Author's Note:A huge apology to all of you for making you wait so long. My grandfather passed after a long battle with cancer, and my computer was in for repairs for a month. It's taken a long time, but I'm finally in the right frame of mind to be writing again.
Because I've had so long to write, I have yet another very long chapter. I hope this will make up for the long wait. Chapter 19 is already started and I will from now on be going back to my regular updating schedule.
About the Chapter:
I have used some scenes from both the movie and the novel. I will have done one of two things: used the original as a basis, changing the scene to fit my story, or completely changing the scene to my own interpretation. As a result, you'll notice that there are some parts that sound quite familiar to the book/movie.
Also, thoughts are written in italics rather than quotations, but will use similar grammatical conventions.
Hope you enjoy, and review!
Chapter 18: It Begins Again
It was amazing how fast the summer had gone. Less than a week after rescuing Harry, their school lists arrived, along with a surprise that neither of them expected. Ron and Hermione had been made prefects. Strangely enough, Draco's letter had also been delivered to twelve Grimmauld Place, and he too had received a prefect's badge. Naturally he felt inclined to gloat, putting Harry in an even sourer mood than he'd been before.
"I don't get it," Harry said with annoyance. "Why wouldn't Dumbledore want me to be a prefect?"
"Don't be too offended, Potter. Some of us actually follow the rules."
"I wouldn't be too proud of that," Harry said darkly. "Rules aren't always made with good intentions."
Draco scowled at him for ruining the moment.
"He's probably just trying to keep you safe," Remus said, "and when you consider it, being a prefect would just draw further attention to you."
Harry remained silent, unable to deny the truth in Remus' words. It was bad enough that the Ministry was out to get him for saying that Voldemort was back but he was also Merlin and standing out more than usual would only increase the chances of being discovered. Despite knowing this, it didn't make the sting of rejection any easier.
"Don't worry, Harry," Sirius began. "Your father wasn't made prefect either."
Harry forced a smile. "Guess not, if he was a marauder."
"No, they gave that honour to Remus."
"Hoping that I'd be able to exert some kind of control over them," Remus said with a sigh, "but I failed miserably at that."
"Save me!" Ron exclaimed, interjecting himself into the conversation.
"Shouldn't you be over there celebrating?" Harry said with slight bitterness.
Ron glared. "This is going to ruin me, you know! Fred and George will never let me hear the end of it!"
"Where is your mum anyway?" Harry asked.
"Gone to get decorations," Hermione said. "She wants to celebrate at dinner."
Harry groaned. His attention wandered from the conversation and he found himself idly analyzing the patterns on the wallpaper, until Draco caught his eye. The wizard was leaning against the wall and looking dejectedly at the prefect's badge. Ron noticed Harry's distraction and followed his gaze.
"Funny, Malfoy acts like he's happy about it but doesn't look it," Ron observed.
"I should talk to him," Harry said quietly, moving from his seat.
Draco looked up as Harry approached, quickly shoving the badge into his pocket and standing upright.
"Don't pretend you weren't looking at it," Harry said. "It's not like I'll be less offended if I don't see it."
"I don't care if you're offended," Draco said. "I've got more important things on my mind."
Harry glared. "Like what?"
Draco wasn't forthcoming.
"Come on Malfoy, why do you look like someone just handed you a death sentence?"
Draco blinked at the unexpected use of his last name, but it had the desired effect, throwing his thoughts off balance and getting him to respond.
"Think about it," He explained with irritation. "How am I going to enforce anything? My house won't respect me if they see me with you, and the rest of the houses hate Slytherin anyway."
"You've always had a way about you," Harry said. "You command respect."
"Yeah, at one time, but I earned that respect," Draco said. "Now I'm just a fifth year student."
"So, earn it again," Harry challenged.
Draco frowned. "You make it sound easy. That kind of respect took years."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "You don't need the respect of a kingdom."
"You think a school is any easier?" Draco spat. "Honestly Potter, if you're going to give me advice…"
Harry rolled his eyes. "How about giving me a chance to finish?"
"Being friends with me will only improve the other houses' opinions of you."
"Now you're just being more big-headed than usual."
"Shut up, Malfoy and listen. I mean that everyone hates the Slytherins because they think they're so elite. If you actually associate with people outside your house it will change their opinions of you, including Gryffindor's."
"Unless they're avoiding you because of the 'gibberish' you're spouting about Voldemort," Draco said. "Then it will make things worse. Besides, Slytherin is the house I need to respect me."
"If you can get the other houses backing you, some of the Slytherins will have to cave. Those that don't, well, I'm sure you can think of ways to gain their respect."
"Unless I hang you upside down from a tree I won't be gaining much from them, and especially not if I'm around a mud-"
Harry glared before he could say it. "The correct word is muggle-born. Start using it."
Draco rolled his eyes. "I'm just saying that's what they'll think."
"Well it's not like you've managed to hang me from any trees before," Harry said. "Although you have tried, I'll give you that."
"Shut up, Potter," Draco muttered. "No one likes a clever clogs."
Harry couldn't help but to smirk at the familiar phrase.
"As for Hermione, well, people usually follow your lead. If you start treating her decently, who knows what will happen?"
"You make it sound like Slytherin follows me!"
"The only reason I had any respect in Slytherin was because of my father's money and status. Now I'm a runaway who defied the purebloods and the death eaters. I'm just as big a pariah as you are, Potter."
"Then I guess we'll both just have to be pariahs," Harry quipped.
Draco shoved him. Harry laughed.
"Don't forget, Draco, you have me. I might be in hiding but anyone who tries to make an example of you will have an example made of them."
Draco wasn't sure what to say.
"It must feel different for you," Harry said, "having magic, having to fight with magic."
He was met with silence as Draco reflected on that.
"Before I remembered all this, I never really appreciated it much," he said, "but it also complicates things."
"The part of me that remembers everything thinks it was simpler when I could just use a sword."
"You could never just use a sword to win a battle," Harry said wryly, "or do you not remember that Excalibur was a magic sword?"
"You've been over here a long time," Ron suddenly said, "and did you just say Excalibur?"
"Draco's talking about how useless swords are now," Harry explained.
Ron froze as something dawned on him.
"You can proper swordfight? Really?" He asked, suddenly more interested.
Draco tensed uncomfortably at Ron's interest. "Well, what do you think muggles fought with in the sixth century, Weasley, batons?"
"Oh…right," Ron said, feeling a little dumb. "Well, that's kinda alright then, that you can do that."
Draco looked at Ron strangely. "Was that a compliment?"
Ron paused, trying to decide whether to make a snappy comment or to actually admit he did find such a skill interesting.
"I don't think he can process that just yet, Draco," Harry admitted. "Anyway, let's do something else. This prefect stuff is getting old."
Draco couldn't help but agree.
"Anyone up for wizard's chess?" Ron asked.
Harry grinned. "Best two out of three," he said. "I'll get 'Mione and we'll meet you up there."
Draco and Ron were left to scowl at each other until Harry returned.
The gossip had already started at the end of their fourth year, but by the end of summer it had grown in full force. Being seen with Draco in Diagon Alley was only helping to fuel the fire. Harry could hardly help but feel intimidated by the students pointing and whispering in hushed tones.
They'd split up from Ron and Hermione, hoping to relieve them of some of the attention, but Harry and Draco continued to receive stares and odd glances by the droves. Several of the students in their year group weren't sure how to react. Susan Bones completely dropped her schoolbag. Seamus did a double take. Harry began to walk faster toward Gringotts, reflexively grabbing Draco's wrist to pull him along. He was shaken out of his nervous stupor by said wizard, who grabbed his arm back indignantly.
"What are you doing, Potter," he hissed, "trying to get more people talking?"
"I'm trying to get us to Gringotts before we get mobbed," Harry spat.
He turned around again to move but ran straight into another wizard.
"Sorry," He muttered reflexively.
He adjusted his glasses and froze. Black robes. Harry looked up with annoyance. Snape.
"Pity that even with an expensive pair of spectacles you still cannot see where you are going," Snape snapped.
Harry frowned, and began to respond in kind, but Snape's attention suddenly shifted to Draco.
"Professor," Draco said respectfully.
Harry raised an eyebrow, unused to Draco being respectful to anyone.
"You're not here with your parents," Snape observed. He dropped the volume of his voice. "Is Mordred still at the Manor?"
Snape sighed. "Very well. Come with me. You will need money to buy your school supplies."
Snape turned around to lead them to Gringotts and Harry nearly choked.
"Really?" He whispered.
"He is my godfather," Draco said, "and the Head of Slytherin house."
Harry sighed. "Why am I not surprised that the two most difficult people in the school get along?"
"Or maybe it's you that's difficult, Potter."
Harry snorted, unable to actually say what he thought on the matter without laughing. Draco wasn't happy at the implication.
There was suddenly a wand pointed at Harry's face. "Shut up."
Harry pushed the wand down with his index finger and let his eyes go gold in playful warning.
"I don't care," Draco spat. "So you can take that magic and-"
A sudden clearing of someone's throat interrupted them, and they looked to see an impatient Snape waiting for them at the door.
