Thank you to the majority of you for your lovely thoughts. I'm really enjoying hearing what you liked and even what you didn't like.
To guest: I really have no clue where you got the idea that I am determined to make Hermione into Gwen or even that I was bringing everyone back.
I didn't have any intention of doing either but now that you've put the ideas into my head, anything could happen.
We're coming to the end of GoF now and near OoTP. Haven't decided whether to completely publish as a new story or simply continue but I'll keep you in the loop.
Chapter 15: The Writings of Merlin
The train ride home was eerie – too quiet and devoid of its usual cheer. The five had opted to split and sit in two booths across from each other, but hardly spoke. With Harry in the carriage it was near impossible. Instead, most of the ride was spent thinking.
Neville, by some strange hand of fate, had ended up sitting near Draco, while Ron and Hermione sat with Harry in the booth nearby. Neville watched as Draco subtly glanced toward Harry's booth every five minutes.
"I-I just don't get it, Malfoy." Neville finally said.
Draco frowned. "Don't get what?"
"How you can be King Arthur."
"Sh!" Draco said sharply. "Don't let him hear you say that."
"Why? Isn't he Merlin?"
"I told you, sh!" Draco said angrily. He quickly glanced to Harry with hope, but frowned when the boy had no reaction.
Neville cowered a moment before taking a deep breath. "You didn't go to the Hospital Wing after, when he was sick, so why did you stay at Hogwarts?"
"I did. You were late, and I'd left by then."
"Oh. Why would you leave?"
Draco pinched his brow. "Did Granger tell you nothing?"
Neville shook his head. "She was busy, I guess."
Draco sighed and glanced outside before meeting Neville's gaze. "I suppose I'll have to explain it to you. When someone is...born again…their two spirits, two lives have to make peace with each other. That's not easy, especially when they're so different."
"So you were different from him." Neville said, his tone betraying his lack of surprise.
Draco bit back a retort about the obvious and continued. "I had to realize I was Arthur, and I did it to save Potter." He said in a whisper.
"But then why'd you leave the Hospital Wing?"
"Getting there, Longbottom."
"When he woke up, he couldn't remember anything about who he was, so I left. There wasn't any point to stay. He's under a curse, by a legendary warlock."
Neville's eyes widened. "What? How do you know that?"
"I just do. Can I continue now?"
Neville reluctantly nodded. "Which legendary wizard?" He asked nervously.
Draco could still feel his blood run cold at the name, and still feel the ache in his gut where the sword had pierced. He winced, but attempted to shrug it off before Neville could notice.
"But that's the knight that killed-"
Draco's icy glare was enough confirmation that Neville stopped mid-sentence. The door suddenly slid aside and Hermione slipped in, sitting next to Neville. She quickly noticed the figurative chill in the atmosphere and glanced back and forth at the two. Draco broke the silence.
"What's the matter, Granger, sick of Potter? Or did you come over to save Longbottom from the annoyance of my presence?"
She frowned. "None of the above."
Draco raised an eyebrow.
"Okay fine." She sighed. "Harry is grilling us for information. He knows we're lying, or rather, he knows I am. He's only listening to Ron, and he doesn't like how much time I'm spending with you."
Draco couldn't help it. He turned aside to brush off a laugh.
"What's funny about that?"
Neville was so shocked by the sight of Draco laughing that he couldn't think of anything to add.
"You…and me? Is he out of his mind?"
Draco frowned as he realized what he'd said. "I suppose he is, really."
She heard the worry in his tone. "Don't…" She said. "Don't do that to yourself. We'll get him well again."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because I'm not ready to give up." She said.
"Then you don't know who we're up against."
She raised an eyebrow. "As of yesterday neither did you. What's changed?"
Draco sighed. "It's-"
"-Mordred." Neville finished.
Hermione looked from him to Draco sharply. "And you didn't think it was important to tell me?" She exclaimed. "Why'd you hide it in the first place? Why pretend like it was just some wizard from Merlin's time?"
"Shut up, Granger, and give me a chance to explain."
Her wand was out in a second, and met with Draco's. They stared each other down for a moment before Neville interrupted.
"I hate to say it," he said, "but this is going to get us nowhere."
Hermione sighed and put her wand away. Draco followed suit, analyzing her movements.
"You should know, Malfoy, that I won't put up with your derision or your rudeness."
"Then stop judging me." Draco spat. "Your accusing tone isn't exactly friendly."
"Yes, well, I don't suppose you remember the last three years?"
The door next to them slid open. "What's going on?" Ron suddenly asked, flanked by Harry.
"Just a disagreement." Hermione said hotly.
"Right…" Ron said.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "You sure? Hermione, you're spending more-"
"Yes, I am well sure, Harry Potter. You can stop with the innuendos now."
"Alright…alright…chill." Ron said. "Come on, Harry, let's leave her. We can't reason with her when she's like this anyway."
"I think I'll come sit with you guys a while." Neville said softly, catching the door before it slid closed.
He glanced to Hermione. She nodded. The door closed again.
"I didn't know his identity until last night. I had a nightmare. The death eater from the manor was standing in the hospital wing. His face was covered but he was taunting me, and I recognized his voice. Satisfied?"
