It had been two weeks since the students had been saved and Salazar and Harry had come back to life and things were slowly getting back to normal. Classes had begun a week later after ensuring that everyone was truly okay, and only a few students had decided to go home. Word had gotten out pretty quickly that it was the trio that saved everyone from the centaurs and they'd been treated with awe since then.
Salazar was still furious with the centaurs and because the trio was insistent that the centaurs had to be there in the future, he began cutting off the supplies that was regularly brought to them, like a refresher on the charm that filtered their water. It was the least he could do to get back at them, though he personally thought that nothing would ever be enough to make up for the pain and suffering of his students, not to mention the death of his son.
Harry and Ron were in class with Godric, working with the daggers they'd been given. To everyone's surprise, Hermione had already mastered it, claiming only that her mother had wanted to keep her safe. She'd refused to say any more, so of course, Harry and Ron refused to leave her alone about it.
Salazar was pacing through the halls when he noticed Hermione in the courtyard, frowning down at her lap. He considered walking away, consumed in his own thoughts and emotions, but he reminded himself that the students were the most important thing and made his way over.
"Hermione," he greeted, walking out to meet her. She looked up in surprise at him and got to her feet quickly.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Professor Slytherin," she said in a rush. "Am I late for class?"
"No," he assured her. "You seem troubled."
She nodded quietly, her mind slipping back to her thoughts. "It's about the… test."
He sighed. He'd truly hoped she would be able to forgive them for it. "I see."
"I'm not- no, I'm not upset," she assured him, understanding easily why he seemed disappointed. "It's just… when I asked who we fought, you told me Professor Gryffindor had us fight the person most dangerous, most threatening to us in our lives."
"That is correct."
"Ron fought no one," she said slowly. "And Harry fought Voldemort, rightfully so."
"You wish to know who you fought," he guessed. At her nod, he sat on the bench, thinking. "Godric retrieved those images, those people, from your futures. Ron's was to be himself."
"He struggles with himself more than anyone else," Salazar confirmed. "As for you, it was a man named Antonin Dolohov."
"He's… a Death Eater," Hermione frowned, trying to remember anything about him. "I did some research on known death eaters and their families and Sirius helped me with it, too. He only told me that Dolohov joined Voldemort at a very young age and that he was… vile. Why do you think he's my biggest threat?"
"I cannot be sure," Salazar told her regretfully. "Godric may be able to help you."
"By reading tea leaves?" she asked, making a face. He let out a small laugh. Though they'd explained that Divinition should never have been a class for the entire school, Hermione was still skeptical about the practice. Ron and Godric both were clearly Seers, but she had issue with the concept of being able to see the future. Salazar supposed that as a muggleborn, it wasn't unreasonable that she would have a hard limit in her mind of what certainly couldn't be possible. Still, he found it ironic that the one magical practice she didn't believe in was the one that would help her.
"There's a spell, a very old one that only Seers can use. It is a bit like Legilimency except you can read into the future, into scenes from the future. It is never guaranteed, but it shows the most likely event."
"And do you think he'd be willing to do that for me?"
Salazar smiled. "You are our student, Hermione. If this man is your biggest threat, then we will help you to the best of our abilities."
"Thank you, Professor."
Salazar nodded and quietly led her down to the armory where Godric grinned at Harry and Ron, who were sweating and gasping for air. "Did you not say you'd play nice?"
Godric let out a bright laugh. "Your son is weak, Salazar. He was winded within two minutes!"
"Okay, sure, but so was Ron," Harry called out between gasps, feeling rather offended.
"Godric, Hermione would like your help," Salazar said, indicating the girl by his side. "It is about the test we gave them."
"Ah," Godric nodded. "Come, let us go somewhere less… sweaty."
Hermione spared a glance at Harry and Ron before following out her Head of House, leaving two confused boys behind.
"What're they doing?" Ron asked curiously, wiping the sweat from his brow with a spare rag.
"Hermione had a question about the man she fought," Salazar explained. "Godric should be able to help her figure it out."
"I was worried she'd get lost in the Room that day," Harry sighed. "It didn't occur to me until after I sent the Patronus."
"Yes, about that," Salazar looked at his son. "What was that room? We never managed to ask."
"Oh, it's… wait, you guys don't know about it?" Harry looked at him with wide eyes. When his father just stared at him with a raised eyebrow, he blushed. "Right, sorry. It's called the Room of Requirement, or the Room of Hidden Things, and it can turn into whatever you need it to be. Like we used it for defense lessons and things. My friend Neville used it for a bathroom once."
"The Room of Hidden Things," Salazar hummed. "I assume you put hidden things in there?"
"Uh," Harry scratched his head, embarrassed. "I don't actually know. I've never looked for that. I think Mione did."
"Well, perhaps we should go see it."
"Anything to get us away from these daggers," Ron breathed, tossing his rag to the floor.
