Title: Harry Potter and the Return of Merlin
Fandom: Merlin/Harry Potter Crossover
Rating: T for slight violence and language
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione...or at least the precursors to the relationships
Spoilers: HP - definitely through the end of OotP, since Merlin is supposed to know more than most, there may be other spoilers as well. Merlin – all seasons. I have now watched Season 4, so it's fair game as well. You have been warned.
Warnings: AU. Slight Violence and language.
Beta: the wonderful animeloveramy. I don't know what I'd do without her.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Merlin. They belong to J.K. Rowling and BBC respectively. They have simply been kind enough to allow dreamers like me to indulge in fantasies involving their characters. Some of the text is directly from, very close to, or inspired by what J.K. Rowling originally wrote. This is simply because this fic closely follows OotP and I see no reason to pretend that I'm better than J.K. Rowling and try to rewrite it. I will try to leave an AN at the bottom when I use large amounts of the text.
Summary: The moment Voldemort regained his body, the Old Religion cried out. For the first time in more than a thousand years, Merlin is called from the forward to right the balance once more. Disguised as a fifth year student, he must fight to stop Voldemort when it is not his destiny to do so.
Author's Note: Well, would you look at that. I'm actually alive. Go figure. There are a million reasons that I haven't updated sooner. I'm pretty sure I've used them all at least once before, but here they are again: school, work, and a very, very stubborn chapter. It's not as long as I would like after such a long absence and I feel like this is a little bit of a filler chapter, but I think this is the best it could have come out.
Also, for the purposes of getting this posted, it is unbetaed and fairly rough.
Feeling satisfied with his night's exploration – the castle was as reassuringly inconstant and unchangeable as ever – Arthur trudged back toward his portrait. He was looking forward to lying in the grass and relaxing a little bit. Without thinking, he reached up to tug at his armor. Once it would have come off, but now it seemed melded to his skin. He'd given Merlin an earful about it, mostly for the sake of giving Merlin an earful about something, but also because it was bad enough being stuck in a body far past it's prime and completely unfamiliar without being stuck in his armor as well. Merlin had babbled something about the confundus and bloating charms somehow blocking the magic that was unique to Arthur's portrait. Arthur had honestly stopped listening after Merlin promised to try and figure it out. He wasn't holding out much hope. He did know enough about magic to know that if the state of his armor was connected to his current appearance, it was unlikely Merlin would be able to undo one without the other.
The window that was the frame of his portrait finally came into view. It still unsettled Arthur, the shadow world that he'd found himself in when Merlin had awakened his consciousness within the painting. The never-ending wall of blackness, broken only by the portrait frames was disconcerting. It was only slightly less disconcerting than the way one self-contained world to the next within steps. It wasn't worth mentioning how thoroughly strange it was to travel to his other portrait. That required passing through some sort of shadow land that never ceased to give Arthur chills. It was a relief to see reality again.
Only, it wasn't what he was expecting at the moment.
Two identical redheads were standing in the middle of the hall, directly in front of his portrait, clearly waiting for him. Arthur recognized them immediately. The Weasley twins. Something told him this couldn't be good.
Reluctantly, he assumed the mantle of Sir Cadogan and strode into the portrait.
"Who trespasses at this late hour?" he shouted, injecting as much ineffectual pomposity as he could muster into his voice. "Speak, mangy curs!" He was going to kill Merlin when this was over.
The twins simultaneously raised an eyebrow. They looked distinctly unimpressed.
"If you're really King Arthur, then Camelot must have been nothing like the stories," said the one to Arthur's left.
Well that hurt, even if he was mildly disgusted with himself as Sir Cadogan. More troublesome than his wounded pride was their apparent knowledge of his identity. Of all the people in the school, it was least surprising that the twins were the ones to figure it out after his display outside Gryffindor tower. From the hazy memories of his time was Sir Cadogan and the new memories since waking, he knew them to be clever. He would enjoy metaphorically sticking his tongue out at Merlin when it turned out that Sir Cadogan was not an effective disguise.
Arthur drew himself up with as much dignity as he could muster considering that his ample belly stuck out from under his chest plate. The twin to his right cut him off before he could even begin.
"Did you know there's a shortcut that comes out behind that tapestry?" He gestured to a drab representation of some historic scene that held no significance for Arthur.
