- Dark Themes
- Explicit Sex
- Violence - Canon-Level
London, Dec. 1, 2152
Dust piled thickly on the tables in the Leaky Cauldron, and Harry barely managed to keep himself from sneezing as he passed through the lonely space to the brick wall beyond. He tapped the bricks, and they slowly, stutteringly, moved to allow him admittance.
Diagon Alley was deserted.
Harry paused, looking around. Boards covered the windows at Madam Malkins’ shop. The great orange wizard in front of Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes stayed still, and a sign in the window read, optimistically, “For sale.” Florean’s lay quiet, its windows shuttered. A single Goblin guard still stood in front of Gringott’s, but the businesses were closed. Refuse littered the street, and as Harry approached the bank, he could see Ollivander’s, empty of wands.
He’d been gone 150 years, and magic seemed to be gone from the Alley altogether.
Harry drew the hood of his cloak a little tighter around his face as he made his way into the bank. A single teller paused in his work, laying down a quill and facing the customer.
“Greetings, Lord Potter,” the goblin said. “I am Steelsharp. You received our missive, then?”
“I did, Steelsharp,” Harry replied, looking around. Gringott’s still gleamed, but it, too, seemed abandoned. “What has happened here?”
Steelsharp shook his head. “Magic left Albion when you did. It’s taken some time for the effects to be felt, but it’s gone. You’re our only customer.” He hopped down from his perch. “Let me take you to your vaults.”
Harry followed Steelsharp, reaching into his pocket for the shrunken trunk he’d brought, charmed bigger and lighter on the inside. “Your letter said that I needed to move my funds, but I didn’t understand why,” he admitted. “I’m kind of getting it now.”
Steelsharp nodded sharply as he gestured Harry into a cart. “The goblins are leaving Albion, too,” he said. “Most who still had magic left decades ago. We can’t maintain a property that’s losing money, Lord Potter.”
“No, no, of course not,” Harry said. “I’m just a bit … shocked.”
Steelsharp grunted as the cart coasted down into the depths of the bank and arrived at the Potter vault. “I’ll wait here. For this one time only, you have permission to use magic in the bank.”
“Thank you, Steelsharp,” Harry said, then stepped forward, unlocked his vault, and went inside.
Heaps of gold and silver awaited him, along with a few trunks. “Is the Galleon even good any more?” Harry called out.
“Only in wizarding spaces,” Steelsharp called back. “Switzerland still has a wizarding community. It can be converted there.”
“Plus, it’s still gold, silver and bronze,” Harry muttered to himself. “At least, precious metals are worth something.” He waved a hand and filled his trunk, funneling the coins into neat stacks. It took some time, but eventually, it all fit. Harry closed the trunk, shrunk it, and tucked it into his pocket. He shrunk the other trunks, which he’d look through later, and added them to the rucksack he produced from his other pocket. When the vault was bare, he stepped back out. “Ready, Steelsharp.”
The goblin said nothing, but gestured him back to the cart. They moved back up to the top, and Harry asked, as they emerged at the top, “Can I convert some funds to Muggle currency?”
“I’ll see what we have on hand, Lord Potter,” Steelsharp replied. “It won’t be much. And the exchange rate is poor.”
Harry nodded, and followed him out to the main floor. Steelsharp consulted his ledger, then gestured for Harry to wait while he left for another room. He came back with an expandable wallet. “Just under 100,000 pounds, Lord Potter. I’ll need 50,000 galleons.”
Harry’s eyebrows rose. When he’d left Britain in 2002, the exchange rate had been 10-t0-1, pounds to Galleons. “Of course, Steelsharp.” Harry pulled out the little shrunken trunk, enlarged it, summoned the coins, and stacked them neatly in front of the goblin. Steelsharp handed over the cash, which Harry shrunk and stuck into the trunk before tucking it away.
Harry hesitated. “Steelsharp, do they know why magic left Albion?”
“Well, there’s speculation, of course,” the goblin said, busily stowing the gold. “The biggest rumor was that you took it with you when you left. As no one has heard from you since, that’s the answer most are going with.”
“But I didn’t,” Harry said. “I just had to get out of Britain.” Visions of love potions and screaming red-headed witches came to mind as he recalled the final fight that drove him to leave. “I spent the last century in America, mostly. There’s not a lot of magic there, either, but it’s not gone completely.”
“Lord Potter,” Steelsharp said patiently. “The goblins know this. We know many things, Master of Death.”
Harry inhaled sharply, but of course, his secret wasn’t much of a secret. He hadn’t bothered to glamour himself older, after all, and he seemed to be stuck in his mid-twenties or so, age-wise. “Is there anyone left nearby who can answer some of my questions about what happened here?”
Steelsharp shrugged, and wrote something his ledger. “You could try your great-grandson, William. He’s living in Grantham with his wife and son.”
Harry sat abruptly. “Great-grandson?”
“You didn’t know?” Steelsharp asked.
“I didn’t know I’d had a child at all,” Harry said tersely.
“Ah, this I can help you with,” Steelsharp said. “A drop of blood on this parchment, please, and we’ll see ten generations of your ancestors, and all of your descendants.”
Harry swallowed hard. He’d only been with two people in Britain before he’d left–his harpy of a wife, Ginny Potter nee Weasley, who’d potioned him to the gills and got upset when he figured it out–and the man who might have been the love of his life in other circumstances. Without speaking, he drew his own blood, and placed a drop on the heritage parchment.
It spread, the magic in the parchment taking hold to show his lineage. In the middle, he saw “Harry James Potter=Ginevra Molly Weasley”. The dates of his marriage, and his magical divorce, clearly present. A single line sprouted from that union, a son named James. In parentheses, behind James’ name, was (S).
“What does that mean?” Harry asked hoarsely.
“That is the designation for Squib, Lord Potter.”
Harry looked at the date. James had been born six months after his father had left Great Britain.
“She never told me,” Harry murmured. “To be fair, I refused her owls until she stopped sending them.”
Steelsharp said nothing as Harry followed the lineage down. James married a Muggle named Samantha, and they had a son, George, also a Squib. George married Heather, and they had a son, William, also a Squib. His son, age five, was named Harry, and his magical designation was unknown.
“Grantham?” Harry asked.
Steelsharp checked his ledger, then wrote out a note. “Here’s the address.” He hesitated. “Lord Potter, I think some of your answers might lie in that final confrontation with the late Lady Potter.”
Harry looked up. “How?”
“When you ended your marriage, how did you do it?”
Harry recalled perfectly. “The only way one can end a magical marriage. I called on Lady Magic to judge her for what she’d done.”
“How did you word the call?”
He’d been so angry at the time, it was hard to remember, exactly. “I think I asked Her judgment on Ginny, and on all who wronged me.”
Steelsharp looked up at him. “Interesting.”
Somerset, Dec. 1, 2152
Merlin wiped down the last table in his pub and put up the chairs, more than ready for the day to be over. His own pocket of life in Somerset–the county formerly known as the kingdom of Camelot–seemed tedious lately.
Of course, he’d been tending his bar, off and on, for more than 1500 years. It was bound to get boring, eventually.
In previous decades, when the boredom and depression set in, Merlin had taken himself off on holiday to explore. He went to Tibet, once, for a decade’s worth of meditation practice; Alaska, during the gold rush, had been a fun time for all.
Maybe it was time to go again, he mused.
The bells at his front door jingled. Without looking up, Merlin called out, “We’re closed!”
“Even to an old friend?”
Merlin paused, then turned around.
Grantham, Dec. 2, 2152
Harry stood outside his great-grandson’s home, disillusioned. He’d been there for an hour, and still couldn’t make himself go forward and ring the bell.
“Hello,” he muttered under his breath. “I’m your great-grandfather. I look like I’m in my twenties because I’m immortal and a wizard. Welcome me with open arms!”
“Well, I might, if I could see you,” a deep voice intoned from behind him. “My son says there’s a strange man on the walk, and he’s never been wrong yet, so perhaps you could make yourself visible.” He paused. “Seeing as I can hear you, even if I can’t see you, I do know that you’re there.”
Harry winced, canceled his spell with a thought, and turned around to see a tall, black-haired, green-eyed man standing behind him. “Er, hi.”
“Huh. You do look like you’re in your mid-twenties,” the unknown man commented. “William Potter.” He extended a hand, and Harry took it.
“I’m Harry Potter … the original, I guess,” Harry said hesitantly. “Your son is also a Harry?”
“Named for you,” William agreed, looking him over. “Been standing here long?”
“I just found out about you yesterday,” Harry blurted out. “I had to come. But you don’t have to have me here. I was trying to decide if it would be better if I didn’t.”
William’s eyebrows rose. “I’d say we’re better off with you, than without you. Come on inside. I’d guess you have questions.”
“A few, starting with why you’re not freaking out right now.”
William laughed. “I may be a Squib, but I know exactly who I am. I always wondered if you’d turn up. Come in for a cuppa and we’ll talk.”
– – – – –
William’s home turned out to be a comfortable, lived-in space, furnished with soft fabrics and dark woods. Harry let himself be ushered in to sit at a cozy table while William bustled about his kitchen to make tea.
“I’ll call my Harry down in a minute,” William commented as he boiled the kettle. “He’ll want biscuits with his tea, too. My wife is working just now; she’s a doctor over at Grantham General. I work from home as a writer, so days when Harry’s not able to be in daycare for some reason I’m on tap.”
“Sounds busy,” Harry observed.
William shrugged. “It is. But we’re used to it.” He set the pot and a plate of biscuits down on the table. “Harry!” he called out. “We’ve company.”
Harry Two ran down the stairs from his room, making as much noise as a five-year-old boy can possibly make before skidding to a stop in front of his great-great-grandfather. “Hi! I’m Harry!”
Harry One grinned. “So am I.”
“Tea, my Harry. Have a seat up here and I’ll pour out.”
Harry Two clambered up into a chair and waited to be served a cup of tea that was mostly milk to go with his biscuits, which were mostly chocolate. Harry One watched him, a bit of a bemused grin on his face. Had he ever been that exuberant?
Handing Harry One a cuppa, William sat back and looked at his great-grandfather. “Family lore says that great-granny Ginny made a huge mistake, and we’re all paying for it,” he said bluntly.
The elder Harry frowned. “How so?”
William stirred sugar into his tea. “There’s a diary that’s been passed down. We know that the Potters were magical, and that you, perhaps, were the most magical of all. The story goes that Ginny tricked you into marrying her, and when you found out about the deception, you severed all ties with her and left, not knowing about the child in her belly.”
“So far as that goes, William, family lore is right,” Harry confirmed. “She used a series of love potions to make me break ties with the man I loved and marry her instead. He married on the rebound. When I found out about the potions, I was furious. I immediately called for Lady Magic’s judgment to end our marriage.”
William nodded. “Well, and apparently, Lady Magic stripped Ginny of her magic, and as Grandpa Jimmy was already on the way, his went with hers. There’s no knowing the whys of the rest of it. Dad was labeled a Squib, but he had a little Sight. I’ve got a bit of the Sight, too, but I suspect young Harry here is a full magical. Dad and I always thought you’d come back when we needed you, whether or not you knew about us.”
The elder Harry cleared his throat. “And do you? I know my showing up is probably an inconvenience of sorts.”
The younger Harry piped up. “I need another Grandpa, Harry. Grandpa George had to go live with the angels before I was even born, and my other Grandpa Joe had to go with the angels last year, and I miss having a Grandpa to go to the park and playground with and I think you should stay and be my new Grandpa forever and ever–”
“Harry,” William said calmly.
Harry Two grinned. “Sorry, Grandpa Harry. I can just talk and talk and talk and–”
“I see,” Harry One interrupted with a grin. “If you think you need another Grandpa, I’m willing to do the job.”
Harry Two nodded rapidly, making both adults chuckle.
– – – – –
Harry spent the afternoon catching up with his newly found family. He learned that James had lived a moderately long life, with illness catching up to him at age 80. His son had married late in life, a trend continued by his grandson and great-grandson, and William himself was 51.
James inherited his mother’s properties, but as Harry hadn’t named him Heir, and Harry himself was still living, James wasn’t entitled to anything from the Potters. He worked as an engineer. George, who was named after his favorite great-uncle, had worked in Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes until his death in 2140, when the shop was closed. William had inherited the property, and it was his optimistic “For Sale” sign that adorned that window.
The rest of the Weasleys had scattered, unable to cope with the societal repercussions of Ginny’s actions, and the accusations that they’d forced Harry out of magical Britain. When magic appeared to be rapidly leaving, as more and more pureblood children were born Squibs and mundane-born magicals were flocking overseas, the Weasley family as a whole shouldered responsibility for the decline in the magical community in Britain.
Harry thought blaming one family was a bit of a stretch, considering the already-poor state of magical Britain’s pureblood population and its tendency to maintain purist policies, even after the second war with Voldemort. But magicals weren’t always logical.
Plus, William explained, when Harry called for his magical divorce, something in Britain changed.
“According to the diary, many of the purebloods and others who had seen you as a savior, treating you like a god on one hand and blaming you for all known troubles on the other, also showed signs of strain on their magics after you called for judgment,” William said, topping up his cup. Harry Two had long since retired to his room to play while the adults told boring stories.
Harry shook his head. “I was very angry. I don’t remember exactly what I said, only that I asked Lady Magic to judge for me.”
“Well, apparently she was right pissed on your behalf, Grandpa,” William observed. “Magic’s practically gone in Britain.”
– – – – –
When William’s wife, Lisa, arrived, the couple persuaded the elder Harry to stay the night and continue catching up. William showed his great-grandfather to a well-appointed guest room, and dug briefly around in the standing wardrobe there before pulling out an old, leather-bound book.
He handed it to Harry.
“Here,” William said. “This is the family diary. We’ve all added to it. Major events and such get recorded. The early bits were written in by Granny Ginny, but don’t let that throw you off.”
“Yeah, I’m still a bit pissed,” Harry admitted. “I know it’s partially my own fault for not accepting the owls she sent, but I was just done with her at that point. I wish I’d known about you all sooner.”
William shrugged. “Things happen as they’re supposed to. From what I’ve read and what’s been passed down, Granny Ginny needed a little humility.”
“Truer words, William, have never been spoken,” Harry said fervently. He accepted the book with a little sigh. “I’ll keep it safe for you.”
“No worries,” William said. “We’ll have tea in a bit, get our Harry down for the night. I’d like to know what you’ve been up to, too.”
“I’m pretty boring,” Harry deflected.
“And immortal. And look young enough to be my son. There’s got to be a story there, Grandpa,” William observed.
“Oh, well, yes, I guess.” Harry fidgeted with the book.
“I look forward to hearing it,” William said, and gestured to the room. “Get you settled. Come down when you’re ready. I’ll call up when the meal’s ready.”
Somerset, Dec. 2, 2152.
Arthur was back.
And he brought news.
“Magic’s been leaving Albion, Merlin, which you probably know,” Arthur informed him, from his careful perch on one of Merlin’s antique sitting room chairs. “And the fact is that was never Lady Magic’s intent, but the non-magicals have so steadily worn down the natural environment that there’s not much of the natural world to help regenerate it.”
Merlin nodded absently, still wrapping his head around the fact that his old friend and King had finally reappeared. “I’m guessing the situation is more dire than I feared, if you’re back.”
“You’d be right,” Arthur agreed readily. “I’ve been training and reading on the Isle of Avalon for a long time, Merlin, and I’ll be needed sooner rather than later. Already, the cracks in governance are wide and obvious the world over. Nature magic helped maintain the balance among all peoples, magic and non-magic, but with its gradual decline…” Arthur blew out a breath. “There’s no balance, and no evolutionary way to restore it.”
“So, a revolutionary way was called for?” Merlin asked quietly.
“In a way,” Arthur said. “My Lady Magic believes she can be restored to humanity, but it will take the strong efforts of her Chosen to do so. And much of the non-magical world will likely be purged in the attempt.”
“Purged?” Merlin shook his head. “I don’t like the sounds of that.”
“The non-magicals are already tearing themselves apart,” Arthur said gently. “The destruction of the natural world assured it. They’re not all going to die, but things will be rough for some time.”
“I suppose this is where you come in?” Merlin rose and went for his teakettle.
“I’ve been sent back to help unite those who can see clearly and fight for the balance to be restored,” Arthur agreed. “It will take time.”
Merlin poured himself a cup, then held the kettle out to Arthur, who nodded. Merlin poured another, and added milk with a thought before handing it over. “And who are Lady Magic’s chosen?”
“You, of course. Me. And someone we’re to seek out that our Lady called the ‘Master of Death,’ an immortal magical named Harry Potter,” Arthur said.
“Harry Potter’s alive?” Merlin raised an eyebrow. “He left Britain more than a century ago. Defeated a Dark Lord, got married, found out his wife was horrid, divorced her, and got out. No idea what happened after that.”
“You’ve got the highlights, apparently,” Arthur said drily. “How did you know all of that?”
“I’ve not been living in vacuum here, Arthur,” Merlin said testily. “I am a part of magical Britain after all. I subscribed to its publications and shopped in its districts for years, in various disguises. During Potter’s war, I helped his rebellion along by discreetly supplying help when he needed it. I fought at the Battle of Hogwarts, too, disguised in shadow. The gossip when he left was pretty horrendous.” Merlin paused. “Actually, it was always pretty horrendous about Harry. The magical population alternately blamed him for everything and believed him the only way they could be saved, conveniently forgetting, of course, that every single one of them had a wand, too.”
“He called on Lady Magic’s judgment on those who’d harmed him in magical Britain, Merlin. Her answer was to take her gift from those who’d abused it, and him, over time,” Arthur said. “She had no way of knowing, at the time, that it would take such a toll. Or that magicals had begun to squander those gifts quite so badly.”
Merlin nodded in acknowledgement. That made sense, and explained quite a lot. “Did she give us a clue as to where to find him?”
“Just that he’d arrived back in Britain at the same time she’d sent me back,” Arthur said. “So, he should at least be on British soil.”
“I’ll send him an owl,” Merlin decided.
