So I've, um, gone back and re-read a lot of my story to make sure this matches continuity. Hope everything makes sense. If you notice an in-story continuity error please do tell me.
Oh and since so many people have either been confused or protested against the appearance of a dark mark on Draco's arm before book six, I have worked an explanation for it into my story. My apologies for the confusion. I have changed canon on this, and it is for a reason. If that bothers you, I'm sorry, but it's a part of my story, and it's necessary.
Anyway guys, thanks for waiting for my updates. You're a really great bunch.
Chapter 14: Hidden Truths
"What's his problem?" Harry asked.
His voice echoed loudly, emphasizing Draco's absence even more. Hermione bit her lip. He'd been so upset. She wondered why.
"Mione? Ron? What's wrong?"
Hermione looked forlornly at Harry, not knowing what to tell him.
"I think someone should see if he's okay." She said softly, before following Draco outside.
"Wait!" Ron shouted, but Hermione had already begun to make her way to the door. He sighed.
"Harry…" he began. "What's the last thing you remember?"
Harry squinted. "I grabbed Cedric and the cup…" He said softly. "It took us back here, and I yelled out that Voldemort's back."
Ron looked at him worriedly. "Harry, what happened in the maze? Where did you go?"
Harry frowned. There was a flash of his parents, of a priori incantatem between wands. He shut his eyes in pain, trying to follow the images. They came sporadically. First, he saw the field, felt himself running, sending spells at Death Eaters. Then images of Lucius Malfoy, of Cedric, dead, crowded his vision before a green light came into view. Voldemort. Harry brought his hands to his face as the pain worsened. He stopped.
"I was in a graveyard. I saw my parents. There were death eaters – Malfoy's father." He said. "If I try to remember more, the pain gets worse."
"And before? Do you remember anything from the first task?"
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Why is that important?"
"Harry…" Ron protested.
There was a huff. "I had to fight a Hungarian Horntail to get the golden egg. I called my broom and flew away from the arena. The dragon followed me. And…"
"And…?" Ron asked.
Harry paused, disbelief beginning to show on his features. "…I got the egg?"
"How did you get the egg?"
The boys' eyes met.
"Ron, I don't remember."
Ron glanced toward the door, concern beginning to show on his face. "Harry, I'll be back in a minute."
Harry looked on with growing worry and confusion as his best friend left him alone in the Hospital Wing.
Ron found Hermione coaxing Draco off the floor.
"Go away, Granger." Draco muttered, staring off into the distance.
Ron frowned. "I just talked to Harry, Mione. He doesn't remember anything about being Merlin."
Hermione paused, a suspicion slowly making its way through her head. Draco, who had been avoiding the ties that linked he and Harry together, had left when Harry hadn't recognized the name Merlin. Her hands went to her face, preventing a gasp as her mind began to race with tiny clues she had brushed off. Draco hadn't once called her mudblood since yesterday. He had been prattish but not cruel, condescending but not rude.
"Draco." She said, looking at his eyes.
Old, wise eyes looked at her: eyes too old for someone Draco's age.
"Hermione?" Ron asked, not following. "What's wrong?"
"I guess you understand now." Draco suddenly said. "How much it kills me that he's forgotten, when I've only just accepted who I am."
"You're kidding." Ron blurted. "You're – what – you're King Arthur now?"
Draco dragged himself to his feet with a frown. "What does it matter?" he spat.
Suddenly Hermione was in between them, her expression angry.
"Wake up!" She exclaimed, pointing to the door behind her. "Harry isn't dead. Merlin isn't dead. We still have a chance. We need to find out what that curse was and how it works. We can't do that if you're feeling sorry for yourself."
Draco blinked in surprise before meeting Hermione's gaze. Her eyes glistened with disappointment.
Well deserved disappointment. I'm letting him down.
He shook himself out of the hopelessness that had encompassed him, forcing himself to see the bigger picture. Hermione was right. He had to stop feeling sorry for himself. He nodded in acknowledgement.
Hermione took a breath. "Well, good." She said. "So, what exactly did Harry tell you when he appeared on the field?"
"He told me that Voldemort's back."
"And that's all?"
"Yeah." Draco said softly.
"He just told me he was in a graveyard." Ron spoke up. "He said he saw his parents, and that there was a lot of Death Eaters. One of them was Malfoy's father."
Ron glared at Draco with this confession.
"You think that surprises me?" Draco asked.
