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Carpe Ominia

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The caterwauling siren pierced the air so violently that Maria Nott squeaked and dropped all the papers she was holding. With a mew of frustration, she summoned them back to her with a swish of her wand and then turned, wide eye to her superior. Hermione Granger, war hero and Department head of the Magical Creatures Unit, froze in her perusal of her own documents, her head cocked as the alarm blared through the room. She turned to her assistant, smiled reassuringly and reached out to squeeze her hand.

“Calm yourself Maria, it's probably just a test. Remember your training and head to the designated zone.”

Maria nodded grabbing Hemiones pile of documents before turning quickly and sprinting down the stairs. Hermione watched her until she was out of sight before she scowled and marched down the hall taking the first set of stairs up. The piercing screech was starting to give her a migraine and she gritted her teeth as she took the stairs two at a time.

With her eyes on the stairs she didn’t see the tall body running down them before she smacked into it. Strong arms grabbed her by the shoulders thankfully steadying her.

“Oof!”

Hermione looked up, an apology on her lips when she noted who she had careened into.

“Ron? What are you doing here?” she managed, patting her bun to ensure her curls hadn't escaped. He shrugged.

“Patents. What's going on? The lifts are out.”

Hermione dithered for a second before making her mind up. “Walk with me?”

Ron nodded and turned around, matching Hermione's stride easily as they ran up the steps together. She started explaining.

“After the war Kingsley ripped out most of the wards and replaced them. Security was amped up and this is the alarm for some seriously heavy magic use. I’m not sure what actually triggered it but the heads are all to meet on the fifth floor. They’ll tell us more then.”

As they stepped out onto the fifth floor, Hermione saw the rest of the department heads had arrived before her and were mingling in small groups. Thankfully Kingsley was still missing so the meeting hadn't started. Harry, his deep navy robes blending in with the wall behind him, waved them down from his position next to Pax Thingle the Head of Magical Enforcement.

Pax was from the old guard. A grizzly old wizard who reminded Hermione a lot like Moody except without the crazy. His sable hair was tied up at the base of his thick neck while his greying beard was pulled into three distinct braids. A scar missed his left eye and followed across the bridge of his nose while his deep blue eyes darted around the room. They made their way over and settled themselves close to the wall next to Harry.

“Hullo Harry. Pax,” Hermione murmured with a nod to the old Auror. Pax merely grunted noting appreciatively their choice to keep the wall at their backs. Kingsley suddenly appeared from another hallway, his eyes taking a quick stock at who was in attendance.

“Can we turn that bloody siren off Kingsley?” Pax bellowed causing Kingsley to jump. Harry smirked at Hermione who rolled her eyes in response. Ron looked at them in confusion.

“Pax always yells and Kingsley always jumps.” Harry explained in a low voice. Ron nodded with understanding.

“You’d think he’d be used to Pax by now,” Hermione added her eyes on Kingsley as he waved his wand in a figure eight. Suddenly the siren stopped and the other department heads relaxed a bit.

“What happened Kings? If this is some bloody test, I won't be happy about it. We were supposed to be informed beforehand,” Jose Ringwald, the head of Magical Accidents snapped.

“I was just about to leave for Bulgaria,” Trey Higgins called out.

“I have deadlines.”

Kingsley held up his hands to calm them all. “This is not a test,” he announced seriously.

All in the room suddenly stood up straighter and for the first time Hermione noted a figure stepping out from behind Kingsley. Hermione eyes went to the deep purple sash that hung around her shoulders indicating her status as an Unspeakable before recognising who it was.

Raina Polsat was a small thin woman with black hair pulled into an impossibly tight bun and huge hazel eyes that seemed to stare into your very soul. She unnerved everyone she met and almost everyone tried to steer clear of her. Thankfully she was the Head of the Department of Mysteries and so didn’t interact with many people anyway. Everyone stared at her. For such a small woman she certainly commanded her audience.

“At 8:05 am a magical disturbance was noted in the time room. Unspeakables were dispatched to investigate however the time room closed itself off and wards were put in place.”

“Wards?” Pax bellowed making Kingsley jump again. Raina blinked owlishly at Pax before continuing as if he had not interrupted her.

“At 9:05 another pulse of magical energy resonated from the room and started to push the Unspeakables back magically. More wards were erected.”

“Wards cannot just erect themselves, you daft woman. Someone got into the time room,” Pax snapped.

“We have scanned the room and detected no life forms.”

“Then you scanned wrong,” Pax huffed crossing his arms to glare at the small witch.

“I scanned them myself Pax.” Kingsley said, “Can you please not interrupt. And do stop yelling.”

Pax grumbled but didn’t add anymore.

“At 10:05 another wave of magical energy pulsed from the room. We have spent the morning trying to pull the wards down but they form faster than we can cast.”

“Do you think someone dropped a magical bomb off in the room?” Ron piped up. Hermione frowned. Two years ago, the Ministry had a large problem with a magical terrorist group called Tera. They had developed magical bombs and had detonated them at large events. Thankfully the Aurors were able to apprehend them before anyone was seriously hurt and this in turn had seen the development of a new unit that specialised in magical bomb disposal and acts of terror.

Kingsley turned around; his eyes widened when he recognized the speaker.

“Ron? What are you doing here?”

Ron shrugged not at all concerned with Kingsley's frown aimed at him. “Filing patents.”

Kingsley was just about to tell Ron to leave when Raina started to talk, her eyes on Ron. “It is not a magical bomb though the pulses seem to be gaining in intensity. We cannot contain the energy being produce and so we have to disarm it. With the last pulse we found magical signatures within the wards. We were able to determine these signatures are for the removal of said wards though they did not erect them.”

“I didn’t think that was possible.” Hermione said looking at Kingsley for clarification. He nodded grimly.

“So basically, it’s a trap.” Harry said a scowl forming on his brow as he crossed his arms.

“We believe so.”

“Who are the magical signatures geared too.”

Raina stared at the three against the wall and Hermione felt a chill run down her spine.

“Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley.”

The three quickly shared a look before muttering together.

“Well shit.”

Chapter Text

“I knew I should have let George do the patents today. He even volunteered. But noooo. I said I'd do them. Wanted to get out of the shop. Stretch my legs. This shit always happens to us. Why does it happen to us?”

Hermione rolled her eyes as she listened to Ron complain as they made their way down to the Time Room with Raina and Kingsley. The other heads had gone to inform their staff that they would not be returning to work as the Unspeakable had specified work to do. No one would question it because you never got any real answers out of any Unspeakable anyway.

Harry had been quiet ever since learning that once again he was thrust into a situation he couldn’t control. This wasn't just a normal case as an Auror where he could plan and prep and be in the right mindset. This was the powers that be inserting the trio blindly into a situation they couldn't control or even prepare for. Hermione grabbed his hand. He glanced up at her, his smile was strained and squeezed her hand in response. She was just as angry as he looked, but she felt that at least they weren't being manipulated by people supposed to protect them. Here their colleagues were concerned about them and wouldn't push them to do anything too dangerous or outside their comfort levels. Raina herself had said that she didn’t want them doing anything until they got a feel for the wards in place already and that had set Hermione mind at ease a little.

As they stepped into the Department of Mysteries, they all staggered at the intensity of the magic that was flowing down the hallway.

“Merlin,” Ron muttered pulling out his wand and following Raina through the main entrance. They stepped into the circular room that housed multiple doors including that of the Time Room. Hermione and Ron were already running diagnostics on the magic trying to make sense of what was happening while Harry moved around the perimeter trying to get a feel for the room. Kingsley stood off with Raina talking lowly with her.

Another Unspeakable entered the chamber from one of the offices opposite the Time Room. Hermione noted the strong jaw, brown skin and long brown hair. Ron chuckled at her perusal.

“Try not to drool Hermione,” he whispered ducking his head to miss the slap of her hand. While Ron and Hermione had dated after the war, they both decided they needed to grow up and figure out who they were separately before doing it as a couple. After that it was just too strange to try any serious dating and so they remained friends. Both were still single despite dating sporadically, which lead their friends and family, not to mention the wizarding world to believe they were just waiting for the other to be ready. It couldn’t have been further from the truth though both of them never corrected anyone because frankly it was none of their business.

Harry let out a chuckle at his best friend's antics and held out his hand to the tall wizard.

“Harry Potter,” he introduced himself. “These are my friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.”

They all nodded to each other. “My names Bronn, I'm Raina's second. I was here when the first pulse went out.”

“What exactly happened?” Harry asked settling comfortably into his examination of the witness. This was familiar to him. Ron and Hermione shared a bemused look. Once an Auror, always an Auror. Bronn looked over at Raina who waved her hand at him, giving him permission to divulge what had happened.

“I was in my office completing some paper work, when the rooms began to shudder. I thought for a moment it was an earthquake but we have anti earthquake protections in place. I walked out to find the Time Room closed off magically.”

“And then wards starting erecting?” Hermione asked. Bronn nodded.

“Almost straight away. We tried to disable them but new ones replaced the old one almost as soon as we started casting.”

“Definitely our signatures,” Ron muttered looking at what his diagnostics were telling him. “There's something else though.”

“I'm getting that as well,” Hermione muttered looking over his shoulder to verify.

Raina stepped up leaving Kingsley to move back into the hallway. “All we want you to do is get as close as you can to the door and get some more information.”

“Why can't you do it?” Harry said from the entrance of the Death Chamber.

“The wards don’t let us get that close,” Bronn answered.

Ron scoffed. “There’re not letting me get to close either.” To show what he meant he tried to step forward only to be pushed back magically. Raina frowned and glanced at Bronn who shrugged.

“I'm only detecting our signatures too,” Hermione added. Suddenly Ron stood up straighter with a grunt.

“What is it?” Harry asked coming to stand next to him.

“Our signatures are tied together.”

“And?”

Hermione gasped realising what Ron was implying. “We go together.” Ron nodded grimly.

Raina put up a hand to stop them talking. “Very well. You step to the door together and take diagnostics of the magic. Someone should scan the room as well. Do not open that door, do you understand me?”

They all nodded.

“We don’t want you doing anything stupid. We just want to understand what's happening. If we need to, we do have the option of imploding the time room but we’d rather not if we can help it. “

“All right then,” Harry muttered looking up at Ron and then at Hermione. “We go together.”

They both nodded in agreement. As one they took a step toward the Time Room almost expecting to be pushed backwards by the wards. When this didn’t happen, they took another step.

“Diagnostics.” Raina snapped.

Ron shook his head. “Nothing new. Should we go closer?”

Raina was silent her eyes scanning the area in front of them before nodding. Another step and Hermione shuddered. She felt wards start to erect behind her and she cast more diagnostics that told her nothing. She shook her head trying to dislodge the bussing that was filling her ears. Magic swirled around them. “It’s almost... pulling me towards the door.”

“I’m getting that as well.”

“Me too.” Harry muttered. As one they took another step and Raina yelled at them to stop though her voice suddenly seemed far away. Hermione looked behind her and saw both Raina and Bronn trying to get to them, their faces screwed up with frustration, their wands furiously trying to rip down the wards. The buzzing sound intensified and filled Hermione's head and she looked over at Ron and Harry and then at the door. Their faces were set, grimly trying to make sense of what was happening. As if time itself seemed to slow down they watched with fascination as the Time Room door opened and then a bright light was the last thing they saw.

Chapter Text

Hermione woke up with a gasp her eyes taking in the strange yet oddly familiar ceiling above her. She struggled to calm her breathing, counting backwards as she remembered her trauma counseling, she had taken after the war. She sat up slowly, the room finally became recognizable to her. It was the room she and Ginny had shared when they spent their summers at Grimmauld Place.

“Strange,” she murmured as she swung her legs off the bed. “I thought Harry gutted this room.”

Suddenly a sharp knock echoed through the room and Hermione stood up, feeling discombobulated. Her head spun as she stumbled to the door and flung it open. She gaped at the person in front of her.

“Fuck.” A young Harry Potter snapped as he looked at her. Hermione’s brain struggled to make sense of the situation.

“Did you take a de-aging potion Harry?”

“Only if you did too.”

Her brow furrowed and she turned, wildly looking for a mirror. Her eyes seemed to be drawn to the desk as if she somehow knew it was there and stalked over to it. A younger version of herself stared back. She stared at dismay at the ridiculous mess of curls around her face. It had taken years to get them under some type of control. She looked down at the parchment and books that were hazardly strewn across the desk.

“What... the fuck happened?”

Hermione turned around to see a young gangly Ron in his childhood pajamas gaping at the two of them. His eyes blown wide with confusion, Hermione could practically count the freckles on his pale cheeks. She gaped at his juvenile form trying to process events but her brain was sluggish and was refusing to co-operate at the speeds Hermione was used to. She pushed the heel of her palm between her eyes trying to formulate explanations before sighing and casting her eyes around the room, looking for clues.

“I don’t know. Maybe-”

Harry held up one hand while he massaged his head with the other. “Wait. I've got a massive headache. Kreacher?”

Kreacher appeared behind Harry. “What is the dirty little master wanting?”

Harry looked down at Kreacher perplexed at the dirty pillowcase hanging off his frame. “Kreacher...what...what are you wearing?”

“Oh fuck,” Hermione gasped. Ron looked at her, his own face mirroring her understanding of the situation. Harry had always been a little slow on the uptake unless he was in full Auror mode and looked up at them in confusion. Hermione spun around and saw a lump in Ginny’s old bed. Silently thanking the gods that Ginny always slept hard she motioned for the other two to back out of the room. Kreacher snarled in disgust but followed them regardless. Hermione closed the door softly and turned around.

“Let's go to the library. Kreacher can you get us a tea service please?”

Ron wrinkled his nose as the elf popped out snarling about mudbloods and traitors not knowing their place. “Is it weird that I miss our Kreacher?”

“That is our Kreacher,” Harry snapped, his confusion already fraying his nerves. His hands massaged his head furiously and Ron looked grimly over at Hermione.

“Come on. We’ll explain it to you, but out of prying ears,” Ron said kindly, steering Harry downstairs.

“Prying ears? The only other person in the house is my wife!”

Hermione patted his arm soothingly and closed the library door behind them, placing a specialized silencing ward around them. “Harry-”

“What the fuck is going on? The time room exploded? We need to get back to the ministry. People could be hurt.”

“Harry the ministry is fine. The time room is fine.”

“How do you know?” Harry asked accusingly. “Is this some kind of magical backlash? Why aren't we in St Mungo's?”

Ron had walked over to the fireplace, shot a spell to get it going and was staring into the flames. His head snapped up with a realisation Hermione had already come to when she saw Ginny's frame under the covers. She smiled sadly at him before nodding her head to Harry. The last of the color drained from Ron's face as he stared at his best mate. Ron took a big breath.

“Harry, mate, we went back in time.”

Harry blinked slowly. “Say what now?”

“Look around. Look at us for Merlin's sake. This room was completely remodeled three years ago. We are teenagers again. Kreacher is wearing his old rags.”

“No,” Harry said shaking his head. “No. This is a trick. How could this happen?”

Ron surreptitiously wiped his eyes before looking at Harry. “Our diagnostics were telling us time energy was building within the Time Room. I thought it was just an overload of magical power based on where it was situated.”

“So did I,” Hermione said lowly. “But our signatures were tied to it. The Time Room must have sent us back. It’s the only logical conclusion.”

“How is that the only logical conclusion Hermione?” Harry scoffed. “It’s a room. And why now? Just when things were just getting to feel saf- oh gods,” he broke off his hand going to the scar on his head. He stood up and started pacing. Hermione felt her heart break a little as the clues started to make sense to him.

“Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck,” he chanted. Hermione stood up and stopped him, taking his hands in her own and staring into his eyes.

“Harry calm down.”

“You can get us back right,” he said pleadingly. “Hermione, you know how to get us home. I don’t-”

“Harry, I don’t think we can go home,” Ron said soothingly. Harry stared between the two, something clicking in his head. He wrenched his hands from Hermione's and snarled at them both. Hermione would have been annoyed if she wasn’t focusing on the fact her ward had just snapped, indicating someone was coming. Opening her mouth to warn them, she was cut off by Harry’s outburst.

“You. You just want to have another go at your relationship again. How can you both be so selfish? My life finally makes sens-

“Harry, you dumb little shit,” Ron growled stopping Harry mid-rant. While he understood Harry’s fear and confusion, accusing Hermione and himself of putting themselves first caused him to lose his patience. “Engage your brain and think.”

“Ron, that’s hardly fair, don’t you think?”

All three turned to see Sirius Black in the doorway frowning at the three of them. Harrys mouth dropped open. Hermione glanced at Ron who looked like the sight of Sirius had just confirmed when they were.

“Oi! Move it, ya great lump,” Tonks snapped pushing Sirius into the room before smiling widely at the three occupants. Her sea green hair flushed bubblegum pink at the sight of the three inhabitants of the library. “Wotcher brats.”

Harry gulped loudly as Remus Lupin walked in smiling fondly as Tonks stumbled over her own feet. Albus Dumbledore followed, his deep purple robes filling the door way. He frowned at the group before stepping into the shadows. Ron didn’t miss it and he filed it away for further investigation. Harry turned away, his breath heaving and Ron and Hermione both stood closer to him, hoping to contain any emotional outbreak. Luckily Harry had grown up a lot since the war and ran his hand through his hair before hanging his head.

“I am a dumb little shit, aren't I?” Harry said glancing up at Ron and Hermione giving them both a watery smile.

“For once Potter, I completely agree with you.”

Hermione let out a low meep, which Ron couldn't help but grin at. Harry however closed his eyes and swallowed heavily before turning around to look at Severus Snape. The potion master had strode into the room ignoring all the other occupants and was sneering down at the trio like they were a particularly smelly lump of thestral shit. He swept past them and stalked to the back of the room seemingly unimpressed with them all and thoroughly annoyed to have to deal with their presence. Hermione had forgotten how tall and imposing he was as her eyes took in his form. From of the corner of her eye Tonks was shaking her head in amusement and her nose seemed to be more hooked for a moment. Harrys’ eyes followed the man almost reverently and Ron having noticed the strange look on his best mates face, gave a sharp pinch the back of Harry's arm to distract him. Harry scowled at the redhead who widened his eyes and pursed his lips hoping Harry would get the message. Slowly Harry took in everyone who had entered. These people, all these people had died. They had given up their lives for love or for the greater good and Harry knew he wouldn't be the man he was without them. He had mourned them, had cried over their sacrifice and lives cut short and here they were. In front of him. Alive and well. It was quite a confronting thing for his psyche

“The three of you should be in bed,” Albus said quietly. Hermione nodded woodenly, feeling like she, herself, was having an out of body experience. Ron started pulling both of them to the door.

“Yes sir we were just heading to bed.”

“Night Harry,” Sirius called. Harry managed an awkward wave which Sirius frowned at before following Hermione and Ron out the door.

Chapter Text

“Ok... explain this to me please?”

Harry sat down on the edge of the desk his arms folded and looked at the both of them with consternation. They had decided to use Ron and Harry’s room for privacy reasons and had quickly set the wards around them. Ron settled himself on his bed, his arm searching under his pillow. He crowed in delight at finding a chocolate frog and ripped into it. Hermione shook her head with a chuckle. Ron had grown up in a lot of ways but in the best of ways he was still a kid at heart.

“You tell him,” Ron said grabbing the frog before it could hop away. “You’re the one with experience and the research.”

“What research?” Harry asked turning to Hermione. Hermione sighed.

“Ok I'm only guessing in a few things. They’re just theories for the moment. I have to run them through a couple of tests to confirm them for real. Anyway, a few months ago I was talking to the centaurs regarding a land matter when Orryn a stallion from the group made an idle remark on the nexus activity.”

“What's a nexus?” Harry asked.

“You know about ley lines, right?”

Harry scrunched up his face. “They're like longitude and latitude lines but for magic?”

“Correct. Well a nexus is where these lines converge to meet. It’s like a pool of magical energy. Hogwarts is built on one as is the Ministry.”

Ron swallowed the last bit of his frog. “It's why we build magical places where we do. Nexus energy helps support the wards, casting, and charms placed in areas of heavy magical traffic. It allows magic to guide back into the earth properly.”

“So, hang on...I cast a spell and the magic returns to the earth?”

Ron grimaced. “Sort of. It really depends on the type of spell. So, for example long lasting wards create a current that is supported by the ley lines. There's an exchange of energy. Cast a charm and when the charm is complete the residue magic is attracted to stronger magic.”

“Like magnets,” Hermione chimed. Ron nodded.

“Anyway, magic doesn’t just disappear. Its transferred, usually returning to the nexus points through the ley lines or vice versa.”

“How do you know this?” Harry asked Ron. Ron shrugged. “Hermione and I talk.”

“What? When? Why don’t you talk to me about these things?” Harry demanded.

Hermione rubbed her face with her hands. “I forgot how angry you were this year,” she muttered.

“Give the bloke a break Mione. He just spent 10 years without Tom in his head. It’s bound to take some adjusting to.”

Harry’s hand immediately went to his scar and made a strangled whine. He struggled internally before sighing in defeat. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, Harry we understand,” Hermione murmured. “It’s just.... it’s been a long day. A long shocking day.”

They all fell into silence trying to comprehend the day's events and what it meant for each of them.

“Hermione? You were saying?” Harry said after a few moments. Hermione's head snapped up in confusion before clearing.

“Right. Well the centaurs were actually moving away from Hogwarts and requesting new land. They felt something was wrong with the magic at Hogwarts. It was interfering with their own magic. I ran some preliminary tests and found the Hogwarts nexus point was inundated with dark magic. I did the same testing on the Ministries Nexus as well. The same results.”

Ron was frowning. “The war. A lot of dark magic occurred, especially at those nexus points. Death and destruction can scar magical places like Hogwarts.”

Hermione looked sadly at Ron. “Not just this one Ron. My calculations suggest that almost all the nexus points are blocked in some way or another.”

Rons eyebrows lifted in shock. “All of them?”

Hermione nodded. “I’ll need to properly run the number but yes. This goes back to the Grindelwald. We mustn't forget that other Wizarding communities had their own share of unrest. It all contributed. We have so much negative energy pooled into the ley lines they have struggled to cleanse it.”

“Cleanse it?” Harry asked.

“Normally when dark magic is cast the magic returns to the earth through the ley lines. They act like a river, dispersing it and cleaning it by running it through the nexus points. It takes centuries to cleanse it properly. However, so much dark magic occurred in so little time it started blocking the ley lines and the nexus points start to swell under the strain of not being able to move freely.”

“Like a dam.”

“A polluted dam.”

Hermione nodded. “Magic itself isn't sentient but our magic comes from the earth and sometimes it's been shown to protect itself through magical means. I think the nexus point in the Ministry used the Time Room as a way to help fix the problem.”

“But why us?”

Hermione shrugged. “That's up for debate but my guess would be that we were integral in the last war. We’ve also been integral in bringing peace after the war.”

Ron piped up, confused. “Wait, what? I mean the war I get, but after the war I just worked in the joke shop.”

Hermione smiled at Ron. “Doing the best kind of magic, Ron. Making people laugh and enjoy themselves.”

Ron huffed good naturedly.

“That doesn’t explain why we are here. In this time.” Harry said.

“Well we couldn’t go further back then our own timelines as we could potentially alter them, right Mione?” Ron asked looking over at the two of them.

Hermione nodded. “I think we’re here because this is the precipice. We have a chance to save people from terrible ends, from more dark magic seeping into the ley lines.”

Harry looked down at his pubescent body with disgust. “Why didn’t we come back as we were? Why return us to these bodies?”

Hermione laughed. “Being in this body means we are in the thick of it. We can get around without causing too much disruption to the time line.”

“So, we are stuck going through puberty again?”

“Yeah...but look at the trade off? If I have to deal with a few untimely erections and some wet dreams for my brother, I’m ok with that” Ron said excitedly.

Hermione guffawed. “You're sure you're okay with that Ron?”

Harry struggled to smother his laughter at Rons confused faced. “You must really love your brother.”

“Of course, I do...what oh...come on guys that’s not what I meant.” Ron scrunched his face up in disgust.

“Aside from his abysmal choice on wording he does have a point.” Harry grinned at them both thinking of all those they had lost who were now alive and well in the library down stairs.

“So... what now?” Harry asked.

“Sleep.” Hermione said

“And then... we plan.”

Chapter Text

Ron sat on the bottom of the stairs, his head leaning against the wall with his eyes closed. A small smile played on his lips.

“Gods Ron! What are you doing? You're so weird.”

His eyes snapped open to take in the littler version of his little sister sneering at him. Behind her Hermione smiled knowing exactly why he was sitting there.

“FRED WEASLEY!” Molly screeched from behind the kitchen door. Fred burst out of the kitchen laughing and ducking as Molly tried to bat at him with a dish towel. George was still in the kitchen obviously up to something while his mother was distracted.

“Hullo troop,” Fred gasped trying to catch his breath. Molly clucked her tongue taking in the group that was now milling around in the hall. Ron stood up and his hand quickly grabbed Hermione’s as he struggled to keep his composure at the sight of his long dead brother.

“Hello dears, breakfast is ready. Go dish it up,” she said fondly not noticing Hermione's and Rons intense stare directed at Fred. Hermione squeezed Rons hand before following Ginny into the kitchen.

“Fred?” Ron called out as everyone filed into the kitchen. Fred turned around; the cheeky grin settled comfortably on his face caused Ron to swallow heavily. George once sported that same grin but it was forever dimmed after the death of his twin. George had soldiered on stoically, grieving when necessary but remained as jovial as he could which Ron had always admired greatly about his older brother.

“What's up Ronny?”

He was struggling. Once upon a time that nickname had bothered Ron so much. But George didn’t call him that anymore and sometimes Ron missed the brotherly teasing they both subjected him to. Tears pricked his eyes.

“I’m just...happy to see you,” he sobbed and launched himself into Fred's arms. Fred squawked, catching him awkwardly. Just as quickly, Ron pulled away wiping at his face and then grinning up at him.

“Sorry. I had a nightmare that you died.”

Fred rubbed the back of his neck and grimaced. “Okay.”

Ron walked past him and settled next to Hermione who nudged him with her shoulder and grinned at him. He took a deep breath, silently telling himself that Fred was alive and that his family would never know that pain again. He swore he would do everything in his power to prevent it. Looking over at his mother who fussed over the plates of food he smiled and grabbed a plate. He then quirked an eyebrow at Hermione who smirked and sat back in her chair. She already knew so just as Ginny reached for the bacon Ron stopped her.

“Don't be a glutton Ron,” she snapped scowling at him. He smirked at her.

“Go ahead Gin, but only if you want zebra face paint.”

“What?” she frowned and glanced first at the plates and then at her brothers accusingly.

“Ron!” whined George, “how’d you know?”

“FRED AND GEORGE WEASLEY...I swear...” Molly roared as she took out her wand and cancelled the charms on her plates of food.

“And the cutlery mum,” Ron said pointing to the pile of forks. Molly quickly swished her wand over them as well muttering angrily. Ginny looked at Ron who shrugged and grabbed a piece of bacon. The twins grumbled but started eating along with the rest.

“Harry not up Ron?” Molly asked as she handed him some toast.

“He had a hard night mum.”

Molly tutted. “Poor dear. I told Albus he should have been brought earlier. Merlin knows what living with those muggles does to the boy.”

She turned to put a plate in the sink when she stopped and stared at Fred's face. “Fred? What's that on your nose?”

Everyone turned to look at Fred who indeed had a strange growth on his nose. Fred frowned and started wiping at his nose when everyone gasped.

“What is it George?”

George leaned in closer and then reared back in surprise. “It’s your face Fred.”

Fred huffed. “Well done you plonker, of course it's my face. What's on my nose?”

Molly summoned a mirror while Hermione and Ginny struggled not to laugh. Fred looked down at the mirror and discovered a strange boil on the end of his nose with a miniature face of himself on the end of it. Suddenly little arms shot out and waved at the mirror.

“Herroo.”

Everyone lost it. Molly giggled uncontrollably behind her hand as Ginny thumped the table, laughing wildly. Fred struggled to hold the mirror up, while George howled as the Fred-boil laughed along with everyone else. Hermione and Ron were grinning madly, still helping themselves to the food on the table.

“What am I missing?”

Everyone looked up as Harry walked into the kitchen. He stuttered to a stop at the sight of Ginny and then at Fred. He managed a shaky smile before sitting next to his future wife, who gasped for air and pointed to Fred's new addition. Harry squinted and then chuckled.

“Nice one Ron!”

Fred and George both managed to stop laughing and gaped at their little brother.

“You did this?” George asked.

“Always the tone of surprise,” Ron noted ignoring Hermione's giggle.

“Rons always been good at Charms,” Hermione said before taking a bite of her toast.

“The hug in the corridor...” Fred mused before perking up and looking at Ron with respect. “Well you’ll have to teach us how...”

Suddenly Sirius waltzed in, roughing Harrys hair up before making a bee line to the kettle. “Don't mind me troupe, carry on.”

Fred and George moved closer to Ron and started peppering with questions regarding the boil prank. Ron, being a savvy business owner for over 5 years refused to relent on the charm until an arrangement could be made between the three of them financially. Harry grabbed a tea cup and walked over to Sirius who was sipping his own brew while smiling at the occupants in his kitchen.

“It’s nice to see you kids enjoying yourselves,” Sirius murmured over the rim of his cup. Harry nodded, pouring his own and settling in next to his once dead now alive godfather.

“You ok pup?”

“Mmmm? What? Oh yes! Very. Just...”

Sirius shot Harry a concerned look. “Go on.”

“Just...it feels like I haven't seen you in years. I was wondering if we could, you know, spend some time together?”

“I’d love nothing more, Harry.”

Remus slunk in quietly, dropping a letter next to Hermione before accepting a plate from Molly and sitting down. Hermione pocketed it without looking too hard at it and continued to eat her breakfast while listening to the chatter around her. After she finished, she sent Ron a look, thanked Molly for breakfast before turning to the door.

“Is it done?”

Ron caught up to Hermione as she left the kitchen. She handed him the letter and he quickly perused it before handing it back to her.

“That was infinitely easier than what we did.”

“Agreed.”

Hermione opened the library door while Ron stepped past her and made for the book case at the back of the room. Hermione started setting up the wards in stasis ready to be pulled in place just in case they needed them quickly. Always ready, always prepared is what Pax had drilled into them when they trained. It was infinitely better than the CONSTANT VIGILENCE that Moody would yell in your ear causing deafness for at least half an hour. Ron skimmed the bookcase with his index finger, picking out a book and started thumbing through it.

Once Ron had decided a life of the Auror was not for him he was once again lost in the direction of his life. He had followed Harry into the career because that’s what he had always done. Ronald Weasley was a follower and he had a love-hate relationship with it. On one hand it made his life inordinately easy, never having to truly make the hard choices others did in his stead. On the other it made him blend in and he had, for most of his life, wanted to stand out.

Hermione had, once again, come to his rescue by quite literally pulling him up by the robes and giving him a stern talking to. Usually he ignored almost all lectures given to him by the witches in his life but Hermione had learnt quite well how to manipulate him properly. She had expressed all his achievements, all the qualities she had liked in him and all the traits that endeared others to him. Then she had looked into his eyes and said, “I kept Harry Potter alive. You kept him sane. We would not be here without you and we are incredibly lucky to have you in our lives.”

He may have cried. But while Hermione's impassioned speech had inflamed something within him it also held a warning. It was what she hadn't said that drove him to do better.

