Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 35: Precious Things
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 14, 1943
The Home of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Fawley
Raindrops drummed against large windows as Harry flipped another page. Thunder boomed and a bright flash sent pale light rippling across the dark grey sky. Panes of glass shuddered in the window before once more settling.
It was among the most miserable stretches of weather Harry could remember. The weather always had a strong impact on his moods. Years spent with the Dursleys trained him to think of the outdoors as his salvation. Seeing the sky just as miserable as that spider-filled cupboard had always sunk his stomach.
It doesn’t even bother me for once. His friends were awake again and had been for three days. No amount of water could douse the burning joy that still filled him to the brim. The skies could rain glass for all he cared and nothing would change. Emily probably wasn’t becoming Voldemort, Abraxas was dealt with, the chamber was no threat, and his friends were awake. Everything was almost perfect.
Dorea had been coldly calm upon waking. Her first question had been where Abraxas Malfoy was. Being caught off guard hadn’t sat well with her and there had been no pity in her eyes when she was told of what happened to him.
Elena had woken frantically and in a panic. One of her first questions had been what happened. That was harder to answer. Telling Dorea that Abraxas was dead was one thing. But what happened? Merlin, what hadn’t happened? His lips had moved and formed the lies he had to tell, but they tasted like spoiled milk and made bile rise in the back of his throat. I’m so sick of lying.
This was one thing he always hated and it was one thing he could never change. Being weak was awful, but there were things he could do about that.
Months had been spent fearing what Emily would do and what she might become. Things hadn’t exactly gone to plan, but there had been a plan. There were things Harry had at least tried doing.
There was no changing the need for lies. Few things hurt him more than staring into Elena’s eyes and reciting the same story about how Abraxas had fallen back and split his skull in a duel with Emily Riddle.
The suspicion in her eyes had been the worst thing of all. Not that I can blame her. I just spent a year being suspicious about Riddle.
The suspicion in her eyes made him think of all the things he’d had to lie about this past year. I wish I could just tell the truth about everything. He had once shared everything with Ron and Hermione, but this was different. They’d leave me, just like everyone always does any time something unusual happens. The accidental magic back in muggle school, his Parseltongue back during second year — both led to the same thing.
He had friends here — friends just as close as Ron and Hermione had once been. There was nothing in the world he would trade them for and the last thing he would do was throw them away. If I have to lie to do it, then fine.
There was also the pressing issue of Emily. Elena was terrified of her and Dorea hyper-suspicious. How was he to tell them they were now friends and that their collective efforts had helped stop Malfoy? They would probably just think she’d gotten to him and that he was spun around her finger the same way most other boys were. What a mess.
He had to tell them soon. The veil would be pulled back at Hogwarts and Harry would rather they knew what lurked behind it.
But if I do…
Everything was going his way for the first time since landing back in the past.
Before then, really. When was the last time everything ever went my way? First year had started well, he supposed. Freedom from the Dursleys, a new world of magic, and a starring role on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. I guess that would be it, then. Second year started with a demented elf and almost getting expelled. I spent most of third year afraid of being murdered.
Soft footsteps came from behind him. “Morning, Elena.” A smile crossed his lips even as he marked his place in the book and turned his head. She was a sight for sore eyes; his best friend awake again, smiling back at him as real life sparkled behind her bright green eyes.
“Good morning, Harry. I’m glad to know you still sleep well.”
He grinned. “I get enough. I’m surprised you’re up this early. Didn’t the healer say you’d probably need more sleep for a while?”
She looked away. Uh-oh. I shouldn’t have said anything. “I’ll probably nap later. I needed to move after the dreams.”
“Ah.” His stomach writhed. What can I say to that? “Sorry.”
Her head jerked back up. “What are you apologizing for? It’s not your fault Malfoy was a monster.”
A cold fist closed inside his stomach. No, just that he’s dead. “I still wish I was there sooner.”
She scowled. “I’m not some damsel. Dorea and I would have beaten him if he hadn’t gotten us from behind.”
“Do you feel okay? Other than the dreams, I mean? There was something about a prolonged Cruciatus Curse.”
