Harry Potter & the Ritual of Merlin's Choice

Chapter 8

Harry looked up from his writing when Luna wandered into his room at Grimmauld Place the morning after Xenophilius Lovegood's funeral, still wearing Mrs Black's old-fashioned nightclothes. Her slim figure looked lost in the voluminous gown, which seemed to be at least two sizes too big.

"Good Morning, Luna," he greeted, "I guess you didn't get much more sleep than I did?"

Her cheeks were stained with tears, she had dark circles under her eyes, and her usual smile was noticeably absent.

Luna didn't respond to his greeting. Instead, she walked over to the desk—where he'd been sitting for several sleepless hours—and read over his shoulder in complete silence, for a solid minute.

Finally, she stepped back and flopped onto his bed. "Why are you writing a letter to the International Confederation of Wizards, Harry? They're all infected with vanusgenes—it makes them egotistical and close-minded."

Harry ignored her comment about vanusgenes, quite sure that he didn't want to know, "I need to ask them for permission to use Merlin's Ring," he explained.

"Why do you need their permission?"

"Because, they're the ones guarding it."

"But you're Harry Potter."

Harry sighed in exasperation at the reminder, and the implication that his name should open doors. "What does that have to do with anything?" he demanded, his frustration leaking through.

Luna didn't seem to notice, "You can break into anywhere."

Harry sighed again, "No, I can't." He didn't bother asking how she'd come to such a conclusion.

"You broke into Gringotts," she responded, raising a finger on her right hand, as if counting.

"That was a one-time thing; I almost died doing so, and we had inside help."

"You broke us into the Department of Mysteries," she added another finger.

"Only because Voldemort wanted me there, and had already had his Death Eaters disable all the defences."

"You broke into the Chamber of Secrets to rescue Ginny," she raised a third finger.

"Only because I could speak Parseltongue, which I can't anymore."

"You broke into that hidden chamber in your first year," she lifted a fourth finger.

"I'm starting to think that Dumbledore planned that whole thing."

"You broke into the Ministry of Magic offices, despite all of Voldemort and his Death Eater's defences" she concluded, raising the last finger on her right hand.

"I almost didn't get out of that one alive either," Harry insisted, "and that involved plenty of Polyjuice—"

"We can make some," she interrupted.

"—and almost a month of planning," he continued.

"We've got time," she countered, "lots of it."

"Please, Luna." Harry lost his patience. "Even if—and that's a big if—I could break into a high-security, top-secret ICW base, it would still be a lot simpler, just to ask for permission.

Luna giggled, "But not nearly as much fun…"

Harry saw red and almost lost his temper, then and there. Somehow, he managed to keep his tone mostly level, "I'd like to keep the life-threatening fun to a minimum, if possible, thank you."

"Then why do you want to start the war over?" Luna didn't appear to notice how upset Harry was becoming.

He did lose his temper then, "You think I'm doing all this for fun? I'm doing it to save lives! For a better future! If you're just in it for the fun, you can forget about coming along!"

Luna blanched at his outburst, but only for a moment. "No journey is worth embarking on, no matter how wonderful the destination, if you don't at least try to have fun along the way," she replied, her voice as serene as ever.

Harry deflated, most of his anger diffused, "I'd still rather just ask for permission."

"Suit yourself," Luna replied her tone and expression indicating that she still disagreed, "Will we still go if we don't have permission?"

"I don't know. We'll see…"

"You never did say; where exactly are we 'maybe' going?"

"Marie Byrd Land, Antarctica."

Luna squealed, "We're going to Antarctica!? I've always wanted to go to Antarctica!"

Harry suppressed a groan, "Only if the International Confederation of Wizards gives us permission."

"But you just said that we'd go, even if they didn't give us permission."

"No, I said 'we'll see,'" he corrected.

"Same thing," grinned Luna, undeterred, "Do you think we'll see any Belgica, while we're in Antarctica?"

"What are Belgica?" Harry regretted the question almost as soon as he'd uttered it, but it was too late to take the words back.

"Belgica are tiny deep purplish black flies with no wings. They make people restless, and irritable, and irrational. And if you have a really bad infestation they make you paranoid about everything and everyone else that's around you."

'Flies without wings, honestly,' Harry thought to himself, but rather than try to contradict her, he responded, "Sounds like something to avoid."

"Oh definitely," agreed Luna, "We had an article once in the Quibbler about a wizard that wandered off into a blizzard and died, after he found a cluster of them."

The silence in the room was heavy. Luna made no move to leave, nor did she ask any more questions or say more about the mysterious Belgica.

Harry broke the silence. "I really need to get back to my letter, Luna."

Luna didn't move; she just continued to stare at him while sitting cross-legged on his bed.

At first, Harry just stared back. Then, when it became obvious that she wasn't planning on leaving, he turned back to his letter.

Even with his back turned to her, he could feel the weight of her eyes fixed upon him. He couldn't concentrate. Try as he might, he found himself unable to make any significant progress.

Finally, after about five minutes, he gave up and turned back around and said, as politely as possible, "I'm sorry Luna, but I can't write with you watching me like that."

