Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 16: Ominous Gifts
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.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to my editor Athena Hope, as well as my betas 3CP, Fezzik, Luq707, Raven0900, Regress, and Yoshi89 for their work on this story.
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December 21, 1942
An Abandoned Classroom
It was the third day of the winter break and Harry thought it had been going well thus far. Most of it had been spent with him locked up in the Chamber of Secrets. Not only did this mean he was progressing in sensing magic faster than ever before, but it also meant he had scarcely encountered Riddle.
It was perfect.
Being down in the chamber meant that he would know if she made a move, but it also kept him out of her line-of-fire so long as she didn’t. It was the perfect balance, especially considering both of Harry’s closest friends had returned home for the winter break.
There was no way Riddle hadn’t caught on. Harry could tell she was looking at him every time he was in her vicinity, but that was hardly new. He never returned her stare to see what lurked behind her eyes, but he had little doubt it would confirm the fact that she knew what he was doing.
This was why he had picked now to lurk the halls. Curfew had passed and Harry knew that Riddle had no obligatory rounds as a prefect this evening. He would be able to wander the castle in peace without her lurking around a shadowy corner and waiting to ambush him with her company.
Harry remembered one of the first times he had ever truly gone exploring the castle. During the winter break of his first year, when he had opened a screaming book and been chased so far from the library that he had lacked any idea of where he was. That had been the night Harry had discovered the Mirror of Erised. He wondered as he walked what he would see if he looked into that enchanted mirror now. Would it still be his family smiling out at him? Perhaps with Ron, Hermione, and maybe even Sirius standing among their number?
Harry didn’t realize his legs were carrying him towards that classroom until he was nearly there. It had been a long time since he had stood in that room, but he was likely never to forget it. He paused for a moment. The mirror had only been at Hogwarts as a protective measure against Voldemort as far as he knew. It surely wouldn’t be here now; there was no reason to tread towards this long-forgotten room.
Yet something compelled Harry to keep walking. It was irrational. It was true that abandoned classrooms were better for certain kinds of spell practice than the Chamber of Secrets, but by that logic, he should have used the room he always occupied with Dorea and Elena; the one he had warded so many times that doing so had become as simple as breathing by now.
Harry wondered minutes later if the pull towards this room had been some kind of premonition as he heard sounds off in the distance and tensed. They were loud sounds that cut through the night’s silence as sharply as a well-honed blade. They were more than familiar. Harry had heard similar sounds often enough during mock duels against Elena earlier in the year. The distinctive sounds the desks made in those empty rooms when one of the combatants dodged a stray spell that careened into the forgotten furniture and splintered it into a thousand pieces.
Harry listened closer but was sure he was right. He loathed not knowing the Disillusionment Charm just then. His curiosity had been piqued. Never before had he wandered the halls of Hogwarts and heard anything that sounded like this. If nothing else, Harry wondered who exactly was duelling, or who was venting their anger upon the poor, innocent furniture.
There was another charm, Harry thought as he drew closer to the source of the sounds. The Notice-Me-Not Charm was one he had read about not too long ago while researching ahead in the subject that had been taught by Professor Flitwick in his own time. It was no invisibility spell, but it was said to make one go unnoticed so long as they did nothing blatantly obvious that would dispel the illusion. The problem was that Harry had never exactly tried casting the spell.
He bit his lip as he crept closer and closer to the classroom from which the noise was coming. The Sorting Hat might have placed him in Slytherin this time around, but Harry still thought he was a Gryffindor through and through when it counted. Bold curiosity gripped him now; the kind that would have made most others wearing green and silver sneer.
“Homenum Revelio,” he muttered as he neared the classroom door. This was a spell he had become much more adept at since his initial attempt that first week with Riddle had hardly stretched out ten feet.
There was one person in the classroom and it seemed as though they had not yet noticed Harry. Probably because they were moving so loudly and sporadically. Harry was confident it wasn’t Riddle. She would never have been the type to practice somewhere easy to stumble upon. His mind raced through other options, but they were all no longer in the castle. Elena had gone home and if she had been practicing, Harry would have been with her. Dolohov did seem the type, as did someone like Romulus Lestrange, but both of them had returned to their families — Riddle was the only student from her group remaining at Hogwarts over the winter break.
There was no reason to peek through the door, yet Harry found himself reaching for it nevertheless. His hand paused a few inches from it as his other twirled his wand.
