Conjoining of Paragons
Chapter 60: The Ghosts of Future Past
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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April 26, 1944
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Motes of dust dislodged from the corridor around him and gleamed like grey gemstones in the light of a torch that teetered in its bracket. Between the shaking stones underfoot and the harsh coughs ripped free from him, he nearly lost his footing when skidding around the next corner.
“ALL INHABITANTS, PLEASE REPORT TO THE GREAT HALL IMMEDIATELY!”
It was the third time that magically amplified voice rang through the castle. Not Dippet’s voice. It appeared the ministry really was in charge here. Joys.
Peeves whizzed by him and streaked down the corridor, cackling on his path towards the Great Hall. Not now, Peeves.
The Entrance Hall was thick with bodies. It was hard to move; the cue was rushed and panicked but moved slower than ever.
“Stop that!” a booming voice said up ahead. Harry stared through a thin gap between students and saw two upper years wrenched apart by a boy whose head towered high above both of them.
“Don’t ya realize what’s happenin?’ he asked. “Grindelwald’s on our bleedin’ heads and you lot o’ fools are fightin’ in the corridors.”
Bless him. Regret seized him then while he stared at the monstrous fourth year. I should have talked to him; I just let myself forget about him. The self-hatred was stronger than ever. All I know about his childhood was all the rubbish about the Chamber of Secrets and that damned spider.
Harry stiffened halfway through his next stride. Bloody hell.
A silver key clinked against his leg when he finally entered the Great Hall some ten minutes later. The four house tables were gone. Students, staff, and ministry officials were being gathered in varying groups by high-ranking officers whose badges glittered in the light of a thousand glowing lanterns.
He scanned the crowd for his friends. The first thing he saw was Peeves, drifting through the rows of students and straightening their robes. Some he paused in front of and whispered in their ears. Each of these laughed, or smiled, or visibly relaxed.
Well I’ll be fucking damned. Maybe there was something Peeves cared about. The castle is his home.
“Harry!” Emily was shaking with what must have been relief as he strode forward and into her waiting arms. “Where were you?” she hissed.
He held out the ring and ignored the stabs of guilt. If she only knew what I went behind her back and used it for. He wiped those thoughts clean. There’s nothing she fears more than death; she would understand. She has to understand.
He clung to her with a desperation he thought unmatchable until he felt how hard she squeezed him back. She must really be afraid.
Their other friends clustered tightly around them. Harry met Charlus’s eyes and they shared a pair of grim nods.
“ATTENTION!” It was the same voice as earlier. It sounds familiar. Harry glanced towards its sound and did a double take.
The once Professor Merrythought had her grey hair pulled up in a tight bun and her wand against her throat. Below her neck, red robes hugged her and a gold badge gleamed.
“She’s an auror now,” Emily whispered in his ear. “She used to be one, but retired to teach. She must have taken it back up; that’s a captain’s badge she’s wearing.”
Clever for them to put an auror in charge who knows the castle.
“A TEAM OF UNSPEAKABLES HAVE ASSESSED OUR SITUATION. THE WARDS WILL FALL BEFORE SUNDOWN. THERE IS NO CHOICE BUT TO FIGHT.”
Varied reactions rang through the room. About half of Gryffindor whooped and cheered and some others joined in. Many of the younger students screamed and some burst into tears. Most just stood still and waited, their faces grim or worried.
“ANYONE AGED SEVENTEEN YEARS OR OLDER MAY STAY AND FIGHT IF THEY SO WISH. ANYONE BELOW MAJORITY WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO JOIN OUR RESISTANCE AND ANYONE UNWILLING MAY GO WITH THEM.”
The reaction was more unanimous this time — a chorus of boos that rang through the hall like rolling thunder.
That’s gonna make things harder than they need to be. Not that they could afford to be too diligent. I’ll just have to sneak back; I doubt anyone will care after that.
“Where will we go?” a younger student called from the back most cluster of bodies. “Grindelwald has taken over; there’s nowhere to run.”