She shuddered. “It hits me from time to time, but just for a few seconds, and the healer said it should pass within a week or so.” She looked away again. “Sleeping is the worst part. I always feel like the spell hits me right before I fall asleep and any time I wake up. It’s not actual pain, just the memory.”
Harry gripped the table hard. Any guilt he felt for Abraxas’s death disappeared all at once. He got better than he deserved. He should have died under the same curse he used on her.
One of his remaining reservations about Emily was just how unbothered she was by Malfoy’s death, but that too faded.
“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.”
No, fuck him. He deserved much worse.
“Are you all right?” Elena asked, frowning.
“Fine,” said Harry, banishing the darkest of his thoughts and forcing a smile. His stomach’s writhing returned. Why have I gotten so good at lying? “It’s just nice having you back again. I get distracted sometimes.”
Elena blushed, but smiled. “Don’t get too distracted. I have a letter for you.”
She removed it from her robes and passed it over. Harry broke the seal and removed the parchment.
I’m sorry about whatever’s happened to have you in such a tiff. I can always make time for the likes of you. How about this Saturday in Diagon Alley? There’s a wonderful outdoor cafe that’s survived everything going on in the world. It’s near Gringotts, you can’t miss it. Open patio, cherry red umbrellas, beautiful young waitresses; it’s a lovely place.
I hope to hear back from you soon.
All the best,
Knots of guilt tightened inside his stomach as he looked towards his best friend. And now I get to learn how to lie even more convincingly.
July 16, 1943
Shadows crawled up four dark walls, twisting like demented serpents in the flickering light of several dying torches. There was another lantern in the room’s centre, but its fingers of light were too short to reach any of the room’s sides, instead serving only the girl sitting cross-legged as it hovered above her.
Dorea’s heart rate finally calmed as she turned another page in her book. Tonight had featured a full gathering of the family in her honour. It was supposedly a celebration of her return, but it felt more like an interrogation about why she’d left in the first place. Dorea shuddered just thinking about the dinner. So many unpleasant questions leading to so many unpleasant memories.
Waves of heat melted the chill inside her stomach as angry red blotches crawled up her arms. Her face flushed and her fingers trembled. What she would have done to meet Abraxas one last time. Never before had she hoped for one of Riddle’s schemes, but now she did. Let her have tortured him to death over some kind of slight. A freak accident is too merciful.
“You do realize how predictable you are, don’t you?”
Dorea looked up with a sigh. “You do realize how rude it is to pester your sick little sister, don’t you?”
Arcturus’s smile looked sinister in the light of a flickering torch. He passed through it and to the room’s centre, taking a seat beside her. “How do you feel?”
Dorea sighed. He’s not going to let me shrug this off. “Better. The phantom pains have mostly stopped.”
Arcturus continued staring. “Pain is minor. You know what I meant.”
Dorea crossed her arms, her face twisting into a tight glare. “Angry, upset, embarrassed? I don’t know, Arcturus, what do you want from me?”
A pained look crossed his face. “I don’t want anything from you — I want things for you. Father hasn’t exactly done his part in keeping up with you, so someone has to.”
“I wish it could be my friends.” The words came out soaked in venom, but she didn’t care. Let them sting. She actually took satisfaction in the cracks in his composure, rippling across his face like splintering ice.
“You don’t have to wish.”
Her bitter thoughts froze as his words sank in. “What?”
“Pavonis and I made a deal. It just happened right before you were attacked.”
Her heart raced. Now he tells me this! “And you’re going to stick to it? Even after what happened?”
His hands twisted in his lap, his weight shifting from side to side. “That was a freak accident and not part of our agreement. It’s Riddle who worries me; I never even considered Abraxas would do something like that. Unless Pavonis slips up in upholding his side or I find out Riddle was somehow behind it, I’m not about to back out of the agreement.” He grimaced. “I do try and be a man of my word, even if you don’t always like it.”
The tension she had been holding since waking finally broke as she threw herself at Arcturus. She almost knocked him flat; this sort of outburst was the last thing he had expected.
