- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Character Bashing
- Dark Themes
- Death - Minor Character
- Discussion - Child Abuse
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Rule 63
Fire ignites under his skin. It starts in his eyes, blinding him briefly. It flows outwards from his mind and his heart, somehow eternally and instantaneously at the same time, down to his fingers and toes. He’s woken this way seven times that he can remember but this time it’s… different.
Merlin sits up, careful of his head in the cupboard of a room he’s been banished to. No, lives in. He lives in a cupboard. Under some stairs?
That’s actually an improvement over some of my lives, he thinks philosophically as he takes a moment to look over his new body and to absorb the memories of the life he’s lived up to this point. Every life changes him in some way. Changes him internally, usually. But this time- Merlin can’t honestly say -not even remotely- that he expected wake up as a woman.
A physical, biological woman.
Well, not a woman, a girl. Because that’s definitely not a cock down there and he’s definitely quite young. Small and physically weak in a way that worries him.
“UP! Get up!” Some harpy banging on the door demands, “Now!” There’s the sound of a bolt or something being drawn and the door to his tiny cupboard – under the stairs! The part of him born to this time reminds him – creaks the slightest bit open.
“Wake up, cousin!” a younger voice hollers, jumping heavily on the stairs overhead.
He that is now at least physically a she glares at the stair above their head and magically orders it not to break. Someone landing on their head is the exact last thing they need. The stair flashes briefly and the kid above them runs off, slamming his way into the kitchen, laughing the whole time.
They stand carefully and follow the silent script in their head into the kitchen. Wearing a shirt long enough to be a dress that has definitely seen better days.
They acknowledge the orders to cook the bacon without burning it from what is apparently their aunt -she looks like a horse, honestly. And a starving horse at that- and then their walrus-like uncle’s demand for coffee. Merlin tries to seem like he’s ignoring his abusers’ discussion on what to do with him. They never take him anywhere special but honestly with this company, why would he want to go? Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Mrs. Figg the creepy cat lady from down the street broke her leg and can’t watch him while they take their stair abusing whale of a son and a friend to the Zoo for his birthday.
“Wouldn’t you rather leave me at the library?” He asks, the slightest bit of suggestion in his voice. “Its public so it’s not like I can’t get into any trouble.”
Nevermind that it’s exactly what he needs right now. He needs information so that he can figure out when exactly he is and why he woke as an almost 11 year old girl at this particular time.
Looks like he’s going to Hogwarts again. Assuming the Old Girl’s still around. Greeeeeeeeeeeat.
Fuck but he needs to go to the library. How? How can he get them to-? An idea sparks and rather than say anything as that would be out of character for the girl he has been, instead he looks longingly at the mountain of presents in the main room. He can just see them from where he’s standing. Just a glance and he looks away quickly but his cousin catches him and that’s enough.
“How many are there?!?!” The Young Whale asks, his eyes lighting up with a malicious glee.
“Thirty-six, counted them myself.” Vernon says smugly.
“Thirty-six? But last year! Last year I had thirty-seven!”
Vernon splutters a response that is roundly ignored while Petunia squats, hands on Dudley’s shoulders, and tries to soothe, “Duddykins!”
“No! You owe me! Leave Harry at the Library! I don’t want her with us at the zoo!”
“That would be two presents,” Harry puts in on the sly.
“Exactly! To make it better than last year, you owe me! I want it. I want it and you owe me. I don’t want her coming with us. Make Harry go to the Library.”
Vernon and Petunia exchange looks.
“They might associate her with us,” Vernon argues against.
“It’s not exactly a fun place to go.” Petunia argues for, her face screwed up in disgust.
“You owe it to me,” Dudley asserts, yet again.
Vernon frowns and glares at her but in the end he nods, agreeing simply to placate his horrible offspring.
Harry very carefully doesn’t sigh in relief. Instead she scampers off without eating, the bacon is so raw it might squeal, anyway, with just enough grease clinging to it to make her want to throw up and dresses carefully in her school uniform because she doesn’t want to look like a hooligan at the library. Thankfully their school requires skirts for girls or she would be dressed in all Dudley’s cast offs and that would just be unbearable. She shudders at the thought.