"If you're finished your childish little squabble, I do have things to do," Snape chastised.
Both glanced at each other with embarrassment before following Snape into Gringott's.
Nearly a week later and it was September 1st. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Draco and Ginny headed towards the train warily. They stepped onto the train and Harry turned to find a seat when he noticed only Ginny was following.
"Aren't you coming?" He asked.
"Er," said Ron.
"Harry," Hermione said hesitantly, "we're – well – Ron, Draco and I are supposed to go into the prefect carriage at the front."
Hermione and Ron glanced toward each other, neither wanting to look at Harry.
Draco sighed with annoyance. "Honestly, you'd think we're never going to see him again."
"So you'll be back," He assumed.
"I think so. Our letters said we just get instructions from the Head Boy and Girl and then patrol the corridors from time to time," Hermione explained.
Harry frowned. He always sat with Ron and Hermione on the train.
"Ah, well, okay then," he said softly. "Hopefully see you later."
"Yeah," Ron said, looking anxiously at his friend. "It's a pain having to go down there, I'd rather – but we have to –"
"It's okay Ron," Harry reassured.
The two turned to walk away, feeling slightly bad for having to shun their friend on the first day. Draco paused a moment, meeting Harry's gaze briefly before following.
Harry maneuvered his trunk and the cage with Hedwig awkwardly through the corridors with Ginny. As he passed, he caught the stares and pointed fingers of multiple students and cringed. As if being seen with Draco hadn't stirred things up enough, the Daily Prophet had gone and written an article discrediting him and Dumbledore. Harry sighed and wondered how much this infamy was going to affect his year.
"Harry?" a voice asked.
Harry glanced up. Neville was clutching his toad, Trevor, in one hand tightly while struggling with his trunk.
"Everywhere's full. I can't find a seat."
"What are you talking about?" said Ginny, glancing toward the compartment just past Neville. "There's room in that one, there's only Loony Lovegood in there."
She pointed to a compartment on their left, with a blonde girl sitting alone.
"I don't want to disturb anyone," Neville said.
"Don't be silly," Said Ginny, laughing. "She's all right."
She slid the door open and pulled her trunk inside. Harry and Neville reluctantly followed.
"Hi, Luna," said Ginny, "is it okay if we take these seats?
The blonde girl beside the window looked up and Harry suddenly knew why Neville had chosen to pass this compartment. The girl gave off an aura of distinct dottiness. Perhaps it was the fact that she had stuck her wand behind her left ear for safekeeping, chosen to wear a necklace of Butterbeer corks, and that she was reading a magazine upside-down. Despite that, though, Harry found her quite curious. She glanced up at them before nodding.
"Thanks," said Ginny with a smile.
They stowed their trunks in the luggage rack and sat down. Harry ended up sitting across from Luna and found her suddenly staring at him.
"You're Harry Potter," She said curiously.
"Last I checked, yeah," He agreed.
She turned, her gaze resting on Neville, and said, "I don't know who you are."
"I'm nobody," He responded hurriedly.
"No you're not," Ginny said sharply. "Neville Longbottom – Luna Lovegood. Luna's in my year, but in Ravenclaw."
"Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure," Luna practically sang, before raising her magazine with embarrassment and beginning to read again.
Harry tilted his head. Ravenclaw? That meant that despite this girl's outward appearance, she was quite clever. Before he could ponder this, Neville began telling Harry about his new birthday gift. When Neville asked Harry to hold Trevor so he could demonstrate what his new plant did, Harry was more than wary.
"Neville, I really don't think that's a good i-" he began.
Liquid suddenly squirted from every boil on the plant, thick and stinking, and spattered Luna's magazine, Ginny's hands and Harry's face. He spat the liquid from his mouth and attempted to flick off the rest.
"S-sorry," Neville stuttered, looking at Harry with fright.
Harry sighed, realizing his friend still wasn't over last year's events.
"I-it's not poisonous," Neville said hurriedly.
"Let's just get it cleaned up," Harry said with annoyance, reaching for his wand.
Ginny beat him to it. "Scourgify!" she said. The stinksap vanished.
"I can still taste it," Harry muttered. "Ugh."
A sudden feeling of nervousness shot through him, along with a vision of Draco taking an indecisive step toward the Slytherins.
He's going to have to make a choice. Harry knew there was going to be trouble.
"Save my spot." Harry said quickly. "I've got to go."
And with that he rushed out of the compartment and down the corridor toward the front of the train.
The prefects meeting went as well as expected, but as Hermione, Ron and Draco turned to leave, Pansy gave them an analyzing look.
"What's that about?" Hermione asked.
"It's started," Draco groaned, "and now we have to walk through the carriage where most of Slytherin sits."
"Well, maybe no one will notice." Ron said.
Draco turned to tell him how stupid an idea that was when he was interrupted.
"Draco!" Pansy's voice sounded from just behind them.
Draco turned, his expression betraying both annoyance and worry.
"Pansy," he acknowledged with faked confidence.
"Where are you going? Your seat is in here," Pansy continued. She folded her arms.
Draco took a step toward the compartment but hesitated, imagining Potter's voice scolding him. You have to make a choice, Draco.
He flinched, knowing that was truth.
"Problem?" Pansy's sickeningly sweet voice asked.
"I know where my seat is," Draco said sharply.
"Then what are you waiting for?" She asked equally sharply.
Draco made to move away but Pansy stopped him, grabbing Draco's upper arm. Draco quickly wrenched his arm back, his hand immediately going for his wand and pointing it at Pansy's chest.
"Back off Pansy," Draco warned.
"So it's true," She said, moving away slightly. "They told me you'd renounced your house and your pride and made friends with Potter, the mudblood and the blood traitors. I didn't believe it, but now that it's in front of my eyes - what happened to you, Draco?"
"Nothing happened to me," He spat, "but you can stop pretending like you care."
"Actually that's the thing, Draco. I used to admire you. But now…"
She paused. "They're saying your father disowned you."
That statement hit home more than Draco would have liked, causing a welling up of anger in his chest.
"You know, I can't figure out what annoys you more," he spat. "The fact I chose Potter over the rest of you, or the fact that I'm not around for you to follow like a lovesick puppy anymore."
Pansy's expression turned to rage as she slammed Draco back against the wall with magic, holding him in place with her forearm. Draco's wand clattered to the ground.
"You take that back!" she yelled.
Hermione tensed, looking to the left. Another person was hurrying along the corridor and Hermione let out a sigh of relief as she realized it was Harry. How did he know?
Draco blinked away the spots in his vision just as Pansy felt the tip of a wand underneath the side of her jaw.
"Let him go," Harry commanded.
Pansy grinned and released Draco, turning fully to face Harry.
"I wondered when you'd show up. You don't scare me, Potter."
Slight gold began to illuminate through Harry's green irises as his anger rose. "That's too bad," he spat. "It might've saved you."
There was a collective gasp as Harry flicked his wand, causing Pansy to fly sharply back into the compartment across the hallway, hitting the wall. Draco leaned against the wall, still gasping for air. Harry attempted to move toward Draco, but found himself facing Blaise, Goyle and Crabbe.
Hermione and Ron immediately moved to flank Harry, their wands out to match each Slytherin's threat. Draco, having finally recovered, snatched his wand up and joined the ranks, aiming it at his former friends with cool anger.
"You seem to be outmatched," Harry taunted, "so why don't you slither back to your seats and leave us alone."
Draco gave Harry a look at that comment.
Pansy shook her head and looked up, forcing herself to a standing position.
"This isn't over, Potter," she threatened, "and as for you, Draco - we'll see you in the common room."
"Yeah, with ten less points," Draco snapped.
Harry put a hand on his shoulder, guiding him in the other direction. The four Slytherins simply glared as the odd four walked away, following Harry in the direction of their seats.
"That went well," Ron muttered.
Both flinched as Draco suddenly smacked Harry with the handle of his wand.
"Ow!" Harry exclaimed. "What was that for?"
"That insult to Slytherins."
"Your house doesn't exactly have the best reputation, Malfoy," Ron said.
"No one asked you, Weasley."
"Look, Draco, I get it. You're angry. But you're fooling yourself if you think it's because I made a dig at Slytherins. Having a go at me isn't going to change anything."
Draco sighed angrily. "You just don't get it, do you?" he said. "They'll make my life miserable every day. I share a dorm with Blaise, Crabbe and Goyle. And Pansy, well, she's got a mean streak that makes me look saintly."
Ron raised an eyebrow. "Never thought I'd see the day where a Malfoy admits to being a first class git."
"Don't worry, I won't be making a habit of it," Draco snapped.
Harry sighed. "If they do anything, Draco, just tell me. I know some hexes that would make the Catha cry."
Draco raised an eyebrow, as if this was news. "That's irrelevant," He muttered. "You can't use those; it's an unfair advantage, and you know it."
Harry sighed, knowing that was true. "Well, I'll use regular hexes."
"No!" Draco said. "Don't you get it? That will just make things worse. I need to defend myself. I'll figure something out."
