Harry was walking across the campus, using a cane to help him as his leg was still having a fair amount of pain. He wondered why there was still the pain as his body had begun magically healing his injuries before he even regained consciousness. On top of that, he had been convalescing at his manor for a couple of weeks. The pain in his leg made little sense to him, other than to serve as a constant reminder about his defeat at the hands of the dragon. He had been convinced that he must have missed something at the Hall of Secrets. He had been debating what he should do next, and Daphne had quietly been encouraging him to return to review the writings of Merlin. In fact, she had made it clear that she would drag him there if she had to.
Harry thought back on the previous two weeks. His house elves would have cared for him completely, but Daphne had insisted on helping to take care of him as well. His mood was sullen. It came to the point that Daphne commented that he seemed to be even moodier than he had been during their fifth year at Hogwarts. This surprised Harry, as he didn't think that she had really noticed him that much when they were in school. Daphne laughed at him as she explained that the whole school knew he was in a foul mood for most of the year. Even the students in Slytherin could tell something was going on with Harry that year.
Harry's attention was brought back to his walk across the campus at Pembroke College. Daphne was walking beside him as he refused any assistance other than using the cane. She also had a shoulder bag with her, in which she was carrying the griffon hide cloak and the small vial that had the remaining mixture of the chimera venom and the unicorn tears. Harry still wore the thunderbird feather around his neck, although he had to retrieve those items as well as his wand and his other magical possessions from the vault at Gringotts where they were transported to at the same time that he had appeared at the Royal London Hospital. The goblins were still investigating how Harry had appeared at the muggle hospital as opposed to St. Mungo's, and they had not yet told Harry if they had even determined what had caused that to happen. However, Harry was not waiting at home for Ragnok to explain what had happened. He wasn't going to wait at home anymore. He felt that he was so close to gaining his freedom from the goblins, he was not about to give up now. He was determined to proceed.
The door to Professor Shaw's office was open slightly. Harry ignored the notice on the door that indicated that the professor would only see students and others by appointment, and he rapped the door frame with the end of his cane before he gently pushed the door aside. Gregory Bradford Shaw was not a man who enjoyed being interrupted, however he suppressed his initial reaction to chastise whomever had entered his office when he noted the young man in front of him.
"So, you wondered if you would ever see me again, didn't you?" asked Harry rhetorically. He then continued before the professor could respond. "Your door was open slightly, so I decided to take the liberty of letting myself in."
The professor's mouth closed, and started to open again as a gorgeous young blonde woman entered the office behind Harry.
"Oh, how shameful of me," commented Harry. "Allow me to introduce to you my fiancé, the Lady Daphne Greengrass." Harry grinned from ear to ear as he announced her as his fiancé.
Daphne stepped forward and offered her hand in greeting. "I am so sorry that we are intruding," she apologised.
Greg Shaw stood up and gently shook the offered hand. "No, this is a surprise, that is all, not an inconvenience. Professor Smith and I have not had as much opportunity to explore the vast wealth of information and knowledge held within the Hall during your time away as either one of us would like." He then waved his hand towards the chairs to his side. "Please, have a seat, and tell me all about what has happened. I am sure that Professor Smith would love to hear your tales." Shaw hesitated for a moment as he looked back and forth between the two young people who had just entered his office. "Unless, that is, you have already told him about what has happened in your mission."
Harry dismissed the comment with a wave of his hand. "No, we have not spoken to him yet of what we have done," explained Harry. "Much of what I read and studied was informative and helpful, but ultimately my main goal is still out of my reach." Harry briefly looked at the cane in his hand and then turned to face the professor. "I fear that I may have overlooked something in all of my previous preparation, so I need to enter the Hall of Secrets and see if I can find where I may have either made a mistake or possibly missed something vital that would have otherwise ensured my success."
Daphne gently squeezed Harry's hand as he spoke. He turned to face his fiancé and gave her a quick smile before returning his attention to the Old English professor. The professor raised an eyebrow at Harry's admission of defeat so far in his task. He looked from Harry to Daphne and back again. Then he stood up from his seat as he commented, "Well, I suppose then we should let you into the Hall." He looked again at Daphne, "And I suppose you will be joining the young man."
Daphne nodded, "Of course, why else would I be here?"
