Fandom: Harry Potter/ Merlin (BBC)
Pairing: Harry/Draco, Merlin/Arthur
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. Also on characters and situations created and owned by the BBC. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: 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.
Author's Notes: see pt 1
Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4
My Fanfic Listings (LJ) | My Fanfic Listings (DreamW)
Chapter 2 Rebirth
"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
On to Part 3