Vernon rains threats upon her head before he allows her to climb in the car but he’s a muggle so what does she care, really? By the end of the day, he won’t remember her existence anymore.
No one in the neighborhood will, she’ll make sure of it.
It’s a bit of a drive to the, well not the closest public library because that wouldn’t do her much good but to one of the larger ones slightly further away.
But damn, automobiles are amazing! He never would have guessed they would be this nice in his last life but he doesn’t mind. The speed, the smooth ride, the environmental control. Not that he gets to explore any of it but he’s not mad about what he does get to experience this. Not in the least.
The Dursley’s don’t even wait until she disappears inside to leave her behind, Vernon takes off the moment she shuts the car door.
Merlin rolls his eyes.
First things first, in the name of finding out what he’s working with is, well, himself.
He finds the ladies bathroom and slides in. He’s… pretty. Long somewhat curly hair, black as primordial night, with jewel green eyes that practically glow against his darkish skin. Sort of like Morgana but darker. Starved and weak in a way Morgana never would have stood for and there’s a scar on his forehead that is definitely the source of the evil smell that’s been following him around.
With a thought and a gesture he secures the bathroom door and his privacy. A flick of the wrist adds a bonus, low-power aversion ward to guarantee he’s not interrupted.
Then with a muttered incantation he activates a purifying spell on his finger and traces it along his scar. It’s hard, very hard. The magic rings like a bell, long and continuously though and you can only hear with something far more intimate than an ear.
And, of course, it hurts.
It chills, freezes his blood and his marrow and his soul to be specific, so cold it almost burns, but it also tingles like a sleeping limb.
Still, he manages it.
He all but collapses after and has to pull himself up to throw up in the bin, but manages it.
A greedy drink of honest to the gods water. Clean, running water. From a sink! And he pushes himself to leave the bathroom. He needs information. He needs answers.
Obviously, he needs books.
It doesn’t take much effort to find the magical section of the library. It’s hidden in plain sight behind the reference books with a combination of aversion wards and illusions.
There is a person lingering in the section. The only one that seems to see it other than him is another little girl, also with hair so curly but hers is so wild it looks like a bush around her head. She looks, well, she looks like Guinevere. If Guin had ever been struck by lightning. Or stuck her hand in a socket, he supposes. The likeness is at the same time superficial and fascinatingly intrinsic.
How strange of all his old friends to meet again in this life, Guin would be the first.
“You can see it too?” She asks him with a pleased smile.
“The magic books?” He asks, just to be clear.
“Yes, aren’t they wonderful? How did you know they were here? Did Professor McGonagall come and tell you you’re magic too?”
“I don’t know who McGonagall is,” He says honestly then asks. “Who are you?”
“I’m Hermione Granger. And, you are?”
“Harry, Harry Potter.” He answers distractedly. There’s a book with the same lightning bolt as his scar marking its spine. Several of them, in fact. Some in a set, some not. Maybe that’s where he should start…?
“Holy cricket! You’re Harry Potter? I’ve read all about you! But- I mean, I thought. I thought they were just stories! It just can’t possibly be true! There’s no way you fought a dragon when you were three. Is there?”
He blinks at her, surprised by the sheer volume and speed of the words much less their content and answers honestly. “Not in this lifetime, I’m afraid. I’m sorry, what books?”
“Oh, those,” She gestures to the shelf with the books he was just looking at, the lightning bolt ones.
There are two shelves longer than the current spread of his arms all labeled ‘The Girl Who Lived’. The book covers are all in lurid colors and the titles are absolutely ridiculous. He examines the lot for a bit and picks the one that almost looks like an actual history book.
“Is there anywhere I can read this?”
“Oh, yes, of course. There’s a whole seating area with tables just for us since we can’t let non-magicals see the magical books. Come on, I’ll show you.” She takes his hand and leads him around the row of ancient looking book cases. Then she asks, “You’re 10 months younger than me. Do you think we’ll get to go to Hogwarts together?”
So, the Old Girl is still around. Merlin can’t help but smile. “I think so. I’m born in July so you’re, what, September?”
“The 19th,” she agrees with a nod.