Don’t let us down again.

Don’t let yourself down.

He knew she would never say it to his face and he also knew that both Hermione and Harry had forgiven him, but after the war that was his biggest regret. Not only that, after Hermione had dusted him off, he had done some introspective thinking. He had made it a bad habit of letting people down. When Harry or Hermione had needed him, he had allowed his emotions to get the better of him and he had hurt them in the process. He needed to sort out his priorities once and for all.

George had been struggling with the business for some time and seemed quite relieved when Ron had offered to help while he figured out what his own future held. In doing so he had learnt the ins and outs of WWW and how incredibly amazing his twin brothers had been both together and singularly. George had been quite a good teacher and in the process of creating prank items Ron had discovered he was actually gifted at charms. Not that it came easy to him but his magic responded better to a charm than any other branch of magic. He also enjoyed it immensely.

Quietly, he had sort out a Charms Mistress by the name of Tully Warble. She had apprenticed under the renown charms master Garrick Tollam who in turn had also trained Flitwick. She was in her 60’s when she accepted him as a student and they had worked out a timetable that suited both of them for his apprenticeship. He would never be as good as Flitwick but he was impressive on his own merits.

Tully had been perfect for Ron. She wasn’t the kind of instructor that just told him how to do things like his other professors did. She didn’t expect him to get it right away but she did encourage him to figure out a way that he learnt best.

Demonstrate, break it down, build it back up.

Tully would demonstrate a charm and then he would deconstruct it with her, using logic to see where the components worked with each other, then he would reconstruct seeing where the theory inserted itself in the spell and made the charm successful. Then when all the pieces were in order in his mind he could cast and cast quite effectively.

On his 25th birthday he had invited everyone out to dinner to celebrate. Hermione had cried when he had announced he had received his certification. Molly had bawled. Ginny didn’t believe him until Tully had turned up and congratulated him on his achievement. His father had taken him aside and told him quietly how proud he was of him.

It had been one of the greatest nights of his life. He had accomplished something on his own. Separate from the Golden Trio and respectable in on its own merit.

Everyone aside from Hermione and Harry were surprised when he told them he would return to work with George. His family struggled to understand why, now a charms master; he would continue to create pranks. His best friends knew though.

He had been happy. And he had been fulfilled in his work at the shop.

And that’s all they had wanted for each other.

“What are you doing Ronald Wesley?” Hermione asked her eyes narrowing at the book in his hand. He looked up at her and grinned.

“I’m formulating.”

“Anything useful?”

“Perhaps. I’ll let you know when I’m done formulating.”

She smiled and huffed out a sigh. They were both like this now. They didn’t need to know every secret the other had only to trust they would reveal important information when it was required. Ron was secretive with his charm experimentation just as Hermione was secretive with her arithmancy.

Ron would never sit and talk magical theory with Hermione for hours on end but he was an intelligent master who kept up to date within his own field of expertise. He could keep up with Hermione to an extent, more so than Harry could, and spent a fair amount of his free time reading much to Hermione's secret delight.

As Ron scoured opened another book he looked up at Hermione. “Remind we why we are doing this again.”

Hermione pulled her fingers through her hair frowning went it got snared in a tangle. “It’s a precaution. Should we not get everything we need to be done this year, we cannot have Harry returning to the Dursleys.”

“And that would be a bad thing, why?”

“Hopefully we would have taken out all the horcruxes by end of year. You know the more we destroy the more unhinged Tom becomes. We cannot leave Harry at risk.”

Ron hummed, his quill following a line of text rather than her explanation. She gave up trying to work the tangle. Her wards pinged and she shot a warning look at Ron before turning to the door. Sirius strode through thoroughly engaged in quiet conversation with Harry who followed him closely.

“Oh, hello you two,” Sirius said as he took a seat next the fire.

Hermione ignored him and frowned at Harry. “You took your time.”

Harry ducked his head. “We were talking about quidditch.”

Rolling her eyes, Hermione slashed her wand in front of her, bringing up the wards around them. Sirius jerked as the magic flew up around him and he looked up at Hermione in confusion. She ignored the look but smiled ruefully at Harry as he seated himself on a brown loveseat. “Yes, and while you were gossiping Ron started to formulate.”

“Good gods. Help us now,” Harry whispered to the heavens.

“Har har you two,” Ron muttered with a roll of his eyes. “This is not a conversation that really requires me just yet so I’ll just be over here.”

“Right...formulating.”

“Shut it Mione.”

She grinned as Ron pompously shook his parchment and returned to his equations.

“What the devil is going on? Why are there wards around the library?” Sirius had stood up now, somewhat tired of being ignored, his posture edging on defensive. He frowned at Ron who was now furiously note taking on the small desk in the corner.

“We have to talk Sirius and we needed privacy.”

“Ok kitten, but this does feel like a bit of an ambush.”

“Ambushed by three 5th years,” Ron scoffed into the parchment.

“I thought this conversation didn’t require you Ron,” Harry remarked idly.

“Right you are. Carry on,” Ron answered summoning another book from the bookcase. Harry shook his head and then focused on his godfather. He sat back in the chair crossing his ankles and threading his fingers together over his stomach.

“This year is our OWL year.”

Sirius lifted an eyebrow and slowly looked between the trio. “Yes,” he said lowly unsure of the direction they were taking.

“We plan on taking our NEWTS straight after we return for summer. We can do so only if we have approval by a member of our family-

“Or a pureblood stands in for a muggleborn,” Hermione interrupted. Once upon a time that would have irked her but she had spent enough time dealing with pureblood politics that it was just par for the course.

“-and pay the appropriate fees,” Harry continued. Sirius frowned.

“You want to take your OWLS and NEWTS within weeks of each other?”

“Yes.”

“That's insane! Why would you want to-” he stopped, his brow furrowing in consternation. “What are you three planning?”

Hermione smiled innocently trying to placate him. “Nothing. It’s just a precaution. We don’t know how this war is going to play out. If we get our OWLS and NEWTS out of the way it's less we have to worry about later. When we might need less to worry about.”

Her implication silenced Sirius for a moment as he considered her words. Harry sat forward and adjusted his lasses. “Molly may want us bundled up in cotton wool because we are too young and I understand her reasoning. We don’t plan on pushing anything regarding information the Order is currently cultivating out of respect for her. This war however won't wait for us to grow up. This is the only way we can attest that we are mature enough to handle it.”

Harry pulled air through his teeth. “Also, it would mean that while I’m under age, I’d be considered a fully-fledged adult in the eyes of the law. It means any blood wards or charms would be void...and I could come live here. With you.”

Hermione bit her lip hard. She knew the nonsense regarding blood wards were a farce Dumbledore fed to everyone but kept her mouth shut. Sirius however looked more intrigued and his face positively lit up at Harry living with him permanently. However it was quickly smothered as he turned to Hermione again.

“What will you do once...if you receive them though?”

Hermione shrugged looking at Harry. “We can still be enrolled in school. It’s safe there for all of us. But receiving our qualifications early means that should the Order need us or the war need us it doesn’t impact on our future or cause issue with the present.”

Harry winced at her words. He wasn’t keen on lying to his godfather. And while technically Hermione's words had truth in them, they were not going to be returning to school next year. Sirius stared thoughtfully at Hermione before turning to Harry.

“I’ve always believed you kids deserved to know what's going on. This...direction you plan on taking isn't one I would have even considered but it's not a bad idea. Do you think you’ll be ready?” He turned to Ron. “And you, who will sign off for you?”

Ron looked up. “My dad. He knows when something is important enough to support it. I'll talk to him properly when we get closer to it.”

Hermione sniffed. “We’ll be ready. We know they’ll be difficult and we are already preparing for them.”

Sirius looked over at Ron who had slammed a book shut and added it to a pile next to him. “Yes, I can see that,” he murmured. “Very well. Let’s do this.”

Hermione smiled triumphantly at Harry who grinned back.

Chapter Text

“So, we’ve got two weeks til the start of term,” Hermione remarked without looking up from her parchment. Harry closed the door of his and Rons room and looked around for the last member of their trio.

“He’s gone to get the locket.”

“Oh. Ok. So, is that what we are focusing on?” Harry asked as he walked over to Hermione and peered over her shoulder at the equations she was working on.

Hermione sighed and put down her pen. “The way I see it we need to deal with Tom first and then the nexus issue. The first feeds the next.”

“Ok,” Harry said slowly with a nod of his head. “I forgot to ask last night, but what happens if the nexus energy isn't cleared?

Hermione sighed and sat back in her seat. “Nothing good Harry. Worst case? A magical implosion at every nexus point, which would theoretically suck all magical cores within a certain distance. Then the ley lines would essentially freeze, plunging the world into a magical blackout that would last for over 1000 years.”

Harry’s face showed the horror of Hermione's prediction. “So basically, a magical Armageddon?”

“And think of the follow-on effects. Magical buildings suddenly appearing to the muggles. Witches and Wizards who have no idea how to integrate themselves into muggle society. Muggle governments have no idea of the magical citizens in their countries and would probably treat them like hostiles, illegal immigrants or question their sanity.”

“What about the magical creatures? The goblins, house elves. Dragons!”

Hermione waved her hand dismissively. “Magical creatures are...were...already preparing for it. We saw the goblins burrowing deeper into the catacombs, unicorns can disguise themselves as normal horses, other animals would go into a magical hibernation if needs be. Almost all the communities I saw were moving away from the nexi and conserving magical energy.”

Harry knew Hermione well. She had always been with him, always stood up for him, always forgiven him when he put his mouth in it. In the following years after the war, they had clung to each other. Trauma counselling had helped immensely but having Hermione there had really got him through the worst times and vice versa. As he looked down at her staring at the wall, he knew something was bothering her.

“Spill.”

Hermione blinked coming out of her trance. “What?”

“You're internally rambling. You only do this when you feel guilty about something.”

Hermione winced. “It’s not... guilt. Not really. It's just...I should have seen this coming. I had all the evidence sitting in my files. Right in front of me for Circe's sake! Brightest witch my arse! What if we didn’t get this second chance? Our whole world would have crumbled.”

Suddenly Ron burst in, throwing a small bag onto the bed with disgust. “I forgot what touching that thing felt like.”

Harry squeezed Hermione's shoulder reassuringly. “We’ll do better this time around.”

Hermione nodded and patted Harry's hand before turning her attention back to the equations. Harry spun on his heel and hesitated as he felt the Horcrux buzzing in his head. He had almost, almost forgotten the awful noise.

“We can't destroy it yet,” Harry murmured, looking down at it. “We’ll need the basilisk fang.”

“Yeah well we’ve got a bigger problem than that,” Ron barked. Hermione’s head snapped up at Rons’ tone and she spun in her chair and glanced worriedly at Harry. Ron caught the look and rubbed his face hard. “Sorry, that thing brings out the worst in me. Anyway, we have to deal with the toad.”

“Shit! I forgot about her,” Harry said with a groan.

Hermione however grinned. “Well I haven't and I have a plan to get her out of Hogwarts before she does too much damage.”

“Do tell.”

“Can’t...not much anyway. I’ll need your real reactions to play it off to the elders. Just in case.”

“But-”

“Harry,” Ron interrupted him. “Trust Hermione. She’s never steered us wrong before.”

Hermione sent a grateful smile in Ron’s direction before again, turning back to her equations. “That's not the only issue Harry, you have a disciplinary hearing on the 12th.”

“Goddamn it. I forgot about that too.”

“At least you understand how the Ministry works now,” Ron muttered as he walked over to Hermione and took a leaf of parchment stacked on the desk. His eyes roved through the equations before blowing out a breath. “Circe. We’ve got a lot to do in a short time.”

Harry took out his wand and starting ensuring all their privacy spells around the room had held. His mental shields had been engaged since the night before, after Hermione warned him prior to going to bed. Pax, his mentor, was skilled in legilimency and had trained Harry hard at occlumency early on. It had been much easier with Pax then it had been with Professor Snape but it took a solid year before Pax was suitably happy with his mental defenses.

After learning Harry was training in the rare skill, Hermione had asked if she could sit in and Pax always liked the witch so had allowed it. Later both Harry and Hermione had taught the basics to Ron as well. Now Harry was glad they did. Two legilimans were walking around and both knew how to slip into an unprotected mind without detection.

Once happy with the room Harry turned to the two bent over the desk, passing parchment to each other.

“I think this one is the most important at the moment,” Ron muttered. Hermione nodded in agreement.

“Which one?”

Hermione stood up and brought the parchment for Harry to look over. He glanced down noting Hermione's neat writing before focusing on the words. The Horcruxes were all mapped out clearly with their current location and status. Hermione’s finger started pointing them out.

“We have you. The diary is done. The diadem is safe at Hogwarts. We can easily get that when we return to school. The locket is here. The cup is in the Lestrange vault. Nagini is near him and the ring...” She trailed off.

“We never learned where the Riddle house is. Dumbledore said that’s where he found it.”

Harry looked pensive. “The cup is important at the moment then?” He asked looking up at Hermione for clarification. She grinned.

“Actually, at this moment it will be on its way to being destroyed.”

“What?”

Ron laughed at Harry's dumbfounded expression. “After the war, Bill had told us our break into the bank was completely unwarranted.”

“All we had to do was put in a PXC 34981 form, which I did this morning while everyone was still asleep, and the goblins will take care of it.” Hermione giggled. “Foresight is amazing isn't it?”

“I don’t understand. What is this PC-”

“PXC 34981 form. Under the banking regulations act, a wizard or witch cannot place a humans soul within the bank walls. It directly violates the law of wrongfully imprisoning someone.”

“But the goblins violate that law all the time.”

“Yes. But the law specifically talks about witches and wizards. The law does not apply to them. As such, I filled out the form this morning and they will release the soul and return the item to the vault. No one is the wiser.”

“They don’t tell the owner?”

“As said owner currently resides in Azkaban they don’t need to.”

“NICE! Ok, so Nagini then?”

Ron piped up. “Actually, we know exactly where she’ll be and there is only one person who’ll be able to stop her.”

“Neville did it before but we can't wait that long,” Harry muttered. Ron grimaced and looked pointedly over at Hermione who gulped.

“No Harry, he means me.”

“What? That makes no sense. You should-”

“Harry. There is only one time where Nagini will be isolated and we will know the location for certain. Mr. Weasley gets attacked at the ministry this year by Nagini. I helped pull down all the wards before helping erect the new ones. I know the ins and outs of the ministry. You and Ron will be up in Dumbledore's office at the time of the attack anyway...I was still asleep. I’m technically the only one who can and we cannot miss this opportunity.”

“So, you’ll be able to sneak away, break into the ministry and take her down at the correct time? But how will you do that? We won't have the sword...close combat with the basilisk fang would be too dangerous...”

“And that’s where this shit gets weird,” Ron interrupted. “Weirder than it already is I mean.”

“What do you mean?” Harry's eyes narrowed in at his two best friends. They shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. He was getting the distinct feeling that his best friends were keeping a vast amount of information from him.

He felt his frustrations start to rise when his scar hummed uncomfortably reminding him of his emotions. No, he was the one that was always busy. He was on track to be the next head of his department. Pax had upped his training. When he wasn’t working, he was spending the little time Ginny and he could carve out between training and matches the Holyhead Harpies could afford them.

Ron shrugged his shoulders. “Hey I wanted to tell you but Hermione...well she was a bit embarrassed.”

“Embarrassed about what?”

“My Animagus form,” Hermione whispered her fingers twisting in her lap.

“You're an Animagus? Why didn't you tell me? I'm your best friend,” He said hurt coloring his tone. Hermione closed her eyes.

“I know Harry. At first, I didn’t tell anyone. I’m registered obviously...well not now I suppose but I was. And then it was hard to bring it up in conversation.”

“She’s a snake,” Ron burst out before covering his mouth. Hermione glared at him and he shrugged an apology.

“A snake?” Harry said blandly.

“Not just any snake Harry, a bloody big one.”

“Yes, thank you, Ron. Do keep that up,” Hermione snapped at Ron who held his hands up in surrender. Hermione managed a shaky breath. “I’m a King Cobra Harry.”

They were silent for a moment before Harry crossed his arms. “Show me.”

Ron looked excited and pushed Harry onto the bed before scrambling up next to him. “I've only seen her do this once and it freaked me out. Cool but scary.”

When they were both seated and Hermione had pushed out a clearing, she stood really still for a moment before her body contorted and suddenly an 18-foot king cobra was coiled in the middle of the room. Both boys let out breathes of amazement.

Hello, Harry.”

Harry reared back in surprise. “I can hear you.”

Ron grinned and punched Harry in the arm good-naturedly. “Well of course mate. She's a snake, you’re a parseltongue.”

“This is...actually really cool,” Harry said with a grin. He looked down her body. Dark brown scales with black bands glistened in the low light. Her hood was tucked in as she wasn't threatened but her upper body was raised so Harry could see her cream-colored underside. Two dark brown circles on either side of her hood mesmerized him and his hand reached out to touch her. A small growl-hiss made him flinch and retract his hand sheepishly. With a twist, the snake was gone and Hermione stood with a grin.

“Sorry Harry, I'm not used to being touched in that form.”

“It’s ok. You're really beautiful though.”

Hermione laughed. “Naw thanks, Harry.”

Harry rolled his eyes at her teasing.

“So, you're a king cobra and Nagini is an augmented python,” Ron murmured bringing their attention back on topic. Hermione nodded.

“Snake fight doesn’t sound too awesome though Hermione. You could be hurt!” Harry remarked and looked over at Ron who shook his head.

“Maybe but King Cobras eat pythons as a food source.”

“You’re joking?” Harry’s head spun to confirm that fact with Hermione.

Hermione smiled. “It’s true. Also, I’m bigger and she's really old.”

“How do you know her age?” Ron asked with a cock of his head.

“The Ministry took her body after the battle and the Unspeakables autopsied it. I found the report a few years ago,” Hermione said with a shrug. “She was actually a maledictus”

Both Harry and Ron frowned in confusion. “A what?”

“Once a witch. She was cursed with a blood curse which caused her to change. Tom augmented her magically too.”

“So, Neville killed a person?” Harry asked feeling a bit sick at that thought.

“No. You can't cure a maledictus. They're essentially the animal they turn into. Though they do retain some magic and possibly some memories, which is probably what drew Tom to her in the first place.”

Hermione bit her lip. “There's another thing Harry.”

Harry looked at her and frowned when she bit her lip.

“You share the same soul piece with her.”

“What?”

“It was in the report. Tom wasn’t meant to create your Horcrux Harry, we know that. But creating a Horcrux is tricky. It requires specific magical parameters. An innocent death...”

“My mother.”

“Not just that Harry. Severus asked Tom to save her. Tom broke that promise. He killed a mother protecting her child and broke a promise to a loyal follower with the intent to kill a baby. That’s a pretty heinous crime.”

“Nagini was a Horcrux prior. She was there. Tom made her last because he wasn’t sure how the first Horcrux would react. Nor how a living being would react with another soul within them. When she seemed fine, he obviously thought it was okay, but she wasn’t just a snake. She had a human soul and the introduction of another must-have caused complications within her magical core. The intent to create another Horcrux was hers. To relieve the pressure that was building within her. Which meant the soul she housed split and lodged itself within you. It’s why you can see through her eyes rather than Toms.”

“The magic must have recognized intent. Both Tom and Nagini were essentially the same person when Tom killed your mum,” Ron mused as he sat back against the wall.

“The same person?”

Hermione moved back to the desk. “Magic recognizes the core and the soul but not the individual. They share the same soul. Nagini had a soul but it would have been suppressed after the curse took her fully. So essentially they are the same person.”

“Nagini’s intent to share her new soul was probably echoed by Tom’s intent to split his. Magic acknowledged this. The act already completed, the soul already in your body by the time Tom turned his wand on you.”

“My scar though?” Harry struggled not to touch it.

“Tom’s soul rearing up to protect itself. Like we’ve seen in the other Horcruxes. There's a reason it’s in the shape of an Avada wand movement, Harry.”

“You can’t Avada yourself. The magical backlash of a spell gone wrong would have been enough to vanquish Tom's body,” Harry murmured. Hermione nodded.

“You didn’t banish Tom the first time Harry. Toms actions saw to that.”

They were all silent for a while. And then Harry grinned. “There's just one thing that has me stumped?

Hermione’s eyebrows lifted waiting for his response.

“Severus hey?”

Hermione's mouth dropped open before a blush spread across her cheeks. She turned away quickly and huffed while Ron let out a squawk of laughter.

“No point hiding it now Mione.” He chuckled. “Our little bookworm has a crush on her teacher.”

“Honestly Ron,” Hermione rolled her eyes and stalked over to the desk again as Harry and Ron burst into laughter.

“Merlin, can you imagine the two of them together?”

“Unstoppable.”

“Shut it you two. We’ve got to save him first.”

That sobered them up before Ron waggled his eyebrows. “Now we know Hermione's reason for doing this!”

He remembered what a good shot Hermione was when she lobbed the ink well at his head.

Chapter Text

“You’re late.”

Harry's eyebrow raised. “Had the time changed?” He asked as he took the seat ignoring the rattle of chains that hung from its frame. This ministry does enjoy using intimidation tactics, Harry mused.

“An owl was sent to you this morning informing you.”

Harry inclined his head. “Of course. After we left the residence, we came right here to arrive within the parameters of the first court-appointed time and place.”

“That is hardly the Wizemagots fault.”

“No, but it is the fault of whoever sent the owl without giving enough travel time to ensure they were here. We've actually been here for a little while and yet no one checked our status,” Harry answered his eyes taking in Fudges pompous from.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I believe that falls under Mr. Weasley's job description, correct?” Harry asked mildly looking at Percy who turned a dark red. His eyes darted to the ministers who look like he bit a lemon.

"Let us continue,” Fudge bit out. Harry conceded with a nod of his head.

As Fudge started his spiel an odd feeling settled in his gut as he stared up at the full court of Wizenmagot members. He knew almost all of them. The majority of the people in charge had retained positions of power. He ignored Fudge and Umbridge, his eyes settling for a moment on Thickness before cutting across to Selwyn and Dackery both death eaters who would later be imprisoned after the war. Almost all the members were over 60 and almost all of them were pureblood. His brain was itching to reveal something but it was just out of his grasp.

“Witness for the Defense-”

Harry didn’t swing around when he heard Dumbledore announce his presence this time. He wasn’t a child impressed with the old wizard and his tricks. Instead, he settled further into the chair glancing down at the clinking of the chains.

“Ah. Dumbledore. Yes. You-er-got our- er- message that the time and –er- place of the hearing had been changed then?”

“Another strike against your undersecretary, Minister Fudge,” Harry injected. “That's not a good look is it?”

Percy now looked helplessly at Fudge as the other members began restlessly murmuring.

Harry tutted loudly. “Time and place too. Percy, I thought you were a stickler for details?” Harry continued. Percy blinked and then hunkered down in his seat. Dumbledore had spun around and was looking at Harry in confused shock.

“Hello headmaster,” Harry said with a smile. Albus seemed to recover enough to give a small perplexed smile before turning back to the wizenmagot. He raised his hands.

“It is of no matter. We are all present now so let us begin, shall we?”

Fudge, looking quite flustered and angry now, snatched a piece of parchment in front of him and seemed to dither for a moment. Taking a deep breath, he readout.

“The charges against the accused are as follows:

That he did knowingly, deliberately, and in full awareness of the illegality of his actions, having received a previous written warning from the Ministry of Magic on a similar charge, produce a Patronus Charm in a Muggle-inhabited area, in the presence of a Muggle, on August the second at twenty-three minutes past nine, which constitutes an offense under paragraph C of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, 1875, and also under section thirteen of the International Confederation of Wizards’ Statute of Secrecy.”

“You are Harry James Potter, of number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey?” Fudge asked leaning over the bar to stare at Harry.

“Yes,” Harry said simply.

“You received an official warning from the Ministry for using illegal magic three years ago, did you not?”

“No.”

“And yet you conjured a Patronus on the night- what do you mean no?” Fudge spluttered and glared at him over his glasses.

“That warning was rescinded due to proper intelligence gathered. As the being that used the magic does not fall under the Wizards statue of secrecy, I was cleared of any wrongdoing.”

“What being was that dear,” an elderly member asked and Harry recognized Hilary Swillbank.

“A house-elf ma’am.”

“So, the warning had nothing to do with the trace?”

“No, just that magic had been done within the residence. Which is not illegal and certainly not the fault of a 12-year-old wizard.”

Hilary smiled at Harry before turning to Fudge. “He’s quite right, Minister.”

“In fact, you yourself rescinded the order Minister Fudge,” Harry adding trying not to grin when he heard Fudge grind his teeth.

“Regardless, you are aware that you are not permitted to use magic outside of school while you are under the age of seventeen?”

“Yes,” Harry said his eyes not leaving Fudge's form.

“So, on the second of August you conjured a Patronus?” said Fudge.

“Yes.”

“Knowing that you were in an area full of Muggles?”

“No.”

“No?”

“No, the only muggle in the vicinity was my cousin and under the act, he is informed of my ability to use magic and therefore does not qualify in regards to the offense.”

Hilary let out a guffaw and then cleared her throat. “He’s correct again, Minister.”

The witch with the monocle on Fudge’s left cut across him in a booming voice. Harry recognized Amelia Bones. “You produced a fully-fledged Patronus?”

“Yes,” said Harry looking at Amelia who had died well before his time at the ministry.

“A corporeal Patronus?”

“Yes,” said Harry.

“Your Patronus had a clearly defined form? I mean to say; it was more than vapor or smoke?”

“Yes.”

“Was this your first time?”

“No. I’ve accomplished the charm in full entity two years ago. When the ministry placed dementors onto school grounds.”

The caucus moved uncomfortably at that. Amelia, however, wasn’t swayed.

“You are fifteen years old, correct?”

“Yes.”

“You learned this at school?” Amelia asked, her eyes cutting to Dumbledore before returning to Harry’s.

“Yes, Professor Lupin taught me in my third year,”

“Impressive,” said Madam Bones, staring down at him, “a true Patronus at that age . . . very impressive indeed.”

“Can you tell me why you produced a Patronus? They’re notoriously difficult even for adults.”

Harry stared silently at Amelia for a moment before he glared up at Fudge. Fudge blinked quickly under his gaze and then became preoccupied with the parchment in front of him. Harry turned back to Amelia. “Why would anyone produce a Patronus?”

She seemed a little flabbergasted by the question. “Why for dementors of course.”

“Exactly.”

Silence fell over the room. Fudge looked up and smirked unpleasantly.

“Are you telling this court that there were dementors in Little Whinging?”

Harry just stared up at Fudge. He cleared his throat. “What a nice little cover story. Muggles can’t see dementors, can they, boy? Highly convenient, highly convenient . . . so it’s just your word and no witnesses. . . .”

“It’s not just my word, Minister.”

“I beg your pardon?” Fudge answered.

“It's my ability to give my memories to the court to prove the event. It’s my wish to be administered veritaserum to prove the truth of my words. It’s my delight to also tell you that aside from my cousin witnessing the attack we have another for you to interrogate.”

“Memories can be tampered with,” Fudge started not at all liking where this hearing was going.

“I'm a 15-year-old Hogwarts student. I hardly think I have the ability to do so or overcome veritaserum for that matter,” Harry said his voice colored with derision. Fude seemed to have lost whatever smugness he had at the beginning of the trial and struggled to correct the course.

“Another witness?” He asked.

At this point, Dumbledore cleared his throat seemingly having snapped out of his confused trance to address the court. “Ah yes. I brought Mrs. Figg here with me.”

Harry tuned out Mrs. Figgs's testimony as he returned to his earlier thought. There was something here. Something that he needed to discover that attributed to why they had been pushed back in time. He glanced around the room noting the cold grey stones.

His eyes slid to the chains that hung listlessly off the chair. He wanted to scoff at the ministry's attempt to cow him. A full wizenmagot hearing for misuse of magic was laughable. Holding it within the hearing room set for the darkest of crimes was concerning. He knew Fudge had wanted to make an example out of him. Had wanted to come out looking like the strong minister he wasn’t and Harry, a child with delusions of fame and a neediness to be in the spotlight. His intentions were very clear to anyone with a brain.

And then it hit him. Magic was all about intent. The nexus at the ministry was just as inundated with dark magic as well but grey magic would have had to contribute to the process as well. Only light magic and well intention magic could flow freely through the ley lines without causing a disruption. This ministry, this wizenmagot wasn’t well-intentioned. It was and continued to in his time to follow the status quo.

Hermione herself had regularly expressed frustration over the stagnation of introducing new laws and amending the old ones. Change came too slowly to the wizarding world and now it was at their detriment. He knew for a fact that bad things happened to good wizards and witches in these rooms based on archaic legislation. That left an imprint in the very stones around them. And the stones were magical themselves due to nexus energy.

Harry glanced up grimly at the caucus. It needs new blood. It needs to fast track new laws that helped wizarding kind and their allies to forge a new more inclusive future. He ran his hand ran haphazardly through his hair, his mind whirring with possible solutions.

“Very well, very well . . . cleared of all charges.”

Harry's head snapped up at that pronouncement.”

“Excellent,” said Dumbledore briskly, springing to his feet, pulling out his wand, and causing the chintz armchair he had conjured earlier to vanish. “Well, I must be getting along. Good day to you all.”

Harry stood and walked out noting that Dumbledore seemed to be walking faster than normal and Harry remembered he had decided to distance himself from Harry this year.

Oh well better for us I suppose.

When he found Arthur, he started to explain the events when the Wizenmagot filed out.

“Merlin's beard. You were tried in front of a full court.”

Harry smirked. “Yes. Seems a bit of overkill don’t you think?”

Percy strode out his nose in the air, intent on ignoring both Harry and his father but Harry wasn’t finished him just yet. This year the little piker had caused enough strain for his future family and then later for the trio themselves when they were on the run. He may have come good at the battle but that was a while off. If it ever occurred at all now.

“Oh, Percy?”

The young ginger stuttered to a halt and looked over at him.

“You will clear up that business about late ministry summons and appointments, won't you? Would hate for you to be fired over...what was it again? Oh, your third infraction.”

Percy fumbled with his papers and nodded jaggedly before scuttling after the minister and Umbridge. Arthur shot Harry a questioning look which he shook his head too. They made their way back to the elevators and Harry almost grinned as he sighted Lucius.

“Well, well, well...Patronus potter,” Lucius drawled.

“That's what they call me. Say, I was wondering what's your Patronus, Mr. Malfoy?”

Lucius looked wrongfooted for a second before arching an eyebrow. “As if that is any business of yours.”

Harry shrugged good-naturedly as if he didn’t care regardless. Though he knew that the only death eater that could cast a Patronus was Severus Snape it was nice to get a small dig in. Lucius was of course not finished.

“The Minister was just telling me about your lucky escape, Potter,” drawled Mr. Malfoy. “Quite astonishing, the way you continue to wriggle out of very tight holes. . . . Snakelike, in fact . . .”

“Well the hat did want to put me into Slytherin Mr. Malfoy and as much as it would seem like a lucky happenstance I was prepared and acquitted by following the laws. I’m sure the Minister can attest to that.”

Fudge merely grumbled and eyed the boy with disdain before he motioned to Malfoy.

“This way Lucius.”

Malfoy gave a short bow to the minister before looking down his nose at Harry. He then sneered at Arthur before turning to follow the Minister.

