A/N: Yes, I'm back! And guess what, I'm now no longer 'TeenMuggle' technically since I'm now twenty years old. Should I change it to 'TweenMuggle' in Hobbit style, leave it as it is, or get a whole new name? It's bugging me a lot! Just a small update on my life if anyone cares. I also got a Harry Potter tattoo; Deathly Hallows symbol on the back of my neck. Labelled as a Potterhead for life! :)
Anyways, here is the long-awaited sequel to Ancient Relics. Thanks to everybody who left reviews or PMd me with ideas; I've used several, discarded several and tweaked others, so thank you all for your input, but it will still be my story, so don't feel put out if it isn't exactly what you all wanted.
In case any of you missed it, I posted a prequel story to Ancient Relics sometime last year, and I WILL be using parts of that story in this one and referencing it occasionally (I also edited Ancient Relics as well to fit in better with that story and iron out any inconsistencies). If you haven't read it, or don't want to (I'll try not to cry here) don't worry, it isn't necessary, but might enhance your enjoyment of this story (that is, if you like it) and offer some links to Merlin's past. I hope you'll all check it out, but don't feel compelled to if Founder's era stories aren't your thing.
After that ramble, let the story begin! Hope you enjoy :)
Merlin stood alone in the darkened room. He cast out his magical senses in every direction, searching for other people, making sure the coast was clear. He had to be absolutely certain it was safe to emerge.
He once again berated himself for getting himself into this situation. What on earth had he been thinking?
He crept towards the door, staying as silent as possible. He sensed a great number of people in close proximity, but was unsure whether or not they were in the room beyond or further away. He had to be able to leave unseen. It was too dangerous for him to run into anybody else.
Slowly, ever so slowly, he reached out towards the door handle, ready to gently turn it and slip out unnoticed. With his other hand, he reached behind him and pulled his hood over his head. Maybe that would suffice? He doubted it. This 'disguise' had long since ceased to be effective. It was too dangerous to trust to such a flimsy concealment.
But what choice did he have?
Just as he laid his hand on the knob, he sensed a sudden presence heading straight towards him from beyond. He leapt back, desperately looking for a place to hide, but none were to be found. He wheeled around to find the door opened and two figures standing in the doorway.
"This is where you're hiding, Merlin!" grinned Fred. "We wondered where you'd got to!"
"I'd never have thought I'd have Merlin himself hiding in my stock cupboard," said George, sporting an identical grin. "You can come out now. The shop's closed."
Merlin scowled, annoyed at their amused expressions. "So kind of you," he said, and moved past them out of the room and into the main shop, now mercifully empty of customers. "Very considerate."
They just continued grinning. "Locking yourself in a stock cupboard? Not exactly courageous now, is it?"
"Can you blame me?" Merlin asked, exasperated, gesturing to bright orange banners all around the room that read: 'Merlin's Magical Mischief Making Kit- Buy one and meet the man himself!' "What the hell were you thinking?"
"You said you'd endorse our projects!"
"You could have warned me first," Merlin groaned. "What a nightmare!"
"Can you understand celebrities?" Fred asked his twin. "He and Harry are the most famous people in the world, but they still hate giving out autographs. You'd think they'd enjoy their fame!"
"Enjoy it?" Merlin said. "Would you enjoy having to sign hundreds of boxes over and over again, with journalists, photographers, admirers and plain weirdos in your face all day asking hundreds of questions and pulling at your robes? It's manic."
"It'll all calm down sooner or later," said George, still looking amused. "Hopefully not until we sell all of our stock though."
"It's been months and months," said Merlin leaning heavily against a stack of Puking Pastilles. "You'd think they'd at least be able to catch a glimpse of me without screaming their heads off."
"True," acknowledged Fred. "You're turning into quite the Gilderoy Lockhart."
Fortunately, he never got to see the glare Merlin was about to shoot in his direction. There was a sudden burst of flame and Merlin felt the now familiar weight of Fawkes settling on his shoulder. He crooned softly, and Merlin raised his hand to stroke his scarlet plumage.
"Bloody bird," gasped George, clutching at his heart. "Does he have to do that?"
Merlin ignored him. "Now, why couldn't you have come earlier and taken me away from all this?" he said to Fawkes.
