Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 57: Pawns and Kings
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.
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March 24, 1944
There was an air of tension hanging in the dining room. Flames crackled quietly off in the corner as wind rattled the windows that were hidden behind heavy black shutters. A strong, peppery scent came from the steaks swimming in a thick, dark sauce while mounds of mashed potatoes bathed in brown rivers of strong-smelling gravy.
Emily squeezed his hand beneath the table. God, that feels good again. It had been nearly six weeks since their reconciliation, but still that seven weeks apart felt fresh as an open wound still bleeding. Stings like one, too.
They had talked eventually, but they had done many other things first. Days had been spent hiding down in the Chamber of Secrets and waiting to see if Grindelwald would strike. When no immediate danger presented itself, they slunk back up into the castle and were greeted by knowing smiles all around them.
“No more secrets,” Emily said when they finally did talk. “I killed my father and his family because I meant to use their deaths in a ritual that would have granted me immortality.” That had stilled his heart, but when she explained why it had failed, it sent his pulse to racing almost as much as the long and passionate hours that followed.
It also just made me feel guiltier. No matter how many times he tried, he just couldn’t muster the courage to explain where he had come from.
“No more overthinking,” he had promised in turn some time later. “I want this more than anything; that’s all that matters.”
And so they had waited and waited, but nothing from Grindelwald had come.
Except from Arcturus. The Lord Black had gotten spies into Grindelwald’s ranks.
“They’re not as close to him as I’d like,” he had said, “but it’s the best I can do.” How he had managed it, Harry would never know, but it had been their lone source of information ever since the fall of Russia.
These meetings had become more regular in the past few weeks, but tonight’s was the first that Emily had attended.
Arcturus had given his blessing, but still Harry remembered the words they had once shared on the Forbidden Forest’s edge and the Lord Black’s concerns over Riddle and her rise.
I once told him I’d protect Dorea from her. What must Arcturus think now with his sister sat across the table from Emily and with hostility no longer thick between them?
“There hasn’t been much success lately,” Arcturus said to break the awkward silence. “It seems that they wised up once officials started going missing.”
“Shame, that,” said Charlus with a scowl. “They’re still hiding out in Russia, then.”
Arcturus’s eyes narrowed slightly. “I’ve told you before, they’ll stay in Russia until an attack is launched against England. Grindelwald knows that the ministry’s best course would be an attack, so he’ll stay in ‘Russia. It’s probably the most defendable magical nation in the world.”
“What about the Statute?” asked Emily. “Have there been any major disruptions in Russia?”
“Not that we know of. I think Grindelwald is waiting until he has all of Europe. It will be easier then and none of it can be undone. The world will take notice when no one here is left to play damage control.”
They all stewed on that. It’s clever. Grindelwald was patient; it was among the most dangerous things about him. If it works, he’ll have all of Europe’s armies and the Statute of Secrecy will be all but dead. It would be nearly everything he ever wanted; the last step would be going global.
Harry squeezed Emily’s hand in turn. The thought sickened him and he needed an anchor. We won’t let him win.
Still there was no progress in reverse engineering the Resurrection Stone — not even after Emily had deciphered how it worked following the accident on Yule. She’ll find a way; she has to. There was still the cloak, too. Even if she doesn’t, the cloak might be enough.
He ignored the part of him whispering that Grindelwald might well have the cloak. I need to find out; our plans will have to change if he does. His eyes flicked unwillingly towards Charlus, who was too distracted by Dorea to notice. I doubt he’ll just tell me, but I can’t take it from him. It was where he drew the line — Harry wanted Grindelwald dead, but he wanted Charlus alive and at his side when that fight was won.
“And no updated timeline?”
Arcturus shook his head. “Those sorts of cards are kept close. Most of his men don’t know they’re moving until they move. They just stay ready.”
“Wouldn’t that cause problems?” asked Dorea.
“It might actually solve some,” said Charlus. “His generals must know. The plans will be in place, but the men won’t have time to overthink everything.”
Arcturus nodded along. “I doubt Grindelwald’s put that much thought into it, but it is a good plan.”
“So that’s it, then?” Emily rubbed circles around the back of his hand, but still his frustration mounted. “We just wait the same way we have been.”
Arcturus set down his fork. “That depends on how big a gambler you are.”
