Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 30: Wrong Place, Wrong Time
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Harry Potter and the Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 30: Wrong Place, Wrong Time
May 11, 1943
The Hospital Wing
Harry did not remember climbing the Astronomy Tower, but it was where he suddenly found himself. The sun had long-since set and any light hid behind a thick layer of clouds that jutted across the sky to bar any frantic escape the moon might plot. It must have been late, for Harry could not see a single patch of light at the castle’s foot from lit windows or blazing fireplaces. Without them and the moon’s silvery glow, the night was darker than pitch.
Too dark, Harry thought as he held a hand up before his face. His fingers were not simply faint, but completely invisible. Something felt wrong, but the source of said wrongness did not strike Harry until a wall of still air seemed to come from nowhere and slam into him. He gasped. It was like some of it had taken form and seized a dagger made from jagged chips of ice, driving it into his chest and tearing all air from his lungs.
Harry recognized the feeling’s source at once — dementors.
He whirled towards the staircase leading up to where he stood and drew his wand. He could not see the hooded figures, but he could feel them drawing near, hear their rattling inhales like the very wind was breathing its final desperate breath.
Sense returned to Harry then as he broke from his stupor and raised his wand. Those creatures had held terrible power over him for the best part of a year. They would not do it again!
His cry was deafening in the silent night, like violent thunder rumbling across a restless sky. The burst of silvery light from Harry’s wand shone so brightly that he raised a hand to shield his eyes. Harry listened intently whilst bright lights danced before his eyes and his vision adjusted. He heard the Patronus move across the space between him and the dementors, but then… nothing.
Harry forced himself to look and saw that the Patronus was still there, but it had paused feet away from the dementors.
No, Harry realized, they weren’t dementors any more.
The cold had gone and the darkness had thinned. The sky still bent to the clouds’ will, but the darkness was no longer so impossibly dense.
Harry wished it was.
The cold and darkness would have been preferable to the faces before him, faces Harry had spent months overcoming.
“No,” he muttered, stumbling backwards from the three figures.
The eyes belonging to both Sirius and Hermione lacked the intelligent spark he remembered. They were as they had been that final night under the moon — soulless husks with no remaining rhyme or reason. Many said death was preferable to the dementor’s kiss and now, Harry was being forcefully reminded of why that was.
Harry forced his stinging eyes away from the pair and onto the third figure, but that sight was no easier to bear. Ron seemed to loom taller now than ever before, his red hair shining like fire as his eyes blazed with an anger the likes of which Harry had never known.
“You left me!”
“No!” Harry argued. “No, Ron, I didn’t—“
“She’s gone and you left me. There’s no one left. I thought you cared… no one cares.”
The words were like a hundred bludgers slamming into his stomach one after the other. Harry grunted, eyes wide like a cornered animal’s. Words formed in his mind but froze on his tongue as though the cold had returned.
Before he could form anything coherent, the figure’s features shifted. Its nose shrank back into its face as its hair lengthened and eyes darkened. Within a moment it was not Ron staring daggers at Harry, but Dorea, who looked an awful lot more imposing from Ron’s admirable height.
“You left me!” They were the same words but somehow, these stung worse. They were true in a way. If Harry was stronger earlier and moved against Riddle more aggressively, Arcturus may never have seen reason to impose his will upon Dorea.
A tiny voice in the back of Harry’s mind tried whispering that Riddle was almost definitely not the Heir of Slytherin and that she may never become the monster he’d once known as Voldemort, but the thoughts were forced aside by more daunting fears that tore at Harry’s heart so painfully he would have ripped out his own throat there and then if it would have meant a release.
Something warm brushed against Harry’s face and, for the first time in his life, Harry hoped it was the touch of death. Anything to end this, anything to make these visions go away.
Harry gasped as his eyes flew open. He was not standing, but lying on something warm and soft. Above him loomed not the night sky, but a pale ceiling Harry thought he recognized along with the sharp scent of decontaminant. Harry turned his head slightly and almost leapt to his feet.