Fawkes squawked in answer. Merlin nodded.
"You're right. We don't need to give them any more ammunition for gossip. I know you don't like being centre of attention."
"Why do you always talk to him like that?" Fred asked, watching Fawkes uncertainly. "I know he's smart and all, but he doesn't actually talk back to you, does he?"
Merlin just smiled in answer, leaving Fred unanswered and uncertain. Of course, Fawkes couldn't talk, but he might as well do. He was a creature of the Old Religion, Merlin's kin, and Merlin found he understood him just as well as he understood Kilgharrah or Aithusa. Better probably, knowing Kilgharrah's riddles. Some communication just didn't require words.
"I should get back," Merlin said, standing up straight again. "Before someone looks through the window and sees me."
"Come on," said George, moving over to the till. "Don't you want to see how much money your little appearance has gotten us today?"
"Not particularly," said Merlin. "I'll get you back for this. You said your shop would be closed today!"
"What's a little white lie between friends?"
"For you, maybe," said Merlin. "You should think twice before doing that again if you want to continue your lessons."
Immediately, they both sobered up.
"But you promised you'd teach us Old Magic!"
"And you promised the shop would be empty when I Apparated in. That's the last time I trust either of you."
"Bye," he smiled, and with another flash of fire, Fawkes had disappeared from the shop, carrying Merlin with him, and depositing him in the middle of the drawing room of Grimmauld Place. He soon made his way down to the kitchen, where he found Draco, Remus and Tonks sitting at the table.
Tonks winked at him as he walked in. "Nice quiet day in Diagon Alley?"
"You knew?" he groaned, sitting down opposite her and burying his head in his hands.
"Of course," she grinned. "Who do you think helped them plan it?"
He looked back up at her. "Why?"
"Because you're famous," she said. "You need to get used to it sooner or later. You're always going on about how great it is not to have to hide your identity any more, but what use it that when you don't go out in public without a disguise?"
"How can I when I get mobbed wherever I go?"
"Harry's put up with that since he was eleven," said Remus. "The more you hide away, the more curious people get about you. If you just stopped hiding, eventually they'd get used to you."
"Yeah, in about fifty years," scoffed Draco. "Round about the same time I can go out in public without getting spat at."
Merlin shot him a glance here. "Are people still doing that?"
Draco shrugged. "Not as much as they used to. Most people just ignore me, or tell me that I have no right to the Order of Merlin you gave me."
He looked down at the table here, probably agreeing with them. For the millioneth time since the ceremony, Merlin shook his head.
"You deserve it, Draco," he said. "I say you do, and since I'm the one who started the whole thing, mine is the only opinion that counts."
He'd repeated this same statement to Draco dozens of times, and he would continue to repeat it until he believed it. Until he believed in himself.
Draco made no answer, and Merlin just sighed again. He looked towards Tonks.
"I wish I was a Metamorphagus," he said, looking at her bubblegum-pink hair. "I hate having to disguise myself."
"Sorry, it's a privilege granted to only a worthy few," she winked. She looked down at the Muggle-style watch on her wrist. "Speaking of which, I'd best go and pick Teddy up from my mother's."
"What colour is his hair today?" Merlin asked.
"Green," she said, wrinkling her nose. "Mum's delighted; she thinks he'll be a Slytherin one day. You know, one of the few Slytherins in my family that isn't psychotic. Which, come to think of it, is only herself and Draco. And I'm still not sure about the latter."
She winked at Draco as she said this, but he didn't smile, probably wondering whether she was being serious or not. This had been the case for the last several months. Although now welcomed by the entirety of the Order (even Ron, though somewhat reluctantly at first), he still was not comfortable around them, and jokes at his expense were often taken with cautious confusion. He was incredibly quiet around everybody; the only ones he seemed to be at ease around were Merlin, and, surprisingly, Fred and George. It was an odd sort of friendship, especially as such hatred had existed between them for so long, but the weeks when Merlin, Fred, George and Draco had lived together in Grimmauld Place after Merlin's reveal at the Ministry had created an odd sort of bond between them. Sometimes, the twins even managed to get Draco to smile.
