Author's Note: Rewrite as of 17/9/13
Chapter 6: Friendships Are Hard Work
The day after Harry's realization had been hard to say the least. He knew Arthur might be someone he didn't like but he'd never have suspected Draco. In fact, he was so convinced he'd been wrong that he'd spent most of the day rationalizing the connection away, determined that his magic had malfunctioned somehow. He'd funneled the frustration and anger into his lessons, not bothering to hold back. His Professors had watched him with apprehension and Hermione had sent him wary glances. Ron just ignored him, which was no surprise. Clearly his friend had had enough.
It was when he'd sat on the common room sofa instead of heading to lunch that Hermione finally approached him.
"Harry, aren't you going to eat?"
"No." He said crossly.
"Not in the mood."
"What happened?" she asked.
"Don't bother, Hermione!" Ron called out as he descended the stairs. "It'll just be another secret he can't tell us."
Harry turned to glare, but the look of inner turmoil on Hermione's face stopped him. Ron saw her hesitation and threw his arms up in defeat before stomping out of the common room. They continued to stare at one another, both unsure what else to say. Both Hermione and Harry were headstrong, one determined to get answers and the other determined not to give them, but neither was budging. Hermione suddenly sighed, resigned to some outcome Harry wasn't aware of.
"What?" he asked.
She shook her head and turned to leave. "You really should get some lunch. See you in lesson."
Harry paused, not sure how to respond. He hadn't realized it before, but something was up. Hermione's reactions were more than odd. She should have been raving mad at him by now. Instead she was resigned, worried. Harry froze.
No way. He thought. Does she know?
In the end Harry didn't feel like facing the Great Hall and had conjured the ingredients to make a sandwich. Doing something made him feel slightly better, and took his mind off the fact that Draco was possibly the incarnation of his former best friend. He'd packed his things for lesson along with his spell book and headed out early to avoid the stares of Gryffindor students returning from lunch.
Harry turned toward the stairs to the seventh floor corridor, hoping to find somewhere to read until lesson. Then his day took a turn for the worst.
"Are you all ready for Slytherin to win, tomorrow, Potter?" Malfoy suddenly taunted. "Or did you come to our common room last night to beg for mercy?"
It was meant to provoke him, and normally Harry wouldn't have given it the time of day. Today, however, was not a good day for taunts.
"Shut up, Malfoy," He snapped, "unless you want me to hex you all the way into the Forbidden Forest."
Draco snickered. "You're lucky if you can hex something into a wall."
"You'd think that." He spat. "Maybe I should show you how wrong you are."
Harry waited but Draco didn't move or speak, instead looking mesmerized by something on Harry's face. Harry blinked, realizing what Draco must be seeing.
The gold. It must be showing! Calm down.
Harry shifted, and saw Draco doing the same nervously. Had the Slytherin wizard heard the rumors? Was he nervous? Harry hoped so. Maybe it would teach Malfoy a lesson about picking fights. They stood staring for another moment before Draco finally turned away to leave, but not before taking another glance at Harry's face, his expression unreadable.
"You're not worth my time anyway." Draco muttered.
Harry glanced at the Slytherin wizard's retreating figure with both anger and sadness as he remembered words some days ago:
Don't give up on him.
Harry's head needed clearing, and he wasn't going to get relief in the Gryffindor common room, or even the dorms. He put on his jacket.
"Where are you going so late?" Ron asked.
"None of your business." Harry spat.
"I figured." Ron retorted. "Then again, I'm not surprised. You've changed so much it's more like having Malfoy around."
Harry paused, the anger in his chest rising. He turned with his wand out and pointed at Ron. "You take that back!" he said.
Tears glistened in Harry's eyes, but didn't fall. "Take. It. Back!" he said angrily.
Ron blinked, stumbling backward and grabbing his wand protectively before regaining his senses. "Why should I? It's bloody true!"
"You know what your problem is, Ron? You can't see what's going on at all!"
"Well then maybe you should stop lying to me and Hermione." Ron spat.
"Do you think this is easy for me? To lie to the two best friends I've ever had?"
He could see the doubt swirling in Ron's eyes at that statement, and for a moment questioned whether he should just tell Ron and get it over with. But Harry knew he couldn't. Being Merlin – it was too new, too fresh in his mind. He hadn't quite accepted it yet, how could he expect Ron to accept it?
"Look, I'm sorry that you don't think I'm the same person lately. The truth is I'm not. I can't help that and I can't tell you why. So I get if you don't want to be friends anymore, but just stop saying rude things to me. It's hard enough and you're not helping."