“You sure you’re all right?” he asked again. Dorea could hear the smile in his voice even as her head burrowed into his chest and his fingers gently stroked her hair.
“I’m getting there,” she said in a voice that shook. “This will definitely help.”
July 17, 1943
The skies above had finally smoothed. Whilst still bleak, they no longer poured water, nor were they shattered by jagged bolts of lightning. The one nice thing about the abhorred weather was that it had broken the awful humidity that had come before. Now the air was unseasonably cool; it felt more like the beginning of May than the middle of July.
Slughorn took another pull of mead and quickly belched into his napkin. He chuckled, rubbing his bulging stomach and refocusing on Harry. “I’m glad to hear you’ve recovered from your ordeal. Seeing Abraxas’s accident… Merlin’s beard, I feel for you and Emily both.”
Harry smiled a very strained smile. “Thank you, sir. I think we’re both doing okay now, but it was hard in the beginning.”
“I can only imagine.” Slughorn shook his head. “Dark tidings,” he muttered. “Are the Fawleys treating you well?”
Harry blinked; that was a very sudden question. “Yes, sir, they always have.”
“Good, good,” he trailed off, a far-away look in his eyes.
“Professor? Are you all right?”
“Hm? Oh, yes. Quite so, m’boy, quite so. An old man gets distracted now and then. What was it you wrote about? Some kind of trouble?”
Harry took a deep breath, his heart fluttering. In for a knut, in for a galleon. “Emily knows our story’s fake. She told me so about a week ago.”
Slughorn sighed. “That girl is far too clever for her own good. It’s no real surprise. You can only fool a mind like hers for so long.”
Harry leant forward. “What do I do?”
“That is entirely up to you, m’boy.”
Harry frowned. Well that’s unhelpful. “It is?” Slughorn had always guided him closely in things like this. Having it pinned entirely on his shoulders took him by surprise.
Slughorn chortled. “Sometimes I think that you forget I don’t know where you came from. All I know is that you were talking nonsense last summer and that you needed a helping hand.”
Trust me, I don’t forget. How could he? If Slughorn treated him like this now, he could only imagine what it would be like if he knew the truth. He does seem like the type who would sell the secrets for some gold. Hell, could probably tempt him with some of that pineapple if you caught him on the right day.
“I can’t just tell her.”
Harry shook his head, biting down a grimace. “There are reasons you don’t know, sir. There are things I never want brought up again.”
Slughorn’s moustache quivered. “You’re sure, m’boy? You couldn’t do much better in a confidant than Emily.”
Crimson eyes burned out from the back of Quirrell’s head and Tom Riddle smiled a sharp smile down in the Chamber of Secrets. Trelawney seized up in the midst of their exam, her words echoing off the tower’s round walls. “I’m sure, Professor.”
Slughorn looked disappointed for a moment, but his expression smoothed back over. “Well, all right. If she’s onto you, you won’t convince her she’s wrong. Emily’s a smart girl and she knows it. Not one to doubt herself and very strong-willed.”
Strong-willed? Is that what you call it? “That’s probably an understatement.”
Slughorn chuckled again. “Quite. No, I’m sorry, m’boy, but you won’t convince her she’s wrong.”
“A different story, then? A story within a story; something more believable this time.”
“I think that would be best,” Slughorn agreed.
Harry drummed his fingers against the table. “What kind of story should it be? What would keep her off my back?”
The Potions Master twirled his long moustache. “A real query. Nothing that might pique her curiosity. Once that girl walks down a path, she’ll never turn back.”
Let’s just hope she keeps away from Voldemort’s, then. She would. He had to keep telling himself that. This was not Tom Riddle.
“But it can’t be too far from my last cover story, can it?” Harry asked with a frown. “That’d be obvious.”
Slughorn nodded. “The best lies are always formed from little bits of truth. Always remember that, Harry.”
His stomach panged. I don’t want to remember how to lie. “What about Emily specifically? Is there anything I can do to make it more believable for her?”
Slughorn thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers. “Why, of course.” He chortled. “We’ve talked about it already!”
Harry’s fingers ceased their drumming. “We have?”