Grantham, Dec. 2, 2152
For the first time in more years than Harry could count, he sat down to an evening meal with people he considered family.
He basked a little in the glow of people who genuinely seemed to want to know him, and in the attentions of a little boy who seemed to immediately love him. As Harry savored his roasted pork and vegetables, he let his mind wander a little to other family meals, other family connections.
“Penny for your thoughts, Grandpa,” William called out, a little loudly, with a smile.
“Oh, sorry,” Harry finished chewing and swallowed. “Just reminiscing a bit. It’s lovely to be sharing a meal with family.”
Lisa and William exchanged glances, and William cleared his throat. “Do I have cousins, then?”
Harry blinked. “Not that I know of. At least, not biological ones. Granny Ginny was the only woman I’d ever…” He glanced at Harry Two. “Well, generally, I’m gay, so make of that what you’d like.”
William nodded. “Given that you said she’d drugged you to take you away from a man, I inferred.”
“Yes, and when I was free, he wasn’t, nor could he be and remain true to his family, so I left the country,” Harry quietly explained. “I wandered around the world for a while. I met a man in America, and I loved again. We met just before he found out he’d fathered a daughter with a woman who’d failed to tell him until she, herself, was dead. We raised Tali together. She’s gone now, too.” Harry drifted off a little before coming back to himself. “I lost Tony to cancer in 2052.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Lisa said quietly, and touched his hand where it rested on the table.
“Oh, thank you,” Harry said, and smiled. “It was a hundred years ago, but still seems like yesterday sometimes. There’s really been no one else permanent, or serious, since.”
“That’s kinda sad, Grandpa,” Harry Two piped up. “But you don’t have to be lonely anymore. You’ve got us.”
Harry laughed. “It seems I do. Thank you, Harry.”
– – – – –
The family retired to the sitting room after eating, to continue their chat. Harry was just telling a story about an adventure in Peru when a tapping was heard at the window.
“What on earth?” Lisa exclaimed, looking to see an owl flapping its great wings by her main sitting room window.
“Oh, it looks like someone has post,” Harry commented. “Let him in. They’re very well trained.”
Lisa looked at him skeptically while William hid a smile behind his hand and Harry Two bounced up excitedly. “Are you certain?”
She unlatched the window and let the owl in. He circled once, and dropped his letter into Harry’s lap before flying back out to perch in a nearby tree.
“Hmm,” Harry said, opening the note. “He must need a reply.” He scanned the contents. “Well, that’s interesting.”
“What, Grandpa?” Harry Two wriggled. Owls in the house! Best thing ever!
“I’ve been invited to tea with another immortal magical.”
“Are there many of you?” William inquired, grin growing. “Do you have some sort of clubhouse? Perhaps a secret handshake?”
Harry gave his great-grandson a quelling look. “Actually, I didn’t know this particular fellow was still around. Maybe I’ll suggest the secret handshake thing. That could be useful for identifying all two of us.”
William burst out laughing and Harry Two followed suit. Lisa rolled her eyes and gestured to the letter. “Who is it, Harry?”
“Apparently, it’s Merlin. Who is alive and well and lives in Somerset.” Harry paused. “Wait, isn’t that where Glastonbury is?”
William nodded gleefully. “Some say that’s the site of old Camelot.”
“Yes, well, listen:
“Dear Lord Potter,
“Greetings from your companion in magic, Merlin Emrys. I was told today that you have returned to Great Britain. I have much information to share with you, and I hope you will be amenable to meeting with me. May I suggest tea at 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Leaky Cauldron?
“If you are so inclined, please send a reply with Hester. If you are not so inclined, please send a reply anyway.
“Interesting,” Harry said. “Got a pen somewhere?”
Lisa rummaged in a side table, found one, and handed it over. “How does one respond to an invitation to tea with Merlin?”
“Only positively, my dear,” Harry said stiffly, affecting a posh accent. “Only positively.”
He wrote, in his best hand, an affirmative response.
“Dear Lord Emrys,
“I would be delighted to meet, but you might be surprised to know that the Leaky Cauldron is all but deserted. I passed through it yesterday to find virtually no one around in Diagon Alley at all. It will suit, however, as a meeting spot. We could find somewhere else for tea from that point.
“I am personally surprised to hear that another immortal magical exists, and I look forward to meeting with you.
Harry sealed the note magically, and went to the window. The Hester-the-owl flew down, and Harry gave her the note, scratching her ears.
“Thanks for your patience, lady,” he said softly. “Here’s the reply. And thank you.”
Hester nodded importantly, and, clutching Harry’s note in its beak, flew off.
Somerset, Dec. 2, 2152
Merlin took Harry’s note from Hester and read it, eyebrows rising as he took in the information that the Leaky was deserted. Not good at all. He tried to remember when last he’d been in the Alley, and realized it had been a few decades. He sighed.
“Trouble, Mer-lin?” Arthur drawled out.
“No, not really,” Merlin replied absently. “Just starting to understand how much things have changed. I’ve been a little lost in my own world the last century or so.”
Arthur’s brow furrowed. “How is that possible?”
“You try living for more than a thousand years and see how bored you get,” Merlin retorted.
“Pax, Merlin,” Arthur said patiently. “I’m not criticizing, just trying to understand.”
“And that would be a first,” Merlin said bitterly.
Arthur paused, taken aback. “Ah, what did I do?”
“Do you really not remember what our relationship was like, Arthur?” Merlin asked, seriously. “I was your servant, you treated me like dirt, you terrorized my people and expected me to suck it up. Finally, on your deathbed, I get some validation of my status in your life, and then you’re gone. You left me to immortality and centuries of waiting and nothing to do. No purpose. So, yes, I was bored. I lost track. And forgive me for not believing you capable of communication that isn’t critical.”
Arthur opened his mouth, then closed it. “I’m not sure what to say to all of that.”
“Say nothing, Arthur, because just now, I don’t care to hear what you have to say about any of it.” Merlin put the letter way and turned on his heel. “We’re locked up down here. Help yourself to anything you need. I’m going to bed.”
– – – – –
Arthur watched him go, eyes dark with worry.
This was not how it was supposed to go.
Merlin was supposed to be happy to see him, dammit. He was supposed to jump into Arthur’s arms and …
Well, from there, it got a bit tricky. Arthur had always felt more for his former servant than was strictly allowed, and he’d always hidden it behind disdain and sarcasm. He’d thought that Merlin knew he was valued.
But apparently not.
And centuries hadn’t erased the sting. It seemed that long centuries of brooding had only exacerbated Merlin’s pain.
Lady Magic hadn’t prepared Arthur for that at all.
London, Dec. 3, 2152
Harry arrived at the Leaky Cauldron with a soft pop of apparation. He looked around at the dust, shrugged, and with a sweep of his hand, banished it all, bringing the woods and stone up to a gleaming sheen. He heard a pop behind him, and turned to greet the immortal wizard of legend.
To Harry’s eyes, Merlin looked too young to be a centuries-old wizard. Then again, Harry thought, the same applied to Harry himself.
“Hello,” Harry said. “Merlin, I take it?”
“Yes.” Merlin extended a hand, and Harry took it. “It’s good to meet you, Lord Potter.”
“Please, call me Harry.”
“Harry, then,” Merlin acknowledged, then looked around. “Deserted, you say?”
Harry nodded. “I just cleaned up the dust myself because it annoyed me.”
Merlin laughed. “If you’ll allow it, I can apparate us to my pub for tea.”
“You have a pub?” Harry asked.
“It’s how I’ve paid the bills for the last fifteen hundred years, give or take. Among other things.” Merlin rolled his eyes. “I’ve got an old friend minding the place while I’m gone, but I don’t trust him to do the job right, so I’d really like to get back, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” Harry said, holding out an arm and looking up into Merlin’s eyes, which were kind, ancient, and very, very blue. Harry shivered a little. Merlin quirked a grin, then took his arm and turned a heel.
They popped into a sort of anteroom to a pub that looked much busier than the Leaky. “Welcome to Merlin’s,” Merlin said, letting go of Harry’s arm. “In business since this city was part of Camelot.”
Harry looked around, a little awestruck. “How have you maintained your secrecy that long?” he asked, genuinely interested. Not aging sucked. To maintain appearances in his first hundred years, he’d glamoured himself older when he went out.
Merlin gestured him into the main pub area to a back corner booth. “Oh, I haven’t. I predate the statute of secrecy and am a bit of a legend in the area. I have wards on the village to maintain my privacy. Anyone who actually leaves, goes to college, doesn’t come back, that sort of thing, doesn’t remember that the actual Merlin runs this pub. And you’d be surprised what people don’t notice. Though there are a few families here who’ve been around as long as I who help, as a sort of family legacy thing.”
Harry smiled. “I just found out this week that I have actual descendants. I didn’t know I’d even had a child.”
“Oh, really?” Merlin asked, nodding to young woman behind the bar and holding up a finger. She bustled toward the kitchen. “It was raging gossip for a few years, the disgraced ex-wife of Harry Potter giving birth to his heir in absentia. And then that heir was a Squib! The horror!” Merlin’s thick sarcasm made Harry laugh a little. Merlin laughed back.
“So you found your descendants then?” Merlin gestured Harry into the booth, and Harry sat down, back to the wall.
“I did. I have a living great-grandson, who has a five-year-old son also named Harry. They’re wonderful.” Harry looked up in thanks as the bartender set a pot of freshly brewed tea, a plate of sandwiches, and a plate of biscuits in front of them. “We caught up a bit yesterday, and I stayed with them last night. I’m to let them know my plans for the rest of my stay as soon as I’m able.”
“Do you plan to stay for a while?” Merlin asked, pouring tea.
“Now that I know I have family here? Probably,” Harry admitted. “I’ve always wanted more family.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Merlin said. “It would make things a little easier.”
“In what way?” Harry asked, choosing a sandwich to start. He glanced at the filling. Watercress and Stilton, with chives, on fresh white baguette. He smiled widely and took a bite. Tea sandwiches were an art form that the Americans had never figured out.
Merlin grinned at him, appreciating the view and Harry’s simple pleasure. “Well, it seems that Lady Magic has a bit of a mission for us. She sent it, along with a messenger who’s meant to be helpful, a couple of days ago. Apparently, she sent it along at the same time you arrived back in Britain.”
“OK, right.” Harry took another bite to give himself time to think, chewed, and swallowed. “And what is it?”
“Our task is to restore the balance that magic brought to the world, and in effect, bring magic back,” Merlin said. “The magical people of Britain squandered her gift, and she took it from them, but nature couldn’t compensate because the non-magicals have burned off and destroyed much of the natural world here. Magic only truly exists in the hidden natural places in much of the world.”
“I’ve noticed,” Harry admitted. “It’s been gradually moving out. I found spots in South America, and a couple in Asia, that are still very magical. But for the most part, the natural world has been destroyed. And you say it’s taken magic along with it?”
“Yes,” Merlin said simply. “According to the messenger, things will get worse in the nonmagical world before they get better. Governments are likely to fall as the subtle magics that helped non-magicals achieve consensus and progress are falling apart.”
“So what do we do?”
“Well, we’ll need to work on restoring some of the nature, bringing back some of the magical beings that have been hunted or pushed out of their habitats,” Merlin began. “And, unfortunately, that’s going to mean, in part, leaving the nonmagicals to their own devices. Magic serves a purpose for both our populations. Without it, we’ll destroy this world within another generation.”
Harry put down his sandwich, a little sick at the thought. He’d just found his family. He wanted Harry Two to have a chance to live on in this world. “Well, I’m not going to be OK with leaving my family out there if the British government falls.”
“Wouldn’t expect you to, Harry,” Merlin smiled warmly at him. “I thought maybe we’d start with shoring up existing magical places, and seeking out magical humans to help us. And maybe our messenger can help, too. He knows a thing or two about governance, even if he is a nuisance.”
“Oi, I resent that,” a mellowed baritone voice called out from a table away. Harry looked up to see an incredibly handsome blond man, well fit, with deep blue eyes. He swallowed hard. After a hundred years of near-celibacy, Harry had finally found not one, but two gorgeous men in one day that stirred him up. Somewhere, Tony was laughing at his former lover.
“And you are?” Harry hoped his voice didn’t give away his interest.
Harry sat back. “Wow, she sent us some help, didn’t she?”
Merlin smirked and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, he might be helpful.”
Harry sat back and contemplated the legendary pair in front of him. Merlin and his king, Arthur Pendragon.
“So, I’m guessing that if Arthur’s back, that circumstances are indeed dire and world-ending?” Harry questioned. “All the legends say he’d come back only under those circumstances, when Albion was in greatest need of him.”
Arthur nodded. “I’ve been training on Avalon. I’m fairly up to speed on contemporary issues, though I’m sure there are gaps. Time flows differently there, and the ladies are used to doing things in their own way and in their own time.” He paused. “However, they were all rather adamant that my return be now. Lady Magic was particularly ready to show me the door, but Fate and Time also gave me a good shove.”
Merlin grunted. “Took their sweet time about it.” He waved them off when Harry and Arthur looked at him questioningly. “Never mind. Bored wizard with mental health issues over here.”
Harry quirked a grin at him. “I occasionally have the urge to shake a cane at young people and yell something about how things were better back in my day. And I’m only 173.” He counted obviously and nodded. “Yep, 173 this past July.” He sighed. “Maybe we should get some of that Gingko stuff? For memory?”
Merlin laughed. “I stock it in the kitchen. I was born when we didn’t keep track of actual birthdays, somewhere around 425. I know that Arthur died at Camlann and was sent to Avalon in about 450, after the Romans were basically driven out of Albion, and I’ve been mostly here ever since. With a few detours. So I’m about 1,600 years old, give or take. I don’t venture out much anymore. Well, I haven’t. It’s too depressing.”
Harry smiled at him. “Understandable.”
Arthur frowned. “I don’t see how that’s understandable.”
“And you’re not 1,600 years old, either,” Harry pointed out. “You just said time flowed differently for you. I’m personally surprised Merlin is not completely insane from sensory input over that length of time.”
“Thanks for understanding, Harry,” Merlin said quietly, giving him a slow, flirtatious grin. “You can come shake my cane anytime.”
Harry busted out laughing, then looked up at Merlin through sooty black lashes, giving him the full coy blast of emerald green eyes. “Promise?” he said huskily, still fighting a grin.
“You’re both ridiculous,” Arthur grumbled. “We’ve work to do.”
Merlin rolled his eyes and shifted closer to Harry, scooting an arm behind him for a welcome cuddle. “One thing I have learned in 1,600 years, Arthur, is to take advantage of my opportunities, because life goes too quickly for the average mortal,” he said softly, and squeezed Harry’s shoulders before giving Harry a smouldering look of his own. Harry shivered a little, again, and grinned up. Merlin continued. “And look, here’s a beautiful man who’s also immortal, also magical, also …”
“Oh, you’ll make me blush,” Harry cooed in falsetto.
They both busted out laughing, and Arthur shook his head. “Fine, be flirtatious fools. I’ll save Albion myself.” He stood abruptly and headed for the pub door. Neither immortal magical moved to stop him.
Harry shook his head, but decided to cuddle into Merlin a bit anyway. “He does not like it when people flirt with you, does he?”
Merlin grinned wryly. “Never did, actually. Couldn’t figure it out when he was still around. Took me another century to realize he probably had feelings for me. But as a king who needed an heir, the best he could have done with me, a male servant, was use me for sex. That would have been seen as acceptable. He never did. The berk was too noble for that.” He sighed. “The knights knew how Arthur regarded me, I think, because they were careful not to dally with me, either. And the few lasses who turned my head? Well, Arthur kept me too busy to do anything about them, either. He had to die for me to lose my virginity.”
Harry laid a hand on Merlin’s face. “I’m sorry to hear that, Merlin. You deserved to find love, too.”
Merlin covered Harry’s hand with his own, and gently laced his fingers through Harry’s before bringing their hands down to rest between them, entwined. “He was it. And then he was gone. And I spent many, long, lonely decades without him. I’ve had lovers, yes; I’ve a few descendants of my own running around the magical community. But nothing was ever quite the same.”
Harry thought about that for a minute. “Do you want him?”
Merlin smiled sadly. “I’ll always want him. But I don’t know if he’s good for me.”
Harry gently squeezed the hand he held. “Time, Merlin, can heal as well as hurt.” He looked into Merlin’s eyes, seeing the pain, love and hope etched there. “As we know all too well.”
Merlin held Harry’s gaze, then looked at Harry’s lips. “I’m terribly out of practice, but I’d really like to kiss you, Harry.”
“What’s stopping you?” Harry said softly.
“Not a thing, I suppose.” Merlin sighed, then laid his lips on Harry’s.
Magic sparked between them, and both men shuddered and drew back.
“Oh, hell, yes,” Harry breathed. Merlin grinned maniacally, and they dove at each other.
Glastonbury Tor (Old Camelot Castle), Dec. 3, 2152
Arthur strode up the Tor at an unforgiving pace, forcing his body to channel the anger and frustration he felt. He could tell the pair of immortal magicals would drive him absolutely to the brink. Flirting! In public! Where anyone could see the two men…
Two men romantically involved in this century? Not really a problem.
Could he have a shot with Merlin? Was his flirting with Harry serious?
Frankly, it didn’t matter, Arthur realized. Not in the face of the mission that awaited them. Romance would have to take a back burner.
For the good of Albion, someone had to stay focused.
Merlin’s room in Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 3, 2152.
They’d barely made it up the stairs before Merlin was yanking Harry’s shirt over his head and throwing it on the ground.
“This is going to be too quick,” he gasped out as he buried his nose in Harry’s bare neck. “It’s been way too long.”
Harry tore open Merlin’s shirt and shoved it off the immortal’s shoulders. “Fuck it,” he muttered, and with a thought, they were both naked. Merlin groaned as Harry’s magic shifted over his skin. “Got a bed around here?” Harry breathed.