A familiar face loomed over him and he might have drawn his wand and cursed it had that small voice’s persistent whispers not been on his mind. It was crazy to think that, not long ago, Harry would have feared death had he seen Emily Riddle’s face above him soon after he regained consciousness. Now he felt… relieved? Yes, he supposed that was right, if only because nothing could be worse than what he had awoken from.
Harry began reconsidering that assessment as memories flooded back to him — memories of stone walls, silvery stags, and domes of golden light. Most of all, Harry remembered Riddle lying face up on the classroom floor, remembered the way her hair splayed out around her as it might a floating drowning victim.
That last image gave Harry great joy, but it also brought with it equal trepidation. Any other time Riddle had lost, she struck back much harder. Her losses in regards to the Mind Arts and the Chamber of Secrets had prompted her to corner Harry, pinning him down with an agreement he could not escape. Now he had bested her magically and he could only imagine what that would bring.
He fought a grimace as the images kept coming. Bested her was really an exaggeration. Riddle had controlled every second of the duel right up to the moment their spells collided. Had the following events not transpired, Harry had no delusions he could have won. It would have been one thing had he planned for the odd phenomenon, but Harry had never even seen anything like it.
Not that the semantics would matter to Riddle. She was an avid perfectionist, as competitive as she was brilliant. Harry had avoided her ire so far this year, but he wondered whether she may now snap. She had always been in control. Harry was proud to have taken that from her, if briefly, but he worried what that fleeting moment of victory may cost him.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” said Riddle, moving back towards a nearby bed and lowering herself back down under the covers. She laid back against her feather pillows, but her head remained pointing towards Harry, her eyes wide and intent.
“It was just a dream,” Harry muttered, reaching for a cool glass of water resting on his bedside table.
“It must have been quite the dream.”
Harry swallowed the last of his water with a grimace. “That bad, huh?”
“You were quite restless, but also creative.”
Harry frowned. “Creative?”
Riddle studied him. “Unless you can tell me where the names Ron, Sirius, and Hermione came from, then yes, I would say creative is apt.”
Harry’s blood ran cold. It was like the dementors from his dream had returned, but in a swarm of a hundred that no patronus could drive away.
“They were friends of mine,” Harry hastened to answer. “I knew them at Ilvermorny.”
“Curious,” Riddle said, tilting her head. “Were you using nicknames in your dream?”
Harry frowned. “Nicknames? Why would I be using nicknames?”
Riddle’s lips curved upwards into a mirthless smile that somehow chilled Harry’s blood further. “There were no students at Ilvermorny with the names Ron, Hermione, or Sirius. Not unless you had friends much older than yourself, at least. I was quite diligent in making sure I had the names in not just your year, but the years above and below.”
Harry had been right to worry. How long had Riddle held onto this particular bit of information? It had surely been months, yet she waited until now. Just when Harry thought he might have gained an inch, Riddle slapped him hard enough to send him stumbling feet back.
“You got a hold of Ilvermorny school records?” Harry asked, feigning indignance.
Riddle’s smile remained. “Well, I didn’t, but Romulus did. I’m not entirely sure how he convinced his father to help him, but someone important apparently owed the man a favour. That or he paid well.” She shrugged. “I can’t say I asked which; it didn’t matter much to me.”
“That can’t be legal,” Harry muttered, looking anywhere in the room but at Riddle.
“If there’s a law against it, I couldn’t find it. I’m sure it’s frowned upon, but how can a hapless halfblood be blamed for her social blunders and societal ignorance when her summers are spent rotting away in a muggle orphanage.”
Harry’s heart raced. Slughorn had been diligent concerning his own documentation. Harry knew there was actually paperwork ‘proving’ that a Hadrian Pavonis had attended Ilvermorny. There was always the off-chance Lestrange could somehow have discovered the truth whilst digging despite their precautions, but Harry could see in Riddle’s eyes that was not the truth.