Hermione sighed. "I suppose it'll have to do for now."
Draco frowned. "We need a plan." He said.
"I know. We need to break into the Ministry. Any ideas?"
He shook his head. "Not yet."
The voice on the train boomed. "We are now approaching King's Cross Station. Please take all your belongings when exiting the train. All change. All change."
Draco cursed. "We don't have time."
"I'll send an owl."
"No." He said firmly. "Wait for my owl. I'll send one as soon as possible."
She nodded, and both opened the door to get their things.
Hermione sighed and fell back to her bed with exasperation. It had been two weeks and nothing. No owl. No attempt at contact from Draco. She'd written to Ron the day before about her concerns, but had no reply from him either.
"Hermione?" her mother called. "Telephone!"
She picked it up. "Hello?"
"Mione!" Ron said.
"Ron? But…I don't understand! How did you-"
"Dad got lend of a phone that the Ministry had in storage, and he's done a few spells to make it work. Over the moon, he is."
She laughed. "Right. Did you get my letter?"
"Yeah." Ron said. "I told you Malfoy's a good for nothing git."
"I've had time to think about this, Ron, and Draco was pretty firm that I not send him an owl. That can only be because of the situation he's in. His father's a death eater and he's got Mordred at the manor." She explained. "That being said, we can't wait much longer. If he can't get in contact with us-"
"We should do it ourselves." Ron interrupted. "I told you I'd give him a chance, Mione, but you said we don't know how long Harry has. We can't afford to wait."
"I know." She said worriedly.
A sudden scratching sounded at her window and Hermione frowned with confusion. "Ron, you didn't send a letter did you?"
"No." He said oddly.
Hermione paused. An eagle owl sat perched outside her window, tapping a letter against the pane. She opened it and took the letter. The owl waited.
"Hermione? What is it?"
"Just a second."
I'm sorry it's taken this long to get a message to you. I'm being watched and it's impossible to get away. It looks like you're going to have to do this without me.
There are some things you should know. Death eaters have begun to infiltrate the Ministry. Several of them have taken positions in night security to allow them unlimited time to search the registers for blood traitors. They will be doing this for a matter of weeks. As a result the security will be lax, and it should be easier for you to sneak in.
Also, given Weasley's poor reputation among purebloods and your parentage, you're both in danger. Get somewhere safe. If I don't hear from you, then I wish you luck. I suggest you burn this letter.
It was left unsigned, testament to the danger Draco was clearly in. Hermione paled, holding the letter to her chest. The owl departed, satisfied its message had been delivered.
"Hermione?" Ron asked, calling her back from shock.
"I-it's Draco." She said.
"What about him?"
"His owl. It just…"
"He said we'll have to do this alone."
"What? I knew we couldn't trust him!" Ron exclaimed.
"No. Listen, Ron." She said, biting her lip. "He's being watched. He's given us all the information he can but he said we're in danger. We need to go somewhere safe."
She heard a door slam on Ron's end and paused. "Ron?"
"Ron?" she asked frantically. "Ron!"
"I have to go, Mione. Don't worry. I'll see you soon."
"Ron!" she shouted into the phone. The dial tone sounded. She replaced the phone onto its receiver.
"Hermione, dear, is everything alright?" her mother called from the downstairs.
She ran to the hallway, glancing down the stairs, worry written on her face.
"Oh, Hermione, dear, what's wrong?" Her mother's concern sounded in her words.
Hermione shook her head. "I'm okay Mum."
Her mother sighed. "Well, there are some people here to see you, sweetheart, from your school?"
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "What do they look like?" She asked.
"Hermione!" a voice exclaimed from the bottom of the stairs. "I'm sorry but there's no time for niceties."
"Professor Lupin! What..."
"I'm afraid the situation is grave." He said. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Granger, but Hermione will have to come with us."
"I can't!" Hermione blurted. "There are things…I have to…"
Lupin exchanged a look with another auror, whose hair colour kept changing.
"The Ministry has been trying to cover up Voldemort's return." Lupin explained. "And the Death Eaters are on the move again. As a close friend to Harry, and as a muggleborn witch, you're in danger."
"And Harry?" She asked. "What about Harry?"
"They won't attack him, not yet."
"Can't we tell him?"
Remus shook his head. "I'm afraid not. They'll be watching him."
Hermione took a deep breath to calm herself before nodding. "Right. I'll get my things. I'm sorry mum, dad, but I can't put you in danger."
Her father put a hand on her shoulder. "What about you?"
"It's fine. I'll be protected." She said. "I trust them."
She turned and left to go to her room and began tossing things around frantically, packing necessities.
Her father glanced to Remus. "You'll take care of her." He said firmly.
Remus nodded. "We will."
They stood there awkwardly for a matter of minutes before Hermione finally walked down the stairs, her trunk left at the top. She gave her parents one last hug.
"Please don't worry." She said. "I'll write to you so that you know I'm okay."
Her trunk disappeared, and she waved one last time before following Lupin and Tonks out.
After a short broom ride through London, Hermione walked cautiously through the door of 12 Grimmauld Place, wondering exactly what she was in for. Someone in the hallway caught her eye and she sighed with relief.
