Despite Lily's anger at Dumbledore, and his own disappointment with how the headmaster had handled things with Snape, Harry found himself once more in the older wizard's office a week later, this time with Luna at his side.
Harry sat down in what he was starting to think of as his chair, and turned down the offered sherbet lemon, as had become his habit. Luna, however, beamed at the offer and accepted one of the offered sweets gratefully.
"I apologize for taking so long to meet with you," Dumbledore began, "I have been meaning to ever since the last of Voldemort's Horcruxes was destroyed, but alas, I have been busier than anticipated, in recent weeks, what with the unfortunate and mysterious disappearance of my Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor, and the more recent attack on my Potions Master... Fortunately, I have managed to fill both positions, for the balance of the school year, at least..."
Dumbledore paused, as though hoping for a response to his opening, but continued when none was forthcoming. "So what are the two of you planning to do now?" he asked, "Now that you've fulfilled your primary objective in coming here."
Any response Harry might have been contemplating was cut off by Luna's enthusiastic reply. "I'd like to finish my education," she responded, without hesitation.
Harry, for his part, hesitated before replying, "Yeah, me too," he agreed.
Dumbledore sighed, "I thought you might say that. Though I was sort of hoping...I'll need new Defence against the Dark Arts and Potions teachers for the next school year if the two of you are interested in filling the positions..."
It was Harry's turn to sigh. His mother may have spent the last week ignoring the headmaster's requests that she come teach Potions in Snape's stead, but the idea of teaching actually did appeal to him, just not the timing. He wanted to finish school, properly, experience a normal school year, with no one trying to kill him, get to know his parents, maybe make some new friends…
Finally, he said, "How about this? You let Luna finish her sixth year—she was abducted half-way through—and let us both experience our seventh, next year. And then maybe the year after that…though you do realise how awkward it's going to be in another ten years or so for us to be teaching ourselves?"
Dumbledore smiled, his eyes twinkling. "Better than I have any right to expect, and temporary teachers are so much easier to find than permanent ones," he answered. "I accept your proposal. Now for the annoying details... I'm going to need OWL results if I'm to get you into NEWT classes..."
Harry smirked, "I think you're forgetting a step."
"Yes, if you want us to take OWLS, or do anything other than hide out for that matter, we need to officially exist."
When that statement failed to garner a response—though he suspected Dumbledore was feigning ignorance—he continued, "Separate from that of our younger selves. No one will believe that I'm Harry Potter, son of James and Lily Potter, and I don't really want them to either. For once, I'd just like to be normal."
Beside him, Luna shook her head emphatically, "Normal is boring!"
Harry sighed, "Relatively normal then. If I wanted actual normalcy, I'd crash with the Dursleys…" He shuddered at the thought, not that they'd have him anyways…
Dumbledore's expression betrayed nothing of his thoughts on the subject, "I suppose you have an alternate story that would be easier to explain to the general public?"
"Of course," Harry smiled mysteriously, enjoying the feeling of knowing something the headmaster didn't, however brief it was destined to be. Back stories were actually something he and Luna had worked on before travelling through the Ring.
The quiet stretched on, the power-games playing out: Dumbledore not wanting to ask, and Harry unwilling to tell without being asked, until finally, Luna, who had no interest in the power-games between the two wizards, spoke up, "My new last name is going to be Bonamare," she announced, "Both my fictitious parents died in a recent Death Eater attack. They were recluses and insisted on homeschooling me to protect me from the vanusgenes that run rampant in mainstream Wizarding society—especially at the Ministry.
"Of course," she continued with a dreamy smile, "the vanusgenes are real enough—perhaps dad should have had me homeschooled me too, though I think I've managed to avoid infection… On the other hand, neither Mr nor Mrs Bonamare ever existed, so we're going to need a few believably forged birth—Harry's going to need one of those too—and death certificates, oh and marriage certificates, perhaps going back a few generations. Admittedly more difficult to acquire now that the Ministry has been cleaning house, but we're sure they aren't beyond your ability to produce, if you want the two of us to come teach in a couple of years."
