A/N: Final chapter! So many thoughts and feelings, but I'll save them for the end.
Thanks so much to anyone who might be reading out there! I'll say it one final time—hope you enjoy, and see you in the final author's note!
Chapter 52: Emissary of Light
The Aurors split up to check the premises for more lurking dementors, as well as see if any of the Death Eaters could be saved, while Harry, Hermione, and Ron went to help. They also planned to search the dungeons—to find out if there were anything left of Professor Snape. It didn't seem to have fully sunk in yet for any of the witches and wizards who had seen Dumbledore fall, Snape's true loyalties in the end, but they seemed to all agree without discussing it that they all wanted to ensure he received a proper sendoff.
After summoning the sun god the pharaoh was fully tapped out, and so he ceded control over to Yugi. Without true patronuses both he and Bakura were unlikely to be of much help, and so they were sent outside to wait. Bakura's spirit monster had returned to his soul for now, but they could use it for protection if they needed to, and so they found themselves sitting on the grassy slope overlooking the lake.
They gazed out over the water in silence for a while, just taking it all in, as the waters of the lake glittered silver and pink in the light of approaching dawn. They had all survived, their souls intact. There wasn't much more they could ask for.
"You'll have to get the Ring," Bakura said at last, a little sheepishly. "It's still down in the dungeons… underwater. It might be hard to find. Sorry."
"I almost wish we could just leave it there," sighed Yugi. "But it would be too dangerous, if a witch or wizard stumbled across it. They might die if they tried to put it on—or if they were able to wear it, that might be even worse."
"Unfortunately, you couldn't leave it, even if you wanted to. You need it."
Yugi blinked, as did Bakura, and they both looked up to see Malik Ishtar approaching. He wore the same Ghoul cloak he had at the museum, the light breeze catching the edges, rustling his light blond hair.
He offered Yugi a respectful bow, before he knelt in the grass, a little ways down from them. "The pharaoh needs all the Millennium Items if he is to regain his memories," he said. "Along with the god cards."
Yugi glanced at him in some surprise, then sighed. "I guess we should have been expecting that. It's always felt like our fate has been tied to the Millennium Items from the beginning." He paused, then added hesitantly, "Malik, do you… do you know if what the spirit said was true? He said that the Items were originally created by the pharaoh—my other self's father. Is that how it happened?"
"That I can't say," Malik replied. "The answer, I'd guess, will be within the pharaoh's lost memories. This has all been a rather fantastical adventure—but your fight is far from over."
Yugi smiled a little and winced. "We figured as much." He added, "By the way, the pharaoh says it's good to see you, Malik. And that you always have a way of cheering us up."
Bakura laughed a little, and even Malik couldn't completely hide a grin.
"It is always my pleasure, my king," he replied. He went on, "And you can tell him that, had either of you asked for my advice ahead of all this, I might have advised against getting involved—you do already have enough magical battles of your own to worry about without meddling in that of others."
Yugi couldn't argue the point, and he chuckled ruefully.
"How did you get mixed up in all this anyway, if you don't mind my asking?" Malik said, glancing toward them curiously. "I gather the spirit came across it all by accident somehow, and decided to make use of it—but what about you, Yugi? How did you know about it?"
Yugi started to open his mouth to reply—but he broke off. He had just spotted something hovering above the dewy grass just beyond where Malik sat. At first glance he thought it one of the Hogwarts ghosts, but then he recognized the long white robe and turban, the distinctive Ankh earrings.
Yugi gestured in his direction. "I think maybe he can tell you himself."
Malik turned—and let out a sound somewhere between a gasp and a snarl. "You!" He automatically reached down, as though to draw out his Millennium Rod—but of course he grasped only air.
"I brought the pharaoh here because the spirit of the Millennium Ring was here," Shadi said simply. His voice had the tinny, echoing sound of a spirit, and it was clear he was not physically here. Which was just as well, as Malik had already shifted into a crouch, hands closing into fists as though ready for a fight. Arguably Malik's life would have taken a very different course if not for a frustratingly enigmatic, ill-timed comment Shadi had once made to a younger Malik in a moment of crisis.
