there's plenty of time for all that," in an attempt to squelch, not her anger but also his rising feelings of self-recrimination for forgetting his resolution so quickly. "Dealing with Voldemort's Death Eaters is much more urgent. They won't stop killing, just because their Master is dead."

He gave the headmaster a hard look, his voice firm as he continued, "Luna and I memorised as many details as we could find about future Death Eater attacks, before we left. I want—no I need—your help to use all of it. No sacrificing anyone for the sake of strategy."

He'd expected Dumbledore to object, to launch into some speech about the need to make sacrifices for the Greater Good—the portraits behind the headmaster's desk definitely disapproved, mumbling in a recriminatory manner about the tone Harry had taken—but surprisingly, the older wizard nodded instead. "Certainly."

Harry let out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding. He wondered if it was it really possible that his presence in the past had changed the headmaster's outlook so profoundly. Had the older wizard seen something in Harry's memory that convinced him to change his views on sacrificing 'pawns'?

"As long as you realise that the more we change things, the less accurate the information you brought with you will become," the headmaster continued.

Harry groaned. Or perhaps the manipulative old wizard is just making promises he has no intention of keeping?

Lily certainly thought so, if the glare she was levelling at Dumbledore was any indication. She looked positively livid, and probably would have started shouting at the headmaster if her husband, ignoring his best friends' looks of confusion, hadn't placed a calming hand on hers and whispered, "Don't worry…we won't let him sacrifice Frank and Alice."

The angry red-head pushed the offered hand away and stood abruptly, "Or anyone else?" she demanded, still glaring at the headmaster.

Dumbledore smiled back at her, from behind his desk, apparently unperturbed by the anger being directed his way, "I assure you, Lily, I have no intention of needlessly sacrificing anyone."

"It's the ones you decide do need sacrificing that I worry about," she shot back, ignoring her husband's gentle grasp on her elbow, urging her to sit back down. The memory of how secretive he'd been, when warning them to go into hiding, was still too fresh in her mind.

Dumbledore's eyes lost a little of their twinkle, but he waved off the accusation and motioned her to sit back down. "Perhaps we should let young Mr Potter share what foreknowledge he possesses before making any decisions as to what to do with the information. I'm sure we can come up with a solution that is agreeable to all present."

Lily reluctantly reclaimed her seat, but didn't stop glaring—and not just at Dumbledore. A confused Remus, found himself fidgeting under the intensity of her glare, which she turned on both him and Sirius for not supporting her until James, immune after years of experience, took hold of her hand again and gave her a reassuring smile. This time she didn't push him away.

Harry sighed. He was sure the headmaster had the best of intentions, but he was inclined to agree with his mother's assessment of the situation. Unfortunately, he didn't really have any choice but to trust Dumbledore. Alone, he wouldn't be able to change much, even with the Potters' help.

Taking a final deep breath to clear his thoughts, he launched into a list of all the attack details he could recall. He hadn't spoken more than a sentence before Luna looked up from her staring contest with Fawkes and interrupted him with details he'd forgotten… and again… and again… Finally, after her fifth such interruption, in under five minutes, he gave up in frustration and just let her take over—she really was a lot better at reciting memorised dates and facts than he was.

Sitting back in the comfy chair Dumbledore had supplied, Harry watched the faces of the others present. Sirius was frowning intensely and kept shifting nervously in his seat every time Luna mentioned the name Bellatrix Lestrange. Lily, the most expressive of the group, kept squeezing her husband's hand—painfully hard if his intermittent grimaces were anything to go by.

Only the headmaster managed to remain impassive throughout Luna's entire recitation, the progressive lack of twinkle in his eyes the only sign that he was at all affected by the accounts of torture and murder. Even Remus, the most stoic of the younger men, reacted with a horrified gasp and dropped the quill that he'd been using to take notes, when Luna described the attack that led to the arrest of Antonin Dolohov—known for being one of Voldemort's most skilled torturers.

