Hey Guys, So before you read this chapter, one thing to keep in mind is that as far as sequences of events happen in the book, I'm rearranging them a little here. All of the Tasks in the Tournament will be in the same order, I promise, but as far as subsequent events go, give me a little leeway. I'm sorry if you're a die hard timeline fanatic and I've somehow offended you by moving around some dates and classroom occurrences, but I guess I'll just have to live with myself. For those of you that don't mind and will still tolerate me… thank you! You're the best!
Merlin took a deep breath and pressed his shoulders back before he entered the room where each of the three schools champions stood. As he walked in, three pairs of eyes shot up.
Fleur and Victor's mouths were slightly agape and their eyebrows were furrowed, cuing Merlin in that he had just interrupted a heated argument. Harry stood there silently with the strains of confusion etched into his features.
The eyes followed him as he made his way to where they stood.
"What are you doing here?" Harry was the first to speak.
"Same as you I suppose." Merlin shrugged.
"Any idea why the goblet picked us?"
"Not a clue." Though he could feign ignorance, Merlin could no longer guise himself as the fool. For the tasks that lay ahead he would need to assume leadership and the responsibility of his duties dictated by destiny. There was no time to second guess his choices.
Harry nodded. Fleur and Victor exchanged annoyed glances.
"There cannot be two champions from one school. Besides, you are both underage!" Fleur huffed in her thick accent. Victor ran a hand over his head.
"What is to happen now?" The Quidditch star asked in a much calmer tone than Merlin anticipated.
"I don't-" Merlin started, but was interrupted by the three headmasters that hastily entered the room.
The two foreign leaders rushed to the sides of their champions and offered quick congratulatory words. However, their words of encouragement and endearment were quickly halted when their gazes met the two Hogwarts 'champions'.
"Professor." Headmaster Igor Karkaroff spoke suddenly, sweeping his cloak to the side as he faced Dumbledore. "How is it these two, children, were capable of evading the law binding spells you placed on the cup? Considering who these two students are, the most renown and your brightest, it seems oddly suspicious for the cup to 'select' them, despite the conflict of their age."
"Indeed professor," Madame Maxine continued on, "I agree it is a peculiar turn of events."
Dumbledore lifted his head slightly and lowered his spectacles. In the irises of his blue eyes was a warning. "I assure you headmasters that I have not permitted any exceptions. However, I will be conducting an investigation. While an elder student may have placed their names in the ballot, the nature of the cup is law abiding. The cup may choose whosoever is the most worthy and qualified. There is no replacing of champions for the cup's selection is final. I can only hope that Mr. Potter and Mr. Emerson are prepared to take on the challenges that await."
Harry and Merlin both looked at the professor as he turned to them and searched their eyes. Harry's foot tapped nervously on the floor as the boy willed himself to speak. "But, professor, surely there must be a mistake?"
"I'm afraid there is nothing that can be done." Dumbledore said softly. Harry simply nodded and returned to his silence, still trying to comprehend what he had just become part of.
Out of the corner of his eye, Merlin saw a familiar figure assessing the situation from the doorway. Merlin did not acknowledge his presence, but he could feel the potions master's gaze analyzing his every move.
The room was silent. Merlin kept his eyes glued to the Hogwarts headmaster, waiting for further instructions. Dumbledore composed himself and made his way to the center of the room.
"As you all well know by now, the Triwizard Tournament is a series of challenges. Each task will test you both physically and mentally. The winner of the tournament will receive a lifetime of riches and glory, but again I warn you. These tasks are dangerous. Do not underestimate the foe you may face." The professor paused to let his words sink in. "The first challenge will test your courage in the face of the unknown, therefore it will remain undisclosed until day of the first trial. I wish you all the best of luck." Dumbledore concluded his speech and Severus Snape approached. After a few whispered words a small smile spread across the headmasters lips.
"Ah, yes. Thank you Severus for the reminder." Professor Snape nodded at the recognition. "It almost slipped my mind, but prior to the trials your wands must be examined by Mr. Ollivander to assess their condition. I assure you this is just to help ensure your safety. He will be here in a few days time. Each of you will be summoned from your classes when he arrives. Until then, you are all free to go." Everyone began filing out of the room, but Merlin stayed behind.
"Professor Snape," Merlin spoke just loud enough for the professor to hear as he met the man's stride. The potions master paused his steps. "Could I have a word?" With a quick glance in Dumbledore's direction, Severus Snape watched as the headmaster exited the room, leaving no one but Merlin and himself.
"What is it Myron?" He sounded annoyed.
"A wand weighing?" Merlin waved his arms around exasperatedly.
"Yes. What of it?"
"A wand weighing!?" Merlin pressed again.
"Yes, a weighing of the wand. If you are simply going to waste my time then I am going to excuse myself."
"Seriously? Let me clarify my concerns. A. Wand. WEIGHING." Merlin pronounced whilst pulling out his wand and levitating it with a flash of his eyes.
"What are you-oh." Realization dawned on him. "You don't own a real wand?"
"Well technically, this is a 'real' wand. It just happens to be much more powerful than any wand Ollivander has ever seen. Trust me, making this was not easy."
"You made your wand?"
"Well what else was I supposed to do? I couldn't show up here wandless, and besides, every time I use a 'normal' wand it practically explodes!" Merlin huffed.
"What are you asking of me?" The professor asked bluntly.
"I'm not sure, but what I do know is that no one can 'examine' this wand."
