Chapter 1: Intervention
Made this cover for Wattpad, so thought I would add it here as well.
'Severus ... please ..."
Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore.
A jet of green light shot from the end of Snape's wand and a man stepped out of thin air right in the path of the spell. He was tall and blond and, to Harry's shock, when the green light connected with him, he grimaced, but did not fall over dead. The stranger was also holding a very large sword.
"Try that again and you will really annoy me," the man said, glaring at all the Death Eaters as if they were no more than insects.
"You have to be dramatic, don't you?" said another voice and a second man stepped out of nowhere onto the roof.
This man was also tall, but he looked like he might snap in a strong breeze and where his friend was blond, his hair looked black in the green light of the Dark Mark. This man waved his hand at the two Death Eaters Dumbledore had called Amycus and Alecto, and at Greyback, his eyes glowed gold, and all three fell over as if Stupified.
"Because that's not dramatic at all," the blond man said as if unimpressed with the display.
Harry had no choice but to remain totally still, as it seemed did Snape and Malfoy, but from shock rather than anything else. From the looks of it neither Slytherin had any idea what to do.
"Hello," said the dark haired man cheerfully and turned to Dumbledore, "this is Arthur and I'm ..."
"Merlin," Dumbledore said and for the first time ever in Harry's experience, the headmaster sounded in awe.
That made Merlin blush and smile rather awkwardly as if embarrassed by the reaction; Harry knew the feeling. He was also confused, because he had known Merlin was real, given that many things Muggles thought were legend were actually Wizarding things, but firstly, he had thought of someone who looked like Dumbledore and secondly, he had been almost sure Merlin was dead.
That was the point Malfoy fainted and Snape caught his student. Harry had no idea what to do and, since he still couldn't move, he waited for Dumbledore to say something.
"Sorry for arriving at the last minute," Merlin said, holding his hand out to the headmaster, "but everything only came together just now and so we only knew where we were supposed to be a minute ago."
For once Dumbledore did not seem to know what to say and shook the offered limb.
"I know we've rather messed up your plan," Merlin began to say.
"It's what he does best," was Arthur's dry comment and for that Merlin cuffed him on the arm and glared.
"But sacrificing yourself really isn't the answer," Merlin continued as if he hadn't been interrupted; "the Light needs you far more than you realise."
"But I am dying, My Dear Boy," Dumbledore said and then seemed to catch himself, "my apologies, you appear so young."
Merlin just smiled at that.
"Don't worry," the young-looking man replied, "I'm used to it. Never realised that there would be bleed back when I bonded myself to this prat and managed to roll back my age; most people expect a long white beard."
Harry was glad he wasn't the only one.
"Oh," and Merlin said, fishing in his pocket, "this should fix the arm."
What Merlin gave Dumbledore wasn't clear from where he was standing, but Harry saw the effects; almost as soon as whatever it was dropped into the headmaster's good hand, the withered arm began to change. The damaged flesh began to change colour and smooth out, plumping up to look completely normal. Harry had seen a lot of amazing things in his time in the Wizarding world, but that was quite incredible. It took only seconds before Dumbledore's damaged arm appeared exactly like his other one, so, although not as good as new, at least as good as it had been.
"Curses can be nasty," Merlin said with a little nod; "insidious things."
The way Merlin spoke was almost off hand, as if it was a trifle and yet Harry knew Dumbledore had access to the best possible treatment that the Wizarding world could offer, including Phoenix tears. The whole experience seemed to have flabbergasted Dumbledore and Harry was a little glad it wasn't just him.
"Thank you," was all Dumbledore seemed to find to say.
"A gift from the Sidhe for services rendered," Merlin said with a smile that made Harry wonder if the wizard has a screw loose; "always knew it would come in handy one day, just never knew when until this morning."
A little cloud of smoke rose from where whatever it was had been in Dumbledore's hand and that it seemed was that; cure complete. Almost as if he didn't quite believe it, Dumbledore wiggled his fingers and appeared delighted.
"Headmaster?" Snape asked and drew all of Harry's attention as well as Dumbledore's.
He wanted to move, he really did, but he was still being held immobile by Dumbledore's considerable power. What Harry had seen made him want to react in anger, but something wasn't right; Snape did not appear defeated or aghast, in fact the man looked relieved.
"I believe, Severus," Dumbledore said, seemingly taking Snape's notice as a reason to brighten even more, almost to his old self, "that the time for subterfuge is past. I apologise for making you do that, I believe I was mistaken. Shall we return to the main school, I believe the Order may have repelled the invaders?"
Harry was very, very confused, because the Headmaster didn't seem to be reacting at all to the fact that Snape had just tried to kill him and it seemed as if the danger was suddenly gone, even Arthur was putting away his sword. It was dawning on him that the whole roof top might have been a set-up and there was still a hell of a lot he didn't know.
"Harry, you may reveal yourself now, My Boy," Dumbledore said, looking over at him and his immobility was instantly gone.
More than glad to be able to move, he pulled off his cloak and found everyone looking at him.
"Hello, Harry," Merlin said and didn't seem to be remotely surprised to see him, almost as if he had known he was there the entire time; "it's very nice to meet you."
"Um, hi," was about the best Harry could do.
This was bizarre even by Hogwarts standards.
"Perhaps we should take this inside?" Dumbledore suggested before the situation could become even more awkward. "Young Mr Malfoy has been under far too much strain recently and we really should make him comfortable. If I may be so bold as to ask, how long will your spell keep our other guests unconscious?"
"A couple of hours," Merlin replied, glancing at the crumpled forms, "but it might be an idea to bind the werewolf, just in case. You never can tell when the wild magic with interfere."
Harry thought Merlin's magic was rather wild, but didn't say so. He was well aware that the adults could send him away at any moment if they chose to and he didn't think Dumbledore would, but he definitely didn't want to make it happen with stupid comments.
"Severus, if you would be so kind," Dumbledore requested and only then was Harry reminded that the headmaster had been disarmed because of him.
He felt the guilt rise up, but, as if reading his mind, Dumbledore looked over and gave him a smile.
Of course there was one problem with Dumbledore's request, Snape was holding Draco.
"Here, let me take him," Arthur said and walked over to the head of Slytherin.
The way Arthur then picked up Draco looked effortless and Harry couldn't help being impressed.
"This boy needs to eat more," was Arthur's comment when he had Draco.
It took them about ten minutes to secure everything on the roof and make it to Dumbledore's office via a route Harry had never seen before. In a way it was almost as if Hogwarts created a whole new back corridor for the headmaster and, having lived in Hogwarts for several years, Harry did not put it past the castle. As soon as they entered the Headmaster's office, Fawkes launched off his perch straight at Dumbledore and dropped a very familiar wand into the headmaster's hands.
"Why thank you, My Friend," Dumbledore said with a smile and now Harry was sure the tower had been, at least, partially planned, because Fawkes had to have been watching to retrieve the headmaster's wand.
With a flick of his returned wand, Dumbledore brought up the lights to a higher level and conjured a chaise and some chairs out of thin air.
"Thank you," Dumbledore said to Arthur, indicating the sofa, "if you would be so kind as to put Draco here."
Arthur did as he was asked and it was clear that Draco was still completely out for the count. He looked so pale and thin and Harry was having trouble seeing an enemy anymore; Draco was just as much a victim as the rest of them.
"Wars should not involve children," Merlin said, sounding distinctly angry about the whole thing.
It occurred to Harry that, being seventeen, technically they were considered adult in many things in the Wizarding world, but he held his tongue. He knew what Merlin meant and he would have liked it to be true as well.
"I could not agree with you more," Dumbledore said, having checked Draco over. "I wish young Draco could have been spared the pain and anguish he has suffered this year, but he and his parents would most likely have been killed had we interfered."
Sometimes it was hard to think of Death Eaters as people, but Harry was beginning to see more of the greys rather than the black and white.
"Voldemort has so many things to answer for," Arthur said in a tone that reminded Harry the man was a king; it suggested power and retribution on a more than personal scale.
"Are you going to get rid of him?" he finally found his voice and asked the question that he just couldn't get away from.
Merlin seemed to be incredibly powerful and able to do things no other wizard could do, like stepping out of thin air into Hogwarts; even Voldemort and all his Death Eaters would be no match for him. Paired with Arthur, Harry wasn't sure anything could stop the two.
"I wish we could," Merlin said, looking apologetic, "I know how destiny can be terribly difficult, especially when you are so young, but prophecy is not something that can be played with."
"If you do, bad things tend to happen," Arthur backed up his friend and Harry sat down, letting his hopes die again.
For a moment he had actually thought that he might get away without being the Golden Boy.
"But we are here to help," Merlin said, clearly trying to cheer him up, "and you'd be amazed how far you can bend a prophecy when you have to."
Arthur actually snorted a laugh at that one; it seemed Arthur had an odd sense of humour.
"You mean like the whole 'Mordred is going to kill me' one?" Arthur said and appeared very amused.
"He did kill you," Merlin pointed out as if it was a conversation they had had many times before; "he held you immobile while that vampire ate you, then he let it infect you, and you were about to munch your way through the rest of the court until I got there."
From the looks of it, Merlin did not find the whole topic as amusing as Arthur did. The way Arthur gently touched Merlin's arm in a kind of apology had Harry wondering what it would be like to have been friends with the same people for hundreds of years.
"You have the power to reverse a vampire conversion?" Snape sounded very surprised.
They'd done vampires in DADA, but Harry didn't know much about them really, so he wasn't sure why Snape sounded so shocked.
"Um, no," Merlin said and Arthur suddenly changed, becoming paler and he smiled, flashing a fang, "it's kind of complicated. Arthur is still a vampire, only not really."
Merlin didn't look as if he quite knew how to explain it.
"What Merlin is trying to say," Arthur said, fading back to normal, "is that he did something with his magic that he failed to understand and we are the result; both immortal, me with a craving for his blood, and both regressed to the prime of our lives even though we were in our forties at the time of the incident. Merlin does a lot of things with his magic he fails to understand."
"I do not," Merlin protested, but it was a very weak protest.
Harry was beginning to empathise with Merlin quite a lot, but he did notice that the dig had distracted Merlin from whatever he had been worrying about.
"How can you help us?" he asked; he almost said 'me', but he did realise the whole war wasn't about him even though it seemed very personal at times.
"I do believe I was about to ask the same question," Dumbledore said and gave Harry a smile.
Merlin opened his mouth to reply, but then looked over to the couch where Arthur had placed Draco.
"I think," Merlin said and now Harry saw Draco moving as well, "we shall have to talk about that a little later."
Draco's eyes blinked open and Harry could tell that, for a while, the Slytherin did not remember what had been happening. For just a second there was almost peace on Draco's face and then everything came flooding back. Harry knew that feeling only too well; he had woken up to a similar reaction himself too many times to count. Draco sat up very rapidly, eyes large and round and going from one person in the room to the next. Finally that gaze settled on Snape.
"You really are his man," Draco said, tone, surprisingly, not accusatory.
"It was the only way I could live with myself," was Snape's equally surprisingly, open reply.
From where Harry was standing it appeared that Draco just accepted that.
"Do you know if my parents are dead yet?" the Slytherin asked in a voice that was far too calm. "I'm sure He'd want everyone to understand the price of failure."
There was no doubt in Harry's mind that, at that moment, Draco fully believed that his mother and his father would be executed. He hadn't quite believed the Slytherin's motives on the roof top, but now he did; now he could see it was the complete truth. It gave Draco a depth that he had not appreciated before and for the first time he felt something akin to sympathy for the overly rational Slytherin. Harry had never had blood family he loved around him, but he loved what he knew of his own parents and he knew that, had they been alive, he would have done anything for them, as he would do anything for his friends. Draco wasn't really that different.
"That's being taken care of," Arthur said in a very authoritative tone; "they are being collected by a friend."
The way Draco looked at the man told Harry the Slytherin was not quite sure what to believe any more and he couldn't blame him. He wasn't quite sure what to believe anymore either.
"Are you really The Arthur?" Draco asked as if fearing to believe it.
"I am," Arthur replied with a nod, "so I think it is time you seriously considered your allegiances."
"I don't seem to have much choice," was Draco's less than committed reply.
"There's always a choice," Merlin said and looked directly at Draco, at which point Harry saw the Slytherin shiver, "you just have to make it."
Something passed between the two, Harry was sure of it and Draco gave a little nod, but that was all.
"What happens now?" Draco asked after a few moments.
"A late supper I believe is in order," Dumbledore said before anyone else could comment and a House Elf appeared out of thin air; it was Dobby. "Ah Dobby, please would you ask the kitchen elves if they would be so good as to make up enough food for at least twelve, I think, and bring it here? And also there are members of the Order on the grounds as well, they will need food and the children are being gathered in the Great Hall so we will need cocoa and biscuits for them."
"Of course, Headmaster, Sir," Dobby said, seemingly inordinately pleased to be asked to help, "Dobby will be organising it right away."
Then Dobby disappeared again.
Harry actually found himself calming down as Dumbledore took control properly.
"Now, if you will all excuse me," the headmaster said in his usual fatherly tone, "I must go and make sure everyone is alright. Please remain here until I return; I shall make sure you are not disturbed. I expect the Aurors will be here by now."
Dumbledore then swept out, leaving them all with a smile and Harry wasn't sure what to do. Everyone just looked at each other, Slytherins on one side, hero types on the other.
"Well this is nice," Arthur said sarcastically.
Merlin thumped him on the arm for that, but at least it shattered the silence.
"You know I do still bruise," Arthur complained, rubbing his arm as if it had hurt.
"Only in your imagination," Merlin replied with a raised eyebrow.
Harry couldn't help it, he laughed; no matter what else was going through his head, Merlin and Arthur were funny. Merlin smiled back at him. From the expression on Draco's face, Harry didn't think the Slytherin knew how to react to anything that was going on. If Harry's guess was right, Draco probably didn't know why he wasn't chained up somewhere ready for the Ministry to cart off to Azkaban.
Luckily House Elves worked fast and tea and a snack appeared before the awkwardness could set in again, with promises of proper food in a little while.
"Oh, thank god, I'm starving," was Merlin's opinion on the matter and helped himself to a plate, which he filled with a selection of the sandwiches the elves had provided.
It was interesting how Merlin then perched on Dumbledore's desk, handed one of the sandwiches to Arthur and then set about munching one of his own. The image this made did not make Harry think of ancient wisdom at all, more the Great Hall at teatime.
"I'd prefer something liquid," Arthur said, not looking overly impressed with the sandwich.
"Later," was Merlin's reply from around part of his own sandwich.
Harry decided not to think about that too hard and grabbed some food of his own. What he found interesting was that Draco did not move to do the same, in fact Draco did not look as if he intended to eat anything until Snape filled two plates and passed one to his pupil. Draco was far too thin, not that Harry was sure why he cared, but he approved of Snape's actions.
After a little while, the House Elves had produced enough to feed the five thousand; Harry had taken to chatting about Quidditch with Arthur while Merlin put in the odd word (that Arthur was a fan had kind of surprised him) and Snape was talking quietly to Draco. That was when the door banged open.
"Harry," Ron's familiar voice made him look up, "you okay mate? We were so worried."
It was typical of Ron to burst in without a care for himself or what might be going on in the room, but the appearance of his friends explained why Dumbledore had ordered food for so many.
"I'm fine," Harry replied and waved, "it wasn't me you should have been worried about."
"Professor Dumbledore said we should come up," Hermione said in a much more subdued tone as she entered behind Ron. "Good evening, Professor Snape, Malfoy and..."
Hermione could always be trusted to find out what she did not know and these days she was polite about it too. It was impressive to watch her work. Surprisingly there were no cutting remarks from Snape, the man simply looked less than pleased.
"Arthur," Arthur greeted, standing from where he had been lounging next to Merlin on the desk, "and Merlin."
Hermione stopped and blinked for a moment.
"Code names?" she asked in a hopeful tone.
Merlin grinned at that and shook his head, then he waved his hand and conjured two more chairs with as little effort as Dumbledore usually did. There wasn't a lot more impressive than wandless magic made to look that easy.
"We dropped in to offer our assistance," Merlin said in what Harry had come to realise was his usual cheerful tone.
Maybe wizards over a certain age went a little soft in the head, because Harry was reminded so much of Dumbledore every time Merlin spoke.
"They stepped out of thin air onto the roof of the Astronomy tower," Snape said simply, as if he did not quite trust the new help not to be an issue, even now.
"How did you do that?" Harry found himself curious so he asked the question there hadn't been time to ask earlier. "It wasn't Apparating."
Hermione's eyes were quite large and round, as were Ron's for a few minutes until he spotted the food. Weasleys were trained from birth to react to food, Harry was sure.
"I don't think it has a name," Merlin said, sipping on a mug of hot butterbeer; "I've been able to do it for rather a long time. I think you have to be of a certain age to get it right; Morgana can do it, but she's the only other person I know who can."
"Morgana?" Hermione asked quickly. "The Morgana?"
Harry had never been overly clear on Arthurian legend and he knew the name, but he didn't remember who Morgana was. Given Merlin and Arthur he wasn't sure that much of what he did know was right anyway.
"The most infamous dark witch to have ever lived?" Draco sounded awed.
Surprisingly, Arthur laughed.
"That would be my step-sister," Arthur agreed, nodding, "and she has worked hard to keep that reputation going. Always was a bit of a bitch even when we were children."
Merlin rolled his eyes.
"Speaking of Morgana," Merlin said as if the thought just occurred to him, "she should really be here by now."
Thinking that statement over, Harry was pretty sure he had missed something.
"Why would she be coming here?" he asked, somewhat confused.
"She's bringing Draco's parents," Merlin said, seemingly oblivious to his confusion.
That really didn't make sense.
"I don't get it," Ron saved him by admitting it first.
"Oh," Merlin said as if catching up that not everyone knew what he was on about; "Morgana maintains the image of being dark because it's useful from time to time, like today; she hasn't been since we were all in our two hundreds."
"She and Merlin had a long drawn out, really vicious battle and then came back friends," Arthur said as if he'd explained it a thousand times; "I still don't understand how."
Merlin just smiled an enigmatic smile.
"It's amazing what you can do when you've got rid of the anger," was all the ancient wizard said.
Harry was sure there was a story to that one, but he didn't think they were likely to get it any time soon.
"So you were enemies, but you're not anymore?" Harry wanted to be sure he had it straight.
"Hated each other for a couple of centuries," Merlin admitted with a shrug.
"Really hated," Arthur added as if he was remembering it; "I don't think anyone has ever come so close to killing either of us."
"Yes well, you can both be so insufferable," said a new voice, a new female voice and Harry found himself turning.
There, in what was becoming a very crowded office, was a woman dressed from head to toe in white. She was more than stunning with long black hair and a perfect face. Behind her were two more familiar figures, although Harry had never seen them look quite as they did then. Narcissa's dress was torn and hanging off one shoulder and Lucius was bloody and bruised.
"Mum!" Draco was instantly on his feet and by his parent's side.
It was very enlightening to see Narcissa reach out to take hold of her child with a show of maternal love that Harry had never seen in the woman before. Snape did not look surprised at the demonstration.
"What is going on here?" Lucius asked, which was strange in itself because of the way he said it; the man sounded confused and resigned, but, for once, was not demanding.
Morgana turned to the Malfoys.
"My apologies for the violence," Morgana said to Lucius, and she sounded sincere, "it was necessary. You have just been rescued."
If Harry was any judge, that didn't make any sense to the Malfoys at all and he wondered what had been going on.
"Then you're not really the Lady Morgana?" Lucius was holding his wife and son and for once just looked like a man rather than an arrogant arsehole.
"Oh, she is," Arthur said from the other side of the room, "trust me, we've been putting up with her for centuries."
"Please excuse him," Morgana said smoothly; "Arthur never did have very good manners. I am exactly who I told Voldemort I am, what he did not realise is that my reputation is somewhat inaccurate."
Merlin was already picking his way across the room.
"You should sit down and let me look at that eye," Merlin said, sounding for all the world like a medi-wizard.
For once Lucius didn't seem to be quite sure what to do, however, Merlin seemed to know how to encourage people to do things without seeming to make them and he had the family sitting on the chaise that had been conjured for Draco before very long.
"If I may ask," Narcissa said as Merlin pulled something out of his pockets and began to apply it to the gash over Lucius' eye, "if they are Morgana and Arthur does that make you ..."
"Merlin?" Merlin finished for her and then smiled. "Yes, it would."
Harry found himself watching Morgana rather than the very shocked Malfoys; the woman was elegant in a way he had never seen before, not even at the Yule ball. When he realised he was staring, he kicked himself and stood up.
"Would you like to sit down?" he asked, moving aside from his seat.
He really hadn't had good examples as a child, but he had picked up good manners along the way somewhere. Morgana smiled at him and he thought he might have stopped breathing for a moment.
"Thank you," she said and stepped around the table, stopping close to him, "that is very kind of you."
From this close he could even smell her, a light floral scent that was as heady as the sight of her. He was pretty sure even Fleur would die of envy if she ever met Morgana. The way Morgana sat down was elegant and smooth and Harry went to stand near Arthur before he made an idiot out of himself. Arthur gave him a grin as if he knew exactly what he was thinking and Harry did his best not to blush.
"So how did you decide to play it this time?" Arthur asked as it became clear Merlin was busy and no one else had anything to say.
Morgana smiled a very wicked smile.
"Oh, directly," she said and Harry had the distinct impression Morgana had enjoyed herself immensely; "I just walked in and introduced myself. Of course Voldemort didn't believe me, so I proved who I was. I really wish I could have just dealt with him, it would have been so much easier."
"Prophecy," was all Merlin said from where he had moved on to looking over Narcissa.
He really did seem to know what he was doing, moving with the same efficiency and poise Harry had seen from Madam Pomfrey. Harry didn't remember any stories about Merlin being a healer, but it seemed he had a knack for that as well.