"No, I think you knew." Ron accused.
"Of course I knew! He's my bloody father, you idiot!"
"Ron!" Hermione shouted, holding him back as he reached for his wand.
"He was called to that graveyard, as I was."
"What does that mean?" Ron shouted. "You're a Death Eater, aren't you!"
"Ron!" Hermione shouted.
Hermione gasped as Draco forlornly pulled up his sleeve, revealing the dark mark. Ron held out his wand threateningly.
"I was right." Ron spat.
Draco rolled down his sleeve, his expression turning to cool anger. "I'm no more a death eater than you are." He spat. "My father threatened my mother, would've killed her if I hadn't cooperated. Having this bloody symbol was the price for her life."
"That's why you said…" Hermione muttered, remembering Draco's earlier words.
"…that my father would disown me for staying. I'm putting my mother in danger just by being here, just by trying to save Potter."
"You believe this, Mione?"
She wasn't sure what she believed at this point.
"I'll explain if you give me a chance, Weasley. There was another Death Eater in that graveyard. He's the one responsible for raising Voldemort, and for giving me the dark mark."
"Convenient." Ron spat.
"Don't make me use a silencing spell, Ron." Hermione warned. "And this had better be good, Malfoy."
Draco frowned. "This Death Eater - he's been coming to my house, meeting with my father. When he first came to Malfoy Manor he told my father he wanted to raise Voldemort, but to do that he'd have to gain the trust of the other Death Eaters. He wanted my father to help him, but instead my father laughed at him. Then he showed his power. They made a pact. My father saw I was questioning things, and was afraid it would jeopardize his plans, so to avoid my being labelled a traitor he asked to have me branded."
"Only you-know-who can give the dark mark." Hermione countered. "And he only does that to his most trusted followers. They have to take the mark willingly."
"Did you not just hear what I said?" Draco exclaimed. "I did take the dark mark willingly. My mother's life was at stake! The Death Eater who gave it to me is powerful. He had magic like the wizards of old! Magic like Merlin!"
Hermione wasn't fazed. "So? Then why not raise Voldemort himself? Why would he even need the loyalty of the death eaters?"
"That, I don't know." Draco said with a sigh. "Maybe he's hiding his real agenda."
Hermione gripped her wand tighter, ready to defend, but considered Draco's words. "Then you think Harry's memory loss isn't coincidence." She confirmed. "That the death eater succeeded in that graveyard, and he's hurt Harry."
"I don't think it, I know it."
"It's too bloody suspicious." Ron complained. "How do we know he isn't lying to us? He could be telling us what we want to hear."
Draco gritted his teeth. "We don't have time for this." He said coolly. "The sorcerer is out there and…"
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Sorcerer?" she asked wryly.
"Oh shut up." Draco spat. "You try having two sets of memories, Granger."
The door suddenly opened a crack and Harry poked his head out. "You guys have been out here a long time. What's going on?"
His gaze suddenly settled on Draco. "Why are you talking to Malfoy?" he spat.
Draco glanced away, closing his eyes to regain his composure before he said something he regretted. He turned back and frowned. "We'll continue this later." He said. "On the balcony. You know which one."
Then he walked away.
"It's nothing Harry." Hermione covered. "We, um, we were all worried about you, even Draco."
"Oh." Harry said, suspicious.
Ron's heart was beating fast with nervousness. How could they keep this from Harry, and what did this mean? He'd just adjusted to the fact that Harry was Merlin and now he was just Harry again. Would it be permanent? Did he want it to be permanent?
"Ron, come on. Let's go in." Hermione said, pulling him out of his thoughts.
"Yeah…um…okay." Ron agreed, and put his wand away before following her inside.
"Tell me, how is it that a fourth year student escapes this curse unaffected?" Snape asked coolly.
Dumbledore glanced pensively at the books on his shelf before stopping at his desk, and turning to face the potions professor.
"I'm afraid that is not something I am able to disclose, Severus." He said.
Snape continued. "This curse attacks the very structure of magic inside a wizard, breaking it down until only a spark remains. A weak wizard would be left no more than a muggle. Stronger wizards would be dead within months." His tone was clipped, his voice holding undertones of cool anger.
"Indeed." Dumbledore agreed cautiously. "We both know this."
"Then why has Potter escaped unscathed?"
Snape said this accusingly, knowing there was something Dumbledore held back. Dumbledore gaze snapped to Snape's with warning, causing the potions professor to narrow his eyes.
