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Oh Merlin!

Chapter Text

She sensed it instinctively before she felt it. He’d found them. The warlock rushed to the crystal and looked into it to see the events. Damn. She thought. James Potter was already dead and Voldemort was blasting in the door to the nursery.

“Not Harry! Please not Harry” Lily Evans was pleading with Voldemort. It wouldn’t be any use. But as she died, the warlock saw a spark of opportunity. She’d sacrificed herself. That was old magic and with just the right nudge…

Harry was protected. Voldemort was powerless. And Harry was an orphan. It was always the innocent who were the casualties in war. She shut her eyes in grief but allowed a small, sad smile to grace her features. There would be peace for now. Only for a while, but long enough that this time, they could prepare. Merlin smirked. The Old Religion was calling her and her magic was humming. She was being allowed to get directly involved. Now all she had to do was watch and wait, and when the time was right, she’d become a student and finally be able to interfere to the best of her ability. She watched long enough to ensure that Harry would be safe and cursed under her breath when she saw what would happen to Sirius. She laid one final enchantment before releasing the crystal and scrying for the recently reborn Round Table. She saw them all as children and smiled at Morgana’s antics in attracting Arthur’s attention and sighed when she saw that Mordred would soon be without parents. With a final glance at the crystal and her old friends who were now children, she put away the crystal and prepared to sneak into Hogwarts in order to ensure she received her letter. As she left she failed to notice the crystal glow slightly as it zoomed in on a young girl, barely a toddler, with dark hair and blue eyes who woke from her troubled sleep with a cry as her eyes glowed gold and a glass of water smashed on her bedside table.

Chapter Text


9 Years, 9 Months later – Pendragon Household

"Morgana! Hogwarts letters are here!" Arthur shouted from the kitchen.

"What?!" Morgana yelled from where she was attempting to put on her eyeliner.

"Hogwarts letters!"

"Letters?" She called vaguely, not paying attention.

"Yes! From Hogwarts! Morgana!" Arthur just knew his sister wasn't paying attention.

Mordred rolled his eyes as he walked into the kitchen. His foster siblings would never change. He swiped his letter from where Arthur was attempting to remove it from the owl and removed Morgana's as well. The owl hooted its gratitude and flew out of the open window as Uther stumbled into the room.

"What is that infernal racket?" he demanded.

Even after having been adopted by him for nearly nine years, Mordred was still uneasy around Uther Pendragon. Of course that probably had something to do with Uther attempting to kill him back in Camelot.

"Don't worry dad, it's just an owl." Arthur grinned at him cheekily, the new lifetime had done wonders on the relationship between father and son, probably helped by the memories of mistakes of years past.

Uther muttered something about "infernal postage methods" and "why they can't just use a postman is beyond me" as he sat down and poured some coffee.

Mordred was just examining his latest booklist, for books on his newest subjects (Unfogging the Future and Numerology and Grammatica) and the one assigned by the new annual DADA teacher (The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection) when Morgana strolled in.

Uther looked up from his coffee, "Morning."

Arthur echoed his greeting and smirked, hiding the Hogwarts letter behind his back.

"Good morning!" Morgana's reply was so enthusiastic that both Arthur and Mordred immediately stared at her in alarm.

"Oh, don't look at me like that! Can't I just be in a good mood?"

"You're never in a good mood." Mordred's reply came incredulously at the same time that Arthur snorted.

"Not in this universe."

This earned him a scowl from Morgana. "Well if you insist, I had a good night's sleep for once and I'm going shopping with Gwen later."

"That's always good to know." Mordred replied before Arthur could get a word in edgewise in order to head off whatever inappropriate comment he was about to make.

Unfortunately that was around the time that she noticed the parchment on the table next to him. "Hogwarts letters! Brilliant! What subjects did you take?" she asked, before snatching his booklist off the table to examine it herself. "Ooh, Arithmancy. Good choice. Divination, on the other hand, not such a great decision. Professor Trelawney's completely barmy."

"Just because you're a natural seer, doesn't mean we all have that luxury. Merlin never got around to teaching me to scry in Camelot, so even if that's the only thing I learn then it will be time well spent." He responded somewhat snippily.

"As long as you all get good grades, I don't care if you take underwater basket weaving." Uther declared. Which earned him some very weird looks from his three kids.

"Anyway…" Morgana looked at him weirdly then fixed Arthur with her 'I-know-you-did-it-don't-even-try-and-hide-it' look; "Where did you put my letter?"

"What makes you think I took it?" Arthur did his best to look insulted. "It could just as easily have been Mordred."

Mordred resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

"Because it's always you." Morgana stated flatly.

"Besides, I'm not stupid enough to get on Morgana's bad side." Mordred pointed out.

"You mean except that time when you quite literally stabbed her in the back?" came the snarky reply.

"Boys." Uther warned, barely looking up from the newspaper he'd started to read.

"That was in Camelot! This is the modern world! Anyway, it's better to get on Morgana's bad side than on Merlin's. She's absolutely terrifying when she's angry." Mordred argued.

"Getting back to the point." Morgana interrupted, "Hand over the letter now, before I hex you."

Arthur grumbled to himself, it was awful living with a witch who could and would make his life hell. He reluctantly handed over the letter.

"Thank you." Morgana beamed, before frowning. "It's heavier than it normally… Oh." The badge that had fallen out when she emptied the envelope shone brightly in the sunlight coming in through the window, making it quite easy to see the engraved 'HG' that adorned the badge.

Mordred smiled widely. "You're Head Girl! Congratulations Morgana!"

Morgana looked quite faint but managed to respond with a quiet "Yeah" before Arthur and Uther jumped up and congratulated her, before pulling her into a group hug that Mordred happily joined, ecstatic that the woman who had been his big sister for so many years had received recognition for her natural talents at magic and constant dedication to Hogwarts.

"I-I'm Head Girl!" It had finally sunk in for Morgana as she squealed loudly and vanished upstairs.

"What do you think she's doing now?" asked Arthur in a tone that was equal parts fond and exasperated.

"Probably to owl her friends." Mordred replied absent-mindedly, then shot out of his seat. "Morgana, don't you dare take Fugol!" His bird was often commandeered by Morgana due to her preference for felines and lack of an owl of her own.

There was no response and Mordred immediately ran out of the room.

Arthur opened his mouth to comment on owls when the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it." He called sarcastically when there was no response from upstairs and his father made no move to get up.

He swung the door open and whatever he was going to say died on his lips.

"Hello Arthur." Guinevere smiled at him broadly.

Somehow, despite having previously been married to her, Arthur still found himself completely tongue-tied around his sister's best friend.

"Guinevere." He responded, unsure of what else to say.

"Is Morgana in? We're going shopping today." Gwen's grin never faltered, and if anything became more pronounced as Arthur struggled to form a coherent response of 'yes he knew that and would she like to go out with him sometime'. He was just working up the courage to finally ask her out when Morgana barged down the stairs and flung her arms around the visiting girl.

"I made Head Girl!" she crowed.

"Congratulations! You must be so pleased!"

"If not a little surprised that Dumbledore considered me." Morgana admitted.

"She looked like she'd been hit over the head." Arthur snickered.

"Not to mention the speechlessness. I never thought I'd see the day! Well except for when Leon asked her to marry him in front of the entirety of Camelot." Mordred joined in on the goading in retaliation for Morgana stealing his owl. Again.

Morgana scowled at them both but smiled at Gwen. "Do you want to come in?" she then hissed at Arthur; "I can't believe you made her stand in the doorway!"

Gwen thanked her and walked through to the kitchen. "Good morning Mr Pendragon." She politely acknowledged the father of her best friend.

"Guinevere! It's lovely to see you. How's your father? Elyan?" Uther made it his mission to make up for the mistakes he had made as king and always insisted on inquiring about the well-being of the family of his children's friends.

"They're very well. Elyan just completed the first part of his course, and dad's got a really big customer at the moment."

"That's good to hear. Has Morgana told you yet? She made Head Girl." Uther's tone showed that he couldn't be prouder of his daughter.

Gwen smiled, as the only non-magical friend of Morgana she sometimes felt left out, despite the dark-haired girl insisting that Gwen was her only true friend and the person who understood her the best; she felt extremely proud of her former mistress and sister-in-law for becoming Head Girl.

"This calls for a celebration! I'm sure you can contact your magical friends and I'll book a table at Pizza Express, so we can all go out for a meal together after shopping!" Gwen decided that her friend deserved a nice day out.

Morgana's grin only widened. "I'll floo call them right away!" then her face lit up even further. "We can talk boys and you can finally tell me all about Mr Dashing that seems to have caught your eye."

Gwen froze and realised exactly what she'd let herself in for. She let out a tiny smile before she giggled. "Only if we can talk about whoever's got you all in tizzy!"

The girls laughed happily as the three men of the Pendragon household froze at the implications and immediately made themselves scarce.


Malfoy Manor – Same Day

Draco hurried to the dining room, doing his best to remain composed as his father had taught him, but found it difficult to contain his excitement.

"Good Morning father, mother." He kissed his mother on the cheek and sat down before looking up eagerly. "Has it arrived yet?"

Narcissa Malfoy smiled at her son fondly. "Yes darling. It arrived just a few minutes ago. Here you are." She handed over the letter and her smile widened at his evident eagerness.

Lucius looked down his nose in disapproval of his son's juvenile behaviour but allowed the corners of his lips to tilt slightly upwards.

"Can we go to Diagon Alley to get my books today? Will I get my wand? Do you think we'll see Harry Potter? What's the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher called? Can I get an owl?"

Lucius held up a hand to stem the flow of enthusiastic questions. "I would like you to make friends with the young Mr Potter at the earliest opportunity Draco. Is that understood? If the Dark Lord returns we must be in a position to gain his favour."

Draco nodded his head, feeling chastised.

"However, we will be going to Diagon Alley today to get your school supplies and you may buy an owl."

Draco's grin split his face and he hugged his father. "Thank you!"

Lucius frowned. He had taught his son to not interact with people in such a familiar way, but supposed he could forgive it just this once in light of the circumstances. He watched his on dash away to get changed and supressed a scowl at the undignified behaviour.

"Do go easy on him dear. He's only a child." Narcissa gently reminded him.

"As true as that may be, I have taught him better than that and he is a pureblood. He must learn." He snapped at his wife.

Narcissa fell silent for a moment. "Dobby, Mipsy!"

Two House Elves appeared out of nowhere.

"We're going out. Ensure that the house is cleaned and dinner is ready for seven o'clock sharp." She told them imperiously.

"Yes, Miss Narcissa."

"Yes, Mistress Malfoy." The two elves responded before disappearing with a loud 'CRACK'.

Narcissa rose from her seat gracefully and dutifully kissed her husband on the cheek. "I'll go make sure Draco's dressed properly. Do enjoy the rest of breakfast."

"He's old enough to dress himself Narcissa!" Lucius was a firm believer in making children learn to take care of themselves.

Narcissa simply smiled at her husband and left the room in pursuit of her son, who she strongly believed would never be too old for her to take care of him.


Rowan Household

"Niamh! Niamh! Niamh!" Elaine Rowan called her daughter for the fifth, sixth and seventh times that morning.

"What, Mum?!" an annoyed and grumpy voice called as its owner slouched into the kitchen.

"It's time to get up, breakfast's on the table and your Hogwarts letter just arrived" Elaine listed as her daughter made a beeline for the table, only to slap Niamh's hands away from the coffee pot. "Niamh Cara Rowan! You are twelve years old! What do you think you are doing?"

Niamh rolled her eyes, "Its coffee mum. Not alcohol. Relax would you."

"Yes, I'm aware that its coffee. But that doesn't mean you should be drinking it."

Niamh huffed but didn't complain any further. Sometimes she seemed much older than twelve and far more knowledgeable than any child should be. She had wisdom beyond her years, and it worried Elaine. If only her husband Caradoc were still alive. She may be the witch in the family, but her husband had always understood their daughter better.

"Here's your letter." Elaine handed over the parchment and scrutinised her daughter as she read her letter.

"Mum, I'm not going to vanish, please quit staring at me like that." Niamh said without once looking up. She knew her mother worried about her, especially since her father had died, but it irritated her to no end how her mother tried to puzzle her out. Niamh knew that her mother thought she acted too old for her age, but she just couldn't help it. She had memories of a life where she was far older and couldn't unlearn the knowledge she had remembered. Nor would she want to. The ability to feel the land that came with the magic of the Old Religion was something she never intended to lose.

Elaine let a smile cross her features as she sipped her coffee, still observing her daughter. Unlike her Ravenclaw mother, Niamh was a Slytherin to the core, and although that worried Elaine, it also reassured her that if nothing else, her daughter was resourceful enough to take care of herself.

Niamh frowned at the title of the DADA book she was required to get. "The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection. Who do you reckon assigned that?"

"Honestly Niamh, just because I sometimes do work for the ministry, doesn't mean I know every wizard in existence. Who wrote the book? It might let us know if the teacher has any potential or not."

"Quentin Trimble. But it doesn't really matter how good the teacher is, he'll be gone by the end of the year anyway."

"Trimble's books are fairly well written and comprehensive, but not that easy to understand. And what do you mean the teacher will 'be gone by the end of the year anyway'?"

"Everyone knows the job's jinxed. I asked around last year about the teachers and apparently there hasn't been a DADA teacher that lasted more than a year since before Voldemort was defeated."

Elaine flinched. "I don't understand why you insist on saying the name, but if that is the case then I may have to tutor you over the summer to ensure your knowledge of DADA isn't to patchy."

Niamh rolled her bright blue eyes. "Your specialty is in charms, mum. Not DADA. And I fear the name Merlin far more than Voldemort."

Elaine flinched again, but nodded, acknowledging that her daughter had a point about DADA but not understanding the Merlin comment. "That's true, but if you feel like you're unprepared for your DADA O.W.L. you must tell me."

"I'm a second year!" Niamh understood her mother's concern, but in all honesty she knew far more about the Dark Arts and how to defend against them than any teacher could ever tell her. "So, Diagon Alley today then?" she swiftly changed the subject.

Elaine recognised the subject change for what it was – an avoidance tactic – but let it go all the same. "Finish your breakfast and get changed. We're leaving in half an hour."

Niamh nodded and started wolfing down her breakfast. There were several additional books she wanted to buy from Flourish & Blotts and if she could butter up her mum she had a better chance of getting them. Maybe she'd even make some friend's at school this year.


Merlin's House

The traditional Hogwarts school barn owl swept through the kitchen where Merlin was having breakfast. She stood up and untied the letter, casting the ageing spell as she did, so that she appeared eleven years old rather than anywhere between fifteen and mid-twenties.

"Gimmy, Dori, could you please make sure that any mail that I receive when away at school is filtered and only urgent messages are sent through along with The Daily Prophet and correspondence from my 'aunt'." Merlin asked the only two House Elves that lived with her.

"Of course Emrys. While you are away today we will tidy the house and sort out anything that you will want to take to Hogwarts that isn't too incriminating. We will also make sure that the workroom and library are organised so that anything you request of us via mail can be easily found and sent to you." Dori announced as Gimmy cleared away the plates.

"Thank you. I really don't deserve you. You're so good to me." Merlin was amazed at the loyalty her House Elves showed her, and could honestly admit that even though the spell that fabricated the Ambrosius line was efficient in creating a continuous false family to give her a background, it would never have worked without the dedication of her House Elves.

"Yes you do Emrys." Gimmy contradicted her.

There was also the fact that despite everything she could never get any House Elf to call her anything other than Emrys, with the exception of the Hogwarts House Elves, who would call her Miss Ambrosius.

"I think I'll go to Diagon Alley today, if that's alright. I need to reintegrate if I'm going to Hogwarts."

"Of course Emrys." Dori accepted the statement as an order which was something she had really tried to stop but never quite managed.

Well, it's time for the world to meet Emma Ambrosius Merlin thought as she threw floo powder into the fireplace and spun away.


Lake of Avalon

Freya smiled as she watched the various groups all head out. Future friends, enemies, acquaintances and more. Harry would meet his enemy today as surely as he had found a friend. Mordred and Morgana would encounter an old friend from times long past. Niamh had taken the first step to finding the people who she would later become inseparable from. And Merlin was ready to enter Hogwarts for the first time since before Tom Riddle. The future had been set in motion and she had no doubt that it would be interesting to watch. Especially if Morgana, Merlin and a certain dark-haired witch had their way.

Chapter Text

September 1st 9.50 AM – Pendragon Household

"Come on! We're going to be late!" Mordred knew that it took girls longer to get dressed, but this was just getting ridiculous!

"Five more minutes!"

"Morgana, it'll take an hour to get to King's Cross! We don't have five minutes!" Uther had finally decided to weigh in on the argument to try and get Morgana to hurry up.

"I'll apparate to the station, just go ahead with Mordred." Morgana had appeared at the top of the stairs and Mordred could only gape at her. She wasn't even dressed!

"Fine, but if you miss the train, on your head be it!" Uther then grabbed Fugol's cage and marched out of the house, passing a groggy Arthur, who swore when he noticed the time.

"Bye Arthur, see you at Christmas! I'll write to you." Mordred called on his way out the door. "See you later Morgana!"


Rowan Household

"Come on Niamh!" Elaine couldn't understand what was taking her daughter so long. She opened the door and her mouth fell open.

The moment she heard the handle turn, Niamh cut the magic to the spell she was using to pack her clothes whilst she sorted out the books she was taking with her, resulting in a mess of clothes and equipment scattered across the floor.

"Niamh Cara Rowan! Are you only packing now?!" Elaine couldn't believe it.

"Sorry?" Niamh tried.

Elaine sighed, but waved her wand in a sweeping motion, causing all the objects that Niamh needed to take to fly neatly into her trunk, which then promptly latched itself.

"Thanks mum." Niamh grinned.

"If you've forgotten anything, I can send it to you via owl. Now come on, we have to go."

Niamh nodded, grabbed her owl's cage and flew out the door and down the stairs. "Come on mum! We don't want to be late!"

Elaine let out an incredulous laugh and pointed her wand at the trunk that Niamh had so conveniently left behind. "Locomotor Trunk." With a shake of her head she closed the door and took the trunk to the car. Kids.


Kings Cross Station 10.50 AM

Merlin watched as Harry Potter approached the Weasleys.

"Excuse me," he said politely. As Mrs Weasley, Molly, if Merlin remembered correctly, began to talk to him, she too walked towards the Weasley family.

"…that's very important." Mrs Weasley had just finished her explanation when Merlin walked up and interrupted.

"I'm so sorry, but do you-"

"-know how to get onto the platform?" Mrs Weasley guessed.

"No." Merlin laughed nervously, "I was actually wondering if you had the time. Only I know the train leaves at eleven and I forgot to ask my aunt when she dropped me off."

Mrs Weasley looked at the girl sympathetically. She wasn't any older than Ronald, but her guardian had just left her here all on her own. "It's ten to eleven dear." She told her. Why don't you go ahead now, just before this young man?"

"Thank you." The girl smiled at her thankfully, her blue eyes sparkling and then turned around and ran at the barrier.

"There you go dear. It's easy. Go on now." She smiled at the boy who had asked for directions and looked frighteningly familiar, although she didn't know how, and watched as he gulped nervously.

"Er – OK." he said, looking apprehensive, but turned around and ran at the barrier anyway.


Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

Merlin pulled on her trunk and promptly dropped it on her foot. "OW! Goddammit!" she swore.

"Would you like some help?" A kind voice asked. "Here you go." The weight lifted off her toes and she sighed in relief.

"Thank you." She turned around at her saviour as he lifted her trunk into the carriage and stopped short. The face she saw had once featured in many of her nightmares alongside a flaming pyre and paralyzing fear.

"My pleasure." Uther Pendragon said. Then frowned. She looked so familiar to him, almost as if he had met her before. She also looked like a deer caught in the headlights, which prompted him to ask,

"Are you OK? You look a little faint."

"I'm fine." This was so surreal. The man who had once inspired terror in thousands and hatred in millions was now looking at her in genuine concern, when there was once a time when he would have happily executed her.

"Are you sure?" Uther asked, before it hit him. Black hair, blue eyes, big ears. This was Merlin! The girl all three of his children had searched for and sorely missed. The woman who had continuously saved his sons life and who had been mistaken for a boy by said son. The person who had managed to practise magic in Camelot right under his nose for years on end. He re-evaluated her. So this was what she had looked like as a child.

"Absolutely!" Merlin really hoped he didn't remember. "Thanks anyway though." She sent him a genuine smile and slipped onto the train.

Uther watched her go and chuckled to himself. He wouldn't tell the children. It would be a nice surprise. Although he would have paid a lot of money to see the look on their faces.

Merlin thought she heard him chuckle quietly behind her but didn't give it much thought as she entered the nearest empty compartment.

Niamh looked up as a small girl with big ears opened the door to the compartment and practically fell in.

"Oh my God! Are you okay?" she exclaimed, helping the girl up, receiving a shock as she recognised her.

"I'm fine, really. It happens all the time." Merlin reassured her, as she dusted herself off for approximately the fifth time that morning. Not that she had kept count. "I'm Emma by the way. Emma Ambrosius." She held out her hand for the other girl to take.

"Nice to meet you, I'm Niamh. I haven't seen you before, so I assume you must be a first year. I'm a second year." She shook 'Emma's' hand, outwardly composed, whilst inwardly she was hyperventilating. Oh God, oh God. It's Merlin! Does she know who I am? Oh God please don't let her recognise me.

Merlin got a jolt of familiarity from Niamh's magic as she shook hands with her and looked into bright blue eyes that gave her a massive sense of déjà vu, although she could swear she'd never seen them before. She wondered if this girl was the reincarnation of someone she had met in Camelot, but immediately dismissed the notion as she knew that none of her friends had had this magic and she doubted she had ever been exposed to it for a large period of time, as was likely if this was a reincarnation.

Niamh saw no recognition in the younger girl's eyes and let out an inward sigh of relief. Merlin didn't have her memories, and even if she did, they had never spent enough time together for Merlin to recognise her magic. The only risk was that Merlin may recognise her as she grew older but if she could prove that she wasn't an enemy then they should be fine.

"It's nice to meet you Niamh. What house are you in?" Merlin dismissed the familiarity, sure that if she did know this girl then she would remember her sooner or later.

"Slytherin. It's got a bad reputation but I think it's great. What about you? I know that the Ambrosius family don't generally go to Hogwarts." Niamh remembered reading about them. They had a reputation for being reclusive, and had strong ties to the centaurs and the goblins. If she was remembering correctly, they were also rumoured to be descended from Merlin. How ironic. Niamh thought, her ruby lips stretching into a smirk.

"Yes, that's true. We have a reputation for being reclusive, but there have been many of my ancestors who attended Hogwarts. We don't generally follow a set pattern or stick to one house though. We have a colourful history and I think we've had an equal amount of members in all houses. I really don't know what house I'm going to be in, but I think it would be brilliant to be in Slytherin. Just to prove that not all Slytherins are evil gits, you know?" Merlin smiled back at Niamh who was wearing a very familiar smirk. Oh. That's who she is. I wonder if she remembers me. If she does, then she's not holding a grudge. Thank the triple goddess. She actually seems to be a really nice person. 

"Oh yes! Slytherins are freaking awesome!" Niamh was glad that Merlin was still as unprejudiced as she had always been. I should probably start calling her Emma.

"I heard that the Gryffindor common room is amazing though."

"It's sad you can't have both. Unfortunately the Gryffindor-Slytherin rivalry has been going on for centuries and it's still as strong as ever. More's the pity." Niamh sighed in disappointment. She heard the Gryffindorks threw awesome parties.

"Who says you can't?" Merlin's grin split her face from ear to ear as an idea started to form in her mind.

Niamh stared at Emma warily, the smile on her face spelled trouble. Just as she was about to ask Emma just what hare-brained plan she had, the door slammed open and the second person of the day fell into the compartment. This time the intruder/accident-magnet was a round-faced boy who looked like he'd rather be anywhere else and a girl with bushy hair was standing behind him.

"I'm so sorry!" Clumsy, as she'd dubbed him, stuttered. "I didn't want to disturb you, it's just that-"

"What Neville's trying to say is that all the other compartments are full so would you mind terribly if we sat with you?" Bushy interrupted him in a bossy-sounding voice.

It was at this point that the train started moving and Emma decided to pipe up. "Of course we don't mind. There's plenty of room, go ahead and sit down."

Niamh huffed in irritation, these two didn't seem like Slytherin material and she usually found the other houses to be irritating, but she let them sit down because Emma had invited them to and she was the exception to the rule. Niamh really liked her and hoped that they would remain friends in this life, rather than becoming enemies, and if that meant putting up with a couple of irritating firsties then that was a price she'd pay.

"Thank you." Bushy addressed Emma and shot an irritated look at Niamh who was glaring at her.

"I'm Hermione Granger, and this is Neville Longbottom."

"Emma Ambrosius. And this is Niamh Rowan. She's a second year, but I'm a first year like you two. And I'm sorry about your parents Neville."

Neville looked at her. How does she know that? He wondered, but aloud he simply said "Thank you."

Niamh and Hermione watched the exchange curiously, wondering what it meant.

Neville then continued, despite the voice in his head yelling at him to 'shut up, shut up!' "I've heard of your family. No one knows very much about them. You're not prejudiced against muggleborns are you?" this last bit was asked worriedly, because so far Hermione had been the only person to be nice to him and he didn't want the two girls to be mean to her.

"No, not at all." Emma reassured him. Then she looked at Niamh who until now had just sat mutinously in the corner. "What about you Niamh. You're a Slytherin. Do you have any prejudices?"

By this point Hermione was leaning forward, interested in the conversation taking place.

Niamh scoffed. "Yeah. I really hate stupid people and wet blankets. Seriously though, it would be a bit hypocritical if I was prejudiced. I'm a half-blood. My dad was a muggle."

This caused both Bushy and Clumsy to stare at her in surprise (she refused to call them anything else until they proved that they were decent people).

"I thought all Slytherins were purebloods." Hermione curiously regarded the second year as she cautiously voiced her thoughts.

This time it was Emma who scoffed. "That's complete rubbish. There aren't enough purebloods to fill a whole house and that's not even counting the fact that there are plenty of pureblood families who tend towards other houses. "

Hermione looked at her inquisitively. "What about you? I mean I'm a muggleborn and you obviously know that Neville's a pureblood. Niamh just announced she's a half-blood. So what are you?"

"What's my blood status, you mean? I'm of the House of Ambrosius but I'm a half-blood."

Neville tilted his head. "I never got that. It's still the House of Ambrosius even though there have been practically no boys ever born into the family."

Emma grinned. "We're a matriarchal family. The name gets passed down through the female line. No idea why though." Unless you count the fact I'm the only actual Ambrosius. Merlin added silently.

Hermione leaned forward. "Is your family famous then?"

Emma opened her mouth to reply but Niamh interrupted her, "Fairly famous yeah. They also have a reputation for being massively reclusive. Barely any of them ever come to Hogwarts. Emma here's an exception."

Merlin scowled but let the explanation pass by. "Unlike most other families, we don't have a familial majority in any of the houses either."

Hermione absorbed that and then asked the question that had been bugging her for a while. "What are the houses? How are they different? So far all I've got is that Slytherins are evil, Hufflepuffs are lame, Ravenclaws are nerds and Gryffindors throw wild parties."

This caused the three other occupants of the compartment to laugh. Loudly.

"That is the best thing I've heard all day!" Niamh was crying from laughter. "You have just made my day Bushy. Seriously."

Hermione scowled at the nickname but let it pass directing a questioning look at her other two companions.

Once Merlin had caught her breath enough to talk she began to explain the house traits. "Gryffindor values the qualities of daring, nerve, chivalry and courage. The house mascot is a lion. Hufflepuff favours the hard-working, loyal, honest and just. They don't really have any prejudices and have the mascot of a badger. Ravenclaws are intelligent, wise, and imaginative and generally enjoy learning and being challenged. Their symbol is an eagle. Slytherins… well Niamh, why don't you describe them?"

This made Niamh perk up and she put on a snotty voice. "Slytherins are ambitious, cunning, manipulative, resourceful, shrewd and good at keeping secrets. The house values those with leadership qualities and those with a good sense of preservation. That's why our house is generally considered evil – because we don't advertise our loyalties and are loyal predominantly to each other. We hesitate before we act. Oh and our symbol is the mighty snake."

The other three absorbed this knowledge before laughing at the tone with which the information was delivered. Niamh managed to keep a straight face for a little longer before succumbing to her own amusement.

It was several hours later, after the food cart had passed and whilst Niamh was admiring the Merlin card she held and wondering what the actual Merlin thought of it when Neville cried out in dismay.

"Trevor!"

Both Niamh and Emma stared at him startled until Hermione explained, "Trevor is his toad."

"I've lost him again! Gran'll kill me."

"Don't worry. We'll help you find him." Emma reassured him, causing Niamh to look at her.

"We will?"

"Yes, Niamh. We will."

"Ok then, why don't you three 'ickle firsties' go and ask around and I'll wait here, see if Trevor comes back." Niamh promptly kicked them out of the compartment and grinned. It's nice to be a second year.

Neville, Hermione and Emma looked at each other as the door closed. They'd already changed into their robes and probably wouldn't need to go back in there, but that was rather rude. Hermione voiced this thought but Emma dismissed it.

"She probably just got fed up. She wasn't very happy to be sharing her compartment in the first place and although she liked us she probably just wants some space and a bit of privacy."

Neville shrugged. He was a bit more confident around them now, but was rather upset that Trevor had gone missing again. "I guess we should start asking then. He keeps getting away from me! I don't want to lose him!"

Neville went ahead and asked in the first few compartments to the left and Emma went right, to the few that were this end of the carriage. Hermione watched them and saw that Neville wasn't doing much so she followed him.

Merlin glanced over her shoulder to make sure no one was watching and cast a quick spell to find out where Trevor was. He wasn't very far, so she relaxed against the outside of their compartment and watched as further up the train Hermione pushed Neville into one of the compartments he'd already checked. She slid back into the compartment and smiled at Niamh before rummaging around her trunk for her 'wand'.

"Any idea of how long we've got left of the train ride? I'm starving." Merlin stowed her 'wand' in her robes and shut her trunk.

"I don't think it's much longer. What's your wand made out of? It looks old." Niamh was curious to see what kind of wood the wand of the incarnation of the wizarding world's God was made out of.

"Old English Oak and dragon heartstring." Lie. It's actually an ex-Sidhe staff whose magic I metamorphed for my own use and then wandlessly transfigured to appear as one of those sticks that modern wizards use to channel their magic. "Yours?"

"Don't laugh." Emma looked at her curiously. "It’s Rowan wood with a core of dragon heartstring, apparently it came from a Hungarian Horntail."

Merlin managed to suppress a snort at the fact that Niamh Rowan had a wand made of Rowan wood and smiled. "That means that you're clear-headed and pure-hearted. It’s also said that no dark witch or wizard ever had a Rowan wood wand. So that's proof that you're not an evil Slytherin git." Merlin was pleased about the fact that this meant the odds were in the favour of her and Niamh remaining friends and Niamh opposing the darkness that was to come.

Niamh looked at Emma, perplexed. "How do you know that?"

"There's some books on wand lore in my family's library. I read up on it after I got my wand because I was interested." Lie. I created the first sticks to channel magic that eventually became modern wands and was the first person to identify the correlation between wood type and personality. 

"Cool. What does English oak mean?"

"That I'm loyal, strong and courageous. Sorry, I should probably go look for Trevor now." Merlin stood up abruptly, having seen Draco Malfoy and two boys who would later become his henchmen, go past the compartment in the direction of the compartment that she could sense Harry Potter in.

Niamh frowned, but before she could say anything, Emma was gone.

Merlin got to the compartment just in time to hear Draco say: "And my name's Malfoy, Draco Malfoy."

Merlin took this as her cue, covering Ron's cough. "So you're like James Bond then?"

Draco looked at the dark-haired newcomer with confusion. "Who?"

"You know, 007, licence to kill?" Merlin couldn't believe her ears. This kid had never heard of James Bond and from the looks of it Ron and the henchmen hadn't either. Ok, so they were purebloods, but she knew who he was and she was hundreds of years old for crying out loud.

"I'm guessing you must be a muggleborn!" Draco spat out the word 'muggleborn' as if it were poison. If his father could see him now, then he would be proud.

Merlin simply looked at him impassively. "I don't have to be a muggleborn to have an appreciation of muggle culture. They are awfully clever and come up with the best stories. It's a hazard of being magical you see. A lack of imagination, I mean."

Draco looked at her in disbelief. "Why in Merlin's name would you need an imagination?" He thought the girl looked uncomfortable when he said 'Merlin' but he couldn't be sure.

"It makes things interesting. Like for instance, right now, I'm imagining you being slowly transfigured into a cross between a billywig and a flobberworm. Wonderful thing, imagination. Of course a dollophead like you wouldn't know that." Merlin wondered if he understood the point she was trying to make.

Draco wasn't sure which part of her little speech was more insulting. "Who are you?"

"Oh, of course. I'm Emma, Emma Ambrosius." Merlin made an imitation of the way Draco had introduced himself, which seemed to greatly amuse both Harry and Ron. "What about you two?" she asked them.

"This is Ron, and I'm Harry." Harry decided to introduce himself to the blue-eyed girl who was ridiculing Malfoy.

"Harry Potter you mean?" Harry suppressed a groan at Emma's words. "Not that you'd be anything other than a Potter with hair like that."

Harry opened his mouth to ask her what on earth she meant when Malfoy interrupted, having recovered from his shock. "You're an Ambrosius?!"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Emma put her hands on her hips and glowered at him.

"The House of Ambrosius is an ancient and respected pureblood family, but you're defending muggles and probably associate with muggleborns." Draco was dumbfounded. His entire life his father had taught him all about what a respected pureblood was and how they acted. The House of Ambrosius were revered in his household, for their prominent bloodline, and yet this big-eared little girl was systematically turning everything he'd ever learnt on its head.

"There is so much wrong with that statement that I don't even know where to start. Firstly, blood status is just a chance of birth, therefore don't act so snotty about it. Secondly, muggles are people too. In fact many muggles are smarter than wizards. Thirdly, I don't understand why everyone had to put such labels on things! And fourthly, I may want to be a Slytherin, but that's only to prove that not all Slytherins are pureblood elitists and evil gits. Furthermore, I'm not a pureblood, despite what you may think about my family. I'm a half-blood and proud of it!"

Emma paused for breath but looked like she could go on in that vein for some time and Malfoy looked as though he'd been wacked across the face with a shovel (which was something Harry privately thought would be hilarious), so Harry interjected before she could continue. "What did you mean? About my hair?"

Emma looked at him, perplexed. "Oh, right! My mum used to know your parents and had several pictures of them that she showed me. The messy black hair is apparently a family trait."

Malfoy intruded on their conversation. "What do you mean you're a half-blood?!"

"I mean that I have one muggle parent and one magical parent." It just so happens that despite what you will assume, my mother's not the magical one.

Draco was now past shocked and on his way to traumatised, having found out that so many of the things his father had taught him had been a lie. In an attempt to get the last word, Draco sneered at the Weasley and told both Potter and Emma (he somehow couldn't think of her as 'Ambrosius'), "If you hang out with riff-raff like Weasley, it'll rub off on you." Before attempting to emulate his father and sweeping out of the compartment. He heard Crabbe and Goyle stumble after him as he stormed away, unable to voice his frustration, as that was unfitting for his station.

Harry and Ron stared after him for a second before turning to Emma.

"Why in Merlin's name would you want to be a Slytherin?" Ron asked her, rather rudely.

Merlin shifted uncomfortably. She had never liked wizards swearing by her name and it only got more irritating when she immersed herself in their world.

"Because Slytherin values noble qualities and it would be quite nice to prove that not everyone in Slytherin is an evil git!" Merlin had finally lost her temper at the prejudices that had been displayed in the last few minutes alone. "I have had it! Why can't people just accept that everyone has a different opinion and not be prejudiced about it?!"