Ron stood still, properly chastised and slightly fearful at the raw power that seemed to be pooling in Harry's eyes. He simply nodded, unable to speak, but finally pulled his wand away from Harry's face. Harry's eyes returned to normal as he turned to walk away.
But Ron couldn't help but think that Harry looked defeated as he left the dorm, and wondered just what was so terrible that Harry felt he had to deal with it alone.
"Hagrid!" Harry called, knocking on the door.
"Just a second." He heard before the door opened.
"Harry!" Hagrid exclaimed with surprise, looking at the boy's disheveled state. "What's happened?"
"Everything." Harry said simply.
Hagrid motioned him inside and into a chair while he fixed Harry a cup of calming tea. Finally sitting across from Harry, he frowned.
"I hate ter say it but yeh look miserable. Have yeh still got the great wizard in yer head?"
Harry glanced down at his tea, still wondering why Hagrid had believed him before, but pushed it to the back of his head because he needed the reassurance and the help.
"No." he said softly.
Hagrid's eyes widened and he watched Harry carefully.
Harry smiled weakly as he sipped the tea. "I…listened to him, Hagrid. I'm, well, I'm both now."
"Don't worry." He said. "I wasn't forced into anything. We sort of had a talk in my head and agreed that we're actually the same person. And now, here I am."
Hagrid was finally able to move again, but there was a slight wariness in his eyes.
"You probably want proof." Harry said, resigned. "Here."
He glanced at the window and rain suddenly began to pour down. Harry could see the students dashing to the nearest overhang or entrance to the school, covering their heads.
The rain suddenly stopped, and Harry turned to look at Hagrid again, the gold fading rapidly from his eyes.
"I don't know what ter say." Hagid said with shock.
"Say you still know I'm Harry." Harry said. "Treat me like you used to."
Hagrid paused. "It's hard not to be amazed."
"That's fair." Harry admitted calmly. "I suppose I expected it."
"Have you told Ron and Hermione yet?" Hagrid asked.
Harry frowned. "No. But they can see that I've changed somehow. They've been interrogating me every day." He said, his voice going soft. "They don't understand that I can't tell them."
"Why can't yeh tell 'em?"
"Oh come on, Hagrid. You think they'd believe me? And even if by some miracle they did, how do you think they'd look at me? Kind of like you just did a minute ago.'"
"I think yeh need ter have more faith in 'em." Hagrid said. "No it ain't easy ter believe, but they're yer friends. They'll try. It might take them a while ter get used ter but they won't leave yeh."
"I wish there was some way to know how they'd react." Harry sighed. "I must've conjured up a hundred scenarios."
"The only way ter know is just to get it over with."
"I wish it were that simple." Harry said. "And anyway I've had other things on my mind."
"Other things?" Hagrid wondered. "What could be more important than learnin' yer Merlin an' keepin' it from yer friends?"
"I found Arthur."
It felt like a chasm had suddenly opened between them. Hagrid swallowed nervously, trying not to look as shocked as he felt. Harry tried not to look amused.
"Did I just hear yeh right…did yeh just say yeh found Arthur?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah." He said. "That's what I said. And he's a student."
If Hagrid looked in shock before, now he looked absolutely flummoxed. "Wasn't King Arthur a muggle? What's he doing in a school for witches 'n wizards?"
"That's the million knut question." Harry said. "But I think it's because of me."
"Wait, wasn't Arthur only meant teh appear when the world was endin'?"
Harry sighed, worry in his eyes. "That too. But that's not what worries me. I get the feeling Arthur won't be helping anyone this time around."
Hagrid paused, curious at the unsaid words in that statement. "Why?" he asked. "Who is he?"
"Don't laugh." Harry warned.
"Couldn't if I tried." Hagrid admitted.
"Okay, well, Arthur is Malfoy."
Hagrid fought to hold back a snort of disbelief. "That little blonde bundle a' prejudice is the great king?"
"Well, he wasn't always a great king." Harry retorted. "Spent most of his life being a bloody prat."
The half-giant was looking at him with wide eyes.
"Right, so yeah, he was like Malfoy when we met."
"The books say yeh were good friends." Hagrid said awkwardly, still not really comfortable with talking to Merlin.
"We were." Harry said softly. "So talking to Malfoy is like starting over again. That's hard. It's hard to know that the person who understood me the best is now the person who hates me the most."
He took a breath. "And I get why it has to be Malfoy, I really do, I mean it makes sense. But I don't get what I've done to deserve having to re-shape Arthur as a person again."
"It might be hard," Hagrid said. "But there must be a reason fer this, Harry. You should tell Hermione an' Ron. They'll help you through it."
"They hate Malfoy." Harry said.
"Doesn't mean they won't respect yer wishes." Hagrid countered.