“Bye Mr. Malfoy,” Harry called after him cheerfully, wiggling his fingers. “It’s so nice chatting with you.”

Arthur was looking decidedly confused by Harry's behavior and did not notice Harry had pulled his magic within him and had wandlessly sent a delayed hair kinking jinx at Malfoys head. Harry was saddened by the fact he wouldn’t see his jinx unfold but he replayed the first time Ron had done it to Lucius in their future. Almost everyone the pureblood came across in the ministry that day was either too scared to tell him he looked like a giant blonde poodle or thought he was getting his just deserts. Later Draco had told him that his mother had an apoplectic fit when Lucius had walked in the door and Lucius was strangely absent from the ministry for almost two weeks afterward.

“Vain git.”

“What was that Harry?” Arthur asked as they stepped through the elevator doors.

“Nothing. Let's just get out of here.”

Chapter Text

Harry Potter was one of the finest Aurors to enter the department. It’s why Pax had taken a shining to him. It’s why he was loaned out to other ministries when they encountered dark wizards and needed an experienced expert. Its why death eaters hissed his name in their cells in Azkaban. Harry Potter took to cases with extreme enjoyment and he did his job well.

He had been so very lost after the end of the war though. Like most of the survivors had been. Though while everyone else had others to rely on Harry and Hermione only had each other. Ron had seemed to drift off to his family, understandably and seemed to wilt under the pressure of their newfound profession. Harry though, Harry thrived.

Or so he thought.

It wasn’t until Hermione had a spectacular breakdown getting ready for the second-anniversary dinner that he had begun to see just how damaged they were. He stood there as she screamed and sobbed at him about choosing between a wedge or a heel unsure as to why she was getting so upset. As she threw a wedge at the wall wincing when a dent appeared, she had suddenly stopped and stared at him.

“Why are you crying?” She had hiccupped wetly rubbing at her face and smearing her make up. He frowned at her before touching his cheeks and realizing they were wet and his chin wobbling.

“I-I don’t know,” he whispered. She let out a manic laugh before collapsing to the ground like a puppet with its string cut.

“We’re such messes, Harry.”

“Yeah,” he agreed numbly as he moved to sit next to her. She leaned her head on his shoulder with a sigh.

“When was the last time we had fun?”

“Tonight was supposed to be fun,” he answered.

She scoffed. “Remembering the dead is not fun. I can't remember the last time I had fun harry. The last time I laughed. Like fully laughed. We work all the damn time. All-nighters, early mornings, weekends! Hell, even when we are away, work is all we talk about.”

“Our work is important.”

“We are important Harry. We are not out jobs. There should be other facets of us.”

He sighed and rubbed his face as he leaned back against the wall. “I haven't seen Ginny in 6 months.”

“Really?”

“Really. And she keeps contacting me and I keep making excuses about work. I just...it hurts. Work is a directive. Get in do this, do that. It's easy. Simple. But everything else.” He shook his head. “I'm constantly reminded of Fred when I see the Weasleys. I go home and see Sirius and Remus everywhere. I haven't seen Teddy in ages but he reminds me so much of Tonks.” He sniffled softly. “He should have his mum with him.”

“Harry it's not your fault.”

“Logically yes I know that but... I still feel guilty.”

Hermione sighed and laid her head back on his shoulder. “I know. I feel guilty too.”

“We need help, Hermione. We can't keep going like this. We’ll burn out or do something reckless.”

Suddenly Hermione's fireplace flared and Ron stuck his head through. “What are you doing? We’re going to be late.”

Hermione looked at Harry and then at Ron. “We’re not going, Ron. We need to focus on us for a while.”

Ron's cheeks puffed up and for a moment both thought he was going to explode. “Oh, thank Merlin. I hate those things. Stuffy uptight wankers trying to crawl up my arse.”

He pulled his head back and the next second he stepped through properly and dusted his dress robes. Hermione appraised him.

“You look good Ron.”

“I know I do,” he answered imperiously before sobering. “You, however, look like a wreck. You both do. Are you finally going to step back and let us help you?”

“What do you mean?”

“We’ve been watching you two spiral for a while. I wanted to step in but Ginny said you needed time to realize it for yourself. “

Ron had then shot off his Patronus to Kinsley telling him the trio was withdrawing from public attention before sending another off to Ginny. Ginny had apparated in minutes later her eyes wild, her hair perfect and her dress made for her. It made Hermione feel a bit jealous. But Ginny barely looked at the others in the room. Her eyes were on Harry.

Harry scrambled up, stumbling in his need for her. Ginny had let out a gasp that was somewhere relieved and pained at the same time and flung her arms around him. Harrys muffled sobs and apologies echoed through Hermione's tiny apartment.

Ron skirted the couple and took Harry's place beside Hermione. He reached for her hand and twined his fingers with hers. She tore her eyes from Ginny and Harry to stare at him. He looked at her as if deciding something and then his lips thinned.

“I know why you feel guilty Hermione,” he whispered. She choked on a sob as she averted her eyes from him and watched as Ginny half-carried Harry to the couch telling him that she loved him and she was there for him.

“It’s not cause people died. That hurts. It's that you didn’t save him knowing he was innocent.”

Hermione let out a stuttered wail and buried herself in Ron's chest. He stroked her hair. “You loved him, didn’t you?”

She pulled back and searched Ron's face. There was no anger, no accusation there. He had stated it like it was a fact. “I don’t know. I didn’t really know him. I think... I think I could have loved him though.”

He nodded. “I saw you hesitate. In the shack. I saw you choose us over him.”

“We were at war,” she mumbled into his chest.

“Oh, Mione. I'm sorry. Harry and I... we always hated him. After he killed Dumbledore you tried to reason with us. It can't have been easy. Harry wasn’t exactly kind to you when you tried and I didn’t help.”

“How are you ok with this?”

Ron shrugged. “I’m in therapy Hermione. A lot of us are. I've had a lot of time to think about this. Especially after we decided to go on a break. You and I aren't right for each other. But you’re my best friend. I love you and want you to be happy. This past year has been hard. We’ve watched you both pull away and throw yourselves into work. I watched you as you diminished.” He grabbed at her hair. “Even your hair has lost life.”

“Ron,” she snapped playfully pulling her hair out of his grasp. He chuckled before becoming serious again.

“We were worried we would lose you. And I thought I'd give anything to see you smile again even if it meant you loving Snape.”

“Oh, Ron. I love you.” She burrowed back into his side. Suddenly Ginny appeared and knelt down in front of them both.

“I'm taking Harry home. I'll talk to Kingsley and mum and dad and we can look at getting you two proper help tomorrow.” She reached out and squeezed Hermione's hand. “You’re family Hermione. We’ll do this together.

Hermione swallowed the lump in her throat. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“No probs sis.”

She stood up and looked at Ron. “I'll see you later Ron. Look after her ok?”

Ron saluted and watched as Ginny helped harry up and then disapparated.

“Does she know we’ll never...”

“She knows. But that doesn’t stop you from being her sister Hermione.”

They were silently for a while after that. Hermione played with the buttons on Ron's dress robes while Ron stroked her hair.

“He’s dead Ron.”

He gathered her to him. “I know.”

Later with the help of their friends and family, they went to trauma counseling and finally started living again. It had taken time and they both had many setbacks but they now realized how strong their support network was. Harry had moved in with Ginny and at her insistence started to remodel the house. It had helped put some of the ghosts that haunted Harry to rest. He had asked Ginny to marry him on her birthday in 2001 and they were married on the 10th of Sept the following year.

Harry was now a 23-year-old man, married with a job he was good at in the body of a 15-year-old. He had come a long way to just end up sitting in the kitchen listening to Molly express that he needed to eat all his dinner to grow up big and strong. In saying that Molly still said this whenever she cooked for him. Or anyone else for that matter.

The order meeting had just broken up and they had all drifted off muttering excuses of not staying longer. Remus, however, joined Sirius in the kitchen talking lowly at the other end of the table while Hermione, Harry, and Ron were reading quietly at the other end.

Ron let out a sigh and sat back, running his hands through his short hair. “I miss Pans.”

Hermione looked up and smiled. “You’ll see her on the train.”

Ron grimaced. “Yeah as a bitch who hates my guts. My Pans is different.”

They had all grown up fast during the war but they had matured properly afterward. They had healed old wounds and sealed rifts with each other. Many just couldn’t be bothered hating each other when they had experienced death so intimately. Harry looked gravely over at his two friends at the thought of their friends being adversaries again.

The war had been paid for with a heavy price but it did at the same time exact some good outcomes aside from peace.

Draco and himself were not exactly best mates but they could sit a lunch together a few times a month and discuss things civilly. Theo Nott was an Auror under him and they had fostered a fairly compatible relationship. Hermione worked near Blaise Zabini and regularly had coffee with him in the mornings and Ronald had befriended Pansy Parkinson at a quidditch match and they regularly got toshed at the local pub. Harry and Hermione both thought there was something more going on between Pansy and Ron but he was keeping pretty tight-lipped over it.

It seemed that many of his generation had put their childhood grudges to bed and had decided to judge on character and merit rather than house colors or blood status.

Hermione stiffened when a dark shape swooped into the room. Harry looked up to see Severus Snape falter as he took in the occupants of the room before stalking over to the kettle. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sirius sneer and then give a pointed look to Remus who shook his head in exasperation.

“Still skulking around like an unwanted smell, I see Snivelus.”

Hermione scowled into her text, her wand hand itching to hex Sirius for his words. Harry's lips pursed and he clenched his jaw.

Severus quirked an eyebrow at the Marauders. “Not at all dog, you see I don’t need to skulk when I have the freedom to come and go as I please.”

Sirius jerked uncomfortably and visibly palmed his wand. Severus smirked his eyes on the wand before casually taking a sip of his tea. “Feeling the urge to hex me, Black? Wait I’ll turn around so it’s more familiar.”

Sirius scoffed his mind whirring, trying to find a way to get Severus to cast first. His eyes landed on Hermione who frowned in confusion. He smiled slyly at Severus. “The only familiar thing I see is a Potter, a muggle-born girl and you with no chance.”

Harry grabbed Hermione’s hand silently trying to stop her from exploding. She squashed her snarl viciously as Harry shook his head shallowly warning that now was not the time. Severus, however, had stood up properly and squared off, his wand at his side as he stared daggers at the dog Animagus. Sirius smirked wider while Remus looked concerningly at the trio who had seemed to freeze at the confrontation.

Severus let his lip curl and seemed to debate killing Sirius. His eyes darted to the three students who strangely seemed very invested in the books in front of them before he turned and stalked out of the room. Harry watched as Snape stormed from the room and turned to look at his godfather. He was disgusted to see the triumphant smirk on his face and slowly let his anger start to boil. He was reaching his limit on the childishness of his supposed elder and guardian.

The children grew up faster than the adults, he mused angrily.

Remus sighed and shook his head which annoyed Harry even more. He stood up abruptly and slammed his hands down on the table ignoring the stinging it caused.

“When will you just grow up?” He hissed at Sirius. Sirius blanched and sat down surprised by the sudden attack.

“Harry, come on. You know how Sniv-”

“No, I get that 12 years of Azkaban may have stunted your emotional growth and you still think it's perfectly ok to bully others but you are an adult now. Act like it.”

“Harry...he deserves it. He started it in the meeting.”

“Oh, that’s very mature Sirius. He started it,” Hermione admonished. Harry was glad to have his friends back him on this. They were getting just as annoyed as he was at the Marauder's behavior of late. Harry also knew that it grated Hermione personally as the attacks were directed solely on Severus. Nothing pissed Hermione off than not being able to stand up for those she loved.

Remus piped up then. “I don’t think you all really understand-”

“Right on time Remus, come to Sirius defense and ignore the injustice?”

Sirius stood up abruptly his chair screeching behind him. “Hey! Now, wait just a minute.”

Remus looked hurt. “I’ve been nothing but respectful to Severus Hermione.”

“Really? Do you call Neville's boggart respectful? Would you have done the same if Neville said he was most fearful of Professor McGonagall?” Hermione said scornfully.

“I-”

Harry stood up straighter commandeering the attention. “No! You are not children anymore. You are supposed to be our role models. You are supposed to take the higher road.”

“There is no higher road with Snape,” Sirius muttered petulantly.

“There is always a higher road. You’re just too pig-headed to see it because you enjoy bullying him.”

“I do not.”

“Of course, you do. You’re from the Great House of Black. Bully behavior is ingrained in you. You learned it at your mothers' knee. You saw Snape and saw an easy target. Both you and my dad, and when he stuck up for himself you retaliated giving you not only motive but an excuse to hide behind.”

“Harry that’s not how it was,” Remus said kindly trying to defuse the situation. “Severus gave as good as he got.”

“Yes, I'm sure he did. Four wizards against one. Which makes him a more powerful wizard then the marauders who used Slytherin tactics to hex him.”

Sirius snarled. “It's almost like you admire him, Harry.”

“And if I do? The man that saved me from a werewolf? You may not like him but you can at least give him the respect he deserves for at least saving your godsons life.” Harry sighed and rubbed his scar. “Look maybe I'm expecting too much but it would be nice if you just stopped goading him. It’s hard enough for him without you making it worse.”

Remus had winced at the topic of him almost killing Harry and his friends and chewed his lip in thought. “He’s right Sirius. It’s time we put this childish feud to bed. Severus will never be nice but we do have to work with him and we should set an example.”

“He’s a death eater,” Sirius hissed at Remus. Harry let out a grunt of frustration, turned and stormed out of the room. Hermione shook her head sadly and followed him out. Ron who had remained quiet during the argument calmly grabbed an apple and took a bite.

“Pretty sure your own brother was a death eater to Sirius.”

Sirius face slackened and he dropped back into the chair with a whine. Remus patted his shoulder but his own mind was in turmoil over his own actions towards Snape.

Outside the kitchen, Severus pulled back into the shadows as Potter slammed the kitchen door and took to the stairs muttering about stupid dogs. Miss Granger stuttered to a halt and looked despairingly up at the stair before shaking her head and heading to the cellar.

He frowned. Their behavior was completely incomprehensible. Defending him? Potter and Weasley had a very public hatred of him and vice versa. Miss Granger would never have spoken to her elders with such disrespect last year (even though in his mind they definitely deserved it). What had happened to the trio since their last day of school? He didn’t like it when things deviated from the normal. Something was up and he was going to find out what they were planning.

Chapter Text

That night Hermione and Ron were bailed up in the boy's room furiously going over notes Ron had compiled. Harry walked in feeling Hermione's in-stasis wards fly up behind him set his mind to ease a little. He kicked off his shoes and flung himself back on his bed with a groan. His friends ignored him but the scratching of quills and whispers started to annoy Harry so he sat up and looked over at them.

“So, what are you two going to do about the prefect badges?” Harry asked lightly. Ron and Hermione didn’t even lookup.

“We’re going to ask McGonagall to revoke them. It’s easier that way.”

“True. Molly doesn’t know?”

Ron sighed. “Another easier route don’t you think? I didn’t even deserve it the first time 'round. Her pride was a bit empty, to be honest considering that.”

Silence fell again and Harry started to feel uncomfortable in it.

“What are you doing?”

“The latest projections.”

“Arithmancy?”

Hermione nodded. “I’m adjusting a few things after what you told me regarding the ministry. We...well I never took into account intent in my original predictions so we’re trying to find a way to include it.”

“Show us what you’ve got already.”

With a twist of her wand, the arithmancy application flung into the air, a battery of colors assaulting their eyes. In Harry's opinion, it looked like an out of control solar system with circular blobs that orbited a trajectory that was usually elliptical, Hermione, however, said it was more in line with a geodesic dome made by a two-year-old. Ron said it looked like his Aunt Tessie's wig after Errol got a hold of it.

Harry stepped closer to the nearest line and peered deeper into the trajectory strand. Interwoven within it were runes and arithmetic equations in the shape if a link. Each link was unique in its structure and Harry was sure that, like snowflakes, no two were the same. It was always amazing to see the work Hermione could do. He understood why Hermione had gone into the DRCMC but she was truly gifted at arithmancy.

“Ok, talk it out to me. I have little understanding here.”

Hermione walked over to a pale green chain. “This is us as a unit. I thought since we were brought back together and are on the same level as our assignment it was easier than inputting us individually.”

Ron pointed to a distinct muddy brown line. “This is the nexus. We’ve managed to insert individual nexus points underneath such as the ministry and Hogwarts to support the structure.”

Harry could see that the Trios chain and the Nexus chain ran parallel together for a while before intersecting. Then the trios chain suddenly has a severe arc backward and rejoins its line. “So, this is where we return?” he asked pointing to the loop. Hermione nodded.

“Where we rejoin the loop one of the chain links break creating a new line in both strands.” Harry saw she was right. Within the strand, Harry could see a chain had snapped, one end continuing while the other forged a new chain. He looked further along and frowned.

“Shouldn't the nexus chain start to clear?”

Ron nodded. “That's the problem. We are seeing a bit of improvement-here- once we defeat Tom but it's not enough to avert catastrophe.”

“Shit.”

Ron and Hermione went back to tweaking the equations while Harry laid back down on the bed, his mind starting to wonder. This room had been turned into his study once he had properly taken over Grimmauld Place. He had gutted most of the rooms and with Ginny away at training camps, he had a fair amount of time and an annoying bout of insomnia to remodel. He had ripped out a wall and enlarged the room significantly to give it enough space for a large desk, bookcases and sitting area. He had minimized the drawing-room and both Harry and Ginny thought it would have made a good playroom.

Harry swallowed uncomfortably. Ginny and he were talking about finally having kids and now that dream was so far away it caused a pang in his chest. He rubbed it slowly, blinking his eyes rapidly to stop any tears from welling.

“Harry? You ok, mate?”

Harry coughed. “Yeah, just reminiscing,” he frowned. “About the future. How weird is that?”

Ron walked over and sat next to him. “Yeah, you’re right. It is weird. Anything in particular?”

“Nah. Just how different this room is.”

Ron looked around. “I remember Hermione having kittens trying to get the internet up and running here,” he remarked with a chuckle.

“I did not have kittens, Ron. It's remarkably difficult to-”

“We know Hermione,” Ron interrupted. “We heard all about it when you were having kittens remember?”

Hermione huffed and returned to poking her wand at a lemon color chain. Harry, however, was frowning. Ron noticed and nudged his shoulder.

“Hermione had to reboot the system three times before she got the dampener spells to work,” Harry said slowly.

Rons face lit up. “Yeah, and every time it crashed Hermione was swearing so bad Ginny was covering her ears!”

“She rebooted the system,” Harry murmured again. Ron frowned.

“Yeah mate. Just said that.”

“Hermione! You rebooted the system!”

Hermione's head swiveled to look at Harry her brow furrowing before a surprised look struck her features.

“Oh, my gods! Harry that’s it!”

Her wand twisted and the equations vanished darkening the room substantially. Ron stood up abruptly and an annoyed growl escaped him as all their hard work disappear. “Don’t worry Ron. We were on the wrong track.”

“Would you mind explaining the right track then?”

“We reboot the system. All the systems.”

Ron's eyes glazed over as he processed what she said before his mouth dropped open. “You’ve got to be kidding me? Do you know how difficult that would be?”

“Harder than setting up Harry's internet that’s for sure.”

Ron looked from Hermione to Ron. “No. This means we’d have to re-align the ley lines and purge the dark magic from each of the nexi. We can't do that by ourselves...that's a-”

“A global effort.”

Ron looked sick. “We can't do that.”

“Actually, we can. Between the three of us, we have,” Hermione paused. “Had connections across the world. We simply figure out the main nexi affected, reach out to those magical communities, show our equations and get assistance at those coordinates.”

Ron shook his head grimly. “No Hermione. You misunderstand. We can't do it. No one is going to listen to three 5th years.”

Hermione stopped; her shoulders dropped with that point. “You’re right.”

Harry, however, crossed his arms across his chest. “Then we get someone who has the means to do so.”

“And who would that be?”

“Lucius Malfoy.”

Chapter Text

Mrs. Weasley was screaming at the twins again. Although this time around it was because Ginny had almost been pushed down two flights of stairs by Fred and George’s trunk instead of actually knocked down them. Harry had grabbed her just in time. Ginny's face had pinked up considerable at being in Harry's embrace and he awkwardly released her, his hand rubbing the back of his neck.

“Thanks, Harry,” she managed before rushing downstairs. Hermione smirked at him as she gave him Hedwig's cage, the owl safety inside. Crookshanks meowed from between her feet.

“Shut it, Mione.”

“Didn't say a word.”

They separated after that and met back at the station. After waving goodbye to the guard, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and the dog-formally-known-as-Sirius; Harry nodded to the other two who had to be present at the prefect meeting. Hermione said she’d schedule a meeting with their head of house after the feast but until then they had to follow the rules.

Making a beeline for the carriage he knew Luna and Neville would be in and ignoring the stares and blatant pointing the other students were doing, Harry felt the back of his neck prickle. Ginny was right behind him and he was having a hard time refraining from his usual behavior with his wife.

Future wife.

Ugh.

Neville had stammered through an excuse while Harry followed Ginny into the compartment. Harry grinned down at Luna. In the future, she had briefly dated Neville before disappearing to the continent to find mythical creatures. Whenever she returned the group would organize a big get together to catch up and once Luna had said she felt like they did it just for her.

“Well, of course, Lu, you’re special. We’ll always make time for you.”

She had beamed at that and the next morning an owl delivered a box of strange feathers of different shapes and sizes. He kept them in his office and whenever he felt overwhelmed, he’d stroke one of them to center himself.

“Hello, Luna. I’m Harry and this is Neville.”

“Luna is in my year. Ravenclaw.”

Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure,” Luna sang before hiding behind her magazine again. Harry smiled endearingly at her, while Neville just goggled. Ginny looked a little put out for some reason before asking Neville how his holidays were. When he produced his birthday present, Harry turned up his nose.

“Mimbulous mimbultonia?”

Neville looked impressed. “That's right. It’s really, really rare,” he said proudly stroking the quivering plant.

“Yeah well just don’t poke it. The liquid stinks like off shit.”

All of them looked at him in surprise. “What?”

“You swore Harry.”

“Oh, right sorry. It slipped.”

Cho popped in and the exchange was only slightly less awkward than the first time around due to not being covered in stinksap. Hermione and Ron walked in almost an hour later.

“Lo Luna. Hey Neville,” Both of them said making the Ravenclaw very confused. Ron blushed as he sat down.

“Oh right. I’m Ron Weasley, this is Hermione Granger.”

“Hello,” she murmured and retreated behind the Quibbler again.

“Where were you, Ron?” Ginny asked.

“Prefects meeting,” he answered taking a chocolate frog from Harry.

“Prefects meeting? Why were you there?”

“He made prefect,” Hermione answered pulling out her own copy of The Quibbler. Luna’s eyes widened at the sight of the editorial.

Ginny swiveled around to face Ron properly. “You did not! Why didn’t you tell everyone?”

“Cause I don’t deserve it Gin. McGonagall gave it to me for two reasons. To make me feel included and because Dumbledore requested it.”

“Why would Dumbledore request it?”

Ron gave Gin the stink eye before she caught on. “Oohhhh right. So, you're going against Dumbledore's orders then?”

“He can't force me. I've really got to focus on my studies Ginny. Last year's results were terrible.”

Ginny glanced at Hermione and Harry who both looked completely unperturbed by Ron's behavior. “Is he sick?”

Hermione peered closely at Ron. “Perhaps wrackspurts?”

“Could be an infestation?” Harry added and Hermione nodded seriously. The young Ravenclaws face lit up as she stared at the trio.

“What are wrackspurts?” Ginny burst out obviously confused.

“They're invisible creatures that float around your ears,” Luna said with excitement. “I thought I felt one zooming around here. I’m feeling a little confused myself.”

Ron and Hermione nodded seriously while Ginny and Neville shared a very perplexed look. Harry settled back into his seat and started reading a book Hermione had given him. The carriage door slid open but Harrys eyes didn’t move from the page.

“Potter.”

“Malfoy,” Harry answered calmly. “How was your summer?”

Malfoy looked out of sorts before recovering. “Better than yours no doubt.”

Harry nodded and finally looked up at the young Slytherin. “No doubt.”

Malfoy frowned at the lack of reaction he could normally garner from his nemesis. “How's it feel at being second best to Weasley?” He sneered. Harry grinned.

“Comfortable.”

Malfoy glanced around the compartment. This was not going how he had envisioned at all. Both Granger and the Lovegood girl were engrossed in a magazine. Longbottom was extremely engrossed in a weird plant on his lap and the Weasley girl was looking at Potter. No one was paying him any attention and it was extremely astounding.

“Yeah well. I’m a prefect now so you better watch yourself because I'll be dogging your footsteps in case you get out of line.”

Harry smiled up at him. “Good to know Malfoy.”

Malfoy did a double-take before sneering awkwardly and slamming the door shut taking his two bodyguards with him.

“Well that was easy,” Harry said to Ginny who gave him a bewildered look.

The rest of the train ride was quiet and before they knew it, they had changed into their school robes, and had arrived at the station. Ron and Hermione departed for their duties and Harry made his way to the carriages. After placing Hedwig's cage next to the wheel, he went to the front of the carriage and made a soft clicking noise at the thestral. The thestral echoed back his noise and thrust his snout into Harry’s hand.

“I'm sorry, I don't have any steaks at the moment,” he murmured while stroking his nose. The creatures made a sound like a neigh and tossed his head.

“Oh, he’s lovely,” Hermione remarked as she patted his withers. Ron had never had an affinity to magical creatures and stood off to the side. Luna was also watching, her head cocked trying to work out the strange auras around the trio.

Chapter Text

Hermione, Harry, and Ron barely noted the absence of Hagrid as they took their seats but they did note the hideous woman who had been the bane of their 5th year. Ron leaned closed to Hermione.

“I hope your plan is ready cause I am not dealing with that on top of everything else,” he whispered pointing to the nauseatingly pink witch settled next to the headmaster. Hermione allowed the corner of her lip to turn upward as she continued to scan the staff table. Her eyes settled on one person in particular and she sighed internally.

Severus Snape had been an enigma in the first life. She had harbored a small crush that was rocked somewhat after he killed the headmaster but to her shame at the time, she still fostered it. Harry was so resolute in his hatred and sureness of the Death Eater that Hermione kept her misgivings to herself. Her brain would often spin in circles trying to find evidence for his innocence while the facts buzzed angrily at her. In the end, she was correct but her loyalty had spelled the death of the person she had strong feelings for.

Though she didn’t know if she could have actually saved Severus she had a strong belief in her abilities after she had saved Harry’s life when Nagini bit him. She’d never know in actuality but the guilt still lingered.

The entrance of the first years interrupted her musing and she watched as they lined up nervously. Professor McGonagall placed the Sorting Hat on the chair and stood back as it opened its mouth and began to sing about inter-house co-operation and Hermione drowned it out looking at the dour man. He looked most uncomfortable being sat next to the plump witch in pink.

Hermione smiled. While she didn’t personally know the man, she did know him. She had been the one to volunteer to clear out his quarters and later his house. Looking back on it she realized it had been a mistake to throw herself into the task as she hadn't had time to truly grieve. In some ways, though it had been what she needed. With the school in disrepair and her friends in states of shock and grief, Hermione needed something to keep herself from breaking down.

Her parents were still in Australia unaware that their daughter even existed and Hermione just wasn’t ready to face them yet even though she missed them terribly.

She had cleaned out his office first easily storing potion ingredients and equipment and filing away paperwork to the hall of records. He didn’t have any personal effects in his office so it was a relatively quick job. Snape's quarters were exactly what she had pictured. Bare. A small settee and armchair near the fire, a large desk up against the wall and a frayed rug was all that greeted her. With the exception of a sole bookcase that she found had a linking charm to it there wasn’t much to look at. She shrunk down all the furniture and stored it away for the lawyers.

His bedroom held just a queen bed with standard-issue bedding a dresser and a bedside table. Her breath had hitched as she opened the dresser to reveal his signature robes. She slowly packed up the muggle clothes which comprised of high-end jackets, vests and crisp white shirts. She had fingered the material in surprise.

It was when she was clearing the bed that she had found it. A magical picture tucked under the pillow. Hermione had stared down at it with wonder and pain. A very young Severus Snape stood close to a giggling girl who was trying to get him to smile. His mouth lifted just a tad at her antics and she tipped her head back and laughed before the picture reset itself. Hermione had felt hot tears slide down her face as she thought of the man whom she chose not to save.

He had actually and surprisingly placed her in his will, though the lawyers spent over eight months trying to work it out. Severus was never straight forward and to the point in life, why would he be in death?

So not long after she had settled into her job in the department had she been summoned to Peter Fingleton’s office, just a floor above her own office. She expressed confusion as she and Professor Snape had little interaction. Peter had shrugged.

“It says here: to the only person who logically came at me and ripped my pride to shreds.”

Hermione had frowned and then burst out laughing. “The logic puzzle in first year. Oh, he was terribly upset. Professor McGonagall was fit to burst.”

Peter had nodded happily explaining that Professor McGonagall had pointed him in the right direction and handed over a single book. She took it slowly and looked at the cover. It was a copy of Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. She looked to Peter for clarification.

“There's an inscription.”

She opened the book and traced the spiky handwriting on the first page. “Slayers of regrets, old and new, sought by many, found by few,” she murmured and looked up at Peter who was looking at her with interest.

“Do you know what that means Miss Granger?”

“Redemption,” she whispered struggling to stop her eyes from pricking with tears. Peter had smiled and handed her a notecard.

 

Congratulations Miss Granger. You are now the proud owner of my library bar a few titles bequeathed to others. I would not entrust this to any buffoon who couldn’t even solve a simple logic puzzle.

 

“Apparently I'm a buffoon,” Peters had muttered good-naturedly and Hermione had laughed until her stomach hurt.

Ron nudged her and Hermione came back to the present with a shake of her head. “Sorry, seemed to have spaced out.”

The hat settled once more and just as McGonagall went to pick it up it shook and opened its mouth again.

 

We stand upon the precipe

The end of magic near

The elders have destroyed the way

The children so should fear.

But those who've grown up once before

Will lead us from our doom

They stand upon the precipe

Clearing magics tomb

Trust them for you know not them

But they know all of you

The future present and the past

Survived and now brought new

Your secrets spilled an age ago

They’ll take them to their grave

And in the end, we’ll know again

It’s magic that they’ve saved

 

A pin could have dropped and everyone would have heard it clearly. McGonagall swiveled to stare at Dumbledore who had risen from his chair and was studying the hat with a frown. Umbridge merely glared at the hat like it was personally offending her.

“Was that a prophecy?”

Hermione stretched her neck to see who had spoken.

“The sorting hat can't make a prophecy, you berk, only seers can.”

“Sounded like a prophecy to me.”

The room erupted into chaos. Ron distinctly heard people claiming it was the end of the world while others were dismissing the frayed hat as being bored and trying to scare the students for a bit of fun. Hermione leaned into the others.

“Well, that just confirmed that we are on the right path.”

Harry nodded instantly understanding her meaning. Hogwarts had just declared for them. The same magic that had taken them from their time had now told them to continue on. Albus clapped his hands trying to get control of the students before bellowing at them to quiet down. The entire student body calmed instantly.

“Take your seats. The sorting must continue.”

With that, he sat as if nothing had happened. Most of the professors struggled to follow suit and Hermione could see professor McGonagall's hands shake as she picked up the now quiet hat.