"What's the matter Emma?" Hermione was back and she was peering at Emma in alarm. From what she had seen so far, the girl rarely got riled up, and whilst she may have only known her for a few hours, she prided herself on being good at reading people.

Merlin realised she was projecting her aura, so she huffed and left the compartment abruptly. She wandered back towards where she could feel Niamh was sitting but realised that the girl had left, so she simply walked to one of the doors and stood against it for the remainder of the train ride. I hope this isn't what the rest of the year will be like or I might end of blowing up the school. She thought, before laughing, as that would be quite entertaining to watch.

Chapter Text

Hogwarts Express and Hogsmeade Station

"We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train, it will be taken to the school shortly." A voice echoed through the train, causing Merlin to jump. That wasn't there before.

Students immediately began pouring into the corridor. The train began to slow down and as it did Merlin felt a magic that was as familiar to her as her own. Dammit! She hurried towards the door and prayed that the train would get to the station soon. Preferably immediately.

Mordred looked around in confusion. He was in the corridor of the train and he had felt something familiar, but he wasn't sure what it was.

"Morgana?" He called mentally.

"What is it Mordred? I'm busy!" She sounded irritated, but Mordred ignored the tone.

"Can you feel that too, or is it just me?" He asked.

"Feel what?"

"I'm in the second to last carriage, and there's something here… I don't know what it is, but it feels familiar."

Morgana frowned. If Mordred had felt something, then it was worth investigating, the kid had the sharpest magical instincts of anyone she'd ever met, other than Merlin. You couldn't really count Merlin though, she was in a group of her own, somewhere between 'impossible' and 'unique'. She stretched out her senses to the carriage Mordred was in. She sensed four 'someones' there. Of the four people she could sense. She knew of two. "I can sense four people with the magic of the Old Religion in your carriage two of them are obvious, you and Dowling. Of the others, one is that second year, Niamh Rowan, who we had a feeling about last year. The reincarnation we couldn't identify."

"And the last one?" Mordred was on his tiptoes now, scouring the crowd for the fourth presence.

"It feels like-" The connection abruptly cut off.

Morgana glanced at her fellow Slytherin. "What?!" she snapped.

"Sorry, you looked out of it." Gemma shrugged, "Just trying to help."

"Merlin! Mordred, the magic felt like Merlin!" she called into his mind urgently, hoping he was still listening.

Mordred went cold. "Merlin? Are you sure?"

"Very. Her magic is unique."

Mordred tried to find Merlin anywhere in the crowd, but before he could the train stopped, the doors opened and students began pouring out of the train like water through a broken dam.

Merlin couldn't hold back a sigh of relief as the doors opened. She wanted to avoid a confrontation with both Mordred and Morgana as long as possible.

"Firs'-years! Firs'-years over here!" Merlin heard the shout and wandered towards the man holding the lantern. He was called Hagrid and was a half giant, if she remembered correctly. She couldn't suppress a grin and followed the rest of the crowd down the steep, narrow path that she had traversed many times before.

"Yeh'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec, jus' round this bend here." Hagrid called over his shoulder.

Nearly every single person 'oohed' at the sight of the beautiful castle, Merlin joined in, so as not to arouse suspicion. Hogwarts looked as breath-taking as ever, and although Merlin had seen many amazing things in her life, she had to admit Hogwarts was one of the best.

They approached the shore of the lake and if Merlin stretched out her senses, she could just feel the giant squid at the bottom of the lake, and the fleet of Thestral drawn carriages approaching the Hogwarts gates. She knew what was coming next. No more than four to a boat. She thought, at the same moment that Hagrid pointed to the group of boats and called:

"No more'n four to a boat!"

Merlin allowed herself a small smile of amusement before getting into the closest boat, to her surprise Draco Malfoy joined her almost as soon as she had sat down.

"You want to be a Slytherin, but you don't follow pureblood ideals. Why?"

"Because, as I have already told you, I want to prove that not all Slytherins are evil gits. Besides, Slytherin is a noble house and has admirable qualities."

Draco scowled at her as two girls who looked almost identical and were most likely twins got in behind them. "I meant, why don't you follow pureblood ideals?"

"Because they're stupid." Merlin said bluntly. Then she turned around as the boats started moving. They remained in silence, the other two members of the group not saying anything, until Hagrid yelled "Heads down!" as the first few boats reached the cliff upon which the castle stood.

Everyone bent their heads, although Draco muttered complaints under his breath, all the while sneaking glances at Emma, who was sat in front of him. She puzzled him, and he didn't understand half of what she said. He knew his father would disapprove of a friendship between them as soon as he found out her world views, but found he didn't care. With that in mind, he decided that he would make it his mission to become friends with Emma Ambrosius as soon as possible, if only to figure her out.

Merlin smiled as Neville got Trevor back, having grown to like the round-faced future Gryffindor. She was happily oblivious to the turmoil of the boy next to her and his determination to become her friend.

The crowd of first years followed Hagrid up the stone steps, some nervously and some with excitement. Hagrid knocked on the castle door three times. It echoed loudly, but the door opened almost immediately. Behind it was Minerva McGonagall. A famous witch in her own right and a master of transfiguration, Merlin had run into her once before, completely by accident, and the stern woman had impressed Merlin the way few modern witches did.

Minerva briefly looked at the new first years in a ritual she carried out each year. She recognised the Weasley boy, of course, and hoped he was more like his elder brothers than the twins, who gave her more grey hairs every year. The Granger girl, who had been so disbelieving of magic, looked fascinated by the castle and she was stood close to a boy who could only be the son of Frank and Alice Longbottom. She wondered which parent he was more like, because although they were both Aurors, they had been vastly different in personality. Harry Potter looked just like his father, but with his mother's eyes. She had no doubt he would grow fed up of hearing that, but it was true. Two students stood out to her, the way only a couple did each year. One was obviously a Malfoy, with blonde hair and a snooty expression. However he looked thoughtful, and seemed to be looking at the other student who had caught her attention. There was an undefinable something about the small girl with pale skin and big ears. Her eyes seemed too old for the rest of her face, and her features looked familiar, almost like they had met before. Of all the students standing on the steps, she was the only one that Minerva could not easily identify. She concluded this must be the youngest member of the Ambrosius family, as they were notoriously reclusive and she was clearly not a muggleborn, despite looking uncomfortable in the robes. This year is going to be interesting. Minerva thought. And glanced at the Malfoy boy again, before looking at the assumed Ambrosius. Yes, very interesting indeed. She thanked Hagrid for bringing the students and pulled the door wide, letting the students into the warmth of the Entrance Hall.

Draco followed the Professor across the hard stone floor, along with the rest of the students, and heard a noise that could only be voices through a large doorway. They were shown into a small chamber and Draco automatically crowded together with the other first years, although why, he didn't know.

As Professor Minerva McGonagall began the usual spiel about the houses being your family, Merlin took the opportunity to look at the witches and wizards who she would spend the next seven years with. Well, six and a bit, if her calculations concerning the outbreak of war were correct, but same difference. A small girl with blonde pigtails caught her eye. Merlin didn't know who she was, she only knew those she'd already met and the future Gryffindors and Slytherins, either of whom could have ended up being Harry Potter's housemates, although his becoming a Gryffindor was now almost certain. That meant that this girl must be a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff. Interesting. She looked like a fighter. The only other who caught her eye, other than the trio and Draco was Neville, who she'd already met and who was so much braver and better than he knew.

"-smarten yourselves up as much as you can while you are waiting." McGonagall finished her speech with a lingering look at various aspects of the students' appearances. "I shall return when we are ready for you, please wait quietly."

A quiet murmur started up the moment she left, and students began nervously discussing how they might be sorted. Merlin smiled to herself. It was a tradition, which to her knowledge had never been broken, to leave first years in the dark about the Sorting. She allowed herself a moment of amusement at some of the student's panic, before several students screamed. She looked up and suppressed a groan. Oh no! Please don't notice me, please ignore me, please. She silently begged. They were discussing Peeves, as they so regularly did and then, of course, Sir Nicholas had to notice them.

"New students!" the Fat Friar smiled at them happily.

Merlin crossed her fingers, but to no avail. The Grey Lady and the Bloody Baron had both seen her. Dammit! She smiled at them and sent them a pleading glance. They both nodded imperceptibly and let their gazes slide over her and onto the other students. She let out a small sigh of relief, they had always been the most observant, but thankfully she got on well with them and they were the ghosts she was most fond of, along with Peeves, who was simply entertaining.

Merlin snapped back to attention as Professor McGonagall re-entered the chamber. "Now, form a line and follow me." She told the students, before leading them into the Great Hall.

Merlin was always struck by the beauty and grandeur of the Hall. Not only its appearance, but the very magic woven into its walls. As she reached out her senses she felt Hogwarts itself greeting her and she savoured the feeling. She smiled at the enchanted ceiling as she heard Hermione talking about it to someone. She also felt the magic of the people she knew. She could feel Morgana, and Niamh. She felt the vaguely familiar magic of Kara, Mordred's first love. And she felt Mordred's magic. It took all her strength to ignore their magic brushing up against her own, and to not respond to it the way she wanted to.

"Morgana…" Mordred's voice whispered in the said witch's mind.

"I see her. She looks so young. But so familiar and similar too." At that particular moment, in true Merlin fashion, Merlin tripped, attracting the gazes of nearly everyone in the hall.

The moment the ghosts spotted her they began whispering, and Merlin had to suppress another groan at the loss of her anonymity. Not that it would have lasted long anyway. A snide voice whispered in her head, but she ignored it.

Mordred suppressed a fond chuckle at the familiar sight of tripping over her own feet. He noted the ghosts whispering, and assumed they disapproved of the spectacle. "Same old Merlin."

"Indeed. It's nice to know, that no matter how many hundreds of years have passed, she's still the same old Merlin, reincarnation or not." Morgana couldn't help the note of laughter and affection in her voice.

A new voice joined their conversation. "She never seemed clumsy to me. But then, I was never a member of the 'table' was I?" Kara Dowling's voice was snide.

Morgana suppressed the irritation at the girl for Mordred's sake, and replied back, "It was never Merlin's choice who sat at the table. She merely recognised who it wanted." She placated her.

"Merlin may be the most powerful warlock ever born, but she's also the clumsiest." Mordred interjected, smoothing the conversation over. Unless she's dancing. He added privately, but didn't share the thought.

A feeling of mirth spread through the joined link, and Mordred couldn't tell who it was coming from. He doubted it was Kara, but it didn't feel like Morgana either.

"Morgana, Kara, was that you?"

"I thought it was you!" Kara replied.

Niamh was suppressing hilarity at the description of Merlin by the druid boy. She had only witnessed Merlin's clumsiness for herself that morning, but she couldn't help but chuckle at the image presented to her by Mordred's words. Only Merlin would have more power in her pinkie finger than most modern wizards have in their entire body, and still have trouble with basic things like balance. She liked the younger girl and her positive and friendly outlook to everything and everyone. But then, she was always like that, even back in Camelot. You just chose to take advantage of it then. Her conscience reminded her. She pushed back the thought and looked towards the front, where Professor McGonagall was placing the Sorting Hat on the stool.

McGonagall placed the familiar, tattered, dirty old hat on the four legged stool. Merlin grinned, she couldn't wait to hear the new yearly song. The Hat twitched, in what only someone who was very familiar with the Hat would recognise as a smirk. It opened its 'mouth' and started its song:

"Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,
But don't judge on what you see,
I'll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.-"
Merlin snickered at the truly terrible pun.
"-There's nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can't see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring nerve and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;'"
Merlin always thought that the knights ought to be Gryffindors. With the possible exceptions of Mordred, Tristan and Lancelot, although they'd fit Gryffindor as well as any.
"You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll meet your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means,
To achieve their ends.
So put me on! Don't be afraid!
And don't get in a flap!
You're in safe hands (though I have none)
For I'm a Thinking Cap!"

Merlin burst into hearty applause, along with eh rest of the Hall, shaking her head at the awful puns the Hat had come up with.

The Hat bowed to each table and then stilled.

Merlin smiled and waited whilst Professor McGonagall stepped forward with a large scroll (she couldn't call it a roll of parchment, it would always be a 'scroll' to her).

"When I call your name, you will put on the Hat and sit on the stool to be sorted. Abbot, Hannah!"

The small blonde girl with pigtails stumbled forwards. I'm glad me and Neville aren't the only clumsy ones. She put on the Hat and sat down. It only paused for a moment, then cried:

"Hufflepuff!"

The Hufflepuff table cheered and clapped, and Merlin swore she could hear some wolf-whistles as well.

"Ambrosius, Emma!" It was her turn.

Niamh, Morgana, Mordred and Kara all leaned forward, despite themselves, curious as to what the Hat would say. Several among the teachers and older students also leaned forward, curious as to what House the first Ambrosius in decades would be sorted into.

Merlin put on the hat, and as it fell over her head, she heard a small and familiar voice by her ear. "You again!"

"Hello."

"Haven't you had enough of Hogwarts yet? I've sorted you into every House multiple times over!" The Hat sounded irritated.

"I'm not here for pleasure this time."

"You barely ever are. I suppose you have a good idea of which House you want to be in? I stand by my original decision, you fit best into Slytherin, but you have the qualities of all the Houses, which is the only reason I have sorted you into them. So, which will it be? I try to refrain from looking too far into your mind, as you well know!"

"I had a very good idea, but then I discovered something, well actually I remembered something that I had forgotten and shouldn't have."

"Yeeeees?" the Hat drew the 'eh' sound out, sounding bored, but Merlin knew that it was practically bursting with curiosity.

"Mordred and Morgana. They're here and they remember. It doesn't matter so much about the others, but I can't be in close proximity to them. It will 'trigger' my memories."

"The memories you shouldn't remember, you mean. What House did you want? Just so I know before I tell you."

"Either Gryffindor or Slytherin, I wasn't sure and wanted your advice. See, I know that-"

The Hat cut her off, "I don't want to know what Houses the others I sort will be put into. I like to be surprised. As to your two friends, Miss Pendragon and Mr Holt, they both had fascinating minds, so young yet so old. Memories lurking just below the surface, or just above. Mordred is in Ravenclaw, he could just as easily been in Gryffindor you know, and my, would you have been in a pickle then. I sorted him into Ravenclaw in the end, he had a thirst for knowledge and didn't want to be just another brave knight. As for Morgana, Head Girl now by the way - good choice on Dumbledore's part - she's in Slytherin. A Slytherin through and through I'd say. She's manipulating, cunning, devious, and a marvellous actress. Lots of ambition, and boy does she have talent."

"So Gryffindor then. I can just as easily help a Slytherin from Gryffindor, and it might go a way to dissolving the House rivalries, although I don't hold out very much hope for that."

The Sorting Hat was itching to know what she meant, but had decided long ago to stay out of her mind, she had seen too much, knew too much. She looked for possibilities of the future and it preferred to look only as far as it was meant to. Only see the paths of potential. "Very well then. GRYFFINDOR!" it shouted the last word to the entire hall and felt gratitude from the girl below it, she being the only human being it had ever met older than itself, for the Founders were long since dead and had lived for only a fraction of the time the Sorting Hat had seen. It sometimes got lonely and Merlin's infrequent returns to Hogwarts were something it looked forward to, simply for familiarity and companionship. It would never tell her that, of course, but it was sure she knew all the same.

Merlin took off the Hat and placed it gently on the stool. Nodding to it imperceptively as she did so, before walking off to join the Gryffindor table.

Mordred released the breath he was holding in disappointment, Morgana and Niamh did the same on the Slytherin table. He had no reason to believe that she would be a Ravenclaw, but he was saddened all the same.

Morgana had hoped that Merlin would be in Slytherin, as according to Hogwarts legend, that's where the warlock had been placed, but she wasn't surprised that Merlin was a Gryffindor, Arthur had spoken the truth; Merlin was the bravest person any of them had ever met – magic or not.

Niamh eyed Merlin calculatingly, was this what she meant by 'having both'? If so, it would be interesting to see how it would play out. Slytherin and Gryffindor were notorious rivals and neither would take kindly to one of their own 'fraternising with the enemy', so to speak.

Merlin could feel three very different gazes on her as she sat down; disappointed, resigned and calculating. She smiled to herself. Hogwarts was in for a ride. She may be a Gryffindor but she had two friends in Slytherin already; well, one and one almost. She wasn't going to give either of them up without a fight and she was too stubborn for anyone to be able to stop her, even if they tried. She started planning out the steps she would go through to show Draco that muggles were the same as witches and wizards. She was going to teach him how to be a good person, no matter what he or his family said, although Narcissa probably wouldn't mind so much…

She only started paying attention again when "Granger, Hermione!" was called out.

Hermione heard her name called out and almost ran to the stool in excitement. She jammed the Hat on her head and almost jumped a mile when it spoke in her ear.

"Right then. You're very smart, intelligent. But brave too. And what's this? You think friendship and bravery are more important than books and cleverness, not a Ravenclaw then. Although perhaps...hmm."

"Excuse me." Hermione interrupted the Sorting Hat's musings. "Could you place me in Gryffindor please?"

"And why is that?" The Sorting Hat's voice sounded detached, it seemed to be testing her. "I won't put you in a House just because your friend is there, you know."

"Of course. I wouldn't ask you too. It's just that," Hermione paused for a moment, before gathering her courage and continuing, "I don't think I'd fit in Ravenclaw. I think it would be more important to grow bold and courageous than to gain more intelligence. Books can only take you so far before you have to venture out into the world, and I don't think that it would help very much anyway. Books are abstract and they don't contain all knowledge, just someone's viewpoint on the information."

"Interesting, very interesting. In a way I should you put you in Ravenclaw for your ability to construct that argument alone." Hermione tried to interrupt, but the hat wouldn't let her. "You are a very interesting conundrum." The Hat looked at the possibilities that could unfold from where she was placed. It looked at her potential. She would go far further in Gryffindor than in Ravenclaw, it seemed. Brains aren't everything. "You have taught me a very valuable lesson, young one." The Hat's tone appeared fond. "You have taught me that it is not only about appearance and ability, but also about what you believe, it is no use being a Ravenclaw if you don't consider intelligence and knowledge the most important. Yes, I've made up my mind. You shall go to GRYFFINDOR!" the last word was practically bellowed and Hermione resisted the urge to cover her ears.

"Thank you." She told the Hat before taking it off.

She could have sworn she felt the imprint of a smile and heard it say "You're very welcome young Miss Granger." But she shook it off as her imagination and went to sit by Emma, at the Gryffindor table.

Merlin began to chatting to Hermione, who she'd taken a liking to. The girl was smart, but wasn't afraid to admit she didn't know something. It was refreshing.

When Professor McGonagall called "Longbottom, Neville!" up, both Hermione and Merlin started paying more attention to the Sorting, wanting to know where their friend would end up, (although Merlin already knew he'd end up in Gryffindor after losing an argument to the Sorting Hat).

Neville tripped on his way to the stool. He flushed and jammed the Hat on his head as soon as he could.

"How fascinating-"

"Put me in Hufflepuff." Neville begged.

"Why would I do that? You are a Gryffindor."

"I don't belong in Gryffindor. I'd be better in Hufflepuff."

"You most certainly would NOT be better in Hufflepuff!"

"Yes I would! I'm not brave or daring."

"I beg to differ. I can see right into your mind."

"Please just put me in Hufflepuff."

"Why? Why do you want to be a Hufflepuff? You are Gryffindor material."

"Because I'm loyal…and caring! I don't like lying…?"

"You don't seem to be very convinced by your own argument."

"I'm not brave enough for Gryffindor!"

"Ah. I see." The House sounded too pleased for Neville's liking. "You are intimidated by their reputation."

"N-no. I-I don't know what you're talking about." Neville stuttered, trying to deny it.

"You are! Don't worry, Gryffindors aren't at all what their reputation makes them seem. Mostly."

"I should be a Hufflepuff. I'm not worthy to be a Gryffindor." Neville insisted, stubbornly.

"Yes you are! I wouldn't be trying to put you there otherwise!" The Hat was starting to sound quite irritated. "I can see everything in your head that you are trying to hide! You want to be in Gryffindor, like your parents. But you keep putting yourself down and telling yourself that you are not worthy. That is nobility. And proves my point."

"I fit better into Hufflepuff!"

"No you don't! Or I would have agreed to sort you there. You don't fit into Hufflepuff. You fit into Gryffindor!"

"Hufflepuff!"

"Gryffindor!"

"Hufflepuff!"

"Gryffindor!"

"Huffle-"

"Oh are we really going to keep doing this?! We sound like a pair of five year olds! I can assure I am plenty stubborn enough to continue this argument until you give in. I am hundreds of years old and you are not the first person to insist into being sorted into a House other than the one you are perfect for. I always get my way." The Hat informed him loftily.

"Put me in Hufflepuff! I am not a Gryffindor!"

"Not yet."

"Please! I know you've listened to requests in the past."

"I have, but that was because their characters could fit into their chosen Houses. Yours does not. You are the kind of Gryffindor that Godric Gryffindor himself searched for desperately! You cannot tell me that you do not belong in that House!"

"But I'm not brave!" Neville knew that his arguments were getting weaker.

"Not in your eyes. But I can see the paths you could take, and I assure you, you will go far further in Gryffindor than you will in any other House."

Neville sighed. "Fine." He waited a beat, then piped up again, "I'm giving up! That proves I'm not brave!"

"Nice try. But I knew you'd come around eventually. I always get my way. Just not necessarily in the way that everyone thinks. GRYFFINDOR!" the Hat announced, sounding fairly pleased with itself.

Neville immediately got up and tried to put as much distance between himself and the annoyingly obstinate Hat as possible. Which was extremely difficult when he forgot to take the Hat off. It chuckled quietly in his ear and whispered "Gryffindor, through and through." In what Neville considered a purposely taunting voice, as he hurriedly jogged back to return the Hat amid gales of laughter from all the other students.

Niamh smiled fondly at him. Then she caught herself smiling fondly at a Gryffindor, and a clumsy one to boot, and immediately wiped the expression off her face. Although she had to admit the little Longbottom had grown on her in the few hours they'd spent together. He's only a year younger than you. A voice in her head reminded her. Shut up. She told it.

Neville sat down next to Emma and Hermione.

"I'm so glad you made it!" Hermione told him happily. "I knew you could make it!"

Neville simply nodded and didn't bother to tell her that he hadn't wanted, hadn't deserved to be in Gryffindor.

Emma leaned forward and touched his arm gently. "The Hat is nearly always right about where people belong." She paused. "Just remember that it sees potential and what you can grow to be, and that's how it decides where to place you. You may not consider yourself very brave or Gryffindory right now, but the Hat saw something in you that was a Gryffindor, and whether it takes you a few months or a few years, you will become the Gryffindor it saw inside you. And boy will you be glad that you're in Gryffindor then."

Oddly enough, Emma's words were comforting and he smiled at her gratefully, before turning to see "Malfoy, Draco!" swaggering towards the Hat.

"Oh, its 007!" Emma sounded inappropriately happy and everyone in the vicinity turned to look at her oddly. "What?"

Draco put on the appearance of confidence, but inside he was trembling with nerves, what if he wasn't a Slytherin? What if you're a Gryffindor? An annoying little voice whispered in the back of his mind but he banished it before putting the Hat on his head.

For a brief instant, when the Hat touched Draco, it considered putting him in Gryffindor, but then it shouted "SLYTHERIN!" because he might become a good person, but he was both his mother's and his father's son, and they were both Slytherins.

Draco refused to sigh in relief like he wanted to, and instead put on a smug façade, as he walked to join Crabbe and Goyle.

The sorting continued after that, the only disturbance being when "Potter, Harry!" was announced, and naturally everyone wanted to see what he looked like and what House he would be in. He eventually became a Gryffindor, along with “Thomas, Dean” and "Weasley, Ronald!"

As soon as the final student, "Zabini, Blaise!" had been sorted, Albus Dumbledore stood up. Of all the people who had imitated the traditional image of Merlin, his imitation was by far the most impressive in Merlin's opinion. She had never met him but knew a lot of things that made her wonder what he was like as a person, rather than a headmaster, or a leader.

Dumbledore opened his arms in welcome. Watching the first years being sorted was always the most interesting part of the Welcoming Feast. It was simply fascinating to see the new students and lay bets (there were multiple bets each year, whether about so-and-so being in this house, or which first year will lose the most House points in the coming year, or even (and his personal favourite) who will end up together before the end of schooling – he had won that bet with Lily and James Potter. He was always curious to see if he could identify any of them. He was sure they were in for an interesting year, a Potter, a Weasley, a Longbottom and an Ambrosius all in the same House, and a Malfoy seemingly already fond of a Gryffindor. He couldn't wait to see what they would get up to. "Welcome!" he greeted his students. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you." He sat back down and enjoyed the first years' puzzlement before turning to Minerva and saying, "So what do you think, Mr Potter, Mr Weasley, Mr Malfoy or Miss Ambrosius? Who will lose the most House points this year?"


Much Later – Great Hall, Hogwarts

The plates cleared and Professor Dumbledore got to his feet again. Merlin was curious to see what start of term announcements he would make, and let her eyes drift across the teachers as she listened.

"Ahem – just a few more words now we are all fed and watered. I have a few start-of-term notices to give you. First-years should note that the forest in the grounds is forbidden-"

Merlin stopped paying attention as she caught sight of the teacher wearing a turban. He practically reeked of dark magic. Voldemort. She didn't know how he'd done it, but Tom Riddle was practically possessing Quirinus Quirrell. This was NOT GOOD! Why didn't I See this? She wondered, before snapping back to attention when she heard Dumbledore announce, "-the third floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death." Merlin suddenly felt cold. He didn't. Please tell me he didn't. She couldn't believe it! Not only had he accidentally employed the most dangerous dark wizard since before Gellert Grindelwald, but he was keeping the Philosopher's Stone in the school. He had practically announced where it was being kept! Merlin was starting to seriously question his sanity, she could only hope that he was keeping it well-protected. Her faith in his sanity slipped a little more when he declared "-let us sing the school song!"

Merlin fixed a smile to her face. There was a reason the Founders had tried to get rid of the ridiculous song that Godric had written. She wondered where on earth Albus Dumbledore had found copy, then decided that she didn't want to know. Godric Gryffindor was many things, but he wasn't a writer, or a composer, for that matter. And his song… well to say it was 'bloody awful' was putting it mildly. Salazar had sent him to the Hospital Wing five times in succession when Godric had shown the other Founders the song, and neither Rowena nor Helga had even bothered to try and stop him.

"Everyone pick their favourite tune, and off we go!" Dumbledore was far too cheery about the song, and Merlin decided that he just had bad taste. However, she was left no choice but to join in with the rest of the school as they bellowed:

"Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they're bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we've forgot,
Just do your best, we'll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot."

It was a nice sentiment, Merlin mused, it just didn't really turn out well. Although come to think of it, 'Hogwarts' wasn't exactly the best name they could've come up with.

She joined in with the applause and followed Percy Weasley as he led the first years out of the Hall. She noticed absently that whilst he wasn't taking the most abstract way, Percy certainly wasn't taking the simplest way to the common room. The group only stopped when a bundle of walking sticks started throwing themselves at Percy. Peeves. Merlin was extremely fond of the playful poltergeist and although others considered him a pest, she found his antics somewhat amusing, even if a little extreme. As Peeves swooped at the group, Merlin ducked and couldn't suppress a grin. She saw the moment he caught sight of her, when he paused momentarily. She winked at him and he cackled.

"Go away, Peeves, or the Baron'll hear about this, I mean it!" Percy practically barked at the mischievous spirit and Merlin couldn't suppress a wince. Dropping names this early in the year? Bad move, Percy. Peeves stuck his tongue out and vanished, and Merlin was almost certain he'd go out of his way to irritate the prefect, now that Percy had demonstrated his lack of authority to the prankster.

They moved on until they got to the portrait of the Fat Lady. The password turned out to be 'Caput Draconis' and Merlin absentmindedly memorised it as she crawled through the portrait hole. The first years were directed to their dormitories and Merlin pretended to be as tired as the other girls, only stopping to check that everything in her trunk was in order before climbing into bed. She unobtrusively looked into her crystal and scried the Philosopher's Stone, to check its defences. To her utter bewilderment, they didn't seem to be complete, as if the headmaster thought that a thief would be polite enough to wait until all the security measures were put in place. Merlin placed a charm around the trapdoor which led to the Philosopher's Stone that would let her know if someone went through it. She then checked on her friends and saw that the three Gryffindor boys were already sleeping, as were Draco and Niamh. She resisted the urge to scry Morgana and Mordred in case they'd set up precautions and put the crystal away before rolling over to get some sleep – if she was getting up early to talk to the ghosts, portraits and House Elves, then she'd need to be well rested. Besides, she had the body of an eleven year old, which came with the same drawbacks that being a normal eleven year old would have – the need for extended amounts of sleep being one of them.

 

Chapter Text

September 2nd Early Morning – Gryffindor Common Room

Merlin had always been an early riser, she'd never shaken the habit. She woke up at sunrise and looked at the clock. Quarter past six. Great. She quietly got up and got dressed, with the intent of heading to the kitchen where the House Elves were, and where she just knew the ghosts would be. She crept out of the dormitory and right before she got to the door she managed to knock an empty jug off the table near the door. It had evidently been full at some point, but was luckily empty now and she managed to catch it with magic and prevent it from waking anyone. She carefully placed it back where it came from and managed to make it to the common room without any further mishaps. It was empty, but she still managed to almost trip over her own feet twice before finally reaching the portrait hole. She had always been clumsy and the past few centuries hadn't changed that, but she felt that it was getting a bit ridiculous. She hadn't even managed to leave the Gryffindor tower yet and she'd already had three near accidents. Why can I never just be graceful? She wondered as she opened the portrait hole and climbed out.

"Honestly! Its six o'clock in the morning and it's only the second day! Do you really have to get up at this ungodly hour and then wake me up?" The aggravated voice of that Fat Lady rang out behind Merlin and she cringed, knowing that no one was up this early on the first day of school and she had absolutely no excuse she could give. "Oh, it's you."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Merlin was quite upset by the Fat Lady's reception.

"It means that as old as you may be, there is still such a thing as manners and common courtesy. I know that you can apparate or transport yourself or whatever and I would appreciate it if you could use these other means to exit the common room before seven o'clock. A woman needs her beauty sleep."

Merlin privately reminded the Fat Lady that no matter how much 'beauty sleep' the portrait got her looks would never improve due to the fact that she was painted that way, but aloud she only said: "I'm terribly sorry for waking you. I only meant to go down to the kitchens and it never crossed my mind that you wouldn't be up."

"Oh, it's quite alright dear, just try not to do it too often." The portrait winked at her before closing her eyes.

Merlin shook her head and continued on her way, niftily avoiding the main passages so that no teachers would see her and greeting the portraits as she passed. They may like gossiping, but the portraits were ever so kind and had kept her secret since the schools founding, along with the ghosts and the House Elves. They were practically the only things that never changed and she loved them for it.

By the time she got to the kitchens it was already almost seven. She tickled the pear and took a deep breath before opening the door to the kitchens and greeting the various beings there.

There was a cacophony of sound almost immediately.

"Miss Ambrosius-"

"-to have you back-"

"-missed you-"

"-fun-"

"-long are you stay-"

"-brilliant and the new-"

"-bledore is great-"

"-Emrys-"

"-new name?"

"OKAY, EVERYBODY SHUT UP A SECOND!" Merlin's voice could barely be heard above the din, but everyone quietened down almost immediately. "Thank you. It's great to be back here and I missed you all too and am very eager to meet all the new faces, but I only have two ears and one brain and can't understand you when you're all talking at once." Merlin loved her friends at Hogwarts, she truly did. They were just a little enthusiastic at times. "Now, why don't the ghosts start, so that no one notices that they are missing, and then after that the House Elves can tell me all their news? Does that work for everyone?"

There was a chorus of agreement and Merlin smiled. "Who's first?"


It wasn't until half an hour later that the last of the ghosts left and Merlin turned her attention to the House Elves.

"So, Woody, how are you?" Woody was by far the oldest House Elf at Hogwarts, most never living past 200, in contrast to Woody's three centuries. "Still alive I see. Not dying anytime soon?"

"I don't intend to Emrys. And I am well thank you. We have thirteen new House Elves since the last time you visited, and Loodi, Mally and Gommy have all died since then."

"Oh no!" Merlin was always sad when one of her friends died, and she had always been particularly attached to the House Elves at Hogwarts as well as the ones that would serve her 'family'. Woody had always insisted on keeping her informed and as the most senior House Elf, his word carried a lot of weight. He believed that as she had helped the Founders with the building and creation of the school, she was one of the only true masters of the Hogwarts House Elves, along with whoever the current headmaster was, and any direct descendants of the Founders who bothered to try and meet them.

"It is okay Emrys. They were very dear friends but we must look to the future."

Woody was wise. He was almost like Kilgarrah in that respect and she appreciated his words of wisdom.

"You are right of course, and how many times must I ask you to not to call me Emrys or Miss Ambrosius?"

"Always once more. You deserve the respect we give even if you do not want to be addressed by any titles." He then turned to the rest of the kitchen. "We will all have lots of opportunities to talk to Miss Ambrosius as she comes to the kitchen every week. So today only the new House Elves will be introduced and anyone else can talk to her next time she comes because it is already quite late and she should been the Great Hall soon." Merlin smiled at him affectionately. He always made sure that everything went to plan.

 


After having been introduced to the newest House Elves and reassuring the rest that she would see them soon, Merlin hurried towards the Great Hall, after looping back a few times and making sure she came from the direction of one of the more obscure routes to the Great Hall from the Gryffindor common room, as if she had gotten lost. She paused for a moment at the entrance. Draco was sitting on his own. His 'bodyguards' were nowhere in sight. She considered what she had planned out to show him how wrong his beliefs were. She made a split-second decision and scrapped that plan before plopping herself in the seat opposite him.

Draco was startled out of his musings on Emma Ambrosius by someone plonking themselves in the seat in front of them. Draco could only stare as Emma, who was a Gryffindor, started helping herself to the porridge.

"What are you doing?!"

Emma looked up from where she was mixing honey into her porridge. "Eating. Well, preparing to. What does it look like?"

"But this is the Slytherin table!" Draco couldn't understand how Emma didn't understand what was wrong.

"And?"

Draco stared at her. "You are a Gryffindor!"

"And?"

Draco gaped at her.

Niamh, having been watching from a few seats away leaned over. "Morning, Emma. And I think what he's trying to say is that you eat with your own house."

Emma looked at her, perplexed. "Where does it say that?"

"It…I…I don't know. It's more of an unspoken rule than anything else."

"Well in that case, I'm sitting here and no one can stop me." Emma went back to eating her porridge whilst both Draco and Niamh stared at her. Emma paused in her eating for a moment. "Oh, by the way, Draco, this is Niamh. Niamh, Draco." She gestured between the two of them and returned to her bowl.

The two looked at each other, awkwardly shook hands and followed Emma's lead by eating their breakfast.

As he was eating, Draco was acutely aware of the whispers flying around the Hall. Eating breakfast at a different House table was unheard of and for a Gryffindor to be sitting with not one, but two Slytherins even more so.

"So…" Merlin started, pushing her empty bowl to the side and beginning to cut up an apple. "Muggles."

Draco looked up at her perplexed, not particularly wanting to talk about muggles.

"What's wrong with them? Why do you have a problem with muggles?" She emphasised the word 'muggles' in such a way that made it clear she wasn't leaving until she got an answer.

"Because they are no better than animals! They have no magic and they're stupid. They're not as good as wizards and we are superior to them." Draco spouted off what his father had taught him from birth.

Emma looked at him in a way that made him squirm in his seat guiltily, feeling like he was five years old and his mother had just caught him doing something wrong. "Seriously? That's your problem? Tell me, if it's their lack of magic that makes you despise muggles, why do you hate muggleborns?"