With that, the three of them headed towards the back wall of the office where the portrait of Tolkien was hanging, and then Harry quickly cast the spell that would open the door to the Hall of Secrets. Daphne had been expecting this as Harry had explained to her how they had entered the Hall before when he was doing his previous research. Harry lead the way into the room, but Professor Shaw politely declined. "I have my classes to prepare for right now, although I am sure I will be making use of the Hall soon. Professor Smith has been most helpful at times with allowing me entrance into the room."
With a silent nod of understanding, Harry then turned towards the door and took Daphne by the hand as they stepped into the room. Very little had changed from the last time Harry had entered the library like chamber. There was a large table in the centre of the room with the myriads of bookshelves surrounding them. As they approached the main table in the middle of the room, the door through which they had entered magically closed. Harry was not concerned as this had happened on each of his previous forays into the room.
Daphne looked at Harry and then asked, "So now what do we do? Do you have any idea where to start?"
Harry let out a slight sigh and then looked around. "I think we start with the tome in which I found most of the information for the previous tasks." As he said this, a large book with a silver binding came floating from the shelves and landed on the table in front of them.
Harry silently watched the book approach. Daphne glanced at the book and then at Harry and noted the stunned expression on his face. "I take it that this has not happened on your previous trips to this room," she stated, and she was sure she knew the truth to her comments.
Harry continued to stare at the book as it rested in the middle of the table. "No, it most certainly did not."
Then the two of them stepped closer to the table. Daphne noted there was a rune on the cover of the book, that was identical to one of the runes that Harry had traced on his chest for protection from the dragon. She then looked at Harry as she questioned him. "Are you sure the rune was to be drawn on you with the solution made from the venom and the tears? Perhaps this is where the rune was to be marked. On this book."
Harry gave a weak smile. "I was pretty sure that the indication was for the person to be marked with the rune. I had not noticed that the same rune was on the cover of this book." Turning to look back at the large tome, he added, "But this is the one that gave me much of the information about the tasks for controlling the dragon." He then stepped forward and went to open the book, but it remained closed on the table.
Harry was surprised to find that the book which had magically presented itself to them today was resisting being opened. "Great," he said with frustration, "how is this supposed to help us if I can't even use it?"
Daphne scowled at him. "How did you ever get all the information you needed to complete the other tasks if you were such a defeatist?" She looked at the cover of the book and then back at Harry. "Try marking the book with the venom and tears," she suggested.
Harry took the mixture and then he traced the rune on the cover of the book after dipping his finger slightly with the solution. As he finished marking the rune, there appeared a purple glow from the tome itself. Daphne was about to comment about this when there was a sudden flash of white light that emanated from the book.
Harry and Daphne had instinctively moved their hands to cover their eyes. When the pain from the bright flash subsided they both looked up and noted there was a man standing on the other side of the table from them.
There was an eerie silence in the room. Harry and Daphne briefly looked at each other, and then turned their gazes back on the man who had appeared in front of them. The old man reminded Harry of Dumbledore in an odd way. While he had a grey beard and appeared to be quite old, his beard was much shorter than the former headmaster and his robes were a simple blue with a gold trim, not the garish mixture of colours and designs that Dumbledore would wear. Harry noted that the man in front of him seemed a little confused and that he was furtively glancing around the room and then back at Harry and Daphne. After an awkward several moments of silence, the man spoke.
"Would you mind terribly if I sat down," he asked calmly. "This whole experience is a little unsettling."
Harry looked at Daphne again and then faced the old man. "And just what experience are you referring to?" asked Harry.
The man raised an eyebrow at Harry's question and proceeded to ignore it. He turned to Daphne. "Fair damsel, you are a sight to behold, and I must say that to look upon such a visage as yourself upon arriving here, where here is, is a most pleasant undertaking."
Daphne smiled at the man's charm although she was feeling quite a bit uneasy with the situation.
Harry scowled slightly. Then he spoke to the old man, "Excuse me sir, but who are you?"
The man looked at Harry and then at the book on the table in front of him. He laughed at the young man in front of him. "I would have presumed that if someone was actually able to use the tome on this table that they would have the intelligence and wisdom to know the answer to such a ridiculous question." He let out a long sigh, then he took the seat he had commented about and then he continued. "Myrddin Emrys at your service." After a short pause he continued, "However, Arthur and his men would call me Merlin."