"Ron!" She said. "You're safe! Thank Merlin."
"Mione!" Ron exclaimed. "Are you okay? What have they told you?"
"Nothing more than I already knew." She said. "But someone had better start explaining soon."
Ron turned to see Sirius Black towering over them.
"Yes, I suppose someone should." He agreed. "Follow me."
There was a table just behind a door in the distance where a lot of loud talking and arguing was currently happening. Sirius led them inside. There they saw Moody, Molly and Arthur Weasley, the twins and Professor Snape, as well as Kingsley Shacklebolt.
Remus and Tonks hung up their coats and walked into the room, taking a place at the table. Hermione and Ron remained dumbfounded in the doorway.
"This is the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix." Sirius said. "Sit down, and we will tell you what we can."
Far away at Malfoy Manor, Draco sat at a window with a frustrated frown.
"Damn that bird!" He complained quietly. It was the third time he'd sent it and the damn thing couldn't find Hermione anymore! He supposed he should be happy that they'd listened to him and gone to a safe place but now his idiot bird couldn't find her at all.
Draco knocked a goblet to the floor in anger. The water spilt over his rug.
"Draco?" His mother asked, opening the door. "Are you okay? Oh dear. We'll get the house elf to clean that."
"It's fine Mother." He said, some of the edge leaving his voice.
Her eyes softened, and she nodded before closing the door. Draco sat on his bed and stared out the window.
Potter is dying.
His hands balled into fists.
Potter is dying. I can't just sit here.
Draco glanced back toward his door where the soft murmur of voices bled through. Mordred, now making no efforts to hide his face, sat in the den with his father. He had smiled at Draco, which only served to make the Slytherin wizard feel sick. Mordred was watching him. If he left, he'd lead Mordred to the others. Mordred knew that the longer he delayed Draco, the closer Harry would get to death. He wondered if Granger and Weasley had managed to get inside the Ministry.
A sudden squawk sounded from the window and Draco turned to see an unfamiliar owl standing outside.
He snatched it up with impatience, and the owl flew away, clearly instructed to make itself scarce.
Friday. We can't wait any longer. Visitor's entrance. 10 pm.
Draco memorized the note before setting it on fire. His mind was made up. He was going to be there. And if that meant finding a way to elude Mordred, then he'd just have to figure it out.
A flash of green light. A graveyard. "Cedric!"
Harry sat up from a nightmare, sweat pouring down his face. He turned over the covers and got out of bed, walking to the window. He looked forlornly at the dark, quiet street below and sighed, before wiping a hand over his face.
Harry glanced to the empty bureau. No letters. Not one. He allowed himself to slump back to the bed, gazing at the ceiling. The air seemed to spin with ghosts – his parents, Cedric, his friends, but also ghosts whose names he couldn't place. The strange part was Harry felt the familiarity of those ghosts, but he just couldn't remember.
Ron knew, and so did Hermione. He wasn't stupid. He could tell they'd been tiptoeing around him since he woke up in the Hospital Wing. But with neither answering his letters, Harry had nothing to go on. For the first time since meeting his friends, Harry felt truly alone.
"They're going to panic when they notice we're gone." Ron complained.
"Only if they discover that the illusions aren't us." Hermione said.
"Mione, they're aurors." Ron exclaimed. "Of course, they're going to discover-"
"-Sh." She said, pointing across the road. "He came."
Draco stood next to the building, waiting.
"What's he playing at?"
A black wave of something flew overhead, heading past Whitehall and Draco gave a sigh of relief, before heading toward the pair.
"What was that?"
"My new bodyguard." He said sharply. "I used a spell to throw his tracking off. Come on. Are we doing this, or aren't we?"
Ron frowned. "I thought you said you weren't coming. You might have led the death eaters straight to us!"
"I said I didn't." Draco said angrily. "Now let's get out of here before we attract more attention than we already have."
The three headed for the visitors entrance inside the phone booth. Once the door was closed Hermione looked to Ron and nodded. He began the button sequence 62442. The platform suddenly dropped underground. The three had to hold in a yell as the platform dropped several stories and moved sideways. Suddenly they were standing in front of the Atrium. Hermione stepped out cautiously. The security desk was suspiciously empty. The Atrium itself was silent. Hermione spied the lifts at the opposite end of the hall.
"Right, let's hurry." Hermione directed. The boys followed her towards the service lifts, but they were blocked by a gate.
"Alohomora." Hermione said, waving her wand.
A soft click was heard and she pushed the gate aside. They ran further inside, only to find a grille blocking the way. Ron unlocked this one and they piled inside, relieved that the first part of their plan was complete. Hermione pressed the button for the ninth floor.
She sighed. "It's on the lowest level accessible by lift, which is, of course, nine." She explained. "What? I read it in a book."
The lift moved in what seemed like every direction at least once before slowing down. Hermione, Draco and Ron waited impatiently for it to stop.
"Department of Mysteries." The lift announced. The doors opened. The trio glanced to each other cautiously.
"It's now or never." Ron said.
"Keep your eyes out for Death Eaters." Draco warned.
Hermione and Ron nodded. A dark hallway stood in front of them with a black door.
"Lumos!" Hermione said, holding up her wand.
