"Kill the spare."
The graveyard lit up in a sickly green, Harry's screams echoed off the headstones.
The dark cemetery morphed into the Hogwarts castle. The screams of one became the screams of many.
The ground was littered with rubble and broken glass…blood and lifeless bodies.
A young girl looked up at Morgana with empty eyes.
"Save us," she pleaded. "Save us…SAVE US!"
Morgana's eyes flew open. Panic set in as she tried to move her arms and found she couldn't. Fighting against her imprisonment, Morgana tried to call out but she had no control of her own mouth. She fought even harder to move and was finally able to when she felt a pair of hands on her.
"You're alright," a slurred, sleepy voice assured her. "I've got you."
"Daphne," Morgana finally gasped. Relieved, Morgana let herself be pulled into a comforting embrace.
This was the third time Daphne had saved Morgana from her sleep paralysis. The Greengrass sisters had come to say at the LeFay Estate until they returned to Hogwarts. Agravaine was elated that Morgana wasn't spending her days in the library; Morgana was grateful that she wouldn't have to spend the dark nights alone.
"Better?" Daphne asked, rubbing her friend's back.
Morgana nodded. "She spoke to me this time."
Daphne's hands stopped rubbing circles. "What'd she say?"
Daphne hummed thoughtfully and gave Morgana a squeeze before releasing her. "Write it down."
It was Merlin's idea to keep a dream journal; one that Daphne enforced. Morgana saw it as another homework assignment. Knowing that her friend wouldn't let it go, Morgana took her notebook from the bedside table and started writing. By the time she had finished, Daphne had gone back to sleep.
The sun hadn't risen yet and Morgana was restless. Quietly, she slipped on her house shoes and dressing gown. Her dream had disturbed her, and she didn't want to risk dreaming it again. Thankfully, she had a productive distraction in mind.
Morgana stopped flipping through the pages of her book and held her breath. She could have sworn she heard a noise down the hall. When nothing came of it, she continued her search. It was late, or early, and she was risking Agravaine's wrath but she couldn't sleep now, not even if she wanted to.
The mystery of Barty Crouch Jr. was still bothering her. From what Merlin told her, Crouch Jr. was behind the Morsmorde spell during the Quidditch World Cup. It was his magic that they felt, but how was it that he hid it from them at school? And why expose himself, to her of all people, the day before the Dark Lord's return? Perhaps he knew that she was suspicious of him…
All these unanswered questions led to Morgana trying to find out where his Old Magic came from. It didn't occur to her until she was almost asleep one night to look into Mrs. Crouch's side of the family. Like a shock to her system, Morgana was out of bed and flipping through the genealogy books again. Irene Tinley, which was Mrs. Crouch's maiden name, had a very old family.
Unfortunately, that was as far as she had gotten before the Greengrass sisters arrived at the estate.
Morgana froze again, more than certain she had heard something that time. Quickly, she flipped the books shut and stashed them in her father's desk drawer.
Agravaine opened the door to the office and gave her an exasperated look. "You are aware that it is almost 5 o'clock in the morning?"
"Is it?" Morgana feigned innocence.
"Yes," he sighed. "How long have you been in here?"
Morgana looked down at the floor. He wasn't going to like the answer. "Earlier this morning, I think."
"I know." She shook her head at herself. "I already know."
Morgana nodded. "I promise, I do."
Agravaine sighed again, frustrated that no matter how much he wanted to scold her, there was no point. "Breakfast then."
"Breakfast would be wonderful."
Aside from the clanking of silverware, they ate in silence until the newspaper came. Morgana read the headline as Agravaine read the inside. Albus Dumbledore graced the front page, the headline reading: 'Dumbledore: Mad Genuis? Or Just Mad?'
Morgana rolled her eyes and snorted.
"Not impressed?" Agravaine asked.
"Annoyed that they're still trying to discredit him." Agravaine hummed thoughtfully, making Morgana frown. "You don't think he's mad, do you?"