"Because they're not proper wizards! They-"

Emma cut him off. "Does your family have a car?"

"What kind of question is that!?"

"One you should answer. So, does your family own a car?"

"Yes. We have-"

"Muggle."

"I beg your pardon?" Draco felt extremely insulted to be called a muggle.

"Cars are muggle inventions. Is there an oven in your kitchen?"

"Yes but-"

"Muggle invention. Plumbing in your house?"

"Mansion. And of course we-"

"Made by muggles. Fireplace?"

"What kind of wizard house doesn't-"

"Muggles thought of it. Tell me, do you have a problem with the Hogwarts Express"

"No..."

"It was built by muggles. They had trains first. You use a quill, you sit on a chair, you eat porridge, drink orange juice, your toast, all of it came from a muggle or a muggle idea."

"But-"

Emma didn't let Draco interrupt her, she just carried on. "Your house would have been built by a muggle. Portraits were a muggle fashion that wizards took up. Most pureblood wizards objected to the Statute of Secrecy. Every wizard family originated with a muggleborn. Merlin grew up as a muggle. Morgana, sister of Arthur, was a muggleborn. Mordred was taught to respect all forms of life and his life was saved by two muggles and a witch who didn't know she had magic. Arthur Pendragon is revered as the greatest king of all time. He was a muggle. Your ancestors were muggles. Muggles far outnumber wizards and are much more knowledgeable and open-minded. Newspapers came into fashion because they were copied from muggles. Muggles can communicate with each other over great distances from wherever they are. They can see photos from someone a thousand miles away almost instantaneously. They may not be able to apparate, but they have incredibly efficient transport. The Knight Bus came from the muggle bus service. Swords are a muggle weapon. Lockets came from muggle fashion. Wands were originally the sticks that young muggles played with to imitate magic. Many muggles still believe in magic. Druids live as muggles and practice magic. They are more powerful than wizards because they have knowledge wizards do not and embrace the changes that muggles bring. Tell me, how many things do you think were actually originally a muggle invention? Because wizards certainly didn't invent very much. They don't have enough creativity to invent. They have no imagination. Tell me Draco Lucius Malfoy, when was the last time you simply stared in wonder at something? Or found something magical? When did you last look at something or someone that wasn't a wizard or wasn't magical and think something was genuinely incredible about them? When did you last see the magic in ordinary non-magical things? When did you last consider that maybe your father isn't right? When did you last remember that you are your own person and not a puppet that your father controls? When was the last time you formed an opinion that was entirely your own, because you thought about it and didn't let someone else's views influence your opinion?" with that last question, Merlin picked up her apple, got up and left the table to head to class.

Draco could only watch Emma leave in disbelief. He couldn't think straight, his mind had been overloaded with information and he didn't think he'd been so confused in his life.

"Did Emma Ambrosius just fit an entire lecture on muggle and wizard relations and on why muggles and wizards are equal into less than ten minutes?!" Morgana was stood behind Niamh and witnessed most of the conversation.

"I-I think she did." Mordred was practically speechless.

Niamh frowned and realised, "I haven't stared at something in wonder since before I got my Hogwarts letter. I don't see the magic in everyday things anymore."

Draco was still staring at the spot where Emma had been. "Last night." He whispered. "Last night was the last time I formed an opinion that was entirely my own."

The three with Old Magic stared at him for a moment before Niamh caught his attention. "Draco? Malfoy? Are you ok?"

He stared at Niamh without seeing her, then replied, "I always thought my father was right. No one ever told me he wasn't."

Niamh left him after that to go to her Charms lesson. It was only once she had left the table that Niamh realised Emma hadn't asked for directions and hadn't received her timetable. She shrugged it off and continued on her way, unaware of two pairs of eyes, one green and one blue, watching her leave.


Merlin stood outside the Greenhouses, eating her apple as she waited for the rest of her class to get here. If she remembered correctly, she had this particular class with the Ravenclaws. She was glad she'd looked ahead to what classes she had today, as she didn't yet have her timetable. She could only hope that no one noticed that little fact. Surprisingly, Neville was the first to arrive.

"Hey. Neville." Emma made him jump as he almost walked straight past her. She grabbed his arm just in time to stop him from tripping up. "You okay?"

"Yeah, sure. Oh here." He handed her, her timetable. "McGonagall asked me to give it to you, because she couldn't find you. How did you know we had Herbology?"

"You're going to love Herbology Neville." Merlin avoided the question. Neville didn't seem to notice and started obliviously chattering about how excited he was about school, pleased that he hadn't lost Trevor and his delight at having made three friends already. Merlin smiled at him fondly and led him to the greenhouses as they conversed.

 


Draco was sitting in silence during break. He couldn't stop thinking about what Emma had said to him. Am I really my father's puppet? I do think for myself! He groaned and buried his head in his hands. But what if she's right? He didn't have much more time to think about it before the bell went off and he headed back inside to find his next lesson.

 


"Who is she really?"

"I don't know." Mordred huffed in frustration.

"What about you Kara?" Morgana turned to look at the young Slytherin.

"Nope." Kara sounded extremely disinterested as she flicked through Witch Weekly.

"She must have been before my time." Mordred mused. "I would have recognised her magic. Are you sure you don't know who she is Morgana?"

"It must have been before Morgause because otherwise I would have recognised her and she can't have been in Camelot or at least not very often or we would know who she was."

"We could ask Arthur." Mordred pointed out.

"Yes, because that's a good idea." Morgana replied sarcastically. "And while we're at it we could tell him about Merlin being back as well. I can just imagine the letter. 'Dear Arthur, we were wondering if you encountered any dark-haired, blue-eyed, powerful sorceresses in Camelot who may or may not have tried to kill you. If you did, who were they? Oh and by the way, Merlin's back and is apparently chummy with this possibly evil sorceress and doesn't have her memories.' He'd flip! Not to mention if Arthur finds out, he'll tell Gwen and that means that Elyan will find out and Leon will too. Dad will probably find out and then we may as well throw a party."

"Morgana…" Mordred trailed off. "Do you have a better idea?"

Morgana sighed. "Unfortunately not."

Kara stood up. "Well, now that that's settled, I have Ancient Runes. See you." She stalked off.

Mordred turned to Morgana and frowned. "What was that about?"

Morgana just shook her head and walked away. Boys!


September 3rd – Transfiguration

Merlin was most looking forward to Transfiguration and was delighted when she turned up to the class on the second day of lessons. The moment the class had entered McGonagall had started to lecture them and let them know that she would not be putting up with any nonsense.

"Transfiguration is some of the most complex and dangerous magic you will learn at Hogwarts. Anyone messing around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned."

Merlin knew that only too well. It was always fascinating attending the same subject taught by different teachers. She always learnt something new. When McGonagall turned her desk into a pig and back she smiled broadly and realised that this was a lesson she would enjoy.

By the time they had finished making notes and were preparing to turn the matches into needles, Merlin had perfected her plan on how to make sure the spell didn't work the first few times. She couldn't stand out after all. She waited until Hermione had successfully changed her match into a needle, fumbling the spell once more before allowing it to succeed.


September 6th – Pendragon Household

Arthur was confused. It had been nearly a week and neither Morgana nor Mordred had written to him. That was not normal. So when an owl nearly flew into the window, Arthur jumped out of his seat with such enthusiasm that the chair fell over. His father glanced up at him, but said nothing. Arthur could have sworn he saw his lips twitch. Fugol held out its leg for Arthur to take the letter then happily stole a piece of bacon off his plate. Arthur ripped open the letter, to the amusement of Uther.

Dear Arthur,

We have a question for you. Screw this, we found Merlin. Morgana! We found Merlin and she doesn’t have a clue Merlin doesn’t remember Camelot and is not aware that she has Old Magic. She does come from a long line of ‘pureblood’ wizards who are said to be descended from Merlin, though. Ironic huh? She’s calling herself Emma Ambrosius, but that’s not the reason for this letter. Not the main reason anyway. MORGANA! There’s this girl, Way to sound like you’ve got a crush Mordred. We all know there’s only one girl who could ever catch your eye, well maybe two if you count The point is she definitely has old magic and we’re fairly certain she’s a reincarnation of someone in Camelot. We just don’t know who. She was before my time and Morgana We don’t recognise her, so did you ever meet a powerful sorceress with dark hair and blue eyes? Was she on our side or did she side with Morgause? Basically did she ever try to kill you or Merlin or harm either of you in any way? She’s a Slytherin, if that helps at all. And a half-blood. Merlin is also apparently a half-blood if gossip is anything to go by. She’s also not a Slytherin, despite the rumours. She’s a Gryffindor, but we always knew she was brave. She gave Draco Malfoy The Malfoys are bigoted pureblood supremacists who who is the only son to Lucius Malfoy and subsequently the Malfoy heir, a lecture on muggle and wizard equality. He was dumbfounded. It was absolutely brilliant! Merlin or Emma as she is called in this life has apparently decided to befriend him and we think Niamh Rowan, the girl who we are trying to identify, is going to become friends with him as well, despite being a second year because she and Merlin seem quite good friends already. Which is also one of the only reasons we’re involving you in identifying her. Merlin has always been too trusting. You mean despite successfully identifying every plot to undermine Camelot in almost the entirety of Arthur’s reign? Shut up Mordred!

In other news, Morgana was right about Divination. Professor Trelawney is completely barmy! Told you so! I really like Arithmancy though.

Well my year is going spectacularly badly. Despite how fu_ Morgana! Despite how brilliant the Heads Common Room and Dormitories are, I’m already run off my feet! It’s awful I have so much homework I can barely keep up and my Head Girl duties are already taking over my life, I pretty much just have time for meals and that’s it. I have actually been staying up until Midnight this week! I hope it gets easier; it’s worse than when I had my O.W.L.s.

We miss you, Love you Arthur,

Mordred. And Morgana.

P.S. – give our love to Dad, Gwen, Elyan and Leon. Especially Leon, Morg

Arthur shook his head at his sibling's antics but read the letter twice. Then once more to be sure. Merlin was back?

Uther chuckled at the expression on his son's face. Priceless.

Arthur frowned. A sorceress with dark hair and blue eyes… he thought hard but couldn't really remember anyone significant with that particular colouring other than Merlin. Certainly no one that powerful. Unless she was someone that Merlin had defeated without him realising. He groaned and slammed his head into the table. They were helpless without Merlin. He'd never realised how much he – how much they all – depended on Merlin, until she wasn't there. She had been the one who knew every threat Camelot had ever faced because she'd been the one to deal with it the vast majority of the time. She was the glue that held them together. Not just the relationships of the Round Table, but also the people on it. She'd always had a way of making them feel better and giving them the confidence they'd lacked. They really were helpless without her! I just hope that we don't get attacked before she regains her memories. He thought, with a sense of foreboding. He returned to eating but couldn't shake the sense of wrongness that came with knowing where Merlin was but not having her at his side.


Great Hall - Hogwarts

It had been nearly a week, and Draco still didn't know what to make of the speech Emma had made. She had seemed so passionate about it and her words had been running through his head ever since. He had started avoiding Crabbe and Goyle because he wasn't sure if they were truly his friends or whether he only started the friendship because his father told him to.

"Morning Malfoy!" Niamh sat down next to him and poured herself some cereal, as if them eating together was perfectly normal.

"What are you doing? More to the point, who are you?"

"Niamh Rowan," the girl held out her hand for him to shake, when he simply stared at it, she picked up his limp hand in her own and shook it for him before putting his hand back on the table and returning to her breakfast. "And I don't know about you, but most people, when they sit down with a bowl of cereal like this, they call it eating breakfast."

Draco stared at her some more. "Ok, let me make that more clear. Why are you sitting next to me? We're not friends."

"Oh that hurts. That really hurts." Rowan put a hand to her heart. "But you looked a little lonely and as Emma has decided to be friends with you, whether you like it or not, I decided I should make an effort to be friendly."

Draco stared at her. "What do you mean 'Emma's decided'? Do I not get a say?"

Niamh only laughed at him as Emma sat down opposite. "Harry just got a message to go to tea with Hagrid. Do you think it would be rude if I tagged along? Only he sounds brilliant." Merlin surreptitiously glanced at the High Table, watching as Dumbledore took the Letter she had sent him off the owl. He opened it and frowned at the contents. Merlin returned her full attention to her conversation with Draco and Niamh, both of whom were her friends, like it or not!

Dumbledore frowned at the letter he had received.

You should be more careful. The philosopher's stone is a valuable prize to any thief seeking to find it. You should have hidden it better, and I urge you to complete the protections as soon as possible for it is in more danger the longer you wait. The Dark Lord may not have a body, but he is alive in spirit and he will stop at nothing to get the Stone. It will return him to his previous power.

You may also want to keep an eye on Quirrell. Perhaps ask Snape to help. Not everything is as it seems. The vast majority of the population may be oblivious but not everyone is as blind to the hints as you seem to think.

A friend.

ɱ

The letter was signed with an archaic looking symbol that looked like an 'M'. The symbol looked familiar but he couldn't remember where from. Dumbledore looked around but no one seemed to be watching him, and it was unlikely that the letter had been sent by a student, yet he could not think how else they could have known, not only about the Stone's location which was known only to the teachers, but also that the protections were incomplete. He frowned this was worrying. Very worrying indeed.

 


Merlin had decided to sit with Draco during potions, rather than by Neville, as she had in previous classes, as this was the only lesson they had with the Slytherins. He appeared to understand though.

Snape took the register and by the time he had finished, Merlin had already been disgusted by his behaviour, despite her respect for his future actions. He had singled Harry out when calling the register and caused the Slytherins to snigger. Merlin frowned. She didn't like bullies.

"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making. As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly shimmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even stopper death." Merlin had always loved potion-making in the world of magic and was impressed by the introductory speech Snape had given the class. He obviously loved his subject. Then he ruined it. "If you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach." Snape scanned the classroom with eyes that unnerved most people. Merlin wasn't most people. She was starting to think that maybe she had been wrong to judge him based on the register when he disproved her by picking on Harry again.

"Potter! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"

Merlin was immediately furious. The Draught of Living Death was a N.E.W.T. level potion and it was unlikely that it would even be mentioned in any of the first year textbooks!

When Harry admitted that he didn't know, which Merlin knew would happen, (although it was curious that Hermione appeared to know the answer) Snape sneered at him. "Tut, tut – fame clearly isn't everything. Let's try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?" That was at least first year level knowledge, but it wasn't mentioned in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi because it wasn't a plant and Harry was unlikely to have any other comprehensive guide as Magical Drafts and Potions didn't contain any potions in which a bezoar was used. Curiously, Hermione appeared to know the answer to this question as well.

"I don't know, sir." Harry was forced to say, yet again.

"Thought you wouldn't open a book before coming, eh Potter?" Merlin was now practically quaking with fury. Draco stopped laughing at Harry and edged away from her slightly warily as though he sensed that she was about to explode.

Snape asked another question. "What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?" This at least was reasonable to ask, and Harry could be faulted for not knowing the answer to this question had it been a few weeks further into the year. It calmed Merlin down slightly, but not enough. She truly hated those who threw their weight around.

"I don't know, I think Hermione does though, why don't you try her?" Harry's voice was quiet, and this once again ignited Merlin's anger. His relatives had bullied him enough, despite the limited assistance she had tried to give him, and he didn't deserve this just because Severus and James had not seen eye to eye.

A few people laughed, but Draco was not one of them. He could feel Emma getting angrier and angrier next to him and wondered what would happen when she snapped.

Snape snapped at Hermione, "Sit down." He then turned to Potter. "For your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death. A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons. As for monkshood and wolfsbane, they are the same plant, which also goes by the name of aconite." He then frowned at his students. "Well? Why aren't you all copying that down?" Everyone suddenly started searching for quills and parchment, but Emma did not move, Draco wondered why but then concluded it was because she was so angry. But then Snape turned to Potter and Draco froze, somehow knowing the man was about to go too far for Emma's temper. "And a point will be taken from Gryffindor house for your cheek Potter."

That was too much for Emma. "That is unfair!"

Snape was puzzled by the outburst as no student was foolish enough to talk back at him, least of all a Slytherin. He looked at the speaker and realised that whilst they were sitting among the Slytherins and next to Draco specifically, she was a Gryffindor. She also looked familiar. "I beg your pardon, Miss Ambrosius?"

"You cannot take a point off him for that and it was unfair of you to snap at the class." Snape opened his mouth to interrupt, but Emma steamrollered on and Draco wasn't sure to be impressed or terrified for her. "Out of those three questions, one isn't expected knowledge until the end of the O.W.L.s and of the other two, only one answer is easily found in the first year textbooks! And then to yell at the class for them to copy something down when no one was aware that it was a requirement is blatantly rude! And you are going to take points off me for speaking my mind, or possibly give me a detention, but that would be favouritism as I doubt a Slytherin in my position would get the same treatment! You cannot let old grudges get in the way of your teaching. You-"

Snape had had enough. "Miss Ambrosius, you will hold your tongue! It is not your business how I teach and as for the questions, how would you know where I got them from? You are quite right in presuming that I will take ten points from Gryffindor and I expect you to show me some respect!" He turned away and expected that to be the end to it. Draco winced, he'd only known Emma a week, and he already knew that she wouldn't keep her mouth shut, she seemed unable to stay silent if she thought someone was in the wrong, regardless of who they were.

"Respect is earned, professor." Somehow, she made the word 'professor' sound like an insult, "And I know because before today I was a fan of potions and researched the subject in my family's library. It is my business how you teach as long as I am in your class because as your student you should treat me and the rest of the class equally. Not to mention the fact that bullies are the lowest form of life I can think of." Emma sat down and turned to the page on the potion to cure boils in her textbook.

Snape was speechless. He had never been spoken to in such a way. By a student no less. And an eleven-year-old to boot. He was opening his mouth to give her a detention, when he saw Narcissa and Lucius' son Draco ask her something, which caused her to shake her head in response. He had already seen changes between the boy he had seen over the summer and the boy sitting in his class and he realised that even though she'd only known him a week, the one responsible for these changes was Emma Ambrosius. He closed his mouth and told the class to open their textbooks and read through the instructions for making a potion to cure boils. He hoped that Miss Ambrosius could change Draco for the better. There was a war coming and he wanted Draco to be on the side of the light, because he was far more like his mother than his father and Narcissa and Andromeda had always been the best of the Black family. The boy reminded him of Regulus and he knew that Regulus had disagreed with the Dark Lord but had realised too late at the cost of his life.

He walked around the class and criticised almost everyone, except for Draco and surprisingly Emma Ambrosius, who was doing everything so perfectly that he could find no fault other than to tell her to pay more attention to her potion as she was more closely observing the class than her cauldron.

As Snape pondered on her relationship with Draco, Merlin took the opportunity to observe all the Gryffindor and Slytherin first years more closely and watch how they interact. She made sure to stop being so obvious when she was reprimanded for it and helped Draco to stew his horned slugs.

Snape was shocked out of his musings on what Dumbledore could possibly want to speak to him about later when clouds of acid green smoke and a loud hissing filled the dungeon. "Idiot boy! I suppose you added the porcupine quills before taking the cauldron off the fire?" The rest of the class was standing on their stools and the Longbottom boy was covered in angry red boils and more just kept popping up. The Ambrosius girl made an angry noise behind him and was almost immediately at his side.

"I'll take him to the hospital wing." She told him without turning around. "Come on, Neville, you'll be fine." She gently grabbed his arm and guided him out of the room.

In Draco's opinion it was a good thing Emma left with Longbottom when she did, because Professor Snape rounded on Potter. "You - Potter – why didn't you tell him not to add the quills? Thought he'd make you look good if he got it wrong, did you? That's another point you've lost for Gryffindor."

Draco frowned. He may not like Potter, but that was unreasonable. He had a sneaking suspicion that Emma would be losing a lot of points in potions if Snape continued this behaviour. Then he wondered why he cared. Are her beliefs affecting me? Is she changing me already? He wondered, then decided he didn't care, because Emma had been the first person, other than his mother, to treat him not as a wizard, or a Malfoy, but as Draco.

An hour later Draco followed Potter and Weasley out of the dungeon and set off to find the hospital wing. He may not like Longbottom, but Emma was with him and he'd already realised that she was the truest friend he'd ever had and would ever find. He would go and find Rowan, her being a Slytherin at least, but she was a second year and had lessons next. He wondered how he'd already become so dependent on Emma's company despite having only talked to her thrice, and two of those times being subjected to her sharp tongue.


Hospital Wing

Merlin sat with Neville and smiled at his chatter. He reminded her of herself when she'd been much younger and had first came to Camelot. He just had a little way to go, that's all. He needed to learn how to stand up for himself.

About five minutes after Potions finished Hermione turned up in the hospital wing, anxious to know if Neville was alright.

"I'm fine, but Madam Pomfrey wanted to make sure there were no side-effects."
Hermione sighed with relief, seconds before Draco Malfoy and Niamh Rowan sauntered through the door.

"I heard you died, but the rumours were obviously exaggerated. So how come you're still here?" Niamh sat down on the bed and casually ruffled Neville's hair before she even realised what she was doing. Then she realised that she didn't particularly care. He endeared himself to her and reminded her of a different young magician, oh so long ago.

"I-I-what?" Neville looked completely bewildered and neither Hermione nor Draco could blame him, as they were pretty shocked themselves.

"Oh, he just spilled an incomplete and disastrous attempt at a potion to cure boils all over himself. Madam Pomfrey said she wanted to keep him under observation until lunch to make sure there are no side-effects." Emma spoke casually and looked for all the world like this was a regular occurrence and hadn't once doubted that they would be friends. Maybe she didn't. Was the unbidden thought of three different people.

 

Chapter Text

September 8th, Evening – The Drunken Knight Bar

Gwaine Kraft wiped down the bar and observed the patrons. He liked to try and guess what their story was, if he didn't already know. He could remember another lifetime, where he had been a knight and had had good friends. He wasn't sure if it was real or all in his head, but he had seen an Uther Pendragon on TV who bore a startling resemblance to the King who banished him. He was fairly certain it was a past life, especially considering that he couldn't possibly make up a character like Merlin. How wrong the legends were about her. About all of them. He hadn't met anyone from the legends before and part of him wondered why. The other part told him that he should go to the tavern and get drunk and then see what would happen. He ignored the second voice. At 19, Gwaine wasn't a typical bartender, but he loved his job.

Percival de Troyes was Lancelot's best friend, perhaps because he was the only other person that Lancelot knew who could remember a different life. A life they had both lived. Despite this, Lancelot wasn't feeling very happy with him at the moment. Having just started the two year training programme to become a police officer, he needed to be able to get up tomorrow morning, and Percival dragging him into a bar wasn't helping.

"Come on Lance! It'll be fun!" Percival had a firm hold on Lancelot's upper arm and Lancelot couldn't get away if he tried.

"Look, I appreciate the gesture, but it's a Sunday evening and I have to get up early for training tomorrow."

"Just be irresponsible for once. You’re 18 years old, you’re young and you should have some fun!"

"Look Perce-"

"Hello, how can I help you?" Gwaine's fellow barkeep Adam had approached the new arrivals as Gwaine washed some glasses.

"Two pints of beer please." A familiar voice requested. It can't be…

"PERCIVAL!" The voice was annoyed and equally familiar.

Gwaine filled the two pint glasses with beer as he listened to them argue. Lancelot always had be boringly responsible. He turned towards them and handed them the glasses. "Don't be such a stick-in-the-mud Lance. Have some fun for once. Listen to Percy."

"Shut up, Gwaine." Lancelot's response was automatic, before either he or Percival registered who had spoken.

"GWAINE?!" they both realised who he was at the same time and their voices attracted the attention of every patron in the bar.

"Keep your voices down. Yes, it's me! What are you up to these days? Any pretty girls?" Gwaine waggled his eyebrows. "How are the Princess and Merlin? And everyone else of course."

Lancelot let out a relieved laugh and Percival just knocked his pint to Lancelot and with a 'Cheers' downed it.

"Well, I'm on the Police Training Programme. Percy's a stuntman and has already been fairly successful. We've neither of us got girls to speak of."

"Stuntman eh? Bet that's got all the ladies swooning at you."

"And you're a bartender. Should've guessed." Percival responded teasingly.

"Wait a minute, you asked us how Merlin and Arthur are. Don't you know?"

"Nope. You two are the first I've met from Camelot. Thought I was a bit crazy to be honest. I take it to mean that you two don't know them either?"

"Nope, it's just us two."

"I wonder why that is." Percival mused.

Lancelot suddenly realised. "Merlin."

"What? You gotta be clearer mate. Not all of us are geniuses."

Percival nodded in agreement.

"Well, I only ever met Arthur because of Merlin. And then I introduced everyone else to Percival."

"And I only met them because Merlin accidentally started a bar fight." Gwaine realised.

"Only you Gwaine, only you." Percival shook his head fondly and Lancelot thought for a moment.

"So, if we've not met Arthur because we knew Merlin first, why don't we know Merlin?"

"I dunno mate. Search me. But it'll happen. Probably." Gwaine grinned, but then frowned. "Do you reckon the others know each other?"

"Well, Morgana and Arthur are related, so they probably do. Same with Gwen and Elyan. And if Morgana and Gwen aren't already friends I'd be very surprised. So that's four of them that know each other." Lancelot pondered.

"Five." Gwaine corrected.

Both Lancelot and Percival looked at him in confusion.

"By the time any of us met Arthur, Leon was already his first knight. And Gwen told Merlin that they'd known each other since childhood. So that's five. And I reckon Gaius is with them too, he was good friends with Uther. What? I have a brain you know!" Gwaine told them, annoyed by the shocked looks on their faces.

"So, from the table, that leaves Merlin, Mordred, Tristan and Isolde. And I reckon that Tristan and Isolde won't have met Arthur without Merlin either. That leaves Mordred." Lancelot counted up.

"I don't know about Mordred, but Gaius is Merlin's Uncle. Won't she have met them by now?"

"Maybe." Gwaine shrugged. "Here, drinks are on the house. My treat. To the Round Table." He pushed another pint towards each of them.

Lancelot shook his head. "'The Drunken Knight'. Only you could have found this much irony by accident Gwaine."

Percival grinned. "If he hadn't, he wouldn't be Gwaine."

The ex-knights looked at each other and grinned. "To the Round Table." They chorused.


Heads Common Room – Hogwarts.

Morgana woke up with a smile on her face. Gwaine, Lancelot and Percival, she thought. Welcome back.

"Mordred" She called him mentally.

"What is it?! Are you alright? Did you have another nightmare? I only left because you fell asleep!" Mordred sounded panicked.

Morgana immediately sent a feeling of reassurance his way. "Relax, I'm fine. Nothing's wrong. Gwaine, Lancelot and Percival have found each other. In a bar of all places."

"Oh. Well that's where Gwaine would be, isn't it?" He sounded amused. "It's good that they've found each other. Although… why did they find each other first, rather than Arthur?" 

"My guess would be because they all met Arthur through Merlin."

"That makes sense. But wouldn't the same be true of me?"

Morgana frowned. That was a good point. "Come to think of it, Merlin is Gaius' niece. We should have met her through him, but Hunith and Balinor didn't have any kids this time around."

"But all the other familial relationships are the same." Mordred sounded puzzled. "Why would the same not be true for her?"

"You were adopted… your parents died." Morgana replied slowly.

"So? What's that got to do with anything?"

"How did Dad find out? In the original timeline he killed Cerdan, but he didn't this time around. How did he know you were orphaned? More to the point, how did he know that the orphaned boy he adopted was you?" 

Mordred's blood froze.

"Mordred? Mordred what is it?" Morgana sounded anxious.

"Uther never knew me as more than a druid boy he hunted down before he adopted me in this time. He didn't know I was part of the Round Table until you told him. He never knew me by name. But he was the one who helped all three of us with our memories. We all remembered at roughly the same time and he knew that I was gaining memories. Even when I thought they were stupid dreams."

"What are you saying?"

"Someone told him. The same someone who told him to adopt me."

"We need to write to him. Arthur didn't know who Niamh is. But if he knew who you are because someone told him, we need to know who told him. And if he knows who you were, he might be able to tell us who Niamh could be."

"I just hope he tells us if he does know."

"Me too, Mordred. Me too."


September 12th – Great Hall

Merlin walked into the Great Hall, dreading the flying lesson that was to come. She took a seat next to Hermione and Neville who were both looking forward to the lesson as much as she was.

Harry saw Hermione giving Neville some flying tips that were boring everyone else to tears. It then occurred to him that Emma was the only one from a magical family who hadn't yet said anything about her ability to fly.

"Have you ever flown before Emma? Only, everyone else from magical families have told stories about it. You're the only one who hasn't." Harry asked her. Much to his displeasure, the Slytherin second year who Emma had become fast friends with had heard his question and taken a seat opposite Neville.

"Don't worry Neville. Flying's not that bad. And if you hate it that much, you can take comfort in the fact that you will never have to fly again after this year." She told him, before turning to Emma.

"Speccy's got a point, Em. You never talk about it. Are you bad at flying?"

Harry's frown grew deeper. Speccy?! And then, Malfoy sat down.

"Emma can't fly? Really?" he asked. Harry had never thought he could hate anyone more than his cousin, Dudley. He'd been wrong. He loathed Malfoy with a passion.

"I can fly. Sort of. I just don't like to."

"You don't like flying?!" Ron was not the only one to shout in disbelief. Malfoy stared at her as though she had committed a crime.

"Look, if humans were meant to fly, we'd have wings. I don't mind flying on something that does have wings. Like a Hippogriff," Or a dragon. "If I had a winged animagus form, I'd have no problem flying as that either. I just don't feel comfortable flying on a glorified tree branch."

"A glorified tree branch!" Malfoy looked at Emma, scandalised.

"You can't deny that. It's an enchanted stick of wood. Excuse me if I don't trust it to carry me."

"Emma," the Slytherin girl said patiently, "It is perfectly safe to fly on a broomstick. The only issue is if you fall off."

"Easy for you to say, Niamh. I don't like broomsticks, which by the way, were originally cleaning utensils."

"But-but-" it seemed that Malfoy and Ron were in agreement with each other for the first, and most likely last, time.

"Besides, brooms don't like me." Emma considered the case closed after that and started eating her breakfast. Meanwhile 'Niamh' tried to comfort Neville, who now looked more terrified than ever of flying. Malfoy stared at Emma for a while, as though trying to find words, then seemed to come to a decision and stole her bread roll and buttered it whilst she glared at him. Harry didn't understand how they could be such good friends. Malfoy was such a git, and Emma was nice to everyone. Although she was also friends with a second year Slytherin, which said something about her judgement.

Merlin scowled at Draco when he stole her bread, whilst she was busy eating her porridge, but let it go when she caught sight of Morgana rushing into the hall looking distressed. She considered the ethicality of what she was about to do, then shrugged it off. It was just magical eavesdropping, she reasoned. "Oferhíeran." She whispered.

Morgana rushed into the hall in a panic. "MORDRED!" she called mentally.

Mordred stood up as his sister got closer. "What is it? What's the matter?"

"I had a nightmare."

Many people looked at her weirdly, but Mordred understood. Her nightmares were her Seer powers manifesting. "What happened?"

"I'm not sure. We need to leave, they can't hear this." Morgana added the last part mentally.

Mordred nodded and put his arm around her as he guided her towards the door. She didn't seem to realise that she was still shaking.

Merlin watched them leave the hall and looked into her glass of water. "Ætíe mé þá þé ic séce."

Considering how distressed Morgana was, she had to have had a vision, and Merlin needed to know what it entailed in order to be able to defend against it, she reasoned.

"What happened?" Mordred asked his sister.

"I-I'm not sure. It was more than one vision. They were separate, but the same. The first one was of Niamh Rowan. She was older, but it was definitely her. She was smirking in satisfaction as Merlin was dying. I didn't see Merlin, but somehow I knew that that was why she was pleased. Then I saw her dying. Merlin killed her!"

"So she was an enemy in Camelot. Or possibly just an enemy here. Although it's most likely both! If she was an enemy in Camelot then there's a high chance she'll want to kill Merlin again and with how close they are it'll be easy for her."

"No! That can't be right! Because in the next vision she saved Merlin!"

"What do you mean what happened?" Mordred asked urgently.

"There was a mountain troll. It was going to kill her!" Morgana became even more distressed.

"Shhh. Shh, Morgana it's ok. Calm down Morgana, you're ok." He embraced her and gently rocked her, despite being shorter than her.

"The troll, it was too strong. She saved Merlin! But she was injured." Morgana was almost crying now.

"Shhh. Come on. Your strong, you can do this. Was there anything else?"

"There's three of them." Morgana's voice was trembling. "There's three of them and they will kill us. There's three of them and they will help us. There's three of them and they will be our redemption."

"Morgana? What do you mean?"

"I don't know! Everything happens in threes!"

"Three is the sacred number. Three enemies, three friends and three saviours?"

"Death, Power, Bitterness. Past, Present, Future. Courage, Strength, Magic!" Morgana collapsed and Mordred, alarmed, immediately tried to rennervate her, without success. He checked to make sure no one watching then tried old magic, "Ic ácwice þé." Morgana woke up with a gasp.

"Mordred!" She grabbed his arm. "Merlin's in danger. Today, in the flying lesson. I don't know what, but something is going to happen."

"Emma?!" Draco kicked her lightly under the table.

Merlin lost her concentration and quickly disturbed the water in her glass in order to end the spell. "Yeah?" she asked, trying not to sound irritated. Deep down, she knew that it was a good thing that he had stopped her, there was no guarantee they wouldn't be able to tell that someone was scrying them.

"Are you okay? You zoned out. Are you worried about the flying lesson?" He added a teasing note to his voice at the end of his last sentence.

"No way! I'm not nervous!"

"You're a terrible liar, Emma." Niamh told her.

Nothing's changed there then. Merlin thought as the owl post arrived. She noticed Morgana and Mordred re-enter the Great Hall out of the corner of her eye, the former looking a little pale, when she was distracted by a barn owl swooping in front of her and landing by Neville. He excitedly opened the package that was evidently from his grandmother. It looked slightly familiar to Merlin.

"It's a Remembrall! Gran knows I forget things – this tells you if there's something you've forgotten to do. Look, you hold it tight like this and if it turns red – oh…" Neville's face fell as the Remembrall glowed scarlet. "…you've forgotten something. The problem is that I can't remember what I've forgotten."

Draco leaned over interested. "Can I see?" Neville nodded and handed it over. The smoke lost its red colour. "I guess that means I haven't forgotten anything?"

Merlin smiled. "Not anything you know of at least. Remembralls are pretty flawed, they can only let you know if you've forgotten something. They can't tell you what you've forgotten or how important it is. They basically just confirm that feeling you get when you can't remember something."

Neville stared at her. "That's… pretty accurate actually." He admitted. "It would be much more useful if it told me what I was forgetting."

Merlin took the ball off Draco when he passed it to her and frowned. Why was it so familiar? The smoke turned an odd rusty colour which resembled dried blood. Niamh looked at the Remembrall curiously. That colour looked remarkably like blood. Then to the astonishment of everyone, Merlin included, it flashed a golden colour, similar to Kilgharrah's scales. And the crest of Camelot! Merlin realised. It then cycled through blue, purple, red, orange, yellow and green in quick succession, before returning to white smoke. Everyone looked at the Remembrall in shock, other than Merlin who had suddenly realised what it had reminded her of. She dumped the Remembrall in Neville's hands.

"Thank you! I just realised exactly what it was the Remembrall reminded me of!" she kissed his cheek and hurried out of the hall.

Everyone stared after her in confusion, before Draco broke the silence. "I'd keep that Remembrall. They don't all act like that. In fact I don't think they ever have before. But what do you know, there's a first time for everything." He shot Niamh a quick smile and smirked at Neville before nodding at Hermione and leaving, totally ignoring the presence of the other Gryffindors.