"I don't think you understand the severity of this situation. No one, but me, can touch this wand. I am not saying that just as an excuse to keep my cover. No one can touch it. The magic I used to create this wand is my own. It's bent to execute my will. My magic is instinctual and hence very protective of me. If another wizard were to touch this wand, they would be perceived as a threat, and the magic within the wand would react defensively against them." Merlin tried to explain in a rush.
"What will happen to them?"
"I'm not sure."
"How are you not sure?"
"Well I've never let anyone else touch it."
"Then how do you know what will happen!" The man growled in frustration.
"Do you know anything about bending magic to your will?"
"No. I can answer that for you. You don't. Lesson one, exacting magic to your bidding is NOT easy. It takes all of your concentration and if you lose focus for even a second disastrous things can happen. The material I used to form this wand was a relic, possessing its own magic. Previously this was a staff, but in order to alter it into a wand, not only did I have to manipulate its shape into one of condensed mass, but I had to use my magic and overpower the one that already existed within it. Fun Fact, ancient magic is powerful. So obviously, this was not a simple task. By merging my magic with the magic the staff possessed, it became completely and solely loyal to me. Therefore if someone were to, I don't know, try to tap into it and discover its secrets it would act in my defense because it is an extension of my magic."
Severus Snape stayed silent for a moment as he digested what was being said. The amount of power Merlin possessed was beginning to frighten him, although he would never admit it.
"What do you suggest I do then?"
"I don't know, help me come up with an excuse to get me out of the ceremony. Convince them my wand is in prime condition. You've been 'tutoring' me. You would know."
"I'll see what I can do." He said coolly.
"Thank you." Merlin sighed. He then began making his way to the door.
"Myron." Professor Snape called, making him turn around.
"Be careful." Merlin grinned at his teacher's rare show of compassion.
The past few days had been hard on Merlin. Every time he tried to strike up a conversation with Draco he was ignored. Merlin expected this from the other Slytherins but had not anticipated this from his friend.
When he made it back to the common room after talking to Professor Snape, Merlin prepared himself for the fit of fury and betrayal he knew Draco felt, but when he walked in the boy wasn't there.
Merlin waited worried throughout the night, wondering when his friend would return so they could talk it out. He didn't really know what he would say, but he wanted to try to work through the kinks of their now strained relationship.
When Draco finally returned it was nearly three in the morning. Merlin jumped up when Draco entered the room ready to defend himself, but Draco never even looked at him. Instead, the boy shuffled to his bed and went straight to sleep, leaving Merlin standing in the middle of the dorm alone.
In the morning Merlin tried again, but Draco brushed his teeth and left for the Great Hall in a heated chatter with Crab and Goyle. Merlin sat alone that day, and well, every day since.
Now Merlin had potions with Gryffindor. When he walked into the dungeon classroom Merlin wasn't really sure where to sit. Usually he would sit in the back with Draco, but his seat was already filled. Most of the Slytherins refused to even meet his eyes, but those that did met his with a hostile glare.
Feeling unsettled and shunned, Merlin walked towards the front and saw an empty seat next to Harry on the other side of the room. Sitting with another house was almost unheard of, but feeling rejected from his own, Merlin decided to make a bold move.
"Is this seat taken?" Merlin asked hesitantly.
Harry looked up, momentarily shocked. He shook his head. "No. You can sit here."
"Thanks." Merlin smiled graciously.
Merlin sat in silence for a few minutes while Harry finished up his conversation with Ron and Hermione. When Professor Snape noticed where he sat, the man took a look around the room assessing the situation. With a look of understanding, the potions master turned back to his work, choosing not to comment.
"So, how are you holding up?" Harry asked suddenly, pulling Merlin back.
"I've been better." Merlin looked back towards the Slytherins who sneered in his direction making Harry scoff.
"I'll say. Your housemates don't look too friendly from where I'm sitting."
"It's not that…"
"Then what is it?" Harry asked. Merlin noticed Ron and Hermione leaning in to listen.
"It's just, I may have preached morality and started a egotistically driven Slytherin revolution and then, what do you know, was suddenly chosen as the spontaneous fourth champion of the Triwizard Tournament. They think I tricked them out of finding a loophole so I could use it for myself." Merlin scratched behind his ear as he admitted his foolery.
"Ouch, that's rough." Ron commented. Hermione looked perplexed as she sorted through his statement. Merlin shrugged.
"Yeah, I guess." He said.
"Any idea what the first task is going to be?" Harry asked Merlin.
"Not a clue. Hopefully something familiar." Harry nodded, but Hermione laughed sharply.
"Please, this is the Tri-Wizard Tournament. It is extremely unlikely you have undergone any of the experiences that you will face in the arena." She said smartly.
"I wouldn't be so sure." Merlin muttered quietly.
Just then the class started. Merlin zoned out immediately and continued thinking about the Tournament. What was the first task? Would he face creature like the Afanc Nimueh had conjured? Probably nothing deadly like the questing beast, but maybe something similar to Lamia? Merlin couldn't guess. There were too many possibilities.
Merlin was lost in his thoughts until he heard Professor Snape conclude his lecture. "If you have any questions go ask Myron." Merlin groaned.
"Hey," Harry nudged Merlin with his elbow.
"Here." Harry pushed his book towards Merlin. "I saw you zone out. I'm not sure if the Professor thinks extraordinarily highly of you or has it out to get you by calling you out every day, but either the case this is what we just discussed if you want to take a moment and review before the crowds arrive." Merlin laughed.
"I think it's both, and thanks. I owe you one."
"Remember that in the arena." Harry smirked.
Merlin spent the rest of potions answering questions, mostly from Gryffindor students, although a few reluctant Slytherins had also made an appearance.