“Should be, then. What House do you think you’ll be in?” He asks, not sure what else to say as he picks a table with a comfortable looking chair.
“That’s one of my questions! I had no idea there were houses when McGonagall explained it to me. I was actually looking for a book that could tell me more about the school. I have a dozen questions that the pamphlet I got from McGonagall didn’t answer at all but I don’t own an owl so it’s not like I can just ask her.”
“Right, you want Hogwarts, A History. Should tell you everything you need to know and probably a bit more, to be honest.”
She bounces excitedly, “There was one near your shelf!” And she scampers off to find it.
He shakes his head and settles in to read what is supposedly his current life history. Harry that is Merlin almost doesn’t notice her joining him at the table, the tale is so enthralling, so inspiring, and so completely, utterly false!
“Oh, gods,” He thumps the book closed when he finishes and puts a hand over his face.
“Everything alright?” She asks in a tone that says already she knows it’s not.
He gives her the look her stupid question deserves and she smiles at him apologetically. “That was the biggest historical farce I have ever read. I live in a ugly little house with ugly little people that think they are doing me the world’s greatest favor to feed me on an vaguely regular basis. I do all the household chores and they do their best to pretend I don’t exist unless they are cheering on their whale of a son as he beats me.
“I have never seen a castle or a dragon or a sphinx or any of these things I have supposedly lived in or conquered or turned into a pet. This is so stupid!”
“Well, that’s not right,” A woman says from behind Hermione. Obviously this is Hermione’s mum. Her skin is darker but she has the same big brown eyes and is giving them the same slightly-worried smile currently on her daughter’s face. She looks between Harry and Hermione and asks, “Making friends, dear?”
“Yes, mummy. This is Harry Potter. Harry, this is my mum.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Granger.” Merling inclines his head.
“Doctor and yes, agreed. A pleasure to meet you. I was coming to take Hermione to lunch, would you care to join us?”
Merlin grimaces because while he did set up his Gringotts vault to account for reincarnation, he hasn’t been to visit it yet.
Dr. Granger must see something of it in his face and just looks unimpressed with him. “My treat. My Hermione doesn’t have many friends-“
She continues right over Hermione’s protest, “So I would like to vet the one she has so recently made thoroughly. And maybe pamper you both a bit, too. I’m sure your, well, your guardian won’t mind. If you ask?”
“They aren’t here to ask,” He tells her honestly, making the woman frown at him. “But I could eat.”
The woman nods once. “Come along, then.”
Lunch, at a restaurant -which is confusing and strange and he’s more than willing to leave the control of the entire event in the capable hands of Dr. Granger and her daughter- is basically a polite interrogation about his life and circumstances. One that leaves Harry-the-Girl squirmingly embarrassed and uncomfortable even as Merlin-the-Man answers every question with an honesty and quality of detail that leaves both Granger women startled.
“Mummy, we have to do something!” Hermione pleads, not even managing to take her eyes off of Harry.
“And we’re going to, dear,” Dr. Amy Granger answers. “But for now, you are going back to the library and I will pick you both up at 4pm on the dot, no excuses.”
Since Merlin is almost entirely sure that the Dursley’s will not be coming back for him, it’s pretty easy for him to agree.
The afternoon passes quickly. While Hermione lazes the rest of her way through Hogwarts, A History, sighing happily as she does, Merlin powers through several books on the current magical government, basic, intermediate, and advanced (modern) magical theory because it’s so incredibly different than the magic in his first life. And a book on wandlore and theory just because it’s cool as hell and he figures more magical history can wait.
He only really needs to catch up on what’s happened since muggle World War 1 in the Magical World after all, since he was a muggle for World War 2. Now that he knows his own supposed history, he can fine tune his knowledge of all the rest of that later.
He needs to find Arthur. He’s not sure he can even go to school this time around without finding his other half, his partner in crime. Being at Hogwarts would totally cut him off from the muggle world, Arthur could get himself killed and Merlin would never know. It’s happened before and the very thought of it is completely intolerable now.
Gods is he a woman now too? Or a girl? Arthur is usually younger than him so girl would be appropriate. If he gets his coloring from their first life together he’d be a really pretty girl, Merlin thinks, biting his lip.
