Harry Potter & the Ritual of Merlin's Choice

Chapter 7

Harry only caught the last day of Remus and Tonks’ funeral, but the short service was enough to start his tears flowing anew. Although he hadn’t been particularly close to Remus, the older wizard had been his last link to his parents and the pain of saying goodbye to him and Tonks strengthened his resolve to go through with his plans.

That same resolve to go almost crumbled momentarily at the sight of little baby Teddy, whose godfather he had promised to be, but he quickly pushed his doubts aside; their situations were not the same.

Harry refused to feel guilty about 'abandoning' Teddy. While the boy might very well appreciate having a godfather, he didn't need one, not the way that Harry had needed Sirius. He had a grandmother who loved him dearly, who would raise him well and share with him fond memories of his parents.

That’s not to say that Harry didn’t shed a few more tears as he paid his respects to Andromeda and gently kissed his godson’s forehead, for what was probably the last time. He did, however, manage to walk away unburdened by guilt.

The rest of the funerals were somewhat easier and, after the first few, they all seemed to blend together in Harry’s mind. There were so many that he sometimes found himself attending as many as three in one day. First there was Hagrid—who they buried by his hut on the Hogwarts grounds, with his half-brother towering over the attendees and shaking the ground with each fit of tears—Susan Bones, Seamus Finnigan, Hannah Abbott, Lee Jordan, Aberforth Dumbledore, Neville Longbottom, Colin Creevey, Professor Flitwick, Michael Corner, Anthony Goldstein, Angelina Johnson, Zacharias Smith, Oliver Wood…

Finally, just over two weeks after the final battle, Harry stood up to leave the last funeral on his list, that of Xenophilius Lovegood, which he’d decided to attend more out of moral support for Luna than out of any respect for the deceased. Originally he’d only intended to stay for the service, but Luna had looked so sad and lonely that he found himself sticking around for the burial, as well.

Most of the small crowd at the grave-site had dispersed when he finally approached Luna to give his condolences.

Her face brightened considerably when she caught sight of him, "Thank you for coming, Harry. I hope you haven't been infected by mermeragasts, they like to hang out at funerals—and I've seen you at a lot of funerals…"

Harry stifled a dry laugh, "You're welcome, Luna. I think I managed to steer clear of the mermagasts."

"Mermeragasts, Harry, and that's good, because they're really tricky to get rid of. They tend to stick around for a while and they make people really sad— you look sad," she remarked, candidly.

"I'm okay, Luna, really," Harry insisted, but made no mention to how sad she looked.

"No, you're not," she countered, "but you will be. What are you going to do now, Harry?"

The lie that he'd been telling everybody else who had asked was at the tip of his tongue, but something in Luna's earnest expression and silvery eyes stopped him from uttering the words. So instead of telling her that he didn't know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life yet, and was planning to travel, in an attempt to escape his grief, he found himself telling her the truth about his plans.

He shouldn't have worried though; far from try to discourage him, Luna asked to come along. She reminded him so much of a lonely child hoping to be included in a playground game, that Harry found himself unable to refuse her.

A smile broke on her face, "Oh thank you, Harry. I couldn't possibly stay here all alone, now that everyone else is gone, even Daddy."

Harry shuffled his feet, uncomfortable at the mention of Xenophilius Lovegood, but said, "I'm really sorry about your dad, Luna."

"Yes, it is rather sad, but now he's with Mum again, so I really mustn't be sad…" she answered, her tone conversational. Her voice cracked unexpectedly, "but I am sad."

Faced with the unlikely, and awkward, situation of having to comfort Luna Lovegood—whom Harry generally considered to be unflappable—the young wizard found himself at a loss for words.

An awkward silence settled in.

However, just as Harry was about to attempt some words of comfort, Luna’s spoke again, "Do you think I might have been infected by mermeragasts? I haven't been to nearly as many funerals as you…"

"It’s okay to be sad, Luna," Harry offered, patting her back clumsily as he drew her into a hug, "you just buried your dad."

Luna giggled, the moment of melancholy as fleeting as though it had never been, "We didn't bury Daddy, Harry."

Harry pulled away, startled. "We buried an empty shell," she continued, "Daddy's with Mum, on the other side of the Veil."

Harry sighed, and muttered, "I stand corrected…" then attempted to extract himself from her grasp, "I should probably head home, Kreacher will worry. You'll call when you're ready to come along?"

Luna shook her head, "No time like the present—Daddy always said."

Harry stared at her for a moment, before recovering his power of speech, "But, but…don't you have things to do first?"