Harry allowed his head to fall forward onto the table. "Yeah, you try telling Ron I've got to befriend Malfoy. He'll have a field day. He's already onto me about acting like Malfoy this week."
Hagrid chuckled. "Yer not even close to being like Malfoy, Harry. Stress does lots 'a things teh people and yeh can't blame yerself."
"Thanks Hagrid." Harry said. "Thanks for listening."
"Yer welcome." Hagrid said. "But yeh have to promise me one thing."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Okay?" He said with uncertainty.
"Oh don't worry! I just want yeh to promise yeh'll come back and tell me all sorts a' stories from, yeh know, when yeh lived before."
Harry laughed for the first time that day. "You know, I was worried about people treating me like this, but it doesn't feel that way around you, Hagrid. I'll definitely come back and tell you lots of things about the days long past, that is, if you tell me something."
Hagrid straightened in his seat. "What's that?"
"Tell me why you're so at ease with the idea that I'm Merlin."
Hagrid let out a breath, as if to scold himself for being too obvious.
"Tell no one." He warned.
"There's a secret society called the Society of Merlin." He said in a whisper. "Got a friend who's a member. Tells me all sorts a' things, like how Merlin's magic was waiting in a book fer him to be reborn – a book I'm guessin' is yours now."
"Well, you don't miss a thing." Harry said, his eyes lighting with interest. "Are any of the other Professors members of the Society?"
"Can't tell yeh that, it's private."
Harry would bet his magic that Dumbledore was a member. "What about the Ministry?"
"They founded it."
Harry swallowed back bile at that bit of knowledge, before composing himself to ask one last question.
"One more thing. Does the society have any of Merl...I mean, of, um, my other books." He said awkwardly. "I'd like to have them back."
"Don't really have the answer to that one, 'm afraid. I'm really just on a 'need to know' basis."
Harry nodded. "Thanks Hagrid." He said innocently, "I'll have to look that up."
"I told yeh, Harry. Anytime."
Harry nodded and waved goodbye before standing up and heading out into the cold.
Harry felt much less burdened since leaving the small hut on the grounds the night before. Hagrid was right that he needed to tell his friends, regardless of the outcome. If things continued, he'd lose them anyway. They'd just have to deal with the fact that Malfoy was Arthur.
To be honest, he still wasn't sure how he felt about that. When he'd first met Arthur, there had been no prior judgments, no history, and it was easier for him to go about giving Arthur a chance. Now he wondered how he was meant to look past all the hateful history with Malfoy and give him the same chance he had years ago. It wasn't going to be easy, and he knew it would be a full-on fight with Ron. But this was his life now, and he needed to face it.
Hermione and Ron ambushed him before lunch and forced him to come and eat in the Great Hall. He knew there was no chance of refusing. They were determined. This would be the time, it seemed.
"Come on, guys, you can let me go! It's not like I'll run off."
"We're not stupid, Harry. The first chance you get you'll go to the common room, and we have some questions for you."
"You always have questions for me." He said, annoyed. "Not that I blame you but you're making me look ridiculous."
They entered the Great Hall with Hermione and Ron dragging Harry in, each clutching an arm lest he try to escape. Nearly all of the Gryffindors turned to watch with curiosity and apprehension. Harry saw their wary glances and finally began to realize just how much he'd been out of touch with everything. They were afraid of him.
Hermione and Ron sat next to Harry to prevent a hasty escape and he found himself slipping back into his foul mood from yesterday.
"This isn't necessary. You could have just asked me to come and eat with you today."
"Like you did yesterday? You've been avoiding us and our questions." Hermione said sharply. "And you're going to answer them today.""
Harry sighed. "Fine. Don't say I didn't warn you."
Hermione and Ron both blinked with surprise.
"You mean you're actually going to answer?" Hermione asked.
"Sure. But I can tell you now, you won't like the answers."
She frowned. "Let us deal with that."
"If you say so." Harry said sharply.
"I told you he'd just act like a git!" Ron spat, glaring at Hermione. "He's not going to tell us anything."
Harry gritted his teeth. "Shut up, Ron. The reason I haven't told you is because I know how you'll react – like this!"
"Both of you, stop!" Hermione exclaimed.
It got her looks from Seamus and Neville, who were curiously watching the whole exchange.
"No, Mione. I'm done. If he doesn't want friends that's fine with me." Ron said.
"You don't mean that, Ron." Hermione protested.
Harry suddenly stood. "Enough." He said, and turned to leave.
Hermione and Ron looked at him with apprehension.
"Well? Come on. I'll answer your questions, but not here."
They still didn't move. "That's what you wanted, isn't it?"