"Playing games again?" growled Malik.
Shadi ignored him and continued, addressing Yugi, "The spirit strayed from his territory to interfere in powers of this world which he did not understand. The magic of this place has power enough that it was in danger of affecting the very destiny of the Millennium Items. The one who created the spellbook from which the ritual to create the items came—he was a wizard, an ancient ancestor of those who now attend this school. The items were valued for their power to grant magic to even those who were not born with the gift, and so for the spirit to interact with those of the same bloodline of magic was dangerous. That was why it was best for you to be here—to hinder his objectives, balance him out."
Yugi sighed and shook his head. "You didn't even tell us the spirit was here, or why you brought us to this place."
Shadi's face was expressionless. "I had thought it would be obvious," he said in deadpan.
Malik snorted with disgust, folding his arms and looking away.
"Well," said Yugi. "We've taken care of the spirit, for the time being. Now what?"
"This has been a slight detour," said the guardian. "When you return to Japan, the next stage of your journey will begin."
Yugi smiled. "That's about what we thought."
"The best of luck to you, my king," Shadi said, bowing, and the astral form grew dim, then vanished.
Yugi's smile faded, and he gazed out over the slowly shifting waters of the lake. From deep within his soul, he felt what his partner felt. A deep sense of purpose, yet also melancholy, seemed to settle over him.
"Well," Malik said at last into the silence. With Shadi gone, he seemed to have recovered his equanimity. "I'm going to go see when they can get me back to Egypt. I'm sure Rishid and Ishizu are worried to death—this will all make quite a story."
"Look out for dementors," said Bakura softly. Though his tone was light, he looked on with genuine concern. "I might be able to summon my monster again to go with you, if you like…"
Malik shook his head, then shuddered a little. "No need. I can feel them a mile off, and there aren't any close by. I'll be fine."
He climbed to his feet.
Yugi looked at him one last time. "Thank you for coming, Malik," he said sincerely. "Without you… the pharaoh thinks he probably would have lost."
Yugi blinked suddenly, then quickly reached for his deck, still in the duel disk on his arm. He pulled it out and started rifling through it. "Here—I'm sure you—want your cards back—"
Malik took a step back and raised a hand to stop him. "No, you keep them. The pharaoh, or you for that matter, may need them. I'm just glad I could be of help." He added with a hint of a grin, "Plus, I have plenty. Former Ghoul, you know."
Yugi looked down at his deck, as though suddenly aware of how the cards that had saved them may have been obtained. Before he could open his mouth to protest however, Malik stood straight in front of him.
Once again he bowed slightly, placing a hand over his heart. For once his expression didn't have a trace of humor or sarcasm. "Tell the pharaoh—" he began. "That I will always be his eternal servant."
Then he turned and went, back up over the hill, long Ghoul's cloak rippling behind him.
Yugi watched him go for a moment, feeling the light morning breeze on his face, ruffling his hair. He closed his eyes and let out a soft breath, then turned back out to the lake. Once again glimmers of silver danced over its surface, sparkling like gems.
Yugi suddenly sighed, and put a hand to his puzzle, gazing down at it.
"Even though we won… the other me still feels conflicted. He's accepted that what the spirit told him about his past might be true—but he doesn't want to believe it." He turned to look over at Bakura, sitting beside him. "What do you think? Was the spirit telling the truth?"
Yugi couldn't help but notice, a strange change seemed to have come over his friend. Bakura had always been quiet and soft spoken—when he was surrounded by girls and didn't seem to care for the attention, he went along with it anyway. When guys jealous of that attention got angry and gave him a rough time, he just took it. He was such a kind person, thoughtful of others, but he always struggled to be confident, to stand up for himself.
Now he seemed to have a new certainty, new assurance about him. The way he sat so straight, the way he looked so directly at Yugi, even with the Millennium Eye staring out from where his left eye should have been.
At last Bakura's gaze drifted back toward the lake, and he stared out at it thoughtfully. "I don't know," he said at last. "If I had to say—I think at least part of it is true. However, I only caught glimpses, images, so I don't know the full story, and I'm not sure if even the spirit knows."