"Well…" Hermione began, "If worse comes to worse, we could always smuggle you into the Gryffindor common room for a while."
Draco snorted. "Right, and then all the Gryffindors would try to kill me. Thanks but no thanks."
"We're here," Harry announced.
"Wait, we're not sitting with Loony Luna," Draco said.
He received three glares and realized it was probably a good idea to shut up.
"Oh, hello," Luna said as they opened the door. "You must be Draco Malfoy."
Draco simply nodded and sat uncomfortably with his arms folded, glancing away from the group.
"Isn't that hard to read upside down?" Ron asked.
"Oh, I'm not really reading it upside down," Luna said dreamily. "I'm trying to read the runes."
Harry noticed the article on the front and saw a picture of the Minister of Magic. He looked more closely, only to notice the other articles listed on the paper:
Corruption in the Quidditch League
Secrets of the Ancient Runes Revealed
Sirius Black: Villain or Victim?
Mysterious sword found in Somerset
Harry froze. "Can I have a look at this?" He asked.
She nodded, handing it over. Harry began by skimming through the article on Sirius. Halfway through he realized it was full of nothing but rubbish, to the point where Harry wondered if there was anything to the sword story.
I have to check.
He flipped to the back of the book. Instead of a cartoon, this article had a picture of a sword - with runes. Harry's eyes widened. He began read the article, hanging off every word.
Sword…stuck in a stone…at the bottom of a dried-up lake in Somerset. No one's been able to remove it.
Harry nearly choked.
"I saw that article," Luna said. "Interesting, isn't it - a sword in a stone - sounds a bit King Arthur to me."
Draco's gaze quickly darted to the paper, trying to catch a glimpse of the article.
"Are you alright?" Luna asked. "You look a bit flustered."
"Fine." Draco muttered.
Luna smiled. "Exciting isn't it? I wonder if it really is Excalibur."
Hermione, Harry, Ron and Draco shared a glance, while Neville just stared at Draco.
"Stop it, Longbottom," Draco hissed.
Ginny turned back from looking out the window. "I thought Excalibur was a myth."
"I know," Luna explained excitedly, "but with it being so close to Glastonbury Tor, it's hard not to start believing the legend."
"Why, what's Glastonbury Tor supposed to be?" Ginny asked, curious.
"Avalon," she said in sync with Draco's answer of 'the Isle of the Blessed.'
Both stared at each other for a second.
"What's that?" Luna asked.
"Nothing," Draco said, brushing it off. "Something I heard."
"Oh," Luna said.
Ginny looked at him oddly.
"Anyway, they say King Arthur was buried there with Queen Guinevere," Luna continued. "Interesting isn't it?"
The atmosphere was quickly becoming very uncomfortable and Harry looked down, pretending to be reading. It didn't fool the others.
"Are you okay, Harry?" Ginny asked. "You look worried."
"I'm fine," he lied, but his mind raced. Was it Excalibur? This couldn't be good.
"Looks as though it's still there," Luna said, not privy to Harry's inner turmoil. "No one seems to be able to move it."
Harry let out a breath, trying to stop the oncoming headache.
"You sound like you're convinced it's the real thing."
"What other sword would be embedded in a stone like that?" she said.
"Right," Harry said.
"Well, I think you're all mad," Ginny said, and resumed looking out the window.
The ride finally came to an end and they found themselves swept into the usual hustle and bustle of getting to Hogwarts. Harry boarded one of the supposed self-moving carriages only to note (to his surprise) that there were skeletal horses pulling them. Although he'd mentioned this, he'd only got a response from Luna where she admitted she could see them too and called Harry "as sane as I am," which did not reassure him in the least.
"Did you notice? Hagrid's not here." Ron said.
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "Suspicious."
"Do you think he's quit?" Ron wondered.
"No," Harry said. "He wouldn't. He must be doing something for Dumbledore. Why else would he leave, especially at such a crucial time?"
"Good point," Hermione agreed.
They reached the Great Hall and Ginny and Luna headed to their respective friends. Harry shared a glance with Draco.
"Don't need your pity," He muttered.
"It's not pity. It's worry," Harry said. "Honestly."
"I'll be fine. I'll see you later."
Harry nodded, and headed to the Gryffindor table with Hermione and Ron.
"Never thought I'd say this, but I actually feel sorry for the git," Ron said. "Can't imagine what his house is gonna do to him now."
"Nothing, if they know what's good for them," Harry said darkly.
Ron and Hermione gave him a worried look.
It was driven from their minds as McGonagall began the sorting and they watched with interest to see who would be the next addition to their house. The hat's song, however, threw them off kilter. Hermione and Harry froze. The hat was giving warning, singing about the wish for the houses to be more united. That hadn't happened before.
"That's really odd," Ron said. "The hat only does that when it believes there's serious danger."
"How would it know?"
"Well, it does sit in Dumbledore's office," Hermione suggested.
They were left to wonder at the cryptic warning as they sat through the remainder of the ceremony, including Dumbledore's instructions to 'tuck in'. Their real worry came when the new teacher – who Harry recognized as Umbridge – began an unwanted speech. Harry listened carefully as other students began to zone out. Hermione did the same.
"Progress for progress sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence, and change, between tradition and innovation…"
Harry could hear a veiled threat behind those words, and it was confirmed only shortly after.
"…because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognized as errors of judgment. Meanwhile, some old habits will be retained, and rightly so, whereas others, outmoded and outworn, must be abandoned. Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited."
When she sat down, the professors and students began to clap, but Harry found himself loath to give applause for such an appalling speech. Hermione caught his glare and leaned in.
"Illuminating, wasn't it?" she said hotly.
"Offensive," Harry agreed.
"What? You two enjoyed that load of waffle?" Ron asked.
"There was some important stuff hidden in that waffle," Hermione said.
"Like 'pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited'," Harry said.
"Which means what?" Ron wondered.
"It means this is worse than we thought, Ron," Hermione explained. "It means the Ministry's interfering at Hogwart's."
"Let's not forget spying on me," Harry said, "hoping I'll slip up."
Ron wasn't sure what to say to that, so he just took another sip of his drink.
The bench suddenly moved as someone sat down next to them, plate included. Harry's eyes widened.
"Draco? What are you doing?"
"I'm eating in peace," he said sharply as the table appeared to extend to make room for his plate.
The trio looked around worriedly. The rest of Gryffindor simply stared, but no one could shake themselves out of shock for long enough to make a comment.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "That bad?" he asked nonchalantly.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Fair," Harry agreed.
"Harry, mate, there's a Slytherin sitting at the Gryffindor table. You're not going to be able to shrug that off."
"I can shrug off a lot of things," He said flippantly. "If Draco wants to sit here then the rest of Gryffindor can stuff it."
Ron sighed loudly.
"Great," Ron said. "Fantastic way to start the year. A prefect isolated from the rest of Gryffindor. I don't mind at all."
Hermione just stared with annoyance. "Really, Ron?" she asked. "Isolated from all of Gryffindor? What are Harry and I then?"
"You know what I mean, Hermione."
This just increased her determination. "Of course I do. But sometimes, Ron, sometimes, you just have to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences."
Ron nearly choked.
That set the mood and they ate in silence for the next little while, ignoring the looks from their housemates. Supper began to wind down and Hermione glanced behind, noticing the confused first years wondering where to go.
"Ron, we need to show the first years back to the common room," she reminded.
"Right," Ron agreed. "I forgot about that."
Harry winced as Ron called out, "Hey you lot, hey midgits!"
He laughed when Hermione's voice cried out to scold him. Harry watched the terrified first years come and line up next to Hermione and Ron.
"I should go too," Draco said. "I've got to deal with the Slytherin first years."
Harry nodded. "Don't worry about Pansy," He said. "I've got your back."
Draco said nothing, only nodded and turned to head off. Harry turned back to the first years, noticing how small they looked in their oversized robes. He grinned.
"Hi," He said, but one of the students shrunk back in terror, nudging the other one and pointing. Harry frowned. So it starts.
"I'll see you later," He called to Hermione and Ron, now in a sour mood, and headed toward the common room. What he found there didn't help.
Seamus and Dean were hanging up their posters and Neville was carefully placing his new plant down on the night table.
Dean greeted Harry, but Seamus said nothing.
"Dean, Seamus, good holiday?" he asked.
"Mine was better than Seamus's," Dean joked.
"Why, what happened to Seamus?"
Seamus turned around from hanging up his poster, viewing Harry with an annoyed glance.
"Me mam didn't want me to come back," he said.
Harry paused, raising an eyebrow. There was more to this than Seamus was letting on.
"Why?" he asked cautiously.
"Because of you," Seamus said. "You and all your lies about you-know-who."
"Lies?" Harry asked, furious. "Who said they were lies, your stupid mother?"
"Don't have a go at my mother!" Seamus spat.
"I'll have a go at anyone who calls me a liar," Harry countered. "And anyway what do you think happened if it wasn't Voldemort? Do you really think it was an accident?"
"It could have been you for all we know!" Seamus shouted, causing both Dean and Neville to flinch.