The table fell quiet and Harry found himself leaning forward. “What do you mean?”
“Our old school friend has gotten a hold of me and is asking after potion ingredients.”
Harry felt his blood boil. “Nott?”
Arcturus smiled. “The same.”
“It could be a trap,” Dorea warned. “That’s how we think Father was captured, isn’t it?”
“Father was captured while treating with someone who he thought was Nott. This is different. Their army really does need those supplies; our informants have said so.”
“So you think this is real, then?”
Arcturus shrugged. “I don’t think it’s a trap, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Emily’s face was unreadable. “Why would he contact you after Grindelwald murdered your father? It makes no sense.”
“I doubt Edward has just contacted me. Grindelwald probably has him sending all sorts of these missives. I’ll wager it’s his way of trying to gauge who might support him and who might cause trouble if he takes over. The supplies would be a bonus.”
Harry felt a bitter swell rise up inside him. “And someone will sell to him, won’t they?”
Charlus scowled. “A bunch of old pureblood families would, I reckon.”
Emily was studying Arcturus. “You’re proposing an ambush, aren’t you?”
The Black Lord held up his hands. “It was you and Pavonis who wanted Nott dealt with.”
“I still do.” Determination burned away the bitterness. “He’s proven too good at getting agents inside Hogwarts. That could be a problem when the fighting starts; a big one.”
“This might be our best chance. I doubt he’ll step foot on English soil between these meetings and Grindelwald’s invasion.”
Harry spoke before any more concerns could be heard. “Let’s do it.”
“Are you mad?” asked Dorea. “Merlin only knows how many men would come with him and it still could be a trap.”
“I doubt it.” Everyone turned towards Emily, who was the perfect picture of calm. “Like you said, Edward will bring enough men to feel safe and he probably thinks any slight against him can be paid back later. There’s no reason this should be a trap — not when they think they’ll soon have Britain anyway.”
Arcturus pursed his lips. “I agree with Riddle, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t risky.”
“No, but it can be done.” Harry’s voice was hard and grim.
Arcturus watched him closely. “It sounds like you have ideas how.”
“One.” He waited and formulated his words. “I think Nott wants me dead for what happened with Malfoy. I think he blames me most of all.” Everyone waited. “Grindelwald wants me captured — he’s made that obvious — but Flint tried killing me and I’ll bet he was under Nott’s Imperius. Making it look like an accident would have been easy, plus there was Dolohov.” Harry scowled just saying the bastard’s name. “Nott isn’t stupid and Dolohov wasn’t subtle; I doubt he could hide the fact he wanted me dead. Nott probably knew it and let him have a go anyway.”
Emily’s grip became tight around his hand. “What are you proposing?”
Harry set his jaw and steeled his nerves. “That we make sure, this time, it’s our side setting the trap.”
Some time later, in the Chamber of Secrets…
Warm ripples ran through his shoulders and eased his tension as Emily’s fingers worked. He let himself sag back against her as she continued the massage. I never realized how tense I was.
“Are you sure about this?” she whispered in his ear. “The ambushing of Nott, I mean.”
“It has to be done. If Nott can get agents into Hogwarts during a battle here, we’re finished.”
Her fingers paused for a long moment. “It doesn’t have to be you.” She dug gently back into his shoulders again and drew a long sigh from him. “I know what killing Dolohov did to you. I can just as easily be the one who finishes Nott.”
“No.” A stubborn side of him had taken over. “It should be me. If Grindelwald wasn’t after me, Flint might be alive. I owe him revenge.”
Her fingers curled tight as a coiled serpent. “You owe him nothing!”
“I owe Nott something at the very least. He’s tried offing me or capturing me three times now. First with Dolohov, then with the poison, and then with Flint. It has to end.”
“And it would end if I killed him the same way it would if you did.”
“I have to learn.” Once those words would have daunted him, but he had come to accept them. “I won’t be any use in the final battle if I can’t kill. We both know that’s true.”
She leant forward and exhaled a long breath into the back of his neck. It sent slow waves of heat stirring up inside him. “That doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
“I don’t like any of this.”
He nearly jumped when three fingers slid slowly down his spine. “Any of it?” she asked into his ear.
He shivered against her. “You know what I meant.”
“Mm, but this is much more interesting than Nott or Grindelwald.”