"I know, I know," Morgana replied and Harry suspected it was a conversation the two had had many times; "but just once I wish we could act directly."
"We had our time," Arthur said in a very un-Arthur like tone in Harry's opinion.
Morgana raised an eyebrow at Arthur, it looked as if she thought it was un-Arthur like as well, but then she sighed.
"Anyway," she said, changing back to her story telling, "Voldemort seemed to like me, especially when I put a couple of his Death Eaters on the floor just by looking at them. I don't think they'll be attempting to paw a woman without her permission again in the near future."
That was a mental image Harry liked and wished he had had a chance to see it. Morgana's attitude appealed to his more vicious side.
"He wanted me to join him," Morgana continued her tale, "and so I said I'd think about it since I was looking for some amusement. You'd be amazed what people believe when they think you're a psychopathic bitch."
"What do you mean, think?" Arthur quipped and received a death glare from Morgana.
Harry tried not to smile, he really did; but the banter between the three immortals was funny.
"He offered to let me watch him kill Lucius and Narcissa for failure," Morgana continued, seemingly ignoring Arthur and treating his comment with the contempt she felt it deserved, "so I just made him a counter offer. I told him I wanted something to play with and they would be perfect, so he should give them to me as a good will gift. It took a little grandstanding, but he agreed. I'm going to have to blame their freedom on you and Merlin of course."
"It was an amazing battle," Arthur said with mock sincerity and handed Morgana a glass of the wine the House Elves had brought up along with the Butterbeer and tea.
Harry could not really imagine what it must be like to wield the power it was clear Morgana and Merlin possessed and he wasn't sure he wanted to know. He had always thought of Voldemort as powerful and Dumbledore, but these two, beings, was the only word that seemed to fit them, were beyond anything he knew.
"The stories had better be spectacular," Morgana said and she seemed serious; "I will not be seen as weak; it would damage my reputation."
"We'll make it epic," Merlin promised and Harry looked over to see that the other wizard seemed to be satisfied with whatever he had been doing.
It was then that Dumbledore chose to reappear.
"Ah, good, we are all here," the headmaster said as he entered the office, "I do hope everyone is finding the food to their liking."
"It's lovely, thank you," Merlin said with a smile. "Professor Dumbledore, may I introduce My Lady Morgana."
"A pleasure to meet you," Dumbledore said without so much as batting an eyelid at Morgana's name.
Morgana gave him a smile and bowed her head in response.
"The Aurors have taken the few Death Eaters in our custody," Dumbledore told the whole room, "and the children are being sent back to bed. I am sorry to inform you, Ron, but your brother Bill has been injured; Madam Pomfrey is looking after him in the hospital wing and he will be transferred to St Mungo's as soon as possible."
Ron looked aghast, and Harry would have gone to his friend if the office hadn't been so crowded with people and food that there was no way through.
"I understand he is in no danger," Dumbledore assured Ron gently, "and you may go down to the hospital wing if you wish, but Madam Pomfrey will send a message as soon as Bill is allowed visitors if you would prefer to wait here."
The expression on Ron's face was torn.
In the end Hermione made the decision for him.
"Come on, Ron," she said, taking Ron's hand and standing up, "let's go. Harry, you'll let us know what happens later?"
"Just don't make Madam Pomfrey throw you out," he said, trying to distract Ron a little.
Ron gave him a watery smile for trying and then the other two Gryffindors were leaving.
"Were there any other casualties?" Merlin asked, clearly concerned.
"Nothing serious, thank heavens," Dumbledore replied and Harry gave a sigh of relief.
Glancing over at Draco, Harry saw a similar look of relief on the Slytherin's face as well, although Draco seemed to be trying to hide what he was thinking more now that his parents were there.
"Now," Dumbledore said, eyes becoming very serious, "I believe we have some business to discus."
"The first thing to be done is to get rid of those filthy Dark Marks," Morgana said and shocked at least the non-Immortal half of the room into silence.
"I was unaware that was possible," Dumbledore said eventually and Harry was pretty sure he was speaking for everyone except Merlin, Morgana and Arthur as well.
Morgana smiled, although it was not a happy smiled.
"It's possible," Merlin said simply.
"Let's not deny the truth, Merlin," Morgana said in a self-derogatory tone, "no matter what Voldemort may have told his followers he did not invent the spell, I did, a very long time ago. He must have worked very hard to find it and he added to it, but fundamentally it is mine. Not my proudest achievement."
"What did you invent it for?" Harry asked before his brain caught up with his mouth and he realised that it wasn't an overly tactful question. "Um sorry," he apologised almost instantly.
Morgana seemed to find that amusing more than anything else.
"A very similar use as Voldemort has put it to," she said and gave a little shrug, "but I only ever employed it twice."
"And how is it removed?" Snape asked and for the first time ever Harry heard something like hope in the man's voice.
It occurred to him that maybe the shadow he had been living under was very similar for the potions master.
"A complicated mental spell and a great deal of magic," Morgana said simply; "to remove the mark is far more complex than to set it, but it can be done."
"And you would be willing to do this for us?" Lucius entered the conversation for the first time since Merlin had ushered them to the chaise.
The man sounded surprisingly hopeful, not really what Harry had expected. He did not claim to understand the minds of Slytherins, even though he had almost been one himself, but he honestly hadn't expected that reaction.
"Willing is not the issue," Morgana said firmly; "we insist on it. What you may or may not have realised it that the moment he put that mark on you he contaminated you. His influence has been twisting your minds ever since, even when he was almost dead."
Snape didn't look as if he was surprised by that; Lucius and Narcissa didn't appear shocked, but it seemed to be confirmation of something they hadn't quite believed.
"And this will take how long?" Snape asked and he was still reserved, but the man seemed almost eager.
"Give me your arm and I will show you," Morgana said simply.
Harry noticed that Snape looked to Dumbledore first.
"As I said, Severus," Dumbledore said almost instantly, "the time for subterfuge is over."
Without so much as a thoughtful Slytherin hesitation, Snape held out his arm and rolled up his sleeve. It was a very telling move and one that Harry made a mental note of. Snape was actually eager.
"It's going to hurt," Morgana said, rising from her chair and walking over.
"Not unexpected," was Snape's terse reply, but he did not flinch when Morgana took his arm, wrapping over the mark with her long, elegant fingers.
"There is one last catch," Morgana said and Harry could tell she was looking directly into Snape's black eyes; "you have to want it."
Perversely that made Snape smile in a not altogether unpleasant way.
"That is not an issue," the man said without elaborating.
Morgana looked over at Merlin who nodded and held out his hand, eyes going gold and Harry felt the atmosphere in the room shift.
"We are now hidden from the rest of the world," Merlin said, voice reverberating just slightly, as if the power contained within him was trying to get out. "Voldemort will not feel what we are doing."
It was a little eerie seeing Merlin standing there. If Harry had not known Merlin was on their side he would have been very afraid; there was no doubting that Merlin was more than a man.
"Brace yourself," was the only warning Morgana gave and the energy crackled around her hand.
A gasp came from Snape and then his face became a blank mask, fixed and staring. It was the face of someone who understood pain, who knew how to contain it and Harry was under no illusion that Snape was now in a great deal of discomfort. Morgana was speaking quietly under her breathe, words that Harry could not quite hear and did not understand when he could catch them. The magic in the room was making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and he shivered at the feeling. He realised as he watched them that Merlin and Morgana were far closer to magic than any wizard or witch of the modern day. He wondered if it was the same way humans were more remote from nature, keeping themselves apart and using it rather than being part of it as they had been in the past. Maybe the Wizarding world had separated itself from magic in the same way with their wands and precise spells.
Whatever the truth, he could feel the power in the two immortals and it was elemental.
In the end, Harry was not sure how long it went on, but energy continued to ripple over Snape's skin directly from Morgana's hand and then suddenly it was over. Morgana ripped her hand away from Snape's arm and looked down. From where Harry was sitting he could see Snape's Dark Mark clearly and before his eyes is faded away.
Snape's expression was a picture; the man appeared stunned and didn't seem to know how to react. It was then that Harry realised Snape hadn't actually expected it to work. After a few seconds, Snape schooled his features and then looked up at Morgana.
"Thank you," was all the man said, but the sincerity was such that it was more eloquent than a full length speech.
Morgana simply bowed her head in response.
It went pretty well the same with Lucius and Narcissa, although Lucius did have to hold his wife up towards the end. When Morgana looked at Draco, the Slytherin simply shook his head. Harry found it interesting how Morgana told each one the same thing about the requirement to want the mark gone and how neither Lucius nor Narcissa had any trouble with that at all. He concluded that a hell of a lot had to have happened since he had last heard one of Lucius' speeches about pure blood.
"He never marked me," Draco said quietly; "my father convinced him it would be better that way."
Something about the way Draco said it made Harry think it had not been an easy discussion for Lucius, but then Voldemort was not known for his rationality when crossed, even a little bit. It began to occur to Harry that over the last year Draco had probably seen the darkness of Voldemort up close and personal quite a lot.
Morgana glanced over at Merlin who lowered his hand, eyes returning to their normal blue. The change this time was not so distinct, but it was as if Harry could feel the real world fading back in around them. It was a very peculiar feeling.
"I think, perhaps," Dumbledore said as everything returned to normal, "it is time to find the Malfoys somewhere more comfortable to stay."
A House Elf popped out of thin air.
"Ah, Finky," Dumbledore said with a smile, "are the guest quarters in the east wing ready?"
"Yes, Headmaster Dumbledore, Sir," the elf said, bobbing her head and looking very pleased with herself, "the beds have been being made and the fires lit."
"Thank you, thank you," Dumbledore said, doing his usual impression of a dotty old man, "that is perfect. If you would be so kind as to show Misters and Mrs Malfoy the way and then retrieve whatever Draco asks you to bring from his dormitory; he will be staying with his parents for a while."
All three Malfoys appeared equally surprised by Dumbledore's actions and all three seemed rather shell-shocked.
"We will speak further in the morning," Dumbledore said, looked at each of them in turn and it was almost ominous, but being from Dumbledore, not really.
Harry had no idea what Dumbledore planned to do with the Malfoys long term and he was too worried about other things to think about it very hard, so he stayed well out of it. No one was trying to deny anything or claim ignorance, which was a nice change, but he had no idea what it would be like in the morning.
"Please to be coming this way," Finky said in her squeaky little voice and gave the Malfoys a little curtsy before leading them towards the door.
Surprisingly the family just followed without so much as a remark from any of them. They were Slytherins, they would probably have a plan by morning, but just about then they seemed to be simply human.
"Is it wise to leave them at liberty in the castle, Headmaster?" Snape asked as soon as the office door closed behind them.
"They have nowhere else to go, Severus," Dumbledore said simply, "and I believe that they are all Slytherin enough to realise where their safety lies."
Some would say that Dumbledore's attitude was often foolhardy, but, for once, after a moment's thought, Snape seemed to simply agree. So many things were different because of the arrival of three people and Harry found his eyes wandering over to where Merlin, Arthur and Morgana were standing. They were a mystery really, coming out of nowhere and throwing everything into the unknown and Harry had a whole heap of questions.
End of Part 1
Chapter 2: Rebirth
AU from end of HBP. There are some things that are just not supposed to happen, some wrongs which should not occur; these are the things Merlin knows he and Arthur were created to prevent. Then of course there are also some things that would make things better if they happened and folly or stupidity has stopped them from occurring; Merlin likes to put these back on track as well; Arthur calls that part meddling.
category: slash, ch_story: fulcrum, fandom: crossovers, fandom: harry potter, fandom: merlin, fictype: long fic, genre: vampires, pairing: hp - harry/draco, pairing: me - merlin/arthur, rating: r to nc17, type: fiction
"There's something else isn't there," Harry said as the Malfoy's left, "something to do with me?"
Merlin looked at Arthur who looked at Morgana and it was more than obvious to Harry that he was right.
"Most of the Horcruxes are hidden, Harry," Merlin said after a few moments, "but one of them isn't."
Without really realising what he was doing, Harry found himself rubbing his scar; mention of the Horcruxes seemed to do that to him.
"Then where is it?" he asked, feeling less than sure that he wanted to know.
"Voldemort's last act of his first reign of terror was supposed to instil fear into all who heard about it, instead it created one last Horcrux," Merlin said, sounding very serious. "When he tried to kill you it caused incredible backlash and his soul was already so torn that part of it was ripped away. Without realising it, Voldemort created a new Horcrux, one he had not intended."
Harry felt cold creeping up his spine. His scar ached gently in his forehead and so many things ran through his head it was hard to follow them.
"Me," he said, feeling the truth more than thinking it, "I'm his last Horcux."
For a moment he felt faint and Merlin came over to him, placing a hand on his arm.
"We can get rid of it," Merlin told him earnestly, looking into his eyes; "it's dangerous, I can't lie to you, but we can get rid of it."
Merlin led him to the nearest chair and sat him down and he was glad of the help, because his legs felt very shaky. It explained so many things, like his dreams and his connection to Voldemort, but he didn't want it to be true. When he looked up at Dumbledore he realised that the headmaster had already known.
"I'm sorry, Harry," Dumbledore said and Harry believed him, even though he wanted to feel betrayed; "I could not tell you."
"Do not blame the headmaster, Harry," Merlin said gently; "I believe I know how he thought to save you from this and to do so he could not let you know."
It wasn't enough of an explanation and Harry wanted more, but it could wait; he had a more important question first.
"When," he asked almost desperately, "when can we get rid of it?"
He wanted no part of Voldemort, no part at all.
"We will need to prepare," Merlin told him in the same gentle tone, "and you will need to prepare. It is not an easy ritual; it is ancient and it will change you Harry."
"How?" he asked.
"You have the most amazing strength, Harry," Merlin told him, not really answering his question, "or Voldemort would have corrupted you; his soul touching your own. His magic will have been mixing with yours."
Harry frowned at that as he thought he knew what Merlin was about to tell him.
"Will I still be able to fight him?" he asked, suddenly worried that the only reason he had survived thus far was because Voldemort had unwittingly lent him some of his own power. "How much weaker will I be?"
For some reason Merlin smiled at that.
"In all probability, you won't be weaker, Harry," Merlin explained, squeezing his fingers in support; "you'll be stronger."
That just didn't make any sense.
"I don't understand," he said honestly.
It was all too much for him; so many things for him to take in. He didn't know what Merlin was trying to explain.
"Two wizards cannot cast the same spell together, Harry," Dumbledore said, making him look up; "not without a great deal of practice. Such an attempt usually diminishes the spell rather than increases it, unless the two are twins or have practiced the spell many, many times, because their magic fights against each other. Your magic will have been fighting your entire life."
He had never really thought about it like that; the intricacies of magic had not been his top priority, but at least that explanation made sense.
"That's not all though, is it?" he said, pulling together his Gryffindor courage and sitting up straighter.
He could not shy away from this and so he decided to face it.
"It's impossible to tell," Morgana entered the conversation and her expression was a little surprised and a little pleased and the emotions seemed to be focused on him, "but you will most likely feel different. You saw the change in the Malfoys and Snape when the Dark Mark was removed; you will experience something similar, only more defined. The fragment of Voldemort's soul will have been influencing you; that you have turned out to be the hero you are is nothing short of incredible."
That thought sent a shudder through him.
"His mother's love," Dumbledore said and smiled at him when he looked over again, "that is what saved Harry in all ways; I would stake my life on it. Lilly was an amazing woman and her love wrapped around Harry to save him as a baby and it has never stopped."
Harry swallowed as he heard that and he believed, it was the thing that had made the most sense all evening.
"What is this ritual?" he asked, wanting to know so that he could begin whatever preparation was required.
It was almost as if admitting it was there made Harry all the more aware of the contamination inside of him. He wanted it gone as soon as physically possible.
"It is a rebirth ceremony," Merlin told him and seemed to understand his need. "You will be born again with your soul free of the contamination."
"Merlin created it for me," Morgana said and he looked over to her, seeing pain in her eyes. "Some of the things I did were terrible; they stained my soul. Merlin created the ritual to cleanse me. I will never be free of what I have done, but I am no longer twisted by the darkness that was inside of me. When I first began to dream of coming here and what would be needed, Merlin altered the ritual for this new purpose."
It sounded life altering, but then again he supposed it was.
"How should I prepare?" he asked, wanting to know everything.
"The first thing you will need to do is rest," Merlin said kindly and smiled at him. "I think it would be best for everyone to get some sleep."
Harry wanted to protest.
"Trust me, Harry," Merlin said before he could object; "I will explain everything tomorrow. You are running on nervous energy and the details will not change between now and then."
"I want him gone," was all Harry could find to say in what turned out to be a quiet little voice.
The whole situation was affecting him much more than he had been aware of.
"And we will help you," Merlin assured him, looking him directly in the eyes. "You have my word, Harry. Tomorrow, when you are rested and have had time to think about this we will go through everything."
It was a solemn oath to him and Harry felt it; it calmed his nerves just a little.
"Okay," he said, still feeling shaky at the revelation, but willing to trust Merlin.
"Then it is decided," Dumbledore said, sounding benevolent and cheerful again. "Severus, if you would be so kind as to escort Harry back to Gryffindor tower I have taken the liberty of organising rooms for our other guests and I will show them the way."
When Dumbledore had possibly had the opportunity to arrange rooms, especially for Morgana, who hadn't been there when the headmaster left, Harry had no idea, but he could only assume it was more Hogwarts magic. For once he did not object to being placed under Snape's charge and he found that he was surprisingly tired.
"Goodnight," he said as Snape indicated the way out.
The potions master seemed almost dazed as everyone passed pleasantries as was expected in polite society and Harry followed Snape out. He used watching the head of Slytherin to keep his mind off his own issues and he couldn't help noticing that there was something about the man he had never seen before. Snape almost looked as if he was waking from a dream, or possibly a nightmare.
They did not speak as they walked and Snape delivered Harry to the portrait hole without so much as two words being spoken between them, yet it was not the normal cold silence. Things had changed, changed so much that there were a myriad of new possibilities. It was unsettling in a way and yet Harry found himself with more hope than he had had since Sirius had died.
"Thank you, Professor," he said after speaking the password and the portrait swung back to let him in; "see you tomorrow."
"Goodnight, Potter," Snape replied and then turned away.
It was not the friendliest of farewells, but it wasn't the same as it would have been before either. Harry wasn't quite sure if it was because Snape was distracted or if something really was different about the man, but he was willing to wait and find out.
The common room was empty, not unsurprising given the time of night, but the fire was burning merrily in the hearth and Harry moved over to one of the sofas rather than going to the stairs. He was tired and he wanted to sleep, but he knew that he would wake his friends and there would be questions he did not want to answer. He was also almost sure Ron would not be back yet and he wanted to wait for his best friend.
Making himself comfortable, he watched the fire and ran things over in his head. There was so much to think about and he relaxed into the cushions just letting his mind work.
As it turned out, Ron and Hermione had not come back to the tower the previous evening and Harry had been woken by some second years coming down to the common room. He had run up to his dorm, grabbed some things, gone to the prefect's bathroom and snuck in to get ready for the day. Then he had had breakfast in the kitchens and now he was ready to talk to Merlin about the ritual.
Given the previous evening, he had slept surprisingly well and what he wanted now was answers. Having asked Dobby where the headmaster had housed the more unusual guests, he knew where the three immortals were staying and made his way there as quickly as possible. It seemed that Merlin and Arthur were sharing a room while Morgana had one of her own; a little surprising, but he was used to dorm arrangements, so he didn't really think about it. Given Arthur's confession of needing Merlin's blood, it kind of made sense.
When he walked up the corridor to where he knew the rooms were, he found that one of the doors was slightly open and he could hear someone talking inside.
"It's too early," he heard one person complain and it didn't take much to realise it was Arthur.
"We're amongst normal people now," was Merlin's amused reply; "we can't be nocturnal no matter how much you don't like mornings."
That announcement was received with a disgruntled huffing sound that made Harry smile; Arthur sounded like Ron.
"Pass me my boot," was the next thing he heard.
"You know it's been a very long time since I was your manservant," Merlin replied, even though Harry was sure he could hear a boot being picked up from somewhere, "a 'please' wouldn't go amiss every now and then."
That was an interesting bit of information that Harry filed away; he had never heard anything in the stories about Merlin and Arthur to suggest Merlin had ever been a servant.
"Please," Arthur said sweetly and Harry decided that maybe it was safe to go in.
He stuck his head around the door and knocked lightly and was just in time to see Merlin bend down and kiss Arthur directly on the lips where Arthur was sitting on the bed half dressed. It was only a light, playful kiss, but there was no mistaking exactly what it was and Harry felt himself flushing as it dawned on him that there might be other reasons Merlin and Arthur were sharing a room. There did seem to be only one double bed in the room and Harry realised he had probably been overlooking the obvious. He was a bit clueless when it came to relationships.
Merlin turned at the sound of his knock and smiled.
"Harry," Merlin greeted cheerfully, "come in, you can help me get this great prat to wake up properly."
"I'm a vampire," Arthur said as if it made all the difference; "this is when I'm supposed to be going to sleep."
"And you're also supposed to burst into flames in sunlight and run away from crosses," Merlin pointed out, sounding unimpressed and amused, "and you don't do either of those either."
Arthur gave a little hiss and bared a fang before flopping back onto the bed, which made Merlin laugh out loud.
"I've changed my mind, come on Harry, let's leave the stroppy vampire to finish getting ready on his own," Merlin said, turning towards him and walking over; "it's a beautiful morning and we can go for a walk."
"Hey," was Arthur's response, not that the one-time king bothered to sit up to make his protest.
"Don't go back to sleep," Merlin warned while ushering Harry out the door, "or I'll send Morgana in to wake you up when Harry and I have finished our morning constitutional."
That earned Merlin another growl which made Harry laugh.
"We're partially nocturnal at home," Merlin said in a conversational tone as they walked down the corridor, "and Arthur always was terrible at mornings even before the vampire incident."