She looked triumphant, but in a way one looked after a battle, not how Harry would expect a general to look before launching a plan whose success he was sure of. There was a difference; Harry had learned to read it whilst at the Dursleys. That look in Riddle’s eyes was like a sharper version of the one in Dudley’s after he was done abusing Harry and distinctly unlike the one Harry would see seconds before a game of Harry hunting.
There was nothing Harry could possibly respond with. What was he to say, that her source was wrong? He could always lie and claim they were upper years like she had suggested, but all that would do was put Lestrange back on the case, and Harry thought it was best to avoid further scrutiny there. There was the time he had allegedly spent in Europe. Harry cursed when that thought occurred. That would have been a much better lie. There would have been no way for Riddle to track that, but Harry had played the wrong card without stopping to consider the hand Riddle had been hiding.
“Why now?” Harry asked into the deafening silence, noticing as he did so just how tense he was.
Riddle shrugged again. “I think the time for secrets has ended. I’ve been nothing but honest with you and, earlier today, you showed me more about you than ever before. I thought peeling away another layer would be fitting.”
Harry saw by the curve in her lips that Riddle was lying and not even attempting to cover it. Harry could call her on it and he thought she’d even admit the lie, but there was no reason. The longer this conversation stretched on, the worse it was for Harry. He was under no obligation to tell her who Ron, Hermione, or Sirius were. It was best to move the discussion away from such dangerous things.
“How long have I been out?” Harry asked, realizing after he’d spoken just how transparent that was. Riddle would know exactly what he wanted to do and it would be all too easy to snatch his obvious deflection and strangle him with it.
“Hours,” she said, surprising him by answering. “There’s nothing to worry about, though. Madam Violeta guessed you would be out for longer than I was. You showed obvious signs of stress and sleep deprivation.”
Harry just nodded. The last thing he was about to do was admit to Riddle exactly how nervous the duel had made him. He was sure she’d been able to tell, but he took some satisfaction in how tense she had been. Less so than him, but more than he had ever seen before.
“A note was left for you whilst you slept.”
Harry’s head jerked towards Riddle. “A note?” She gestured towards his bedside table and Harry looked down. There was indeed a scroll of parchment resting beside his water glass.
Harry furrowed his brow and snatched up the note, quickly skimming it with wide eyes. “Did Madam Violeta mention when we’ll be discharged?”
Riddle’s lips thinned. “Her plan is to keep us for the night.”
Harry winced, immense pain crashing through him at the thought of what he must do next. “I need a favour.”
Later that night…
Harry’s favour had been a usage of Riddle’s perfect Disillusionment Charm, plus wards around the bed strong enough to keep the matron from noticing Harry was gone. He had expected Riddle to look annoyed or perhaps even demand something in return, but she had actually appeared pleased. It was odd and Harry’s instincts told him something must be wrong, but he fought them down. Riddle had always been smug; it was probably nothing more than that.
The halls were mostly vacant by the time Harry slipped from the hospital wing. At this hour, everyone with sense was asleep but for the ghosts, elves, and patrolling prefects and professors. Harry met only a single prefect on his trek towards the large oak doors and no one further once he’d slipped out of the castle.
Harry shivered the moment he stepped outside. Not from any cold — it was a smouldering night with heaps of humid air and very little wind — but from the memories. The sky was the same as it had been in his dream — the same it had been that night atop the Astronomy Tower when Harry’s life had changed.
Occlumency guided his mind back on track. There was no time for foolish reminiscing about a life he could never gain back. Harry had trained himself out of such thoughts months ago; he was not about to let a single dream undo all that progress.
Harry descended the sloping lawns and crossed the sprawling grounds quickly, though to him, time was a twisted knot of confusion. Whilst walking it felt like time stretched on forever, but once he arrived at the forest’s mouth, it felt like no time had passed at all. Probably because by then, Harry’s heart had begun racing and breathing was proving difficult. This meeting was one he wanted, but it was one that would haunt his dreams forever if it did not go his way.
“You really do have an excellent Disillusionment Charm.”
