Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 10: Looming Destinies
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter universe. All recognizable characters, plots, and settings are the exclusive property of J.K Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.
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October 2, 1942
The Second Floor, Hogwarts
Harry felt as though someone had taken a blazing rod of iron and struck him across the face with it. Heat engulfed him as the revelation crashed into him like towering waves, the emotions washing over him like a torrential downpour.
In all the thoughts of far-distant futures, he had almost forgotten about the Chamber of Secrets. It had crossed his mind long ago, but the prospect of it opening had been lost under the weight of everything else he was dealing with. He glanced at Riddle now. She was watching Myrtle and Dumbledore and seemed to be paying him no mind.
“Only the Transfiguration teacher, Dumbledore, seemed to think Hagrid was innocent. He persuaded Dippet to keep Hagrid and train him as gamekeeper. Yes, I think Dumbledore might have guessed… Dumbledore never seemed to like me as much as the other teachers did…”
Harry found himself thinking of that conversation down in the Chamber of Secrets more often than he would like. It was the only real experience he had shared with Riddle. Well, even that might not be right. It was the closest he had come to interacting with the incarnation of Riddle he now so often dealt with.
But this piece could be telling. It was difficult to do anything without knowing how different Emily was from Tom. What if he acted rashly and she was never to become Voldemort? What if she won him over and then became even worse? Dumbledore was a man he trusted; he ought to know better than just about anybody what they were all dealing with in the form of Emily Riddle. If Dumbledore seemed wary, Harry should follow his example. If he doted on Riddle like all the rest, perhaps there was hope for her yet.
Myrtle was trying to stand now, but it seemed her efforts would be to no avail. She was trembling more violently than Harry had ever seen anyone shake before. Spasms seemed to run up her body from the force with which it shook. Tears had stained her swollen face and smears of blood were splattered on her robes. It would have looked like a child had been experimenting with crimson finger paint if not for the fact her robes had been torn through just above the right side of her ribs.
Harry remembered the massive spiders from the Forbidden Forest in his second year. The sounds of their pincers had made his skin crawl and he could hardly imagine the damage they could do if unleashed. Myrtle was fortunate that Aragog was in his infancy and that he had been stopped. If he was older or if the attack had gone longer, there would have been more dire repercussions. Despite the blood, tears, and terror, the girl seemed relatively unharmed.
Yet the sight of her still stirred something within Harry that made him tremble. His skin crawled, just like it had that night the spiders had taken him and Ron to their den of horrors, and his stomach seemed to tie itself in knots at the sight of Myrtle. Perhaps it was because he knew that, if nothing changed, she could be dead by the year’s end; or perhaps it was because he had seen what she was to become if that took place. The most miserable incarnation of death one could ever imagine. Her very existence had been depressing; seeing her trend in that general direction was almost sickening.
“Charlus,” called Dumbledore, “take her to the hospital wing, if you would.”
Harry’s heart stopped as the boy stepped forward.
Merlin, it was like looking in a mirror but for the eyes. Charlus was taller than he suspected he would ever be and more muscular, but much was the same. He wore glasses just like Harry once had and his hair was black as night and about as tidy as an angry child’s nursery. His cheekbones were similar, as was his nose. Harry thought he himself had a softer jaw, and Charlus’s eyes were hazel instead of the vivid green that greeted Harry every time he looked in a mirror, but the similarities were striking. He wondered for a moment whether this was what everyone felt when they looked at him whilst at Hogwarts and compared him to his father in his previous reality.
For Harry, that was only a small part of it. Seeing Dorea was jarring, but Charlus was another thing altogether. The striking similarities only drove the point home that Harry was looking at his grandfather. With Dorea, he could almost forget sometimes as they leant over potions and worked together on their brew. There was nothing to distract him from the reality that was Charlus.
“Of course, sir.”
