Welcome to The NOOM, the start of an epic multi-fandom series placed in the Wizarding World universe, expanded with themes from Gaelic mythology. We get up to mischief with Peeves and exact long-overdue karma on Snape. We get into Old Religion - the beliefs and the magic - expanded past Merlin canon. Get ready for fluff, drama, cheesy puns, and of course, winter magic.

Republished after a massive edit.

This is an open fanfiction, meaning you don't have to be familiar with the fandoms to enjoy the story, but in terms of disclosure, we've got:

- Canon-compliant BBC Merlin and Harry Potter (Chamber of Secrets timeline with Ginny's point of view, including her diary conversations with Tom Riddle).

- Only for the characters: Rise of the Guardians and Frozen (Jack and Elsa are twins!).

Trigger warnings: NONE! No swearing (unless you know Old English), no mature content (they're all too young anyway), no gory violence. Just a feel-good, bingeable fantasy.

The Well of Youth is a backstory to this series. It's not required reading, but feel free to check it out.

Cursed, Book 2 of this series is being written right now! The story will go on. Don't peek at what's posted because spoilers!

:-:

Enjoy!


》 PROLOGUE《

In a time so distant, some might call it mythical, a kind peasant woman was blessed with a boy.

She named him after her favorite bird, so he would know freedom his exiled father didn't

—a predatory bird, so he could outsmart witch-hunters who persecuted the gifted

—a majestic bird, so he could rise over the low station he was born into.

Little did she know that her little bundle of joy would become the mightiest sorcerer to ever have lived,

that his destiny was so great, gods would take notice.

She named him Merlin.

》 《

Chapter 1: Twin hearts

》 1992, First Day of Spring 《

Today was the day. Today, they would escape, but first, they had to sneak past this hag.

Jack hid behind a wall and pulled a hood over his white hair, trying to melt into the shadows. His sister, Elsa, waited behind the bend. He held his breath, begging for luck to turn their way. If they were discovered, they would have to wait another year to try again.

The stench of goat manure wafted in his direction as the hag shuffled right by him, her shadow huge on the tunnel wall, extending her curved nails and hooked nose. When sure that she was gone, he sent a wordless signal to his sister and felt her response as a ping in his chest.

He'd once asked their mother if all twins could feel each other's hearts, and she laughed, calling it useless. The joke was on her though. He bet she never would've thought that they'd use this ability to navigate the endless tunnels of her mountain.

A few breaths later, Elsa was by his side, a dark cloak concealing her white braids. Underneath the hood, her eyes sparkled with hope and excitement. They held hands as they dashed through the underground without a light to guide them. They didn't dare say a word for fear of treacherous cave echoes. Instead, their hearts spoke in reassuring beats to the rhythm of their march.

They had spent many winters memorizing the tunnels and planning their escape route. It was time to test their newest discovery, but they had to hurry before hags noticed their absence. They reached the spot where about ten feet above them a ray of light streamed through a crack in the rock. Almost there.

Jack unraveled the rope he had wrapped around his shoulder and threw it at a protruding, jagged boulder. He'd been training this move for weeks, knowing they would have to climb. The rope slid down the rock and fell on the ground with a quiet plop.

"Again," Elsa encouraged.

After several unsuccessful tries, the rope finally caught the rock. He was about to exclaim with joy, but Elsa covered his mouth. Her reproachful look was enough to remind him that it wasn't time for celebration just yet. They were far from safe.

They climbed the rope and took it with them, careful to not leave any evidence behind. The small tunnel was rough and crumbling, slowing down their progress. The further they went, the tighter the space became, but the light ahead was getting brighter, guiding their hearts—to freedom, he hoped.

As the tunnel shrunk, they bent at the waist, then walked on all fours, until it became too narrow. Jack tried to judge the width of the opening, but the light ahead was blinding as if someone put a lantern right in his face. The air was different too, not the musty scent of the earth and rock he was accustomed to. This had to be it.

"Don't stop now!" Elsa complained behind him.

He plopped on his belly and crawled. Feeling his way around, he pulled himself through the mouth of the tunnel, thanking the gods for taking on this journey today. If they waited until next year, he wouldn't have fit through it.

He rose out of the crumbling rock and put a hand above his eyes to shield them from the assaulting brightness.

"Is that the sun?" his sister asked, pulling herself up to stand beside him.