“Abercrombie, Euan.”

The rest of the sorting continued without drama and the feast followed suit. Students turned their attention back to the staff table when Dumbledore delivered his usual warnings. The speech delivered by Umbridge was once again met with mild interest to outright disregard. Much the same as last time unsurprisingly.

After their dismissal, Hermione and Ron went onto escort the first years to the tower while Harry went on alone. The usual staring and whispering followed him but he was no longer a teenager plagued by self-doubt. Harry was now sure of himself, his magic and his place in the world. After he and Neville got into the common room Harry decided against going up to the dorms. He had remembered the little spat he and Seamus had the first time around and was keen to not do it again. Instead, he sat in front of the fire and waited for Ron and Hermione to return.

They entered explaining the rules to the first years and ushering them up to bed. From his seat, Hermione looked aggravated. He raised an eyebrow in question when she huffed and threw herself next to him.

“McGonagall pushed our meeting back because of a staff meeting,” Ron answered when Hermione crossed her arms mulishly but stayed silent.

“Oh. Well, that makes sense considering the hat’s verbal diarrhea. They looked pretty shaken.”

Hermione growled. “I don’t have time to be a prefect. We’ve got more important shit to do.”

“Like take down the pink toad?”

“Exactly.”

Harry sat forward. “And how are you going to do that?”

Hermione finally grinned. “By acting just like Harry Potter.”

Chapter Text

Ministry set to torture young students?

BY RITA SKEETER

 

Hello dear readers and yes you read that right. It seems that our beloved and trusted Ministry has chosen barbaric and outdated means to keep our children in line. Yesterday I received a private summons to Hogwarts regarding a matter that seemed to me as inconsequential. However, the summoner, whose identity will remain private, had told me it was worth the journey and dear readers they were correct.

Upon arriving at the grounds and declaring my intent, the Deputy Headmistress had escorted me to the newly appointed Defense Against the Dark Arts professors room. Ms. Delores Umbridge is Minister Fudges own senior undersecretary and was appointed to the position over the summer. That in itself is questionable since Hogwarts had always hired its own professors and the Ministry had always remained a separate entity.

This reporter wonders at how the school board felt at her appointment as she has no actual qualifications to teach children let alone teach such an important subject. Were they strong-armed into accepting her? Bribed perhaps? Has the education of our most precious children been reduced to personal grudges? I fear the truth.

Upon opening the door, we were confronted with the very picture attached to this article. That’s right Hermione Granger the plain but ambitious girl slumped over a desk, blood pooling from an inscription on the back of her hand and a blood quill in the other.

As my dear and clever readers know a blood quill has been illegal for almost 200 years and has been banned from educational practices for a further 300 years. It was classed as a dark artifact by the Wizenmagot in after Hortense Graver had died from subsequent blood loss in Auror custody in 1824. We could have had a repeat of that sad case today dear readers had I not burst into the room.

FOR IN-DEPTH HISTORY OF THE BLOOD QUILL TURN TO PAGE 12

The Deputy Headmistress had made a loud and unnecessary scream at the sight of her student bleeding out in front of her and had rushed to her side while I was struggling to deal with the explosion of pink and cat infested china that hung garishly on her walls. My magical camera was busy taking in the scene we found ourselves in.

FOR MORE PICTURES ON THIS GRUESOME EVENT TURN TO PAGE 5

Ms. Umbridge a squat and decidedly ugly woman, had then demanded us to leave quoting that the Minister had given her permission to use whatever means necessary to subdue the students. Now, my loyal readers how many of you send your children to Hogwarts to be subdued, I wonder?

Did the Minister of Magic encourage Ms. Umbridge to torture children?

And what pray tell was the great Albus Dumbledore doing while his students are getting tortured?

One can only wonder.

As soon as the Deputy had insured Miss Granger's well-being, she had cast a stupefy so strong on the DADA professor all the awful plates shattered. The other heads were called and the school nurse took our dear Miss Granger to the hospital wing. I fretted greatly as I watched her poor pale frame whisked away. I was then marched out of the school by none other than Severus Snape, Hogwarts resident's Potion Master.

 

 

Hermione stopped reading and set the paper down. Skeeter was prone to dramatics and anyway she could come out as the caring hero she would do so. Regardless it had painted quite an interesting picture. One that ultimately leaned in the trio’s favor.

Umbridge had been taken away early that morning by Aurors who had questioned Hermione carefully. Obviously, Fudge had tried to save face but with so many witnesses and now the story doing the circuit he was stuck. It wouldn't be long before they called for his resignation.

Her eyes darted down to her hand now bandaged nicely but she could still feel the scar. She then allowed her gaze to travel up the now bare expanse of her arm. She was still surprised by the lack of another scar that had been carved into her years ago. Her fingers trailed the invisible letters like they had done a million times before and she found quite shockingly that she missed it. She had earned those battle wounds and had shown them proudly as they told not only her resilience but her power and her strength.

“Merlin Hermione. That was a bit of genius,” Ron managed around a sandwich, his own paper sitting on his lap opened to page 5. Hermione grimaced at the close-up picture of her head lolling back on the chair as blood spurted openly onto the floor. She shook her head, sighed and opened the newspaper back up.

SHOULD CHARMED CAT PLATES BE OUTLAWED?

Merlin the Daily Prophet needed an overhaul. Sadly the trio was already up to their ears with more pressing issues. She closed the paper again and flung it down the bed. Ron ignored her. Harry had been there early on but had chosen to finish some school work which both Ron and Hermione had done already. Harry hated paperwork and he hated homework but at least he was completing everything on his own this time around so Hermione wasn't too bothered when he left. 

She leaned back against the pillows. She wasn't a fan of the hospital wing having spent enough time there in her first life. Staring up at the ceiling she thought back to yesterday's events.

After a thoroughly enjoyable potions class in which all three had brewed adequate Draughts of Peace potions much to Professor Snape's obvious displeasure, she had quickly warned the others to do as she would do in DADA. They looked at her strangely but agreed. All three had stowed their wands prior and had their books and parchment ready knowing the pink witch would not be ever teaching anything other than theory.

Hermione had started the class the same way as before; book unopened and hand straight up in the air. Harry and Ron followed her earlier directive and kept quiet though they were eagerly awaiting what their brilliant friend would be doing. It wasn’t long before the majority of the Gryffindor's were yelling questions without raising their hands which frustrated Umbridge to no end.

Hermione, however, had taken Harry’s dialogue and ran with it getting some satisfaction when she answered Umbridge's question regarding who would attack them.

“Voldemort comes to mind” she had snapped ignoring the others shocked reactions. And when she had called Umbridge a liar and a coward the professor had lost her cool and had predictably given her detention. She had returned to her seat and glared at the witch for the rest of the evening while inside she was celebrating.

Stupid cow.

The detention had done even better. She had downed a mild anti-coagulant potion prior after getting a confirmation letter from Skeeter telling her it had better be worth it and she’d be there at the correct time. After sitting and making the correct protests that Umbridge enjoyed Hermione got down to the job at hand. Casting a numbing spell, as well as a notice-me-not charm on her hand, gave her enough space to dig the blood quill into the sheet of parchment without Umbridge tweaking. She dragged it roughly across and noting the swell of bright red blood before dropping her hand to her side and allowing the blood to pool on the ground.

Skeeter had arrived just as Hermione was beginning to get light-headed and her vision swam. She vaguely noted Minerva screaming and then later Poppy coaxing her to drink a blood replenisher.

What she hadn't expected was the large warm hand that cradled the back of her head as she swallowed and her eyes met with Severus dark ones. While his face was set, she could see the hint of concern he had as he watched her throat swallow the liquid. She almost cried but pulled her occlumency shields tightly around her.

Ron and Harry had hurried to the hospital ward the moment they heard what had happened. As they reached the doors though Ron had pulled Harry up and they carefully peered in. Severus Snape was sitting on the side of Hermione bed tipping a potion into her mouth and massaging her throat. They walked in slowly and coughed to announce their presence. Snape had shot up his hand curling around the bottle as he took in the two.

“Is she ok?” Ron asked. Harry remained quiet.

“She will be fine with some rest and more blood replenishing potion which I now have to brew more of.”

“Thank you, professor,” Ron called out as he had stalked out of the wing. He seemed to hesitate before continuing.

“You can wake up now you jammy cow,” Ron muttered as he took Snape's spot. Harry chuckled and went around to sit on the chair. Hermione opened an eye and then let out a yawn, stretching halfheartedly. She smiled innocently as she pulled herself up.

“What?" She asked her eyes wide. Ron scoffed at her poor acting skills.

“That was really dangerous Hermione,” Harry piped up. Hermione let out a sigh and smoothed out her blankets.

“I know you think that but I doubted I cut deep enough to warrant real worry. It was a superficial wound that I encouraged to bleed freely. I took as many precautions as I could. I had safeguards in place.”

Ron, however, dismissed Harry's tone as well. “It worked, didn’t it? And now Umbridge is gone. This is a win, Harry.”

Harry muttered an agreement and Hermione noted his fingers tracing across his hand. “We all have scars that will never happen Harry.”

Ron nodded thinking to the swirling scars that littered his forearms. He had hated them so much he would later cover them with ink. Hermione had worn hers with pride and used them to make others uncomfortable when prejudices reared their heads around her.

“We’ll likely get different scars. But we’ll always remember.”

Later when Ron had returned to the tower to meet with Harry, Hermione relaxed back into her pillow. Her mind wandered to the man that had been dominating her dreams for the past 6 years. It had been cruel that her brain kept reminding her of a man that had died. That it had taunted her with a life unlived and entirely impossible. Now though, he was alive and her brain taunted her in new ways. Would he ever see her as the woman she became in the future? Would he even like her? Could he come to love her and vice versa? Those thoughts spiraled in her mind but one scared the living shit out of her.

Would he die again?

It was a possibility. He was still in danger and they didn’t know how their changes would ripple through an unknown future. She blinked the tears that stung her eyes away and rolled over to her side trying to banish her thoughts.

There was no one else in the hospital wing and so she felt safe enough to cast a mild snare ward to alert her of someone's presence and settled in for some sleep.

Years of training with Ron and Harry had meant she could wake without anyone knowing she had. When her snare tripped at two am Hermione continued to breathe deeply and keep her shields high.

“What are you doing Miss Granger?”

The unmistakable voice whispered those words, seemingly to himself before his steps echoed through the wing as he disappeared. Hermione knew that he would cotton on to them sooner or later. At this point he was unaware and she would have to talk to the boys about his involvement. It was bound to happen. He was one of the best spies there was and in Hermione's opinion, the trio had been acting strangely though no one else had picked up on it. Ignoring her earlier thoughts, the question was now...do they involve him sooner rather than later?

Chapter Text

When Harry had come to the realization, they would need to filter the old blood out of the ministry he had immediately penned a letter to a dear friend anonymously. He had told him there would be a position open to become the senior undersecretary to the minister of magic himself and with his qualifications, he was a shoo-in.

Udo Ndiaye was a remarkable man that Harry had met on assignment to Burkinabe in Burkina Faso. Udo had invited him to stay with him and his wife while he was in Africa and Harry couldn’t deny he had enjoyed himself immensely. Udo reminded Harry of a mixture of Percy and George; serious about work, a hoot about everything else. He had single-handedly revolutionized the ministry there and Harry knew he would be instrumental in their new world plan.

Now, Harry saw his plan return twice the profit as he watched Udo’s wife sit down at the staff table. Etana Ndiaye was the duel mistress at Uagadou School of Magic and had wiped Harry's ass when she had challenged him after dinner one night.

“Who is that?” Hermione asked as she sat down. Almost everyone had noted the new presence at the staff table that morning and the whispering had risen to a low buzz throughout the great hall.

“Etana Ndiaye.”

Hermione's eyes bulged. “The Etana Ndiaye?”

Harry nodded. “I reached out to her husband regarding the undersecretary position.”

“Harry-”

Harry cut off her scolding. “Anonymously Hermione. I’m not an idiot.”

Hermione frowned. “And they just accepted. That’s very odd.”

Harry grinned and reached for a goblet. “The Ndiaye’s are very superstitious which is rooted in magical awareness. I told him to listen to his magic and it would tell him the right course of action.”

Hermione shrugged. She didn't have the time nor the energy that she once did to get upset about something like this. If it worked in their favour she couldn't complain. “Well, that’s a win for us. Oh my, though. Being taught by Etana Ndiaye is a great honor.”

“Being wallopped by her is slightly less one.”

Hermione had giggled and ate her oatmeal perusing her study guide. Ron sat down next to her and grabbed an apple. After taking a bite and chewing it he bumped Hermione with his shoulder.

“We need to train.”

Hermione looked up and then looked over at Harry whose eyebrows rose. “He’s not wrong. These bodies need to be strong enough to wield the magic we need.”

“Ok,” Hermione said slowly. “We’ll start training in the RoR tonight.”

Harry grinned. “Ready for some pain Granger?”

“You wish Potter,” Hermione countered putting her study guide away and standing up. Every Tuesday at the ministry Harry and Hermione would meet early to have a training session. The war had been too ingrained in their psyches and so they felt they always needed to be prepared. Ron occasionally joined but wasn’t much of a morning person. He did keep his fitness though playing Quidditch on the weekends and running with Pansy every other day.

Ron spared a glance at the Prophet that sat on the table in front of him. Umbridge had tried to hex Fudge when he claimed he had nothing to do with her methods and both were taken into custody after a particularly sloppily duel which had injured three other people. Apparently neither Umbridge or Fudge was a great shot with their wands. Scrimmager had been appointed in Fudge's stead.

“So, I guess we get to see Professor is like first up huh?”

Harry scrambled up out of his seat and followed Hermione and Ron out of the Great hall, Ron taking noisy bites from his apple.

“Speaking of Ndiaye, any thoughts on how we revitalize the ministry without setting foot in it?” Harry asked.

Hermione hummed as they started up the staircase. “Ndiaye is the senior undersecretary so there's a start. Scrimmager while virtually useless is ok. Easily bendable to suggestions. We’ll have to look at key players in the departments and see if we can set a few balls in motion.”

"Udo will keep anything too extreme from getting into Scrimmager's ear," Harry murmured as they came upon the classroom. They had been early to breakfast and as such early to DADA. All three leant against the stone wall with Hermione leaning her head on Harry's shoulders as they waited for the other students to arrive. She was still wiped from the Umbridge incident and was trying to take it easy, although the pepper up potion Madam Pomprey thrust into her hand after her check-up that morning had helped immensely.
"I wonder what useless person they got for DADA now? At this point the squib m\and his stupid cat might be the only candidates."

Hermione peered around Harry and Ron to see Draco and his little squad walking up the stairs and chuckling at his snide remarks. She let out a huff of disappointment. He was so much more relevant in the future and less of a dick. Harry chuckled and patted her hand. "Don't fret, Etana will pull him into line nicely."

"One can only hope," she muttered as the door to the classroom opened and they all filed in.

The DADA classroom had been transformed. Gone were the traditional desk and chairs and in their place were large cushions and grass mats. There were enormous canvases on the wall depicting figures in various forms of duelling positions. Hermione spied a bunch of spears leaning against a far wall and frowned in confusion. Were they for decoration or would they be used for teaching? She knew Etana only from her professional portfolio and had no idea of her teaching style. She glanced at Harry who was grinning madly his eyes on the African Graphorn skull that adorned the wall nearest to where the professor's desk should have been. Professor Ndiaye closed the door, walked over to a small stool and surveyed the class as they haltingly took in her classroom.

“Please take a seat.”

Hermione glanced warily at the cushion but quickly copied Harry and Ron who had immediately sprawled out looking very comfortable and relaxed. As the other students followed suit, the Slytherins sneering at sitting on the floor, Hermione took the time to look closer at the famous Etana. She was tall, her long limbs seemed to lope in a way that reminded Hermione of a lion. Her skin was the color of burnt sienna that seemed to glow even under the low light of the classroom. She had no hair, her scalp smoothing to a strong brow, brown thoughtful eyes and a straight nose. Her lips were full and Hermione saw a flash of a canine as she smiled down at her class.

“My name is Professor Ndiaye. I am from Senegal in Africa and I am an instructor at Uagadou School of Magic.”

Her voice echoed around the room and Hermione noted the deepness of her accent, her infliction changing some of the vowel sounds. She realized she enjoyed the sound of her voice as much as she enjoyed the sound of Severus' voice. Professor Ndiaye stood and took a step closer to the students.

“I am a dual master at Uagadou and train students to become proficient in fighting.”

“Yes!” Seamus said shaking his fist. Professor Ndiaye smirked at him and he quailed momentarily the incidence with Umbridge still fresh in his mind.

“I welcome free speech within my classroom. I have no time for hand waving. As long as you are respectful and listen first you may speak as you please.”

The other students looked at each other in awe. The professor sighed.

“You English are so strange. You are here to learn how to fight, correct?”

Everyone murmured in agreement.

“And do you wave your hand in battle waiting to be heard?”

“Wait? So, you think there will be a battle?” Lavender asked.

“There is always a battle. You must always be ready. A lion may spend his days in the sun but one day there will be a hyena and he will need to be able to defend himself and his pride. You need to be like a lion.”

“Well we are Gryffindor's,” Seamus smirked over at the Slytherins who snarled back.

“No,” the professor snapped fiercely causing the class to flinch. “You are not your houses. They matter little on the battlefield. Do not fall into the trap that you can trust those who grew with you and not those who understand you.”

Everyone except the trio frowned at this wondering what she was actually getting at. Ndiaye huffed and then clapped her hands.

“We will begin with where you currently stand. Who has mastered a kinesis?”

Silence.

“Amplication? Limitation?”

Students were now looking at each other with confusion. Even the Trio had never heard of those applications. Professor Ndiaye looked concerned as she stared out at the class.

“Please tell me you have at least mastered deflection? Adherence?”

Everyone was looking more and more confused at the terms she was using but Hermione slowly raised her hand. Professor Ndiaye frowned at the hand.

“Sorry,” Hermione muttered putting her hand down. “I um...I've mastered pyrokinesis.”

Ndiaye's eyes lit up. “Really! Very good come up. Let us give the class a demonstration since they seem so confused.”

Hermione got up and stood next to her professor who looked down at her with expectation. Slowly Hermione raised her hand and held it out in front of her. From the corner of her eye, she could see Malfoy sniggering into Pansy's ear. She gathered her magic and with a snap of her fingers brought forth her bluebell flames.

Ndiaye clapped. “Very good. Now do another part.”

Hermione looked up in confusion. “Another part?”

“Of your body.”

“I'm afraid I don’t understand.”

Ndiaye sighed again before stepping away from Hermione. She kicked off her shoes leaving her barefoot. Her dark pants ended just below her knees; her vest tied with a low sash that swayed as she moved. Suddenly she started stomping. Hermione stared at her perplexed and noticed most of her class were looking skeptical as well. Suddenly her feet burst into flames and Hermione let out a cry as she moved away. The closest students also scuttled back at the sight of the woman with her feet encased in flames. Ndiaye took a fighting stance and smiled at the classroom. The fire didn’t even seem to bother her as it licked at her calves and encased her feet.

“See? Pyrokinesis is about full control of fire.” A ball of flame seemed to climb up her leg and torso seemingly ignoring the very flammable pieces of clothing and danced down her arm until it encased her whole fist. Hermione's eyes widened as she watched the witch manipulate the fire in ways, she didn’t know was even possible.

“Not all can control the fire. Some can for a little while. Some will control other elements. But all should be able to limit fire damage done to one's body. If you study and work hard.”

Ndiaye turned to Hermione holding out her burning fist to her. “You already control the heat, now control the form, the direction.”

Hermione hesitated before allowing the ball of flame to fall into her hands. It wasn’t as hot as her bluebell and as she concentrated on the little ball it climbed up her arm and settled on her shoulder. So amazed she was, that she lost her concentration and the ball snuffed out. She looked over at Harry and Ron in amazement who were smiling at her proudly their attention just as piqued as the rest of the class, even the Slytherins were staring in awe.

She couldn’t help the grin that spread across her face. When was the last time she had felt the flush of new magic? Magic had always come easily to her but she grew bored easily once mastered. This, however, this infused her with excitement and she flushed with pleasure. Ndyiae kicked her feet and the flames went out.

She turned and looked over at Hermione. “You will be tired later but we will work on your endurance.” She turned to her class and clapped her hands again and the fires went out. “Right class since you are so far behind, we will start with the basics: Amplification and Limitation.”

Chapter Text

“I honestly don’t understand it!” Minerva huffed as she stirred her tea. “Both of them!”

Filius made a mew of commiseration as he reached for another biscuit. “Did they give a reason?”

“Well of course they did. Of sorts. Weasley said he didn’t deserve it and wanted to earn his accomplishments.”

“That's mature of the boy,” Pomona remarked putting down her quill and glancing at the room. The other heads were in various forms of relaxation as the day had ended finally and the students were tucked away in their dorms. The prefects were currently patrolling and in two hours' time, the professors would do the last sweep before retiring to their own chambers.

Two weeks into the school year had seen enough excitement Minerva decided. First, that blasted woman and the ministry sticking their nose in Hogwarts business. Then the sorting hats ominous warning. A student nearly dying at the hands of that sadistic pink blob of a woman! Her best student at that. Thankfully good came out of the awful experience and the evil witch was booted from the school and landed herself in Azkaban for hexing the minister. The new DADA professor was nice enough if a little strange and the students had been quite excited about her lessons seemingly.

“And Miss Granger?” Filius asked as he dunked the biscuit into his steaming tea.

Severus who had been marking his own papers looked up, strangely interested in the answer. The trio was still acting odd and Severus had been no closer to working out what they were up to. The incident with Umbridge had been concerning. When he had been summoned by Minerva's very panicked Patronus he had sprinted to the DADA room to find Umbridge trussed up like a turkey and Granger in a pool of her own blood and close to fainting.

Minerva was trying to push an excitable Rita Skeeter out of the room and Severus barely questioned what she was doing at Hogwarts in the first place before turning to his student.

He had knelt by Grangers' side, lifted her head and quickly administered a blood replenisher. Being a potion master, he always had the essentials on his self. Her eyes fluttered open and there was an odd expression that flittered across her face before she closed her eyes again. Poppy had entered tutting angrily when she understood the situation and had vanished the blood while she had healed Grangers' hand.

Afterward when Granger had been safely tucked up in the hospital ward and there was no one about Severus had returned. He had stared down at her sleeping form as his mind whirred. Umbridge had been arrested for child endangerment and Albus was now seeking a replacement for her. Severus had a feeling that was too convenient. Looking down at the Gryffindor he thought her too innocent but something tweaked in his mind.

Had the young witch actually set the pink bitch up?

He hadn't thought her that cleaver or devious but now...now he was looking at all the factors that had led to this outcome. They were only a week into the school year as well. Granger knew something and had acted on it.

“What are you doing Miss Granger?” he had murmured to her prone form before spinning and stalking out of the room.

Severus' mind snapped back to the present as Minerva threw her hands into the air at Filius’s question. “That's the thing. She didn’t give a reason per-say. Just said she didn’t want it.”

“I thought she wanted to be Head Girl? Does she know without being a prefect she can't be Head Girl?”

Unless you’re James Potter.

Severus clenched his jaw at the thought of the dead marauder. Minerva sniffed and took a sip of her tea before answering.

“Of course, she does. Didn’t even blink when I explained it to her. Very odd.”

“She’s a bit apathetic in my classes too,” Pomona added.

Minerva looked over at the plump witch as she set aside an essay. “Really Pomona?”

“Yes, seems to just be going through the motions. Still remarkable results but not very interested. Like she’s done this before.”

“Now that you say that she is a bit lethargic in charms. Mr. Weasley though...he has surpassed Miss Granger surprisingly.”

Severus scoffed. “I bet they're tiffing right now. The girl hates being outshone.”

Filius, however, shook his head. “On the contrary Severus, she seems quite pleased with him. Oh dear,” he muttered staring into his tea where half of his biscuit had landed with a plop.

Severus sat back steepled his fingers and mentally reviewed his last classes with the trio. True his attention had been more on Potter and Weasley then the know-it-all but he did realize she was following the same pattern in his class. Her hand wasn’t stretching up to the heavens and waving furiously like she had done previous years. In fact, she had not answered a question at all.

The next day he stood before the trio in question and stared down at the Granger girl. She didn’t seem at all phased by him and blinked slowly back. He lifts his lip into a sneer before turning to his dais.

“Today we will be brewing an elixir to induce Euphoria.”

The scramble of panic was relished by Severus as the students grabbed at their textbooks and searched for the potion in question. Severus spun around and glared down at them.

“You will find this is not on the syllabus for this year however I wish to see how many of you will be ready for advanced potion making next year. What are the side effects of this potion?”

Everyone looked up at him with a blank face. Suppressing a sigh, he turned his attention to Miss Granger thinking her hand would be waving in the air. His gaze caught the hand and then he frowned when he saw who was attached to it. He struggled not to roll his eyes.

“Mr. Weasley you may not go to the toilet.”

Ron put his hand down. “Uh... no sir. The side effects of this potion are excessive singing and nose tweaking.”

It took a few seconds for Severus to realize the boy had actually answered the question. And correctly at that. Had he ever answered a question correctly in his entire time at Hogwarts? Not in his class that was sure. He glared at the boy who didn’t even have the audacity to wilt under his stare. The boy was obviously cheating. There was no-

-Except he wouldn’t have known Severus was going to pick that potion to quiz them. It was a NEWTS potion. Severus stepped around his dais and moved closer to the trio. Potter was sitting up straight his attention on the professor. His eyes darted to Miss Granger. She was resting her chin on her hand and looking at him with interest but without the zeal, he was used to. She still looked pale, Severus thought worriedly and then shook his head. Since when did he worry about a Gryffindor? He focused on Weasley who had his head cocked as if waiting for something.

“Very well, Mister Weasley. Name the color changes?”

Weasley's brow furrowed for a second. “Red, turquoise, blue, yellow, blue, purple, brown, pink, orange and finally yellow.”

Severus struggled to keep his shock in check. “Finally managed to crack a book, Weasley?”

Weasley grinned. “Yes, sir.”

“Tell me then Weasley since you have become an expert seemingly overnight. What is the step before adding the sopophorous beans?”

“Four anti-clockwise stirs sir,” he answered without missing a beat. The little bastard was even being civil. Suddenly Potter's hand rose. Severus frowned. “What is it?”

“Sir, I’d add a sprig of peppermint after the stirs.”

Severus felt something inside him flinch. As far as he knew he was the only one to discover that particular deviation from the potion years ago. How had the boy come to that conclusion? Ron was looking at Harry in confusion before it cleared. “Oh, to counteract the side effects. Clever Harry.”

What the ever-loving fuck was going on?

“If you are done clucking like hens we could perhaps return to the lesson.”

His eyes settled on Granger who was watching the events unfold with interest but wasn’t the least bit surprised by her little friends' contributions. She turned her gaze on him and her lips lifted in what seemed like a friendly smile.

Merlin's hairy testicle.

Potter and Weasley suddenly interested in potions and Granger smiling at him.

“Did that just honestly happen?” Draco asked Parkinson who shrugged wide-eyed as they collected their ingredients. “Is the world going to pot?”

Severus glanced over at the trio to find Weasley instructing Granger on how to cut her shrivelfig who was nodding seriously.

Yes, Draco. The world is indeed going to pot.

Chapter Text

The days settled into some kind of chaotic rhythm and Hermione found herself bored with the repetition of her usual classes and excited at what she is learning in DADA. Harry and Ron shared her enthusiasm to varying degrees but agreed that it was now one of the best classes they’d had at Hogwarts. Their personal training upped once they reached a comfortable baseline and Hermione was pleased when her magic stretched more agreeably within her. Her kinetic training had progressed nicely as well and now she was able to spark enough friction within her hair to light it. The end result was a fiery ring of burning curls that was both frightening to behold and majestic in its own way. Ron had remarked that she looked like a flaming medusa and Hermione had smugly reminded him about her Animagus form and how close he actually was to the truth.

Harry nor Ron didn’t have a kinetic power despite learning well under Ndiaye's tutelage. Neither seemed too upset and when Hermione had questioned the two Harry had shrugged and decided the Horcrux would probably be the culprit and he would try again when they had properly dispatched with Tom. Ron was quite content not to have to deal with too many magical applications.

The classes were met with much enthusiasm by the students. There was no theory. Professor Ndiaye lectured yes but she thought you learned better by doing and so classes began to become inclusive. Students were now actively practicing and teaching one another. Even the Slytherins had thawed a bit eager to learn foreign magic.

Ron, however, had seemed very interested in one DADA lesson in particular and then promptly disappeared to the library. When Hermione asked what got him in a tizzy, he had opened a book he obviously borrowed from the library and pointed to the chapter in question. Hermione's eyes widened with the implications.

“Can you do this?”

Ron thought a little. “I think so. I’ll start practicing tonight. But it means we can-”

“Not here Ron,” Hermione hissed glancing around the common room. There were a few older students still milling around. “But you’re right. It could give us an opportunity to turn the war in our favor sooner rather than later.”

Harry suddenly stumbled into the common room his eyes wide as he slammed the portrait shut.

“Detention couldn't have been that bad Harry,” Ron remarked closing the book and setting it aside. Snape had given Harry detention for being too agreeable. Which would have been poor form if Harry hadn’t agreed with his assessment and Snape had thought him to be mocking his professor.

Hermione felt a shiver of fear creep up her spine as Harry cast a privacy spell and settled in the chair next to them. Harry shook his head.

“No, I dusted the portraits on the fourth-floor hall with Finch.”

Ron looked confusingly at Hermione. “Not bad. What's got you upset then?”

“You know how those portraits have little blurbs explaining their deaths?”

Both Ron and Hermione nodded.

“Maggie Frine died in 1765 from the sudden onset of magical maturation. I’d never heard of it before.”

“Neither have I,” Hermione muttered.

“Yeah well I asked her and she said her father was an Unspeakable in the Time Room. She had inadvertently played with time sand when he had brought a few time turners home to experiment with.”

Hermione's hands went to her mouth to stop the gasp. Ron still looked perplexed. Hermione turned to Ron to explain.

“The time sand in its raw form had matured her magical core and her body was still that of an underage witch.”

Ron shook his head. “I still don’t understand.”

“There's a reason why time sand is confined to the time turners, Ron. It messes with time. Raw time sand without the charms the timepiece provides can age certain parts of you while other parts remain young or worse become younger,”

“Eww, so you could have old lady titties?”

“Ron! Focus!” Harry snapped and Ron looked abashed. “It means that anyone who has a magical core that is too mature for their body could potentially die.”

Ron shrugged unconcernedly and then shot up. “We have magical cores that are too mature for our bodies.”

Harry nodded. “We could die. Hermione? Can you do the equations? Find out how much time we have.”

Hermione nodded and rushed up to her dormitory without a backward glance.

Ron looked pale and gulped. “What can we do?”

Harry thought about this for a moment. “There's a permanent aging potion that Hermione can brew. It’s costly and dangerous but it's probably the only way we can survive a maturation. It's also not enjoyable to take.”

“What do you mean?

“Bedbound for two weeks. From what I've read it can be painful.”

“Fuck! Just when we think we’ve caught a break,” Ron muttered sitting back and crossing his arms.

“This is a break, Ron! Can you imagine if we didn’t catch this? At least we know now.”

Ron frowned and stared into the fire. “Are you saying we have been forewarned?”

