Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 52: Rallying Forces
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, Luq707, Raven, Regress, Thanos, and Yoshi89 for their incredible work on this story.
Self-Promotion: I have a Discord server where you can chat and read all of my chapters early. If you would like to join, simply copy the link on my profile. You can do likewise to follow the ACI100 Twitter account — @ACI_100 — for live updates and to check out 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.
Harry Potter and the Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 52: Rallying Forces
December 17, 1943
Horace Slughorn’s Office
Laughter wafted from a nearby table when a seventh-year Gryffindor went head-first into his treacle tart. An open bottle of Fire Whiskey rattled on the table beside him while one of his friends leant over and removed his face from the dessert.
I wonder what it’s like being so carefree. Harry had known few times like that. Now’s definitely not one of them. How could someone laugh so freely while Grindelwald’s sword loomed above their throats? How could someone laugh so freely when four purebloods had gone missing in the past seven days? Naive fools.
“Are you all right, m‘boy?” Slughorn asked once they stepped away from the Daily Prophet’s editor and towards their next target. “You look a bit tired, if I dare say.”
Emily gave his hand a gentle squeeze that Harry returned. “I’m all right, sir,” he said. “Just tired, like you guessed.”
“It’s been a long week,” said Emily. “The exams seem tougher this year with everything else going on, and it’s his OWL year.”
“Ah, yes,” said Slughorn. “I sometimes forget how young you are, Harry. What a future you have ahead, aye?”
Harry made himself smile. “I hope so, sir.” At this point, he thought while they followed their Head of House, I just hope I have any future.
Slughorn’s girth looked greater than ever while he led the pair of them around the room. His chest was puffed out each step of the way and a broad smile made his chins quiver beneath his twitching moustache.
No teacher should take that much pleasure from two students coming to his party together. It was disturbing. Harry knew Slughorn and understood what he was about, but did he have to be so overt about it? That isn’t a normal thing to be so interested in.
Holding hands with Emily at a Slug Club meeting somehow felt stranger than Slughorn’s fixation. Here was the room where he had seen her slip away to try and open the Chamber of Secrets, here was the room where she had first tried legilimizing him, and here was the room where she had made her feelings known while less than sober.
And here we are. It’s crazy how the world works.
“Edward!” Slughorn stepped forward and patted a tall young man on the shoulder. Harry felt his guard go up. Edward Nott — Abraxas’s old friend. A shadow had fled during one of his fights against Abraxas after attempting an ambush, and Harry had long-since suspected that it had been Edward Nott.
The Nott heir wore forest green robes trimmed in fine white lace. “Hello, Professor,” said the former Hogwarts student. “How are you?”
“Not as well as you, it seems,” Slughorn said with a chuckle. “You look as though the last six months have treated you well.”
Nott offered a thin but winning smile. “Yes, sir. They’ve been good for me.”
Emily gave his hand a sharp squeeze, but it took a moment for him to remember why. Oh, hell. Nott was the one who Burke had been reporting to.
No shit the last six months have treated you well — you’ve been bunkered up with Grindelwald and he’s clearly paid you well. Harry’s fingers flexed. How he yearned to summon his wand and curse Nott into a thousand pieces. The ministry might be able to learn something from questioning him.
Cold fingers ran down his back. Maybe too much. Grindelwald seemed to know who had killed Abraxas Malfoy. Had he told Nott? Was that how he won his loyalty — a chance for revenge? It’s all so fucking complicated.
“Glass of wine, Professor?” Nott asked while a serving tray bobbed by.
Slughorn chortled. “Don’t mind if I do.”
Nott plucked one from the tray and passed it to Slughorn before snatching two more. “Would either of you like one?” he asked both Harry and Emily.
“Yes, please,” she said before Harry could answer. What is his game? That must be why Emily accepted. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
“Come and sit, come and sit,” Slughorn told Edward. “I’d be so interested in hearing about your time abroad.”
Time abroad in-fucking-deed. Nott just smiled again. “I’m afraid I can’t, Professor. I was just dropping in to chat with a couple friends and say hello. It’s been lovely seeing you.”
Harry watched his back while he strode away, wondering exactly what the point of that fiasco had been. Was he checking to see if Emily and I were still here, or was he checking in on Burke and the others? Either was possible, but neither felt right. He could have done them both without letting Emily or I know he was here. The whole thing just felt clumsy.
The glass tingled in his fingers and Harry glanced down. The wine was the same shade of deep red and he detected no enchantments. Weird. For a second, I thought I sensed magic. He placed the glass down on a nearby table while Slughorn wasn’t looking and let the man lead both him and Emily towards yet another person of importance.
“Ah!” called Slughorn when he spotted someone in the crowd. “If that isn’t—“ A shrill scream sliced through the enlarged office and made Slughorn jump.
Harry drew his wand and raised a translucent shield, staring through it towards where the scream had come from.
A girl had slumped to the floor just beside a table not far behind them. His heart froze. The table I put the wine on. That tingling… It was magic, but not a curse. Horrifying realization settled in. The bastard used a Switching Spell; he meant to poison me.
