A/N: Back again! (And faster by miles than the previous chapter, even if still not very fast.)

Still no regular posting schedule planned, but I figured maybe for this project I'd make more progress by just taking the work one chapter at a time, and this has definitely been on my agenda for awhile.

As always, thank you so much to all of you, old and new readers alike, and for your ever enduring patience. Hope you enjoy (coming back for final edits, I'd forgotten how important this chapter was), and see you at the end! :J

Chapter 44: Gaming Partner

Harry and the others looked on as Bakura stood there, gazing at the figurine as he slowly raised it above his head, clutching it in one pale hand. His other hand hung uselessly at his side, turned entirely black, as black as the dead hand of the mummy, but he didn't seem to notice.

Bakura was smiling, but there was something odd in the smile. An unkind, almost vicious cruelty seemed to dance in his eye—Was being in such close proximity to Voldemort's soul already beginning to taint him?

"Bakura!" Harry shouted, and the boy blinked as though waking from a dream.

However, he did not turn to look at Harry. Instead, he seemed only then to realize the state his body was in. His visible eyelid drooped, and the hand gripping the doll slackened, then went limp, falling to his side. The doll slipped from his fingers, falling end over end as Bakura staggered forward.

Without thinking, Harry propelled himself forward, bringing his wand up instantly. He called out a spell, and in an instant the doll burst into flame. The thing was no more than a puff of ash and cinder before it hit the ground.

Bakura fell hard to his knees, then collapsed onto his chest.

"No!" Yugi cried. And, to their surprise, he was the first at Bakura's side, kneeling beside him.

Hermione was soon there too, checking his good arm for a pulse.

"He's alive," she said as Ron and Harry both came up to stand behind her.

Yugi breathed a sigh of relief.

Harry glanced at Yugi—after the seeming animosity between the two earlier, he wouldn't have expected him to react like this. He just couldn't understand their relationship; sometimes they acted like the best of friends, others times like the bitterest of rivals.

Harry shook his head, and turned back to Hermione. "Is he going to be okay?" he asked.

"I don't know." Hermione bit her lip as she inspected his blackened hand, though she didn't touch it. "It looks like he got partially cursed, and who knows what that will do. According to Dumbledore, Voldemort would plan his curses so they don't kill right away, but if he doesn't get any treatment..."

Harry nodded. Voldemort didn't intend to kill intruders immediately, but most certainly the curses would be eventually fatal—how long it would take, he had no idea.

Harry's heart was pounding. He had sworn he was going to fight Voldemort and destroy the horcruxes himself, that he wasn't going to let someone else take the risk in his stead as Dumbledore had. Had he just now stood aside and let someone else pay the ultimate price?

But he didn't have time to think about that right now. They needed to prioritize if they were going to make it out of here alive.

"No matter what, we need Bakura to get out of here," Harry said finally. "Can you try to wake him up, Hermione?"

Hermione nodded, still looking pale and shaken. She pointed her wand at Bakura's chest and whispered, "Rennervate."

Bakura jerked once, then his single eye shot open. "No—" he blurted. "Please, don't—"

He stopped and blinked. Slowly sitting up, he looked around blearily.

Harry let out a sigh of relief. "Good, you're awake," he said. "Don't worry, I took care of the doll. I know you're probably not feeling the best right now, but—if we're going to get out of here, we're going to need your help. Then we can get you to St. Mungo's."

Bakura turned to stare at Harry. There was something in the boy's face that made him look completely different from how he had been just a few minutes before, when he had fearlessly approached the sarcophagus, then struggled with Voldemort's soul. He looked confused, disoriented. For a moment his single eye was glassy, unfocused, before his gaze darted around the chamber, like a trapped animal.

"My help," he repeated in a mumble. "My...but where am I? What's...what's going on?"

Harry studied Bakura's features, and he felt a flicker of foreboding in the back of his head.

"...cause me to forget what I am here for..."

It was just like Dumbledore before, when he had had to drink that potion. They had thought that if Bakura could take the soul from the cup without taking the potion, he might avoid the side-effects. But had they been wrong? How close was Bakura to death's door, even now?