Godric took his place at his desk, looking at the nervous Hermione across from him. "I assume Salazar told you his name?"
"Yes," she confirmed. "And I know a little bit about him already. He went to school with Sirius and Harry's parents and was one of the first at Hogwarts to join Voldemort. Sirius said he did some pretty… horrible things, but he refused to tell me more. One of Voldemort's favorites, too."
"Well," Godric said, looking at her. "That will help us get a better glimpse at him. This spell will be like Legilimens. It'll help me look into a very specific part of your future, the day you first meet him. Are you ready?"
"I think so," she nodded before pausing. "What if it's bad?"
"Then we will handle it," he assured her. "And give you a way to keep yourself safe."
"Okay," she nodded firmly this time. "I'm ready."
"Legilimens visus posterum," he whispered, his eyes locked on hers. She gasped as she felt a slight pain and then a memory that wasn't a memory play through her mind for both of them to see.
"Let go of me," Hermione whimpered, struggling against the man behind her. They were in a dark, rough room with rocks and tile all around them, and she could see Harry and Sirius fighting at the middle of the room. She pulled her arm back and elbowed the man's stomach. He released her but grabbed her by the wrist again before she could escape. He twisted her around to look down at her and he gasped, a sight and sound that worried her.
The man had jaw-length curly black hair and aristocratic features that were unfairly beautiful. His eyes were a sharp blue and pierced her soul. She struggled still against him, but his grip on her wrist was tight enough that she worried he might break it. His other hand came up to stroke her cheek and she winced back, throwing her hand up to punch him. He was too quick and grabbed that wrist as well, smirking at her.
"You're gorgeous," he whispered into her ear, his breath tickling her neck. "And feisty. I think I'll keep you. Granger, isn't it? The Dark Lord did tell me I could have a pet."
"Let me go!" She cried again, attempting to twist her body out of her hold. It didn't work, but she did catch sight of Bellatrix pointing her wand at Sirius, who was standing in front of the Veil. "Sirius! Move!"
The man did, just barely in time, and the curse hit Lucius instead and sent him into the Veil. She felt a sick appreciation as she watched him die, but was shocked out of her thoughts by a bite on her wrist. She let out a yelp and looked back to see him smirking at her still. He released her newly bleeding wrist and pointed his wand at her, casting too quick for her to stop him.
"Anima coniungere," he muttered. A white light hit her and she felt something painful move through the bite mark and into her core, her soul, before he finally released her and shoved her forward so he could apparate out of the battle.
The pair left her mind and she frowned, confused and scared by what she'd seen. Godric, however, looked furious, which only confused her. "Professor Gryffindor? What was that spell?"
"Very old, even for us," he ground out, getting to his feet. "I will need… Rowena's help with this," he told her. "Please go find your friends."
"But what did he do-,"
"Hermione," he snapped. "Do as I say. Go find your friends. I believe they are on the seventh floor."
She nodded quietly, startled by how serious he was, and left him to his rage-filled thoughts.
"It's not working," Harry complained. "Hermione usually makes the rooms."
"Let me try," Ron offered. Harry stepped aside and he and Salazar watched as the redhead paced back and forth, only for nothing to happen. "I don't understand."
Salazar looked up before anyone else and saw Hermione frowning at her feet as she walked down the hall. She walked past Ron without even looking up or, apparently, noticing him. When she was about to run into Harry, the boy spoke up.
"Mione," he said, startling her. She looked around with wide eyes, surprised to see them.
"Oh," she blinked. "I'm sorry."
"What's wrong with you?" Ron asked. She ignored him and frowned at Harry.
"What are you doing?"
"We're trying to find the Room of Hidden Things," he explained. "But it won't show up."
"You have to be thinking the exact right thing," she explained, turning around to pace silently in front of the wall. When she stopped, a door slowly appeared. "See?"
"Brilliant," Ron grinned, opening the door. "Merlin, there's a lot of stuff in here."
Harry rushed to catch up with his friend as he entered the room, but Hermione just moved on. Salazar paused, putting a hand on her shoulder to stop her.
"Did you get what you wanted?"
"Maybe," she shook her head. "I just don't understand… Professor Gryffindor wouldn't explain it to me. He got angry and sent me away."
Salazar blinked in surprise. He wasn't sure he could remember the last time the man had gotten angry in front of a student. It was certainly cause for concern, whatever had happened. "What happened?"
"I don't know," she shook her head, clearly frustrated. "I didn't recognize the spell. He said it was old, really old, even for you guys. But what does it mean?"
"What did it do?"
Hermione shrugged helplessly. "Nothing that I could see. He just hit me with it and then shoved me so he could apparate away. I didn't seem… hurt or anything, aside from maybe my wrists."
She scrunched up her nose. "He grabbed them and was holding them really tightly. He also… bit one. Hard enough that it bled."