"He has not escaped unscathed. Harry has more potential than we expected, Severus, and as a result he is still in grave danger from this curse." Dumbledore said calmly. "That is all I will say on the matter."
"You are playing a dangerous game, Albus. If the boy dies, it will be on your conscience."
With that, the potions Professor stormed out.
"Professor!" Hermione called, seeing Dumbledore leaving the passage from his office.
Dumbledore paused a moment before turning to Hermione with a composed look.
"Can I help you, Miss Granger?"
She ran up to him, and paused, considering her words. "Sorry sir, but it's just that…did you find out what curse is affecting Harry?"
A small smile tugged at the corner of Dumbledore's lips. "My apologies for not telling you. Indeed we have."
Her eyes widened. "Will you tell me?"
He nodded and motioned for her to walk with him. She did.
"Many centuries ago a sorcerer named Cornelius Sigan created a curse that would strip unworthy witches and wizards of their magic. He held a great hatred for muggles and those of his kind who favoured them. The problem, of course, is that some of us are more intricately linked to the stream of magic than others, and were even more so during the times of the past. The spell became more dangerous than people knew. Powerful witches and wizards were so connected to the stream of magic they used that one could even consider them as being made of magic themselves. In these cases, stripping the magic would not simply cause them to revert to a muggle-like state; it caused insanity and death."
Hermione paled, tears tugging at the corners of her eyes. "Then Harry…?"
"It's too early to say." He said. "But given who Harry is..."
There was a moment of silence where their eyes met. Neither wanted to say it. Neither wanted to acknowledge that Harry might die.
Hermione turned to leave. "We won't stop until we find a cure for this." She said with determination.
Dumbledore nodded. "I would expect no less." He said.
"Hermione!" Harry called out. "Where have you been? Ron and I were looking all over for you."
"I had to speak to Dumbledore about some extra-credit work I've been doing." She said nonchalantly. "Nothing special."
"On our last day here?" Harry accused.
"It's to get a head start on next year." She lied.
She watched as he turned around, talking to Ron as though nothing had happened, and sighed. Harry looked so young again, so naïve. Gone was the wisdom of Merlin in his eyes, the burden he carried. Gone was the aura of power that had surrounded him since he learned of his past. It seemed as though Ron was enjoying having the old Harry back and Hermione felt betrayed on Harry's behalf. Despite her scepticism and awe at the beginning, she had worked hard to accept Harry – all of Harry – even his life as Merlin, and now…
She glanced at her watch. Just a few hours until the meeting with Draco. Ron was still being stubborn about trusting the Slytherin wizard but Hermione knew he was the key to this, especially now that he was truly Arthur.
"Ron?" she asked. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Sure." Ron agreed.
Harry began to follow him over but Hermione's look stopped him. "Sorry Harry, I just…wanted to talk to him about some…well…things."
She forced an embarrassed smile, attempting to mislead Harry into thinking she was going to admit her feelings to Ron. Harry raised an eyebrow but seemed to believe her and nodded. He headed for the boys dorm to pack his things.
"Ron." Hermione whispered. "I found out which curse the death eater used."
Ron's eyes widened. "What?"
"Dumbledore told me. It's called Sigan's curse."
"But Harry seems fine! You saw him. He's just lost his memories…well, and a bit of magic. He says he's finding it hard to do some of the simpler spells, but he's just out of the hospital wing. Of course he's going to find it hard."
"Ron, he's Merlin! He shouldn't find anything difficult!"
"Not anymore." Ron said. "Hermione, can't we just leave him like this? He seems so happy. He's like the old Harry."
"Ron Weasley, are you his friend or aren't you?" She hissed. "He's both, and right now he's not okay! He could die!"
"What?" Ron asked, alarmed.
"I spoke to Dumbledore. It's an old curse. It changes wizards into muggles: takes away their magic. Except Harry was Merlin, the most powerful wizard alive. His connection to magic is so strong that separating him from it will…"
"Will what?" Ron asked. "Mione, what's going to happen to him?"
"It causes insanity and then death." Hermione said quietly.
Ron swallowed back the lump quickly forming in his throat, and looked forlornly at the closed doorway to the boys' dorm at the top of the stairs.
"What do we have to do?" he asked.
"I'll meet Draco tonight." Hermione said. "Keep Harry occupied. He can't know about this."
"We leave for London in the morning." Ron said. "Is Malfoy sure he can fix this?"