The four of them still lived here, more out of habit than anything. Fred and George kept making excuses about the flat above their shop being infested with Doxies, but Merlin thought they just wanted to keep the two of them company, as well as discussing potential endorsements with Merlin. The rest of the Order stayed occasionally; though no longer doing patrols or Order missions, everyone seemed to congregate here anyway. It had almost become a sort of common room, with people gathering in the evenings for discussions or for meals, before heading to their own homes. Remus and Tonks, though now having their own home after the repeal of the Ministry's Anti-Werewolf Laws, spent a great deal of time here; Remus had spent the better part of the last few years in the house, after all.
Merlin, for his part, was in no hurry to move. Though quite rich after thirteen centuries of saving and able to afford an entire castle of his own if he so wanted, he found himself quite settled in Grimmauld Place, a place he had come to think of almost as a home after the last year or so of living here, despite the dodgy décor. Still, the house was rather dark and dingy. If it wasn't for the fact that trying to acquire a new property without the Daily Prophet and the rest of the Wizarding community finding out was so unlikely, he'd be seriously considering moving. But, Harry was happy to let him stay.
After the battle that had taken place in the square in front of the house, the street had been severely damaged, and the memories of more than one hundred Muggles modified, with magical repair teams working around the clock for days to undo the damage the Death Eaters had done, and the destruction he and Morgana had wrought with their duel. As a result, the neighbours were often to be seen gazing into space and occasionally walking into lampposts. It made Merlin uncomfortable every time he witnessed this, though some of the others chuckled affectionately. Memory-Modification had always seemed like such a violation to him.
"I'd best be going as well," said Remus, grimacing. "I've got those meetings with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Beasts."
"Are they going well?" Merlin asked. "Are they seeing sense?"
"Beginning to," he answered, running a hand over his lined face. "Though I think that's Kingsley's influence more than anything. Unbelievable how deeply rooted the prejudice about werewolves is. Thank Me- well, thank you, for the potion you created. It's ten times better than Wolfsbane. If we can get that supplied free of charge to every werewolf in Britain …"
He smiled. "Well, I'd better stop before I bore you all. Molly was in earlier, she's left some of that famous steak pie of hers for you all tonight. It's in the pantry." He grinned at Merlin. "Thirteen hundred years old, and you still have someone cooking your meals for you. Retirement must be bliss."
Merlin grinned back. "Don't I deserve it? After all, it makes a change from the days when I actually had to kill my own dinner."
"Urgh," said Tonks, looking disgusted. "I'm off before you give away any of the gruesome details."
She turned and left, and after a moment, Remus followed her, leaving Merlin and Draco alone in the kitchen. Immediately, the tension seemed to leave Draco's shoulders.
"Why don't you get the dinner?" said Merlin. Draco nodded, and made to stand up, but Merlin stopped him.
"Not like that," he said. "Stay where you are. Bring it to the table."
Draco's eyes widened when he realised what he was asking. "My wand's in-"
"You don't need one," Merlin said, not to be beaten. "Bring it to the table. You remember the incantation?"
Draco nodded. "Fleogan."
Draco sighed, and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes, and screwed up his face in fierce concentration. Several minutes passed in silence, as Draco sought the magic deep within. Steadily, his erratic breathing slowed, and became steady. He opened his eyes, and held out his palm in the direction of the pantry.
"Fleogan," he said, and his eyes burned golden.
The pantry door swung open, and from within, the pie raised several inches into the air, and slowly, ever so slowly drifted towards the two of them. It was shaky in the air, it wobbled, but successfully was landed on the table without issue. Draco sighed with relief.
"Good," said Merlin, not betraying his delight. "But it's cold. Heat it up."
Draco looked wary, but, after bracing himself, held out his hand over the pie. "Byrne," he said.
Immediately, the pie began to emanate warmth, and began to sizzle satisfyingly, filling the room with pleasant aromas.
"Good," Merlin said again. "But don't release it all too quickly or else it'll-"
A flash filled the room, and a couple of flames sprouted out of the pie, making them both jump back. Fortunately however, the flames were soon quenched.
"I'm sorry!" said Draco. "I didn't mean-"
"It's alright," said Merlin, examining the pie carefully. "It's just a little bit burnt. It'll still taste as good-"
"That's not what I meant," Draco said, sighing. "I can't control this magic. Not like Potter can."