Dumbledore let the young witch speak without interruption, until she reached the end of her list. Only then, did he take back control of the meeting. At first, he tried to change the subject by asking for more details about Voldemort's Horcruxes, under the pretext that collecting some of them might be time sensitive, but a single glare from Lily was enough to cut off that line of conversation. So, instead, they returned to the matter at hand, establishing priorities based on urgency, and deciding which Order members to send to deal with which of the many upcoming attacks, until, by the end of their brainstorming, even Lily was satisfied that no victims were being forgotten or neglected.

Each Order of the Phoenix member present was quickly dispatched to set plans in motion, leaving only Dumbledore and the two time-travellers behind in Dumbledore's office; even Fawkes had been sent off with messages.

"And you two, what are your plans, now?" said Dumbledore.

Shaking the money pouch that Lily had lent him that morning, Harry turned to Luna and smiled, "How about we go get you a wand?"

"Harry Potter!?" Ollivander exclaimed the moment Harry and Luna stepped into the gloomy wand shop.

Harry nodded slowly, puzzled as to how the older wizard had identified him so quickly, but there wasn't really any point in asking.

"You're not due to receive your first wand for another ten years..." the shopkeeper continued.

Luna smiled reassuringly. "That's okay, Mr Ollivander. Harry doesn't need a new wand," she assured him, "I do"

The wandmaker turned his pale piercing eyes on her. "And you are?"

Luna opened her mouth to answer, but shut it again as he held up a slim hand to halt her response, pondering only a short moment, before answering his own question, "Ah! Yes, Luna Lovegood, daughter of Xenophilius Lovegood and Epiphany Cientia. I wasn't expecting you for another eleven years."

Luna frowned. "I'm terribly sorry to show up so early, Mr Ollivander, but do you think I might have a wand anyway: Hawthorn, ten and a quarter inches, swishy, with a unicorn tail core?" she asked nervously. She wondered if he would he refuse to sell her one. Had he not had a chance to make hers yet?

"Irregular," muttered the wandmaker, "Highly irregular, but I suppose you must. Can't be having a grown witch walking about without a wand, can I?"

Luna smiled serenely, "Thank you so very much, Mr Ollivander. I'll take really good care of it, I promise. I won't be back for another eleven years, honest."

Ollivander grunted. "Yes well, ten and a quarter inches, swishy, with a unicorn tail core, you said?" he asked, fixing her with an assessing gaze.

Luna nodded.

"Highly irregular picking out your own wand…" he grumbled as he searched the thousands of dusty boxes lining the back wall for the wand in question, "Here, try this one."

Luna's face lit up as she caught sight of it, "Oh, yes! That's the one!" She gave it a flick and her smile brightened further, as it responded to her magic.

"I've missed you," she addressed the wand. Much as she'd appreciated the replacement wand Ollivander had sent her after their escape from Malfoy Manor, it had never truly replaced her first wand, the one that had chosen her.

Frowning suddenly in realization, she asked the wandmaker, "Do you think you can make another? For when I come back in eleven years?" She didn't want to deprive her younger self of the amazing joy of holding her wand for the first time.

Ollivander furrowed his brow, and muttered "irregular" under his breath a few more times as he considered the dilemma… the most difficult part would be tracking down the unicorn who had given him the original tail hair… Finally, after a long moment, he nodded briskly, "It should be possible."

Luna grinned. "Oh! Thank you! Thank you, Mr Ollivander!" she exclaimed, jumping up to hug the older man, "Thank you! Thank you!"

The wandmaker stiffened in her grip, but managed to answer, "You're welcome young lady."

Harry cleared his throat, causing Luna to let go of the flustered wizard as abruptly as she had initiated the hug.

Still beaming, she paid for the wand, and Harry smiled fondly after her as she practically bounced out of the shop.

The fact that she was still grinning madly when they returned to the Potters' cottage in Godric's Hollow, had the added benefit of raising Lily's spirits—a little—when the red-head returned home disappointed and frustrated after her conversation with Alice Longbottom. The Auror had brushed off all of her friend's concerns and warnings for her safety, insisting that she and her husband could take care of themselves.

Lily let the teenage witch hold her as she cried tears of fear, fear that they wouldn't be able to save her friend, fear that much as she wanted to, they couldn't save everyone…

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