"No, but he's got a lead, which is better than nothing."
"I still don't trust him, especially not while he's got that mark on his arm. You said it yourself: You-know-who only gives the dark mark to his most trusted followers."
"Then someone wants you-know-who to think Draco is one of those trusted followers. We've been over this, Ron! If you don't trust him, then trust King Arthur."
Ron considered this a minute before nodded with resignation. "I trust you." He said. "So if you trust him then I'll give him a chance."
She smiled. "Good. I'm leaving now. There are a few things I need to do."
Ron nodded. "What should I tell Harry?"
"I'm sure you'll come up with something."
"You're early. Where's Weasley?" Draco asked, stepping out of the shadows.
"You frightened me." Hermione said.
He rolled his eyes. "Have you found out anything?"
"Yes. It's Sigan's curse."
Draco paled. "No."
"What is it?"
He made himself stand upright, a pained look on his face. "It's the last spell..that…"
"That?" Hermione prompted."
Draco shook his head. "Merlin spent his life working on a counter-curse for it. He never got to finish before he died."
"I…I'm sorry." She said.
"It's the most powerful curse to be created. It-"
"I know." Hermione interrupted. "Dumbledore told me."
Draco turned toward the balcony, glancing down toward the tree covered landscape. "Do you know how many people I've seen die from that curse?" He asked.
Hermione froze. "It must've been hard." She said softly.
"First the magic goes." Draco said, lost in the memories. "Then they forget who they are. They turn primal, afraid and unable to communicate. Then the light goes out of their eyes."
Hermione let out a breath she'd been holding. Seeing Draco like this was so disconcerting. In one instance she could imagine the king he was, and on the other he was the same conceited Slytherin he'd always been.
"We need to go to the portrait."
"The one on the first floor?" Hermione asked.
"Obviously, Granger. What other portrait would I be talking about? Come on."
Hermione rubbed her arms as they entered the dark corridor. An uneasy feeling sat in her gut as the portraits analyzed her, clearly not used to visitors. She wondered how she hadn't found this place before.
"Oi, look at this! Two more!" a man suddenly chuckled.
Hermione turned to her left to face the sound.
Draco turned around. "Who's there?" He asked. His eyes widened as his gaze fell upon a dark-haired man in knight's armour.
"And who might you be?" the man asked cheerfully.
Draco's mouth opened and closed a few times before he got a grip on himself. "Gwaine?" he exclaimed.
"Who's Gwaine?" Hermione paused. Her eyes caught sight of the colourful portrait, and she began to put the pieces together. "Wait…you mean Sir Gawain? Like the Knights of the Round Table?"
Draco glared. "Not the time, Granger." He scolded.
Gwaine frowned, puzzled. "Strange, that's twice now someone's known who I am."
"Of course they know who you are, Gwaine. We're all well known. All that ale is going to your head." a man scolded.
His voice was very familiar. Draco suddenly froze, realizing why the Cailleach had sent him here. That was his old voice.
"Who are you?" Arthur asked.
Draco subconsciously corrected his posture to a more regal one as he saw his old self standing at the back of the table.
"I'm you." He answered.
"Hang on!" Arthur cried. "You are most certainly not me. I'm sure I'd remember looking like that."
Draco frowned. "If you haven't noticed, you're the one that's in an enchanted painting, which by the way, I never gave anyone permission to make."
As he said this he stared at Merlin, who was sitting at the back of the table waking from a nap. Merlin jumped up, causing his cap to fall down into his eyes. He tripped and fell into Gwaine. Draco sighed.
"Great, so I have to rely on a drunk Merlin to help me."
"Wait, are you saying…?" Hermione asked, overwhelmed with curiosity. "Where is he?"
"I am not drunk!" the warlock cried out as he managed to stand.
Arthur just pointed at Draco. "Merlin, they need your help."
Hermione let out a gasp at the sight of the original Merlin. Merlin raised an eyebrow, analyzing both she and Draco.
"Take your time." Draco said. "It's not like you're dying or anything."
"What!" Merlin exclaimed, glancing at himself. "Dying?"
He sobered quickly and walked to the front of the painting, facing Draco with a serious expression. "What did you say?"
"You're dying." Draco said. "Not you, obviously, but future you."
Merlin frowned. "As it so happens, I'm aware of him. Harry?"
"That must make you Arthur."
"Yes. Can we move on to the part where you actually give me some useful information now?"
