Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 34: Awakenings
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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July 11, 1943
Raindrops pattered against damp pavement like hurried footsteps. Harry had cut through a patch of grass not long ago and his socks now squished beneath his feet. The hem of his robes skimmed the surface of a puddle as he turned down another dark alleyway. Ripples spread across the small pool of water as Harry continued on, stopping beside a bin and gingerly removing that day’s edition of the Daily Prophet.
GRINDELWALD SUPPORTERS NARROWLY ESCAPE JUSTICE AND FLEE TO ITALY!
“A worrying headline.”
Harry turned, clearing his mind as he raised an eyebrow. “I thought we were meeting near Borgin and Burkes.”
“That was the plan, yes.”
“You didn’t have to come and find me. I was on my way.”
“I’m aware,” said Emily, her lips curving up.
“But you’re here anyway?”
The smile fell from her lips. “I’ve never been patient and I sensed you nearby. I wasn’t going to stand there and wait.”
Harry’s eye twitched. Sensed me nearby? How good is her Legilimency? There was little to do. She’s impossible when she gets like this; there’s no convincing her otherwise. That was something he had learned these past two months.
Two months already? Merlin, time goes fast.
Now that Harry wasn’t so caught up in the moment, he could appreciate how brilliant a play Cerastes had made. Removing their largest threat, pulling aside the veil through which he saw Emily, and uniting the pair of them in a single stroke had been a masterclass.
Warring emotions raged inside him, even now.
Abraxas Malfoy was dead and the pair of them had got off scot-free. There had been an investigation conducted both by aurors and professors, but there was nothing to find sans Abraxas’s wand. Once a Priori Incantato yielded the Unforgivable Curses, it was a cut and dry case.
The shock of that night lingered, and still there were nights he awoke from visions of Abraxas’s body lying on the bathroom floor, staring up at him through lifeless eyes.
When most of the shock passed, Harry could not help but feel lighter than he had in months. Emily really isn’t going to become Voldemort…
She was ruthless and manipulative, but Harry could not imagine her starting a war pursuing the purity of blood — not when her entire plan had been to use Abraxas as a pawn against the pureblood movement. It was almost noble in a weird, twisted way…
Those thoughts were odd and always left him feeling jittery. What was he to do now? The past year had been spent ensuring Voldemort never rose here.
I guess I’ll just keep watching her. She’s still not a good person. Just because she isn’t Voldemort doesn’t mean she can’t do awful things. Harry had to remember that. It was easy talking to her now that the worst of his fears were gone, easy falling into their friendly patterns since that night in the chamber. If someone would have told me a year ago I’d be friends with Riddle, I’d have laughed in their face…
Abraxas’s face swam up through his thoughts, but he tried ignoring it. He had to die; he would have killed my friends.
“It still bothers you, doesn’t it?”
Emily was studying him and Harry realized then how long the silence had stretched. Hairs rose on the back of his neck. How does she always know what I’m thinking? “You’re sure you don’t constantly legilimize me?”
Emily rolled her eyes. “We’ve been over this already. I have a hard time not gleaning people’s basic emotions, but I don’t need Legilimency to know what you’re thinking.”
That’s not creepy at all… “It’s not the way you think,” he said, sighing. “Abraxas dying isn’t what bothers me, it’s the fact I feel like I should be bothered.”
A shadow crossed her face. “Should you mourn for someone who tortured your best friends?”
“I don’t mourn him, I—“
“You’re far too good a person. Abraxas deserved everything he got and you know it. He would have killed them all.”
Harry grimaced, but nodded. “I know, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
“Don’t worry,” she said, grinning, a gleam in her eye. “I’ll leave you out of any future murders.”
A small shiver ran up his spine. Why does she have to make quips like that? I’m never sure if she’s serious. There was a surety she spoke with that made it hard to tell. It’s like she knows anything she says will come true.
“Cheers,” he muttered, unsure how to answer. “What did you mean earlier?”
Emily frowned. “About what?”