"Bakura," Harry said, as evenly as he could, in what he hoped was a calming voice. "Do you remember anything? Why we're here?"

Bakura stared back at Harry for a long moment. Instead of answering, his gaze flickered all around him. At last, his single eye fell on Yugi, kneeling on his other side.

Some of the tension in Bakura's face seemed to ease, and the terror in his eye faded. The corner of his mouth moved, not quite a relieved smile, but almost.

He reached out a hand, but blinked as he caught sight of it. The blackened, dead skin, shriveled, like the mummy in the coffin. He grimaced suddenly, as though registering the pain for the first time, then gingerly touched his good hand to his wrist, just below the blackness.

Yugi put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry, Bakura, you're going to be all right. We'll explain everything later."

Bakura hesitated, then nodded once. Again, he started to smile—and then his single eye widened.

In a movement so sudden Harry instinctively jerked back to avoid him, Bakura suddenly had his good hand up, gripping the collar of Yugi's robes.

"Yugi," he rasped. "Yugi, I have to tell you. Warn you. You mustn't try to fight him, he—"

A cry of pain escaped him, and suddenly Bakura was bent toward the ground. The hand he had used to take Yugi's collar was suddenly clutched to his chest, and his entire body shook in spasming fits.

"The curse—" Hermione cried in alarm. "We have to—"

But Yugi was on his feet. His eyes were wide with horror, but also—anger?

"Stop it!" he shouted, as though he thought the curse could hear his commands. "Stop it now!"

"Harry," Hermione said desperately. "We've got to do something, but without knowing what the original curse was—"

Harry knew what she meant. Very likely, if they didn't do something to slow the progress of the curse, Bakura could be dead in minutes, but none of them knew much in the way of healing magic, and when it came to curses—

However, miraculously, as the echoes of Yugi's shouts faded, Bakura abruptly fell limp. He lay on the stone floor, gasping. The fit seemed to have passed for now.

Bakura's single eye returned to Yugi's face.

"Yugi—" Bakura began breathlessly.

"No," Yugi said quickly, putting up a hand to stop him. "Don't say anymore. It won't do any good."

Bakura hesitated, looking uncertain. He stared up at Yugi, and the two of them seemed to share some understanding Harry couldn't begin to guess.

At last, Bakura nodded once, and let himself slump back to the floor. His single visible eyelid sunk, and in a moment he was once again unconscious.

Harry looked at Hermione, and they both breathed a sigh of relief. It looked like Bakura was all right—for the time being. However, that fact presented them with another problem.

Ron was the one to voice it first. "So," he said, clearing his throat. "Not to be insensitive or anything. But considering he's the one who got us here, how are we going to get out?"

Harry nodded. "We could try to wake him up again—but I don't think he remembers anything. I think something in the spell on the horcrux must have made him forget. That's what happened to Dumbledore before."

Yugi had stood up, and turned to gaze back down the long stone path that had brought them here, his expression considering. At last, his eyes hardened in a look of determination, and he turned back to Harry.

"Don't worry," he said. "We will make it out of here."

Ron raised his eyebrows. "And how do you figure that?"

For the first time, Yugi let the corner of his mouth turn up in a tight smile. "Because I will get us out."

After some discussion, they all decided Harry and Ron would carry Bakura between them. They briefly considered a levitation spell, but with the uncertainty of what lay ahead, they all agreed it would be better for everyone to stay as close as possible, and in any case, likely when they made it back to the corridor, they would all be taking brooms again.

Hermione pulled a thin blanket and a roll of gauze from her bottomless purse and, being careful not to touch Bakura's blackened hand, carefully wrapped it up so no part of it was open to the air, to prevent any possibility of inadvertent transfer of the curse.

While Harry and Ron argued over who would walk on Bakura's left side, with both, in typical Gryffindor style, insisting the other would walk on the uncursed right, the pharaoh drifted away, to give himself space to think, and consider.

It seemed Bakura's real personality had surfaced there at the end. The only reason the pharaoh could think of for the spirit to allow that was if the spirit had been so weakened in his confrontation with the bit of Lord Voldemort's soul that he had been forced back into his soul room to recuperate. This Lord Voldemort must be more powerful than the spirit had anticipated.