"Oh, he's mad," Agravaine answered. "No question about it. But I've heard that madness and genius are different sides to the same coin…that doesn't excuse him from his negligence." He took a sip of his coffee. "A giant three headed dog, trolls…then there was the whole Slytherin chamber fiasco." He shook his head. "The only reason I didn't come and get you was because Lucius insisted you and Draco were safe."
Morgana smiled and pointed at herself. "Pureblood."
"Yes well three headed dogs and trolls are known for their ability to tell the difference." Agravaine said with a snort. "Anyway…is that what you were looking for. Something about Purebloods?"
Morgana stopped eating and stared at him.
"What?" Agravaine asked, grinning slightly. "Did you think I wouldn't notice certain books were missing?"
Morgana took a deep breath and put her fork down. There was no point in trying to keep the truth from him. "I was looking into Barty Crouch Jr."
"Oh?" he asked with genuine interest. "Why?"
Morgana fiddled with the tablecloth before answering. "He had Old Magic."
"Mordred knew something wasn't right, why didn't I?" Morgana demanded. "Why couldn't I feel his magic until it was too late?"
The desperation in her voice was evident, and enough to give her guardian pause. "My darling," he started slowly, "I don't know how…that works. But what happened wasn't your fault, if that's what you're thinking. There was nothing that could have been done."
Tell that to the Diggorys, she thought. She felt herself going down a path of self-loathing when Agravaine cleared his throat.
"Did you find what you were looking for?"
"I think so." Morgana bit her lip and asked, "What was Crouch arrested for the first time?"
Morgana's brows went up. "Torture? Who?"
"The Longbottoms." Agravaine took another sip of his coffee. "Tortured them until they went insane. I heard their son was there when it happened."
Morgana's mind was drawn back to their first Defense class with Moody and Neville's reaction to the Cruciatus Curse. Everything was beginning to make sense.
"You go to school with the Longbottom boy, don't you?"
Morgana nodded slowly. "He and Merlin are good friends."
Before Morgana could ask what he meant, Daphne and Astoria joined them at the breakfast table. In an unspoken agreement, Morgana and Agravaine didn't continue their conversation.
"Morning." Agravaine returned his attention to his paper.
Daphne and Astoria greeted in unison. "Good morning."
Silence filled the room once again, until a group of owls interrupted breakfast once more.
"Book lists," Daphne predicted as she freed the letter from the barn owl's leg.
"This one's from mom," Astoria said, waving the letter in front of her sister.
Morgana held her envelope in her hands. It had an unfamiliar weight to it, making her frown.
"Looks like we've got a defense teacher this year," Daphne commented as she skimmed the book list. "Defense Magical Theory… sounds boring."
Slowly, Morgana broke the seal on her envelope and reached inside. Just as she suspected, her fingers grazed metal. Grudgingly, she clasped the badge in her hand and ran her thumb over the lettering. Silently, she cursed Snape, Dumbledore, and anyone else who thought that giving her this responsibility was a good idea.
"What's wrong Morgana?" Agravaine asked.
With a sigh, Morgana held up the badge and braced herself.
"Prefect!" Daphne laughed. Morgana shot her a look, causing her friend to hide her giggling in her hands.
"Well done then." Agravaine said proudly. "I suppose we'll have to find a suitable reward when we go to Diagon Alley."
"I'm sure service to the school is reward enough," Astoria said sweetly, making Daphne snort.
In that moment, Morgana fully understood how Astoria and Mordred were such good friends. Astoria's words were dripping with sarcasm.
"Still," Agravaine insisted. "Hard work should be rewarded." He folded up his newspaper and excused himself.
Morgana eyed Daphne, who was still giggling. "I don't like either of you," Morgana said, also excusing herself from the table. She needed to write Merlin about what she found, and conveniently forget her awful nightmares and any future responsibilities.
I found something that might be interesting and I'd rather tell you in person. Can you meet me? Diagon Alley would be ideal. Let me know when and where, if at all.
Merlin considered her letter. "Hey dad?"
Balinor stopped reading a letter of his own to answer. "Son."
"Do you think we can pick up Neville from Diagon Alley?" Merlin asked.
Balinor shrugged. "Gaius was going to get Neville for me. You can ask him but I'm sure he won't mind."