After class, Merlin decided to follow the trio to the Great Hall for lunch. The four of them laughed together all the way to the entrance of the hall where they all stopped. Merlin looked at his table longingly, and the trio glanced at each other.
"You know Myron, there is no rule that says you have to eat with your house. Why don't you come sit with us today?" Merlin was surprised to hear the offer come from Hermione.
"Thank you." Merlin smiled, relieved he would not have to eat alone once again.
Ignoring the looks, Merlin sat next to his new group of friends and made light conversation.
"Hey, Myron," Ron started, "You're pretty cool for a Slytherin. How come there aren't others like you?"
Merlin shrugged. "I'm just unique."
"Yeah, but I mean, you don't really act, Slytherin-y."
Merlin remembered similar words coming from those in his own house, but before he could begin his speech Hermione spoke up.
"Don't be stupid Ron. You can't act like a house. Besides, Slytherin isn't the defining feature of evil like you seem to think. Just like any house it has its morals and beliefs, someone which Myron must have shared to be put there. Slytherin houses those that possess extraordinary leadership capabilities, as well as those that are ambitious, powerful, and determined. Think of the house as a means to an ends, helping people to achieve their goals. Of course, there are individuals we may not care for in that house, but the intent of the house was not corrupt. Honestly Ron, how would you like to be judged by the way others act around you? You are not limited to the characteristics expressed by your house, it's just that some of those features in your character may appear more prominently." Hermione concluded sounding proud of herself. Merlin stared at her with a new respect.
"Couldn't have said it better myself." Merlin smiled genuinely over at her with pride in his eyes. Hermione blushed and looked away.
"Sorry mate. Didn't mean to offend you." Ron raised his arms in surrender while Merlin chuckled.
"Don't worry about it, I hear that a lot."
"Doesn't it bother you?" Harry inquired.
"Of course, but like Hermione just did, I always try to enlighten my curious listeners in on the truth. Just like Gryffindor, Slytherin is a house. Because power is so controversial, the house itself has come under question. People often see power as dangerous rather than seeing the good it can do. Magic is just a sword we all wield with our minds. We choose whether we use it for good or for evil. All the good in Slytherin is often overlooked because with great power comes great responsibility. Sometimes it requires us to make choices others may not agree with. There are times when we just need to trust ourselves, or there is no right decision. Sometimes, we need to choose the lesser of two evils and hope that others will see that we tried our best. If they don't, there is nothing you can do. It is these choices that create backlash and taint the name of Slytherin. But sometimes, the perceptions of others shape what they believe into a reality. If all you see is hate and corruption in Slytherin, why shouldn't there be?"
The trio stared at him as if the words that left his mouth were from an ancient biblical text. The reason and compassion laced in his speech stunted their ability to formulate words.
Eventually the three Gryffindors composed themselves and finished their meals. The four continued on their day and headed for Defense Against the Dark Arts.
The second Merlin entered the classroom he had a bad feeling. They took their seats and waited for class to begin.
Mad Eye Moody, as everyone called him, paced the front of the room. Merlin narrowed his eyes at his teacher. Moody's robotic eye glanced him up and down curiously, but Merlin kept his expression blank leaving nothing to discover.
When class started, the defense against the dark arts teacher explained what insects he had collected and displayed in the containers at the front of the classroom. He pulled a spider out of a jar and captured the classrooms attention. As the spider aimlessly scurried over the man's palm, the teacher directed his wand towards it and yelled "Imperio!"
Merlin shuddered in his seat. Harry looked at him curiously, while Merlin clenched the edge of his desk.
"The Imperius Curse, one of the three unforgiveable curses. I am not teaching you this so you can use it as a weapon, but to know what it does so you can prepare and defend yourself if someone threatens to use it against you." The class seemed to lean in as he spoke. "This curse bends an individual's will to do their bidding-yes" he called said as a student raised their hand.
"Why are they called the unforgivable curses?" the student spoke.
"Because this is dark magic. It obliterates an individual's will. Is there forgiveness for that?" The class was silent. "I can make this spider do whatever I want. Perhaps, kill itself?"
"No, wait!" a boy yelled. Merlin turned to see Neville stand up in horror.
"Come here boy!" Moody called. Neville slowly made his way up to the front.
"Crucio!" Moody yelled and the spider began to writhe in pain. Merlin adverted his eyes, silently willing himself not to get involved.
"What are you doing?!" Neville asked in horror. "Stop it! You're hurting it!"
"This is the Cruciatus Curse, otherwise known as the torturing curse." The class stared. "You want me to stop it boy?" Neville nodded, tears streaming down his cheeks. "Ok."
"Avada Kedavra!" The spider stilled. "The killing curse." Neville stared at it as if looking at a painful memory. Merlin understood. "Know these curses, and prepare. Unfortunately there is not much you can do to protect yourself other than being able to quickly use a counterattack. The killing curse obviously is the most lethal. Only one person has ever survived it, and he is sitting in this very room." Everyone turned to stare at Harry.
Merlin looked too, but he looked at the boy differently. Rather than awe and disbelief, Merlin looked at him in understanding. Neither liked to be in the spotlight.
Unfortunately, they were about to share it.
Not even twenty minutes later, both Harry and Merlin were called out of class. Merlin's stomach clenched in anticipation. This had to be the wand ceremony. Merlin's nerves made his heart thud heavily in his chest. Where was Professor Snape?
When the two prodigies entered the room, Merlin was surprised to see a woman sitting with a quill and paper hovering beside her.
