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 Hope, as well as my betas 3CP, Luq707, Regress, and Thanos for their work on this story.

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Here's the summary:

Marauders' Era Time Travel AU: A better prepared Harry never faces Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest. Six years of fighting follow that costly choice. His inevitable defeat does not leave him dead and buried, but stranded in a strange world ruled by Dumbledore, Grindelwald, and their greater good.

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Harry Potter and the Conjoining of Paragons

By ACI100

Chapter 63: Pretium Victoriae


April 27, 1944

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

6:03 AM

Nothing lay between them but silence and smoking spires spiralling up towards the ceiling. The Entrance Hall was a mess of lifeless corpses and shattered stones, of smears of blood and layers of dust.

Grindelwald's threadbare robes just barely clung to him. The Cutting Curse he had amputated himself with had taken much of his left sleeve. The robe's right side was blackened tatters courtesy of Flamel's alchemical fire. It was less a robe now than a muscle shirt showing off a single arm. Yellow pus seeped between the weeping cracks through the blackened skin remaining on his ruined half an arm.

"There is no one left to die for you." The dark lord's voice was thinner than his burnt and brittle skin, but everyone in the wreck of a hall heard each word clear as the kiss of sunrise.

Harry's eye twitched. "You say that an awful lot for someone who's alive because of their lucky wand."

Grindelwald laughed. It was a rasping sound halfway to a dementor's ragged breath. "You understand nothing if you think that is true."

Harry stared straight ahead, stone still and unblinking. "I understand enough."

"Ah yes, the Deathly Hallows. I did warn you and Albus how foolish it was to seek them."

"You and Dumbledore were friends once, and you chased the Deathly Hallows." Grindelwald's expression was unreadable, but now the burnt ruin of his face dripped pus as well. "You wanted to be the masters of death; you thought the Hallows would make you invincible." Still, there was no answer. "But then Dumbledore wised up."

The longer he talked, the more it made sense.

"They wanted Dumbledore fer Minister, o' course, but he'd never leave Hogwarts, so old Cornelius Fudge got the job."

That was why he turned it down. Whatever had happened between him and Grindelwald had made Dumbledore realize some hard truths about himself.

Grindelwald spat a glob of blood onto the flagstones at his feet. "Albus Dumbledore is dead, and I still draw breath."

"And which of you, do you think, enjoyed life more?" The words of Harry's parents came back to him as he shut his eyes. I'm sorry, Mum, Dad. I have to do this.

Grindelwald tossed his now bald head. "My life is far from over."

A warm wind carrying the smell of smoke blew in through the space where a wall had been and stirred sweat-soaked locks of hair which blew across the lightning bolt-shaped scar on Harry's forehead. "Dumbledore realized the problem with power and knew he never wanted it."

"But he has the wand?"

"True, but so did Antioch, and Emeric, and all the others who came before him. The wand is not such a wonderful thing."

Grindelwald glanced around the ruined entrance hall. "I see no problem with power."

"Power corrupts," Harry said flatly, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

"There is no such thing as good and evil, only power and those too weak to seek it."

That philosophy had driven Voldemort to madness. It was among the differences between the husk of a man who had clung to life and the vibrant, wonderful woman whom Harry was preparing to die for.

"Dumbledore knew it," he went on. "It's why he never came to fight you. It was a lose-lose. Either he dies, or he gets put on a pedestal he never wanted to stand on." Harry's heart went out to his fallen mentor for all he had endured in a different world.

Grindelwald flicked his still-whole hand. "Your drivel matters naught. Albus is dead and you are not his equal. I will kill you and seize the stone. I will do this and grind the world underfoot if I must, all for the greater good I serve."

"You still don't get it, do you?" Harry asked. The first rays of sunlight beamed in through the gaping holes and out across what remained of once smooth stone. Motes of dust glittered in the golden light and Grindelwald looked worse than ever when painted with its vibrant brush. "The Hallows won't work like you want them to. The stone can't really raise the dead. I know, I've used it."

"Lies—"

"No, you're just too blinded by all of this to see it. You don't realize any of your mistakes, do you?" Grindelwald stared pensively back into his face. "You could have won already if not for the Hallows. I would never have fought so hard had you not killed one of my best friend's fathers hoping he had a lead on them."

A flicker of amusement showed through the dark lord's stoic mask. "You think you alone can stop me?"

"I'm not alone, thanks to you. Charlus has fought as hard as I have and Arcturus Black has had spies inside your ranks for months." The first signs of surprise spread across Grindelwald's burnt face. "All for the Hallows, all for power. You kill and you kill and you kill, but you never stop to consider the consequences."

Grindelwald ran his tongue along the blackened skin of his cheek and flexed what remained of his severed arm. "You are mistaken, Hadrian Pavonis. I rue the consequences each and every day, for I have paid in blood."

Harry's limbs were growing lighter and fatigue's ache was ebbing. The magic buzzed around him yet again, no longer a dreaded poison that burned his aching body, but a scrumptious sustenance whose rich tones sang to him once more. "I have paid in more than blood." Grindelwald took a half-step back. Harry could feel something snap inside him. Probably the last of my humanity if I have any left after everyone I've killed. It almost made him laugh. I guess it hardly matters now.

