Chapter 5 : The Explanation
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Merlin sat in the Headmaster's office with the stares of everyone in the room upon him. His heart was thumping wildly, but he willed himself to calm down. He couldn't waste this opportunity; he had to get them to trust him.
The lie about his name had come surprisingly easy to his lips; he'd once went by the name Martin Emrys before, and it now seemed the name was back in style, plus, it was only two letters away from his real name. He'd amused himself as he moved around by changing his name. Once it had become more and more accepted for everybody to have a surname, and not just the nobility, he'd chosen 'Emrys' and stuck with it ever since. His first name varied a lot, but always began with the letter 'M'. He'd had a lot of fun experimenting with as many silly names as he could.
He should not have underestimated the brains of Hermione Granger however. Of course she would have heard of the legendary Emrys! He backpedalled a bit, made up some silly family myth, and hoped it would suffice.
He didn't want to arouse their suspicions; now was not the time to reveal his identity, he could sense it.
The bird had been a help, unexpected as it was. Fawkes was his name? Dumbledore's own phoenix. He sat there quite contentedly on Merlin's shoulder, along with Merlin, one of the last remnants of the Old Religion, sensing their bond. Their powers had been revered by the Priestesses of the Old Religion, as their habit of 'rising from the ashes' exemplified the fundamental nature of the world; that for a life, there must be a death.
He had to admit, he admired Dumbledore's sense of humour. Naming a powerful magical creature after a Muggle criminal? Genius.
He'd encountered only one other phoenix in his lifetime, when he'd first come to Hogwarts to offer his assistance to the Founders in creating their school. That bird, Moltres had been its name, had performed the very same gesture when Merlin had entered the school. That had been enough proof for Godric Gryffindor, the bird's companion, of Merlin's trustworthiness.
He wondered if it was the same phoenix …
"Well, Mr Emrys, why don't you tell us how you came to be here?" Shacklebolt asked him.
Merlin smiled. That would take a while to answer. Shacklebolt seemed to realise, and prompted him further.
"Did you attend Hogwarts for example?"
Yes, only about twelve different times, he wanted to say, eyeing the Sorting Hat in the corner. That bloody thing'd better not give me away.
"No," he replied instead. "I was home-educated. It's common in the Druidic families. We've lost most of the knowledge of the Old Religion, but it's still traditional to reject modern magical teachings in favour of 'the Old Ways', even though none of us really know what those are any more."
He paused for breath and gauged his audience, seeing their faces fixed on him with no hint of suspicion. So far anyway.
"We only have a few of the Old spells left- they're extremely difficult and dangerous to learn. That is what I used in the recent battle," he paused. He knew he had to reveal a semblance of the truth here; he'd given away more of his true power in the battle than he'd intended. "It was a Shielding Charm that's been passed down through the years."
"I see," nodded Shacklebolt. "It was incredibly powerful. Is it possible to learn?"
"I don't think so, there are only few people able to cast it, and all those are of Druidic heritage, like me," Merlin lied. "I only used it out of sheer desperation. Under normal circumstances it would have been too dangerous to attempt. Its power is too great for modern-day wizards to wield successfully."
There, maybe that should dispel their suspicions for a while.
Shacklebolt nodded, only the tiniest glimmer of disappointment crossing his face. "And what other abilities does your, ah, Druidic heritage allow you to have?"
If I was to answer that you'd never believe me.
"Not much I'm afraid," he sighed, pretending to be genuinely disappointed. "I have quicker reflexes than most, a greater ability to sense magic and the ability to cast a few minor Old Religion spells. Nothing big."
"And do you often use these spells?"
Well, I've managed about a dozen a day for the last thirteen hundred years.
"Not often. There's not much point, they require far too much energy to be useful." He grinned. "I prefer using my wand. My connection to the Old Religion means that any spell I direct through it becomes more powerful than if cast by another."
Well, that was a blatant lie Merlin. You detest that bloody stick!
Shacklebolt looked intrigued, but before he could ask any more, the stern-faced woman (McGonagall?) spoke to him.
"Fascinating indeed, young Mr Emrys." Young? I'm thirteen hundred years old! "But it still does not explain your connection with Dumbledore, or how you were aware of Potter, Weasley and Granger's escapades this last year."
"I was getting to that!" Merlin replied in a false cheery voice. Damn, this woman's shrewd; I'll have to be careful around her. "My father was an expert in Ancient Magic, in particular Dark Magic, the kind that sprung up after the decline of the Old Religion. Dumbledore often came to him to discuss matters late into the night; they were friends for many years. When Dumbledore began to suspect Voldemort had Horcruxes after Harry's fourth year, it was my father he came to, to try and find out as much as he could.”
Shacklebolt tilted his head to one side. "Your father was in a very dangerous line of work."