"Are these my two superstars?" the woman asked their guide who nodded. "Excellent! Sit down, sit, please! Oh, I'm so pleased to meet the both of you!" She squealed excitedly. "Oh! How rude of me, I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Rita Skeeter and I'm here to write an article about the Triwizard Tournament!"
"Oh, umm-" Harry was interrupted.
"No need to thank me yet Mr. Potter. By the time this article is published the entire wizarding world will know your name. I'm going to make you a celebrity! So don't leave out any detail while I'm asking my questions. Same goes to you Mr. Emerson. I'm sure the world would love to hear your story as well!"
"And if I don't want the world to know my story?" Merlin asked nervously.
"Oh, don't be so modest dear. Everyone loves fame and fortune. Embrace this experience!" She spoke so quickly it was hard to make out her words.
"No offense, but I really don't need the world to hear my story." Merlin sighed and began to walk out.
"Not so fast." Rita waved her wand and the doors shut.
"Look, the world didn't care about me yesterday, so I see no reason for them to care about me tomorrow." Merlin sighed.
"The world works in mysterious ways. I bet you that all your experiences have been leading you to this moment, right now. You have been selected to do something most people can only dream of doing!"
"Trust me, if I had a choice I wouldn't be here." Merlin rolled his eyes.
"Well, fate just has its ways." She spoke defiantly.
"Yes. It does, doesn't it." His comment was meant to be snarky, but the woman perceived it as a surrender of sorts. She grabbed his arm and shoved him into the chair besides Harry who had chosen to remain silent and watch Merlin fight his battle.
"Excellent!" She exclaimed. "Actually, I think our meeting should take place somewhere a little more private." She suddenly stood up. "Grab your chairs and follow me children!" She hollered.
Rita opened a door and shoved them in. It was a supply closet. Merlin and Harry shuffled awkwardly trying to situate themselves in the cramped space while the woman remained perfectly at ease.
"This is splendid! Oh how lovely you both are. Let's begin." Merlin and Harry exchanged nervous looks. "So Harry, tell me, what was it like hearing your name called from the Goblet of Fire?"
"Um… surprising?" Harry spoke slowly looking to Merlin for reassurance. Merlin shrugged. There was nothing for him to do.
Rita laughed at Harry's comment. "You boys, so modest! It's exhausting. Now really, tell me what emotions were running through you the moment you heard your name."
"I was, shocked." Harry began. "And confused."
"Confused? Hmm interesting. What about you Mr. Emerson. How did you feel?"
"Same as Harry I guess."
"I see. Well, when you entered what was going through your heads?"
"We didn't enter." Harry spoke immediately.
"Of course you didn't. What about your friends? How did they react when you were selected as champions?" Rita pressed on.
"My friends were supportive. I guess you could say some were a bit jealous." Harry said cautiously.
"These friends do they have names?"
"Well my friend Ron-"
"Oh, he must be the jealous one! Tell me, did he want to riches and glory? Hmmm scratch that." She spoke to her quill. "Are you both trying to impress the same girl?"
"What? No, He and my friend Hermione-"
"There is a girl! I can see it now. Two friends fighting for the affection of the same woman. Don't worry Harry, there is no way she can ignore you now!"
"Hey! That's not what I-"
"And what about you Myron dear? Any lucky lady? Surely with those cheekbones of yours you've had your fair share of admirers."
"None that I know of."
"Ah, what a shame. What of that peculiar garment your wearing?"
"Yes, of course. Does it hold sentimental value? Why wear it?"
"It's a style choice." Merlin said slightly offended. Out of the corner of his eye, Merlin could see Harry trying not to laugh.
"Excellent, and what of your parents? From my research on you Myron I have found both your parents to be deceased. Obviously yours are Harry dear, so I want you both to tell me, if your parents were both still alive, what would they think of you right now?"
"I never really knew my parents so I wouldn't know." Harry stated.
"Oh yes, a tragedy. You must miss them so much. Myron?"
"My parents are none of your concern." Merlin spoke coldly.
"Oh my. I seem to have struck a nerve. I guess you never had the best of relationships with your parents. It says in my records you spent most of your time with your uncle anyway."
"I had a good relationship with my parents." Merlin defended.
"Hmm, no I don't think so. I'm not getting that kind of vibe. Anyways, these trials must be so daunting. What do you anticipate?"
"Something new?" Harry asked, hoping it was the right answer.
"A challenge." Merlin added obviously.
"Clearly. Well, it seems the two of you are friends with one another. Why don't you tell me about your friendship. When was the first time you met?" The magic quill continued to write on the floating parchment.
"We were on our way to one of our classes, and Myron ran into me and knocked me over." Harry recounted the event.
"It was an accident."
"Oh how lovely! It sounds like a meeting straight out of a romance novel, scratch that, it sounds like one of those muggle comedy shows!"
"Trust me, it wasn't glamorous." Merlin rolled his eyes.
"No matter. Well, would you look at the time? I'll be seeing you boys later. Prepare yourselves because tomorrow the world will be screaming your names!" And without another word, Rita Skeeter walked out of the closet, leaving the two boys stunned in their seats.
Silence prevailed momentarily. A few minutes later Merlin decided to break the awkward tension that was building between them.
"Well… that was, unsettling."
"Did she get anything right?"
"No. You should probably warn your friends they may be featured in a jealous rivalry and love triangle in the latest addition of the Daily Prophet."
"Good call. Hermione is going to throw a fit."
"Hey, at least I'm not the one who's sense of fashion will be publicly criticized."
"It's a neckerchief!"