"Oh certainly, before we leave. But that can wait—being alone is the worst treatment for a mermeragast infection, and I'm starting to think that I might really be infected."

Harry caught the words that she didn't say: that she was sad and didn't want to be alone right now, that somewhere behind the thick outer shell which she shared with the rest of the world, Luna Lovegood was just as vulnerable as everyone else…

"Okay then, if you're sure," he answered. “I’ll have to Apparate us both though; the house is still under Fidelius. Hold on tight."

He didn’t even bother objecting when she chose to grab hold of his ear, instead of something more typical; it wasn’t worth the effort.

“Ready?" he asked, without waiting for the response, as he concentrated on their destination.

A moment later, they landed on the top step of Number twelve, Grimmauld Place. He paused, before reaching for the door, "Well, this is it; please ignore the house-elf heads—I still haven't convinced Kreacher to take them down. And try to be quiet in the hall, or you’ll wake Mrs Black," Harry warned as he opened the door and was greeted by the usual low whisper of “Severus Snape

“I didn’t kill you,” he whispered back, then held his breath as the dusty jinx-figure exploded.

"Was that Professor Moody?" asked Luna, apparently unfazed by the dusty apparition.

"Yeah," answered Harry, in a whisper, "I really need to do something about that jinx. It's starting to get annoying. Hurry, follow me before we wake up Mrs Black."

"Who's Mrs Black?" she asked—a little too loudly.

"Mudbloods! Filth! Scum! Half-breeds!"

"Drat! Too late!” Harry cursed while trying to pull the curtains, which framed the portrait, shut.

"She is quite unpleasant," commented Luna, as she walked up to the portrait, "Do think she might suffer from fanumalia?"

"Bloodtraitors and halfbloods! Defiling the home of my fathers! Be gone! Be gone filth!"

"Doubt it," answered Harry, "she's just a bitter old woman, and a pure-blood supremacist, who refuses to accept that the world has changed, and that this is no longer her house!"

"Mudbloods! Taint of shame on the house of my fathers! Be gone from this place!"

"Shut up!” Harry addressed the painting—which was still screaming obscenities at the top of its two-dimensional lungs—and with a stupendous effort he managed to force the curtains shut.

He turned back to Luna, and whispered, "Come on, this way, before she wakes up again… Kreacher probably already has supper ready…" He led her down the stairs, towards the kitchen, and away from the portrait.

Kreacher stood at the far corner of the kitchen stirring a deep pot of stew, as they walked in, "Kreacher apologizes, Master Harry, supper is almost ready, " reported the house-elf without looking up.

"That's okay, Kreacher," reassured Harry as he pulled up a chair at the table, and bid Luna to sit, "We can wait."

Kreacher looked up, startled, "Master Harry has brought home a guest! Kreacher was not expecting a guest!"

He hurried over to greet them—Regulus' locket bouncing against his chest as he rushed about, "Welcome, Miss, please allow Kreacher to take Miss' cloak. Kreacher will put on more stew for Master's guest."

"Kreacher," Harry interrupted, "This is Luna Lovegood; she'll be spending the night. Luna, this is my house-elf, Kreacher."

Luna stood and curtsied. "Very pleased to make your acquaintance, Kreacher," she greeted.

"Has Miss Luna left her luggage in the Hall, Master Harry? Kreacher will bring it up to Master's room for her."

Harry shook his head, "No, no luggage, Kreacher, but thanks."

"Then Kreacher shall lay out some of Mistress' old nightclothes on Master's bed for her," offered the elf.

Harry blushed, realising what Kreacher was suggesting, "Thank you, Kreacher, but Luna won’t be sleeping with me. Could you prepare another room for her, please?"

The house-elf bowed deeply, "Yes, Master Harry, Kreacher will do that— Kreacher will tidy up the Mudblood's room for Miss Luna," before scuttling off to tend to his stew.

Harry swallowed the fresh grief that rose at the mention of Hermione, before responding to the slip.

"Kreacher?" he called after the elf trying very hard to keep the anger and frustration out of his voice.

"Yes, Master Harry?" responded the house-elf distractedly.

"What did I tell you about the word, Mudblood?" Harry prompted.

Kreacher flinched as he turned to look at his master, "That it is offensive and, Kreacher is not to use it, Master Harry."

"Then why do you keep using it?" Harry asked.

"Kreacher forgets, Master Harry."

Harry sighed, "Please, try to remember, Kreacher."

"Yes, Master Harry," the house-elf promised, and turned back to his cooking.

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