His vision was starting to come back, but he couldn't comprehend the sight that welcomed him. The whole sky was bright and the land with its peaks and valleys stretched further than he could see. He startled when a gust of wind ruffled his hair. With a brief delay, it reached the trees in the distance, their leaves dancing in shimmering shades of green.

"We're outside," he said, inhaling greedily.

"We must be," Elsa breathed out. "It's beautiful."

They stood at the edge of the mountain, in awe of the world they were denied their whole lives. It was full of color and textures, new smells, and sounds he couldn't name. Their hearts swelled in appreciation and yearning.

"We're not safe yet," he remembered and grabbed his sister's hand. "Let's go before Mother wakes up."

And they ran forward to embrace their new life.

》 Summer of 1992《

To hold life and death in your hands.

Merlin blew the wooden chips off, happy with the impeccable Old English runes he carved into the rod. The Sidhe, the original owners of this staff, had engraved this passage in Old Irish, but the wood had eroded. Merlin fashioned a replacement and marked it in his native tongue. The metal grove holding the blue crystal survived the test of time. The new rod, made of a rowan tree he retrieved at the Isle of the Blessed, was an exquisite choice, worthy of this precious artifact.

He looked fondly at the staff, remembering all the times the potent Sidhe magic had saved his hide. He'd learned spells just as powerful by now, but it still had a purpose. Like a wand, the staff could be used even when his own magic was depleted, however rare that was.

He hovered his hand over the rod to coat it with a finishing charm that would protect the wood and his new engravings against erosion. Once satisfied, he hung it over the fireplace, right next to an antique sword.

"Getting dull, are we?" he said, having the weapon float to his outstretched hand. He summoned a file, had it float up to the sword, and start sharpening while he leisurely plopped into his favorite armchair.

He preferred magic combat to blades, but relying on magic alone was a mistake. Just a few centuries ago, he was attacked by a thief who wore a powerful ancient charm that rendered him immune to magic. Merlin had no weapons ready to summon, so he attacked the thief with a broken teacup. Unsurprisingly, that embarrassing attempt got him killed.

Granted, Merlin didn't stay dead; he was up and about before the swine laid his hands on the Cup of Life, but the point was that he had nearly failed at protecting it. He had learned his lesson the hard way.

As soon as he got comfortable, he felt a tingle on his skin. Someone activated one of his wards. He ran up to the window and moved a curtain aside to check for visitors.

He grinned wide, recognizing his surprise guest, and wrenched the door open.

"Albus!" he exclaimed and gave the old wizard a quick hug.

Albus Dumbledore smiled down at him warmly. The fuzzy hair spilling down his shoulders and an even longer beard were whiter than the last time Merlin saw him. He had picked up a fashion of wearing floor-length robes in his old age, and unlike most wizards, he liked to dress with a little flair. Today's garb was adorned with embroidered purple satin and a matching soft hat with a tassel dangling by his cheek.

"A visit was in order, my ageless friend," Dumbledore said. "Moreover, I have a proposition for you."

"Terrific! Get in here."

The old wizard froze upon seeing the sword float in the air as if held by an invisible servant.

His eyebrows rose halfway up his forehead, accentuating deep wrinkles.

"Getting ready for a siege?"

Merlin murmured to himself, "Can't a guy sharpen his blades in peace," and waved a hand to move the sword and file to the corner of the room where they continued the sharpening.

Modern society was so touchy about weapons. Merlin stored a magical arsenal that could prompt the end of the world lest they fell into the wrong hands, but it was a sword that got Dumbledore worked up. The blade was more decorative than anything else, but it would be a disgrace to let it get dull.

"It never hurts to be prepared," he said and gestured for the old wizard to get comfortable.

Usually, these visits were not social. Like everyone else, Albus thought of him only when he needed Merlin's Old Religion magic or knowledge. Though it stung, Merlin rarely refused pleas for help. He always had a soft spot for good causes.

Dumbledore settled himself in Merlin's favorite chair and stroked his white beard. "You're looking young as ever."

Merlin leaned back in the other chair. Had Dumbledore not seen him like this before? He couldn't remember now. "This is my normal age: twenty-six."

"Normal. Indeed." The old wizard watched him just as attentively as when they'd first met decades ago. "I might never get used to how time doesn't touch you."

Oh, it did. One did not live through fifteen hundred years unaffected, but Merlin did not comment, not in the mood for philosophical debates about strains of immortality.

Dumbledore interlinked his hands and smiled, sizing him up.