Merlin stopped kissing Harry’s neck long enough to drag him through a door that led to a spacious bedroom, featuring a king-sized four-poster bed draped in royal blues. “My room,” he explained, diving back in to suck on the other side of Harry’s neck. Harry used Merlin’s momentum to pull him down to the bed, and the men both gasped at the feel of skin-on-skin, electric with magical energy, shooting sparks of pleasure down their spines. “I’ve never, ever felt this, Harry,” Merlin choked out. “Not even with other magical lovers.”
“Me either,” Harry said. “Not even with my husband.”
Merlin paused, and drew back a bit to look Harry in the eye. “Husband?”
Harry smiled softly, and a bit sadly. “I’ve been widowed for a hundred years, Merlin. But for forty years, I had a man who was mine. And we were fiercely in love. I’ve not been with many since. And I’ve never felt my magic respond like this.”
Merlin looked down at him. “Our magic really, really likes us together.”
“Yes, it really, really does,” Harry agreed huskily.
“That’s either a gift from Lady Magic … or a potential problem,” Merlin said quietly, thinking. Harry shifted under him, and their cocks met. The spark that flew through them both made Merlin jolt, hard. “Yeah, alright. Fuck it. Actually, fuck me.”
Harry laughed and caressed Merlin’s flank with one hand, directing magic to his entrance. “As you wish.”
Merlin took the cleansing and lubrication charms with a full-body shudder, then positioned himself above Harry, who held his own cock ready for Merlin. As Merlin sank down on him, Harry’s eyes rolled back. “I can’t believe how intense this is,” he muttered, barely containing himself. “You feel amazing.”
Merlin held still, letting himself adjust, feeling magic rushing under his skin. “Oh, gods,” he breathed. “I’m going to come before we get started.” He could feel it already, just there, low in his belly and ready to blow.
Harry gave a dirty chuckle and Merlin felt magic bind him at the base of his cock. “Not until we’re both ready for it,” Harry said. “Move, Merlin. Let me feel you.”
Merlin raised himself up, and slid back down, slowly. “Oh, yes,” he said, and began to move, each delicious slide giving him friction against his prostate and magical sparks through his entire body. Harry held his hips and met him, thrust for thrust, as the pleasure built. Long moments of pleasure swelled between them, magic ripening and thickening in the air until the pressure of it threatened to burst. “Harry, please!” Merlin cried out.
Harry ended the spell binding their cocks with a thought, and they both came with a rush. The pressure in the room popped with a soft explosion of sound and light, and when they came back to themselves, Merlin was wrapped around Harry, with Harry still buried inside him.
For long moments, they simply breathed together. And when they finally moved, they noticed something.
Each had a tattoo inked around their left wrists.
London, Dec. 4, 2152.
Harry left Merlin with a kiss, and the sleepy puddle of immortal wizard just nuzzled his jaw before going back to sleep. Neither had heard a peep from Arthur, which was a little worrying, but not a terrible problem. Merlin said he’d try to corner Arthur for a talk while Harry was gone. By unspoken agreement, they chose not to discuss their new body art, with Arthur, or anyone else, until they knew for certain what it meant.
They already had a good idea, anyway.
Harry was starting recon.
The first thing on the trio’s list was to shore up the existing magical places in Albion. The list included Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Old Camelot, Tintagel, and a few other places Merlin knew about. They’d divvied up the list before Harry left.
Harry knew the Alley was practically deserted, but he decided to get a feel for the wards there, first. He’d head to the old Ministry buildings next, then see if he could still find Grimmauld Place.
He’d left it under war and preservation wards, so it ought to be intact. But who knew?
As he stepped into the Leaky Cauldron, Harry took another long look around. “Wardis Revelio,” he whispered, and saw the rune lines that directed him to the ward stone for the building in the back corner of the kitchen, nearest the brick wall that led to the Alley itself. They were faded, but intact. And the ward stone itself was hiding in plain sight, as a base for a dusty counter top.
That much did reveal what Harry had suspected, however; each building in the Alley was warded separately. He tapped the back bricks and stepped through to the Alley, and cast again. Individual rune lines led into their respective buildings, in different sequences and patterns. Most had what looked like anti-theft runes, and he spotted a few fire suppression runes, too. WWW bristled with rune lines, and Harry grinned to himself. William’s property would remain intact, short of World War III.
He looked down the Alley and did a double-take.
Gringotts was gone. Only the back brick wall of the adjacent mundane office building remained.
“Well, shite,” Harry muttered. “They really were just waiting for me to get there and get my gold.” Which he’d dropped off in “his” room at William’s, actually. “Shite.”
Harry wandered the Alley a bit more, casting his charm until he could confirm his initial suspicions. The pocket in which the Alley rested was hidden only by Notice-me-nots in the wards on the buildings themselves. But the wards on the buildings, despite long disuse, were intact.
He wondered who owned them now, and whether it would be a good idea to purchase them against the future.
Harry shrugged, turned, and popped to the site of the visitor’s entrance to the Ministry of Magic.
It was gone.
Harry’s eyebrows rose, and he turned to look for the public toilet that served as the workers’ entrance. It was padlocked, littered with graffiti, and clearly inaccessible to the public. He cast a discreet magic revealing charm, and saw that it was completely inert. No magic. No magical entrance. No Ministry access.
Harry took a deep breath, then visualized the main foyer for the MoM and turned a heel.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152
Merlin turned up the volume on the pub telly as he ate his full English breakfast. He felt particularly hungry today.
“Up late, Merlin?” Arthur inquired drily as he approached the table.
“Yes, actually,” Merlin said, after a swallow. “And you?”
Arthur shrugged, sat, and held up a finger to the bartender, who bustled over.
“Breakfast, sir?” she asked.
“Please, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“Not at all. Same as our esteemed leader here?” The young blond grinned cheekily.
“Enough, Lilith,” Merlin said with a grin.
“And yes, please,” Arthur requested.
“On its way, then,” Lilith winked at the pair and headed to the kitchen to put in the order. “Dave, get your lazy arse moving and make another full English for Merlin’s guest.”
“On it.” A shout from the back came accompanied by a crash. “In a mo.”
Merlin laughed and Arthur rolled his eyes. “You do have some interesting people around here,” Arthur commented.
“They’re the best,” Merlin agreed, watching the screen, which was showing the news. The weather was expected to be good today. Not quite as cold.
“Merlin, can we talk for a moment?” Arthur asked.
“Hmm?” Merlin noted that peace talks between the Middle Eastern coalition and the U.S. Allied forces had broken down. Again.
“What, Arthur?” Merlin looked at his former king.
“I just wanted to ask where Harry had gone,” Arthur said. “But you seem to be involved in something else.”
“Just looking at today’s news,” Merlin nodded to the telly. “I’ve been out of touch. It’s rather easy to do when you leave sports channels on the telly all day, everyday. I want to see if the cracks in the non-magical governments were evident. And they certainly are. I didn’t realize that we were already near the brink of war; look.”
Arthur turned his attention to the screen to see a report about the potential for violence spreading from the Middle Eastern Coalition. “Is that a serious threat?”
“Could be,” Merlin said. “They’ve been fighting for ages. I’m afraid most of us who’ve been living with that have grown a bit complacent about it.” He turned his attention to Arthur. “Harry’s gone to London to investigate the security of the magical places we know about there. We’re going to go to Scotland together, later, to see how Hogwarts is holding up and whether it’d be a good alternate site for rebuilding. The pub here can’t contain that many people, and Old Camelot, while it’s still here and contained in strong wards, can’t sustain a large population. The castle was razed centuries ago. I’m here, because I promised to corner you and talk today.”
“Well, I’m here and apparently cornered,” Arthur pointed out. “What do you need to talk about?”
“I know you were irritated with Harry and I flirting yesterday,” Merlin started out slowly. “I need to know why.”
“You know why,” Arthur said gruffly. “We’ve no time for flirting and romance.”
“Yeah, that’s what the old Arthur would say, too,” Merlin shook his head sadly. “Guess you haven’t changed that much. Still trying to keep me from being happy.”
“No, that’s not…” Arthur broke off and blew out a breath. “No, I do want you to be happy. That’s all I’ve wanted, really.”
“Then why, Arthur? Why prevent me from making a connection? Back then, and now?”
“Because you should have been with me,” Arthur blurted out, then looked appalled at himself.
“Ah,” Merlin nodded, suspicions confirmed. “And if you couldn’t have me, then nobody was allowed to? Was that it?”
Arthur stayed silent.
Merlin nodded, then showed Arthur his left wrist, where his new ink gathered in a shifting bracelet of runes in tones of blue and gold. “I think Harry and I got married last night.”
London, Dec. 4, 2152
The foyer of the Ministry of Magic was deserted, but clean. The preservation charms still held, even if the anti-apparition wards had not. His footsteps echoed as he crossed the black marble floor. The hideous gold statue had been changed to show magical peoples and creatures dancing together. It was still hideous.
The guard desk was empty.
Harry continued his way to the lifts, and pressed the “down” button. He heard the mechanisms engage, and the doors parted to admit him. “This is potentially very stupid, Harry,” he told himself, but got on anyway. He stopped at each floor, took a quick look around to verify its desertion, and ended up in front of the Department of Mysteries, where a little self-preservation kicked in.
“Expecto patronum!” Harry called out, and smiled when his stag appeared. He petted Prongs, then whispered in his ear. “Please go tell Merlin I’m in the deserted Ministry of Magic, and he should come get me in 30 minutes if he doesn’t hear from me. Lowest level, Department of Mysteries.”
Prongs nodded, and took off.
“That’s sorted, then,” Harry said, and stepped through the doors.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152
A ghostly stag burst through the wall at the pub and approached Merlin, who was still holding up his wrist and rather enjoying Arthur’s gobsmacked expression.
“Oh, hello,” Merlin said, putting his hand down.
Prongs spoke, “I’m in the deserted Ministry of Magic, and you should come get me in 30 minutes if you don’t hear from me. Lowest level, Department of Mysteries.” Prongs faded away, and Merlin sighed deeply.
“And apparently, my new husband has as much a sense of self-preservation as you do,” Merlin grumbled, and waved a hand. An enormous glowing dragon appeared, and lowered his head to Merlin’s. “Tell Harry that I’m on alert, and I’d prefer to be married at least 24 hours before I’m widowed.” The great dragon nodded, and disappeared.
“What was that?” Arthur finally stuttered out. “And Harry’s immortal; he can’t die.”
Merlin furrowed a brow. “He’s in the Department of Mysteries. Dying isn’t exactly what I’m worried about.”
London, Dec. 4, 2152
Harry grinned at Merlin’s message, then made his way slowly through the outer rooms of the Department of Mysteries, passing by the Hall of Prophecies, which lay dark and silent. He moved through the Time-Turner room, which was empty, and found himself in the chambers of the Veil of Death. He could still hear voices there. He contemplated it for a long moment, thinking about Sirius, his family, and his status as Master of Death.
He touched the arch, and it lit up for him.
“Finite,” Harry whispered. It went dark, the veil fluttered and stilled, and the gate died.
Feeling oddly bereft, Harry turned a heel and popped up to Piccadilly Circus, which was teeming with people. He walked quickly down a deserted alley, and sent another Patronus. “All clear,” he told Prongs. “Tell Merlin I’m headed to Grimmauld Place next.”
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152
While Harry shifted through the Department of Mysteries, Arthur and Merlin had silently watched the news, Arthur coming to terms with Merlin’s new status, and Merlin silently fretting about Harry.
When Prongs came back through the door with the all-clear, Merlin smiled. “Excellent,” he murmured, and petted the stag’s nose.
“You were truly worried,” Arthur commented, his gut churning.
“Yes,” Merlin allowed. “I was held prisoner once in the Department of Mysteries. They experimented on me for a decade before I broke free. That was around five hundred years ago now.”
Arthur opened his mouth, closed it, then sat back. “I really don’t know you at all any more, do I?”
“No, not really,” Merlin agreed, then hesitated. “Look, Harry and I talked about the connection you and I have. We both know it’s there. You know it’s there. And as we’re all immortal now, maybe something can come of it. But Arthur, we need to rebuild the trust between us again. If we can. And if we build anything together, Harry will be a part of it. Lady Magic ensured it when she bound us together last night.”
Arthur nodded reluctantly. “I see that. It’s clear you’re no one’s servant. And you’ve centuries of experiences that I can’t really hope to match, uncover, or whatever.” He drummed his fingers on their table. “What if we start over? As equals?”
Merlin smiled. “I think I’d like that.”
Arthur held out a hand, and Merlin took it. Magic buzzed under his skin in response, and he nearly groaned. “Yep, starting over is looking like a good idea,” Merlin said.
London, Dec. 4, 2152
Harry walked slowly through Piccadilly, its big flashing electronic signs a warm reminder of his British roots. The magical world of London had been deserted. Where, then, would they find magicals? How, without the Ministry records, could they proceed?
With a little smile to himself, he hopped on the tube and headed to the Arsenal station, closest to Grimmauld Place in Islington, North London. He watched the people, listening to their wireless headphones, chatting about the upcoming holiday, discussing shopping.
These were his people.
At the Arsenal stop, Harry got out and started the walk toward Grimmauld Place.
Suddenly, the world went silent.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152
The channel feed on the telly stopped, and the screen went blue.
“What happened?” Merlin called out to Lilith.
“No idea, boss,” Lilith said, reaching for the remote. She flipped between stations. “There’s nothing.”
London, Dec. 4, 2152
London was dead silent.
Electric lines had stopped humming. All vehicles stopped, momentum carrying them a few feet further. Shop windows were dark, and as people pulled out their cell phones and other devices, they found they didn’t work.
The noises of a city running on electricity had quit.
Harry checked his own pockets. His new, William-approved cell, was dead.
His heart squeezed, and remembered a conversation he’d had with Tony, more than a hundred years ago.
“It’s a weapon of last resort,” Tony said as he showed Harry around the U.S. Navy Yard. “Actually, it’s one I fear the most, given how reliant we’ve become on electronics.”
“Oh?” Harry asked, interested.
“It’s called an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP,” Tony explained. “The idea is to fry all the electronics in an area, so an attack can’t be seen or heard or even responded to, then bomb the heck out of the target with artillery.”
“Shite,” Harry whispered, and he started to run. “SHITE!”
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152
Merlin stood abruptly as his wrist tingled. “There’s something wrong in London.”
Arthur looked up at him sharply. “How do you know?”
“And he’s not that sort,” Arthur finished.
London, Dec. 4, 2152
Harry saw Grimmauld emerge from its spot between Numbers 11 and 13, and raced for it. He needed to check the war wards before …
A sound Londoners hadn’t heard in more than 200 years filled the air with shrieks.
The air raid sirens were going off.
Baffled London citizens started looking up, and only a precious few started running for the tube stations. Their hurried frenzy toward the stations started inspiring others to run. In moments, the streets were filled with humanity racing for the Arsenal station, even as Harry ran against the tide for the steps of Grimmauld Place.
He leapt up the four steps and drew blood from his left palm, slapping it on the front door to identify himself. The wards rang with welcome, and the weight of the Fidelius still on the property slammed into him.
Harry was the only one who knew the Secret. He focused on that Secret, and forced his magic to obey his “FINITE!”
The Fidelius shattered. The war wards held.
Harry opened the door and raised his wand to his throat. “Sonorous. Everyone, over here! Safety here!”
His yells barely reached over the crowd, but some of them started shifting his direction as Harry held the doors to Grimmauld Place open wide, praying the preservation charms had held and no nasty surprises were to be found inside. He’d cleaned the place up after Voldemort’s war, and it had been a nice, homey retreat for him in subsequent years, before he moved to America.
The trickle of humanity became a flood as some families, rushing with their children, raced for the door. They could all hear the whine of missiles overhead as they ran, and Harry held the doors open from his perch inside the wards on the top step, helping people up the steps and into his old home. The first explosions made the people in the streets shriek, and as a young woman raced toward the steps, Harry saw the first bomb hit the ground across the street.
Fire boiled up toward his door, engulfing the young woman as she threw a bundle at Harry. He caught it as the fire hit the ward in front of him, the flames singing him in their heat as he balanced the bundle and realized he held a baby.
Harry covered her head and ducked inside, shutting the doors behind him, and panted.
The wails and screams of the people who’d managed to make it into Grimmauld Place caught his attention. He spoke again, the Sonorous still active. “You’re safe here. Settle down. Find a spot. I haven’t been here for a while, so be cautious about moving around. Hang on to each other. I’m sending for any help that I can.”
The din quieted a bit, and Harry drew a breath. “Expecto Patronum!”
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152
Harry’s stag burst through the pub doors again, and a wheezing Harry’s voice could be heard: “London is burning. Safe in Grimmauld with as many as I could save. We’ve just adopted a baby, congratulations. Please see to my family in Grantham.”
Merlin snapped up, and sent his own Patronus back. “Stay safe. I’ll keep you posted.” He moved forward with a purpose. “Hester!”
The owl moved down from the rafters. “Show me William Potter’s home.” He rested a hand on her head, and got the coordinates. “Thank you.”
“I’m coming with you,” Arthur said.
Merlin looked back. “Then keep up.”
Grantham, Dec. 4, 2152
Merlin popped into existence with Arthur attached, just on the front sidewalk by William’s home. The eerie silence that came from the cessation of electronic humming hung in the air here, and William’s front door opened as the men approached it.
Merlin couldn’t help but smile at the young child there, who was his husband in miniature. “Are you Harry Two?” he asked.
“Yep! My daddy’s in his study and he said I could get the door if it was safe and that he trusted me.” Harry Two said this in one big breath. “Do you know my Grandpa Harry?”
“Your Grandpa Harry is my new husband,” Merlin said with a grin. “He didn’t know he was getting married last night, but he did, and now he’s stuck in London, and asked me to come and see that you and your mum and dad were alright.”
They heard, suddenly, the distant sound of air raid sirens from from the south.
“Hmmm,” Merlin said. “Sounds like there might be more trouble from that direction.”
“Come in, mister. What’s your name? Will you be my Grandpa too?” Harry tugged Merlin’s hand and brought him into the house. Merlin felt mild wards tingle as he crossed the threshold, and recognized his husband’s magic. Basic fire suppression, anti-theft … something else Merlin didn’t recognize.