Harry stuttered, "But, Merlin, but how? How can it be you?"
The old man gave a small smile at the puzzled young man in front of him. "Why, magic of course. But I think you already knew that." He gave Harry a slight wink and then he stood up and began to walk around the room. He walked over to the closest bookshelf and gently ran his fingers along the bindings of the books. He turned slowly as his eyes seemed to twinkle with excitement as he noted all of the books on the shelves. Then the man headed back to the table and reached his hand out for the tome that was still on the middle of the table. As he reached his hand out to grasp the book, his hand went through the book and the pages within. This also caused him to raise an eyebrow as he pulled his hand back and stared at his finger tips. He then leaned forward and tapped his fingers on the table.
"Most peculiar," he said quietly as he reached out again for the tome and his fingers once more simply passed through the book. He gazed at his hand and then he looked up at Harry and Daphne and then spoke to them. "It is a most unusual circumstance in which I find myself, most unusual indeed." He smiled slightly at the young couple in front of him. "I must surmise than that my work on imbedding my spirit, or part of it, into this tome actually worked."
"Why would you do that?" asked Daphne who was feeling this whole scene was a little too surreal.
Merlin raised an eyebrow and then answered, "Why indeed? I do believe that I was working on a way to be able to share my secrets about magic."
Harry smiled back at the apparition of the legendary wizard in front of him. "I have been studying many of your writings, or at least the ones which I could decipher."
Merlin turned to face Harry. "Well, then, my young man, perhaps you could share with me just what you had been studying and what you have done to bring me here." He waved his hand through the table in front of him, and continued with a sigh, "Or at least why I am partially here."
Harry then began to explain how he had been researching how to control a dragon by studying Merlin's writings. He told of the adventures of obtaining the griffon hide, the thunderbird feather, the chimera venom and the unicorn tears. Before Harry could continue, Merlin raised a hand to stop him.
"My young friend," he said with a broad smile, "you actually accomplished all of that?" Then he paused slightly, but he continued before Harry had a chance to say anything further. "Of course, of course. The combination was the key to opening the secrets within this tome." Merlin's eyes twinkled as he looked at the large book at he centre of the table. Then he looked back at Harry. "I am most impressed. The tasks were set up to make it difficult for anyone to be able to access the secrets within my books. A remarkable young wizard you must be." He turned to Daphne, "And you, fair young lady, I presume you are his consort? You have been assisting him in his endeavours?"
Daphne blushed slightly, still amazed that she was speaking with Merlin Ambrosius. "I have been trying to help him," she answered quietly.
"Splendid, my dear, splendid." He then turned back to Harry. "So, you said you wanted to control a dragon? Most ambitious, yes, but most dangerous. And foolhardy I might add. I recall that controlling a dragon is really not possible. Conversing with a dragon without it trying to make you a light snack, that is more likely to be a success, but not for the average wizard. No, not at all. So, are you close to the answer then? Have you found it?"
Harry furrowed his brow. "I thought the four items and the mixture of the venom and the tears was the protection I needed. I confronted a dragon…" He was cut off by Daphne.
"He nearly died confronting that dragon!" She reached over and squeezed his hand, then spoke to Merlin again. "Harry was sure he had followed your instructions. What did he do wrong?"
Merlin looked back and forth between the young couple in front of him and then he spoke to Harry. "You didn't? You actually went after a dragon? Unarmed?"
Harry was becoming irritated by the comments from this ghost of Merlin. "What do you mean, unarmed? I was prepared, I had the hide and the feather. I have them right hear. I have the mixture, I used it to mark runes on my chest. And I had my wand."
Merlin shook his head and stepped back. He paced back and forth along the length of the table. He repeatedly would look at Harry and then look away, shaking his head, muttering phrases in old English that neither Harry or Daphne could decipher. Harry couldn't take the silence any longer and stood up and cursed at Merlin. "I had everything you wrote that was necessary to master the dragon! I studied those writings for months before I started to obtain the items! And you now tell me I wasn't supposed to go after a dragon?"