"Oi, what's going on?" Ron asked from the doorway.
Both looked at him oddly.
"Do you believe the rubbish he's been coming up with about You-Know-Who?"
"Yeah, I do," Ron said angrily. "Does anyone else have a problem with Harry?"
Dean raised his hands slightly in a gesture of truce. "Not me, mate, my parents are muggles."
Neville just shook his head, not wanting to get involved.
"Well, fine. Anyone else has a go at him or even suggests he could be responsible for Cedric's death then they can find themselves in a week long detention," Ron snapped.
He turned to Harry, who had begun to unpack his things.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, Ron," Harry said, perhaps a little too curtly.
"Alright…" Ron said warily and began to back away.
"I'm sorry, it's just…this is how it's going to be now, isn't it? People don't trust me. They think I'm making up lies, and it's all the Ministry's fault," he said quietly.
"Who cares what they think?" Ron said.
Harry sighed. "Yeah I guess."
Ron paused, glancing toward Harry will a mischievous glint in his eye. "Remember who you are, mate, and remember what you can do," he whispered. "That should count for something."
Harry gave a weary smile. "Thanks," he said softly. "It's good to know you've got my back."
"You're bloody right I do," Ron said, sending a not-so-subtle glare at Seamus.
A knock on their dorm room door suddenly distracted them from their conversation.
"Yeah?" Ron asked.
"Someone's at the door for Harry," one of the Gryffindor boys shouted.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Who else?" Ron asked with annoyance.
"Oh," Harry said. "Right."
He made his way to the door, not noticing how the whole of Gryffindor had suddenly stopped to watch him. Whispers broke out as he opened the door to find Draco standing uncomfortably outside.
"We need to talk," he said.
They walked slowly to the balcony where they'd first spoken as Merlin and Arthur, and stood silently for a few minutes. Harry broke the silence.
"Draco?" he asked, worried. "You haven't said a word."
"I was thinking," Draco snapped. He sighed and ran his hands down his face. "I was thinking about the sword."
Harry tilted his head. "Figures that would be the first thing you're worried about."
Draco paused. "Should I be worried about something else?"
"How have your housemates been to you?" Harry asked. He knew it was a loaded question.
Draco frowned. "I'm not talking about that."
"Why?" Harry asked, "Because of some stubborn belief that you have to deal with this alone? We were fine with you sitting with us at dinner, and we'll support you with this."
"Shut up, Potter," Draco said angrily.
"No," Harry said, equally as stubbornly. "You have this thing about not showing weakness, and I know how hard it was for you to come and sit with us. So I want to know...how bad are they treating you?"
Draco sighed. "They're avoiding me right now. All right? Is that what you wanted to know? Can we move on now?"
Harry raised an eyebrow. "I don't believe you."
"Do I look like I care?"
Harry remained silent, his green eyes analyzing the Slytherin wizard. Draco couldn't stand those eyes, blue or green. They knew when he was lying.
"Fine! Damn it all to hell anyway," Draco exclaimed angrily. "Pansy challenged me to a wizard's duel. Tonight. Happy now?"
"She's getting bolder by the day," Harry muttered. "I thought she liked you."
"Yeah, well, not anymore. I think she hates me the most."
Harry paused in thought a moment before asking, "Who's your second?"
"What? You don't actually think I'm…"
"Who's…your…second?" He asked coolly.
"Where am I going to get a second, Potter?" Draco sneered. "My house despises me. They think I'm dirt!"
"Then it'll be me," Harry said coldly.
"No," Draco began.
"Draco, I'm not letting you face that group of wannabe dark wizards on your own. Are we clear?"
"If you'd actually listened, you'd know I have no intention of facing them."
Harry sighed. "It might be the only way to get them to leave you alone."
"And what happens if they find out you're Merlin, what then? You know that will put both of our heads on the line!" Draco hissed.
Harry's eyes twinkled with a playful, innocent glint.
"Your lot?" he joked. "They'd eat their own wands before they'd admit that I'm Merlin."
Draco glared. "You're awfully sure of yourself. Don't forget my lot are known for being unnaturally sly. Who you are is a very valuable piece of information, Potter."
Harry frowned, becoming serious again. "I'm not exactly going to be stupid about it," He said with exasperation, "and anyway, what time is the duel?"
"In two hours," Draco said.
"Fine. That gives me time to comb the restricted section and learn some things."
He caught Draco's odd look. "What? I can't exactly use old magic if I'm trying to be discreet, can I? I'm still learning the newer spells just like you. Don't act so surprised."
Draco couldn't help but crack a smile.
Harry grinned back. "Now, about the sword?"
"Yeah," Draco said, "about the sword."
"I don't know if it's going to respond to you anymore."
"So just magic it out like you did last time," Draco said dryly.
"Ah…you knew about that," Harry said awkwardly.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Of course I knew about that. Do you think I'm simple?"
Harry sighed. "Guess not."
"So you did think I was simple."
"Maybe a little," he taunted.
"Anyway it's different this time around," Harry explained.
"How could it be different?" Draco asked.
"Because this time I didn't put it there."
Harry paused, letting Draco process that.
"When you died," he said softly, "Sir Leon took your sword."
"And?" Draco asked. "How did it get in this new stone?"
"Well, he knew what the inscription meant, must've heard you mention it."
"Take me up. Cast me away," Draco acknowledged.
Harry nodded. "That sword wasn't meant for anyone else, so he threw it into the lake of Avalon," he said worriedly, "But the lake dried up and Avalon's magic left the sword this way. I have to wonder if it means you'll have to prove yourself again."
"I think it sounds like a trap," Draco said. "If you put a sword in a rock then Mordred could have done it too."
"Either way, we can't just leave Excalibur there." Harry said.
Draco looked out at the hills as he considered that. He frowned.
"And what if it's not Excalibur?"
"Can we really take that chance?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Draco said. "Potter, we spent nearly the entire summer trying to cure you, and we were almost too late. You almost died, and it was because of Mordred. If this is a trap…"
He glanced away. "The sword isn't worth your life."
Harry made to protest but Draco wasn't having it.
"The only reason that sword was necessary is because I never had magic," Draco said. "I needed something to combat it and now I don't."
"That sword," Harry said curtly, "could kill an inferi, Draco. It could rip through a wizard like butter. Magic, especially the magic you have, can't always do that. Imagine Mordred getting his hands on it."
"Mordred already has Caliburn," Draco argued.
"Mordred is allied with Voldemort. Do you really want him using it? He'd be invincible. There's more at stake here than my life. What about the millions of wizards Voldemort would kill with that sword?"
Draco looked conflicted. "Voldemort would rather die than use a muggle weapon," he protested.
"You'd think that. Except it's not a muggle weapon – it's a sword burnished in dragon's fire, and the old dragons had more magic than you can imagine."
There was nothing left to say to that. Draco knew he'd been bested. He shifted uncomfortably.
"I know what to expect now, I've seen it once," Harry continued. "My magic's already adjusted to block Sigan's curse."
"Oh? So you never let your guard down during a battle?" Draco challenged.
Harry frowned. "Then what do you think we should do? Leave it there and let the Ministry of Magic get their hands on it? Let Mordred give it to Voldemort? Is that what you want?"
"There's no guarantee they'll ever get it out," Draco argued.
"There's no guarantee they won't," Harry argued back.
"It's not that I want it to fall in the wrong hands," Draco finally said. "I just don't want you to die for it."
"Let me tell you something," Harry said. "We never woke randomly. The muggles have a legend: A legend that came from prophecy. It says that King Arthur will only wake up when Britain truly needs him. It says he'll come back and save the world. I'm not the one who jogged your memory. The things I said might've helped it along, but you're awake because this world needs you."
Harry shook his head. "No one seems to realize, but this is going to be a war, and that sword can tip the scales. You need it."
Draco simply stared the way he always did when Merlin said something unnaturally wise and old. He still wasn't sure how to react to something like that.
"You're the one prophesied to defeat Voldemort," Draco said. "Not me."
Harry blinked. "What?" he asked.
"Didn't you know that?"
Draco frowned. "How could you not know that?"
"Hello? I grew up with muggles, Draco."
"Right," he acknowledged. "Didn't you at least wonder?"
"Wonder? My aunt and uncle told me that my parents died in a car crash. Then I found out I'm a wizard, and then, whisked off to this world of magic where I'm told that Voldemort killed them and by the way I'm the Boy Who Lived – the only person who survived the killing curse. That's what I know."
"Oh," Draco said. "Well it's common knowledge in upper circles."
Harry rolled his eyes at how ignorant Draco could be of anything lower class.
"Why did you think I introduced myself to you?" Draco continued. "My father thought if we could get you on side, you'd be a powerful ally. We thought the prophecy could be averted. Now, well, now I don't give a rat's bottom what Voldemort wants."
Draco paused. "So it's not me who has to save the world, it's you."
There was a moment of silence, where Harry processed all that.
"I wonder if that's why you remember being Merlin."