"Myron, I have never seen any muggle or wizard wear a neckerchief before."
"It's a personal choice."
The two of them laughed and exited the supply closet hoping no one was there to get any ideas. Unfortunately for them, their guide, had returned.
"Collin, what are you doing here?" Harry asked.
"I was sent to get the two of you for the wand weighing ceremony. Wow, you both look brilliant!" Collin flashed a quick photo of the two of them caught off guard. "Great! Ok, yeah, follow me!"
Collin led them to an empty classroom. Fleur and Victor were already there, alongside their headmasters. Merlin's nerves returned. Was there a way out of this?
Just then Albus Dumbledore walked into the room with Mr. Ollivander. "This should not take long." The Hogwarts headmaster reassured.
There was no speech or time for preparation. Dumbledore motioned to Fleur to brought her wand up to Mr. Ollivander. The elderly man took her wand delicately and balanced it in his hands. "Good weight." He slid his hand across. "Acceptable length." With a couple of taps Mr. Ollivander located the wands history and examined its quality. "Excellent durability." He smiled. "Your wand will serve you well in the Tournament to come." Fleur smiled graciously and was excused.
Victor was next. He carried his wand to the front of the room and gruffly gave it to the inspecting man. A similar process to the analysis Mr. Ollivander had conducted on Fleur's wand was initiated. All too soon it was Harry's turn.
While Ollivander was in the middle of his inspection of Harry's wand, Severus Snape burst into the room. "I require Mr. Emerson's assistance on a matter." He spoke directly towards Dumbledore.
"Surely, Severus, it can wait a few minutes. Myron must have his wand assessed."
"I'm afraid the matter is urgent."
"I see." The headmaster nodded. "Perhaps, Mr. Ollivander and I should wait for this matter to be taken care of?"
"I cannot say how long I will require his assistance."
"Albus, I'm sorry, but I am on a tight schedule. I cannot wait here long." Mr. Ollivander spoke relieving Merlin.
"Professor Snape has been instructing me. I'm sure he could take a look at my wand and assess it capability for the Tournament?" Merlin inquired.
The potions master nodded. "If it would appease you, I will take a look at Mr. Emerson's wand. I am familiar with the process."
Dumbledore nodded. "Very well. I suggest you hurry off then. This is of course an urgent matter?"
"Yes professor." Merlin agreed. He quickly strutted out of the room.
Merlin followed Professor Snape to his classroom. "Thank you." The man merely nodded. "So, what now?"
"Now you sit silently and wait for your classes to end while I prepare tomorrows lesson."
"So you just want me to sit here?"
"That would be implied Mr. Emerson." The man scoffed.
"Oh come on, I'm supposed to be helping you. At least give me something to do." The professor raised his eyebrow and slightly smirked.
Minutes later Merlin sat on the ground sorting through ancient potion textbooks. Some of those books looked older than him despite being from the twentieth century. Merlin went into a coughing fit as he inhaled the dust that covered the tops of the books.
"Would you keep it down over there? I'm working." Merlin continued coughing.
"What happened? Did someone put cremated ashes in this cupboard?" Merlin gagged.
"My grandmother did love potions." Severus surprisingly joked.
"So I just inhaled human remains? Brilliant. I can't wait for my allergies to kick in this season now." Merlin rolled his eyes.
"Don't think this makes us family."
"Because I inhaled your deceased grandmother? No way. Besides, if that's what happened to grandma I don't want to know what would happen to me if we were related." The man chuckled lowly.
It was the rare moments like these Merlin loved most.
"So are you ready?" the professor asked him.
"For your first trial?"
"There isn't much I'm not ready for. I just wish I knew what it was. Any advice?"
"Don't be an idiot."
"No promises." Merlin winked.
One day. There was one day left before the first challenge. Merlin knew he shouldn't be nervous, after all he was Emrys, but that didn't seem to prevent his stomach from twisting itself into knots.
During the last few days he and Harry had bonded. Since Draco was still giving him the cold shoulder, the trio had continuously extended an invitation to him, whether in class or during meals. Merlin was grateful and enjoyed their company.
Hermione particularly intrigued him. Merlin had known she was intelligent, but as he got to know her he quickly discovered her knowledge extended beyond that of books. She was passionate about school, but was not driven to learn for a lust of power. Instead she surprised him by her genuine thirst for knowledge simply for the sake of learning. Hermione knew that the more she learned the more she would be able to give back and help others. It was for this reason Merlin was drawn to her.
Sure, Merlin found her attractive. Her beauty was natural and often overlooked, but her mind was her most alluring feature. Merlin enjoyed their debates, whether about a particular potion, spell, or even things they enjoyed in the mundane world. Neither of Hermione's parents possessed magic, which meant that during breaks Hermione spent her time doing things ordinary people would do like going to the movies, or grocery shopping.
Of course Merlin was familiar with blending into the ordinary flow of life. It had been his cover for centuries. The two always had lots to talk about. Harry and Ron found it difficult to contribute to their conversations, but found that while they talked it gave the two of them the perfect time to escape and play some wizard chess without Hermione's badgering.
Merlin didn't mind. He was fond of his time alone with Hermione. Harry once teased him that he was developing a crush on the girl, which made Merlin blush. He liked Hermione, but he refused to invest himself into a relationship when the stakes were so high. She was brilliant, and Merlin really did love their stimulating discussions, but it could never be more than that. The last time he let a woman into his heart she was murdered.
