Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 36: Longing Shadows
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, as well as my other betas 3CP, Fezzik, Luq707, Raven, Regress, Thanos, and Yoshi89 for their incredible work on this story.
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August 26, 1943
The Home of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Fawley
Dying sunlight bled through large glass windows. Shadows stretched across the library, covering his two friends’ faces across the desk. It was like the weather was making up for how poor July had been. There had scarcely been a day in August where the sky was not a brilliant shade of blue.
It could have continued storming for all Harry cared. It had been the best month of his life. More of it than ever was spent with Dorea and Elena; a dynamic he’d been starved for these past few months.
“Arcturus isn’t coming back to Hogwarts this year, is he?” Elena asked.
“No, he graduated already,” said Dorea, not looking at Harry. She must think I hate Arcturus. He couldn’t hate him. There had been times he wanted to, but he understood. How could he hate someone for protecting one of his friends?
“What’s he getting up to now?” Hopefully me asking will make her realize she’s paranoid.
Dorea smirked. “Being bored out of his mind.” Her expression darkened. “Serves him right after last year.”
“Something tells me he’s not the type to sit around.”
“You have no idea,” she told him. “Father would never let him toil away at some job, but Arcturus would prefer if he did. I don’t think running the family is appealing to him and sitting around while he slowly takes on Father’s duties and gets ready is even worse.”
Harry grimaced. “That sounds like my definition of hell.” Maybe the two of us would even get along.
Not now, another voice whispered. Not now that you really are friends with Emily. That would surely rub Arcturus the wrong way. It’s not like I can blame him; he just better not take Dorea away again.
He and Emily had scarcely talked in August after spending so much time together earlier in the summer. Something had her occupied. She mailed him, but her letters had been strange for a while. They had become more normal in the past week or so and they were set to meet tomorrow along with all the others in Diagon Alley, but something had happened that put her in an odd mood. Must be the orphanage. Merlin knows Privet Drive never did good things to my head.
His lungs shrank when he thought of Emily, or so it felt. He looked from Dorea to Elena. No more putting it off. They’re not stupid and Dorea will figure out the game’s changed soon.
Her eyes narrow, right on cue. “What are you thinking?”
“That you’re some sort of secret legilimens,” he grumbled.
Elena giggled. “Secret? She’s a Black, isn’t she?”
Dorea swatted her on the arm. “Hush, you.” She looked back at Harry. “Come on — out with it.”
Harry looked from one girl to the other and took a deep breath. “I’ve changed my opinion about Riddle.”
The room’s temperature dropped. It had been warm just a moment ago, but now he suppressed a shiver. “And what is your new opinion?” Dorea asked, expression blank.
Harry took another deep breath. Merlin, her stare’s unnerving. “I think she’s all right.” He held up his hands, preemptively forestalling interjections that never came. “When you guys were petrified, she helped me work out it was Abraxas.” A slight blush crept up his cheeks. “She actually figured it out, then showed me.” Better if they don’t know I knew before they were attacked; I’d die of shame.
“How did she know?” asked Elena.
“She thought whoever it was wanted to frame her. You know, Heir of Slytherin a few weeks after she spoke Parseltongue and all that. She looked into it after that and put the whole thing together.” Harry swallowed a lump in his throat. I can’t tell them about Cerastes. Why does there have to be so many secrets?
Dorea watched him closely. Here it comes; she’ll say I’m brainwashed, then I’ll lose her again. “It wasn’t an accident, was it?”
Harry blinked. “Come again?”
“Abraxas’s death; it wasn’t an accident. Riddle meant to kill him.”
“We meant to turn him in.” That isn’t a complete lie. It’s what I meant to do and it was once her plan too, framed or not. “Abraxas just had more fight than we realized. Riddle’s spell caught him and the rest happened like I said back in the hospital.”
Harry waited. Any moment accusations would seep from their eyes. Any moment they would realize everything he’d just said and the problems would begin. Any moment his summer would cease being the best he’d ever known.