They walked toward the door, hypersensitive to their surroundings. Hermione turned the handle to find another dark room. The floor looked like standing water but Hermione tapped her foot against it and when satisfied of its safety, she walked inside. The door closed behind the trio and immediately the room started rotating.
"Bloody hell! How are we supposed to know which one is which?" Ron cried.
"I'm trying to think, Ron!" Hermione shouted.
Draco was oddly silent, analyzing the doors with each rotation.
Hermione glanced toward him. Draco was counting under his breath. She caught on.
"Ron, count the number of doors in the room!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Just do it!"
Ron began attempting to count. Given that the room was rotating, it wasn't an easy task. Hermione began to consider the schematics. Being a witch who was sharply introduced to the world of magic, Hermione had read many books since her first year, some of which were about the Ministry. She tried to remember if she'd seen anything about a floor layout.
Draco continued to count, but glanced to Hermione for answer. She didn't have one.
"Forty-eight!" Draco yelled. "Count, Granger!"
Hermione took over counting and Draco asked Ron for the number of doors.
"Twelve." He said.
Draco analyzed the rotating walls, trying to make out the barely-there doors.
"Sixty!" Hermione cried.
"When we hit seventy-one, head directly in front of you and use a spell to open the door."
"Why seventy-one?" Ron asked.
"Because it will give us time to run there and say the spell, obviously!" Draco exclaimed.
They waited briefly for the room to finish its rotation.
"Now!" Draco shouted and they ran straight ahead.
"Alohomora!" Hermione shouted.
Near immediately Draco called "Resero!"
The door in front of them opened and the three squeezed inside, facing a long corridor. The door shut loudly, and there was a collective sigh of relief.
"How did you know this was the right room?" Hermione asked.
"Death Eaters have the layout of the Ministry. My father's been privy to that knowledge for a month now, and I snuck a few glances a week ago." He said. "I just had to keep my eye on the door as it moved to know how to get across. Now let's hurry."
Hermione glanced toward Draco was disbelief, but followed him as he walked further into the room. They stopped with awe when they reached the center. Inside there was a beautiful, dancing light that sparkled like a gemstone. The room was filled with every kind of clock one could imagine and on the other side…time turners.
Hermione's eyes widened, amazed.
"Wow, look at this!" Ron exclaimed. A large crystal bell jar sat on the far end of the room, emitting a beautiful bright light.
Hermione and Ron headed toward it, mesmerized. Inside sat what seemed to be a tiny egg. A hummingbird emerged from the egg and began to fly up, aging. But it suddenly fell, becoming smaller until it was again enclosed.
"We don't have time to gawk." Draco said harshly. "Have you forgotten there could be death eaters here?"
"Draco's right." Hermione sighed. "We have to go. Come on."
She grabbed Ron's arm, dragging him through the door just after the bell. It opened to reveal nearly a hundred sets of bookcases all nearly reaching the ceiling. Cloudy glass spheres sat on stands on the shelves.
"These must be prophecies." Hermione said. "I read about this place."
"We won't find Merlin's book here." Draco said. "We need to keep moving."
Neither could deny the truth in that.
"Which way?" Ron asked.
"You go left, I'll go right." Draco said.
Ron's eyes narrowed. He glanced back to Hermione, conflicted. If he went with Malfoy, Hermione would be unprotected, but he still didn't completely trust Malfoy either. Neither was he happy to let Hermione go with Malfoy, given all the time they were spending together.
Hermione saw his distress. "Just go, Ron. I'll be fine."
"I don't need Weasley to go with me." Draco protested.
That decided it. He nodded and headed to the right.
"You still don't trust me." Draco said.
"So?" Ron asked.
Draco sighed, but didn't say anything else. Ron followed Draco to the end of the room, glancing down the aisles as he went. They reached the final wall but there was nothing to indicate they could go any further.
Ron sighed. "Bloody fantastic." He complained. "Now what?"
"We go back, find another room, start over." Draco said.
"Great." Ron complained. "Waste more time."
"Do you have a better idea, Weasley?" Draco spat.
Ron opened his mouth to retort but stopped as Draco turned, something catching his eye. A sphere swirled with red and blue. Draco could feel it calling to him. He walked toward it.
"What are you doing?" Ron asked. "Don't pick that up!"
Draco ignored him, taking the sphere into his hands. A voice whispered. Only when the darkness has overcome the light, will Merlin be born again.
"Blimey." Ron said. "I didn't know that was a prophecy."
The voice continued. His fate will be tied to the king of legend, whose loyalty yet may break.
Ron's head jutted sharply to look at Draco, suspicious.
"What?" Draco spat. "You don't believe a stupid…prophecy do you?"
But inwardly he was nervous. Draco knew from Arthur's experiences that he should not shun a prophecy. They always came true. He gritted his teeth.
The sound of breathing could be heard and Hermione finally appeared, a little tired. "This room is huge." She said. "Have you found anything?"
Ron folded his arms. "Whose side are you on, Malfoy? Is this a trap?"
"What?" Hermione asked. "What's happened?"
"It's a prophecy about Merlin." Ron continued. "It says that King Arthur is going to betray him!"