“Da! Da! Our other new Grandpa is here!”
“Our other new Grandpa? William repeated, ducking out from his study with a backpack in hand. “Who are you?”
“Ah, I’m Merlin. Your great-grandfather and I met for tea yesterday? And we sort of got married. Well, magic married us. Harry’s going to kill me for telling you first, but then again, he also sent me to make sure you were safe. He’s stuck in London, which is apparently on fire, but he’s safe.”
“Way to abbreviate, Merlin,” Arthur said drily.
“Oh, and this is our good friend, Arthur Pendragon.”
Harry Two’s eyes went as wide as they could possibly go. “King Arthur? Really?”
Arthur smiled down at him. “Really and truly.”
William shook his head and patted his son on the back to get his attention. “Here, Harry. Go to your room, pack all your clean underwear and socks, three shirts, three pants, two jumpers, and two books. You may pick two toys, too. I will go to your Grandpa’s room and get the rest of his things.” He looked up at Merlin and Arthur. “I presume it’s not safe? I can hear London’s sirens from here.”
“Not at all safe,” Merlin agreed. “I’d like to bring you all to my pub in Somerset County. It has the strongest wards in Britain at the moment.”
William nodded. “My wife is at the hospital. She’s a physician. Can we collect her?”
“If she’ll go,” Merlin said. “In my experience, doctors tend to be unwilling to part with patients.”
William smiled grimly. “We’ll need doctors everywhere, I expect.”
“I expect so.”
London, Dec. 4, 2152
Harry wasn’t sure he liked the silence of the shell-shocked people around him any more than he’d liked the din. It didn’t bode well for their mental health.
Still, he had bring some semblance of order to his impromptu assembly. He started by examining the baby girl he held. She was sniffling and far too quiet for her age, which he guessed to be about six months. “Old enough to sit up on her own, maybe near crawling, but still on formula,” he muttered to himself. She was a pretty baby, with big blue eyes and wispy blond hair, and she clung to Harry for all she was worth. “For now, I’ll call you Phoenix.” She’d certainly survived the fire, he mused.
“Excuse me,” a young woman, mid-twenties if Harry was any judge, interrupted him. “Who are you? Where are we? What’s happening?”
“Ah,” he realized the Sonorous was still on his throat, and shrugged. “I’m Harry Potter. This is my London home, which I was on my way to inspect this morning as I’ve not been here in some time. Apparently, London has been attacked by somebody. They started with a weapon that took out our electronics. Fortunately, this house doesn’t have any. It runs on an alternate energy source. I’ve no idea what’s here, but I did know that it had been built very sturdily, so I’d hoped it would stand up to attack. Which it has, apparently.”
An older man looked at him shrewdly. “Alternate energy source? You one of those wizard fellas?’
Most of the crowd looked bewildered. “Ah, you know about wizards?” Harry asked.
The man shrugged. “Just what my mum told me about her side of the family, from generations ago. She said wizards used to live right alongside the rest of us.”
“For that matter, she was right. But most wizards and other magical folk have gone now,” Harry said calmly. “I’m one of three I know in Britain today. This property is magical though, and it has wards that will protect us for as long as the bombing lasts, and longer, out there. Once it stops, we’ll have to move. We don’t have food, formula, or any real supplies here, and one thing magic can’t do is conjure food, for some reason.”
“Where will we go?” The young woman fidgeted with her ragged gloves. “It sounds like the whole city is on fire.”
“That will be up to you,” Harry said quietly. “You could see if your homes are still there. Or you could come with me to another magical space that is heavily protected and fairly well supplied.” He was thinking about Old Camelot, and Merlin’s Pub, but that, too, would have to be a short-term solution given the numbers. “Can we count off here? Family groups together.”
The small crowd organized themselves. He’d managed to rescue 38 people, of which six were family units of three or more, with several small children. The youngest appeared to be Phoenix, and no one present knew who she was. It seems Harry was right when he told Merlin they’d adopted a baby. Finding any of her relatives in the wake of this madness would be a miracle.
“Excellent. Make yourselves at home. I’ll check the kitchen to see if there’s any water, and then I’ll go upstairs to see if London’s still burning.”
Grantham, May 4, 2152
Prongs burst through William’s wall. “Thirty-eight safe inside the war wards at Grimmauld. Have named our new daughter Phoenix. London is burning, but the bombs have stopped. Thinking to portkey to the pub. Thoughts?”
“New daughter?” William asked.
Merlin shrugged. “He said we’d adopted a baby rather hastily this morning. I’m guessing she’s lost her parents suddenly.” He grinned suddenly. “It’s been centuries since I was a new father.”
“You had children, Merlin?” Arthur asked curiously.
“Married twice. Once in the 7th century, and once in the 12th. Some of my descendants still live in Old Camelot. Others have scattered.” Merlin pulled a stone out of his pocket and set about inscribing it with a few runes. “William, do you have a space I can use to set up a ward stone?”
“Grandpa set one up in our kitchen, under the sink,” William said as he came down the stairs, another backpack in hand. “Here’s the stuff he left here.”
“You’ve got your bag?” Merlin looked him over critically.
“How about you, Harry Two?” Merlin called up the stairs. “Are you ready?”
Merlin nodded and headed to the kitchen, finding Harry’s wardstone underneath. It was a hasty thing, Merlin could tell, but would serve. He added his own stone to it, fusing them together and making sure their rune sequences worked together to protect the home and a fifty-foot circle around it. Arthur watched.
“What is that, Merlin?”
“A ward stone to add protection to the dwelling,” Merlin explained as he worked. “Harry only had time to put up minimal protections before our meeting yesterday. I’m adding to and strengthening them. The family should be able to come back here if they want to.”
Arthur nodded and said nothing more as William and Harry Two came back into the kitchen. “We’re ready,” William said.
Merlin popped up. “Grab hold of my arm, all three of you.”
They did, and Merlin turned on his heel.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 5, 2152
They arrived with a grunt from Merlin.
“Alright there, Merlin?” Arthur asked quietly.
“Yes. Just haven’t transported that many non-magicals lately. It pulled on my magic funny for a minute.” Merlin sat down, and waved another hand. His dragon appeared. “Portkey to the anteroom in groups of 10. We’ll be waiting.” The dragon left.
Merlin turned to Arthur. “You’ll need to settle them in. I’ll need to take William back to Grantham to find his wife.”
Arthur nodded, and headed toward the bar to issue instructions for lunch preparation.
“Harry Two,” Merlin looked at his step-great-great-grandson. “I need you to do something very important.”
“I can do it!” Harry Two shouted, then paused. “What am I doing?”
Merlin grinned at him. “I need you to act as a runner today. That means carrying messages back and forth between Arthur and the people in the kitchens and bar. Can you do that for me?”
Harry Two nodded rapidly, grinning widely.
“Go to him now and tell him you’re his runner for the afternoon,” Merlin gestured toward the kitchen. “He’ll want to be back to the anteroom shortly to greet our first guests.”
“Yessir!” Harry Two hollered, and ran toward the kitchen.
Merlin watched as he caught up to Arthur, tugged on his shirt, and filled him in on his new status. Arthur nodded solemnly, then looked up, caught Merlin’s eye, and nodded again.
Message received. Arthur would keep an eye on Harry Two and organize the refugees.
Merlin banished the backpacks they’d brought with them to one of his third-floor guest rooms, and held an arm out to William. “Visualize a spot about a block from the hospital, just in case.”
“There’s a park,” William said. “A place Lisa and I picnic sometimes when she’s got a lunch break.”
“Perfect.” Merlin waited until William’s hand made contact with his forearm, then caught the vision of that spot and turned a heel.
London, Dec. 4, 2152
Phoenix was dozing on Harry’s shoulder as he collected sheets, one-handed, from the upstairs linen closet. A glance out the window showed the entire street in flames, and rubble as far as he could see any direction.
He really doubted many Londoners had survived the attack.
Sheets under one arm, baby on the other shoulder, Harry made his way back downstairs and restored his Sonorous.
“Right,” he said, getting their attention. “London’s not safe. Feel free to go up and look yourselves, but it’s all fire and rubble. I don’t see how anyone survived out there, and I don’t say that to be mean, but to enforce the thought that it’s really not safe to be anywhere here anymore. We’re very, very, lucky that this place has held. So we need to get out of here, and the only way to do that is magical.”
“Mum says magic isn’t real,” a small boy, about the age of Harry Two, said gruffly.
“Well, mum was wrong. We who have magic just kept it very, very, secret for a very, very long time, to protect everyone,” Harry explained.
“So what do we do, then?” A big, gruff young man stood up, hands clenched.
Harry gestured with the sheets. “I’m going to turn these sheets into portkeys. Those are magical transportation devices. We’ll line you up in groups of about 10, and all of you will grab hold of a sheet. Whatever you do, DON’T LET GO of the sheet until you’re told to. When I activate the magic on the sheet, you’ll be sent through space to my friend’s pub in Glastonbury. He’s expecting to put you all up.
“You’ll feel like you’re spinning while you’re holding onto the sheet, and some of you will boot on the other end, but that can’t be helped. This is the best, safest way I can think of for multiple non-magicals to travel at once via magic.”
The gruff man nodded. “We can do this.” He started moving among the other refugees, separating families out so they could travel together, while the same young woman who’d questioned him before hurried out to help him spread a sheet over the kitchen table. Harry smiled his thanks, then cast, “Portus!”
The sheet glowed blue momentarily, and his new aide, the gruff young man, brought the first ten refugees to the table before stepping back.
“Grab on,” Harry instructed, and all ten took good handfuls of the sheet, one young mother helping her toddler hold on tightly. When he saw they were all holding on tightly, he whispered, “Go.”
With a whirl of magic, they left.
Harry nodded to his aide. “Got a name?”
“Percy,” he said, and rolled his eyes. “Me da wanted to call me Dante, but mum insisted on Percival.”
Harry laughed a little. “Nice to meet you, Percy. Let’s get the rest set up.”
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152
Lilith and Dave started churning out tea, soup and sandwiches, preparing for the onslaught of refugees. Regular customers of the pub stepped out to inform their families of the goings-on, and Lilith sent one, her cousin Mary, to Morrison’s grocery for formula, diapers, and paper supplies.
The pub was well-stocked with food, having just taken their monthly freezer order, but the paper products would be go fast.
Arthur made his way back to the anteroom just in time to see the first group of London survivors pop into existence, and fall to their knees. He stepped forward and introduced himself, helping up the mother with the toddler as he did so. “I’m Arthur. Welcome to Merlin’s Pub. If you’d go through that door there, we’ve tea and soup ready.”
Muttering their thanks, the survivors got themselves to their feet and allowed themselves to be shuffled into the pub proper. Arthur looked down at Harry Two. “Alright, there, Harry?”
“Yep! Can I do anything right now?”
“You could go tell Dave we’ll need more tea. Some of those folks looked pretty green.”
Harry Two grinned, and ran.
Grantham, Dec. 4, 2152
William and Merlin popped into existence in the park, just in time to see a bomb hit Grantham General and incinerate it. William gave a choked yell just as Merlin grasped his arm and popped them back out again, before the flames could reach them.
Front Courtyard, Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152
“Lisa!” William screamed as he hit the ground in front of Merlin. “We’ve got to go back for her!”
Merlin hauled him up and shook him a little. “William, there’s no way she could have survived that flame. Our best bet is to hope she’d already left the hospital and made her way home. We can check back every day or so to see if she’s there. We can leave a note for her to stay put until we come collect her.” Merlin looked at William intently. “Calm down, son.”
William forced himself to breathe deeply. “Do you think she survived?”
“You tell me,” Merlin said, still looking at him with intent.
“How would I know?” William asked.
“Harry said you have a bit of Sight,” Merlin reminded him. “Focus on what you know. Tell me, is she alive?”
William forced himself to breathe slowly, calming himself and drawing on his little magic. He focused on his wife, envisioned a tether to her, and nearly cried in relief when he realized she was definitely on the other end.
“She’s alive,” he said definitively. He focused harder to see if he could see where she was. “I can only see street pavement.”
“Good enough, William,” Merlin said. “Let’s go leave her a note.”
They popped off again.
London, Dec. 4, 2152
With the aid of Percy and the young woman, whose name, he learned, was Angel, Harry was able to send off each group in a timely fashion, leaving about ten minutes between each departure to give those at the pub time to clear out of the anteroom for the next arrival.
Finally, it came down to Percy, Angel, Harry, Phoenix, and five assorted other young people who had been separated from their families. Harry decided it would be safer for him to apparate with Phoenix, and sent the seven young people on their way. After they left, he took a minute to look around Grimmauld.
The wards were holding.
At least, they’d have one property in London they could use, if necessary.
With a sigh, Harry turned a heel.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152.
Harry popped into the anteroom to the relief of Arthur and Harry Two, who greeted him enthusiastically.
“Hi, Grandpa!” Harry Two ran up to throw himself around Harry’s legs. “We’ve got everybody safe for you in the pub. I’m the runner today. Arthur and Merlin said it’s a very important job!”
“That is a very important job,” Harry said with a tired smile. “I’m glad you’re such a good helper.”
“He’s been a big help,” Arthur confirmed, and looked down at the baby Harry held. “And who is this?”
Harry shifted her a bit, and held her out to Arthur. “This is Phoenix. Her parents are gone, and there’s no way to find any of the rest of her relatives. For all intents and purposes, she’s an orphan. I named her, and I’m planning to keep her.” His chin went up a bit defiantly at the last statement.
Arthur quirked a brow, but smiled softly as he took the baby and cuddled her against him. “I don’t have an argument with that.” Phoenix snuggled into Arthur’s broad chest and sighed, falling asleep. “I think she likes me.”
Harry Two giggled. “I get an aunty!”
“I guess you do,” Harry agreed. “Now, where can I find some tea? I really need a cuppa.”
“This way, Grandpa!” Harry Two tugged Harry’s sleeve in the direction of the pub. “There’s soup, too! Scotch broth! And really thick ham sandwiches. Come see!”
Bemused, Harry let himself be led into the pub for lunch.
Grantham, Dec. 4, 2152
Merlin and William popped into William’s sitting room directly. Merlin didn’t want to chance apparating into a fireball if Grantham was being destroyed.
He let William’s arm go, and William went to his study for paper and pen. “Should I let her know where we are?”
“Certainly,” Merlin said. “It’s not a secret. And no one can get into this house without permission from Harry or I. The wards will prevent it. It’s limited right now to you, both Harrys, Lisa, Arthur and me.”
William nodded, busily writing his note, and Merlin looked out the window on the ground floor to see smoke rising from the direction of downtown Grantham, where the hospital had been, in the distance. “She’d have had to walk,” Merlin mused to himself. “The vehicles all seem to be stalled out.”
“And if I know my wife, she’s assisting injured along the way,” William said with a sigh. He signed the note and propped it up on the dining room table. “Without magic or a mobile phone, this is the best we can do. Let her know where we are, and to sit tight. Someone will stop back every day at noon to see if she’s here and take her to join us.”
William joined Merlin at the window. “What a mess.”
“Putting it mildly,” Merlin agreed. He turned away. “Let’s get back to the pub. I’m anxious to see Harry, if he’s made it back by now.”
William put a hand on Merlin’s forearm, and they left.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152
Harry drank his cup of tea slowly, listening to Harry Two’s chatter with half an ear and observing Arthur’s focused cuddling of Phoenix. Around him, the London survivors also drank tea, ate soup, and generally chatted with each other, searching for some semblance of normalcy.
Everything they’d known, for all their lives, was gone in an instant.
How does one recover from that?
Harry didn’t really know the answer.
Lilith had been flipping through the channels on the telly, but it seemed the EMP had done its job. All London-based programming was gone. The satellite channels had some activity, but much of that programming had been routed through London, as well. Harry hoped at some point they’d find out how much of Britain had been affected, as well as who’d actually attacked.
He looked up as Merlin came in from the anteroom, followed by William. Merlin went straight to Harry, and both sighed as Merlin slid into the seat next to him and put an arm around his shoulders.
“Hey,” Harry said inanely, cuddling his head into Merlin’s shoulder.
“Hey,” Merlin replied softly, squeezing him gently. “Alright there?”
“Been better, been worse.” Harry took Merlin’s other hand and squeezed it, looking up into concerned blue eyes. “Not much of a honeymoon.”
Merlin laughed a little. “We’ll find some time later.” He kissed Harry lightly, then drew him close for a hug.
“Ah, Merlin,” Arthur said softly. “I have something for you, here.” Gently, he tilted Phoenix a bit so Merlin could see. “Your new daughter, Phoenix.”
Merlin smiled widely and let Harry go so that he could take the sleeping baby. “She’s beautiful, Harry.”
“She is,” Harry acknowledged, smiling. He looked down at Harry Two, who was eagerly telling his father about his experiences as a runner, and looked back at Merlin and Arthur. “Her mother tossed her to me through the wards as the flames hit her. She was killed instantly,” he explained softly. “None of the other survivors know who she is, and London is just gone. We’ll want to go back in a couple of days to see if we can find anyone else who survived. Many headed toward the tube stations when they heard the sirens go off, but it’s been so long since anyone had heard them, everyone was caught completely off guard.”
“Not you, though,” Merlin said.
“Tony, my late husband, worked as a U.S. federal agent,” Harry explained. “He took me on a tour of his local facilities once, and he explained to me the concept behind a powerful weapon that would take out all electronics. It’s called an EMP. The idea behind it is to render the electronics inert so that massive artillery could be dropped without defense. When the EMP hit, I realized what it was and ran for Grimmauld. Busted the Fidelius and tried to get as many folks in under the war wards as I could.”
Merlin stroked his cheek soothingly. “You were brilliant, Harry.”
Arthur nodded in agreement. “It’s remarkable that you saved anyone at all.”
“I couldn’t save her mother, so, well, I’ll care for her,” Harry said, reaching out to stroke one downy cheek. “There’s no way of knowing if she has other living relatives at this point. I know it’s probably not what you were expecting, and we’ve not even discussed the fact that we’re probably married now, and honestly, I would think your husband should discuss expanding the family with you first–”
Merlin interrupted him with a kiss. “I’d’ve done the same, Harry-love.”