Merlin stopped passing and just stared at the young wizard who was screaming at him. He then turned to Daphne and quietly commented, "Is he always this excitable?" He then turned back to Harry, "I would have expected someone who had accomplished those four tasks to be a little more patient and a little more astute. You did apparently figure out the true use of the items. You finally opened my book properly as you have me here at your assistance."
Harry stood in silence, facing the ghostly image in front of him. Then he uttered a meek response. "Excuse me? The four items to control a dragon were just to open this book and bring forth your spirit or image?"
Merlin smiled at him and his eyes twinkled again. Harry's irritation at the situation grew as he considered how Merlin was reminding him of Dumbledore's most irritating behaviours and habits. Twinkling eyes, simple smiles, evasive answers.
"Why don't you settle down and I will try to explain some things which you apparently must have misunderstood with your months of study?" Merlin looked back at the tome on the table and quietly spoke to himself, but his words were easily overheard by both Harry and Daphne. "Odd situation I find myself in, Myrddin, my good man, you really have out done yourself. You actually succeeded in placing our memories within this tome." He reached out with his transparent hand and grasped the tome. This action seemed to startle himself as much as it did the two young people sitting in front of him. "Fascinating, I seem to be gaining more control of my physical abilities as more of my memories are coming back to me." He stared at his hand and the tome and then he shook his head slightly and looked upon the young couple. "Where was I? Oh, that's right, we were about to discuss the purpose of the items."
Harry was about to say something in his frustration, but Daphne who had sensed this reached out and placed her hand on his arm in a gesture for him to stay calm and quiet.
Merlin appraised Harry and Daphne with a raised eyebrow. "So, how long have you two been married? Still in the newlywed stage? Arthur always said that his relationship with his queen got better with each passing year. I never did believe the rumours about her and Lancelot."
Daphne blushed again, and Harry protested, "But we're not married. At least, not yet."
Merlin laughed at Harry. "You sure act like it though. Now, where were we? Yes, the items. Those items were not meant to help you control a dragon. Only a fool would think that they could control a dragon. You might be able to speak with one, to reason with one. You might even get one to refrain from eating you, and possibly even assist you, but no, I doubt you could ever truly control a dragon."
"But the items," protested Harry, "and what was written in the tome. You indicated that these items would give me power over a dragon."
Merlin shook his head. "Obtaining the items was a test. A test to see if you were worthy enough to gain further information." He smiled brightly as he paused. "You see, you needed strength and perseverance and ingenuity and even luck to be able to complete all of the tasks. In addition, the tasks required you to be able to show compassion."
Harry's expression indicated his confusion over this latest comment. Merlin did not miss the reaction. "The chimera, you needed to be able to spare the life of the chimera. Made the challenge a little bit trickier, or at least that was the intention." He then looked over at Daphne. "And purity, which is required for obtaining the unicorn tears."
Merlin turned back to Harry as he took a seat across from the young wizard. "So, my young friend, would you take the time to enlighten me about who you are and what your goal is? What do you plan to do with a dragon? It seems almost odd that one as young as you would be on such an adventure as this. You haven't found a stray sword in a rock somewhere?"
Harry smiled at the last comment. "No sir, no swords in stones anywhere that I know of. I am Harry Potter, a young wizard and I need to pay a debt to some goblins."
"Indebted to goblins, you say? Unpleasant business must be afoot then," commented Merlin casually. He eyed Harry more closely. "I presume there is a story behind the scar," he added. Before Harry could respond, Merlin continued, "It doesn't matter, I don't need to know. But does it inspire fear in your enemies? It looks like it should. Now let's see, Potter….Potter…I don't recall any potters who worked for Arthur." Merlin ran his fingers through his short beard. He looked at the young man in front of him again. "The hair, it reminds me of Sir Gawain's son-in-law. I do not recall his name. Perhaps you are a descendant of Sir Gawain. Is Gawain one of your great grandfathers?"
Harry was a little shocked. "I have no idea, that would have been over a thousand years ago."
Merlin's eyes opened wide. "It's been over a thousand years since Arthur ruled England? Heavens above. There is so much that I must catch up on, but I guess now is not the time for it, is it? Well, my young friend, Harry, you have a debt to pay. Tell me more."
Harry explained about his battle to defeat the dark wizard, Tom Riddle, and how he and his friends had to break into the vault at Gringotts Bank and in escaping had freed a bound dragon.