“Thinking of everything that has happened, I think magic has been subtly manipulating things to help us.”

“That's ...both concerning and comforting.”

Harry nodded and both of them fell into silence thinking of the ramifications of this event and the others before it. Magic before had been something they wielded and used at their whim. Now it seemed that magic had a bit more...consciousness about it. How much consciousness worried at the trio as they readied themselves for the following day.

Chapter Text

He was watching her. Every time she turned a corner he was there. And while a small part was thrilled that his dark eyes were on her the more logical part was concerned with what he was learning while watching her.

Oh, she and the boys had been very careful, but one could never be too careful around the spy.

The good news was they had time before they needed to take the potion that would age them to a point their magical core was comfortable with. And it sat within the time frame of the end of the year and their new quest to reboot the ley lines. It would be close but doable. Hermione couldn’t imagine explaining to their elders how all three of them had suddenly been inflicted with a sickness that aged them a few years. Such a sickness didn’t exist nor did the potion for that matter.

Thankfully Harry could pay for the potion ingredients they needed and none were illegal. Just expensive.

She rounded the corner on her way to the library and smacked into a very solid form. Her eyes traveled upwards ignoring the buttons and settled on his face. Gods would there ever be a time when her belly didn’t swoop at his stare. He seemed to pull himself taller and glared down at her.

“Well, well, well. Miss Granger? Why are you not cheering on your paramour? I believe it is his first match.”

Hermione struggled to keep her eyes from rolling out of her head. Today was the Slytherin vs Gryffindor match and it was Rons ‘first’ match as keeper. Both Hermione and Harry had quietly sung ‘Weasley is our King’ at breakfast that morning much to Ron's amusement. Ron looked much more relaxed then he had the first time round and Harry had remarked on it.

“It’s a kids game, Harry. Plus, I already know all the plays.” He had stopped then and cocked his head. “Would that be cheating?”

Hermione had shrugged. “Who cares. It’s a kid's game!”

“Hermione!” Harry had gasped jokingly. “You bad witch, you!”

They all burst into laughter ignoring the looks the Slytherins were sending them.

“He will never be my paramour, sir. And quidditch isn't my cup of tea,” she answered with a wrinkle of her nose. “Ron has enough support and I know he’ll do well.”

“We are talking about the same Mr. Weasley are we not?”

She smiled. “You’ll be surprised at what Ron can do sir.”

He seemed to consider her words.

“I’m researching for my charms essay, sir. I’ll be in the library most of the afternoon.”

Professor Snape hummed and Hermione got the feeling he didn’t believe her. Or he was stalling her. For what reason, she didn’t know nor wanted to contemplate. She didn’t need her stupid teenage body getting ahead of its self in regards to the man in front of her. Despite having a consciousness of 25-year-old, her brain and body were still sitting pretty at 17.

“You can check with Madam Prince.”

He unfolded his arms. “Trust me, Miss Granger, I will be.”

He swept past her and Hermione fought the instinct to follow him with his nose. She was not some insipid lovestruck witchling anymore. She was grown and could control her feelings to a suitable standard. She closed her eyes to center herself before continuing onto the library.

She nodded to Madam Prince who replied similarly back and made her way to her regular seat. She was not however researching charms. No, she was trying to find a way of keeping Nagini contained without Tom being able to sense her. They have yet to destroy a single Horcrux as they knew that each destruction caused Tom to become unstable and they didn’t want to risk that. Or risk Severus life any more than it already was at risk.

With that thought, she glumly pulled out her parchment and quills before starting her search. Hours later and multiple parchments filled with short script Hermione stretched and wandlessly returned the book back to the stacks.

“Been busy then?”

Hermione turned around and grinned at Harry and Ron still in their quidditch robes. “How’d it go?”

“Well I didn’t suffer a lifelong ban and Ron saved all the shots.”

Ron grimaced. “We’re playing against kids. I mean there's some talent but when you’ve played practice matches with some of the Harpies...”

Harry slugged an arm around Ron's shoulders. “Doesn't matter mate. Let's go see Hagrid. He’s returned from...well he’s going to need a bit of care.”

Hermione started packing her things up and slipped her bag over her shoulder. “Well, at least I don’t have to do his lesson plans this time around.”

They stomped down to Hagrid's hut and managed to convince him that Ron could clean him up a bit by making out that he needed the practice. Hagrid had seemed confused when they hadn't started demanding what had happened but was content to have the trio catch him up on the news of Hogwarts.

Chapter Text

December arrived, bringing with it more snow and a positive avalanche of homework for the fifth years. Ron and Hermione were inordinately pleased to no longer have prefect duties as they now spent all their free time in the Room of Requirement setting up the terrarium that would soon house Nagini. They had decided to follow Newt Scamander's lead and create a suitcase that had an undetectable extension charm upon it.

Hermione needed Ron's help with setting up the Atmospheric charms and creating an environment that was suitable for the large snake. They also needed to charm an environment for suitable prey so Nagini would not starve. Ron thought it a bit odd to feed a creature that was doom to die but he also felt strange starving her. Hermione had reminded him that they needed to destroy the Horcrux's at a specific time and as awful as it was there was no getting around it. They weren't cold-blooded killers after all.

Harry would have nothing to do with this part as they were trying to keep his magical signature separate from Toms. Instead, Harry was training up Ginny to take over the seeker position much to the shock of Gryffindor as a whole. Nothing anyone could say would convince him otherwise and they had given up trying knowing how stubborn he could be when his mind was set on something. Ginny had been pleased that he had chosen her and then excited when he told her he would be training her. Harry though was extremely amused to be teaching his future wife her own tricks that would one day see her play first string for the Harpies.

“Are you sure we should do this Hermione?” Ron asked her as she stepped out of what could have passed off as the jungles of Indonesia.

“Ron you saw our calculations. This would...advance our timeline significantly.”

Ron stared down at the parchment he was currently writing on. He was trying to perfect a specific dampening field for the entire terrarium and a charm that would keep the snake brain engaged and the two souls subdued so no communication would occur through her and her master.

“Then we should tell Harry. This is very dangerous. He should know.”

Hermione lifted her wand and applied a misting charm over the jungle. “I want to...I do. But you know how Harry is with dangerous missions.”

Ron sighed and nodded. “This waveform isn't sitting balanced. I need to stabilize it before the dampening field can be erected safely,” he muttered to himself angrily slashing at the parchment. He looked up. “He’s going to be very angry with us, you know.”

Hermione sheathed her wand and sighed. “I know.”

****

Later that night saw Hermione under the invisibility cloak and fiercely ripping a hole into the Ministry's wards. She had spent too long disabling the warning systems to give a care of how messy it looked. She would fix it up on her way out.

As she emerged from a cloakroom on the second floor, she took a quick breath before sprinting to the elevators. Thankful that almost everyone had gone home and no one was in the elevator she took a moment to collect herself for what she was about to do.

Honestly, she was scared shitless.

She had had nightmares about Nagini for years after the war. Some of them involved Harry being attacked at Godrics Hollows. Others were running from her in the Battle of Hogwarts. But the ones that caused her the most stress were the ones where she attacked and killed Severus. She would wake up screaming his name, her body slick with sweat and her heart pounding. Realizing where she was, alone in her apartment, she would then lie back down and let the tears come.

The cool air of the Department of Mysteries met her as she crept out of the elevator. She eyeballed the Time Room before hurrying to the entrance of the Hall of Prophecies. Checking it was clear of all except Arthur Weasley who was exactly where he was supposed to be Hermione had crept in.

Making her way to a small disillusioned alcove in the far west of the room Hermione hunkered in and began her vigil. The Ministry at night was not somewhere she liked, to be honest. Though her future self had done many a late night trying to get her laws passed she didn’t really spend that time in the lower levels. The cold seeped into her bones and the light from the prophecies cast an eerie light on the room making her shudder.

She pulled her galleon coin from her pocket and shot a message to Ron. Arthur made his way past her on his perimeter check. His wand was raised high and he seemed tense. Hermione held her breath as his eyes roved past her and he carried on. The coin warmed in her grasp and Hermione peered down at it.

It’s starting.

Harry had spent the afternoon in deep meditation pulling up mental wards to protect his defenses. He would have to lower some of them enough for a connection with Nagini but keep her from seeing anything of importance. Ron would be keeping watch over him and once he started to show signs, he would contact Hermione.

She stowed the galleon and stood up. Taking a big breath and pushing her fear into a compartment with the help of her own mental defenses Hermione twisted and became a giant King cobra.

Being an Animagus was difficult. Minerva had had plenty of years of practice subduing certain instincts that it had become second nature to her. Hermione didn’t. Not only that some animals were easier to control. A tabby cat had few dangerous instincts that could be easily overcome whereas a king cobra was all instinct and dangerous intent. When she had first turned, she had been scared and ashamed. She was a Gryffindor in the body of a snake for merlin's sake. What did that say about her?

Her guide had been her department superior who had been most impressed and extremely confused at her lack of excitement. She had wanted Hermione to practice but Hermione was loathed to do so. She hated the feeling of being a snake, hated the feeling of moving within the skin of an animal that had killed someone she...had affection for.

She had practiced though because she was Hermione Granger, though every time, she returned to her human form she was on her knees retching and sobbing as her superior tried to calm her. She still had trouble with it. Still couldn’t fully suppress the snake's brain but now that wasn’t a negative.

She slithered from her alcove and immediately froze. Her tongue tasted the air noting a human (Arthur Weasley a part of her brain supplied) and... prey. She glided along the stone floor her body tensing and flexing as it moved across the uneven floor.

Vibrations through the floor told her another snake was moving and had obviously found its own prey. That was good. With its focus on its prey, it wouldn’t even realize it was being stalked. Her eyes found it before long. Nagini was lying in wait as Arthur was coming up the middle aisle completely unaware of how much danger he was in. Hermione was a little way off Nagini but could reach her quick enough.

Her tongue flickered again as she watched Arthur pause. King Cobras had excellent eyesight and could see almost as well as a human could in the low light. Nagini was essentially blind leaving her to rely on vibration and her scent reciprocators.

Hermione flexed her upper mouth muscles encouraging venom to start flowing into and through her fangs. She just had to get one good bite. She wouldn’t be able to kill the magically augmented snake with her venom though she wouldn’t be immune to the effects of it.

Nagini’s head turned to Arthurs' footsteps and at that moment Hermione struck. Her long body propelled her rapidly until she was sinking her fangs into the scales of Nagini’s back. Nagini whipped around in surprise and pain and hissed, rearing up to strike at the predator. Hermione felt the venom oozing through her fangs like hypodermic needles into Nagini’s body.

Hermione ripped her head away before Nagini could strike. She reared up, opening her hood in a display of dominance and making her seem bigger than she was. Nagini tried to strike again but Hermione struck first, sinking her fangs once more through Nagini’s scales.

A cry echoed dimly through Hermione's snake brain and she realized Arthur must have seen them now. She could feel him running away and focused all her effort on the battle at hand.

Nagini was not finished yet. The snake lashed its tail and her body started coiling around Hermione's larger one. Hermione felt her body start to be constricted and she struggled not to panic. This had been one of her nightmares and now it was coming true. Her snake brain was solely focused on its meal, not at all concerned with its potential death and Hermione fought to let it do its job. It would be disastrous if she changed back now.

The tightening continued until it was starting to become painful. She flexed her mouth and pumped more venom into Nagini desperately.

Come on. Come on.

Nagini suddenly relaxed and Hermione knew her toxins were now flooding Nagini’s nervous systems. In just moments she would begin to feel very dizzy and then sleepy.

Finally, Nagini's body completely slackened and Hermione was able to disengage and slide out of her grip. She reared her body back and looked around using her other senses to let her know she was still alone. With a twist, she returned to her normal form and looked down at the snake that was now in the midst of paralysis.

She desperately wanted to cry. To heave and vomit until her stomach hurt. To crawl into bed and pretend none of that had happened. But she still had a mission to complete and she could fall apart later. Violently pulling up her shields she got to work.

Chapter Text

Hermione had come back and settled Nagini into her terrarium and then sought Ron out before breaking down. He had held as she cried and dry heaved in his arms before she had taken a calming drought and made her way to bed. Not five minutes later Minerva had burst through the common room portrait and announced Arthur Weasley had been admitted to Mungos for quite a scare. She went up to tell his siblings who had all stumbled into the common room demanding answers. Minerva had told them she would be talking to Dumbledore about getting them home early for Christmas and left them to it.

The proceeding 10 minutes were spent in confused anger until they were yelling over the top of each other. Ron sighed as he struggled not to lose his temper, his nerves already frayed. Watching Harry and then worrying and dealing with Hermione had given him a migraine. He, unlike his siblings, knew exactly what would have happened if they had not interfered and while he could understand their fear, Arthur was not recovering from a snake attack just the shock of witnessing one.

Ron had stood up and bellowed at them that their father was physically fine and they should all get ready to leave the following day. He ignored their faces as he stalked back to his own room and fell asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow.

The next morning Ron woke early and explained how the night went to Harry who grimly went to check on Hermione. He then made his way to the library intent on finishing his essays before the holiday. He had settled into a desk near the window and started with his potion's homework.

A few minutes later Ron looked up and smiled as Pansy smoothly settled into the seat next to him.

“Weasley.”

“Parkinson.”

Silence enveloped on them as Pansy opened her bag and pulled out a few sheets of parchment. Grabbing a ridiculously pretentious eagle feather as well, she dipped it casually into Ron’s ink well and started writing.

“Will you be running again tomorrow?”

For the past few months, Ron had been getting up early and running around the lake. It was something he had done almost daily after his break up with Hermione and he liked how it kept him trim and his mind at peace. He had expressed his like of it one night to Pansy who had laughed and said she ran every morning when she had been at Hogwarts to clear her head. From then on they had been running partners.

When he had first encountered her running early one morning, in this second life, she had narrowed her eyes in suspicion at him and ran ahead intent on ignoring him. Slowly though she had come to running next to him as he was quiet and ran at a good pace. They began talking in small amounts and before long Pansy was actually looking forward to spending time with the Gryffindor much to her shock. Pansy would never admit that she thought he was actually intelligent and acted like a complete gentleman. Unlike Draco.

With Draco there was always a need to impress him, to prove she was just as good as him, to prove she was worthy of him. And no matter how hard she tried she always fell short and he would ignore her when he saw fit. With Ron it almost like she could actually relax and be herself. Almost. She was still a Slytherin and a small part of her constantly reminded her that this may be a trap and to be wary.

Of course, their...relationship...if you could call it that, was kept secret. Pansy didn’t know what to do in regards to Ronald Weasley. He was poor, a blood traitor and friends with the enemy. But he was also kind and patient and there were times when he would look into her eyes and she just wanted to...melt. She'd never felt that way with anyone before and she had no idea what to do about it.

So, they would meet for their runs and occasionally when the coast was clear she would sit with him in the library where he now spent a large amount of his free time in.

Ron almost smirked. Her eyes were still on the parchment and she was trying to affect an aura of nonchalance. But he knew Pansy better. Her jaw was tense, her left leg crossed tightly over her right, and her posture a little too tight.

“I don’t know. If a certain sweet witch were to join me?”

She hissed and rounded on him all cold fury. “I am not sweet.”

“Who said I was talking about you?”

She blinked, surprised he had caught her out. Ron had been friends with Pansy for almost five years and they had been lovers for the last two of them. She had rubbed off on him and he knew almost all of her idiosyncrasies and quirks. He’d even bet he could play the Slytherin better than she could.

“You had better be talking about me,” she muttered her eyes flickering away and Ron saw her some of her insecurities rear up in her posture. Pansy Parkinson may have been a bitch in school but there were reasons for that. Her mother was a right monster, dangling affection and love like a carrot and her father was constantly berating her for not being good enough for their family name. So, she had grown up suppressing her emotions and scared of any type of tenderness.

He caught her chin pinching it lightly and leaned closer to her, her mint breath covering his face. Her eyes widened at his audacity.

“There's only one witch I would even bother about.”

“If you say Granger,” she snarled her jealousy winning over her Slytherin personality.

His mouth was suddenly on hers and he silenced any further snarks. He knew exactly how to kiss Pansy Parkinson, how to curl her toes and leave her exquisitely breathless. He nibbled at her bottom lip until she tentatively opened her mouth and allowed his tongue to meet her own. She moaned as he tilted his head just so and coaxed her tongue to follow into his mouth.

As quickly as it started, it ended with her pushing him back. Ron could see her brain in overdrive as her sea green eyes were blown wide in shock. She stared at him. He patiently waited for her to do something. Anything.

She didn’t understand. She couldn’t fathom his attraction to her or her attraction to him. Why would he kiss her? And by all the gods could he kiss. Why would he flirt or even want to spend time with her? He was too gangly, too red, his hair cropped too short. But there was something underneath that just pulled at Pansy. An easy confidence that had nothing to do with his Gryffindor leanings. Sometimes when he talked...there was such maturity there. Such strength. And when she talked, he would actively listen, like he was actually interested in what she had to say. And there were times when he would turn his eyes to her and she would catch a look that she could only describe as affectionate.

She struggled not to lick her lips, to taste him again and instead turned her body away from his and sniffed. “You have some nerve Weasley,” she snapped and she could see him shrug and grin.

“I'm a gryff, P.”

They both returned to their work, Pansy confused and Ron smug. He knew she wasn’t ready for anything just yet. Hell, he was more then uncomfortable with the thought of dating her when she was so young. But giving her a taste of how great they were together wouldn’t hurt and by the time they had both properly matured, she may be ready to engage in an actual relationship.

“Oh. I’m sorry P. I can't go running tomorrow.”

“And why not?” Pansy snapped not moving her eyes from her writing. She was bewildered with the turn of events and mystified why how relaxed Ron was.

“My father is in St Mungos and we’ll be heading home early.”

Pansy looked up unsure of how to handle his explanation. “Oh.”

Ron starting packing up. “Actually, I had better get going. I’ll see you after the holidays ok? Merry Christmas Pansy.”

He leaned down and kissed her temple before making his way out of the library.

“Merry Christmas Ron,” she whispered to an empty room.

Chapter Text

Christmas was for once quiet and without any major stress-induced situations to solve. They had all decided to relax a bit and enjoy the little time they had left with their extended family and friends. Soon everything would be ramping up again and they needed to decompress before that happened.

It wasn’t all stress-free for Hermione though. The night after Christmas had seen her anxiously waiting in the shadows of Grimmauld Place. She had known from Ministry reports after the war that Tom held a revel on Boxing Day and that year Severus had been tortured for some unknown slight. Poppy had records stating he had gone to Grimmauld Place in search of the Headmaster before finally coming to her to be healed. Albus had a habit of arriving very late in the night in the hopes of remaining distant from Harry and so the spy had just missed him. Albus had gone on to meet with Minerva at her seasonal home.

And so Hermione began her vigil unsure if he would actually show considering they had made significant changes within the timeline already. Sure enough, just after midnight, he had stumbled in.

“The Headmaster is not here,” she said wincing as he jerked in shock and then let out a hiss of pain. His eyes found her sitting on the stairs looking up at him with a blank face. He swayed before catching himself on the balustrade.

“You want me to heal you or not?”

“Not,” he sneered and started for the door.

“You stupid fool,” she seethed as she stood up. He spun around, rage in his eyes as he stood over her. Hermione tilted her chin up and squared her shoulders.

“I'm not scared of you.”

He sneered down at her. “You should be, you little insolent brat.”

“You are the one who is injured and acting like a child.”

He blinked slowly at her and her eyes widened with realization. “Are you drunk?” That had not been in the reports.

“So what if I am?” he said slowly enunciating each word carefully as to not slur them.

“Child,” she muttered with a smile. His lips lifted and he quirked an eyebrow at her. He seemed to be considering her and Hermione was content to wait despite itching to heal him.

“How good are you at stitching spells?”

“Better than Madam Pomphrey,” she said imperiously. It was true. With the war and the aftermath, she had become adept at stitching wounds. As a muggle-born, she had researched muggle techniques and perfected it to a standard above the mediwitches ability.

He scoffed but pointed to the den. “Very well. Lead on.”

He had stripped himself of his robes, flinging them across the chair with a ridiculous flourish before pulling his frock coat off and unbuttoning his shirt. Hermione tried desperately from keeping her brain from melting at the sight of so much skin. She chose to focus on his wounds her eyes tracing to large slices across his stomach that was bleeding heavily and staining his shirt. He must be well in his cups to be this blase at revealing himself so much to her.

“Did someone try to eviscerate you?” she asked mildly as he laid on the modified couch. He flung his arm over his eyes.

“Yes, though Travers is a particularly weak wizard so it wasn’t too bad.”

Hermione blanched at that but set to work cleaning the wound before starting her stitching. He barely moved as she wove through his skin and not for the first time wondered how much pain he had endured being this immune to pain.

She was so caught up in the methodical motions that she didn’t notice that he was staring at her until she had to move.

“What?”

“You’re different.”

She blinked struggling to clear her mind and keep her shields strong and firm.

“What do you mean?” 

“I don’t know, you strange little witch,” he murmured and his fingers caught a curl and stroked it. “You have the most atrocious hair do you know that?”

And just like that Hermione could breathe again and she scowled down at the wizard who chuckled at her.

“Such an angry little know it all.”

After cleaning him up and getting him dressed again she summoned a pain potion and a sober up potion for him. He sneered at the two vials.

“You think I'm going to drink that swill?” he mumbled stumbling on his feet. She steadied him with one hand and tried to push the vials into his hand with the other. His arm automatically flung around her shoulders for balance. He leaned down close to Hermione's face and she struggled not to lean in.

“Listen here, strange angry little witch.” He stopped and blinked at her. His eyes roved her face. “When you’ve grown up and dealt with that ridiculous head of hair you must come see me.”

She eyed him warily. “Why?”

He blinked again. “You’re not the only one who gets to have secrets.”

“You think I have secrets?”

He raised his hand and with his finger touched her nose. “I nose you do.” And then let out a little chuckle at his own joke. Hermione rolled her eyes even though she was smiling. She never imagined she would get to see this side of Severus. She clinked the vials in her hand to get his attention.

“I brewed them.”

He glanced down at the potions and plucked one from her grasp unstopping it slowly. He considered the dark plum color before shrugging and tipping it back. He quickly grabbed the sobering potion and downed that as well. Hermione blinked. She was surprised he had done that so willing but then she told herself he was drunk. She watched as the sober up potion did its thing and Severus' eyes cleared. He slowly removed his arm from around her shoulders and stepped back uncomfortably. Hermione smiled smugly up at him.

“You will tell no one of this Miss Granger.”

She nodded seriously. “No one,” she promised and grinned as he grabbed his robes and swept from the house.

They had been renewed with the break and returned to school fresh and eager to get on with it. Ron had been practicing his new skill under the strict guidance of Hermione who knew how dangerous it could be. She had thoroughly berated him after he had a scare doing it by himself and he understood how reckless he had been.

On the 6th of January Ron and Hermione had snuck out of the common room and made their way to the ROR. After checking on Nagini who was still thankfully in a magical coma courtesy of Hermione's venom they had begun to set up for a long night.

“We’ve never gone this far before Ron; do you think you can hold it enough and create enough energy required to retrieve what we need?”

Ron thought for a second as he laid down on the daybed the room had conjured for him. It was nice and soft and he settled back into the cushions comfortably. “I think so. The problem would be doing it twice.”

Hermione's face paled as she scooted a chair closer to the daybed and then conjured a side table. She pulled out a flask and poured some water into the lid giving it to Ron to drink. He thanked her with a nod of his head before drinking it and then handed it back to her. He laid back down and threaded his fingers together over his stomach. His wand entwined securely in his grasp he gave one last look at Hemione. She nodded shakenly at him and he closed his eyes.

Astral projection had come up fleetingly in a DADA lesson and it had caught Ron's attention so firmly that he had disappeared to the library to search for more information. There had been a few books that had given him some guidance to begin with, and instinctually knew he was on the right path. Having ordered more intensive and in-depth books from the bookstore during a Hogsmeade trip Ron had everything he needed to push his consciousness into the either.

Once he had got the gist of it, he started extending the trips he made. Depending on how far or how long he was separated from his body would affect his magical core the next day to some extent. So, he had to be careful not to get carried away. It had been odd the first few times seeing his body in an almost death-like pose but it had been even odder walking around the castle. No one could see him not even the ghosts.

After a particularly scary situation where for some reason he struggled to rejoin his body, Ron had asked Hermione to sit in on his little expeditions. He needed someone to bind him to the living world or else he was in danger of becoming completely untethered.

Hermione had been confused about his sudden desire to master this technique until he had shown her what one could actually do if they were experienced enough. Tonight, they would be testing if he had.

Between one breath and the next, his astral form floated from his body and he stood up watching as Hermione did her usual diagnostics.

“Good luck Ron,” she said to the room and he smiled at her trust in him. He turned and gathered his energy within him while taking in the room. The astral plane wasn’t solid at all. Space worked differently here and he could see multiple layers of energy working within one another. In this plane, you couldn’t just move. Your mind had to steer your projection to where you wanted to go and that could be mentally draining.

With one thought the world twisted and became disjointed as his projection moved across the land and then the ocean before finally stopping and settling into place. He blinked up at the tall monolith that was Azkaban.

He had been here only twice before during his Auror training days. It had not lost its grim ambiance and Ron noted the heavy energies that flowed through the place. Another thought landed him in a corridor leading to the sky towers. A dementor flew through him and Ron shuddered with the distinct sinister feeling the being evoked. He turned and made his way upwards.

The sky towers were home to the dreaded sky cells. Only the worst of the worst were sent to the sky cells and Ron knew that was where his destination was. When he was an Auror he had been shocked to see the cells that were open to the air. His superior at the time had laughed at his expression and explained while they were open no witch or wizard could just leap out to their death or try to escape. There were heavy wards in place that kept the prisoner contained in a set area and if they set off those wards a vast herd of dementors would set upon them.

While he was explaining this Ron saw a prisoner literally dive from his cell, falling at least 25 meters before the magic pulled him back up and into the cell again. The subsequent screams as the dementors rushed to the cell had stayed with Ron for a long time.

Azkaban had always been a place of horror to the wizarding populace based on just the dementor's presence but Ron knew it was much more insidious than that. Psychological warfare was an everyday occurrence. Prisoners were kept hungry but not malnourished. Grimy but not filthy. Cold but never hypothermic. No wonder most people went mad.

He peaked through each cell wall looking for his target until he found her. Bellatrix Lestrange was walking in circles and muttering to herself. Her prisoner garb hung loosely on her frame and her hair was a veritable rat's nest. He entered the room fully and stopped when she spun her wild sunken eyes landing on him.

He sucked in a breath as she stared for a moment before her eyes drifted to the open air again and started muttering. Quickly he did what he needed before closing his eyes and made it to his next destination. He could feel himself starting to fatigue, the strain of being so far from his physical body starting to take its toll so he hurriedly found what he had set out to find. Just as he straightened up a large explosion caused him to drift sideways and he spun around to stare out into the open air.

It had begun. Ten Death Eaters would be released tonight but that was exactly what he wanted...no... needed to happen. With a triumphant smirk, he closed his eyes and returned home.

Chapter Text

After crowing over their successful mission to Azkaban Ron and Hermione had turned their attention on the next step. The one both her and Ron were worried about. They had already been prepared for it but now it was a waiting game. In the meantime, there was OLWS and NEWTS to study for and that was exactly what they were all doing.

While in study hall, a small first-year ran up to her and tapped her on the shoulder. Hermione turned around and looked at the girl who thrust an envelope into her hands and ran off. Frowning she shot a look at Harry who was frantically scribbling across his parchment and Ron who was staring at the envelope. They both shrugged and Hermione tore it open to find a missive written by Professor Snape. Harry ignored them both.

Potions classroom. After dinner. Tonight.

Bring your potion kit.

Hermione frowned and handed the letter over to Ron who read it quickly. “Do you have a dentation?”

“No.”

Ron tapped his finger on the edge of the parchment. “He wants you to brew? Why?”

She considered his question before closing her eyes in realization. She let out an irritated hiss. “I healed him at Christmas using modified potions.” She did not mention that there was a modified sober up potion in the mix.

“Shit! I'm such an idiot.”

“Calm down M. You’re brilliant at potions.”

“I can't pass it off as my own work. And I'm adequate at potions. I'm not inventive enough to create something like...” she trailed off.

Ron shrugged passing a look around the room. “Then don't. Think like a Slytherin. Let him assume.”

Hermione considered him. “Lie by omission?”

“Lie by omission,” Ron said with a nod of his head. They both returned to their work but Hermione wondered just how much a certain Slytherin had rubbed off on Ron. She got her answer that afternoon as she was walking to the common room gearing up for her meeting with Severus.

Too caught up with thinking about him she stupidly was unaware of her surroundings and was subsequently grabbed and hauled into an unused classroom. She palmed her wand and turned on her assailant who was busy throwing up privacy wards. She frowned when she saw Pansy Parkinson turn and glare at her. She folded her arms completely unimpressed with the witch. She may have been on speaking terms with her in the future but this witch was a foreign entity to Hermione.

“What do you want Parkinson?”

“I want you to keep your paws off Weasley.”

That was not what she had expected to come out of the Slytherins mouth. It was true Hermione and Ron were very relaxed in each others company occasionally touching each other for support but Hermione didn't think it was anything too overt for the Slytherin witch to notice. Had Ron been secretly spending time with her? She knew he had liked her in the future and Harry and Hermione both had suspicions that it had turned into something more but to actively seek her out and threaten her now was...odd.

“What?”

Parkinson seemed to realize the situation she was in because she huffed and put on an air of disgust. “I see you hanging off him all the time. It’s disgusting and it’s putting me off my food.”

She seemed pleased with that explanation though Hermione saw right thought it. Ron had been spending time with her. That was interesting. Already his influence had started something in her that had caused this reaction.

“Then don’t look,” Hermione said with a shrug knowing it would set the witch off. Pansy scowled and pointed a perfectly manicured finger at Hermione.

“I mean it, Granger.”

Hermione sheathed her wand and leaned back against one of the classroom desks. She could play with the young witch and make her squirm. This Pansy in this time frame was a cow of epic proportions and had made Hermione's school years disruptive at best. She had learned to ignore her but the words and sneers had still cut her younger self deeply. She was, however, an adult now and put her childhood pains to bed. While a small part of her thought Pansy deserved a little torment the bigger part of her knew she would grow to be remorseful of her actions. She couldn't do that to Ron either, not when he supported her so ardently with Severus. She cocked her head at Pansy. “You like him.”

Pansy scoffed. “As if. He’s a blood traitor.”

“And yet you like him.”

She dithered for a moment. “Yes,” she whispered shame coloring her voice. Hermione felt a little concern for her at that moment and sighed.

“There's no shame in liking someone Pansy.”

Pansy scrunched her face up. “There is when it's him. Can you believe it? A Parkinson and a Weasley? I'd be disowned and laughed at.”

“You’d be loved and welcomed into a family that actually gives a damn!” Hermione snapped. She would happily welcome Pansy into their fold if it meant Ron's happiness. And she knew Harry would too. Everyone else would simply come around once the trio welcomed her with open arms.

Pansy stared at her too shocked to say anything. Hermione got up and brushed past her stopping at the door.