Just chatting with Merlin like this, Harry could almost forget that Merlin wasn't just an ordinary wizard and it made him a little bolder.
"Did I hear you say you used to be Arthur's manservant?" he asked, curious to find out what the truth was.
"Oh yes," Merlin replied with a grin, "I saved Arthur's life and as a reward his father made me Arthur's manservant."
Harry thought that was a rather odd reward.
"It was a very prestigious position for a commoner like me," Merlin explained, as if understanding his confusion; "not that I was overjoyed to begin with. Destiny has a funny way of turning out and making things work."
No way Harry was disagreeing with that.
"All the stories talk of you helping Arthur with magic, was magic known by everyone then?" he asked as all sorts of questions piled into his head.
History had a funny way of being changed by being written down and Harry found it fascinating to be able to talk to someone who had actually been there.
"It was known," Merlin said, looking serious for a moment, "but it was banned on penalty of death. Uther, Arthur's father, he hated sorcery; I spent a lot of time sneaking around those first few years. I was kind of learning as I went along. Arthur almost blew a blood vessel when he found out his idiot manservant was a sorcerer. For months he was absolutely sure I was going to get myself executed if I so much as breathed."
Harry could sympathise.
"I think there are some people who think I'm going to get myself killed every time I climb out of bed too," he said and Merlin smiled at him for that.
"Come on," Merlin said, quickening his steps, "let's go and walk round the lake."
It was only as they walked out into the early morning sunshine that Harry realised that Merlin appeared to know exactly where he was going.
"You seem to know Hogwarts," he commented as they walked away from where they were likely to meet any of the school's residents.
Harry was not sure what cover story Dumbledore was likely to be putting around, but he was pretty sure being overheard by other pupils would not help it.
"I've been here several times in the past," Merlin said with a wistful smile, "once for quite a long time. I taught Defence for a little while on one occasion, just to fill in the position for a headmaster who was a friend, which was fun. I forget what name I used then."
"So it's not always disasters that have brought you here?" Harry asked, not sure exactly how these things worked.
"Oh no," Merlin said and grinned; "those don't happen anywhere near as often as some people like to make out. In between times we live quite normal lives really. It's all really mundane, but then Morgana will start to have visions and I'll get urges to start investigating things and we'll end up in the thick of some hideously complicated situation we're not allowed to just sort out. When I was young I thought my destiny was to keep Arthur from being killed so he could be a great king, but it turned out it was a bit more than that. When the universe calls, we jump to help."
It was hard to imagine being immortal and having your life dragged off in directions you might not want every few years; Harry had enough trouble with his destiny.
"Isn't that hard?" he asked, honestly not sure how someone could deal with such an existence.
"It helps that we're all adrenaline junkies at heart," Merlin said, making light of it.
Then the ancient man looked at Harry and sobered a little.
"It's hard to explain," Merlin told him much more honestly, "but I know I was born for this. I'm not sure if Arthur, Morgana and I are the world's way or reversing mistakes it has made or if we are universal problem solvers, but it is what we are made for. We laugh, we cry, we love, just like anyone else and we have a house and cats and a dog and a TV, but sometimes we step out of normal."
"You have a TV?"
Somehow, that was the part that stuck in Harry's brain and he managed to make Merlin laugh.
"We have a TV and a computer and a satellite dish," Merlin replied and laughed again; "we are very much Muggle integrated."
"Voldemort would die if he knew the greatest wizard of all time liked Muggle things," Harry said, grinning at the very thought.
"You do not want to see Morgana if she misses her soaps," Merlin confided while grinning broadly, "and don't even suggest that Arthur not be allowed to watch the Rugby; he's insufferable."
Harry laughed loudly.
"How many cats do you have?" he asked, finding the fact that Merlin seemed almost normal absolutely fascinating.
"Three," Merlin replied and then launched into a tale of the cats names, how they came to be part of the household and their annoying habits.
That led on to the exploits of the cats verses the dog and a long story about why it was not a good idea to piss off a wet German Shepherd, Collie cross; they were halfway around the lake before Harry even realised it.
"Can we talk about the ritual now?" he asked as he noticed where they were.
Merlin gave him a gentle smile and nodded.
"What would you like to know?" Merlin asked him, coming to a halt and picking up a stone to throw into the water. "We'll need to go through the details with the others, but I can give you the general gist now if you like."
Thinking about it, Harry picked up a stone and copied Merlin's action.
"What is it?" he asked, since he really didn't know where to begin. "Is it just a spell like the one you used on the Dark Marks?"
Merlin had said it was complicated, but Harry wasn't sure what that meant.
"I wish it was," Merlin told him, going for a second stone, "but it really is a ritual. It's more about the sequence of events than a set of words. It really is a symbolic rebirth."
That sounded odd.
"Symbolic how?" he asked, not sure what Merlin was trying to tell him.
"Well, as in we use a symbolic womb and take you back to the point where your soul was most pure," Merlin explained, "your moment of birth. That is the point when a wizard or witch's magic becomes their own; when they separate from their mother, and for us magic is very much part of the soul."
It sounded, somehow, epic.
"But won't that change me?" he asked, not really understanding the concept.
"Only your soul and your magic will be taken back," Merlin was clearly doing his best to put concepts into words for him; "your body and mind will be held as they are. Then, when it is free of the contamination, your soul and magic will be reborn into you and will return to the correct state for the rest of you."
It still sounded like way too big a concept for Harry to totally get his head round. While he thought about it he tried to get a stone to skip across the water and was very pleased when it skipped three times. Merlin threw one next and the stone skipped and then skipped again and seemed to want to skip forever; in the end seven times.
"Now you're just showing off," Harry said, glad for something to distract him.
"Yes," Merlin replied with an unrepentant grin. "Come on," he added and threaded his arm through Harry's, "let's go make sure Arthur has dragged his lazy arse out of bed and then we can go through this whole thing with everyone. All you really have to worry about is floating naked in a tank of nice warm liquid and letting the rest of us do the hard work."
"What?" was Harry's initial, squeaky reaction.
If the truth be told, Harry was finding himself way out of his depth. He, Merlin, Morgana, Arthur, Dumbledore and Snape were all in Dumbledore's office and Merlin had been explaining the ritual for at least half an hour now. At first Merlin had just drawn glowing pictures in the air of the setup required (glowing pictures that were still hanging there) and Harry had followed that okay. He didn't really like the idea of being naked in a tank while other people stood around the outside perfectly able to see him, but, at the moment, his modesty was the least of his worries.
It was when Merlin, Morgana and Snape had launched into a detailed discussion of the liquid that was going to be inside the tank that Harry had started to lose track. He had gathered the part where it had to be warm and somehow it was going to be breathable, and not in the way gillyweed let a human breathe water, but that was as far as he'd followed.
The fact that Arthur seemed to be as clueless was at least some comfort, but he couldn't tell if Dumbledore knew what the others were talking about. About the only input Dumbledore had had was to assure Snape that the expense would not be an issue. It seemed they needed a lot of whatever the concoction was.
"How did Merlin do all this the first time?" he asked quietly, leaning over to whisper to Arthur.
"This is kind of the modern equivalent," Arthur replied, equally as quietly, "at least I think so. When Merlin did this for Morgana they found a mountain pool for it Merlin asked the land for help. It was much more ..."
"Elemental?" Harry offered as Arthur seemed lost to decide on what word to use.
Arthur smiled at that and nodded.
"Good word," the former king said.
The gist of the whole thing so far seemed to be that Harry would be in the tank, which would act as the symbolic womb when it was filled with the potion that seemed to be causing a lot of debate. Then Merlin would perform the magic necessary to regress Harry's soul back to its beginnings while Morgana monitored his magical well being and Dumbledore monitored his physical wellbeing. If you didn't think about the forces involved it all sounded far too simple. Harry wasn't so sure that just floating there would be that easy; for a start he had no idea what having your soul regressed would feel like.
"I will have to brew all night," Snape said, although the man sounded as if he was just stating practicalities rather than being resentful about the whole thing, "but I can have it done by tomorrow."
"Thank you," Merlin said with a smile; "this would be much harder without a man of your qualifications."
From the expression on his face Snape didn't seem to know how to take that. Before, Harry was pretty sure that Snape would have taken it all as an imposition and growled about it and glared at him for being the cause, but the potions master's attitude really did seem to have lightened since the removal of the Dark Mark. It wasn't as if Snape would be decorating the Great Hall with hearts and flowers any time soon, or start wearing pastels, but there was something different about him. Harry had noticed it the moment the man had walked into the office.
"I think that's almost everything then," Merlin said and looked over to Morgana for confirmation.
This morning Morgana was wearing a deep green gown and had her hair piled on top of her head in elegant curls. When she inclined her long, elegant neck, Harry felt his heart speed up even though he was really trying not to think about things like that. Morgana really was stunningly beautiful and he couldn't help wondering how many people had fallen at her feet over the years. He wasn't too sure that if she smiled at him the right way he wouldn't make a complete fool of himself.
"All that remains is, lastly, Harry, you will need someone your own age to help keep you centred," Morgana told him. "The rebirth part of the spell will try and pull you back to your beginnings, all of you, not just your soul, and you will need someone to help you hold your mind and body at your current age."
That sounded dangerous, but then the whole thing was as likely to backfire as it was to work, so Harry ignored the fear growing in his stomach.
"Will it require magical skill or just obstinacy?" he asked, glad to finally understand what was being said and going over his options in his mind.
"Both," Morgana said simply.
That only left him one choice and it might have seemed odd to some, but he knew it was the right one.
"Draco," he said firmly; "it has to be."
Dumbledore looked rather surprised by that decision, although Harry couldn't help noticing that Merlin looked strangely pleased.
"Are you sure that is wise, My Boy?" the headmaster asked in his usual gentle tone.
"He's the only choice," Harry replied, quite happy to share his reasoning. "For a start he has a vested interest in making sure this works; I'm the only thing standing between him and his family and Voldemort. Ron couldn't do it; he's stubborn enough, but his spells can be hit and miss until he's practiced them a lot; same with Nev; and frankly, there is no way I am getting my kit off in front of Hermione. I'd be too worried about her seeing me and forget to concentrate or something. Draco is my best bet."
For a moment Dumbledore appeared to think about it and then nodded.
"When you put it like that, Harry, I see your point," the headmaster told him with a small smile; "my only fear is that he may refuse."
"I'll speak to him," Morgana said almost immediately.
"No," Harry said quickly and smiled an apology at her, "I'll do it; if I'm going to ask him to do something like this I should do it in person."
Morgana lifted one perfectly plucked eyebrow at him, but then smiled and nodded. Harry just about managed to smile back.
"If that is all," Dumbledore said with his usual calm authority, "then I believe we should have some tea and then begin preparations. The Room of Requirement would be the best venue, don't you think?"
Harry couldn't think of anywhere that could possibly be more suitable, so he nodded along with everyone else. Given that the room could provide whatever functionality was needed, it only made sense. That only left the question of whether there would be biscuits with the tea.
It was that thought that made him think, possibly, he had been hanging around Dumbledore too long and that he really needed to get back to people his own age at some point. Either that or he was going to turn into a batty old man while still in his teens, which seemed unfair.
Everything was decided about the ritual, which left Harry with one task to do to make sure it all went as planned: he had to ask Draco to be his anchor. If Draco agreed, he was going to have to explain to Ron and Hermione what was going to happen and why it wasn't one of them, but that was an entirely different problem. He actually found himself quite nervous as he walked up to the rooms the Malfoys had been given for their stay. He knew they would be there because when he had asked Dumbledore about it, the headmaster had explained that the family would be keeping a very low profile for the foreseeable future, at least Lucius and Narcissa would.
Wondering if maybe he had had a moment's insanity, Harry lifted his hand and knocked on the door. For Hogwarts it was a very plain ordinary door to look at, but Dumbledore had also explained that anyone not looking for it deliberately would not notice it at all; useful for stopping random people trying to get in.
He felt for a moment as if someone was watching him and then the door opened. Given that there was no spy hole, but Narcissa Malfoy did not look remotely surprised to see him, he had to assume they had a way to tell who was waiting on the other side; also useful to prevent random people dropping in.
"Good morning, Mrs Malfoy," he said in his politest tone; not really how he'd ever expected to meet Draco's mother in his current lifetime, "may I speak to Draco please?"
Narcissa's expression was not overly friendly, but it was at least polite.
"Come in," the woman said and moved out of the doorway, "I will go and ask him."
Harry stepped inside, not totally able to shake the feeling he was stepping into the lion's den, and gave the woman a little smile of thanks. Lucius was sitting in an arm chair on the other side of the room holding a copy of the Prophet and Harry exchanged a glance with the man before he looked back at his paper. Given the situation, Harry was perfectly happy to leave their interaction at that.
The rooms were a small suite, which made sense since Harry doubted the Malfoys would be showing their faces anywhere else in the near future, and when Narcissa reappeared through one of the doors, Draco stepped into the open gap.
"How can I help you, Potter?" Draco asked, voice devoid of any emotion.
It felt as if the words were forced, but then Harry had not expected anything else.
"I was wondering if I could have a word," he replied and then looked apologetically at Narcissa and Lucius, even if the latter was pretending he wasn't there, "in private."
Draco appeared a little surprised by the request, but shock quickly turned into resignation and the Slytherin nodded.
"Come in," Draco said and indicated the way into what Harry assumed was his bedroom.
He earned a hard stare from Narcissa on his way past, one which suggested severe bodily harm should he do anything to her son, and he nodded at her to show he had understood. That seemed to shock Narcissa even more than his presence.
Draco shut the door behind them as he walked into the neat little bedroom.
"Have a seat," the Slytherin offered, but once again it sounded like duty rather than anything more genuine.
Harry didn't sit, but he did turn.
"First of all," he said, since he had been thinking about a lot of things the previous night, "I wanted to apologise."
Draco appeared shocked and confused at the same time.
"What for?" was the obvious question that came next.
"For what I did to you earlier this year," he replied; "the injury; it was uncalled for, but I panicked."
For a few moments there was silence as if Draco was absorbing that.
"It's nowhere near as bad as some of the things I did this year," was Draco's eventual response.
The look in Draco's eyes was haunted and Harry knew that feeling; he had done some things he found it hard to live with as well. He still felt guilt over Sirius' death even though everyone told him it wasn't his fault.
"Yes," Harry agreed, since there was no point in denying it, "well this year has not been a good one for any of us. It's amazing what people will do to save those they love."
Draco's eyes went wide for a moment; it was all too clear the Slytherin had not expected understanding from him at all. The surprise did not last for long though and Draco's face went back to its passive state.
"Why did you come here?" was the direct question.
"I need your help," was Harry's equally direct response and he saw the resignation come back to Draco's demeanour.
It was all too clear that Draco thought he had no choice in this and that was not Harry's intention at all.
"Stop that," he said, since the attitude annoyed him; "you're a Slytherin, start acting like one."
That really did shock Draco and annoyed him it seemed, because Draco's face hardened and his back straightened.
"Then give me one good reason I shouldn't just throw you out," Draco said, almost sounding like his old self.
"Because that would be a stupid Gryffindorish thing to do," Harry said bluntly; "you don't know what I want or if it will be to your advantage to give it to me. Any Slytherin worth his salt would find out those things first."
After that he found himself being regarded by a very hard stare, one that was clearly calculating behind hard grey eyes.
"You seem to understand Slytherins better than you usually let on," Draco said, sounding just a little interested.
"Yes, well I almost was one," Harry said and sat down, "so sue me."
It seemed to be shock Draco day and it took a moment for the Slytherin to gather himself together again. When he did, he sat on the end of the bed, opposite the chair Harry had taken.
"Talk, Potter," Draco said shortly, "I'm listening."
That was exactly what Harry had hoped to hear; he had thought through his argument carefully.
"We're on the same side now," he began with his opening gambit, "whether we really chose to be or not. Your family's survival depends on the Light winning this war or you running as far away from this country as possible, never coming back and hoping Voldemort doesn't hunt you down."
Draco clearly didn't like that statement, but neither did he disagree.
"What you probably don't know is that it's him or me," Harry had decided that Draco needed to be aware of the facts. "I'm not telling you how I know or the details of what I know, but it comes down to him or me."
There was silence while Draco thought about that.
"It would explain why He is so obsessed with you," Draco eventually decided.
"Yes, well, he's also insane, which is the other reason he's obsessed with me," Harry replied, since Voldemort's focus on him had never been completely rational.
Draco didn't disagree with that view point which was a good start; the previous year Harry was sure there would have been some objection. It was amazing what a difference a year could make.
"Turns out I can't just walk up and kill him, though," Harry continued, since that was a very important point; "he's split his soul into pieces and put it in different places so that he can't be killed. One of those bits he accidentally put in me."
He lifted his fringe and showed off his scar.
"I need it out of me before I can do what needs to be done," he said, not giving Draco time to comment. "Merlin and Morgana have a ritual that will do it, but I need your help."
"What for?" was the instant question.
It wasn't an outright no, which was a good start.
"I need someone to anchor me at my current age, one of my peers," Harry explained; "you are the best option I have."
Draco opened his mouth.
"Before you ask, why you," Harry added quickly; "it's because it needs magical skill and strength of will; you have both."
That appeared to answer Draco's questions, because the Slytherin just sat there looking at him for a while.
"So what you're saying is that it is in my best interest to make sure you are Dark Lord free," Draco said eventually, "and at the same time it panders to my ego?"
"That about sums it up," Harry replied and nodded.
For the first time since he had arrived, Harry saw the faintest smile on Draco's face; it seemed the situation was amusing. Harry wasn't quite sure why, but he was willing to go with the flow.
"You would have made a passable Slytherin," Draco said eventually, which Harry took as a very good sign. "I'll need more details before I'm willing to say yes, but I am not saying no, Potter."
Harry finally let himself relax a bit.
"Harry," he said almost instantly.
"What?" Draco asked as if he didn't quite understand.
"Call me Harry," he replied in explanation, "if you agree you're going to be seeing me in the altogether so we might as well be on first name terms."
Draco looked momentarily shocked and then blushed slightly, not quite what Harry had expected and he wasn't sure how to deal with it. In the end he chose a tactful retreat.
"Right, thanks," he said, standing, "I'm sure Merlin will be happy to explain anything you need explaining. I have to go and explain to Ron why I didn't choose him now, so you'll probably hear the explosion from here. Goodbye and see you tomorrow if you decide to do it."
Then he left without any further ado, said goodbye to Narcissa and Lucius (who was still studiously ignoring him) on the way out, and headed off to find his friends.
As it turned out, Ron and Hermione were in the common room when Harry found them. The normal school routine was complete disrupted after what had happened the previous night and so everyone was just doing what they wanted. Harry had seen post owls going all over the place that morning from by the lake and he was pretty sure everyone was just making sure everyone else was alive.
"Harry," Hermione greeted as he came through the portrait hole, "where have you been?"
"Sorting things out," he said since there were other ears listening. "How's Bill?"
Ron was still looking paler than normal, but he did seem to perk up when Harry showed concern.
"He's going to be okay," Ron said, seemingly grateful to be able to tell him, "scarred, but okay. Mor... one of Dumbledore's guests gave Mum a salve for him to help; she said it would reduce the wounds on his face. Said Bill would be ruggedly handsome rather than just handsome once it had worked. We thought ..."
Ron trailed off.
"It looked worse than they had first thought for a while," Hermione finished for him, "but they got it sorted out in the end."
"Glad to hear it," Harry said and walked over to his friends. "Sorry I haven't been around, but things have been happening. Can we go somewhere and talk and I'll explain?"
Ron brightened even more when he realised he was about to be told what was going on.
"I think our dorm's empty," Ron agreed, standing up, "let's go up there."
It didn't take them long to make it up the familiar stairs and, as predicted, the room was empty, so they closed it and made themselves comfortable.
"So, what's been going on, Mate?" Ron asked as soon as they were sat down.
"Well," Harry said, taking a deep breath before he started speaking, "a lot happened after you left last night. Neither of the Malfoys nor Snape have the Dark Mark anymore; Morgana got rid of them. Turns out Draco was never marked in the first place."
Hermione's eyes went round with shock.
"That's..." she started to say.
"Impossible," Harry finished for her, "yeah, that's what everyone else thought too, but it turns out it was Morgana's spell to begin with, Voldemort just changed it a bit, so she knew how to get rid of it."
"Wow," Ron summed up what Harry had felt at the time.
It was always reassuring to have Ron around.
"Was something to see too," Harry added.
It really had been spectacular.
"What else, Harry?" Hermione asked, ever perceptive.
That of course was the harder bit.
"Turns out this scar means more than I just survived the killing curse," he said eventually and pointed absently at his forehead.
"How so?" Hermione asked, logically curious as ever.
Harry thought about exactly how to phrase things for a little while; he didn't want Ron panicking before he could get the whole explanation out.
"Making Horcruxes makes the soul weak," he said, explaining what he knew from the talks he had been having with Merlin and Dumbledore all morning (he had wanted to know as much as possible about everything), "and when the curse bounced back off me it caused part of Voldemort's soul to rip away without him noticing."
The way Hermione's face took on a shocked expression, he knew she had figured it out straight away. Ron was never as fast as Hermione in these things, but Ron also tended to look on the bright side rather than the rational side, unlike Hermione, so Harry was not surprised Ron hadn't figured it out instantly as well.
"The piece of soul latched onto the nearest living thing in self preservation," Harry said simply.
Ron frowned at that and then his expression became all but horrified.
"That was you, Mate," Ron said as if he didn't quite believe it.
"That's why I have a connection with him," Harry replied, finding himself surprisingly calm now that everything was in hand to remove the issue, "and why I can speak Parseltongue and things like that."
He could see the wheels turning in Hermione's mind as he spoke.
"So how are we going to get rid of it without killing you?" Hermione asked, as forthright and practical as always.
That made Harry smile a little.