Merlin sat silently and listened to the story. "Well, my young friend, you do seem to be in a bit of a quandary. You would still be hard pressed to control a dragon so as to force it to stand guard over gold and treasure that belongs to someone else. But what you need to do is to be able to converse with a dragon. Reason with one, which is not an easy task. I remember the warnings that Darius would give me, 'tread softly, speak little and remember that you are tasty and can be swallowed in less than two bites'. He was always one for understatement."
Harry asked timidly, "Who was Darius?"
Merlin seemed to be lost and thought and Harry's question startled him slightly. "Who was Darius? Darius was a friend, or an advisor. He was a large white dragon, from the near the area known as Russia. I don't really recall how he came to be living in England at the time."
"And how were you able to speak with Darius as an advisor?" asked Daphne, whose curiosity prevented her from remaining silent.
"You stated that you wanted to control a dragon, and there is a way to control a dragon, to an extent," explained Merlin. "My friend, Darius, he had found himself to be in a position where some would think he was being controlled. He found himself in a position where certain things were beyond his own control."
"He was a prisoner?" asked Daphne.
"Not truly a prisoner," replied Merlin. "I suppose the situation could have been made to make him feel as though he was a prisoner, but our relationship was a friendly one, and he was free to leave whenever he chose to. Which he eventually did, after Arthur's reign had ended, he did decide to return to his homeland. Dragons can be temperamental, and in their moodiness they can be quite dangerous. I find it best to usually let a dragon have its own way."
Harry thought about Merlin's comments before he responded. "How did you develop a friendly relationship with a dragon? The only times I have encountered a dragon, they were more than eager to devour me. And how does one converse with a dragon?"
Merlin was a little surprised by Harry's question. "Most people could never speak with a dragon. Most people would find that any dragon would be more interested in eating them than speaking with them. Most people do not speak dragon, or parseltongue. If you do not have the ability to speak with snakes or other reptiles, you will not be able to speak with dragons."
"I can speak with snakes," Harry stated simply. "But how did you gain the advantage over others, the advantage where you were not merely a potential snack for a dragon."
"Dragons are no respecter of persons, young Harry," answered Merlin. "There is little that they fear. No matter how powerful of a wizard you are, your magic will have little to no effect on a dragon. In all of recorded history, there is only one man who truly defeated a dragon."
"St. George?" asked Daphne. "I thought those were just stories about him."
"St. George was a very real and a very brave man," said Merlin. "However, George had a weapon that enabled him to defeat the dragon he faced. That weapon, his lance, is a very powerful tool."
Harry and Daphne sat in silence as the contemplated Merlin's statement. Finally Harry spoke up. "Where is this lance?"
"His lance? Or my staff?" replied a smiling Merlin. "Yes, my staff that I used for years was indeed the very weapon that St. George used. It was quite powerful, even more so than any wand I had ever held. You may have seen pictures, or rather icons, of St. George. They show him defeating a dragon. Or a demon. The tales may vary, but there is truth therein. It is the lance he wielded that all dragons fear. It was St. George who they used to fear, but that man is gone, but his lance, that is, or was, the symbol of his power. It is a great and terrible tool, or weapon. It could be used to cause so much harm. Or it could be used for good."
"But where is the lance?" asked Harry, feeling both awe and excitement over the idea of such a weapon or tool.
"Ah, now there's the rub, where is the lance? Where is Ascalon? Where is this dragon's bane? It seems to me, you have another mystery to solve. Another adventure to begin," answered Merlin with a board smile.
"But where do we look? Where is it?" asked Harry impatiently.
"It seems that I have spent over a millennia here in this book. I have no further knowledge of the world outside of this room. I can only share with you what I know. And what I know is that the lance needed to be kept safe. Kept safe from those who would abuse it." Merlin gazed down at the tome in front of him. Then he sombrely rose from the table. He then turned and walked away, through the shelves and books and disappeared.
Harry and Daphne sat in silent shock for a moment. Harry turned to his girlfriend and wordlessly expressed his frustration.
"Well, now we have a new task," she said. "You need to find the lance, Ascalon. Perhaps if you return here with Ascalon, Merlin will be able to explain to you how you can use it to control a dragon. Or at least use it to keep a dragon from making you either its next meal or its newest play toy."