Harry thought he saw a brief flash of disappointment cross her face, but before he could mention it, it was gone, replaced by her usual dreamy look, "I'll go keep Kreacher company then. He seemed very lonely last night."

Harry nodded, turning back to his writing, once more.

Three hours—and twenty drafts—later, he put the finishing touches on the letter. Though it probably didn't come out sounding as intelligent as it would have if Hermione had helped him to write it, he was pretty sure he made his point clear. And, unless Luna had a sudden change of heart, and offered to help him, it was as good as it was going to get.

When Harry headed down to the ground floor, he found Luna sitting on the drawing room floor. She was listening attentively to Kreacher, who was dusting the furniture while talking animatedly about Sirius' ancestor Cygnus Black.

"I'm going out for a while," Harry addressed them both. "I need to deliver this letter to the Ministry, and run a few errands."

He was half expecting Luna to object to being left behind—and a tiny part of him was hoping she'd offer to read the letter over. Instead, he hardly received an acknowledgement—just a nod from her before she prompted Kreacher to continue his story, "What did Walburga do when she found out?"

Harry sighed, disappointed, but decided that she was probably just annoyed with him because of his earlier rebuff.

Luna was still in the exact same position, when he returned an hour later. Kreacher had moved over to the drapes and was now talking about Lucretia Black.

Kreacher spotted him first, "Shoes off, if you please, Master Harry. Kreacher just cleaned the floor."

"Sorry, Kreacher," Harry responded, chagrined, before returning to the entrance hall to leave his shoes by the door.

Luna followed him out, "What's wrong, Harry?" she asked, "You look grumpy."

Harry sighed, "Not here," he whispered, directing her up the stairs.

He waited until they were safely out of earshot for Mrs Black before responding, "I tried to apply for an international Portkey, while I was at the Ministry delivering my letter, but the Ministry still hasn't reopened international borders. When they said no, straight after the final battle, I could understand. But the war's been over nearly three weeks…"

Luna tilted her head in contemplation, "Why do you need to cross the channel now, Harry? I thought you were waiting for permission from the ICW."

"I need to check newspaper archives to research the happenings of 1981," he explained, "The Carrows were pretty thorough in their destruction of anything even remotely useful at Hogwarts, and with the destruction of the Daily Prophet…"

Luna giggled, "You don't need to cross the channel for that, Harry. Daddy has archives going back years and years. They were in the cellar, so most of them survived, even when the Death Eaters blew up our house our house."

Harry shook his head, trying to search for a delicate way to tell her that The Quibbler wasn't quite the newspaper he was looking for—without disparaging it. Finally he settled on, "I need something with a little more detail about daily events, than the Quibbler, Luna, but thanks."

"Oh, we have the plenty of Daily Prophets too—even though Daddy always said The Daily Prophet wasn't worth the parchment it was printed on—and Witch Weekly, and Wizarding Geographic, and Magical Wildlife… We even had a whole pile of PlayWizards—though Daddy hid those under his mattress, so they might have been destroyed. Daddy liked to keep a record of all his competition."

Harry grinned, "Really? Would you mind if I had a look at them?"

"Not at all," she answered. Harry's grin widened briefly, but faded somewhat when she continued, "After you fill me in on your plan. You were a little skimpy on the details yesterday."

Harry sighed, "This might take a while. Let's go back to my room and sit down."

Harry hesitated before launching into his explanation. Luna was right. He hadn't told her much the night before. Then again, aside from the Weasley eulogy, he hadn't said much of anything to anyone since the war ended. Every time he tried, it just seemed to tear open painful wounds. So, instead, he'd spent most of his time wallowing around Grimmauld Place, and working on his letter to the ICW—when he wasn't busy traipsing around Wizarding Great Britain from one funeral to another.

Explaining things properly to Luna meant willingly opening up those same wounds he'd been trying to ignore these past weeks. It also meant opening himself up to be ridiculed, if she thought his plans impossible or a waste of time and effort. She hadn't laughed at him the night before but…

And so he found himself explaining everything to Luna. He started with the prophecy and its implications, none of which seemed to surprise her. Only when he moved on to explain about Voldemort's Horcruxes did he elicit a gasp of surprise, which she followed up with a couple of strange questions.

Her eyes glistened with barely contained tears when he told her about having reunited the three Deathly Hallows, which her father had spent so much of his life seeking. They widened as he told her all he knew about Merlin's Ring, and shared Dumbledore's theory that he might be able to bring the Hallows with him.

She listened quietly, trying to grasp the immense scale of his quest as he then explained what he was planning: preventing the death of his parents on Halloween 1981, destroying Voldemort's Horcruxes before he had a chance to rise again, thwarting Death Eater attacks…

"So you see why I need the information about 1981?" he asked, when he'd finished his explanations.

Luna nodded slowly but said nothing, at first, as she continued to process all the information that Harry had shared. Finally she seemed to make up her mind.

"Yes, yes, definitely," she nodded more vigorously as she added "We can go to Daddy's office, to pick up the newspapers, now if you'd like. This is going to be fun…"

"Sounds like a plan," Harry agreed.

"And while you do that, I can pack everything I'm going to need to move in with you," she added, "By the sound of things you're really going to need my help."

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