"Do you remember the spell?"
She thought back to it. "Anima coniungere," she said slowly, trying to pronounce it just right. Salazar stiffened and she blinked. "Professor, what is it?"
"You are certain that was it?"
"Yes, completely," she promised. "Why? What does it do?"
He stared at her before putting an effort into looking more relaxed. "I'm certain we will find a fix for it before sending you back. Not to worry, Hermione."
"But Professor Gryffindor-,"
"Sometimes overreacts when his students are in danger," Salazar bit out, ignoring the bile rising in his throat. "How about we follow Harry and Ron?"
Hermione stared at the man suspiciously for a long minute before she nodded. "What are they doing in there, anyway?"
"I asked to see it. We did not know this room existed."
"It exists outside of time, too," she explained. "It's as full as it was the first day I saw it."
Hermione stared at the man for another long second before she turned and followed Harry and Ron into the room, Salazar walking behind her. "Expecto Patronum! Take me to Harry and Ron."
Her otter swam through the air and led them to the boys, who were standing at a pile of things not too far away. Ron grabbed at a book but upon seeing the name, Hermione cringed. "Put that down, Ron."
'Because that's something that I put in here."
Her friends looked at her in surprise. "Why?" Harry asked, glancing over at it. "Souls and How To Manipulate Them?"
She nodded. "I found it in Grimmauld Place. It's probably one of the darkest books there and when Sirius noticed it, he told me to burn it when I was done. Then about twenty minutes later he came back and told me to never read more than the first two chapters. He's never restricted my access to his books like that so… I listened."
"But… you didn't burn it," Ron frowned. "Why?"
She looked to Salazar before looking back at her friends. "It's dark, some of the darkest magic, but… it's information. I hid it away here because I assumed no one would find it. One book in… all of this."
Salazar took the book from Ron. "As it turns out, this book may be able to help us with a problem that has just arisen."
"It is possible."
Harry shook his head. "I didn't realize you talked to Sirius so much."
Hermione blushed lightly. "Well, I spent the entire summer at Grimmauld Place. Mrs. Weasley was so mean to him and he seemed… overwhelmed. He didn't mind answering my questions and I liked his stories. Plus, we were both really worried about you."
Harry frowned at her. His contact with his friends that summer had been limited, but even so, she hadn't mentioned that she hadn't gone home at all. "All summer?"
"My parents," she shrugged. "We fought."
"Rowena's diadem," Salazar said, glancing at another stack of things in surprise. "How did that get here?"
"The lost diadem," Hermione's eyes widened, staring at it. "Accio diadem!"
Harry watched as the tiara flew into her hands and she winced. "What is it?"
"It feels… wrong," she muttered, flipping it over in her hands. She shivered, feeling suddenly sick and angry. Salazar grabbed it from her and frowned, waving his wand over it. As soon as it was out of her hands, the feeling disappeared and she felt fine once more.
"You are right, Hermione," he told her. "This… is a Horcrux."
"Fuck," Ron whispered, earning himself a stern look from Hermione.
"How do we destroy it?" Harry asked. "We can't exactly kill it like me."
"Oh, that should be simple," Salazar assured them. "We just have to retrieve some venom from the Chamber and imbue a dagger or something of the like with it."
"I destroyed the diary with one of her fangs," Harry told his father, wincing. He still felt bad for killing the poor creature, especially since he knew now that she was meant to protect the school.
"Rowena will be so upset," Salazar sighed, looking around. "I think it best to take care of this immediately. As for this room… I'd request none of you enter the Room of Hidden things without one of us. It seems less than safe and very easy to get lost."
"Not a problem," Ron muttered, taking a step away from the piles. "This place gives me the creeps."
"Let's review the things we need to take care of before they leave with the little information they've been able to give us," Rowena said, sitting in their office with her friends. "One, Voldemort wants to rule the wizarding world and get rid of muggles, muggleborns, and halfbloods. He is prophesied to fight Harry, and Harry is supposed to kill him."
"Two," Salazar continued. "Voldemort created likely seven Horcruxes. Three have already been destroyed, including his diary, your diadem, and the one inside Harry. The kids have no clue what the others might be, although Hermione has guessed he used something of each of ours, which is supported by the diadem."
"Three," Helga frowned. "Dumbledore is troublesome and seems to be holding every card very close to his chest. He's controlled Harry's life thus far and according to the kids, he's treated like an all-knowing god."
"Four," Godric said quietly, rolling his wand between his fingers, his eyes dark. "Dolohov did everything required to finish the spell and we have to find something to fix it for Hermione before he can truly use it against her."
"Five, where Harry goes in the future," Salazar frowned deeply. "Dumbledore refuses to let him away from his aunt and uncle to stay with his godfather."
"Which brings us back to the Dumbledore problem," Helga agreed.