"I don't think he does, Fred," observed the twin who'd spoken first. Arthur quickly schooled his features to blankness. He was out of practice if a couple of teenagers could read him that easily. Then again, they clearly weren't the average teenagers.
"It is a bit dusty," said the second twin. "Probably hasn't been used much."
"It's got great acoustics."
Fred nodded. "Can hear everything in the hall from there."
The penny dropped. Well, bollocks, thought Arthur. They'd probably heard everything due to his and Merlin's carelessness. They should have checked, despite the late hour. Still, maybe fate had been kind for once. Arthur nearly snorted at that very wishful thought.
"And what, good sirs, did you hear that brought you to me?"
The eyebrows lifted again.
"Are you King Arthur?" asked Fred.
Right for the jugular, an approach that Arthur could appreciate, having used it himself more than once on idiots who had thought themselves better than him because of his age. He sighed and let Cadogan's persona melt away. There was no point maintaining the deception at this point.
"How much did you hear?"
The twins exchanged a loaded look, then turned back to Arthur expectantly. He rolled his eyes, but conceded. "Yes, I am King Arthur. No, this isn't what I look like and I'm nothing like Cadogan. No, I'm not explaining anything until you tell me what you heard."
Looking rather like he'd been whacked over the head with a shield, George answered. "Everything, we think. We got here right after Mer—Myrddin?"
The last word came out as a question.
"Bloody hell, Merlin's going to love that," Arthur muttered, purposefully confirming Merlin's identity. "Right then, what do you want to know?"
"Are you both here to help stop You-Know-Who?"
Once more, right to the point. Arthur was reminded fondly of Gwaine. Beneath the drunkenness – usually feigned – had been a sharp mind. When he got onto something, there was no stopping him and often no sign of the happy fool he usually was.
"Sort of. I've been here for years, centuries really, just keeping an eye on things. No one notices when a portrait doesn't age." He shrugged. "Merlin needed some way to stay informed of what was going on and Hogwarts does seem to be in the thick of things more often than not—"
"Then you're not here to help."
It was Arthur's turn to raise an eyebrow at the obvious anger displayed by both of the twins. "I didn't say that. It's just not why I came here. In case you haven't noticed, I'm stuck in a bloody portrait, and as a bumbling idiot to boot. No one is going to listen to me. Stopping Voldemort is, however, why Merlin is here."
He strode as close to the edge of his portrait as he could get and leaned forward. "Merlin is in a very precarious position, as you should know, having overheard us. He's doing all that he can. It might not be as much as you would like. It certainly isn't as much as he wants, but it's what he can do."
The twins nodded solemnly. Arthur relaxed a little. The last thing Merlin needed was someone second-guessing him. He already had Kilgharrah for that.
"We know," said George. "That's why we decided to talk to you first. We didn't want to say the wrong thing."
"Can you tell us what he's doing tonight?" asked Fred.
Arthur shrugged. "I'm not entirely sure. He wasn't very clear about what he had decided to do. I just know that it ought to help in the long run."
"How can we help?"
A grin fought to work it's way across Arthur's face. This was what they - what Merlin - needed: support from the people of the present. The fact that it came from two individuals that Merlin knew and considered to be friends was all the better.
"Ask Merlin. I've been out of commission the past several years," Arthur admitted with a grimace. "I'm still catching up. Although," his grimace morphed into a grin, "I'm sure you could help keep Umbridge in line."
"Oh, we're already doing that," said Fred proudly.
George, on the other hand, looked a little stunned again. "Merlin played a prank. Merlin played a prank."
"That's nothing new," Arthur snorted. "I'm sure he would be glad to tell you everything he got up to in Camelot. He always is when it comes to anything that illustrates what an idiot I can be."
"He pranked you?"
"The legends are nothing like the reality," Arthur replied a little sadly. "But that is a tale for, many tales actually, for another time. Filch usually comes round about this time. You'd best hurry."
Right on cue, lantern light spilled around the corner of the hallway. The twins' eyes went wide. They both shot Arthur grateful looks and scrambled over to the secret passage they'd indicated earlier. Chuckling to himself, Arthur watched them go. When the tapestry settled back into place he plopped down on the grass, closed his eyes, and promptly started snoring. Filch was one of the more unpleasant changes to Hogwarts. Arthur found that avoiding him was better for his sanity and, as the night had turned out rather good, he didn't want to ruin his mood.