The girl’s friend was the one who had screamed, but now more had taken up her call. Slughorn was a spluttering mess and glasses shattered all around the room while trays clattered from house elves’ grasp and bounced across the floor.
Harry let his shield fall. “Check if she’s dead,” he told Emily. “We’ll know for sure it was meant for me if she’s just paralyzed. I’m going after Nott.”
“I’ll go after him,” she insisted. “You check on—“
“No.” He couldn’t spend the war hiding behind Emily. The worst of it’s over now — I’m already a murderer. “Nott’s mine; he already got away once.”
“It could be a trap.” There was no hint of challenge in her voice, just a note of warning.
“I doubt it. All Nott’s ever done is run.”
She pressed a fleeting kiss against his lips and heat tingled down his neck. “Be careful. I’ll be following once I know if she’s alive.”
Harry slipped through a churning sea of bodies and silenced his feet while casting a perfect Disillusionment Charm and sprinting from Slughorn’s office.
He’ll want to leave the castle. He conjured up memories of the Marauder’s Map. If he knows about the one-eyed witch’s statue, he’ll be heading for the third floor. If he doesn’t…
Harry changed course and sprinted towards the stone steps leading up from the dungeons. There was no reason for Nott to leave secretly. He’d be a suspect if people didn’t see him leave, and he knows how well Emily knows the castle.
Harry took the steps two at a time and sprinted across the Entrance Hall just as he saw white lace slide through the large oak doors and out onto the grounds. I’ve got him; he can’t outrun me all the way across the grounds.
Snow crunched underfoot but made no sound and the cold night air slammed into him. Nott had pulled something sleek and silver from his pocket.
An invisibility cloak — fuck! This couldn’t be the cloak, could it? Had Grindelwald stolen it from Henri? No — it’s not right. Harry’s had been a lighter silver whereas Nott’s was almost grey.
Harry waved his wand and the snow hardened around Nott’s feet, icy vines reaching up and snaring his calves. “Gah!” The bastard got a shield up just in time to block a Stunner, but a follow-up shattered his shield and sent him reeling. There was an awful snap in his ankle and he was staggering back. Harry raised his wand and prepared for the final blow, but then Nott vanished.
What the… fuck! The icy vines were gone; Nott must have vanished them while holding Harry’s attention and retreating under the cloak. Harry sprayed spells all around where Nott was and waited to feel a Shield Charm ast, but none of them must have been close, because nothing happened.
He kicked at the ground so hard his toe throbbed. So fucking close!
Emily shimmered into being not ten feet from him. “I’m guessing he’s gone?”
Harry scowled and kicked at the ground again. All it did was make his toe throb worse. “He had an invisibility cloak. I think I broke his ankle, but he got away.” There was a sourness in his voice that matched the bitter tasting spit swimming in his mouth.
Emily rubbed his arm. “We’ll get him,” she promised. There was a long pause. “The victim is alive, but paralyzed.”
His hands curled into fists. Now you’re dragging other people into it? “Figured.”
“Do you understand now? Why I want the other aware and involved in the smallest, safest ways they can be?”
Harry closed his eyes and tried ignoring that for the second time, but it was harder now. That could have been Dorea or Elena. Neither of them would have known better than to drink from something Edward Nott gave them. The thought made him sick. They’re in danger no matter what I do. What I can’t anything just be easy? Nothing had ever been easy. I hate all of this!
“Yes,” he admitted. The adrenaline was fleeing fast. All of a sudden, he just felt sad and tired. He swallowed hard. “We should tell them when they get back from the holidays.”
“Tomorrow morning. We shouldn’t waste any time.”
Harry hesitated. “Tomorrow morning,” he agreed. It’s not like I have much choice. It felt like dark lords gave him very few of those.
December 18, 1943
The Great Hall
The sky was bright but filled with falling snowflakes that drifted down from the enchanted ceiling but vanished halfway to the four long tables. The light flakes fell slowly and looked innocent enough, but Harry knew a fiercer storm was coming. And isn’t that just a perfect metaphor.
The air was thick with more than snow. The story of last night’s Slugclub meeting had spread fast and none of the missing students had yet shown up. They never will. A sick feeling tickled the back of his throat, but he shoved it back down. This is war, he told himself for what must have been the thousandth time. This is war!
Emily had been right so far. Plenty of parents had written panicked notes and several withdrew their children from Hogwarts, but there had been no whispers of closure. Britain really does need it — it’s a last resort against Grindelwald.
Little news came with that morning’s Daily Prophet. Grindelwald had been eerily quiet since hanging Lord Black’s corpse from the Tower of London. Readying an army, I’d bet.
A grey eagle owl flapped down in front of Harry with an enveloped clutched between its talons. He frowned. Who would write to me? He could sense no magic on the envelope, but still he was wary. Last night had proved his senses were strong, but imperfect.