“Harry?” He looks up to see Hermione’s concern. “Everything alright?”
“Uh, yeah.” He stands to match her and asks. “Is it that time?”
“Yeah, mum should be in the parking lot in about five minutes.”
“Can we take some books?”
“No, they have to stay here. When McGonagall shows us ‘Diagon Alley’- ” she says the name like its Greek or something and Merlin can’t help but grin at her. “We can buy our own but these won’t leave the building.”
That figures. Probably smart, too. Not like a muggle librarian could check these books out or oversee their return.
By the time they make it outside Dr. Granger’s tall, boxy rover ranger thing is waiting with two women leaning against the side. Dr. Granger is one of them, of course, but the other woman is older with pitch black hair and a stern face. She’s wearing a green and black tartan skirt suit, black blouse with something lacey about the neck, and a thing that’s either a fascinator or a hat over her piled up hair. Women’s fashion is fascinating, he’s not really sure how all that works.
The infamous McGonagall, he would bet.
Hermione makes a pleased sound, bounces once, and rushes forward, more or less confirming his theory. “Professor! Professor! Are you here to help Harry?”
The Professor blinks at him- her? With startled eyes. Merlin-that-is-Harry knows they don’t look too terrible. Mostly because he couldn’t imagine wearing Dudley’s oversized cast offs to the Library so he stuck with his school uniform. Still, wearing the uniform doesn’t hide most of their scars. Or the thinness of their face and limbs. Or the bruises. Or the disrepair of their shoes.
The professor wordlessly pulls one of the necklaces around her neck, extending the chain with magical ease, and examines the shining silver cat pendant. She drags her thumb along the second and third feet, leaving just a trace of blood behind.
Satisfied, she nods and looks back at them. “Miss Granger, Miss Potter, shall we?”
When they make it to the fine little house with a yard that he assumes is the Granger residence, there is a man and a woman lingering outside the door.
The woman is younger, early to mid thirties, with a square jaw and stern faced. There’s a monocle hanging from the lapel of the silk blouse under her white, black, and dark pink plaid skirt suit.
The man looks enough like her to be her father but with a full head of snow white hair. He’s dressed like a victorian-era muggle detective, full coat, goofy hat, and all. Merlin would not be surprised if he man pulled out a pipe and started smoking it to be quite honest.
The most interesting thing about him though is the magic radiating from about his neck. A very familiar magic. A magic Merlin himself cast, oh, about three hundred years ago? The man must be an Unspeakable. To be wearing the necklace that forms that particular hood, he has to be the current Croaker or Head Unspeakable, to be quite specific.
Dr. Granger rolls her eyes and hustles all of them into the house with a mostly polite, “Shall we?”
They enter and there is a man coming forward from a back room with soft blue eyes and a kind, if tired smile, “I was wondering when you were going to come in. Or knock. Or something.”
“I apologize, Dr. Granger, my colleagues were most likely just confused by my summons.” McGonagall steps in. “Now that we are all here perhaps we can begin. With introductions, I believe.
“Doctors Granger, Miss Granger, Miss Potter, this is Lord Algernon Bones. A former Auror, he now works as a researcher for the Ministry, and his daughter Madam Amelia Bones, the Deputy Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Lord Bones, Madam Bones, Dr. Robert Granger and Dr. Amethyst Granger are the parents of Miss Hermione Granger. And that is Miss Harry Potter.”
Both Boneses almost choke at that.
“Miss Granger and her mother met Miss Potter at the library this morning and realized she is a magical child in an abusive home. Dr. Granger upon called me to address the issue.
“In addition, I received this from the Hogwarts elves this morning,” She pulls what can only be a Hogwarts Letter out of her breast pocket. “If you’ll note the full address? I was going to bring it to the Headmaster’s attention this evening but in light of this morning’s events, this seems more direct and appropriate response.”
The elves creating his charmed envelope must be the magical event that awoke him then. The timing is too close for it to be anything else.
“The Cupboard Under the Stairs?” Madam Bones asks aghast.
