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 3 New Life
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
On to Part 4