Merlin almost snorted. Yeah, he was at constant risk of being fried by a massive dragon.
"Yes, he was. And I'm afraid that's what led to his death." He noticed the sympathetic looks in the room, and tried to make himself look sad. "Voldemort got wind of what my father was researching, and sent his Death Eaters to our door. Both my parents were murdered."
Mrs Weasley covered her mouth with her hand and looked stricken, her earlier hostility to Merlin evidently forgotten, as she heard of his 'tragic past'. He felt guilty lying to them about this.
"I'd been working with my father, and had gathered up as much of his research as I could. I went to Dumbledore," Merlin said. "Together we managed to find out as much as we could about the Horcruxes. I was happy to help in any way I could, I wanted to do more to avenge my parents, but Dumbledore wouldn't let me. He said it was too dangerous for someone like me to be in the Order; if Voldemort found out about my 'heritage' … "
Merlin pretended to look regretful before he continued.
"I just wish he could have let me though. He refused to let me help search for the Horcruxes; I think he felt guilty about the death of my father, and wanted to keep me safe out of a sense of duty to him. He made me swear I wouldn't reveal my knowledge of the Horcruxes to anybody. Not until they were all destroyed."
Merlin hated himself for lying like this. This deceit was abhorrent to him, but it was necessary. He couldn't let them know it had been he who had told Dumbledore about the Horcruxes in the first place.
"But you didn't though," a voice spoke up. Merlin looked up to see Harry staring at him. "You told us that you knew about the Horcruxes before they were destroyed."
Merlin winced inwardly. Damn! Think of something, quick!
"At that point Harry, I was beyond caring," he waffled. "I couldn't stay out of the fight any more. I had to do something." He looked at him evenly, glad to see he seemed to have accepted his explanation; he knew what it was like. "I did keep my other promise though; that I wouldn't tell you of the Horcrux within you. That was vital. I wanted to tell you so badly. But I couldn't." Merlin fixed his eyes solely on Harry's aware that for the first time he was telling the complete and utter truth. "Dumbledore had a theory; he thought you would survive the Horcruxes destruction, and I hoped and prayed that he was right. I couldn't do anything. I'm sorry."
He willed Harry to believe him. It was the truth, if there could have been any other way, Merlin would have taken it in an instant. It wasn't fair to place so much pressure on one so young.
Harry stared at him for a moment, his face unreadable. Then he nodded, and relief washed over Merlin like a wave.
They remained staring at each other for a few moments before Shacklebolt cleared his throat. Merlin turned to look at him again.
"You certainly have a story to tell, Mr Emrys. I am grateful for your co-operation."
Merlin nodded, wondering where this was going. Shacklebolt continued.
"I hope you realise then, the importance you could have in our organisation. You may say that you know little of the magics of the Old Religion, yet you certainly have greater knowledge than all of us combined. I hope you will consent to continue to assist us in our mission against Voldemort." Shacklebolt smiled at him.
"Wait, you're offering him membership?" A Weasley brother asked. He glanced at Merlin. "No offence, I'm sure you're a great guy, but can we really just go around recruiting random people? We don't even know if what he just told us is true!"
You're right; everything I just told you was a pack of lies. But that doesn't mean you can't trust me.
Shacklebolt however, smiled again. "How can I refuse him membership to the Order of the Phoenix when its eponymous member has so obviously given him his blessing?"
As if on cue, Fawkes let out another quavering, heartfelt note which seemed to reverberate in Merlin's very soul. Fawkes rubbed his face up against Merlin's, leaving the skin he'd touched tingling with magic energy, and Merlin felt his heart leap. Fawkes knew who he was. He'd known that very first day they'd met one thousand years ago, and helped to prove to Gryffindor, Dumbledore, and now the entire Order of the Phoenix that he was trustworthy.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and the Weasley twins walked side-by-side down the corridor, strewn with dust and debris, aiming for the general direction of the Gryffindor Common Room. Harry just felt like collapsing into his bed and never rising from it again. He was weary beyond belief, and he needed some time on his own to think about the strange turn his life had taken.
Only a few hours ago he'd found out he was a Horcrux, died, then been brought back to fight again. It was enough to mess anyone up.
The castle was silent, and apart from the debris ridden halls there was almost no indication a battle had been fought at all, until Harry remembered the bodies of those who had died fighting for him lying in the Great Hall.
He needed to rest; he hadn't slept in almost two days. He couldn't deal with all of this yet.
Fred and George however were in no mood for melancholy.
"Cheer up mate!" George grinned at Harry, nudging him in the ribs. "We showed old Mouldyshorts didn't we? We defended the school! We're on our way back up again!"
"Yeah, Harry," agreed Fred. "Look on the bright side. We're alive to fight another day aren't we?"