Even his voice sounded like James’s. Harry was almost grateful for the boy’s absence when he rounded the corner, half-carrying Myrtle along with him. Harry forced himself to pull his attention away from Charlus. It seemed as though Riddle had finally taken her eyes off of Dumbledore. She was watching him very closely and there was a quiet intensity about her stare that put Harry ill at ease.
“Miss Riddle,” said Dumbledore, pulling the girl’s stare back onto him as though his words had activated a great magnet. “What is it that happened here?”
“Some kind of attack, Professor. I’m not exactly sure why or how — I only arrived after it had begun.”
“What exactly attacked her? It appears to me like some sort of magical beast.”
“An acromantula, sir.”
Dumbledore’s expression did not waver, but Harry thought he felt the man’s intensity mount. “You are certain of this?”
“I am. They’re difficult to miss and quite distinctive.”
Students were trying to push towards the three of them — Harry, Riddle, and Dumbledore — but they were unsuccessful. Much of the crowd was muttering obliviously and unintentionally obstructing the path of the more observant and curious onlookers.
“How exactly do you imagine the monster entered the castle?”
“I have no idea, Professor. All I can do is tell you what I saw.”
“And what of the beast? I am sure you saw what became of it?”
This was unlike Dumbledore, Harry thought. In his time, the man had been renowned for his kindliness and his patience. He was polite even now, but he was pressing Riddle with more fervour than Harry might have expected. All the fact did was cause his suspicions to rise and his unease to swell.
“It retreated. Some of the students and I did our best to force it away.”
“How did you accomplish this?” You — Dumbledore had chosen that word very deliberately. Harry was sure of that; he knew that not many of the students were capable of driving back a monster such as Aragog.
“I animated one of the suits of armour.”
“An impressive feat; very noble.” Dumbledore turned to look properly at Harry for the first time. “And what of you, Master Pavonis? Did you see anything Miss Riddle did not?”
“No, sir. We came at the same time.”
Damnit! He shouldn’t have said that. Dumbledore’s entire demeanour changed with the admission. He seemed tenser, more rigid, and his stare was more penetrating than ever before.
“I see,” he said, turning back to Emily. “I think you had best corral your housemates and lead them back to the common room. It would do them no good to lurk in the corridors with such a monstrosity on the loose.”
“Of course, sir,” said Riddle, startling Harry by resting a hand on his shoulder. He thought he saw a smile trying to form on her lips, but he could not for the life of him tell why; especially not with his heart suddenly threatening to beat out of his chest as beads of sweat formed all around his once-famous scar.
October 5, 1942
The Defence Against the Dark Arts Classroom
Rumours and theories tore through the school like a wildfire through a dry forest as the following days passed. Not many seemed to recognize the monster for what it really was. Some of the muttered conspiracies the younger years came up with were really quite something. Not that Harry begrudged them. Coming up with outlandish theories was a surprisingly good way of decompressing and standing firm against the forces of dread and despair. It wasn’t as though he and his friends had not come up with all sorts of ridiculous things during their three years at Hogwarts. The days of thinking Draco Malfoy was the Heir of Slytherin really weren’t that far gone, in the grand scheme of things.
Elena had all sorts of questions for Harry that night. She seemed unable to decide whether she was more interested in the attack or in his lesson with Riddle. Harry did his best to answer both, but he didn’t have all that much to say about either. The lesson had been uneventful if not productive, other than their admittedly fascinating conversation after it had concluded. The attack really was just what Riddle had said to Dumbledore. Harry had no tidbits of note to offer Elena.
Well, none he could share. He could, of course, tell her all kinds of things about Aragog, Hagrid, Riddle, and even the Chamber of Secrets, but he wasn’t sure he would ever trust Elena that deeply. Ron and Hermione might have been told such secrets, but they had been through so much together. Harry liked Elena immensely — he even preferred her in some ways — but there was a certain kind of trust that is only earned via enduring adversity and strife together. Elena just had not reached that point yet. Remembering all the golden trio had needed to go through together before Ron and Hermione had earned that sort of trust… Harry hoped Elena would never reach that point with him.