Harry let out a long exhale and felt his heart speed up. “I just want to make sure there’s more of it after we deal with Nott and Grindelwald.”
“You’re not allowed to die, remember?”
He couldn’t help but chuckle despite the morbid words. How the hell does she do that? Maybe Gress and Slughorn had been right; maybe there was something in this whole love nonsense after all.
“I know,” he muttered while letting his eyes slide closed.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
April 2, 1944
An Abandoned Classroom
Charlus stood in the classroom’s entrance gaping like a fish. Harry felt his own grin stretch so wide that his cheeks began aching.
It feels so good just being kids again. It had been a long time since something like this. It might be the last thing we celebrate for a while.
Dorea leapt at Charlus and their lips collided roughly but joined smoothly together. Several of Charlus’s Gryffindor friends whistled and Harry found himself laughing along as Emily smiled at his side and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
“I thought we could do something special,” Dorea said when the pair disentangled. She was wringing her hands and looking anywhere but at Charlus. It’s one of the first times I’ve ever seen her that nervous. “I thought, you know, given what might be coming…”
She said nothing more in front of the Gryffindor outsiders, but everyone of their tight-knit group knew what she meant.
Charlus stopped her mid sentence with another kiss and spun her roughly around for good measure. The whistles swelled to full-blown cat calls and Harry almost managed to forget where their little group would be in less than one week’s time.
April 8, 1944
The English Coast
A chill wind blew hard off the British channel and sent grey ripples sliding across the vast, black waters. Seagals squawked overhead and flew wide loops as Harry calmed his heart rate with a breath of fresh but salty air.
The robes he wore were richer than usual, the ground a further fall than normal. This better work.
Shadows melted from the night around him and about a dozen men closed ranks. “Lord Black.” Edward Nott was unmistakable in his dark green robes.
“Heir Nott.” His gruff voice surprised him; it was the first time he had spoken since adopting this disguise.
“You know why I’ve come,” said Edward. “You expressed interest in our letter. I understand that times are hard and am willing to pay twice the normal rate.”
“That’s kind of you, but we both know that’s not why you’re here.” This part of the plan had been Arcturus’s idea.
“I never made things easy for Nott or Malfoy. He’ll be suspicious if things go too smoothly.”
A frown creased the Nott Heir’s face. “Lord Black, we’re not at Hogwarts anymore. We can end this now.”
“Where exactly will the ingredients find themselves, Edward?”
Nott’s spine went stiff and Harry could sense the shadows shifting just behind him. We’ll be outnumbered, but hopefully it won’t matter.
“That’s none of your concern. I’m willing to pay twice the normal price.”
Harry kept his face impassive. “So you’ve said.”
He could practically hear Nott’s teeth grinding. “It’s more than fair.”
“Will you take the deal, or not?” Edward’s voice had risen and echoed out across the channel.
Harry squeezed the coin in his pocket until it burned against his palm. “That depends, Edward. Can you promise that my stock won’t be used against me?”
Edward’s expression smoothed. “They don’t need to be,” he said quietly. “We don’t have to be enemies.”
Harry removed a flask from the pocket of his robes and smiled at Edward while he felt something stir behind him. “Don’t we, Nott?”
He drank deeply and felt the disguise melt away. Edward’s face turned pale as milk then red as fresh spilt blood. “You!”
“I was always gonna come eventually.”
Nott actually laughed. “You’re an idiot, Pavonis. A fucking moron.” He gestured over his shoulder towards the waiting crowd of men. “Take him!”
Harry drew his wand and slashed it forward, cracking a fiery whip towards the line of men. About half of them panicked and stepped back as the others cast joint Shield Charms that absorbed the flaming stroke.
Harry had expected that from Edward and lurched sideways before firing a silver spell above their heads. Its explosion rocked the beach, but a dozen Shield Charms was enough to quell its wrath.
I expected that, though. The water surged up behind the line of men as they blinked away beads of silver light. The English Channel reached forward with fists the size of elephants and pulled the ones who had stepped back off the beach and into the now crashing waves.
Charlus really has gotten good.
“What—” Nott just barely deflected three of Harry’s spells before he saw his reinforcements. “Fall back!” he called. “Fall back!”