“How do you know she isn’t playing you like the others?” Dorea’s voice was calm and her expression gave nothing away.
Because a basilisk played us both and forced us both to speak our minds. “I don’t think she’s an amazing person, or anything,” he said. At least that’s true. “But I don’t think she’s awful. I don’t think she has any plans that are going to ruin the world and…” he hesitated, here was the hard part. “We have a lot in common; we’ve sort of become friends.”
Now the bomb goes off. “How confident are you?” Elena’s voice was a touch shrill but otherwise unreadable.
“I’m not a legilimens so I can’t be positive, but I’m confident. We’re not best friends or anything, but… well, she’s always treated me well and I’m giving it a shot.”
Elena closed her eyes, her chest rose and fell. “I trust you.”
That was it — she said no more. Fondness swelled inside him. No questions, no doubts, just trust. Never had Harry had a friend quite like Elena. “Thank you, Elena.” She offered him a smile. She looked a touch paler than usual, but her eyes were filled with warmth. Harry looked to Dorea, who still remained silent.
She took a steadying breath. “Arcturus won’t like it if he finds out.”
“I’ll just say I’m going along with her and infiltrating or something.”
Dorea drummed her fingers on the desk’s edge. “I don’t trust her, either.” Harry’s heart sank. Here it comes. “But I’ll trust you and try.”
Harry almost gaped. “You will?”
Dorea rolled her eyes. “I don’t like Riddle. I don’t like what she does to other people, how manipulative she is, or how she goes about proving her points. She’s a menace, but she’s never really hurt anyone.” Her eyes turned hard again. “Don’t think I’ll just roll over. If I see anything that I think is suspicious, I’ll be the first one to confront you about it.”
Harry looked from one girl to the other, sure he was dreaming. “Are you okay?” Elena asked.
Harry shook himself. “I… was worried that might go a lot worse.” He offered them a sheepish smile. “Thank you.”
Dorea jutted out her chin. “I make good friends. You were watching her closely for months and aren’t an idiot. I’ll trust your judgement, at least until I have reason not to.”
A sharp pin punctured his bubble of relief, allowing heavy guilt to seep inside. It choked him, robbing of words. Bloody secrets! Even when they help get what I want, they still find a way to hurt me.
August 27, 1943
Swirling green flames faded, leaving him standing in a smouldering hearth facing out into a dark room that appeared even darker. Bright spots swirled around his vision, the green flames still burning behind his eyes. They faded soon, finally letting him look out into the shabby confines of the Leaky Cauldron.
Harry’s heart raced just standing here. Once this place had unnerved him because of how his first visit had gone. The crowd of people had been suffocating; the only thing from that first magical day he had never treasured.
Now this place unnerved him for a different reason. It was impossible to look around and not remember that day more than a year ago; the day when he had appeared and realized everything he knew was lost forever.
Someone moved from a shadowy corner. Harry stepped from the fireplace when he saw her. “Hey, Dorea.”
“Hi, Harry. Just waiting for Elena?” He nodded as the fire burst to life again, a dark silhouette framed against it.
The two girls embraced and the trio left the Leaky Cauldron. Another shiver ran up Harry’s spine when he stepped outside. His hand drifted towards his wand. Try me now, you bastards! I don’t need a teacher’s help this time.
It would have been easy forgetting last year’s attack had he not lived it. Anything destroyed by Grindelwald’s men had been repaired. More shops appeared closed now, more windows barred, but that would probably have happened even without them. The war was taking its toll on Britain just like the rest of Europe even if it had yet to physically arrive.
That was even more obvious here than Hogsmeade. Just on their way to the cafe, the trio saw three crying children begging their mothers for gifts they couldn’t afford. The robes on display were still done in drab greys and plain blacks; hardly any colour could be seen at all.
They walked past the cafe Harry had spent time at not long ago with Slughorn, stepping into another. A waiter greeted them the moment they entered, dressed in robes as plain as the ones on display. “Do you have a reservation?”
“It should be under Romulus Lestrange,” said Harry.