Emily ran the tip of her wand along the parchment, but nothing happened. “It’s safe,” she muttered. “I can’t speak for what’s inside, though.”
Harry opened the envelope with a careful stroke of his wand, but there was just a simple letter inside. Another check by Emily yielded no results, so Harry unrolled the parchment and read.
I’d like to speak with you concerning some urgent business. Consider yourself invited for tea at 6:00 PM on the winter solstice.
Please write back if you can’t make it so something else can be arranged.
Lord of the Founding House of Black.
Arcturus is Lord Black now. Harry had known that, but he had never considered it. The letter made him wary. Why would he want to talk to me? His eyes unwillingly jumped towards Dorea and he clutched the parchment tight between his fingers. I’m not letting him take her again — never!
“Easy,” Emily whispered while rubbing his arm. “The man’s father is dead and it’s publicly known we were at the sight of Grindelwald’s attack on Hogsmeade. This isn’t that surprising.”
“Still weird, though,” he muttered. If the Lord Black wanted something with a no-name halfblood, then business really was serious.
About half an hour later…
It was a smaller group than the one who usually met in this hidden room on the third floor. The table’s head was empty, but that was usual these days. Emily had stopped taking that chair following the death of Dumbledore. It’s actually sweet in a weird sort of way.
Polus Rookwood and Cassiopeia Black were the only other members of Emily’s posse. Harry had brought Dorea, Elena, and Charlus. It’s probably the first time my friends have ever outnumbered hers.
“I think we all know why we’re here,” Emily began.
“You mean to fight Grindelwald.” Dorea said it the same way she had to Harry.
Emily twirled a lock of raven hair like it was the most natural thing in the world. “I mean to kill Grindelwald. Both for what he’s done to people I care about, and to prevent him ruining the world.”
Dorea opened her mouth again, but Charlus seized her hand. The meeting made him tense— that was plain to see and Harry couldn’t blame him, surrounded by unknown Slytherins the way he was. It’s a miracle he’s so patient with Emily. Funny what desperation will do to you. “The bastard has to die.”
“He’ll kill me if he doesn’t.” The room fell still. No one, sans Emily and Charlus, had expected that.
“Why you?” asked Rookwood. “I don’t see what Grindelwald would gain.”
“Nothing, but he thinks differently.” This is where the lie comes in. “A group of his agents have been trying to capture me for a couple of months. Never kill, always capture.”
“He tried it himself in Hogsmeade,” added Charlus. “I saw it. He just blasted everyone else, but he tied Harry up with air and meant to take him Merlin knows where.”
A frown creased Cassie’s lips. “What does he want with you?”
Here’s the lie. “I don’t know. I think he believes I have something he wants, but I have no idea what it is.”
“It doesn’t matter.” There was cold steel in Emily’s voice, like the sound of someone unsheeting a great sword. “Grindelwald can’t have him and I’m sick of the damage he’s done. We’re going to kill him, simple as that.”
Rookwood looked ready to laugh or run, but Harry couldn’t tell which. “And how do you plan on doing that?”
Emily’s lips curved up into a sharp smile Harry was sure was fake. She hasn’t been smiling much while talking about this lately. The Resurrection Stone was getting on her nerves. Weeks she had been studying it, yet there had been no results so far.
“I can’t tell you that,” she said. “One of the reasons we want to tell you all this is so you can stay safe. We don’t want Grindelwald or his agents targeting any of our friends while they’re unprepared or unaware.” The rest went unsaid and chilled Harry’s blood. If you don’t know everything, you can’t tell him if he captures you.
Not that they’d believe us, anyway. It’s a mental plan. “So that’s it, then?” Elena actually sounded disappointed.
“Not quite,” said Emily. “There are some things we might be able to do sooner, and some of you might be able to help, but it’s risky work.”
Elena spoke not a heartbeat after Emily. “I’ll do it.” Harry’s chest swelled. I was worried they’d be mad about me keeping secrets. They might still be, but Elena, at least, was willing to support him. And what a comfort that is… Really it just made him think of Hermione and Dumbledore, which helped not at all.
“So am I.” Dorea and Cassie exchanged surprised looks — both had spoken in perfect unison.
Harry’s heart swelled so large, it could have burst from his chest. A year and a half ago, he’d lost the only friends he’d ever known, but now he had people like this — people who were willing to stand beside him against insurmountable odds. Please, Merlin, just let them be safe.
Rookwood rubbed tiredly at his eyes. “Let’s hear it, then,” he said. “I’m not throwing my name into anything until I’m convinced it’s not suicide.”
Emily folded her hands and leant forward with a gleam in her eyes. ‘The first step is identifying and eliminating Grindelwald’s most valuable agents. Luckily for us, we know one of them already.”
I’ve slowed the pacing down a bit so I can really dig into the characters and the relationship between Harry and Emily, but it will pick up again soon.
Please read and review.
P.S. The next password will be released in two weeks. THE NEXT SIX CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PATRONS RIGHT NOW! If you would like to read them early, feel free to sign up to my Patreon page.
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.