“Her stubbornness. Brilliant girl, but by Merlin, she knows it.” You’re telling me. “Believing she’s right is easier for her than believing she’s wrong.”
Harry’s eyes widened as an idea took hold. “So I make a part of the story something she already believes? That way she won’t doubt the rest of it.”
Slughorn beamed. “Precisely.”
July 31, 1943
The Home of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Fawley
Harry stepped from the library and moved down the hall, squinting against the bright sunlight streaming in from a window on his left. Cracks of it had shown behind the heavy curtains in the library, but he’d kept them closed and now it blazed across the hall, pooling in warm circles beneath his feet.
His heart beat faster than usual as he walked towards the dining room. An elf had summoned him for breakfast. That wasn’t unusual, but it happened less frequently now than last year. Doing anything for his birthday still felt odd, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t connect the dots and realize this was probably more than a simple coincidence.
His step faltered when he entered the dining room. A wall of noise slammed against him as the call of “Happy birthday!” rang through the room, but that was not what took him aback. That was the pale, dark-haired girl who threw herself at him with such force, he staggered.
“Dorea?” Their talk in the hospital had been brief. He hadn’t known where they stood since the attack happened so soon after his deal with Arcturus, and she obviously hadn’t either.
Now she clung to him, her face in his chest as she took deep, shaking breaths. Something twisted inside his chest. She’s crying. This was a new experience. His limbs felt heavy, his footing unsteady. What was he to do?
Harry steeled himself and wrapped his arms around her. She did likewise and squeezed hard as her tears slowed. Any other time, he would have been a blustering mess. His face was flushed a deep shade of crimson but, for once, he didn’t care.
Who cares about being awkward. I have Dorea back; that’s all I could ever want for my birthday.
August 8, 1943
The sun finally dipped below a high hill. Already long shadows swelled. Bright patches of orange faded overhead, replaced by faint streaks and then gone altogether as Emily trudged towards a handsome manor home, Morfin’s wand twirling through her fingers.
It was pathetic how easy this was. Grindelwald and his foolishness could slowly die in Fiendfyre, but the resistance against him was almost as bad. He was a psychopathic lunatic that would ruin their world. That was why people should oppose him, yet most who stood against him did so only out of fear. Fear not of Grindelwald, but of the thought of change.
Pathetic. How can they take their deluded highground when common sense could melt the world around them? How can they ignore the need for change when a sixteen-year-old girl can fool their infrastructure so easily?
What good was something like the trace? All it did was limit children’s growth. It did nothing for justice — how could it when it detected nothing of relevance? How could wizards rely on something that she could fool just by taking another’s wand?
She flicked it and the gates swung open. The wand matched poorly, but it mattered not. It was functional, just mundane.
The exceptional magic is already done. All that’s left is crushing bugs.
The manor’s door burst open with another flick of the wand and Emily stepped across the threshold. Four people lounged in the nearby sitting room. There was no need for Homenum Revelio; sensing muggles’ minds was like reading young children.
Footsteps rushed down the hall. “Who are you?” a cold voice asked. “I warn you, I’m armed!”
Green light filled the hall as the man’s rifle bounced off the floor, his body falling beside it.
Emily stepped over him and continued down the hall. All noise from the sitting room had ceased. Two women sat huddled closely together on a plush sofa. The younger of the two had light brown hair and wide brown eyes. She stared from Emily’s face to the wand in her hand as her lip trembled.
Told you about magic, has he? I wonder how much of it he remembers from my mother?
The lone man in the room glared at her, unmasked hatred in familiar blue eyes. “You’re one of them!” he spat. “What do you want?”
Emily stared unblinkingly back, drinking in every inch of a man she hated most. “Hello, Father.”
His eyes widened. “You—”
“Me.” Her own voice remained calm.
“You will leave!” said an elderly woman with greying hair, standing from the couch on shaky legs. “Tom’s told me all about your type and we won’t have one.”
“Mother! Calm down.” There was a definite note of urgency in Tom Riddle’s voice. “What do you want?” he asked. “Money? I can give you that; I have plenty. Just leave.”
