Draco was testing Theo's patience.
He had been testing it since his father drilled into him that he had to be violent and loud and bigoted or face Lucius's wrath. It was something Theo could understand, of course. His own father was rather cruel to him in the name of creating a perfect heir, a perfect Slytherin to someday become Lord Nott.
But Merlin, if he ever became as much of a whiny brat as Draco was, he wanted to be avada'd.
Draco had come running to him and Blaise hours earlier in a full panic, claiming to have killed the Chosen One, Harry Potter. Of course, at the news, he'd felt panic fill him as well. He knew his friend would be killed if the Dark Lord found out.
And then Draco had described what happened. He'd described it vaguely, and it had taken Theo an hour to get the full story out of the blonde asshole. Apparently, Draco had cursed Potter, and it had hit something, that something had exploded, and it had supposedly killed the Golden Trio.
Theo thought he was getting a migraine.
They had split up and searched the castle, of course. They'd met back in the dorm the three of them shared after two hours to report that they hadn't found the trio, nor had anyone seen them. Draco, of course, decided this was firm proof and went back to full-on panicking.
Theo disagreed. Whatever had happened sounded like magic they'd never heard of before. He tried to point out to Draco that it was an abnormal situation, but the boy had just continued lamenting over his impending death at the hands of Voldemort.
And then, five hours into the apparent crisis, Draco had calmed. It was a welcome change to the shouting and panic they'd seen so far, but it was also suspicious. Theo and Blaise both narrowed their eyes at their friend.
"You're far too quiet," Blaise muttered, flipping a galleon between his fingers. Draco stood up and paced quietly in front of them before speaking.
"I'm going to die."
"Not if we find them," Theo tried. Draco put a hand up, and Theo wanted nothing more than to hex it off.
"I'm going to die," he repeated. "So fuck Voldemort."
"Well, shit," Blaise laughed loudly. "You should've killed Potter sooner."
"Fuck him, and fuck his followers, and fuck Umbridge," Draco told them decisively. "However long the rest of my life is, I refuse to be a sycophant if I'm just going to die anyway. No, fuck them. I'm gonna go hex Umbridge."
"Wait, Draco!" Theo called, rushing after his friend as he ran from their dorm.
Apparently, the new Draco was less bigoted but just as exhausting.
"Are we sure this is a good idea?" Harry asked, looking down at the Marauder's Map for the tenth time as they crawled through the tunnel.
"It'll be okay," Hermione assured him. "We have a plan. The Founders are on their way to that bunker thing, and Lupin is with them. Sirius is waiting for our floo call. We can do this."
"Do I get to stab her?" Ron asked curiously. When Hermione smacked his arm, he let out a laugh. "Not even a little?"
They quieted as they approached the one-eyed witch statue and it opened. They threw the cloak over all of them and exited, only for a body to slam into them and sent them sprawling to the floor.
"Ah, motherfucker," a voice hissed, untangling themselves. Harry caught the cloak before it was thrown across the floor and into the Great Hall, and Hermione looked up, wand out, to see Theo Nott looking at her like she was the answer to all his problems. "Granger, oh thank the gods. I could kiss you right now."
"I would… really rather you didn't," she blinked suspiciously. "Aren't you going to hex us?"
"No, I need your help," he disagreed, getting to his feet. The trio followed his lead, suspicious. "Look, Draco thinks he's killed all of you-,"
"Don't blame him, honestly," Ron cut in.
"And now he's going to go hex Umbridge."
The three friends fell silent.
"Excuse me?" Hermione asked, her voice getting higher in disbelief.
"Yeah, it's a long story, he sorta lost his mind," Theo shook his head. "He said something about not being a sycophant if he was going to die, and then he ran off to hex her."
"Because he bloody hates the toad," Theo said hurriedly. "He's going to get himself killed, Granger."
"Okay," she nodded quickly, turning to her friends. "Go make sure everything is okay with… the things. I'm going to corral Malfoy."
"What if he's just trying to curse you?" Ron asked with narrowed eyes. Hermione shook her head quickly.
"I trust Theo."
Harry and Ron both stared at her and she scowled.