Merlin carried the weight of Freya with him everywhere he went. Her death meant more to him than many of the other casualties he witnessed because he had opened himself up to her. He was ready to move away to the scenic place of her lost childhood. He was going to help her cope with her curse, and love and protect her. He had been happy with her, but destiny has no care for frivolous emotions. Merlin had known this, but in his defiance he had made the choice to be selfish. He put his happiness before the wellbeing of the kingdom. It was his fault Freya died. Merlin would not compromise himself or anyone else. He could never be selfish.
So when Harry teased him about his feelings for Hermione, Merlin laughed it off and called him crazy. The look on Harry's face was disappointed, but Merlin would not put his friends in unnecessary danger.
Today, Hermione sat next to him in their charms class. She watched the small professor intently as he demonstrated a new spell, but Merlin wasn't paying attention. Hermione rolled her eyes and huffed after glancing at him. She was jealous of his ability to maintain outstanding grades, but never have to work to achieve them. Normally she would harass him to still pay attention, but today she decided to leave him alone knowing there must be a lot going through his mind. Just one day until the first trial.
After class Merlin decided to excuse himself from the group. As he turned to walk away he heard Harry call from behind him.
"Myron, wait up!" Harry waved Ron and Hermione off. Merlin and Harry synced their steps as they began walking in the opposite direction.
"Oh, nothing much. I just wanted to see how you were doing."
"I'm ok. What about you? Ready?"
"I hope so." Merlin nodded. The two walked in a comfortable silence until they reached a fork in their paths. "Alright, well, good luck Myron. I've got to go. See you tomorrow."
"Thanks, good luck to you too."
"Thanks!" Harry called, already walking away.
Merlin continued on, heading toward the Slytherin common room, when suddenly there was a loud ringing in his ears. Merlin clutched his head, feeling glad no one was around to see him stumble. Kilgharrah's voice thundered loudly in his mind.
"Merlin, MERLIN! Come quickly."
Merlin didn't bother to respond. Merlin looked around to make sure he was still alone before turning around and sprinting to the forbidden forest.
When Merlin got there he didn't take the time to enjoy the sudden burst magic. Instead, he pushed himself forward until he came to the clearing. Merlin panted and grabbed a nearby tree for support.
Kilgharrah hadn't arrived at the clearing yet, which made Merlin especially nervous. Why would the dragon rush him if he wasn't here?
After a few minutes Merlin heard a familiar flapping and was met by a cool breeze.
"What took you so long? I thought it was urgent?"
"I apologize, young warlock, but we must be cautious."
"Why? What's happening? Is it Morgana?" The dragon shook its head.
"Wait, then what is it?" Merlin asked as the immediate panic left his body and was replaced by a growing frustration for the dragon's unexplained urgency.
"I have learned of the first task for the trial to come." Merlin perked up.
"You did? That's great!" The dragon once again shook his head.
"I summoned you here to warn you of it. Though you are capable, you must prepare yourself or risk exposure of your identity."
"Why? What is it?"
"Yes, young warlock."
"No, wait, that's ridiculous. What sane person puts students in an arena with a dragon?!"
"This is the Triwizard Tournament. There is no sanity when the reward derives from material wealth and an eternal legacy of honor."
"What do I do? Is there a way to mask myself to them?"
"You cannot hide who you are. You are a dragonlord, and despite the fact these creatures may be an insult to historic dragon kind, they derive from our blood and will recognize your kinship."
"What does that mean?"
"It means the dragon you face can do no harm to you. Like I, they too must abide to your command."
"Then what can I do? If I talk to it, my identity as a dragonlord is exposed, and if I don't, it will what? Sit there and stare at me?"
"I cannot say how it will react."
"Where are the dragons now?"
"They are being guarded deeper in this forest, the reason for which I have been so cautious."
"I sent him off to the Isle of the Blessed. It was safer for him there."
"Ok, good. So these dragons, is there any way I could talk to them before the tournament?"
"I'm afraid not. They are heavily guarded and the guards take shifts every few minutes. Your presence would only instigate a frenzy, and if you are caught, your cover hangs in the balance." Merlin nodded his head slowly.
"So I improvise?"
"You will come up with something, but I thought it wise to give you time for preparation."
"Yeah, but you're the Great Dragon. I thought your wisdom preceded you?"
"Do not mock my intelligence boy! I have been of aid to you since your arrival in Camelot, but this trial is yours to face. I can advise you when you face your foe, but I cannot aid you against your kin."
"I'm sorry. Thank you." The dragon nodded slightly accepting Merlin's apology.
"I've heard that line before."
Today was the day. Like usual, Merlin woke before everyone else. His anxiety pressed against his chest making it difficult to sit still.
Merlin decided to head down to the common room. As Merlin sat himself down on one of the rather uncomfortable leather couches, the faculty dorm door opened and Severus Snape entered the common room.
"Morning." Merlin said. Severus Snape turned his head swiftly to see Merlin reclining on the couch.
"Up so early Mr. Emerson? Nervous for the big day?"
"Oh no. I'm up this early every morning. Sometimes I like to go for a walk before classes start, but today I didn't feel like it. What about you? You aren't usually up this early."
"No, I'm not."
"So, why are you? Restless nights perhaps?"
"It is none of your concern." He snapped.
"Ah, yep. Warm milk and honey."
"Try some warm milk and honey next time. It's soothing and will help you sleep. It's a trick I learned living amongst those without magic. Works like a charm."
"I didn't ask for your opinion on the matter."
"I know. And you're welcome." The professor rolled his eyes.
The rest of Merlin's morning from that point on was left in silence. Severus Snape had exited the common room to help with preparations for the trial. About an hour and a half later the rest of the castle began to wake. Merlin decided to go down to get breakfast early before the crowds swarmed around him to wish him luck for his big day.