The man scanned a sheet of parchment, then nodded. “Right this way, please.”
The cafe was small but appeared mostly to have escaped the worst effects of the war. Magical spheres of light hung above each table, ladened with guilted goblets and gleaming silverware. Something twisted inside Harry’s stomach. The rich and powerful are always protected; even in the middle of a war.
Their booth was magically enlarged or else it would never fit them all. Rosier, Dolohov, and Mulciber sat on one side, whilst Emily, Cassie, and Lestrange, lounged on the other.
Her stare found him the moment he drew near. It made hairs rise on the back of Harry’s neck almost like it had back when he tried avoiding her. Something’s changed.
Harry took a seat right beside her. “How have the two of you been since recovering from Malfoy’s attack?” she asked Dorea and Elena.
“Better now,” said Dorea, who hardly ever spoke in front of Riddle. Merlin, she’s making a real effort. “I still get flashes of the Cruciatus Curse, but they’re just memories at this point.” Elena shivered, but nodded.
“I’ve heard of that happening post Cruciatus Curse. The mind rarely recovers easily from things like that.” She appeared to consider something. “Do either of you know Occlumency?”
Harry forced himself not to gape; her other friends too looked surprised. “I know of it,” said Dorea. “I’ve practiced some of the absolute basics, but nothing beyond that.”
Elena shook her head. “I’ve never practiced.”
“You should. It might help control the flashes. I’d guess they happen when your mind is at its most subconscious? Maybe when asleep or close to?” Both girls nodded. “I can teach you some, if you’d like? I should really be doing that anyway.”
Harry could hardly believe what was happening. Merlin, something really has changed. It appeared all for the better, but he could not shake his nerves. Everything was working out far too well — something would soon go wrong, he just knew it.
Banks of fog rose, so thick he could see nothing. I am dreaming; nothing about this is natural.
The fog began twisting, thinning in places. Gravestones loomed through the fog, rows of shadows that became clearer the longer he looked. Vision returned, cool mist hanging in the air. Hedges ringed the graveyard, nestled in the shadow of an old church. Beyond the fence, a hill sloped up towards what must have been a manor.
The mist writhed, taking the form of something vaguely human. Its features sharpened and solidified until a man stood before him. So familiar yet so different. I might have fought his kin if not for his eyes.
The raven-haired man turned away. The last remaining bank of fog cleared, revealing a stone archway marred by cracks. It looked fit to crumble at any moment, like a layer of ice stretched thin across a thawing river. Strange voices came from that archway, whispers that were gone with the wind, so faint they might well have been tricks played by his mind.
The man studied the archway then closed his emerald eyes. Silver gleamed as a dagger slid from his sleeve. It trembled in a shaking hand, then moved up towards the man’s own throat.
It slashed across but spilled no blood. Something dark poured from the wound. If shadows turned to smoke, they would look like this, wafting towards the archway then drifting through and vanishing.
Something stepped from the archway, it too a shadow. It came from nowhere, yet I felt no conjuration nor twisting of magic.
The man’s eyes opened, fixed unblinkingly on the shadow that glided towards him. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
His eyes opened, a long breath hissing out from between his lips. His skull pounded and his limbs felt weak. Darkness still loomed outside the nearest window. A small mercy; I doubt I could rise.
His heart raced, blood thundering in his ears. A foretelling… it had been a long time since his last. But what does it mean?
Grindelwald grunted with the effort of sitting up but made himself do it. An amulet flew into his outstretched hand. “Another piece to this complex game,” he muttered, turning the amulet over in his fingers. “Where do you fit?” he asked aloud, the man’s face still burning behind his eyes.
A lot of developments in this chapter and Hogwarts in the next. Things are moving along nicely, so I hope you’re all excited.
PS: The next password will be released on Wednesday. THE NEXT SIX CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PATRONS RIGHT NOW, AND ANOTHER WILL BE POSTED ON SUNDAY OR MONDAY! If you would like to read those chapters early, feel free to sign up for my Patreon page.
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