"Rude." Merlin said. "I just woke up." He took a second to compose himself. "So, I'm dying. What caused it?"
"Sigan's curse." Hermione said.
Draco sighed. "Thanks for taking the wind out of my sails, Granger."
He turned back to Merlin, who was horrified. "She's not lying." He said. "He's already forgotten he's you, and he's lost the old magic."
"This is serious." Merlin said, facing Draco. "It could kill him."
"Obviously! Why do you think we're here?" Draco exclaimed. "I swear to God, Merlin you are such an oblivious…"
"Draco…" Hermione said, silencing him. "Stop it. We're all worried about him."
"He is infuriating." Draco complained.
"Arthur." Merlin said softly, worriedly. "There is no counter curse. You know that."
"You're Merlin, damn it! Figure it out!" Draco exclaimed.
Merlin folded his arms. "I'm trying!'
"The Cailleach, she said you could help. Why would she send me here if that wasn't true?" Draco was beginning to get frustrated.
"What did you say?" Merlin asked, horrified.
"Who is the Cailleach?" Hermione asked.
"The gate-keeper of the spirit world." Merlin answered. "What did you promise her for her help?"
"What did you promise her?"
"That I'd capture a dark warlock who escaped her realm." Draco pulled the timer glass from his pocket and held it out for a moment before putting it back.
Merlin's eyes narrowed. "Did she even tell you who it was?"
Draco shook his head. "She just said that it would be a price I'd be happy to pay."
Merlin closed his eyes. "I don't know if I can help you."
"Yes, you can. Tell me something useful, Merlin!" Draco exclaimed, shaking the painting.
The knights in the painting looked warily to Merlin, and then to Draco.
"Stop! I can't think while you do that!" Merlin yelled. "Prat."
Draco sighed. "In the last years before Camlann, you had almost found the cure for Sigan's curse, and then..." He paused, trailing off.
Merlin tilted his head curiously.
"Anyway that's not important." Draco said, shaking it off. "If he could crack it, then so can you."
"He would have had more experience." Merlin said. "I've only just been made court sorcerer."
"Can't you try?" He asked.
Merlin looked away sadly.
Draco shoulders slumped. "So it's hopeless." He said softly.
"No, I refuse to believe that." Hermione disagreed. "Nothing is hopeless." She turned to Draco. "Where are Merlin's notes? Surely he'd have written his findings down."
Merlin perked up at this.
"I…" Draco began. "I have no idea where that book might be. This is over a millennium in the future. It's probably rotted."
"O ye of little faith." Merlin retorted. "I cast a protection spell on all my books. They don't rot."
"Really, Merlin? Quoting the Bible?"
"Shut up, Arthur, and listen. I'm helping you, aren't I?"
"So then where is the book?" Draco asked, hope brewing.
"I don't know, as I haven't written it yet." Merlin quipped.
"Really helpful." Draco retorted.
"Wait." Arthur suddenly said.
Merlin turned. Draco raised an eyebrow. Hermione let out a breath.
"There's another portrait who might have heard of it."
"How do you know, Arthur?" Merlin began.
"Shut up, Merlin. I sometimes take walks during the night, not that it's any of your business." Arthur paused. "Anyway, there's a portrait in your Headmaster's office. It's not a normal portrait. It's enchanted into a family tree, and charmed to look invisible to anyone who doesn't look closely. The person in that portrait might help you."
"The Cailleach told me about that. Who is it?"
Arthur sighed. "If I tell you, you won't go."
"Who is it?" Draco practically growled. "Tell me!"
"For God's sake just go and find it, will you?" Arthur exclaimed. "I'm not telling you anything more!"
Hermione laid a hand on Draco's shoulder. "Come on, Malfoy. We need to get into Dumbledore's office. That's the only way to learn more about this."
"No! What are we meant to do, hope that Potter doesn't die while we search for the book?"
"What other choice do we have?" Hermione protested.
Draco sighed. "Fine." He muttered.
"Tell me when you find my notes, Arthur, and I'll do my best to help him." Merlin promised. He watched sadly as they turned to walk away.
"Come on. We have an office to sneak into." Hermione said. Draco could only nod somberly.
Ron was waiting on the couch in front of the fire when Hermione returned. "Well," he asked. "What did you find out?"
"Not much. We have to go to Dumbledore's office. There's a portrait in there who will help us find Merlin's research. Then he'll help us d-"
"Wait." Ron said. "How's Harry meant to help you if he can't remember anything?"