"It says may you idiot!" Draco exclaimed, his patience cracking. "That means it may not come true!"
Draco's hand grasped the prophecy more tightly. Draco glared at it.
"I won't betray him." He said with determination.
"I believe you." Hermione said.
Ron rolled his eyes.
Draco looked up carefully, about to replace the prophecy on the wall, but he caught sight of a crack. He reached over the shelf and prodded it back. The bookshelves began to shift, the wall opening up to reveal a room. There was no announcement. This was obviously a secret room. Draco replaced the prophecy sphere on its holder and walked inside. Hermione and Ron walked in with him, glancing around. The door closed, startling the trio but their way out was quickly forgotten as they analyzed the room. Multiple shelves were laid out in front of them, piled high with books of ancient magic.
"How are we meant to look through all of these?" Ron exclaimed.
"There seems to be some sort of organization." Hermione said, glancing at the shelves as she walked. She picked up a book and opened it, then another further before replacing them on the shelves. "Look, it seems to be sorted clockwise by order of year. We're looking for the sixth century. Spread out."
The search began. Hermione took center, with Ron on her right and Draco on her left. She sighed, feeling very much like a body shield between the two. But she didn't have time to feel sorry. Hermione began picking up books, looking for titles, authors, anything. She brushed the dust off one, coughing profusely before opening it.
"Spells for Servants by Merlin"
Hermione couldn't help but smirk. "Did you know that Merlin wrote a magic book for servants?"
Draco turned. "Of course I did. I made him write that one."
Hermione frowned. "What?"
He opened and closed another book with a sigh before replacing it on the shelf.
"After Merlin was promoted to Court Sorcerer, I had to find another servant. They were all hopeless." He explained. "When I realized he'd used magic for years to do all the chores I'd assigned him I made him write a book so every servant after would be at least equally as competent."
Ron turned, raising an eyebrow. "He was a servant? Merlin was a servant?"
Hermione didn't have as much a problem accepting that as Ron did.
"Yes. He was surprisingly competent, though I'd never tell him that." Draco's tone had turned reminiscent.
He was pulled back to the present moment with Ron's frown.
"What is it now, Weasley? Did you think the great wizard Merlin couldn't possibly be humble enough to do everyday chores?"
"That's not fair." He protested. "I've grown up with that ideal."
"You think I haven't?" Draco asked.
"Boys." Hermione said. "Calm down."
"Well I'm sorry that I don't have a random bloke from years ago in my head to help me understand." Ron spat.
Hermione held a hand to her forehead. She was quickly developing a headache.
"Just shut up, the both of you. You're going to get us killed! We need to find this book and get out, or have you forgotten that?"
The sudden quiet told her they'd understood, and she sighed.
"Is this it?" Ron asked. "It says 'Healing Magic' and it has Merlin's signature."
Hermione took the offered book and rifled through gently. "My ancient runes is still not strong, but this looks like basic healing spells, Ron, not antidotes. And the year is 520AD, so it's 15 years before Arthur died – too early for Merlin to have written his last book."
Draco flinched. "Actually it's seventeen years before...I...died." He said painfully. "But the book would have been written in 530AD."
"That's nice, Malfoy. You could have told us that before now."
"Ron, what is wrong with you?" Hermione asked. "He's trying to help."
Ron glared, but continued looking through the books. Hermione rolled her eyes.
"He'll come around." She said to Draco softly, so Ron wouldn't hear.
"I don't care what he thinks." Draco said, but he knew it was a lie. Ron was Harry's friend and to some degree, since becoming Arthur, he'd felt like he needed that approval to truly be in Harry's life.
"Well there's nothing in the center pile." Hermione sighed. "I'll help you check these."
She picked up a book with soft leather, a single rune painted on the front, and unwound the string. "Research." The book said simply. Hermione bit her lip and glanced for a date. There wasn't one.
She turned the page to find messy writing, some of it struck out with a heavy line. There were scribbles on the sides, a show of frustration.
Hermione ran her hand along the page. She could feel the magic pouring off the book in waves, and surprisingly the frustration with it, as if the book had an aura of its own.
"Is this it?" She asked. "There's no date but it just…feels right."
"What does it say, Granger?" Draco asked.
She squinted. "Something about potions, a cure for…all ills? I can't pick it out. It's very messy."
Draco sighed and motioned for her to hand over the book. He laid it gingerly against the shelf before turning a couple of pages back to the beginning. He read it aloud without hesitation.
It is my hope that with time I will find the incantations and potions to heal the terrible curses I have come across in my time as physician and court sorcerer.
He flipped to the end. Sigan's curse. Finding the cure is maddening. I am so near but there is a missing piece, an essential part!
"That's it!" Hermione whispered.
"Yes, but how will you get it out?" a voice said from behind them. The door had opened to reveal a man wearing fine robes, his wand pointed and ready to attack.
"Bloody hell!" Ron exclaimed. "Who are you?"
The three held wands at ready.
"I am one of the Unspeakables, boy. I work at night, and I guard the treasures of these rooms. I'm not sure how you found this place but that book is the property of the ministry. If you hand it over I might decide not to recommend you for expulsion from Hogwarts."
"This book is Merlin's." Hermione said firmly. "And I won't hand it over. You have no jurisdiction at Hogwart's."