Clearly, there had been some secret Bakura had attempted to communicate, but the spirit had interfered before he could get it out. It would be too risky to attempt to talk to Bakura about it again, so very likely he would have to enter into battle with the spirit uninformed of whatever it was.

"You mustn't try to fight him," Bakura had said. Why would he say that? Surely Bakura would want him to fight the spirit, to subdue him and send him back to the Ring so Bakura could be free of him again. What could the spirit have gained that would make Bakura think he couldn't win?

But, there was no use contemplating all that now. The important thing was to get them all out of here in one piece.

The pharaoh glanced back briefly at Harry and the others. They were all understandably skeptical he could do as he said, not to mention with the spirit's earlier trick with the locket they weren't inclined to fully trust him. However, they were going to have to this time. He knew without a doubt he would be able to do it—however, he also knew that to do so, he would have to show them a bit more of his own brand of magic.

/It's okay, other self,-/ Yugi said from his soul room. /We can trust them./

The pharaoh smiled a bit. /I know./

The group approached, Hermione first, followed by Ron and Harry, holding Bakura up between them.

"Okay, Yugi," Harry said. "It's up to you." He hesitated, then added, "Remember, Gringotts is a labyrinth. It's a maze that goes on for hundreds of miles. Even on brooms, if we don't know exactly where we're going, we could be lost for years."

"Not to mention run into that nasty dragon waiting for us on the other side of the vault," Ron pointed out. "You know, on that other side of the cave-in which just happens to be blocking our way back."

Harry nodded. "Right, we won't be able to go back the way we came, even if we could somehow remember the way Bakura showed us."

"And what about that room of darkness?" Hermione asked nervously. "Before we even get to the vault, we'll have to go through there again. There could be traps and pitfalls all along the way. Bakura somehow knew where to go, but we'll be completely blind, even with the spider string to keep us together."

Ron grimaced at the mention of spider thread, but Harry nodded at Hermione, looking grim. The pharaoh could imagine what he was thinking—with Bakura leading the way before, the journey to the horcrux had seemed almost easy. But without him to tell them what to expect, they were completely in the dark, every single obstacle dangerous and potentially deadly as they had been meant to be.

"Just follow me," the pharaoh said. "I think I have an idea how to get through all of that, but it will take time to explain, and I don't think we want to linger here any longer than necessary."

Harry, Ron, and Hermione all shared a look. They were all wary, as they had a right to be—however, they all also seemed to see they didn't have much choice.

"Lead the way, then," Harry said.

The pharaoh nodded once, then turned to the stone path.

The pharaoh could remember precisely where the spirit had stepped to avoid triggering the traps, and he followed the path exactly, making sure everyone behind him was doing the same. The two traps that had been sprung the first time didn't activate, for which the pharaoh was grateful.

The trip down the corridor leading back to the vault was also uneventful. The spirit had hit something before to deactivate all the traps, and the pharaoh was glad that there didn't seem to be any mysterious magic at work that had reset them.

Only when they reached the end of the corridor, where stood the arch with the inscription carved in stone, did the pharaoh pause for a moment.

Though the corridor was lit with torchlight, the light didn't penetrate beyond the edge of the arch. The shadows beyond were black as pitch.

"Now what?" Ron asked. "Just go for it and hope for the best?"

"We could try lighting our wands," Harry said, holding up his. "There's always the chance Bakura was just being paranoid."

The pharaoh shook his head in response to both of these suggestions. "Bakura knew exactly all the tricks to get us down here. I don't think it would be wise to start ignoring his instructions now. As for simply going in without light—again, I don't think we should risk it. The path Bakura took us in was not a completely straight line. The stairs could be winding, or they might even branch off in multiple directions. There may be spells to disorient us further, and we could find ourselves going in circles. Not to mention the danger of potential traps and sheer drops."

Ron scowled. "So what do you think we should do then? Just sit around until we join that mummy in the coffin?"

The pharaoh gazed up at the dark arch for a long moment, considering. Then he looked back.