Oh, fuck. Harry looked down towards the floor; it was too much seeing all those young faces and imagining their slaughter.
“I KNOW OF A PLACE.” He jumped. Emily had spoken with her own magically amplified voice.
One of the aurors rushed closer and bent his head. “It’s on the seventh floor,” she whispered, “across from the tapestry of dancing trolls. Walk back and forth in front of the wall three times and imagine what you want. I’d recommend somewhere comfortable, but make sure you’re imagining it being impossible to find. That should keep Grindelwald at bay until we’ve won.”
“I forgot about that place,” he muttered when the auror retreated.
Emily squeezed his hand. “I’ve done most of my studying of the ring there. I was hoping it would have books for me, but really, I just didn’t want to spend my time in the chamber thinking about all this.” She gestured around them and pulled him in close. “That’s our place.”
His heart about broke and it took all his willpower not to sob against her shoulder. It will be your place soon; the way it always should have been.
Merrythought explained that the younger students and anyone unwilling to fight would follow Professor Slughorn up to the seventh floor and to where they could be hidden.
Harry pressed a soft kiss to Emily’s lips. Will it be the last one? That thought sent his heart racing and he nearly stole another.
“I’ll be back,” he promised before swallowing a lump in his throat. “Have Charlus meet me in our usual place. It’s time we have a talk.”
A talk we should have had. Now was the first time he really regretted never telling her. And now it’s too late; she’ll never know the truth.
Not never, he realized, a plan blooming inside his mind. Just never from me. It nearly shattered him, but he pressed on with the gaggle of students gliding up the marble staircase and towards the seventh floor.
“Ready?” he asked Dorea and Elena as the second floor came into sight. The pair nodded and he disillusioned the three of them, taking both their hands and dragging them into the bathroom on the second floor.
None of them spoke while trudging down the dark tunnel and towards the chamber.
That suits me fine. His throat was a tight knot of feeling. The last time I see them, and it’s to lock them away. So many lasts today. Will they all feel like this? The tragedy just kept growing. How did you do it? he thought, imagining his parents’ faces. Why is dying so hard?
Small bits of stone were strewn across the chamber’s floor, but he knew the roof would never fall. Not unless Grindelwald attacks it directly.
All the doubts vanished with that thought and a look in the direction of his two best friends. He’ll never have time; he’ll be dead first.
Elena clung to him and sobbed. Dorea was shaking but fought her tears, her arms around him while she breathed long, deep breaths into the crook of his neck.
“Please be safe,” she whispered. A bitter laugh left her lips. “It’s so stupid, but you’re going to do it no matter what I say, so… please, Harry, come back to us.”
“P-p-please,” Elena sobbed against his chest.
Stop making this harder. He wiped his mind clear of all thought; it was the only way he would ever be strong enough for this.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
His fingers flexed.
Dorea had just enough time to look up before his wand flashed up and a bolt of red light took her in the chest.
She toppled back and Elena stumbled away from him. “Harry!”
“You wouldn’t stay.” It was him who cried now; great, hot tears that burned his eyes and carved blazing lines down his cheeks.
“I saw it in your eyes. You wanted to be a duellist; you’d never just stay back and let me… let me.”
“Let me die.” The shadows grew thick around them and a great cold seeped through the ancient walls.
A flash of red tore through the darkness and Elena slumped beside her friend, too surprised and terrified to raise her wand in time.
“I’m sorry.” His shoulders shook so badly that he stumbled against the nearest pillar. “I love you… I love both of you. I couldn’t… I can’t see you die.”
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
The castle’s bells rang loud and clear as another tremor shook the school. They’re getting worse. It was no wonder the bells were being sounded and the defenders called to their positions. The wards won’t last much longer.
A great rattling rumbled through the corridors. They can’t have fallen already. Harry drew his wand, but froze at what he saw.
Suits of armour clambered off their plinths ahead and unsheathed their long-forgotten swords. Each armoured footfall echoed through the corridors. He watched on in amazement as the herd of armoured suits marched towards the marble staircase. How the hell has that happened?