"There is a ritual," Harry replied, although he knew they would not like what he was going to say next, "and it's happening tomorrow, but, I'm sorry, you can't help."
They had been through so much together that that felt very wrong to say, but he wasn't going to get their hopes up.
"It's Merlin's creation," he continued before either of his friends could object, "and he and Morgana are doing most of it. Dumbledore is going to be making sure I'm okay physically and Snape is making stuff for it and I need someone my own age to keep me centred."
"But you said..." Ron said almost instantly.
"I chose someone else," he interrupted very quickly, "and I'm going to tell you why."
The offer of an explanation at least seemed to silence Ron's protests for a while.
"Hermione," he said, looking at his female best friend, "I know you could do what needs to be done, but I have to be naked for this and, sorry, there's no way I'm getting naked in front of you."
Hermione blinked a bit but then nodded.
"I'd be more of a distraction than a help," she said and Harry thanked his lucky stars for Hermione's good sense.
Now it was the difficult bit.
"I know you could do it too, Ron," he said, because he knew Ron would be perfectly capable, "but only after you'd had time to practice. You're not enough of an arrogant bastard to believe you can just do things first time and this is going to take perfect confidence. There isn't time for practice, at least not much."
It was clear Ron didn't like it, but there was no explosion, at least not yet.
"So who did you choose?" Hermione asked and Harry wished she hadn't.
"Draco," he said and then watched Ron go red.
Surprisingly Hermione whipped out her wand and cast a silencing charm on Ron just as he started yelling. Harry was glad he couldn't lip read.
"Ronald Weasley," Hermione said very loudly and firmly after Ron had ranted silently at both of them for a good minute; "are you going to be sensible and listen to what Harry has to say or do I have to leave this charm on you for even longer. Harry is not suicidal nor an idiot, so I think you owe it to him to hear him out."
Ron did not look happy, but he did look a little cowed after that dressing down and he did nod. Harry braced himself as Hermione removed the charm.
"Please explain, Harry," Hermione said and her tone told him it had better be a good one.
Taking a very deep breath, Harry tried to sort out his reasoning.
"He's really good at magic," he said, since that was his first reason; "even you have to admit that Ron. He's been doing complicated charms since he was a kid."
Ron did not look impressed.
"He's also arrogant," Harry continued, using the Gryffindor version of the explanation, "so he won't doubt he can do it. Since I'm the best chance he has of surviving out of his teens, he also has a vested interest in making sure everything goes well. If I end up a baby he has to survive for sixteen or so years before I can go finish this whole thing. I don't give him or his parents good odds on that."
Hermione nodded at that; she at least seemed to agree with him.
"And lastly," he added, since it was something he had been thinking about, "it gives him a chance to start to redeem himself."
Ron opened his mouth to object to that.
"Ron," Harry said before his best friend could go off on one again; "imagine what it must be like to have done something you can't take back; something you know is wrong. Wouldn't you want the chance to start to make up for it? Draco did a lot of things this year and, as far as I can tell, his main motivation was keeping his parents alive. All that pureblood stuff is so much shit to him now; he's seen Voldemort up close and personal and he gets it now. You don't know everything that happened last night, but I saw some things that made me realise nothing is black and white. Draco fainted before we went to Dumbledore's office and do you know what the first thing he asked when he woke up was?"
For a moment Ron just sat there, but finally shook his head.
"He wanted to know if we knew if his parents were dead yet," Harry said, refusing to let Ron get away without thinking about it. "What would you have been willing to do if that was your parents?"
Ron didn't appear completely convinced, but there was the first inkling of understanding.
"It doesn't excuse what he did, Ron," Harry continued, hoping that his friend would see the reality of the situation, "but it does explain it. He and his parents are suddenly homeless and helpless, but they can be very useful to our side. Lucius probably has so much in his head that could help us it's not true. If I can get Draco flying for our team, Lucius will follow; do you understand?"
Finally it looked as if it made sense to Ron and his friend nodded. He was sure there would be some fallout from this, but he and Ron would work it out; that was the important part.
"So tell us about this ritual and what it will mean," Hermione said and, even though bits of it felt embarrassing, it was so much easier to do that than what he had just done.
Harry launched into as much of the explanation as he had understood.
For most of the previous day Harry had been either in the Room of Requirements helping with preparations, or talking to Merlin about what was going to happen. He was now happy that he understood all the principles and everything that was going to happen, but it didn't really help his peace of mind. It was risky, Merlin had never lied to him about that, but it was necessary.
It had been quite a shock when Dumbledore had admitted that the only way he had known to remove the part of Voldemort's soul was to let Harry sacrifice himself to Voldemort selflessly. The idea that love would save him while the small part of his enemy would be destroyed was sound, but it had been one hell of a gamble. There had been too many factors for Harry to even figure out and he was very glad they had an alternative and now it was time for that alternative.
He was wearing only a blanket, having shed his clothes in preparation. Merlin had drawn some sigils on his skin in various places and whatever Merlin had used, itched, but Harry's mind was mostly on other things. Harry felt cold and nervous and, quite frankly, scared. The tank was full of water with whatever potion Merlin had asked Snape to make and the three adults who were going to be involved in the ritual directly were almost ready, which meant it was going to be soon. Draco was standing to one side, face blank as if he was feeling nothing, Harry just hoped the Slytherin was ready.
Arthur had taken up a position by the door, almost like a guard and Snape was standing next to him as if keeping an eye on everything as well. They made a very strange pair, one dark, one light, but, somehow, Harry found both their presences comforting in the stability they offered.
"Okay, Harry," Merlin said, drawing his attention, "are you ready?"
Harry nodded; he had been mentally preparing himself since breakfast time.
"Right then," Merlin said, walking to the side of the tank where there were stairs and blocks, "we need to get you into the liquid. It's going to be strange breathing liquid, but you'll get used to it; we all did it for nine months after all. Once you're in, Draco will cast the charm to bring you two into mental contact. It won't make you see into each other's head, just bring your minds together so you can focus on each other completely."
He nodded again; he knew all this, but it was comforting to hear it all again.
"When you are both settled, Morgana will link with your magic," Merlin continued to explain, calming his fears, "and you'll feel it, but just keep concentrating on Draco. Professor Dumbledore will be monitoring your reactions all the time to make sure you're coping okay. When everything is ready I will begin the spell to regress you soul to the point of rebirth. It's going to feel very, very strange, but keep your mind on Draco, don't think about anything else. His essence will keep you centred."
"Okay," he said and let Merlin help him up the steps.
It was quite difficult to remain stable and hold his blanket in place at the same time, so he was glad of the assistance. He sat down on the edge of the block with his feet dipping into the tank. The liquid was warm and made his legs feel very buoyant and helped settle him a little, but it was still hard to let Merlin take his blanket and his glasses. He had never been good at feeling vulnerable and being naked in a room of very powerful people made him feel just that. Merlin had told him not to bring his wand, so Hermione was looking after it for him and he felt even more naked without it.
"In you go," Merlin said gently and Harry gathered up his courage and pushed himself off the block, sliding into the warm liquid.
The tank was about deep enough to come up to his waist and long enough to hold him and a bit more, so he went to sit down first. As soon as his head went under he held his breath; he couldn't help it, it was instinctive and he straightened himself out, lying down without trying to breathe. The liquid was vaguely pink and he could see through it, but it distorted everything and he blinked up to see Merlin looking down at him. His eyesight wasn't the best to begin with and it was even worse through the liquid, but he could tell Merlin was saying something. He was almost sure it was encouragement and as his lungs began to ache he did what he knew he had to.
It wasn't really like with the gillyweed; that had changed him, made him more of a water creature, this was about really breathing liquid. As soon as it hit his throat he panicked, trying to stop it rushing down into his lungs and he wanted to sit up to struggle, but he realised he couldn't move. Merlin's eyes were golden where he was looking down and he knew who was holding him in place. He had no choice but to breathe as if in the air and it took long seconds, but his body finally realised he was not dying. It was not a nice experience, but he felt the force holding him in place ease and he began to relax.
As soon as he did, the potion worked some of its magic and he felt himself beginning to float and without being able to stop himself he turned on his side, curling up in an instinctive gesture. It was warm and it was comfortable and he began to feel safe. On an intellectual level he knew it was part of the potion's effects, but it still comforted him.
He was kind of aware of someone coming up to the glass near to him, but he felt as if he just wanted to float and go to sleep. Hence, it was kind of a shock when he suddenly became aware of Draco as if Draco was right there next to him in the tank.
"Wake up," Draco's rather distorted voice told him, "concentrate on me."
It was enough to kick his mind back into what was actually happening.
"Thank you," he said, though the strange link they had and he opened his eyes and looked at the blurred figure standing outside the glass.
"Who do you think is going to win the Quidditch cup this year?" Draco asked, mental voice conversational and relaxed.
It was an inane question, but one that kept Harry very much in the present so he answered it and thus began a mental debate. He felt Morgana's power touch him, but he just carried on the conversation, trying to ignore everything else that was going on. It worked too, Draco had his complete focus until what had to be Merlin's spell touched him.
He felt himself split into two and it made him gasp. It wasn't exactly painful it just felt very, very wrong and he immediately wanted to fight it.
"Harry," Draco's voice slammed through his sudden panic, "don't think about it; let it happen, just talk to me. I saw you with the Weaselette the other day; tell me about her. Is she as fierce off the Quiddtich pitch as she is on it?"
"Don't call her that," he responded, using his annoyance to force his way through what was happening; "her name is Ginny and you should know; she's shown you a time or two."
"I simply wasn't ready," Draco replied with what almost sounded like his previous arrogance; "I mean, how was I supposed to know one of those red-headed imbeciles was actually competent."
Harry was so busy trying to work out whether to be outraged at the insult to his friends or pleased for Ginny about the backhanded compliment that he forgot to worry about what else was going on. It was then that he realised Draco had been the perfect choice; if nothing else, the residual conflict between them gave him something to fight with.
The whole experience was not pleasant and it seemed to be going on for a very long time, but Draco kept him sane and talking. He could feel the familiarity of Draco holding the parts of him that needed it together and he was grateful. It was difficult to describe what it felt like as Merlin's magic made changes in his soul, so he ignored it as well as he could for as long as he could, but eventually he could not ignore it anymore.
What he felt was not the gentle changes Merlin had been making to the very essence of him, it was a tearing sensation, as if part of himself was being ripped away completely. He knew what it was, could sense it: his soul had reached the point where Voldemort's own had touched it and the seal between his soul and Voldemort's was being ripped apart. He screamed silently into the liquid as pain flared in the very heart of him, in the very core of his being and he tried to fight. Even though he knew that this was what he wanted it felt like he was being ripped to pieces at such a fundamental level he could not take it.
"Harry," Draco's voice blasted through his pain, "Harry look at me. I know it hurts, but look at me, focus only on me."
Harry tried, he really did, placing his hand on the glass, reaching for his only salvation, but it hurt so much. He couldn't do it, it was too much.
"Don't you dare give up on me, you Gryffindor prat," Draco told him, mental presence flaring in strength. "Look at me; focus on me."
Merlin had never mentioned this; he had never told Harry that this would happen and Harry could only conclude Merlin hadn't known. After all, Morgana had never has a part of someone else's soul grafted onto her own.
"Harry!" Draco all but screamed at him and he reached for the powerful presence that was his onetime enemy.
It happened so suddenly that it was as if he was completely taken away from what was happening. One moment he was in the tank and the next he saw Draco, not with his eyes, but everything that was not simple vision. All that was Draco Malfoy was there before him; the truth with all its darkness and all its glorious light. In what could have been no more than a moment he felt, saw and understood more about Draco than he could have learnt in a lifetime. It was amazing and mind-blowing and eye opening and then it was as if something went click and he was back in the tank.
He was floating and he felt light and free and new and he promptly passed out. The last thing he saw was Draco's face pressed up against the glass and then there was peaceful blackness.
End of Part 2
Chapter 3: New Life
AU from end of HBP. There are some things that are just not supposed to happen, some wrongs which should not occur; these are the things Merlin knows he and Arthur were created to prevent. Then of course there are also some things that would make things better if they happened and folly or stupidity has stopped them from occurring; Merlin likes to put these back on track as well; Arthur calls that part meddling.
category: slash, ch_story: fulcrum, fandom: harry potter, fandom: merlin, fictype: long fic, genre: vampires, pairing: hp - harry/draco, pairing: me - merlin/arthur, rating: r to nc17, type: fiction
When he slowly blinked open his eyes, Harry felt as if he was floating; it was a very peculiar feeling. That was when there was a thud and he hit bottom, which luckily only seemed to be a couple of centimetres away, and he realised he actually had been floating. He moaned quietly, because landing wasn't exactly pleasant.
"Harry," Merlin's familiar voice greeted him and a hand gently touched him on the shoulder, "how are you feeling?"
It took him a little while to scrape together the brain cells to work that one out.
"Tired," he said with complete honesty. "Was I just floating?"
He peered up at Merlin and managed to make out the other wizard's general shape; his eyes did not seem to be working even up to their usual substandard level. He could tell Merlin was smiling, however.
"Yes you were," Merlin said, sounding amused, "for about the last hour or so. No one could convince you to stay on the bed."
"How long was I asleep?" he asked, a little surprised by how long he seemed to have been out.
"A little over five hours," Merlin told him and patted him gently on the arm; "the ceremony knocked you right out. If you're feeling up to it I have some soup here; you need to get some food inside of you."
Harry wasn't sure he could manage food, but he did let Merlin help him sit up. He felt more than a little light-headed as he went from lying down to mostly sitting, propped against Merlin, but he felt a lot better when Merlin handed him his glasses. Everything wasn't quite in focus, because his eyes didn't seem to like him much, but it was a great deal clearer.
He still had nothing on, which was unsettling, but he was wrapped in a very nice warm blanket so he couldn't really complain. Merlin sat partially behind him, keeping him sitting up and then brought round a bowl so that it was sitting next to them. As soon as the smell hit his nostrils his stomach rumbled and he realised that food was a good idea after all.
"You've done this before," he said as Merlin expertly helped him eat while he stayed wrapped in his blanket.
"With the amount of times Arthur gets himself hurt, I am very practiced," Merlin said in a long suffering tone.
"I didn't know vampires could get hurt," Harry admitted after a mouthful of soup.
Merlin laughed at that.
"This is Arthur," Merlin said, spooning up some more of the delicious broth, "he can find trouble that no one else can imagine. He heals much faster than when he was human, but he still manages to lay himself up and give me a heart attack at least once a decade."
The tone Merlin used was so fond and familiar that it made Harry feel warm just hearing it. He had imagined the heroes of old from time to time, but he had never guessed what some of them would actually be like.
"Have you and Arthur been together the whole time," he asked since his curiosity kicked in before his polite good sense, "or have there been times when you've been apart?"
Merlin hummed a little at that question and Harry wondered if he'd stepped over the line.
"I did kick him out once," Merlin said eventually, feeding him some more of the soup; "but that was for being an incredible prat and he begged my forgiveness after two days. Sometimes we have to be apart as well, because we're needed in different places, but we've never broken up, if that's what you're asking. It's not only that Arthur needs my blood either; he can survive on other people's if necessary. The Great Dragon always said we were two halves of the same coin and he was right; we don't work well separated."
Harry couldn't imagine what it must be like to have someone like that; the idea made him wonder what his parent's relationship must have been like. Would their love have stood up to centuries, or even one lifetime? They had never had the chance to find out and it made him a little sad. To distract himself he focused on what else Merlin had said.
"Dragon?" he asked as it occurred to him. "You can talk to dragons?"
For some reason that made Merlin laugh.
"This dragon was a little different to the ones you're used to," Merlin explained and continued to feed him. "The great dragons were a species in their own right; proud, brave and highly intelligent, holders of more knowledge than even I can dream of. They were all but wiped out by hunters who feared them. To be honest I have no idea if any still survive; I haven't met one in a very long time."
That sounded even sadder.
"But you knew one?" Harry asked, trying to focus on what was good about the conversation.
"Oh yes," Merlin replied in a rueful tone, "and a tricky bastard he was too. Take my advice, never let anyone, no matter how old and wise, run your life; I got into more trouble because of that damn dragon..."
Then Merlin launched into a tale about voices in his head and Camelot and how he met Arthur and was promptly told by the dragon that Arthur was his destiny even though, at the time, he thought Arthur was a right prat. It was entertaining and it also meant Harry didn't have to do any talking while Merlin helped him finish his meal. It was funny how Merlin's story finished at almost exactly the same time as the bowl became empty.
"Time to make you more comfortable," Merlin decided, putting the bowl aside and moving out from behind him.
Since Harry was pretty sure they were still in the Room of Requirements, he shouldn't have been too surprised when, as Merlin helped him lean back, there were a whole heap of pillows waiting for him that had not been there before. They made a very comfortable back rest and allowed him to half sit up and half lie down in a very pleasant repose.
"Don't try and do anything too strenuous for a while," Merlin told him as he fussed about and made sure the pillows were all positioned correctly; "your magic is still settling down so you're going to be tired until it's finished sorting itself out. You'll know as soon as it has, because you'll start to feel more normal again."
Harry nodded dutifully; as least there was a sensible explanation as to why he felt like lying down was equivalent to a task in the Tri-Wizard tournament. Even without Merlin's warning he doubted he would have been able to stand up on his own.
"So," Merlin said when Harry was perfectly comfortable again, "other than tired, how are you feeling generally?"
It was a serious question, so Harry took some time to think about it and one description kept coming back to him.
"Peaceful," he said, since it summed everything up, "I feel peaceful."
That earned him a smile from Merlin. It was really rather strange; Harry knew all his troubles were not over, even if the ritual had worked, Voldemort and the rest of the Horcruxes were still out there, but that didn't stop him feeling at peace. He'd never felt anything quite like it.
"Good," Merlin said and sounded genuinely pleased.
"But it's not over," Harry said, trying to rationalise it out, "why do I feel like it is?"
The gentle expression on Merlin's face then was rather surprising.
"The war out there is still going on," Merlin told him and then leant forward, placing a hand lightly above Harry's heart, "but the war in here is over."
That was when Harry remembered what both Merlin and Morgana had told him about part of him being at war because of Voldemort's soul and it finally made sense.
"Part of you has always had to fight," Merlin explained, as if making sure he understood, "or his evil would have corrupted you. That part is now at peace."
Harry smiled then as he realised it was true and for a moment he allowed himself to revel in the feeling. It was hard to imagine having to fight Voldemort's influence all his life, he almost hadn't believed it, but the feeling running through him made it absolutely clear that it had been true.
"So," Merlin said after leaving him to his thoughts for a little while, "do you think you are up to a few tests?"
That morning, Merlin had put him through some simple tests as a baseline before the ritual and he wasn't overly surprised by the request.
"We'll leave the magical ones until you're feeling better," Merlin added quickly, "but I think you should be able to cope with some of the others."
Harry nodded; he was curious as well.
"Fire away," he said, still smiling.
Some of Merlin's tests had seemed a little strange, but Harry was sure Merlin had his reasons.
"Six times nine," Merlin said almost straight away.
"Fifty four," Harry replied equally as quickly and surprised himself.
"Two hundred and fifty three plus ninety one," was the next rapid question.
"Three hundred and forty four," Harry responded as his brain just provided the answer.
Three more arithmetic questions later and Harry was feeling more than a little shocked.
"I was never any good at mental arithmetic," he said as Merlin smiled at him broadly.
"It's all about practice," Merlin replied and then handed him a piece of parchment.
Since he had done this before that morning he knew what he was supposed to do; he read the page as quickly as possible and then handed it back to Merlin. Then Merlin asked him questions about it in rapid succession and he had to answer as quickly as he could. He couldn't answer all of Merlin's questions, but he was positive he did a lot better than he had in the morning.
"Well I think that settles it," Merlin said, noting several things down in a little notebook he had; "that piece of Voldemort's soul definitely impaired you mental functions at certain levels."
Harry couldn't ignore the evidence, but he honestly didn't get it.
"But he is known as one of the most intelligent wizards of our time," he pointed out.
Merlin nodded; "But think of it this way," he said; "part of your mind has always been distracted. When you fight you have to use something to fight with and part of you has always been occupied so the rest of you had to compensate. Now that you are no longer compensating you have the advantage of things being far easier than they were before."
"Oh," Harry replied and digested that way of thinking about it; "so it's like before I was lifting weights with each hand and having to do both at the same time, but now I can use both hands for the same thing so it's nowhere near as difficult."
"Exactly," was the cheerful response.
Harry smiled to himself again; he liked this. Maybe he wouldn't mess up so much in Potions anymore, even without the book.
"Right, one last thing," Merlin said and dragged his attention back to the task in hand, "and then I think you probably need a nap."
With a wave of his hand and a whispered spell, Merlin conjured a snake that slithered on Harry's bed and lifted its head, tasting the air.
"Talk to it," Merlin said simply.
"But I can't," Harry protested, looking at Merlin as if he was insane.
Merlin just raised an eyebrow at him so Harry shook his head and looked at the snake. He felt very silly.
"Hello," he said, since that was about all he could think of.
The snake regarded him for a while and then lifted up a bit more.
"Nice to meet you," Harry added, feeling even more silly.
"A polite human," the snake replied, "how very unusual."
Harry went cold all over and turned to stare at Merlin.
"He ... I ... that's impossible," Harry said, feeling panic rising in his chest; "I understood him; I shouldn't have been able to do that. Maybe the ritual didn't completely work."
It didn't make sense and Harry was suddenly afraid.
With a wave of his hand Merlin sent the snake back to wherever it had come from and then moved back over to sit on the bed.
"Ssh, Harry," Merlin said gently; "the part of Voldemort's soul that was within you is completely gone, you have nothing to fear."
"But," Harry protested.
"No buts," Merlin insisted firmly and Harry slowly began to feel his fear dissipate; "you are free from his touch. I apologise for making you afraid like that, but I had to be sure."