Beside her, Harry nodded his agreement.
Finally the Headmaster nodded his assent. "I can certainly endeavour to acquire the necessary paperwork, Miss Bonamare, as well as tamper to the Hogwarts rolls to have you appear as having refused your Hogwarts acceptance letter," he agreed, then turned to Harry and finally asked, "And your cover story?".
"I look too much like James to claim to be anything other than a Potter," Harry began, "I already told Alice Longbottom that I was his illegitimate half-brother, which seemed to work. Granddad Potter was known as quite the ladies' man, even after he got married.
"We can claim that my mother was actually a Muggleborn witch, who returned to the Muggle world after finishing Hogwarts, and that she homeschooled me when she realised I was magical, but was killed recently. I've been trying to track my father down ever since, but since he's already dead, I only found my half-brother James, who invited me to stay in his home until I can get myself back on my feet."
"Very well, Mr Potter," the Headmaster replied when he finished. "You do realise there are quite a few holes in your story?"
"We—" Harry started to defend their story—he thought they'd done a pretty good job—but a giggle from Luna cut him off.
"Of course, it has holes, Headmaster," she began, "All good stories have holes, otherwise they're too constricting to work with. But you can handle the details, can't you? When you're busy forging documents and making people believe them?"
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled and he gave them what was probably supposed to be a genial smile, "Yes, of course. Rest assured I will take care of the details, though it may take a few weeks. I will contact you both once I have managed to secure your legal identities and schedule OWL testing at the Ministry. Might I suggest you spend the intervening time studying for them?"
Harry groaned, but he couldn't really complain; he'd asked for it after all. But Luna didn't have to look so pleased. Ravenclaws and their studying… So he settled for glowering at her instead, not that it had a noticeable effect.
She was positively beaming and actually jumped out of her seat in her excitement as the headmaster handed her a fifth year syllabus, and a sixth year syllabus, and the fifth and sixth year required reading lists, and the teaching guidelines for expected competence levels for OWL examinations… "Thanks a lot, Headmaster!" she exclaimed. "Now we really must be going. We have to go shopping for text books and complementary reading material…" before practically bounding into the fireplace, barely taking a moment to yell out her intended destination.
Shaking his head at the display, Harry took his time standing up to leave. He nodded goodbye, then headed to the Floo to follow his friend home. The rest of his life was waiting for him…
(I mean it this time)
A/N: My most sincere apologies for the delay on this chapter. This chapter has been sitting on my hard-drive for over a month, and there's no truly acceptable reason for not posting it but... here's a few excuses: a concussion that dragged on for nearly two months, NaNoWriMo, my Grandmother's 90th birthday preparations, Christmas...
However, I felt that it was only fair to you all that I get this finished before the end of the year. I don't plan to add anything to this story, but keep your eyes out for a collection of one-shots set in this Universe (titled 'Harry Potter and a Life of Relative Normalcy'), in the coming year, so those of you that only have this story on alert might want to add me to your author alerts.
That said, many thanks, to my wonderful pre-beta Hippothestrowl, and also to my beta Arnel for their input on this chapter.
I would also like to take a moment to thank all the wonderful people who reviewed chapter 31:
Anthro79, Blenda73, Blinded in a bolthole, catspaw439, DarkRavie, EriEka127, ibterismith50, Jess, MaeSilverpaws1, magitech, Meech Macko, mwinter1, OMSdigifan64, Penny is wise, QHLuver, RRW, rowanlyn-mirrim, ruby2360, Serpent91, Shadowmage, smother-alchemist, snoogenz,southern-reader, Suezanne, Teufel1987, Therio,Theta-McBride, and Tommy14. Remember if you don't sign your reviews or have PMs activated, I can't respond.
I would particularly like to highlight the contribution of Penny is wise as my most prolific reviewer.
Many thanks, as well, to the 1209 people who have me and/or this story to their favourites and/or alerts. If you haven't reviewed yet, I would love to hear from you!