There was no time to ponder — not now, not when time was already so short.
“Finally.” Charlus swept hair back from his eyes with a shaky hand when Harry entered their usual abandoned classroom. “You had me worried for a minute.”
If only you knew how worried you should be. That was one secret he could not tell Charlus. He would do everything to stop me. It could not be allowed; his choice had been made.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
“Any last-minute plans?” Charlus’s voice shook despite his best efforts, but his face was hard and stern.
“Just one.” His heartbeat thundered in his ears and his legs shook beneath him, but he made himself meet those hazel eyes and take a long, deep breath. “I need your cloak.”
Charlus’s face paled and he took a step back. “How do you—”
“Because it was once mine.”
“You’re barmy.” Charlus’s eyes were wide and frightened, his face a bloodless mask of puzzlement.
“No,” he whispered and steeled himself for the bombshell. “I’m Harry James Potter. Your grandson.”
Charlus just stared at him slack jawed.
“I set you up with Dorea because, where I came from, you married her and had a son named James Potter. He married a green-eyed muggleborn named Lily Evans and they had one son.”
“The cloak has been passed down father to son, generation through generation. It’s a light silver that doesn’t change colour or shine in any lighting and it feels more like water than cloth. There’s a mark on the back of it, but I could never tell what it was. My eyesight used to be a lot worse than it is now and it was faded, but now I realize it’s the Peverells’ mark and the sign of the Deathly Hallows.”
“How do you—”
“Your father looked exactly like you, but he was taller and had brown eyes. The hazel comes from your mother’s side, but you never got her brown hair. Your grandfather was hunched over by the end and had knobbly knees that looked a right pain, but his hair never thinned.” Charlus had resorted to gaping. “I saw them once, in an enchanted mirror that shows you your heart’s greatest desire. Mine was the family I never had.”
“But you just said—“
“That I was the son of James Potter and Lily Evans?” Charlus nodded dumbly. Harry closed his eyes. Please don’t think too much into this next bit. “I never knew them. I never knew what they looked like until I stared into that mirror.”
“How?” Charlus’s voice was as faint as a soft, summer breeze.
“I didn’t lie about everything.”
His friend grew stiff. “They were murdered.”
“Murdered by a dark lord who called himself Voldemort over a prophecy that said their child would be the one who vanquished him.” Charlus was still and quiet. “Voldemort’s real name was Tom Riddle.”
“Riddle?” Charlus’s head snapped up. “You don’t mean—”
“I obviously wasn’t supposed to be here.” He was just rambling now; once he had started, it was like he couldn’t stop. “There were dementors and they attacked my godfather and one of my best friends.” It choked him now for the first time in nearly two years. Saying it aloud was different; especially now with all that was happening. “I tried saving them, but I… I couldn’t.”
Charlus shifted on the balls of his feet. It looked like he wanted to come closer but couldn’t make himself move.
“I tried using a time turner to go back a few hours, but it didn’t work.”
“Wait! A time turner? How the bloody—“
“When you’re known as the one who defeated Voldemort, things tend to happen around you.” Charlus snapped his mouth shut. “I… I lost it. When my plan failed, I… I just started turning the dial.”
Harry laughed bitterly. “I don’t know why I’m scared to die. I’ve done it once already. That killed me, but… not completely. It’s complicated, but I ended up here. Things are different — and not just the year. Dumbledore beat Grindelwald in 1945 where I came from and Emily never existed.”
Harry watched the gears turn behind his grandfather’s eyes, watched the dawning shock slowly break across his face. “You mean—”
“I wanted to change things. I didn’t want Emily growing up the way Tom did. I didn’t want people killed and children living without their parents. My plan was always to get rid of her somehow, but… things changed.”
“Fucking right they did.” Charlus shook his head. “How do you look at her? After what she did, I just don’t get it.”
“It wasn’t her!” It came out sharp and lashed across the room like a rough-hewn whip. “Sorry,” he muttered. “It’s just… I met Tom Riddle and I met Voldemort. Emily’s not like them — not anymore. Things are different here, like I said.”