The incantation was whispered almost hesitantly and with low expectations, but Harry felt the spell take effect almost at once. That was another thing about learning to sense magic — he could tell very quickly whether or not his spells had worked.
This one had, to his great surprise, and he glanced one final time at the door before tentatively reaching for its handle. Years of practice on Privet Drive allowed him to push it soundlessly open just wide enough for a single eye to peek through and spot who was inside.
Harry hadn’t had any expectations but if he had, this would not have been it.
For a moment, he thought he was dreaming before his brain caught up and his eye noticed that the figure in the room did look somewhat different to him despite the striking similarities. It was the hair that got Harry. It was plastered across Charlus’s sweat-soaked forehead in the same way it always was when Harry exerted himself. The same strands splayed out as most of the hair parted the same way, falling in a large ebony splash across the left side of Charlus’s forehead. The only difference was that his raven hair did not cover a once world-famous scar, but from this angle, it was hardly as though Harry could tell.
Harry’s blood froze as Charlus paused in mid stride and whirled towards the door. Harry knew he had two choices. The Notice-Me-Not Charm had broken the second Charlus realized someone was there, but only a single eye poked through the door and Harry could withdraw faster than Charlus could turn around. Whether the boy would give chase or not was an entirely different dilemma, but Harry was confident he knew enough secret passages to escape the older Potter if it came to that.
The question was whether or not he wanted to escape. This would be the chance to speak to his grandfather — a chance he suddenly realized he had been hoping would arrive for some time. Ever since Samhain night, when he had spotted Charlus before he had been ushered off by Dumbledore. Even more since they had exchanged a glance in the Three Broomsticks during the first Hogsmeade trip of the school year.
It was a difficult decision. Harry yearned to step into the room, but he feared what would happen if he did. Harry wasn’t sure he would have taken it well had someone been eavesdropping on him, watching him as he worked. How Charlus would react, he didn’t know. The last thing he wanted to do was to get into a confrontation or to jeopardize any chance he had at ever cultivating a relationship with him in the future.
Yet he knew what his decision would be before he ever made it. Harry couldn’t pull his head away. It was like it was stuck between the door and the wall. Harry really did feel as though pulling away was impossible. He wondered if this was what an animal felt like when trapped. Heart racing, panic building, anticipation mounting, and all with the wonder of what would happen when someone stumbled across them.
Harry did not allow himself to be stumbled across. With a single breath and a thousand wary thoughts, Harry pushed the door further ajar and stepped inside the classroom, allowing any remnants of his charm to fade as he stared at the man who was destined to be his grandfather.
Charlus’s eyes widened almost at once. Harry was sure that had been what he’d looked like the first time he had spotted the Potter heir. The likenesses were jarring, especially when someone like Charlus would never have expected them.
“Who in the hell are you?” Charlus asked after a very long pause.
“Hadrian Pavonis,” said Harry, “but either use my surname or call me Harry.”
Charlus’s eyes narrowed for a moment and Harry wondered whether he had made some kind of mistake or said something wrong. There had been something searching in the boy’s eyes for that moment, but it was gone as fast as it had come.
“Pavonis,” Charlus mused. “You’re the one who hangs around with Black, right?”
Harry nodded. “Dorea, yeah. She’s one of my best friends. Her and Elena Fawley.”
“Right. I’ve seen you around, just… Merlin, that’s weird.”
Harry couldn’t help but allow his lips to curve upwards. “It is a bit, isn’t it?”
“You’d think you were a bloody Potter.”
“Afraid not,” said Harry, hoping no remnants of the pained gong ringing in his chest showed upon his face. “My parents were poor magicians who spent most of my life in America.”
There it was again. That same look in Charlus’s eyes. It vanished with his shrug, but Harry noticed that the muscles of his face never relaxed. “I suppose there are plenty of people in the world. Some of us have to look alike, I guess.”
“I guess so.”
“So… as dashing as we both are, that doesn’t exactly explain why you were trying to eavesdrop on me.”
Harry blushed. “I… don’t really have a good explanation.”
“Well, let’s hear the subpar one you’ve come up with, then.”
“I just got curious. I spend a lot of time duelling in abandoned classrooms and wondered what the hell all the noise was. I was just out wandering the castle since not all that many people are here.”
“Damn you!” Charlus cursed, watching his face. “Why is it that your subpar explanation has to be so relatable?”
Harry tilted his head. “Is that how you ended up here?”
Charlus’s expression darkened. “Something like that, yeah. I had the idea before and for a lot of reasons, but that was one of the things that actually got me to do it. Not the noise bit, just wandering around.”
