Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 42: Brothers in Arms
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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October 31, 1943
An Abandoned Classroom
The breath froze in Harry’s throat. That can’t be right. He must have misheard. Charlus paled. It’s like he heard the same thing, but that’s impossible.
“What did you say?” Charlus asked, his voice cracking like weathered stone.
“Your father is dead,” said a different man than last time. “I’m sorry, kid, his body was found yesterday.”
“How?” Harry expected Charlus to sound broken, or angry, or afraid. None of those were true; his voice was hollow and toneless.
“The details aren’t clear,” one man explained, “we’re still—“
“How?” Charlus stared the man dead in his eyes, daring him to lie.
“Grindelwald,” said the man who’d first broken the news.
Harry looked for the deception but found nothing. Henri Potter dead? It made no sense.
This isn’t the same world, a dark voice whispered. You’ve changed things…
Burning knives sank hilt deep in his chest. But what have I changed? I’ve never even seen Grindelwald. Had he been impressed during the fight in Knockturn Alley? Had they falsely assumed he had been Charlus and traced things back? No, he thought, remembering that fight. I did nothing but hide in cover and let Slughorn save me.
Then what could have happened? What had changed for Henri Potter to die? The knives grew hotter, still buried in his chest. What did I do to get my great grandfather killed?
“What about him?” Charlus asked. “What happened?”
The men exchanged looks. “Sometimes,” one said, “it’s better not knowing.”
“I’m an adult and have been since the spring. He was my father, I deserve to know.”
“The lad is right,” said the first man. The others shifted foot to foot. This won’t be pretty. “One of the bases seized by ICW strike teams went ghost a couple weeks ago. Wards went up around the place again and getting in wasn’t easy. When we did… well, your father wasn’t the only body there.”
“How do you know it was Grindelwald?”
“Because no one else could have left the place the way he did. No one else could kill so many or cause so much destruction.”
“How many died?” Still Charlus’s voice was hollow.
“There’s no telling.” The speaker looked away. “Most of the dead were burnt alive. We found the ashes of some of them, others…” he trailed off. Harry felt sick. What kind of spell wouldn’t even leave behind ashes?
Charlus’s mask broke. “My father?” he asked, a green tinge in his cheeks.
“Wasn’t burned alive.” The man chewed his words. “We believe that Grindelwald interrogated him. It might have involved torture, there’s no way of knowing.”
Charlus grabbed the nearest desk, his knuckles white upon its edge. The knives wrenched free from Harry’s chest, leaving behind a pain beyond compare. He’s like me — neither of us have anyone left. This was worse. Harry had grown up knowing, never could he remember grieving for his parents the way Charlus grieved now.
“Are you all right?” one of the men asked.
“Leave.” The man pulled back.
“Lad,” said another, “if there’s anything—“
“I said leave!”
“Come on,” said the first man, grabbing each of his companions by the arm and dragging them towards the door. “Let the boy mourn in peace.”
The common room was quiet when Harry slipped back inside. The fire crackled in its hearth and a handful of quills scratched against parchment, but most had gone to bed. Harry glanced down the shadowy tunnel and towards his dorms. It was late, he ought to sleep.
There’s no way I’ll be able to sleep after that. It was strange. It feels like I knew him. Surely Harry should not mourn a stranger, but his chest felt fit to tear any time he thought about it. Is it guilt? Is it because I know whatever happened is my fault? It had to be. Someone would have mentioned Grindelwald killing an ancestor in my own world. Harry remembered how he thought while watching Charlus get the news. This is different. I don’t ever remember my parents dying. This one feels more real.
A hand fell on his arm and he jumped. “Sorry,” said Dorea, blushing. “I should have known that would startle you.”
“It’s all right,” he said, not really listening.
She turned him to face her, looking slightly up and into his eyes. “What happened?” she asked. “You followed them, didn’t you?”
Harry looked away. The pain in his chest was building again and he felt like he’d be sick. “It’s not my place to say.”
“Come on.” Dorea pulled him gently towards a place near the fire. “Elena’s already gone to bed,” she explained, taking a seat beside him. Harry just nodded. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Just be there for Charlus.” What else was he supposed to say? Everyone had always asked him those sorts of things once he arrived at Hogwarts, but none of them could bring his parents back. Charlus won’t want apologies, just friends.