"I never did kill a man named Pavonis." Now it was his turn to be surprised. "I remember every name," Grindelwald went on. "For all your talk of power and corruption, still the destruction galls me. I am not a monster, but a visionary. I kill only those who stand between me and my ambitions, and your parents never did impede my greater good."

Harry could feel the puzzled glances from what remained of those Hogwarts students who had stayed behind to fight. "Finally got there, have we?" A vein pulsed in Grindelwald's neck. It's coming. "You were right to chase the Potters, but killing my great-grandfather was a mistake."

No one moved. "Your… great-grandfather?"

One last surprise. One last chance to throw him off and kill him. One last hope for life. "My name is Harry Potter and I was born on July 31st, 1980." A murmur trembled through the hall like the distant rumbling of thunder. They must have thought him mad, but he no longer cared. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Gellert Grindelwald. You'll be the second dark lord I've killed."

There was a heartbeat in which shock slackened Grindelwald's spine and Harry struck.

The windows shattered from the force of his spell and the stone around his lance of lightning blackened. The glowing bolt slammed against a silver shield and wavered as golden ripples spread across the one barrier between it and the life it sought.

Harry strained with everything he had, pulling in more magic than he had ever used before and hurling it at Grindelwald. Both spells burst apart and their casters staggered back. Emerald flames poured from Grindelwald's wand but met a wall of wine red and crumbled alongside it.

Grindelwald swept the Elder Wand towards Harry, who banished himself upwards and above the wall of force. His wand was already moving in the air and a man-high line of stone waited between him and Grindelwald when he landed, absorbing the incoming Killing Curse and bursting into burning shrapnel that Harry banished back towards the monster he did battle with. The debris morphed mid-flight, transfigured into a herd of angry snakes who melted into dust before he could command them. The air rippled between them and Harry forced up a ring of fire which shattered the air-based spell.

The stone floor slammed against Harry's back as his skin bubbled and burned from the explosion. Move. The stones beneath him came alive, reaching for his wrists and ankles, but the same watery sphere from earlier that night rose around Grindelwald and Charlus's scraped and sliced-up hand yanked Harry to his feet. The rest of the hall had renewed their fighting.

"Together," Charlus said with his wand drawn. "We take him together."

I can't risk Charlus. Harry had fought and lost — now it was time for what he had planned on all along. But how do I pick my moment with Charlus fighting beside me?

Watery arms reached out from the sphere and absorbed their curses. "Fuck!" Charlus cursed. "He's taken control away from me."

The water surged forward and became a hundred daggers forged from jagged ice, but Harry burnt them with a gout of fire. His head throbbed and his knees trembled. Fatigue had him again; he had conducted too much magic, but there was no time to hide beneath the cloak.

"Gentlemen!" Grindelwald made a wide, sweeping gesture to all the grey-robed figures who fought around the hall. "Kill the spare, but leave me Pavonis."

Several dozen wizards dropped Disillusionment Charms and shimmered into being just behind Grindelwald. His silver shield absorbed their storm of curses, but grey-robed figures fell like drumming raindrops as Arcturus and his hired wands poured inside and provided reinforcements.

It won't be enough. The element of surprise had power and they were winning now, but there were not nearly enough of them to contain Grindelwald and his forces.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Harry strode towards Grindelwald with his wand at his side. The dark lord watched him warily. He must expect a trap after so many surprises. Harry supposed that he was right, in a way.

"Harry!"

He could hear her calling him, and for half a stride, he wavered. Just a trick of the mind. Dying really was so hard. How did you do it, Mum, Dad? I'm scared.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

"Harry!" Her voice sounded closer now, almost like she was drawing near and reaching out for him.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

He paused just feet away from Grindelwald and held out his hand. His fingers opened and eleven inches of holly and phoenix feather clattered to the floor.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Grindelwald's eyes flicked from Harry to his fallen wand. "You would submit and give me the stone?" Harry's face remained blank; it took all his willpower not to close his eyes. "It will grant you no mercy; not after what you have cost me tonight."

Harry's heart thundered against his ribs. "I don't want your mercy, Grindelwald." Not when it would doom her.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

"Harry!" Two voices now, both so close. It was as if he could reach out and touch them, hold them close in his final moments.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

A tangled mess of raven hair lunged up beside him and a purple spell glowed on the end of his grandfather's wand. Harry did not move. You're too late, Charlus. The world would be all the better for it.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The Elder Wand flashed palely, its carvings glittering in the early morning sunlight. "Avada Kedavra."

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The green light reached for him with hungry fingers as the purple spell left his grandfather's wand.

I'm sorry, Charlus.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Harry stepped forward, raising his arms. I… NO!

A shadow leapt between him and Grindelwald, its glossy black hair streaming out behind it.

There was a multi-coloured flash and a sound like cracking stone, then nothing.


Author's Endnote:

The epilogue will clear things up. I have a final ace to play.

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A heartfelt thank you is extended to my high-tier patron, Cup, for her unwavering support.

PS: The last chapter will be posted in exactly two weeks. It will be released here for readers on Wednesday, November 29th, 2023.

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