Niamh stared at the Remembrall. That red… it looked like blood. Why would it do that? Unless... Niamh bolted upright in shock, having not even registered the fact that Draco had left. "Merlin!" she exclaimed. Then stiffened, before relaxing after remembering that exclaiming 'Merlin' in the wizarding world was as normal as saying 'Goddess' among the followers of the Old Religion. She got up and hurried to the library, hoping to find a book on reincarnation to check her theory. Having seen that he had a free first, Mordred surreptitiously followed her, hoping to prevent her from getting up to no good.


3.30 PM – Hogwarts Grounds

Merlin followed her classmates as they hurried to their first flying lesson. She was lagging behind in the futile hope that she wouldn't have to fly. The last time… it hadn't been pretty.

Draco watched the Gryffindors hastening towards the brooms and his eyes automatically sought Emma. She looked nervous, more nervous than even Longbottom. She stood next to the broom opposite him, Granger on one side, Longbottom on the other, with Potter and Weasley on the other side of Granger.

Madam Hooch arrived and took one look at the class before barking at them. "Well, what are you all waiting for? Everyone stand next to a broomstick. Come on, hurry up." There was a small scuffle as the last few people found a broom. "Stick out your right hand over your broom and say, 'Up!'"

"UP!" everyone chorused, some with raised voices and some barely whispering. Draco, Neville and Hermione all noticed that Emma said nothing at all, and merely gave her broom a dubious look.

Draco's broom immediately jumped into his hands along with Potter's, Weasley's and a few others. He noticed that Granger's had simply rolled over and Longbottom's had barely twitched. Probably because his voice was quavering and the broom, not belonging to him, didn't feel like it should obey him.

"With feeling!" Madam Hooch ordered the class. The command was repeated and this time Granger's jumped reluctantly into her hand and Longbottom's flew up and whacked him in the process causing him to say:

"Ow!"

Emma smiled at him sympathetically. "It's because you're nervous. The broom can sense that and doesn't see you as an authority. It's messing with you."

Neville smiled gratefully whilst Draco eyed her suspiciously. For someone who doesn't like flying you sure know a lot about brooms. He thought.

Very soon Emma's was the only broom on the ground, everyone else having successfully made the brooms fly up to them. Draco and Hermione weren't the only ones to notice that Emma hadn't even tried.

"Well, you girl, what's your name?!" Madam Hooch snapped.

"Emma Ambrosius. And I don't like brooms, ma'am. Brooms don't like me either."

"Well, Miss Ambrosius, I'm afraid that you don't have much of a choice. Now get your broom."

Emma sighed, but held her right hand over her broom. Unaware that the rest of the class was watching her, she said "Up." She said it without any inflection, in the same way someone would say 'yes' or 'no' if they weren't paying attention to the conversation, almost absentmindedly.

The broom sprung into her hand almost before she had finished speaking, contradicting her statement about brooms disliking her only moments before.

"There you go. Not so hard, is it?" Madam Hooch then went around the class and showed them how to mount their brooms without sliding off and correcting their grips.

Emma held it as far away from her as possible, looking at it as if it was a poisonous snake or something similar. Draco mounted his broom with the ease of long practice and then smiled at her reassuringly. "It's easy. Doesn't bite." He teased. "Or are you scared?"

"I'm not scared!" Draco had learned only yesterday that if Emma was taunted then she would rise to the challenge, like a true Gryffindor. As if to prove this to him, Emma immediately mounted her broom flawlessly, with a perfect grip which caused Madam Hooch to raise her eyebrows, before correcting Draco's.

Draco looked at her questioningly as Emma bit her lip and looked at her broom uneasily. He wasn't the only one to notice.

"Are you alright Emma?" Neville asked. She didn't look nervous like him, she looked more apprehensive than anything else.

"Brooms and I just don't really get along that's all." She shot him a weak smile.

Madam Hooch returned to the end of the lines and opened her mouth to announce something, the class never found out what.

Merlin's broomstick exploded. She had the presence of mind to throw her arms up to cover face the moment she sensed it coming, less than a second before it happened.

"Miss Ambrosius!" Madam Hooch was outraged, scandalised even. "What did you do?!"

"Nothing, I swear!"

"Broomsticks do not just explode."

"It just happens." Merlin told her desperately. Truthfully, she didn't know why broomsticks exploded if she was on them for too long, but suspected that it had something to do with the fact that they just couldn't handle her magic. It was similar to what happened whenever she tried to use a modern wand.

The whole class stared at her and the pieces of the broomstick that was damaged beyond repair.

Harry's gaze shifted between Emma and the smoking fragments of the broomstick on the ground. Well that explains the 'I don't like flying' comment. He thought.

After Madam Hooch had managed to get the class to calm down again and had relegated Emma to the side with the strict instruction, "Do not move." She lined the class up and made them remount their brooms. I guess she doesn't trust Emma to be close to any of her precious brooms. Neville thought with amusement.

"Now," she announced. "When I blow my whistle, you kick off from the ground, hard. Keep your brooms steady, rise a few feet and then come straight back down by leaning forwards slightly."

Neville tensed and gripped his broom more tightly.

"On my whistle – three – two –"

Neville practically jumped off the ground in panic. The obvious annoyance of the broom was not helping.

"Come back, boy!" Madam Hooch shouted up to him. But Neville could barely hear her over the rushing wind and panicked as he saw the ground falling away from him. He felt the broom jerk and gasped, before sliding sideways off the broom and landing with a thud and nasty crack, face down on the grass.

Merlin was at his sides in seconds and knew with a glance that he had a broken wrist, but kept that to herself. "Oh my God! Neville!"

Nobody noticed that she had said 'Oh my God!' instead of 'Oh Merlin!' when she was supposed to have grown up a pureblood and Neville let out a low "Ow…"

Madam Hooch crouched over him and gently helped him up. "Broken wrist. Come on, boy – it's all right, up you get." She turned to the rest of the class. "None of you is to move while I take this boy to the hospital wing! You leave those brooms where they are or you'll be out of Hogwarts before you can say 'Quidditch'." Her voice grew soft again as she turned to Neville, "Come on, dear."

The moment Neville and Madam Hooch were out of sight and earshot the Slytherins burst into laughter and Merlin narrowed her eyes at Draco, daring him to join in.

Draco joined in the laughter so as not to stick out but could feel Emma's gaze boring into him. He shifted uncomfortably. He quickly darted forward and snatched the Remembrall from the ground, lest any of his housemates see it. He didn't particularly like Longbottom but he could see what he was sure both Niamh and Emma saw – he was brave and had a lot of potential to live up to, despite being afraid of failing his Grandmother's expectations. So for that reason, and that reason alone Draco went easy on him. He knew what it was like to be at the brunt of people's expectations.

The other Slytherins started jeering. "Did you see his face, the great lump?" It was Theodore Nott who spoke. He was smart but had a mean streak a mile wide. A bit like Draco before he met Emma.

"Shut up!" It was the Patil girl who spoke. Draco noticed that Emma wasn't saying anything, but was observing the goings on with a small frown on her face.

"Ooh, sticking up for Longbottom?" Pansy Parkinson, who Draco found rather irritating, almost more so than the Gryffindors, was the speaker this time. "Never thought you'd like fat little cry-babies, Parvati."

Draco met Granger's eyes whilst avoiding Emma's. She seemed to be silently begging him to do something. He broke her gaze and looked away. He wasn't brave enough to stand up to his housemates like that. Some might call him a coward, but he was no Gryffindor and had a good sense of self-preservation.

"What's that in your hand Draco?" Blaise Zabini, who until now had been silent, had noticed the sun glittering off the Remembrall.

"It's that stupid thing Longbottom's gran sent him." Tracey Davis sneered.

"Give it here, Malfoy." Harry's voice was quiet but everyone stopped talking to watch the confrontation.

Merlin sighed in exasperation. Boys! Draco wasn't going to do anything until Harry had spoken. Now he was going to do something stupid so he didn't lose face. Merlin even knew exactly what it was. She also knew that Harry would end up Seeker because of it. For that reason, she didn't get involved. She just watched silently with disapproving eyes.

Malfoy smirked. He hadn't been planning anything, but this was too good an opportunity to pass. Whilst he tolerated Granger and Longbottom because they were Emma's friends, he loathed Potter.

"I think I'll leave it somewhere for Longbottom to collect – how about – up a tree?" Draco felt a pang of guilt, but squashed it before he could lose his nerve.

"Give it here!" Potter was starting to lose his temper and Draco smirked as he leapt onto his broomstick and took off. When he was level with the top branches of an oak, he called "Come and get it, Potter!"

Emma shook her head as Harry grabbed his broom and took off, despite Hermione's protests.

"What. An. Idiot."

Merlin stifled a snort at Hermione's oh-so-eloquent statement and watched as Draco sneered at Harry, then threw the Remembrall into the air before landing.

"Hermione's right you know." Merlin told him the second he touched down. "You're both complete idiots. Boys!"

Draco looked at her indignantly but never got a chance to respond as that was the moment that Harry toppled gently onto the grass and Professor McGonagall chose to announce her presence.

"HARRY POTTER!"

Merlin shook her head at Draco's satisfied smirk and whacked him lightly in the stomach.


11.40 PM – Slytherin Common Room

Kara narrowed her eyes at the small dark-haired figure who had just crept into the common room. Merlin or Emma Ambrosius – whichever you preferred to call her – was a Gryffindor, what was she doing in the Slytherin common room? More to the point, how was she in the common room?

Merlin didn't see anyone watching her as she crept through the Slytherin common room. She was lucky that the wall recognised her magic and let her in when she asked for entrance. She walked as silently as possible towards the boys' dormitories and tripped into a table, which she managed to catch just in time.

Niamh, who was sitting in the corner of the common room suppressed a snigger and Kara had to stuff her fist in her mouth to prevent herself from laughing out loud. Unfortunately, Emma had heard something.

"Who's there?" she demanded.

"I could ask you the same question, you know." Niamh stood up and flounced across the room in an impression of the noble ladies in the court of Camelot.

Merlin spun around in shock and Kara let out an inaudible sigh of relief. "Niamh! You scared me! What are you doing here?!"

"This is the Slytherin common room. I have more right to be here than you do. And how did you even get in? I knew you'd come but I thought…" Niamh trailed off.

"The wall likes me. And what do you mean you knew I would come?!"

"Draco challenged Potter to a midnight duel that we both know he had no intention of turning up to. Of course you're going to make him go."

"You know me well." Merlin almost smiled. "I'll go get Draco."

"Fine. But just in case you hadn't already figured it out, I'm coming to the Trophy Room with you."

"I'm not completely oblivious." Unlike a certain prat.

Merlin left Niamh in the common room and stole up the stairs.

"What are you going to do?" Niamh asked aloud.

Kara didn't move, hoping that Rowan wasn't talking to her.

"I'm talking to you, Dowling. I know you're there. I noticed you, even if she didn't."

"Well I guess what I'm going to do depends on what you're going to do."

"I'm going with Emma and Draco to the Trophy Room after curfew."

"I won't tell anyone, but that wasn't what I was talking about." She paused. "Look, I don't like Merlin. I don't hate her, but we're never going to be anything more than casual acquaintances. So what I'm actually asking is whether or not your Merlin's enemy? If you are, I won't tell anyone. If you're not, then I'll tell Mordred to stop stalking you."

"Do you know who I am?"

"Couldn't care less to be honest. I was after your time."

"Yeah, you were. And I'm not going to hurt Merlin. I won't hurt Mordred either, if that's what you're worried about."

"I'm more worried about him getting injured defending her to be honest."

"Boys are annoying. Annoyingly oblivious. He'll see it soon."

"I doubt that. But thank you." Kara left the armchair and headed towards her dormitory. Halfway up the steps she stopped and turned around. "Good luck in your endeavours. Just be warned that if you hurt Mordred in any way, even if it's because you hurt someone he cares about, I will kill you. I don't care who you were."

"Consider me warned." Niamh stated dryly. "But the same thing goes for you. Hurt Merlin in any way, and you’re dead meat."

Merlin ended the spell she had cast to be able to hear their conversation from the stairwell.

"Oþswígan." She'd been given a lot to ponder, but she didn't have the time to consider it right now. She found Draco's bed with ease and covered his mouth with her hand whilst shaking him.

"Mmmphf!" His voice was muffled as he cried out in alarm.

"Shut up you idiot! It's just me!" Draco blinked a couple of times to make sure he wasn't imagining it and then hissed at Emma, "What the hell are you doing here?! How'd you even get into the common room?"

"Your entrance wall likes me. Now come on!"

"Where are we going?"

"Trophy Room."

"What?!" Draco stopped dead. "Why?"

"Because Harry and Ron aren't the only ones who went, Neville and Hermione followed them and it's cruel, sneaky and underhanded to try and hurt them. Quite frankly, I find it awful. So, you're going to meet them and call it off. Or just warn them that Filch knows."

Draco felt a slight pang of guilt when she mentioned Longbottom, but pushed it aside. "So what if Potter gets caught?"

Emma turned to regard him with those piercing, bright eyes of hers. "You don't mean that." She told him with certainty. "You might resent him and dislike him, but you don't want Neville to get in trouble and I doubt you intended Hermione to get caught up in your plot. You don't have to come, but I'm going regardless and I'm pretty sure Niamh is coming with me."

Well, that settled it then. Draco wasn't about to let the girls go on their own. He immediately followed Emma into the common room, where Niamh was waiting.

"There you are! Took you long enough! What kept you?"

"Draco was debating the ethicality of staying behind."

"Oh." Niamh shot Draco a withering glance. "Come on. We don't want to be late."


Midnight –Trophy Room

Harry waited impatiently. The clock had just struck Midnight and Neville was glancing around nervously whilst Hermione just glared at Ron and him disapprovingly. "You are just asking for trouble!"

"Hermione-" Harry started, but Ron cut him off.

"Shut up! I heard something!"

Emma and Draco emerged from the shadows with the Niamh girl bringing up the rear.

"I thought Crabbe was your second!" Ron immediately hissed.

"He was mistaken. I am." Emma told them, shooting Draco a look, which Harry couldn't decipher.

"Besides, we're not here to fight. Draco here was going to stand you up," at these words Niamh snorted, but the Gryffindors ignored her. "But we convinced him to let you know about the tip-off Filch was given that Nott," her voice was laced with disgust as she practically spat his name out, "warned him about."

Harry and Ron both immediately sent glares at Draco but Neville piped up. "How would Nott know about the tip off?"

"Because he was obviously the one who gave Filch the hint." Niamh drawled derisively. Harry and Ron instantly bristled with hostility on behalf of their housemate but Neville, Hermione and Emma all ignored the tone to her voice.

"You do realise that the more of us there are, the more likely we are to get caught?" Hermione pointed out, needlessly.

"Well spotted, Granger."

Emma opened her mouth, probably to tell them all to stop sniping, but she never got the chance as a horribly familiar voice spoke from the next room.

"Sniff around, my sweet, they might be lurking in a corner."

"Filch." Hermione hissed needlessly.

Harry waved at the others to follow him and scurried out of the Trophy Room, the others hot on his tail.

Merlin brought up the rear and lagged behind purposely. She had just rounded the corner when she heard Filch enter. She peeked around the corner. There was nothing that she could move for him to trip over, not without it being obvious. She looked at the other door. "Onstyrian, onbregdan." She incanted. The door creaked as it moved and Filch spun around. He moved towards it but Merlin muttered "Áhyltest" and tripped him up. He hit the ground with a thud and Merlin smiled in success before hurrying after the others.

"Emma." Draco hissed with relief.

"Where were you?" Niamh whispered, looking at her suspiciously.

"I tripped. I caught myself on the wall but waited to make sure Filch didn't hear me." Merlin had become better at lying over the years but saw doubt in Niamh's eyes, as if she didn't quite believe her.

"Forget that! Let's go!" Ron insisted.

"No! This way!" Merlin stopped him from going down a dead end corridor and instead opened the door to a gallery with armour in it and gestured for them to go ahead. She followed last and softly shut the door, but unfortunately in her hurry to catch up she stumbled into Neville, who in turn tripped and grabbed Ron around the waist to catch himself. Both of them crashed into a suit of armour. CLANG! The crash it made as they hit the ground would not go unnoticed. Draco hauled Neville up, whilst Harry grabbed Ron and they all sprinted down the gallery and tried to change direction as often as possible. Merlin ended up leading the way and brought them to a halt in the Charms corridor, which was far enough away that Filch wouldn't look there in a hurry.

"I – told – you," Hermione was gasping as she clutched her side. "I – told – you – this – was – a – bad – idea!"

Ron opened his mouth to tell her to not say 'I told you so' when Merlin felt a familiar presence and suppressed a groan.

The doorknob rattled as Peeves came shooting out of the classroom in front of them with a wicked grin of his face. He practically squealed in delight when he noticed them, not having seen Merlin, who was at the back, and not faring as badly as the others. "Wandering around at midnight, ickle firsties? Tut, tut, tut. Naughty, naughty, you'll get caughty."

Merlin barely stifled a sigh as Niamh pleaded with Peeves, "Not if you don't give us away, Peeves, please."

Hermione joined in, "Be quiet, Peeves – please - you'll get us thrown out."

Merlin sensed what Ron was going to a moment before he did it. "Ron, NO!"

But it was too late. "Get out of the way!" Ron had taken a swipe at Peeves.

"STUDENTS OUT OF BED!" Peeves immediately bellowed. "STUDENTS DOWN THE CHARMS CORRIDOR!"

"Ron!" Merlin exclaimed exasperatedly.

The seven of them ducked underneath Peeves and ran for their lives. Merlin paused only to stare at Peeves, "Don't tell Filch where we've gone. Please!"

Peeves inclined his head to her and gave a mischievous smirk.

Merlin followed the others who had slammed into the door at the end of the corridor.

Ron was moaning in distress and Neville was whimpering as Hermione grabbed Harry's wand and whispered "Alohomora!" whilst tapping the lock.

Nothing happened – not that Merlin had expected it to – 'Alohomora' was far too basic.

"Oh, move over!" Merlin shoved them aside and tapped her own wand to the lock. "Álíese" she muttered. The lock clicked and she pushed the door open, stepping aside to allow everyone to pile through before following them and quickly shutting it.

They heard footsteps. "Which way did they go, Peeves? Quick, tell me."

Merlin let out a quiet sigh of relief. Even if she hadn't asked him to, there was no way Peeves would give them away, he liked irritating Filch too much.

"Say 'please'." Peeves demanded.

"Don't mess me about, Peeves, now where did they go?" Merlin had never met this particular caretaker, but could tell that Peeves enjoying annoying him as much as he had loved to irritate the previous ones.

"Shan't say nothing if you don't say please." Peeves responded in that annoying sing-song tone that he knew infuriated the caretaker like nothing else.

"All right – please." Filch sounded quite desperate now.

"NOTHING! Ha haaa! Told you I wouldn't say nothing if you didn't say please! Ha ha! Haaaaaa!" they all sighed quietly in relief and Merlin thought that Peeves took far too much joy out of making the caretaker irate as she heard Filch cursing.

"He thinks that this door is locked." Harry realised.

"It was locked." Hermione reminded him.

"We'll be fine now." Niamh's voice was confident, this wasn't the first time she'd nearly been caught out of bounds by Filch, although she'd never shared the experience before.

"It was probably locked for a good reason." Draco pointed out. In Hogwarts, nothing was ever locked for no reason, not even the broom shed.

Merlin turned around and saw why Neville had been tugging on her arm for the last minute. Of course, this is the third floor. "Guys, we've got company." She announced to the rest of the group, before reaching out to soothe the Cerberus with her mind. "Hello Fluffy. Please don't move." She knew it wouldn't work for long, so when the others fled out of the door – after nearly falling backwards – she followed them. She paused only to slam the door and mutter "Fýrbendum fæst," as it closed, and then sprinted after the others. They didn't stop until they were back at the Trophy Room – where it all started – and then they all just looked at each other until Ron broke the silence.

"What do they think they're doing, keeping a thing like that locked up in a school?"

"Yeah, what Weasley said. Cause seriously, if any dog needs exercise, that one does." Draco backed Ron up.

"You don't use your eyes, any of you, do you?" Hermione snapped, having remembered her annoyance.

"Hermione's right. Didn't any of you see what it was standing on?" Niamh's voice was incredulous as she supported Hermione.

"The floor." Harry suggested. "I wasn't looking at its feet, I was too busy with its heads."

"It had three of them." Neville's voice was slightly faint from fear.

"Cheer up Longbottom!" Draco's voice didn't waver, although Merlin could see the remnants of fear in his face. "At least it wasn't a dragon."

"It wasn't standing on the floor." Merlin interjected mildly, hoping to diffuse the tension.

"It was standing on a trapdoor." Niamh informed them loftily.

"It's obviously guarding something." Hermione was glaring at them now. "I hope you're all pleased with yourselves. We could all have been killed – or worse, expelled. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to bed, before any of you come up with another clever idea that could end up with us all in the hospital wing. Or is one near-death experience not enough for you?" Hermione spun around and stalked in the direction of the Gryffindor common room.

They all stared after her in various states of disbelief.

"You'd think we dragged her along." Ron said in disbelief.

"I was dragged along." Draco glared at Merlin as he spoke.

"Actually, I gave you a choice." She informed him, "I just let you know that there was no way me and Niamh weren't going."

Draco didn't contradict her and Niamh smiled slyly at him. "Thanks, Dragon-boy. I didn't know you cared."

Harry diffused the tension as best he could. "We should all get back to bed so that we don't get caught."

Emma nodded at him in acquiescence. "Night, Draco, Niamh." She hugged them both. "Sweet dreams. Come on, Neville, I'll make sure we don't get caught." She linked arms with Neville and vanished into the shadows.

Harry and Malfoy glared at each other. Before either of them could speak, Niamh took control,

"Emma's right. We should leave now Draco." Her voice was soft, but had the desired effect. "See you in the morning, Gryffindorks. Like it or not." She smirked at them and then grabbed Malfoy's arm and vanished.

Harry and Ron stared at each other after they'd left. "Completely mental, I tell you." Ron repeated his earlier opinion on girls.

Harry simply shrugged and led the way back to the Fat Lady. He's been given a lot to think about. But one thing was for sure, it looked as though he had found out where the grubby little package from vault seven hundred and thirteen was.


September 13th – Headmaster's Office

Merlin nodded her gratitude at the portraits lining the walls – they all knew better than to let on that they knew her – and vanished into thin air, intending to head to the Great Hall for some breakfast before Potions, where she was bound to lose some points. The missive she had left on the desk lay in plain sight, the ink still wet.

The stone's hiding place is no longer a secret to the student body and no wizard or witch likes to be kept in the dark. They will seek to find out about the stone now, more than ever and have already realised that the contents of Vault 713 are the treasure hidden beneath the trapdoor. I can only urge you to be careful, but please consider the repercussions that your actions could have.

I will remind you again that not everything is as it seems.

A friend.

ɱ

 

Chapter Text

September 14th – Pendragon Household

It was quite late already, Uther was surprised Arthur wasn't up yet. Then he remembered what his son was like and the fact that he had been at a party last night and revised his opinion. However when Fugol flew in through the open window, nearly crashed into the cabinet then ended up sitting on the butter dish, it was safe to say that Uther was shocked. Especially when the Great Grey extended his leg towards Uther expectantly. His children at Hogwarts didn't normally write directly to him and instead conveyed messages about their well-being and news through their letters to Arthur. He cautiously removed the letter, not ruling out the possibility it could be a prank, and looked again at the addressee on the front. "Dadwas written in Morgana's curving script. His worries only intensified when Fugol immediately hopped as far away from the letter as possible. He warily opened the letter and started to read, wondering what was so pressing or secretive that his daughter and adoptive son didn't want Arthur to know about:

Dear Dad,

I had a dream a few days ago and discovered that Sirs Lancelot, Gwaine and Percival of the Round Table had found each other once more. (They are the two that you banished and one who was picked up along the way). It started a curious line of questioning for Mordred and myself, especially after a nightmare I had on Wednesday night. I waited until now to write, to confirm events that I was sure would happen on Thursday evening and to discuss with Mordred individual theories and ideas.

It appears that whilst the three knights have met each other, none of them have met either Arthur or myself (they could not be expected to meet Mordred as they met him much later) and it was concluded by Lancelot that the reason for this is that they had originally met Arthur through the actions of Merlin. This opened up a new line of questioning. The same could be said to be true of Mordred. He was only introduced to Arthur after I assisted Merlin in hiding him, but Merlin was the first to meet him. You also never knew his name or the fact that he was a member of the Table until after we regained our memories. So, how did you know that he would even gain memories and that you needed to adopt him? How did you know that he was a reincarnation? We need to know this! We also need to know if there was ever a dark-haired, blue-eyed, powerful sorceress in Camelot at any time after Arthur was born. We believe that one of the students of the school is a reincarnation but none of us recognise her and Arthur did not remember anyone significant other than Merlin with that colouring. The two are close and we are worried that she might mean Merlin harm. Her name is Niamh if that helps at all. We were also wondering something that you should also consider. Merlin was Gaius' niece and Hunith and Balinor's daughter. However this time Hunith and Balinor have no children and Merlin is part of an entirely different family (one which, ironically enough, is supposed to be descended from Merlin). All the other familial relationships are the same, so we were wondering if either you or Uncle Gaius had any ideas. Mordred sends his love.

Lots of Love,

Morgana

Uther breathed out heavily in thought. He stood up to fetch some writing materials and started his message.


16th September – Hogwarts Great Hall

Morgana tapped her nails anxiously against the table as she spoke with her adopted brother. "He hasn't responded yet. Why hasn't he responded yet?! I wrote to him on Saturday and it's been two days already!"

"Morgana relax." Mordred pushed her palm flat to the table. "He's probably just busy. He'll write soon. And please stop tapping, it's annoying."

Morgana huffed in annoyance but withdrew her hand from the table anyway. She started clicking her tongue.

Mordred sighed in annoyance, but said nothing. He started tapping his fingers.

Kara frowned as she sat down next to them. "Are you ok? You seem rather… anxious."

Morgana opened her mouth to snap at the younger girl but shut it abruptly when she spied Fugol heading towards her. "Finally!" she practically leapt at the bird and grasped at the envelope frantically, having recognised her father's bold and commanding script.

Dear Morgana,

It pleases me greatly that the knights have started to get to know each other as it is well known that a strong foundation to a council is vital. It comforts me that this is the case with the famous 'Knights of the Round Table'.

After reading your letter I realised that it is time to tell you about Mordred's adoption. He was not adopted from an orphanage. Not long after Arthur turned eight I was visited by a man who called himself Aglain. He said that he was a druid and that a young couple called Cerdan and Angharad had recently perished and that their son was now an orphan. He said that this little boy, whose name was Mordred, had magic and was the reincarnation of one of Arthur's greatest allies. I asked him why he was telling me this and Aglain replied that this boy could not be raised by the druids. He refused to elaborate why. He said that both of my children would regain their memories at the same time as Mordred and asked if I would adopt him. He said that if I refused and couldn't give the name of someone who had their memories of Camelot and was willing to adopt him, then the boy would be placed in an orphanage. I asked him why he asked me and he replied that times have changed and it was on the request of one who was close to the child that he was here to enlighten me. I wasn't sure what to do, so I asked him if I could meet the boy as I did not believe that I would be a good parent for him but wanted to know if Hunith and Balinor were suited to him. The moment I laid eyes on a much younger Mordred I agreed to take him in myself in an attempt to redeem myself after the trauma I put him through in Camelot. I was incredibly surprised when I discovered just who it was that I had adopted. I don't know any more, but I could give you the contact details given to me by Aglain, if you would like. The matter of Merlin's family is also a question you should pose to the druids as neither myself nor Gaius have any idea, although you could also ask Merlin once she has recovered her memories. As for this Niamh, I have an idea who she could be, and if it is her, then you have nothing to fear. She protects her own and if she has befriended Merlin, then she will defend her to her dying breath. If Niamh is not the person I think she is, then I do not know, although you should bear in mind what you told Arthur – Merlin successfully identified every plot to undermine him. If she is at all similar to who she used to be then she will easily be able to tell if Niamh is tricking her.

All my Love,

Dad
xxx

Morgana frowned. "Well, that tells us absolutely nothing."

"We now know all about my adoption, Morgana. That is not nothing. We also know that Niamh is not a bad guy. That's if Dad is right."

"We knew that anyway." Kara yawned as she slathered her toast with Marmalade.

Morgana and Mordred both looked at her. "No, we didn't."

"Oh, that's right. I forgot to tell you. I spoke to Niamh on Thursday. We traded warnings. She told me that if I hurt Merlin in any way then I was dead meat. And she was before my time, she confirmed it."

"That supports Dad's theory."

"Morning." A sleepy looking Emma sat down next to them and Morgana couldn't suppress a grin at how Merlin her expression was. "So what theory is this? Oh, and I was wondering what the Hogwarts policy on magical gifts and items is, Morgana."

Morgana shifted uncomfortably, because first names were normally only used among close friends and teammates. "My Dad's theory that the Holyhead Harpies are terrifying and unstoppable. And pretty much anything goes. Why?"

"Ok. No reason." Emma evaded the question, and before Morgana could press her further Niamh sat down opposite her and engaged her in conversation about some kind of dog and a trapdoor.

She turned to see Mordred studiously ignoring both Kara and Merlin and rereading the letter. "I don't understand why he kept this from me. Why didn't the druids want me?"

"They did. Dad said that they could not raise you. There could be any number of reasons why. Besides, if they had, you'd never have had an amazing sister like me!" Morgana flourished her hands in a 'ta-da' gesture and was rewarded with a small smile. She grinned and continued to distract him, so that he couldn't dwell on it.


20th September – Great Hall

Merlin suppressed a groan as she saw the long, thin package that was headed towards Harry. She seemed to be doing that often since she'd come back to Hogwarts. Great. Just great. I just hope that Draco doesn't notice. She crossed her fingers, but no such luck. Draco ambushed Harry outside the Great Hall with Thing1 and Thing2.

She headed towards him after Harry left. "Why can't you just leave each other be for one day. A truce. Peace. Neutrality, like Switzerland."

Draco frowned at the last reference but assumed it was another muggle thing that Emma was always going on about. "He got a broomstick."

"And you have a mansion full of house Elves, a mother who loves you and a family who writes to you and sends you gifts every week."

Draco cocked his head. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Harry has none of those things. Instead of being jealous of what Harry has that you don't, why don't you be grateful for the things that you have and he doesn't." Emma's words struck a chord inside him and he went back into the Great Hall in thought. "And I thought you'd ditched Thing1 and Thing2?" Emma called after him.

Draco spun around. "Thing1 and Thing2?" he asked, "What does that mean? And Crabbe and Goyle are-"

"Henchmen." Emma interrupted him. "You don't need henchmen if you have friends and friends cannot be henchmen. And as for Thing1 and Thing2, it's the Cat in the Hat. A total classic. I'm just going to add that to the list of things that I'm going to make you see."

Draco tried to hide his horrified expression and darted into the Great Hall, pretending he couldn't hear Emma laughing at him as he scarpered.

"What's up with you? You look absolutely petrified." Niamh told him the moment he sat down.

"Emma's got a list of things she's going to make me watch. Muggle things."

Niamh simply laughed at his predicament. "That's what you get for being a prejudiced bigot who's never heard of ET, Monty Python or the Cowardly Lion. Seriously, the Wizard of Oz is a classic."

Draco dropped his head to the table with a load groan. He was doomed.


5th October – Great Hall

It was surprisingly quiet in the Great Hall, especially for a Saturday, but Merlin didn't let that bother her. She waited for her owl, Archimedes, to arrive.

"Morning Emma. Sleep well?" Neville sat down opposite her, causing her to look up in surprise and she smiled.

"Yes, thanks. I had a rather queer dream though." Whatever she was going to say next was cut off as a regal tawny owl landed next to her. "Yes! Finally. Thanks Arch." She stroked his beak and he pecked her finger affectionately. She tossed him a piece of bacon with a laugh. "Greedy old thing." She then turned her attention to the package and carefully untied the package from Archimedes before gently unwrapping it to reveal an ornately carved box, similar to one that valuable goblets or fragile treasures would be kept in.

"What's that? It looks old." Neville asked with curiosity, just as Hermione sat down next to him and Harry and Ron took a seat a few places further up.

"It is old. The box has been in my family for hundreds of years. But I'm more interested in the contents." With these words Merlin carefully unlatched it and lifted the lid. The four Gryffindors couldn't stop themselves from leaning forward in curiosity. Inside the box were six glass orbs, each shining with an inner light of a different colour.

"What are they?" Hermione's voice was reverent, as if she was aware of the ancient magic imbued within the orbs.

Merlin smiled at the question and tenderly lifted the green orb out of the box. Its light seemed to change shape and shade, and eddied and churned like smoke around the area where her fingers touched it. She took one of Neville's hands and placed it in his palm, wrapping his fingers around it until he was holding it on his own, then she withdrew her hand, causing it to emit light in all different shades of green. Emerald, shamrock, lime, celadon, all changing to quickly to count, before it settled to a forest green colour and stopped emitting light, simply glowing slightly with an inner light.

"Here, it's yours."

"W-wh-what?" Neville stammered.

"It's for you. It's a gift. That's why I asked Archimedes to bring it. Well, I asked Gimmy and Dori to give it to Archimedes to give it to me. But that's not important."

"But I can't. It belongs to you. Its old and it's a family heirloom."

"That's true, but my family has always believed that we shouldn't hoard our knowledge. These orbs are old, yes. But they are gifts we give freely to those who we believe need them for whatever reason. They always end up back in our possession in the end. I have no problem with giving it to you. Green is yours." Merlin's tone brooked no argument and Neville looked slightly shell-shocked.

"But what if I smash it?" he asked anxiously.

Merlin smiled. "Once it has bonded with a person, it becomes unbreakable, until the charm is broken and unbound." Neville looked at her in confusion. "You can't break it." She told him bluntly. "Also, just remember that you are who you want to be and who you make yourself." With those words she got up, her owl on her shoulder, and carried the box over to the Hufflepuff table, where a 3rd year student named Cedric Diggory was eating breakfast.

"Hey." Merlin placed the box on the table next to him and slid into the corresponding seat.

"Hello." He smiled at her kindly. "Emma Ambrosius, right?"

"That's right." Merlin liked the Hufflepuff house as a whole better than the other three houses in Hogwarts. They were always kind to everyone. She'd also yet to meet an evil Hufflepuff. "I have something for you."

Cedric looked at her perplexed. "Why?"

Merlin shrugged. "It just feels right." You're going to die in less than four years and I can't do anything to stop it. The least I can do is give you this gift, and something for your loved ones to remember you by. Aloud she simply said "One of those things, you know?"

Cedric nodded. Sometimes witches or wizards had gut instincts that should be followed, and if this was one, who was he to argue? "In that case, thank you."

"Oh, it's no problem, really." Merlin picked up the orange orb, which was currently a shade of amber, and handed it to Cedric. The moment her fingers left the orb, it started to cycle through different shades of orange; tangerine, flame-coloured, apricot, carrot, pumpkin, persimmon. It finally settled on a burnt orange colour. Merlin smiled at him, and got up to leave, just as Mordred came to speak to Cedric.

"Hey, Diggory, that Potions homework we had-" Mordred cut himself off as he caught sight of the box that Emma was holding. He caught his breath and noticed the strangely shining orb that his classmate was holding. "What's that?"

Cedric looked at Emma and she smiled. "Live life like you'll die tomorrow, treat every day as if it were your last and don't leave any regrets." Her voice grew softer at the end and she stepped away, making her way towards the Slytherin table, smiling sadly.

Mordred quickly excused himself from Cedric's presence and hurried over to Morgana, who was about to sit at the Slytherin table. "The box that Emma's holding. Look at it." He whispered urgently.