Dorea’s eyes went wide. “It’s his father, isn’t it?” Harry tried keeping his face smooth but feared his expression might have slipped. “It’s well-known he’s off fighting Grindelwald.”
“It’s not my place to say,” he said again, staring numbly into the flickering fire.
“Fine, then where’s Charlus?”
Harry looked up from the flames. “You two—“
“I don’t know. He was in an abandoned classroom near Slughorn’s office when I left but — oi, what are you doing?” Dorea had leapt from her chair and was bounding towards the door. “Oi!” he called, but she was gone faster than he could rise.
Harry looked back down into the fire and sighed. I hope Charlus is ready for company because I have a feeling she’s going to find him. A thought came to him and he had the sickest urge to laugh. I hope they get together, but this isn’t the way I wanted them to start getting along.
November 1, 1943
The Grounds of Hogwarts
Dawn broke above the Forbidden Forest as Harry waited outside the castle, watching the sun crest the tops of distant trees. His robes billowed, snatched by a cold, autumn breeze. The ground was hard beneath his feet, coated in a thin layer of frost. This won’t be a fun run whether he shows up or not.
He wasn’t left waiting long. The castle’s doors parted and Charlus swept through. The wind seized his hair and mussed it in seconds but he paid it no heed. Charlus nodded then looked out towards the forest and took off, Harry hot on his heels. The cold air took his breath away, stabbing at his chest like sharp shards of ice.
A cold layer of sweat coated him by the time they stopped nearly an hour later. Harry sucked in a long breath of air and coughed, doubling over. Charlus panted nearby, leaning against an elm tree on the forest’s edge. The sun had risen now, its crisp light painting the leaves bright red and orange, slowly eating at the pale layer of frost.
“I needed that,” said Charlus, finally pushing hair from his eyes.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d come,” Harry admitted, straightening up. Charlus is dealing with losing his dad, I can put up with being tired.
Charlus looked back up towards the castle, his expression grim.“I almost came earlier. I needed a distraction.”
Harry reached over and squeezed the older boy’s arm. “Let me know if you need them more often.”
Charlus nodded, still not looking his way. “Thanks, mate.” The pair began back up towards Hogwarts. “You’re the first person who hasn’t asked me if I’m all right.”
Harry grimaced. “There’s no point in asking questions I know the answer to and making you think about that sort of thing does no one any good.”
“I guess you’d know.” He looked back at him. “Was sending Dorea your idea?”
Harry sighed. “No. She saw that I was upset and pressed. I didn’t tell her what happened, but just told her you could use some support for the next while. She pieced it together and ran out of the common room before I could stop her. Sorry if she bothered you.”
“Don’t be. I needed the distraction last night, too, I just… I didn’t know how to keep my mind off things or where to start.” His expression softened. “She didn’t really let me think about it. We were up talking late into the night. It… was actually nice after the first while.”
“What was wrong with the first while?”
Charlus grimaced. “Talking was harder than I thought. I sort of broke down. Before I knew it, she’d grabbed me and I was crying into her shoulder.” His grimace deepened. “Not my finest moment.”
“It’s not like anyone can blame you.”
“Guess not,” said Charlus, mussing his hair again. “I didn’t think anyone could know about it that quickly, either.” He shot Harry a meaningful glance.
His pulse quickened. Will he be mad if I tell him? He remembered losing Dorea last year because of Arcturus and thought losing Charlus would feel something like that. Imagining it made his stomach writhe. I can’t lie to him, there’s no point in this secret.
“I followed you,” he admitted, voice toneless. “I used a Disillusionment Charm and snuck out once you’d left the room.”
“That’s about what I figured.” Charlus’s expression gave nothing away. Harry fidgeted, shifting from foot to foot, waiting. “How much did you hear?”
“All of it, I think. They told you what happened and you asked how. They answered and then you told them to leave.”
They walked in silence for at least a minute, frost-kissed grass crunching underfoot. “They were all ICW representatives. The one in charge had actually worked with my dad before.”
This is dangerous territory. “I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse.”
“Neither, really, the bit that got me was how they all looked. It…” his voice broke and he cleared his throat. “It was like they’d gotten so used to losing people and giving those speeches that they weren’t bothered. They just… did it.” He wrung his hands. “How many kids have gotten that news from them? How many people has he killed, Harry? How many people need to die before this ends?”
Millions more if the timeline isn’t too broken. “I don’t know. I wish I did.”