Harry was prepared for something like that, but the sudden voice still almost made him jump in his current state. Arcturus Black flickered into being not ten feet from him, revealing he too could conceal himself admirably. Harry countered Riddle’s Disillusionment Charm with a silent wave of his wand and felt the magic fade away until he and the Black heir looked each other right in the eye.
“Yours isn’t bad either,” Harry said with a curt nod before tilting his head. “You were probing with Homenum Revelio this time, weren’t you?”
Black smiled. “Eyes and ears can be fooled, but not that spell.”
Harry raised an eyebrow, though he wasn’t sure whether or not Black could tell in the relative darkness. “Am I not trustworthy?”
Black just stared blankly back at him. “It’s not you I’m worried about. You weren’t the only one in the hospital wing.”
“Riddle had no reason to come in my place. I doubt you need to worry about that.”
Black shrugged. “One can never be too careful.”
“I disagree.” Harry emphasized the point by trying to turn up the intensity of his stare. People like Snape and Dumbledore had always been able to unnerve others with their stare alone. It was a talent Harry was quickly learning might be useful.
“I suppose you would, wouldn’t you?” Black asked.
“We had a deal.”
“Our deal was that I would reconsider things if you proved yourself against Riddle, not necessarily that I would revoke my word.”
Harry’s eyes flashed and his hand twitched longingly towards his wand, but he forced himself to remain calm. “Any new perspectives?”
“Yes, actually. I think your win was a fluke.” He held up a hand to silence Harry, whose mouth opened as he prepared to explode with anger. “Let me finish.” Harry begrudgingly clamped his jaw shut. “I think your win was a fluke. Everything I’ve heard says that it was some freak accident that ended the duel. But,” he continued, eyes growing more intent, “everyone also agrees you did incredibly well. Much better than I know you would have done earlier this year.”
“What’s your point?” Harry asked, tired of feeling as though Black was pulling him along on strings.
“My point is that, right now, I don’t think you’re on Riddle’s level or capable of doing what you say. But I’m also not worried about Riddle right now as much as I’m worried about her two years from now.”
Harry’s eyes widened. “And you believe I’ll be ready by then, don’t you?”
Arcturus Black hesitated, but nodded. “There’s no denying the gap between you two has closed this year. If you keep it up, I think you might actually be able to do what you say.” Black held out a hand, but his eyes flashed with an intense warning. “You’re not ready, but you don’t need to be. I’m going to back off and let Dorea do as she pleases, but if Riddle makes a move before you’re ready to stop it, I maintain the right to step back in.”
Harry disagreed vehemently with that last bit, but he tried to hide how much it disgusted him and keep a straight face. The last thing he wanted was to undo all the good he had done, least of all as he stepped forward and shook Black’s hand to seal the deal.
Harry’s trek back towards the hospital wing was even quieter than the one outside. Not a single soul crossed paths with him in the halls, which was fortunate, for his Disillusionment Charm still could not match Riddle’s. It was for this reason that Harry was so grateful the hospital wing was on the castle’s ground floor. It was far easier to sneak through several unoccupied corridors than it was to silently scale numerous sets of stairs.
Something felt off to Harry as he moved further into the castle, but it was difficult to distinguish exactly what that was. It wasn’t quite like the feeling one got whilst being watched, but it was similar. He wondered for a moment whether it might be a ward or something of the sort, but he detected none of them when extending his senses outwards. Harry just frowned. Perhaps he had been imagining things, or perhaps…
The air split as Harry’s ears rang with the sound of two high-pitched screams rising almost in unison from somewhere up ahead.
Harry’s legs moved almost of their own accord. All pretences of subtlety vanished as his feet pounded hard against the corridor’s stone floor, but he no longer cared. The sound came from near the hospital wing and it was worryingly reminiscent of the screams made by Abraxas Malfoy’s victims.
It must be him, Harry thought as he skidded around another corner. If it turned out to be Riddle now after all this time and how thoroughly she had convinced him, he would never forgive himself.
Harry leapt around the last corner and fired a spell without looking. It sailed harmlessly into the wall behind where a figure crouched over two shadowy lumps on the floor that could only be his victims.
