Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 37: Tenuous Treaties
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.
Self-Promotion: I have a Discord server where you can chat and read all of my chapters early. ANYONE WHO JOINS THE DISCORD SERVER CAN READ THE NEXT FOUR CHAPTERS RIGHT NOW! THE NEXT CHAPTER RELEASES ON THERE NEXT WEDNESDAY, MEANING DISCORD MEMBERS WILL SPEND HALF THE TIME BETWEEN FFN UPLOADS BEING FIVE CHAPTERS AHEAD! If you would like to join, simply copy the link on my profile. You can do likewise to check out the ACI100 Twitter account — @ACI_100 — for live updates, as well as my official website.
If you like what you read and wish to generously support me directly, I also have a P*T*E*N page, where you can support me in exchange for exclusive, Patron-only benefits. Patrons at the $5 tier or higher get access to all of my chapters many weeks in advance of even Discord, who in turn get chapters long before FFN and AO3. ANYONE WHO SIGNS UP TO THAT PAGE WILL IMMEDIATELY GAIN ACCESS TO THE NEXT TEN CHAPTERS RIGHT NOW! That link is also on my profile.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I am partnering with fellow authors DarknessEnthroned and TheBlack’sResurgence in an effort to raise money for the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation this holiday season. The link to that fundraiser is on my profile and plastered all across my Discord server. There is more information at that link — including donation incentives — and any contribution whatsoever would be humbly appreciated.
September 1, 1943
The Hogwarts Express
Harry strolled through the train in a daze, fingering the badge upon his chest. I never imagined I’d be a prefect.
He paused near a window. The train had begun moving and King’s Cross was already behind them. Street lamps flashed past the glass, squat buildings coming and going behind them. He looked down, studying his reflection in the badge. It almost felt wrong. Prefects were people like Percy and Hermione — diligent, clean-nosed students who upheld the rules.
I should have expected it. Slughorn’s the Head of House, it was his choice. Vacant eyes stared up from beneath perfect blond hair, Riddle faced him in the Chamber of Secrets, Cerastes looming over them. I wonder what Slughorn would think if he knew what his newest prefect got up to.
“I don’t understand why you’re so surprised,” said Dorea, her own badge gleaming. “You’re the best in our year by miles and one of Slughorn’s favourites.”
“I’m not exactly much of a rule follower, though.”
“Do you have any idea how few prefects actually follow their own rules?”
Harry looked up from his badge. “People still have to listen to them, though. I’m not sure how much luck I’ll have making a house of purebloods listen to me when they’ve never heard my name before.”
“They’ve all heard your name after last year. Blood matters, but there are exceptions. Riddle is one, and everyone remembers who won that duel.”
The duel… I hadn’t thought of that in ages. It’s like it never happened. For weeks it had plagued his thoughts, the most nervous he had been in months. So much happened right after, it’s like it never mattered.
“Come on,” said Dorea, reaching for his hand, “we can’t be late for the meeting.”
Most of the other prefects had arrived by the time the pair stepped inside a magically enlarged compartment. Twelve students sat on each side, a white-clothed table covered in confections nestled between them. Their eyes briefly tracked Harry and Dorea before returning to the two students standing over them.
“Charlus!” Harry said, grinning, spying the older boy’s new badge. “I never realized they made you Head Boy.”
The Potter heir grinned back. “Who else would they give it to?” he said, winking then seizing his hand. “How was your summer?”
“Probably the best I’ve had once my friends recovered.”
“Ah.” Charlus looked past him towards Dorea, a slight flush in his cheeks. Harry resisted the urge to smile. I hope that happens here, just like it did in my own world. “Er, how’s the recovery gone so far?”
Dorea smiled. “It’s gone well. I still feel some effects, but not often.”
“Good, good.” Charlus appeared to realize that everyone in the room was watching them. “Right, sit down, you two, then we’ll get started.”
Harry began questioning how fond Slughorn really was of him. Being a prefect sounded like an awful lot of work. How was he going to fit weekly patrols, paperwork, and meetings in with classes, duelling, and practicing?
His breath hitched, seized by a sudden revelation. His eyes flicked towards Riddle, sitting attentively with her hands in her lap. A black ring hung on one finger, etched with a marking too faint to read. Weird, I don’t remember her wearing that before.
He pulled his thoughts away from her jewellery and considered other things. Did he need to keep practicing? Riddle was his friend now. His trust was not complete, but it was there. I don’t think she’ll become Voldemort, at least.