Still no movement. He sighed and turned to walk away.
"What? Right now?" Ron said in protest. "Let's at least eat first." He grabbed his drink to take with him.
"I'll conjure up some food, Ron." Harry whispered, dropping the charade.
"What? Harry, Dumbledore can't conjure up food. What are you on about?"
He turned. "Mione, what is he on about?"
Harry sighed and began to leave. Hermione sent Ron a glare and both began to follow Harry into a small corridor off the beaten path. Harry glanced around before sealing off the exit to sound.
"Right. So I guess I have been cross the past week."
"Bloody understatement." Ron muttered.
Harry glared. "The reason behind it, well, it's because…Malfoy is Arthur."
"He's crackers." Ron said, turning to Hermione for an answer. "Who's Arthur?"
Harry rubbed his eyes, trying to alleviate the permanent headache he'd become accustomed to this past week.
"King Arthur." Hermione said solemnly, before Harry could comment.
Harry glanced up, surprised.
"You think Malfoy is King Arthur? Oh no, crackers isn't the word anymore…you've gone mad!"
Harry met Hermione's piercing gaze. "You know, don't you?"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I had to be sure." She said. "Harry, how much of you is still left in there?"
"Mione? What does that mean?" Ron asked with confusion. "Are you in on this too?"
"Oh stuff it, Ron, you know I wouldn't keep it from you if it wasn't something big."
"So that research we were doing, about druid magic…"
"Well, to be honest, I misled you slightly with that."
He made to protest but Hermione shushed him. "You insisted on coming, remember?"
Ron frowned. "So if Malfoy is King Arthur, why do you care?"
They both looked at Ron as though he'd grown a second head.
"Do you really not know?" Hermione asked.
"What are you trying to say?" Ron said.
"I'm Merlin, Ron." Harry said softly.
Ron nearly spat out the drink from his mouth, but managed to save his dignity and gulped it instead. "Merlin!" he cried. "That doesn't even make sense."
"It makes a lot of sense. Honestly, I'm surprised you didn't see it." Hermione explained. "You read that book about druid magic in the restricted section; the old magic shows itself as a golden hue in the iris. And even if you didn't remember that, surely you must've noticed the way Harry's suddenly become an expert in just about every lesson? Talking about King Arthur should've just been the last bit of proof!"
Harry sighed. "Speaking of which-" he tried to interject.
"You're both crackers." Ron interjected. "Both my friends have gone crackers."
Harry looked at Ron, silent. Ron met his gaze with disbelief.
"Anyway, you still haven't answered my question." Hermione asked quietly.
"That's because I'm not really sure how to answer."
Her eyes suddenly met his with an icy glare. "Then you've admitted it. You're not Harry at all. We're talking to Merlin."
"It's not that simple." Harry said.
"Then make it simple."
Ron finally recovered from shock. "Hermione, don't provoke him." He hissed. "If that's really Merlin, if Harry's really been…possessed…"
"I know, Ron." She said sternly. "I don't care."
"Give Harry back." She ordered.
Harry made to move. Hermione tensed. Ron could feel his heart beating out of his chest with nervousness. Then Harry sighed.
"I'm different, I know." Harry admitted. "But I'm still me, and I'm Merlin. It's like…well, we're the same person. The book made me remember."
"Prove it." Hermione said.
Harry frowned. "How?" He asked honestly. "I could tell you every detail of how this all came about, but…would you believe me?"
"I don't know." Hermione admitted.
"Exactly." Harry countered. "I mean, for a while it was me and Merlin fighting for control. But I saw some things…"
He trailed off, before meeting Hermione's gaze. "It made me realize how similar we are and we just sort of…merged."
"Then show us that. Show us Merlin isn't taking you over…that you're the same."
"Are you crazy, Mione? Harry's not the same as Merlin. It's mad to even think that."
"Let him try, Ron." Hermione pleaded.
Harry sighed. "Not here. I need absolute privacy." Harry said. "Follow me."
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "Where are we going?"
"To the forbidden forest."
"It's a trap." Ron whispered. "We can't go."
"I can actually hear you, Ron." Harry said.
"I'm going, so follow me if you want." He said softly.
Harry turned to head for the forest, and so they had no choice but to follow for the sake of answers. Both were slightly afraid at how quiet their friend had become. Though Hermione had put the facts together herself, disbelief still rang clear in her head. And Ron, he was having the most trouble with the idea. Hermione continued to worry and the idea of going into a dangerous forest didn't exactly help to put her at ease.
They reached the forest and it became clear that Harry wasn't holding back anymore.
"Leoht." He said, holding out his hand, and walked on into the forest as if conjuring a wandless light was the most normal thing in the world.