Morgana pretended to be checking her reflection and looked at the box. She gasped and would have dropped the mirror if Mordred hadn't caught it in time.

"But that's…"

"I know. That's the box that you gave Merlin as a wedding present."

"You think it's true. You think the Ambrosius family really is descended from Merlin." It was a statement rather than a question.

"How else would she have the box? You said yourself that it was enchanted to always return to the true owner and their bloodline."

"I just never thought the enchantment would hold so long or be so powerful."

Merlin blocked out the conversation Morgana and Mordred were holding behind her. She'd have to be more careful in the future. Arthur might have been oblivious but Morgana and Mordred were smart, and she'd never managed to fool Mordred.

She took out a pen and parchment and began to write, Archimedes still perched on her shoulder.

"What's that?" Draco's voice was partway between curious, disgusted and uncertain. Merlin followed his gaze and saw that he was looking at her pen.

"This, dear Draco, is what is known as a pen. It's a rather useful muggle tool to be honest. It's sort of like a self-inking quill that you can keep in your pocket. Just a lot easier to use. Here." She held the pen out to Draco. "Take it, I've got loads."

Draco hesitantly took the pen and examined it. Merlin smiled at his childlike curiosity before opening her box. She removed the blue orb this time, the one she had previously given to Rowena Ravenclaw.

Draco saw the glow out of the corner of his eye and looked at it in awe. "It's beautiful."

"Good. Because I want you to have it."

"What?!"

"Think of it as a gift." Before he could protest any further, Merlin slid the orb into Draco's palm. It started to shimmer like water, or air under high temperatures. It began to change colour, from cobalt to sapphire to azure to cerulean to midnight to navy. It finally came to a halt when glowing cornflower blue, the glow then diminishing until it was only faintly lit. "The only one who decides who you are is you, don't let anyone control you or make you do things against your beliefs." Merlin whispered, just loud enough for Draco to hear. He startled and opened his mouth to ask her what she meant, but she was already gone by the time he'd managed to tear his eyes away from the blue sphere.

Susan Bones was sitting alone at the Hufflepuff table, her normal partner in crime, Hannah Abbot, was in the hospital wing with a concussion from a spell gone wrong.

"Hi." Merlin tried not to surprise Susan, but managed it anyway. "I have a gift for you."

"Why?"

Merlin smiled to herself. "Because you are strong and gentle and kind and are the one that the first year Hufflepuffs rally around. Because you're a great person and because this orb resonates with your soul." She revealed the orb she had taken out of the box and placed it in Susan's cupped hands. Lemon, Citrine, Saffron and Corn, the orb kept changing colour before settling on Sunshine yellow.

"Friendship is most important in times of strife because you can't present a united front when you yourself are divided." Merlin hoped that Susan would remember her words when the time came and Voldemort rose again.

She headed out to the library, where she knew Niamh would be. She was unaware of a certain Seer following her.

Niamh started when a shadow fell over the book she was reading.

"Reincarnation: Fact or Fable? Is it any good?" It was Emma. She was carrying a carved wooden box that was at least ten centuries old and had the remnants of a return-to-owner spell on it. She also had a tawny owl perched on her shoulder that seemed almost wise.

"No, it's written by Rita Skeeter and is the biggest pile of crap I've ever read. 'Reincarnation only happens to the best of people and those with unfinished business. If you are a reincarnation you will never know unless you possess a memory crystal.' Memory crystals don't even exist."

Emma laughed, joyously and in a way that Niamh hadn't managed since she had regained her memories. "Why do you keep reading it if it's that bad?" she asked.

Because I'm hoping it will contain even a scrap of truth. "Because I'm bored and it might be full of bullshit, but it's certainly funny." She paused. "Do you believe in reincarnation, Emma?"

"I believe there's always a second chance for those who wish, and that you merely need to find the right way to show that you've changed." Emma responded cryptically. "You're always sad. Even when you smile or laugh. You're always weighed down by something."

"I feel guilty for my past actions." Niamh found herself confessing. "I can't help but think back on what I did and regret my actions with all my heart. But at the same time, I know that if it happened again, in the same circumstances, I'd do the same thing. And that's almost worse. Knowing that however much I hate my actions, I'd still perform them again if the same thing happened."

Emma smiled sadly, and for the first time Niamh saw the ageless wisdom that Merlin had always seemed to possess and the pain and sadness that seemed too old for a girl of eleven. Emma placed something on the open book in front of her. It was an orb, which had a sort of inner light. The light seemed to churn and eddy and was red in colour. Niamh narrowed her eyes and picked it up curiously. It resonated with powerful, old magic. The moment she touched it the colours began to change and churn faster and faster, scarlet and crimson and wine red. Vermillion and burgundy. The orb turned a bright blood red before settling on a colour that could only be described as lava.

"What is it? What does it do?" she asked.

Emma smirked at her. "It's yours now. And figure it out."

Niamh gaped at her. "Figure it out?"

Emma nodded. "Yeah. Figure it out." She turned to leave the library, but paused and turned around. "You can't live for tomorrow if you're always thinking about yesterday." Then she left. The owl hooted at Niamh once, before both bird and girl vanished around the corner.

Niamh let a grin spread across her face. "You can't live for tomorrow if you're always thinking about yesterday." She repeated. "Figure it out. Well, Emma, there's only one thing I can say to that. Challenge accepted."

Morgana looked at the younger girl in disbelief before shaking her head in incredulously. "Challenge accepted. Emma's rubbing off on you already." She muttered under her breath before leaving to head to the Great Hall. She hadn't had breakfast yet.


6th October – Lovegood Residence

"Daddy, the post's here." Luna called up the stairs to her father whilst skipping to the kitchen table, holding a tawny owl with a regal bearing. "What's your name? I'm Luna. You have a package for me." She informed it. "I'm ever so excited, I've never had post just for me before. Will you be my friend?" the owl hooted and nibbled on her hair. "Thank you. I'll call you Henry. Until I find out your actual name. Then I'll call you that." She kept on chattering happily to the owl while she untied its parcel.

"It's lovely. And purple's my favourite colour too." Luna was delighted with the small glowing orb she had been gifted. When she lifted it up it began to change between different shades of purple with each billow of light. Lavender, pansy, amethyst, royal purple, violet, plum. It finally settled on a shade of heliotrope that delighted Luna. "Thank you, Henry!" she flung her arms around the owl and then carefully unfolded the letter that came with the orb.

Dear Luna,

I hope that when you do come to Hogwarts, we'll be good friends. We've never met before but I'm Emma Ambrosius. I'm in my first year and thought that you would appreciate this gift more than anyone else. It doesn't have an official name but I call it a 'memory crystal' or 'reminiscence orb'. It stores memories once you've bonded with it. I won't tell you how, that's something you have to discover for yourself, but it will remember anything you want it to. Things that made you happy, that made you laugh and things you couldn't bear to forget. A song that touched you or a sight that you found beautiful. After all, all it takes is one song to bring back a thousand memories.
Friendship is a more valuable treasure than all the gold in the world.

Emma
xxx

Luna laughed in delight. "I have a friend called Emma! I have to thank her." Luna ran up the stairs, with 'Henry' on her head, almost running into her father, Xenophilius as he made his way down.

"Sorry, Daddy. I'm just excited because I've got a friend!"

Xenophilius smiled fondly at his daughter and continued downstairs, still listening to her laughter and delight.


October 18th – Hogwarts

Two different girls, from very different houses shot upright in bed after awaking from a nightmare at roughly the same time. Their nightmares were very different in content, but both told the girls the same thing: Albion's Darkest Hour approaches.

Morgana shivered and swathed herself in her covers, hoping that the scene she had seen would not come to pass. She stoically reminded herself that the future was not set in stone and stared at the stars outside in an attempt to calm herself.

Merlin silently got up and walked into the common room to watch the dying embers of the Gryffindor fireplace, trying desperately to hang onto the faces of those she cared about and reminding herself that it is always darkest before the dawn.

Neither knew of the other's nightmare but took comfort in the fact that they were not alone.


October 30th – Isle of the Blessed

Aglain smiled at the circle of his friends and companions. "It is Samhain and a time to remember the deceased. Samhain is the day where we mourn our lost loved ones and celebrate the lives they had and the lives that we still have to live. As the High Priest of the Autumn Fire Clan and a Fire User it is my duty to start the celebrations and commemorations of this day. In this Year of Fire and Time of Autumn, we call upon the spirits of ancestors and friends past. We call upon the magic of this holiest of days to commemorate those who have passed on. In honour of our loved ones and in veneration of our enemies, who we respect as our friends, we will feast and remember. To the dead, may they rest in peace."

"To the dead." The circle of High Priests and Priestesses echoed.

"To the dead." Repeated the gathered druids and magic users.

Iseldir stepped forward. "It is with great happiness that I can announce that on this Samhain we are graced with the presence of Lady Freya of Avalon."

The courtyard burst into cheers.

Freya smiled beneath her hood before removing her cloak and stepping up to the altar. "There was a time when humans were sacrificed on this altar by the High Priestesses of old. This is no longer a practice that we follow. We no longer sacrifice our lives, we honour the Triple Goddess in our actions instead. I am truly grateful to be able to share in your celebrations. I am honoured to be able to take part. And I thank you for welcoming me."

She stepped back, and Aglain, as the presiding High Priest stepped forward along with Cordelia, the High Priestess currently representing Autumn, who was also a Fire User.

Aglain and Cordelia joined hands and raised them above their heads. "From midnight until midnight in this Year of Fire. As the Goddess wills it. Let the celebrations begin!" They announced and lit the bonfire as the clock struck twelve.


7.00 AM – Gryffindor Girl's Dormitories

Merlin rolled over and groaned. October 31st. Samhain. She hated Samhain. "Nothing good ever happens on October 31st." Merlin muttered in despair.

Hermione glanced over at her. "That's not true."

Merlin rolled her eyes. "It so is." So many deaths had occurred on this day. Not only in Camelot, but recently too.

Hermione huffed in annoyance but didn't respond, choosing instead to go down to breakfast.

Merlin allowed herself another two minutes in bed before forcing herself to get up and head down to breakfast.

Draco stopped short at the sight of Emma moodily poking a sausage with her fork. Emma was never moody. And she didn't eat sausage.

"What's up blue-eyes?" he slid into the seat next to her, ignoring the customary glares he got from Potter and Weasley, the annoyed noise from Granger and Longbottom's choked 'Hello'.

Emma glared at him. "Call me that again and I'll stab you to death with this fork. Understood?"

Draco immediately scooted away from her and warily eyed the fork. "Understood." His voice came out slightly higher than he would have liked but he ignored it and grabbed some toast. "But you'll still tell me what's up right?"

Stony silence.

"I mean, you don't eat sausage. Ever. And you're moody. Which never happens. Because you're the most annoyingly optimistic person alive." Draco was aware he was babbling, but he didn't care because Emma wasn't talking and she looked upset and she was his friend dammit and she was never like this and he didn't know what to do and he was panicking. "Emma, please, talk to me." He begged her.

"It's October 31st." she said monotonously.

Hermione made a noise of annoyance. "You're still on that?"

Emma glared some more.

Niamh sat down and took in the situation. "Wow. The tension is palpable. And, Emma?" Emma stared at her. "If you're not going to eat that, can I have it?" Emma nodded and Niamh happily grabbed the sausage off her plate.

Draco stared at Niamh. "How is this situation not freaking you out?!" he demanded.

Niamh looked up. "It is traditional to eat pork on October 31st."

Draco practically growled in frustration. "Not what I meant."

"Oh. Well, um, lots of people celebrate the lives of their dead loved ones on this day."

Draco was unsure how to respond to that, so when Emma stabbed an apple with her knife he seized the opportunity. "If you remember the people you've lost, you should also remember that they'd want you to be happy." He blushed when everyone stared at him. "It's what my mother always told me."

Emma scowled at him then caught sight of something that he couldn't see. She was perkier after that, which was a relief, because Draco was ready to kill someone, preferably Potter or Weasley.

Merlin was relieved when it was time to go to class, because the awkward silence was killing her and she couldn't bring herself to babble as she usually did. She knew that Samhain was supposed to be a time of celebration, but could never bring herself to celebrate until she'd mourned and remembered all of her lost ones. She passed through History of Magic and Herbology in a daze, only coming back to herself in Charms. They were learning the levitation charm, and she was paired with Neville. It was more than sufficient to improve her mood. She tried to help Neville with the charm and privately thought that he needed a different wand.

"Now, don't forget that nice wrist movement we've been practicing!" Professor Flitwick was squeaking from his perch on a large pile of books that Merlin thought looked rather wobbly. "Swish and flick, remember, swish and flick. And saying the magic words properly is very important, too-" Merlin tuned out after that, trying not to laugh at the phrase 'magic words'.

Across the aisle she could hear Hermione trying to help a frustrated Ron, and Harry who was looking annoyed next to his partner, Seamus. Seamus accidentally set fire to their feather and Merlin stifled a chuckle before swishing and flicking in tandem with Neville.

"You're saying it wrong." Hermione snapped at Ron. "It's Wing-gar-dium Levi-o-sa, make the 'gar' nice and long." Merlin smiled to herself. Hermione really was a talented witch.

"You do it, then, if you're so clever." Ron snarled. Merlin winced. Never challenge a brainiac at something to do with school. She immediately pretended to be flicking through her Magical Theory book.

Professor Flitwick started clapping. "Oh, well done! Everyone, see here, Miss Granger's done it!"

Ron looked at annoyed at this, but to Merlin, this simply meant that it was now acceptable for her to manage the spell. She encouraged Neville to try it once more first though, "Come on! Swish and flick."

"Wingardium Leviosa!" Neville cried. Nothing happened.

"Maybe a little quieter." Professor Flitwick suggested, having approached the desk without them noticing. "Why don't you try, Miss Ambrosius?" Oops. It seemed the short Charms Master had noticed that she hadn't yet attempted the spell.

"Wingardium Leviosa." Merlin purposely pronounced the words slightly wrong and cut off the magic so that the spell wouldn't succeed.

"Good try. Make the 'gar' a bit longer. And emphasise the 'o' in Leviosa."

Merlin nodded and this time performed the spell perfectly. "Wingardium Leviosa." The feather rose off the desk and kept going.

Merlin smiled for a moment before she heard Seamus. "Wigard Levosa." He muttered and she turned around to warn him, but before she could there was an explosion as the feather blew up in his face. She winced.

"Neville, do me a favour. Please don't do that."

Neville grinned at her and waved his wand. Swish and flick. "Wingardium Leviosa." The feather twitched slightly and for a moment it looked as though it would rise. It performed a small hop before settling back onto the desk. Neville let out a sound of disappointment.

"You nearly got it. You just need-" there was another explosion from Seamus' desk. "-practice. You just need practice." Merlin smiled at him and he smiled back.

By the time the class ended Ron was in a temper with Hermione and Merlin was ready to cry with frustration. Neville could do the spell, but his lack of self-confidence meant that the spell would fail once it had been performed. That, combined with the fact that she was missing the annual Samhain celebrations on the Isle of the Blessed, which she usually joined before lunch, meant that she was in a foul mood leaving the classroom. However that didn't mean that she missed Ron's mean comment about Hermione.

"It's no wonder no one can stand her. She's a nightmare, honestly." Ron put on a falsetto "'It's Levi-o-sa, not Levio-sar.' I'm not surprised she's got no friends."

Merlin saw Hermione rush away in tears and went over to give Ron a piece of her mind.

"For your information, Hermione has more friends than you. And if you're several friends less by the end of the night, I wouldn't be surprised. You say that she's a nightmare. What about you? She doesn't start badmouthing anyone who gets on her nerves. She was only trying to help! You, Ronald Bilius Weasley, are a despicable human being! If you don't apologise to Hermione by Monday, I'll be sure to let, not only the boys in your dorm, but also your mother, sister and five older brothers know about what just happened. I doubt they'll be happy with you." With that, Merlin spun around and made her way to the nearest bathroom, where she was sure that Hermione was hiding.

"Blimey, she's in a mood." Ron muttered as she left.

Merlin knocked softly on the door to the locked cubicle. "Hermione, its Emma. Are you ok?"

She heard someone sniffling. "Please go away."

"Not until I've had my say."

There was silence for a minute before the bolt slid back and Hermione opened the door. "What is it? Ron's-"

"Ronald Weasley does not speak for me, or anybody else for that matter!"

Hermione knew Emma was mad by the way she used Ron's full name.

"In case you hadn't noticed, he has less friends than you do."

Hermione sniffed. "What do you mean? He's right, I've got no friends."

"Oh, and what are Neville, Niamh and I? Potted plants? Even Draco could be counted as your friend by association as he spends time with me when I spend time with you. Sally-Anne might be closer to Sophie Roper and Sally Smith from Hufflepuff, but she definitely gets on better with you than Lavender or Parvati. So if you count that up, that's at least five. Ron is friends with Harry. And possibly Seamus and Dean. Still less than you."

Hermione gave her a watery smile. "Thanks, Emma."

"No problem. Anything for a friend."

"No, really, thank you."

Merlin smiled at her, then looked at her watch. "Well, we're already twenty minutes late for Transfiguration and we'll get detention no matter what. You're still feeling down, flying's cancelled. We may as well just ditch."

"But-"

"It won't kill you to miss a class once. Besides, I want to show you something."

Hermione, intrigued despite her desire to get to class, followed Merlin to the centre of the bathroom, where she sat down and began rummaging in her bag. She pulled out five candles of different colours; green, white, blue, reddish orange and black.

"These are spirit candles."

Hermione looked at her.

"Right. So, today's October 31st-"

"Really?" Hermione broke in. Merlin glared at her.

"It's the day that magical peoples, such as druids and followers of Old Magic celebrate Samhain. I used to celebrate it with my mother, she said it kept us in touch with our roots. It's the day when the world of the dead is closest to the living. We celebrate the lives of our ancestors and dead loved ones and toast to their memory. You with me so far?"

Hermione nodded. "Celebrate the lives of those who have died."

"Right. Now, there is a four year cycle, similar to leap years or the Chinese Zodiac."

"The Chinese Zodiac?" Hermione was confused.

"Each year, the spiritual or magical element that has presided over the land for the past year is passed on to the next in the cycle. This year is a Year of Fire, at midnight on New Year's Eve the land will pass on to the next element in the cycle, water. But that's not important right now. All over Britain people are gathered to celebrate Samhain, as it is a Year of Fire, fire starts the cycle. A bonfire is lit to start the celebrations and it will not be extinguished until they are over. We are going to join the remembrance."

"But, how?"

"That's what these candles are for. Blue is water, red is fire, white is air, green is earth and black represents the dead and the spirits. It is for the mourning and is lit as celebration. You place the blue candle to the west, then clockwise, north is the earth candle, east is air and south we place the candle to represent fire." As she spoke, Merlin moved the candles to the corresponding cardinal points of the circle in which they were sitting.

"And black?"

"Black goes in the centre, between us. We are in a Year of Fire and so fire starts the celebrations. We light the fire candle first, then continue clockwise – water, earth, air. We light the black candle last, and only when all four other candles are burning."

Merlin stood up with an old fashioned candle lighter. She walked over to the fire candle. "In this Year of Fire and Time of Autumn, we remember those we have lost and commemorate the fallen." She lit the candle and walked around the circle to the water candle, keeping the lighter lit. "We respect the dead." She lit the candle and kept walking, "We reminisce on good times past." The earth candle was lit, "And we honour the memories of our lost ones." She lit the air candle and sat in the centre of the circle by Hermione. "We celebrate life that has been, and life that is still to come." Hermione thought that Emma looked far older than eleven as she lit the final candle, and could have sworn that she could smell a bonfire and hear the people cheering.

I wonder if Harry realises that his parents died today. Merlin bowed her head in memorial and shut her eyes. A scene swam before her eyes and she was on the Isle of the Blessed, in her ceremonial robes and at her true age.

"Merlin!"

"Emrys!"

Multiple people called her name, and she inclined her head to the 34 High Priests and High Priestesses who sat at the head table.

"Fifteen hundred years and I still can't get rid of that damn title." She muttered under her breath, but immediately hugged the children closest to her and allowed herself to be swept up in the celebrations.

Hermione copied Emma, but when she opened her eyes she found herself in a ruined castle, surrounded by all sorts of people. She realised that she was wearing a Gryffindor jumper and jeans and looked around.

Merlin danced with the children as they circled the bonfire and smiled at the adults who had been caught up.

Hermione noticed a woman who looked startlingly like Emma, but noticeably older, this girl was in her mid to late teens or early to mid-twenties, it was hard to tell, she looked almost ageless. Hermione tried to make her way towards her, but was interrupted by a hand on her shoulder. She looked up and saw an old man, he had a stern expression but had laugh lines around his mouth and at the corners of his eyes.

"What's your name? I haven't seen you here before."

Hermione clamped her mouth shut, remembering every lesson she'd ever been taught about not talking to strangers.

"I'm Alator, I'm one of the presiding High Priests. I lead the Summer Fire Clan, which is also known as the Catha."

Hermione swallowed her nerves. "I'm Hermione. I was trying to get to that woman there." She pointed at the Emma lookalike.

"Ah, you want to dance with Emrys?"

"I- no. she looks like a friend of mine, who I was with when I ended up here. I don't understand."

Alator smiled at her gently. "All those who recognise the Samhain celebrations end up here. In spirit if nothing else. I assure you that your body is still in the circle of candles you lit. You are merely here as an astral form. To get back, all you must do is close your eyes and will yourself back. But please, stay awhile first. I assure you that your friend is here also."

Hermione found herself nodding and allowed herself to be swept away by the dancers.

Merlin laughed at the eagerness of the six year-old boy clinging to the front of her robes. "Tobin, do you mind if I go and speak to your father a moment?"

The brown-haired youth shook his head, but refused to let go of Merlin's hand. She smiled and set off towards the High Table, where she had last seen the High Priest of the Spring Earth Clan, sometimes called the Eastern Forest Clan or the Mountain Tribe.

"Iseldir!" she called to the druid.

He turned around and smiled at the sight of his son hanging on to the greatest warlock of all time.

"Merlin." He greeted her fondly.

"I believe this belongs to you." Merlin lifted up the giggling child and handed him to his father who smiled and placed his youngest son on the ground.

"Why don't you see if you can find your siblings?" Tobin nodded and disappeared into the crowds. "I have someone that you need to see." Iseldir told Merlin.

He led her through the crowd towards a figure in a purple dress. "Freya!" Merlin cried and ran towards the ex-druid girl.

"Merlin!" Freya exclaimed happily.

The two friends embraced each other. "What are you doing here?" They asked at the same time.

"I couldn't come to the whole celebration this year, so I came for a couple of hours now." Merlin explained.

"Today the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest and the Sidhe elders decided to allow me to attend the Samhain feast. From this year onwards I will be allowed to leave the lake once annually on this day, from midnight to midnight."

Merlin laughed and hugged the Lady of the Lake once more. "This is brilliant. I have a couple of hours and we can catch up a bit later." Then she turned to Iseldir, "But first, I must discuss the reappearance of a Mirrorer."

Iseldir frowned. "I thought Bronwyn and Niall were the only ones." He nodded towards the brunette woman and the red-headed man in the centre of the head table.

"In this generation they are. She's a reincarnation."

"But I thought that-"

"The balance must be restored. That's my guess, anyway."

Iseldir considered this. "It seems reasonable. But we shouldn't dwell on such things. We should celebrate."

"Of course. But if she comes by later, please treat her as any other, don't single her out."

"I don't even know who she is."

"Oh, you'll know. Now, I believe you owe me this dance." Merlin grinned cheekily and Iseldir reflexively smiled in response. The immortal girl may be many times his age, but he thought of her as a daughter more than anything else. Even after all these years she maintained a childishness and vulnerability that endeared her to others.

Hermione grinned at the little boy who was so fascinated by her hair. "I'm Hermione. What's your name?"

"I'm Tobin. My daddy's talking to Lady Emrys. Will you dance with me?"

Hermione wondered if this 'Lady Emrys' was the Emma lookalike she'd spotted earlier, the old man – Alator – had called her something similar. She dismissed the thought and grabbed the boy's hands. "I'm not a very a good dancer, but I'll try."

He flashed her a toothy grin and dragged her closer to the bonfire. "Come on!"

Hermione couldn't suppress a delighted laugh and allowed herself to be dragged into the fray.


Several Hours Later

Merlin, now appearing as Emma, pushed her way through the crowd to where she could sense Hermione.

"Hey! Did you enjoy yourself?"

"It's amazing here! Did you know this would happen?"

"Yes, I did."

Hermione opened her mouth to ask another question but Merlin interrupted her.

"We have to go now, it's nearly five o'clock. That's why it's dark already. The Hallowe'en Feast starts in less than an hour."

"Oh. It's been that long already?"

"Time flies when you're having fun. Just close your eyes and focus on the girls' bathroom."

Hermione nodded and they both closed their eyes. The next time they opened them they were sitting face to face in a circle of candles in the girls' toilets.

Merlin stood up and lifted the black candle to her head height. "We thank you for a most wonderful time." She said and blew the black candle out. The other four candles were simultaneously snuffed out. Merlin gathered them in reverse order. "So, are you coming to the feast."

"I think I'll stay here a bit longer. I'm scared to show my face and I need to convince myself that this isn't all just a dream."

Merlin nodded in understanding.

Hermione watched Emma leave and wondered how she could possibly deserve such a good friend. How any of them could deserve her.

Merlin hurried towards the Gryffindor tower and wondered why she had the niggling feeling of dread. In her distraction she almost crashed into Niamh and Draco and would have fallen if they hadn't if they hadn't caught her in time.

"Emma, there you are! We've been looking for you for hours." Niamh exclaimed.

"You didn't turn up to the flying lesson. It was cancelled, by the way. But we were really worried."

Merlin smiled at them in gratitude. It was wonderful to have friends who worried about her.

"I was in the girls' toilets with Hermione. Ronald really upset her." Both Slytherins raised an eyebrow at the use of the redhead's full name but neither of them commented. "I'll be right back, I promise. I just need to put my bag away."

The two nodded in acquiescence and watched her walk away.


Hallowe'en Feast – Great Hall

Merlin laughed as Neville waved his arms in an imitation of Seamus when he couldn't find his wand. She caught sight of Draco and Niamh having a conversation and waved to them. They smiled back. Merlin was trying to get rid of her growing sense of foreboding without luck.

Her head shot up when Professor Quirrell came sprinting into the hall. She didn't trust him at all, and she didn't believe for a second that he was as scared as he presented himself. His turban was askew and everyone was staring at him as he ran towards Professor Dumbledore's chair and slumped against the table.

"Troll – in the dungeons – thought you ought to know." He then collapsed to the floor in a 'dead faint'. Merlin now realised why she had had a sense of dread. This was all a diversion. And then she realised that Hermione still wasn't in the Hall.

"Bollocks!" her swearing was lost in the general uproar of the Great Hall and she began frantically scanning the faces in the Great Hall in the vague hope that she was wrong.

She expanded her senses and tried to find the troll as the prefects tried to herd their houses together. She froze when she realised that there were two trolls in the castle. And neither of them were in the dungeons. She immediately began to push her way towards the Slytherins.

"Excuse me, beg your pardon, can I just squeeze through." The Slytherin pupils were too scared to question why a Gryffindor was pushing through their ranks as they followed Morgana. Merlin's many years of working as a servant were serving her well as she expertly managed to navigate her way to where Draco and Niamh were following the rest of their house. She grabbed them and ducked into an alcove.

"Emma?!"

"Merlin?!" Niamh exclaimed. "You gave us a fright." She hurried to add, so it seemed like she had cried out in shock.

"Hermione doesn't know about either troll and I doubt they’re still in the dungeons." Merlin hurried to explain herself.

"Either troll?" Niamh asked at the same time that Draco practically shouted;

"What do you want us to do about it? We're a couple of firsties and a second year!"

"There are two trolls. And we have to go back for Hermione! I can't go on my own!"

"So you want us to die with you?!" Draco wasn't brave and he certainly wasn't reckless, but somehow he knew that he would end up going with her.

"Please." Merlin begged. She could take both trolls out on her own, but she couldn't expose herself like that and she wanted to share the experience with the two Slytherins. Nothing screams 'best friends' like surviving a life or death situation. Merlin ignored the voice that was telling her it was a bad idea.

Draco and Niamh glanced at each other, having a silent conversation, Merlin knew that Niamh was convincing Draco that he really wanted to come.

"We'll come." Niamh decided.

Draco considered arguing but knew that he couldn't stop either of them and like hell was he letting them go alone.

"Great. This way." Merlin led the way back towards the toilets where she'd left Hermione. The three of them ducking behind statues every now and then to avoid teachers and the two heads.

All three of them froze when a large overgrown shape lumbered across the corridor and through the door that led to the girls' toilets.

"Dammit!" Merlin summed up the thoughts of all three of them. They sprinted through the now broken door and were met with the most bizarre sight. Troll number 1 had dropped its club and was scratching its head. Troll number 2 was attempting to bat at Harry who was hanging from the troll's neck with his wand up its nose. Everyone froze and stared at each other before the troll wearing Harry grunted and smashed a mirror with its club.

Hermione hid behind a sink and didn't know what to do. Ron raised his wand to point at the troll with Harry around its neck while Harry hung on for dear life. Niamh and Draco split up and tried to distract the other troll which had fixed its eyes on Merlin.

"Great. As per usual." She dived out of the way as it swept its club right where her head had just been. Of course, now it had good aim. Trolls always seemed to bear a grudge towards her, ever since what happened with the fake Lady Catrina.

In the background she could vaguely hear Ron shouting "Wingardium Leviosa!"

There was a thud and Merlin assumed that they'd managed to knock the other troll out, but didn't dare look over, she was too busy dodging the troll's ridiculously accurate swipes. Even Draco and Niamh throwing things at it wasn't helping.

"Aren't trolls supposed to be stupid?" Draco shouted in disbelief as the club came dangerously close to knocking Merlin's head off.

"I stopped believing in 'supposed to be' long ago!" she yelled back.

Harry, Hermione and Ron started throwing things at the troll too and it turned around in confusion, waving its club above its head. Merlin pulled out her wand.

It brought its club over its head and Merlin shouted the first spell that came to mind.

"Seriously? That club is the furthest thing from a matchstick that I've ever seen!" Draco yelled incredulously.

At the same time Ron bellowed, "A matchstick into a needle?! What the bloody hell is that going to do?"

And Hermione shrieked, "Emma, move! I really don't think that's going to work!"

Then, as one, the jaws of all six students hit the floor as the club slipped through the troll's hands as it shrunk and clattered to the floor as a fine silver needle at Merlin's feet.

They all stared at it. Merlin glanced up in time to see the troll making a grabbing motion towards Niamh.

"Troll!" she shouted and shoved Niamh out of the way. They all hit the floor as the troll swung its arm so eagerly that it lost control and staggered in a circle.

Merlin eyed the needle on the floor.

"Emma," Niamh started warningly, recognising the calculating look in her friend’s eye, but before she could do anything Merlin had pushed off the floor and grabbed the needle that had been the trolls club. Draco shot a leg-locker curse at the troll to try and distract it, but the hex bounced off its hide and nearly hit Hermione.

"Sorry!" he shouted.

Merlin jumped at the troll from behind and hauled herself onto its shoulders, in an imitation of Harry when he stuck its wand up its nose.

The troll started shaking itself like a dog in an attempt to get Merlin off its shoulders.

"Somebody do something!" she called, desperately.

"Lumos Maxima!" Niamh shouted, frantically.

The other students had enough sense to shut their eyes as the light blinded the troll.

Whilst the troll was still staggering around dazedly, Merlin rammed the needle into its eye with enough force that it went straight through the eye and the troll collapsed.

The six of them stood in a shaky circle around the two trolls.

Harry was the first to move. "Urgh – troll bogies." He wiped his wand on the troll's trousers and the other five all smiled in relief.

Unfortunately, that was the moment that a sudden slamming and multiple sets of loud footsteps made themselves known. They all glanced at each other. They had been making quite a racket with all the yelling, screaming, thumping and crashes. Of course someone would have heard it.

Merlin barely had time to arrange her face into the picture of innocence, when Professor McGonagall, closely followed by Professors Snape and Quirrell burst into the room.

Quirrell took one look at the troll before whimpering and sitting down on the nearest toilet seat. Merlin glared at him. This was all his fault.

Snape bent over the two trolls and Professor McGonagall was glaring at the lot of them, her lips white with fury.

"What on earth were you thinking of?" Professor McGonagall's voice was calm, but echoed with a cold fury that had them all cringing. "You're lucky you weren't all killed. Why aren't you in your dormitories?"

They all exchanged quick looks.

"It's my fault, Professor." Hermione piped up. Everyone looked at her in disbelief, then the other five remembered that they were supposed to know this and tried to act like the story wasn't new to them.

"I went looking for the troll because I – I thought that I could deal with it on my own – you know, because I've read all about them. If Harry and Ron hadn't found me, I'd be dead now. Then Emma-"

Merlin cut her off. "I remembered that the Slytherin common room was in the dungeon and I went after Niamh and Draco. We got separated from the other Slytherins and saw a troll making its way up the stairs. We knew it was supposed to be in the dungeons, so we followed it." Merlin paused. "In hindsight, that was rather stupid." She admitted. "We saw it come in here and thought we heard voices, so we went after it. Those three," she pointed at Harry, Ron and Hermione, "Were already in here and facing the other troll. After that it was more of a 'dodge-the-troll' game than anything else. Harry stuck his wand up the one troll's nose. It was very brave."

"Let's not forget you playing piggyback with troll number two, before sticking a needle in its eye." Draco drawled.

"What about you trying to whack it with a pipe?" Ron countered.

"Your levitation charm was pretty neat." Niamh pointed out.

They probably could have gone on in that vein for a while if Hermione hadn't started laughing. "I just realised-" she gasped through her tears of mirth, "-Emma stuck a needle in its eye."

Both Merlin and Harry started laughing as they got the joke, but they all immediately shut up when Professor McGonagall opened her mouth. "Well – in that case…" she stared at them, "10 points from both Gryffindor and Slytherin for trying to tackle a fully grown mountain troll alone. Are any of you hurt?"

They all shook their heads. Aside from a few bruises they were fine.

"In that case, I think you're all very lucky. Not many first years could have taken on two fully grown mountain trolls and lived to tell the tale. You will each receive 10 points for bravery and sheer dumb luck." She paused for a moment. "And a further twenty points to each house for inter-house cooperation. I will inform Professor Dumbledore. You may go."

They all hurried out of the room as quickly as possible and didn't speak until they got to the end of the hall.

"Wow." Ron's sentiment was shared by everyone.

"Thanks for getting us out of trouble, Emma, Bushy."

Draco swallowed his pride. "And thanks to you two other Gryffindorks as well, I guess."

They all smiled at each other and then went their separate ways.

Merlin grinned. Some things can't be shared without becoming friends. I guess knocking out two twelve-foot mountain trolls is just one of those things. Although, I doubt that Draco and Harry will ever get on.

Chapter Text

  October 31st Midnight – Isle of the Blessed

Morgana smiled as she watched the celebrations wind down. Samhain was one of her favourite festivals. She wasn't a fire user herself, but there was something magical about the way the flames danced in time with the music. The last song was coming to a close – it was a slow tune, most of the kids were asleep or close to dreaming, this song was for the couples and the older members of the gathering. She was respected by the High Priests and Priestesses, they recognised her. How, she didn't know, but was glad that she was welcomed back into the fold. Her eyes swept over the crowd present and they narrowed as she spotted Niamh standing next to the rowan tree in the centre of the Isle. She was having a conversation with a man dressed in green. Morgana recognised him as one of the High Priests and from the colour of his robes guessed his clan was either a Spring Clan or an Earth Clan. His robes seemed to be a more unanimous colour, so it was possible the clan he led was the Spring Earth Clan. He and Niamh seemed to be engrossed in whatever they were talking about. The High Priest smiled at Niamh's comment then bowed to her. She bowed back and he said something before leaving and joining the other Priests and Priestesses who were congregating next to the altar. High Priests and Priestesses never bowed. They bowed only to each other. She tried to get closer to Niamh in order to question her, but before she could a clear bell-like noise echoed around the courtyard. Everyone immediately stopped talking and gathered around the circle of High Priests and Priestesses. Next time. Morgana thought. I will find out who she is, and what she's hiding. She vowed to herself.

