Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 56: Blazing Fires
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, Regress, and Thanos for their incredible work on this story.
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February 4, 1944
Horace Slughorn’s Office
His wine glass clinked when he set it down. Awful, sour stuff, wine. He had never been a fan. Vodka had always been his preference, but he needed his wits tonight. I’ve been needing my wits every day lately; I might never not need them again.
“Do you really think we’ve done the right thing?” Slughorn asked from his seat across from him.
He sat back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “I think we’ve done the only thing we can do.”
“We could have done nothing,” the Potions Master pointed out. “We could have let things develop and see where that took us.”
He reached for his glass again and took another sip despite the horrid taste. “We could have, but you quite firmly don’t envy an early grave.”
Slughorn wiped beads of sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief. “I just wish you were as firm in telling me why you think they’re so important.”
He chuckled. “Me, Horace? Aren’t you the one who’s shown them off these past two years?”
“That’s different and you know it.” The beads of sweat were thicker now. “I’m not made for things like this, Reginald. I’m a socialite, not a general.”
“Ah, but they’re the same if you look at them a certain way. You train your troops and send them marching. Your rewards might not be safety or freedom, but it’s all the same. It’s all about positioning the pieces.”
Slughorn wiped his brow again; discomfort seeped from every inch of him. “You know it’s not like that,” he said with a nervous chuckle.
“Isn’t it?” He shrugged. “Tell yourself what you must, Horace.”
Slughorn scowled. It was a rare expression that he found amusing. “What does any of that have to do with my question?”
“You have the gift of foresight. You spot talent when it’s young and position it in a way you might benefit from.” He took another sip of wine. “I have different gifts, but it’s much the same. A different kind of foresight, you might say.”
Slughorn pinched his satin robes between two fat fingers and twisted them nervously. “What does that foresight tell you?”
“That there are very few ways Grindelwald can be defeated.”
“And you think Harry and Emily can do it?”
“Good heavens, Gress, they’re children.”
“They’re conveniently positioned.” Guilt twisted inside his stomach, but he ignored it. “I assure you that I don’t expect them to outduel Grindelwald.”
“Then what do you expect?”
He swirled his wine around and refused to meet Slughorn’s eyes. “None of us can outduel Grindelwald. Exploring that line of thinking is inefficacious.” He looked up from his glass and held the other man’s stare. “I expect that Grindelwald will fall a different way.”
Slughorn’s hand shook while he drank deeply from his wine glass. “And if you’re wrong?”
He forced a smile and patted the other man on one broad shoulder. “Try not thinking about that, old chap. You might lose your thirst for wine.”
Elsewhere in the castle…
Suits of armour rattled up and down the corridor while Peeves soared past and cackled. The poltergeist had been in rare form these past two weeks. It makes sense, I guess. They do feed off of chaos.
There had been plenty of that since the fall of Russia. Grindelwald had not yet moved against Britain, but the tension was thicker than the castle’s grey stone walls — everyone moved in a constant panic.
The teachers had increased the flow of work in hopes of distracting their restless students, but it had done no good so far.
Peeves must be loving all of it. Harry almost envied him. It would be great if I could love anything these days.
Dark blue eyes glinted out from a strong face framed in glossy raven hair. Ugh! I can’t stop thinking about her! What would it take? If kinslaying wasn’t enough to turn him away, how much would he bear? How much would he let this sick world corrupt him?
The rattling quieted and grew more distant. Harry let out a long breath and forced his mind to clear. He had used his limited Occlumency more these past four weeks than he had in the four months prior. That can’t be healthy. Not that it ranked amongst his primary concerns while Grindelwald loomed over Britain and Emily’s smiling face tainted half his thoughts.
Harry let his Disillusionment Charm fall and knocked thrice upon the classroom door. The wards buzzed as he pushed inside. Rows of desks were still scattered across this floor, but they were coated in a thick layer of dust. It had been a long time since this classroom was used.
Cassiopeia slid gracefully off the professor’s desk. “How much longer will we do this?”
Her words sliced through him and drew a wince. Blunt as always. “I don’t know.”
Cassiopeia’s hands rested on her hips while she stared slightly up at him. “You best decide soon. I won’t keep doing this for long; it’s tearing her apart.”
Her words did more than slice through him now; they shredded his skin and tore his knotted stomach into bloodied shreds. “You know this isn’t easy for me either, right?”
“Then why do you do it?” There was hate in her eyes while she took a half-step forward.
Harry held his ground. “I have to. Grindelwald—”
“Can get fucked for all I care.” His mouth fell open. She had never exploded like that before. “This isn’t about Grindelwald.”