“Look, Pansy, I know Ron and I know he's crazy for you. But we also know the...timing is off and it's not safe for either of you to be in a relationship at this point. You also need to get your head around loving someone like him. Don’t worry too much. He’ll wait for you.” She pulled down the wards with ease, leaving Pansy to think on her words and continued her way to the common room.

She spotted Ron sitting in front of the fire in the common room going through his collector cards. He was so absorbed in it that he hadn't noticed her entrance and a quick scan around the room told her they were thankfully alone for once. She crept over behind him, grabbed his ear and leaned down.

“Ow.”

“What the devil have you been doing with Pansy Parkinson?” she hissed letting go and sitting next to him with a pointed look. Ron turned red and then an off-white color. He rubbed at his ear before glancing at her.

“How do you know?”

“I was just accosted in an unused classroom by her and threatened to stay away from you.”

“She didn’t?”

“She did. Now spill.”

Ron threw down the rest of his cards and turned fully to Hermione. “We’re not in a relationship Hermione. We were but not here.”

“I knew it! Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Pansy...didn't think she'd be accepted. Gods, sometimes she’s like a nervous filly when it comes to our relationship. It doesn’t help that she tried to sell Harry out to Tom during the battle. Or the fact that she participated in bullying us for years. Or her parents... who are awful by the way.” He sighed and scratched his head. “I don’t want to rush her. I want her to be ready and for her to be comfortable. I’m happy to wait.”

Hermione patted Ron's hands. “That's exactly what I told her.”

Ron looked up at her his eyes looking a little wet. “You did?” he whispered. Hermione tutted and hugged him.

“Ron, I love you. And I like Pansy...a bit. I trust in your judgment and support your choice.”

She pulled away, leaving her hands on his shoulders and looked into his eyes. “You also helped me with my own Slytherin conundrum. And Severus could use another snake in the fold.”

Ron had chuckled and blinked very rapidly. “I thought you wouldn't approve.”

“I don’t.”

Ron frowned and Hermione grinned at his face. “Of you keeping mum on your happiness Ron. You shouldn’t have secrets like that, not from us.”

He rolled his eyes and started to pick up his cards again. “Well, when we’ve finished what we need to do and Pansy is ready you’ll be the first to know.”

“Good. Now, what are you doing with these old things?”

Ron stared at one card before dropping in on the deck. “There's something here that...I just got a feeling...Yes!”

He turned the card around and presented it to Hermione. She leaned in, ignored the pasty-faced wizard picking his nose and read: Urquhart Rackharrow. 1612-1697. Inventor entrail expelling curse. She shook her head and sent Ron a baffled look.

“His great-granddaughter is Esmerelda Rackhorrow.”

“The seventh year Ravenclaw?”

“Yeah. While I was doing my charms apprenticeship Tully had pointed her out in an article. She had gotten a job at the ministry after she graduated but with the war and being a half-blood, she hopped it to the US and then Egypt. She made some pretty heavy changes within their ministries.”

“What kind of changes?”

“The changes we need.”

Hermione hummed, processing this new information. “Well without the war she is most likely to stay within our own ministry. I’ve had owls back from a few people in the US. Their nexi points aren't as polluted as ours are so in the grand scheme of things they won't miss her too much.”

Ron nodded. “If she stays true to her original timeline, then that makes it easier for us in the long run too.”

They fell into silence sorting through more of Ron's cards before Hermione bit her lip. “Are you ready for tomorrow night?”

Ron looked up at her. “Are you?”

She shrugged. “It’s not like I haven't done it before. But I am nervous.”

Ron nodded. “So am I. I just hope this doesn’t mean our deaths.”

Hermione agreed with him grimly and thought about the slight possibility of leaving Harry alone in this world to finish their mission on his own.

Chapter Text

Hermione collected her potion kit, waved goodbye to Ron and made her way down to the potions classroom. Hogwarts was too big, she thought as she cast a lightening charm on her pack and waited for the third set of staircases to set properly. Then again it was the size was probably on purpose. Maturing witches and wizards needed their bodies to grow with their magic. Strength did correspond with magical core output somewhat. Almost all students lost baby fat after their first few years and the rest leaned up as they climbed thousands of stairs and descended just as many. Hermione though on Neville who had been a chubby little thing when he first arrived but by the time his last year rolled around, he was quite fit. Ron and Harry held no baby fat at all, their bodies pure muscles, Ron being thicker of the two thanks to their training and quidditch.

“Oi Granger.”

Hermione stepped off the last stair on the 2nd floor and looked behind her. She suppressed a groan as Draco and Pansy caught up with her. Draco looked smug while Pansy had a sneer of annoyance on her face seemingly directed at the Slytherin Prince.

“What are you doing loitering in the halls. It’s almost curfew.”

“I have a date with Professor Snape.”

Draco spluttered while Pansy tried to purse her lips. Hermione knew enough of the Slytherin witch to see she was trying not to smile.

“5 points from Gryffindor for familiarity on a professor.”

“Oh no not the points. Anything but the points.”

“5 points for sarcasm. I can go all night Granger.”

“I doubt that.”

Pansy let out a squeal which turned into a coughing fit under Draco's gaze. He spun around and advanced on Hermione who quirked an eyebrow.

“You think you're so clever don’t you, Granger?”

“No. I think you're so clever.”

Draco took a step back, confused by her words. “What?”

“You're so very clever Draco and yet you hold yourself back. Why? Your family? The dark lord?”

A myriad of emotions flew across Draco's face. “You don’t know anything so you had better shut your mouth or you'll get yours you filthy little mudblood.”

Hermione blinked. “Is that the best you can do Draco? And I thought you were so much better than that.”

“Oh, I am better. Better than you.”

Hermione threw up her hands in exasperation. “Yes! That’s what I'm trying to say Draco. If you’re better than me then why do you continue to act the way you do. It’s honestly beneath you.”

Pansy hummed getting Draco's attention. “You know...she has a point. My father says if you wrestle with a pig you just end up covered in mud and the pig enjoys it.”

Draco stared at Pansy. “What?" He paused trying to figure out what Pansy was implying. "You know what? Never mind. We’ve got the third floor to cover, let's go.” He spun and stalked off not waiting for his friend. Hermione looked at Pansy considering her choice of words.

“Did you just call me a pig Pansy?”

She smirked. “What? You can't expect us to be best friends straight away. It’s a slow incline, Granger. Mudblood, pig, trollop...give it time.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, a small smile playing on her lips. “I'm concerned I've gone from human to animal to human again.”

“It’s a process,” Pansy said with a chuckle looking up the staircase and then down the hall. “You’ve confused him now.”

Hermione scoffed and adjusted her bag. “Sure. Just like his left and right socks confuse him.”

Pansy frowned and then giggled. “He’s not that bad.”

“No. I know. He’s still a twat though.”

“True. But he’s my twatty little friend.”

“Hence why we are trying to be nice.”

Pansy looked down at her shoes for a moment before mumbled. “Thanks, Granger.”

“No probs fam, but I should get going otherwise Professor Snape is going to blow a gasket.” Hermione turned and jogged down the hall leaving Pansy scratching her head.

“Fam? Gasket? I'm going to have to ask Ron what that means,” Pansy murmured to herself as she started off down the hall.

Hermione skidded into the potions room with a minute to spare and managed not to fall on her face as she tried to slow her speed. She hit her hip on a desk though and smothered the hiss of pain that threatened to escape her. Severus merely quirked an eyebrow at her and returned to his writing.

“Set up Granger.”

“Yes, sir.”

She set up quickly and then waited. Severus blew out an annoyed breath and stood up making his way over to her station. “You are going to brew the two potions you gave me over the holidays.”

“Yes sir,” she muttered as she took out her ginger and started cutting it so it would be easier to grind in her mort and pestle. Severus' eyes were on her hands the entire time as she chopped, minced and ground her ingredients.

“Why did you add the morning dew with the mandrake root before putting it into the cauldron?”

Hermione didn’t take her eyes off of her knife which was slicing the vervain plant. “It encourages the body to repair any damage done and strengthens the immune system.”

“And the ethanol?”

“Hair of the dog and such,” Hermione explained as she set about stirring. The room fell into silence with the exception of the soft grinding sound of the stirring spoon on the bottom of the cauldron.

“Why would you invent such a potion?” Severus asked breaking the silence. Hermione looked up and felt her stomach clench at his expression. He was interested, leaning over the work station his eyes on the potion. He glanced at her when she didn’t answer straight away.

Lie by omission.

Ron's words echoed in her head and she shrugged. “I didn’t have any reason to invent such a potion sir.”

Once when she was having brunch with Blaise she had asked him why Slytherins were so good at lying. He had laughed and told her that most Slytherins were actually terrible at lying. They were just good at directing the conversation that would benefit them the greatest. He saw how confused she had been by his answer at leaned over. “This is a trade secret but when you don’t want to lie but have to, reconstruct their words and parrot it back to them.” She hadn't realized it at the time but Blaise had been right.

Severus scowled. “So, you just decided to create a combined sobering and hangover potion because you were bored?”

“I'm never bored, sir.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “Why do I get the feeling you are not telling the truth?”

“I’m a Gryffindor sir. We are terrible liars.”

“Yes,” he mused. “You are. But you're subverting.”

Hermione smiled her eyes on the dark green potion. “But not lying.”

Severus took a nosy breath. He couldn’t discount her Slytherin attempt at directing the conversation and in fact, was slightly impressed. He chose not to continue on this line of questioning knowing it would probably wouldn't reveal what he wanted her to reveal. “Very well. Why did you help me?”

She faltered in her stirs and pursed her lips. “I was told I was never to speak of it again.”

“Don't play games with me, Miss Granger.”

“I'm not. Just toeing the line.”

“Then answer my question.”

She huffed scooping a handful of chopped wolfsbane and sprinkling it in as she stirred. “You were injured. It's as simple as that.”

“Nothing is as simple as that.”

“Not for you maybe but for me...it was. Give aid, provide comfort.”

He crossed his arms and sneered down at her. “You sound like a Hufflepuff.”

“Fine. Give aid, provide comfort, loudly snark at your patient later. Happy?”

“Notoriously.”

He caught the witch smile at that as she started setting up a second cauldron. He frowned. Why was this witch so at ease in his company? The last time he had had her in detention she was a jittery mess and now it seemed like she actually enjoyed it. Not only that she had been so calm when he presented his injury to her at Grimmauld place. He had expected disgust when he bared his torso to her but instead, she had averted her eyes, a soft blush infusing her cheeks. It seemed that she had wanted to look but had forced herself not to.

A schoolgirl crush perhaps?

Sometimes seventh year Slytherins had been known to express a liking to their Head of House not because he was good looking but because he was powerful. He never actively encouraged it, just the opposite however he did understand their actions. This 5th year Gryffindor witch liking him was completely confounding.

Perhaps it was because he was an adult? She was more mature then almost all of the students at Hogwarts, it would make sense that she would set her affections to a wizard in his prime.

However, It wasn’t as if he was kind to her nor attractive and she had other more preferable adults to direct her attention to. He thought back to her attack on Black and Lupin earlier in the year. Black had always been surrounded by willing witches when they were students much to his and most of Slytherins disgust. He had been fawned after and loved it, reveling in the attention. Severus knew objectviely that Black was attractive to the female gaze. Lupin too while a werewolf was kind to the witch and intelligent. Why had she not set her attraction on them? He often saw her lip lift in disgust when they entered the room though she quickly masked it.

He frowned. Why was this little witch so confusing? She had been a mere blip on his radar last year, and this year she had dominated his headspace more so than anyone else. Something about her was drawing his attention. Her behavior and that of her two little friends was perplexing enough just in general. It was her reaction to him that had his gaze settling on her more then he liked. He just didn’t understand why.

The witch in question was now corking the vials and cleaning up her equipment. He thought back to the night she had stitched him up and almost grimaced.

When you’ve grown up and dealt with that ridiculous head of hair you must come see me.

What had his drunken mind meant by that? Later when he awoke with surprisingly no hangover, he had remembered his actions and words to her. He had hoped she wouldn’t get the wrong idea and even though it was obvious to him now that she was attracted to him she didn’t broadcast it for all to see. She at least had some control which meant he could rest a little easier and not look to deeply into his reaction to her. Not yet anyway. Perhaps when she was older.

He snarled at the direction his thought process was taking him and he noticed Granger had packed all her equipment away. He spun around and stormed back to his desk somehow angry at both himself and her.

“Bring your vials here and then leave,” he snapped picking up his quill. He stilled as he thought on the evening. "You will write up your potion and deliver it to me by next week."

He heard her soft footfalls and then the tray being placed in front of him. He continued writing intent not to look up at her.

“Sir?”

His quill froze.

“Happy Birthday.”

He sat back when he heard the door swing closed. How had she known it was his birthday? Only Poppy and Albus knew and they both understood he never enjoyed the day and so didn’t remark upon it. This was getting more perplexing with each interaction he had with her. He steepled his hands as he thought on how to get her to reveal herself to him.

Chapter Text

Severus Snape hated being summoned. He hated the burn that would set his arm aching for hours afterward. He hated the constant threat of torture or death at the hands of anyone of his compatriots. And he hated above all groveling to a half-blood who thought himself better than everyone else. Oh, he was powerful to be sure but he was also vain and prone to dramatic bouts of insanity.

Arriving at an unknown manor Severus prepared himself for a reunion of sorts. The mass breakout of Death Eaters from Azkaban had sent the school into a tizzy and Severus was not looking forward to seeing them again. Most of them despised him just for his blood status, others he knew would hate him for the freedom Dumbledore had given him while they languished in Azkaban for their loyalty. In the years since the end of the first war, he had been able to establish connections with other Death Eaters who escaped justice ensuring they knew where his allegiances lay just in case the Dark Lord really did return. It would prove to be life-saving.

Ensuring his mask was firmly in place he stalked into the manor and through the front rooms to find the rest of the members milling uneasily in an unused ballroom. He made his way to the front giving a subtle nod to Lucius who was recognizably only by his long platinum blonde hair.

Vain git.

They both turned to a podium that looked like it was once used for a large band though now it just housed one disturbingly ornate chair and few hastily thrown cushions.

Within minutes Voldemort stormed in angrily stopping to kick a sniveling Pettigrew down the small set of stairs. Severus thought it was warranted, wanting to kick the rat off a high cliff himself but it was decidedly off behavior from his master. He had thought the Dark Lord would be in celebration tonight after more of his loyal followers had returned to the fold.

Apparently not.

He paced angrily stopping every so often to glare at Pettigrew like he wanted to kick him again. Pettigrew shrieked and cowered with every look and Severus wondered what the stupid rat had done to make their master this angry. Severus kept his eyes down not wanting to attract attention from him while he was in such a mood.

“My loyal followers,” the soft rasping voice echoed throughout the room and everyone stood a little straighter. “We welcome home our most loyal brothers and sisters who have suffered most egregiously at the hands of muggle lovers and filth.”

Ten unmasked death eaters stepped forward and Severus made out the faces of both the LeStranges who stared adoringly up at their master. He wanted to vomit at their sycophantic expressions. Azkaban hadn't done any of them any favors and Severus knew he’d be instructed to brewing healing and restorative potions for them all before the end of the night.

“We were going to celebrate our victory but I find I am not in the mood. We will wait until they are well rested to do so.”

Severus felt his eyes on him and he gave a subtle nod at the implication.

There goes his weekend.

Suddenly Bellatrix lifted her hood off her head and scrambled to the Dark Lords' feet. He reared back in surprise. “My lord. In honor of your power and might we have brought you a gift.”

Voldemort stared at her considering. “A gift my dear Bella? You’ve only just been recovered.”

Bellatrix nodded. “We wanted to show you how dedicated we were to you and to thank you for recovering us from Azkaban.”

Great. Now Bellatrix had kidnaped some innocent muggles and he would be forced to watch their torture and subsequent deaths.

“I’m in no mood for muggle filth Bella,” The Dark Lord warned idly fingering his wand.

Severus smirked. If she had brought muggles and he was obviously not in the mood, they would be given a swift death and she would suffer under the Dark Lord's wand for her assumptions. Bella eyed his wand fearfully before shaking her head.

“No, my lord. This is so much better.”

The Dark Lord sighed and threw himself into the chair. He waved his hand lazily. Bellatrix stood quickly and turned to her husband and hissed at him. Literally hissed. Severus raised an eyebrow. She had obviously sunk further into her demented mind. Rodolphus, however, understood and disappeared through a doorway.

“This had better be good Bella,” the Dark Lord warned. Bellatrix stared at the doorway her eyes alight and her body thrumming with anticipation. Rodolphus appeared minutes later and threw two trussed up forms in front of their master. Bellatrix cackled madly and clapped her hands excitedly, her eyes darting reverently between their master and her gift. He stood up and glared at her.

“And who are they?”

Bellatrix pitched forward and grabbed the head of the first victim and pulled it back. Severus almost started when he recognized the hair and then the face.

Oh fuck. Oh, gods no. No not her.

“This is Hermione Granger my lord. Mudblood and best friend to Harry Potter.”

Shit. Shit. Shit.

She had grabbed at the other form revealing a very distinct red hair.

Fuck no. How?

“And this is Ronald Weasley. Blood Traitor and the last of their ittle wittle group.”

Both prisoners' eyes had rolled as their heads flopped uselessly on their shoulders. Severus felt his brain kick as he looked for possibilities to save them even though he knew it would be futile. Albus would not have him risk his position even for Potters' two sidekicks.

“Well Bella, this is a treat...” The Dark Lord stared down at the prisoners who were twitching with what could only be the after-effects of prolonged exposure to the Cruciatus curse. Severus bit the inside of his cheek. They were too young, they should have never been exposed to that kind of torture.

“What did you do to them?”

Bella pouted up at her master looking like a demented toddler. “I just played with them for a little while. It’s been soo long master.”

The Dark Lord crouched down in front of Miss Granger, placed his wand under her chin and lifted her head up. The young witch seemed to struggle for a moment before she finally focused on his face. She then launched at him shrieking and babbling madly. The Dark lord backhanded her for her audacity and the witch flew down the stairs landing at Severus' feet. Bella flew down the stairs and Severus couldn’t help but flinch at the sight of her. She was always one to look for in the early days and he had tasted the horror of her curses on more than one occasion.

“Disgusting filth! You dare attack my master? Crucio.”

The witch writhed and screamed under Bella's wand. Severus feeling sick turned his eyes to Weasley who was glancing around desperately at all the members. The boy didn’t realize he was already dead. Severus glanced down at the witch at his feet and watched as her eyes screwed up in pain, blood dripping from her broken nose and her mouth open in a silent scream.

“Bella enough.”

Bellatrix cowed and scuttled away. Granger was now taking deep breaths, staring up at the ceiling before her eyes came to rest on him. Her face twisted in hatred as she glared at him. She must have somehow recognized him.

Such an angry little know it all.

Those words echoed in his head as she gnashed her teeth at him. He had remembered looking at her through his drunken gaze and wondering why she hadn't flinched at his touch. His stomach itched where she had stitched him and she had been right; they were infinity better than Poppy’s. He had traced them the next morning marveling at the small precise stitches that would have needed patience, a keen eye, and skill.

He looked away his gaze settling on the Dark Lord as he turned his wand calmly on Weasley. He didn’t want to see the death of the boy but he also didn't want to see Granger's hatred of him no matter how well placed it was. Only days ago, he was convinced of her silly affection for him.

Avada Kedavra.

The green light illuminated the room for a moment and Severus felt his gut twist as the boy toppled over his eyes vacant. Guilt roared up in him as the Dark Lord stepped over his body and made his way to where Granger was. Severus slammed his occlumency shields up so hard they caused an instant migraine and he felt the nerve in his right eye start to twitch uncontrollably.

He didn’t want to witness this. He didn’t want to see another of his students die in front of him while he stood by. Weasley was unfortunate but the loss of Granger too would surely send Potter into hysterics.

“What does she know?”

Bellatrix stood from her crouched position on the stairs and took a few steps closer to the Dark Lord. Severus knew Bellatrix was quite adept at Legillamency though she was brutal in her application of it.

“Nothing my lord. The old fart at Hogwarts is keeping them all in the dark even Potter.”

“Is this true Severus?”

Severus swallowed thickly. How the Dark Lord knew it was him he’d never know. He stepped back from Granger and bowed. “She is correct my lord. Dumbledore thinks they should be children a little longer.”

The smirk that grew on the dark lord's face was fearsome. He lifted his wand.

“Stand her up Bellatrix.”

The evil hag had skipped over and grabbed at Granger's curls and pulled her viciously up. The girl screeched in pain; her eyes wet with tears her face bloody from her thrashing. Voldemort stepped closer to her and stared into her eyes. He traced his wand slowly over her cheek and said slowly, “You are filth. A disgusting mudblood who isn't worth anything and you will die tonight.”

The witch sobbed as the Dark lord raised his wand. Severus frowned and his eyes landed on Bellatrix's face. She was in her element. Her face twisted in a perverse sense of enjoyment as the Dark Lord sent out the killing curse the second time that night. Severus closed his eyes for a moment as he heard the thump of her body landing at his feet.

“Get rid of this mess Bella,” the Dark Lord sneered and turned back to his chair. Bellatrix had again hissed at her husband who levitated the bodies of his students out of the room. She followed at a short distance and humming and swaying to music only she could hear.

“Oh, and Bella?” The Dark Lord called out as he sat down. The witch turned her face affecting a subservient look as she waited for him to continue.

“Well done. You have pleased me. This works quite well in our favor.”

The mad witch giggled and bowed. “Oh, of course, my lord,” she whispered bowing her head before turning back to follow her husband.

“Severus. Prepare the appropriate potions for your returned brothers and sisters. You are dismissed.”

Severus bowed and turned on his heel stalking quickly out of the room. Once outside he wrenched off his mask and took large lungsful of air. His hands were shaking as he disapparated back to Hogwarts. He stormed up the pathway breaking into a run his lungs screaming for air. Once inside the castle he found the nearest unused classroom and slipped in putting up the strongest wards he knew. Satisfied he would not be found or overheard he let his shields drop and with them the only thing keeping him together.

He vomited violently, heaving consistently until only bile remained. Tears tracked down his face as he screamed to no one and then his magic lashed out destroying furniture and splintering the chalkboards on the walls. He grabbed at a chair and hurled it across the room and then tripped and went down in a heap of limbs. He snarled as he caught himself with his palms and then sobered at the thought of his two students who had been tortured and killed.

Damn Albus. Damn the Dark Lord. Damn Bellatrix. They were children. Children. Who were now victims of a war they should have never been caught up in. He rolled over and scooted back until his spine was flush with the wall. How had they been captured? Was that what they had been up to? Those stupid, stupid Gryffindor's.

He sniffed as he thought of their last moments. Weasley desperately searching for someone to save him and Granger... that young woman had the nerve to attack the Dark Lord! Even crucio'ed until she was nothing but a babbling mess, she still tried to make a difference. Still fought to the very end. Circling through the guilt and roiling disgust he felt a sliver of pride for her.

His head lolled back against the wall. Granger had so much potential. Brightest Witch of her age everyone had said. Severus had openly scoffed at her title but secretly he agreed. She was clever. He despised her constant need for attention and the textbook vitriol she would vomit but this last year had seen a remarkable change in the young Gryffindor and Severus' mind started to wonder what she would have accomplished if her life had not been so cruelly ripped from her. Had she spent a few years away he could even see himself enjoying her company. His thoughts stuttered to a halt at that. There was no use thinking of what might have been. It would never happen now.

Another witch he couldn’t save.

He struggled to stand feeling very old all of a sudden. With a wave of his wand, everything was put new and Severus cleaned his face as well. He pulled his shields back up and turned.

The hardest was yet to come.

Chapter Text

One look at his Potion Master and spy and Albus knew it had been a bad meeting. He signaled the man to sit, his eyes carefully taking in his form. No injuries that he could see as Severus all but collapsed into the chair and hung his head over his knees.

A quick worried look at the portraits before he settled himself into his own chair and summoned an elf.

“A tea service if you please,” he asked her lowly and she bowed before disappearing. The uncomfortable restlessness of the figures in the portraits was the only sound that flowed through the room. The elf returned and set the tea service down on the desk. Albus thanked the elf and began pouring the tea ignoring the almost silent pop of her departure.

He pushed the cup to Severus who looked up and nearly flinched. “I can't,” he whispered and Albus felt his apprehension rise.

“If you cannot drink it at least hold it. It will help.”

Severus didn’t even sneer but shakily took the cup wrapped his fingers around it.

“Tell me, my boy. What happened?”

Severus pulled a ragged breath through his teeth before responding. “Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley are...dead.”

Albus reared back ignoring the hushed shocked whispers of the portraits behind him. “Impossible. They were at dinner.”

“And somewhere between dinner and-” he glanced at the clock that sat on the far wall-” 2 am they had managed to sneak out and be captured,” he snapped before losing the fight. “I saw them, Albus. I saw them die.”

Albus was up and striding around to the Potion Masters chair. He crouched down. “Show me, Severus. I need to see,” he whispered imploringly. Severus nodded and Albus brought his wand up to his temple and teased the memory out. Standing, he sent the silver wisp into his pensive and seconds later bent his head into the bowl.

Severus placed the teacup back on the desk and cupped his head in his hands. He didn’t want to see the horror of Albus's face when he emerged. Didn’t want to hear the empty platitudes that would follow trying to absolve him of the guilt he felt.

Albus stumbled as he exited the pensive catching himself on the bookcase nearby. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley were supposed to be with Harry to the end. Of that, he had been so sure. His hand pulled at his beard as he pulled his wand out again and silently cast. His Patronus flew around the room before hovering in front of him waiting for a message.

“Find Minerva. Tell her its urgent.”

The Patronus flew around the room once more before disappearing through a wall and Albus looked over at his spy with sadness. The Potion Master seemed to be occluding heavily though it didn’t stop the air of melancholy that surrounded him. Albus had no idea how to move forward at this point.

Within minutes Minerva stepped through the floo tying her gown angrily. “I am far too old to be awoken at this time of a night Albus by a bloody Patronus. What is it?”

Her eyes took in Severus slouched form and Albus despondent one.

“Oh, gods! What is it, Albus?” Minerva whispered taking a step toward them both.

“I'm afraid, my dear Minnie, that two of our students have been killed by Voldemort tonight.”

Minerva stuttered and sank into the nearest chair. “No,” she managed tears already forming in her eyes. Her hand went to her throat as she looked at Severus for answers. “Who?”

“Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger,” Severus said lowly not wanting to see her reaction to the death of two of her favorite cubs.

Minerva blinked. “That's impossible. They were at dinner. You saw them.”

Albus sighed. “They had somehow been captured since our last sighting Minerva. I saw their deaths myself. It was not...quick nor painless.”

Minerva stood up and Severus frowned as her frame radiated anger. “This is foolishness. You’ve both been tricked. I don’t know how but I know for a fact that both of them are asleep in the Gryffindor tower.”

Albus took a step toward her. “No one will blame you; they were prone to this sort of activity.”

Minerva sputtered and spun around to the fireplace. “Blame me? Of course, no one will blame me for they are ALIVE,” she yelled as she grabbed the floo powder and called out the Gryffindor common room. Severus raked a hand down his face.

“Poor wee lass,” Erin Tormund remarked from her frame next to Dilys. “Too upset to see tha truth in the matter.”

Dilys agreed and reached over to pat the other headmistress on the hand her eyes wet with tears.

“I don't know how I'm going to break this to Harry or the Weasleys,” Albus muttered as he sniffed loudly. The floo flared and Severus prepared himself for the onslaught of a distraught witch. Instead, he scrambled up in shock, knocking his chair over in the process as a confused and obviously distressed Hermione Granger stumbled into the room. Ronald Weasley followed soon after his nightgown askew as he yawned and rubbed at his eyes.

“Are we in trouble?” Granger asked twisting her fingers. Minerva stepped through and pulled herself up to her full height.

“You see. Whole and healthy,” she sniffed throwing her hand out. “Someone played you both for fools.

“What's going on?” Weasley asked loudly.

Severus stumbled over to the young witch and grabbed her by the shoulders. She squeaked at the rough treatment and looked up at him with wide eyes.

“Oi, be a bit more careful sir,” Ron snapped stepping closer. Severus ignored the boy and pulled his wand out.

“Severus,” Albus warned but Severus was too desperate to know.

“Legilimens,” he hissed even as Minerva shrieked with outrage.

The most recent memories flowed out in front of him. The trio eating dinner. Weasley and her playing exploding snap in front of the fire in the common room. Granger disappearing up the staircase and getting ready for bed. And then Minerva roughly waking her up and pushing her through the floo. He ended the connection and continued to stare into Miss Granger's eyes.

He noted the flecks of copper and rust within her iris'. His eyes traveled down her face to where she had only hours ago broken her nose against the marble tile. He stopped at her full lips parted slightly as she panted shallowly. He realized just how close he was to her when her soft breaths fanned across his own mouth. He flung her gently away and turned around trying to make sense of it all and to get a hold of his reactions to being so close to her.

“Take your charges and leave Minerva.”

Minerva huffed and quickly motioned for her cubs to enter the floo again.

“What is going on?” Weasley asked his eyes darting to all the professors in the room. Severus flinched remember that exact look on the boy seconds before his death.

“I’ll try to get an explanation for you tomorrow Weasley now off to bed,” Minerva snapped cutting of any replies by pushing him into the floo. Granger looked up in concern at him and Severus felt for some odd reason his heart stutter.

“Are you ok sir?” she whispered.

“Leave,” he snarled and she recoiled at his anger, quickly turning and following her classmate through the fireplace. Minerva stood for a second with a frown marring her features.

“I’ll expect a full explanation of this Albus. Tomorrow when I’ve had some decent rest and my hearts had time to settle back into my chest.”

Albus nodded as the witch turned and followed her cubs. He stared at Severus. “I do not understand.”

“Neither do I,” Severus murmured rubbing at his chest.

Chapter Text

Severus felt his breath stutter as Granger and Weasley entered the great hall. He frowned t the odd reaction before chalking it up that he had just hours ago thought the pair dead. Beside him, Dumbledore also had his eyes on the duo. Weasley laughed at something Granger had said and they sat down at their table nodding at some of their friends.

Minerva pursed her lips. She had seen his memory this morning and was just as confused as they were. They had struggled to find a reason as to why someone would go to all the trouble of impersonating them to just end up being killed. It made no sense at all.

Albus thought that perhaps it had been a test and Severus had considered it but neither Bellatrix or the Dark Lord gave him a cursory glance during the proceedings. Being certifiably insane didn’t allow for great acting performances.

The rest of the weekend was spent making restorative potions and healing potions like he was commanded to. Severus desperately wanted to spit in them but held off knowing it would render the potion inert and would probably mean a punishment of some sort which was never enjoyable.

He fought to keep his mind off the events of Friday night but Grangers' face and Weasley's body kept inserting themselves behind his eyelids. He had struggled to eat as well knowing that he would be just vomiting back up when he returned to his quarters. Sunday night had seen Granger give him a wonky smile as she sat down next to Potter and Severus stared at the untouched food on his plate for the rest of the meal.

I stood by and watched you get tortured and killed, girl.

I don’t deserve your smile.

Monday had seen him summoned again only this time he knew it was to just drop off the potions. He arrived at the same manor hoping to be dismissed quickly when he heard screaming. Lucius met him at the door his face pale and his eyes frantic.

“What's happened?”

“The Dark Lord just killed Pettigrew,” he whispered. Severus frowned. That was barely worth a blink as far as he was concerned and definitely not the reaction Lucius was having.