"I do have friends aside from you two," she rolled her eyes. "Besides, I think I know how to protect myself."
"But he's a Slytherin," Harry stared at her. She laughed at him.
"Harry, after everything that we just went through, you can't exactly use being a Slytherin as an excuse anymore. Now go make sure it's all there, okay? We don't want Ginny to have taken any of it in her possessed state."
"That's a good point," Ron realized with wide eyes. "It's all down there and-,"
"Sorry to cut this short," Theo interrupted, though he was interested in the open conversation he was witnessing between the Gryffindors. "But Draco is about to destroy his life."
"Yes, I'm coming," Hermione nodded, rushing off after Theo. Harry and Ron shared a look before making their way to the Chamber of Secrets, leaving Hermione to run beside Theo. They ran through the castle aimlessly and she tugged his arm to stop in a courtyard. "Where do you think she is?"
"I don't know," he told her honestly. She could see the worry for his friend in his eyes, and she let out a deep breath, raising her wand.
To her shock, her Patronus had changed. It was now the same dragon that she held in her Animagus form. She shook it off and looked at it closely. "Take us to Draco Malfoy as fast as you can, but avoid anyone else if possible. Definitely avoid Umbridge."
The dragon nodded once and jumped into the air, flying off down the halls. They began running once more, and she saw Theo look at her in surprise.
"It used to be an otter!" She shrugged in an answer to his silent question. "I have no clue!"
He didn't answer her and the pair focused on running after the dragon. A few times, it rerouted them to avoid students or teachers, much to her relief. Finally, five minutes later, they approached the hall Draco was racing down himself. Theo reacted this time, reaching around the corner with his wand.
Hermione looked at Theo as her dragon faded away and led him into a nearby classroom with Draco levitated behind him. He set the boy on the floor as she warded the room and silenced it easily, locking it to her magical signature. She was nearly certain that Draco already knew how to remove such typical wards and spells, and she didn't want him doing so until he could calm down.
"Thank you," Theo said, looking to her in relief. "I appreciate your help. I understand that the last thing you, of all people, would want to do is help him."
"I'm helping you," she corrected. "I trust you."
"And our apparent friendship?"
She blushed. "They'd never have let me run off with you if they didn't think I wasn't already your friend."
"Well, I can truthfully say that I admire your brilliance," he told her. She grinned at him. "Ready?"
"If he hexes me, I will stab him."
Theo looked startled. "You're not armed aside from your wand."
She smirked. "That's what you think."
Looking at her, somewhat impressed and intimidated, he pointed his wand at his friend. "Rennervate."
Draco gasped and shot to a sitting position, his eyes wide at his friend. "Theo, thank Merlin. You can help me find her."
"Malfoy," Hermione called out, leaning against a desk. Draco's eyes widened as he stared at her. He got to his feet and rushed over and her arm dropped to her hip, pulling one of her daggers out in case he turned hostile. Still, he stopped just in front of her, looking her over closely.
"Are you dead? Am I dead? Did we… dead?"
She let out a short laugh. "Surprisingly, you're not the first person to ask me that today… No, but you seem to have lost some brain cells somewhere along the way. Did you hit your head?"
"I don't… understand," he admitted. His eyes narrowed slightly. "You look different. You're different. More… dangerous."
Hermione's lips twitched. "Thank you for noticing."
"Where's Potter? And Weasley?"
"They're fine," she assured him. "In the castle."
She considered her options. "First, you need to step back from me."
"You need to answer me-,"
"I'd do what she says, mate," Theo called. "She threatened to stab you before I woke you up."
Draco, surprised, did as his friend told him to. He stepped back enough to notice the dagger held tightly within her hand. "Merlin, Granger, where did you get that?"
"He had a sword," Draco scoffed. "Not daggers."
She smiled and tilted her head a little, truthfully enjoying the power she held over him at that moment. It was like a balm for the times he'd hurt her, emotionally or physically. "Why don't we begin with you first. What exactly were you thinking?"