"Harry's been learning for months," said Merlin. "Of course he'll be better than you. It takes time and practice."
"Potter didn't take this long to master fire spells-"
"Harry had to learn quickly," said Merlin, patiently. "He had no choice. The Old Religion needed him to learn."
"Yeah, and what about the Founders?" he asked. "I've read the books they wrote. They all learned quickly too."
"You need to stop comparing yourself to everyone else," Merlin said. "The four of them, and Harry, they were exceptions to the rule. Most of the people I taught in Camelot didn't learn half so quickly as any of them. You're at the same level as most of them were, perhaps even further. The Old Religion is unique to every single person, Draco. Everyone is different. Ravenclaw picked up Old Magic without a second thought, Hufflepuff took a little longer to do so; it didn't make Rowena a greater witch just because she learned more quickly. And besides, the magic they were all learning was just a fusion of Old and New, not the Old Magic proper, like what you're doing. Harry's progress has become a lot slower since he started using spells without a wand, about the same speed an average sorcerer would have learned back in the day."
Draco avoided looking at him, and instead looked at the slightly blackened pastry of the pie. "My ancestors were Druids," he said. "I should be better at this."
"Believe you me, Draco, there were many Druids whose magic was even weaker than yours," Merlin said dismissively. "Focus on learning, not comparisons."
Draco still avoided looking at him. He rubbed his left arm unconsciously.
"What is this really about, Draco?" Merlin asked. "Is it about your father?"
Draco stiffened, and looked down at his hands. "No."
"You're a terrible liar."
"There's nothing to say," Draco burst out. "Why does everyone keep asking me that lately?"
"He's asked to see you, Draco," Merlin said.
"I don't care."
"He's your father."
"He's a weak fool that couldn't look past his own stupid ideals," Draco said, glaring down at the table before him. He twisted his hands in his lap. "He's the reason I- why I- why I even got on the wrong side in the first place."
"No one would judge you for going to see him," said Merlin. "You don't have to ignore him for our sakes. We wouldn't think any less of you. You don't have to prove yourself to us anymore, and you don't need to prove yourself to him either."
"I spent so long trying to uphold the Malfoy honour," said Draco, mumbling. "I gave all that up, everything he taught me, everything that we had, to help you. I don't regret that. But I'm- I'm afraid he'll hate me for it."
"Why would he ask for you if he did?"
Draco just shook his head. "None of this matters anyway," he said. "He'll be in Azkaban for years yet. Even Kingsley couldn't get him pardoned for all the crap he did."
"Your mother isn't in prison. Are you telling me you don't want to see her either?"
At this, he flinched. "I don't want any ties to that old life anymore," he said quietly. "I've spent the last year trying to get away from it."
"What about that speech you gave before we went to get Harry from the Dark Tower?" Merlin asked gently. "About how you were sick of atoning for your family, how you weren't ashamed?"
"Yeah, well, that was before the trial, wasn't it?" Draco said. "Before I found out just how much he really did. I'm done with him. The Malfoys were Druids once, a long time ago. I can learn that Old Magic. I'll make people realise the Malfoys don't have to be like this anymore."
"You can't learn Old Magic just because you want to prove yourself," Merlin said. "You'll never succeed. The Old Religion isn't something you turn to for a means to an end. You have to truly accept the magic that is within you. And the greatest magic in this world is love, Draco, it's at the very heart of the Old Religion. And no matter how much you may deny it, I know you still love your parents. Don't be ashamed of that."
But Draco still refused to look at him. Merlin tried to think of something else to say, but was interrupted by the arrival of Fred and George, who stormed into the kitchen triumphantly carrying bags of gold.
"You'll never guess how much we made! I've never- is that mum's steak pie? Wait, a moment- who burnt it?"
"I can't do this," said Ron, throwing down a book on the table in front of him. He folded his arms across the chest. "These spells are ridiculous. Who on earth knows how to pronounce … wrassny … wraysnan-"
"Wrǣsnan,"said Hermione, not even looking up from her own book. "It's a transmutation spell."
Ron stared. "Of course, you'd know."