Merlin frowned. "Why can't you take me? Did something come up?"
Balinor raised an eyebrow at his son and folded up his letter. "Perhaps."
"Secrets?" Merlin asked, mimicking his father's expression.
Balinor only smiled. "Go ask Gaius before you forget."
With a disappointed grunt, Merlin folded up Morgana's letter and made a show of tucking it in his pocket as he eyed his father suspiciously. Merlin headed towards Gaius' house, leaving his father laughing at him.
The House of Ambrose, an out of place mansion hidden in the forests of Romania, was a short walk to the physician's home. Both, Merlin found, were protected with wards. Only wizards with permission from Balinor were allowed near them.
Then there were the dragons. Merlin couldn't see them, but he knew there were dragons hiding in the forest on the road to the Dragon Keeper camp. With the return of Lord Voldemort, Balinor wasn't taking any chances.
Merlin knocked twice on Gaius' door before barging in.
"Ah, Merlin." Gaius was buzzing about his lab. Several cauldrons were boiling with different colored liquids. The different smells combined together reminded Merlin of melting rubber. "Pass me that jar…the grey one."
Merlin summoned the jar to his hand and gave it to Gaius, who gave him a look.
"I could have done that."
Merlin gave him a cheeky grin. "Why didn't you?"
Gaius rolled his eyes. "Crush those beetles and slice them for me, will you? Make sure to crush them really good," he added. "It releases the juices better."
Merlin made a face. "I know how to brew potions," he grumbled.
"Ah yes," Gaius mused. "You are a pupil of the great Potioneer Severus Snape."
The sarcasm in his tone was not lost on Merlin. Looking back on it, Gaius had taught Merlin plenty about potions before he ever attended Hogwarts. Merlin had been helping Gaius make potions since he was trusted to hold a knife in his hand.
"You and I both know better than that," Merlin replied, adding the beetles to one of the cauldrons. The pot next to it smelled familiar. "Is this wolfbane?"
Gaius peered into the cauldron and put his hands behind his back. "It is."
"How long has it been boiling?"
"About an hour," Gaius answered, fighting a grin.
Merlin lowered the flame underneath it and noted the time. "Simmer for three hours?"
Gaius nodded. "Very good."
"Who are you making wolfsbane for?" Merlin asked.
"A request from an old friend," Gaius answered cryptically. "Now, I know you didn't come here to help. What do you need?"
"Dad said you were going to pick up Neville?" At Gaius' nod, Merlin continued. "I was wondering if we could pick him up in Diagon Alley instead? We can get our books at the same time."
Gaius nodded. "That's fine with me. One less thing for your father to worry about," he added, more so to himself than Merlin.
"Do you know what he's up to?" Merlin dared to inquire.
Merlin paused, waiting for an explanation. When he didn't receive one, he asked, "Are you going to tell me?"
Gaius raised an eyebrow at him, the answer written all over his face.
"No." Merlin gave him a nod. "Right then."
For Lord Voldemort to have returned to the wizarding world, Diagon Alley was just as busy as ever. Witches and wizards came and went as they pleased, as if someone hadn't died at the end of the school year.
It made Merlin angry. There was no news of Voldemort's return in the Daily Prophet; only claims that Potter and Dumbledore had lost their minds. The Minister of Magic had to have had a hand in this. Merlin would never forget the argument that took place between Dumbledore and Fudge in the hospital wing the night Diggory died.
Morgana didn't seem surprised when Merlin had told her about it.
"Fudge likes the status quo," she had said. Her words made Merlin remember what his father said a few years ago.
Fudge is no war time minister.
And now everyone was fumbling about, pretending Diggory died of an accident, completely oblivious of the danger they were all in.
It was ridiculous.
"Merlin." Gaius pulled him from his thoughts. "I have to go to Gringotts. Meet me at the apothecary in half an hour." He looked up and down the cobblestone street. "If anything is to happen, which I doubt, go to Ollivander's wand shop. He'll keep you safe."
Merlin frowned. "What about you?"
Gaius smiled. "You needn't worry about me. Find Neville."