Bakura added, "But, I think I understand how your other self feels."
He rested his hands on his bent knees, staring straight ahead, at the distant horizon. "When it feels like things are clearly defined, black and white, good and evil—it's easier to keep fighting, somehow. Because then you know what to fight for, who to fight. You know you're on the right side. But when things start feeling like they're all shades of gray, when you see the darkness in yourself—it just starts to feel so uncertain. The spirit may call right one thing, and I might call it another—but what's the difference?"
Yugi looked over at his friend, studying his kind profile in the warm dawn light.
"But," Bakura continued, "there is a difference. We are all—shades of gray. I see that. I was so afraid of letting myself understand him, what he had been through, what he felt—afraid that it would mean I would have to take his side, feel all the anger and bitterness he feels at the injustice that was done. And a part of me does feel angry—but whatever the spirit might have been through, he's still chosen to use that suffering to inflict suffering on others, who had nothing to do with what was done. I don't have to hate him to fight him, to stand against him. And when I understood that—that I was strong enough to fight without having to tell myself what he was nothing more than what he always seemed to want us to think, that he is the darkness, an incarnate of evil without any past—that I was strong enough to fight without needing to hate—I was finally free."
Bakura paused for a long moment, then added softly, "I think the way your other self responded to finding out about the spirit's past, and his own—it's the best testament to who he really is. The spirit of the Millennium Ring believes he can do no wrong, that he can choose his own good and evil, that justice and good depend only on who wins. The pharaoh, instead, doubts, and seeks—and cares. I'm… glad of that."
Yugi looked down at his puzzle again, then lifted his eyes to smile at him. "Thank you, Bakura. And the other me thanks you, too."
They were both quiet a moment again then, before Yugi sighed and stretched, leaning back on his hands.
"Well," he said, "this has definitely been something different. I only wish Jou and the others had been here to see it. And maybe I'd like it if we might have some downtime when we get back to Japan—but from what Shadi said, it sounds like it will be straight into another fight for our lives." He sighed. "We don't ever get a break."
"No," Bakura agreed with a smile. "But I'm sure we'll get a chance to at least tell them the story. And quite a story it will make. Wizards and magic. Castles and dragons."
"And don't forget the talking hat," Yugi said.
"And the talking hat."
Bakura sighed wistfully, then turned back. His smile suddenly had an unusual impish quality to it. "If we do get some time before the next crisis when we get back—you know what I have this craving to do?"
Yugi glanced back at him cautiously. "What?"
Bakura's grin was wide. "Play a game of Monster World."
Yugi couldn't help it, he grinned back. "You know, you'd think all these Shadow Games would have ruined us on playing any games forever. But somehow, no matter what happens next, I think that's what I'll still be doing. Playing games—just maybe without the death and high stakes, I hope."
"Maybe someday, if we see them again, we could even teach Harry and the others how to play," Bakura suggested. "Monster World, I mean. They like wizard's chess, don't they?"
They both continued to sit out on the grass overlooking the lake, discussing their plans for the future until the sun had risen high in the sky, reflecting as a shifting bright orb in the waters below. And they happy to enjoy all the warmth and the light and friendship and peace and calm and as long as it lasted.
Until the darkness came again.
"I don't know who I am, where I came from, or what path I should take. But that's fine… I like things the way they are."
A/N: And, there it is. At long last, the end.
Thanks so much to any of you out there who might be reading this, now or in the future, and for the many wonderful comments I've received over the years. Yugioh was the series that helped me discover fanfiction for the first time, and this story, which I started writing as a very new writer nearly seventeen years ago (inspired by other fanfictions out there I had read and loved at the time—shoutout to The New Students, which you can find in my Favorites list, if you want a real YugiohxHP crossover), played a huge part in motivating me to learn how to write, and has been an important part of my development as a writer. This might be the conclusion of this journey, but it's helped prepare me for more journeys and experiences in the world of writing and fanfiction, and I look forward to them, and hope you all will continue to discover new journeys as well.
Thank you one more time to all of you out there, to anyone who might have enjoyed any part of this story even a little. Hope you all have a great rest of the year, and take care!