Nervousness harassed him, shoving memories of their trip to Diagon Alley in his face. She had been acting strangely. It was probably just being back at the orphanage. Merlin knows I never felt right on Privet Drive. She would turn seventeen that December and would then be free to leave, so that problem would vanish soon. She could still become Voldemort — anything is possible.
It looked wrong in his mind’s eye, the picture of her as Voldemort. It just didn’t click. If I don’t really believe she’ll ruin the world, why do I still feel like I need to train?
Harry cleared his mind and considered things more closely, surprised by the results. Practicing and duelling felt like Quidditch had in his own time. He felt the need not because of any obligation, but because he enjoyed it and wanted to improve.
Ron’s incredulous face swam behind his eyes. Ron would have kittens if he knew how much I liked studying now. Hermione beamed beneath a mess of bushy-brown hair. She’d be over the moon. No sadness came when thinking about them now, just a strange void. Not emptiness, but a disconnect born from knowing they’d never meet again.
The meeting lasted several hours. The longer it went, the more his thoughts drifted. His marks might have risen and his work had improved, but he would never have patience for things like this. There’s a reason I still scored low in Astronomy and History — too many lectures.
Schedules were passed out once it finally ended. Harry’s night-time patrol would be on Thursday evenings and he would be one of the last to scour the train while everyone disembarked.
“I’ve got patrol duty now,” sighed Dorea, looking down at her schedule.
“So do I,” said Riddle, not looking at hers. She probably has the whole thing memorized already. “We can keep each other company if you’d like.”
Harry tensed, looking from one girl to the other. Dorea’s face was expressionless, her mood unreadable.
“All right,” she said, surprising him. “Things will probably be easier if I patrol with someone who isn’t doing it for the first time.”
Harry watched them go, eyes narrowed. Dorea had agreed to trust him and put up with Riddle, but this was unexpected. There’s no way Riddle won her over just by offering to help her learn more Occlumency. What’s her game?
Dorea’s heart raced as the door closed behind them. Damn you, Harry! Why did I ever agree to this? She glanced sideways at Riddle, who looked calm as ever. There was no way she didn’t realize how awkward this was, but she looked completely at ease. Ugh! She’s maddening.
No words passed between them for some time. They caught two first-year girls bullying a third, and a pair of fourth years experimenting with human transfiguration. Don’t they know how badly that will go without practice?
“We need to get better at this.”
Dorea’s head snapped around. “Get better at what?”
Dorea glanced up and down the corridor, but not a single head poked out from any of the compartments. “What do you mean?”
“You distrust me. It makes spending time with you harder than it needs to be.”
She makes it sound like an arithmetic equation. “Why does it matter? I don’t trust you and I doubt you appreciate that. We can agree to disagree and just get on quietly.”
“You don’t give him enough credit.”
“What about him?”
“The only reason you’re tolerating me right now is because him and I have become friends.”
“I’m sure he appreciates the thought, but do you really want him to spend the entire year feeling awkward any time the two of us are in a room?”
Dorea blushed. “I can be perfectly civil—“
“He’s no fool, Black. Losing you and Fawley took a toll on him. He’ll do almost anything to make sure that never happens again, but he is also my friend. I don’t want him to have to choose between the two of us.”
Dorea bristled. “So you want me to like you for the sake of your friendship with Harry?”
“No. I want you to better coexist with me for the sake of everyone.” A shadow crossed her face. “I don’t think Harry will choose between us, but I think the tension will weigh him down.”
Would he pick between us? Dorea couldn’t imagine him doing it, but what if things got tense enough? He would pick me, right? She shook herself the moment the thought arose. Stupid! Have some compassion; he can be friends with whoever he likes.
Dorea took a deep breath. “I don’t trust you,” she said. “I’m worried your interest in Harry has nothing to do with friendship.”
“Is there anything I can do to appease you?”
Dorea glared. “Be a good and honest friend.”
“I plan to, but it doesn’t need to be between only Harry and I. I don’t hold your distrust against you.”
Dorea took another deep breath. “I’ll try my best to be friendly and not to suck the air from a room, but I will be watching.”
Riddle’s lips curved upwards. “I would be disappointed in you and Harry’s taste in friends if you didn’t watch.”