"You're still supposed to be on fire spells," said Harry, laying aside his own book. "Merlin won't like it if you get ahead of yourself.
Ron rolled his eyes. "I've been lighting candles and fires for weeks!"
"Yeah, but not without blowing up the fireplace," said Harry, nodding to the still slightly blackened bricks around the fireplace in the Gryffindor Common Room.
"Okay, I get your point," sighed Ron. "I'm just not as good at it as you are, Harry."
Harry made no answer. True, Ron was still only learning the elementals of Old Magic, and it was taking a lot longer than it had for Harry, but Harry didn't believe this was for lack of power. Everyone was learning at a much slower pace than before, including himself. Whereas a new spell might have taken him a few days to learn, it now took him several weeks, and with a lot more effort, especially as he now had to do it without a wand. Merlin said this was down to the fact that after Voldemort and Morgana's deaths, the Old Religion had had no need to help Harry learn so fast, so now he was going at an average pace. Though frustrating at first, Harry found he didn't mind. There was no pressure on him to learn quickly anymore, so he found he now had time to actually enjoy the magic, something he'd been unable to do before due to the burden of having to become proficient in a short space of time.
It was hard to believe it was now almost one year since he had first heard of Old Magic, the night of the Battle of Hogwarts when Merlin had first revealed himself to them. Since then it had become such a huge presence in his life he wondered how he had never noticed it before. He felt it at all times, rich power in his veins giving him strength, giving him guidance.
Now that the Old Religion had fully returned, more and more people were discovering it within themselves. Several members of the DA and the Order had passed Merlin's 'Entrance Exam', meaning the Old Religion was strong enough within them to be able to learn Old Magic. It was a point of great confusion amongst many people as to why everyone couldn't learn it, but Merlin was firm. Although every living creature in the world possessed the magic of the Old Religion, with magical people possessing more of it than Muggles, only a certain amount of witches and wizards were actually able to use it. It had caused its fair share of resentment.
Ron, to his own great surprise, had discovered he was one of those few. Merlin's test had consisted of the simple task of lighting a candle using nothing more than Old Magic, and Ron had been so surprised to find he could do it he'd exploded the candle and set fire to the table at Grimmauld Place. He'd had a habit of exploding things ever since then. Despite Merlin's efforts, Ron was still not very good at reining back his emotions.
However, to much shock and bewilderment, Hermione seemed unable to use the magic. The thought of Hermione, Head Girl, bookworm and intellectual having a type of magic that eluded her was something that still completely stumped Harry, and everyone else that knew her.
Hermione, however, did not seem disappointed, at least, not on the surface. She still sat in on all of Ron and Harry's lessons, eager to learn more, and had read all the Founders books, plus a translated version of Merlin's spell book more times than even she could remember. She sat by Merlin for hours on end, asking questions about Camelot and the Old Religion, the true stories of the Knights, about the Founders and the magic he had taught them, plus dozens of others about the various historical events he had witnessed throughout the years, being particularly interested in his memories of the Goblin Rebellions, and the history of house-elves and werewolves, now more determined than ever to end the persecution of these creatures by wizards. Apparently, she seemed to be angling for a position in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and was determined to impress. She needn't worry about it; from what Kingsley had told Harry, he could personally appoint her as Senior Undersecretary to the Minister without anyone batting an eyelid, if he wanted to. The Ministry were desperate to have her join their ranks.
Ron had, as a result, tried not to use Old Magic around Hermione, fearing it might upset her, but Hermione had shrugged this off. She insisted she was happy not being able to use the magic, but Harry and Ron were still a little wary. She had had Merlin teach her the meditation techniques he had taught Harry, so that she would be able to greater sense the Old Religion within her, which she said helped improve her Wand-Magic, and gave her greater awareness and reflexes, though Ron had wondered whether or not she was just saying this to not lose face.
Of the DA, about one third had proved to be able to use it, including to no one's surprise, Luna, who took to it like a fish to water, as well as Seamus, Hannah, Michael Corner, and, coincidentally, the entirety of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. Other teams claimed this was an unfair advantage, including Ron, who assigned their narrow defeat of Gryffindor a couple of months ago to this fact, but all objections had been quashed when Ravenclaw had been promptly crushed by the Slytherin team, none of which had Old Magic. The final match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff was due to take place in just over a month, deciding the fate of the Quidditch Cup.