"I have an idea," he said calmly. "Bakura was able to avoid some of the curses and enchantments surrounding the cup by using a foreign form of magic—a magic this Lord Voldemort seems unfamiliar with. Perhaps the spells he used to cast this area in darkness were not performed with all forms of magic in mind. So then—the way to get through is to cast a spell of light with a kind of magic Lord Voldemort wouldn't have anticipated."

Again, Harry, Ron, and Hermione glanced at each other.

"Are you saying..." Hermione began slowly, cautiously. "You can use foreign magic like Bakura can?"

"Yes," the pharaoh answered. He hesitated. "The truth is...we haven't been exactly forthcoming with you. But I'm sure you've already figured that out. I believe the magic Bakura and I possess is different from yours—and it is the same kind of magic."

"From Egypt," Hermione murmured.

"Yes," said the pharaoh. "I will tell you a little more about it along the way. If my theory proves incorrect and the light I summon triggers Voldemort's traps, well, then it likely won't matter either way."

Harry looked at Ron and Hermione again, then back at him. Harry nodded. "Let's go then."

The pharaoh nodded once. He reached down into his robes, retrieving the pack he kept there containing his Duel Monster's deck, then turned back toward the dark arch. He drew a card and, taking an even breath, stepped into the darkness.

As expected, everything was pitch black around him. The pharaoh could not see the floor, or so much as his own hand in front of his face. It was a world of nothingness, and for a moment he felt as though he might as well have no body.

However, he could still feel himself. He could still feel the robes over his shoulders, and the weight of the Millennium Puzzle around his neck. And, most importantly, the card he had drawn from his deck still in his hand.

"Here goes nothing," he muttered.

He raised the card into the air, and as he did so, he saw the eye of the Millennium Puzzle glow with a golden light, briefly illuminating his features in the darkness.

"I call," he said in a loud, commanding voice that rang in the darkness, "The Swords of Revealing Light!"

As he watched, a sea of pinpricks of light appeared high above his head. Then, one by one, they stretched out into long, jagged shapes, slicing downward like heavy rain. However, each froze in midair just above his head, hovering there, almost too bright to look at as the light from their glow cascaded down over the space before him.

Now he could see the dark space that they had walked through before, and he sucked in a sharp breath.

The place was enormous—a cavern that stretched out far from where he stood. A seemingly endless flight of stone stairs rose before him, while on either side the stone sheered off sharply into a black chasm below. The swords extended partway up the staircase, before they ran out and the stairway continued up into darkness.

The pharaoh reached up to wipe a bead of sweat from his forehead. He was glad they hadn't just tried to walk the way blind.

"Wow," said a voice behind him. "Just wow."

The pharaoh turned to see Ron, along with Harry, still helping carry Bakura, and Hermione standing there, just inside the arch. He hadn't known they had followed him just yet.

"It's hard to believe we walked down all that way and didn't know it," Hermione said.

"Sure glad we didn't," Ron muttered. "Some things you're just better off not knowing."

"We better get started," the pharaoh said briskly. "As long as it took to get here, we have quite a long walk ahead of us." He added, "We can trade off carrying Bakura, if you would like."

Harry shook his head. "We're okay, don't worry."

"He's actually not that heavy," Ron added. "Even with the coat."

The pharaoh hesitated, then nodded once. He turned and started up the steps, followed a moment later by the others.

They walked in silence for a little while. Ron, Harry and Hermione occasionally stole glances up at the glowing swords, then looked at each other.

It was finally Hermione who broke the silence, and asked the question on all of their minds.

"Yugi," she began. "This foreign magic that you use. It's Egyptian? How does it work, exactly?"

Just then, the swords above their heads flickered, then dimmed. And suddenly, very abruptly, they were all plunged once again into darkness.

Everyone froze where they were. Ron muttered, "Please, no."

"Don't worry," the pharaoh answered. "This particular spell has a limited duration, but I can simply cast it again...Swords of Revealing Light!"

Once again, the eye of the Puzzle glowed a bright gold, and the white swords plunged from the high ceiling, freezing at a convenient height just above their heads, forming a pathway up the stairs. They all started moving again.