Something foreign lurked behind Charlus Potter’s eyes. I wish I knew what it meant. “That’s why you watched her so closely, isn’t it? It’s why you warned me about her when we first became friends.”
“I’ve tried so hard to fix things.” His voice shook and nearly shattered. “I’ve helped Emily, but I fucked everything else up.”
“What do you mean you fucked everything else up?”
Tell him. “Your father was never killed by Grindelwald where I came from. It’s all my fault.”
“I’m not being thick! Emily and I have the stone, Charlus, and Grindelwald knows.”
His eyes widened. “The Resurrection Stone? You have it?”
He looked away and remembered his conversation with Dumbledore not long ago. “Emily does, really, but Grindelwald thinks I do. He has for months; that’s why he’s been after me. I think it’s because he knows the Potters are descended from the Peverells. I don’t know what tipped him off about me, but I think he thought I was a Potter and went after your father hoping to get more information.” A long silence hung between them. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re a fucking idiot, that’s what you are.” Harry cringed back, but strong arms wrapped around him and squeezed him tightly. “You have such a fucking hero complex,” Charlus muttered. “Riddle was a fucking bloke where you came from and you think the only reason things are different is because you’re here?”
It sounded foolish when put that way, but his presence had led Grindelwald to the Potters.
Harry never said that — he needed Charlus now, needed him worse than he had ever needed anyone. “You believe me?”
Charlus gave him a final squeeze, then stepped back. “Course I do,” he said gruffly, wiping at his eyes. “I always knew there was something about you. I wouldn’t have guessed it was bloody time travel or whatever you want to call it, but it explains some things.” He actually grinned. I don’t know how he’s doing it. “I always knew you were two dashing to be anything but a Potter.”
He laughed right back, but it was short-lived. Another shockwave shook the castle so violently that both boys staggered.
“It might not matter soon,” he whispered and stared out the window. Dying shafts of sunlight slanted through the glass and spilled across the classroom. Every scorch and dent they had made along the floor this past year was painted starkly by its light, a tapestry woven from struggle and change.
Charlus reached into the pocket of his robes and drew out the cloak. For all the setting sunlight’s glory, the cloak was unchanged; the same sleek silver he remembered and had yearned for since his arrival here.
“I don’t know what good it will do you,” Charlus said while passing it to Harry. “I wasn’t kidding, you know. You really can’t cast spells under that cloak.”
“It will do.” Harry let the watery silk flow through his fingers. “It will have to.”
There was another tremor — the loudest yet, so strong that it unfooted both of them and shattered the legs on desks all around the room.
The bells tolled again — a single, sonorous sound that hung in the air like a looming death note.
“I guess that’s it.” Charlus took a deep breath and clasped Harry on the shoulder. “When this is all done, we’ll be brothers. I’m the Lord Potter and I’ll make bloody sure of it.”
His resolve stretched and strained. The fear came back up and the tragedy grew thicker than the putrid scent of death. Of all he had seen today, nothing had come closer to breaking him than that one, heartfelt sentence.
I can’t take it — I’ll never really be a Potter here; it’s too late for that.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
“Thank you.” The words rasped from him. It took a forceful clearing of his throat for him to speak again. “Tell her, won’t you? Emily, I mean… just in case. You’re the first one I’ve told.”
“I’ll tell all of them.” Charlus grabbed his arm. “If I don’t make it, apologize to Dorea, yeah?”
Harry took a shaking breath. “Of course.”
The bells tolled again and the two stepped apart and drew their wands. “And so it begins,” said Charlus, gripping his wand so tightly that his knuckles had gone chalk white.
Harry looked down at the cloak and ran it through his fingers one last time. And so it ends.
There are many reasons I haven’t written that last scene until now, but among them is the worry that it will fall flat.
There is a certain expectation when writing a fic like this that there will be that conversation with someone at some point.
I always find they fall a bit flat because of the necessary exposition and I fear the built-in expectations are too high for me to match.
I hope I did adequately despite my resignation — we are in the final stretch now.
Please read and review.
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