Harry was confused; he did not understand. Parseltongue was a dark art, it had been part of Voldemort and he did not know how he could possibly still be able to do it.
"How?" he asked, needing to understand.
"Parseltongue is not just a language," Merlin said, confirming what he already knew, "it is a magical gift and it was not always viewed as dark."
When he had found out his talking to snakes was not a common wizarding ability, Harry had read quite a bit about it; everything he had found suggested that it was dark.
"Some idiotic little official with too much time on his hands decided it was dark a couple of centuries ago," Merlin continued to explain. "Just because some dark wizards had the ability it was suddenly classed as a dark art. A couple of light families who had the ability chose to suppress it in their lines so that it would no longer show up and bring doubt onto their family name. One of those lines was the Potters."
Harry was more than a little shocked.
"The ability has probably been in every generation between then and now, but magically suppressed," Merlin told him, calming his fear. "I did a lot of research on you and your family before we came here; I can tell you all about it if you like when we have time. As for why you can speak Parseltongue; it probably has more to do with Voldemort's ability circumventing the suppressing magic woven into your heritage than him directly giving you the power."
"So I should always have been a Parseltongue and his soul attaching to mine just brought it out?" Harry asked, wanting to be sure.
"Then why didn't you just tell me?" Harry heard his voice rising a little; he really hadn't needed the almost heart attack.
For the first time Merlin appeared a little apologetic.
"I didn't want to build your hopes up," Merlin said in a tone that suggested he was only now realising that it hadn't been such a good idea.
For a moment Harry just sat there and then he laughed; it was just slightly ridiculous. With his fear gone he couldn't maintain any level of annoyance and the fact that Merlin was fallible after everything the wizard had done that day struck him as incredibly funny.
"You're going to tell Arthur aren't you," Merlin said in a mock terrified tone; "he'll torture me with it for the next century."
That just made Harry laugh harder and the way Merlin started smiling suggested the ancient man realised he might have been a bit of an idiot. Harry had never heard of anyone laughing themselves to sleep before, but by the time he had finished he was exhausted and Merlin tucked him in and instructed him to take a nap. He found it incredibly easy to obey.
When Harry woke up the next time he found, to his pleasure, that he was feeling much stronger. Merlin was still sitting with him and, after a short assessment, agreed to let him out of bed. Either Merlin pre-empted his needs or the room was very, very good at what it did, because there was a new door waiting for him and behind it was a shower. By the time he was done, he felt like he had been fighting a herd of Centaurs, but he was very pleased to be clean and dressed and feeling human again.
As he opened the door back to the main room, his nose caught the scent of something delicious and his stomach gurgled in anticipation. This time he had no doubt at all that he could manage food. Much to his pleasure he also realised that he and Merlin were no longer alone; Hermione and Ron were sitting on a comfortable-looking sofa and Arthur was sitting on an overstuffed arm chair around a table that was full of food. Merlin was handing round what looked like butterbeer.
"So you can eat normal food just like the rest of us?" he heard Ron asking Arthur.
It hadn't seemed to have occurred to Ron that that might be a bit of a personal question.
"As long as I have blood regularly as well, yes," Arthur replied, thankfully seemingly happy to answer. "Blood tastes better than the best food you could imagine, but Merlin makes sure I stay civilised."
"It's a terribly hard job," Merlin said and then looked up and saw him. "Harry," he greeted, "feeling refreshed and up to visitors?"
"Hey, Mate," Ron said cheerfully, seemingly unworried about him, because Merlin wasn't.
"Yeah, thanks," he said and wandered further into the room, "that was just what I needed."
"Feeling better?" Hermione asked, clearly not taking Merlin's word for it.
He smiled and nodded and tried to let the peace he was feeling shine through. It must have worked, because Hermione smiled back at him and stood up.
"Then I think you might want this back," she said and reached into her robe.
With a reverence Harry had not really expected, Hermione pulled his wand from her sleeve and presented it to him like a sword. For a moment he hesitated, worried about what might happen, but then he realised he was being an idiot and it wouldn't be the end of the world even if the wand did reject him.
Reaching out, he wrapped his fingers around the familiar wand and at first he felt nothing, well nothing unusual and there was the familiar tingle of the tool wanting to be used.
"No magic, Harry," Merlin warned and he hummed his agreement, but he was waiting for something.
He didn't know what, but his mind was firmly on the wand and its attention, although it wasn't exactly a sentient thing, was on him. When he had been eleven he had never realised what was happening, but he was sure he could sense the wand feeling him out, almost as if they no longer knew each other. Carefully he stepped away from Hermione.
"Harry?" Hermione asked, but he was too busy concentrating.
Then he felt it; acceptance. Something indescribable clicked into place and a huge fountain of sparks burst from the end of his wand.
"Oh crap," he said as the little magical outburst tapped the small reserves he had and he felt his knees go weak.
He sat down on the floor with a bump.
"Are you alright?" Hermione asked in a worried tone and Ron was standing just behind her also looking worried.
"Fine," he said, feeling something of an idiot.
Arthur offered him a hand.
"I did say no magic," Merlin said in a very unsympathetic tone.
"Tell that to my wand," Harry said as he sat down gratefully in one of the soft chairs.
"Wands are supposed to be controlled by the wizard, not the other way around," Merlin pointed out.
That made Arthur stifle a laugh.
"Like you're the epitome of control," was Arthur's comment on the matter.
Merlin's eyes narrowed.
"Says the man with the self control of a rabid wart hog," was the dangerous response.
It was Arthur's turn to glare and Harry suddenly wished he wasn't so close to either of them.
"Sicily," Arthur said pointedly.
"Rome," countered Merlin.
"Newhaven," was Arthur's next try.
"Edinburgh," Merlin replied.
And so it went on and Harry started to get really worried that the pair would break out into a fully fledged argument at any second.
"San Francisco," Arthur finally said in a tone that sounded like victory.
"Oh that was so not my fault," Merlin said, but his lips twitched at the same time, "and you looked very fetching in pink."
"Fetching?" Arthur all but squeaked. "I'll have you know that I had every man within a three hundred foot radius gagging for it."
Merlin burst out laughing and Harry exchanged glances with Ron and Hermione. They didn't seem to be any surer of what had just happened than he was. People over a certain age were strange, really, really strange.
It had been two days and Harry was still coming to terms with how different he felt. He had spent most of his time in the Room of Requirement with Merlin, who had painstakingly taken him through everything magical he had learned over his time at Hogwarts to see what had changed. The fact that everything was so much easier was quite incredible, but there was one thing that was definitely bothering him.
"Morgana," he said quietly, coming up behind the witch as she surveyed some of the books in Dumbledore's private library, "may I talk to you please?"
Morgana turned, as elegant as ever, and looked at him; he thought she might have been a little surprised by the request.
"Of course, Harry," she said after a few moments contemplation, during which he felt as if his soul was on display, "shall we sit down?"
"Thank you," he replied as they walked over to the couple of garish armchairs that were in the corner of the room.
She gave him a small smile as they sat down and then summoned tea in exactly the same way Dumbledore would have. That at least made Harry smile, which he suspected is what it was supposed to have done.
"So, Darling Boy," Morgana said and somehow he really couldn't take offence at her tone, "what can I do for you?"
Harry took a breath and gathered his courage, not sure he really wanted to talk about this but knowing he had to.
"You remember you and Merlin told me I might feel differently about things?" he asked after a moment.
Morgana nodded, it wasn't as if they would have been likely to forget since Harry had had both of them talk to him about it in some depth, both before and after the ritual.
"When one has been carrying around part of another's soul all their life it is only to be expected that that part of a soul would have effects," she reiterated and he understood that; it made sense.
"Before all this," he said, still trying to get his head round how much had changed in a few short days, "I was in love with Ginny; Ron's sister."
The words were hard to say.
"I don't think I am anymore," he admitted, still not sure it just wasn't him being an idiot.
From the momentary expression on Morgana's face he wasn't comforted.
"That's a very big change," Morgana said, clearly not saying quite what she was thinking, "are you sure you were in love to begin with? In my experience love is a very powerful thing."
Harry knew he had to explain.
"It was like this thing in my chest trying to get out," he told her, without hiding anything; "it felt so strong. I didn't really understand it and it happened so suddenly."
At that Morgana appeared a little more thoughtful.
"It is possible," she acknowledged with a dip of her head, "but why would this Dark Wizard's soul be pointing you at love?"
That was what had Harry confused; he just couldn't reconcile what he knew of Voldemort and what he had felt for Ginny.
"That's what I don't understand," he admitted and shrugged his shoulders in defeat; it just didn't make sense.
"Is there any reason Voldemort should desire Ginny?" Morgana asked and placed a hand on his arm in a sympathetic gesture.
The little shudder that ran through him as he remembered Ginny's only contact with Voldemort shook him from head to toe.
"In my second year, Voldemort used Ginny to open the Chamber of Secrets and release the Basilisk into the school," he explained, not wanting to recount the events, but knowing it could be important, "but I don't understand how that could have made a difference. That was a young version of him, trapped in a diary, when he was still Tom Riddle, and he left her to die to bring himself back to life. He didn't love her and he made the diary way before the rest of the Horcruxes."
The explanation did not seem to make Morgana dismiss the connection, in fact the opposite.
"And you had contact with this younger version?" she asked as if it might be beginning to make sense to her.
"In the Chamber of Secrets," he replied, "I fought him."
"And he used Ginny, needed her for his plan?" Morgana continued to question him so he nodded again.
He was not quite sure where the conversation was going.
"Then I think it may have been him," Morgana concluded and patted his hand. "I am sorry, Harry, it is never easy to lose love. The part of his soul in you could have interacted with the version in the diary you mentioned, allowing the obsession to move from one to the other. As your character did with all of the contamination Voldemort's soul caused in you, it changed it, made it work for you and it came out as an obsessive love. It is better that it is gone; it would probably not have been healthy for either of you as time went on."
It was the affirmation that Harry had been looking for and dreading at the same time. What he had felt for Ginny hadn't been him and he didn't really know what to do. How did you explain to someone you had been sure you loved, that you just didn't anymore? Would Ginny even understand?
"It felt so real," was all he could find to say.
Morgana brushed the hair off his forehead where the scar had been so prominent before and then, to his shock, leant forward and kissed the spot gently.
"It was real, Harry," she said and smiled at him kindly; "everything you have ever done and felt has been real, but you have changed. For most of us it takes a lifetime, but for you it only took a moment. It will be better this way, Darling Boy; no one can live when they are not true to themselves. For years I tried and it drove me mad and only Merlin brought me back. Whatever you do, listen to your heart."
Then she stood up and swept away even more dramatically than Snape would have and left him in her wake. All he could do was sit there and stare for a while and then he shook his head and reached for a cup of the, so far, untouched tea. He had a lot of thinking to do.
He sat and thought for a good hour, going over things in his mind and then he went to find the second person he needed to talk to.
"Excuse me," he said tentatively when he found his quarry, "could I have a few minutes of your time please?"
Arthur made him nervous just because he was Arthur; it was weird, but he just couldn't shake the realisation that this was the once and future king. It was a bit like talking to the greatest hero of all time. Arthur had been working out with Excalibur in one of the small courtyards, but he stopped as soon as Harry spoke.
"Harry," Arthur greeted with a smile, pale skin glistening in the sunlight where he appeared to have been sweating, "how can I help?"
Harry was momentarily distracted by thinking that vampires didn't sweat, which led him on to the fact that vampires didn't like sunlight, but Arthur wasn't exactly a vampire and he began to get lost in his own thoughts so he stopped them right there.
"Can I ask you a question, please?" he asked, feeling just as nervous, if not more so, than when he had spoken to Morgana.
"You can ask, depends on the question if I'll answer," Arthur replied with a smile and walked over to him.
"It might be kind of personal," Harry admitted quietly.
He was sure Arthur would see straight through the question to his real thoughts, but he had to ask anyway.
"Ask away, Harry," Arthur told him with a grin, "I promise not to run you through."
The attempt of humour fell a little flat as far as Harry was concerned, but he gave Arthur points for trying.
"How did you know you liked Merlin?" he asked and all the words came out in a rush, although he managed to stress the 'liked' to get his point across.
He was absolutely positive that he was blushing, but he couldn't help it; he felt like he was thirteen again. For a moment Arthur just stood there.
"Well that wasn't what I was expecting," Arthur finally said, but smiled again before sobering. "I knew because when I realised he was magical, something that condemned him to death under my father's rule, the thought of him dying twisted my heart so much that I knew I would betray my father, my king, for him."
That was rather a stunning confession and it made Harry blink; it made him feel like a bit of an idiot. It was so much bigger than anything he had been expecting.
"But, Harry," Arthur said, changing tone completely, "I've always been overdramatic, just ask Merlin. If he makes your heart flutter and your mouth go dry and warmth pool in bits below, you probably have it bad."
That was more what Harry had been expecting and it rather confirmed what he had already known.
"I'm gay," he said as he finally admitted it to himself; as if he didn't have enough to deal with.
It had dawned on him soon after he had woken up that certain reactions he was used to, certain way of thinking just weren't happening anymore. One of the areas they were definitely different was girls.
"You could be bi," Arthur said, as if that would make it all better.
Harry thought about that for a few moments and went over everything he had been thinking about since the ceremony and shook his head.
"Nope," he said as it became all too clear in his head; "the only thing straight about me was Voldemort."
"Are you sure?" Arthur asked, clearly waiting for him to react a little more.
If there was one thing Harry was discovering since he had been divested of Voldermort's soul, it was that he seemed to be far less excitable. When he had come to talk to Arthur he had been as nervous as hell, but now that his suspicions were confirmed he just felt resigned.
"You know how when Morgana walks into a room your heart beats faster and blood rushes to places you really wish it wouldn't in public situations?" he said as he went through what he was thinking.
Arthur nodded; Harry had realised that Arthur appreciated the female of the species even if he was firmly attached to Merlin.
"Haven't felt that since I woke up," Harry said simply. "Not even a flicker and Morgana definitely hasn't changed. You do way more for me than she does and, no offence meant, but Draco does even more."
Arthur actually grinned at that.
"Okay," the once king said with a nod; "you're gay. So when are you going to make your move with your blond snake?"
Harry just spluttered at that; he hadn't really thought that far ahead.
"Draco's straight," he pointed out.
"Oh dear," Arthur said and drapped an arm over his shoulders; "you have been repressed too long. Let me explain what pointers you're missing and then I'll help you with a plan. Merlin is going to be insufferable when he finds out he was right, so the least I can do is help you along."
That left Harry wondering what he had gotten himself into, but he went with Arthur anyway.
Arthur had given him lots of advice and even suggested a game plan for attracting Draco who, it seemed, liked girls and boys if Arthur was any judge. Given that Arthur had centuries of practice and Merlin had backed up the idea, Harry had no choice but to believe them. Of course that left one problem; he was technically Ginny's boyfriend. He had kissed her and made his feelings clear and he would not two-time her, which meant he had to explain himself and end it with her first.
He found her in the common room.
"Hey, Ginny," he said and felt incredibly guilty when she smiled at him brightly.
"Harry," she said and wrapped him in a tight hug, "we've been so worried about you. How are you feeling after the decontamination?"
The cover story was that when the Death Eaters had broken in they had cursed Harry, something people hadn't realised until the next day, and he'd been having special treatments with the mysterious specialists who were staying at the school, hence the reason he hadn't been to lessons like everyone else over the last couple of days. Ginny knew the truth, along with Ron and Hermione, but she always had been good at playing the subterfuge game.
"Much better," he said, feeling more than awkward. "Can we go somewhere and talk?"
When Ginny looked into his eyes he knew she could tell something was wrong, but she nodded anyway, keeping the smile on her face.
"Sure," she said and turned to her friends. "I'll be back in a bit."
Then they were walking out of the portrait hole and Harry led Ginny to a secluded spot behind one of the greenhouses. It was a long walk, but he knew they wouldn't be disturbed there and he definitely didn't want anyone interrupting this little talk.
He had been planning what to say and what to do for the hour or so since he had escaped Arthur's clutches, but as he lifted his head and opened his mouth, Ginny beat him to it.
"You want to break up, don't you?" she said simply, face impassive, but eyes shining just a little.
"Want?" he replied after a moment. "That's not exactly the way I'd put it."
He drew in a deep breath.
"Did Ron and Hermione explain like I asked them to?" he said after gathering his thoughts. "Did they tell you that I might change after the ritual?"
Ginny nodded, a short sharp motion that betrayed her emotions.
"You don't love me anymore," she said in a flat tone.
Harry reached out to take her hand.
"I love you, Ginny," he said honestly with a sad smile, "just not the way you want me to."
"You're saying that it was just Voldemort?" she all but accused him, but she did not pull her hand away.
"No," he said; it was difficult to explain, but he had to try; "it was me, but it was me taking his obsession with you and making it something I could understand."
There were definitely unshed tears in Ginny's eyes now.
"Are you sure?" she asked in a little voice. "Maybe it's the shock?"
He so wanted to tell her she was right, that there was hope for them, but he knew that he couldn't.
"I'm sure, Gin," he said, wishing he could give her what she wanted, "because that's not the only thing I've realised."
Ginny frowned at him.
"I'm flying for the home team, Ginny," he said, knowing he was blushing as he spoke.
That made Ginny blink at him as if she wasn't sure she'd heard him correctly.
"What about Cho?" she asked as if she didn't believe him.
"All Voldemort's urges," Harry said, feeling way out of his depth. "I spoke to Merlin earlier and he thinks it was because Voldemort was an adult and I was a child, his reactions to such things swamped mine before they could develop."
From the looks of her face, Ginny didn't quite know how to react.
"You're really gay?" she asked, as if making sure.
"Flaming," he replied openly, "that is if the way Arthur, shirtless and glistening with sweat in the morning sunlight, made me go weak at the knees earlier."
It always did to hammer the point home with Gryffindors and Ginny's mouth fell open a little way. Harry wasn't sure if that was his confession or the mental image he had just provided. He wasn't about to mention that he actually preferred the tall slender type and that he had his heart set on Draco Malfoy; that would be one step too far he suspected.
Before he could move back, Ginny stepped up to him and kissed him, right on the lips. He really didn't know how to react so he just stood there and let her and it was the last confirmation he needed; he felt nothing except awkwardness. The tears were almost ready to fall when Ginny drew back, he could tell.
"I'm so sorry, Gin," he said gently; "I wish it wasn't true."
She gave him a sad smile at that.
"I know, Harry," she said, stepping back and just looking at him; "you've always been so noble like that. So close and yet so far."
She sniffed then, clearly trying to hold back the tears, and Harry fished around in his pocket for the handkerchief he had put there just for this purpose. He handed it to Ginny and she laughed even as the tears began to fall.
"I think I should go now," she said quietly, dabbing her eyes. "I forgive you, Harry, but I might have to avoid you for a while."
He just nodded; there was nothing else to say and then he watched her walk away. It hurt, but not in the way it was supposed to and he found his own breathing somewhat shaky when he drew in a deep breath. Now he had to find Ron before news got back to his best friend that he had just dumped his sister.
"You're what?" Ron all but screeched and Hermione hit him on the arm.
"Ron, not so loud," she chastised him and Harry was very grateful.
"I prefer broomsticks to quaffles, Ron," he said firmly, knowing that a Quidditch analogy would at least catch his best friend's attention; "I'm very, very gay."
It was the fourth time he had said it, so he wasn't feeling embarrassed about it anymore, just exasperated that Ron seemed to keep not hearing him. He was seriously considering using graphic examples like he had with Ginny, but he really didn't think Ron would appreciate them in the same way.
"It must have been such a shock," Hermione said sympathetically.
Of course it was just like Hermione to take the information in her stride.
"Yeah," Harry admitted with a nod, "it was a bit. I was more worried that I wasn't feeling the same things for Ginny anymore first and then it dawned on me why."
From the way Ron's eye went round, his friend hadn't thought of that bit yet.
"I already spoke to her," he said before Ron could go off on one, "I think she understood."
"Well it's not as if you can do anything about it," Hermione said and patted him on the arm; "it's not your fault you like boys not girls."
Hermione really was wonderful, even if she was usually somewhat blunt.
"You're sure?" Ron asked and finally seemed to have taken on board the message.
"Yeah, Ron," Harry replied, relieved he didn't have to ram the news home any harder; "I'm sure. I went to talk to Arthur this morning to get his advice and then I talked to both him and Merlin, and yes, it's not an after effect of the ritual that will go away, it really is me surfacing properly for the first time."
Ron appeared a little at a loss, but he did seem to be understanding at last.
"Why did you go talk to Arthur?" Ron suddenly asked as if it had just occurred to him.
From the way Hermione rolled her eyes, Harry thought she had not missed the obvious.
"Um, Ron," Harry said as gently as he could, "Arthur and Merlin; they're ... um ... an item."
It was comical really to see Ron frown as if that didn't make sense and then catch on.
"The once and future king and his magician are doing it?" Ron sounded scandalised; it was almost too funny.
"For a very, very long time," Harry replied with a nod, doing his best not to laugh.
"But, but, I was sure Arthur was checking out Morgana like the rest of us," Ron said and then blushed beautifully and sent an apologetic glance at Hermione, "even if she is his step-sister."
At least that was easy to answer.
"Yeah, well Arthur appreciates the female of the species as well," Harry replied, since it was the truth; "he's just devoted to Merlin. Before you say it, yes I'm sure I'm not the same. I went to speak to Morgana this morning about Ginny, to make sure it couldn't be something else and she could have been Goyle for all the effect she had on me."
That finally seemed to nail the message home.
"Wouldn't Goyle have more of an effect on you now?" Ron asked after a moment and Harry hit his friend on the arm.
Hermione just started to laugh.