Harry managed a weak smile.
Fred looked behind him and shouted out: "Hey!"
Harry and the others turned to see the strange man, now known to be Martin Emrys, come walking along the corridor towards them. Harry didn't take his eyes off him. He didn't know why, but he'd come to trust this man. He was concealing something, Harry could tell, yet he couldn't help but trust him nonetheless. It's as though some external force was urging him to place his faith in him. He couldn't explain it.
He came closer down the corridor and smiled at them, stopping several feet away as though nervous.
"Martin m'boy! Don't be a stranger," Fred yelled, extending an arm and pulling him closer. "You saved my life, don't forget!"
Martin shrugged, "It really was nothing."
"Not the way you were talking in there it wasn't," said George, turning to face him. "It sounded like you risked a great deal to use that kind of magic."
Martin tried to shake his head and look modest, but Harry wasn't buying it. He was beginning to believe Hermione's suspicions. The man in front of his really was incredibly powerful.
Hermione didn't take her eyes off of him. "Do you really know about the Old Religion?"
Martin smiled at her enthusiasm. "Not much I'm afraid, like I said much of it's been lost."
"Oh I know," gushed Hermione. "I've always been fascinated by it; all the tales of Merlin and the Druids. Not the silly Muggle ones, the real ones, but there's so little known about it!"
Harry rolled his eyes at Ron who returned the gesture.
Martin grinned, a genuine grin which made him look rather goofy in Harry's opinion. "Well, I'd be happy to tell you all I know about it, Hermione."
Hermione's eyes lit up at the prospect; Harry could tell she was dying to ask him more. Ron scowled at the way Hermione was fawning over him, grabbed her arm and gently guided her down the corridor before glancing back at Martin. "We're going to try and get a decent kip, you coming?"
Martin looked slightly surprised, but came along anyway. In Harry's opinion he didn't look tired at all.
Hermione continued probing him. "Do you really think you're descended from Merlin himself?"
Martin laughed. "I doubt it. I guess it's just one of those things families like to say about themselves to big up their reputations a little. I don't know of a single Drudic family that doesn't do something similar."
Hermione looked slightly disappointed, but didn't cease in her questions. "Druidic families? How many of those are there?"
Martin grimaced. "Not many. They have very little power; it's more tradition than anything else. They like to reject modern magic, they hate wands and think themselves superior because they're descended from the original users of magic, and consider everyone else inferior because they have to rely on sticks- sorry, wands."
Harry looked at him in interest. "You mean they don't use wands at all? How's that possible?"
Martin answered without faulting. "The Druids and original users of the magic of the Old Religion didn't use wands. They directed the magic through their bodies instead of channelling it through a magical core. But when knowledge of how to do this was lost, when the Old Religion declined it was no longer safe to use magic this way. Wand magic is much weaker, but safer. Some of us still learn the Old spells, but it's too dangerous to try and do it to the full power the Druids originally used. That's why you won't find any of us at Hogwarts. If we refuse to use wands, we can't learn magic, because we have no control of the power we possess. The knowledge was lost."
Harry tried to digest this. Magic without wands? It seemed impossible. He'd seen Dumbledore use wandless magic, but it was only little things, like parlour tricks. Had an entire race of magic users commanded such power without a wand?
George looked intrigued. "Can you do any of this wandless magic?"
Martin grinned, and for a moment it was if he was lost in thought. "I can do some things. But I was never happy with the limitations Druidic magic had, unlike my mother. I wanted to learn properly, with a wand. My father taught me. He was one of the more progressive Druids. If it hadn't been for my mother's upright family I probably would've come here."
Hermione wheeled around, her curiosity once again piqued. "You can do wandless magic? Can you show us?"
Martin stopped in the corridor, and bit his lip, thinking. He glanced around for a moment, and then held out his open palm. "Forbearnan."
Harry wasn't expecting what had come next. Martin's eyes had glowed golden, like tiny fires had been lit within- burning for the briefest instant, and then Martin's palm was filled with cracking orange flames, sitting harmlessly against his pale skin.
Martin grinned. "Fugol."
His eyes once again flamed golden. He clenched his fist quickly, and then opened it again, revealing a tiny bird sitting in his hand. It sat there for a moment, looking distinctly ruffled, before it shook out its wings and flew off down the corridor. Harry watched it fly out of sight before turning back to Martin with a broad grin.
"That was brilliant!"
Martin laughed. "It's just a simple little spell. No real power involved; no use to anyone really."
Hermione's eyes were wide in amazement. "It doesn't matter! It's still the magic of the Old Religion! That's something handed down from the likes of Merlin himself! If that power could be examined and used-"
"It may not be for the best." Martin said firmly, setting off down the corridor again, past Ron, Fred and George who were still staring dumbly at his hand as though expecting more birds to fly from it.