“Where’s Timothy?” the grey-haired woman asked. Emily’s face remained blank as she jerked her head back towards the hallway. He shouldn’t have threatened me. The woman’s hands trembled. “You’ll get nothing from us, you bitch!” the woman screamed, reaching for a nearby knife.
She never reached it, cut down by another flash of green light that left her slumped lifelessly across the sofa. Fool.
“Martha!” the younger woman screamed before she too fell.
“What did you do?” Tom Riddle hissed, eyes wide, face pale.
Emily’s heart thundered against her ribs. “Killed them.”
“You’re lying! I know you are! What do you want? Please! Take anything, just undo what you did and leave!”
Her blood boiled, hot anger rushing beneath her skin. “If only you were so agreeable sixteen years ago.” Her voice was barely louder than a whisper, but it ripped through the room like a cold winter wind.
“Was weak and meaningless.” A cold storm raged inside her. “I don’t care about my mother. She died giving birth, and I know she bewitched you. Leaving her means nothing; leaving me was different.”
“I never knew—”
“Only because you chose not to.” She levelled her wand, but it trembled slightly. This is it! “I stopped wanting things from you a long time ago, back when I realized they’d never come.” She took a deep, steadying breath. “None of that matters. You’re going to make up for it by giving me the last thing I want; the thing I want above all else.” Emily stared into his eyes, memorizing his features, dredging up all the pent-up anger felt in the past sixteen years. “Goodbye, Father.”
Tom Riddle fell like a puppet with its strings cut, but Emily never heard his body hit the floor. Her thoughts turned inwards as she reached down within herself.
She almost recoiled. It was like her mind was touching a thousand shattered bits of glass, each scoring burning cuts across her skin that grew deeper the longer she examined them. Awful cold filled her.
She focused everything on one shattered piece just like the book had said. She seized it — there was no other way of describing it — and pulled.
Pain more awful than anything she had imagined exploded in every pore. Nothing could ever compare to this. She’d known it would hurt, but Merlin, not like this.
It’s worth it! a strained voice whispered. There’s nothing that isn’t worth it. A few more seconds and you’ll be free forever.
That voice was right. There was nothing Emily wouldn’t give for this. Images flashed before her eyes. Her trinkets, her books, her wand, and even her home; all of it could burn if that was what it took.
High cheekbones and dark hair framed brilliant emerald eyes; the only eyes that ever met hers without wavering.
The pain faded. She collapsed and shuddered, coughing thick, coppery spray upon the fine tiled floor.
Joy raged inside her like a roaring storm. It tore through every thought she had; nothing else mattered. This feeling, like her, would never end.
Then her hand touched the ring.
It remained cold and empty, unchanged and without a trace of magic.
The storm died, snuffed out by a single realization.
Her heart skipped a beat. That’s impossible! I did everything right! She scrambled up to her knees, feeling for magic.
There was nothing.
Everything was perfect. The preparations went smoothly, the curse unleashed with the purest hatred she’d ever known. She had felt her fragmented soul and tore at it, just like the book had said.
Murder wounds the soul, but not beyond repair. That takes more than a spell and is achieved only by single-minded intent. You must kill with malice and find pleasure in the deed. You must want what comes with a shattered soul more than anything else. There must be nothing you would not sacrifice, nothing you would not destroy to continue on.
Numb shock gripped her so tightly that the breath froze in her lungs.
It can’t be. It’s nothing but a childish fancy.
Emily knew she was wrong. She’d had no trouble continuing to pull, even when faced with thoughts of losing her wand and her home. Neither of them had given her pause, but a single face had — a single face who had unknowingly changed everything and left her truly lost.
That last scene is one of the first I ever imagined when planning this story, so it’s nice to finally write it. I’m not sure I’ve done it justice here, but we’ll see what everyone thinks.
Please read and review.
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PS: The next chapter will be posted in exactly two weeks. It will be released here for readers on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2022. IT IS AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW FOR ANYONE WHO JOINS MY DISCORD SERVER, AS ARE CHAPTERS 37, 38, AND 39! Chapter 40 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 TEN 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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