Given that Harry really, really didn't want to screw it up with Draco and he considered himself to be completely relationship clueless, he wanted to talk to Merlin and Arthur one more time before he extended the hand of friendship. When he approached their room he noticed the door was open, again. It seemed that Merlin and Arthur were so used to living in a house, that Harry had discovered was so big you could forget anyone else was in it and Morgana had her own wing, that they often neglected to close doors to their own living space. Almost every time Harry had walked down to where they were staying the door had been left open.
The tone made Harry stop dead just as he had lifted his hand to knock and announce his presence. He might be crap at relationships, but he knew what the tone of Merlin's voice meant in that is was deep and breathless and needy. His first instinct was to flush madly and try and figure out how to back up without letting either Arthur or Merlin know he was there. Then Merlin groaned quietly and his second instinct was to step forward and see what he could see through the gap in the door.
A very loud voice at the back of his mind was screaming and asking him exactly what he thought he was doing, but as he caught sight of Arthur and Merlin most of his throat processes stalled, so it didn't make much difference. Merlin was shirtless and half facing the door, but his eyes were closed and his head was back, because Arthur was behind him, arms around him, kissing slowly along his neck. Harry felt his mouth go dry and heat rush through him. In his time he hadn't really seen much to do with sex, even the dirty magazine that Seamus had smuggled in on several occasions hadn't been much more than boobs out for everyone to see. The fact that the women in wizarding dirty mags jiggled up and down a bit for the viewers pleasure didn't change that is was just tits and arse.
He appreciated the memories even less now of course.
The fact was that the way Arthur was touching Merlin was the most sensual thing Harry had ever seen. The kisses were so soft, so gentle and yet the passion in them had the heat pooling in Harry's loins. Arthur's hands ran slowly up and down Merlin's arms and slowly, further round, over Merlin's chest and one of Merlin's hands came up to touch Arthur's fingers.
"I'm hungry," Arthur said, tone little more than a whisper.
"I know," Merlin whispered, voice incredibly low, "take what you need."
Harry knew he should be backing up, should be leaving, but it was as if he'd been hexed with a sticking charm. He was rooted to the spot and his breath caught in his throat as he watched the incredibly intimate moment.
It was Arthur's turn to moan at Merlin's words and Harry could almost feel the sound as well as hear it. Then, as if that wasn't enough, Arthur pulled Merlin's head gently to the side and then looked up, directly at him. Only at that moment did he realised that Arthur knew he was there and he almost mentally laughed at himself for thinking that a vampire could have missed a noisily breathing teenager, but he didn't have enough brain power for it. He literally couldn't make himself draw in breath as he watched Arthur's eyes go as golden as Merlin's did when Merlin was doing magic. Then Arthur smiled before opening his mouth and Harry could see his long fangs descending into place.
When those fangs, ever so slowly, slid into Merlin's flesh, first Merlin whimpered, then he moaned and Harry felt his legs shaking at what he was witnessing. Arthur's eyes closed and his mouth fixed on Merlin's neck as soon as the blood began to flow and it was as if Harry had been cut off, but that didn't stop what he was watching being incredibly erotic. He was almost sure he had been totally forgotten as Merlin gasped quietly and Arthur drank.
A single drip of blood ran from beneath Arthur's lips and slowly slid down over Merlin's shoulder, running with tantalising sluggishness over Merlin's pale, unmarked skin until it skirted round one erect nipple. He couldn't take his eyes off it, well that was until one of Arthur's hands began to, ever so slowly, skirt down Merlin's body. Harry felt his face heating up as he realised where the hand was going and the throbbing it caused in his cock was more than a little intense as Arthur's fingers delved under Merlin's waistband.
The sound that Merlin made was needy and wanting and all but begging and it was that which finally snapped Harry out of it. Something about it dragged him out of his stupor and what he was doing resolved into his brain. He was intruding, even if Arthur did know he was there and he kicked himself into moving. It took him several seconds to back away and then he turned and walked away as fast as he could.
His escape was hampered by the fact he had an erection that refused to go away even when he pushed at it with the heel of his hand. He definitely needed some time alone and fast and after that he would try and figure out how in heaven's name he was going to ever face Merlin or Arthur again.
He almost died when he heard Merlin calling his name. Since the incident earlier in the day he had kind of been hiding. Well first of all he had been relieving a little teenage tension, then he had been hiding, in the library to be precise. It was now mid-afternoon and he had decided he had to come out, but he hadn't really expected that the first person he would run into was Merlin. When he turned and plastered a smile on his face he knew, just by looking, that Arthur had told Merlin everything. He considered running.
"I've been looking for you for ages," Merlin said and jogged up beside him, "I wanted to apologise; you must be hideously embarrassed."
Harry had to go over that in his head to make sure he had heard it correctly.
"I was the one intruding," he pointed out when he ascertained that he had indeed heard what he thought he had heard.
"Technically," Merlin agreed and smiled, "but we really should learn to lock doors when we're going to do things like that and if Arthur had a modicum of self-control he would have stopped, because he knew you were there. It's the vampire in him; when he needs he needs and he loses most of his inhibitions."
Harry was pretty sure he was standing there with his mouth open.
"Actually, he never had many to begin with," Merlin added as if the idea had just occurred to him; "bit of an exhibitionist is my knight in shining armour. Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I do vaguely remember what it was like to be a teenager and that you really shouldn't worry about it."
He could have just stood there and accepted the apology, but his manners finally kicked in.
"I'll accept your apology if you'll accept mine," he replied, still feeling incredibly embarrassed, but deciding he had to move forward; "I should have left the moment I realised there was a private moment going on."
Merlin grinned at that and nodded.
"Apology accepted," Merlin replied, more amused, it seemed, than embarrassed about what Harry had witnessed.
It was beginning to occur to Harry that maybe the older people became the more eccentric they seemed because the less they cared what others would say or think about them. It would certainly explain the headmaster.
"Besides, I've seen Arthur in full vamp out," Merlin said in a much more conversational tone; "I don't blame you for wanting to watch."
Harry flushed to the roots of his hair, he could feel it, and he didn't mention that he had been rather taken with Merlin as well.
"Does it really feel as good as it looked?" he asked before his brain could catch up with his hormones.
He counted himself lucky that Merlin laughed.
"Hell yes," was the honest response, but then Merlin frowned, "but don't think it's a good idea to let a vampire bite you, just because mine's tame."
Harry's mind boggled a little at thinking of Arthur as tame.
"I'm horny, not suicidal," he said, more to distract himself than anything else.
Keeping a secret at Hogwarts seemed almost entirely impossible, which was why Dumbledore rarely seemed to try, hence everyone knew the Malfoys were in residence after a couple of days. There were competing rumours as to why, but Snape has assured that the right Slytherins heard about some very awe inspiring assistance the fugitives from Voldemort had been given. While most of the school thought Merlin and Arthur were ministry specialists, certain quarters had been allowed to hear their real names and report them back. All in all that meant the only person really in hiding was Morgana, and since she seemed incredibly good at turning herself into a middle aged woman with mouse brown hair and a slight stoop when she needed to be anywhere outside safe areas, it didn't seem to be much of a problem.
Harry hoped Voldemort was quaking in his boots given the news. Of course, given that the evil wizard was completely insane, he doubted Voldemort was capable of quaking.
He hadn't seen Draco since the ritual, but he found it very, very hard to stop thinking about him. It wasn't as if he could blurt out what he had seen, because he didn't want Draco to think he had invaded his privacy, but he really did want to make friends with the Slytherin. Having finally put his head back together after the whole witnessing Arthur feeding incident, he was now back on track to making that happen.
He had a plan and he was holding his Firebolt as he lifted his hand to knock on the Malfoy's door. He really wasn't expecting Lucius to be the one to open it.
"Mr Potter," Lucius said smoothly, very different from the way he had been ignored the last time he had been there, "what may I do for you?"
Lots of things had changed since his previous visit and it was more than obvious. The Aurors had been given a very nice story about how Lucius and Narcissa had been being held hostage by Lord Voldemort at Malfoy Manor as their home was used as a base of operations. There had been a raid on the residence only to find it empty and booby trapped, but even though they could not yet go back, the knowledge that his home was once again his had changed Lucius' attitude considerably.
"Mr Malfoy," Harry said, unable to shake the memories of most of the other times he had met Lucius in recent years, "I was wondering if Draco wanted to come flying with me?"
He knew that they both shared the pastime, so it had seemed like a good way to initiate peace talks.
"You are fully recovered then?" Lucius asked without answering the question.
Gryffindors were usually straightforward, when they wanted to know something they asked directly, but Harry knew Slytherins just didn't do that and he read the levels in Lucius' question. The man wanted to know if the ritual had worked and Harry couldn't blame him; if any part of Voldemort's soul was still in residence they had an insurmountable problem.
"Completely," he said and smiled as if he really was the idiot he was sure Lucius had always assumed him to be.
The man arched one aristocratic eyebrow at him for that and he blinked back innocently, even though he knew they were both aware that he knew exactly what he was doing.
"You are far more interesting that I was ever given reason to believe, Mr Potter," Lucius said after they had played the staring game for several seconds. "I will fetch Draco; you may ask him yourself."
And that was it; Lucius turned and walked back inside. The man had not invited Harry in, so he just stood there, but he didn't feel as if he had been rejected either. It was a little unsettling to know that Lucius Malfoy actually appeared to be paying attention to him as something more than an imbecilic obstacle now. However, when the younger Malfoy appeared, Harry forgot all about the father.
"Potter," Draco said, seeming just a little bit on edge.
"Harry," Harry responded with a smile, refusing to allow awkwardness to ruin the moment; "you did say you'd call me Harry."
The fact was, the mere sight of Draco made him feel very warm all of a sudden and his stomach fluttered with nerves. It wasn't like it had been with Ginny when he had felt this overwhelming need, but it was nice and he really hoped Arthur was right about Draco and that Draco might be open to a scruffy haired Gryffindor as a boyfriend.
"Harry," Draco said after a moment, "any particular reason you are gracing us with your presence?"
Something about the way he had reacted to Draco's greeting seemed to have changed things, but Harry wasn't sure why or exactly what.
"Well Merlin has finally let me out of his sight," Harry replied, trying for carefree and cheerful rather than nervous and needy, "and given me some free time and I know it might not be safe for you wandering the school alone at the moment, so I wondered if you wanted to go flying together?"
"You've been with Merlin all this time?" Draco asked, sounding surprised.
"Until today, yeah," Harry replied with a nod, beginning to catch on and hoping he was right; "we've been testing out my magic. After I nearly blew something up the first time I tried a spell he's had me go through everything from first year up and he finally deemed me safe to be out on my own."
That explanation seemed to please Draco, even though the Slytherin hid the emotion almost immediately, and Harry couldn't help thinking that maybe Draco thought he had used him and then dropped him. It would have been a very Slytherin thing to think, after all.
"Given your past history I'm not sure you'll ever be safe to be on your own," was Draco's dry response and Harry just rolled his eyes.
"Pot calling kettle," he said and grinned. "So, interested?"
"You'd be surprised," Draco said very quietly and Harry was pretty sure he wasn't supposed to have heard.
He just stood there pretending that he hadn't while Draco thought it over.
"I'll just get my broom," Draco said and Harry couldn't help the big smile that launched itself onto his face.
Luckily Draco had already turned, so he didn't feel like too much of an idiot.
They chatted about nothing on the way outside and made their way to the Quidditch pitch. Since everyone was in lessons it wasn't in use, so they had it all to themselves and Harry mounted his broom and pushed off just as Draco did the same.
"Thank you for keeping me sane and the right age," he said as they flew upwards side by side, getting used to the feeling of flying again.
"I am sure sane is a matter of opinion," Draco replied, which Harry figured was as close as he was going to get to an acceptance.
Slytherins could be tricky, but they were quite easy to read once you knew what you were looking for.
"Well as sane as I've ever been then," Harry replied and grinned and as if to prove the point went into a steep dive.
He whooped in delight at the feeling of air rushing over him and for a moment he forgot anything but the wonderful sensation of freedom. Of course Draco had followed him and they pulled up together, just short of the ground and for the first time there was a genuine smile on Draco's face.
"You are a complete nutter," Draco said, even though he was flushed with the same excitement Harry was feeling.
"I know," Harry replied and then veered off sharply and the chase was on.
They flew for nearly an hour, looping around, chasing each other and pulling off manoeuvres that only Seekers could. Harry loved every second of it and they only stopped because a group of second years turned up and needed the pitch. There would definitely be tongues wagging in the Great Hall later as talk of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy laughing and joking with each other made it back to the main school.
"That should give them enough gossip for the week," Draco said as they walked back towards the castle, but he didn't sound worried about it, which pleased Harry no end.
"The Hufflepuffs will have us romantically entangled by tea time," he replied, gathering his courage and testing the waters.
Draco just smirked at that.
"That'll shorten the odds on me in the Slyerthin betting pool," was the surprising reply.
"What betting pool?" Harry asked, not sure what Draco was talking about.
"The one on who will relieve pure little Potter of his virginity," Draco replied with an unrepentant grin; "the safe bets have been on the Weaselette this year."
Harry almost tripped over his Firebolt as that sunk in.
"Your house has a betting pool on my sex life?" he asked incredulously.
"Or lack there of," Draco replied, still clearly amused.
He tried to be outraged, he really did.
"I've been otherwise occupied," he said in his own defence.
That just made Draco laugh, which was a sound Harry found he was rapidly falling in love with. He had barely seen Draco smile the whole year and before that it had mostly been at other people's expense and he found that he liked the sound when it was to do with genuine amusement.
"Yeah, well, you can tell whoever's running the pool that Ginny is off the list," Harry decided to jump in with both feet; "I broke up with her this morning. For that matter so are any other girls on the list; turns out I'm gay."
It was Draco's turn to almost fall on his face and Harry just continued walking, all be it slowly.
"You're what?" Draco finally asked and ran to catch up and pulled him to a stop with one hand.
"Into boys," Harry replied, feeling rather vulnerable now that he had said it, but willing to stand by his statement.
He could have laughed it off as a joke, but that would rather have defeated the point of saying it in the first place.
"But Chang, Weasley, even Granger," Draco protested.
"I was never interested in Hermione," he felt the need to say first; Hermione was one of his two best friends and he was so not going there with his thought; "and the rest was all him, not me."
Draco clearly didn't know how to take that news.
"You seem very calm about the whole thing," the Slytherin finally said, seemingly unsure if he was about to explode about it or something. "Doesn't it bother you?"
The first time he had thought about it, it had bothered him, but Harry was of a different opinion now.
"Actually I find it quite liberating," he said honestly. "There's always been something off, y'know?"
Draco didn't look as if he really did know.
"And now I'm really me and it feels good," he finished and then smiled. "Come on, let's go and see if the house elves have any sweet things we can convince them to give us; I'm starving."
He wasn't sure quite how Draco was taking the news, but then Draco was a Slytherin and played everything close to his chest, so Harry assumed he was just going to have to wait and find out. At least things were, so far, going to plan.
End of Part 3
Chapter 4: Desperate Measures
AU from end of HBP. There are some things that are just not supposed to happen, some wrongs which should not occur; these are the things Merlin knows he and Arthur were created to prevent. Then of course there are also some things that would make things better if they happened and folly or stupidity has stopped them from occurring; Merlin likes to put these back on track as well; Arthur calls that part meddling.
category: slash, ch_story: fulcrum, fandom: harry potter, fandom: merlin, fictype: long fic, genre: vampires, pairing: hp - harry/draco, pairing: me - merlin/arthur, rating: r to nc17, type: fiction
Harry had had another busy day when Merlin had decided to test his limits and had him performing magic all morning and all afternoon, but he was looking forward too much to when he was let go to be really bothered. He was pleased with his first overtures of friendship to Draco; they hadn't been rejected out of hand and Harry was pretty sure Draco was interested in him, even if Draco wouldn't admit it. Arthur's little talk had actually been incredibly useful and he was almost feeling confident about the whole thing, although 'almost' was the operative word. He couldn't really figure out how to go from offering his friendship to indicating that he was interested in more. It wasn't as if he'd been any good at it with girls, since the only two he had been interested in had kind of fallen into his lap because of other circumstances and he had absolutely no clue what to do with a boy.
The last thing he was expecting as he went to find Draco to invite him to do some more flying was for said Slytherin to stumble round the corner and into his arms. Draco was grey as a ghost and was clearly having trouble breathing.
"Draco!" Harry said, catching the other wizard and lowering them both into a sitting position. "What's wrong?"
Draco looked up at him, eyes glassy, but held out his arm. In the place where the Dark Mark would have been was an ugly green blotch.
"He must ... have ... had a ... backup ... plan," Draco wheezed, barely able to get the words out.
As if it had taken all his strength, Draco then passed out into his arms and for a moment he panicked. Draco was dying, right there in his arms the object of his affections was passing away and there was nothing he could do. Without even really knowing why he was doing it, he put his head back and screamed; "Merlin!" at the top of his lungs.
He didn't actually expect Merlin to step out of thin air, but that was what happened. One second the corridor was empty except for him and Draco and the next Merlin and Arthur were there as well, entering as silently as they had done the night on the roof.
"Voldemort," Harry said, pushing Draco at Merlin in desperation, "he did something."
Merlin immediately took Draco from him, looking the Slytherin over with a practiced eye.
"Arthur, go and check on his parents," Merlin said quickly, "I'm taking Draco to the hospital wing. Harry, hold onto my arm and walk with me when we stand up."
Arthur did not argue, just disappeared down the corridor towards where Draco's parents were staying and Harry stood when Merlin did. For such a skinny man, Merlin was very strong and seemed to hold Draco without effort. Harry slipped his hand over Merlin's arm, lightly touching Draco as well and followed when Merlin led. It felt like he was covered by ice for a second and he couldn't breathe and then he was in the hospital wing and Merlin pulled away from him to lay Draco on one of the beds.
All Harry could do was stand there as Madam Pomfrey hurried over and began to assist Merlin. The pair were talking to each other rapidly in low tones and Harry couldn't really make out what they were saying, so he just stood there stupidly, feeling helpless.
Arthur arrived with Draco's parents and Snape (Harry assumed the head of Slytherin had been visiting the couple), but they all hung back and just watched as well. Merlin and Madam Pomfrey were intent on their work, both casting spells in desperate succession. Eventually Merlin just put his hands on Draco's chest and closed his eyes. Draco convulsed under the touch once and then was very, very still.
The way Madam Pomfrey and Merlin looked at each other when Merlin finally drew back made Harry's blood run cold. After one more low conversation Merlin turned to them all and walked over.
"It's a curse," Merlin said to those assembled in the hospital wing. "It seems to have been time based, probably triggered if Draco failed to contact Voldemort for a certain period of time. It's contaminated just about every part of his body; it's killing him."
Harry wanted to kill something, anything he could get his hands on and preferably Voldemort himself, but he just stood there.
"Can you reverse it?" Lucius asked in a clipped tone.
"With time, maybe," Merlin said, but the wizard's face was still dark, "but we don't have time. The magic I have cast on him will only hold for an hour at most and the curse will take only minutes to kill him."
Narcissa leant against her husband, clearly distraught.
"Is there nothing that can be done?" was Lucius' next question.
"Only one thing," it was Arthur who spoke.
"The curse only works on human flesh," Merlin said simply; "if Arthur turns Draco into a vampire the curse will break."
There was a sob from Narcissa at that and Arthur looked rather shocked at the suggestion, but did not object.
"Can he be woken to give him the choice?" Lucius asked after a moment of comforting his wife. "Draco may prefer death."
Vampires were children of darkness, some considered the curse worse than death. Harry could not bear the thought of Draco confined to shadows.
"Merlin," he said quietly, grasping at straws, "can I speak to you, please?"
"We are a little busy here, Boy," Snape said in an acid tone.
Harry didn't blame the man, he was not feeling particularly pleasant either.
"It's important," Harry said and stared the Potions' Master down.
Then he looked at Merlin and tried to convey what he was thinking with his eyes. Merlin nodded and walked towards him.
"A few minutes will make no difference," Merlin told the others and then Harry and he moved off a little way.
"How did you bond with Arthur?" Harry asked in little more than a whisper as soon as they were out of earshot of the others.
Merlin did not look at all surprised by the question.
"I did what my heart told me to," Merlin said simply.
It was not really an answer, but Harry hadn't actually expected much more.
"Could I do it?" he asked quietly, needing to understand.
"Harry, this is not a onetime spell," Merlin told him; "it does not go away. This would be forever. I know I've been encouraging you and Draco together, but in truth you barely know him."
"I do know him," Harry insisted, trying to explain. "During the ceremony I saw him; I don't know how or why, but I really saw him. We touched somehow, much more than was intended. I know what he will say when you give him the choice to become a vampire. He'll turn you down. He's going to die, Merlin and I need to help if he'll let me."
Merlin frowned a little then and placed his hand over Harry's heart.
"Show me," Merlin said and Harry felt his mind race back to the moment when he had been in the tank.
It was as if he lived the seconds again at Merlin's command and the power of the wizard in front of him awed him. He felt Merlin understand, felt the other man reach into him and see the truth and then he was back, standing in the hospital wing. Merlin was looking him directly in the eye.
"This is what I did," Merlin told him and he was once again enveloped in memory, only this time it was not his, it was Merlin's.
He felt pain and desperation and need and overall, he felt love. It washed over him with such intensity that it took his breath away and he knew instantly why Dumbledore claimed it was the strongest force in the universe.
"Can you do that?" was Merlin's straightforward question when Harry finally came back to himself.
Before Harry had been thinking about tentative dates, maybe sneaking in a kiss or two, but there wasn't any time for that. Draco was dying; someone else he cared for was being taken away and his choices had been removed. He dipped into himself and found the fledgling flame of what he was feeling for Draco and he fed it, letting it burn higher and higher. There was no room for doubt, no time for wondering and finding his way; he just had to believe.
"I can do that," he said with all the certainty of a man obsessed.
Merlin smiled at him, but there was something almost sad in the immortal's eyes.