It was strange to part ways with her after lunch on Monday. She was heading back to the common room for her spare period whilst he was off for his first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson with the fifth-year Slytherins.
His heartbeat seemed to quicken with every step he took. The nearer he drew to the classroom, the louder the sound of pumping blood became in his ears.
A part of him was very much looking forward to this class now. Merrythought had been right about one thing — the fourth-year curriculum really hadn’t been challenging him. Harry had been quite good at Defence before he was thrust fifty years in the past, but the time he had put into the subject since that shift had launched him miles ahead. Perhaps the fifth-year version of the class would provide him with more stimulating challenges. He would surely learn new things, which was more than he could say for all of his previous lessons this year — minus the one covering the three Unforgivable Curses.
That was all well and good, but Harry had come to the realization some time ago that he would now actually be sharing a class with Riddle. It was one thing to be in a house with her and another altogether to be tutored by her, but actually sharing a classroom with her would surpass both of those things in all sorts of unpleasant ways.
Harry had a hard time not staring at her as he joined the queue outside of the classroom. Many of the fifth years shot him veiled glances, but he paid them no mind. He just looked at the door and waited. If Professor Merrythought had not yet informed them of his ascension, that was not his problem. He had better things to do than dignify each pompous student with an explanation or even a glance.
The door to the classroom opened precisely one minute before class was meant to start. Harry could feel the stares on his back intensify as he walked in the door, but Merrythought made no comment, so his new classmates also held their tongues.
“Pavonis,” called Merrythought, “to the front, please.” Harry moved automatically before realizing what Merrythought had planned. “Take a seat here, beside Miss Riddle. She’ll make sure you’re up to speed in case there are any gaps in your knowledge and I think the dynamic will be good for both of you.”
That was all the professor said on the matter. She turned to the rest of the class and began organizing things as the bell’s tolling drew nearer and nearer.
“I must admit, I can’t say I expected to see you here.”
Harry almost leapt from his chair. Riddle had leant in close without him even noticing. Her voice was soft and quiet, but it was right next to his ear. Her warm breath tickled his skin and he felt goosebumps rise all over.
“Surprised?” he asked in a choppy voice after a pause to recover.
“Pleasantly, yes,” said Riddle, a small smile adorning her features as the bell rang to signify the beginning of class.
Her demeanour shifted as soon as it did. Her posture straightened, her hands fell into her lap and folded neatly together, and her attention focused immediately upon the front of the class as Merrythought marched to stand before her desk and address the class as a whole.
“I think it best to start this class by addressing the elephant in the room,” said the professor, “we have a new student joining us today.” Harry could hear people shifting all about the room to look at him better now that they had been given an excuse to do just that. He did his best to continue staring at Professor Merrythought and nothing else. “Master Pavonis is an extremely talented fourth year capable of casting spells far beyond NEWT-level expectations. Certain members of the staff have deemed him capable of learning alongside all of you. I will expect this decision to be respected and will be very displeased if his presence in this classroom causes any needless disruptions. Am I understood?”
Harry didn’t need to look behind him to know that the class was nodding. Merrythought seemed satisfied, but Harry was far from being at ease. He could feel a small amount of tension lingering in the room and he knew that a majority of this crowd were likely wrapped around Riddle’s finger as they ate out of the palm of her hand.
“Excellent. Now, we will move on with the curriculum and begin today with something that I promised a month ago.” Harry felt more than saw Riddle perk up beside him. She had been politely attentive before, but now, he could tell she was legitimately interested.
“Duelling?” asked a pale boy with a twisted face. Harry thought his name was Dolohov, but he wasn’t certain.
“Precisely,” said Merrythought. Harry’s heart quickened once more. It had only just slowed down, but the mention of duelling had him all worked up once more.