“And?” Severus murmured affecting a bored tone despite the screaming coming from the ballroom.

“He’s lost her. Nagini. She's been missing for weeks now and Pettigrew was supposed to find her.”

Severus' eyes widened realizing that was why the Dark Lord had been so angry at Pettigrew. Severus shrugged. “It is what he deserves.”

“No Severus,” Lucius frantically whispered his eyes darting around. “That's not all. Bellatrix and Rodolphus turned up dead this morning. The Dark Lord is furious.”

“What?” Severus hissed, his mind whirring.

“After they had disposed of the ...trash no one had seen them since. The Dark Lord had though Bella was off enjoying her freedom until their bodies had been discovered in the woods behind the manor.”

“Good gods. Who would be able to get the drop on the LeStranges?” Severus asked Lucius who shook his head. Even diminished by Azkaban Bellatrix and Dolph were a dangerous set to go against. Severus sighed. “I had better go in there and deliver the potions for the others.”

Lucius nodded. “Good luck old friend.”

Good luck? Severus wanted to scoff as he stalked through the room ignoring the trail of twitching bodies to stand before his master. The Dark Lord ignored the man his eyes settled furiously on Dolohov who was jerking around the floor like a Mexican jumping bean. Severus noted that he had started foaming at the mouth and it wouldn’t be long before his body started to shut down under the strain.

After a few moments, the Dark Lord lifted his wand releasing the spell. Severus wrinkled his noes as the waft of urine assaulted his senses.

“Severus.”

Severus bowed low not rising until the Dark Lord tapped his shoulder.

“You heard the atrocity that has befallen us?”

“Yes, my lord. We will find out who dares to defy you and we will avenge this heinous act.”

The Dark Lord was silent for a moment contemplating his servant. “Yes, we will.”

He turned and Severus watched him warily. It was never a good thing to believe you were safe in the Dark Lords' presence for he could turn on you in seconds.

“This unfortunate event has set us back. I must consider our possibilities. Deliver your potions and leave.”

Severus bowed and went to turn when he felt Voldemort's hand on his shoulder. Suppressing the need to shudder he looked blankly at him.

“Nagini is missing. I need her returned to me. Do you understand?”

Severus lowered his eyes in deference. “I understand my lord. I will make some discreet inquiries.”

Fuck.

Just what he needed.

Severus managed to find the remaining escaped prisoner's bar Dolohov who would now be suffering from organ failure and handed out their potions. They barely managed a sneer as they warily watched the Dark Lord pace on his stage.

Job done Severus returned home and rushed up to the Headmaster's office.

“Bellatrix and Rodolphus dead?” Albus sat up at that proclamation staring at the man who nodded his head.

“Yes. And Nagini is missing. Pettigrew has paid for that with his life and it looks like Dolohov was on his way through the veil as I left courtesy of the Dark Lord.”

Albus got up and started pacing. “This is very concerning.” He stopped in front of the chessboard they occasionally indulged in and stared at the pieces. “It seems there is another player on the board and we don’t have the faintest clue as to their identity.”

Severus sat forward and scratched under his chin. “They seem to be doing the job for us. The death of those evil bastards is a good thing.”

Albus shook his head, his gaze never wavering from the chess pieces. “No Severus it is not. There are other things at play here that you are not ready to be told. The induction of an unknown entity could put the whole war at risk.”

Severus growled. “You are withholding vital information from me?”

Albus waved his hand dismissing his anger. “It is not the right time to tell you, Severus. You of all people should understand the delicate balance of information.”

“That information has now become quite unbalanced with a death eater killer about,” Severus snapped standing up. Albus frowned.

“No. I must...” he spun and sent Severus a severe look. “Tell Minerva I will be leaving the castle tonight and it is in her care.”

“Albus,” Severus snarled but Albus merely spun and disapparated leaving the Potion Master alone in the office. Fawkes warbled at him and Severus rolled his eyes as he spun and made his way out of the office. He stopped on the foot of the stairs.

Hermione Granger stood with her arms cross and her head cocked in the middle of the hallway staring at him.

“I think you and I need to have a little talk,” she said calmly before striding away and disappearing down the hall and into an unused classroom. He let out a low growl allowing his anger to fill him at her disrespectful behavior before storming after her. She was sitting on one of the desks idly playing with her wand as he slammed the door with such force it rattled the chalkboard. Miss Granger merely raised an eyebrow.

“How dare you think you can order me around-”

“You’ve been watching me.”

He hesitated for a second. He had been watching her and recently more so than her little friends. “I am your teacher I am supposed to watch you, you insolent little chit!”

“No, you’ve been particularly observant of my actions.”

Had he been inappropriate? He thought back on their interactions. His mind flooded with images of him undressing in front of her, of touching her hair and smiling at her. He kept his face blank even when inside he was grimacing. He couldn’t excuse his behavior as merely a concerned teacher.

“You witnessed my death on Friday night.”

Severus blinked as all the anger flew out of his body. She had just calmly stated the fact like she was talking about her favorite colored scarf. He frowned.

“How-”

“I saw it in your eyes. I saw it with my own eyes actually.”

He eyed her. What the bloody hell did that mean? “Explain yourself.”

“Not yet. There are two people who need to be here.”

“Your friends will be in as much trouble-”

“Lo Professor!”

Severus wheeled around to see Potter and Weasley stomp in and make their way over to Hermione. Severus felt wards fly up behind him and eyed the trio warily. She ignored them as they made themselves comfortable on the desks near her.

“How much have you told him then Hermione?” Potter asked lowly. The silly chits' eyes darted to Potters before resting back on him again.

“Nothing just yet. We were waiting for you.”

Potter turned to the Professor. “Don't worry sir I'm just as pissed at them as you are, I'm sure.”

“Potter,” Severus snarled. Why was the boy acting so familiar with him? His anger was spiking again now Potter and Weasley were here.

“How do we start this?” Ron asked the other two. “Hey, sir we’re from the future sent back to save magic itself?”

Both Granger and Potter snorted. “That was a good start, Ron,” Granger smirked.

“ENOUGH. I don’t want to hear any more of your fairy tales. You will tell me what's going on and you will spend the rest of your school days in detention cleaning cauldrons with a toothbrush.”

“So, no either-or huh?” Weasley mused.

“Ron,” Potter admonished. “Sir the gist is correct. In July of last year, we had been summoned to the time room after a magical occurrence had taken place. You see I’m an Auror, Hermione is Head of the Magical-

His brain snapped. He stalked over to Potter and grabbed him roughly by his tie pulling him close to his face. His wand pointed to his temple he silently and furiously slipped into the boy's mind.

And found nothing.

“Impossible.”

Potter had the audacity to smirk. “Not impossible. My superior Pax Tingle taught me occlumency.”

He shoved the boy away who stumbled back much to his satisfaction. “I don’t know what tricks you three are play-”

“Oh, for merlin's sake,” Granger yelled. “You grew up with and loved Lily Evans and when you had called her a mudblood you essentially fractured your friendship. Later you would overhear Sybil's prophecy and then relay said prophecy to Voldemort ensuring her death. You then asked Albus to protect her, swore an unbreakable oath to him and when she died you continued to keep your oath though now it was protecting her son."

Silence.

Severus gaped at the witch. How...how had she known all that? Had Albus spilled all his secrets to them?

“Harsh Hermione,” Potter had whispered.

She sighed. “We don’t have time for this. Nagini is on her way out of her magical coma and we need to adjust the wards and set the dampening spells."

That snapped him out of his shock. “You have Nagini?"

“We have Nagini."

“How-”

Ron stood up. “Let's start at the beginning.”

Chapter Text

Severus' mind was whirling. The three students in front of him had taken turns explaining a frankly impossible tale. They had been the ones to boot Umbridge and install Ndiaye. They had begun the slow take over by competent people at the Ministry. They had been the ones who had kidnapped Nagini and safely hidden her.

They had come back through time after already winning the war but not without some pretty significant loses. Hogwarts and the Ministry had been firmly entrenched in the Dark Lords grasp and the procedures put in place where the stuff of nightmares. The Order had splintered after the death of its leader and a lot of them had gone into hiding often being hunted by people called snatchers. Those that had been captured were tortured, put in Azkaban or killed. The news of his own death barely fazed him as he expected it but the rest...

Albus had died.

Albus had died.

And then they had revealed the Dark Lords Horcruxes.

As in plural.

And Albus had known.

That was the information he was keeping from him.

“We have to track them down,” Severus managed after they had stopped talking. He stood up pacing in front of the trio who looked exhausted after rehashing the horrors they had lived through.

“We actually already have six of them.”

“What?” He halted. How in Hades last level of hell had they done that? They were only halfway through the school year! The thought of one Horcrux rattled his bones but seven of them? And these children held six of them already! “Hand them over they are too dangerous for children.”

Granger stood up and snarled at him. “Have you not been listening? We are not children. I'm 25 years old for Circe's sake! We’ve already destroyed them in the past. We can do so again now and we will.”

Every time they spoke and said something outrageous was like a battering ram had been taken to his brain. The story was too insane to be fabricated and he doubted they could remember this many details if they had been lying. He was having a hard time dealing with it if he was honest with himself. “Why haven't you destroyed them yet?”

Potter sighed and scrubbed his face. “Technically two have already been taken care of, the others...they need to be done at the correct time. Tom becomes more unstable with every vanquished part of his soul.”

“He has become more unstable since the Lestrange's went missing,” Severus muttered thinking back on the Dark Lords' behavior. Granger and Weasley shared a look. He blinked. “That was you too? But I saw-”

“We stole a few strands of hair from their beds in Azkaban.”

He blinked. These kids...these strangers... were frankly disconcerting. They said these things calmly without the normal bragging he’d expect to hear from Gryffindors. There were tones of grim acceptance as well as if they had already seen the worst of humanity. In all likelihood they had.

“How the devil did you get into Azkaban?”

Hermione waved her hand like breaking into the fortified fortress was just a walk in the park. “Another story for later. Needless to say, it was easy tracking them down and overpowering them.”

“You? Overpowered Bellatrix Lestrange,” Severus scoffed earning a scowl from the young witch.

“I’ve suffered at the end of her wand; I’ve worn her body before and I fought her in the great battle. Yes me.”

He frowned sorting away the bits he would make her explain later.

“Besides they were both magical and physically weakened from their time in Azkaban. It was relatively easy,” Ron muttered and screwed his face up when Granger smacked his shoulder. “What? Oh, come on Hermione we all know you’re a powerful witch.”

Granger huffed. “Well after they were restrained, we plied them with a copious amount of Vesania Potion-”

“There's no such thing.”

-yet,” she snapped giving him a very unimpressed look, for interrupting her or dismissing her explanation he couldn't tell. Probably both. “The Vesania Potion will be created by Poppy Watts a Potion Mistress from the States. It mimics the effects of prolonged exposure to the Cruciatus,” she snapped narrowing her eyes at him.

“Why would any-”

“She was trying to create an antidote for the curse.”

Severus gnawed of the inside of his cheek as he glared at the witch. Occasionally potions did the exact opposite of what they had originally been intended for. Ingredients reacted to each other in a way that was unexpected or the intent of the magical user had been off or any other number of things could go wrong in the process. Trying to develop a potion that would help with all the side effects of the unforgivable was something he had never attempted because he knew how difficult it would be.

Slowly he looked at all three before returning back to stare at Miss Granger. “So that was you in Bellatrix's body?”

Granger nodded. Severus thought back to the events of that night and so much more made sense. It wasn’t Weasley desperately seeking help it was Roldolphus looking at his fellow Death Eaters who wouldn’t realize they were about to kill one of their own. It wasn’t Granger sneering up at him her features twisted in anger it was Bellatrix.

The Dark Lord had killed his most loyal disciples and then turned around and thanked a muggle-born and a blood traitor for the honor of it. The irony was not lost on him. They had stolen his snake which led to him murdering Pettigrew and torturing Dolohov to death. They had systematically started to unravel the Dark Lords grip on power in just a few short maneuvers and now they had his veritable soul in their grasp and apparently the means to destroy it.

“I still don’t understand why you would put yourselves in that kind of danger.”

Ron sighed. “We know how Tom moves, how Albus moves, hell even Travers and Dolohov are predictable and they were on the fringe of everything. Bellatrix...she’s a wild card. As was her husband. We couldn’t allow them to have free reign on the board when we had the opportunity to take her out.”

“This isn’t a game,” Severus hissed.

“Of course it’s a game,” Harry snarled back. “Albus is playing and so is Tom. If you don’t want to see yourself as a piece so be it but, in the end, if you don’t play you lose. Albus is the only wizard Tom is afraid of so that means Albus had the means to destroy him but chose not too. He’s been testing Tom for decades.”

“Destroy? Potter, you realize you're talking about murder, blackening his soul in the process. Albus would never choose that route. It's indefensible.

Granger clenched her jaw and Weasley looked away. Potter stared at him his chin lifted his expression strange. Like he was...oh gods no. “You’ve already killed, haven't you?

Potter clenched his fists. “It was war. We did what was necessary.”

Granger jerked uncomfortably, glancing at Potter before standing up. "Albus...Is his soul not already tainted? He allowed Grindelwald to fester, helped in the death of his sister. Maneuvered people allowing them to die in each war he was apart of?"

Severus scoffed, pulling himself up and staring down at her. "You cannot blame someone for their actions in their youth."

All three stared at him incredulously before Potter barked out a forced laugh. "Are you serious? He blames you all the time for your choices and excuses others. Albus chooses who is worthy and who is not. You above all else should know this. Don't defend him."

Severus swallowed not wanting to follow the little white rabbit Potter dangled in front of him. There was a chasm of truth in the boy's words. Albus did blame him for falling into Black's little trap and nearly dying as a result. He did blame Severus for the bullying that took place in his school years. He did blame him for fracturing his only friendship and turning to the Death Eaters. And above all, he blamed him for Lily's death.

Of course, Severus knew he must take responsibility for his choices but when did Albus ever take his own responsibility for his actions or lack thereof in this war or the last? Almost never. He blamed others for his failings despite being lauded as the most powerful wizard alive. There were plenty of times he could have stepped in and prevented disaster. Had he not had a hand in the Potter's death? The leader of the Order he could have told the Potters he would be the Secret Keeper and they would have had to obey. That alone would have kept them safe for the Dark Lord would have never moved against Albus so openly. Instead, he allowed them to put their trust in a man who was knowingly a weak-willed coward over Black who was too brash, too cocky not to get caught. Their options weren't great and Albus knew. He knew and allowed it because the Dark Lord had to mark the boy. So Albus allowed the death of Lily and Potter because it fit in with his own prerogative. Wasn't that just as bad as turning a wand on them himself?

Severus closed his eyes briefly trying to ratify his thought process. He could feel himself begin to spiral and tried desperately to pull his thoughts back into line. The anger at Albus which he had held in check for years was quickly leaking out like an insidious noxious gas.

Potter sighed looking older suddenly. "Albus' soul is tainted. It’s why he died and I’m tired of being some piece with little worth that he feels fit to move at his will."

Silence fell on them. Severus didn't like hearing the hard undertones that spoke volumes of bitterness and brutal truth Potter was spewing. Albus did like being considered powerful. He did like to be in complete control and above all, he enjoyed the fact everyone thought of him almost like an all knowledgeable deity, worshipped and praised upon like no one else before him. Everyone, everyone looked up to him in some way or another and no one dared question him too deeply on his choices lest they feel his formidable wrath. Albus Dumbledore had learned how to be the quintessential Gryffindor tempered cleverly with the Slytherin traits he had learn in Gellert's bed.

Severus cleared his throat. “You said there were 7. Where is the last one?”

Granger rubbed her brow while her other arm wrapped around her midsection. “It’s a ring. Last time Albus had found it in the Riddle House. But we have no idea where they are hence why we are telling you all this.”

“You believe I can find the location?”

“We do.”

Severus sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. This was a lot to take in. “It is late and we still have much to discuss. It would be best if you all turned in and we will continue this tomorrow after dinner.”

“So, you believe us?”

“I... don't not believe you. As I said there is more we need to discuss and I need to tell Minerva that Albus has left the castle.”

Potter suddenly straightened. “Left the castle? Why?”

“I know this is difficult for you to understand Potter but the world does not owe you an explanation on every little-”

“Severus please,” Hermione interrupted grabbing onto his arm. “It's important.”

He frowned at her grip on his arm and shrugged her off. He looked down at her contemplating his reply. “He did not say. He was concerned over a new unknown entity in play and then left.”

Ron looked at Harry with a troubled expression. “You don’t think...”

“Fuck!” Potter spat his hand tearing viciously through his hair. Severus was on the verge of scolding the boy for swearing when they all bolted out of the door the wards splintering as the crashed through them. Severus staggered against the backlash before running after them. He caught them as they entered the Headmaster's office ready to give them hell when he spied the Headmaster sprawled unconscious on the ground.

“Fucking idiot!” Potter snarled as Severus quickly pulled out his wand levitated the Headmaster to the chair while Granger transfigured it to a bed. The portraits all protested angrily but Weasley stepped up and silenced them with a complicated twist of his wand. Severus had noted a few had tried to scamper out of their frames but found that they couldn’t.

“We don’t need those buzzards shrieking in our ears,” he muttered as he turned to look down at the prone form of the Headmaster. Severus looked down in horror at the black shriveled arm that now hung loosely on the floor.

“Accio Ring,” Potter snapped and a ring fell off one of Albus' fingers and floated to Potter who grabbed it angrily. Severus was about to rebuke him for touching a cursed object when Albus groaned.

“Don't worry Severus as you can see by the state of Albus's arm the Horcrux has been destroyed,” Potter muttered angrily pocketing it. Severus mentally started racking up the disrespect these brats kept heaping on him for future reference. He raised his wand twisting it as the diagnostics told him nothing good. He started furiously binding the curse to the arm to bide them some more time. Beside him, Granger was also ripping through advanced diagnostics and binding spells and had he not be so worried he would have realized how well they worked together. Granger suddenly sat up after reading his vitals and shook her head at the other two in the room who sat at Severus's peripheral. He didn't want to confront what he knew, what Granger had already surmised, he didn't want to think of this man gone. As much as he despised him Albus had been a steady constant in his life.

Another lot of diagnostics kicked the wind from his gut. Despite his best intentions, the Headmaster would be dead in a year if that. He dropped back away tired and magically drained desperately searching his mind for a potion that would help him.

“Severus? You need to move away,” Granger said softly her head ducking so she could catch his eyes.

He looked at her in confusion. “No, he needs help. I can brew something-”

She shook her head. “Harry. Bind him.”

He twisted around to dare Potter to raise a wand to him when he found himself bound, silenced and delivered to a chair just out of the way. He promised swift revenge when he was released on all of them and struggled to unpick his bindings though his magic was slow and sluggish after the strange events of the last couple of days.

“What do we do?” Hermione asked Harry who shook his head minutely. Ron seemed deep in thought. Slowly he looked up at Hermione.

“There is something...Severus bound the curse to his arm right?”

Hermione frowned as she tried to follow Ron’s line of thinking. Her brows cleared as she realized. “Can you do it?”

“Yeah but I need Harry to anchor me while you...” he waved a wand at the Headmaster's arm and then moved around to sit at the top of the Headmasters head. Harry had moved next to Ron and looked over at Hermione

“What do I need to do?”

“It's simple. Touch him. He needs someone to tether him to this plane.”

Harry nodded and placed his hand on Rons back. Ron seemed to nod slowly to himself before he placed both his index fingers on the Headmaster's temple. Hermione, however, was digging furiously through her tiny beaded bag until she pulled out a massive bone cleaver. Severus tried to launch himself at the trio. They were going to take Albus' arm? The morons. That wouldn’t solve the problem at all. The curse would escape his binding and kill the man outright. He frantically pulled at his magic willing it to co-operate and untie him before they potentially murdered the man.

Hermione ignored everyone else, her expression intent as she ran her wand over the cleaver. It glowed briefly before her gaze flickered to Severus' panicked face. She turned to focus on the Headmaster once more before glancing at Harry who nodded resolutely. Hermione noted Ron was sitting just outside their material plane coaxing Albus’ astral form to follow him and slowly she reached out to touch the pulse point of the Headmaster's wrist waiting for the slowing of his heartbeat. Once she felt it, she moved to the other side took his withered blackened arm and raised the cleaver.

Severus shut his eyes as she brought it down with a loud thud, feeling like he had failed. He opened his eyes slowly his eyes on the Headmaster's form. Granger was in the way so he focused on the rising and the falling of his chest.

Good gods, he was still alive.

Granger moved aside and Severus was shocked to find his arm pristine and free of any darkness that had been there moments before. She placed a hand on Weasleys back and the ginger shot up with a start.

“Is it done?” he asked Granger who nodded. Potter and Weasley both heaved a sigh of relief.

“He’ll be in a deep sleep for the next day or so but he’ll be fine.” She looked up at the portraits who were all staring at the occupants with shock and awe.

“We’ll need to do something about them.”

“We could tell Albus the truth, Hermione.” 

Hermione shook her head. She didn’t want to involve the Headmaster just yet. He was so unknown that she couldn’t even begin to predict his actions should they include him.

“We don’t have to make any decisions just yet,” Ron muttered standing up and stretching. “I bound them to their portraits and we’ve had a trying time. We need to rest.”

Hermione turned and looked down at Severus. He was looking at her in an odd way.

“Do you agree Severus? We'll figure all this out tomorrow as we agreed.”

Severus looked up at the witch then at Potter and Weasley who looked grim. A swish of Potters wand had unsilenced the man and he slowly nodded his head too tired to even bother chewing them out. Albus was for the moment alive and well and his body was screaming at him for rest.

“Tomorrow then.”

Chapter Text

Severus walked into the Great Hall and frowned to find it bereft of students and staff. Even the tables and chairs were gone. The only thing in the room was the small sorting stool and the Sorting Hat. Severus took a step toward its intent on returning it to its place in the Headmaster's office when it opened its brim.

 

We stand upon the precipice

The end of magic near

The elders have destroyed the way

The children so should fear.

But those who've grown up once before

Will lead us from our doom

They stand upon the precipice

Clearing magics tomb

Trust them for you know not them

But they know all of you

The future present and the past

Survived and now brought new

Your secrets spilled an age ago

They’ll take them to their grave

And in the end, we’ll know again

It’s magic that they’ve saved

 

“The stupid song from the beginning of the year,” Severus whispered to himself as he turned away from the hat. Hermione Granger stood before him but not the child he knew. No this was obviously the Hermione Granger before her unexpected trip back through time. Her dark brown hair, while still full in body had lost its business and corkscrew curls. Now there were subtle waves that flowed over her shoulder emphasizing her heart-shaped face. Severus could see her the copper flecks in her eyes and the dusting of freckles across her nose as she looked up at him.

“We’re going to die.”

Severus jolted with her matter of fact voice. She grabbed his hands with startling strength and a fissure of heat barreled down his spine.

“No Severus. Not you. Not anyone else. We are going to die.”

He looked past her to see Harry Potter a grown man standing tall his Auror badge sparkling in the morning sun. Next to him was Ronald Weasley smiling sadly at him. They both sported well-maintained beards with Weasleys being a bit fuller and Severus could just make out Potters glasses as they were now rimless. He looked back at the witch still holding his hands. She was looking up at him with a small smile and her eyes watered with unshed tears.

“I’m so glad you get to survive this time Severus,” she whispered.

Why was the witch looking at him like that? Like she cared for him.

Behind him, he could hear the damn hat humming.

 

She left you in that shrieking shack

Her guilt was all-consuming

And even though you died that day

Her love for you kept blooming

 

“Shut up,” he snapped and spun around to find destruction. His heart thrummed madly in his chest as around him students ducked for cover, flinging off spells as they fell. He saw Lupin fall to Dolohov wand and Tonks cried, out her distraction allowing Bellatrix to fire of the death spell at her niece.

“Granger!” he called out as the chaos reigned around him. His eyes darted catching familiar faces but not the witch he was looking for. He started to feel his panic rise in his chest.

“Hermione!” He roared.

Silence.

The Forbidden Forest. He frowned as the light changed and darkened. Then Potter walked through the trees and stopped. This was the Potter closer to the child he knew. Young but not a man grown. He was dirty and obviously malnourished, his clothes ripped, his face lined with stress and small scratches. He didn’t seem to notice Snape at all as he walked past him. He faltered unseeingly and pulled out something from his pocket. Severus cocked his head as he recognized the snitch. A small inscription was inlaid across it.

I open at the close

Severus stared at the boy as he lifted it to his lips. “I'm ready to die.”

All around him figures started to materialize. First was Lupin who looked younger, then Black and Potter and finally...

“Lily,” Severus whispered as he took her in. Her eyes though were on her son's frame as he stumbled to her. Both of them reached out for the other but their hands passed through each other. She smiled sadly down at the boy.

“You've been so brave.”

Potter Senior spoke then. “You're nearly there, son. Very close. We are...so very proud.”

“Does it hurt?” Potter asked quickly looking around at these almost ghosts.

“Dying? Not at all. Quicker and easier than falling asleep,” Black had said kindly.

“And he’ll want it to be quick he wants it over,” Lupin murmured.

Severus pulled his eyes away from Lily and looked at the boy finally realizing that he was going to his death. Lily turned her green eyes meeting his dark ones. “Yes, Severus. My son sacrificed himself so the world would know peace. “

He swallowed. “I didn’t...I didn’t want that.”

“There were lots of things in your life that you didn’t want. Even now you are fighting against the fact there is a witch who-”

He snarled and turned away only to find himself in Grimmauld place. He stared down the long and dark corridor. A figure rose up out of the carpet, tall, dust-colored and terrible. The grey figure glided toward him faster and faster its waist-length hair and beard streaming behind it. Its face sunken, fleshless with empty eyesockets and Severus stumbled away in fear as the specter that was Albus flew at him.

“You killed me.”

He woke gasping for breath and a scream on his tongue as he looked wildly around. Sweat clung to his frame and Severus worked to untangle the sheets that had tried to trap him. He swung his legs off the bed and let his head fall.

“A nightmare,” he muttered but something told him it was more than that.

Chapter Text

There was something different about Severus today. Hermione knew it by the way he walked, glared and snarled at people. It was a lot to heap on a person and even though Seveuss had a remarkable ability to adapt this was outside the norm of beyond weird. She expressed her concerns to the boys who brushed them off.

“He’s probably shell-shocked. It has been a crazy few days even for us,” Ron said pulling out a beef sandwich. He offered half to Hermione who shook her head and then to harry who also declined. He shrugged and started eating while Harry paced and Hermione was trying to concentrate on fixing the events into her arithmancy chain. The door to Severus office slammed open and Severus billowed into the room

“Leave.”

The three Gryffindor's all looked up at him in confusion.

“But-”

“You two will go up to the Headmaster's office and work out how to keep those damn portraits from spilling what happened last night to Albus when he wakes which will probably be later tonight.”

Ron finished chewing and nodded. “Righto Harry, you heard the man”

Harry seemed to dither until Ron grabbed onto his robes and started pulling him out of the classroom. “Hermione has got this mate.”

As the door clicked shut after them Severus pulled up the wards ensuring that no one would overhear them. He had spent the morning in his quarters thinking on his dream and on the events that had brought them here. There were things she hadn't told him, things she had purposely left out and Severus got the sinking feeling as to what they were.

Regardless of how fearful he was of the answer, of what he was potentially capable of Severus felt a fit of overwhelming anger for the witch. Not only because she had lied to him but because he knew she felt something more for him.

What a stupid, stupid witch.

He had shied away from looking too closely at his own feelings for her for fear of what that meant for him. He didn’t want to love anyone but Lily. Didn’t want that pain that always came from opening yourself up to someone only to be let down and crushed. And while he knew it was impossible to fall in love with the witch just yet he felt it could have been easy if he let it happen once she had properly matured. She wasn’t just the student everyone saw on the outside. She was also the strong confident 25-year-old witch on the inside. That witch was what stirred up the feelings within him.

And he hated it.

He wouldn’t let himself fall in love with her. He was the master of his own heart and he refused to give it away again. She was just a silly little girl and she would rue ever even contemplating looking at Severus with nothing but distaste and derision.

“You’re not telling me everything.”

She rolled her eyes. “We didn’t get to finish telling you everything.”

“No, you told me Albus had died.”

Granger blinked. “He did,” she said slowly.

“How?”

She glanced away for a second. “He was killed by a Death Eater.”

He swallowed painfully. “And how did I die?” He watched as she licked her lips, her eyes darting from his face to her fingers which were twisting on her lap.

“You were killed by Nagini at Voldemort's urging.”

His lips twisted. He had hoped he would meet his end in a more dignified way but that was here nor there. He stared at the witch taking in the slight hunch of her frame, her fingers twisting themselves almost frantically and her the mess she called hair casting her face in shadow. Granger's body language spoke of her shame and feelings. It disgusted him. “Is that why you felt guilty?”

“I beg your pardon?” she snapped standing up and glaring at him. He grabbed her arm roughly and pulled her to him leveling his face to hers. Her eyes flickered in fear for a second before she stared up at him with indifference.

“Is that why you felt guilty, loving the Death Eater that killed Albus Dumbledore?” He hissed. Her eyes widened and filled with tears and she pulled at her arm trying to break his grasp of her. He tightened his grip feeling a vindictive pleasure at seeing her wince in pain.

“Let me go.”

“No, take a good look at who you love Hermione. I'm obviously a murderer. I can see it in your eyes. I killed him in cold blood, didn’t I?”

“No,” she whispered frantically pulling at her arm, desperate to be free of him.

“Did you return to change me, Hermione? To stop me from killing the beloved headmaster?” He lowered his voice, spitting his bitter words like a lover.

She didn’t answer him her focus on getting out of his grip.

“Did you think I would fall in love with you?” he sneered.

“No,” she stuttered halting her movements. Her head bowed and Severus saw tears fall. How pathetic.

“Did you think I was kind and sweet and we would live happily ever after?”

“Stop, please,” she whispered.

“What kind of witch loves a cold-blooded killer?”

“He made you,” she screamed her head snapping up and her furious eyes meeting his own. He sneered at the tears falling down her cheeks.

He shook her again. “Who? The Dark Lord? Of course, he did. I happily joined his ranks; I knew exactly what I-

“Not Voldemort. Albus!” she shrieked, finally managing to free herself and the sudden momentum caused her to fall to the floor. She sobbed as she tried to sit up and then she tossed her hair from her face and glared up at him.

“Albus was dying. You saw that. He foolishly put on that damn ring and cursed himself. He knew he was dying and he used the unbreakable vow to force you to kill him.”

Severus stared down at the witch in shock. “No. Albus-”

“What did he used to say, Severus? For the greater good?” She snarled as she scrubbed her face and shot him a vindictive look. He almost flinched. “He didn’t give a shit about you Severus. Didn’t care about your soul. Or your suffering. He used you just like he used us.”

Hermione pulled a ragged breath and sat up properly hissing as the pain of her wrist flared. She cradled it to her chest as she used her other hand to wipe her eyes. Severus stared blankly down at the witch unsure of what to say. He didn’t want to believe her but it did make a sick sort of sense. Of course, Albus would happily sacrifice his soul for the greater good. He’d sacrifice everyone for it. Severus had never really put any real thought to it because it had terrified him any time his mind went anywhere near the idea.

He had thought to scare her but once again she had turned the tables and had him feeling wrong-footed. He sighed. “I can't love you.”