“You said the paper was worrying. It looked like a decent enough headline to me.”
Emily pursed her lips. “What do you think that headline meant?”
Harry ran a hand through his hair. “It means that Grindelwald is losing, doesn’t it?”
“And you remember the conversation we had after Grindelwald’s failed offensive in Stalingrad?”
A fist of ice closed in Harry’s stomach. “You think it means he’s going to come to Britain?”
“Grindelwald doesn’t handle losing well.”
Harry raised an eyebrow, heart thundering in his chest. She’s not Voldemort. She isn’t going to pull out a wand and curse you just for making a joke. “I’m not sure you’re one to judge others on how well they handle losing.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I handled our duel with good grace, did I not?”
A smile crested his lips. “You admit you lost, then?” They had jibed back and forth about that for the past two months.
She waved her hand. “It was a draw, but that outcome is unacceptable. Anything short of a win is a loss.”
Harry smirked. “And you’re judging other people—“ she stepped forward and placed a finger to his lips. His pulse quickened, heat filling his cheeks. She’s not Voldemort! Grow up!
“Shush,” she said, removing her finger with a smile as he exhaled. “My hatred of losing has worked well for me. Just because it exists doesn’t mean I can’t judge others.”
“So what about him not losing? He’ll feel like he needs a win back, or something?”
“I think it’s more the sense he’ll be worried. He’s turned Russia against him and now he may lose a foothold in Italy. Britain is one of the last defendable places in Europe.”
Harry looked around the alley. “Does it really matter where he sets up camp? His enemies can just apparate or portkey.”
She sniffed. “You overestimate the average witch or wizard. The channel is a natural defence for anyone who lacks the power for long apparition jumps and we have some of the strongest wards in Europe. He’s only stayed away so far because of those wards.” Her lips curved into a sneer. “And Dumbledore.”
She really doesn’t like him. Harry would not fight that battle. It’s not like I can blame her after how he acted on Samhain. “Dumbledore doesn’t think Grindelwald is afraid of him.”
Emily pondered that. “I think he’s afraid of the idea of losing, and Dumbledore is his biggest threat.”
Thunder rumbled, a flash overhead sending light rippling across the surface of a nearby puddle. The rain picked up around them. It was less like footsteps now and more like swelling rapids. It was lucky they stood in the shadow of a building whose roof protruded over their heads and blocked the falling rain.
Harry chewed his words, his heart racing. They had come a long way in the past two months, but could he ask her this?
“What is it?” she asked, glaring at him. “What are you thinking?”
Harry jolted. “Just musing.”
She raised an eyebrow. “While looking at me like you’re judging the ripeness of a fruit?” Harry blushed. “Just ask.”
Sod it, then. “What do you think of Grindelwald? We’ve always talked about him, but always what he’s doing or what he might do next.”
She tilted her head, watching him. “If I answer, will you do the same?”
A chill seeped through him. The more I talk about Grindelwald, the easier it is to poke holes in my story. Curiosity gnawed at him, separate from his wariness. It would be a good chance to judge her character. Her shocked expression down in the Chamber of Secrets came back to him. She’s not perfect and I’ve gotten much better at lying this last year.
“Deal,” he said as casually as he could.
“I detest him and everything he stands for.” Harry’s eyes widened a fraction. Bloody hell, “You look surprised.”
He schooled his features. You would be too if you were in my spot… “I wasn’t really sure what to think. He doesn’t seem big on blood purity. I guess I thought that might appeal to you.”
Her expression darkened. “If it wasn’t mixed in with all his other suicidal trash, then perhaps.”
His curiosity deepened. “Suicidal trash?”
“Grindelwald’s goal is to unite wizardkind under a single banner and destroy the Statute of Secrecy. He thinks we’ll rule over muggles for the greater good.”
Harry tilted his head. That sounds like it would appeal to Voldemort. “And?”
“And he’s a fool who knows nothing about muggles. His confidence wouldn’t be so high if he’d been trapped in the heat of their bigotry. They’re not fighting with swords and shields anymore.”