Hermione glanced up, seeing the card in the pharaoh's hand, then back down to the Puzzle.

The pharaoh noticed her gaze, and sighed slightly. He reached down with his free hand to touch the cool metal of the pendant.

"What you said before," he began. "About this item possibly possessing ancient magical properties—well, you were right. It is a magical artifact, and as near as we can tell, that is where the power comes from."

Hermione nodded slowly. "And the card," she said, eying the Swords of Revealing Light, which he was still gripping in his left hand. "You used those kind of cards before."

"Yes," the pharaoh answered. "I channel magic through these cards. Just as you saw back in the room with the tiara."

"Those cards—it's like some kind of fantasy game, isn't it?" Hermione asked. "It's like you make whatever is on them come to life. I've never seen magic like that."

"Yes," the pharaoh answered. "The truth is, I don't know all the details myself, but from what I understand, in ancient Egypt, real monsters existed, monsters that were used to fight battles against each other. Or so the legends go."

He held up the card. "This game—Duel Monsters, it's called—was created by a man named Pegasus J. Crawford. It was originally called Magic and Wizards, because in the game, the player is supposed to be a wizard who conjures monsters and wields magic to do battle with an opponent. Pegasus created the game based on stone tablets excavated in Egypt, and ancient texts describing mysterious ceremonies called Shadow Games."

"Shadow Games," Hermione repeated in a murmur. She slowed slightly in her ascent for a moment, staring off at the chasm below in thought. Then she blinked and started up again, redoubling her pace.

"Um, Yugi," she began hesitantly. "I was just wondering. Ryou...Ryou said he had this power to move souls. What about you? Do you have that power?"

The pharaoh shook his head. "I don't know," he admitted. "Perhaps. But if so, I've never tried to use it."

"And," Hermione continued tentatively. "Have you ever met anyone else who can do that?"

At this, the pharaoh paused. Then he started up again, moving a little faster than before. "Yes," he said in a low voice. "Yes, I have. The man I just mentioned—Pegasus J. Crawford, the one who created Duel Monsters. He possessed an artifact very much like the one I have, and he could use it to seal the souls of others inside cards. The artifact is what led him to discover the Shadow Games, and to try to revive them. The item gave him extra powers...and he used those powers to target me."

"You mean..." Hermione said slowly, hesitantly.

"I mean," the pharaoh said, "he forced me to do battle with him by taking those I cared about hostage."

The pharaoh didn't look back at them, not sure how they must be looking at him, and wondering if perhaps he ought to have left that part out. He wanted to explain it all as honestly as he could, and yet he didn't really feel like fielding questions about that particular time.

However, rather than ask any questions, Hermione only said quietly, "I'm sorry."

They walked in silence for a minute, and the pharaoh could feel his other self's compassion from his soul room. At last, the pharaoh got a hold of himself and said, "It's probably not so surprising. It seems those who possess at least one of the artifacts will often go after the others, hoping to collect them all. Pegasus was after something other than my Puzzle, but perhaps it was fated we would face each other at some point."

He added, "Anyway, it doesn't matter now. I was able to get the people he took back, and Pegasus is no longer a threat."

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked quickly, then fell silent, as though regretting voicing the question.

The pharaoh shook his head. "Shortly after our final confrontation, we heard later he had been murdered. I never knew how or why—who would have done it, and who would have even had the power to do it, given Pegasus's powers afforded him by the artifact—the Millennium Eye."

Again, they walked in silence, nothing but the steady rhythm of their sneakers against the polished stone.

It was finally Ron who said bluntly what the others were thinking. "You didn't do it?"

The pharaoh paused, and turned to look back at them. He saw they were all gazing up at him warily, not exactly hostile, but with that trace of mistrust that the spirit had so successfully sewn.

The pharaoh smiled slightly. "Well, I suppose I would have had means and motive. But no, I didn't."

He turned away then, continuing on up the steps.