Harry appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, from between two of the standing stones that rimmed the meadow, startling Remus. He was looking around curiously and froze when he spotted the two Marauders. Remus snagged the back of Sirius' robes as the other man walked past him. He'd been pacing agitatedly since the Druid had left, despite Remus' reassurances that everything would be all right. The sudden stop nearly knocked him on his arse. He turned to snap at Remus, but the words dies on his lips when he saw Harry.
Godfather and godson stared at each other awkwardly.
Remus was tempted to start the conversation himself, but he held his tongue. He knew how difficult all of this was for Sirius. Pushing him wouldn't help.
No one knew better than Remus how important people's opinions of him were to Sirius, and it wasn't out of vanity. The stigma of the Black family had plagued Sirius at Hogwarts. Though outwardly friendly and gregarious, Sirius hadn't opened up to any of them until he'd been absolutely sure that they didn't care about his family. The Marauders had been the only ones to understand that he had pranked the Slytherins, especially those like Snape who had proudly displayed their interests in the Dark Arts, because he'd been determined to prove himself different from his family. He'd never really grown out of it. When they'd graduated, he'd thrown himself into auror training and then into working for the Order.
Remus could only guess that Sirius' need to distance himself from the Black legacy would be even greater after the years in Azkaban. He was also positive that the mere prospect that Harry might think less of him because of what he'd said or done had to be terrifying to Sirius.
"I'm sorry," they blurted simultaneously.
A laugh nearly bubbled past Remus' lips, but he stamped it down. He somehow doubted that it would be appreciated, no matter how amusing the identical looks of surprise on their faces were.
Sirius was the first to recover. "What in Merlin's name do you have to apologize for?" he demanded.
Mouth opening and closing soundlessly, Harry visibly searched for words.
"I dunno," he burst out. "For…for telling you not to come to Hogsmeade? I knew that you were just worried about me and I know how much you hate being stuck and headquarters and I told you not to come anyway—"
"That's not something you need to apologize for," Sirius interrupted. "Why would ever think it was?"
Harry shrugged. "I just do."
"Well, you shouldn't. That was nothing but my own stupidity. No," said Sirius firmly when Harry looked like he was going to object. He strode over to Harry and put his hands on his godson's shoulders, forcing Harry to look at him. "Even thinking about leaving headquarters was nothing but pure stupidity. I knew that and I didn't want to care. Talking to you in the fire, I could almost believe that things were different, that I was just planning to sneak to Hogsmeade for a bit of mischief. James would have been all for it."
The last sentence was spoken in fond remembrance. Harry stiffened. It was obvious what as running through his head.
"Bloody hell, that didn't come out right," Sirius growled. He looked mildly panicked by Harry's reaction and shot Remus a pleading look. Remus always had been the smooth talker of the group, with James a close second. Sirius had a tendency to speak first and think later. This time, rather than jump in to rescue his old friend, Remus just arched an eyebrow, wordlessly suggesting that Sirius hurry up and explain himself.
Letting out another growl of frustration, Sirius shot Remus an annoyed glare before turning back to Harry, visibly rallying himself. "You are not your father," he said firmly. "I know that. You and James are two separate people. That is something I never forgot. It's something I never will forget. James' death nearly drove me mad in Azkaban. The knowledge that you were alive somewhere helped keep me sane."
A little bit of stiffness bled from Harry's body and his brows furrowed in a mixture of confusion, pain, and sympathy. The small sign was enough to spur Sirius on.
Taking that as his cue, Remus discreetly backed away. He wasn't entirely sure why the Druid had brought him along in the first place. It wasn't exactly a secret that both Sirius and Harry had tempers, so he supposed that he might have been intended as a sort of referee. He, however, was of the opinion that they needed privacy. It would probably be wise to keep an eye on them, but he'd give them their space.
He wandered toward the center of the meadow where a single, more intricately carven stone stood flanked by torches. It was low and squat, as wide as the others were tall and flat on the top like some sort of table. A long line of runes wrapped around the edge of the stone. Remus almost pulled his wand out to conjure a quill and parchment so that he could copy the runes to translate later, but stopped. Curiosity could be dangerous with magic so old. With so much knowledge lost, anything could happen. So Remus stifled his curiosity and continued examining the stone from a safe distance.