"I- I thought I'd killed Potter," Draco admitted as he regained some semblance of sanity. "And if I had, the Dark Lord would kill me. So I was going to…"
"Hex Umbridge," she nodded. "Why? Just for the hell of it?"
"Because she's a cow," Draco sneered.
"Granger," Theo frowned. "What are you doing?"
"Well, I'm hardly going to tell him - or you, for that matter - what really happened without ensuring you're not assholes."
"Bigots," Theo translated, brushing off the fact that she'd just cursed - something that had surprised her as well. "No, fuck that. My dad is, though. Stay away from him."
She believed him easily enough. She'd also been suspicious of Draco for over a year. He was good at putting on a show, using his magic and harsh words to prove that he hated muggleborns just like the next Slytherin, but it was the way he looked at her when they met eyes, or just after he'd hurt her, as if he hated what he was doing and himself to the very core of his being. She just hadn't had any proof of it, and she knew her boys would only laugh or yell at her if she'd brought it up.
"There's an order to the world," Draco said, his energy draining from him. "And my father ensured that I am on the wrong side, no matter what."
"What does that mean?"
Draco stared at her for a minute and she recognized the vulnerability he was about to offer her, something she could rightfully guess he'd almost never offered to anyone else.
"My mother," he said simply. It was enough for her to understand. Lucius had threatened Narcissa, who was probably the only person Draco would do anything for.
"Harry had a time turner around his neck and you sent us eight hundred years into the past." Both boys fell silent, and she grinned. "I'm actually being quite serious. Godric Gryffindor gave me these daggers before we came back. That's why I look different. The Founders trained us all for a year."
"Ah, fuck," Theo breathed. "You really did fuck things up, Draco."
"No, it's fine," she assured them. "Things are going to be… quite different."
She looked between them. She believed them, of course, but she didn't quite trust them enough for the plan. No, she couldn't share that without her boys and the Founders. "I'll let you know."
It was the next day when something happened.
They were forced to sit for their OWLs, a fact that put Hermione into a panic, despite having just spent a year with the Founders and training under them. Still, during the exams - which were written with Blood Quills - the twins had interrupted. It pissed Umbridge off to no end, of course.
Harry supposed things happened the way they would've, had they not gone back to the past. Despite his Horcrux being gone, he was delivered a picture of Sirius in a familiar room being tortured. He ignored Hermione's warnings that it could easily be faked and rushed through the castle.
Later that night, they landed in the Forbidden Forest, just Hermione and Harry. Their weapons had, unfortunately, been noticed during a frisk by Crabbe and Goyle and had been confiscated, as had their wands. They'd been taught some wandless magic, of course, but they wanted to wait.
They had a chance.
It ended with an innocent centaur being hurt by the deranged ministry official, but the centaurs had taken her away with no regrets. Being so near the centaurs put them both on edge again, and Harry had nearly joined Umbridge in hexing them. Still, he knew he couldn't and Hermione tugged him along behind her.
When they met up with their friends on the bridge, they were brought their weapons but not their wands as they'd been in a rush and the things had been lost. Ron had insisted they hurry and that they'd be fine, and he was right. Probably.
Upon using the floo to call Sirius, Harry was devastated to hear from Kreacher that Sirius wasn't home, despite the fact that he was always supposed to be home.
Which was how they found themselves at the Ministry of Magic, fighting in the Department of Mysteries.
Harry had, of course, tugged on his bond with Salazar multiple times, vaguely to tell the man that they were in danger and then where they were going because he knew his father would stop him from saving Sirius and he refused to let the man die for him.
"Get behind me!" Harry shouted to his friends. He, Ron, and Hermione put up a large shield over all of them, but it wasn't enough. It was built for spells, hexes, curses, but not bodies slamming through it. The black smoke of the Death Eaters' movement blinded them all as the terrorists separated the children.
And then, all of the sudden, it was over. Harry was left alone, and he looked up cautiously, gripping the prophecy tight against his stomach. He stood and turned in a circle at the sight of his friends being held by Death Eaters. Hermione, however, was missing, and he found that almost more nervewracking than the rest of it. Almost.