Hermione clicked her tongue in disapproval at being interrupted. "I was getting to that. We found a painting of Merlin. He said he'll help us."
"You found a p…" Ron trailed off, disbelieving. "Where is it? What does he look like?'
"Not the time, Ron. We leave in the morning, so we need to work fast. Where's Harry?"
"He's in bed. Said he was tired."
She turned away, but Ron held her wrist. "Hermione." He said softly. "How long until…you know…until the person loses…sanity?"
Her eyes glistened with dread. "I don't know Ron. I honestly don't. The quicker we work the sooner we can avoid it. You should stay. You know, in case Harry wakes up. I'll sneak into Dumbledore's office with Draco and find the other portrait."
"I'm not staying." Ron protested. "Give me something else to do."
"No." She said firmly. "What will happen if Harry wakes up in the middle of the night and you're gone? He'll get suspicious. You need to play your part. Don't worry. I'll be fine, and hopefully I'll have an answer before we leave."
He sighed. "I hope you're right."
"Has he left yet?" Draco asked, annoyed.
Hermione frowned. "No, I think he's still in there, talking to someone."
"Who else would be up at this hour?"
"Maybe it's the portrait Arthur mentioned." she offered.
They heard the shuffle of footsteps and shifted to a hiding place near the door. The doorknob turned as Dumbledore headed into the hallway. There was a moment where he looked back curiously before heading down the stairs. Hermione was sure he had seen them, but why wouldn't he say anything? This was all getting very confusing.
"What are you waiting for?" Draco asked. "Let's go inside."
Unfortunately there were no suspicious portraits or family trees anywhere to be found.
"He said it was hidden, but where would Dumbledore hide something like that?" She wondered aloud. "Draco? Any ideas?"
He grumbled. "There's nothing here."
"So you're saying you don't trust yourself, then?"
There was a glare. Draco began shifting curtains. There was a sudden ripple in the air around the stone. He paused, prodding it with his wand. It rippled again.
"Manifesto." He said, waving the wand toward the odd area. A rolled tapestry clung to the wall.
"Well done." Hermione said. She walked over, inspecting the wall where the tapestry hung. It was too high for her to physically unroll it.
"Volutum." She said. The family tree unfolded, its fabric falling downward until it hit the floor.
"Where'd you learn that one?" Draco asked.
"I read ahead." She said simply. "This looks like Dumbledore's family tree. Now we just have to find the portrait."
She whispered a second revealing spell, and a layer of dust appeared to waft into the air, leaving a vivid portrait of a young woman with red hair underneath.
"Well done, young witch."
"You!" Draco suddenly exclaimed.
"Draco, what's wrong with you?" Hermione chastised.
Draco was conflicted. On one hand he had been taught to revere Nimueh, but another part of him just wanted to set her portrait on fire. Arthur's anger - his anger - was overwhelming, overpowering any respect he'd had for the priestess. He couldn't fight it.
"That's Nimueh, High Priestess of the Old Religion," he said caustically, "and enemy of Camelot."
Nimueh smirked. "My my, you must be Arthur Pendragon. Wearing a new face this time, I see. I have to say, I'm impressed. I knew Merlin had managed to perform the magic of reincarnation successfully, but for multiple persons? He is more powerful and foolish than I originally thought."
"He's more powerful than you." Draco spat.
"I guess we'll never know." She taunted.
Hermione had to hold him back. He shrugged out of her grip, glaring at the portrait.
"I have nothing more to say to you."
"A shame, as I have plenty to say to you, son of Uther Pendragon, murderer of my people. I see you have a wand. How does it feel to be one of those whom you condemned to death?"
"Your insults are out of date." Draco countered. "I welcomed magic into the kingdom. Because of your sins, you weren't there to see it. Merlin made sure of that."
Hermione bit her lip nervously, finally managing to speak. "That's Nimue? Wait. Dumbledore is a descendant of Nimue? No wonder he's so powerful!"
Draco didn't respond, taken over by Arthur's rage. The portrait just smiled.
"Yes my dear, I am Nimueh, and Dumbledore is my descendant." She glanced back to Draco. "Do tell me, Arthur, how is Merlin doing? I hear he has been sick of late."
Draco's hand curved tightly around his wand, pointing it at the portrait.
"Draco!" Hermione exclaimed, pushing his wand down.
"You don't understand, Granger!" He resisted.