“These meetings are entirely—”
“THE MEETINGS AREN’T THE POINT!” His mouth snapped shut while Cassiopeia let out several deep breaths. “She loves you, you know.” Stop! It hurt so much. “I’ll never understand why, but she does.” Her eyes grew colder still. “And you don’t deserve it.”
You know nothing! It might not matter even if she did — her loyalty to Emily went beyond devotion and bordered awfully close to worship. I’d swear she wishes it was her dating Emily.
“Can we just get on with things please?”
She let out another long breath. “Fine. Avery has been cleared.”
Damn! It just got more and more frustrating the longer he investigated his mysterious harasser. First they break into my trunk; then they go through all my robes. They were looking for something, but he could not imagine what.
And they have to be skilled enough to get through those wards. That eliminated most of his housemates immediately. He had suspected someone from his year, but Carrow lacked the skill and now Avery had been cleared.
Another example of how much this world has broken me. The idea of Emily going around and legilimizing students to narrow down suspects would have repulsed him once, but now he had asked it of her even while they remained distant.
Cassiopeia’s right about one thing — that is fucked up. It was hard feeling bad about it knowing what Emily herself had done, but still it gnawed at him from time to time.
I have to use everything I can, he told himself each time the doubt crept in. It’s all about stopping Grindelwald. Taking his agents off the board and all that.
Arcturus had sent a coded letter three days ago confirming the death of another of Grindelwald’s agents. That’s four now; I don’t know how the man does it. Harry suspected spies or assassins, but he wanted no part of the answer. Shame they can’t off Grindelwald himself.
“So that leaves Flint and Carrow in my year, plus a couple more upper years.”
“Both Flint and Carrow lack the skill, but I can’t think which upper year it would be.” Most were terrified of Emily. Then again, we thought Dolohov was once. There was no telling for sure.
“They should be checked anyway,” said Harry. “It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been surprised.”
Cassiopeia rolled her eyes. “Fine. I’m sure she would have checked anyway.” That cold look came over her again. “You better stop playing games, Pavonis. I promise that if you hurt her much longer, I will ruin you.”
Harry left the classroom with a pounding headache. Dorea thinks she’s good for me, Gress tells me I need to sacrifice, Slughorn tells me love isn’t easy, and now Cassiopeia says I’m hurting her.
The anguish of it all was much worse than his realization in the chamber, but still it scared him.
Besides, what do I say? Just that I forgive her? It felt inadequate and incomplete. Something has to come of this, but I don’t know what. There were too many unanswered questions. One of them will kill me if I’m not careful.
His footsteps carried him down a flight of stairs and around three corners, down a long corridor and a final bend until he stood outside the second floor girls’ bathroom.
He hesitated in the doorway. Emily could be down there. It had kept him away from the chamber since the morning of Yule. I can use Homenum Revelio outside the chamber’s door, he decided. I need this.
The grinding of stone was like music to his ears when the chamber’s entrance opened. The bobbles and magical spheres of light were gone. The torches blazed again, their shaking shadows like a dark group of dancers welcoming him back home.
Harry paid them no heed. “Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts four.”
“So you’ve finally come,” Cerastes hissed once he was free of the statue’s maw.
“I was worried she would be down here.” The words sounded childish when spoken out loud, and he knew a rebuke would come before it ever did.
“A shame you worried. That would have been best for both of you.”
Harry shut his eyes tight despite the fact Cerastes was behind him. His shoulders began shaking. “She killed her father. Am I just supposed to ignore that?”
“That man was not her kin.”
“A treacherous worm who abandoned her.” It was hard to tell in Parseltongue, but Cerastes sounded livid. “Can you blame her for what she did?”
“I never wanted to kill the Dursleys,” he hissed quietly.
“The Dursleys. They were my muggle relatives back in the old world. They were awful; they locked me in a cupboard under the stairs and neglected me all my life.”
Incoherent bouts of hissing followed his words, but Cerastes gained back composure quickly. “It is not about what you want to do.”
“You do not understand what the heiress has forsaken for you.”
Back to sacrifice all over again. “What do you mean what she has forsaken?” There was a long pause. “Cerastes—”
“Her dream. Her greatest desire.”
Harry froze. “You mean—”
“Yes. There was another way, but she could not do it. She could not go so far when you lived.”
It was like the basilisk had sunk his fangs into Harry’s arm again. The chamber spun around him and the torches blurred past his eyes.
She gave up a path to immortality? That was madness — it had to be.