Lucius Malfoy let out a low laugh and waddled his way up the steps toward Harry. "Did you actually believe… were you truly naive enough to think that you children stood a chance against us?" The man turned, standing in front of the Veil now, holding his hand out to Harry. "I'll make this simple for you, Potter. Give me the prophecy now or watch your friends die."
He looked around. He knew that he, Hermione, and Ron could hold their own now, but Neville, Luna, and Ginny likely could not. Aside from that, Hermione was nowhere to be seen and therefore could not help. Him and Ron alone… he wasn't sure about those chances. It had taken all three of them to save the students from the centaurs.
"Don't give it to him, Harry!" Neville called out. Bellatrix slammed her wand against his throat and shushed him, and Harry winced. He refused to let his friend die for him. He raised his hand and sucked in a breath, handing the glass orb over to the man.
And then Sirius turned Lucius around and punched him in the face.
"Let go of me," Hermione whimpered, struggling against the man behind her. She had been quiet while Harry had been alone with Lucius, as had he, but now Sirius fought with Harry in the middle of the room together. 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 gasped, a sight and sound that worried her.
It was the man she'd seen in the memory. He was still unfairly beautiful, even more so in person. 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, tossing him into the Veil. She felt a sick appreciation 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 the newly bleeding wrist and pointed his wand at her, casting too quick for her to stop him.
"Anima coniungere," he muttered. A white light slithered into the bite on her wrist and she felt something painful move into her core, her soul, before he finally released her and shoved her forward so he could apparate out of the battle.
When she stumbled forward and fell to the ground, she noticed that the fight had dwindled to a stop. Death Eaters were fleeing and Harry was racing from the room with Sirius on his heels. She let out a short scream at the intensifying pain in her core, unaware of Remus rushing to her side. She screamed, the curse digging deep into her, and fell unconscious as it did its work.
Harry raced after Bellatrix as she fled the room and threw a hex at her, bringing her to her knees. She flipped over and he stopped short in front of her. "Where is she?" he screamed, his hand out and pointed at her. His sword had been long since dropped and while he knew it would be sheathed once more, there was no time for that. "Where is she?"
Bellatrix only laughed.
Harry threw another somewhat dark curse at the woman, one he learned from his father. Bellatrix let out a small scream, and he felt Sirius come to a stop behind him.
"Harry, no," he hissed. "She isn't worth it. We'll find her."
"What if she knows?" Harry asked harshly.
"Do it," a whisper said. He wanted to listen to the whisper. He heard Sirius let out a gasp and turned to see him on the ground- stunned and alive but incapacitated. Behind him was the man he'd seen only two years earlier. Voldemort. "So weak."
The floo flared to life and he glanced over to see Dumbledore step through, his robes trailing behind him as he stepped between Harry and Voldemort.
"It was foolish of you to come here tonight, Tom," Dumbledore told Voldemort. "The aurors are already on their way."
Harry kneeled down and quietly woke his godfather up, shushing him as he waved at the confrontation they were witnessing.
"Where are the Freaky Four?" Sirius whispered. Harry managed to roll his eyes.
"Athair got me a message, he's going to come in if anything gets so bad we can't handle it. And he's a little pissed."
"Because you ran away to look for me?" Sirius asked with a small grin. The man had taken the news of Harry's adoption extremely well. While he wanted to be a key part of his life, he also saw how close they were and refused to try to ruin it. He remembered when his father had refused to let his uncle see him just because they were closer than Sirius had been with his parents, and Sirius never wanted to do that to Harry. He just wanted him to be happy. "I'm just a damsel in distress to you, aren't I?"
Harry smacked his godfather and focused back on the powers colliding in front of him. He could truthfully say that he was more concerned for Hermione than he was for the situation between Voldemort and Dumbledore. They could destroy each other for all he cared.
Hermione is with us. She was in the Veil room with you under wards.
Harry started at the sudden contact from his adoptive father and focused on thinking back to the man.
Is she okay?
There was a long pause.
We will help her.
The response did nothing to calm his nerves. He was interrupted from telling Sirius by Dumbledore throwing them out of the way. Bellatrix dove into a floo and disappeared as Dumbledore and Voldemort began trading spells and curses, Dumbledore shielding Harry and Sirius all the while.