He had surprisingly little experience with duelling considering all he had done. There had, of course, been the one and only gathering of the Hogwarts Duelling Club back in his second year. What had transpired with Sirius in the Shrieking Shack could hardly be considered a duel and it wasn’t exactly like Harry had prevailed in his other adventures due to his skill with a wand. He had killed the basilisk by stabbing it with the sword of Godric Gryffindor, and it had been his mother’s magical sacrifice that had killed Quirrell and re-vanquished Voldemort at the end of his first year. There had been Diagon Alley. Harry supposed he had done relatively well considering the lack of practice he’d had at the time. Well enough to earn Slughorn’s support and attention, at the very least; but even then, he would likely have died if not for the Potion Master’s intervention.
“There is war in the world,” continued Merrythought. “We all hoped it would never arrive on our shores, but this summer proved otherwise. Some have doubted my ambitious choices regarding the curriculum, but I think rushing the lot of you is less harmful than allowing any of you to find yourself in a dangerous position whilst unprepared. Today, we take our first major step in ensuring that does not happen. Before I pair you all off, I think it’s important that we understand what will and will not be accepted in this class.”
Harry tuned out most of Merrythought’s lecture. It was really quite obvious. Nothing that couldn’t be healed without relatively low amounts of time and effort and nothing downright malicious. It was a wise warning. Harry could only imagine what Riddle could have done to whatever poor sod ended up partnering with her.
Oh, Merlin… Harry really hoped he wasn’t that unlucky.
“Now,” said Merrythought right on cue, “it’s time to pair you all off.”
Irma Crabbe was paired with Cassiopeia Black. Harry thought that one seemed a mismatch. He knew little about either of them other than the fact that Black hung around with Riddle. Yet, the Black family had a reputation and if Irma was anything like the Crabbe he had known, that one was going to end poorly.
Dolohov and Rosier seemed a more even pair, as did Alphard Black and Romulus Lestrange. Harry glanced at who was left and his heart rate quickened. Surely not… his luck couldn’t be that bad, could it?
“Miss Riddle,” said Merrythought, “with Miss Parkinson.”
Oh, thank Merlin — that was a duel Harry did not envy. Nor did Parkinson judging by her expression. She was a talented student from the little Harry knew about her, but she looked like she was going to be sick. Riddle’s expression hadn’t changed but for an encouraging smile she shot in the girl’s general direction that only seemed to make her even more nervous.
“Pavonis, this leaves you with Mulciber.” Mulciber was tall and thick-set with sharp features and dark black hair and eyes. The look he was giving Harry was anything but pleasant, but the former Boy-Who-Lived did his best to ignore the stare. “Why don’t you two go first?”
The question caught Harry off guard. Words seemed to tumble too quickly from his mouth. Instead of landing on his tongue and escaping as coherent sounds, they seemed to bypass that bit altogether by tumbling straight out of his open mouth and onto the floor without a sound.
Not that it mattered. Mulciber was on his feet and ready in a second. Harry had a sneaking suspicion that Merrythought had never been asking in the first place. This was very blatantly her way of testing Harry — to find out once and for all whether he really did belong.
The duel opened viciously. Mulciber led with a Cutting Curse that Harry dodged and a Bludgeoner that he shielded. The spell slammed hard into his shield and Harry felt its shock. Mulciber had power in his spells; more so than Elena, certainly, but he was slow and sloppy. Harry dropped his shield but did not return fire. He allowed Mulciber to cast again and he saw the same thing he had the first time. His elbow flared out whenever he cast. It made it easy to pick out exactly where he was going to direct the spell. If he practiced more, Harry suspected he would even be able to gauge the spell selection before the boy incanted aloud based on his wand movements alone.
Harry stepped well out of the way of where Mulciber’s next spell would be and fired off an Impediment Jinx, a Disarming Charm, a Stunner, and a Banishing Hex one after the other. Mulciber had to dive out of the way of the first. He was on his feet again and shielded against the second. The third caused his shield to fall and he tried to move out of the way, but the Banishing Hex caught him square in the chest and he was thrown bodily across the room. The sound of him slamming into the wall was sickening. It was like wood splintering into pieces; Harry had not held back on the Banishing Hex. Nobody could say the spell was too dangerous and if Merrythought wanted him to prove something at the expense of one of Riddle’s lackeys, who was he to turn her down?