Ron rolled his eyes with exasperation.
Draco noticed the sneer and the jerk of the man's gaze to the left, and immediately dove for Hermione, knocking her to the ground. He rolled over, grabbing his wand off the floor and shot a curse at the man, who hid behind a bookshelf.
Hermione blinked before holding the book tightly and scrambling to her feet, her wand at ready. The three stood back-to-back in a circle, warily analyzing the terrain. The wizard seemed to have disappeared.
A curse whizzed toward them but Hermione caught notice.
"Protego!" she shouted, conjuring a shield around the three.
"You're no Unspeakable! You're a death eater!" Draco accused angrily.
"As is your father, boy!" the man said from somewhere in the room. "You have no room to speak!"
"He came here for the same reason we did." Ron said angrily, nodding toward the book. "Bloody git's trying to get it off us."
"That shield won't hold forever." The man goaded.
Black mist began to form in pillars. Draco pushed Hermione and Ron back toward the door.
"We have what we came for, now let's get out!" he yelled.
Three pillars of smoke blocked the door before turning into death eaters. One man walked forward confidently.
"Draco Malfoy, still trying to fight his heritage." He said. "But then, it's always been that way hasn't it?"
The man's blue eyes stood out. Draco gripped his wand angrily and tossed a curse at the wizard who he despised. It glanced off an invisible shield.
The man laughed loudly. "Did you think I'd just let you leave Malfoy Manor without having you followed?" Mordred mocked. "You really have forgotten everything."
Draco's eyes narrowed. Ron had been right, it seemed. He was too naive.
Mordred paused. "I'll have the book now."
Hermione clutched it tighter, her wand out.
"Put your pitiful wands away." He warned.
A hand went out before she could finish, sending her back into the shelf. The book clattered to the floor with a tuft of dust.
"Mordred, stop this!" Draco growled. "What do you have to gain? You already won years ago!"
"Won? Is that what you call it?"
Draco had to stop himself from attempting to strike the warlock. "Yes. I would call demolishing my kingdom and everything I worked for a win for you."
Mordred let out a guttural laugh. "Being sent into the realms of death is hardly a win. Winning would mean being able to savour my victory. As usual, you understand nothing." He said sharply. "But I expected no less from someone like you."
Draco sighed. "Someone like me? You're still saying that, even though I'm like you now. I have magic."
"You are nothing like me!" Mordred exclaimed, his eyes turning gold with rage.
Ron and Draco's wands immediately went to an attack position.
They were thrown back into the shelves, their wands clattering to the ground as they fell to their knees. Draco's arm caught in a shelf, shifting the contents. An odd clinking sound caught his attention.
Mordred walked over to Draco, leaning over him. Draco feigned hurt.
"Tsk." Mordred chastised. "Pitiful. I bested you once, Arthur, and I will easily do it again."
Draco smirked, his hand closing around a very familiar, metallic object.
"You're forgetting something, Mordred." he said, eye to eye with the man who had once been his bane. "I have a very long memory, and I don't make the same mistake twice."
With one swift move, he brought the sword out, thrusting it deeply into Mordred's side.
The warlock stumbled backward with pain, letting out a loud yell.
This jolted Ron and Hermione out of their concussed stupor and they sat up frantically, clambering for their wands.
"Now!" Draco yelled, lunging for his wand.
The other death eaters began to advance.
"Stupefy!" Ron called, sending one back into a shelf.
He helped Hermione to her feet. She grabbed the book off the floor.
"Protego!" Draco called, protecting them. "Stupefy!"
The wizards continued to advance. Draco gritted his teeth. "Avada-"
"No, Draco!" Hermione suddenly cried.
He shrugged her off. "Stupefy!" The second death eater flew back down the hallway. More began to form.
"A second of indecision will get you killed, Granger!" Draco scolded. "This is a battle now. It's kill or be killed."
Ron and Hermione glanced at him oddly, the way they always did when he said something particularly Arthur-esque. He sighed.
"Come on. This way, while he's stunned." He motioned for them to follow him into the Hall of Prophecies.
They ran at top speed, dodging the forming pillars of black and calling out an occasional shield to block the curses. Hands and arms reached for them but being just our of fourth year they had an advantage: they were smaller. They dodged the obstacles in the time room, trying to gain some distance from the black smoke that was following them. Finally they reached the door to the rotating room.
"I have an idea." Hermione said. "Ron, hold the door open. I'll run across and open the door on the other side."
She threw open the door, and Ron held it with much struggle. He glanced back warily at the incoming death eaters, just barely dodging a curse. "Not much time, Mione!"
She ran directly across the room. "Alohomora." She said.
Draco followed it up with the spell from before and the door opened. He and Hermione held it. Ron finally let go, allowing the door to close on the wisps of black smoke following them and ran as fast as he could toward the other side. Just as the smoke was seeping through, he reached the end and the three exited into the entrance corridor, sprinting for the elevator.
Suspiciously no more death eaters followed them and they reached the elevator in record time. Draco hit the button for the main floor. There was a collective sigh as the doors closed. Hermione placed the book inside her purse, while Ron focused on Draco.
"Did they give up?" Ron asked.