"He seems to be at the center of many issues," Rowena narrowed her eyes. "What do you want to bet that he knows about the Horcruxes, but further, he knows about Harry being one?"
"It seems to me," Godric said slowly. "That we know what our only solution is."
"Helena," Rowena reminded him sadly. "What of her?"
"We discuss it with her," Salazar suggested. "Perhaps bring her along."
"Are we all in agreement?" Godric asked, looking between his friends. Salazar was the first to nod his agreement, followed by Helga. The three turned to look at Rowena.
"If Helena believes she will be fine, then I'll agree."
Harry winced as Hermione pulled him quickly down the hall, running to the office. He sped up and wiggled his arm free of her grip, matching her pace now. "We're not that late!"
"Yes, we are," she snapped back, coming to an abrupt stop in front of the griffin guarding the office. The thing shook its head at them and opened up, and they jumped on the stairs, waiting impatiently as they moved up to the office.
"You're late," Rowena said, looking between the two. "Why?"
"We were dueling with Théo and Helena," Harry blushed apologetically. "We lost track of time."
"I can't believe I was on time and you weren't," Ron laughed. He'd spent the morning with Godric working on his Animagus form, something that Hermione and Harry had already mastered. For once, Ron wasn't upset that he was last but rather more determined to get his done perfectly. It had worked well, and by the end of their morning lesson, he'd found his form, which turned out to be the same as his Patronus.
"We're very sorry, Professors," Hermione told them, looking between the serious looking adults. "Is something wrong?"
"Not at all," Rowena promised her. "Why don't you sit? We've got some news."
They did as they were told and waited while the founders seemed to silently argue over who would begin.
"We know this time has been very tough for you all," Helga began. "And we know that when you return to your own time, it'll be difficult then, too. You all have unfair challenges ahead of you. We have tried working out a way to equip you with the tools to handle all of this on your own, but…"
"But we don't think it is possible," Salazar continued for her. "But we have an idea on how to ensure your safety."
"Oh," Harry frowned. "Okay."
Rowena took in a breath and looked between them. "I believe, with Salazar's help, I have found you a way back to your rightful time that does not involve the Sands of Time."
"What?" Hermione gasped, jumping to her feet. "Really? How? Is it like the time turner? Because I had another theory last night, and I thought that maybe-."
"Mione," Ron interrupted. "Let the woman talk!"
Hermione blushed and sat back down. Rowena gave her an amused smile that faded back into her serious frown.
"It will send you to your magical guardian," Rowena explained. "We decided to use Hermione's."
All three kids paused in surprise.
"But… I'm muggleborn."
"Yes," Helga agreed. "But you created a connection with a wizard who accepted it, and he became your magical guardian."
She frowned at them. "Sirius isn't- what?"
"Shouldn't Sirius be my magical guardian?" Harry asked, looking between his friend and the founders.
"He would be, except…" Godric sighed. "Dumbledore seems to be your magical guardian. Or he was until Sal adopted you."
"Merlin's sake," Harry muttered, annoyed once more with the meddling old wizard. "And Hermione, what, bonded with him over the summer?"
"It seems it began when you both saved him in your third year," Salazar disagreed. "If I had to guess, I'd say she reminds him of your mother, Harry."
Harry looked at his best friend before nodding in acceptance. "Yeah, I guess she probably would."
"But… does Sirius know?" Hermione wondered curiously.
"He could not accept it if he did not know," Helga confirmed. "You can ignite it without knowing but he cannot accept it without the intent to do so. I would guess he accepted it so that, should you be in trouble, he can help you."
"That is not all," Salazar said, cutting off the conversation to gain their attention again. "Since it is so difficult to cover every aspect necessary, we've made a decision."
"We will be coming with you."
The three kids fell completely silent, but Harry reacted first but shooting up and wrapping his arms around his father, who hugged him back in surprise. Through their bond, there was nothing but relief and love vibrating to each of them.
"What about Helena?" Hermione asked quietly as she looked at Rowena. The woman gave a sad smile.
"We've already spoken," she promised. "She and Théo will take over the school with the help of Emrys, who arrived again yesterday."
Hermione had a small frown on her face as she thought hard about all the stories of the Grey Lady and the Bloody Baron that she'd heard. "I don't understand. We heard so many stories…"
"Maybe they're wrong," Ron suggested. "Like your mob mentally thing."
"Mob mentality, Ronald," she looked at him, exasperated. "But it can't be. These are stories that they themselves told students."
"Perhaps they lied."
"It's possible," she agreed slowly. "But I'd have to talk to them and make sure they knew…"
"We have many things to prepare for," Salazar told her. "But we will leave this week. You can speak to them before then."
"We're really going back with you?" Harry asked, looking at his father. The man offered him a small smile and a nod, and Harry's eyes lit up happily.
He was finally, truly, going to have a father in his life.