“That can’t be possible.” Lord Bones says, seemingly from a place of shock. “Dumbledore swore there was the best defenses money can’t even buy on Miss Potter’s home. No abuse is possible in a home with blood-based intent wards set by the girl’s own mother-“
Merlin snorts. “There are no wards on that residence. Not a single one.”
“How would you know?” The old man asks. “You can’t possibly-“
“I’m going to need you to arrange a meeting with the goblin Do’Derick for me, Lord Bones.” Merlin cuts him off. “Or should I call you Croaker?”
The older man freezes. Being called Croaker while not his duty hood is not active is- Then the full meaning of the entire phrase settles on him and his eyes go wide. He can’t help it. It’s so unlike him but he just stares at the girl that is the greatest wizard of all time feeling more than a little lost.
“Oh, Sweet Mer-” His eyes flick up to Merlin’s face and Merlin grins at him as he cuts himself off. “Oh, gods.”
“Algie?” McGonagall prompts.
“He’s in a bit of shock, I’m afraid.” Merlin turns his grin on her. “Not everyday you meet the reborn Merlin.”
McGonagall recovers from the shock. Well, no, she doesn’t actually go in to shock like her male year mate. She just accepts and reacts.
Must be a good witch in a fight, he can’t help but think amusedly.
“Well then,” She says, glancing between Merlin and Lord Bones. “What are we going to do about this?”
“I’m going to have to require oaths on your magic not to reveal this from all of you. Merlin being reborn only happens at pivotal points in our planet’s history and we can not compromise his- their progress in their duties. That means we cannot allow it to be meddled with in any way.” Lord Bones says with a significant look at McGonagall.
“Quite right,” She immediately agrees. “Once the two of you decide the wording for the oath you can start with me.”
“Uh, one problem.” The female Dr. Granger objects. “We don’t have any magic.” She gestures to herself and her husband. “We’re squibs.”
Merlin boggles. “Of course you have magic. Squibs are magic. Squib magic is just more focused, specialized so it doesn’t need training or an outside focus object like a wand.”
There is silence from the room’s other five occupants for several moments before the male Dr. Granger asks softly, “What?”
“What, what? I can feel your magic from here. You sir are a Finder. You never lose anything long term, right? And you don’t get lost? Bet if you tried you could find things even though you’ve never seen them just from the description. Your wife, thought, she is a Solver.” He looks at Dr. Amy. “I bet you can always find real underlying issues to problems. Solutions other people miss because they just can’t seem to see them, right?”
The Granger parents look at each other and have a prolonged silent conversation before they both nod and turn back to the rest of them.
“Alright,” Dr. Robert nods to Harry.
Dr. Amy clears her throat delicately. “Do you have any books on this matter?”
“In my vault, yeah. And about a dozen research papers from a handful of different authors throughout the ages. I can let you read them after I see my account manager and, you know, get them.” He turns to face Croaker.
“I’ll go personally and make an appointment after we settle the oaths but the appointment likely won’t be before tomorrow. Do’Derick is practically ancient now even for a Goblin and he keeps rather short hours.”
Merlin sighs. It will have to do.
“The oaths will be quite simple.” Merlin says, leaving the subject but staying within its immediate surrounds. “Something like: ‘I, my name, swear upon my magic that I will not reveal the existence or identity of the reborn Merlin Ambrosius Emrys until or unless I receive instruction to do so from the holder of my oath.’ The holder of the oath being me, of course,” Merlin tilts his head, consideringly. “Your magic will keep you from breaking the oath accidentally and breaking the oath on purpose will of course kill you.”
The adults all exchange looks but Hermione is nodding, all but vibrating to give the oath. Finally Algernon Bones pulls his wand, points it at his heart and speaks the oath. His daughter and McGonagall quickly follow his lead and the oaths are sealed with a swirling wind of sparkling magic that first surrounds the oath taker and then settles into their skin to bind them.
“What about us?” Dr. Amy asks. “We don’t have wands.”
“You don’t need them.” Merling answers. “Hermione will, preferably sooner rather than later but you, squibs, can make the oath without it. All you have to do is hold up the first two fingers on your dominant hand so that we all may see, then bring them to your heart, speak the oath and mean it.”
