DISCLAIMER: Meesa don't own Merlin or Harry Potter. No, meesa don't. Does it make yousa sad? It makes meesa sad. :)
A/N: I am so, ridiculously sorry for the massive delay on this and all my other stories. I know I sound like a parrot repeating the words of another parrot, repeating the words of a broken record that's playing a recording of another broken record of a parrot, but it's true. And I really have no excuse. I mean, I am working at a local newspaper as the Lifestyles Editor, and I've been writing poetry and on my novels, and I've been hanging out with my sister and my boyfriend and my best friend… and my cat… but still … I have no (legitimate) excuse… And I apologize.
But enough of my groveling. I really need to get a hold on that, I think. Here's hoping that you guys are still interested in this fic… considering it's been ages since I last updated. But like I've said many times before, no matter how long the hiatus between chapters, I will NOT leave a story unfinished. It may just take a while, if you guys can be patient with me. I know it can be hard sometimes.
With all that being said, I'd also like to add a quick note about creative license: It is a power that I have and will continue to utilize in this particular story. While I do roughly follow the events of TDH, this is my own story, and I will treat it as such. So while some things will be similar to book 7, I'm following my own timeline, my own ideas, to reach my own end. :) Hopefully I didn't botch that explanation too much, and even more hopefully, you haven't gotten bored already with my rambling and clicked the back button. Because it's just about to get good. :D
Enjoy.. and please review! :)
The Most Hallowed Alliance
Chapter Nine: The Ministry of Magic
It was two weeks after Merlin and Arthur's arrival.
Because of their journey to the future, Merlin and Arthur had discovered a wonder far beyond their time, something that they would most sorely miss when they went back to Camelot: the toilet. Going back to the old chamberpot was going to be one of the most unpleasant experiences they would have, and neither of them looked forward to it. Although neither one spoke to the other about this issue, it was one that was nibbling at the backs of both of their minds.
Be that as it may, the bliss of modern plumbing, it was also safe to say that they didn't love the toilet so much that they were willing to stick their feet in it, and then flush themselves down. Ron, Harry, and Hermione seemed to be just as reluctant, but Ron, whose father apparently worked for the Ministry of Magic, insisted that the main work entrance to the Ministry of Magic was a public restroom. It was quite a relief that the toilets seemed to be magical and didn't get their feet or trousers wet, but it was still uncomfortable all the same.
And when they did arrive at the ministry of magic, they weren't exactly themselves. After Merlin and Arthur's arrival and their getting settled in and adjusted at Grimmauld Place, they had immediately begun to help their friends devise a plan to get into the Ministry. They all took turns spying on the place using a possession of Harry's that Merlin had become quite enamored with - a cloak of invisibility. As it was, by the time that the actual infiltration was to take place, Merlin and Arthur both knew the trek to the Ministry by heart, knew about several people who worked there, and they were also accustomed to the sight of cars rambling by on cracked asphalt, the smell of smog and of… London… in the distance, and the sight of people walking around half naked. They were used to the shops that lined the streets, the general hubbub and chaos of the modern day Muggle world.
They were used to it, but that didn't mean they liked it.
The other three had assured them that life in the wizarding community was normally much less hectic and far more pleasant, and definitely more along the lines of what Merlin and Arthur were used to, and they found themselves wishing that they could visit Hogwarts, not as patients, nor as hidden guests of Neville Longbottom. And while the prince and the sorcerer were certainly fascinated by the future world they found themselves in, they much preferred their lives in Camelot to the noisy, busy, rude life of the Muggle world. Except for the toilets. Toilets were wonderful creations, really, and from what the others had said, they were some of the only devices used in pretty much the same way in both the wizard and the Muggle worlds.
Which brought them back to the rather questionable entrance to the Ministry of Magic, where Ron wasn't Ron, Harry wasn't Harry, and Hermione wasn't Hermione. In all technicality, Merlin wasn't really Merlin, either, and neither was Arthur, but it was in documented form only that they'd changed who they were.
Another activity that the four young wizards and the prince (Arthur would not allow anyone to call him a Muggle, no matter how true the statement was) had been involved in during their interlude at 12 Grimmauld Place was the making of a certain Polyjuice Potion. Armed with vials of the liquid, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, with the help of Merlin and Arthur had manage to incapacitate or otherwise redirect their targets, while simultaneously snagging bits of their hair in the process, so that they soon became three Ministry workers instead of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. The friends had become rather dismayed when they found out that the man Ron was impersonating, Reg Cattermole, had a wife that was being interrogated for the crime of simply being a Muggle-born today, but they had decided with heavy hearts that they couldn't change their plans, even if it meant keeping poor Reg away from his wife's side while she was unjustly tried for something as ridiculous as being a Muggle-born.