"As the High Priestess currently representing both Autumn and Fire and a Fire User myself, it is my duty to close these celebrations." Cordelia announced. "We have feasted and danced. We have honoured the memory of the dead and it is now time to return to our daily lives, we must not forget where we come from and where we are headed, but we should balance this with the present. We have celebrated from midnight to midnight in this Year of Fire."

Aglain stepped forward and Cordelia linked their hands. They raised them above their heads and spoke together. "As the Goddess wills it. We thank you for a most wonderful celebration." They conjured a flame in front of them and blew it out. Their hands dropped to their sides and as they separated, the bonfire and all the torches were snuffed out, leaving the memorial candles as the only source of illumination. The circle of Priests and Priestesses bowed to the surrounding druids and magic users. Everyone bowed back and then the congregation slowly went their separate ways to go home, those with children leaving first. Morgana knew from experience that the High Priests and Priestesses would remain and socialise until everyone had left and then they would clear up everything that had been used in the celebrations, they would be lucky if they left long before dawn.

"Hey." Mordred popped up beside Morgana. "Wasn't that great?"

Morgana was reminded that he was still a child and not much older than he had been when they first met.

"Yes. I really enjoyed myself. I always do. It's a shame that most of the celebrations take place during the school term. I used to love staying for the full twenty four hours. There's something amazing about dancing until you can't dance anymore and then dancing on anyway." Morgana reminisced about Camelot.

"I miss it too. Merlin used to stage minor celebrations in Camelot, whenever we couldn't come." Mordred remembered, "She used to make sure everyone was dancing and enjoying themselves and sometimes had to force Arthur to join in."

"She always left before midnight, went somewhere quiet where she could light the candles and come here to witness the closing."

They stood in silence for a moment, remembering their past lives. Then Morgana caught sight of Niamh again and broke out of her reverie.

Niamh smiled wistfully, she remembered presiding over celebrations on the Isle of the Blessed, before the Purge. It was unlikely she'd ever be allowed to do that again. She waved to Iseldir, he had promised to send her a list of the festivals and the days on which they were celebrated. She noticed Morgana starting towards her with a determined look on her face and closed her eyes, focusing on the secret passageway in which she had lit the candles – the young Seer's persistence and interrogation skills were legendary.

Morgana muttered a curse when she saw Niamh vanish.

Kara and Mordred came up behind her.

"What's going on?" Kara asked.

"Niamh was here."

"So? We knew she was reincarnation, and Kara said that she doesn't mean Merlin any harm, so what's the problem?"

"She was talking to one of the High Priests."

"Again, like Mordred said, so what?"

"He bowed to her. High Priests never bow to anyone other than each other."

"So maybe she was High Priestess in Camelot."

Mordred placed a hand on her shoulder, "They wouldn't have let her stay if she was evil or a threat."

"That doesn't mean I trust her. This doesn't change anything. I don't care if she doesn't mean Merlin harm, that doesn't mean she's not dangerous to the rest of us."

Mordred looked at her warily. Morgana hated not knowing anything and the last time he had seen that expression on her face it had led to an uncomfortable revelation about Arthur's virginity and Uther's sex life. Not something he had ever wanted to know about. He sighed, "Just don't do anything stupid."


November 2nd – Pendragon Household

Arthur read the letter from Morgana again.

Hey Arthur,

Mordred told me that I shouldn't do this, but I have to know. I should probably start at the beginning. On Hallowe'en a troll got loose in the castle. Well, two trolls got loose, but we were only told about one. They managed to make their way into the girls' toilets. It turns out one of the first year Gryffindors was in that particular bathroom. Two others went after her, but the most interesting part is that Merlin, Niamh and Malfoy were following the second troll (I don't know why they followed it so don't ask). The two trolls somehow both ended up in the bathroom and between the six of them they managed to knock out one and severely injure and knock out the other. It was only much later when we were at the Samhain festival that I noticed Niamh. She was talking to one of the High Priests, but that's not what bothers me. The Priest bowed to her. High Priests and Priestesses only ever bow to each other. She bowed back, but that doesn't really mean anything. Mordred pointed out that she could have been a High Priestess back in Camelot and that the High Priestesses wouldn't have allowed her to stay if she was evil, but there's something not quite right about the situation. As you would put it, 'my spidey senses are tingling'. We know from both dad and Kara that she doesn't mean Merlin any harm, but I can't help but feel that she's dangerous. I need your advice, should I keep digging or should I leave it? Send my love to dad, and Mordred's too.

Heaps of Love

Morgana

She hadn't signed it with kisses, which was a sign she was really worried. Arthur wasn't stupid, he could read between the lines and he knew that Morgana was more worried than she was letting on and her nervousness was clear through her writing style. He considered whether he should encourage her or not. As her brother (even though she was technically older than him) and her King (although no one was quite sure how that worked anymore), it was his job to reassure her and lay her fears to rest. But he knew that even if he tried to reassure her she would still panic and he didn't want another possession/pregnancy debacle, so he made his decision. He grabbed his pen and started writing.


November 4th 7.30 AM – Lleidr's Custom Motorcycles and Bodywork

Isolde suppressed a yawn as she turned the sign at the front of the shop to 'open' and turned towards her husband.

"Remind me again why we're opening so ridiculously early?"

Tristan smiled at her fondly, "Because we were closed Thursday and Friday last week and we have orders due."

Isolde groaned. "I just want to go back to bed." A thought crossed her mind and she looked at Tristan slyly, a smirk curving at the corners of her mouth.

"Don't even think about it." Tristan warned, "We just spent an extended weekend in bed when we should have been working."

Isolde couldn't stop her loving smile. She went into the back room to work on the project she had been putting off. She was remaking the bodywork for some guy who'd been in an accident. "Hey, when's the next shipment coming in?"

"Wednesday."

Although Tristan and Isolde's shop was completely legal and above board and they had long put their law-breaking past behind them, they were still smugglers at heart. They didn't do drugs, but weapons, people and rarer herbs and spices were fair game.

"Do you miss it?" Tristan was leaning against the doorway as he watched her work. He would be in the front room until ten, and then they'd swap.

"Miss what?"

"Being a knight."

Isolde blew her fringe out of her eyes as she carefully removed the last mangled piece of bodywork from the bike. "Sometimes. We had good friends. I miss them. The fighting and almost dying was fun, but I don't miss it, we still have that thrill here. The parties and court functions I hated. And the routine patrols were incredibly boring. I guess I just miss the people. I think we'll meet them eventually though. We remember, and they will too, sooner or later. Then it's just a matter of finding each other."

Tristan nodded. The bell above the door chimed and he straightened and headed back to the counter.

It was a younger man, no older than twenty. He had dark hair and warm eyes and was followed into the shop by a girl a few years younger than him who looked similar enough that Tristan could deduce that they were siblings.

Mithian looked around in curiosity. Her brother had never taken her with him to a motorbike shop before. He claimed she was too young, but at seventeen and with a lifetime of memories as a princess and a lady, she felt she was old enough. Crossbows may not be around anymore, but she could fire a gun better than Matthew and knew how to kick a man where it hurts.

"How may I help you?" A man who was in his late twenties or early thirties with ginger hair had emerged from the back room. He looked familiar, but Mithian couldn't put her finger on why.

"I need a new kickstand. Mine snapped off when an idiot rammed his car into my bike." Matthew explained.

The shopkeeper nodded and vanished into the back room. "Which type did you need?" he called back.

Mithian tuned out their conversation as she began examining some of the wares on the shelves. By the time she tuned back in her brother had purchased the kickstand and had starting discussing custom bodywork, whatever that was.

"I heard you were the best in town."

"That we are. Isn't that right Isolde?" the man called into the back room and a blond woman no older than twenty-five came out, wiping her hands on a cloth.

"That's right, love."

With a jolt Mithian realised where she'd seen them before. Tristan and Isolde, Patience and Compassion on the Round Table.

"Tristan? Isolde?" she asked incredulously. Aside from her brother she'd never met anyone from Camelot.

"Mithian?" came Isolde's shocked reply.

Isolde stared at the younger girl as she nodded hesitantly and pulled her into a bone-crushing hug.

"Looks like you were right." Tristan placed a hand on her shoulder and hugged Mithian too.

The seventeen year old smiled, before abruptly remembering her brother.

"Matthew! Um…" she turned to Tristan and Isolde, "This is my brother Matthew. He was King of Nemeth?"

"Of course!" Isolde smiled at him and shook his hand and Tristan scowled slightly before hesitantly allowing a smile to creep across his face.

"Matthew, this is Tristan and Isolde of the Round Table."

Matthew inclined his head and kissed Isolde's hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

Mithian frowned and chewed her lip. "I hate to say this, but I have to get to school. Can I stop by at some point this week?"

Isolde smiled, "Of course. We're almost always here. And it's really great to have a fellow girl to talk to."

Mithian smiled, "Likewise. And if either of us meet anyone else, we introduce them. Agreed?"

"Definitely." Tristan agreed.

Matthew grinned then checked his watch. "Shit! Mithian, we need to go now! Thank you for the kickstand! It was nice to meet you!" he called over his shoulder as he ran out of the shop.

Mithian hugged Isolde before running after him.

Isolde looked at Tristan. "We've found one person we knew. Just about twenty to go."

Tristan laughed and pulled her in for a kiss.


3.00 PM – Great Hall

Morgana was just about to leave the Great Hall when she saw Fugol fly in. The moment he landed she grabbed the letter he was carrying and practically ripped it in her haste to open it.

Dear Morgana,

I would tell you not to worry. I don't think you should. But I know that you will completely ignore me and anything else I have to say, so I won't. If you have a funny feeling then you should investigate it – your feelings have saved lives before. But you should be careful and don't let your judgement be clouded. If you think you should find out all about Niamh Rowan then do, but update me on your findings and give the girl a chance to explain herself to you. We all know how stubborn you can be once you've decided something.

Love to Mordred. I love you.

Arthur
xxx

Morgana frowned but didn't say anything, Niamh was sitting near her, talking and laughing with Merlin and Malfoy. Kara raised an eyebrow in question from down the table, but Morgana ignored her.

"What are you hiding Morgana? Who was that letter from?" Mordred's voice sounded quite stern in her head.

"Nothing."

"You're almost as bad at lying as Merlin is. I know your hiding something, I've lived with you for years."

"I'm going to investigate Niamh. I asked Arthur what he thought and he said I should trust my gut, but give her a chance to explain herself."

"Good advice. I won't say anything else about it, but I think you're making a mistake. The High Council is a good judge of character and Merlin even more so. If they trust her, so should we. And what about Kara? She's the only one of us who's spoken to Niamh directly. She says that we should leave Niamh alone."

"I don't trust that Kara has the best interests of anyone other than you at heart."

Mordred sighed. "Just be careful."

"I always am." Morgana cut off the connection, read the letter through once more and headed to the library to see if they had a list of any High Priests or Priestesses from Camelot's time. It was a small likelihood that they had something useful, but it was as good a bet as any.


November 6th

The sky was red as blood with the setting sun and the plain was strewn with bodies. Broken armour and abandoned shields littered the ground and the groans of dying men filled the air. A figure staggered towards a lone rock.

"Where are you? You said you would come."

"No one's coming for you. You're all alone. Not so high and mighty now are you?" A woman stood over the collapsed figure, her face shadowed and a smug, triumphant smirk barely visible on her lips.

"Screw you." The figure managed to grunt, before gasping for breath as the woman nudged their leg.

"You're pathetic. You think anyone actually cares. You're a fake. A pretender. You don't deserve-" she cut herself off. "It doesn't matter anyway. You'll be dead soon. And no one will be able to do anything about it. You see, there's something you should know about me." She placed her mouth next to the ear of the figure struggling to remain conscious. "I never lose." She straightened up with an unamused laugh.

The figure on the ground struggled to sit up, and failed. In a last desperate act of defiance they spat the blood in their mouth at the woman's feet and fell into darkness.

The woman suppressed a cry of rage and kicked the unmoving figure. "Well, I suppose I'll just have to do this the old-fashioned way." She placed a hand on their shoulder and whispered a few words. The two vanished, leaving only dust and dying men behind.


November 8th 7.00PM – Great Hall

Merlin noticed Harry storming into the Great Hall and moved over to sit with him, Ron and Hermione.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"Snape! He took Quidditch through the Ages off me because apparently we're not allowed to take books outside! He totally made that rule up! And then when I went to ask to get it back-" Harry abruptly shut up.

"What?" Merlin asked.

Harry hesitated. He liked Emma, he really did, but he wasn't sure if he could tell her about what happened in the staff room. Although, she didn't particularly like Snape either. He looked at Ron and Hermione. They nodded. He opened his mouth to tell her when Rowan and Malfoy sat down next to her. He might trust Emma, but Rowan and Malfoy were Slytherins and Snape was their head of house. And Malfoy was awful.

Draco noticed how Potter immediately shut up when he and Niamh sat down and scowled at him. "You're not my favourite person either, Potter, but that's no reason to be rude. Emma's my-" Niamh coughed, "-our friend."

Harry hesitated again. "Snape's leg is bloody and mangled. He was talking about the three-headed dog on the third floor. He was trying to get past it at Hallowe'en! That's where he was going when Ron and I saw him – he's after whatever it's guarding! And I'd bet my broomstick he let those trolls in, to create a diversion!"

Merlin considered for a half a second before she shook her head. There was no way that Snape was going after the Philosopher's Stone. She may not like the guy, but he wasn't evil, he was simply prejudiced. Besides, Quirrell let the trolls in. Snape had probably been trying to head him off. "We don't know what it's guarding!" Well, you don't. "For all we know he might be trying to protect it. Besides, he couldn't have let the trolls in. Magic doesn't work against them, so you either have to trick them or you use incredibly powerful dark magic to make them do what you please. Snape wouldn't have had the time. He was at the feast from the beginning, and the trolls didn't appear until nearly the end!"

"I'm with Emma." Draco backed her up. "Snape was probably just making sure the protections were in order."

Niamh was silent for a moment and Merlin looked at her in curiosity, she looked like there was something she wanted to say.

"What is it Niamh?"

Harry, Ron and Hermione all swung around and stared at her. She didn't usually keep her opinions to herself.

Niamh chewed on her bottom lip. "I just don't think you have the right conclusion." Harry and Ron started to vehemently disagree, but she held up her hand in a gesture of old authority. "No, listen. Snape's not evil. You may not like the guy, but he is not evil. That I can tell you for certain."

Ron objected, "But you can't possibly know that!"

"Yes, I can. I know evil. And Snape's not it. He may be many, many things. But he is not evil." Niamh stood up and left with a weak smile in Merlin and Draco's direction. "I'm just going to… I'm going to the library."

Merlin smiled at her sadly. Then she looked at the rest of the group. "I'm going to talk to Hannah and Susan. See you later. Coming, Draco?"

Draco glared at the trio and nodded. "Yeah. I'm coming."

Across the hall Mordred and Morgana shared a dark look. Whatever the six younger students had been talking about, it wasn't good.


November 9th 11.00AM – Quidditch Pitch

Merlin fought her way through the green-clad crowd towards where Draco and Niamh were standing in the top row.

"Hey! We were just about to go looking for you." Niamh greeted her.

Draco, meanwhile, frowned at her attire. "What are you wearing?"

Merlin glanced down and almost laughed out loud. She was wearing a blue jumper, a red scarf and a brown jacket. When trying to decide what to where, she'd automatically picked out the most familiar outfit. She grinned at Draco. "I didn't want to pick a side." She told him truthfully.

He sighed in exasperation and shook his head.

Merlin skimmed the stands, noted Dumbledore wasn't there and caught sight of Ron, Hermione and Neville. She didn't wave, they wouldn't see her without binoculars, but she smiled at them anyway.

Morgana was feeling apprehensive. She didn't dream last night but had the feeling that something was going to happen. Something big. She scanned the crowd for Merlin/Emma and Niamh. She found them next to each other in the corner of the Slytherin stands and frowned.

Mordred noticed her frown and asked "What's the matter?" He followed her gaze. "Oh." He breathed out heavily through his nose. "Never mind." He turned back to his conversation with Kara.

The moment the two teams walked onto the pitch, Gryffindor in scarlet and Slytherin in bright green, the stands erupted into deafening cheers. Merlin clapped her hands over her ears at the sudden noise and smiled to herself at the familiarity of the situation. Madam Hooch blew on her whistle loud enough that it could be heard over the raucous crowd and everyone immediately quietened down.

The fifteen brooms rose high in the air and the voice of Gryffindor third year Lee Jordan crackled to life over the speakers.

"And the Quaffle is taken immediately by Angelina Johnson of Gryffindor – what an excellent chaser that girl is, and rather attractive, too -"

"JORDAN!"

"Sorry, Professor."

Merlin stifled a laugh, she had heard a lot of commentators, but the commentary that Lee Jordan did was by far the most entertaining.

"And she's really belting along up there, a neat pass to Alicia Spinnet, a good find of Oliver Wood's, last year only a reserve -"

Merlin frowned when she glanced at the box. Quirrell was there and he had the look on his face that Merlin associated with Agravaine and being up to no good.

"Gewærlæce mé oþ drýcræft hwiderryne be Quirrell." Merlin muttered a spell that would alert her the instant Quirrell started using magic and inwardly cursed herself for not checking the Crystal since before Hallowe'en.

There was a loud collective "Oooh." as Katie Bell was hit in the back of the head by a Bludger. Merlin winced, being hit in the head was never very nice.

"Johnson back in possession of the Quaffle, a clear field ahead and off she goes – she's really flying – dodges a speeding Bludger – the goalposts are ahead – come on, now, Angelina – Keeper Bletchley dives – misses – GRYFFINDOR SCORE!"

The red and gold clad supporters cheered loudly whilst the Slytherin supporters around Merlin moaned and complained.

Merlin was enjoying the game right up until Marcus Flint blocked Harry's path and then a chill ran through her body as if someone had just dumped a bucket of ice-cold water over her head. Quirrell.

"Ætstandan færdryre" she whispered after a quick glance to make sure no one looking. If Harry fell off his broom, he wouldn't fall far. Merlin had no idea what Quirrell's spell was supposed to do, but it was dark magic and it was directed at Harry. The only thing she could do was catch him if he fell.

Lee Jordan seemed to be furious at Flint's attempt to cheat and didn't seem to be making any attempt to hide it. "So – after that obvious and disgusting -"

Merlin frowned. How had no one noticed anything off yet?

It wasn't until Slytherin scored a goal that Niamh realised something was wrong. Speccy seemed to be flying oddly. But then Niamh extended her senses and came to the realisation that it wasn't Speccy controlling the broom at all. It was dark magic. Rather than wasting time trying to identify the caster, Niamh immediately started casting a counter spell. "Áblinnan malscrung. Áblinnan drýcræft. Edwít hagorún béon tðslúpan. Áblinnan malscrung. Áblinnan drýcræft. Dimnes sy níedfara áworpennes." She felt her eyes go gold and stepped back slightly so that no one would notice. She repeated the spell under her breath.

When Morgana saw Harry struggling with his broom her eyes were drawn to Niamh like a magnet. Niamh's eyes were gold and she was repeating something under her breath.

"Bitch!"

Mordred started next to her. "What?"

"It's Niamh. She's the one jinxing the broom."

"Um. Are you sure?"

"Her eyes are gold and she's casting a spell. What else would she be doing?"

"Maybe she's trying to counter the spell."

Morgana snorted in disbelief. "Belúcan drýcræft fram se sácerd Niamh." Her eyes went gold for a moment and she smiled in triumph.

Niamh frowned as her magic was abruptly cut off. "Dammit!" she swore. "Áblinnan malscrung. Áblinnan drýcræft. Edwít hagorún béon tðslúpan. Áblinnan malscrung. Áblinnan drýcræft. Dimnes sy níedfara áworpennes." she repeated the spell and nothing happened. She growled and poured more power into it. The chains holding her magic were tenuous and she fought against them. She felt sweat start to bead her brow as she managed to get a small trickle of magic through. Barely enough to sustain the spell.

Across the stands Morgana furrowed her brow in concentration. She pushed more magic into her spell. Next to her Mordred just sighed.

Merlin could feel Niamh's frustration at something blocking her magic.

Before any of the dark haired sorceresses could do anything, the dark magic they were all trying to combat broke off. Quirrell had fallen over and Snape was on fire.

Merlin sighed in relief at the reduction of the dark magic and behind her, Niamh breathed out and released the magic she was fighting to use.

Morgana smirked in triumph as she felt Niamh give up and Harry's broom stopped misbehaving.

Kara rolled her eyes. Life would be so much simpler if Morgana just stopped caring.


Later – Great Hall

"Who's Nicolas Flamel?" Harry decided to try asking Emma and hoping for the best.

"Why?"

"No reason." He tried to casually pretend it wasn't important but Emma wasn't fooled.

Merlin narrowed her eyes. She got on well Nicolas, even if they had their differences of opinion.

Hermione saw Harry was struggling and rolled her eyes. "The three-headed dog's called Fluffy, he belongs to Hagrid. We think Snape's trying to steal whatever's its guarding and when we told Hagrid he told us that it was a ridiculous idea and that whatever Fluffy's guarding is between Dumbledore and someone called Nicolas Flamel."

"Hermione!" Ron tried to scold her with his mouth full.

Merlin raised an eyebrow. "Nicolas Flamel is famous, but I can't help any more than that, sorry. And Hagrid's right, the idea that Snape's trying to steal the- steal whatever is being guarded is ridiculous." Merlin hoped that her slip up passed unnoticed. Unfortunately it seemed it didn't.

Hermione narrowed her eyes and Merlin could practically hear the cogs turning in her head. Draco also looked at her slightly suspiciously from where he was sat in silence, trying not to get involved. He filed the incident away for future contemplation.

Luckily, that was when Ron chose to open his mouth.

"That's it? No 'Why would anyone in their right minds call that monster Fluffy?'"

Merlin pursed her lips in consideration. "Nope."

Ron could only gape at her until his mind caught up with the second half of her sentence. "And what do you mean it's ridiculous that Snape would try to steal the stone? He tried to kill Harry!"

Merlin did a spit-take. "What?! I know he doesn't exactly love Harry, and you aren't particularly fond of him either, but don't you think that's going a little far?"

Hermione shook her head solemnly. "We saw him during the Quidditch match. He was the one jinxing Harry's broom."

Draco scoffed, entering the conversation for the first time. "Racing brooms are really difficult to interfere with. No one without at least a passing interest in Dark Magic would be able to do anything."

Unfortunately, this only added fuel to the fire.

"Exactly! You don't understand. You need to maintain eye contact and Snape wasn't blinking." Hermione wouldn't accept that she was wrong.

Merlin refrained from laughing at the absurdity of it all. From what she could gather, she'd cast a spell to tell her if Quirrell did anything, he'd cast a spell to jinx Harry's broom. She had cast a spell to catch Harry, whilst Snape was trying to counter the curse without much success. Niamh had then tried to stop the Dark Magic directed at the broom, causing Morgana to think she was the one doing the jinxing, leading to Morgana casting a spell to temporarily repress Niamh's magic and Niamh fighting against it, until someone accidentally knocked Quirrell over, causing his magic to stop and then Snape got set on fire, meaning the only magic acting on the broom was Niamh's, which she then stopped out of exhaustion and caused Morgana to think that she was the reason the magic stopped in the first place. What a mess!

"He could just as easily have been casting a counter curse." was the only thing she voiced aloud.

Draco nodded vigorously in agreement before leaving with the excuse of homework, but actually not being able to stand being in the presence of Potter and co. any longer.

Hermione shook her head unconvinced, but changed the subject back to Nicolas Flamel. "Will you help us find out who Nicolas Flamel is, even if you don't believe us about Snape?"

"Okay. I'll talk to Niamh and Draco, they can help too." Merlin returned to her meal and absently noted Morgana following Niamh out of the Great Hall. Great. At least they won't hate each other anymore. Probably.


The Dungeons

Niamh was rummaging through her bag for her wand when she ran into a metaphorical wall of magic. She froze and turned around slowly.

"Don't try anything. We both know that right now I'm the more powerful and more practiced at magic in this lifetime." Morgana's voice was ice cold and laced with danger.

"Lady Morgana Pendragon" Niamh used her full title.

"Priestess as well. Although that was after your time, so the mistake is understandable."

Niamh remained silent.

"Don't you have anything to say, Priestess?"

"What can I say when I have no idea what has led to this confrontation."

"Your actual name, perhaps. There was never a High Priestess called Niamh. Not at any point during the history of Camelot."

"What has my name got to do with any of this? All I am trying to do is finish school, have a good time and enjoy new experiences with my friends!"

Morgana practically snarled and used magic to slam Niamh against the wall. "That is my problem."

Niamh grimaced in confusion. "I don't understand."

Morgana increased the intensity of the magic surrounding them so that it was almost physically tangible. "Merlin is what I'm talking about!"

"Merlin died 15 centuries ago." Niamh attempted to divert attention because she wasn't sure if Morgana was the enemy or friend of the warlock. She remembered them as friends, but history had painted them as enemies. There was no way to tell how accurate the stories were.

"Don't play stupid. I'm talking about Merlin's reincarnation, Emma Ambrosius."

Niamh let out the breath she hadn't noticed she was holding. "I don't understand why it matters to you."

"Because Merlin is my friend! She's practically my sister! Or at least she was." Morgana glared at her. "You are a danger to her. So tell me WHO YOU ARE!" It was an order infused with magic and had Niamh been anyone else she would have been grovelling at Morgana's feet by now. But Niamh was no simple two bit sorceress. She was a Mirrorer, a High Priestess of the Old Religion. She was a changeling and well versed in magic that Morgana couldn't dream of. She was the last of her line and it had taken Merlin to kill her. She would not be intimidated by Uther's daughter.

"Emma is the truest and best friend I have ever had! She is the last person in the world I would ever harm and I've already said as much to Kara Dowling! You are more likely to hurt Emma than I am, because while Merlin may have killed me, she also saved me. I have every reason to hate Uther and Camelot and anyone associated with them. But I would NEVER hurt Emma!" Niamh was now just as angry as Morgana and her magic was out and roaring. There were visible sparks where the magic of the two sorceresses clashed. They were staring directly into each other's eyes and were each challenging the other to give in. It wasn't a search for information anymore, it was a battle of authority. Morgana was more powerful although with a few years the difference would be small. But Niamh was cleverer with her magic and was more practised with fighting others.

Mordred felt the magic clash from the Great Hall and was rushing through the hallways towards the source before Kara could do more than frown.

Merlin watched him go, having sensed the confrontation from the second Morgana had followed Niamh out of the hall. She didn't bother to scry because she knew that the end result would be the same - Niamh and the two former round table members would know about each other and from there they would be even more likely to figure out that she remembered. She could only hope that they wouldn't hurt each other too much.

"WHAT IS GOING ON?" Mordred's voice wasn't loud, but it trembled with power.

Niamh and Morgana both stopped glaring each other into submission to stare at the former Druid.

Mordred didn't often unleash his magic. Not even after Merlin had taught him. But when he did let it loose, it was a sight to behold.

Whilst Niamh hadn't been scared of Morgana, and her magic hadn't intimidated her, Mordred's did. If she could have taken a step back, she would have.

"Mordred-" Morgana started.

"I don't want to hear it. We are trying to be careful, Morgana. You can't go off and confront potentially dangerous sorceresses who we know practically nothing about on a whim!" Mordred was furious. There was no evidence against Niamh Rowan and he didn't want this confrontation. But Morgana was his sister and he would always support her if need be. He would help in this endeavour because he would not let her do this alone, but that did not mean he was happy about it.

"She's not as powerful as I am." Morgana complained.

"Not quite and not yet but the levels are close enough that it would be dangerous to attempt a fight, plus you have no idea if she's been trained or how well. Strength alone does not decide a battle. As you well know." Mordred sometimes felt as though he were the older sibling. Morgana was ruled with her heart and gave into her impulses, which had caused her trouble more than once.

Niamh frowned. "Since when do high priestesses listen to their little brothers?" She asked in mock amusement, well aware that she was walking on thin ice. Especially if the glacial glare that Morgana was directing at her was anything to go by.

Mordred met her gaze, bright blue eyes locking onto her own, and despite the fact that he was only a year older than her and less experienced in magical battle, she shivered. "Since I have higher authority and more powerful magic."

"But obviously more reservations and caution." She countered.

Niamh felt like the dark haired boy was trying to read her mind and threw up her shields before narrowing her eyes. "It's rude to pry."

"Just like it's rude to eavesdrop?" He replied, without missing a beat.

Niamh quirked an eyebrow. "It's also rude to spy. I guess we're both in the wrong."

Mordred's dipped his head in acquiescence. "So you were killed by Merlin." It was a statement rather than a question. "Revenge must be looking pretty tempting."

"I tried revenge." Niamh kept her tone light and blasé. "It didn't work out so well for me and we called it quits. I died afterwards anyway."

Mordred narrowed his eyes ever so slightly. "So revenge would almost be sweeter now. She doesn't remember you, she isn't a threat and she's an easy target considering you've somehow become her friend."

"I didn't become her friend. She became mine and wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. She's very stubborn. And I think she's more of a threat than you realise. Besides, killing me was the biggest favour anyone ever did me."

"So who are you?" Morgana interjected.

"Someone who wants Merlin safe just as much as you do. Possibly more so."

Mordred met her gaze levelly. "That doesn't answer the question."

"Do all questions need an answer?"

"You're as bad as that damn dragon at giving straight answers!" Morgana was getting more and more frustrated.

"You know Kilgarrah?"

"So do you." Mordred stated. "And all questions need an answer. Just not necessarily the one being looked for."

"I like you. You're smart."

"I wish I could say the same. Right now you're a threat to me and mine. So tell me, what is your name?"

Niamh opened her mouth to respond but Mordred interrupted before she could say anything.

"Your true name. The name you went by in Camelot. No tricks, no running away. Just the truth."

Niamh sighed. She realised that she didn't really want to lie to them or hide the truth. She wanted them to know. Come what may. She took a deep breath and said the three words that would decide her fate.

"I was Nimueh."

Chapter Text

November 9th Evening – The Dungeons

“I was Nimueh.”

Morgana’s blood froze. Mordred went for a sword that no longer hung from his side and Niamh – no, Nimueh – sighed.

Morgana summoned her power and prepared to cast a spell “Áblinn -”

“Wait!”

Against her better judgement, Morgana paused in her spell casting and looked at the younger girl.

“I don’t have an excuse for Camelot, but I won’t hurt Merlin, and the least you can do is let me explain, for we are kin of the Old Religion.”

Inexplicably, Morgana found herself hesitating, but before she could come to a decision, Mordred spoke for her.

“No. You have tried to kill our friends, our family in the past, why is now any different? You’ve already shown that you have a silver tongue.”

Niamh snapped. She’d already put herself through enough guilt and remorse for several life times. She’d already tortured herself enough. And now this boy was telling her he wasn’t even going to give her a chance. “No! You don’t get to judge me! You have no idea! You don’t get to stand there and take the moral high ground like I was evil and had absolutely no reasoning behind my actions! You don’t get to treat me like a monster!”

Morgana took an involuntary step back, because she knew this fury all too well. She’d felt it.
Mordred didn’t move. He merely stared at Niamh impassively. “Weren’t you one?”

Niamh seethed. “I was his friend! Ygraine was practically my sister! He welcomed me into his court with open arms and we became so close. He begged me to help Ygraine conceive an heir. I warned him about the price and he didn’t listen! And I have to live with that. When the magic took who it chose and Ygraine died he threw me from the court in disgrace. He hunted down my kin like animals! He slaughtered my friends, my family, everybody I cared about! He gloated in his so-called victory and wore his blood-stained crown with pride. He wouldn’t listen to reason and painted me as evil, when all I did was what he asked of me. And then he caught my son. My six-year old son, who had no magic, not even a drop of potential to learn. My son, whose only crime was having me as his mother. And then Uther forced me to watch as he burned my son alive! I have every reason in the world to hate Uther Pendragon and none at all to even pity him. Is it any wonder I tried to hurt him when he ripped away everything I ever cared about and turned me into someone cold and heartless, unfeeling? Because you don’t seem to understand. Every death in the Great Purge. The destruction of the dragons. The attempted eradication of magic from the land. The death of every man, woman and child during the Purge, because of it and the death of those due to Uther’s hatred. That’s my fault. My responsibility. Because he asked me to do something for him. And I didn’t say ‘no’. Is it any wonder I went mad? And do you want to know what the worst part is? If the same thing happened, I’d do it all again.” Niamh had been advancing on Mordred the entire time she was talking, and both of the magic users could see the echo of who she once was. But by the time Niamh had finished her tirade, she wasn’t the fabled High Priestess, she was just a girl who couldn’t understand the world and the rage that its unfairness created.

“Niamh-” Morgana started, without having a clue how to continue.

Mordred merely held Niamh’s gaze. He may be peaceful at heart, but he would not back down once he saw someone as a threat. “What about Merlin? She did nothing to you, but you tried to kill her more than once. Arthur too.”

“Merlin gave me my ultimate triumph. Why would I want to kill her?” Niamh’s mask was firmly back in place and she refused to let Mordred see how badly his words had hurt her.

“Merlin killed you and foiled every single one of your plans after she came to Camelot. How is that a victory?” Mordred asked.

Niamh lips stretched into a smirk which could only be described as evil. “What better revenge on a man who hates magic, than to have the greatest, best and kindest of all magic users inextricably bound by destiny to his only son and his pride and joy? Merlin and Arthur were two sides of the same coin and there was no better revenge than knowing that one day Arthur would bring magic back to the land, despite all that Uther had taught him.”

Morgana grinned at Niamh. “That’s very true. I like the way you think.”

Mordred shot her a look, which she steadfastly ignored. Then turned to Niamh. “If you think for one second that I am going to trust you anywhere near Merlin, then you are gravely mistaken.”

Niamh turned to Mordred and told him what she had felt in her soul the moment Merlin had stumbled into her compartment on the train and managed to waltz unhindered into her heart. “The High Priestesses protect their own. And believe it or not, Merlin is part of that. She is my sister in every way that counts, even if she killed me and doesn’t know it yet.” Niamh stepped right up to him and whispered her next words directly into his ear. “And let me make one thing perfectly clear. Anyone who tries to harm Merlin or Emma has to go through me first. Regardless of who they think she is or their reasoning. And anyone who does hurt her - they are going to wish they were dead.” She stepped back. “Do I make myself clear? Because like it or not, you’re included in that statement Mordred Holt. If you hurt her, you are going to wish you had never been born.” Niamh turned on her heel and stalked down the corridor towards the common room, before throwing one last parting shot over her shoulder. “And in case you missed it. That was a threat.”

Mordred let a half smile form on his face against his will as he watched the retreating form of the former High Priestess. “If I hurt Merlin – Emma – even by accident, then you won’t have to do anything. Believe me, I will feel bad enough myself.” He projected after her. He didn’t trust her, not even a little. But he appreciated the sentiment behind her words.

Niamh paused for a moment after she heard his words, but she didn’t look back. 