The Grangers, being good, reliable people, stand together with their daughter in the middle and speak as instructed. Not to Merlin but to the evident surprise of the two adult witches and wizard the same sparkling magical wind swept each of the three and settled on their skin.
“Well, now,” Croaker cleared his throat, trying to appear nonplussed. “There is the question of where you will be staying. Your current so-called guardians are obviously unsuitable.”
Amy Granger scoffs. “There’s no question. Obviously she’ll be staying with us.”
“No,” The woman cuts him off. “We found her and took her in. She is friends with our daughter, she’s staying with us until this nonsense is settled.”
“Merlin is a very important person!” He cries. “He can’t stay in the muggle world! That’s! That’s! What if he’s needed?”
“Who is going to need me, exactly?” Merlin asks, curious. “No one knows I exist. No one can know I exist until I reveal myself something that I may never do to the world at large. Kronos knows I have returned several times since my life in Camelot and very few people have ever known it.
“How would we justify seeking out a ten year old for Ministry related advice when you can’t tell them who she is?” Madam Bones asks her father. “No, my concern is security.”
Merlin scoffs. “Secrecy is my best security. Outside of that, who exactly do you think could best me?”
“Nonetheless, I would feel better if you have fully trained security with you until you retrieve your wand. Anonymity can protect you so far, yes, but this house has no wards and no real security.”
“You want to be the wand at my back.” Merlin frowns when the woman nods but looks to the Grangers.
“We have two guest rooms.” Dr. Robert announces.
Croaker isn’t happy with it but he and McGonagall leave with little fuss once they secure an invitation to visit Diagon Alley with them for Harry’s Gringotts appointment.
The little girl inside Harry is thrilled. She’s never had a friend before, never gotten to stay over at a friend’s house before. She even gets her own room, a shower with hot water and soap of her choosing, and the use of Hermione’s outgrown clothing -which is in much better shape than Dudley’s cast offs and practically new compared- basically the moment Croaker and McGonagall are gone.
The Grangers even take her clothing shopping and wave off her promises to pay them back. Merlin proposes a trade of knowledge instead. They get her clothes, so she makes sure they all have outfits that will blend in the Wizarding World.
Well, she and Amelia Bones do.
Honestly, the older woman is probably a better source on current wizarding fashions. Not that they change per se but Merlin’s never gotten to explore the female side of things the way this woman has her entire life. Obviously.
“What are you doing?”
Harry looks up to see Dr. Robert leaning over the stairs railing to look down at her. “I am warding the stairs to prevent falling and tripping.”
“You already did something else to other parts of the house.”
It’s not a question but Harry nods anyway. “I’ve warded you against fire and pests. Hermione said the lemon trees are your wife’s favorite so I blessed them with health and bounty. There was a small leak in your pond’s lining so I made that impervious and self cleaning.
“I thought about adding an intent ward to your foundation so that no one with ill intent could enter but then I heard Dr. Amy on the phone with her sister after we got back from the shop.”
Dr. Robert laughs, “Yeah, it would raise questions if Saph suddenly couldn’t enter the house any more.”
“Still tempting,” Harry says darkly and the man makes a noise of agreement.
“How are you doing this?” Hermione asks, coming up behind her father and leaning on him from a higher step. “Professor McGonagall said we couldn’t do magic outside of school until we are older.”
“In a way, Harry is much older than the ban on underage magic can affect. ” Dr. Robert proposes.
It’s Harry’s turn to make a noise of agreement. “That and the ban monitors wand work. I’m not using a wand, I’m using runes. All that requires are a handful of potions and a special quill. Lord Bones owled the supplies to me after he left.”
“Can you teach me?” Is Hermione’s immediate question.
“Sure. The work I’ve done will need reinforcement in about three years, we can probably get you to that level in three years. Do you prefer practical lessons or do you require reading?”
“Reading and then practical lessons?” She proposes.
“I’ll get you a book list. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow, unless you want to watch.”
“Can you ward the yard against pests?”
“Sure, but I’ll need a few stones. They’ll need to be of about the size of your palm, all with similar coloring and texture. Want to pick them?”
Hermione is up and out the back door before Harry can even blink. She looks at the girls father to see him laughing softly at her. “You might have created a monster.”