After much discussion and a few arguments on the subject, it had been decided that Merlin and Arthur were not going to physically impersonate anyone at the Ministry since their faces were obviously unknown in this time period. Hermione had quickly objected, saying that if no one knew who they were, they were just as likely to be stopped, and anyway, You-Know-Who knew what they looked like, and even if he wasn't at the Ministry personally, if word got to him as word always did nowadays, they could be in just as much trouble. Arthur pointed out peevishly that there were a lot of "ifs" in her argument, and then steadfastly refused to change into someone else. Merlin agreed, saying that he had come across a couple of disillusionment spells that would probably work to cast people's attention elsewhere when they were nearby. He said that it wouldn't make them invisible or anything, but from what he'd read, it would direct people's focus away from them. Ron had said, "Like the Quidditch World Cup?" and Merlin had shrugged in confusion before adding that he would be able to, just in case, create fake pure-blood documents for both him and Arthur by slightly modifying and magically copying records from some of the old wizarding family trees and books lying around gathering dust in the Black household.
"Are you sure?" Arthur had questioned, and Merlin had nodded fervently.
"'Course," he'd replied, grinning cheekily. "How do you think Lancelot got his family seal and family records a few years ago?"
Arthur's eyes had gone wide while Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked on with interest. "That was you?"
"Hey, I was just trying to help him out! It was stupid that your father wasn't going to let him be a knight just because he wasn't of nobility!"
"Wait, Sir Lancelot wasn't a noble?" Hermione had spluttered, indignant as history was once again rewritten before her very eyes.
After some explaining and consoling ("No, Hermione, everything you've ever known is not a lie. You can still rely on your schoolbooks."), and a few minutes of intense magical concentration from Merlin, and Arthur and Merlin had very realistic documentation of their pure-blooded ancestry that only the very scrutinizing gaze of a wizened, old court genealogist could reveal.
Now, after all the planning, rowing, and magical preparations, the five friends were standing just in the entrance of the Ministry of Magic, about to enter into probably the single most dangerous place for them to retrieve a dreaded Horcrux from one of the vilest witches in existence. They had faced worse together, but this still wasn't going to be easy. A trill of anticipation was in the air as they prepared themselves for what they had to do.
They were ready.
"I really hate this place," Merlin muttered as he, Arthur, and Harry tried to squeeze through the throng of Ministry workers and visitors around them. There were notices flying above their heads, official looking people tromping about all over the place, and posters about Harry being the number one enemy of the Ministry. Then there was the statue in the middle of the main lobby of wizards standing atop Muggles in a grotesque statement that "Magic Is Might."
"I thought you'd like this," Arthur said back to him. "It's all… magicky."
Merlin grunted something unintelligible as someone rammed into him for the fifth time - one of the drawbacks of not being noticed was that people tended to run into you often because they didn't see you, and then they didn't even look back to apologize because they were hardly aware that they had run into anyone. Arthur was right; normally Merlin would be thrilled to see magic used so blatantly for common, everyday tasks like delivering messages, carrying loads of paperwork, and even stirring a cup of coffee, but this place was so wrong. There was a tainted shadow looming over the entire workplace, corrupting everyone and everything in it with its oppressive force. These people were taking magic and lording it over those who didn't have it, or who people who were born to Muggles. It sickened Merlin to see magic used in such a way, and he realized that this place, in his mind, was a reverse situation of that in Camelot. The Ministry of Magic was essentially the Uther Pendragon of the future.
As if reading Merlin's thoughts, Harry, who was a tall, deep-voiced man at the moment, whispered, "This isn't the real Ministry. I mean, I'm sure that there are people who believe the rubbish that's in here now, like Umbridge, but this is not the Ministry that I've been in before. It's been corrupted by You-Know-Who. If - when - we stop him, we can put an end to this nonsense, once and for all."
Merlin nodded as he was jostled once again. "Tell me," he changed the subject as the crowd thinned out a little as the large hallway they were in branched off into several smaller corridors (they took the leftmost one), "Do you actually know where her office is?"
"Sort of," Harry said. "I've got the general idea from the directory. I'm pretty sure we're in the right wing, at least."
"Technically," Merlin pointed out, "we're in the left wing."
Harry gave the powerful wizard a strange look. Arthur smacked Merlin lightly on the back of the head. "You know what he meant," the prince chastised. "Now shut up and stop trying to be funny. Because you're not."
Merlin pouted a little in fake indignation (mostly fake, at least; his quip had been quite amusing, he thought) as they turned a corner. "I wish that Ron and Hermione hadn't gotten pulled away," he said, quickly sobered. "That one woman said that she worked for Umbridge, didn't she? Maybe the witch'll be wherever Hermione went."
"Do you think that she'll be able to handle her on her own?" Arthur asked.
Merlin smirked. "I wouldn't be surprised if she figured out where Umbridge had the locket, got it away from her, and destroyed it by the time we found her office."
Harry the Tall Deep Man chuckled while Arthur tamed a slight smile. "You're probably right. I hope Ron… er… Reg can deal with that curse in his boss's office. I don't want the poor man's wife to suffer because of it."