She stood in front of him angrily. "Malfoy! We need her help!"
"Intriguing." Nimueh replied. "Arthur Pendragon needs my help?"
"We need to find a book." Hermione explained.
Draco glared, but Hermione took no heed.
"Before his death, Merlin was researching the cure to Sigan's curse. His notes are in a spell book - the last one he wrote. It's the only way we can cure Harry." She paused. "If you have any shred of good left in you, please help us."
The portrait sighed, glancing at Hermione with sympathy.
"I have had some time to consider the things from years ago. While I do not forgive you, Arthur, for the atrocities your father committed, I have come to accept that my death was a result of my own attempts to meddle with things that were preordained." She said with a frown. "I'm afraid my pride will not allow me to help a Pendragon. But I will help you, young witch. You remind me of myself when I began my training to become a high priestess. What is your name?"
There was a smile. "Very well, Hermione Granger. The book you seek is in the Ministry of Magic, held in the Department of Mysteries. Albus has told me of it."
"But…" She turned to Draco. "How are we going to get in there?"
"I'm afraid that will be up to you." Nimueh said.
"I don't understand. If Dumbledore knows about the book, why hasn't he mentioned it? Does he know what's in it? Why would he keep this from us when it can cure Harry?"
"Albus has political connections that prevent him from doing as he wishes." Nimueh said carefully. "And he is not allowed access to the Department of Mysteries."
Hermione frowned. "Does that have anything to do with the Society of Merlin?"
There was a slight grin and a subtle laugh. "My, you are intelligent. Well done. Yes, it has everything to do with Albus' involvement in the Society.
You see, before the society existed, Albus found a book – Merlin's very first spell book. By the time Albus found it, it held something else - scrolls with Merlin's thoughts, a diary of sorts from his deathbed in the Crystal Cave. Naturally, the Ministry learned of this, and wanted possession of them.
More wizards across Britain began to uncover Merlin's works. The Ministry passed a law declaring that all scrolls or books from the time of Merlin must be turned over to the Department of Mysteries for close inspection. The wizards were defiant, reluctant, so the Ministry hunted them down and took the books, locking the wizards in Azkaban."
"What!" Hermione exclaimed. "How could they? Why didn't anyone do anything?"
Nimueh frowned. "It was kept secret from the public. They tried to take book and writings from Albus but he had hidden them too well. He produced a copy for the Ministry but he was ridiculed for his belief that Merlin would return. Then the prophecy was made."
"Prophecy?" Hermione asked.
"Yes, it sparked the belief in Merlin's return and resulted in the creation of the Society of Merlin. The Ministry could not subdue Albus and given that only he knew the location of Merlin's original book and final scrolls, they allowed him to join. Albus knew there was magic inside the book – magic he was unable to touch. He did not realize it would be the catalyst for Merlin's return.
He knows of Merlin's other writings but cannot seek them without the Ministry becoming involved. It would draw attention to him, and to Merlin, now that he has been reborn. Do you not remember the Ministry's suspicions about Merlin's use of dragon tongue during the first task?"
"No." Hermione said. "Harry never said. He was worried about Barty Crouch, but…"
Nimueh glanced away thoughtfully. "Oh dear. It seems I've told you too much." She said, unconcerned.
Draco was silent, taking it all in. "You know a lot of things for a portrait." he said suspiciously.
There was a laugh. "Albus told me, of course. I do get bored, Pendragon. I enjoy the stories, and it is quite amusing to see how revered Merlin has become."
Draco fought back the urge to hex Nimueh for her lighthearted reaction to their predicament. "Is this all just a game to you?" He blurted angrily.
"Shut up, Malfoy." Hermione scolded. "I believe her. We'll need to figure out a way inside the Ministry. If Dumbledore can't, then we will."
She glanced toward Nimueh's portrait. "Will you tell him?"
Nimueh raised an eyebrow.
"Will you tell Dumbledore?" She clarified.
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. Good luck. I do hope you manage to save Merlin. I've always admired his tenacity." Nimueh smiled and said no more, turning to walk away into the scenery.
Hermione and Draco glanced at each other before returning the office to the way they'd found it, and leaving with haste.
"That miserable w-" Draco began as soon as they were out of earshot.
"She helped us, Malfoy!"
"Don't you think this sounds a little suspicious? How do we know that she's not in on this, not covering for Dumbledore?"
"Why would Dumbledore betray Harry?" Hermione asked.