November 12th 6.30 PM – Arthur’s Room

Arthur,

We know who Niamh is. She was Nimueh. The High Priestess who tried to kill Merlin and whose life was traded for yours using the Cup of Life. Mordred doesn’t like her. He thinks she’s playing us. All of us. I like her. She reminds me of the good times. She cares about Merl- Emma just as much as any of us. She hates Dad. But she has a good reason. Far better than mine ever was. You know I hated him before Morgause ever got to me. And even afterwards I resented him. I cannot blame Niamh for her actions, not when I considered killing Uther long before I knew I had magic. She truly cares. You have not seen them together but Niamh treats Merlin the same way that Merlin treated me. And Merlin treats her the same way. She has quite the pack now. Niamh and Draco are the ones she’s closest to, but she spends almost as much time with Neville Longbottom (a Gryffindor pureblood who’s almost as clumsy as she is). Her other friends include two girls in Hufflepuff (Hannah Abbot – a half-blood, and Susan Bones – a pureblood), a pair of half-blood twins in different houses, the so-called ‘Golden Trio’, which include Harry Potter, the youngest Weasley male and a muggleborn genius, and a pair of third year prankster twins, who are also Weasleys. I’ve also seen her give a glowing orb to a third year Hufflepuff who is partnered to Mordred in Potions. You were right to tell me to follow my instincts, but I was wrong to perceive her as a threat. Maybe she is tricking me, but I doubt it. Too many things add up for what she says to be lies.

Love you lots.

Morgana
   xxxx

 

Arthur,

Niamh is Nimueh! The priestess who nearly killed Merlin multiple times before and attempted to kill you, your father and everyone in Camelot. I can’t believe Morgana is trusting her! Liking her even! She’s a threat to all of us! I should have listened to Morgana, but now Rowan’s wormed her way into Morgana’s good graces and I can’t do anything about it! Kara says I should let it go and that she’s not dangerous, but Morgana was right when she said that Kara doesn’t have everyone’s best interests in mind. I don’t know what to do and she’s getting closer and closer to Morgana by the day. I know Merlin’s a good judge of character most of the time, and so is Morgana, but I can’t take the risk that this is one of the very few times they’re wrong. There’s something about her that rubs me up the wrong way. She’s like a snake, slithering her way under our defences (yes, I know, shut up!).

Please, Arthur. I need help.

Mordred.

Arthur looked at the two very different letters on his desk. He had no idea what to do. With a last glance at the messages he grabbed his jacket, phone and keys and left. He was going to need some help with this one.


November 16th 5.30 PM – Godwin Household

Elena bit her lip. She tapped her fingers and crossed her legs. Then she uncrossed them again. She moved the cursor and hovered over the ‘send’ button. Before she could click it she pushed her chair as far away from her desk as she could manage.

“Seriously ‘Lena?” Vivian Moffet stood up from where she was lounging on Elena’s bed. “Just send it already.”

“But what if they reject me?”

“Then they reject you. Their loss.”

“But-”

“No buts.”

“We can’t all have our lives sorted, Viv.”

Vivian scoffed. “My life is far from sorted.”

“Really?” Elena’s voice was disbelieving. “Between your adoring father, devoted followers, an apprenticeship to a top costume designer and A’s across the board in your A Levels I’m finding it difficult to see how you don’t have your life sorted.”

Well, there’s the memories of another lifetime that make me think I’m going insane, being in love with a boy I’m pretty sure is imaginary and the fact that I can’t talk about any of this with my best friend for a reason that I don’t understand, but causes me to choke up every time I try to mention it. She didn’t say any of this aloud, however. Instead she shrugged and changed the subject. “Just send the damn application already!”

Elena wavered. “Summer Lake Farm is really elite and-”

Vivian had had enough. She marched over to the open laptop and clicked the ‘send’ button.

“No!” Elena flew across the room in an attempt to stop her.

“Too late!” Vivian shouted triumphantly. “It’s been sent. Now you have to wait and see,”

“I hate you.”

“No, you don’t. You love me. It’s why we’re best friends.”

“You really think I can make it? You think they’ll like me?”

“I think you’re going to love Llangorse Lake.”

Elena smiled. She was lucky to have a friend like Viv.


November 22nd 10.30 PM – Hogwarts Library

Mordred looked at the letter from Arthur again. He’d read it at least a dozen times since it had arrived that morning. Arthur wasn’t just his brother – he was his king. Mordred could read between the lines and knew that Gwen, and probably Leon had also had their input. But how could he do nothing?

Niamh glanced over her shoulder at the conflicted druid boy. He was ostensibly doing his homework but he had reread the letter in his hand at least twice since he had entered the library. She could practically feel the emotions roiling through him and agitating his magic. She sighed and shut her book, before dumping it on the table opposite him and sliding into the empty seat.

“I know you don’t like me, you don’t trust me and you probably wish I’d stayed dead.”

Mordred looked up at her. “Yeah, basically.”

Niamh sent him a flat look. “Well tough. We don’t always get what we want. That’s not the point.”

“What is?”

“You’re worried about Emma. You’re scared that I’m going to hurt her. I won’t. She’s become my sister in every way that counts. I would never hurt her.”

“Why would I take the word of a self-proclaimed traitor, a trickster and a liar? And she’s become your ‘sister’ awfully quickly.” Mordred raised an eyebrow at the younger student.

“And you didn’t befriend her quickly in Camelot?”

“She hated me for a long time in Camelot.”

“Hating and distrusting are not the same thing. She was afraid of what you might do and she didn’t trust that you wouldn’t try to harm Camelot. That’s not relevant.” Niamh leaned across the table. “Look, we may not be friends, but we’re not enemies. We have a common interest.”

“What? Merlin?”

“Emma. We both want to keep her safe. You don’t have to trust me. You don’t even have to like me. Just stop trying to stop me and get me away from your sister. I’m not going to kill anyone. Not unless they try to kill me or my own first. I hold grudges.” Niamh got up and turned to leave, but paused. “Just don’t make me play nice with Uther and we’ll be fine.”

Before Mordred could stop her, she was gone. He sighed. That hadn’t helped at all. If anything he was more conflicted than before. If she was telling the truth then he knew exactly how she felt because he’d been in her position. Stop! That’s exactly what she wants! She wants you to empathise with her so you let your guard down! Mordred shook his head. He wouldn’t do anything, just like Arthur asked him to. But he wasn’t going to let his guard down. Just in case.


November 30th 2.30 PM – Great Hall

Merlin was eating lunch a couple of weeks after the confrontation between Mordred and Niamh when it happened. Draco was teasing her by stealing her food and further down the Slytherin table both Morgana and Niamh watched with amused eyes whilst still deep in conversation about one spell or another, having grown close quickly. There was a loud bang and a puff of smoke, and a merlin hawk and a scrying bowl appeared in front of her. Caleb Moore had always been a bit dramatic.

“Bit ostentatious.” She commented off-handedly, well aware that the entire Great Hall was staring at her.

“Well what can I say? I love me a good show.” Caleb’s voice came through the connection in his typical drawling accent.

Merlin laughed. “You’re one of kind, Caleb.”

“I know. So, you gonna come and see me over the holidays, Blue-Eyes? I have a nice project that you could work on.” He sing-songed. One of the reasons that Merlin loved Caleb was that despite being the High Priest of the generally tranquil Summer Water clan, he was relaxed and flippant with everyone and about pretty much anything. There wasn’t much that could make him act seriously.

“You do realise I’m in school?”

“It’s the holidays soon.” He countered. “Come on, you’re one of my best and Summer, Speed and Rocky really miss you.”

Merlin considered the offer, forgetting that she had an audience. She bit her lip. “What kind of project? If it’s another napping case, you can forget it. Most of the time it’s a rider problem, not the horse.”

“And if I told you it’s the kind of thing you’re best at?”

Merlin grinned. “I’ll see you in a few weeks. Same drill as usual with Feathers?”

“You betcha. Take care, Blue-Eyes. Caleb out!” the connection was abruptly cut off as Caleb ended the spell and the bowl vanished. Feathers shifted his wings and hopped closer to her, before biting Draco’s finger when he tried to grab Merlin’s bread roll in a last ditch effort.

“He bites.” Merlin stifled her laughter.

“Really?!” Draco answered, voice dripping with sarcasm as he shook his hand in a futile effort to get rid of the pain.

Feathers screeched in triumph before shaking his feathers and launching himself at Morgana’s head, having recognised her presence.

Merlin whistled sharply in the way she usually whistled dogs. Feathers let out an annoyed screech and flew back over to her. 

Niamh watched as Merlin left the hall. Draco looked just as bewildered as she did but simply shrugged and went back to his food. Morgana, however, had frozen and was staring at the bird. 

“Morgana? Morgana! Earth and Avalon to Morgana!” Niamh tried to get her attention. “What's wrong?” 

“Caleb Moore.” 

“Who?”

“That voice. She was talking to Caleb Moore. He's the High Priest of the Summer Water Clan and one of the most powerful water users to date. How does she know him?”

“Her ancestor was Merlin, Emrys to the Druids. They probably kept tabs on the family.” 

Morgana shook her head. “There's more to it than that.” 

“Like what?” Niamh asked impatiently. “I know what you want. I know what you're thinking. But it's not true Morgana. Emma isn't Merlin. Not yet. She doesn't remember. If she did she would have mentioned something by now.”

“And if she thinks we don't remember?” Morgana's voice was small and vulnerable and for the first time Niamh realised that Morgana didn't just care about Merlin as a friend or a sister. She looked up to her. Niamh had heard some of the stories that Mordred and Morgana had told. She'd probably only heard a fraction of them but she knew enough to read between the lines. Merlin was the person who rescued Morgana and brought the King's Ward back to life in the twisted High Priestess she had become. Merlin had fought tooth and nail for Morgana to be reaccepted by the people of Camelot and the members of the Round Table, not only as the woman she had been, but as the magic user she had become. Merlin had been the only person who had completely accepted her immediately, magic and all, after the spell had been broken. 

“Oh.” 

“Oh? Oh?” Morgana was becoming slightly hysterical but managed to keep her voice under control.

“What do you mean 'oh'?!”

“Morgana, Merlin is the most powerful warlock to ever be born. She doesn't just have magic, she is magic, to an extent. She isn't just a human, she's a creature of the Old Religion, like the dragons, the unicorns. Don't you think that she would be able to tell if a soul awakened? Especially one as powerful as yours?” Niamh soothed her and pointed out the logic as gently as possible. For her it was a good thing that Merlin didn't remember, but, as she was just starting to realise, for the members of the Round Table it was devastating. 

“But-” 

“I'm sorry, Morgana. Truly. But Emrys is asleep within her and Merlin must remember everything in her own time.”

Draco glanced through his eyelashes at the duo down the table. Morgana and Niamh had loathed each other. When had they become friends? They were obviously close enough that Niamh could calm Morgana down from near hysteria. It was odd though. From what he had heard, Morgana was completely untouchable. Nothing phased her and it was extremely difficult to ruffle her feathers. So what had happened to make her freak out? He looked down at the food on his plate and thought of the food he had failed to steal from Emma. He thought of three-headed dogs and wizards named Nicholas Flamel. He thought of magically appearing falcons and voices that came through bowls of water. Life had been much simpler before Emma. But she was worth it. He shoved his last mouthful of food into his mouth and sauntered over to the Gryffindor table to pick up Longbottom. Time to do some investigation his way.


December 23rd – Platform 9¾, King’s Cross Station

Merlin laughed at Draco’s despondent face. While she might have disapproved of his actions towards Harry and the bullying he was doing, Merlin couldn’t suppress her amusement at his pout. She privately thought that he might be jealous of the fact that Harry got to spend Christmas at the castle.

“You think the torture I’m going to endure is funny do you?” He hissed at her.

Niamh suppressed a snort behind her.

“It’s not going to be that bad, 007.” Merlin told him.

Draco scowled at Emma. If his father found out about her beliefs and about how he was considering them, his father would kill him. It didn’t help that since the incident with the giant oaf – Hagrid, a voice that sounded suspiciously like Emma corrected – she’d reverted back to calling him 007 rather than his actual name. Niamh’s tendency of calling him Dragon-boy didn’t help much either.

“You’ve never even met my father!”

“I don’t need to. I know his reputation.” Emma turned towards him and raised her eyebrows.

“Well he’s certainly going to hate both Bushy and Clumsy.” Niamh intervened. “So I think worrying about what he’s going to say to your friendship with Emma and me and what we’ve got you doing is ridiculous.” She allowed a hint of her amusement to slip into her voice.

Draco buried his face in his hands and groaned. “You are not meeting my parents!” he decided.

Niamh quirked an eyebrow. “Why, Dragon-boy, I didn’t know you felt that way about me. Don’t you think you’re moving a bit fast?”

Hermione and Neville snickered and Emma cracked a smile. She then moved in to diffuse the tension before Draco exploded in frustration. “Relax, Draco, after all,” she mimicked an American accent, “There’s no place like home.”

Neville frowned when Hermione burst into stitches at the look on Draco’s face. “Is this another muggle reference that we don’t get?”

“Well, it’s like I told Draco, the Wizard of Oz is a classic.” Niamh tossed over her shoulder before sauntering over to where Morgana and her brothers were standing in order to say goodbye. At least she assumed the blonde was Arthur. He looked familiar and there was no one else he could be. She was pretty certain Morgana was single. As she got closer she was vaguely aware of the rest of them following her, but didn’t pause her determined pace.

“Niamh!” Morgana called when she noticed her friend.

Arthur glanced at his sister and then at the younger girl who was coming towards them. She looked vaguely familiar. “She doesn’t look like much.” He muttered under his breath.

“Looks can be deceiving.” Mordred reminded him. “Look at Merlin.”

Even though Mordred hadn’t meant it literally, Arthur couldn’t help examining the four first-years that followed Niamh – or was he supposed to call her Nimueh? The pale blonde haired boy looked annoyed at something and seemed to have a permanent scowl on his face. Arthur wondered whether he was the Malfoy that his siblings had mentioned. He certainly looked snooty enough. The chubbier boy looked more nervous, and as Arthur watched, he tripped, which caused Arthur to smile in nostalgia as he recalled Merlin doing the exact same thing many times. He guessed that this would be the Neville Longbottom mentioned in the last letter as he didn’t appear to have any siblings in the vicinity. There was a girl with big, bushy hair bringing up the rear of the group and Arthur couldn’t quite figure out who she was. She seemed uncomfortable around the presumed Malfoy but didn’t seem to have that problem with Niamh. Almost unwillingly Arthur let his eyes fall on the last member of the group. Merlin. Or was it Emma now? She looked almost exactly the same. Maybe there was less hardness in her face, maybe her eyes weren’t as sad. Maybe she didn’t look quite like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. But she still looked like the naïve young woman who had come to Camelot and called out the Crown Prince. The same woman who had sacrificed everything she had to give, again and again, until she couldn’t sacrifice anymore. The woman who had kept getting back up no matter how much she was knocked down and who had shown him how to become the king that she had always believed he could be. Arthur drank in her appearance like a drowning man. The hole in his chest that had been there since he had remembered Camelot was slowly being filled as she came closer and closer.

Next to Arthur, Morgana and Mordred stilled, waiting for something, although unsure what.

Niamh could feel the anticipation in the Pendragon Clan as she and her companions drew closer. They were hoping that Emma meeting Arthur, arguably the most important person in her life as Merlin and most certainly the person with whom she’d had the greatest bond, would unlock her memories. Niamh had her doubts.

Neville was apprehensive as they walked towards the infamous Morgana Pendragon. He had known that Niamh was friends with her, but why did that mean he had to meet her?

Draco narrowed his eyes. The blonde man was staring at Emma, not Niamh. Something was wrong here. Why would he be interested in Emma? It was Niamh that Pendragon was friends with.

Hermione wondered if she could slip away. But Emma would kill her if she didn’t say goodbye and Neville would be upset.

Merlin felt the emotions tearing through her, even as her soul began to sing and the rip in her heart healed more with every step she took closer to Arthur. Arthur Pendragon. Arthur. The Once and Future King. The Other Side of our Coin. The missing half of our soul. Our prat. Ours to serve, ours to protect. Our King. Always. Her magic was buzzing and she involuntarily reached out with it to wrap it around Arthur like a protective blanket. She wanted to burst into tears. She wanted to grab Arthur and feel his heartbeat. She wanted to hug him and never let go. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t do that. Not again. Never again. She pulled herself together and using the practice she had gained over far, far too many lifetimes, she squashed her impulses and regained an iron grip on her feelings. She made sure to hide her emotions and project only the polite interest that Emma would show.

Morgana couldn’t help the disappointment and despair that she felt when Merlin didn’t react to Arthur’s presence beyond a polite smile. But she hid it behind a carefully practiced mask that had always served her well. Merlin would have seen through it, and so would Gwen. But Gwen wasn’t here and Emma wasn’t Merlin, not even close, so she smiled prettily and pretended nothing was wrong.

“Hey! I almost thought you were going to leave without saying goodbye.” Her voice came out teasingly but she could still feel the daggers in her heart and the urge to sob that wouldn’t be leaving any time soon.

“Like you’d let me.” Niamh shot back just as teasingly, but her eyes conveyed sympathy and Morgana felt the reassuring brush on her magic from Niamh that said she wasn’t upset about this but that she understood and passed on solidarity and strength. In that moment Morgana knew that she had made the right choice in trusting Niamh, that their friendship was real and that she was on their team. She shared all of this with Mordred as she answered and felt his disgruntled acceptance.

“I think if you’d tried you could have made a break for it.”

“Maybe, but where would be the fun in that?”

“True enough. Care to introduce your friends?” Morgana already knew who they all were, some better than others, but it was the polite thing to do and she needed to distract Arthur before he said something rash.

Niamh smirked like she knew exactly what Morgana was doing. Maybe she does. She was a member of the Court of Camelot once.

Arthur was abruptly shaken out of his thoughts and distracted from his examination of Merl- Emma, and forced to pay attention when Morgana and Niamh stopped their teasing and started introducing each other.

“This is Bushy,” Niamh gestured to the girl with the big hair, Arthur couldn’t help but think the nickname was apt, “She goes by Hermione Granger and is a Gryffindor.” The word wasn’t said in a friendly manner but it seemed more a faked and joking disgust than an actual dislike of the house. “This is Clumsy, also known as Neville, also Gryffindor and this is Dragon-boy or Draco, who is oddly enough the only Slytherin.” Niamh gestured to the chubby boy and the boy with the annoyed look on his face respectively. Before she could introduce Merl- Emma, Kara, who had somehow come up behind without him noticing, interrupted.

“Hey, Ambrosius what’s with the staring?”

Arthur’s eyes darted to Merlin – Emma, dammit! – and was startled to find that she had in fact been staring at him. A look of alarm flashed across her face and was gone so fast that if he had been anyone else he would have missed it – it appeared everyone else had – and she blushed slightly.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare, I just – are you magical? – you just look so familiar – we haven’t met before have we?” Arthur’s heart almost stopped beating at her words and he almost smiled at her babbling, which although not usually directed at him was as endearing as ever. He opened his mouth to reply but before he could he was interrupted by Hermione (?) gasping.

“Oh my God! I mean Merlin. Pendragon! I can’t believe I didn’t put it together before.” She turned to Merl- Emma, “You keep up with muggle news, right?” Arthur frowned. What kind of eleven-year old keeps an eye on the news? But before Merl- Emma could answer she steamrollered on. “He’s Arthur Pendragon! You know, the son of that ex-politician who owns Pendragon Inc., Uther Pendragon.”

Niamh paled at the name but Merli- Emma didn’t seem to notice. A look of relief flashed across her face before being replaced by light amusement.

“That must be it.” She turned to the rest of the group. “I’m Emma Ambrosius but you appear to know that.” She flashed a grin at Kara before turning to Mordred. “Happy Birthday by the way. It was a couple of days ago, right?”

Mordred nodded slowly before Arthur stepped forward and introduced himself. “I’m Arthur, Morgana and Mordred’s older brother.”

Morgana jabbed him in the ribs. “I’m older, you arse.”

Arthur grinned and jabbed her back. He saw Hermione nudge Merl- Emma while they appeared distracted out of the corner of his eye. She muttered something and Merl- Emma nodded before hugging her and presumably wishing Hermione a Merry Christmas. The clumsy boy, Arthur couldn’t remember his name, quickly said something too and he also got a hug. It made Arthur absurdly jealous that these two eleven-year olds he didn’t know got to hug Merlin and he didn’t.

In his distraction Niamh had involved Morgana and Draco in conversation and Mordred nudged him to stop him from staring. Of course that was when his father turned up.

“Morgana, Mordred, Kara, wonderful to see you!” He clapped Mordred on the shoulder and hugged Morgana before turning to the other witches and wizards. Both he and Niamh froze and Arthur remembered his father telling him about how Niamh was fiercely protective of what she considered hers and would do everything within her power to make sure that if they were not safe then they were avenged. It had never occurred to him to ask just how his father knew that and now he wondered if that was because Nimueh hadn’t just tried to kill him and Merlin in revenge for the purge, but because she knew his father more personally.

The tense stand-off was interrupted by Mer- Emma. “Well this is kind of awkward.” She chuckled sheepishly, before stepping forward to shake his father’s hand. “Emma Ambrosius. I don’t think we were ever formally introduced.”

Instead of putting on his public persona, his father actually smiled warmly at the once-servant. “Uther Pendragon, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Arthur furrowed his brow in confusion and saw he wasn’t the only one.

M- Emma noticed their confusion. “Your father was very kind and helped me with my trunk, when I was struggling with it on the first day of term.”

All three siblings immediately flung accusing looks in Uther’s direction. He shifted slightly, the only indication that he was uncomfortable and feeling guilty.

In an effort to stay in control and not attack Uther like she so desperately wanted to, Niamh reached out to brush Emma’s magic with her own, a habit she had developed to help her calm down after the situation with the trolls and the confrontation with Morgana. She was shocked to find that Emma’s magic had surrounded Arthur protectively. It was subtle enough that it wasn’t immediately obvious if you weren’t looking for it, but it also shouted a loud ‘MINE!’ to anyone who could sense it. She barely kept the shock to herself but gave Morgana a nudge with her mind to attract her attention. “Look at Emma’s magic!

Kara was getting slightly fed up of the conversation and could see that the Malfoy boy was too, so she turned to engage him in conversation, but was side tracked by the approach of an unfamiliar but powerful magic user. She was no slouch in terms of power, but being surrounded by such abnormally powerful magic users such as the reincarnations of the Round Table and the legendary Nimueh meant that her power wasn’t very noticeable. The approaching presence was not that much more powerful than her – which was absurdly powerful for any person who was not one of the three magical former Round Table members. She turned in his direction and felt Mordred and Malfoy turning to follow her gaze.

Caleb Moore was not a small man. He wasn’t necessarily a tall man either. He could possibly be considered broad in the shoulders, with a sun-darkened and weathered face from spending so much of his time outside, making him look older than his actual age. He appeared larger than he was due to his powerful aura and theatrical nature. When he saw the company Emrys was keeping he couldn’t restrain himself from bowing dramatically. “If it isn’t the famous Pendragons!”

Merlin groaned. She should have known better than to hope that Caleb would behave himself. He was worse than Gwaine had been, even on his worst days. “Hi, Uncle Caleb.” She smiled brightly while speaking through gritted teeth, hoping he’d catch the hint. He didn’t.

“It’s honour to meet such famous-” Merlin cut him off by accidentally dropping her trunk on his toes.

“Oh jeez, I’m so sorry, Uncle.” Merlin flapped her hands about as Caleb shifted the actually-quite-heavy trunk off his foot. She moved forward to help him and managed to promptly trip over thin air, collide with the trunk, knock into both Draco and Caleb and nearly put Kara on the floor. “Dammit!”
And just like that the tension was broken. Merlin would have been incredibly proud of herself had she done it on purpose, as it was she was just a little irritated.

“I think that’s our cue.” Caleb smiled warmly at the others. “I hope I’ll see you again.” His eyes lingered on the Pendragon siblings and Niamh, before he flashed a quick grin and a wink at the Malfoy heir. He had it on good authority from the clan’s Seer that the boy would have a part to play. He felt his pseudo-niece smile in poorly concealed relief and had to suppress an amused chuckle. He started for the barrier as Merlin said her goodbyes and wondered why she was hiding. He decided to ask her as soon as they had a moment alone.


December 24th 10.27PM – Summer Lake Farm

Merlin sat on the slope between the main stables and the large building that housed Caleb and his family. It was currently hosting well over 30 clan members as they exchanged laughter and wisdom. The isolation and sparse population meant that the stars were easy to see and she could pick out the constellations that she had spent so much time inventing stories about in her childhood. If she closed her eyes she could almost imagine she was in Camelot. But only almost. The earth felt different here, and the lake’s presence was too strong to deny. There was an emptiness that had never been there in Camelot. But she could pretend.

She heard the door open behind her, light spilling down towards her. And she felt Caleb - who else would it be? It was always Caleb - walk towards her, before sinking to the ground beside her. He’d been trying to corner her since King’s Cross and she had pretended not to notice. She sighed and looked at him. There was no need to hide here so she could almost look him directly in the eye by tilting her head a little.

“What is it?” Her voice came out harsher than she meant it to, but she couldn’t take it back, so she just waited in silence.

“It’s cold out here. You should come back inside. We’re missing you.”

She laughed, barely. “No, you’re not. What is it really?”

Caleb hesitated. “Why don’t you tell them?”

“Who?” She knew who.

“The Pendragons. Niamh. The Round Table. Why do you hide?”

“What else can I do? I can’t tell them that I never died. I can’t.”

“Why not? What are you afraid of?”

“What makes you think I’m afraid?”

“Because you’re running. I was running before I met you. Before I embraced my abilities. I know what it looks like.”

Merlin shook her head mutely and looked down towards the stables and past them to the lake.

“How long has it been, Emrys?” Caleb’s voice was impossibly soft and gentle, as though afraid of the answer. Or maybe afraid he would break her. She almost laughed bitterly at the idea that she wasn’t already broken.

“How long since what?”

“How long since they died? How long have you been alone?”

Merlin dropped her head to her knees. “One thousand, five hundred and thirty-eight years, six months, seventeen days, nine hours and twenty-four minutes. But hey, who’s counting?”

Caleb’s heart swelled in sympathy for the girl beside him, both infinitely older than him and much, much younger. “Is that why you won’t tell them? Because you don’t want to lose them again?”

Merlin just stared at him, she couldn’t find the energy to do much more.

“Isn’t it worth it? Even if you lose them again, surely making new memories, having them back for a time, is worth the pain.”

Merlin turned to him, suddenly angry. “If? If? There’s no ‘if’, Caleb! I will lose them again. It’s inevitable. You don’t seem to understand. I don’t age! I don’t change! I can’t die! You think I haven’t tried? Nothing kills me. Not swords, or arrows, or bullets. Not magic or disease. Do you know what ‘Emrys’ means? What ‘immortal’ means? It means I outlive everyone. Everything has its time and everything dies. Except me. I’m the exception to that rule. When your great-grandchildren are dying of old age, I’ll still be here, exactly as you see me now, just with more sorrow and grief and loss and pain. When the mountains crumble to dust and cities turn to ashes, I’ll still be here. When the earth is swallowed by the sea and when the oceans disappear and leave only barren desert, I’ll still be here. When everything else has died or been destroyed, I will still be here!” Merlin could feel tears on her cheeks, even though she hadn’t cried in a long time. “When the sun swallows the earth in a few billion years, I will be around to witness it! As long as there is some scrap, some particle, some piece of scattered dust that was once the earth floating around in space, I will still exist! That is the true curse of immortality. I will outlive everyone and everything because I am magic and as long as some trace of it exists, it will sustain me.

“You asked me why I hide. Why I don’t tell anyone. Last time they died it nearly destroyed me, and I nearly destroyed the earth in my grief. I had to watch my children and my grandchildren and their grandchildren die until I couldn’t bear it anymore. I can’t go through that again!” Merlin’s voice broke as she started to cry in earnest. “I can’t get close to them, only to lose them again. I won’t survive it a second time. My soul will shatter and might just take the goddamn planet along with it! It’s better this way. It will hurt, feeling their life forces torn out of existence, but it will be infinitely less painful as long as I just don’t let myself get close to them. As long as they don’t know that I remember being their friend. As long as they don’t expect me to smile and laugh and joke with them. As long as I don’t let myself get anymore attached. To anyone.”

Caleb wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close. “It won’t hurt any less. It won’t be any better. The only thing you will accomplish is causing them pain and yourself more grief. You’re spending so much time avoiding them and not letting them in that you’re building everything around them anyway. It won’t work. But I think you’re going to try anyway, and that’s the worst part. Because in trying to save yourself pain, you’ll cause it, and everything will come crashing down on you anyway.”

Merlin said nothing and just allowed herself to be comforted. It had been so long since someone had held her just to comfort her. Far too long.

Caleb looked down towards the lake. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to convince her to tell them. He just hoped it wouldn’t come back to bite them all in the ass.

Chapter Text

December 25th Morning – Gryffindor Boys’ Dormitory

After Harry had put Hermione’s sweets aside, there were only two presents left, and there was no doubt that the box in Gryffindor colours was from Emma.

“What did you get from Emma?” Ron asked from where he had already opened his. “I got a book on famous chess tactics and players who’ve used them.”

“I don’t know.” Harry opened the box and saw a letter from Emma stuck to the lid. Inside were a few pieces of parchment.

Dear Harry,

I know that you don’t have anything of your parents and that your aunt and uncle have never talked about them. My parents knew them, before they worked together. I was going to enclose pictures, but then I remembered this. I found it in a box of my mother’s just over a year ago, I didn’t know what it was then. It’s a letter written to Lily Potter by her sister Petunia after her wedding and at the start of her pregnancy. I don’t know why my family had it, but I thought that you should have it. I hope it shows you a different perspective on your aunt. I know you’ve always disliked her and that the feeling is mutual but know that she loved her sister even if it doesn’t seem that way.

I hope you have a very Happy Christmas and you like all of your presents.

Emma

Harry frowned and wondered what the letter could possibly say. He glanced at Ron, who was flipping through his chess book eagerly, while picking at the Every Flavour Beans. He hesitated, then picked the letter up gingerly, opening it before he could change his mind.

Dearest Lily, a flowing script began.

Thank you for inviting us to your wedding. It was very thoughtful of you. I waited to send this letter until your honeymoon was over, because I thought that this wasn’t something to upset you with until now. I got your letter about being pregnant, and I’m expecting too! Can you believe it?

I’m sorry I couldn’t come to your wedding. I won’t be coming to your baby shower either, and I probably won’t ever see you again after this letter is delivered. I don’t expect to hear from you after what I’m about to say. When we were younger I was jealous of your abilities. That you were a witch and that you could do magic and that I was not, and I could not. I’m not jealous anymore. You’re not a freak. Or a monster. Or any of those names I called you. You’re not. But I’m going to treat you like one. Vernon doesn’t like your kind, and after recent events, I’m not sure I do either. I know Mum and Dad’s death wasn’t your fault. I do. Logically I know that, and my head doesn’t blame you. But my heart does. My heart screams that it’s all your fault and if you’d never gone to that damn school then they’d still be alive! The paper was ripped slightly at this point and there was a spot where it looked like the ink had run and something had been scribbled out. I know that You-Know-Who killed them. But like it or not, he killed them because of you. He didn’t kill them because they were muggles. He killed them because they were your parents. I don’t know when or how it will happen. I don’t know what the circumstances will be, but he’ll kill you too. Maybe it’s futile, but as long I’m connected to you, Vernon and I are in danger. And it’s not just me anymore. I have my child to think about now. I can’t let our connection to you kill us. I won’t. So, I’m cutting you out. You’re no longer a part of this family, Lily. You are no longer invited to family gatherings, or celebrations. You’re no longer welcome in my house or our parent’s house. If I see you in the street or at the theatre or in the shop or by the park or anywhere else in public, I will pretend that I don’t know you. That you are a perfect stranger. 

I love you, Lily. You’re my baby sister. But I can’t watch you go to war and get yourself killed. I can’t lose my baby sister to that. So, I no longer have a baby sister. I am an only child. I have no family left to lose other than my husband and my unborn child. This seems harsh, but know that my heart is breaking as much as yours. It’s necessary. The word was underlined several times, as though his aunt had been trying to convince herself as much as his mother. I will not watch my sister die. I will not watch her go to her death and leave family behind. Nor will I stand by and watch a world torn into chaos. So, it no longer exists in my eyes. I’m just another of the happily oblivious, unaware of anything out of the ordinary. My family is perfectly normal, and my sister ran off with a drunkard. When you die it will be in a car accident. Nothing abnormal about that. 

Please don’t come near my family again.

I love you. 

You are my sister no longer. 

Goodbye. 

Petunia. 

It was only after Harry had finished reading that he noticed the paper was spotted with tear stains and well-worn along the creases where it must have been folded and refolded many, many times. As though it had been read countless times. Are the tears from Mum or Aunt Petunia? He wondered. How many times did Mum read it? There was still a single piece of paper left in the box. Aside from a slight yellowing from age the page looked almost brand new. As if it had barely been touched. He picked it up and turned it over. There was barely a line on it.

Lily, 

Thank you. Your nephew’s name is Dudley. 

Petunia 

He idly wondered if his mother had ever contacted his aunt. Or if his being left on a doorstep was the first his aunt had heard from his mother in years.

“Hey, Harry, did you hear me? I asked what that was.” Ron’s voice interrupted his musing.

Harry didn’t know why he did it, perhaps because the letter felt intensely private, but he tucked the pages away and hid them in his covers. “It’s nothing, Ron.”

Harry picked up the last parcel and felt it. It was very light. He unwrapped it.

Something fluid and silvery grey went slithering to the floor, where it lay in gleaming folds. Ron gasped.

“I’ve heard of those,” he said in a hushed voice, abandoning the sweets he got from Hermione. “If that’s what I think it is – they’re really rare, and really valuable.”

“What is it?” Harry picked up the shining, silvery cloth off the floor. It was strange to touch, like water woven into the material.

“It’s an invisibility cloak,” said Ron, a look of awe on his face.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

Rowan Household

Niamh could not stop staring at her present from Emma. Could she know? She shook her head. It was just a coincidence. Nevertheless, a chill ran down her spine.

“Everything ok, sweetheart?”

Niamh looked up at her mother. “Hmm? No, I’m fine.” She placed the book aside and stood to fetch the next present for her mum, determined to ignore the implications.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

Cardiff

Sebastian grinned at escrima sticks his mother had gifted him for Christmas. She always knew exactly what to get him, and considering his stay with the Catha, they could not have come at a more perfect time. He may not be as magically powerful as some, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous. He wondered if he could trick Alator into sparring with him. Although, considering that Alator had been the one to teach him in the first place, he was probably better off asking someone else.

He shrugged.

Breakfast first, then he would try out his new weapons.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

Malfoy Manor

Draco glanced in awe at the tiny vial Emma had given him. He’d never seen any memories up close before, only what he had glimpsed in the pensieve in his father’s office. And he’d never seen any that looked so old, nor ones that shone quite as brightly.

“What is that, Draco?” his father asked, as if he didn’t already know exactly what they were.

“Emma sent me memories.” Draco scrambled for the letter that Emma had attached.

“Here.” His mother handed it to him with an amused smile. He thanked her and almost tore it in his haste to read it, the vial clutched tightly in his hand.

Hey 007 (Yes, I’m still calling you that),

I hope you have a fantastic Christmas! Lots of presents, plenty of food. And I know that right now you’re frantically scanning this letter to find out why I sent you a vial of memories. Draco couldn’t suppress a laugh, Emma knew him well. I assumed that you would have a pensieve, as your father is so important in the ministry and all. If you don’t then I’m sorry and I have a fantastic idea of what to get you for your birthday.
I was watching these memories in the library over the summer – it’s considered a rite of passage in my family – and it occurred to me recently that perhaps you would like to see them too. I don’t know whose they are, only that they belong to a distant ancestor and her close friends. I don’t even know any of their names, someone managed to scrub them out of the memories. But what struck me is that you watch them grow up and I don’t mean by age. You see them become amazing people and I thought maybe you would like to see how people can change and how good you can be, even if you don’t believe that you can shake your family’s mantle or their ideals.
Draco felt a shiver run down his spine. He’d never articulated those feelings. Not to anyone. So, here you go.