His men spun, but nothing happened. Emily’s wards are too strong. About half of them fell while turning; they had anticipated the failed escape and knew it would be when they were most vulnerable.
The remaining four men fired curses back towards four opposing figures charging down the beach. It won’t matter. These were not among Grindelwald’s best soldiers. They would be no match for Charlus and Emily — not that Cassiopeia or Rookwood were slouches in their own right.
Harry had been wary of bringing them, but Emily was sure. “I wouldn’t have brought them in had I not trusted them.”
It was Rookwood that worried him — he had seen Cassie’s devotion well enough — but he relented. It’s better than risking Elena or Dorea.
Nott snarled. “Fuck you, Pavonis.” Drifts of sand rose up and hardened between them, absorbing Nott’s barrage then melting into shards of glass that pelted back towards him.
Edward winced when several shards tore through his robes and ripped jagged lines into his skin.
Harry deflected a curse back at Nott and forced him to shield, then thrust his wand and drank in the power all around them.
Thunder shook the beach and lightning tore straight through Nott’s shield and slammed into the ground between his feet.
An awful scream left him while he lurched backwards and toppled into the now steaming sand. He’s lucky it’s a poor conductor or he’d be dead.
Last time Harry had used that spell, it had broken him, but now he felt nothing. Nott deserves it; I’ll never have what I want so long as he’s alive.
A series of coughs ripped free of him. “Fuck… you…” he grunted. “You’ll… never win.”
“We’ll kill your master the same way I’ll kill you now.”
Nott bared his teeth and spat a glob of crimson into the sand between them. “Fuck you, you’re coming with me. Fiendfyre.”
Oh, fuck. Scarlet flames rushed from Nott’s wand and cackled in awful voices that were like steel grinding against steel, but a hundred times worse.
“Harry!” It was Emily, but she was a ways down the beach and would never reach him in time.
Fight fire with fire. It was a crazy thought, but the only one that came to him. I’ve always been good with fire. It almost made him laugh; how desperate had he become since this world had broken him?
Wine-red flames surged back across the beach and slammed against Nott’s. The sand became glass beneath them, then melted into a boiling pit of magma that spilt back into the channel and made its water steam and boil.
It was agony. The heat ripped his skin raw and a greater tearing was going on inside him. I’m losing. Not against Edward, but against his own flames. Soon they would break free of him and he would die all the same.
“Harry!” Emily’s voice again…
“You’re not allowed to die, remember.”
I CAN’T LOSE!
“Slow it down. Imagine each stone fitting together; break it down into smaller bits.”
The fire let out a loud wail of protest, but it swelled and twisted until a flaming dragon towered above the beach and swallowed Nott’s still raging flames.
It gave a mighty roar and Harry’s knees trembled. No!
“GAH!” He brought his wand down in a sharp slash and forced every ounce of will into making the monster disappear.
The dragon gave one last guttering roar then collapsed and vanished.
Soft sand gave way beneath his knees and thick smoke choked him until he coughed his throat raw.
A soft wind carried off a small pile of simple-looking ashes.
Last time I killed someone, I felt awful. This time, all I feel is tired. It was another piece off the board; one move closer to the ultimate checkmate.
April 9, 1944
The Great Hall
Harry’s eyelids fluttered. His fork began sliding between his fingers for the fourth time, but again, Emily steadied his hand.
I’ve never been so tired in my life. All that Fiendfyre had drained him in a way he thought impossible. That, plus the duel, plus hardly sleeping, plus everything else.
Nott’s murder had not been what kept him up — this time it was knowing their plan was finished.
It’s more comforting knowing you’re the one who’s gonna make the next move. There was nothing worse than waiting — these past three months had taught him that the hard way.
“We should go back down to the dorms,” Emily whispered in his ear. “You’re in no state to enjoy this right now.”
Harry’s tongue felt thick and clumsy, but the hall’s doors burst open faster than he could answer.
Mutters rose from the students like the spiralling steam off their plates when no one stepped through the doors. A silver wolf bound through instead, leaping over two house tables and landing at the headmaster’s feet.
“THE MINISTRY IS LOST. GRINDELWALD HAS COME. PREPARE HOGWARTS FOR OCCUPATION; WE’RE FLEEING!”
We really are on the home stretch now. Let’s hope I can stick the landing.
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