Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 33: Broken Puzzles
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, Luq707, Raven0900, Regress, Thanos, and Yoshi89 for their work on this story.
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May 14, 1943
Emily resisted yet another flinch. She waited in a dungeon corridor near the Slytherin common room that was decorated with serpent effigies. Every now and then, the torchlight reflected strangely off of one to give the impression of movement. Emily had thought several times whilst waiting that something was sneaking up on her after mistakenly spotting something from the corner of her eye.
Don’t be foolish.
There was no reason to worry. Everything was well in hand.
Emily had begun believing her cause was lost soon after the chamber was sealed against her. Her plan hinged on its opening. She had once been unwilling to believe Pavonis was the Heir of Slytherin, but the longer she spent around him, the clearer it became. Her failed attempt at Legilimency had been the nail in the coffin. He’s special, no one repels me that way.
Never had she wanted to curse anyone so badly, yet there was something else as well; dormant at first, but more and more restless as time raced by. The first flashes were easy to ignore, but that changed fast. The lightness in her stomach when the two stood near, the way she relaxed any time he was around, how easily her smiles came around him….
Stay composed. You can pursue that venture soon. He’ll understand; he has to understand.
Hope had returned when she began hearing a disembodied voice while patrolling the hall. It had scared her at first. If Pavonis was so uneasy around her, surely his monster was on the prowl. Months passed and still no attack came. Emily began wondering. I’ve misread something, but how badly?
Curiosity had always been a weakness of hers. It was what led her down Malfoy’s trail — and what a happy coincidence that had been — and it was what pulled her close to Pavonis. A night not long ago, it was what led her down into the bowels of the castle, aware she may be walking into Pavonis’s trap. I need to try. I can’t pass up the smallest chance, I would never forgive myself.
Emily’s knuckles had been white on her wand as she crept down the tunnel and back towards the Chamber of Secrets. Kill it at the first sign of aggression. It was a good plan, but doubt lingered. This was no duel — she knew that Fiendfyre or the Killing Curse could destroy a basilisk, but both came with a caveat. Can I cast faster than it can look at me?
Her worries had been for naught. The statue’s mouth opened this time and the basilisk slithered forth. Emily raised her wand and steeled her nerves, but the snake only hissed to her.
“A usurper has deceived me. His tales were sweet, but his nature betrays him. A worthy master would not let another oppose him for so long.”
The rush had been incredible. Never had victory tasted so sweet. To think I almost gave up… It was a ridiculous thought. Why did I doubt myself? She had smiled then, victorious just as she always was. And now my plan is possible, it just needs some unexpected work.
Step one had completed itself as she waited in that dungeon corridor. She knew it the second her connection to Abraxas Malfoy faded. He was a competent wizard, but no match for her will or her magic. He could not have beaten her Imperius Curse, which meant the job was done.
Emily strode back up into the castle and towards the marble staircase. Her footsteps echoed in the quiet of night, all other sounds swallowed by the gaping darkness around her, punctured only by softly blazing torches and the occasional pool of silver where moonlight bled through a large glass window.
Brief disappointment flared when she stepped into the bathroom. A pity. I hoped to see the body. No blood soaked the tiled floor, but of course, that was natural. The king of serpents needs only a stare to kill. The thought brought a smile to her lips. I couldn’t ask for a better inheritance.
Her trek towards the chamber felt like it lasted forever. Never had she imagined this walk could feel longer than it had on Samhain, but tonight was worse. The wait is worth it… everything will be worth it. The world will one day thank me.
The doors finally appeared up ahead and Emily could not help but smile. Not one of the reserved expressions she showed at will, but a true smile. Victory was hers. She revelled, drinking in every inch of stone, watching the way dim torchlight made the carvings appear to slither around each other as they waited on her call.
“Open.” Emily strolled across the threshold, a bright smile on her lips and excitement coursing through her veins until she looked up and froze.
Her heart stilled and her blood ran cold. It was like the morning when Mrs. Cole had confronted her over Dennis and Amy’s condition. She had been so sure all had gone smoothly, but when confronted, she felt as though everything was just a hand’s width from being stripped away.
This was worse — a crushing defeat worse than anything she had ever known.
Abraxas Malfoy sprawled lifelessly before her, but he was merely a footnote, an important part of a plan now dead.
Hadrian Pavonis stood in the chamber’s centre, surrounded by a protective circle of poisonous green scales. His face was expressionless, but his green eyes glowed with a cold fury as he looked up at her. She shuddered. I’ve been tricked!
“Evening, Riddle.” The basilisk’s head came up, its eyes closed. Each fang was nearly the length of her arm and all of them were bared, dripping green poison that sizzled against the ancient stone floor. I’m dead, it really was a trap. This can’t be happening; I always win! “I think we have some talking to do.”
“Be commanding!” Cerastes had ordered. “Your equals will never respect you otherwise.”
The thought left a bitter taste in Harry’s mouth. Against his will, a different Riddle’s words welled up from a different time.
“There are strange likenesses between us, after all. Even you must have noticed. Both halfbloods, orphans, raised by Muggles. Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since the great Slytherin himself. We even look something alike…”
Those words had haunted him ever since Tom Riddle had spoken them, but the Chamber of Secrets had offered him solace. He had not followed Riddle’s path, but beaten her down it. She was not the Heir of Slytherin here and he was no pretender. It was him who commanded Slytherin’s legacy and it was she who wished to usurp it. They were so different that Cerastes obeyed him whilst calling her nothing but a usurper.
That was how it had been when times were simpler. I have a feeling things are about to get a lot more complicated.
“You!” Riddle bellowed at Cerastes. “You betrayed me!”
“I did no such thing.”