Merlin resisted the urge to check if he had a stain on his shirt. The silence was unnerving. "What brings you to my humble hut?"

"Last time we spoke, you complained of boredom. I might have something to ease that problem."

The twinkle in Dumbledore's eye intrigued Merlin even more than his words.

"Go on."

"Do you remember the Potters?"

"Yes." Merlin searched the sea of names that cluttered his memory. "I taught Lily Potter that blood protection charm, but it worked only on their son. Both she and her husband died at Voldemort's hand."

"Precisely. And the spell has been working while the child, Harry, lives with his blood relatives. He's well protected there."

Merlin nodded and wondered where the old wizard was going with this.

Dumbledore glanced at the sword in the corner, momentarily distracted by the sharpening noises. "Harry has just finished his first year at Hogwarts. Voldemort has been stirring and the boy barely escaped with his life. I'm worried that the prolonged absence from his blood relatives weakens the spell's protection."

Merlin considered it, tapping a finger on his lip. "See, I don't think this spell has ever been tested for this long."

"Alas, you see why I'm worried. He's coming back to school in a few weeks for his second year. Voldemort might attempt to strike again." Dumbledore interlinked his hands on his lap and gazed down expectantly.

"What would you like me to do?" Merlin raised and dropped his arms. "There is no other ward I can offer that isn't already placed on Hogwarts."

"You could protect him from inside the school."

"Hold your sequins, Albus. I am not interested in teaching your diluted magic," Merlin pointed out, not in the mood to repeat the argument he'd had with the old wizard in the past.

"Yes, you made yourself perfectly clear," Albus placated, shifting in his seat. "I was thinking about your aging spell. You could join the school as a first-year student. You've done this at least once when Hogwarts was founded, did you not?"

Merlin shook his head. "Being a child was not fun, Albus!"

"It's perfect, don't you see? No one would suspect you. You could go to places where the students go, where Harry goes. You can keep an eye on him in ways I can't."

"Why are you so convinced that he will need my protection?"

"I don't want to take any chances, Merlin. You know well what the prophecy said. When Voldemort rises again, only Harry can defeat him. We must keep the boy safe."

Merlin frowned, not liking the plan. "I have my own prophecy to worry about, Albus. What if Arthur comes back, and I'm too busy at Hogwarts to notice?"

Albus peered at him from under his half-moon spectacles. "You've been waiting for a millennium and a half, dear friend. Can you not spare a few years to devote to a side job, we shall call it? Besides, there is no reason you couldn't step away, should your king come back."

Merlin got up and paced in the compact room, the floorboards creaking under his steps. Dumbledore was right. He had been waiting for so long. A few years would pass by in a blink.

"Voldemort needs to be put down," Merlin spoke more to himself than to the old wizard, remembering the evil the thug calling himself The Dark Lord had caused the last time he was in power.

During the Wizarding War, Merlin had joined Dumbledore in the fight against that nasty fanatic. He even landed a killing stun, and yet, Voldemort survived. He somehow gained immortality. It didn't matter that Merlin's magic was more potent. Merlin wasn't meant to be the one to kill him. Stupid prophecies.

But he had other reasons to get involved. Being immortal had lost its appeal about a millennium ago. By now, it felt more like a curse than a gift. He could use a distraction while he awaited the return of his king.

"I'll do it but just until Harry is out of school. After that, I can't promise anything."

Dumbledore smiled in relief. "That's all I was hoping for. I don't want you to attract anyone's attention, including Harry's - he's inquisitive. So don't bring any swords with you."

He gestured at the sword still being sharpened in the corner of the room.

Merlin rolled his eyes. "I'll restrain myself."

"Ask the Sorting Hat to put you in Gryffindor. You're likely not going to win Harry over if you end up in Slytherin again."

He supported himself on the chair while getting up and pulled a piece of parchment out of his robe. "You will need this."

"My invitation and supply list," Merlin mused, reading the letter. "You assumed I would agree."

The old wizard winked at him and turned to leave. "It never hurts to be prepared." Then he looked back one last time, having opened the door already. "I knew you'd make the right choice."

With a final wave, he disapparated from Merlin's front lawn in a swirl of smoke.

Merlin sighed, looking at the compressed patch of grass where the old wizard last stood in.

"Eleven years old again," he murmured.

He closed the door and looked inside his cozy cottage that had been his home for several centuries. Just like in his youth, he was moving into a castle to babysit a child of prophecy. At least this time, he knew what he was getting into. There would be no surprises.