The final first year scampered towards the Gryffindor table, suddenly ladened down by a hundred heaps of food. Roast beef dripped with gravy on a platter near Harry while, beside it, salmon swam in a sweet-smelling sauce.
“Hungry?” Riddle asked, watching him pile his plate high.
“Starving,” he answered. Food early that afternoon in the prefects’ compartment had only prepared his stomach for more and his stress had only built while Dorea patrolled with Riddle.
Not that he distrusted either, but Dorea really did dislike Riddle and he was anxious about how well she could control that distaste. When they returned with smiles, it was like a weight lifted off his shoulders. He knew those rifts were not yet healed, but perhaps today had been a start.
“Have you heard about the war while living with the muggles?” Mulciber asked Riddle, catching Harry’s attention.
“Occasional snippets, but not much more.”
“An ICW strike team breached Germany about a week ago.”
Emily finished chewing before she answered. “Given that the war is still ongoing, I assume that Grindelwald escaped.”
“They were sure he’d been there since retreating from Russia, but he wasn’t at any of the bases they hit.”
“Could he have fled when he realized what they were doing?” asked Dolohov.
“No,” said Rosier, “there were some serious wards put up when the team landed. I doubt even Grindelwald could break them.”
“I don’t know,” said Lestrange, “have you heard the stories about him?”
“People say he’s invincible. There are stories about him duelling dozens of wizards at a time, or destroying cities with a single spell.”
“They say he’s found the Elder Wand,” whispered Mulciber. “I believe them, that’s the only way any of those stories could be true.”
“The what?” asked Harry, a frown on his lips.
“The Elder Wand,” said Emily. “There’s a fairytale about how it’s the most powerful wand ever made. I came across the story while researching wand lore after our duel. It’s nonsense.”
“Nonsense?” asked Mulciber. “Emeric the Evil had that wand, everyone knows that.”
Emily raised an eyebrow. “If you were a dark lord facing revolts, wouldn’t you tell the world you had a weapon more powerful than anything they could muster? Doesn’t that sound like a good way of discouraging resistance?” Mulciber opened his mouth, then closed it. “If the Elder Wand existed, there would be more than myths and rumours. An object so powerful would leave a factual paper trail; that’s only logical.”
“How do you explain it, then?” asked Lestrange.
She waved a hand. “Grindelwald is an extremely skilled wizard. I have no doubt he can duel multiple opponents at the same time. Dozens is an exaggeration; a story made to scare his opponents just like Emeric boasting about his wand. And destroying a city isn’t as infeasible as you make it sound. I know at least one spell that could theoretically do enough damage.”
A shiver ran up Harry’s spine. What kind of spell could destroy an entire city? That sounds mad.
“Do you think the war will end soon?” Dolohov asked.
Emily shrugged. “Who’s to say? It would take a team of talented wizards to kill Grindelwald and they don’t seem to be having much luck. I doubt the war will end so long as he’s alive.”
Harry had always assumed Dumbledore would defeat Grindelwald here just like he had back in his own world, but he was growing less sure. If Riddle was not destined to become Voldemort, the timelines were far from identical. His palms began sweating. What will happen if Dumbledore never fights Grindelwald, or if he fights and loses?
“My father thinks he’ll attack Britain soon,” said Rosier. “He says that Grindelwald vanishing from his bases after most of a year proves that he’s moving on. There’s been no sign of him near Russia, so he must have a new target.”
Emily’s face twitched. She’s hiding something. He remembered their talk in Diagon Alley, the way she had looked when asked about Grindelwald and what she had said.
“I detest him and everything he stands for.”
The food vanished, replaced by desserts beyond imagination. Several of the boys lost interest, distracted by treacle tart and lemon meringue pie.
She really hates Grindelwald, Harry thought, noticing the way Emily relaxed when the topic moved on. This really is going to be an interesting few years.
A lot of setup is hidden in this chapter. If you can’t tell, this year is going to move faster than the first. It’s one of the reasons I’m trying to keep the setup/transitional chapters on the shorter end.
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 Mage-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, November 30th, 2022. IT IS AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW FOR ANYONE WHO JOINS MY DISCORD SERVER, AS ARE CHAPTERS 39, 40, AND 41! Chapter 42 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.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE FUNDRAISER I MENTIONED IN THE OPENING NOTES! USE THE LINK ON MY PROFILE AND CHECK THAT OUT! EVERY CENT PLEDGED GOES TOWARDS A GREAT CAUSE.
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.