"I don't think so," Harry said softly. "I mean, it's an advantage, I'll give it that, but it's not the reason. The old religion has become unbalanced, perverted. It's almost like it's called me back to restore it. I have a strong feeling that ties in with Voldemort."
Draco remained silent, not wanting to bring up the other thing that worried him – having to return Mordred to the realm of the dead by the end of the year, or take his place.
Harry noticed this. "What are you not telling me?"
Draco turned away, not offering anything further. Harry frowned, making a mental note to find out exactly what Draco was hiding.
"So are we going to investigate this sword or not?" He asked.
Draco let out a breath. "Fine," he muttered. "How soon can you get us there?"
"We'll have to go tomorrow, near dusk, when we won't be missed. We'll travel by wind – the Ministry won't be able to track us then."
"The trace will still work when we arrive." Draco said.
"I know." Harry said.
"Then why bother? Wouldn't it be better just to get rid of the trace altogether?"
Harry blinked. "Honestly Draco, sometimes I wonder about you."
"What?" Draco asked sharply. "Are you calling me dumb again?"
"More like wondering how you were ever in charge of anything," Harry teased.
Harry could see Draco's shoulders trembling as he held back the angry retort that wanted to come out. Instead he aimed his wand at Harry.
Harry pushed it aside, giving him a pointed look. "Look, Draco, what I'm saying is yes, I could easily just undo the trace right now, but there's a reason I won't – a reason I thought you'd be aware of."
"Oh? And what's that?" He asked.
"Think! Two traces suddenly stop working. What's wrong with that picture?"
"Oh come on, you don't really think they're actually monitoring that, Potter?"
"You heard what Professor Lupin said. They already suspect that I'm Merlin," Harry said, "so of course they're monitoring it. And because you're around me, they'll be monitoring you too. If suddenly our traces disappear, that's pretty condemning, don't you think?"
"Well then, what are we going to do?"
"Deny it," Harry said.
"Deny that we happened to go to Somerset the same time there's a big fuss about a sword that might be Excalibur? You're the one that's touched in the head if you think that'll work."
"Shut up, Malfoy," Harry spat.
"Why, because I'm right?" Draco countered.
Harry sighed loudly. "I get it, okay? You don't need to rub it in my face. And what do you propose we do then?"
"It's better for the Ministry to suspect we've used a damper charm. At least then they don't know where we were or why."
"Right," Harry scolded himself. "I should have thought of that. Well, I'll do that before we go. It'll take a little more care than actually breaking the trace but I should be able to do it."
"Should?" Draco asked, raising an eyebrow. "Maybe we should change your title to sort of maybe the most powerful warlock of all time."
"It's different magic," Harry muttered, "and it's going to be backing you up in the couple of hours so I suppose you'll just have to trust me."
"Oh great, trust," Draco muttered.
"Where's the duel anyway?"
"Of course it is," Harry said, rolling his eyes. "I'll see you in an hour."
"Yeah," Draco said, as Harry left. He took one more glance at the hills in front of him, taking in the cool wind that came from being so high above the land.
He wouldn't admit it to anyone, let alone Harry, but he was worried.
Pansy turned sharply as Draco and Harry walked into the clearing in the Forbidden Forest. She folded her arms and frowned. "Well guess who showed up?"
"I'm surprised you showed up, Pansy," Harry said, stepping to Draco's side. "You and your band of cowards don't seem good for anything except getting people into trouble."
"How sweet," Pansy mocked, "but I can't say I didn't expect it. You don't go anywhere without Potter these days."
"Shut up," Draco spat.
"Did I hurt your feelings?" She asked.
Blaise, Crabbe, Goyle and a few other Slytherins laughed.
"Let's just get on with it," Draco said sharply.
"Wait," Harry said. "We need to set some limits."
Pansy glared. "This isn't your duel."
"But it's mine, so let him talk," Draco demanded.
"No unforgiveable curses. Duel to disarm," Harry stated.
Pansy laughed. "Disarm? No," she said. Her eyes narrowed. "Duel to first injury."
Harry attempted to contest that but he was cut off.
"Fine," Draco agreed, sending a warning glare Harry's way.
Harry looked at him incredulously. Draco simply reached for his wand. Pansy did the same.
"Confringo!" she shouted suddenly.
"Protego! Malefacio!" Draco said sharply, sending a blue curse Pansy's way.
Pansy moved out of the way, sending a red stunning curse at Draco, who barely managed to conjure a shield in time. Their gazes met, neither wanting to look away, and they began to circle each other ominously.
"Expulso!" Draco shouted.
The red spell took Pansy by surprise, glancing off her shirt, but simply burning away some fabric.
"Damn it," Draco muttered.
"Diffindo!" Pansy shouted.
Draco's eyes widened as he ducked, rolling on the ground, his wand clattering away. He scrambled for it, grabbing it just in time to avoid another severing charm. He shot one back but Pansy was well prepared for it. Draco gritted his teeth and pulled himself to his feet angrily.
"Is that all you've got, Draco? Maybe I should have dueled Potter instead!"
Draco's shoulders tensed, his eye beginning to twitch. Harry recognized the signs.
"Draco, no!" he hissed.
"Shut up!" Pansy yelled.
There was a cry and all Draco's emotions unleashed into his magic. A large blasting curse shot out, heading for Pansy. She conjured a hasty shield, but it wasn't holding. She began to panic as the curse continued to pelt her.
"Draco, stop!" Harry shouted.
Pansy's shield began to crack, but she forced her way forward, concentrating. A moment went by before her shield shattered. But Draco had missed the new spell coming for him from the sidelines – a fire spell. He fell backwards as the force of the fire hit a hasty shield, singeing his hair and his robes.
"Stop!" Harry shouted. "The rules of the duel are broken."
Pansy wasn't listening. "Crucio," she said evenly.
Draco fell forward, one hand propping himself off the ground while his body shook and trembled with pain. His jaw clenched and his teeth ground together only a moment before a cry of agony escaped him.
Harry's body tensed with repressed anger. "Stop it now!" he roared.
Time froze as he moved toward Draco, providing a shield between him and Pansy. She blinked in surprise as Harry appeared in front of her, glancing to the place he'd been standing only minutes before. Harry held out his wand threateningly.
"The rules say that only one wizard duels at a time," Harry said coolly, "and no unforgiveable curses are allowed. I wonder what Umbridge would say if she knew you were using illegal curses."
Pansy frowned. "Word is that Umbridge has it out for you, Potter. I doubt she'd even listen. Just what is so interesting about you? I don't see anything but a poor excuse for a wizard."
"A poor excuse who could knock you out before you'd have the chance to say a spell," Harry threatened.
She mockingly raised an eyebrow. "Could you?"
Pansy turned toward the group. "Did you hear that? Potter says he can knock me out before I can cast a spell."
There was a chorus of laughs.
Pansy spit on the ground and wiped it into the grass with her shoe before facing Harry down. "Let's do it, then, me and you: a duel."
There was a glint in Harry's eye. "Fine. Good luck."
"You're the one who'll need the luck," She muttered.
Draco pulled himself off of the ground hastily. "What are you doing, you idiot?" he protested.
"Get out of the way, Draco," Harry said calmly.
Draco knew that tone meant he shouldn't argue, and he reluctantly headed to the sidelines.
The two waited a moment before nodding in agreement to start. Pansy opened her mouth to speak a spell, but Harry had already made the wand movements for the knockback jinx. Pansy barely processed the white stream of light that sent her flying backward into a tree. She struggled to keep her eyes open as her world blurred.
"Stupefy," Harry said quietly, slowly, as though he had all the time in the world. The red stream hit Pansy dead on, and she slumped down unconscious.
Harry turned to the others, holding out his wand. They all shrunk back with fear.
"Anyone else care to try their luck?" he asked.
Blaise glared with hatred while Goyle gulped and Crabbe looked for a way out.
"Next time it won't be a stunning spell," Harry said angrily.
He turned to walk toward Draco, who looked at him in annoyance, but followed him out nonetheless. The others were left to try and revive Pansy.
Harry and Draco walked back through the forest in silence for several minutes before Harry began notice the cold shoulder Draco was giving him, and stopped.
"What?" Draco asked petulantly.
"You," Harry said, folding his arms. "What's wrong?"
Draco eyed him warily. "Do you even realize what you just did?"
"Yeah. I made your life easier," He said. "You can thank me later."
"You idiot!" Draco spat. "You don't think this will get back to the Death Eaters, or even the Ministry? Because it will! They'll ask questions."
Harry sighed and turned to Draco with exasperation. "I don't think your pack of housemates is capable of speaking right now, let alone telling the Death Eaters anything. Besides, I used normal magic. Anyone could use that."
"And what about appearing in front of me?"
"Trick of the eye."
"That five people witnessed!"
"It was dark."
Draco stayed silent, unsure what to say.
"Oh, come on, Draco. That could have easily been taken for apparition!"
"Which you aren't supposed to know for another couple of years. Don't you see what you've done? Umbridge hasn't exactly made it secret that she's got it out for you, and you just gave Pansy something to report to her! This is exactly what I thought would happen."