“So we have more in common than just how we look, then?” Harry wasn’t sure what gave him the boldness to speak in this way, but the words seemed to leap from his mouth. There was something about Charlus. Already, Harry had the impression he was just an easy person to talk to.
“Put it this way, if I was wandering through the halls and heard someone blowing things up, I’d have rushed off too.” He smirked. “Though I’d like to think I wouldn’t have reached out and touched a doorknob linked to a sensory ward.”
Harry blushed — sensing more subtle wards was apparently still very much beyond him. “I’ll try not to make a habit of it.”
“Preferably don’t make a habit of rushing off after sounds and eavesdropping in general. Aren’t you supposed to be a Slytherin?”
Harry’s face flushed again. The rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin didn’t seem to be as intense as it had been in his own time. Much of that probably had to do with the fact Voldemort had not yet risen to power and reigned terror upon the lands with Parseltongue and Slytherin values.
That wasn’t to say there was no rivalry at all. It was still there, simmering just beneath the surface, it just had not quite boiled over as of yet. There were few violent disputes in the halls. It rarely escalated that far in these times, but there were plenty of pointed barbs exchanged in corridors all around the castle each and every day.
“Is it a problem if I am?” Harry challenged. It meant to sound light and mocking, but it didn’t quite come out that way. His voice had been too thin and too rough.
Charlus shrugged. “That depends. Are you one of the idiots hanging off of Riddle as though she’s the second coming of Merlin?”
Any affection Harry held for the boy in front of him swelled with the might of a thousand Engorgement Charms all in a single heartbeat. “No, I actually wish she would leave me alone.”
Charlus nodded slowly. “You seem all right in my books, then. You said you duel, right?”
Harry frowned. “Yeah, quite a bit, why?”
“Tell you what. Let’s have a round or two of duelling. Depending how you do, you might be even more than all right. I haven’t quite decided yet.”
Harry’s lips curved up into a smirk. There was a glowing warmth inside his chest and it was spreading throughout his body. He wasn’t sure if it was the thrill of a new duelling challenger or the rush of meeting his grandfather for the first time, but Harry wasn’t sure he had ever been as happy as the moment he took his stance across from Charlus.
December 25, 1942
The Great Hall
Little about the winter feast had changed in the fifty years between Harry’s time and this one. The hall was still decorated with towering trees, plentiful wreathes of garland, never-melting icicles, and all the other trinkets that came with this magical time of the year at Hogwarts.
Harry noticed all of this the second he strolled into the Great Hall alongside Charlus.
“This never won’t be weird,” Charlus muttered the second the duo stepped across the hall’s threshold.
Harry shot him an inquisitive look. “Have you never gotten used to it?”
“I didn’t stay behind for my first few years at school,” Charlus explained quietly. “The war’s changed that lately.”
“Ah,” was all Harry could say as the two of them neared the long, single table set out for those who stayed behind.
There were more students present than there ever had been in Harry’s time, but there were more students at the castle in general. They still all managed to fit at one magically expanded table, though it was tight.
Charlus took a seat near Dumbledore and Harry noticed that left only two open for him. One of them was beside Emily Riddle and Harry almost winced, casting his eyes towards the other seat. His eyes nearly popped out of his head when he realized it was beside the nutcase, Professor Reginald Edward Gress. The man had fixed Harry’s eyesight if nothing else and he couldn’t be worse than Riddle.
Yet… would it be impolite to snub Riddle? Usually, Harry would never have cared. House dynamics could get bollocked in matters involving Riddle, but this case was slightly different. This morning had been quite the surprise and Harry now found himself more torn than ever before as to what to do in matters involving the girl who might one day become Lady Voldemort.
Harry had been surprised during his first year when he had awoken to find a small pile of presents at the foot of his bed. There had been nothing more jarring — no feeling he’d ever had could compare to what he’d felt then. After ten long years of receiving naught on Privet Drive, it had served as a burning symbol representing all that had changed and it had meant more to Harry than he had ever been able to explain to any of his gift-givers.
This year had similarities, yet it was different. Harry had expected gifts from Elena and Dorea, but no one else. Charlus, perhaps, but there had scarcely been time to pull off gifts considering they had become friendly only days earlier.
Yet there was a small pile at the foot of his bed just like there had been in his first year. It was arguably a larger pile and Harry could not for the life of him figure out why.