Hermione frowned and followed him. "But that magic is still around in the world. If that knowledge can be regained maybe we can use it!"
Martin shook his head. "If there's one thing I know about the Old Religion, it's that it concerns itself primarily with the balance of the world. It faded for a reason, and I have to have faith that it will one day be restored when the time is right."
Martin turned and looked at Harry when he said this, and Harry felt himself shiver involuntarily, as though someone had just walked over his grave.
"But-"Hermione persisted. "We're fighting Voldemort here, if we had the powers of Merlin-"
"But there was someone else who had power like that, Hermione," said Martin stopping in his tracks to face her. "She was Merlin's contemporary, and also followed the Old Religion. It was her and her obsessive need for power that set things in motion. She committed an act so dreadful the balance of power was altered and the Old Religion began to fade. Merlin may have had good intentions, but she certainly did not. There always needs to be a balance, Hermione. Perhaps you can guess what her name was?"
Hermione stopped, a small frown on her forehead, looking distressed.
Martin smiled ruefully. Harry desperately tried to remember his History of Magic, without much luck. All that could come to mind about Morgana was something he'd read off the back of a Chocolate Frog card; that Morgana was King Arthur's half-sister and Merlin's enemy.
He was saved the trouble of asking more when Peeves came soaring into view.
"Ooohh, looky looky what we have here! It's Potty wee Potter! Back from the dead! Is he really alive?" he soared towards Harry and hit him over the head with a walking cane. "Ooohh look it's solid! Not a ghostie then? Should Peevsie try again?"
"Get out of it Peeves!" Harry roared, swiping at the Poltergeist in mid-air, and missing by a mile, as Peeves dodged him easily.
Peeves spun around cackling gleefully and soared past Hermione and Martin. "And who else have we? Potty's friends are we?"
Then his eyes fell on Martin, and they widened in shock. Peeves actually fell several feet in the air as he looked at Martin.
Harry froze and stared at Peeves in disbelief, who, for the first time Harry had ever known him was being deadly serious.
Peeves cackled again, his eyes fixed on Martin. "Well, well, well … this IS a surprise. The mysterious Emrys pops up again does he? Peevsie wonders how he does it, yes he does."
Martin stared back at Peeves, a slight frown on his face. "Do I know you?"
Peeves chuckled. "Oooohhh, plays a dangerous game so he does. Peevsie knows. Very dangerous game."
And with that Peeves blew a giant raspberry and zoomed off, once more cackling to himself.
"What the bloody hell was that about?" Ron demanded, but Martin just shrugged.
"I've no idea."
Harry wasn't fooled. He was hiding something. How did Peeves know who he was? What could he have meant?
Martin didn't say another word on the way to the Common Room, and Harry watched him closely. He couldn't help but notice when they approached the portrait hole and the Fat Lady broke off her intense recap of the battle with her friend Violet that she gave him a strange look as she swung forwards on her hinges to let them in.
They'd all tramped up the stairs to the first available dormitories and thrown themselves upon the beds, the Weasley boys falling into a deep sleep almost immediately. But Harry lay awake, despite his overwhelming weariness, pondering everything that had happened.
What was Voldemort doing now? Was he using the Old Religion? What even was the Old Religion? How much more powerful was it than normal magic? How could he defeat it?
He rolled over on his side and saw Martin sitting at the window, looking out over the grounds, not even looking remotely tired. There was a sad, melancholy look on his face.
Who was he? What was he hiding? Could he truly trust this Martin Emrys?
These thoughts rolled around in Harry's head as he finally succumbed to sleep.
But Merlin could not sleep, even if he had felt tired. All he could think about was Harry and what lay ahead. Could Harry really be the one to restore the Old Religion?
He hated not being truthful with Harry; after all the lies everyone else had told him, he deserved the truth. Not everything Merlin had said was a complete lie however; there really were Druidic families out there that rejected modern magic; that part had been truthful. It was just that he wasn't one of them. Many of these Druidic families also claimed descent from Merlin, which never ceased to make him laugh; he'd never had any children.
Merlin sighed. What had he been thinking? Spouting off all those lies and then showing them his magic for crying out loud!
Then Peeves had to go an open his over-sized gob.
All he could think about was the webs of lies he was once again weaving around himself. He'd thought he was done with that; the lying, the deceiving. It alarmed him slightly how well adjusted he'd become to issuing silky smooth lies over the years.
He closed his eyes. All his life had been one great lie, excepting those few precious decades with Arthur and the Knights. Would he ever be able to be himself once again? Would there ever again be anyone who truly understood him?
Merlin couldn't even remember the last time someone had called him by his true name.
A/N: Please leave a reivew!
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