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Arthur said, waving the worry aside. "He can handle it, I'm sure. Stopping rainstorms indoors should be commonplace for you lot, right?"
"Maybe to Merlin, Hermione, and priestesses of the Old Religion," Harry said, only half-joking. "These hexes are a little complex for most sixth-year Hogwarts drop-outs."
"Oh," said Arthur, and then stopped his current line of thought because they had come upon a door that was quite literally looking at them.
"What… is that?" Merlin asked, glancing over at Harry with a partially amused look on his face. Any trace of humor fled at the sight of the disguised Harry's jaw clenched tightly, his eyes filled with a startling combination of pain, anger, and grief. "Harry?"
"It… belonged to a friend," Harry said, his lips pressed together tightly. "A friend who gave his life trying to protect me, and they took his eye and made a mockery of him."
"That is disturbing," Arthur noted, his brow furrowed in distaste. "Who would do such a thing?"
"Dolores Umbridge," Harry seethed, glaring at the door like he was willing it to crumble into a pile of ashes.
"You think she's behind it?" asked Merlin.
"I know," he said, and then gestured to the nameplate on the door that Merlin and Arthur hadn't paid attention to before. It read: DOLORES UMBRIDGE.
"I am really not liking this woman," Merlin ground out. He glanced around to see that there was an open room filled with employees printing off some sort of flyers just a bit down the hall. "We'll take the eye, too, but right now, we need a distraction. I think some of those people might starting getting suspicious with our loitering outside of her door."
"I've got it," said Harry. He grinned tightly and pulled out some small devices from his pocket. "Decoy Detonators from Ron's brothers. This'll distract them so we can get into the room."
"Okay," said Merlin. "We'll slip in and make sure it's clear while you do that. Then you can join us."
"Be careful," Arthur added.
Harry nodded. "See you in a mo."
"No one's in here," Merlin confirmed, his eyes flashing gold as he used his magic to search for any signs of life behind the door. "Let's go."
Down the hall, they could hear the sound of confusion and chaos erupting, and they knew that Harry was using his Decoy Detonators so that no one would look their way and get suspicious. Knowing that "Public Enemy Number 1" would be following them shortly, prince and servant slipped into Dolores Umbridge's office and were immediately accosted with the color pink. And kittens. Lots and lots of kittens.
"Meow," said a particularly fluffy orange tabby from a decorative plate on the wall above the desk.
"Erm," said Arthur. There was really nothing else to say.
A couple of stunned moments followed, and then the horrified men set to work, searching the sickeningly girly office for the Horcrux. Merlin had a sinking feeling that they were on a wild goose hunt, however, and as soon as Harry joined them in the office, he told them as much.
"I know we've just started looking," he started, "but there's this… thing… that tends to happen to me when a particularly powerful magical object - good or dark - is nearby. I can sense its presence."
"Oh," said Harry, "that's handy. But we should probably make sure."
"Of course," Merlin nodded. "Just wanted to let you know that our chances of finding the locket here are probably pretty low."
After a few minutes of fruitless searching, they heard a high, simpering, utterly girly and repulsive voice tittering from the other side of the door. "Oh, thank you, William," the voice trilled. "I can't imagine what has gotten into those panicking employees. And I assure you, whoever smuggled in those silly toys will be severely punished."
Harry, Merlin, and Arthur all exchanged a panicked look. Footsteps were hastily approaching the door, and the three of them had no means of escape. "Is that her?" Arthur asked.
"Of course it is, you dollop head," Merlin hissed back, trying desperately to think of a plan. He was more worried about Harry than he and Arthur in this situation, considering no one knew who they were, and Harry was Public Enemy Number 1. A half-cocked plan began to slowly solidify in his mind as he continued sarcastically, "Who else could that voice belong to, other than the person who owns this room?"
"Make sure they get back to work, immediately. I need to stop by my office for a moment, dear, and then I will be on my way to that wand thief, Cattermole's, hearing."
"Y-yes ma'am," said a slightly tremulous voice, accompanied by hastily approaching footsteps.
Merlin used his ability to speak directly into people's minds to quickly outline the slightly reckless plan he had come up with. He could tell from their facial expressions that Harry and Arthur didn't like it one bit, but it was the only chance they had to get out of this with the least amount of mess, so they both nodded stiffly and got ready to put it in motion.
Seconds later, the door swung open, revealing a squat, frog-like woman wearing all pink and a very familiar locket around her neck. She saw her surprise guests and raised her eyebrows on her ugly face.
A/N: Aaand… there you go! Finally, the next chapter is out! And the next one is most definitely going to include the little scene that I gave y'all in the sneak preview at the end of the last story. I'm so looking forward to the next chapter! I'm not going to make any promises this time about when the next one will come out, because I am busy and have regrettably become a bit unreliable lately with my updates, so I'm just going to settle with saying that I'll do it when I can. Stick with me, please, though, because I will try to update it relatively soon, and it's only gonna get better! Please review, and I love y'all! I don't think I tell you guys that enough!