“Never once promised what would happen after aiding you with the part of your plan I agreed with. I owe you nothing. What happened tonight was best for you.”
“Best for me?” Riddle demanded. Her eyes were wide and wild. It was the most unhinged Harry had ever seen her. “How is being betrayed by my birthright best for me?”
“I did not betray you!” Anger hung in the snake’s rebuke, but Riddle did not flinch. She might be braver than I am.
“Yet you stand with a boy who pronounced me guilty without a trial.”
“I stand with one of two heirs — the one who was successful in finding me first. First impressions are important, Emily Riddle.”
Riddle rounded on him. “What have I ever done to you?” she hissed, still speaking Parseltongue. Harry jolted. Tears rippled in those dark blue eyes. “We worked together—”
“No,” Harry argued, crushing the irrational sympathy that welled up. “You abandoned our plan and killed Malfoy.”
Riddle stuck her chin out. “Did he not deserve it? If someone ruined your life, would you not want them dead?”
Harry grasped for a rebuke. Ice trickled through his veins. This shouldn’t be hard. I shouldn’t agree with murder. But there was no rebuke; Abraxas would have killed his friends and others had the chance arose. Maybe Tom Riddle was right… maybe there’s more in common than I realized.
Voldemort’s face swam through Harry’s mind, his eyes tinting the chamber crimson as Harry stared through them and towards Riddle. Focus on the other part of her argument. Fight against what you can. “Ruined your life? His frame job wasn’t even successful.”
“His frame job is a small part of a larger puzzle.”
“What puzzle?” Harry hissed, his pulse quickening. “You’re—”
Harry’s head snapped up. “What?” he hissed at Cerastes, heart now racing. This can’t be happening.
The snake flicked its tongue. “Do you think I would have aided her had I not agreed with what I helped accomplish?”
“But why?” Harry raged, hand curled so tightly around his wand that his nails bit painfully into his palms.
Emily straightened up, looking more confident now. “Because so long as people like Malfoy are in power, people like us will never get what we deserve.”
“Enough games!” Harry demanded, finally pushed past his breaking point. “Stop telling me what you think I want to hear!”
Something dangerous lurked behind Riddle’s eyes. It was a dark shadow that made the blue of her iris appear almost black. She took a step forward despite the basilisk between them. Harry almost stepped back. No, he thought, remembering the advice Cerastes had given. Be commanding; no weakness.
“What I think you want to hear?” She looked livid. “I have planned this all since long before I knew you. I dreamt of a world where we could succeed long before the war began.” Her eyes smouldered. “And I have never once told you what you want to hear. Think, Pavonis, think of all the times we’ve spoken. Think of how I treat you differently.”
Guilt twisted inside his stomach. She’s right… why does she have to be right? Why can’t she just try and kill me? Things were so much easier when Voldemort just tried killing me.
“She is telling the truth,” Cerastes hissed, echoing his thoughts. I have a feeling he means the other half.
But it made no sense! Voldemort had championed blood purity — he had fought a decade-long war for the cause. This was impossible, there was no way it could…
Ice crept through Harry’s veins as he remembered a night in the Slytherin common room when dozens of serpents had come to life and Emily Riddle had shown a group of purebloods exactly what real power was.
This couldn’t be happening, but it was. Cerastes was incapable of humour and subtlety had never been his way.
Fuck me, she’s being serious… she’s really doing all of this to try and fight blood supremacy, but how?
“What does Malfoy have to do with any of this? He was a student! You’ve gone and made a mess of everything all because of a few stupid customs!”
“Customs that will destroy our world if left unchecked.” Riddle glared so fiercely that he nearly stepped back again. Be commanding! But how could he be commanding while Riddle tore away everything he’d thought was truth? “I sat with my head down and listened to one world crumble as it shook all around me. I’m not going to watch another be ruined by bigoted fools!”
“Is the heir to one of the most important champions of the cause that will destroy us.”
“What point does this prove? All it does is make their case stronger!”
A cold smile crept onto Riddle’s lips. “Not when the aurors check his wand and we tell them what he did. Who can blame a poor, innocent halfblood raised by muggles for defending herself against the rampaging Heir of Slytherin — a boy who killed children for his cause, a symbol of just how dangerous extremists like him are?”
Numb shock gripped him in an embrace tighter than death’s. His mouth fell open and his mind slowed, then raced again. Merlin… her plan… it could actually work. The world spun around him, a complex puzzle with its pieces shifting, fitting back together in a completely new pattern. Everything I knew about her was wrong… I was wrong about all of it.
And that, my friends, is the end of CoP year 1.
I expect this chapter to be divisive, but that is largely its purpose.
There will be a two-month time skip between this and chapter 34. I’m aware this may seem like an odd choice, but trust me, writing the next two months in detail would really hurt the pacing. I think you’ll see what I mean soon 🙂
Here’s to another great year ahead!
Please read and review.
A heartfelt thank you is extended to my Primordial-level patron, Lily, my eternal love, for her incredibly generous support on that platform. The same thanks is extended to my Deity-level patron, Cup, for her unwavering support.
PS: The next chapter will be posted in exactly two weeks. It will be released here for readers on Wednesday, October 5th, 2022. IT IS AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW FOR ANYONE WHO JOINS MY DISCORD SERVER, AS ARE CHAPTERS 35, 36, AND 37! Chapter 38 will also be made available to Discord members next Wednesday. THOSE WHO SIGN UP TO MY P*T*E*N PAGE WILL GAIN IMMEDIATE ACCESS TO THE NEXT TWELVE CHAPTERS. Both of those links can be found on my profile. If you have trouble with either of them, a generic search of my pen name will bring up my website, and direct links to both can be found via the home page.
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