Draco frowned. "He's not the wizard you make him out to be. He's- "
"-what? Working with the death eater who raised you-know-who? Are you even listening to yourself, Draco? Nimueh said this has to do with politics. Dumbledore can't act! That's why we have to."
There was no answer.
She sighed. "You're stuck in your memories of the past. I hate to say it, but right now we need the obnoxious Slytherin wizard back."
"I'm not obnoxious." Draco protested, the sides of his mouth turning up slightly.
She elbowed him.
"Ow, what was that for!"
"For being you." She spat.
A moment passed. Hermione stood silently, looking at the wall.
Draco paused. "Granger?"
"It's just, how are we meant to get inside the Ministry of Magic?"
Draco felt the same, but he couldn't tell her that. "We'll find a way." He said. "We'll meet, during the summer. Sneak inside."
Hermione raised an eyebrow that Draco should be saying such things. "What about your parents?"
"I'll deal with them." He muttered.
"We really should tell Dumbledore." Hermione said with a sigh. "He might be able to help us, give us directions, anything."
"No. If…Nimueh…is telling the truth and he's in this society, the Ministry will be watching him. It's better for him if he knows nothing."
She turned around with disbelief.
Draco folded his arms. "Have you forgotten already, Granger? I have spent years ruling a kingdom. Politics and battle strategy are second nature."
Hermione twitched. "Right." She said awkwardly. "You're right."
"And anyway, Dumbledore has kept us in the dark." Draco continued. "He could have any number of hidden agendas that he doesn't want us to know about. Dumbledore has made no issue of opposing the Ministry in the past. What's so different this time? Especially with Potter's life at stake?"
"I still think you're being ridiculous." Hermione said. "He's Dumbledore. He's on Harry's side."
"Years of ruling a kingdom, Granger. Years."
She sighed. Despite her vehement beliefs that Dumbledore was on their side, she couldn't deny he was well known for holding his cards to his chest until the very last moment. "When are we going to do this?" she asked uncomfortably.
"Just work on how to get inside the Ministry." He said. "I'll send you an owl in a few weeks time. I'm going to tell Merlin what we've found."
She nodded. "I'm going to the library. I need to do some research. I'll tell Ron."
They stood for a moment, both wondering at this awkward turn of events, before Hermione broke the silence.
"In the morning then." She said.
"Right. In the morning." He agreed, and left.
Draco did not sleep well.
In a dream, he was running down Knockturn Alley. His eyes widened as he met a solid brick wall, and turned around to face his assailant, wand out.
"Shameful." Lucius said. His voice echoed with the tones of Uther Pendragon.
"No!" Draco exclaimed, "Stupefy!"
But his wand was no more than a well carved stick, its magic gone. His eyes widened. He tossed it down. It clanked like a sword. Lucius laughed.
He was in the hospital wing, a bed on either side of him.
"Malfoy! What do you want?" Harry pointed an accusing finger toward Draco's chest.
He felt someone grab his sleeve in desperation. "Arthur."
He turned to see Merlin in the second bed, pale and sickly. "Arthur." He rasped. "Help."
Draco couldn't help but to stumble backwards.
"Arthur…" Merlin said.
"Get lost Malfoy…" Harry continued.
He turned around to find Nimueh standing next to his father, holding an old tome.
"Looking for this?"
"Give it to me!" Draco exclaimed.
She held it out of arm's reach. "It's time, Arthur."
"I knew I couldn't trust you!" He exclaimed.
"You cannot fight this, Draco." His father echoed.
"He will rise." A third voice said - a familiar one. "Merlin will die. Accept it Draco. Accept it, Arthur. You're one of us now."
Draco sat up, sweat rolling down his face as he attempted to shake off the disturbing dream. That voice – he knew it from long ago. The images of the battlefield came back, of a knight with curly black hair and threatening blue eyes.
"Goodbye Arthur." He heard.
Draco's hands reflexively moved around his torso to stop the phantom pain. His eyes widened as the voices matched in his head.
Mordred. But I killed him…
He glanced to the night table where the timer glass sat.
A dark warlock has escaped from my realm.
The Cailleach's words echoed inside his brain as the images of the new, powerful death eater began to catch up.
Morsmordre. Mordred's voice. Mordred had given him the dark mark. Mordred knew he was Arthur. And now Mordred was invading his thoughts.
Somehow all I could think of when I was writing this chapter was the new Skyfall Theme. Seemed suiting.