“Merlin? You mean, as in, Merlin?”
“Famous last words, Ron.” says Hermione with an exasperated eye-roll, tucking her wand carefully under her robes. Ron notices with sudden alarm that she’s sort of dressed up, wearing a rather shocking blue dress underneath. And oh God, those black lines around her eyes; is that-- how do you call it-- eyeliner? And lipstick? Really?
“Ron! Are you even paying attention?” Hermione rolls her eyes again. Ron jumps out of his reverie, staring at her in a new light. “What’s all this?” he waves rather vaguely about her, meaning the dress and make-up and god-knows-what she’s put on. Hermione frowns, and gives him a stern look. He turns to Harry.
“You look...different, Hermione, you know,” says Harry dutifully, probably to save Ron’s neck. “I mean, you look, um, nice.”
Ron can see immediately that didn’t work, as Hermione raises one eyebrow so high that it is on the verge of disappearing into her hairline. Then she shakes her head as if at a pair of five-year-old toddlers who can’t even do two-plus-two.
“Really, boys, we are standing on the doorstep of the greatest warlock that ever walked the earth and all you notice is my make-up? Where was all that sudden interest when it was needed on all those dates you’ve both miserably messed up? And what do you think Professor Emrys would say if he heard you like that, Ronald?”
And that promptly brings Ron to his main concern at the moment.
“Bloody hell, in the name of Merlin’s baggiest Y-fronts--”
“Please don’t even finish that sentence.”
“All right, all right!” says Ron. “I mean, blimey, how is this possible?”
“Oh how dense are you, Ronald?” Hermione sounds impatient and excited all at once. “The times he let slip in Defence Against Dark Arts! Do you really think he got all that information about Lady Morgana from the books? And the time he spoke of the four founders of Hogwarts like he knew them--really knew them, Ronald. What historian would ever use such terms as “little Rowena and little Helga” ?Have you seen how Dumbledore always acts so respectfully to him, despite how young he is? And surely you’ve noticed he doesn’t really need a wand, right? It’s all for show; he’s too powerful to need one, I’m sure even Harry noticed that--”
“What?” says Harry blankly, obviously shocked. “He doesn’t need a wand?” Ron stands beside him, gaping at Hermione in the same fashion.
“Oh for god’s sake, haven’t you got eyes of your own?” Hermione rolls her eyes for the umpteenth time. “His wand is obviously a fake one--it doesn’t have any core! It’s just as good as every ordinary wooden stick!”
“How the hell can you tell about that by just looking?” Harry looks pretty impressed, and Ron is still gaping.
“Boys.”mutters Hermione. “Just go and read some books, will you? It’s all in there.”
“Doesn’t feel like we need to since we’ve got you.” Ron says, grinning rather sheepishly. Hermione finally lets out a little smile, and sighs fondly over both of them.
“And speaking of why we are here today, Ron, you really need to worry about your neck right now. I’m pretty sure Professor Emrys heard you when you called him a clumsy fool yesterday.”
Ron looks aghast. “What? That’s hardly why he called us to see him, is it? I mean, he was all sprawling on the floor, sending books flying everywhere like that, and I just couldn’t--”
“Still no way to speak of a teacher, Ronald.” says Hermione sweetly.
“It was a friendly joke!” exclaims Ron. “I meant nothing offensive, I swear to Merlin.”
“Might not work well on that one, mate.” says Harry, smirking.
Ron is about to argue more when the door to Professor Emrys’s office opens; out steps Justin Finch-Fletchley, their fellow Hufflepuff.
“Oh hello, Harry, Ron, Hermione.” he greets them happily. “Professor Emrys just mentioned you might be coming this minute.He’s in there.”
“What on earth have you done to have ended up in his office at barely eight on Saturday?” asks Ron sympathetically, believing Justin must be in trouble. Professor Emrys, despite plenty of passionate interest from the girls, never gives tutoring on weekends, and seldom gives detention either.
“Oh, it’s nothing like that.” grins Justin. “I was just helping out a family friend, who happens to be Professor Emrys’s friend as well. Don’t know how Professor Emrys got to be such close friends with a Muggle, though. Obviously he can’t visit Hogwarts and it’s slightly inconvenient for someone in his position to write via owl post, so I’m kind of a messenger. He’s just invited Professor Emrys to go to racing with us all together next holiday, and there was a letter and all from Easter when I went back home. Thought I’d just come in early and give it to Professor Emrys anyway. He likes that.”
Hermione’s eyes narrow at that.
“A family friend, you say?” she asks.
“Yeah, I guess he’s quite recognisable in the Muggle world, though.” smiles Justin as he goes away, waving.
Hermione is deep in meditation all the way into Professor Emrys’s office. There is a long staircase leading to the first floor, and obviously he was in the upstairs room. Halfway up the stairs Hermione halts and looks up at Harry, her face extremely serious. “Justin once said his name was down for Eton, wasn’t he?”
“Yeah, I suppose,” says Harry, rather confused by her sudden question. Ron looks simply nonplussed.
“The Finch-Fletchleys...”mutters Hermione. “I mean, I don’t really go through that much of Muggle news now, but I do think I’ve seen them--Justin’s family--on the telly and in newspapers. They are quite close to the royal family, actually.”
“Oh we know Justin’s from old money,” says Ron. “Why the sudden interest in that?”
“Shh! Don’t interrupt me, Ron!” hisses Hermione indignantly.
“The royal family...”Harry seems to be catching up with her flow of thoughts. “You don’t mean...”
“Yes!” says Hermione in a loud whisper, and then her eyes widen. “Oh my God.”
“What?” Ron is completely at a loss now, staring at Hermione like a lunatic.
“Arthur Pendragon,” Harry says, and Hermione nods her head.
“The Muggle Prince?” says Ron. “The one with all the shiny blonde hair and a poster in my mother’s cookbook?”
“The very same,” says Hermione. “Oh dear. Oh my God.” And she blushes a very remarkable shade of pink.
“What?” It’s Harry that’s confused right now.
“Well, you see, as I said, I don’t care a lot about Muggle news but back during Easter holiday, I sat through a lot of that with my mother in front of the telly and I think there are rumours--that Prince Arthur is secretly seeing someone, and that someone being a bloke. There were pictures and horseracing and stuff like that. And you just heard what Justin said and I’ve told you about the odd little books I found in the library about Merlin and his king and--”
It takes precisely three seconds for Ron to put one and one together.
“Professor Emrys is having a secret romantic relationship with King Arthur reincarnated??!!”
And that’s when they see Merlin standing above them at the top of the stairs, staring down right at Ron.
“Famous last words,” Ron mutters to himself, and passes out.