Draco glared. "Of course not. No, they must have another plan."
Hermione sighed. "Well at least we have the book."
There was an awkward silence. The loud 'ding' sounded as the elevator reached the main floor. Fear and apprehension moved through the trio as they watched the doors open. All seemed quiet, too quiet.
"I don't like this. It's too easy." Hermione said as they exited.
The silence was eerie. Shadows danced across the walls as they walked quietly past the floo entrances and security.
"We're too exposed." Draco observed. "We need to move faster."
"Doesn't one of you know a cloaking spell?" Ron whispered.
Hermione shook her head. "Not yet."
He chanced a glance at Malfoy.
"I'm not Merlin." Draco hissed. "I know as much as you do."
The relative silence was broken by moving black columns shattering the glass fixtures.
"Run!" Hermione shouted.
The smoke began to form in front of them, blocking their way. The three paused, standing at ready.
White columns of light suddenly flew over them and landed nearby, turning into people. They fired curses and spells, breaking through the wall of death eaters.
Ron glanced toward the newcomers.
"Blimey, guys, that's the order!"
"Lupin, Sirius and Tonks, look!"
Ron caught Lupin's eye and he frowned. "Well, what are you standing there for? Get out of here!"
Ron didn't need to be told twice. The three ran into the elevator, painfully counting each second it took to get to the outside. Finally they threw open the door of the phone booth and rushed into the warm outside air, blinking away dots at the bright street lights. Shortly after, Sirius, Lupin and Tonks suddenly appeared next to them in a swish of cloudy white air, each grabbing the arm of one of the trio before apparating away.
"How did you find us?" Hermione asked.
"Fred and George overheard Ron talking to Hermione about going to the Ministry. It's a good thing they did, or we'd never have found you." Sirius said.
"What in Merlin's name were you thinking?" Tonks scolded.
"You could have been killed!" Lupin continued, "And for what? A book?"
Sirius folded his arms calmly. "What was so important that you had to break into the Department of Mysteries?"
"I…we…" Hermione stuttered. "Harry's sick and this book…it has a cure."
"Harry is doing fine." Sirius said suspiciously. "We have people watching him. Is this about the tournament?"
A door shut and someone grumbled loudly from down the hall. Suddenly Moody barged into the meeting room.
"I'm here as you asked." He said. "Someone mind telling me what's going on?" His eyes suddenly caught sight of Draco.
"You." He said.
Draco frowned. "What about me?"
"I can't believe you let a Malfoy into our headquarters. He'll just run back to his father, leak our location." Moody complained, moving threateningly toward the Slytherin wizard.
Draco tried to hide a flinch and stood his ground. "If you think that, then you don't know me at all." He said angrily.
"I don't think anything. That mark on your arm says more than enough."
Draco glanced at the dark mark that was peaking out through his sleeve. He pulled his sleeve down.
"I think my actions hold more weight than a dark mark. Or do you distrust Snape too?" Draco argued.
"Alastair." Lupin said softly. "The boy appears to mean no harm. He was helping Hermione and Ron just now."
Moody bit back a comment before sighing. The door closed to once more as Kingsley and Snape arrived and filed into the meeting room. Molly returned with tea, before leaving to wake her husband.
"What's this about?" Kingsley asked.
Snape hung up his jacket and sat down. "Yes, I would like to know exactly why I've been roused from sleep at this ungodly hour."
Tonks began to fill them in while Sirius rifled through the pages of the old book. "Ancient runes." He said. "Been a while since I've read these. Let's see…"
He paused in thought, skimming through a few pages. "A book about cures, it says. One I haven't seen before. Let's see who the author is." He flipped to the front of the book and suddenly turned white.
"Does this say what I think it does?"
"Depends on what you think it says." Hermione said nicely.
"That's clever, Granger." Sirius said. "You first."
Hermione sighed, resigned. "It's Merlin's book of cures."
All conversation stopped as the members the order looked warily at the trio.
"Harry's illness must be grave." Sirius offered.
"Harry isn't sick." Lupin protested.
"He is!" Hermione exclaimed. "And we're wasting precious time by standing around. We need to get this book back to Hogwarts."
"What will that do?" Tonks asked. "There's no one there during the summer."
Ron and Hermione shared a look, wondering what to say, but Draco wasn't one for beating around the bush.
"Potter doesn't have all his memories or his magic. He's losing both by the minute. If we leave it until September, he might not even remember who he is."
"How do you know that?"
"Does it really matter?" Draco exclaimed.
"You aren't exactly friends, Malfoy." Moody accused.
"That's hardly the point." Draco spat.
"It is when you have that mark on your arm!" Moody exclaimed.
Snape looked up sharply. "Is this true, Draco? Do you have the dark mark?"
Draco frowned, but rolled up his sleeve.
"When did you receive this?" Snape asked.
"During the year, before the Dark Lord returned. Another death eater gave it to me, a strong one. I took it willingly, so they wouldn't kill my mother."
"And where is Narcissa now?"
"She's at Malfoy manor. I can't go back." Draco said softly. "They'll kill me."
The order was silent, unsure how to respond to that.
"There are your answers, Alastair." Snape said. "Perhaps, now we can continue the questioning rather than squabbling over his loyalty."