“That’s enough, Pavonis,” called the professor, but Harry was already stepping back, acutely aware of stares from those around him. He didn’t care. That had been nothing impressive; it might have looked like it to an untrained eye, but Harry knew it had more to do with Mulciber than it did him. After duelling with Elena — who was swift, sure-footed, and precise in each and every moment — it had felt like Mulciber was moving through quicksand.
Many of the eyes gathered about the room continued watching Harry even as the other pairs went. Cassiopeia crushed Irma Crabbe in the next duel like Harry expected, but the following two were quite competitive. Romulus Lestrange beat a very game Alphard Black in an exchange that barely lasted several minutes before Felix Rosier lost to Antonin Dolohov in a duel that lasted at least ten. Harry was grateful for the latter contest because it drew enough attention that he felt as though he could breathe for the first time since wrapping up his own duel.
And then, Riddle was up against Parkinson.
It was clear within seconds that Parkinson had no chance. She fired spell after spell at Riddle, but the raven-haired girl just batted them aside with the casual ease one might use to swat a fly. She slowly advanced on Parkinson, who was beginning to grow panicked before finally Riddle finally struck.
Stone rose from the floor all around the poor girl. It spun around her like a mighty tornado and seemed poised to bury her alive at any moment or to simply smash her skull in. Then, Riddle let it all fall back to the floor as she let loose a torrent of magic faster than Harry had ever seen.
It should have been impossible. Spell after spell flew from her wand without a seconds’ delay. One coloured spell bled into another. They weren’t following each other; they were transitioning seamlessly — it was like a flashing light show. Riddle had obviously used the stones to obstruct Parkinson’s vision, but it had been unnecessary. Harry knew she would never have stood up to so much magic cast at once — he doubted any of them would have.
The duel ended seconds later and Harry was feeling very conflicted as he left the classroom at the end of class. On one hand, nobody would be talking about him like he had feared. On the other, Emily Riddle was every bit as terrifying with a wand as he could ever have imagined. That could turn out to be extremely problematic if events unfolded in an unfavourable manner.
October 11, 1942
The Second Floor
Harry had never quite realized how heavily he relied upon his invisibility cloak until he had left it in his prior reality and now had to function without it. He had become lax in the years of using it. All the good sneaking habits he had acquired on Privet Drive from late-night trips to the kitchen had been trained away by three years of laziness inspired by the fact he knew none could look upon him whilst he was cloaked.
It made sneaking around Hogwarts now even harder than it really ought to have been. He came to the top of the hidden passage and pressed his ear against the wall. Harry really needed to find a spell that boosted his hearing. He felt both blind and deaf without the Marauder’s Map and really needed to make up for it. Merlin, did he wish he had never left those two items behind. Had he not, this trip might never have been necessary in the first place.
His wariness towards Riddle had been swelling all year, but it had really mounted ever since the night Dumbledore had pressed her so hard. Seeing her deadly aptitude with a wand not once, but twice had only made things all the worse. It wasn’t enough that she might well be about to open the Chamber of Secrets in the coming months or even weeks, but she was also talented enough that, if she did, Harry was unsure he would be able to stop her. Adorned in green and silver robes, he thought it quite unlikely he would find himself wielding that ruby encrusted sword ever again.
Harry wished he hadn’t seen Riddle since the day she had made Parkinson look like a first year practicing magic for the first time, but that was sadly not the case. They had collided only two days ago for their weekly lesson in Ancient Runes. This time, it had not been the aftermath of that lesson that left Harry reeling, but what came before.