Harry gave a forced smile in response. "Just what I needed, more research. More mysteries."
Daphne grinned back at him. "Let's just go get something to eat and we'll start to figure out the rest after that."
"Now that sounds like a plan," acknowledged Harry.
Harry and Daphne knew they had their work cut out from them. They would have to learn everything they could about St. George and his lance, Ascalon. The two decided to head to Diagon Alley and see if there were any books at Flourish and Blotts that might be useful. On their way they decided to grab a quick lunch at the Leaky Cauldron.
As Tom brought them their soup and sandwiches that they had ordered, a tall and lanky redheaded young man entered the pub. He immediately recognised Harry and Daphne sitting in a booth in the corner and made his way over to them.
"Oi, mate!" called out Ron. "I hadn't expected to see you here, or actually anywhere for that matter. What brings you two here?" Ron took a seat at the table with Harry and Daphne.
Harry glanced at Daphne to gauge her reaction to Ron's sudden appearance and insistence on joining them. She gave him a subtle nod indicating that she was okay with having Harry's former best mate join them. Noting her response, he turned to speak with the former auror. "I still have more work to do, to take care of my debts," he said simply.
Ron nodded indicating that he was trying to understand. He waved at Tom to bring him some food, and then he turned to Harry. "Any new and exciting places you need to go this time?" he asked.
"We're not sure yet," Harry answered. "We have to do a little research on that, hopefully we'll have a better idea about that soon."
Ron looked at Daphne, and surprised them both as he began to speak pleasantly with her. "So, has the Chosen One been taking you along on plenty of near death experiences yet? Honestly, one would think he has some sort of death wish with all of the trouble we used to get into together."
Daphne smiled genuinely at the red head. "He does have a certain knack for that sort of thing, doesn't he," she responded and then she winked at Harry.
"Hey, it wasn't always my fault back in school," protested Harry. "I never asked for a dark lord to be trying to kill me again and again."
Daphne faced Ron again, "So, what are you up to lately?"
"Not much more than the usual working on inventory for George," he answered, obviously more than a little frustrated with his situation. "But I have been sharing some of my ideas with him on new product lines, so hopefully we may be able to start some new testing soon. I just need to find some more or less willing volunteers."
Harry laughed and quickly added, "Well don't count on us, we'll be leaving in a day or two on our next adventure."
"Hopefully this one is a little less exciting than the last few adventures you've had," quipped Daphne.
"Hey, well, whatever," he said with a jovial smile. "Just keep me up to date, I really don't want us having another fall out again, and I even if I'm not going on these adventures with you anymore, I'd still like to know what Harry Potter is up to."
"Sure thing, Ron," said Harry. "We can let you know once we figure it out." Harry relaxed as he was happy that Ron seemed to be making an effort to be friends again. Harry felt that maybe their last encounter had finally got through to him and it sure seemed that Ron was over his anger at Harry and his current choice of friends.
Tom brought Ron a plate of food, which was quite full and Ron dug into it without even looking at the plate. It occurred to Harry that Ron must eat here often enough that Tom just brings him a large plate of anything. Soon the three had finished their meals, and Harry and Daphne excused themselves as they needed to get started with their newest preparations. Ron finished his meal and walked with them as they headed down Diagon Alley to Flourish and Blotts. Ron waved goodbye as he continued on back to his brother's joke shop.
Ron stepped into the back room of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes. The room was dark and he was slightly startled as someone stepped out of the shadows from behind him.
A woman's voice spoke to him sternly. "So, what did you find out? Where are they off to next?"
"I don't know where they are heading to next. They don't even know yet where they need to go." Ron was uneasy with being questioned and shifted his weight back and forth from one foot to the other.
"Useless," she spat at him.
"I did get Harry to agree to keep me updated," he added.
"You will let me know as soon as you find out anything more." It was clearly a command, not a request.
"You will, if you want your reward," she hissed.
"Sure," added Ron finally, "whatever."
"Now there's a good boy," said the woman as she leaned towards him and gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek. "It's always important to make your sister happy." With that she spun away from him and headed out of the room and then she was gone before Ron could figure out of she just slipped out of the store or apparated away.