The two watched in amazement and horror as the Headmaster did everything he could to protect them. After water, fire, and glass being thrown at them, Dumbledore stopped it all. When his final attack failed, Voldemort lowered his wand as the aurors and Fudge looked on and disappeared from the ministry.
With the Horcrux in Harry's mind gone, Voldemort simply left, leaving Harry's mind alone with nothing to invite him inside.
Dumbledore took Harry to Hogwarts and the first thing he did was make his way to the infirmary where he knew Hermione was, the old man on his heels. To his surprise, the Founders were there as well, talking quietly with Madame Pomfrey.
"Athair?" he said softly. Salazar turned on his heel and, despite the mixed company, wrapped his arms tightly around his son. Harry let out a deep breath at the comfort before Salazar pulled back and met his eyes. He could see and feel the fury in his father.
"You dare do that," Salazar said sharply. "After the effort we have put into keeping you safe? Into assuring you never have to do anything alone again? You disrespect everything we have done for you, the sacrifices we have made!"
Harry winced. He knew he deserved the words. "I know. I know, I'm sorry. I can't really… excuse it."
"Damn right you can't," Rowena said sharply, her eyes meeting his.
"Excuse me," Dumbledore moved swiftly over, his eyes sharp on them. "And who are you to Harry?"
"We're the bloody Founders of Hogwarts," Godric said, letting his rage to the twinkle-eyed man slip out. "And he is my godson!"
Harry was fairly certain it was the first and only time he'd ever see Dumbledore look completely lost. He knew the old man couldn't deny them being the Founders - not only did they look like them, save for Salazar, but the school would clearly recognize their magic over Dumbledore's, an issue that he'd likely been puzzling over since returning to the school.
"Perhaps we can take this to my office-,"
"Our office," Salazar said calmly. "And no, not right now. Of course, we will discuss… many things, but as of now, we are trying to help Madame Pomfrey take care of a very dire situation."
"Is it Hermione?" Harry asked, unable to help from interrupting. His father nodded once and he felt his stomach do a flip. "Where is she?"
"At the last bed," Helga instructed. "She's awake. Go on and see her, dear."
Godric offered him a soft smile. "Ron is with his family. He retrieved your wand - it is with Hermione."
"Thanks, Uncle Godric," he smiled nervously and left the circle of powerful people to find Hermione sitting up in bed, looking irritated.
"Harry!" she exclaimed. He grinned and gave her a hug.
"You're hurt?" he asked, confused. She seemed perfectly fine.
"Not really," she answered, her eyes darkening a little. He felt like she was lying, but she didn't seem to be in the mood to talk about it, so he didn't ask again.
She looked up at him, surprised. "I didn't tell you. Oh… the man I fought during the test, it was a man named Antonin Dolohov. I met him for the first time tonight."
"What'd he do?"
She shifted uncomfortably, and his nerves grew. There wasn't much she refused to tell him. "They won't tell me, exactly."
Harry frowned quietly. "If they won't tell you… maybe they think it's best for you, Mione. I know, I hate being left out of things, but… I don't know. I trust them."
"But when Professor Gryffindor helped me see who Dolohov was, he got… he got mad, Harry. He sent me away, snapped at me."
"Oh," Harry breathed. It was obvious the man kept careful control of his emotions. Truthfully, he was better at it than Salazar was at times, something that often surprised them. But for his uncle to snap at Hermione, something had to have shaken him. Badly.
"I'm scared," she admitted. "Do you think… maybe Sirius knows."
"I can ask him," Harry nodded. Hermione shook her head.
"I want to. I'll go see him over the summer."
"You're sure you're okay?" he asked her nervously. She nodded, handing his wand over from her bedside table.
"Madame Pomfrey says that the pain should start going away soon. I think she's right. She said I'll feel normal again within a couple of weeks."
"We'll figure it out," Harry promised her. She shrugged and he knew she wasn't sure she believed him, but he meant it. She was a sister to him and something bad had happened. He would help her no matter what, just like she helped him.