The sides of the stone were decorated in intricate celtic knot-work. Moss had crept into the grooves over time, but had done nothing to weaken the integrity of the rock. The design covered the sides of the stone, save for a raised section the shape of a shield in the center of either wider side. Moving just a little closer, Remus could see that something had once been engraved there, likely some sort of coat of arms, but it had long since faded away, leaving behind only the smallest trace.
Wind stirred the grass. It brushed past him, swirling visibly around the stone, curling around the torches, and looping back on itself. The faded crest glowed when the wind touched it and, for a moment, Remus could see what it was. The crest flickered out of existence again before he could identify it.
"Thus the old ways return," a voice whispered hauntingly in his ear.
Remus started and spun around. No one was there. Sirius and Harry were still talking a few yards away, looking distinctly more at ease than they had before, and apparently unaware of what had just happened. Remus wasn't entirely sure that it had happened at all. The meadow was full of ancient and powerful magic. He could feel it in his very bones and had felt it since they had first entered the meadow. He wouldn't be at all surprised if the mist that surrounded them was full of ghosts, whispering of tragedy and prophecy. It was likely nothing, a figment of his imagination brought to life by ancient magic and the ghosts of he pasts.
So why did the words feel so ominous?
He never got the chance to give it further thought. The sound of Sirius calling his name broke the relative silence of the meadow.
"Moony! Get over here!" Sirius shouted again in exasperation when Remus didn't immediately respond. Casting the stone one last glance, Remus strode over to Harry and Sirius, who were both hiding grins.
"Sort everything out?" he asked.
Sirius' grin widened. "Mostly. Still have a few things to work on, but that'll just take time. Anyway, tell Harry about the time you almost blew up the dormitory."
The unexpected, but familiar, topic took Remus by surprise. Sirius was giving him a mischievous smirk that Remus knew hadn't graced his features in nearly fifteen years. There had been moments over the past two years when Remus had caught the smallest glimpse of the man Sirius had once been, but that person had only lingered on the surface, never quite hiding the pain and darkness that had plagued him since Azkaban. That weight had always been in his eyes. It was still there, but it had dimmed, not merely been pushed aside for a few moments as it had been before.
Remus felt a grin threatening to break out across his face and for the first time in so long felt no inclination to shy away from the memories of happier times.
"As I remember," he said pointedly as he leveled a playful glare at Sirius, "you were the one who switched my ingredients when I wasn't looking."
"Me?" gasped Sirius in mock surprise. "I would never!"
"I suppose you would never profess your undying love for Moaning Myrtle in the middle of the Great Hall, either?"
A strangled laugh escaped from Harry at that, which Sirius appeared not to notice. The twinkle in his eyes as he spluttered indignantly said otherwise.
"James hexed me!"
"For giving him advice that made Lily hex him!"
Acutely aware that Harry was watching them with a wide smile and an expression of longing in his eyes, the two old friends exchanged a look. The years hadn't robbed them of their ability to communicate silently. They both bit back smiles of their own as they embarked on a mission to see who could more completely embarrass the other. If they relived the good ole days and cheered Harry up in the process, well that was just a bonus.
Thus the old ways return.
The words resounded around Merlin, physically stirring the mist around him. It caressed his skin in elaborate wisps and tendrils. He tore his gaze from the now happily reminiscing wizards to stare at the stone altar.
It was nothing special, just a bog standard altar, the basis for every altar of Old Magic, but right now, it was radiating powerful magic.
Thus the old ways return.
The single sentence whispered in his mind in time to the waves of magic pulsating from the altar. They bore a strange weight in his mind and on his heart. Really, he should have seen this coming.
"I suppose this prophecy is your doing?" he called into the mist, his gaze back on Harry, Sirius, and Remus.
A familiar voice answered from just behind him. "It's no prophecy. Merely a statement of what is happening even now."
"Your pardon for the error," said Merlin dryly.
There was a beat of silence. I did not think to see you here, Emrys."
Merlin raised an eyebrow, even though he knew she couldn't see it. "Then who did you expect? These places have been lost to all save us for nearly a millennium. No one has set on this land save us."