Merlin didn't expect to see Harry there already, but he wasn't surprised. Without much thought Merlin headed for the Gryffindor table and took his seat next to Harry.
"Big day today." Merlin commented. Harry turned his head and offered a small smile.
"Yeah, big day." Harry repeated distractedly.
A moment later, Harry began looking around room as if worried someone were listening. When the coast was clear Harry leaned in closer to Merlin.
"Look, last night… Last night I decided to do some investigating. My dad left me with his invisibility cloak and I-um, I snuck out of the castle to try to figure out what the first task is."
"Did you?" Merlin asked.
"Yeah, I did."
"What is it?" Merlin played along.
"Dragons." The boy whispered.
"Seriously?" Merlin whispered back feigning his shock. Harry nodded.
"I know it's not a lot of time to prepare, but I thought I should give you a heads up."
"No, thank you. Wow. Dragons huh?"
"Yeah. I still can't believe they are putting us against those things."
Two hours later Harry and Merlin stood side by side in the champions' tent. Victor and Fleur arrived shortly after them.
The confident looks on the foreign competitors' faces told Merlin they had somehow been informed of what they would be facing.
The headmasters gathered together to explain what was about to happen.
"Each of you will draw a dragon replica out of this hat." Dumbledore began. "The replica you select will be the dragon you are to face in the arena. The goal is not necessarily to defeat the dragon, but to collect the golden egg it protects. Once you acquire the egg the dragon will be restrained and you will have completed the challenge. However, this task is not as easy as it may seem. Like many plants and creatures, dragons are equipped with defense mechanisms meant to protect it in its natural habitat. Each have their own weakness and their own defense. Be wary, and be warned."
Everyone stood silently. Dumbledore lifted a hat and began to pass it around.
Fleur was the first to draw. The dragon she pulled was a Common Welsh Green. Victor was next. He pulled a dragon known as a Chinese Fireball. Then it was Harry's turn. Harry slowly reached into the bag and drew his hand. It was a Hungarian Horntail.
Merlin's stomach dropped. Of course Harry would be put against one of the fiercest breeds of dragons to exist in this era. Merlin prayed the boy would be capable of doing this on his own. Suddenly the hat was thrust in front of him.
"Myron." Harry nudged him. Merlin looked down. It was his turn. Similar to Harry, Merlin slowly reached in the hat to pick up the last dragon. When he opened it he thought he would be relieved it was a considerably minor dragon compared to some of the ones the others got. The Swedish Short Snout. Merlin wished he could switch with Harry to protect him.
"Good luck everyone, and may the games begin." Dumbledore said, before exiting the tent to prepare the audience. Merlin could hear the crowd roar with excitement.
After the Hogwarts headmaster explained what was happening he called the first champion to battle. Fleur Delacour.
Fleur took a deep breath and stepped out of the tent. Merlin sat down while he waited for his turn, wondering what he would do to get past the dragon. Merlin was thankful the task was not a battle, but he worried for Harry. The Hungarian Horntail was no friendly beast. While it was nowhere near as mighty as Kilgharrah or Aithusa for that matter, it was fearsome amongst the dragons of the modern times.
Merlin wished he could watch the others battle, but they were forbidden. Harry sat close by, but remained silent, thinking of his own battle plan.
Ten minutes later Victor Krum was called. The man stood up proudly and held his head high as he marched out of the tent. It was just Merlin and Harry now.
Victor retrieved the egg much faster than Fleur had, but from the ruckus outside, it seemed there was a technical error that cost Victor some points.
"Harry Potter." Dumbledore called.
Merlin looked towards his friend. Harry's face was drained of its color. The boy took a deep breath and swallowed.
"Be brave." Merlin said just before Harry stepped out of the tent. Harry looked back and smiled. He didn't need to say anything.
As Harry exited the tent there was a roar from the audience. When the dragon was brought in there were cries of horror and gasps of fear. There was so much commotion Merlin couldn't make out anything that was being said. Merlin stood next to the tent wall closest to the arena hoping to make out what was going on.
"Accio Firebolt!" Merlin heard Harry call. Merlin couldn't help but laugh. Only Harry would summon a broom to take on a dragon.
Merlin thought about it for a moment and realized how strategic it actually was. If Harry could loop around the dragon on his broom he wouldn't have to actually face it. Merlin crossed his fingers and waited for the crowd to cheer. When the crowd cheered it would mean Harry succeeded. But there was nothing but silence. Minutes passed. Where were they?
Merlin stood impatiently tapping his foot waiting, hoping, his friend would be alright. As if on cue deafening cheers resounded around him. Harry did it. He was safe. Merlin breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment he had forgotten he still had to go.
"Myron Emerson." Dumbledore called. Then Merlin remembered. The relief he felt momentarily vanished and the panic returned. He still didn't have a plan!
Dumbledore called his name again. "Myron Emerson." This was it.
Merlin took a deep breath and entered the arena cautiously, not sure what to expect. The crowd cheered around him, but he ignored them.
In the center of the arena was the egg, but where was the dragon. Just then a green beast swooped down, putting itself in front of the egg. It hissed and roared, not realizing who it was up against. Merlin cautiously took a step forward, his wand drawn. The dragon screeched once again, but this time spit weak flames toward him. Merlin dived behind a rock. The dragon hadn't recognized him. Could it be Kilgharrah was wrong?
