I want to thank everyone who has read any part of this story from the bottom of my heart. I began writing it over a year ago, and now it's almost as long as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I truly never expected it to turn out so long, nor did I expect anyone to read it in the first place. Thank you to each and every one of you who liked, reblogged on tumblr, commented or sent me feedback…and thank you for putting up with my erratic updates! I don't know how many people are still reading this, but I love you all and, well, mischief managed.
The Hogwarts Express
December 23, 1991
"Another Uric the Oddball!" groaned Ron Weasley. His words were a bit muddled by his mouthful of Chocolate Frog, but it was clear he was frustrated as he tossed aside yet another repeat card from inside the box. "I'll have to eat every bloody one of these things to find Barbarus Bragge!"
"Better start now!" Harry Potter laughed from his seat across the compartment. He tore a bite out of a licorice wand as night and snow began to fall outside the windows of the Hogwarts Express.
"Hey, Harry," said Ron suddenly, "how're we going to look up more about the Flamel over the holiday? Unless your uncles have got their own Restricted Section—"
"I bet they have," said Harry, only half kidding. "If anyone knows about the Stone, it's them!"
Ron nodded in agreement and ripped open another Chocolate Frog, checked the card, and frowned. "Well," he sighed, "whether they know or not, it can't hurt to ask."
"Are you sure they won't tell Dumbledore what we're doing?" Hermione chimed in anxiously.
"My uncles? No way," Harry laughed, and Ron nodded.
"Well, I checked out a few books to read over the break myself," Hermione chimed in. She was sitting cross-legged next to Harry, already dressed in Muggle clothes to greet her parents outside Platform 9 ¾. "I've already read them, of course, but a second look can't hurt!"
"That's what we should have gotten you for Christmas, Hermione," said Ron. "The deed to the London Library!"
"I've already got a membership, Ronald," sighed Hermione, and Ron rolled his eyes but neither he nor Hermione could hide their slight grins.
Harry smiled, too, although he was beginning to find the train ride back to King's Cross laborious. He wanted nothing more than to see Remus and Sirius again. He'd gotten letters from his uncles just about daily while at school (and one congratulatory Howler after being Sorted into Gryffindor), and kept them updated on all the goings-on at Hogwarts, but hadn't actually seen Remus and Sirius since they took him shopping in Diagon Alley and then helped him onto Platform 9 ¾. That was where they'd run into Ron and his family; Ron's mum seemed to have known Remus and Sirius from "years ago," and insisted that Ron and Harry board the Hogwarts Express together.
Now, after a sudden change of plans—Ron's parents decided to visit his older brother in Romania—Remus and Sirius had offered to have both boys come visit for Christmas.
With each passing moment, Harry felt even antsier. Although he and Ron would surely ask Remus and Sirius if they knew anything about Nicolas Flamel at some point, Harry's first order of business would just be catching up with the two unofficial family members he never knew he had until a few short months ago.
"How long 'til we get in, d'you think?" Ron asked over the chug-chug-chug of the wheels and pistons rumbling beneath their feet. Harry sighed and smiled.
"Not soon enough."
Platform 9 ¾
December 23, 1991
"How long until they get in?" Asked Sirius as he drew his traveling cloak tighter around his shoulders. Even on the platform, it seemed as though the chilly winter air had found a way in.
"Not soon enough," Remus responded, rubbing his hands together. He was feeling rather weak—the full moon had only just ended—but nothing was going to stop him being there to greet Harry and Ron as they returned for their first visit home from Hogwarts. Remus remembered all too well how exciting the holidays were when he was eleven, and in the back of his mind, the somber thought that this would be Harry's first enjoyable Christmas remained.
Sirius had spent the last two weeks preparing for his godson's visit, then doubled his efforts as soon as Harry had sent an owl asking if his best mate Ron could be allowed to stay as well. Already, a pile of presents for each of them lay perfectly arranged under the giant tree Sirius had magicked into his and Remus's tiny flat. It was adorned with Gryffindor colors and all sorts of enchanted ornaments, including one that sang God Rest Ye Merry Hippogriffs louder and louder until everyone around joined in.
Not even the shocked stares of some wizards on the platform could dull Sirius's spirits.
"They're staring again," Remus muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
"Let them!" said Sirius happily. "They're going to get quite a show, you know—a convict, a werewolf, and soon, Harry Potter!"