"And it has been centuries since you ventured this close to Avalon. The balance has been shifting. Old Magic stirs. Surely you have felt it. When I sense the presence of people in this place, I though perhaps the veil was weakening and that someone had slipped there by chance." There was mild reproach in her voice.
A little bit of shame stirred in Merlin's gut. He'd had good reason to avoid Avalon. The temptation to remain there, in the last haven of magic, had been too great. It would have been too easy to forget himself. Away from Avalon, it was easy to forget that he wasn't the only one cursed to endure the passage of time without aging. That was another reason he avoided Avalon. It wasn't one he was particularly proud of, but neither was it one he could truly regret.
He finally turned to his companion. "How have you been, Morgana?"
A small, but genuine smile appeared on her face. It struck Merlin that she looked nothing like the deranged, broken witch they had fought for so many years. He'd known that, of course. She'd already begun the transformation the last time he had seen her, the last time he had set foot in Avalon. It was still mildly startling to see her so resembling the woman who had volunteered to protect a village she had never entered for the sake of a servant she barely knew.
"As well as can be expected," she said wryly. "The yeas pass slowly."
"That they do," Merlin agreed. "I'm sorry that I wasn't there more." He was a little surprised to find that he meant it.
"You were needed in the world, not in Avalon."
They both knew that it was only a partial truth. He could have visited Avalon frequently and still spent more than enough time in the mortal world, but Merlin took it as the olive branch that it was.
"Have you Seen anything?" he asked.
"No, the future is hidden. I know only that things are changing."
"Well, that's helpful," Merlin sighed. "Why is it that magic never cooperates?"
Morgana laughed lightly. "If magic cooperated, there would be no need for us. Life is far more interesting when things go wrong."
"More difficult as well."
"When has that every stopped you?"
"I never said that it did."
Silence fell between them. It was strange to be standing beside Morgana without feeling the need to be on his guard. They had seen so little of each other since things had changed. He supposed that was his fault.
After a moment, she broke the silence.
"Magic is stirring again, Merlin. We are on the precipice of something. I can feel it."
Merlin glanced at her solemnly. "So can I. What happens next will define everything."
"We have to be ready."
"We will be," Merlin vowed, more to himself than to her. "We have to be."
Almost tentatively, Morgana laid a hand on Merlin's shoulder. "You'll let me know if I can help?"
He just nodded curtly, once again overwhelmed by the responsibility weighing on him. There was so much he didn't know, so much he couldn't predict, and so much that he simple couldn't control. He might feel more secure after his talk with Arthur, but he still felt rather out of his depth.
Morgana squeezed his shoulder gently and then let it fall away. "I should go. It's nearly midnight in the mortal world. You should be getting them back."
That effectively drew Merlin's attention back to the three wizards across the meadow. They were clearly more relaxed than they had been. At some point, they'd made themselves comfortable in the grass. Harry was sprawled on his back, clearly laughing helplessly while Sirius gestured wildly as he told some story or another. Merlin smiled. It seemed he'd done the right thing after all.
"I think they deserve a few more moments of peace," he murmured. "They haven't found the world very kind of late."
Another warm, if faint, smile appeared on Morgana's features. "Of course. I have duties calling me in Avalon. It was good to see you, Merlin."
Without another word, Morgana turned and disappeared into the mist. Merlin watched her go. For so long, he hadn't been able to help but see her as the enemy and then later as the reason he'd lost so much. The pain had been too close and he'd been having enough trouble dealing with the revelation of his immortality. There had been too much between them for it to be forgotten easily. Something told him it was time to put that behind him. He was beginning to know, deep in his gut, that before the end he would need Morgana's help.
Merlin sighed and picked up his staff from the ground. It was time to get back to reality.
Author's Note: Quick explanation. What gave me issues with this chapter was the massive amount of exposition that was needed to bring the twins more or less up to speed and to settle things between Harry and Sirius. Bringing all of that together without rehashing the details from previous conversations was much more difficult than I expected. I may, at some point, go back and fully right Harry and Sirius' conversation, but no guarantees. Sort of depends on how many people want to read it.
Thanks for sticking with me. I know it's been far too long since I updated. I wish that I could promise it wouldn't be so long again, but I can't. And here I thought I was busy when I was just in school.
I want to thank everyone for their reviews and apologize for not responding. I'm pressed for time at the moment. Hopefully, I'll be able to answer the next time around.