Arthur reached out slowly to touch Harry’s hand, and Harry felt the buzz of his magic under the skin. His eyebrows rose as he looked at the Once and Future King. Arthur cleared his throat. “I’d’ve done the same, too, Harry.”
Harry shivered a little, and looked up at Merlin, who grinned wryly. “Yeah, I felt that too. We sort of made up earlier and decided to start over.”
“Interesting,” Harry said hoarsely. And reached for his tea.
– – – – –
After lunch, Arthur went with Dave and Lilith to take inventory and look at supplies, while Merlin directed Harry, William, Harry Two and Phoenix to the third floor of his pub.
“I’ve put William and Harry Two in the Blue Room up here, and your things are there as well, Harry,” Merlin said. “At least for now. I’d prefer you moved into my room with me, and I’m just across the hall, but I didn’t want to presume. And Phoenix will need her own space. If you want, I can take the room next to mine and turn it into a nursery. I just need to transfigure a cot and a changing table from the furniture in there.”
Harry smiled. “I’d love to move into your room, Merlin. And I like the plan for Phoenix.”
“That’s good.” Merlin smiled back, and squeezed Harry’s hand, which he was holding. “I’ll take care of her room while you get your backpack and come to my room.”
William cleared his throat and both immortal magicals looked up at him. “Am I going to get an explanation of ‘accidentally married’ anytime soon?”
Harry and Merlin looked at each other. “Dinner?” Harry asked.
“Probably best,” Merlin agreed.
“We’ll explain over dinner,” Harry told his descendant. “There’s sort of broader implications that we’re still working out.”
“Fair enough,” William nodded, and looked to his own small son, who was drooping pretty noticeably. “Harry Two, I need a nap. Come keep your da company.”
“ ‘Kay,” Harry Two said, and the pair went into the Blue Room ahead of Harry, who picked up his bag and brought it into Merlin’s room across the hall.
– – – – –
Merlin quickly turned one of the twin beds in the guest room next to his into a pretty white cot with pink and green trimmings and linens, and changed the top of a dresser there to reflect a changing station with drawers underneath to match. Phoenix was still sleeping, though they’d determined she was well and just tired. Harry came into the room just as Merlin put a connecting door in the wall between their rooms.
“There,” he said. “Let’s see if she likes this.”
Harry lay her gently in the cot, and they held their breath. Phoenix slept on, and they drew back quietly into Merlin’s room, leaving the connecting door ajar slightly so they could hear her.
“Well, it’s been an eventful day,” Harry said with a yawn. “I could do with a nap, too.”
Merlin stepped forward and held him closely for a minute, tucking Harry’s head under his chin and resting his own head on top of his. “I was truly scared for you today,” Merlin murmured. “Immortal, I know. But fire …”
Harry shuddered. “I’d rather not have to rise from the ashes and heal from that, thank you.”
“I’d rather you didn’t have to,” Merlin admitted. “I’ve had to come back from something similar, and it’s not an experience I’d care to repeat.”
They held each other for a long moment, and then Merlin drew him back to bed. “Come on. In you get. We need a little sleep and a cuddle as a restorative. As I recall, babies don’t sleep well through the night, so we need to stock up while we can.”
Harry nodded seriously. “Obviously.”
– – – – –
Arthur looked over the well-stocked pub’s inventory, and determined that enough food existed to get themselves and their unexpected guests fed for quite some time. If communications remained down for long, however, it might be difficult to secure more.
Old Camelot, now Glastonbury, housed more than 8,000 people, and he presumed that some would have their own supplies. But with communications down, and electronics in vehicles down, the country could see some hard times, indeed.
Whatever weapon had struck London and parts north of it had not yet reached their little corner of Britain, Arthur mused. He ran a hand over his chin, and took himself off to find Lilith.
He needed a map.
– – – – –
Despite his fatigue, Harry lay awake in Merlin’s arms, drawing strength from his new partner.
“What are you thinking?” Merlin asked quietly.
“Just wondering what this all means,” Harry said. He turned to face Merlin, and kissed him gently. “I just met you yesterday. You’re literally a legend. And suddenly my husband.”
Merlin grinned at him, content to breathe the same air as his new spouse. “Same goes, Harry-love.”
Harry snorted. “I’m not a legend.”
“You are here,” Merlin said, still smiling, but serious. “Harry Potter, who defeated the Dark Lord Voldemort. You have your own Chocolate Frog card. Or did. I wonder what happened to the Chocolate Frog company?”
Harry shook his head. “Ah, but you’re Merlin. Greatest wizard of all time. With his own Chocolate Frog card, I might add. Though you look much, much older on that one.”
“That’s because the frog reflected by older self,” Merlin explained. “Sometimes, when I felt like imparting wisdom, I’d assume an older look. It worked pretty well to deflect attention from my actual identity.”
“It also said you were sorted into Slytherin,” Harry pointed out. “How was that possible?”
“Oh, I may have attended Hogwarts when it started up. I was only about 500 years old, after all, and still had lots to learn about magic,” Merlin allowed, and winked.
“I see.” Harry brought a hand up to cup Merlin’s face. “And now?”
“Still lots to learn about magic, I’m afraid,” Merlin said, covering Harry’s hand with his own. “There’s always something new.”
“Such as this?” Harry wiggled his left wrist, his hand caught by Merlin’s.
“Such as that,” Merlin agreed. “It’s clearly a binding, and it’s one I’ve seen in ritual marriages. Ritual can undo it, if we’d like, though it requires a request of Lady Magic, and as I believe she likely had a hand in the binding to begin with…”
“Odds of dissolution are not good,” Harry finished. He shifted closer, pressing himself against Merlin, full-body. They both groaned at the buzz of their magic. “Yeah, not liking the dissolution option myself.”
“That, right there, tells me it’s meant,” Merlin confirmed. “And did you feel that buzz when Arthur touched you, too?”
“I did, and what’s up with that?” Harry asked. “Legends say Arthur was not magical.”
“Well, he didn’t practice magic, that’s certain,” Merlin allowed. “But he was conceived of magic and born to fulfill a prophecy. He’s magical, alright. Just not in a way many of us think of as traditional.”
“So is Lady Magic forcing us into a triad?” Harry speculated. “Not that I object. I’m as attracted to him as I have been to you. But how do you feel about it, given your history?”
Merlin sighed, turned on his back, and drew Harry to him to cuddle into a shoulder. “I think, if he’d let himself, we’d have been lovers back then. We’ve always been drawn to one another.”
“And, we agreed to start over. I feel that buzz, too, and I’m not strictly opposed to a relationship with prat,” Merlin said tiredly. “So long as we’re all equals within it.”
Harry ran a hand down Merlin’s chest. “I can get behind that. And I think that’s a good place to start.”
A cry from the other room got their attention.
“Sounds like Phoenix is up,” Harry said. He groaned and rolled off Merlin and the bed. “I’ll get her.”
“I’ll send down for formula,” Merlin answered, reaching for the house phone next to his bed.
Evening, Grantham, Dec. 4, 2152
Dusk had fallen while Lisa Potter made her way home.
Her Hippocratic oath forbade her from passing by injured and doing nothing, but she’d sped her way from block to block, mobile medkit in hand, treating and tagging wounded for the emergency medical personnel behind her.
They knew she was making her way home to her husband and son.
With communications down, Lisa had no way of knowing what had happened to them.
But she hoped. Oh, she hoped.
The destruction of the hospital and much of downtown Grantham remained vivid in her mind’s eye. Even more so because it seemed so senseless.
Why Grantham? It was a small city an hour north of London, hardly a major place to attack.
Lisa plodded toward her block, feeling heat from flames in burning houses along the route. Without vehicles, no fire trucks could make it out this far. Lisa could see where bucket brigades had been started, then abandoned, as people gathered their things as best they could and headed for city center and presumed shelter there.
As she rounded the corner on her street, she could see that many buildings were still standing, including her home. The fires hadn’t yet touched this block, and, if the rain that was threatening actually made its appearance, Lisa hoped it wouldn’t.
Her house lay dark and silent, the lawn free of the rubble and ash blown about at the other houses on the street. As she approached the front door, she felt a slight pop of pressure.
“Magic…” Lisa whispered, wonderingly. She opened her front door. The lights, of course, weren’t working. She could see signs of activity, and as she wandered through to the kitchen, she saw the note propped up on the table.
Lisa picked it up, and nearly cried.
We are well. Grandpa sent us help, and we’re sheltered in his pub in Glastonbury, far and away from Grantham. I can tell you’re well and working. We’ve no way to communicate with you, so I’m leaving this note. Grandpa or his new husband, Merlin (and yes I’ll be getting that story, my love) will “pop” in every day at noon for messages or to see that you’re safe. You can join us at any time.
I love you,
“I love you, too,” Lisa whispered, fingers tracing William’s strong handwriting.
And she let the tears fall.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 4, 2152.
“This way,” Lilith gestured to the last of the family units rescued in London. “We’ve a room set up for you here.”
Merlin’s had six public guest rooms on the second floor, and six family guest rooms on the third, with two baths on each floor. The six families had been set up one family per room on the second floor. Of the remaining young single people, four were sharing the remaining twin guest rooms on Merlin’s private floor, and the rest had been parceled out among townspeople with guestrooms.
On Merlin’s floor, he and Harry shared his room; Phoenix had the room next to theirs, and Arthur was on her other side. William and Harry Two were opposite Merlin, and their guests, including Angel and Percy, occupied the remaining guest rooms.
It was a tight fit, as Merlin pointed out, but they’d manage.
He and Harry spent a little time in the family rooms, expanding interior spaces to ensure enough sleeping space for the young families. William and Harry Two offered to watch Phoenix while the magicals did their work.
Arthur rolled out his current map of England on the biggest table in the pub, and he was studying it, asking questions of some of the regulars, when Merlin and Harry came down the stairs to see him.
“What are you thinking, Arthur?” Merlin asked, well recognizing the sight of his king in tactical mode.
“From what I can see, we know they attacked and tried to wipe out London,” Arthur said, pointing out the large urban area affected. “And they’ve attacked Grantham with the EMP, hitting the hospital.” He moved his finger north up the A1. “It’s not strategically significant except for its positioning along the A1. I’d expect to see the use of that EMP further up that road. I’d also expect to see it take out the major cities: Sheffield, Liverpool. Maybe Birmingham, depending.” He studied the map. “The destruction in Grantham seems to suggest a statement of some kind, as a tactic. Without scouts in these areas, I can’t speculate more.”
Merlin and Harry looked at each other, thinking. Apparating into any place they haven’t seen? Not a safe plan.
“Ah, Arthur, would you need eyes and ears or just information?” Davey asked as he came around the corner with more tea for them all. “I’ve got my laptop running, and we’ve electricity. There’s no wireless access, but I’ve got a hard wire cable leftover in the back corner. Whoever it is, they’ve not managed to take out the entire Internet. I could send out some queries about what’s happening elsewhere.”
Arthur nodded. “The Internet is another form of communication, yes?”
“Designed to work when other systems fail, yes,” Davey agreed. “For all that it’s become a beacon of consumerism, its original intent was emergency communications.”
“Excellent,” Arthur said, and looked to Merlin. “I won’t order or take over without your input, Merlin.”
Merlin smiled at him, genuinely. “I’d have no other lead us in this area, my king,” he said.
“Nor I,” Harry added.
“As you wish, then,” Arthur said, smiling back at them both. He turned to Davey. “If you’re able, then, see what you can find on conditions around the country. If I was simply trying to wipe us out, I’d take out communications and major travel ways, which, in this case, would mean everything along all major highways to start with. I’m very much afraid that’s what’s happened here.” He drew a line between London and Grantham, following the A1. “With the element of surprise, and an EMP, whomever is behind the attack could have taken out communications along all major thoroughfares, then come come behind the EMP with bombs to take out centers where people would go for help. They want us vulnerable. They want us gone.”
“I’m really starting to wish I’d been paying more attention to politics the last several years,” Merlin muttered.
Harry shrugged and agreed. “We’ve gotten terribly used to the infighting around the world. Although, odds on, it’s one of the middle-eastern blocks working to take out countries they see as vulnerable allies.”
“But why Britain specifically?” Arthur asked. “Certainly there are others that could have made a larger statement.”
“Unless the statement isn’t just about Allies,” Harry said, thinking. “Why are you back now, Arthur?”
Arthur’s eyebrows rose. “Well, because I was needed to help you two bring magic back to Albion.”
“And yet, prophecy says you will arrive at Britain’s time of greatest need,” Merlin pointed out. “You will reunite the peoples of Britain.”
“I’ve no interest in usurping the throne of Britain,” Arthur said flatly.
“And maybe, you don’t have to.” Harry cleared his throat. “Most of the royal family lived in the London vicinity.”
It struck them all, right then, that the Royals likely didn’t survive the surprise firing of London.
Arthur opened his mouth, closed it, then took a deep breath. “Do we know that for certain?”
Davey raised a hand from the corner table of the pub, where he was working on his laptop. “I’ve an answer for you.” He turned the screen. Satellite imagery appeared. “London is gone. Flattened. Demolished. Burned out. You get the idea. The Americans have posted satellite photos of the area that used to be Buckingham Palace. Gone. There are a few anomalous spots that seem intact amongst the rubble, but by and large, whoever was in London today is assumed dead.”
Harry covered his eyes with one hand. All those lives he’d witnessed this morning. Gone.
Merlin squeezed his husband’s other hand silently, and looked up at Davey. “Was the Queen in residence?”
Davey nodded slowly. “Charlotte had come to town today for some sort of charitable thing. Most of the rest of the family was at Windsor, but, well, it’s gone, too.”
“What else is gone?” Arthur asked quietly.
“So far as we can tell from the Americans’ surveillance, the ports are gone. Liverpool and London. Birmingham. Sheffield. Leeds. York. Edinburgh.” Davey scrolled through to find a current satellite map of England, much of it smoldering. “It looks like they tried to take out Cardiff, but it didn’t work for some reason.”
“The wards held at Castle Cardiff, and Tintagel,” Merlin said quietly, looking closely at the old castle structures there. “I put them up myself in the 8th century by request. They might not have electricity, but the structures should be intact.”
“Edinburgh is gone, as is Glasgow. There’s an anomaly again further north,” Davey pointed out.
“Hogwarts,” Harry muttered, still not looking.
“But on the whole, we’re a country without communication, transportation, or, in major cities, people,” Davey summed up. He looked bleak. “I don’t know what anyone will do now.”
“What about the rest of the world, Davey?” Arthur asked intently. “Do we know who’s responsible?”
“The MEC is claiming responsibility, and promising to do the same, without warning, to all of Earth’s major cities if its demands are not met,” Davey said. He hesitated, then added, “No idea what those are. They just keep repeating that those in power know their demands, and until they’re met, another country will meet Britain’s fate every 24 hours.”
“This is madness,” Harry muttered, and lifted his eyes. “Merlin, do you have a warded ritual circle anywhere?”
“I need to chat with an old friend,” Harry said.
– – – – –
Merlin led Harry and Arthur to the base of Glastonbury Tor, near the Chalice well, to a secluded spot. From the outside, it blended in with the grasses. Once they crossed the ward lines, however, they saw door appear.
“Merlin?” Arthur asked.
Merlin gave a half-smile. “Old Castle Camelot is in the ruins here. My ritual circles and spaces are within.” Merlin laid a hand on the door, which flashed once, then opened silently. He led them all in.
They walked down a slightly dusty stone corridor that Arthur recognized as being a passage from the kitchen to Gaius’ old tower. “How much of this is still intact?” he asked softly.
Merlin led the way to the tower. “Not much. Your old rooms are gone, as is the throne room. I was able to save and shore up this much of the building, and I covered the whole of it with turf to keep it hidden. It’s warded, too.” They walked up the stone steps to Gaius’ old office. “Here.” He opened the door.
The main room held a table, chairs and library of old tomes, along with a tea pot and assorted cups. Merlin led the way to his old room. “I have the ritual space in here,” he said.
Harry stepped through to what was now an empty stone room, a circle permanently etched in the space. “This will do nicely,” Harry murmured. “I need salt. Just in case.”
Merlin nodded and stepped back to the outer room to dig in a cupboard while Arthur leaned back against the wall opposite the old window, which had been boarded up. Harry walked to the center of the stone circle and sat, cross-legged, on the floor as Merlin bustled back in.
“Salt, as requested,” he said, holding up the canister of Morton’s.
Harry laughed. “Sometimes commercial is best. I need a salt circle. I’ll be calling up an old friend, the salt will help the visit be less painful for her.”
“Ah, got it,” Merlin said, and laid a trail of salt in the stone groove on the floor, being careful to close the circle properly. When he finished, he stood back and took his place next to Arthur. “Ready.”
Harry nodded, and held out his right hand. He focused his magic, and the sign of the Deathly Hollows appeared on his palm. As he concentrated, it formed into the Resurrection Stone.
“In the first decade after the war, I tried to get rid of all three Hollows so many times,” Harry said conversationally, holding the stone and rubbing it between his thumb and first finger. “They kept coming back. Finally, I ‘died’ in a pretty bad car accident with all the Hollows near or on my person, and we merged. I no longer have to think about using them. At my command, I have the Resurrection Stone, the Cloak of Invisibility,” here, he turned himself invisible, so that only his voice echoed in the room, “and the Elder Wand.” A crack of lightning lit up the room as Harry made himself reappear. “We are all one, and I am the Master of Death.” He sighed.
“What are you doing now, Harry?” Merlin asked softly.
“Calling an old friend to see if she’s got any ideas what’s going on. If I know her, she’s been watching and waiting for the call,” Harry said. “I try not to do this very often, because it’s painful for the spirit in question, even if the salt helps.”
Harry turned the stone three times, and Hermione Granger-Weasley appeared.
Time and death had not diminished the light in her soft brown eyes. “Oh, Harry!” Hermione squealed. “It’s good to see you!”