Elena and Dorea had sent him gifts like he had suspected, as had Elena’s family. Harry supposed that one made sense and that perhaps, he should have expected it. He certainly had not expected the wand holster that Arcturus Black had sent him, nor the book on clearly dark curses from Romulus Lestrange, of all people.
That one started a trend that Harry caught on too quickly. It was one that really ought to have pleased him, but all it did was sent jarring shivers running swiftly up his spine.
Every member of Riddle’s circle had sent him some kind of gift. Even Mulciber and Dolohov, though they had each only sent him sweets. Sweets that Harry had no interest in trying; he would not have been at all surprised had Dolohov poisoned them after their passionate duel in Merrythought’s class several weeks earlier.
Yet none of those gifts had been the one that surprised Harry the most — nor had Slughorn’s; a heaping box of sweets and a stunning set of dress robes.
The gift that took Harry most aback was from Riddle herself.
Why was it the girl who suspected him of taking the thing she wanted most had sent him a present? It made absolutely no sense. Nothing Riddle ever did seemed to make any sense and it was infuriating.
Yet this had to be the most perplexing thing she had ever done. Harry would have expected it had it been something cursed or poisoned, but it was very clearly neither.
When Harry opened the package, he found only a black notebook. For a second, he had thought it was the diary from second year, but a closer examination revealed that was not the case. Just a plain black notebook with a blank cover and, according to all of Harry’s checks, no hexes or curses of any kind.
The book had come with no note, so very slowly, Harry pushed it open and saw that the first page was covered in pristine handwriting Harry could only describe as perfect. Small enough to fit many words on a page, yet not too small to read easily. He had actually grimaced for a second. Of course her handwriting was perfect; what the hell wasn’t so maddeningly perfect about Emily Riddle?
Shaking his head and forcing those thoughts from his mind, Harry looked at the text itself and his eyes almost leapt from his skull.
Occlumency is the word used to describe the magical method used by witches and wizards to augment their mind. There are two forms of Occlumency — passive and active. Passive Occlumency is magic used to alter one’s own mind, usually for the purpose of optimization. Active Occlumency is the term used to describe magic wielded in the effort to defend one’s mind from any form of psychic attack. It is the more common and more well-known form of Occlumency and the one I will focus on first, for it and its fundamental techniques are the foundation upon which Passive Occlumency in all of its forms are built upon…
It went on and on.
Harry began gingerly flipping through page after page and still the notes stretched on. All of it seemed to be about Occlumency — Riddle’s own notes on Occlumency.
What the hell was she playing at?
Back in the present…
It still made absolutely no sense.
Why the hell had Riddle given him her notes on Occlumency? Especially after she had tried and failed to breach his mind during the most recent Slug Club meeting.
No matter what her intentions had been, it complicated things.
Harry hated it, but he now felt as though he owed her something in return. It was foolish, he knew. This woman might well become the monster that would one day murder his parents. He was sure she had planned to open the Chamber of Secrets before he had beaten her to it, and Merlin only knew what other dastardly deeds the potential dark lady could be plotting.
Yet… ugh! It was all just the most frustrating feeling in the world and as strongly as Harry felt that snubbing Riddle now was wrong, he wanted even more strongly to just be well away from the whole thing.
That was how he found himself seated beside Professor Reginald Edward Gress, a decision Harry would come to regret the second the infamous alchemist rested his eyes upon Harry.
They shone with a manic glee that made Harry think of the man back in his awful lab coat over the summer. Harry had thought him the oddest sight in the world then, but it somehow seemed even stranger now with the man making plain wizarding robes look entirely unfit to be anywhere near him.
“Ah! Hadrian!” Professor Gress grimaced. “Hadrian… that will never not be an awful name.”
“Call me Harry, sir, that’s what everyone else does.”
“Harry? That’s hardly any better! My goodness, boy, now you want to be named after an adjective? My word, I’ve fixed your sense of sight, maybe I ought to work on fixing your sense of taste next.”
Harry just sat back in his chair and sighed. If Riddle had not been staring at him so intensely that he felt pinned to the back of his chair, he might seriously have considered whether or not he had made the wrong decision in choosing to sit with such a complete and utter lunatic.
There were originally going to be several other scenes in this chapter, but I’ve decided to split my planned chapter in half because really, the Occlumency book reveal just should be this chapter’s climax, and what I had planned to end it with would have seriously overshadowed that moment.
Next chapter will take them all up to the new year and the one after that will finish off the winter break.
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