"And how would she tell Umbridge, Draco, without also telling her about this duel, which, by the way, is completely against school rules."
Draco grabbed the material of Harry's robes pulling him eye to eye in an attempt at intimidation. "Because, idiot, Umbridge is just as bad as a death eater. She's a purist, she's not loyal to anyone except Fudge, and she'll use any means necessary to get what she's after."
"Oh, and you didn't think that was important to tell me before?" Harry spat, pushing Draco away. "That would have helped to know. And how did you find out anyway?"
"Spies in the Ministry," Draco explained. "You seem to forget some of my housemates have death eaters for parents."
Harry let out a large sigh. "Well, fine," He said. "I was a bit stupid. Happy?"
"Draco, honestly, there's nothing she can get from that!"
"Just like there was nothing my father could have noticed about the horse in the smoke, or the one person in the town being cured?" Draco spat. "You have a history of thinking you're subtle when you're far from it!"
"Why are we talking about years ago?" Harry said, blinking. "Those things were suspicious because it was magic in a place where there wasn't magic. We're in a magic castle. We're studying magic. Knowing how to do a few normal spells quickly and non-verbally isn't going to set off alarms. I am in fifth year and friends with Hermione. If anything they'll just think I'm a dark wizard."
"You don't think that will interest the Ministry at all? They're looking for Merlin! Any magic that is out of the ordinary is going to set off red flags."
Harry paused, not sure what to say to that. Eventually he sighed. "I take your point," He said softly. "It's just when she used the cruciatus curse…"
"-stop. Stop there," Draco ordered. "I wasn't going to do this. You talked me into it. You promised me you'd be careful, but you weren't. We could have just walked away but you had to show off, didn't you?"
"You accepted the duel!" Draco yelled.
"This arrogance isn't like you," he continued. "You might be trying to protect me, but if you lose yourself in that power, it won't matter what the Ministry finds out. You'll be the next Voldemort."
Harry's throat went dry, and his stomach churned at the truth of those words. Draco was right. He'd become too complacent, too at ease. Harry thought he was being cautious, but was he really? And the power, why was it so tempting to use? Was it his ego at being Merlin, or was it something else?
Harry turned to Draco, who was watching him cautiously. "I never really got over the fact that I'm Merlin, you know," he said quietly. "I suppose that counts for something?"
Draco paused. "When I found all this out, I really didn't care that I was a muggle king," he said.
Harry froze. "What? But you were in a big strop about it!"
"No, Potter, I pretended to be in a big strop about it."
But Harry glanced at him with disbelieving eyes. "That was a real strop, Draco. I don't know who you're trying to fool."
"It wasn't about being a king, you moron!" Draco exclaimed. "I mean, remembering being a muggle king was irritating, but it was you being Merlin that I couldn't accept. I wondered why it had to be you. There's a part of me that still thinks, 'That's Potter, hex him up a tree'. I grew up revering Merlin, and now…you're a bumbling idiot, a loyal servant…a Slytherin enemy, the Boy Who Lived…"
Draco paused. "…a friend," he said quietly. "I'd never really had a friend before."
Harry felt a lump forming in his throat and swallowed it back.
"I'll be more careful in the future," He said sincerely.
Draco nodded, shaking off the emotion that had come with the memories.
"Anyway, it was good to know someone had my back."
"Now let's get to the castle before we both end up with week long detentions."
"I could use a skiving snackbox right about now." Ron complained.
Hermione glared. "Ron, we're prefects now. You have to stop this sort of nonsense."
"Hermione, have you looked at our timetable yet? We've got History of magic, double Potions, Divination and double DADA…Binns, Snape, Trelawney and that Umbridge woman all in one day!"
"See, he agrees with me!" Ron exclaimed.
Harry turned his head sharply to glare. "Do you even know what it's like to have to sit through those lessons without correcting half of what they say? If anything, it'll be a day full of headaches."
It was Hermione's turn to sigh.
History of Magic came entirely too quickly, and Harry, Ron and Hermione filed into the classroom where Binns floated, ready to begin the lecture that would surely put them all to sleep. They'd only just taken their seats when a book slammed down on the desk next to them. Harry turned to see an annoyed Draco sitting next to him, while all the Slytherins glared daggers in their direction.
Don't do it. He warned himself. Don't antagonize him.
But there was a part of him that couldn't resist winding Draco up.
"Thought you were still angry with me," Harry said. "You couldn't have been that angry if you're sitting here."
Draco gritted his teeth. "Shut up," he said.
"Are they really still not talking to you?" Harry whispered. "Even after what happened?"
"Shh!" Hermione hissed.
Harry ignored her. Binns had begun to drone on about the Giant Wars but Harry wasn't interested. Hermione glared.
"Listen, Potter," Draco whispered furiously, "The only reason that I came over here is that I thought I ought to warn you."
"About what?" Harry said.
"Pansy told Umbridge."
"And? How many detentions has she got?"
"She told Umbridge that I made the challenge and that you stepped in. Pansy only stopped to talk to me this morning to brag that she was going to get you expelled. I knew this would happen."
Harry frowned. "I'll do a memory charm," he whispered. "They won't remember anything."
"No," Draco hissed just as furiously. "Your old magic has gotten us into enough trouble."
"So, what, I should just leave it?"
Draco sighed. "Umbridge isn't the type of person to react immediately. She'll bide her time, build up more evidence against you. But she suspects you now. It'll be harder to hide."
"Then I'll have to do a better job of it," Harry muttered.
Ron glanced at the two whispering angrily toward each other and sighed, glancing down at the doodles on his parchment. He glared in Draco's direction. If Draco hadn't suddenly shown up, he'd be playing hangman with Harry by now to keep himself awake. But something had happened with Draco last night and Harry wasn't being forthcoming, leaving him and Hermione to guess.
Draco seemed to notice that Ron was staring at him and stopped whispering, leaving Harry to turn around and meet Ron's gaze. Ron yawned.
"Hangman?" Harry asked with a grin.
Ron nodded, feeling at least a little placated. "Best two out of three," he said.
It wasn't long after that they were marching down the corridor toward the dungeons for potions. An irritated Hermione finally turned toward them, clearly unable to hold in her annoyance any more.
"You know, it wouldn't hurt you to try to pay attention in class!" She exclaimed hotly. "Just what would you both do if I decided not to give you my notes this year?"
"Fail," Ron said cheekily, "But you wouldn't want that on your conscience, would you, Hermione?"
"It wouldn't be on my conscience. It's your own fault," She scolded.
"I'm with Granger on this one," Draco suddenly said. "You two idiots don't even attempt to stay awake."
Ron glared. "Like you can say anything. You just spent half the lesson talking."
"About something infinitely more important than Giant Wars," Draco said.
"Then why don't you enlighten us?" Ron challenged.
"Ron…" Harry warned.
"What?" he asked, "You didn't get in until past midnight last night."
"Now's not the time, Ron. I'll explain it to you later, okay?" Harry hissed, glancing around at the students passing by nervously.
"Yeah, later," Ron muttered crankily, "Always later."
He stormed ahead and into potions leaving the others to file in after him.
Potions started much the same way it always did – with Snape walking in and the class falling silent. Harry ignored most of Snape's speech about getting an 'acceptable' in his Potions OWL. Before he might have worried but now - not only were there other things on his mind, he also knew that if he really tried he could get an Outstanding. The trouble was, he might've liked to actually take potions at NEWT level if Snape wasn't teaching it. Harry winced when he saw what Snape was asking them to brew – the Draught of Peace. He rolled his eyes. Snape would.
"Be warned: if you are too heavy-handed with the ingredients you will put the drinker into a heavy and sometimes irreversible sleep, so you will need to pay close attention to what you are doing." Snape explained in his irritated drawl.
Harry frowned. The potion for the eternal sleep. They're really teaching this?
It brought a bitter taste to his mouth. This was the potion that Freya had used on him in the crystal cave. But his magic had been too strong. It had fought against the sleep, instead leaving him paralyzed and awake for years. Even though his magic had fought off the spell in the end, it had been too late. He'd still ended up dying.
He was elbowed suddenly, knocked out of his memories. Harry turned to see Draco glaring at him.
"What's wrong with you?"
Harry swallowed. He'd never actually told Draco what happened back then. All Draco knew was that Merlin never showed up for battle.
"This potion was why I wasn't there," he whispered.
"Wasn't where?" Draco whispered. "What are you on about now?"
"At Camlann, prat."
Draco couldn't bring himself to be offended at the insult. He was too shocked. "What?"
Harry winced as Snape smacked a book across the back of his head. "Ow!"
"Laziness will bring its own punishment this year," Snape warned. "And you, Draco, I am disappointed."
Draco winced as the others in Slytherin whispered gleefully at his ridicule.
"Shut up," he hissed.
Draco tried to shrug it off and regain some sort of composure.
"Sorry," Harry said. "This is my fault. He hates me. I should have realized if we work together that he'd treat you the same."
There was a sigh. "He's already told me to stay away from you."