Harry grinned broadly. “And you, even if it’s under difficult circumstances.”
She sobered immediately. “I know. Harry, this is a deeper problem. The MEC isn’t making any demands. They’re just taking out every single one of their perceived enemies. They don’t know about magic. They started with Britain because the current head of the coalition went to Cambridge and hated it. It was literally Britain’s bad luck to be chosen first.”
“Why?” Harry asked. “I don’t understand the senselessness of it.”
“If he’d had magic, he’d be a Dark Lord,” Hermione allowed. “He wants to rule the world, and he’s willing to kill everyone in his way.”
“Does he have a name we can know, Hermione?” Harry asked, well aware that Fate’s rules might apply.
“David Suldana,” Hermione said. “He’s spearheading the MEC.”
“Thank you, Hermione.” Harry turned to Merlin and Arthur. “Do we need to know anything else?”
Merlin waved at Hermione. “I’m good.”
Arthur waved, too. “Me, too. Nice to meet you, Miss Hermione.”
“Oh, and you, Your Highness; Lord Merlin,” Hermione curtseyed to each man in turn. She turned back to Harry. “I should go.”
“Yes,” Harry nodded. “Thanks.”
“Any time,” she said, and looked off at something they couldn’t see. “Hold on, Harry. Someone wants to see you.”
Harry looked startled. “Alright.”
Hermione faded out as a tall, good-looking man with hazel eyes and brown hair took her place.
Tears pooled in Harry’s eyes. “Tony.”
Merlin stood up suddenly from the wall. “Tony?”
Tony DiNozzo looked around and flashed a grin at the legends by the wall. “At your service. Well, not really, as I’m dead. Also, Harry’s late husband.”
“And prominent member of law enforcement,” Harry choked out. “Tony.”
“Hey, hey,” Tony said quickly, reaching out a hand and drawing it back quickly. Touching would be painful. “It’s OK, Harry. It’s nothing bad. I’ve got some additional information for you, and I wanted to say hello.”
Harry took deep breaths. “I’ve missed you, so much.”
“I’ve missed you, too,” Tony said simply. “But you’ve been busy. Traveling the world,” here, he winked at Merlin, “getting married again.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry said immediately.
“Harry, sweetheart, don’t be,” Tony soothed. “I’m actually dead. Not only can I not be your partner anymore, not in this life, but I want you to be happy. I want you to move on with a partner whom you can love and trust.” He shrugged, eyes on Harry’s. “And chosen by magic? Bonus.”
Merlin stepped as close to the salt circle as he could without crossing over. “You have information for us?”
“Well, for Harry, mostly, but yes. This could be useful for all of you,” Tony allowed. “I’m sort of the messenger.”
“The messenger?” Arthur asked intently. “I thought that was me.”
“Yes and no. You’re Lady Magic’s,” Tony explained. “I’m Death’s messenger, and his gift to you for this moment. I can’t stay, but I’m allowed to share hope.”
“Hope?” Harry asked.
“Souls that go to the other side often stay there,” Tony said. “But Death can give souls the option to be reborn, if they choose, into new lives and new bodies. I’m allowed to tell you that several of the most important people in your life have made that choice. You won’t be able to recall them with the Stone, but you will run into them again in their new forms. They won’t know about their past lives, but their personalities will be pretty obvious, after a while.”
Harry opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again to speak. “Harry Two?”
“Figured that one out already, eh?” Tony smiled fondly at his former husband. “He’s got a much longer future ahead of him.”
“Are you making that choice, too, Tony?” Harry asked quietly.
“My reincarnation at this point would complicate your future,” Tony said gently. “You’re meant to form this triad with Arthur and Merlin,” Arthur looked startled, “and complete the mission given to you all by magic. If I’m around and alive at this time, I’m a temptation, in any form.” He reached out again, and stilled his hand just short of Harry’s cheek. “But I will be available via the Stone for guidance if needed.”
Tears that had been blinked away reformed in emerald green eyes. “Tell Death thank you,” Harry said hoarsely.
“I will,” Tony said, and looked up at Merlin and Arthur. “The same goes for the pair of you. Many of your closest allies will be returning in the years to come. Some already have made their presence known. You will have personalities you trust on this journey.”
“My thanks,” Arthur said, studying the man in front of him.
“And mine,” Merlin added quietly.
Tony flashed his bright grin at them all, then leaned forward to look right at Merlin and Arthur, intent in every line of his body. “Take good care of him, and each other. I’ll be watching.”
They nodded solemnly, and Tony winked back before looking at Harry. “I’ll always love you, Harry.”
Harry raised a hand to him, then dropped it before it could make content. “Same here.”
Tony blew him a kiss, and faded out.
As soon as Tony was gone, Merlin broke the circle to scoop his husband into his arms.
Grantham, Dec. 4, 2152
Lisa lit another candle and set it in her window. Survivors could see it from a distance, and the trickle of rain had put out most of the fires between her home and downtown.
The single light in the darkness reflected hope, she thought wistfully.
People had begun to trudge into her yard soon after dark, following the light of her candles. While they couldn’t get past the ward lines Merlin and Harry had set, they could make themselves comfortable in the adjoining yards, cleaning out the rubbish and finding places to be. Lisa brought out food, blankets, and bandages for the walking wounded.
Survivors who had set out for shelter in city center had been turned away, disappointed and disheartened by the wholesale destruction of the hospital and support services in town. Some had looted businesses, particularly the pharmacies and grocery stories, while others simply sat down where they were, unable to process.
Lisa’s candle in the darkness called to them.
Merlin’s Pub, closing on midnight, Dec. 4, 2152
William took a look at his great-grandfather and immediately offered to be on baby duty for the night.
“You look done in, Grandpa,” William said bluntly. “My Harry’s out in our room. I’ll move Phoenix’s cot into our room for the night, too. She’ll be safe with us.”
Harry nodded tiredly, feeling a little guilty at his readiness to take William up on his offer. He was bone-deep tired, inside and out, and relying on Merlin’s magic to help him get up the stairs.
Arthur trailed behind them as Merlin brought his husband into their room. “Can I do anything for you?” Arthur asked lamely, wanting to offer comfort, even if he didn’t know quite what to do.
Merlin smiled gently at him and held out a hand. “Come cuddle with us.”
Arthur took it, and the offer, dragging his shirt over his head as he went.
All three men stripped to smallclothes, and Merlin lifted the covers. “In you get, Harry-love,” he said, and gestured Harry into the center.
Silently, Harry complied, and Merlin motioned to Arthur to get in behind Harry.
With Merlin embracing him from the left, and Arthur from the right, Harry fell quickly into a deep sleep.
Merlin looked over his husband at Arthur, whose eyes gleamed in the darkness. “Interested, prat?” Merlin whispered softly.
“Absolutely,” Arthur answered quietly, and tightened his arm around Harry.
Grantham, Dec. 5, 2152
As dawn broke over the Potter home in Grantham, Lisa saw hundreds of people camped in adjoining yards and spaces.
All looked tired. All looked sad.
All were hungry.
She’d parceled out what she’d had in her cupboards the night before, doling food out particularly to the children, and thanking her lucky stars that they’d just laid in groceries themselves. She looked around for appropriate food and saw the 10 kg bag of oatmeal.
“Porridge for breakfast it is,” Lisa muttered, and found her biggest pot.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 5, 2152
Harry heard a baby crying in the distance, and long-held parental instincts made him wake.
“Harry-love.” Harry turned his head to see Merlin, a finger to his lips. “William’s got her. And the prat is sleeping behind you.” Blue eyes twinkled with mischief. “Want to stir him up?”
“Give me a mo,” Harry muttered, needing the loo. “But then, yeah. I’d love to.”
Merlin moved aside for Harry to slip out, enjoying the sight of his husband’s well-sculpted form.
“Could get used to that,” Arthur mumbled from beside him.
Merlin started. “Awake, are you?”
“Barely,” Arthur said. “After stirring me up, are you?”
“Why not?” Merlin asked, looking fondly at his king. “We talked about it yesterday, you know. The buzz we feel when we touch you. We thought it probably meant a triad bonding in the offing, but hadn’t had a chance to discuss it with you.”
“I’ve no objections,” Arthur said softly, and stretched, acres of golden skin on display. “Equals?”
“The only way it can work,” Merlin agreed, and smiled as Harry came back in and crawled in between them. “As it happens, Harry-love, King Prat is willing to be stirred up.”
“And is King Prat aware he’ll likely be bonded to us immediately afterwards?” Harry peered up into Arthur’s twinkling blue eyes.
“Aware and willing, as long as you are,” Arthur affirmed.
“I am,” Harry said, and with a glance at Merlin, he leaned forward to claim Arthur’s mouth.
Heat sizzled between them. Arthur slid his hands around Harry’s shoulders, then down his back and into his boxers to cup his arse. Merlin slithered up behind Harry and started laying kisses down his neck. Harry hummed low in his throat, and broke his kiss with Arthur to tip his head back toward Merlin, and Arthur followed him.
Magic buzzed under their skins as hands and lips roamed. Arthur sat back for a minute, watching Merlin and Harry kiss, then reached up to touch where their lips joined. “Not to be even more of a prat,” he said huskily, “but as you’re adding me to your bond, I’d think the best way to do this would be for me to be in the middle.”
“Oh, I’m so on board with that,” Harry agreed, reaching out to cup Arthur’s face. “I’d love for you to take me.”
Merlin blew out a breath. “Arthur, you don’t have to.”
Arthur leaned forward, kissed Harry’s cheek, then gently moved him out of the way to lay his lips on Merlin’s for the first time, almost chastely. “Merlin, I think, to start this bonding out equally, I need you to take me. I think I’ve needed that all along.”
“Not your servant,” Merlin whispered.
“My spouse. My partner in legend. My equal,” Arthur said solemnly. A promise.
“My spouse. My partner in legend. My equal,” Merlin repeated, and turned to look at Harry, who held his hands out to them both. Merlin grasped one, and Arthur the other. “My spouses, my partners in legend. My equals,” Harry said.
The magic in the room bloomed, and Harry breathed out, “Ward the door, Merlin.”
Merlin’s eyes flashed gold, and it was done.
Boxers disappeared. Spells were muttered, and two arses were stretched, lubed, ready. Harry lay on his back, and Arthur covered him, pressing his knees up and back to access Harry’s waiting entrance. He pressed in slowly, savoring every inch of Harry’s velvet heat. Harry gasped, holding onto Arthur’s shoulders as he was invaded, until all of Arthur was in, and they stilled.
Merlin ran a hand down Arthur’s back, then pressed forward himself, gently entering him.
When all were joined, they began to glow, slightly. “Right,” Harry said breathlessly. “Pretty. But someone, move.”
Merlin chuckled. “As you wish, Harry-love.” He started a long, slow thrust, pushing Arthur into Harry, and all of them moaned. He did it again, and faster, and soon all that could be heard were gasps, pleas, and the low cries of three men reaching their peaks sooner than they’d all like.
Arthur shouted as he was stimulated almost past bearing. Hurriedly, he reached between Harry and himself to strip Harry’s cock, tipping Harry over the edge, and following himself. As they started to come, Merlin went, too, and a bright light flashed in the room as the magical pressure popped with release.
They all continued moving, slowly, for a few moments, before stilling. Merlin withdrew and let himself fall to Harry’s left, and Arthur withdrew, burying his face in the right side of Harry’s neck. Merlin scooted closer, rubbing Arthur’s back and cuddling into Harry’s side.
They held each other for a long moment, basking in the completion of their bond.
Eventually, Merlin held up his left hand, where his wrist sported new, additional ink. Merlin’s blue and Harry’s gold had been joined by Pendragon red. Harry held up his left wrist, and nudged Arthur, who looked up, did a double-take, then rolled off Harry to hold up his own left wrist.
“Magic,” he said, awed.
“Yeah.” Harry yawned.
“ ‘Bout time, Prat,” Merlin murmured.
– – – – –
William Potter felt the magical pressure build across the hall, and rolled his eyes.
For old guys, they had stamina.
He looked down at his new “aunty”. “Phoenix, darling, your daddies are having a good time this morning,” he muttered. Harry Two stirred next to him. “I’ll have to put my foot down about babysitting, I can tell.”
“Da?” Harry Two asked sleepily.
“Never mind me, my Harry. I’m just talking to your aunty Phoenix. It’s early yet,” William said softly.
Harry Two sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Mummy today?”
“I certainly hope so, yes,” William agreed, feeling out along the tether Merlin had helped him visualize yesterday to confirm his wife was alive and well. “I’ll see if I can be popped over after breakfast.”
“Mmmmm, breakfast,” Harry Two yawned and cuddled up to his father. “What we eatin’?”
“No idea, darling. We’ll have to see what they’re serving in the pub,” Williams answered. Phoenix looked up at him, unblinking. “Phoenix will have yummy, yummy formula.”
She looked unimpressed.
Harry Two giggled. “I bet she’d rather have full English with me.”
“Full English?” William raised an eyebrow. “Hungry, are we?”
“Then let’s be up and dressed, and see if we can find you some food.”
– – – – –
Davey had set up a buffet-style breakfast in the pub’s main room. And Harry Two got his wish: all the parts of full English were present and accounted for.
“Yum!” he yelled. “There’s beans and tomatoes and everything!!”
“Indoor voice, please, my Harry,” William said quietly, and Harry Two ducked and blushed.
“Yes, Da. But look!”
“I see,” William acknowledged. “Let’s find a place to sit, and I’ll get you a plate.”
“If you’d like, William, I can take young Harry to get his plate filled,” Lilith offered. She nodded to the back corner table. “Take the boss’s table. I imagine they’ll be down soon, and wishful of your company.”
“Thanks, Lilith,” William said. “Go on, then, Harry.”
“ ‘K! Thanks, Lilith,” Harry Two said nicely, and scampered off with her as William adjusted the baby on his shoulder and slid into the booth side of the table at the back.
Angel stopped by with a pot of tea. “I’m helping out this morning,” she explained. “I worked in a pub in London. Well, up until yesterday. Still, they could use an extra set of hands today.”
“I’m sure it’s welcome,” William said. “Any chance you could get us a bottle of warm water? I’ve got Phoenix’s formula powder here but she’ll be wanting something to eat soon.”
“I’ll be right back with it,” Angel promised, and headed toward the pub kitchen.
William poured his tea one-handed and looked up when he heard his great-grandfather come into the pub. “Well, if it isn’t my Grandpa, fresh from his honeymoon, the decrepit old codger.”
Harry blushed a bit, but joined William at the table, and took Phoenix so that William could have his tea. “None of that, young man,” he said in his best posh tone. Then grinned. “And yeah, see?” He held up his wrist to show the tattooed bracelet. “Not only wed, but wed in triad by magic. And I thought being immortal would be boring.”
William laughed out loud and added a bit of milk to his tea as Harry Two rushed up with his plate and set it down next his Da. “Grandpa! You’re awake!”
“Harry! You’re awake too!” Harry exclaimed right back.
“Yep. And I’m eatin’.” Harry Two nodded decisively, and dug into his beans.
“That looks delicious,” Harry commented, and nodded to William. “Go get yours, son. I’ve got this for a minute.”
“I’ll bring you a plate,” William promised, and slid back out to hit the buffet as Merlin and Arthur came down the back stairs into the pub.
“Oh, breakfast,” Arthur said worshipfully. “I’m starving.”
“Yeah, I bet,” Merlin said cheekily. “Go get me a plate, too, will you?”
Arthur rolled his eyes, smacked a kiss on Merlin’s cheek and headed for the buffet while Merlin made his way back to Harry and Phoenix.
“There’s our girl,” Merlin cooed, taking the baby. Angel brought him the requested warm bottle, and Harry dug into the bag William had brought down for the formula powder. He added two scoops, shook it up, and handed the bottle to Merlin, who popped it into Phoenix’s mouth with the skill of long practice.
Harry smiled as he watched them. “How many children have you had, Merlin?”
“Ah, well, eight biological children that I know of,” Merlin said absently. “Three to my first wife, Imogen. Four to my second wife, Claire. One to a lover in the sixteenth century who tried to blackmail me into marriage. There was love potion involved, and I had her prosecuted, though I raised the child myself. But there have been more than a few adopted, legally or not, over the centuries.”
“Do you have living descendants?” Harry asked as Arthur and William approached with their plates and cutlery.
Merlin waited as they all got settled with their food before nodding toward Davey and Lilith. “Right there. Davey is descended of my second wife, and Lilith of my eighth child. There are a few more around here in town that took some of the survivors in yesterday.” He looked up with a twinkle at William. “And William, there, is one of mine via my first wife, who gave me daughters that married into magical families, including the Weasleys.”
“Does that mean you’re really our Grandpa, too?” Harry Two asked, listening attentively.
“It does, indeed, and not just because I married your great, great, grandfather,” Merlin assured him.
Arthur shook his head. “Well, as far as I know, there are no Pendragon descendants.”
Merlin eyed him askance for a moment. “You didn’t know?”
“Gwen gave birth to your heir six months after Camlann,” Merlin said plainly. “I would have thought someone had told you.”
Arthur looked shocked. “No, none of the ladies of Avalon said a word. I wasn’t allowed to watch the living while I was on the Isle.”
“I’m sorry, Arthur,” Merlin fretted. “I would have said something earlier.”
“So, do I have living descendants?” Arthur asked hopefully.
“I’m actually not sure,” Merlin hedged. “Your descendants, until yesterday, still held the throne of Great Britain.”
Mid-morning, Grantham, Dec. 5, 2152
William looked around his kitchen while Harry looked in the living room, trying to see if Lisa had been back. He noticed the note was gone, and the refrigerator was nearly empty, which seemed to point to her presence.
Harry called out from the living room. “She’s outside, William.” William joined his great-grandfather at the window to see his wife out at the edge of the ward line, distributing porridge. “Feeding survivors.”
Relief at his wife’s continued health rolled through him, and he opened the front door to join her.
“I’m just going to pop over to help Merlin, William,” Harry called after him. “I’ll be back later.”