NEWTS, too, were also looming closer, but Harry was scarcely concerned with these. He hadn't come back to Hogwarts for exam results. He'd only come to learn how to defeat Voldemort, and, when that had been done, he'd only stuck around for Hermione's sake, as well as the Quidditch Cup. Despite Gryffindor having won the Cup three times during his tenure at Hogwarts, he'd only been on the winning team once, and wanted to lift that great silver Cup one last time, as Captain. Hogwarts was the first and best home he had known; he was in no rush to leave it. And besides, he still had to figure out where to go after school.
Now that Voldemort was dead, becoming an Auror didn't seem to be as much of a priority any more, especially as most of his Death Eaters had either died along with him, or had been rounded up pretty soon after the battle at Slytherin's castle. True, there were still some Voldemort supporters out there, but none that seemed to be causing much trouble. At least, for the present.
Merlin had suggested that Harry help him teach Old Magic to others, but Harry was hesitant. Old Magic was still something new to him, and although he now felt entirely comfortable using it, he was wary of teaching others such a potentially dangerous magic. Teaching Old Magic was entirely different to teaching Patronuses to the DA.
The DA and the Order were both still in operation, though most of the danger had passed. DA was now just a Defence Against the Dark Arts practical study group, in the same league as the Potions Club, or Charms Club, though by far the most popular. Professor McGonagall was happy to continue letting him teach. The Order met every month to assess the ongoing clean-up effort after years of war and slaughter, but it was more or less just a reserve operation now. More a sort of club than anything else. It remained in readiness however.
As well as teaching Harry, Ron and the others at Hogwarts and the Order Old Magic, in individual and group sessions, he'd also been running classes at the Ministry for the Aurors who had the ability, and planned to teach Old Magic full time at Hogwarts, beginning in September, as well as continuing to run evening classes for adults. He wasn't too pleased with this idea; he'd never taught so many people at once before, and he was always wary about who he taught. Old Magic is dangerous in the wrong hands, he'd always say, and refused to teach anyone who he could not be certain would not use it for the wrong reasons. As a result, he was making many enemies.
"Where is he?" Ron asked, impatiently. "He said be in the Common Room at half eleven. Why's he not here?"
"He's probably been mobbed by fans again," said Harry, wincing in sympathy. In the weeks after Voldemort's death, walking down the corridors at Hogwarts had proved so impossible he'd resorted to near permanent Invisibility spells.
"Yeah, poor him," said Ron, rolling his eyes. "Bill was staying at Grimmauld Place last week. He told me Merlin's been mobbed by girls wherever he goes. He's had about a dozen proposals as well. Bet he's tied up with one of those girls-"
"Nope, just those charming twin brothers of yours," a voice suddenly sounded from behind them. Harry turned to see Merlin standing there, grinning. He moved towards them and flopped down on a seat before the fire. "Though they haven't been quite so charming recently. You'll never guess what they did today-"
"Oh, yeah, that whole promotion thing," said Ron. "Let me guess, they didn't tell you before you turned up?"
"How did you know about it?" Merlin asked indignantly.
Ron threw him the copy of the Daily Prophet that was lying on the table. "It's been advertised all week. Don't you read the papers?"
"Not anymore no," said Merlin, reading it through quickly. "Not since they did that piece entitled 'How to win the heart of the Mysterious Merlin'."
Ron snorted, but Hermione cut across him.
"How are they getting on with Old Magic?"
"Pretty well," he answered. "They're not really that powerful, so I'll doubt they'll ever be great Old Religion sorcerers, but they're happy with what they can get. I might teach them that whole fusion thing I taught you, Harry. It might suit them better."
"And what about Malfoy," Harry asked, despite himself.
At this, Merlin seemed to hesitate. "He's doing well too," he said, not looking at any of them. "Anyway, Fred and George are the reason I'm late. They had a bit of a disaster in the kitchen. Tried to do all the dishes by Old Magic."
"So glad you have to live with them now instead of me," Ron smirked, settling back in his chair. "Why don't you get your own place?"