"Well that's none of his business," Harry said caustically. "Anyway I'm going to get the ingredients and get this started. No sense getting ourselves a detention."
Draco couldn't help but to agree with that and followed him to the front bench.
Divination was next, and Harry and Ron left Draco and Hermione to head to class. Harry wasn't looking forward to Divination, partly because Trelawney couldn't tell a vision if it bit her on the nose, and also partly because it just reminded him of how much a pain in the ass seeing was in his former life. He wondered if he should have just taken Ancient Runes with Hermione.
Then again, he thought, I can already read them.
He glanced up as Trelawney started talking about dream interpretation.
Fantastic, he thought sarcastically.
He glanced to Ron who was already attempting to wade through the chapter they had to read, and decided to do the same. By the time he'd finished, it was nearly time to go.
"So?" Harry asked.
Ron sighed. "I never remember my dreams."
"Come on, Ron, surely you remember at least one."
"What about you?" Ron asked.
Harry frowned. He had no intention of sharing his dreams. The first one he'd had about the Ministry, he'd known what that meant – it was a product of his own fears. And the continuing dreams about the graveyard, well, he didn't need a dream oracle to tell him what that was about.
"I did dream I was playing Quidditch the other night. What do you reckon that means?" Ron said, finally giving in.
Harry rolled his eyes. "According to this, probably that your repressed desire of being a pro Quidditch player is coming out in your dreams," he said sarcastically.
Ron's eyes widened. "That's actually pretty good."
He leaned in. "Was this something, I mean, did you do this in your other life?"
Harry fought back a snort.
"No, at least not dream interpretation," he said. "It's called common sense, Ron, and anyway that's not what your dream means. It just means you like Quidditch."
"Wait a second," Ron said, catching the first part of the statement. "Do you mean you've done other, um, you know, seeing things?"
"Yeah, I used to have visions," Harry admitted. "They stopped after, well, you know how the legend ends."
There was an awkward pause.
"Sleeping curse? Really?"
"That draught we made in Potions actually."
"No way," Ron whispered. "Snape made us brew that sleeping potion?"
Harry nodded. "You can shut your jaw, Ron," he said wryly. "It might get stuck that way."
Ron turned away embarrassed. He quickly noticed that Trelawney had been trying to get their attention and nudged Harry. She assigned homework and dismissed them. Ron looked annoyed as he and Harry turned to leave.
"A dream diary! Really? Does she realize how much homework we have already? Fred and George weren't kidding about OWL year!" he complained.
Harry didn't seem as bothered. "Do you want some help with it, Ron?"
"No," he said quickly. "Anyway, Umbridge better not give us any more."
They filed in to the DADA classroom, taking their seat next to Hermione quietly.
Umbridge was a new teacher, an unknown. No one really knew how strict she would be.
She stood up from the desk at the front, clearing her throat with a 'hem hem.'
"Well, good afternoon!" She said.
There were a few half-hearted murmurs from the crowd, hardly much of an acknowledgement.
"Tut tut," Umbridge said. "I should like you to reply, 'Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge.'"
Harry disliked her already. Anyone expecting students to behave like little robots was not going to earn his respect.
However, most of the class, not wanting to anger the new teacher, responded, "Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge."
"Now that wasn't so hard, was it?" Umbridge said with a patronizing tone. "Wands away and books out."
Most of the class groaned. In the past, the order 'wands away' had never been followed by a lesson they found interesting. Umbridge ordered them to read the first chapter in silence and Harry wondered exactly how they were meant to learn defense against the dark arts if they never did spells. Fortunately, Hermione also had the same question.
Most of the class had actually attempted to read the chapter they'd been assigned, including Ron, but Harry sat in silent protest, noticing that Hermione, too did not crack her book, instead raising her hand with a quiet fury.
Harry smirked. It wasn't like Hermione to defy the rules, but he understood exactly how she felt. Eventually most of the class, having difficulty wading through the chapter, looked up to see Hermione and began watching her instead. When over half the class had stopped reading, Umbridge decided she couldn't ignore Hermione any more and stood up.
"Yes," she asked with fake politeness.
"There's nothing in here about using defensive spells," Hermione stated.
"Using spells?" Umbridge asked indignantly. "Well, I can't imagine why you would need to use spells in my classroom."
"We're not going to use magic?" Ron asked with disbelief.
Umbridge ignored him. "You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk free way."
Harry's anger finally built to the point where he couldn't hold it back any longer.
"What use is that?" he spat. "If we're going to be attacked, it won't be risk free."
Umbridge rounded on him. "Students will raise their hands when they speak in my class."
That made Harry angrier.
"It is the view of the ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about," Umbridge said matter-of-factly.
Harry was beginning to see red. How dare the Ministry interfere like this?
"And how's theory supposed to prepare us for what's out there?" he continued, not intending to let up.
Umbridge leaned in, speaking with false sympathy. "There is nothing out there. Who do you imagine would want to attack children like yourself?"
"Oh I don't know, maybe Lord Voldemort?" he spat, though he knew Voldemort wasn't the only dangerous one out there. The Ministry's determination to deny the inevitable was bordering on idiocy.
The class gasped at his defiant response, and waited with curiosity to see how the rest would play out. Umbridge took a deep breath as though calming herself and walked to the front of the room, turning around to face the class.
"Now let me make this quite plain," she said slowly. "You have been told that a certain dark wizard is at large once again. This is a lie."
That was it.
"It's not a lie; I saw him, I fought him!" Harry yelled furiously.
"Detention, Mr. Potter!" Umbridge shouted.
It didn't faze him. "So according to you, Cedric Diggory dropped death of his own accord!" he continued, wanting to provoke her.
Umbridge's small figure trembled with anger.
"Cedric Diggory's death was a tragic accident-"
"It was murder! Voldemort killed him. How can you not know that?" Harry exclaimed. "Except I think you do know, and that the Ministry would rather deny the threat rather than admit they're doing noth-"
"Enough!" Umbridge shouted, her voice cracking with exertion. "Enough! Get out of my classroom! Out!"
Harry shoved his books into his backpack angrily before stomping out of the classroom.
So much for staying under the radar, he thought.
"Potter," McGonagall said as Harry entered her office.
"Professor," he acknowledged.
She removed her glasses. "I'm told that not only did you shout at Professor Umbridge but you also accused her of being a liar and the Ministry of conspiring to hide murder. Is that correct?"
Harry sighed before slumping into the chair offered to him.
"Yes," he admitted.
"Have a biscuit, Potter."
Harry blinked, confused. "What?" he asked.
She pushed the tin toward him impatiently. "Have a biscuit."
Harry reluctantly took one of the offered biscuits, still unsure where this was going.
"You don't like her, do you?" he asked.
McGonagall gave him an odd look before responding, "No. None of us do."
Harry couldn't help but think the only reason she was telling him this was because of who he was.
"You must be careful," she said. "This is not a matter of school or discipline anymore. Anything you do or say can be reported back to the Ministry. You should already know why that is dangerous."
Harry sighed. "I know. I just couldn't let her stand there and call me a liar."
"Well this is more important than your pride, I'm afraid. Albus tells me that the Ministry has opened a secret department devoted to investigating Merlin, and that at the moment, all their leads point to you. If you continue to stand out, you'll be giving them what they want."
There was nothing to be said to that, so Harry just continued to nibble on the biscuit.
"Also, I would refrain from any further duels in the Forbidden Forest," McGonagall said sternly.
Harry froze. "How do you know about that?"
McGonagall raised an eyebrow. "Ms. Parkinson reported it to Professor Umbridge, who has insisted I assign you a form of punishment. As it stands, I think your week long detention with her will suffice."
"Wait, you mean I still have to go?" Harry protested.
"Of course. Do you want to make her more suspicious?"
Harry frowned, wondering whether this could all be solved by turning Umbridge into a squirrel.
"I know that look and the answer is no," Minerva said, putting her glasses on again to read the paper in front of her, "unless you want to make the situation worse than it is."
"You don't understand. I'm not just trying to skip a detention," Harry protested. "There's actually something urgent that needs my attention."
Minerva looked up again. "I'm listening."
"There's a sword in Somerset. I think it's Excalibur. Draco and I need to go and get it."
"That is a problem. Have you considered that it might be the Ministry trying to lure you out?"
"Yes," Harry said, "but what if it's not? It's a powerful sword."
"Well, you're better off going after you've eaten your dinner," she said with finality. "At least that way, Dolores will think that she has you under control."
Harry sighed, acknowledging the truth in that, and stood up to leave.
"Oh, and Harry?" she said.
Harry paused. "Yes?"
"Do be careful," she warned.
Harry nodded and left.
Umbridge sat in her bright pink office amidst the sound of mewling cats when a knock sounded.
"Come in," she instructed.
Harry entered, looking around with distaste.
"Good evening, Mr. Potter. Sit."
He shut the door quietly and moved to the chair at Umbridge's desk, wondering exactly what he'd have to do in this detention. Would he have to write lines, endure a telling off?
Umbridge handed him a quill without ink.
"You're going to be doing some lines for me today, Potter. I want you to write, 'I must not tell lies.'"