Two nights earlier…
Harry tried not to glance to his right as he and Riddle walked through one of the dungeon corridors. He had done an admirable job of staying clear of her for the last four days, but that ended tonight via the evils of necessity. Whether Riddle sensed his unease and was politely being quiet or whether she simply had no interest in conversing with him, he didn’t know, but he was grateful for her silence thus far.
“Ah! Harry, Emily! What a happy surprise! You two just so happened to be exactly who I was looking for!”
Harry had never been so unhappy to hear Slughorn’s voice. Did the man have to have his fingers in everything Harry did? He wasn’t ungrateful, but wasn’t setting these lessons up in the first place cruel enough? Why did he have to torment him more? Harry would have been grateful if he thought there was a chance in hell that Slughorn might distract Riddle from the lesson or pull Harry away for something more important, but he knew the Chudley Cannons had a better chance of taking the title this year.
“Good evening, Professor,” said Riddle. “How are you tonight?”
“I’m well, very well indeed.”
“I’m glad to hear it, sir. Is there anything either of us can help you with?”
“Indirectly, I suppose.” Harry thought he saw something flickering in Slughorn’s eyes that he recognized. The man had worn a similar expression at the start of the dinner at which he had told Harry he would be staying with the Fawleys. Slughorn had something up his sleeve, and Harry somehow suspected he was not going to like it.
“I dislike speaking for others,” said Riddle, “but I’m sure Harry would be just as happy as I’ll be to do whatever you require of us, Professor.”
She was infuriating. She made everything look so easy. She could have talked her own way out of a hostage situation or negotiated world peace. She was smoother than silk, her words flowing sweet and swift as golden honey.
“It’s nothing to worry about, I assure you, but you’re about the age now where it would be… appropriate to start attending my gatherings… accompanied.”
The first emotion Harry had seen on Emily’s visage that night flashed across her face, but it was gone faster than he could identify it. “What do you mean, sir?”
“Well… I’m sure you’ve noticed the interest you generate. If the right sort see you at such gatherings alone—”
“They’ll think there is something about me that turns people away.”
Slughorn shuffled from foot to foot. “Well, I didn’t say—”
“It’s okay, Professor. I’ll make sure to attend your Samhain gathering with a suitable partner. You have my word.”
Harry watched the walrus-like man sag in relief. “Thank you. I don’t mean to impose, it’s just—”
“I understand that you just want the best for your students. It’s noble; there’s no need to apologize.”
“I knew you’d understand,” said Slughorn, turning to Harry. “You too, m’boy. A bit younger. I wouldn’t be seen doing anything too ambitious if I were you, but some company would send a good message.”
“I’m… not sure I’m ready for that, sir.”
Harry had expected that direction from the second Slughorn had pushed the narrative with Riddle and had prepared an answer before lying in wait.
“It would only be a formality. Nothing too serious.”
“I just don’t know who I would bring. I… don’t know many girls yet, let alone who I’d…” he let his voice trail off.
“I would be happy to help form a compromise.” Both Harry and Slughorn looked sharply towards Riddle for very different reasons. She looked at Harry. “I can help you find a suitable partner; it’s really no trouble at all. You won’t have to be the one to arrange anything this way, but it will still reflect well on you and Professor Slughorn.”
“A marvellous idea!” Slughorn boomed. “Emily, you truly are something special. You’ll go far; trust me on that.”
Harry could feel the smugness in Riddle as she accepted the praise, but it was not the sensation that worried him, for he had the distinct and unpleasant suspicion that Riddle was planning something that involved him and the Samhain gathering.
Back in the present…
Harry thought it had been that night beyond all else that had kicked him into action. Riddle was planning something involving him the same night the Chamber of Secrets had been opened in his own reality. Perhaps that was a coincidence, but it was one Harry was not willing to chance. He had to know — desperate times called for desperate measures and playing defence would only work for so long.
The chapters aren’t going to get longer on a consistent basis, but the next one will be longer than usual. It will also be the one that really begins kicking things into high gear.
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Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl, Idefix, and The Darkling for their corrections/contributions on this chapter.
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