The fact was, back then he had intended to punish Pegasus, to condemn him to a severe penalty game for all the havoc he had wreaked, the pain he had caused. But something had stopped him. It wasn't compassion for Pegasus's story, when the man had finally explained his reasons for everything he had done—the wish to see his deceased wife once again. Rather, it was when Pegasus had spoken of the evil intelligence lurking within the Millennium Items. He was a spirit that resided within the Millennium Puzzle—a spirit that had done admittedly horrible things to people. In that moment after the game was over, he had been afraid that, to vent his wrath against Pegasus, would prove that the intelligence in the Puzzle was indeed, as the man had said, a dark intelligence.

The pharaoh closed his eyes briefly, shutting out the light of the glowing swords. He wished to find his lost memories. To discover who he had once been. But what would he find when he did? What if Pegasus was right—what if there was an evil intelligence within the Items? And what if he, like the spirit of the Millennium Ring, was a part of it?

"Yugi," Hermione whispered, interrupting his thoughts. "Just...one more question."

The pharaoh blinked, and glanced back at her. He realized he had stopped walking, and he turned back to face the stairs, moving again. "Yes?" he asked.

Hermione hesitated. "If...If Bakura can use the same kind of magic you can...does that mean he has an artifact like yours, too?"

The pharaoh paused in mid-step, but then forced himself to keep going.

He wondered then if it was a good idea to tell Harry and the others all about this. Certainly, they were already part of a world of a magic of a kind, but perhaps the magics had been kept separate all these years for a reason. Perhaps it was better to keep knowledge of the Millennium Items obscure and unknown. After all, how many people who sought after them in hopes of possessing them had suffered the consequences?

However, he had already gone too far for it to mean anything to hide very much from them now, and he knew even if he didn't answer or lied, they would still suspect the truth.

"Yes," he said simply.

Again, they were quiet for a time. Ron at last opened his mouth to say something, but just then the pharaoh looked up and saw a hole up ahead, at the very end of a long curve upward. He saw gold coins glittering on the steps, and knew they were near the vault.

"There," he said. "We're almost there."

The steps grew abruptly steeper as they reached the edge of the stone, and the passageway narrowed, so Ron and Harry were forced to turn sideways to get Bakura through.

The swords vanished then, and so it was pitch black behind them as they ascended out of the darkness into the torchlit room of the vault above.

Harry and Ron laid Bakura down on the sea of coins for the moment, then turned to the pharaoh.

"So what next?" Harry asked. He glanced at the door. "There aren't going to be any spells we can use to get out of here. The doors are enchanted to keep you in."

The pharaoh nodded. "I think I have just the card."

He closed his eyes as he pulled the card he wanted, and once again the Puzzle glowed. A tall red-and-black box seemed to rise from the floor, standing amidst the coins. A series of what looked like question marks ran down along its side, and it was covered in slots.

"We should all get inside this box," the pharaoh said.

"Okay," Ron said, raising his eyebrows at the others.

Harry and Ron picked Bakura back up, and as the door to the box swung open, they all trooped inside.

For a moment, they waited in darkness, lit only by the slivers of light filtering in through the slots.

"So what are these holes for?" Ron asked, gesturing with his free hand.

The pharaoh smiled tightly. "For the swords, of course."

Ron glanced down at the card the pharaoh was still holding in his hand, and must have noticed the picture—two boxes, one filled with swords.

He tensed, then slumped. "Great," he muttered. "Just great."

The sound of a dozen bits of metal slicing downward filled the air around them, and they all flinched. However, after a moment, they just peered around them, as nothing seemed to have happened.

"All right," the pharaoh said after a moment. "I think we can get out now."

The door to the box opened, and torchlight streamed inside. They all stepped outside and, glancing around, discovered that they were back in the stone corridor they had initially come from. Far down the passage, the rubble from the earlier battle was just visible.

Stowing the Mystic Box card back with his deck, the box vanished, and the pharaoh turned back to the others.

"Okay," he said. "Now we might as well get out the brooms again. I could navigate us back to the place that Bakura first brought us in, which is near the bank, and from there I'm sure I could find the way out. However, there's likely to be security there. So, perhaps we might try something else first. The battle with the dragons—I believe a hole may have been torn in the ceiling, which we may simply be able to fly through."