Merlin hesitantly looked behind him. The dragon was sniffing the air. Merlin stood up slowly, but the dragon turned to face him. As long as the dragon saw him as a threat, he was good. It sounded strange, but it was the only thing Merlin was worried about.
For a moment, Merlin thought he had done it and somehow managed to mask himself to the dragon. It continued to roar at him, but then Merlin took a step, and suddenly the dragon froze. In that moment, Merlin realized he was wrong. It knew. The dragon stared at him wide eyed and stilled. The crowd whispered. "What's happening?" "Did he cast a spell?" "What's the dragon doing?"
Merlin tried to send a message through his telepathic link, but it seemed these dragons were immune to telepathy. Merlin knew he couldn't just stand there. He needed to do something. His eyes quickly searched the crowd. He saw Draco in the Slytherin tower. The boy looked distressed. They met eyes for a moment, but then Merlin turned his gaze to the man next to Draco. Severus Snape.
Professor Snape knew something was wrong. To the audience, Merlin hoped it appeared as if he was simply paralyzed by fear. He didn't know what to do!
Merlin snapped his eyes back to the Swedish Short-Snout in front of him as it began to thrash violently. He backed up, unsure of what else to do. Merlin saw the headmasters stand up abruptly, something was wrong. The dragon continued to thrash and roar while Dumbledore shouted for orders to restrain it.
"No!" Merlin shouted as chains were thrown around it. "You're making it angry!"
The dragon then unfurled its wings and sent its captors flying through the air. The dragon flew up and shook its chains off. Merlin realized this was his chance. He didn't know what was happening, but the egg was unguarded. Merlin began to sprint towards the center, but suddenly another dragon appeared. The Hungarian Horntail. Somehow it had escaped from its cage, although Merlin wasn't surprised. Hungarian Horntails were known for their brutality and strength.
What did they want? The Swedish Short-Snout landed, and Merlin was cornered between the two. Teachers began ushering students out of the stands. It was no longer safe. The crowd wailed frantically at Merlin, but he continued to block out their cries. More chains were thrown at the dragons but they bat their wings and breathed their flames, warding off 'enemies'.
"Stop it!" Merlin yelled at the dragon tamers, but it was too late. More chains were brought to recapture the dragons.
Spells flew through the air and Merlin heard someone scream. The Chinese Fireball escaped and joined the other dragons in their fight. More spells. Merlin tried to assess the situation, but found it difficult as he ducked to avoid being hit by an unrestrained tail.
All their backs were towards him. Merlin was practically in the nest with the golden egg. The egg! Merlin immediately understood.
Dragons were extremely protective of their own, especially their children, which is why the acquirable item was molded into the form of an egg. Merlin, as a dragonlord, was their kin. They were protecting him.
"Stop!" Merlin yelled. "Everyone stop" He shouted. Merlin's voice thundered, reverberating between the mountains and arena. Everyone halted.
By now the entire stadium was cleared. Only the dragon tamers, headmasters, and a curious professor remained. "Everyone just stop." Merlin said again.
Merlin stood up and walked forward. The dragons began to move closer together to block his way towards the tamers, but Merlin held up his hand and shook his head. They stilled.
"How are you doing that?" An oddly familiar looking red headed tamer asked.
"I spent a lot of time with dragons before I came to this school. Call it a family business." The red head nodded surprised.
"Listen, I'm sorry about this, their trained! I don't know why they are acting like this." The man apologized.
"It's ok." Merlin said calmly. "But, I need all of you to step back. You're intimidating the dragons." The tamers looked at him like he was crazy.
"Look kid." Another tamer stated. "I've been dealing with dragons for over twenty years. I'm not taking orders from an amateur who's daddy took him to a dragon petting zoo." The man stepped forward. The Chinese Fireball lunged forward.
"I SAID BACK UP!" Merlin yelled as the dragon snapped, narrowly missing the man who jumped back. Everyone began to step back. The dragons relaxed as soon as the immediate threat was gone. They all turned towards him.
"Kid, are you ok!" Someone yelled.
"I'm fine!" He called back.
"Back-up is coming. Don't worry, we'll get you out of there."
"No, I can handle this."
"No, I've got this."
"I need everyone to leave."
"Hey, wait, but you just told us to back up!" A man shouted.
"Yeah, and now I'm telling you to leave." Merlin spoke sternly.
"Listen to him." A familiar cold voice said.
"Who are you to-"
"Listen. To. Him." Merlin didn't know what happened, but there must have been something in the professors eyes that made the man listen.
"Yeah, sure. Come on. Let's go everyone." Even the reluctant headmasters retreated.
"Thank You." Merlin said calmly. "Are we alone?" He asked.
"Yes. Everyone has left."
"Good. Now I'm going to need you not to freak out. You're going to want to, but right now, just don't freak out."
"What are doing?"
"Δράκους! άκουσέ με. Διατάζω να επιστρέψετε στο στο σόι σας. Αφήστε οι άνθρωποι είναι. Σας ευχαριστώ για τις υπηρεσίες σας, αλλά οι σχέσεις μας πρέπει να μείνει μυστική. Τώρα πάμε." Merlin commanded the dragons to return to their homes and warned them not to harm their captors. He then sent them off.
The dragons departed leaving Severus Snape standing next to the exit of the arena, mouth agape.
"What, did you just do?" The man looked at him as if he were alien.
"I told you not to freak out." Merlin sighed. The professor continued to glare at him. "I'll make this simple and just say it flat out. I'm a dragonlord. The last, dragonlord."
Thank you everyone so much! I know it was long, but hopefully it lived up to your expectations? Let me know by clicking that magical review button.