The figure leapt back as Harry’s spell sailed over him, his hood falling. Harry snarled. Abraxas’s hair shone in the torchlight like platinum fire, his grey eyes wild like raging storm clouds flecked with violent blasts of lightning. One hand was hastily shoving something — presumably a potion vial — into the pocket of his cloak whilst the other whipped his wand towards Harry.
Harry knew shielding would be useless, so he sidestepped, bringing his wand towards Abraxas like a whip and causing all the torches along the walls to burst from their brackets and soar towards the Malfoy heir, flames streaming as they flew.
Abraxas swished his own wand and summoned a flock of birds around him to absorb the onslaught. They burst into flames and were banished towards Harry, who had expected just that. Stones rose up from the floor before him to block the flames before lowering back to fill the now gaping void between Harry and Abraxas.
Harry’s eyes widened when the stones lowered. He had wondered for a moment why Abraxas thought that would fell him, but now he realized beating Harry had never been the boy’s goal.
A shadowy figure raced off down the corridor before Harry, who scrambled to catch up but swiftly realized it would be no good. Abraxas was much taller, his strides much longer, and whilst not necessarily athletic, he was hardly out of shape. Harry could probably have beat him in a flat sprint, but there was no way he would close that gap. He did send a number of spells sailing after him, but none of them came close to finding their mark.
Harry was breathing heavily as adrenaline coursed through his veins. The bastard had escaped! Worse still was the fact Harry had attained absolutely no proof. If Hogwarts was half as corrupt as the Wizengamot seemed to be in these times, there was no way Abraxas Malfoy would be expelled on the word of a no-name halfblood.
Harry’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of hurried footsteps behind him. He thought for a moment that Abraxas may return, but then reason caught up with him. Their duel had created quite the disturbance, as had the screams moments earlier. Harry realized then with dread that a professor appearing behind him was much more likely, so he did the only thing he could — dropped to one knee and cast the most powerful Disillusionment Charm he could manage.
His precautions were wise, for not one, but two professors came hurtling around the corridor from which Harry himself had come. One of them was tall and thin with auburn hair that stood out even in the now-dark corridor, whilst the other was short, plump, and breathing as though he had recently escaped a near-drowning.
“Merlin’s beard,” came Slughorn’s familiar panting voice. “Another attack?”
“I fear so,” said Dumbledore, who was now squatting down. Harry’s heart raced inside his chest. Why must it have been Dumbledore? If anyone would see through his concealment, it was Dumbledore.
Fortunately for him, the Transfiguration Professor appeared completely transfixed by the other two bodies. Harry almost jolted at the thought. He had become so preoccupied with Malfoy that he’d forgotten the two victims whose screams had drawn him here.
A gasp sounded from Slughorn, still standing and looking over Dumbledore’s shoulder. Dumbledore himself nodded as though he knew what the Potions Master must be thinking. “A break in the pattern.”
“P-pattern?” Slughorn asked.
Dumbledore nodded. “All the previous victims were muggleborns. Both Miss Black and Miss Fawley are purebloods. This appears to be a more personal attack.”
Purebloods instead of muggleborns? But that made no sense. It was against everything Abraxas… wait! Miss Black and Miss Fawley?
Harry’s legs gave out beneath him and suddenly, he was no longer kneeling, but sitting on the floor. Neither Slughorn nor Dumbledore had noticed, but Harry would likely have continued staring vacantly down at the floor even if they had.
There, the two bodies rested, both hauntingly familiar to him, both with their eyes wide and terrified, and both just feet away from the room Harry himself was supposed to have been in at that very moment.
The pace slowed down some this chapter, but I think the ending makes up for that and more.
Three more chapters left to go in CoP’s first year. I hope you are all as excited for the climax as I am!
Please read and review.
PS: The next password will be released in two weeks. THE NEXT SIX CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW OVER ON PATREON! THAT’S THE REST OF YEAR 1, PLUS THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS OF YEAR 2! If you would like to read all of those chapters now, feel free to sign up to my Patreon page.
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