Merlin wandered the streets of Diagon Alley, eventually finding himself in front of the Quidditch shop. He was admiring a broomstick when he felt a presence behind him. He smiled as the person covered his eyes with their ice cold hands.
"You've got three guesses, and the first two are wrong."
Merlin snorted and spun around. Just as he thought, Morgana stood smiling at him. Laughing, he hugged her tightly, lifting her off the ground. Merlin didn't realize how much he missed her until right now.
"You certainly know how to greet a lady." Morgana joked as he put her down.
Blushing, Merlin rubbed the back of his neck. "I've missed you."
Morgana gave him a half smile. "I missed you too." After a moment of awkward silence, Morgana pulled on his arm. "Come on. Daphne and Astoria are getting new robes and I need some more quills."
They casually discussed their summer so far, as well as future plans. Morgana paused when Merlin mentioned Neville.
"Speaking of Neville," she said quietly. "Did you know about his parents?"
Merlin felt his heart drop. "What about them?" he asked defensively.
Morgana frowned. "So you do know about them. How'd you find out?"
"Neville told me after you sent me looking for him. I promised him I wouldn't tell anyone."
"You're a good friend." Morgana smiled sadly. "Agravaine told me when I asked about Barty Crouch Jr."
Merlin frowned. "What's he got to do with Neville's parents?"
Morgana lowered her voice. "He was one of the four Death Eaters that were caught and arrested for torturing them."
"Ugh, don't tell me that." Merlin's stomach rolled over. "Neville was alone with him."
Sighing, Merlin rubbed his face. "What else did you find out, private investigator?"
Morgana flashed a smile. "I figured out where he'd gotten his Old Magic from."
She nodded. "His mother's family goes back about as far as mine."
"Still doesn't confirm she's got Old Magic." Merlin pointed out.
"True." Morgana agreed. "Her name is Irene Tinley before she was married. Maybe-"
"I'll ask dad," Merlin finished for her. Her eyes brightened, indicating that this was exactly what she wanted. "Actually…" Merlin thought after a moment, "We can ask Gaius."
Merlin waited for Morgana to buy her quills and ink before leading her to the apothecary. The shopkeeper gave them a warning glare as they entered, but Morgana disarmed him with a smile.
"How do you do that?" Merlin whispered to her.
"Feminine wiles," she cheekily replied.
"Bless my soul."
Merlin turned to find Gaius looking right at them, or rather, right at Morgana. "We were looking for you. This is-"
"Morgana Diana LeFay. Daughter of Gorlois Eugene LeFay and Vivienne Elizabeth Cornwall." Gaius bowed and smiled sadly at her. "I'm sure you've heard this a thousand times, but please allow me to say it once more: you look so much like your mother." He slightly tilted his head before adding, "except for your chin. You have your father's chin."
Merlin noticed the way Morgana's smile reached her eyes and knew that Gaius had completely endeared himself to her.
"It seems you have me at a disadvantage," Morgana said with a curtsy.
Merlin cleared his throat. "This is Gaius Leach. He's a physician at the sanctuary."
"Retired physician," Gaius corrected, his eyebrow raised. "Now tell me, to what do I owe the honor of the attention of one such as yourself?"
Merlin had never met Agravaine DeBois, and from the look in the older man's eyes, that was probably for the best. The look he gave Merlin and Gaius was cold and distant.
Despite this, Gaius greeted Agravaine politely. "Mr. DeBois."
Agravaine clenched his jaw. "Mr. Leach." He turned to Morgana. "Come along."
"I was just-"
"I won't say it again." Agravaine turned his back to them and headed towards the door, leaving no room for an explanation or argument.
'I'm sorry.' Morgana apologized. Her guardian's rudeness caught her off guard as well. She squeezed Merlin's arm. 'See you at school.'
The two left the apothecary and Gaius let out a sigh.
"What was all that about?" Merlin asked.
Gaius shook his head. "Let's find Neville."
Merlin didn't move. "Gaius."
The old sorcerer sighed. 'It's not my place.'
"It's not my place, now leave it," Gaius said sternly. "Let's find Neville and go home."
Properly scolded, Merlin followed Gaius out of the shop.