"What's the point?" said Merlin. "I'll be living at the castle come September. It's all the home I need."
"Aren't you going to have a lesson?" Hermione asked, looking eager. "I've been reading Ravenclaw's book again and all the stuff she wrote on Apparition is fascinating. She actually invented a new way of doing it, with your help of course, and she wrote loads about Transporting as well and-"
"Woah," smiled Merlin. "Neither of them are ready for something as difficult as that, not even Harry. It took me years to learn it. Harry's not quite there yet. In a couple of months perhaps."
"Rowena only learnt the fusion version of Transporting," explained Merlin. "The way I do it is far more difficult and dangerous. If Transporting goes wrong, you don't Splinch yourself, you rip yourself to pieces. I won't try that with any of you for a while yet."
Hermione's face fell, and Merlin laughed.
"You're not even the one doing the magic, Hermione. Why are you so eager?"
"I just love learning about it," she said, her eyes shining. "I'm actually witnessing ancient magic right in front of me. I don't care that I can't learn it; it's fascinating enough as it is."
"How can you enjoy watching something you can't do?" Ron asked, dumbfounded.
Hermione frowned. "I can't play Quidditch, but I still enjoy watching you and Harry play," she said. "I don't have to use Old Magic to appreciate it."
"I knew you liked Quidditch!" Ron said.
"I never said I didn't, Ron. I just realise there are more important things in the world than obsessing over-"
"Are we getting a lesson tonight?" Harry interrupted.
"It's a bit late," said Merlin, apologetically. "I just thought I'd come and see you anyway. I've got a whole day teaching at the Ministry tomorrow. Why don't I just run over the basics with you, Ron?"
Harry nodded, but felt somewhat disappointed. Although not desperate for learning the Old Magic like he had once been, he was still eager to learn more, for his own sake now, rather than for the sake of everyone else.
Merlin got Ron to run through the basic exercises several times, getting him to light candle after candle, change the colours, and create shapes out of the flames. Ron sat there, concentrating fiercely, his eyes flashing golden every few seconds, speaking the words as clearly as he could, though still not pronouncing them exactly right. It was going well, until-
"Woah!" yelled Ron, leaping back from the blackened remains of the table. "Sorry about that."
"It's all right," said Merlin, though he was hurriedly batting at some sparks that had landed on his robes. "But you're still not concentrating on reining everything back. Release the magic slowly."
"But you said to build it up! How can I do that without releasing it more quickly?"
"More control," said Merlin. "Read Godric's book again. He had the same trouble you did. As does Draco, funnily enough."
Ron grimaced, but nodded.
Merlin leaned back in his chair. His eyes fell on the newspaper again, and he frowned. He unfurled it and read an article next to the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes advertisement. A thoughtful expression came over his face as he read.
"What is it?" Harry asked, and Merlin passed him the paper. Harry opened it to read:
The International Statute of Secrecy: An Outdated Ideal?
More unrest at the Ministry as campaigners continue to harass Ministry employees.
Activists, calling themselves the 'Liberators', have been flooding into the Ministry Atrium since late last night to promote their views on the abolition of the International Statute of Secrecy. The leader of this organisation, Mr Cicero Verax, 42, of Newcastle, spoke to the Daily Prophet this morning about why he is advocating such a change, and why he believes witches and wizards up and down the country should embrace his ideology.
"It makes sense," he insisted. "For three hundred years the wizarding community has been in hiding, we've been ashamed of who we are. We as a group feel that this is wrong and it is time for change. We should no longer have to hide."
His organisation has grown rapidly in just a few short months, with several high-profile figures from prominent families pledging their support. But what has prompted such a change, this Daily Prophet reporter asked Mr Verax this morning.
"Merlin, of course," he smiles at me. "The greatest sorcerer ever to live has returned to our community after over a thousand years in exile. Imagine, the greatest man to ever live, hiding who he is for fear of persecution! We believe that this is wrong. Merlin has spoken publicly about his relief at no longer having to hide, and we feel the same way. We don't want to hide from Muggles anymore. We want to embrace our own lives once again."
But what about the Muggles, I ask him. Most Muggles have long since stopped believing in magic, what would such a revelation do to them? Is he wary of a repeat of the witch-hunts?