After a moment he turned back to see if Hermione and Ron were following, the gold in his eyes slowly fading. "Well?" He asked, adjusting his glasses.
Ron met Hermione's gaze. She nodded. "Yes."
They followed him halfway through the forest, until they reached a clearing with a pond. Harry walked toward it silently, leaning down and running his hand through the water. He looked back at his petrified friends and sighed.
"You think I'm crazy for even bringing up Merlin." Harry said to Ron. "What if you could see him as he- as I really was? Not this powerful person who was revered, but just a guy who happened to be thrown into a big destiny? Doesn't that sound like me?"
He said it pleadingly, willing them to understand.
"I don't know what you're afraid of." Harry said, still slightly annoyed. "I'm not going to hurt you."
The slight edge to his voice brought tenseness to the atmosphere, one that Hermione didn't take well to.
"We still don't know that." She countered.
Hermione reached for her wand, readying it at her side. "At this point it's impossible to know if it's you or Merlin pretending to be you to get us to trust him."
Harry snorted. "If I was really like that don't you think I'd have just put you under mind control? The imperius curse is a joke compared to what I can do."
Both Hermione and Ron tried hard not to twitch at those words, but it was clear that fear was starting to set in. Hermione bit her lip.
"Do your worst." She said. "But I won't stand by and let you possess him."
"Mione!" Ron hissed. "You can't fight Merlin."
"I will if I have to." She said.
Harry gritted his teeth. "I'm both!" He exclaimed. "Why are you guys so stubborn?"
A strong wave of power flew outward, causing ripples in the water and knocking the leaves off nearby trees. Harry saw the fear in his friends' eyes and took a breath to calm his anger.
"Look, I didn't want to be Merlin at first. I admit it. I thought what you did. But no one's controlling anyone. I'm Harry. I'll always be Harry. I was Merlin. I just…didn't know it."
They stood, frozen to their spot, unable to say anything. Harry sighed and motioned for them to come and sit next to the water. Reluctantly, they did as asked.
"I'm going to show you some memories – memories that Merlin showed me before we – well, before we merged. Hopefully you'll see why we're the same."
Harry paused, glancing at the apprehensive faces of two of his friends, but not expecting a response. He ran his hand through the water calmly, like before, except this time images could be seen in the water. They were images of Camelot through Merlin's eyes as he walked inside for the first time.
Hermione and Ron watched intently, their fear suddenly replaced with amazement.
A king stood on a balcony, while a crowd gathered below around a pyre. The man tied to it was calling out, cursing the king. The king condemned him for using magic. The fire was lit.
The scenery changed as Merlin left and headed through the town, toward the Court Physician's chambers. A man stood on a bookshelf and turned suddenly at the noise. He fell. Hermione and Ron watched as time literally slowed, and the bed moved to under the man before he could fall. Time snapped back into place and the man's shocked gaze fell on Merlin.
It was suddenly very obvious that they were witnessing Merlin's life. Hermione turned to Harry with a questioning glance but he motioned toward the water.
Another part of the castle came into view, of men throwing knives at a moving target. They watched from Merlin's perspective as lay his foot on the strayed shield. Sound suddenly permeated the air.
"Come on, that's enough."
Merlin's voice came as a shock to the two watching wizards.
"What?" The blonde knight asked.
"You've had your fun, my friend."
Hermione observed intensely as the knight walked over. He looked young, a bully.
"Do I know you?" he asked.
"So I don't know you."
"Yet you called me…friend."
"That was my mistake."
"Yes, I think so."
"Yeah. I'd never have a friend who could be such an ass."
Ron couldn't help a snort at that.
"Nor I one who could be so stupid." The man responded. "Tell me, Merlin, do you know how to walk on your knees?"
They saw him turn around, defiantly. "Nope."
"Would you like me to help you?"
"I wouldn't if I were you."
"Why? What are you going to do to me?" the man asked, laughing.
"You have no idea." Merlin retorted.
"Be my guest." The knight offered.
"Git's like Malfoy." Ron said.
Hermione chanced a glance at Harry. "Who is he?" She asked.
But Harry motioned toward the water.
"Come on!" The knight goaded. "Come on! Come on…"
They watched through Merlin's eyes as he swung at the man and the man locked his arm behind his back.
"I could put you in jail for that." The knight threatened.
"Who do you think you are, the king?" Merlin spat.
"No, I'm his son, Arthur." The knight said.
The water went clear for a moment, allowing Hermione and Ron to take in that revelation. They were struggling not to choke on air.
"That was King Arthur?" Hermione exclaimed.
There was suddenly the image of a cave, a dragon.