"Then we'll give him that choice as well," Merlin told him softly.
Then Merlin turned back to the rest of the room and walked towards Draco, Harry followed.
"We have to ask him now," Merlin said simply and went to Draco's bedside. "I can't wake him up completely or it will break the magic keeping him alive, but I can speak to his mind and he will be able to answer."
No one chose to object and as Harry watched, Merlin placed his hands on either side of Draco's head and closed his eyes.
"Draco," Merlin said in a low tone, as if hypnotised himself, "can you hear me?"
For a moment there was nothing and then Draco shifted slightly.
"Yes," was the whispered reply.
It sounded like such an effort for Draco to speak and Harry could almost feel Draco's pain.
"You are dying, Draco," Merlin said, but Harry was sure there was more information passing between the two; "do you understand?"
There was another pause.
"Yes," was the eventual reply.
"There is only one way to save you," were the words Merlin spoke aloud, but from the way Draco moved slightly, Harry could tell that Merlin was explaining far more without speech.
"No ..." Draco began to say, but Merlin did not break the connection.
"Listen," was all Merlin said so everyone could hear and Draco stilled again.
Harry knew that Merlin had to be showing Draco his offer and he waited.
"Too important," Draco more breathed than said, but Harry still heard it; "can't risk him."
That was the point where Harry gave up being rational and stepped up to the other side of the bed. Madam Pomfrey and Arthur tried to stop him, but he placed his hand over Merlin's and left himself wide open for Merlin's power. He was sucked in almost instantly and it felt as if he was floating in a fog, but as he moved forward two figures began to resolve. One was Merlin and here there was no denying what Merlin was as he looked at Harry with gold eyes, skin almost glowing with power, and the other was Draco.
"That was dangerous," Merlin said and he could feel the ancient wizard's power drawing him in.
"That was necessary," he replied, equally as firm in his view point.
"I won't let you sacrifice yourself for me," Draco said and sounded adamant.
It was clearly going to be one of those conversations.
"That's what I thought you were saying, which is why I came in here," he said, coming to a halt very close to the other two, "and let's get one thing straight, I am not more important than you."
Draco actually had the gall to laugh at him for that statement.
"Of course you are," Draco told him; "you are the only one who can kill Voldemort, that makes you the most important person on the planet at the moment."
"You're a Slytherin, you're supposed to be more interested in saving your own arse than the rest of the world, so just say yes," Harry countered in a very pointed tone.
For that comment Draco gave him a very cool stare, since they both knew Draco was not simply motivated by self-interest.
"If you fulfil the prophecy at least my family and friends will be safe," Draco said after a very heavy silence.
Harry looked over to Merlin for help, but the other wizard seemed to have gone all impassive ancient sage on him and he realised he was on his own.
"I am not some self-sacrificing Gryffindor idiot, okay," he said, feeling just a little desperate; "I'm not doing this out of some weird need to thank you for helping me. I'm in love with you," he ploughed on; "when you held me in reality I saw you, all of you, just for a moment. I saw behind the masks, behind the fear, the anger, the petty spite, the games. I saw you for who you really are and I fell in love with you."
It was the best he could do and it at least shocked Draco; Harry could tell that much. The Slytherin didn't seem to know what to say to that.
"I thought it was just me who saw you," Draco finally said very quietly and Harry realised it had been a two way street.
He knew he had Draco's full attention now.
"I know you probably think I can't possibly know that I love you," he tried to affirm his point, "but I do. If there is one thing Gryffindors are good at, it's knowing our hearts."
He stood there just waiting for something, for anything.
"That just makes you a bigger fool," Draco said, trying to sound snide if Harry was any judge and not managing it; "you are still too important."
Harry was not listening to that and he reached out, grabbed Draco and dragged him in for a kiss. It might have been their minds that were meeting, but it definitely felt physical and Harry had to make Draco understand. If the way Draco reacted on instinct and kissed him back was anything to go by, Harry was sure that he was not the only self-sacrificing idiot in the room.
"Don't you get it?" he asked as they finally parted. "This world of ours tries to take away everything I love: my parents; Sirius; and if all my life is just about Voldemort, he wins the final victory. I can't let you die anymore than I can let anyone else die and I can't just be about killing him. Please let me help you."
The silence seemed to stretch on forever as Draco just looked at him.
"You don't even know if it will work," Draco said eventually.
"Nothing in life is a sure thing, Draco," he said, refusing to give up, "not even for Slytherin masterminds, but some of us seem to come out winners when we gamble."
Draco frowned at him, clearly not sure.
"You must choose," Merlin said, finally entering the conversation, "time is running short."
Draco frowned some more.
"You really..?" Draco began to ask.
"Yes," Harry said, feeling exasperated; "I do, everything, whatever you could possibly be asking, yes!"
To begin with Draco looked startled by his outburst and then he smiled a little, amused.
"And there I thought maybe you had calmed down since your rebirth," Draco said and then looked over to Merlin. "You won't let me hurt him?"
Harry felt his heartbeat speeding up.
"As little as possible," Merlin replied with a nod.
It wasn't a positive answer, but Harry knew it was all Draco was going to get and he knew the answer when Draco looked back at him.
"Yes," Draco said simply and Harry couldn't help smiling.
"Say it aloud, Draco," Merlin said and then Harry found himself back in the hospital wing.
"Yes," Draco said in a tiny whisper, looking so fragile in the hospital bed.
Harry would have rejoiced, but it turned out that the mental connection took a lot of energy from those instigating it, even when Merlin was doing most of the work, and his knees collapsed under him, leaving him sitting on the floor. Not that he cared; he was too happy that Draco had not rejected him.
Surprisingly, even after they knew what he intended, no one tried to talk Harry out of it, not even Dumbledore. He wasn't sure if it was because Merlin made no objection or the fact that everyone had decided there was no point in arguing with someone who was clearly insane, but it made no difference.
If someone wanted it to be, the Room of Requirement could be the most secure place in Hogwarts and so that's where Merlin decided everything had to be done. While Merlin had been dealing with that, Arthur had taken Harry aside and explained a great many things, which was why Harry had gone to the prefect's bathroom and prepared himself for all possible outcomes. By the time he made it back to the Room of Requirement, it had been set up completely differently from when he had been in residence and everything seemed to have been prepared. He waited quietly off to one side as Arthur brought Draco in and placed him on the bed that was in the centre of the room.
The plan was really quite simple: Arthur would drink from Draco; Merlin could remove the magic keeping Draco in his current state; Arthur would feed Draco his blood, thus infecting Draco with vampirism; Merlin and Arthur would leave and Harry would wait for Draco to wake up. After that the strategy was a little vague, but then Draco probably would have said that was typical of all Gryffindor plans. Merlin would be keeping a mental eye on proceedings so those outside could stage an intervention if necessary, but Harry had no intention of letting that happen. If others had to come in then he had failed and he was not about to do that.
"Everyone ready?" Merlin asked, even though it was a redundant question; they were running out of time, they had to be ready.
Harry just nodded out of habit and so did Arthur. They had a little under a quarter of an hour before Merlin's magic keeping Draco alive would fail and they were not about to wait around.
"Harry, don't come near me while I'm doing this," Arthur said, pulling off his boots; "I need to bring the vampire out completely and I could be unpredictable."
The fact that he was going to be up close and personal with a vampire in the near future did not stop Harry's self-preservation instincts and he was not about to disagree.
"Okay," he said, moving to the far wall by the end of the bed.
The last thing he wanted to do was be a hindrance and staying out of the way was his best bet. His time would come later.
Merlin and Arthur spoke quietly in a tone Harry could not hear and then Arthur climbed onto the bed while Merlin stood by the side. Sitting Draco up, Arthur knelt behind him, pulling Draco against him so that Arthur was supporting Draco against his chest in a sitting position. Draco looked so small and pale next to Arthur, but, as Harry watched, Arthur's skin paled as well and the veil of humanity dropped away from the immortal king. It was like seeing Merlin when he was working magic, breathtaking, beautiful and a little bit frightening.
One of Arthur's arms was wound around Draco, holding the unconscious Slytherin firmly to him, the other was to the side, fingers holding Draco's arm in a steady grip. Arthur did not waste any time, opening his mouth to reveal very long sharp fangs, and sinking them into the vulnerable skin of Draco's neck.
It seemed to Harry like there should have been some reaction from Draco, some movement to acknowledge the act that was being committed on his body, but there was nothing. There was not even a hitch in Draco's slow breathing and Harry found that most disconcerting of all. It was as if the world was barely turning as virtual silence reigned in the room. He could hear Arthur drinking, but that was all.
The occasional dribble of blood escaped Arthur's mouth as he feasted, but there were no other signs that anything was happening at all. Only when Arthur finally drew back could Harry really see anything as the bloody wound on Draco's neck was revealed. Then, in the next second, Harry wished the quiet could have continued, because Merlin stepped forward and touched Draco, releasing the spell holding him in virtual stasis.
Draco's breathing went from slow and smooth to a raspy death rattle in the blink of an eye and Draco began to move. The movements weren't strong or even coordinated, but it was clear he was fighting and Harry was pretty sure Draco's only real opponent was death.
Arthur efficiently ripped into his own wrist with his teeth and then took Draco's chin in his other hand, tipping Draco's head back, forcing his mouth open and pushing the bloody wrist against it. Draco fought harder then as if he was trying to reject what was happening, but Arthur held him easily and eventually Harry saw Draco swallow. That was all it took, one drink of vampire blood from a vampire who had just fed from you; the circle was complete.
Harry felt the magic in the room shift and over a few seconds Draco became still again. It was done and the waiting was over. Finally there was something Harry could do other than watch and he picked up the bowl of warm water from the small table where Merlin had left it over a low flame and carried it to the bed. Draco was out cold now, but he was covered in blood and sweat and other things Harry did not think about and they were not about to leave Draco in that state to wake up. As Arthur held Draco, Merlin began efficiently stripping the Slytherin and Harry dunked a sponge into the lightly scented water.
Vampires were sensitive to magic, something Harry had not known, so they weren't using potions or spells directly on Draco while he was in such a fragile state. Hence the water had some gentle cleaning agents in it, but nothing inherently magical.
Harry refused to feel embarrassed about the fact that Draco's body fascinated him, after all he was not going to be leaving with Arthur and Merlin so he really needed to get used to the idea. Putting his own feelings aside, he set about using the sponge to gently clean Draco's face and neck while Merlin and Arthur finished stripping the unconscious Slytherin. Draco was still too thin, but he did seem to have been putting on some weight. Between Snape and Madam Pomfrey, Harry was sure Draco had been subjected to many Replenishing potions and he was beginning to look as if he at least ate.
Ignoring anything other than the functional duty he was performing, he carefully moved over Draco's body, washing away the signs of the struggle between life and death which had been going on in the Slytherin since he had collapsed. He had a job to do and that was all he focused on, making sure every inch of Draco was clean as Merlin and Arthur helped by moving Draco when necessary and using a soft towel to dry the pale skin when Harry was done.
It took them a good twenty minutes or so to finish and they worked in silence. Only when Draco was laid out serenely under a clean sheet and, looking for all the world as if he was sleeping peacefully, and the lights had been lowered did anyone speak.
"Time for us to go," Merlin said simply and took the cleaning equipment from Harry.
Harry also took his wand and gave it to Arthur to hold for him. Draco's wand was also in Arthur's keeping, because the last thing anyone wanted was a pissed off vampire to be armed.
"I will be watching," Merlin told him in a serious tone, "but if you need help call and I will act immediately. Do not sacrifice yourself for Draco if this does not work; he would not want it, understand?"
Harry nodded; he was all too aware of what was at risk, but he already knew it would work; it had to.
Merlin gave him a quick hug and then nodded towards the door.
"Good luck," was all Arthur said and then the two were going, leaving Harry by himself with the unconscious form of Draco.
It could take anything from an hour to six hours for the vampiric change to take place, so all Harry could do was wait. There was a chair placed at the end of the bed where he could see Draco clearly and he sat down on it, leant back and settled in to find out what would happen.
Harry had no real idea how much time had passed, but he thought it was a couple of hours by the time he finally saw Draco move. At first it was just the tiniest twitch, but given how completely still, almost deathly still, Draco had been for the whole time, Harry saw it. It was the fingers of Draco's right hand that moved first, just flexing the tiniest amount and stilling again for a few seconds before slowly curling up and then releasing. The movement almost looked like a test and then, in one fluid movement, Draco sat up, the sheet sliding down his body and pooling around his waist.
Draco's eyes glittered in the dim candlelight in the room as if they were full of little red sparks. The only way to describe the expression on Draco's face was hungry.
"Hello, Harry," Draco said, voice low and sexy.
There was no humanity in Draco's features, no caring, just lust and need, and Harry was in no doubt about the danger he was in. Doubt suddenly flared in his heart: if he failed in what he intended to do not only would Draco be condemned to remain a vampire, but he could very well be killed by Draco's first hunger. Even Merlin might not be able to save him. It took an effort of will to push the feeling away.
"Hello, Draco," Harry replied, staying right where he was at the end of the bed.
"I can smell your arousal," Draco said, crawling out from under the covers onto all fours like a big cat.
"Your lines are usually better than that," Harry said, although his breath caught in his throat at the sight of Draco, naked and slinking towards him.
If he had had any doubts that he liked the male of the species, they would have been dashed by the way his body was reacting. Draco smiled at him, a wide smile with long deadly fangs where his incisors should have been.
"It wasn't a line," Draco replied, stopping in front of him, just out of reach and kneeling up; "I can and I like it. Why don't you come closer?"
Harry felt pressure on his mind trying to compel him to move, but he stood his ground; it was not the easiest thing, but he had gone against worse.
"No," he said firmly, remaining out of reach, although he doubted he would be for long if Draco felt like pushing the point, "I want to negotiate first."
Draco's smile widened at that.
"Why should I?" the Slytherin asked, glancing around the room as if checking for other people. "You can't stop me taking what I want."
"Actually I could," he replied, sure of himself even in such circumstance, "but I don't want to."
Draco's expression had hardened at his first words, but the vampire was looking interested by the end.
"I know what you want to do, Harry," Draco said, voice as smooth as silk, "why should I even let you try?"
That was the crux of the matter; Draco as a human might have been willing, but from what Arthur had said, a vampire's outlook was very different. Harry knew that he had to interest the vampire before he could find the man underneath.
"Look at it this way," he said, letting his eyes roam the lines of Draco's body, unable to help himself, "if I succeed, you end up immune to most problems vampires have and you're still immortal, if I fail, you get to eat me anyway, which will give you strength to try and get out of here, and either way you get me willing and responsive. It's a win/win situation."
For a moment or two Draco appeared thoughtful and then smiled again.
"You make excellent points," Draco responded and looked him up and down, raising one aristocratic eyebrow, "but I can't see what I'm getting."
Vampires were interested in two things, blood and sex, and Harry had been under no illusions about what he had to do. He'd put a robe on after his bath, but that was all and, with a shrug, it fell to the floor.
"Will you come here now?" Draco asked with an almost innocent expression.
Harry stepped out of the pool of his robe and towards the bed. He had never thought he was much to look at, but the way Draco's eyes were roaming over his body hungrily he had to believe he wasn't too bad. Draco knelt up, all pale flesh and oozing power and Harry let himself be caught, just a little. The fact that Draco was hard and focussed entirely on him gave him a little thrill and when Draco reached out a hand, he took it and let himself be drawn onto the bed. He knelt in front of Draco, eyes closing as Draco lent in to him and drew in a deep breath.
"You've never done this before," Draco said in little more than a whisper.
That almost made Harry laugh.
"You know when I found out I liked boys," he said, using the moment to fight the hold Draco's vampire power was trying to put on him.
For once Draco did not seem interested in laughing at him and wrapped an arm around him, drawing him close in a very possessive gesture.
"I meant never," Draco said as Harry's mind tried to dance away as his cock bumped against Draco's in the close embrace, "not with a boy or a girl. You're pure."
That was not a term he would have used, but he really couldn't think of anything to say in light of the new sensations running through him as someone touched him where nothing but his own hand had been before trying to make his brain melt.
"Yes," he acknowledged, since he couldn't be bothered with arguing.
Draco smiled, revealing his fangs again, sending shivers of anticipation through Harry. He couldn't help remembering how Arthur had bitten Merlin and he really couldn't say he was afraid anymore.
"I never knew you were such a good boy, Harry," Draco purred in his ear, licking along the edge in a way that made him moan. "I'm going to have you, My Little Gryffindor."
"I'm not little," Harry managed to reply with just a little outrage, even as Draco nibbled lightly on his ear and made him forget why he wanted to be outraged in the first place.
Draco pushed his hips forward while holding Harry in place and the friction was unbelievably good, making Harry grab at Draco, half to stop from overbalancing and half because he wanted them to stay as close as possible. For someone whose most amazing physical encounter was kissing a girl when she didn't burst into tears, it was incredible and Harry wanted more. He tried to moved his own hips against Draco's to take a little control, but Draco pulled away slightly as soon as he tried and he found himself whining in loss.
"So eager," Draco said, clearing enjoying every second, "but I think I want to taste you first."
Taking hold of his glasses, Draco pulled them off Harry's face and just tossed them into a corner. If Harry had had the brain power, he would have protested, but he just wanted that closeness back. He was turned on like he had never been turned on before and he wanted more; he was greedy for more and it never even occurred to him to object when Draco pulled him close again. Draco's lips touched his neck and he felt a warm, wet tongue dart over his skin and he just let his head fall to one side to give Draco better access. In that moment he didn't care what was actually happening and for just a little while he forgot why he was there and let himself enjoy it.
He was not playing a role or fulfilling a duty, he wanted Draco, fully and for real and he gave himself over to the vampire completely. He felt Draco's fangs slide into his skin and it hurt; it hurt so much that he shuddered and moaned and his eyes pricked with tears, but there was something else as well. He couldn't define it, but it stopped him trying to pull away, even with the pain, and he finally understood what made a hunting vampire so dangerous. There was nothing tangible, no one thing that made him want to stay, but the act spoke to the very basest parts of him nature. His body was flooded with adrenaline and hormones and he was riding so high he could have been on a broom.
He knew he was losing it; his mind felt fuzzy and his head was spinning and his time was running out. This was not about sex and blood, it was about far more and he could not relinquish that. It was time and he knew it as clearly as he remembered his own name.
There were no instructions on what he had to do next, no plan or carefully laid out ritual. What Merlin had done had been instinctive, he had felt it when Merlin had shown him and he had to go the same way. Fighting through the haze trying to descend on his mind, he found the flame of emotion he had been feeding constantly since he had realised what he had to do. When he wanted to be, he was single minded and completely focused and it was burning brightly. There was only one thing left to do and he fed it with his magic. Like setting a match to gas, he felt a kind of metaphorical explosion within himself and his magic flared.
He felt Draco stiffen against him, fangs still buried in his flesh, and then the physical disappeared. His mind was capable of throwing off the Imperius cure from Voldemort and when totally committed it was an amazing and dangerous thing. Backed up by the powerful emotions he had let build and build, it forced his magic in one direction and one direction only; straight into Draco. It was like a wave crashing into a rock as he hit Draco's own considerable power, but his magic wound round the rock like a blanket and there were cracks in the armour that his own power could seep through.
He did not care about himself, about maintaining his own being, all he cared about was Draco and he was completely committed. With everything he had, he pushed at the alien force keeping him out; he let it reach back and contaminate him as he threw away all his defences in his need to reach Draco. They merged, bit by bit, Draco fighting him all the way, until finally he touched something beyond the outer shield. Something exploded just as he had. It felt like he was being shattered along with the protection around Draco's magic and for a while everything went away in the super nova of power.
Harry hummed quietly in the back of his throat and squirmed a little; something felt really good. It took him a few more seconds to work out what it was and then he realised that there was a tongue and lips on his neck, gently doing things that were sending wonderful sensations down his nerves. He blinked open his eyes to find Draco leaning over him and he couldn't contain the moan the forced its way out of him as Draco lightly nibbled on his neck. That was when he felt the lips against his neck twisting into a smile.
"I wasn't sure you were ready to wake up," Draco said, voice little more than a whisper and then Draco pulled back.
Harry felt rested so he assumed he had been asleep some time and the first thing he noticed was that Draco appeared human; the pale skin and glittering eyes were no longer prominent. Draco was still pale, but then some of the ghosts had better colour than Draco on a good day. Harry couldn't help himself, he reached out to touch and his fingers gently grazed the side of Draco's face.
"You did it," Draco said as if needing to assert the truth; "don't ask me how, but you did it."
"How do you feel?" Harry asked, lifting himself up on one elbow.
"Strange," Draco replied with a small smile, "but a lot more human than I did. How about you?"
For once there was no hint of derision in Draco's question, only concern.
Harry thought about that, since he had only just woken up, and he couldn't say he felt much different. There was the sense of something else in the back of his mind, which he knew instinctively was Draco, but, other than that, not a lot seemed to have changed. It was, however, as he glanced at one of the candles dancing merrily in its holder on the wall that something rather obvious occurred to him. He sat up rather rapidly and stared around the room.
"What?" Draco asked, sounding just a little worried.
"My eyes," Harry said and then laughed as he gazed around, climbing to his knees so he could see everything.
"Potter, stop talking in riddles," Draco said, clearly a little annoyed at not understanding.
At that Harry turned to his lover and grinned.
"What am I not wearing?" he asked simply.
"Anything at all," Draco said and Harry felt himself blushing at the heat of Draco's gaze as his lover looked him up and down.
"My glasses, you idiot," Harry said, smiling brightly, "and I can see you perfectly."
That made Draco smile as well.
"Good, because I like seeing your eyes," was Draco's swift response, "and now that you are no longer myopic you can find your way over here, because I believe we were in the middle of something that you interrupted."
Harry felt all his body heat pool in his belly and his loins at that and he walked on his knees back to Draco as his lover knelt up to meet him.