"How many times?" he asked cautiously.
"Oh, let's say as long as it takes for the message to 'sink in'."
Harry raised an eyebrow at that. "You haven't given me any ink," he said.
"You won't need any."
That was suspicious in itself, and Harry glanced down at the quill, analyzing it. Against his better judgment, he began to write. As he finished the sentence, an itchy, irritated sensation began to come over his hand. Harry paused, gritting his teeth with pain. Umbridge had given him a blood quill! How stupid he was to have used it.
He glanced up at Umbridge's smug face with irritation, before glancing again at his hand and watching the message weave its way into his skin. He could feel his magic reacting, not wanting him to be hurt, but Harry wouldn't give himself away that easily.
"Something to say?" Umbridge taunted.
Harry bit his tongue. Lots of things, he thought.
"That's right," she continued, "because deep down, you know you deserve to be punished, don't you Mr. Potter?"
She paused a moment before tell him to go on. His magic was like fire under his skin, wanting to destroy the threat but he pushed it back. He refused to give her or the Ministry the evidence they wanted.
This is not over, he thought.
"Harry, mate, you're really quiet tonight. Is everything okay?" Ron asked.
"Fine, Ron," he said, taking another sip of his drink.
"Harry, what's wrong with your hand?" Hermione asked.
"No, your other hand," she said stubbornly, grabbing his hand, and knocking the fork back onto his plate.
Harry frowned. "Oi!"
She let his hand go, horrified. "Did Umbridge do this to you?" she asked.
"I don't understand why you didn't just turn her into a mouse," Ron said.
"Because that wouldn't make the Ministry suspicious at all," Harry spat.
"Harry, you have to tell Dumbledore," Hermione insisted. "He'll be able to do something about it while you stay hidden. It's simple."
"No, Hermione, if this is anything, it's not simple," Harry explained. "Dumbledore is powerless here. If he does anything against Umbridge, the Ministry will shut Hogwarts down. If I do anything against her then she'll have the evidence the Ministry's looking for. No, I have to consider this more carefully."
"Why don't you heal it?" Ron asked.
Harry sighed. "Because you can't heal the wounds from a blood quill unless you have the original quill that was used. It's a magical wound so it needs a specific magical solution."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Ron asked. "Let's steal it!"
"I've got bigger worries right now," Harry admitted. "Draco and I are heading down to Somerset tonight."
Ron leaned in excitedly. "So you really think that sword is Excalibur?" he asked.
"I'm not sure."
"Oh," Ron replied, "Can I go?"
"It's risky enough that Draco's going," Harry said. "I won't risk you and Hermione as well."
Ron sighed. "You're always leaving us out."
"Harry, if this is dangerous, it can only be better to have more people," Hermione insisted.
"The Ministry would notice four, but not two wizards traveling," Harry said, "and besides, I won't have you put under suspicion for me."
"I don't care," Hermione said. "They can-"
"That's the last I'll hear of it," Harry said, standing up. "I'll see you later."
Draco met him outside the Great Hall.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Yeah," Harry said curtly.
"What's got your wand in a knot, Potter?" Draco asked.
"Nothing," he said. "Let's go."
"Wait," Draco said, catching Harry's hand and pulling him back.
"Quit it!" Harry exclaimed, but Draco's grip held.
"Who did this?" he asked.
Harry sighed. "Umbridge, but we have more important things to worry about right now."
"More important than one of our professors using torture on you?" Draco asked. "I'll kill her myself."
Harry glared. "No, you won't. No one is going to do anything, not until I figure out a way to do it discreetly. She won't get any evidence from me."
"It's self-preservation now," Draco insisted.
"No!" Harry said. "You're the one who told me to be more careful, and that's what I'm doing. Now, are we going to find this sword or not?"
Draco frowned. "We're going, but this conversation isn't over."
They walked out of the castle and into the courtyard, where Harry pulled them under an overhang.
"Do you see anyone out here?" Harry asked.
"Good," He said. Harry grabbed Draco's hand. "Don't let go. Astýre ús þanonweard!"
The wind spun and Harry and Draco disappeared, traveling for only moments before appearing on the field near the dried-up lake. Draco took a deep breath to steady himself before attempting to walk. He stumbled, but Harry caught him.
"I'm fine," he protested.
Harry smirked. "Your legs say otherwise."
"My legs are fine. Let's check the sword before someone notices we're here."
Both of them scrambled down the steep crater and toward the sword, shrugging off the mud as they went. After ten minutes of walking across the lake's smooth bottom, they finally reached it. Harry walked around the sword, looking for anything to tell them whether it was Excalibur.
"What are you waiting for?" Draco asked. "It's Excalibur, any idiot can see that."
Harry glared. "Has it occurred to you that there might actually be an enchantment on it to make it look like Excalibur?" He asked.
Harry allowed his magic to spread out, settling around the sword and probing for other enchantments. He froze as his magic snapped back, indicating a stationary blasting curse.
"Run, Draco!" Harry yelled.
Shrapel was flying fast.
"Geshield!" Harry called, but not before taking a piece of sword in the arm.
Draco, too, yelled as a piece of shrapnel hit his leg, and he fell to the ground.
"Protego maximus!" he cried, preventing all the other pieces from embedding. They hit the ground around him.
Harry cradled his arm, biting back the pain. He needed to remove the metal so the cut could be healed. His eyes narrowed as he suddenly felt a dark magical presence. Harry turned around, forcing himself to stand.
"Mordred," he snapped. "I should have known."
Mordred stood behind them, his hand out. Harry fortified his shields.
"I knew you'd come," he said. "You just had to find out if the sword was Excalibur, didn't you?"
Harry glanced at the sword pieces littered all over the ground.
"It wasn't a bad replica, was it?" Mordred taunted.
"What do you want, Mordred?" Harry asked angrily.
"Your memories!" he said. "This is going to hurt…"
Harry ripped the piece of metal out of his arm with a shout, before grabbing his arm tightly and whispering, "Lácne."
His wound began to knit together and Harry kept up the shield as Mordred watched with amusement.
"You've lost blood. You're too weak to fight me. Inswég!"
The spell broke the shield and hit its target. Harry fell back to the ground, memories of Morgana swirling in his mind.
"No!" He shouted. "Geshield!"
The barrier went up, stopping the spell
"You've gone too far this time!" He exclaimed.
His eyes turned a permanent hue of gold as his shield suddenly turned into a golden tornado, trapping Mordred inside.
"What are you up to?" Harry asked.
"I'll never tell you!" Mordred shouted.
The tornado spun faster, cutting off Mordred's air.
"I'd think about that again," Harry threatened. "Why did you need to see my memories?"
"Go ahead and kill me," Mordred said. "I'll just come back."
Harry's golden eyes lit brighter as he used the same spell Mordred had. Foreign memories suddenly rushed through his head. He fought to stay upright as they continued to assault his brain.
Emrys, where are you? He watched through the eyes of a child as Mordred waited with Arthur in the tunnels.
I will never forgive this, Emrys, and I will never forget.
One by one, each of Mordred's most prominent memories rang through his head, including the death of his love.
The spell nearly faltered as Mordred's emotions hit him like a ton of bricks, but he held on. Harry saw through Mordred's eyes as he escaped from the realm of the dead, infiltrated the Ministry, and found the book of seals, containing the seals for Morgana…
Harry froze with shock, causing all spells to cease.
Mordred coughed violently as air assaulted his lungs.
"Astýre me þanonweard," he whispered, turning into the wind.
"Damn it!" Harry shouted. His shock had cost him.
A wave of magic shot outward, dissipating into the air around them, and Harry allowed himself to fall back onto the ground.
"It's not your fault, you know," Draco's voice said, "You couldn't have predicted this."
Harry turned sharply, remembering that Draco was hurt. He hurried toward the other wizard.
"I was stupid for bringing us here," he said.
Draco tilted his head in pretend thought. "That's true."
Harry looked at him incredulously before suddenly ripping the shrapnel out of his leg.
"Ow, Potter! You did that on purpose."
Harry pretended to glare. "You did agree that I was stupid. Thurhaele."
Draco winced as the wound in his leg began to knit together.
"You said it, Potter, not me," he muttered through clenched teeth.
There was a moment of silence before Draco noticed Harry's worried look.
"What is it? What did you find out?"
Draco blanched. "What?" he asked. "What about her? Where is she?"
"Potter," he warned, "you never told me what happened to her. She just didn't turn up on the battlefield."
"I sealed her," Harry said numbly. "She was so powerful that I needed seven seals, one for each part of her life."
Draco's eyes widened. "Then he's…"
Harry nodded. "He's breaking them, Draco, and he's already got two."
Both sat staring at each other for several moments as that sunk in.
"Then why did he want into your head?" Draco asked, pulling himself from the ground.
"Because I know what objects he needs. I don't know how much he saw, Draco, but if he breaks all the seals, it won't be Voldemort we need to worry about."
"Then we won't let him," Draco said.
"No," Harry said, standing up. "No we won't."
Alright everyone, you know what to do! Review! :)