"…And we'll get him out of here as soon as possible, I'm sure," said Remus sternly. The last thing he wanted was a mob when the train pulled in.
"Of course, dear," said Sirius patiently. "Ah!" He said suddenly, and nodded down the tracks. Just visible around the bend was the front headlight of the Hogwarts Express and then, the iconic whistle pealed through the platform and echoed off the stone walls. Sirius and Remus walked hurriedly towards the edge of the platform as the train pulled into the station, and they tried their best to spot Harry and Ron waving in the window.
"There!" Remus called out; Harry had his face pressed against the glass and was waving excitedly to an equally jovial Remus and Sirius. The second the doors opened, Harry came bounding out and nearly knocked Sirius over with the force of his hug.
Sirius was certain he'd never smiled so wide in his entire life. "Alright, Harry?" he said happily once his godson stopped squeezing. "Look at you, a true Gryffindor," he said warmly, playfully tugging at Harry's school tie. "And you must be Ron! Harry's told us all about you."
Ron grinned and shook both Remus's and Sirius's hands. "I know all about you, too!"
"And Hermione, of course," said Remus, smiling and holding out a hand to Hermione as she joined Harry and Ron.
"It's no nice to meet you, Mr. Lupin!" she said brightly, and Remus looked a bit taken aback at being addressed this way. "And Sirius—er, Mr. Black."
"Sirius is just fine," Sirius replied, then stooped to loudly whisper in Hermione's ear. "But keep calling him Mr. Lupin, that look on his face was priceless!"
"Ignore him," said Remus simply, and Hermione looked a bit befuddled, but amused nonetheless. "Oh—have you got your luggage, Harry? Ron, Hermione, yours too?"
The group of five made their way over to the luggage compartment and retrieved Harry and Ron's suitcases. Hermione located hers as well, and then she, Harry, and Ron said their goodbyes, promising to write at least once before getting back to school. After they were sure Hermione had safely exited the platform to where her parents were waiting, Remus, Sirius, Harry and Ron then began making their way towards the far side of the tracks, where it would be safe to Apparate home.
"Hedwig's meeting us," Harry informed Sirius as the two linked arms to Apparate.
"Right smart bird you've got there, eh?" Sirius chuckled.
"I wish I had an owl," Ron said a bit dubiously. "Or just any kind of pet." Sirius and Remus exchanged a look; had Percy Weasley's rat Scabbers not turned out to be Peter, Ron might have had a pet to call his own.
"Well," said Remus, saving the silence from becoming too awkward, "ask Father Christmas, he just might listen!" He said cheerfully, then exchanged another quick glance with Sirius, who winked over Harry and Ron's heads.
"Really?" Ron asked hopefully.
"If you've been good," he said loftily. "Although, Harry has told us you two have been getting in quite a bit of trouble already…Sirius, I wonder why Professor McGonagall never wrote home to us about it?" Remus said sarcastically.
"I thought she had, those must have been the letters I used for kindling last month!" Sirius laughed.
"Ah, must have been!" Remus played along.
"Whoa," Ron said, wide-eyed and shocked that anyone would so openly defy Minerva McGonagall.
"They're joking," said Harry. "At least, I think they are."
"Come on, let's get you two home, and then we want to hear all about school and all the studying I'm so sure you've been doing," he teased.
Harry smiled sheepishly and scratched the back of his head. "Erm…right…" he laughed nervously.
Remus, Sirius, Harry and Ron all looked around the Platform once more before at the same time, Remus and Sirius Apparated, each of them with a first year in tow. Uncomfortable though Side-Along was, Harry relished the feeling, for it meant he was going home. Hogwarts was home, of course, but to know he had another place where he felt safe and loved was better than any other possible Christmas gift.
Harry knew the Sorcerer's Stone was still a mystery, and Snape was still up to something. Voldemort was still out there somewhere, biding his time, and Harry knew he would still very likely have to face him one day. However, those thoughts seemed less important as he landed with Sirius on the front step of his flat. As Harry entered the flat and for once, felt excitement and joy flood his body at the sight of Christmas decorations, he knew that no matter what, he would be alright. He had Sirius, he had Remus, he had Ron, and Hermione too. And now, he had an entire holiday just to spend with his new family.
And with that, Our Choices has come to an end. I considered ending it after Chapter 16, but I really wanted to just end on a nice, wholesome note. Again, endless thanks to all my readers; you truly keep me going! And keep an eye out for my next fic, War of Attrition, coming this Halloween!