"I did, didn't I," he said, allowing Draco to gently draw him in until they were skin to skin.
There was no longer a need to do this, nothing forcing either of them into it, but Harry found he wanted to just as much as before.
"May I taste you?" Draco asked, sounding almost reverent.
"Yes," Harry replied without hesitation; "you can do anything you like."
That probably wasn't a wise thing to say to a Slytherin, but Harry meant it, so he said it anyway. Draco gave him a little smile for that and lent forward so that they were forehead to forehead.
"I'm going to take you up on that," Draco said, all but breathing it rather than saying it.
Harry's breath caught in his throat at the tone, but he was a little surprised when Draco gently kissed him on the lips. Draco had not attempted anything like that before and it made everything that much more intimate somehow. He kissed back, not really sure what he was doing, but following his instincts and opening his mouth when Draco's tongue touched his lips. In the back of his mind he wondered if that is what Draco had meant about tasting him and he allowed Draco access to his mouth as he did his best to give as good as he got. He was breathless by the time Draco broke away and began to kiss along his jaw line and then down his neck.
The skin was still tender where Draco had bitten him before; vampire bites healing much faster than normal wounds, but not having had time to return to normal. He heard himself whimper quietly as Draco's lips touched the sensitive spot in the same way as that which had woken him up. This time when Draco opened his mouth and bit him, the pain was there, but the pleasure blossomed in him instantly almost as if he was feeling Draco's pleasure at drinking from him. He gasped and clung to Draco as his nerves sung and all he could hear was the blood pumping through his veins. The arousal pounding through him was almost blinding and he wasn't sure if he wanted the bite to go on and on or if he needed it to stop.
When Draco finally pulled back, Harry sagged as the intense sensation was suddenly cut off and he leant against Draco as he let his system slowly settle down. Given the way Draco was leaning against him as well, he thought it might have been as intense for Draco.
"Lie down," Draco urged him and he let Draco help lower him to the bed.
Harry did not have a submissive personality, but he was new at this, clearly Draco wasn't, and there was something very dominant and protective about the way Draco was handling the whole thing. It kind of made his belly flicker with excitement and he decided to just go with the flow.
"You are delicious," Draco told him with a predatory smile and Harry felt himself flushing, because the way Draco was looking at him meant his lover was not just talking about how he tasted.
"You know what you're doing, right?" he felt silly for asking, but needed to anyway.
"Since I was fifteen," Draco replied, running a finger down his chest; "one of the older Slytherins was happy to show me the ropes, for a price of course. He was a very good teacher."
The idea of that kind of arrangement boggled Harry's mind, but then there were some parts of the Slytherin mind he knew he would never understand. Since Draco seemed quite happy about it, Harry just accepted it.
"And now," Draco said, flicking a fingertip over one nipple and making him gasp, "I will teach you and I expect you to be a very good student, because we're going to be doing this a lot."
That made Harry smile; Draco was nothing if not direct when it came to sex it seemed.
"You'd be amazed how good a student I am when I enjoy the curriculum," he replied and gasped again as Draco applied attention to his other nipple.
"Let's see how attentive you are," Draco replied and smiled that very dangerous smile again.
It should have warned Harry that Draco was about to take him apart; it was the same smile Draco used when cocksure about beating him to the snitch, but he still wasn't prepared.
"Bloody hell," was about all he could say when Draco started to touch him and one hand snaked down his body and onto his cock while Draco used his mouth on one of the nipples he had just made hypersensitive.
It took Draco less than a minute to have him incoherent and within five he was splayed on the bed, boneless and almost so hard it hurt. Not that Harry had anything to compare it to, but Draco appeared to be very, very good at sex. He had no choice but to let Draco lead, because he had very little motor control to attempt anything himself.
"I still haven't tasted you everywhere," Draco whispered in his ear and Harry was confused for about five seconds, which was the time it took Draco to shimmy down his body and wrap sinful lips around his cock.
He couldn't help it; it took one suck and he was coming with absolutely nothing he could do about it. That just seemed to urge Draco to swallow him whole and milk him for every last drop. He felt as if his brain had been liquefied by the time Draco shimmied back up him looking inordinately pleased with himself and licking his lips. Harry wasn't sure if he should be mortified or not, so he blushed for good measure.
"Staying power comes with practice," Draco said, smirking, but seeming to understand his dilemma, "but not to worry; you'll be ready again by the time we get to the main event."
The smirk dropped off Draco's face then and Harry found himself looking in to thoughtful, serious eyes.
"That's if you want me," Draco said and for the first time Harry saw just a touch of doubt.
It seemed that even Slytherins has moments when they were not supremely confident. Doing his very best to put together thought and motor control at the same time; not an easy feat given what they had just done, Harry pushed himself up on one arm.
"I love you," he said simply, reaching out and touching Draco, "and I want you. That is the only reason we are here."
The plain honest truth seemed to be the best way to go since it explained everything. They might have been forced into this by circumstance, but Harry always went in to everything with his whole heart and he had given that to Draco.
"That feeling in the back of your mind," he said with a small smile and poked Draco's chest; "that's me and you're stuck with me."
That seemed to snap Draco out of his self-doubt and Draco smiled again.
"Then," Draco said, confidence blooming again, "I assume you came prepared."
"Table drawer," Harry said, heartbeat speeding up again where it had just started to slow down.
There was a small table next to the bed where Harry had placed anything they might need and Draco moved away towards it and came back with a small pot in his hand. Lube was not something Harry had much experience with, but Arthur had assured him the small pot would work well.
"Roll onto your front and lift up just a bit," Draco told him, "and I'll show you what all the fuss is about."
Harry couldn't help being a little nervous as he did as he was asked, going partially to his knees as Draco moved round behind him.
"Just relax," Draco told him, brushing a hand over his buttocks, "and I'll do the rest."
That of course was easy to say, but not so much to do and Harry tried his best to concentrate on how nice it felt to have Draco playing with his arse rather than how nervous the vulnerable position made him feel. When Draco dragged one lubricated finger over his exposed hole, he couldn't help shifting on the bed; it felt so weird.
"Get comfortable, Harry," Draco said, voice calm, but serious, "we're going to be here for a while."
Taking a long, slow deep breath, Harry made himself settle down and he relaxed into a more comfortable position that still gave Draco access and Draco went back to stroking his arse. It lulled him into a sense of security which meant when Draco slowly pushed one lubricated finger into him it slid in easily. The sensation was pleasant and caused his cock to throb with arousal at the intimacy of the gesture. He was a little surprised at how quickly he was getting hard again, but as Draco worked he found his arousal building in leaps and bounds.
"I think you may be a natural," Draco told him as he moaned when two fingers were pushed into him and he just opened up for them.
"So good," was all Harry found to say.
He had tried to imagine what this would be like, but he had failed on just about every level. Hermione had tried to give him a little talk on being gay and how not everyone liked everything, bless her heart for trying, but it had been unnecessary, because he definitely liked it. Draco worked him looser and looser and it felt amazing and the little comments of praise Draco dropped in every now and then made his feel cared for and wanted. In the end, after Draco had worked up to three fingers and had him moaning wantonly, he was rather disappointed when the fingers were removed.
"Onto you back now," Draco told him in a tone that begged no argument; "I want to be able to see your face when I slide inside."
His nervousness spiked at that, but he turned over and couldn't help it as his gaze ran over Draco and centred on the long, erect cock hanging between his lover's legs. Somehow that cock looked a lot bigger than fingers.
"Lift your legs," Draco said, and then helped him into position as he moved to obey.
The smile Draco gave him was almost as hungry as the one he had seen on his lover when he had been fully vampire and Harry swallowed down the desire to squirm. Draco's gaze was hot and appreciative and Harry could almost feel it like a physical thing. He felt very strange and exposed with his legs in the air. Draco was being so firm, but so gentle as well. There was no doubt in his mind that Draco was going to have him as he had promised before and it made him tremble just to think about it; not from fear but from anticipation. As Draco moved over him, he looked up into Draco's eyes and the silver grey eyes staring back at him glowed just slightly, making Harry heartbeat speed up even more.
He could not take his eyes off Draco as his lover reached for the pot of lube and slicked himself from root to tip.
"Are you ready for me, Harry?" Draco asked, leaning back over him as if he owned him.
"Yes," Harry said, feeling every second of anticipation as if it was an hour.
When Draco's cock touched his arse, just lightly, he almost tensed up, but Draco waited, seeming to sense the momentary anxiety and then he nodded. With his permission, Draco carefully eased forward, pushing against him and then in to him. For a moment he thought his body would object and refuse Draco entry as his muscles complained, but Draco kept pushing and Harry felt himself open up as Draco filled him.
He wasn't really sure what noise came out of his mouth as Draco slid into him, something between pleasure and discomfort and he let his head fall back onto the bed as he breathed through the disconcerting sensations. There was a little pain, but nothing the made him want Draco to stop and it definitely didn't stop his cock from throbbing mercilessly.
Draco did not push all the way home, but after waiting a few seconds Draco pulled out again someway before sliding back in. This time Draco moaned as well and Harry gave up trying to be even remotely coherent. He felt vulnerable and possessed and loved in a way he could not explain. The physical sensations were astounding and the emotional ones just compounded the experience.
The third time Draco thrust into him carefully, he felt his body give even more, as if it was loosening up in stages and this time Draco slid all the way home and Harry shuddered from head to foot at the sensation. He wanted this, he wanted it so much, but part of him really couldn't believe he was doing it; it made him whimper with need.
"Ssh," Draco said gently, albeit somewhat breathlessly and reach down to gently touch his face, "I've got you."
Draco moved so precisely, so perfectly that Harry had no fear as all, he just needed. With a couple more thrusts Draco was moving freely in and out of him, making his arse ache in delightful submission and he wanted as much as Draco had to give. It was part pain, part pleasure and all passion.
"Love me," he all but begged.
He wasn't really sure what he meant; he just needed and Draco leaned down, kissing him as they remained intimately joined.
"Always," was the surprisingly open response.
Then, before he could reply Draco upped the pace and Harry couldn't remotely talk. When Draco changed the angle as well, brushing past a place inside him that seemed to light up every nerve in his body with bruising force he choked out a cry. He couldn't hold both of his legs anymore as one of his hands slipped off and he flung it over his head, grabbing onto the pillow and squeezing his eyes shut. It was almost too much sensation and he honestly didn't know how long he could take it.
"Stay with me, Harry," Draco told him, voice tight and sounding just as needy as he felt.
He could feel his nerves going into overload as his body tried to process so many new sensations, but he clung on, holding himself ready for Draco's firm thrusts. Time just disappeared and Harry's world narrowed down to the contact between himself and Draco. When fingers wrapped around his rock hard cock, that was it; he lost it and the world disappeared in white heat and bright flashes behind his eyes.
"Oh shit," he just about heard Draco say and then Draco was ramming home and shuddering inside him and he felt his whole body flood with the most incredible pleasure.
Coming down was quite a slow process and the overwhelming pleasure was gradually replaced by the most remarkable feeling of contentment. It occurred to him that Draco was still in him and above him and he finally opened his eyes, blinking back the left over sparkles from the incredibly intense experience. Draco's eyes were still closed and it looked like Draco was still in place more by luck than judgement. When grey eyes finally did open and look down at him, Draco seemed just as dazed and happy as he was.
The contentment dropped just a little when Draco slowly pulled out, because that smarted more than Harry wanted to admit, but it began to feel better once he could put his legs down and Draco collapsed beside him.
"Merlin's beard, that was good," Draco said, half laying on his side and seemingly having no intention of moving.
Given that his brain was moving very slowly, Harry didn't reply immediately and his thoughts fixed on, probably, the least useful part of the sentence.
"Merlin doesn't have a beard," he said and then felt incredibly silly as Draco laughed at him.
Clearly his mind after sex was not the most illuminated of places.
Harry thought he was being very patient having just sat through Madam Pomfrey throwing diagnostic charms at him from every angle and now having Merlin giving him the once over as well. He appreciated the concern, but other than being just a little sore he was fine.
"For the blood loss," Merlin said and handed him a vial which he knocked back without arguing, "and for the soreness," Merlin added and grinned at him while handing over a little pot of salve.
He really tried not to blush, but he couldn't help it.
"And if he's anything like Arthur was at the beginning," Merlin confided in a whisper, "you're going to need it if you want to be able to sit down in the near future."
Harry blushed even redder, but took the little pot gratefully.
"Thanks," he said and pocketed it.
"You're welcome," Merlin said in a very warm tone, "just make sure he lets you have a go at topping at some point; that's fun too."
That settled it; he was now sure Merlin was trying to make him become a tomato without transfiguring him directly.
"He seems a bit dominant for that at the moment," he replied quietly, wanting Merlin's advice.
Merlin nodded and patted him on the knee.
"That's the vampire coming out," Merlin assured him, "and he'll get the hang of it after a little while. Until he has, just make sure he understands the concept of 'no', because he's going to be pushy. If necessary a locally applied Stinging Hex works very well as a training mechanism."
That made Harry wince just at the thought; he didn't think it would come to that.
"So noted," he replied and then smiled at the idea of Draco's reaction to being trained.
Draco's pride definitely wouldn't like that notion.
"Why did you push me and Draco together?" he asked as one thought led to another and it occurred to him.
Merlin smiled at that and sat down next to him on the bed.
"It's a little hard to explain," Merlin told him thoughtfully, "but I suppose you could say I see connections."
"Connections?" Harry asked, not sure what Merlin meant.
"Between people and things," Merlin explained, clearly trying to put something in to words. "Morgana has visions of the future and sometimes the past, but I've never been like that, but I do see things other people don't. Some connections are very strong even if they haven't been fulfilled. I think I might see what the world intended even if things got in the way. I sensed the connection between you and Draco before I ever met you or I really knew who you were and when we came through onto the roof; wow it was unmistakable."
That was news to Harry, although he and Draco had rather gravitated around each other while at school.
"I believe that if Voldemort and everything hadn't ended up in the way you two would have been very close," Merlin continued to explain, "and, as Arthur is very fond of pointing out, I cannot resist meddling. I never envisioned this, but I do like to put the universe back on track when I can."
Harry tried to imagine what it must be like to see such things and failed, so he just accepted what Merlin said.
"Thank you," he said and nudged Merlin with his arm; "I like your meddling."
That earned him a big smile from Merlin and he hopped off the bed ready to track down his other half. He winced a little as his arse complained and decided he was taking a trip to the boy's loos first to use some of the salve. There were some sacrifices he was willing to make, but he was all for solutions as well.
The whole school knew Harry and Draco were an item after Draco had decided the alcove outside one of the classrooms would be a good place to molest Harry just as lessons let out for lunch on one memorable Tuesday morning. Luckily Draco had only made it as far as shoving a hand up his shirt and kissing him senseless, so Harry hadn't been too mortified. Draco seemed inordinately pleased that the secret was out, Harry was just glad no one had snapped a picture to send to the Prophet.
It was almost the end of term and things in the school were winding down, but things behind the scenes were just winding up. The Room of Requirement had been put to a lot of use just lately and now it had a new one as well: war room. Merlin and Dumbledore had been conspiring and Harry really wanted to see what they had come up with. Everyone was finally invited to see it the day before the last day of term.
"You have to be kidding," were the words out of Arthur's mouth when they were let in.
There, in the centre of the room was one very large round table and Harry found himself grinning at Arthur's reaction. Since Dumbledore was looking inordinately pleased with himself, Harry guessed who had decided on that part of the décor. There was also a large map of the UK on one wall with what looked like magnetic pieces on it representing Death Eaters and Ministry forces. Given that it was magical, Harry doubted it was magnets doing the work, but it all came out as the same usefulness.
"A little nostalgia never hurt anyone," Merlin said, clearly enjoying Arthur's reaction as much as Dumbledore.
"Very functional," was what Lucius said, walking into the room to look around.
Ever since Draco had fallen ill, Harry knew that Lucius had completely abandoned all pretence of being a helpless refugee and had been in conference with Dumbledore and Snape a lot of the time. It seemed that trying to kill his son and heir meant a lot more to the man than trying to kill him or his wife. Draco had tried to explain that it was to do with the family line, but Harry really couldn't see the distinction and had decided that it must be a pureblood thing he would never understand.
Harry did not know what the adults had decided, because he'd been far too busy with Draco and their settling bond to be able to concentrate on anything else, but Lucius had given an exclusive interview to the Prophet telling the whole world exactly what he thought of Voldemort. It had been front page news and had made the man a number one target, but also had some other Voldemort supporters making careful enquiries. The more foot soldiers Voldemort lost the better, so Harry could understand the tactic.
Given that Draco seemed as curious as his father, Harry followed his lover around the room looking into the various corners. It was a very well equipped room with everything from Dumbledore's pensieve down to a continually renewing teapot.
"Did you have to make it a perfect replica?" he heard Arthur ask Merlin very quietly as everyone looked around.
"It wouldn't have been any fun if it hadn't been," Merlin replied in an equally low tone that sounded amused to Harry.
There was clearly something about the table that had Arthur wound up which Merlin thought was funny.
"You're asking for it, you know that, don't you?" Arthur said after a moment and Harry looked at Draco to find that his lover was listening as well.
Draco could probably hear what was going on much better than he could.
"It's not my fault you have a fetish for that particular table," Merlin said in what sounded like a mock innocent tone. "How many times did you have me on it again? I forget and that was before you were a vampire."
Arthur actually growled at that and Harry grinned at Draco; he knew only too well how little control vampires often had over their libidos and Merlin was setting himself up to be nailed in the very near future. He would bet that the war room was going to be christened some time before the day was out.
"We will be having our first Order meeting this evening," Dumbledore said and brought everyone to attention, "but there are a few matters I would like to discus first with the few of us who are here."
Everyone walked over to the table and automatically ringed it and Harry felt a sudden sense of destiny in the air. Dumbledore was stood directly in front of the war board like he had found the head of the table even though there wasn't one; Merlin and Arthur were stood side by side just to his right; Snape was on the left with Morgana; Harry had gravitated to the opposite side to the headmaster with Draco at his side and Lucius and Narcissa were to Draco's right while Ron and Hermione were to Harry's left. It was as if they all clicked into place.
"Many things have changed over the past days," Dumbledore said as they all came to order and Harry found himself looking at Draco and reaching out for his lover's hand.
Surprisingly, Draco did not brush him off as being sentimental, but wrapped fingers around his own and then looked towards his parents.
"And we are faced with an escalating war," the headmaster continued, "but I have no doubt we shall prevail."
Once Harry might have thought it was just a speech, but he had no doubt anymore either. Before he had known what needed to be done and he had believed they had a chance, but now he believed they truly would win. The Slytherins didn't appear quite so sure, but then they were Slytherins and plan B was part of their natures.
"The Ministry are..." Dumbledore started to say.
"Being as incompetent as ever," Lucius said before the headmaster could make it any flowerier.
Surprisingly that made Dumbledore smile more than anything else.
"Cutting," was his comment, "but true. I had hoped that we might combine our forces, but it is clear that, once again, the Order of the Phoenix will have to stand alone in the shadows. There are also certain details of which even they may not be made aware."
Now Dumbledore looked over to Merlin and Arthur.
"The Horcruxes," Arthur said simply; "to allow knowledge of them out at this time would be detrimental to finding them."
That went without saying; the last thing they needed was for Voldemort to go and hide them all again.
"Hence we are going to have a dedicated team set to retrieving them," Arthur continued, "headed by me. Ron, Hermione, we would appreciate it if you would lend you skills to searching out the Horcruxes."
Ron nodded, seemingly rather dumbfounded to be included so readily.
"Of course," Hermione replied.
"And then when we find each one," Arthur said, nodding at both of Harry's friends, "Draco and I will retrieve it for disposal."
That made Harry turn and look at his lover; Draco did not seem remotely surprised and Harry had the feeling he had missed some discussion between Arthur and Draco at some point. Of course that did lead to one obvious question for Harry and he opened his mouth to ask; "What about me?", but was cut off by Merlin.
"While this is going on," Merlin said smoothly, looking him in the eye and letting him know his question was being pre-empted, "I will be training Harry. We all know where this is going to end and Harry's magic has changed twice recently, once drastically and once in reaction to his and Draco's bond. By the time the Horcruxes are all destroyed Harry will be prepared for the final battle."
Harry swallowed hard at that and Draco squeezed his hand in support; it sounded like some grand quest rather than his life, but he nodded his assent. The amount of things Merlin could teach him kind of boggled his mind, but they all had jobs to do and this was his, so he would learn.
"Professor Snape and I," Morgana said, taking over smoothly, "are working on certain potions. One of these is the Wolfsbane potion for which we have some improvements. We will be offering this to the disgruntled werewolf population in return for their support. This will be our first aim, after which we will be turning our sights to the vampire population. Our aim is to undermine Voldemort's support among those traditionally associated with the dark arts."
"Which leaves myself and Narcissa," Lucius joined the conversation. "In the past day alone we have received five tentative enquiries after our health, which for the Gryffindors among us, means there are those among the Dark Lord's ranks who wish to reassess their options. We will be pursuing these individuals to ascertain if they are serious or not and gathering forces to aid us from within this group."
Harry smiled a little at the Gryffindor comment, but it was such a huge moment that he had little humour to spare. They were going to war, for real; this was not about covert little jobs anymore or him and Dumbledore going off together to find things. By arriving as they did Merlin and Arthur had changed everything and for once the Light was ahead of the game. He was under no illusions that it would go all their own way, or that it would not be hard, but for the first time in a long time he felt as if they were winning.
Since the attempted invasion of Hogwarts so much about him had altered: he had found out that legends were real; part of Voldemort's soul had been removed from his body, changing him in ways he could not have imagined; his magic had radically changed in the way he could access it; and he had bonded with Draco, joining them together forever. It was quite stunning and yet uplifting as well. They were at a new beginning and hope had been reborn.