"Right, correct me if I'm wrong," Ron noted. "But doesn't that mean we'll have to go around and fly right past that other dragon?"

The pharaoh shrugged. "With any luck, it will have moved on by now. And if not, well..." He put a hand on his deck in his robes. "We can always fight if we have to."

Harry nodded slowly. "Okay then, Yugi. Lead the way."

Hermione got into her bag, and began pulling the brooms out.

"Wait," Ron said. He and Harry had once again left Bakura slumped against the wall, and he raised a hand as he took his broom with the others. "I just have one more question. Actually, two more questions."

The pharaoh regarded him evenly. "Yes?"

Ron jerked his thumb at Bakura. "He said before he didn't know what that monster was that you used to fight the dragon, or something. But if you use the same magic...are you trying to tell us he was lying?"

The pharaoh hesitated. He could try to explain some semblance of the truth, but still he could not push away the sense that the spirit had done such a thorough job of discrediting him that to try to directly contradict him would make them suspicious of him again. They seemed to believe him and trust him for now, but that could change in an instant. But more importantly, he realized that he did not want to turn them completely against Bakura, especially now that it seemed the real Bakura may be in control, at least for a little while.

At last, he said cryptically, "I don't know all of Bakura's powers, and he doesn't know all of mine. He...has his own reasons for doing as he does, and I don't always know them."

Ron nodded slowly. "Right. And that goes right into my other question." He looked the pharaoh straight in the eye and said bluntly, "Are the two of you friends or enemies?"

The pharaoh hesitated.

Ron continued, "You said you both have the same kind of magic, and you knew each other before, but you also said that people who have these magic things tend to fight over them. Well, if he has one, and you have one..."

He trailed off, waiting for the pharaoh to answer.

The pharaoh turned his eyes away, to gaze back down the long, dark passage. It wasn't a simple answer—not without telling the full truth, and though he had told them a lot, he didn't know if he was ready to share that just yet. Possession—it wasn't a pleasant type of magic.

At last, he turned back to gaze at them, his expression neutral. "If I had to put our relationship into words," he began, "I would say...he and I are like gaming partners."

He turned away again, raising his eyes to stare at the patch of rubble far down the long corridor.

"Bakura and I are both game players. We live or die by the games—that is the ultimate nature of our magic, I think. Sometimes we are playing on the same side, other times we are on opposite sides, but either way it seems our fates are tied together."

The pharaoh murmured, almost to himself, "I suppose he is my enemy."

He continued to gaze thoughtfully down the corridor, and the others all shared a glance. However, after a moment, he turned back to regard them over his shoulder, and the corner of his mouth quirked up in a smile.

"But, if I had to say—he is my friend and ally first, my opponent second. And he always will be."

Paying no attention to the thoroughly mystified looks on their faces, the pharaoh took one of the brooms Hermione had brought out and mounted it. Maybe it didn't matter if they believed him, or whatever the spirit was planning. He would defeat the spirit eventually, he believed that—but in the meantime, it was more important to keep his friends safe. Especially Bakura.

He turned away from them as he rose into the air, and started back down the dark passage of the labyrinth.

"Every game has a winner and a loser. What separates the two? I'll tell you. The good judgment needed to know the rules and assess the situation... and the instincts to decide when and how to act. Whoever has those two things, wins."

A/N: And, there's another one. This is one I initially wrote in bits and pieces back around 2011, and had to rewrite much more recently.

I was looking up the correct spelling for the spell 'Ennervate,' and I found out that JK Rowling had, after finding out the meaning of the word wasn't quite right, officially renamed the spell to 'Rennervate.' I decided to go with the new official version of the spell.

Have yet to see the second movie in the Fantastic Beasts series, even though it's been out forever. I was kind of waiting to see it with my sister, completely forgetting she'd already seen it, lol, but I might try to see it this weekend or the next. The more the story start ramping up, the more excited I get.

Anyway, thank you all so much for reading, and for all your comments and continued support. (Hopefully next chapter will be faster than this one was.) If you have a moment, let me know what you thought, and hope to see you next chapter! C:

Posted 2/8/19