Surprised seized him, disrupting his heartbeat. The muggles worry her… “You think the muggles would win a war?”
She scowled. “That isn’t what I said. Wizarding deaths are exponentially lower since the introduction of the Statute of Secrecy and that isn’t a coincidence. We gain nothing from collapsing the statute but mutually assured destruction. That isn’t worth spilling so much blood.”
She’s afraid of muggles. He knew not why it surprised him. She grew up in London during the Blitz, it makes sense. Still it felt odd knowing. Voldemort had always been a mythical figure whose loathing of muggles was well-known, but never had Harry imagined there was fear beneath that mask. She’s not Voldemort, he reminded himself for the thousandth time.
“I believe we had an agreement,” she said, tapping her foot against the damp pavement.
Harry tried his best to imitate her sneer and stop himself from fidgeting. “I have no love for Grindelwald.”
“May I ask something more personal?” Harry’s guard rose, but he nodded. This could go wrong. “If you really do dislike Grindelwald, what’s the real reason?”
His breath hitched, cold spilling down from his chest and into his stomach. Fuck! “W-what?”
“Have you not learned by now I’m not fooled like the others?”
“Grindelwald murdered my parents.”
“Yet you’ve spoken about him with complete calmness. I haven’t heard you mention your parents once unprompted, nor anything about your life before Hogwarts.” Harry took a step back. How much has she guessed? Emily sighed. “I don’t expect an answer. I understand you don’t trust me. I just hope that, one day, that changes.” Harry opened his mouth, but no words came out. Something harsh twisted in the pit of his stomach. Guilt? Why am I guilty? Ugh! I hate secrets.
Later that night…
A column of swirling green flames gave way to paler columns made from stone, holding up a high ceiling that loomed above a handsome hall done up in gleaming marble.
Harry paid it no heed, stepping from the fireplace, his thoughts still whirling. How much has she guessed? Emily could say she expected no answers all she wanted, but they had talked about her patience. If she learned the truth… he knew not what would happen.
Even Slughorn only knows half, and that’s because he’s useful. Guilt knotted in his stomach again. When did I start thinking about people that way? Harry reached for another thought, eager to forget his guilt. That was unhelpful right now. Slughorn… that’s not a bad idea.
He bustled off towards the library, summoning a bottle of ink and a quill, snatching a roll of parchment from a table on the way, his letter mentally penned by the time he sat down to write it.
Something urgent came up about our agreement from last summer. Is there any chance we could meet soon? I’d like your advice since I’m a bit shaken.
Hope your summer’s going well.
It was good. It addressed what he wanted and had a very real note of panic. Slughorn would eat that up and, with any luck, arrange a meeting at his earliest convenience.
Merlin, Harry thought for what must be the thousandth time, when did I get so good at lying and manipulating people?
It was probably for the best given everything that had happened, but still it made him uneasy. I can’t think that way; think about all the good it’s done. Never would he have imagined being happy about a Slytherin sorting. Everything would probably have blown up in my face if I was a Gryffindor again.
Harry jumped about a foot in the air, drawing his wand and spinning towards the sound. The Fawleys’ house elf yelped, its ears pricking up when it saw the wand levelled at its forehead.
Harry blushed. Why do the bloody things always jumpscare me. “Sorry,” he said, lowering his wand, “you caught me at a bad time.”
“It-it-it’s all right, M-M-Master,” the elf stammered.
Harry mussed his hair, spilling raindrops down his back. A shiver ran up his spine. “Er, do you have a message, or something?”
The elf straightened, puffing out its chest. It got confident quick. “Yes, sir. Master Marshall and Mistress Melody be saying that Mistress Elena is awake.”
All thoughts of Emily, Grindelwald, and a time long-lost vanished. “Take me to her.”
Year 2 is officially underway! I have said on the Discord server that this fic is a tale of two halves, so let’s see what you make of part 2!
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