William waved him off, and made tracks for his wife.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 5, 2152
Arthur sat with Phoenix in his lap, cooing to the child he planned to raise with his new husbands.
He had descendants.
While Merlin couldn’t be sure who was still left, as he’d only truly followed the primary royal line, Davey had pointed out that many noble households in Britain, and at least as many families in the United States, could claim royal ancestry. He’d even pulled up something on that Internet gadget to show Arthur the many, many family trees that extended around the world.
“So, there you are, Arthur,” Dave gestured. “Your descendants. While the throne is in doubt, the fact that you’ve blood family, in addition to the found family you have here, isn’t.”
Arthur had thanked him, collected Phoenix and Harry Two, and volunteered to be child minder for the morning. He’d felt a need to be connected, and his husbands just smiled and left him to it.
Harry Two chattered at his side, busily coloring in a book of empty pictures that Merlin had somehow come up with. “It’s so cool that I get three grandpas! Last week I didn’t have any!”
Arthur chuckled. “It’s amazing how life works sometimes, Harry.”
Hogwarts Castle, Dec. 5, 2152
Harry popped up in front of the gates of Hogwarts to meet Merlin, who was inspecting the ward lines.
“They’ve held up pretty well,” Merlin muttered, adding another set of diagnostic charms. “Considering how long it’s been empty.”
“When did it close?” Harry asked, assessing the strength of the preservation charms on the gates and walls.
“About 2075 or thereabouts,” Merlin said, nodding to himself and placing his hand on the gate. “The last class had only a dozen students or so. It couldn’t be sustained any longer.”
Harry shook his head. “I wish I’d known.”
Merlin focused his magic and felt the wards accept him. “Huh, easier than I thought.” The gates swung open silently, and Harry and Merlin walked in, taking note of the grounds on their way to the front of the castle. “Everything looks good,” Harry observed. “It’s held up really well.”
“At one point, I believed the castle to be almost sentient,” Merlin admitted. “It’s situated over three ley lines here, and generations of young magic users have expelled magic within her walls. She’s lain empty for a good eighty years now, though.”
“We should check on Hogsmeade, too,” Harry mused, as they approached the front door.
Merlin nodded, then knocked on the front door. He didn’t expect a human to answer, but he thought, given its history, there might be a ghost or two that could offer admittance. They waited a moment, then Merlin closed a hand on the large door knocker and pulled. The door opened smoothly and quietly, and he and Harry walked into the main entry way.
Soft torches lit up on the walls as they entered the space, and Harry looked up, briefly seeing Hermione, dressed in periwinkle blue, making her debut at the Yule Ball third year. He shook the vision off, and extended his hand to Merlin. “Together?”
Merlin smiled, and took his hand.
They walked up the staircase and entered the Great Hall from the main doors, watching as torches lit up in their presence. The ceiling flared to life, reflecting the soft golden morning light outside, and a house elf popped up in front of the couple.
“Who be you, sirs?” the little guy asked.
“I’m Harry Potter, and this is my husband, Merlin Emrys,” Harry said. “And you are?”
“I’m Tipsy,” he replied. “I be the head house elf.”
Merlin and Harry exchanged looks. “Head? Are there more of you?” Merlin looked intently at the young elf in front of him.
“There be twelve of us, sirs,” Tipsy said. “We keep Missy Hogwarts pretty while we wait.”
“Wait for what?” Harry asked.
“For the new headmaster, of course,” Tipsy said matter-of-factly. “Now that you’re here, we can be taking students again.”
Merlin’s eyebrows rose. “Which of us is headmaster, then?”
“Mister Merlin, of course.”
Grantham, Dec. 5, 2152
William held Lisa for a long moment, then drew back, brushing her hair out of her eyes. “I was afraid for you,” he said quietly. “Merlin and I went to get you and saw the hospital go up right in front of us.”
“I’d just left,” Lisa confessed. “I was going off shift anyway, and I wanted to get to you two sooner. I knew it would be a long walk with the power out. The hospital generators had kicked in, so I knew I wasn’t needed.” She drew a deep breath. “And then I was. Desperately. So many hurt, Will!”
He tightened his arms around her and drew her head back to his shoulder, offering silent comfort. Lisa took it for a moment, then drew back herself. “Harry? Our Harry?”
“Both Harrys are well,” William assured her. “Our Harry is keeping company with the former King Arthur Pendragon, who is on child-minding duty this morning. Grandpa Harry was bonded by magic to he and to Merlin, and they’ve adopted an orphan already. I guess she’d be my great-aunt Phoenix, who is maybe six months old.”
“Wow, they move fast,” Lisa observed.
“Magic,” William muttered, and smirked.
“I guess,” Lisa said. She looked around their yard. “People can’t come any closer.”
“Merlin reinforced the wards while we were here yesterday, to prevent theft and fire,” William explained. He looked around, too, at the people camped out in the yards around them. Some looked shell-shocked; others looked angry. “Has everyone had something to eat that needed it?”
Lisa shook her head. “I’ve gone through the groceries we’d just laid in. Some had brought their own, but they’re all flocking this direction. Downtown is just gone. I don’t think anyone knows what to do.”
“London’s gone. Actually, all major cities in Britain are gone,” William said solemnly. “Most of the cities along major highways, like this one, have been cut off from services. It’s horrific. The MEC is claiming responsibility, but we’re also being told it’s the work of mainly one man who wants power.”
Lisa looked devastated. “All of this loss, for one man’s whim?”
Bleakley, William answered, “Yeah.”
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 5, 2152
“Arthur?” Davey poked his head into Phoenix’s nursery. “We’re getting more people in the pub. It’s getting a little tense down there. Can you come and settle it down?”
“Not sure what you expect me to do, Davey, but I’ll come if we can get someone to keep an eye on these two,” Arthur said, gently laying a sleeping Phoenix down in her cot to continue a morning nap.
“I can watch Phoenix,” Harry Two said in a loud whisper.
Arthur tapped Harry Two’s nose. “And who will watch you?”
“Um…” Harry Two wrinkled up that nose. “Nobody?” he asked hopefully.
“Nice try, young man,” Arthur said with a grin.
“I’ll hang about up here if you’d like,” Dave offered. “I really think a more authoritative voice than mine is needed downstairs.”
Arthur straightened his shoulders, his posture changing imperceptibly to reflect a regal stance. He looked, in standing, like the king he’d been.
“I’ll do my best,” he promised, and headed for the stairs.
Hogwarts, Dec. 5, 2152
Harry was still snickering at Merlin’s gobsmacked expression. “I think it’s very appropriate for you to be the Headmaster at Hogwarts,” he said solemnly, before giggling again.
“Laugh it up, Harry-love,” Merlin grumbled as they walked toward the gargoyle that guarded the headmaster’s office. “Just you wait. I consider you my faculty at the moment.”
Harry snorted again, trying to contain himself. “Of course, Headmaster.”
Merlin rolled his eyes as he approached the gargoyle and introduced himself. “I’m Merlin Emrys, apparently the new Headmaster of Hogwarts.”
The gargoyle nodded, and the stairs appeared. The pair stepped onto the bottom step and rode up to the office entrance, torches lighting as they drew even with the main door and entered the Headmaster’s space.
The office looked largely the same as it had in Harry’s time; a circular space featuring a large desk was dominated by the portraits of past heads which lined the walls. The gently tinkling silver instruments from Dumbledore’s day were gone; the shelves were empty. Soft light infused the room as Merlin walked into it, and the portraits all woke up.
“What’s this?” Phineas Nigellus snarled from his perch in a top row. “A new head?”
Merlin bowed to portraits, ignoring his husband’s muffled snickers. “Apparently. Merlin Emrys, at your service.”
“Your parents had a fine sense of humor, young man,” a portrait of Minerva McGonagall sniffed. “That name is legendary.”
“Well, he is a legend,” Harry pointed out calmly, lips quivering.
“Why do you find this so funny, Harry-love?” Merlin asked, a bit irritated.
“It’s more your disbelief that I find funny, sweetheart,” Harry said. “You’ve been to Hogwarts how many times as a student? And escaped an actual job here how many times? I only know about one, but the castle certainly knows more, if it made you head.”
“The magic of Hogwarts calls to the next Headmaster,” the portrait of Albus Dumbledore said wisely. “If you’ve been called to Hogwarts, there are enough magicals to open the school.”
Harry cleared his throat. “Actually, Headmaster, we don’t know that to be true. But non-magical Britain has been devastated by terrorist attacks, and Merlin and I have been tasked by Lady Magic herself to help bring magic back into Britain.”
Dumbledore looked taken aback. “I see.”
A sneer from another corner drew their attention. “Entrusted to a Potter?”
Harry turned and gave a cheeky grin and wave to Severus Snape. He’d campaigned hard to have his portrait placed in the Headmaster’s office, much to its occupant’s disgust. “Of course; who better?”
Snape snorted and rolled his eyes. “Of course.” The sarcasm was deep.
McGonagall cleared her throat. “Am I to infer from Mr. Potter’s earlier statements that this Merlin Emrys is the original?”
“I am,” Merlin said simply, and the portraits burst out in mutters to each other.
“Where have you been all this time, then?” Dumbledore asked.
Merlin shrugged. “Here and there. Glastonbury, mostly. I’ve popped up when needed, Headmaster.”
“Then where were you when Voldemort was rampaging through the countryside?” Snape asked cuttingly.
“Helping clean up the mess,” Merlin said calmly. “And later, covering Harry’s back when necessary. Wizards tend to kill, obliviate or suck the souls out of those they don’t understand. I learned that lesson centuries ago, and I’ve kept to myself for the most part as a result.”
More mutters from the portraits.
“You don’t have a good opinion of wizardkind in general?” Dumbledore asked.
Merlin raised one eyebrow. “Did you?” He walked around the desk and seated himself, with Harry taking the chair opposite. “I like some more than others, but many have been too easily led. Magic makes some lazy. When I was young, learning and magic had to go hand-in-hand, and that included using logical approaches to working out problems. Of course, magic was also underground, and one could only learn it if apprenticed appropriately. Creating Hogwarts was a good idea overall, especially when the numbers of magic users was growing, but the lack of individualized attention, and emphasis on nepotism within the Ministry, did its students no favors as the centuries progressed.”
“What year is it now?” Another deep voice, from a portrait opposite Dumbledore, asked. Harry looked up to see a portrait of his old friend, Neville Longbottom.
“Nev!” Harry exclaimed happily. “You were a Headmaster.”
Neville nodded solemnly. “Hogwarts’ last. At least, until now. I had the duty of shutting down the school and setting up the preservation wards. My intention was to then retire to the family estate in Wiltshire.”
“It’s good to see you, Nev,” Harry said. “And to answer your question, today is December 5, 2152, and terrorists completely obliterated all of Britain’s major cities yesterday in one focused attack. London is gone. A madman in the Middle East is threatening to do the same to every one of his ‘enemies’ unless his demands are met. And, of course, he’s made no demands.” Harry took a deep breath. “Many of the wards in magical places appear to be holding, however, and we’re developing plans to help whomever we can to maintain the nation.”
“Arthur returned from Avalon three days ago,” Merlin added, to general shock and awe from the portraits. “He brought the message from Lady Magic about our task. I can only think we’re meant to unite under the Pendragon colors again, but much is chaos outside these walls.”
“And how do you fit into this scheme, Potter? You look to be in your mid-twenties, yet you claim the year is 2152?” Snape looked intently at Harry. “Explain.”
Harry exchanged a look with Merlin. “I’m immortal, Professor. I became the Master of Death when I united the Deathly Hallows on the battlefield and walked to my death at Voldemort’s hands. No matter how I tried to get rid of the Hallows, they kept coming back. When I was 25, I died for a third time, and the Hallows merged with me. Today, I am all three.”
Merlin held a hand up for silence from the portraits. “Unimportant, ladies and gentlemen. Before you are two immortal magicals tasked by Lady Magic to open the magical spaces and bring magic back to Britain. What say you? Will you aid in our quest?”
A chorus of “ayes” gave Merlin his answer.
He nodded. “And though this task is not assigned to us, I know my king. We will be working to unite the nonmagical people of Britain as well, to give them succor and assistance in this hour of need. What say you?”
“Ayes,” again, though a bit less robustly. Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Of course, we’ll aid you, but what of the Statute of Secrecy?”
“There’s no ministry to enforce it,” Harry said bluntly. “And the ICW is staffed minimally in Switzerland. I think we’ll have to reinvent some things.”
Portrait Dumbledore opened his mouth, closed it, and then sighed, deeply. “Of course, we’ll aid you. Perhaps it’s a good opportunity to magicals and nonmagicals to begin again.”
“We can only hope,” Merlin acknowledged.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 5, 2152
“How do we know you’ll help? How do we know you’re telling the truth?” A weeping woman shrieked at Arthur from the back of Merlin’s Pub. He thought maybe she was one of the London survivors.
“Madam, you’ve only to check with your companions about the events in London yesterday,” Arthur said calmly. He nodded to the laptop on the charging station in the corner. “We’ve verified that nearly all of Britain’s major cities and ports have been destroyed, communications in general are down, and cities along Britain’s major highways also have been decimated.”
“It can’t be all gone!” A man shouted from the front. “We would have had some sort of response!”
Arthur nodded. “It appears that the attacks were so swift, that no response could be formulated in time. Electronic systems all were shut down first to eliminate the possibility of retaliation or defense. It was very well planned.” He looked at the crowd solemnly. “And it means we have much to do.”
“Much to do,” a young woman in the front muttered. “Yeah, like starve to death. I’ve no money. I’ve nothing but the clothes on my back. What am I supposed to do?”
“Look to your skills,” Arthur said. “We need to assess our sources of food, and we may need to suspend currency. It’s not like it will be useful any longer, with London and our major cities gone. It’s more likely we’ll need food, clothing and shelter, and those things will be commodities. I’d expect survivors from devastated areas to make their ways to areas where these things can be found, and that includes here.
“We’ve food. We’ve shelter. We’ve clothing. We in Glastonbury represent survival. We’ve already shown we can absorb and help survivors. I promise you, we will make use of your skills, whatever they may be, or teach you skills you can use. We will let no one starve if it is at all possible, and if one starves, we all will. This pub is well-stocked. This town is well-stocked. If we are careful, we will be just fine.”
Grantham, Dec. 5, 2152
With William’s help, Lisa tended the many walking wounded who had found their way to the ward lines. With little choice, they’d explained magic to those who’d questioned their inability to cross over into the house or yard.
After the third person was forcefully repelled at the boundaries, the human gossip chain had verified the story and spread it.
“When was Harry coming back?” Lisa asked her husband on one of her many trips back to the house, where William was rolling bandages from sheets after taking stock of their medical supplies.
“He said he’d pop back later, which I’d guess means any time today,” William said, tearing through the last bit of cotton seam with a grunt. “If this crowd is anything to judge by, we’re going to need someplace bigger to gather. He and Merlin were going to check out a place today they thought might do.”
“Nearby?” Lisa checked.
“I don’t think so. And it’s most assuredly magical,” William said, and he started on another bandage.
Hogwarts, Dec. 5, 2152
“Tipsy!” Merlin called, and the head house elf popped in to see him. “Please ready the Hufflepuff dormitories for guests. We’ll be sheltering survivors here as we need them, and Hufflepuff is the closest to ground floor accommodation that we have. Please suspend the security entrance for the moment, as most will be non-magical.”
“Yes, sir,” Tipsy said, and paused. “Shall I takes an inventory of the kitchens?”
Merlin exchanged a look with Harry. “Please do.” Tipsy nodded and popped away.
Merlin turned to his choir of past Headmasters. “I know that you shut down the school yourself, Neville, but can you tell me what the state of the Forest was when you did so? Harry and I need to have a general idea what’s left. One of our tasks is to bring back the magical areas so that Lady Magic has room to grow.”
Neville smiled gently. “When we closed the school, there were still centaur, thestrals, fairies, and the lot. The greenhouses were put in stasis, except for one that was to be used by the house elves for their own survival as they maintained the property. I’d had the acromantula culled completely, to cut down on their encroachment. Hagrid wasn’t happy, but he understood.”
“I wonder what happened to Hagrid?” Harry asked softly.
“He planned to join Madame Maxime in France,” Neville replied, “but I don’t know if followed through on his plans or not. I apparently never came back to update the portrait, and I don’t seem to have another one to move to.” The portrait frowned. “I was supposed to have another in the Leaky Cauldron.”
Harry bit his lip. “I was just there yesterday morning, Nev, before the attacks, and there were no portraits. The wards were beginning to fail, too, though I shored them up. It was basically deserted.”
Neville looked sad. “Business had been down,” he acknowledged. “Hannah and I talked about moving things out to Longbottom manor to preserve them if it came to it. But she was committed to keeping it running as long as she could.”
“I don’t know what happened, Neville,” Harry admitted. “But I’ll investigate if I can.”
“Meanwhile,” Merlin interjected, “we are missing a useful step here. If I remember correctly, all of you are able to visit your portraits in other places, correct? Could you please try to do that now? It might be a good way for us to see what magical places still exist after yesterday.”
“Of course, dear boy,” Dumbledore said, and stepped sideways, out of his portrait. Many of the rest tried the same, and Dilwys Derwent exclaimed with a cry, “Oh! I can’t! What’s happened to St. Mungo’s?”
“Likely gone,” Harry said glumly, remembering its plum spot in what was downtown London. “London burned to the ground yesterday, and if the fire suppression wards weren’t up-to-date …” He trailed off as some of the portraits grimaced.
Snape stepped out, then back. “Spinner’s End still stands at Cokeworth,” he reported. “Much good it will do anybody.”
“Every bit of shelter might do good,” Harry assured him.
Dumbledore stepped back into frame. “The Ministry still stands, at least the underground portion of it. Though it is distressingly empty.”
“I saw, yesterday,” Harry said simply.
McGonagall stepped back into frame, too. “Edinburgh Castle remains, as well as the magical district of Scotland.”
Phineas Nigellus Black stepped back into frame. “Grimmauld Place still exists, as does the Cardiff district.”