“Why would she do that? She wants it more than anything.”
“More than almost anything.” Cerastes let those words sink in. “The heiress is not some dark mistress filled with evil schemes.”
“I never said—”
“You judged her now like you have judged her before.” He closed his mouth. His head was pounding worse than ever. “The truth is that the heiress knows what she wants and is willing to chase it. That is not evil. It is the purpose of life.”
It was not the first time he had said something like that. “So what? You’re saying I’m wrong for being upset with her?”
“I would say that, but I don’t think you’re upset with her.” Harry could feel those yellow eyes watching him. “I think you’re afraid; the same way you were when you killed that Dolohov.”
Damn him. Dorea could read him well — and so apparently could Gress and Slughorn — but not like Cerastes. No one knew him the way that damn snake did.
“So what?” he asked. “I don’t know where this is all leading. If we survive Grindelwald, what then? What happens next? Do we keep killing anyone who gets in our way? Do we do worse? It scares me.”
There — he had said it at long last.
“Sometimes I forget how young you are.” Harry’s cheeks burned. Why does everyone keep saying that? “What is it you want in life? What drives you? What is your dream?”
Harry paused. I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about it. The answer came quickly nonetheless. “I just want to be happy and free.”
“And have you ever felt happier or more free than when the heiress stands beside you?” His spine stiffened as he grappled with the truth, but after a long pause, he shook his head. “The purpose of life is to live the way you want to live. Why do you fear the path so much if it leads to what you want?”
Harry had no answer. Because it’s wrong isn’t exactly a good one. That was all he could come up with.
“Consider the truth I’ve said,” hissed Cerastes. “You know not how much time you have left before Grindelwald comes. Consider that, too.”
The fear weighed less heavily on him now, but something else nearly drove him to his knees.
Guilt. Why did he always feel guilty in the end?
February 6, 1944
An Abandoned Classroom
A fire crackled in the centre of a conjured hearth. Thick curtains hung on each side of the classroom’s windows, but they were left open so that thin shards of moonlight leapt through the window and cast low silver light across the room. Where once there had been desks, there were now loveseats and a long sofa that sagged welcomingly beneath their weight.
Charlus let out a long sigh and let himself relax into the sofa. The smell of her was everywhere: her hair in his face, her hand on his neck, the sofa they laid atop…
Dorea stirred against his chest. “This is nice,” she muttered.
“It is,” he agreed.
She looked up at him through thick lashes that fluttered beneath her drooping eyelids. “Do you think Harry can fix this with her?”
“I hope so.” Merlin, I do. That man deserves the world, no matter what he thinks that is. “They’re still not talking, then?”
Dorea muttered a negative against his neck. Her breath tickled his skin and sent sharp flutters beating through his chest. “He’s too stubborn and she’s too emotionally incompetent.”
Charlus chuckled softly. “That sounds about right, yeah.”
“We’ll need them, won’t we? When Grindelwald attacks?”
“Shhh.” He ran a hand through her hair and pressed a gentle kiss against her brow. “We’ll win, Dorea, and they’ll be a part of it. Harry, especially. There’s something special about him.”
“There are lots of things.”
“Yes, but there’s something specific. I can’t really say what, he’s just… Harry. It’s hard not believing we’ll win.”
“Even against Grindelwald?”
He might have tensed had she not been there in his arms. I’m not sure I could ever be anything but relaxed in this position. “Even against Grindelwald,” he whispered. The bastard will die — I swear it!
“Promise?” she asked against his neck.
Charlus kissed the crown of her head and forced the gruesome images back. None of them matter; all of this is the only thing that matters right now. “I promise.”
February 14, 1944
The Slytherin Common Room
Sweat weighed down his robes and plastered them against his skin. Strands of hair stuck against his forehead and his legs ached beneath him.
I’m not the only one getting better. That had been among the most intense practices he and Charlus had ever had. It almost makes me believe.
That belief began blooming, but it was always trampled when he remembered Grindelwald’s army of stone monstrosities and the way he fought against Dumbledore. We’ll never beat that in a fair fight. He prayed they never had to.
There was shouting in the common room when he walked in, coming from the mouth of a tunnel leading towards the girls’ dormitories. What in Merlin’s name?
Cassiopeia was trying to shove through a crowd of nervous students who kept her back.
“What’s going on?” Harry asked while striding closer. The prefect’s badge gleamed on his chest and students stepped aside.
“She’s gone mental,” a younger boy said while shaking.
“There was a commotion in the dormitories and she went to go check it out,” said Marianna Parkinson. “When she came back out… she was crazed.”