Merry Christmas, Draco! I hope you enjoy the story of the prat prince and the pretty lady (and the cheeky maid that was along for the ride).

Emma. x

  1. S. – The start of it anyway. It’s not the whole story, obviously. – I need something to give you next year, you dollophead!

Draco looked at the vial with new eyes.

“Father, may I borrow your pensieve, please.”

Lucius looked at his son speculatively and wondered what was in the memories. “Of course. Just make sure you remove the memories afterwards. I’ll look into getting you a pensieve of your own if the memories are important.”

Draco smiled so widely it split his face. “Thank you, father!”

“After lunch, Draco.”

Draco’s smile dimmed a bit, but it didn’t last long.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

Pendragon Household

Morgana squealed at the sight of her present. She threw herself at her brothers.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s perfect! Thank you so much!”

Arthur rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s nothing, really. We just thought you’d like it is all.”

Morgana threw herself at him again. He glared at his father, who simply sat in his chair and smirked at him. He threw a pillow at Mordred to wipe the smug smile of his face, but couldn’t help the grin that spread across his. He would never take the easy affection of his family for granted. Not after remembering a life without it.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

New York

Despite the early hour, and the significance of the day, Aislinn was already roaming the streets of Manhattan, impatiently waiting for the warlock responsible for overseeing Old Magic in the state of New York to arrive. She only had a few more days to wrap up her visit, before she travelled to Romania, and the dragon enclosure where Charlie worked. Her mother’s gift was perfect, a book on dragons and injuries common among their keepers? Definitely what she wanted for the next few months. She had no idea how her mother always knew these things, but she was used to it by now.

She checked her watch. She’d give the prat (a thrill always went through her when she used that particular insult, that had everything to do with the bedtime stories she’d always been regaled with and nothing to do with her own longing to be close enough to someone that using the word ‘prat’ in that tone meant friendship and closeness, and not insult) responsible for New York another hour to find her, before she turned up on his doorstep and refused to leave.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

December 25th 4.30PM – Malfoy Manor

Draco couldn’t believe his father was allowing this! After his mother helped him remove his father’s memories from the basin and explained to him how the pensieve worked, she touched his arm gently and told him to fetch her when he was done. He nodded eagerly and emptied the vial into the bowl. When they had all gone in, he hesitated. Was he really going to do this? Then before he could change his mind, he stuck his head in the basin and was sucked into the past.

Colours and shapes swirled around him until they finally coalesced into a courtyard full of people. In the centre there was a raised wooden platform, complete with chopping block, axe and a man being held by a guard. There was a well-dressed man in a crown on a balcony, addressing the people in the courtyard. When Draco looked to his left there was a young woman in trousers with a scarf-like piece of red cloth around her neck, who looked like she could be Emma’s twin. Draco assumed this was the ancestor Emma had mentioned. Then the sound started.

“…pride myself as a fair and just king, but for the crime of sorcery there is but one sentence I can pass.”

Draco looked on in horror as the man nodded and the man on the platform was forced to his knees. As the axe was raised Draco realised that this man was going to die and hastily looked away before the axe could fall. He noticed that nearly everyone else in the courtyard did the same, with the exception of the young woman next to him, who at a second glance he realised was actually still a teenager, certainly not much older than a seventh year, if that. He refused to turn around, he didn’t think he could bear to see the dead man and when the man on the balcony began talking again he reluctantly listened, wondering who he was and why he would do such a thing.

“When I came to this land, this kingdom was mired in chaos, but with the people's help, magic was driven from the realm.” With every word he listened to Draco felt more dismayed and apprehensive about the memories to come. “So, I declare a festival to celebrate twenty years since the Great Dragon was captured and Camelot freed from the evil of sorcery. Let the celebrations begin.”

Draco felt like he was going to be sick but before his stomach could decide to reject everything he had eaten, he heard a dreadful keening sound. A large area was formed around an old woman, whose expression spoke of terrible grief.

“There is only one evil in this land, and it is not magic! It is you! With your hatred and your ignorance! You killed my son! But I promise you, before these celebrations are over, you will share my tears. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a son for a son.” The more she spoke the angrier and more vengeful she seemed and the more venomous her words became. For the first time Draco could understand why people had hated the Dark Lord as much as they had feared him, and why the Death Eaters were so despised. If this was how their enemies were treated for nothing more than being born differently, why wouldn’t they hate the people responsible for ostracising them? Why wouldn’t they fight back?

The man on the balcony, who Draco had realised was a king at some point during his callous speech, looked worried for a brief second before pointing at the woman. “Seize her!” he commanded.

She gripped the pendant that hung for a neck and muttered hoarse words that Draco couldn’t understand. She disappeared into a miniature tornado and it was only then that Draco realised that this was a time of Old Magic. The kind that was forbidden to all but druids, as it was too dangerous and powerful, too untamed, for any normal witch or wizard. He shivered as he felt the power of the spell wash over him, even in a memory.

A movement in a window caught his eye and he was just in time to see a beautiful, but sorrowful woman shutting the window.

He noticed Emma’s ancestor moving away and hurried to follow, but before he could move more than a few steps, the courtyard dissolved into smoke as quickly as it had appeared, and he was whisked into the next memory.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

Draco looked around and wondered whose memory it was and who he was meant to be looking at; he didn’t see Emma’s ancestor anywhere. He assumed it was the beautiful woman staring out the window as she was the only person he could see. With a jolt he realised that she was the woman from the window he’d seen earlier and when he looked closer he saw that she bore a startling resemblance to Morgana Pendragon, the Slytherin Head Girl. He was so shocked that when the King spoke he jumped backwards into the wall and almost passed through it.

“---.” Draco frowned when he realised that although he could hear the King talking, he could not understand what was being said.

“Yes?” When the woman spoke he sighed in relief, thankful that he could understand her words.

“What is it? Why are you not joining us at the feast?” Draco was confused. How could he understand what the man was saying now, but not earlier?

The conversation continued and he hastily paid attention. “I just don’t think chopping someone’s head off is a cause for celebration. That poor mother.” Draco liked this woman already. She was only the third person he had heard speak, and he didn’t even know her name. Her name! Emma’s letter had mentioned that the names in the memories had been removed. The reason he hadn’t understood the King was because the only thing he had said was her name! He snapped back to attention quickly as the King spoke.

“It was simple justice for what he’d done.”

“To whom? He practiced some magic, he didn’t hurt anyone.” Draco nodded in agreement, even though he was invisible to the two nobles. He decided to refer to the Pendragon look-a-like as the Lady in his head, in order to avoid confusion.

“You were not around twenty years ago, you have no idea what it was like.”

“How long are you going to keep punishing people for what happened then?”

“Until they realise there is no room for magic in my kingdom!” It was at this point that Draco fully understood what he was seeing. This was just like what the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord had done, but in reverse. Instead of hunting and pursuing those without who they felt didn’t deserve magic and those who had little to no relation to it, it was the people with magic and those related to them. He felt sick. “You will be with me when I greet Lady Helen.” The King turned to leave.

“I told you! I want no part in these celebra-!” The Lady didn’t even get to finish her sentence before the King was turning around and interrupting her with a raised voice.

“I am your guardian!” Interesting. Apparently the two were not related. Draco was surprised, given the similarities between the two, although he supposed that Weasley wasn’t too similar to the twin nightmares in the third year, who the other Slytherins told horror stories about, and Crabbe and Goyle did share quite a few traits. The King’s speech continued. “I expect you to do as I ask. If you show me no respect at least respect our finest singer.” He turned and walked away, his cloak billowing behind him. He hadn’t gotten very far when the Lady called after him.

“You know, the more brutal you are, the more enemies you will create!” Draco managed to see that the King didn’t stop before the scene dissolved and he was whisked away.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

“That’s going to get annoying!” Draco muttered as another scene formed around him. He was in a castle courtyard or something, and the sun was high in the sky. He looked around. There was an older blonde boy, in his late teens, maybe about twenty, standing near a group of older men who Draco realised had to be knights. There was a boy dressed in shabbier clothes nearby. The way he stood reminded Draco of the house elves and he was shocked when he realised that the boy must be a servant. The blonde boy’s body language seemed aggressive and reminded Draco of the way his father stood around blood-traitors and mudbl- muggleborns. He caught sight of the Emma look-a-like crossing underneath the archway, still dressed in the same clothes as before, or maybe dressed in the same ones again. Draco was rapidly realising that she probably wasn’t very well off. He hoped that she wasn’t like Emma in attitude, because if she was then Draco was sure that she was going to get into trouble. Or cause some. Or both. Especially when the sound started and the first thing he heard was the blonde boy saying:

“A bit like you, then?” His tone was insulting, and Draco cringed.

The knights laughed, and Draco groaned aloud. If Emma’s behaviour was genetic then her ancestor was about to do something stupid and get herself in trouble.

“I’ll put the target on the other end, shall I, Sir?”

The blonde boy nodded, and as the servant picked up the board he turned to the knights and said, “This'll teach him.” His words were met with various agreements and noises of approval.

Draco winced.

The blonde boy took a dagger out of his belt and threw it at the target the servant was carrying. Draco couldn’t help his gasp. Was the boy mad? That was dangerous!

The servant turned around and looked down at the target, seeing the dagger stuck in the centre. “Hey! Hang on!”

The blonde boy looked indignant. “Don’t stop!”

Draco chanced a look at Emma’s ancestor. She did not look happy.

The servant stepped backwards apprehensively. “Here?”

“I told you to keep moving!” The blonde boy threw another dagger and the servant barely got the target up in time for the blade to hit it.

“Come on! Run!” The blonde boy was almost laughing now.

The servant began to move, and the boy threw another knife. “Do you want some moving target practice?” He asked his knights.

The blonde boy threw two more daggers whilst Emma’s ancestor looked like she was going to do something she knew she would regret. The servant boy dropped the target and it rolled towards Emma’s ancestor, finally coming to a stop at her feet. She put her foot on it just as the servant went to pick it up. He looked up at her.

Emma’s ancestor had a placating smile on her face as she looked at the blonde boy. “Hey, come on, that’s enough.”

The blonde boy looked gobsmacked. “What?”

Emma’s ancestor met his gaze. “You’ve had your fun, my friend.” Draco recognised the look on her face. In the past three months he’d seen it often enough. It meant she was being calm but that she wasn’t going to budge.

The blonde boy sauntered over with a self-assured look on his face. “Do I know you?” he asked condescendingly.

“Erm, I’m ---.” Emma’s ancestor held out her hand for him to shake. He ignored it.

“So, I don’t know you.”

Emma’s ancestor dropped her hand. “No.” She shook her head.

“And yet you called me ‘friend’.” He spoke as though speaking to someone particularly slow or dim-witted.

Emma’s ancestor smiled tightly and kept her voice light. “That was my mistake.” Draco could just tell that that wasn’t the end of it.

“Yes, I think so.” The blonde looked smug and clearly thought that the conversation was over. Draco winced at what he knew was coming.

“Yeah.” Her tone was matter-of-fact, and she shrugged. “I’d never have a friend who could be such an ass.” She turned to walk away.

The blonde boy scoffed, and his next words stopped her in her tracks. “Or I one who could be so stupid.” He stepped towards her. Her back was still turned. “Tell me, ---, do you know how to walk on your knees?”

Her face froze, and Draco could read the anger in her posture. Even he knew that that wasn’t something you should ever say to a woman unless you wanted to end up a smudge on the carpet. She turned to face the blonde boy and didn’t back down, even as he crowded into her personal space.

“No.” Her voice was firm but there was a hint of fury beneath the even tone.

The blonde boy leaned in to Emma’s ancestor. “Would you like me to help you?”

Emma’s ancestor managed to look both incredibly insulted and spitting mad without changing her expression and she squared her shoulders. “I wouldn’t if I were you.” There was a threat in her tone and Draco knew without a doubt that she could wield Old Magic.

The blonde boy barked out a laugh.

“Now you’re a dead man.” Draco muttered and made a note to himself to never, ever do anything as foolish as laugh about insulting a woman like that. Especially not if the woman in question was related to Emma. He mentally wrote an obituary for the foolish blonde.

 The blonde boy’s tone was mocking when he spoke, like he couldn’t believe that she was speaking to him like that. “Why? What are you going to do to me?”

Emma’s ancestor scoffed. “You have no idea.”

Draco belatedly realised that magic was illegal in this place, wherever it was, and she likely couldn’t use it without signing her own death warrant.

“Be my guest.” The blonde stepped back and opened his arms, practically inviting her to take a swing at him. “Come on! Come on!” He goaded.

Emma’s ancestor looked around at everyone watching and then looked back at the boy as he deliberately placed a mocking tone in his voice and leaned towards her, arms still spread.

“Come oooooooon.”

Draco could see the moment she lost her temper as she made a fist and swung directly at his face. He made a face as the blonde caught her arm and twisted it behind her back in a way that had to be painful. She hissed and stamped on his foot, hard, causing him to grunt in surprise and shift his weight before forcing her arm higher.

There was a loud collective “Ooooh” from the surrounding people, most noticeably the knights.

“I’ll have you thrown in jail for that.” The blonde grimaced as Emma’s ancestor struggled to get out of his hold.

She twisted her neck, so she could face him. “What, who do you think you are? The King?” Her voice was full of disbelief and anger.

The blonde shook his head. “No.” He leaned his head in closer. “I’m his son, ---.”

Emma’s ancestor froze in surprise and the blonde boy, the Prince, took advantage of the fact and took out her knees, forcing her to the ground. The scene dissolved as he called for the guards and Draco idly wondered whether the prince even knew that the person he had just had arrested was a woman.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

When the scene solidified, Draco was confused at the wooden contraption that Emma’s ancestor was in, but when he saw how she was being pelted with rotten fruit and vegetables he realised that this was her punishment for attacking the Prince. She had a slight grin on her face but cringed away from the projectiles. An old man walked passed, laughing slightly.

“Thanks!” Emma’s ancestor called in his direction, before ducking her head down to avoid a tomato. Draco surmised it was probably a mentor or guardian of some sort. Or at the very least someone she knew.

After several more projectiles, the children and teenagers who had been throwing the food picked up the basket and ran off, clearly looking for more things to throw. A beautiful, dark young woman in a red cloak walked up to the stocks, where Emma’s ancestor was spitting, clearly trying to get the taste of rotten vegetable out of her mouth.

After a moment, she noticed she had company and looked up.

“I’m ---, but most people call me ---. I’m the Lady ---‘s maid.” The young woman – maid, Draco mentally corrected – introduced herself with a smile, whilst Emma’s ancestor tried to subtly shake her head and rid herself of the clinging pieces of fruit.

“Right.” Emma’s ancestor gave a smile that was slightly more of a grimace, “I’m ---.“ She awkwardly moved her hand in the pretty maid’s direction for her to shake. “Although, most people just call me Idiot.” Emma’s ancestor’s tone of voice was very matter of fact, although Draco could detect a hint of humour underneath.

The maid immediately denied this, “No! No, no. I saw what you did. It was so brave!”

“It was stupid.” Emma’s ancestor shook her head.

“Well, I’m glad you walked away.” The maid admitted, “You weren’t going to beat him.” She said with a small laugh.

Emma’s ancestor looked at her. “Oh, wh- I can beat him.”

The maid gave her a sceptical glance. “You think?” she tilted her head. “Because you don’t look like one of those big, muscle-y kind of fellows.” She trailed off as Emma’s ancestor gave her a look. “I mean of course you don’t-“

“Thanks.”

There was a moment when the pretty maid realised that she’d put her foot in her mouth and she immediately rushed to reassure the girl in the stocks. “No! No, I’m sure you’re stronger than you look!”

Emma’s ancestor just eyed her in slight disbelief and let her continue digging herself into a hole.

“It’s just, erm…” She looked slightly lost for a second before continuing on as matter-of-factly as she could “---‘s one of these real rough, tough, save the world kind of men, and…well…”

“What?” Emma’s ancestor sounded a little uneasy about what might come next.

The maid hesitated before simply ploughing on, “You don’t look like that.” Emma’s ancestor made a show of looking down at herself then back up at the maid before raising her eyebrows. “I mean you’re a girl. Not that I’m saying girls can’t fight, because the Lady --- has definitely held her own with the men, but you really don’t look all that tough and, well I mean – ---‘s been a knight for as long as I can remember and…” she gave up and trailed off. Emma’s ancestor made a show of looking around and motioned for her to come closer.

“I’m in disguise.” She informed the maid slightly loftily.

The maid looked slightly confused before a laugh burst out of her, causing Emma’s ancestor to smile at the infectious sound. It took a moment before the maid had herself under control, but she gathered her composure in order to continue the conversation. “Well, it’s great you stood up to him.”

“What? You think so?” Emma’s ancestor interrupted her in disbelief.

“---‘s a bully, and everyone thought you were a real hero.”

Emma’s ancestor smiled slowly, as though no one had ever given her a compliment like that before. “Oh, yeah?” she asked quietly.

“Mm-hmm” the maid made an affirmative noise and nodded.

The smile on Emma’s ancestor’s face grew wider, until she noticed the children laughing and coming back with more rotten fruit. “Oh, excuse me, ---.” Her voice rose in pitch slightly, Draco couldn’t tell if it was from alarm or amusement. “My, uh, fans are waiting.”

The maid started to back away as they came closer, then hurried away as Emma’s ancestor waved farewell and the children got within range. The first tomato hit the wooden contraption as the scene dissolved into smoke.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

Draco had to blink as the scene changed and he was suddenly surrounded by people. On and on the memories went.

He saw Emma’s ancestor fighting the blonde boy, using magic and almost winning before being knocked to the ground.

He saw the old man reassure her that she wasn’t a monster, and she should never think of herself like that (magic doesn’t make a monster. But the Dark Lord… was it magic’s fault?).

He saw her save the blonde boy’s life – the prince’s life – and be rewarded by being made a servant (how was that a reward? That was no reward, that was a punishment).

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

He watched them grow closer, and froze in fear when Emma’s ancestor drank poison meant for the prince. He watched the prince beg his father to let him find the plant and cheered when he ignored his father and went anyway (he didn’t think about how his father would act in the same way the King did. He didn’t think about the fact that he would disobey his father for those reasons too).

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

Emma’s ancestor met a man who saved her and wanted nothing more than to be a knight but couldn’t (he was far better than the other morons who had laughed and followed the prince’s lead for no reason other than that he was a prince – why couldn’t he? Because of how he was born?! That was so unfair! He was better than the rest! Skill had to play some part. It had to).

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

And so, it continued.

He discovered that the Lady that looked so much like Pendragon was a seer (they weren’t supposed to actually exist! They were myths. Anyone claiming to be real seers were liars and fakes. How could she see the future so accurately?) and watched as Emma’s ancestor narrowly prevented the dream that was a vision from coming true (how could he have seen the Lady’s dreams? Could you even have memories of such things?).

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

He watched as a boy, only a few years older than himself ran and hid in fear, terrified for his life (how could he cope with that. How could anyone?) and how Emma’s ancestor and the Lady and her maid hid him, despite the danger to themselves. He didn’t breathe until the boy had escaped and realised that no one should ever live like that. No matter what (is this what his father had done? How he had made muggleborns feel (not mudbloods, after seeing these memories and the terror surrounding them, he could never use that word again without remembering this. Never)? He felt sick. How could anyone do this? How could his father make someone feel like this).

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

He watches as a man that doesn’t die terrorises the people he’s come to know through memories and a woman, who looks so much like Niamh that it hurts, spit poison at the king that hates magic so much he tries to end it (doesn’t he know that to end magic is to end life? How can a woman with Niamh’s face do such things – even to an enemy? Was she the one that poisoned Emma’s ancestor? Can I blame her for her actions? Would I do the same?). He sees the woman speak of friendship betrayed and wonders if she’s not right after all (why must so many suffer for the sake of vengeance? But if it happened to Mother or Emma or Niamh he knew he would do the same. He would do it for Longbottom too. Maybe even for Granger. If someone killed them as a result of his actions, he would blame them for his failing too).

“Haven’t you tired of revenge?” (Yes, he has! Please make it stop! Everyone is hurting not just you! Why won’t the two of them stop this?)

“No, you’re wrong. If I had foreseen her death, and the terrible retribution you would seek, … I would never have granted your wish.” (all this death for one mistake? It won’t change it! Why? No don’t say that! Don’t wish the Prince away!)

“I have watched so many people I love die at your hands, ---. Now it is your turn.” (He wouldn’t do such things! He wouldn’t! But if it were mother or the girls? If they died for nothing more than being magic? He would do it. He would)

He feels sick again, knowing that he could follow the logic of them both. Could understand their actions and would do the same. (He knows that so many of the people he knows would do the same too. For retribution and to make their death mean something. He would. They would.)

He sees Emma’s ancestor make a sword that can kill the dead for the prince alone and sees everything go horribly wrong (and the fury of the dragon terrifies him) and sees her throw the sword away, where it can’t be found.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

He watches as the Lady follows the same steps as he knows the King once did (he wonders if perhaps they’re not related after all) and watches as she plots to kill the King for the love of her friend, and the painful choice that Emma’s ancestor must make. He sees them both realise (almost too late. Not quite, but almost) that they can’t let him die. They can’t cause his death. It won’t make anything better. Won’t change anything really (The maid was right. She was so right and how can she forgive the King for what he’s done. Draco knows he could not).

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

He sees the prince almost die and sees Emma’s ancestor try to trade her life for his (he knows it’s going to go wrong somehow, the second he sees the woman who wears the face of his friend standing by the altar. He doesn’t know how. But he knows it will). He sees how it doesn’t work out and cries for Emma’s ancestor and then sees her try to change things. They fight (he can’t help the tears that run down his face as he sees two women who look just like his friends hiss at each other and try to kill each other as their hate echoes off the stones. He can’t stop the sobs that wrack him as they look at each other with such loathing. He can’t help seeing his friends in them and can’t stop desperately hoping that this will never happen to the two girls who have already become so important to him (more important than he ever could have dreamed before). He is eleven, but he already knows that if this ever becomes real, he will make sure he is dead before he lets his friends hurt each other the way these two women do now (are they women? Emma’s ancestor cannot be much more than five years older than him, and for the women who looks like Niamh to have been friends with the King she must be far older than the young woman she appears as (changeling a voice in the back of his head whispers. He ignores it)). They will not hurt each other in this way as long as he is alive, he will make sure of it). He thinks Emma’s ancestor is dead for a moment, but she is not. And then the woman who looks like Niamh is gone (there is a high-pitched shriek (it wasn’t her), there is a scorch mark where she was, why didn’t she scream?). The battle is over, Emma’s ancestor has won, but he can’t get the taste of bile out of his mouth as he empties his stomach and retches once there’s nothing left (he doesn’t know if it’s the way she died or the fact that she looked like Niamh, but he knows he’ll never forget any of this and that he’ll never be able to hear praise for the Dark Lord and his methods again without knowing exactly what it sounds like when someone is obliterated using magic (he knew that memories didn’t contain smells, which meant that the smell of burnt flesh was in his imagination, but he didn’t think he’d ever be able to eat grilled meat again). He vowed to himself that if the Dar- You-Kno- Voldemort, Emma said Voldemort, if He ever came back, he would fight on whichever side was against Him, and alongside Emma and Niamh (she wouldn’t follow Him, she was a half-blood and had loved her father) and Longbottom and Granger and even alongside Potter, anything to make sure he was stopped. He wondered, somewhat cynically, in the back of his mind, if Emma had given this to him as a gift to make him see what she meant, or if she had simply left the last memory in by accident. He decided he didn’t ever want to know, and that it didn’t matter in the end. Because he had seen it. He couldn’t unsee it. And he couldn’t forget it.

And suddenly the memories are over, the first one playing again, so Draco wipes his face and withdraws from the memories.

He lands, gasping on the rug next to the pensieve. He collects the memories, every single one, and makes sure there’s not even a drop left. He stuffs them into his robes and checks the mirror to make sure he doesn’t look too dishevelled. His eyes are a little red, but that could be from brightness. He quickly smooths his hair back to how it was before and calls for one of the house elves. Mipsy, his mother’s house elf, is the one who appears.

“What is Master Draco seeking from Mipsy?” Her voice is squeaky and respectful, but has the same edge to it as his mother’s does when he’s done something wrong.

“Where is Mother? She wanted me to fetch her when I was done with the memories.”

“Miss Narcissa is being in the casual drawing room, Master Draco. You is being finished with your gift already? You is only being in here for an hour.”

Draco frowned, he felt like it had taken hours to view those memories, surely it had to have been longer than an hour.

“Mipsy is going now. Mipsy is having chores to do.” There was a loud CrAcK as she disapparated and Draco shook himself, before placing a mask on his face and heading down to see his mother (he had never thought he would be using the training on public personas his father had insisted on to hide from his parents). Hopefully she wouldn’t pry too deeply.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

December 26th 1.09AM – Summer Lake Farm

Merlin ran her hand down Speedy’s nose again when he huffed in her face and nudged her. “Don’t be such a brat.” She scolded him. It was more than a few degrees below freezing, and around the edges of the farm, snow fell. She was leaning against the fence in the paddock, where Speedy and a few others had been turned out for the night. Most of them were sleeping. Speedy was the only one who wasn’t.

There was a slight noise. Merlin knew she probably would have missed it if Speedy hadn’t startled away from her. She stood up at straight and looked around. “Who’s there?”

“Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, Happy whatever in the land you want to call it.” A figure emerged from the shadows in the corner of the field. They were angular, with a sharp face and a fierce voice. Their visage was enough to terrify even the most hardened of serial killers into becoming good people.

Merlin let out a small sigh of relief.

“Solstice was four days ago, Highness. I think you mean Merry Christmas and not Happy Solstice.” She made her way over to where they were standing at sat at the picnic bench that lived there year-round. Speedy made a noise of discontent, before turning around and trotting to where the others were sleeping. She couldn’t blame him. Few animals liked the fae.

The afore-mentioned fae watched her approach in silence. “No. I mean both. And also, the other one. With the log fire and the mistletoe.”

“Yule?”

“Yes. That one.” The figure addressed as ‘Highness’ leant back against the tree they were under with a satisfied smirk.

“No one’s celebrated Yule in centuries, Highness!”

“Are you calling me old?”

“Older than I am, at any rate. What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you still be in the thrall of solstice celebrations and preparing for the New Year?”

“But why would I do that when I can spend time with a gorgeous lass like you instead?”

“I have no interest in becoming your newest plaything, Highness.” Merlin said tiredly. “What do you want?”

“I can’t stop by to say ‘hello’ to an old friend?” The question was meant to be rhetorical, but the figure knew it would not be taken as such.

“No, not when it’s you, not when that friend is me, not in the depths of winter and definitely not in the middle of the night! Not when the last time we spoke was almost twenty years ago.”

The ‘Highness’ grimaced. “I owe you an apology for how that ended. I was out of line and should not have spoken of your losses so flippantly.”

“Apology accepted. We are too old to hold grudges.” Merlin leant back against the bench and waited.

“Is that it?”

Merlin raised an eyebrow and shot the still standing figure a look. Gloriana sighed and folded himself – he was male today, he’d decided – into a sitting position next to the gangly warlock, whilst somehow having limbs that bent far too often and in implausible directions.

“Did you know that two of your new friends are fae-blessed?” he asked her.

“I’m sorry, what?” Fae-blessed were notoriously rare – or supposed to be – they were descendants of families who had either intermarried or interbred with the fae. When she’d first heard of them there had only been twenty or so families in existence, that had been nearly 900 years ago and at least twelve of those families had died out since then.

This time it was Gloriana’s to send her a look.

“Who?” Merlin asked, instead of saying anything else.

“Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. The Potter boy belongs to the Seelie Court, and Queen Mab, but your pal Draco is one of mine.”

Merlin paled slightly at the news. The fae were extremely possessive of the fae-blessed, Gloriana and the Unseelie Court that s/he ruled especially so.

“Can I ask…” she trailed off.

“The Evans family have ancestors in the Seelie Court. It’s where those green eyes come from. They aren’t found anywhere outside the Seelie-kind. The Black family are actually descended from me personally.” Gloriana winced “Most of them are slightly insane unfortunately, although Draco, and the generation above him, provide hope for the line.”

Merlin sent him a look. “Bellatrix Black provides hope for sanity?”

Gloriana immediately backpedalled. “Of course not! She’s one of the worst of the lot, although she does have quite a lot of power. I was speaking of her two sisters – both whip smart and ruthless when it comes to family, willing to do what they have to and sticking with their husbands and children, no matter what. The two brothers – Sirius and Regulus – them too. Sirius, who is willing to die for those he doesn’t even know, and Regulus, who will sacrifice himself with a smile if it means his enemy will die.”

“You are very fond of your family.”

“I’m proud of them. Those five anyway. I have high hopes for Draco’s future.” He smiled at her hopefully.

“Nice try, Highness. Any details I know are being kept to myself.” She returned the smile. “It was wonderful to see you again, I know we meet the rest of the Ancients once every century or so, but you are my favourite.”

“That is a sentiment I return, dear one. You are the only person I can remember who can mediate between myself and Mab, without alienating one or both of us.”

“I spent nearly 50 years serving in the Court of King Arthur. I did learn some tact.” Not that she used it very often, outside of mediating between two fae queens who were older than humanity.

“I know.” They sat in silence for a while, before Gloriana heard something audible only to him. “I should really be going now, my Lady, I have left my Court alone in their revelries long enough.”

Both of them stood and embraced. Merlin ignored the chill that surrounded her friend and waited until he drew back to release him.

“I will see you soon, my Lady, within the next several years at least.” Gloriana swept into a graceful curtsey, with skirts made of snow that rippled in the sudden cool breeze from the lake, his crown condensing into existence over his brow.

“Until the next time, Highness.” Merlin smiled.

The air started to get colder but moments before the Queen disappeared, Merlin processed what he said.

“Wait a minute, what do you mean Regulus ‘will sacrifice’? Shouldn’t it be ‘would sacrifice’? He’s dead, isn’t he? Queen Gloriana? Highness?”

But he was gone and all that remained was the afterimage of his crown and a piece of snow in the shape of his smirk, that drifted slowly to the ground.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

6.03AM

Caleb walked into the kitchen, shaking off the previous nights hangover, and set the kettle to boil. A soft sound from the corner bench made him whip around and throw the nearest object at the source.

Merlin’s eyes glowed as she halted the spoon in mid-air. “A spoon, Caleb? Really? What good would that be against an intruder? Especially one capable of slipping past the impressively extensive wards you have.”

Caleb’s breath slowed as he registered the lack of threat. “What are you doing? You scared me out of my skin. I nearly had a heart attack!”

Merlin looked down at the pile of blankets she was snuggled in, the mostly empty mug on the table next to her, and the hot water bottle by her feet. “I should think that’s obvious.”

“Let me rephrase that.” Caleb made his coffee automatically, going through the motions. “Why are you snuggled in the corner of my kitchen at six in the morning the day after Christmas?”

“Why are you even up?”

Caleb sent her a flat look. “There are nearly thirty horses on the farm, nine cows, three dogs, a herd of cats that keeps multiplying somehow, over a dozen chickens, and at least twenty rabbits that seem to think they live here. What do you think I’m doing up?”

She smiled at him. “Give me five minutes to get dressed and I’ll give you a hand.”

He glared at her for managing to be so awake – he knew she had to have gone to bed after him, this was unjust dammit – and just drank his coffee without a word.

Just over thirty minutes later, the two of them had managed to provide food for all of the animals in their various forms and were stabling the horses that had spent the night outside.

“You didn’t answer my question, you know.” Speed, Billie and Ceffyl were the only ones left in the paddock.

“I’d much rather talk about the fact that you have a horse named Horse.” Merlin clipped her lead rope to Ceffyl’s halter. “If you get Billie rather than Speedy, he’ll just follow us in.”

Caleb grumbled under his breath about his horse liking her better than him, and that his name was Speed (from Speedster Superhero, which a really stupid name, he had no idea why the original owners had called him that) and not Speedy, before responding slightly louder to her earlier comment. “I didn’t name her Horse. I named her Cardamom. My niece named her Horse and she stopped responding to anything else. And don’t think I don’t know you’re avoiding the question.”

He waited while she shut the paddock gate.

“I couldn’t sleep.” She admitted after turning back around.

“Why not?” Goddess, it’s like trying to pry secrets out of a corpse.

“The Mirror of Erised.”

“I’m sorry, please repeat that. I just heard the words: Mirror of Erised.”

“That’s what I said.” Emr- Merl- Emma, pointedly focused on shutting the door to Ceffyl’s stall as the impatient filly tried to stick her head over it immediately.

“Ok. And why are you dwelling on the Mirror?” There were seven such mirrors, older than the druids themselves, created by the Sidhe as a punishment disguised as a blessing. People rarely even thought about them yet alone spoke their names aloud.

She finally stopped fiddling with the door and scratched under Ceffyl’s forelock before moving over to where Speed was impatiently waiting for her to give him attention. He didn’t even have to go near the end stalls to know that Summer and Rocky were kicking their doors in a demand for her attention.

“It’s in the school. I felt it’s power there. I think the headmaster is going to use it as some kind of trap or obstacle to stop people from getting the philosopher’s stone. I tried scrying what would happen, but my vision’s blocked. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m too involved in the events to come or because the Mirror itself is blocking me from seeing. It could be either. It could be both.”

Caleb thought about this whilst putting Billie in her stall and shutting the door. At some point, when he was distracted, she had mounted Speed and started fiddling with his mane and scratching his withers.

“Get off the horse. Please.”

She looked down sheepishly and dismounted.

“Did you look in the Mirror?” Caleb wondered when he had become the pseudo-parent figure to the ancient immortal who ruled his people. Probably around the time ‘Uncle Caleb’ popped into existence. I should have said no, dammit!

“No.”

“Were you tempted?”

“I already know what I’d see.” She didn’t elaborate. He didn’t ask.

“So, if- “

“Harry did.”

Caleb paused, unsure what she meant. “Harry did what? And do you mean Harry Potter?”

“Yeah. He found the Mirror. I’m fairly certain he spent a while looking into it too. But I’m not sure.”

Caleb pinched his nose and sighed as she shut the door to Speedy’s stall, and moved over to rub Summer’s nose. “Does he know what it is? People waste away in front of that thing.”

She shrugged. Why are you shrugging? You’re not a teenager, you’re over a thousand years old, dammit!

“Okay, look,” Caleb made an effort to make his voice sound calm. “Why don’t you spend a bit of quality time with these three, groom them, take them out, whatever. Then you can come and look at the applicants for next year and help me narrow down the list.” Hopefully that will help.

Merlin couldn’t help but smile, she hadn’t known until he’d said it, how much she needed to unwind.

“You’re right. Thanks Caleb, I’ll do that.”

“Alright. Great.” He started to leave before turning around, “Don’t you dare pamper them too much, they’ll start acting all bratty and entitled.” He resolutely ignored the fact that the ever-multiplying cats had their own area in the barn and that every one of the three dogs regularly slept on his bed. It was completely different.

Oo.oO00Oo.oO

Approximately the same time - Avalon

“The Desire Mirror has been found. What should we do?”

“Nothing. If they do not learn from mistakes past, it is not our problem.”

“And if they tamper with it?”

“As long as the charm remains intact it will be fine.”

“So, we are in agreement?”

“AYE!” There was a chorus of agreement.

Freya frowned. The Sidhe Elders cared nothing for the chaos their mirrors could sow in the world. The Desire Mirror was far from the most dangerous of the seven, but it could still cause a lot of pain and damage if one was unprepared. She would send a message to warn Merlin, in the unlikely event that she didn’t already know. She’d contact Arthur and Morgana anonymously too. They would share with the other Round Table members, and you could never be too prepared.