"There must be another Arthur, because this one's an idiot." Merlin said.
"Perhaps it is your destiny to change that." A wise voice answered.
Another image came to light: of a dark woods, and a person's (undoubtedly Merlin's) arms. There were chains on them with odd runes and Hermione and Ron watched from Merlin's point of view as he tried multiple spells and failed to free himself.
Hermione covered her mouth with shock as his heart-wrenching yell split the air.
She looked toward Harry.
"It was a Serket." He said.
"No way." Ron said. "I thought they didn't exist."
Hermione turned, confused.
"It's like a really big, bad-assed scorpion." Ron said.
"It stung me."
Hermione froze. "How did you even survive?"
"Long story." Harry said, not divulging anything further.
The water lit for the last time, this time showing a deserted town and ghosts flying around. One took shape suddenly, causing Ron and Hermione to scramble backward in terror. A light began to shine in Merlin's hand but suddenly fizzled out, and Merlin moved out of the way with a terrified cry, muttering worriedly about his magic.
The images suddenly stopped, leaving them in darkness. Hermione and Ron turned toward Harry, their eyes full of amazement and fear.
"Don't look at me like that." Harry protested. "I only showed you because you didn't believe me. I wanted you to see Merlin, see me, before I was revered, thought of like a God."
Hermione's eyes softened. "Dumb luck." She said.
Harry looked surprised. "What?"
"Dumb luck. It's what you and Merlin have in common."
Harry wasn't sure how to respond to that.
She sighed. "I can see it." She said. "Why you're the same. Like you said."
He fought back a grin, not wanting to be to push his luck.
"Ron?" he asked cautiously. Harry stepped forward, but Ron stepped back.
"Come on, Ron." He coaxed. "It's still me. I'm still the one you sat next to on the train, the one who defended you to Malfoy when he insulted your family. I'm still the person who you rescued from the Dursley's with your dad's car. I'm still Harry!"
Ron paused, meeting Harry's worried gaze.
"I know I seem different. I'm going to. I have another lifetime worth of memories in my head and it's hard enough to deal with without my friends thinking I'm possessed."
"It's not that." Ron said quietly.
Harry paused. "It's not?"
There was a moment of silence before Ron began to explain.
"I grew up in a wizarding family, Harry."
Harry wasn't sure where he was going with this.
Ron paused. "You have to understand, Merlin is like God to us. And now…now…"
Harry sighed. "I get it, Ron. I do."
"It's going to take a while for both of us to get used to this, Harry." Hermione said.
"I know." He said sadly. "Just…don't forget, I'm still your friend."
At those words, something softened in Hermione's gaze, and for the first time in weeks, she actually saw Harry again. She walked over, pulling him into a tight hug. Harry didn't resist.
"I'm sorry." She said. "This must have been so hard for you."
"It still is." He said, letting out a snort of disbelief. "You guys think this is hard to believe? Try being me right now."
Hermione couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it, and was soon joined by Ron and Harry. Initially the laughs were nervous, but soon became genuine. The only way to truly process everything that had happened was to laugh, to let it all out. And when they all stopped, it was somehow different. There were possibilities now.
Ron looked around a couple of moments before folding his arms and facing Harry. "So, can we go back now? These woods are really creepy."
Harry nodded. "Yeah." He said. "Yeah, we can."
Harry walked ahead, this time using lumos to light the way. It eased Ron and Hermione's minds as they walked behind.
"We can do this, Ron."
"He's Merlin, Hermione." Ron said, some of the amazement seeping back in.
"We can do this." She repeated.
"We have to suspend our amazement. He's still our friend."
"I know." Ron said. "But bloody hell, Hermione!"
"I know, I know. Sh!"
"What we saw in there!" He hissed.
"Sh! Ron." She hushed.
"That was King Arthur. He was like Malfoy."
"Sh!" she said. "I know."
"I wonder what Merlin looked like." Ron said softly.
"Are you guys coming?" Harry asked, his voice light-hearted, but also filled with undertones of nervousness.
"Yes." Hermione said. "Ron's just being…Ron."
Ron elbowed her. Harry turned back around and they both heaved a sigh of relief.
"Maybe he'll show us, someday." She answered.
"Maybe." Ron said.
The morning came and Harry was up early, watching the fire from the couch. Hermione saw him as she hurried down the steps.
"Harry." Hermione said, sitting next to him on the couch. "Aren't you coming to breakfast? Everyone's gone."
He glanced at her. "I was just thinking, sorry."
"What were you thinking about?" she asked.
"Malfoy." He said reluctantly.