Harry moved through the crowd and towards Cassie. Not too close. There had been hate in her eyes when she was a lot calmer than she was now.
Those eyes found him now and went wide. “They’ve gone through her things!”
Harry frowned. “What? Who’s things?”
“Emily’s. The same way they did yours; they were gone before I got there.”
Harry’s heart dropped into the pit of his stomach when the dots connected.
The stone — they’re after the stone.
Harry rounded on the crowd with terror in his eyes. Younger students shuffled back from him. “Has anyone left the common room? Has the entrance opened since Cassie heard bustling in the dorms?” A dozen students shook their heads and Harry sprinted for the exit.
“Oi!” someone shouted behind him. “We said no!”
Yes, but you’re too thick to think further. Cassie was nothing if not diligent. If they were hiding in the dorms, she would have found them. It means they used the hidden exit. That came out all the way up on the second floor. Fuck!
Harry shoved aside a suit of armour and charged up the passage. This one came out a floor above his target but it was faster than climbing to the Entrance Hall and taking the marble staircase up.
He burst out from behind a tapestry and sprinted down a set of stairs. He lost footing for half a heartbeat and nearly fell, but he regained his step and leapt off the moving stairs when he reached the second floor.
Now where are they? Sharp breaths ripped his throat raw and his heart thundered against his ribs. And why shift focus towards Emily? Did they think she had the stone? He suddenly realized how thin his logic was. I assumed just because I know who really has it.
Why would Grindelwald think he had the stone? Is it because I look like Charlus? Could he have discovered the Potters’ connection to the Peverells? The aurors did say he interrogated Henri and I look enough like a Potter, I guess. Maybe he figured they had one Hallow and I was some secret relative who had another? He was grasping for straws and he knew it. Something here didn’t add up, he must have been wrong.
Hairs prickled on the back of his neck and he threw himself sideways in time for an angry red bolt to slam against a wall. It crumbled under the spell’s brunt and brought a portion of the ceiling down. Harry just barely banished himself back in time.
What the… Another curse came for him, but this time he saw the shimmering outline of an arm as it moved. Clever.
Harry batted away the spell and conjured sloshing waves of water around where he had seen the shimmer. A pair of feet displaced two obvious prints and he showered curses that way.
A Bone-Breaker found its mark, but there was no sound of exclamation.
The Disillusionment Charm fell and Harry took a step back. “Flint? What the fuck?” Flint can cast a Disillusionment Charm? He hardly scrapes past OWL year.
A stone pillar jutted up from the floor and intercepted Flint’s Killing Curse before exploding into emerald green flames. The fire’s ghostly light illuminated Flint’s hard face and the vacant look in his dark grey eyes.
Vacant look? It all came together. Vacant look, magic he shouldn’t know, no reaction to the Bone Breaker — he’s under the Imperius Curse. They had never considered that during their investigations.
Flint tried another Killing Curse, but his wand movement was telegraphed. Harry sidestepped and fired a powerful Cutting Curse straight into the boy’s wand arm.
Blood sprayed against the nearest wall as the limb slapped uselessly against the floor.
Harry froze. I hardly realized what spell I used. It was just instinct; fighting more skillful opponents than this one had become ingrained in him.
Something silver glinted in Flint’s fist and he lunged towards him. Harry saw the knife glitter in the flickering emerald flames, but he had frozen too long and would never raise his wand in time.
Green light flashed so brightly that it swallowed the corridor whole. Harry shut his eyes against that awful light, but no knife came for him.
Flint was sprawled lifelessly across the floor when his eyes next opened. His blood had left three crimson smears on the wall behind him and the emerald fire had begun to gutter out.
Harry looked past all of that and into the blue eyes that watched him. Her wand still glowed with ghostly green light and each inch of her was etched with burning fury.
Harry crossed the space between them before he knew what was happening. She staggered back against the wall when he slammed into her. Her lips burned hot as the emerald fire and a greater flame blazed inside him while he held her there.
Fuck words. Something told him there would be no need — not yet, not now, not after this. I can figure it all out later, I just want her back.
What had Cerastes said?
“The truth is that the heiress knows what she wants and is willing to chase it. That is not evil; it is the purpose of life.”
Maybe he is right. There was nothing Harry wanted more than this. Fuck her father; everything in the world can die if it gets in our way.
I know a lot of you were eager for that final scene. I hope it delivered and that wrapping those two plots so tightly together worked out in the end.
There will be a bit of a time skip between this and the next chapter, but it won’t be anything too crazy. The end is quite close now.
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.
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