"Of course, it'll be difficult," Mr Verax says, shrugging his shoulders. "But it doesn't mean that we shouldn't try. We've been treating Muggles like mindless cattle for far too long. What right do we have to mess around with their memories, or cast any sort of violating spell on them? It is selfish of us to alter them unknowingly in this way. Merlin reminded us all of one thing when he returned: Muggles and wizards can live side-by-side. He is the only one in the world who can remember a time when magical and Muggles worked together. With his guidance, why can it not be that way again?"
I ask Mr Verax whether or not he has approached Merlin about these issues, and whether he has expressed interest.
"I haven't; he's so difficult to find these days! But I'm sure he would be interested. He's worked with Muggles before, and I'm certain he'd be eager to do it again. He cannot be happy with the situation as it is at the moment."
But how can such a campaign succeed, I ask him, when there are dozens of countries party to the Statute? Does he believe other countries will be so willing to comply?
"If Merlin asks, I'm sure they will agree," he says, a twinkle in his eye. "Minister Shacklebolt has made himself very unpopular internationally by refusing countless invitations to other countries on Merlin's behalf. The world is clamouring to hear more of Merlin, and what better way to do that than reignite the vision he had thirteen hundred years ago?"
The demonstrations look to continue for several days yet, as the Liberators seek to put more and more pressure on the Ministry to act. But with several Ministry spokespersons having denied all reports of the Minister even considering such a radical approach, questions remain to whether or not these Liberators will be content to confine themselves to peaceful demonstrations.
Merlin was unavailable for comment.
Harry looked up. "Unavailable for comment?"
"I cast a spell to stop all owls finding me," said Merlin, looking distant. "And I spent most of the day hiding in the back of Fred and George's shop."
"I read it earlier," said Hermione. "It seems like a crazy idea."
"Of course it is," said Ron, who had read it over Harry's shoulder. "It's completely mental! The Muggles wouldn't be able to handle it. An entire secret population hiding amongst them for the last three hundred years? I wouldn't be surprised if they got the torches and pitchforks out again!"
"Maybe they wouldn't?" said Hermione, though she looked doubtful. "I mean, it may take some time-"
"There was a thousand years between Camelot and the International Statute of Secrecy," Harry pointed out. "They never managed to resolve their differences in all that time, why should now be any different?"
"But Muggles have moved on-"
"Have they?" asked Harry, thinking of his aunt and uncle. "Muggles have enough problems of their own. If we just drop this bombshell on them all of a sudden, who knows what would happen?"
"These Liberators sound kind of dodgy to me," said Ron. "What's with all the hero-worship that Verax guy was doing? Sound like fanatics to me."
"That last bit sounds ominous," Harry agreed. "You don't think they'd do something extreme do you?"
"Maybe if Kingsley showed he was willing to listen-"
"This is an International Statute of Secrecy, Hermione," said Ron. "Kingsley doesn't have sole control here. I don't think they get just how big of a thing this'll be. I mean, how many countries in the world have signed it? It'll never work."
"What do you think, Merlin?" Hermione asked.
They looked to Merlin, and saw him staring into the fire, having said nothing. It was a moment before he looked at them.
"Muggles and wizards working side-by-side?" he said. "It's been my dream for thirteen hundred years. Anyone who's seen the extent of the death and destruction that I have would feel the same."
"Maybe, but it is possible?" Hermione asked. "Or is it just too much to ask?"
Merlin was silent for a long moment. Then, he stood up and crossed the room to the Fat Lady's Portrait. He looked back at them.
"I need to go," he said. "I need to think."
And with that, he left.
Merlin stood alone in the Entrance Hall, looking out through the open doors into the moonlight covered grounds beyond. Suddenly, his heart was beating more rapidly than usual.
Ending the International Statute of Secrecy? He'd dreamed of nothing else since the day it had been signed. But Hermione's final question still rang in his ears.
Is it possible?
A/N: I hope you like!
I've written 9 chapters of this story so far, and I'll be updating weekly (probably every Sunday) since I have a lot of uni work and don't want the pressure of churning out too many chapters quickly. In 9 weeks time I'll have another few chapters written, and that way you'll be sure of consistent updates :)