She swallowed. Before seeing the images she'd been shown the night before, she'd never have believed Malfoy could be Arthur. Now she knew that Arthur had been a bully, a prince who had used his privilege to his advantage, like Draco. Merlin had changed him, somehow.
"Are you worried?" She asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Are you worried that it'll be harder to change his mind this time around?"
Harry turned sharply.
She raised an eyebrow. "What? They're almost the same person. And since King Arthur was written as one of the greatest kings in history, I had to make an assumption."
He glanced away. "I'm sure it's him, but Draco doesn't know. I'm not sure I should even tell him. I don't even know how to tell him. He'd never believe me."
"Maybe it isn't time yet." She suggested.
"Maybe…" he said. "But I've been thinking about this a lot. What if things are different this time around? What if we aren't meant to be friends?"
Hermione flinched. "I don't know much about destiny, Harry, but I think you need to trust in what you know. If you know he's Arthur, then you have to try. Even if he is the most vile, horrible, cruel…"
Harry laughed. Hermione smiled.
"Are you okay?" he asked. "I should have asked."
She glanced away before meeting his gaze again. "It's still hard for me, knowing…this. I'm trying to adjust. But you can still talk to me."
He nodded. She stood up to leave, but he held her wrist.
"Thanks." He said. "Let's go get breakfast."
"It's so annoying." Harry complained, before biting into his toast. "I hate him and I don't at the same time."
Ron kept eating, afraid to comment. Hermione looked around. "Harry, people…"
He shook his head. "I've muted the conversation." He explained. "People around us will hear what they want to hear. It's not flawless, I know, but it'll do until I have time to make a better spell."
She paused, still unused to the fact her friend now had a wealth of magical knowledge. "Right." She said. "Well, I don't know what to tell you. Talk to him? I mean, not that you'll likely get anything sensible out of him. He is Malfoy, after all."
"That's what I'm afraid of." Harry groaned. "I wish I knew how to make him remember. He might actually be tolerable."
Ron snorted, finally having something to add to the conversation. "Malfoy, tolerable? Wishful thinking."
"Are there any phrases he'd remember from back then?" Hermione asked.
Harry smirked. "Lots. That's not a bad idea, actually."
"How did you know it was him, anyway?" Hermione continued. "Was it just the similarities?"
"No. We had a destiny back then and the connection is still there." He sighed. "It's always there."
"That must be bloody annoying." Ron admitted.
"Well it's true! Who would want to be connected to Malfoy?"
"Pansy Parkinson seems to." Harry quipped. "In more ways than one."
Ron nearly spat out his drink with laughter. He glanced toward Harry with a relief, finally seeing some of his friend.
"Never realized how much it can suck being Merlin." he said.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "You're telling me." He agreed. "Well, at least the magic's good."
Ron grinned. "Your magic's bloody amazing."
"You didn't think so a week ago."
"Only because we didn't know what was going on!" Hermione protested.
"Sorry." Harry said sheepishly. "I was kind of rude."
"Kind of might be an understatement."
"You better eat your breakfast before it disappears." Hermione said.
"Point taken." He said. "I guess I'll figure something out."
Harry chanced a last glance at Malfoy and heaved an annoyed sigh before picking up his fork and digging into breakfast.
Things soon fell into a familiar rhythm. Harry was becoming more comfortable in his own skin and Hermione and Ron were finding it somewhat easier to completely ignore Harry's past, unless of course it was blatantly brought up. Hermione was working hard to understand but to Ron it remained the elephant in the room. Initially Ron had been scared to death of Harry, which was then followed by few days of laughter and amazement. But now their conversations had turned awkward, with Ron being wary of mentioning it at all. Harry and Hermione weren't sure how to approach him.
Harry had gone to the Room of Requirement to tweak some spells and Hermione was left with Ron. She sighed. "I think I'll go to the library and do some work. You're welcome to join." She said.
"You've been going to the library every night since we found out about Harry, Hermione." Ron said.
"Yes, studying and doing work." She said.
Ron gave her a look that said he didn't believe that. "Are you sure?" he asked.
She frowned and turned on him with fury. "Ronald Weasley have you been spying on me?"
"Come to think of it, Seamus has been at the library a lot more than usual lately. Do you know anything about that, Ron?"
"I'm sorry, Mione, but I just…"
"Just what? Couldn't ask me what I was doing?"
"But you just proved you wouldn't answer!" He protested.
"Fine, Ron. What was I doing at the library?"
"Reading up on King Arthur."
"Yes, I have been doing that, not that it's been entirely useful. But you could have just asked me or Harry about it instead of getting Seamus to be your personal watchdog."
"I don't see the point." He said dejectedly. "All you talk about is Merlin, Arthur and Harry."
"Because I want to understand." She said. "Don't you?"