Moody folded his arms.
"Something else is going on here." Tonks said softly. "Do you know what's causing Harry's illness?"
"Um…" Hermione stuttered.
Ron looked away.
Sirius sighed. "If you tell us, perhaps we can help."
"Potter is under Sigan's curse." Draco said.
Kingsley raised an eyebrow. "As in Cornelius Sigan? One of the most feared medieval wizards? If that were so he'd hardly be able to think by now."
Draco raised an eyebrow in challenge.
Snape sighed. "As it so happens, Draco is telling the truth. I brewed the potion of identification and there is no mistake. It is the curse of Sigan. That Potter still remembers his name is no less than a miracle."
"When did this happen? What wizard would be strong enough to wield that curse?" Tonks questioned.
Draco glanced to Hermione as if to ask whether they could truly trust the order. Hermione nodded. He sighed.
"The one who gave me the dark mark. The same one that raised Voldemort, and the same one that chased us through the ministry tonight. Mordred."
"Are you believing this?" Remus asked Sirius.
Sirius motioned for him to wait. "You mean Sir Mordred from the legends?" He asked calmly.
"Yes." Hermione acknowledged.
"Mordred was in that graveyard?" Moody repeated with suspicious disbelief.
"But Mordred was a knight." Remus said.
"And a warlock!" Draco exclaimed.
"I have heard enough." Snape said. "Yes, Mordred was a warlock. Have none of you read the history of Merlin?"
He frowned. "But the one thing that I am not clear about, Draco, is how exactly you have come across this knowledge. If Mordred has somehow survived for over a millennium and has an agenda then he would surely want to keep his identity secret."
The room went silent, except for the labored breathing of the order and the trio. No one wanted to say anything. Hermione and Draco knew that if they truly disclosed what had happened then the question would come up of why Mordred was so interested in Draco, and how Draco could recognize a voice he was never meant to have heard before. That wasn't a topic they wanted to delve into.
"I heard my father say his name." Draco said quickly, smoothly. He silently congratulated himself on such a quick lie.
"There could be any number of death eaters with the same name." Lupin stated, crossing his arms.
Hermione cleared her throat. "I, well, I didn't believe him at first." She lied. "So I made him magic a quill to draw a picture. We showed it to a couple of the portraits in Hogwarts and they confirmed it."
Draco fought back a raised eyebrow at Hermione's impromptu explanation.
"There are no portraits at Hogwarts that are so old." Tonks said.
"Yes, there are! The portrait of the high priestess Nimueh in Dumbledore's office told us where to find the book and Merlin is going to tell us how to…"
"Wait just a darned second." Moody said. "First you tell us that Mordred's working with Voldemort, and now you expect us to believe that Merlin's alive and you know where-"
"Merlin's sake, Professor! Hermione said he's in a portrait." Ron exclaimed.
Hermione sighed with relief. Moody had come too close to the truth, rendering her momentarily speechless. However, she couldn't help but feel a little guilty at Ron's evasion of the truth.
"That's why we have to go back to Hogwarts." She said softly.
"I know that portrait." Sirius acknowledged, to the surprise of the others. "So what's Merlin going to do?"
Remus glanced toward Sirius strangely, both surprised and offended that Sirius had kept this from him.
"The counter-curse hasn't been finished." Hermione explained. "He's going to continue working on it, try to help us. He says he'll need what's left of the summer."
"A portrait of Merlin? I want to see it." Tonks said.
"Get in line." Kingsley replied. "I never knew Dumbledore had one in his possession."
"Very well. We'll take you to Hogwarts tomorrow morning. In the meantime, try to get a couple of hours rest." Sirius said.
The three shared a look. Rest would be the last thing they'd get that night, but they nodded and headed upstairs. Very quickly the door was pulled ajar to keep in the noise of the impromptu meeting of the order that had been called.
"What do you think they're talking about?" Ron asked, once they had gone into Hermione's room.
"Oh, I don't know, maybe the fact that there are death eaters in the ministry?" Draco quipped.
Ron glared. "Go to bed, Malfoy. No one asked you."
"No, Ron. He's right. I heard Lupin call the others when we arrived. They're worried."
Ron sighed. "We caused a right mess didn't we?"
Hermione held up the book. "But we got what we wanted. There's hope."
Draco sighed and began to stand. "If you two are done discussing the obvious, I'm going to sleep."
Hermione frowned. "You know, you don't always have to be so rude. You're lucky that Snape was there to stand up for you tonight, or Moody would have had a right go at you."
Draco scowled and left to go to bed.
Ron opened his mouth call out something offensive but Hermione shook her head. "No. I've said what he needed to hear, and he's right about one thing. We need to sleep."
"I don't get it, Hermione. He talks to you like that and you still defend him. Why?"
"Because we need him to save Harry's life." she said quietly.
"You're not just putting up with him anymore, you're being nice to him."
She smiled sadly. "Someone has to while Harry's memories are gone."
Ron thought back to the prophecy from earlier. His fate will be tied to the king of legend, whose loyalty yet may break.
He sighed. Hermione was right. He nodded. "Good night Hermione."
"Good night Ron." She said, and left.