One by one the portraits reported in. Some ancestral properties clearly had been abandoned, but were still useable. Others could go no where. Dumbledore had another thought, and disappeared, only to reappear a moment later with a cheerful, “The Hog’s Head still stands. Patrons were a bit flummoxed by my appearance in Ariana’s portrait, but assured me all was well in Hogsmeade.”
Harry smiled with a glad heart. “Hogsmeade has magical folk?”
Dumbledore twinkled at him. “Yes. In fact, it’s where most wizards and witches still in Britain have settled, I believe. I was only there for a moment, but I was told you’d be most welcome.”
Harry looked at Merlin. “Next stop?”
“Yes, I think so,” Merlin answered thoughtfully. He looked around. “We’ll return. Professor,” he asked, addressing Neville, “may I copy your portrait and place it in my pub?”
“I’d be honored,” Neville said, gratefully. Merlin waved a hand, his eyes glowed gold, and a copy of Neville’s portrait appeared in his hands. He shrunk it and stuck it in a pocket before holding a hand out to Harry.
Harry took it, and they disappeared.
“That blasted Potter is still doing things he shouldn’t be able to do,” Snape snarled.
“Whatever do you mean, Severus?” McGonagall asked.
“No one is supposed to be able to apparate from within Hogwarts!”
Hogsmeade Village, The Hog’s Head, Dec. 5, 2152
Heads turned as Harry and Merlin opened the door to the Hog’s Head and stepped in.
“Dumbledore’s strangers!” The cheerful young man minding the bar called out. “Welcome! What news?”
Harry opened his mouth, closed it, and looked back at Merlin, who looked thoughtful. “We’ve news from the world outside of Hogsmeade, if you’ve not heard,” Merlin said.
The young man shrugged. “We don’t pay any attention, usually.” He gestured to the back door with his chin. “Keep to ourselves, don’t we? Not so many of us these days to make a fuss about the outside.”
“I see,” Merlin said, and exchanged a look with Harry. “Introductions first, I think. I’m Merlin Emrys, Hogwarts’ new Headmaster, and this is my husband, Harry Potter.”
The barkeep’s eyes widened comically. “The Harry Potter? I thought you were dead!”
“Greatly exaggerated, friend,” Harry said, smiling. “And you are?”
“Oh, right. Michael Finnegan.” He dropped his rag on the bar and hurried around it to extend a hand. “I believe you probably knew my grandfather, Seamus?”
“Ah, I did,” Harry said, shaking Michael’s hand. “If he’s the same who went to school with me.”
“He was,” Michael said. “Had plenty of stories to tell. And told most from that perch there. We’ve been minding the bar here for a hundred years or more.”
“Good to see it’s in good hands,” Harry said. He looked around. Roughly twenty people of varied ages, though none under 18 or so, were quietly looking at the intruders over their morning cuppa and gossip. “We’ve terrible news, and a request.”
Michael looked around. “I’m sure we’re all ears,” he said.
“Most of England’s major cities were destroyed by a non-magical fire attack yesterday,” Merlin said quietly. “We’re looking to help the survivors.”
“And why would we do that?” A grizzled, white-haired old man, who was a hundred if he was a day, snorted derisively. “Good riddance to the muggles, I say.”
“Pish, Scorp,” his aged companion, next to him, said. “You know they’d nothing to do with magic leaving.” He nodded Harry’s direction. “That was all Potter’s curse.”
“Then why do I have my magic?” Scorp said and grunted. “Scorpius Malfoy. Son of Draco and Astoria.”
Harry’s breath caught, and his heart started beating rapidly. “Oh, Scorpius. I would never have cursed you, or your parents.” He looked around. “Nor did I mean to curse anyone, really. I just called on Lady Magic to judge those who’d wronged me.”
“And even she didn’t realize by stripping magic from those who’d wronged him, she’d be losing her own vitality,” Merlin added quietly. “We’ve been charged with bringing it back.”
“Did Draco tell you I cursed your family?” Harry asked quietly, pain lacing every word.
Scorpius stared. “No, actually. That’d be Grandad’s doing.”
Harry laughed painfully. “Lucius always was a bastard.”
“Story there, Harry-love?” Merlin asked.
“For another time, sweetheart.” Harry cleared his throat. “At any rate, we’d planned to stop up here yesterday and start to assess what we could of the magical world, but were stalled when most of Britain was decimated. Magic needs us all to survive, and we mean to bring it back.”
“Getting our help will be a tough sell, mate,” Michael said slowly, looking around the room. “We’ve had to isolate ourselves to survive, these last fifty years.”
“I gathered,” Harry said.
Scorpius cleared his throat. “And that’s meant our numbers have gone down considerably. No new blood, you see. We read that Granger-Weasley Treatise. We know about inbreeding being a bad idea. Our young folk are all related to each other.”
Merlin and Harry exchanged a look. “Dumbledore’s portrait said that Hogwarts would open to a new Head when there were enough magicals to open the school,” Merlin said slowly. “That must mean there are magicals somewhere. Probably new blood or first generation magic users.”
“Which we wouldn’t see or know about, being isolated up here,” Michael nodded along.
“I think you all need to consider opening up Hogsmeade to the survivors of yesterday’s attacks,” Harry said, thinking. “It might be the answer to one of your problems.”
Murmurs of dissent around the room made Merlin sigh. “I understand fifty years of total isolation isn’t going away overnight,” he said. “Think about it. Talk about it. We’ll be back tomorrow. And understand, as the Headmaster of Hogwarts, I can offer succor to any in need at the castle. I won’t like to do it without your input, but I will if I must. You’ve no idea how absolutely devastating things are out there. London is just gone.”
“Not possible,” a middle-aged witch near the middle of the room said firmly. “The muggles haven’t any magic.”
“No, but they have weapons of mass destruction, and they used them yesterday,” Harry said tiredly, backing up his spouse. “I wouldn’t advise going to London. You’ll likely be injured apparating into what used to be.”
Voices burst out in questions and genuine shock. Merlin and Harry let the din grow, then peter out on its own as the crowd looked to them for answers. “The Ministry is still standing, according to Dumbledore’s portrait,” Harry said. “I had just been to the Leaky myself and checked the wards, and they were intact yesterday morning. It’s possible it survived, too, but we have no portrait guardians to check there. Frankly, it’s just not safe.”
“Harry, you need to go check on William and Lisa,” Merlin murmured.
“I do,” Harry agreed, and he turned back to the crowd. “Don’t take our word for it. Go and see if you must. But do so in pairs, and watch each other’s backs.” He turned on a heel and disappeared.
Merlin looked over the crowd. “Think it over. I’ll be back at noon tomorrow. Owls may find me at Merlin’s Pub in Glastonbury.” He raised a hand in farewell, and turned a heel.
The crowd blinked as one, and they all looked at each other.
“Wait,” Scorpius said, gruffly. “Did he say his name was Merlin Emrys?”
“Huh,” he said.
Grantham, Dec. 5, 2152
Harry popped into the Potter kitchen and peered out the window, to see that Lisa had set up an aid station of sorts just outside the ward lines, and William was directing “traffic” in an orderly fashion to her care.
He walked out to see them.
“Alright here?” Harry called out as he approached.
“Oh, Harry, good to see you,” Lisa called back busily. “As you can see, we’ve plenty to be doing here.”
Harry looked around. The line for Lisa’s services wrapped around a block that showed evidence of fire damage. Houses around the neighborhood had smoke damage and broken windows, but that didn’t stop a sea of humanity from camping out in the yards, or squatting in their own homes.
“Everything under control?” he asked.
William caught sight of his great-grandfather at the question, and replied himself. “So far. Everyone’s tired and a bit shocked. The anger part hasn’t hit yet. Also, we’re personally out of food and like to run out of medical supplies. A few have raided the Boots and brought some things back, but we’re well sunk if we can’t provide. They’ve been coming since dawn.”
Harry could see that, and bit a lip. “What would be the biggest help right now?”
“I’m running out of bandages, and I could use a good nurse,” Lisa said, tying off a splint on a young girl’s arm. Harry thought she could be no older than Harry Two. “Word’s got out that a doctor’s out here, and if they’re able to move, they’re coming.”
He nodded. “Got any clean bandages available?”
Lisa gestured to the box. “William’s been tearing up our sheets.”
Harry put a hand over the box, and multiplied the bandages until it was full. “There’s a start, anyway. The only thing I can’t conjure permanently is food.”
“People have been feeding themselves, for the most part,” William commented. “We provided some porridge to the early arrivers this morning, mostly to the children, but we ran out fast. Word is spreading to seek out food first. I’m hearing that what grocery stores are left have been emptied, and if people have shelter–even if it’s just a roof–they’re using it and sharing when possible. This neighborhood is one of few that’s still standing. Those fires burned through a great deal of the city before the rains came.”
Harry levitated himself so he could see over the crowd, trying to get an eyeball estimate. Several hundred people, easily, swarmed the streets and yards on their way to the Potters to seek food, medical attention, or shelter of some kind.
This could get ugly fast, Harry thought, without support. Or when the anger did kick in.
“Right,” Harry said. “I’ll go see if I can round up enough food for an evening meal of some kind for this lot, and see if I can round up more medical supplies. I’m going to suggest maintaining the ward lines for now. It’ll give you somewhere safe to retreat.” He left off the thought that they’d be retreating from the people they were trying to help. “Young Harry’s safe with Arthur. We’ve had a look at Hogwarts; it could accommodate a few hundred people, but I don’t know how we’d decide who should go.”
Lisa looked up from where she’d moved on to her next patient, a too-quiet young man with burns on his hands. “Basic triage, Harry. Look to those who need it most first. Severely injured, nursing mothers, small children.” She nodded to the crowd around her. “I haven’t seen anyone here who is unable to move and fend for themselves for the most part. Some young families were burned out of downtown and made their way this direction. They’ve got nothing but the clothes on their back and themselves.”
“Right,” Harry looked to William. “Triage as Lisa suggested. Collect those too injured to fend for themselves and the young families first. Organize them into this side yard here,” he gestured to his left and created a safety bubble. “I’ll be back on the hour to take a group. I can take 10 at a time with a portkey. We’ll get them to shelter at Hogwarts or the pub, but I’ll need to check in with Merlin and Arthur first.”
William nodded. “On it, Grandpa.”
Harry smiled encouragingly at them both, and turned a heel.
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 5, 2152
“Right,” Arthur said. “We’ll need child-minders, cooks, skilled workers. All you lot who’ve just arrived–sort yourselves into groups.”
Merlin strode in as his spouse took charge of the London survivors, and listened as he organized them, gave them purpose, and assured them of their continued health. He smiled to himself. His king knew what was needed, and how to ensure it happened.
“Oh, and a lunch buffet will be set up between noon and 1:30 for everyone,” Arthur finished. “We’ll reconvene then and see what assignments you’ve come up with.”
“Arthur?” Merlin looked over to see Harry freshly arrived from the anteroom. “Please factor medical knowledge into your groupings. There are many who need aid.”
Arthur nodded and looked out. “Any who have any sort of medical training need to separate themselves out first. And I mean any medical training at all.”
Harry nodded. “First aid classes, even. My daughter-in-law is a physician in Grantham, and she’s overtaxed at the moment with injured. She desperately needs an aide.”
A middle-aged man toward the back stood up. “I’ve emergency medical training. I got it when I trained to be phys ed teacher.”
“That’ll do,” Harry said. “Come with me right away, if you don’t mind, and I’ll make sure you get lunch.”
The man strode forward. “I’m Ben Jones.”
“Harry Potter. Nice to formally meet you, Ben. That’s your family, there?” Harry waved over at a pretty young woman who held two young children on her lap.
Ben nodded. “My Alice and our twins, Justin and Jarrod.”
“We’ll see them safe for you while you’re out and about.” Harry led Ben to the anteroom, presumably to apparate out with him.
“The rest of you know your tasks,” Arthur said. “We’ll regroup at lunch.”
Murmurs and discussion broke out amongst the tables as Arthur made his way to the entrance where Merlin stood. “How did it go at Hogwarts?” he asked quietly.
Merlin gave a half-smile. “The building stands, is warded and staffed, and is still sentient enough to name me Headmaster when I walked in.”
Arthur raised both eyebrows. “Headmaster?”
“Apparently, according to a past Headmaster’s portrait, Hogwarts would re-open when enough magicals existed to make it a school,” Merlin explained. “We found what we believe to be the last pocket of living wizards in Britain in Hogsmeade, the adjoining village. They’ve been pretty well isolated the last fifty years or so, and not inclined to help the nonmagical, but I won’t be giving them a true choice. We’re going to need Hogwarts, and likely at her full capacity.”
“Which is?” Arthur asked.
“At her peak, Hogwarts graduated classes of a hundred or more, and housed a thousand wizards, witches, and support staff,” Merlin said. “The castle magically expands itself as needed. I don’t think we’ve ever seen her at her full capacity.”
“Excellent,” Arthur said. “What about food sources?”
“The greenhouses were in stasis, but one was available for the staff that had remained to care for the castle and grounds. I left the head elf in charge of an inventory and preparing one of the dormitories,” Merlin said. “It’s the cities that were hit, and for this time of year, that’s unfortunate, because it’s unlikely the farms have much in the way of crops. They’ll have been sold. There’s likely sheep and other stock, though.”
Arthur nodded grimly. “Food is likely to be a priority. I’m guessing much was bought and traded with other countries?”
“Yes,” Merlin affirmed. “Britain hasn’t been self-sustaining in some time.”
“That’s going to be a problem in the short-term,” Arthur muttered.
“We just took delivery of a month’s worth of foodstuffs, Arthur,” Merlin said. “And I sent Lilith to the grocer’s for all the dry goods and fresh stuff she could think of. We can support survivors here for a time, but you’ll want to check with her for exact inventories.”
“Our new chatelaine, eh?” Arthur grinned at him. “Just like old times.”
“Except these are new times, and none of these people know how to live with the deprivation of the old times,” Merlin reminded him grimly.
Arthur’s grin faded. “I suppose not.” He glanced around the room. “We’ll need to keep folks busy, and ensure utter fairness in food distribution.”
“It might not do us any good when it gets low,” Merlin pointed out quietly.
“No, but it will help,” Arthur said.
They looked at each other a long moment, memories traded back and forth silently by eye contact, and Merlin sighed. He leaned forward, kissed his king’s cheek, and whispered in his ear. “I can think of no one better to help this country manage this crisis.”
Arthur raised his right hand and cupped his spouse’s cheek. “Nor can I think of anyone better to stand at my side, except for our other husband. We’re a triad for a reason, my love, and it begins to be clear that we three points need to be in sync for our nation’s survival.”
“Magic, courage, and strength,” Merlin muttered, remembering a long-ago quest to the Fisher-King.
“And we all three have all three,” Arthur murmured to him. “I might not have the capacity for wielding magic the two of you do, but I’m not without my own measure of it.”
“Not at all,” Merlin agreed. He kissed Arthur’s lips this time, chastely, and drew back. “I gave the people of Hogsmeade until tomorrow at noon before I’d double back and tell them the plan. What am I needed to do here?”
Arthur looked around. “Child-minding? Davey’s upstairs with Harry Two and Phoenix on his own, and I’d like Davey to be monitoring communications if possible.”
Merlin nodded, and smiled brightly and suddenly. “I think that’s my favorite task.”
“No wonder you were made Headmaster,” Arthur observed.
Grantham, Dec. 5, 2152
Harry popped into the Potter front yard, one hand around Ben’s elbow. “Welcome to my family’s home,” Harry said formally, keying Ben into the wards. “You’re now welcome to bypass the wards and wander in. Come, let’s introduce you to Lisa and William.”
With Ben’s ready agreement, Harry led him to the aid station and introduced him to Lisa, who took his help gratefully.
“I’ll be back in a bit with lunch,” Harry promised. “Anything else that’s needed?”
“Nothing yet,” William said. “You’ve been a bit quick. I’m still encouraging the young families to leave. Most don’t want to go into the unknown with you.”
Harry sighed heavily. “Do what you can, William.”
“Always do, Grandpa.”
Merlin’s Pub, Dec. 5, 2152
Harry popped back to the pub and looked for Arthur, who was looking over Davey’s shoulder at the laptop in the back.
“Arthur, I need to update you on the state of things in Grantham,” Harry said, catching his husband’s attention.
“Yes?” Arthur turned around, took Harry’s hand, and drew him into a light hug. “Ben going to be some help?”
“Definitely,” Harry said, and hesitated before he spoke. “There are several hundred people in Grantham without food or shelter. Lisa appears to be the only doctor available in the vicinity, and the town has been largely burned out. Only their neighborhood is intact, and I think it’s because of the wards. She suggested we move those that are too injured to fend for themselves, and the families with nursing mothers and young children, to somewhere with food and shelter. If possible.”
“Hogwarts as the capacity,” Arthur mused. “And we can take some here to begin with. Davey,” he turned to the young man at the laptop, “what’s the state of our local medical facilities?”
“Functional, Arthur,” Davey said. “Our main power station for this area was unaffected by the EMPS at the coasts. We don’t have a big hospital, but we do have a clinic with a couple of beds.”
“And do we have any other families in town willing to take on a few house guests?”
Davey nodded. “Merlin’s descendants will. There’s five families in town with room and a bit of magic to make more. Also, there are a few older families who are sworn to the Pendragons and will host if you ask.”
Arthur drew back, incredulous. “Who?”
“Ah, the Turnbulls, who are said to be descended of Percival; the Grangers, who are said to be descended of Leon. Oh and the Davydds. They’re Galahad’s lot.” Davey shrugged. “I can send a runner along to ask for a meeting.”
“Huh,” Arthur said, and cleared his throat. “Yes, please do that. Ask them to join us here for the lunch meeting.”
“I’ll ask the Merlin bunch, too,” Davey said, and at a ding from his machine, he turned back to his laptop. He read for a minute, then groaned. “Oh, no.”
“What, Davey?” Harry asked, slipping out of Arthur’s arms.
“Reuters has confirmed it.” Davey closed his eyes. “Cities on both coasts of the United States have been destroyed.”
END OF EPISODE I.