"Obviously! What kind of a friend do you think I am? But don't you see, Hermione, that's all we talk about anymore. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of hearing about it." Ron complained. "I just want things to go back to the way they were."
"Well, they can't, Ron!" Hermione spat.
He shrunk back.
"It's hard for me, too, you know!" She said angrily.
Ron frowned. "Mione…" he trailed off.
"We wanted Harry to tell us about this, remember? And he did. Are you really going to pay him back by isolating him even more than before?"
Ron wasn't sure how to respond to that. When Hermione was this angry there wasn't really much anyone could say or do to calm her down.
She paused, still fuming. "Anyway, I'm still Harry's friend, and I'm going to prove it to him. If you want to pretend nothing happened, then that's up to you." She said angrily, and walked away.
"Bloody hell." Ron said, and allowed his head to fall forward into the cushion.
Harry had been going out of his way to avoid Draco until he'd sorted out this Arthur thing in his head. Today, it seemed, that wasn't in the cards. He'd just opened his mouth to say the common room password when the Slytherin's voice sounded from below.
"What's the matter, Potter? Did they finally kick you off the Quidditch team for incompetence?"
Harry turned, seeing Crabbe and Goyle at Draco's side.
"You wish!" he spat acidly. "It's not my fault you can't hack it as a seeker, Malfoy."
Draco began to look agitated at that and gritted his teeth in anger. "I have better things to do than listen to your ridiculousness. Go slum with Weasley and your mudblood friend."
A set of books dropped from behind Harry and he turned to see Hermione with her wand out, mouth set in a stern line, clearly furious with the prejudiced insult.
Draco responded with his own wand raised.
"Just you try it, Mudblood."
The two looked at each other cautiously, waiting for the other to make the first move. Hermione tensed, and Draco's grasp on his wand tightened. Harry decided to stop the fight before it started. Green irises changed to liquid gold as Harry slowed time to a crawl. With a flick of his wrist, Draco had been disarmed, his wand rolling away on the floor.
"How in Merlin's name did you do that, Potter? I barely saw you move."
"I'd be careful if I were you, Malfoy." Harry retorted. "This was between you and me, but as usual you had to bring Hermione's blood status into it. It'll serve you right if you get hexed back to the dark ages."
He motioned for Hermione to wait. She took a deep breath and nodded, but never let her wand down. Harry began another taunt.
"Actually, I've been thinking, and it must really kill you to know that a muggle-born witch is so much better at magic than you are. How do you manage to get up in the morning, knowing that?"
Draco snatched his wand up off the ground angrily and pointed it at Harry. "You watch yourself, Potter."
There was a snort. "Why? What exactly are you going to do, run and get your father?"
Draco gritted his teeth. "I don't need him; I could take the mudblood down with one swipe of my wand, and you too." He yelled.
Harry twitched at the phrase – so familiar to the one from years ago. He'd almost forgotten this was Arthur. Was it the time for him to remember?
The retort came automatically: "I could take you down with less than that."
Draco flinched at the words but didn't miss a beat. "Come on with it, then!" He challenged. "Come on!"
The words weren't out of his mouth before Harry's eyes lit, causing the long strip of red carpet to slip from under Draco's feet. The blonde haired wizard fell to the ground, wand clattering, while Crabbe and Goyle clambered about in attempts to help.
"Prat." Harry muttered.
"Hard to believe he's Arthur when he acts like this." Hermione said.
"Wait, Hermione, look." Harry said, motioning to the blonde Slytherin wizard.
Draco sat on the ground, bewildered, his hand resting against the side of his head. He sat there for the better part of a minute, his eyes following something Harry couldn't see.
Is he…remembering? Harry wondered nervously. He felt numb, anxious, and excited all at once. Arthur?
"Oh Gods..." Draco suddenly muttered, before motioning for Crabbe and Goyle to get away from him and scrambling to his feet.
He met Harry's gaze and muttered "Not Potter, anyone but Potter."
That's when Harry knew. Malfoy remembered. There was no more rationalizing or denying it to himself now.
Harry feigned indifference to the hurtful words and rolled his eyes. "Thanks a bunch, Malfoy."
"Well if you weren't such an idiot, you'd have remembered this earlier, before we hated each other."
Harry shared a knowing glance with Hermione.
"Welcome back, Arthur." Harry sighed.
"Shove off, Merlin." Draco said before turning to a confused Crabbe and Goyle and storming down the corridor.
And here we are, full circle. Now that Draco knows who he is, we're into the territory of More Like Two Different Coins.
Thanks for all your support and please do continue to review and support this story even though it's complete :) I love all your feedback and do edit things from time to time.