“Do you hate him?” Charlus’s voice was faint as the wind. “When you think about him, do you… do you imagine what you’d do if you had the chance?”
Harry got halfway through thinking how unlike him that was, then he paused. Thinking about Grindelwald did make him angry. Not so livid as Charlus, but angry. Why? Voldemort never made me feel that way just by thinking about him. Why would Grindelwald?
He pondered in silence and thought he had an answer. It’s like my great grandfather’s death — I’m living through it this time and it feels more real. The anger built. And he hurt a friend… I’ve never met someone so affected by Voldemort, it’s different.
“I hate him, yes.” A crow cawed above them. “If I had the chance, I’d do anything needed to stop him.”
“I’m not gonna wait for the chance.” Charlus’s shoulders shook. “When I graduate… I’m gonna kill him or die trying. I swear it.”
What do you say to that? Harry thought he knew. Once he had risen up against a dark lord’s evil and his friends stood with him, shoulder to shoulder through peril after peril. “I’ve got your back… no matter what.”
Charlus took a deep breath, shoulders still trembling. “Thank you.”
Harry felt her stare when they filed from the room, pouring out into a corridor teeming with bodies. Bustling students were everywhere, rushing off to their next class or else to their common room, the library, or a dozen other unnamed places.
Harry pondered speeding up. I could lose her. There’s no way she could follow me through this chaos. Guilt gnawed at him, mixed with the same fear he’d had that morning about losing Charlus. I can’t lie to her.
Harry slowed his pace and jerked his head back, hoping she noticed. Then he cut through the crowd, moving not towards his next lesson, but the nearest abandoned classroom. Emily was hot on his heels, shutting the door behind her and warding the room.
An awkward silence hung between them. Her expression — usually so schooled — looked strained. “I would like to apologize,” she said, sounding for all the world as though she was reading off a script. “What I did last night was childish and immature. I won’t make any further advances if that’s what you’d like.”
She waited, breath held. Bullshit. That smouldering look had lingered in her eyes too often lately. She would never give up on something she wants that easily.
Harry found himself lost for words. The death of Henri Potter had taken up so much space inside his head that he had almost forgot to consider this problem until sharing a classroom with her for the best part of three hours.
She tried getting me drunk and taking advantage. It was a grim thing and one that made him shiver. It doesn’t bug me as much as it should. Harry should have been repulsed or afraid, but all he felt was anger. And not even for the thing that should bother me most.
“I don’t believe you.” She opened her mouth but he raised his hand. I have to be decisive; she’ll just bowl right over me if I’m not. “I don’t think you’d give up on something you wanted that easily.” She closed her mouth and stared straight ahead, her expression blank. Now she’s got herself under control.
Harry ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t care how you feel.” That was a lie, but Harry knew not how he felt about it and so could hardly explain it to her. Right now I just feel wrong — none of this should be happening. “I care about trust.” She flinched back. The guilt came again. Why are you guilty? You’re right, get over it! “That sort of thing can’t ever happen again.”
She actually looked down towards the floor. I’ve never seen her like this before. “I know.” She looked back up, caution floating in her dark blue eyes. “Where do we stand?”
Harry stared right back. “I can’t be friends with someone I don’t trust. I’ll never be friends with anyone who tries manipulating me like that.” A shadow crossed her face and, for a moment, he feared he’d gone too far. The panic of losing her rose up again. Get a grip — this is her problem, you shouldn’t be the one worried. Why the fuck are you worried?
“I’m sorry,” was all she said.
“Alcohol brings out the worst in people.” Ten years on Privet Drive had taught him that. She looked up again, naked hope slashed across her face. “I know how you feel now — mission accomplished. No more manipulations, no more games. I won’t ever put up with it again.”
Something dark passed behind her eyes again. She’s gonna snap at me. No one talks to her this way and gets away with it. The panic built. Was it too much? Merlin, I’m not good at this being firm thing. Did I overcompensate?
“It will never happen again.” Her eyes sparkled. They almost look wet. “I promise.” Harry actually believed her. That might be a mistake.
He ignored that thought and made himself smile, but then remembered the day’s other dark tidings. “I’m glad. Now, any chance you know a spell that could take down a whole crowd of people and leave nothing behind but ashes?”
The stakes are now rising on several fronts. I’m excited to expand each frontier and hope you’re all eager to read about them all.
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