“You think I don’t know that!” She hissed as she stood up and brushed the dust from her robes. She sneered as she looked at him.

“I'm not an idiot Severus. I didn’t come back thinking that I’d save magic and you would fall into my arms professing I was your greatest love. I’m not some lovesick little fool pining after you. I know exactly who you are. You’re a mean spiteful bully who holds grudges like no one else. Your brilliant, quick-witted oozing with more talent in your little finger then the ministry has combined. You hate Gryffindor's and despise know-it-all and despite the fact that your heart belongs to a dead witch who never saw you for who you were and you will never be mine...I STILL LOVE YOU,” she roared causing him to flinch at her anger. The declaration shouted to the empty room had shocked them both and Hermione numbly stared up at him.

Hermione sighed and took a step back from him. “It doesn’t matter. I didn’t come back for you.”

She spun on her heel and stalked out of the room slamming the door behind her.

Chapter Text

They had managed to spell the portraits to secrecy using a modified charm the Ministry used on their portraits. Where the Hogwarts portraits swore magically to the Headmaster himself (or herself) the portraits of the Ministry and of St Mungos were sworn to the magic itself, ensuring secrets could not be hidden from those who needed to know. Headmaster Black had sat silently through the entire proceeding contemplating the duo. They were not the same two young men he had seen in here over the years. These were men thrust into bodies too young for them. They walked with purpose and weilded magic with ease. The Weasley boy had somehow achieved a moderate level of skill in charms and once the major part of the casting had been completed he had taken over to finish while the Potter boy left to check on the Headmaster himself.

“Albus’ manipulating has finally got him into trouble heh?”

Ron smiled at the Slytherin man. Hermione had kept Black's portrait after the war and it sat upon her mantle proudly. When asked why she had mysteriously smiled and had shook her head. No one else questioned it but Black did offer some good advice from time to time in between sneering and looking down at the trio. “Something like that sir.”

“Not going to tell me are you, boy?”

“No, sir. But once it's over...”

“I'll look forward to the visit then. “

Ron saluted the Slytherin Headmaster and turned to see Harry coming down the stairs.

“He’s still asleep. It looks like his astral form has settled back into the correct frequency. He’ll be awake in a couple of hours.”

“Won't he be suspicious?” Dilys asked.

Ron shook his head. “Pulling an astral form out of the body by force muddles things up in the noggin. He’ll be confused for a few days but he won't remember going to fetch the ring.”

Dilys looked at Ron settling deeper into her green velvet chair. “Explain that procedure to me boy? I've never heard or seen anything like it.”

Ronald shrugged stepping away from the wall to look at Dilys fully. “Well to be honest I didn’t know it would work but I figured, we had to try.”

Dilys nodded and silently urged him to continue.

“Albus was on the edge of the veil making it easy for me to attach my astral form to his but still make sure he was anchored within the living world. Severus had already bound the curse to his arm which binds it to his astral form. Both are sort of soul magic. Hermione turned the cleaver into its astral form and severed the arm.”

“So, if Albus ever does willing go into his astral form he’ll find himself without an arm," Dilys mused turning to smirk at Phineas. "Which would serve him right?”

Ron shrugged. “It was the best we could do given the circumstances.”

“You did marvelous Mr. Weasley,” Dilys said fondly.

Harry frowned at the portraits. He never liked magical portraits and had removed all of them from Grimmauld when he had renovated it. “Why are they so...I don’t know...accepting?”

“Hogwarts magic boy. The nexi is telling us to trust you and we will,” Euphraxia snapped. Harry glared at the old witch.

“You can feel the nexi?”

“Of course, we’re sustained by it by the very foundations of Hogwarts herself. Magical portraits don’t last long away from ley lines or nexus magic.”

Harrys mouth thinned. “If you can feel it though...why did you warn us it was polluted with dark magic?”

Dilys coughed. “Albus was more concerned with the war than with the muddying of the nexus.”

Harry felt his temper rise. “He knew?”

“Not to the extent you three understand it, dear. When we brought up our concerns, he had believed it to be just Hogwarts and if it was...well that would have been easily solved.”

“But you have portraits in St Mungos and the Ministry...both have a nexus there.”

Dilys frowned. “I'm afraid we are rarely there enough to get feel for the currents, my dear.”

“But there are other portraits surely-”

Black growled cutting him off. “We portraits once installed rarely move. Any portrait who sits in a nexus supported building would never believe that the entire network had been compromised. A single nexus could be purged easily but all of them...” he huffed a sigh and looked worriedly at the boys. “I honestly don’t know how you will do it.”

“We have a plan.”

“You had better.”

***

“Mister Potter. Mister Weasley. What are you both doing out of bed at this time of night?”

The shrill voice of their head of house danced down their spines as they turned and stared up at her. Even after all these years Minerva McGonagall could put the fear of merlin in anyone that crossed her. She pinched her lips together, her wand at her side tapping angrily. The casting had taken most of the day and ensuring Albus was fine and talking to the portraits had caused both of them to forget they were still students and therefore subjected to curfew.

“They're serving detention with me, Minerva.”

Both boys turned around to see Snape billowing up the corridor with Hermione following unhappily behind.

“Severus? And Miss Granger? What on earth have they done to deserve detention at 11 pm? It’s a school night!”

“What haven't they done,” he muttered.

“We called him an ugly git who stuck his abnormally large nose into our business,” Ron said earning a bewildered look from Harry. Minerva looked startled, staring down at Ron before clearing her throat.

“Well, that is...something. And you Miss Granger?”

The small witch sent a withering glare to the Potion Master. “I called him a black-hearted bastard.”

Snape sent her a look as she curled her lip up at him and huffed.

“Well, then I'd say it’s warranted, though the timing is rather late.”

“We have moon thimble mushrooms to harvest and you know they only bloom at night.”

“Yes,” Minerva said slowly. “Yes, they do. Very well. Don’t keep them out too late.”

He grumbled as he pushed the two boys forward and Minerva went on her way. “There's no such thing as moon thimble mushrooms,” Hermione hissed once they were free of the Transfiguration Mistress. Snape merely rolled his eyes and stalked onwards.

Ron and Harry looked at each other perplexed by her obvious rage directed at the Potion Master. Ron raised his eyebrows and mouthed the word ‘fight?” at Harry who shrugged and continued to follow Snape. He was storming through the corridors ignoring the fact that all three had to jog to keep up with him.

Harry turned to Ron as they round a corner. “That was a ridiculous reason do you know that?”

Ron shrugged. “It’s not like we haven't actually said it.”

Both Harry and Ron winced as Severus faltered in his steps obviously having heard them both. Harry scowled at Ron. “Well, we never said it to his face at the very least. You should have gone with something less...incriminating.”

Ron rolled his eyes. “Harry sometimes you are dense. A late-night detention where Snape is overseeing it himself required an extreme reason.”

Harry sulked realizing he was correct. Minerva would have never believed anything but. “You didn’t have to look so pleased about it. You looked insane.”

Ron chuckled as they just managed to jump on a moving staircase to the fifth floor. Severus ignored them although his eyes flittered to Hermione as she glared at the banister not looking at anyone.

“Where are we actually going?” Harry asked Hermione.

“Professor Snape wished to see Nagini’s terrarium.”

“And we must plan for the destruction of the Horcruxes and of the Dark Lord himself,” Severus informed them over his shoulder as he took to the next set of stairs. Harry looked over at Hermione who shrugged glumly.

“I explained almost everything to him.”

“Is that why-”

“Shut it, Harry. I don’t want to talk about it. But it's safe to say he's fully aware of almost everything now.”

Chapter Text

Lucius Malfoy strode down the hallway to the Potion Master's private rooms with a quick and even pace. Severus had owled him that morning requesting a meeting implying the urgency without putting it into words. Lucius had believed that Severus had either found the LeStranges murderer or Nagini's kidnapper. Neither news was likely to go over well with the Dark Lord and so Severus had summoned him to perhaps work out a way of breaking the news without getting killed.

Lucius lifted his cane and tapped it three times against the Potion Master's door. It swung open immediately revealing Severus grim face.

Definitely not good news.

Lucius strode in and resisted the urge to wrinkle his nose in distaste of Severus' chosen furnishings. It wasn’t like he was destitute; he could afford nice things he just chose not to.

Probably to piss me off.

Lucius, however, kept his face bland as he was exceptionally worried about wrinkles and took a seat on one of Severus' better chairs. He accepted the glass of brandy and sat back waiting for Severus to reveal his information.

Severus, however, moved to the door and set up a series of extreme wards even for the dangerous times they found themselves in. Lucius sat forward and frowned lightly (once again wary of the wrinkles) at his friends' paranoid motions.

“Is all that necessary?”

Severus turned and glared at the aristocrat before stalking over to his bedroom door and opening it. Lucius stood abruptly as the three Gryffindor's he despised most walked into the room and took positions at various parts of the room. The mudblood sat on the edge of Severus' desk, the blood traitor leaned casually against the far wall and Potter walked calmly to the settee and perused him slowly before sitting down.

“Nice hair Mr. Malfoy?”

Lucius’ hand unconsciously found its way up, checking to make sure someone hadn't hexed him again. Narcissa had cried all night as he tried to undo it. Lucius flung his hand to his side and sneered at the supposed chosen one.

“Watch it, boy,” he hissed advancing on the boy. Potter didn’t even flinch. Before he could unsheathe his wand however Severus had stalked over and grabbed onto the back of his shirt. Lucius spun around and snarled.

“This is Scarab spun cotton you heathen,” he hissed straightened the creases. Severus rolled his eyes at the dramatics and then sent a pointed look to Potter who held up his hands in mock surrender.

“What are you doing with these...three in your private rooms?”

The mudblood stood and summoned a Pensieve from the bedroom to the desk and begun pulling memories from her temple. Lucius glared at the witch, angered that she was doing it so effortlessly.

“We need you to see something,” Severus stated and nodded his head to the Pensieve.

Lucius glared at the bowl before blinking at Severus. “Do you honestly think I'm going to dip my head in there and leave myself defenseless?” He asked slowly.

Severus leveled his wand at the aristocrat. “No, I believe you are going to dip your head in there because you favor your hair.”

Lucius narrowed his eyes. “You wouldn’t.”

“Try me.”

Lucius huffed. “It's bad enough that some ministry lacky used a kinking charm on it last summer now I have my supposed best friend threatening to take it all off.”

“Oh, that was me,” Harry said a grin. Weasley laughed and shook his head. Granger sighed irritably and stood up her wand tapping against her thigh in a threatening manner.

“Let's stay on point, shall we? Lucius, the Pensieve. Now,” she managed through gritted teeth.

“You dare try to tell me what to do, you filthy little mudblood?”

An ebony wand was pushed tightly into his jugular and Lucius winced. Severus sneered as he pressed deeper. “Call her that one more time.”

Lucius' eyes widened, shocked and confused that Severus would react in such a way. His gaze flickered between the two of them before a small tickle in his brain pushed a memory into the forefront. His lips curled up into a grin, eager to reclaim some upper ground. “Ah, so you’ve found a new mudblood whore to-”

Lucius went flying and landed roughly against the wall before sliding down in a messy heap. Hermione let out a very put-upon sigh while the boys chortled behind their hands fully aware that Hermione was not in the mood for these kinds of antics.

“Professor! It is not the first nor will it be the last time a Malfoy calls me a mudblood. We need Lucius to be helping us and we won't get very far by hexing him every time he throws a slur at me.”

“I detest the word,” Severus snarled as he stalked over and glared down at Lucius feeling the distinct urge to kick him. He may have been his friend but that didn’t mean he liked him very much. Severus rubbed his head angrily before hunching down over the unconscious wizard. He contemplated the blonde Slytherin, his wand rolling in between the palms of his hands.

“Hermione's quite proud of it actually,” Ron muttered. Harry laughed.

“Yes, every time Draco was in the room Hermione would pull up her sleeves and deliberately put it in Draco's eyesight.”

Severus turned slightly in his crouched position. “Why would your arm make him uncomfortable?”

“Hermione spent a fair time being tortured by Bellatrix and the bitch had carved the word mudblood into her with a cursed knife. Draco witness it and apologized every time he saw her for like...what was it a year?” Harry remarked looking to Ron for clearance. Ron nodded.

“Didn't matter that she forgave him every time, he still asked until she hexed his mouth shut,” Ron said with a chuckle.

Snape stared at the witch. “You forgave him?”

Hermione crossed her arms and gave him a withering look. “He was a stupid boy who grew up with stupid parents. His words while hurtful were not completely understood until later. Of course, I forgave him.”

Severus stared at her for a moment before turning and casting a renovate on Malfoy. Lucius blinked wearily up at Severus who smirked.

“Bloody hell Severus can't you take a joke?”

“You're not a comedian now get up and look in the pensive.”

He held out a hand to help him up and Lucius took it suppressing the pained moan that sat on his tongue. He would not show weakness in front of Severus let alone the enemy. He dusted off his clothes making another mew of disappointment at the creases in his shirt before walking over to the desk.

He sneered down at the Granger girl who lifted her chin and her eyebrow at him. Lucius cast one wary glance around the room before ducking his head and falling into the memories.

They came quick and fast without letting him stop to peruse them properly. There were students pointing at the Daily Prophet and Lucius almost gasped to see him bound in chains holding up an Azkaban sign on the front page.

Then before he had a chance to read the headline, he was whisked away to his formal dining room. There he sat, small and broken, next to his wife who glanced around fearfully at the others seated at the table. The Dark Lord walked behind him and he watched himself physically recoiled.

The room spun and he was once again in his manor though they were in the ballroom. Granger was on the floor screaming under Bellatrix wand. Lucius spun around to see himself again still worn and weary nowhere near the proud man he should have been.

Good gods! My hair!

Oh no, the wrinkles!

His wife fretted as she held an obviously older Draco and tried to pull him away from the disturbing scene. Draco's face was one of utter horror and Lucius could see he did not look well at all.

Lucis glanced back just in time to see the word sliced into the young witch’s skin and to see her staring at her son with an unknown expression on his face.

The scenery rolled again and now there was spellfire flying all around him. He instinctively ducked as children...children... ran for cover and his fellow Death Eaters dogged them. He realized with shock that he was standing in the ruins of Hogwarts. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Narcissa and himself running through the chaos screaming for Draco desperately.

Another spin. He shuddered as he looked up at the Wizenmagot and then to the chair he instinctively knew he would be chained to. Pensieve Lucius looked weary and frightened his eyes searching for his son and his wife who sat looking very small and lost.

The courtroom looked fit to burst and Lucius stared up at Kingsley who sat in the Minister's chair. The wizard glared at the prisoner before bringing the courtroom to order.

“Mr. Malfoy. You are charged with joining a terrorist group to commit torture and murder. You aided and gave refuge to The Dark Lord assisting him to overthrow both of Hogwarts and this very Ministry. You imprisoned and assisted in the torture of multiple people in your house of residence including Ron Weasley, Harry Potter, and Hermione Granger. How do you plead?”

Pensieve Lucius licked his lips nervously and looked over to where Potter and his little friends were sitting. Kingsley followed his eye line.

“You will find no assistance there Mr. Malfoy. Despite testifying for your wife and son, the Golden Trio have chosen not to do so for you. How do you plead?”

“Guilty,” he rasped.

Kingsley seemed to ponder him for a second. “You are hereby sentenced for your crimes to 10 years in Azkaban and 5 years house arrest. And be grateful it wasn’t more.”

The gravel came down with a bang and Narcissa let out a sob. He spun around to comfort her when was suddenly deposited back into his mind again. He slowly stood up straighter, his fingers gripping the desk almost painfully and stared at the swirling mist in the bowls.

“Those were memories. Pure memories,” he whispered.

“My memories Mister Malfoy,” the mudblood said as she eyed him warily.

“How?”

She shook her ridiculous head. “It doesn’t matter but if it's your greatest wish to see your house laid low then you will continue as you have. However, if you wish to see the great house of Malfoy rise to new heights you will join us.”

He considered her words. That was all he truly wanted. For everyone to know how powerful and strong his house was. To retain the legacy set down by his ancestors. Slowly he turned and looked down at her. “And what do you have to offer?”

“A way to destroy the Dark Lord and be free of groveling to a half-blood who enjoys torturing you just for the fun of it.”

Weasley grunted from his place leaning against the wall. “We’re not asking you to actively take part in his downfall. But we need your assistance afterward. Mainly your money and connections.”

Lucius hummed. Those...memories had shifted something deep within the man. He knew that somehow; they were real though he had no idea how.

“Oh, stop being a twatty little dick Lucius and just agree,” Severus snarled.

“You're losing your Slytherin zeal Severus,” he muttered. “Very well. I’ll help after his downfall. Not before. And I want you to explain everything to me before I agree to help you.”

Granger just rolled her eyes.

Chapter Text

 

The Shrieking Shack was still, the air stagnate and old with a scent that Hermione knew too well. Her heart started to race as she took in the all too familiar room. She took a single step before her eyes landed on the horror that had plagued her for too long. She let out an anguished wail as she fell to her knees mindless of the blood that was now seeping into her jeans.

“You couldn’t have saved me, Hermione. Let it go.”

Hermione shook her head and her body pitched forward. Her hands landed in the cold liquid and she stared as it stained her skin. The specter behind her had haunted her for so long she no longer was surprised by his presence.

“No,” she whispered. “I could have saved you. I had the potions; I had the time. I chose not to.”

“I don’t blame you for that.”

“You should,” she muttered bitterly as tears fell and mingled with the congealing blood.

"The fox condemns the trap not himself Hermione." She closed her eyes shaking her head to his words and stood.

The world twisted and she searched blindly in the enveloping shadows. The walls seemed to breathe heavily as she stumbled along her hands searching for anything to grab onto. Someone giggled far away. Hermione stopped and cocked her head all to aware of who the giggle belonged too. She sighed. 

“I'm not afraid of the dark. I'm not afraid of you."

A twisted version of Bellatrix glides in from the gloom. “No, you're not are you. But you hide me just the same. Is it guilt or shame?"

"Don’t," she warned the specter of the woman who had once tortured her.

"Don’t what?" 

"Don’t underestimate me."

Bellatrix smiled and it was almost motherly which was frightful in itself. "Never but I will step into the light and how will you hold yourself then?"

Hermione lifted her chin and widened her stance ready for a fight. Ready to survive. “Like I've always done."

"Brutally," Bellatrix whispered the answer. "Oh yes, you wear your brutality like a cloak, don't you little one?"

Hermione gritted her teeth. "I live in a brutal world."

Bellatrix stared at her. "And what of your kindness?"

Hermione faltered and looked down at her blood-stained fingers. "Its here, woven within the brutality."

Bellatrix took a step forward and Hermione felt her cold fingers under her chin, gripping it tightly, lifting it to stare into her eyes. "You will use it again? Your cloak of brutality that has threads of kindness in it?"

"Yes," she breathed. Bellatrix looked disappointed and dropped her hand.

"Perhaps you and I aren't that different after all."

She stepped away and gestured to a door and then shrunk back into the shadows. Hermione's feet felt like lead as she dragged them through and collapsed on the floor of Severus' main bedroom at Spinner's End. She rolled onto her stomach and propped her palm under her chin. Her fingers traced the aged rug pattern idly. “Do you know Minerva likes to talk about you the most? Filius too but I think Minerva feels the most guilt for that last year.”

She rolled over and stared at the ceiling.

“She talks about all the hijinks that you got into when you were a student. Not as bad as us I'm sure but still...did you really charm all the teacher's doorsteps into sinking sand? Marvelous bit of spell work. And the Marauders copped the punishment too!”

She had laughed at that as she rolled back over and stood before making her way over to sit on the bed. Beside her a small tower of books had toppled over onto the bedspread when she sat down and she carefully stacked them again stopping to fingered the spines lovingly.

“These journals. Merlin, you're brilliant. I'm not sure what to do with them, to be honest. I know you gifted me your library in your will but... I'm reluctant to let any part of you go.”

She sighed and looked around the room. “I know you're dead and I know I'm talking to an empty room like a crazy person but sometimes I feel...lost. Like this isn't how it was supposed to be at all.”

Her head fell into her hands.

“So, I heard Snape's house was finally sold?”

Hermione looked up from her writing and frowned at Ron. How had she gotten to her desk at work? She shook her head trying to clear it. “Yes. I’m not sure who bought it though.”

“How do you feel about that?”

She leaned back. “I’ve had time to process that. It’s been 4 years Ron. A small part of me will always regret not actually knowing him but at least I got a part of him. “

She was suddenly stretched out crawling through an enclosed space listening to the boom and crashes of the battle they had just left.

Nonononono.

Hermione's heart lurched as she stood and saw Voldemort talking to Snape. He turned to her, his snake-like face looking pleased as she entered the room and stood near him. He fingered his wand slowly as he turned back to Severus who glanced nervously at Hermione. 

Kill.

The word whispered in parseltongue slithered around her spine as her heart stuttered in horror at the demand.  Her body warped against her consent twisting painfully into her Animagus form and she reared back and growled at the Severus. His eyes widened in fear as he stepped backward.

“Don’t do it, Hermione," he whispered. “Don't let me-"

She struck at Severus. He let out a pained cry as he toppled back unable to fend her off as she advanced on him and struck again.

“Stop. Stop. Please stop.”

But she kept striking. Ignoring his weakening cries and the blood that coated her mouth.

“Hermione,” he gurgled as she reared up and looked to Tom. He was smiling at her and then he looked blandly at Severus.

“I regret it.”

Hermione turned back and watched as the light left Severus' eyes and he became still.

She shook her head. “No. I regret it,” she whispered.

 

Hermione woke up gasping for breath. Sweat dotted her brow and she pushed Crookshanks off of her chest, his weight and heat uncomfortable as she tried to pull air into her lungs. Sucking in deep breathes she noticed dots suddenly filling her vision and she flipped over onto all fours desperately trying to calm her beating heart.

It was going to quick.

It wouldn’t slow down.

Why won't it slow down?

She clawed at her throat, tears falling onto her comforter, and opened her mouth with a silent scream.

She couldn't breathe.

Why couldn’t she breathe?

She needed to breathe!

Air! Gods I need air!

Then a sharp pain bloomed across her check and she reared back in surprise. Crookshanks gave her a very unimpressed look as she cradled her cheek feeling the blood drip between her fingers. He turned away and stalked down her bed before plopping down and started grooming himself.

A panic attack.

She pushed her fist into her mouth and bit down hard letting out an agonized scream as tears squeezed out of her scrunched eyes. She pulled her fist free ignoring the pain of her bite and forcefully unfurled them on her knees. She hung her head slowly breathing in and out trying to remember the technique her therapist had taught her. Her head dropped as her heartbeat calmed. Pins and needles pricked uncomfortably over her limbs and she felt drained and strangely empty.

Tea and biscuits.

She needed tea and biscuits. Nothing helped her more after a panic attack. Slowly she crept out of her bed shaking her hands to get the blood pumping back into them. A quick glance at her roommates told her her charms had held and they were none the wiser to her episode. Careful not to wake the other girls she silently summoned her robe and slippers before padding down the stairs and she slipped out of the portrait without waking the Fat Lady. She pulled her gown tighter around her as she moved through the shadows.

When was the last time I had a panic attack?

She felt light-headed as she rounded a corner and sighed heavily stopping to lean her head against the cool stones. Her dreams never made sense. Her therapist had said that was normal for those who suffered from post-traumatic stress. She had told Hermione to keep a dream journal but she never wanted to dwell on them too deeply as she knew, she knew, it would rip her raw and she couldn’t afford to be that vulnerable. Not then and not now.

She could process her reaction to the war and the horror she had endured during it but her psyche was something she shied away from. Her brain had always been too clever, too quick and she knew that the only way it could actually get her attention was through her dreams. So she became quite adept at glossing over them.

After the war, they had been violent and vivid but with time and help, they dwindled to the point where a hot shower had her dismissing them easily. Now that she had returned so had the horrors she thought she had dealt with or at least laid to rest. It made her uneasy at how quick they were to surface and how vicious they were. She pushed off the stones with a soft sigh and continued on.

Wounds heal but scars linger forever.

“Miss Granger?”

She halted and winced before slowly turning around. Severus stood looking down at her with a curious look upon his face.

“It's rather late for a stroll.”

“I...had a dream,” she murmured feeling her cheeks heat up at the lameness of her answer. She felt like a child and that was something she never wanted to feel like in his presence. Severus' eyebrow quirked.

“You had a... dream,” he purred.

She closed her eyes at his tone. “A nightmare that had turned into a panic attack,” she explained feeling a little better. Panic attacks were nothing to be ashamed of.

“Mmmm.”

The silence that followed set Hermione's teeth on edge. He was goading her, she was sure. “I was going to get some tea to calm my nerves,” she gritted.

“You know that being out after curfew is expressly forbidden. You don’t even have a prefect badge to rely upon.”

Hermione closed her eyes trying to reign in the anger that was swelling within her. She was a war hero and survivor. He knew this and still treated her like a child. “I will just go back to the common room then.”

She moved to walk around him and then felt his hand on her shoulder halting her movement. She didn’t move, confused by his actions.

“I did not dismiss you,” he murmured.

Ah of course. Any chance to assert his dominance. Arrogant arse.

“Come with me.”

She frowned as his palm left her and he spun on his heel taking a corridor that Hermione normally ignored. She pivoted and watched as he stalked away leaving her no choice but to follow him. He seemed so sure of his footsteps even though the corridors were draped in shadows. Hermione stumbled a few times as they descended into the dungeons and when she began to recognize where they were actually headed and she frowned in confusion.

He opened the door to his private quarters with a wave of his hand and then turned to her before he gestured her to enter. Hermione stared at him in bewilderment. He raised an eyebrow at her in action and she quickly scurried in. He followed her, summoned an elf after setting his wards and to her surprise he asked for a tea service.

“I know how difficult panic attacks are,” he murmured as he gestured for her to take a seat. She sat heavily into the small love seat and stared at him. His actions were so against what he was actually capable of. The elf snapped back in and out leaving the tray and Severus helped himself. He motioned for her to do the same and she robotically assembled her tea and took a sip. The feel of the heated liquid hitting her tongue caused her to exhale and she felt some of her muscles relax.

“Do you wish to talk about it?”

Her eyes snapped from her tea to his dark stare and she scoffed. “You? Talk to me about my nightmares?”

He sighed. “To you Gryffindor's, I may seem like a harsh and unfair teacher but I do care.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes. “You are harsh and unfair. Don’t even bother trying to lie about that. And I do know. You wrote enough of your thoughts in your journals.”

He stopped mid-sip and swallowed. “You read my journals?”

She straightened suddenly realize how stupid it was allowing that tidbit to escape her. He was such a private man he would have felt violated that she had been privy to his innermost thoughts. “You bequeathed them to me.”

“Did I?”

Her fingers curled into fists. “Yes, you did. I know how unlikely that may seem but it's the truth.”

“Mmmm.” He continued to sip his tea seemingly unconcerned with the revelation. Hermione frowned at his reaction and reached for a biscuit.

“What occurred in your dream?”

She chewed her biscuit and stared at him. “You don’t want to know.”

“I believe I do. Or I wouldn’t have asked.”

She snapped her emotions frayed too much to hold her words. “Fine...I saw your death again. I knelt in your cold blood knowing I could have saved you but I chose not to. And then I was at Spinners End going through all your stuff as you told me to and then...then I killed you. Again, and again and again.”

His eyes flickered and he frowned as he digested her words. “You chose...not to save me?”

“Yes,” she said simply.

“This actually occurred? In your timeline?”

She took a breath, hating that he was asking this. “Yes.”

He put his cup down and looked at her, his head cocked slightly. “Miss Granger, why did you not... try?”

She sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. She realized that it must have been more of a mess than usual when it caught on a knot. “Once upon a time I thought it was because of my loyalty to Harry. But lately... I've begun to think that maybe it was because you wanted to die.”

“How do you know what I want?”

She huffed. “I don’t know what you want. I knew what he wanted.”

“We are one and the same are we not?”

“No,” she shook her head sadly. “No, you're not. You will never be him. We’ve already seen to that. I think...I think my dream was...my subconscious is telling me I killed him when I came back. He will never exist." She looked down into her teacup and took a breath shuddering as the epiphany sunk into her mind. "I don’t love you. I loved him.”

Severus felt something deep within him crack. Lily had once said that exact thing to him and he hated Potter more for it. But Hermione had loved him. Did love a version of him. She wasn't choosing another wizard over him like Lily had but a memory of himself. A man who had lived and died and existed for her and her alone now. She was choosing a love that would never be borne over the same man who sat across from her. It was like time was rewriting itself. He loved Lily but she had chosen another. Hermione loved Severus, this he knew, but he had chosen death over a chance with her. At least Lily had wanted to live.

Why was that more painful than what Lily had done?

Because you had the potential to be him. To be loved... by her.

And even with the ridiculousness of the situation they found themselves in, Severus found himself wanting that.

“You didn’t even know him,” he said slowly picking up his teacup again. Hermione shook her head a sad smile still on her face.

“Not physically no. But I lived in your...his house, I read his journals, I slept in your bed. I fell in love with a memory. A ghost.” She looked away her eyes seeing a past that would never happen. Her voice trembled as tears pricked her eyes. “And I was never allowed to forget you, Severus. Every year we bowed our heads to your obelisk. Every month when I go to see Minerva, I was forced to look at your portrait that would forever be empty. Every day I walk past your statue at the Ministry.”

A strange part of him wanted to laugh as he thought about their situation. He was literally competing with himself for her favor not that she was aware of it. A competitor that he would never face in reality, that lived in the histories of Hermione Granger. His anger and jealous and insecurities rose abruptly.

“You must not have loved him very deeply then,” he said blandly.

“What?” She hissed standing up. Severus stared up at the witch. Even young as her body was, she was still lovely when she was angered. He placed his teacup carefully on the table and spread his hands in front of him.

“You have an opportunity to pursue and yet you seemingly have put it aside easily enough. The facts are rather obvious."

She snarled. “You and him are not the same.”

“And why is that?” Severus asked with a tilt of his head.

“Because my Severus wouldn’t have even deigned to spend time with me willingly.”

Severus sneered. “Why love a man not capable of returning that love, then?”

There was a painful vindictiveness that crossed her features. “Oh, I don’t know Severus. Why don’t you ask yourself that?” she snapped before she spun and stormed out, slamming his door for good measure. He sat back confused as he contemplated her words. He closed his eyes in pain pierced his chest when he realized what she had actually meant.

Why did he continue to love a witch that was not capable of returning his love?

Chapter Text

“Miss Granger? See me after class.”

Hermione looked up in surprise before nodding curtly and continuing to pack away her books. He could tell she was annoyed with the summons by the way she snatched at her quills and jammed her parchment into a folder.

Draco let out a low ooh from the other side of the classroom and the rest of his little band of idiots laughed. Severus ignored them, however, he did note the front fringe of Draco's hair was starting to kink oddly. He sent a pointed look to Potter who was innocently looking at the ceiling and ignoring the Potions Masters stare. Severus shook his head and let it be. The little shit deserved some of what he got and the hair kinking charm was harmless.

Once all the class had left, Potter and Weasley had not even given Hermione so much as a wave, she pulled her bag over her shoulder and went to stand in front of her desk. He was still flummoxed by their trust in him. The children they were would have sent glares in his direction and not wanted to leave their friend alone with him. They were not the children he remembered though. These were adults, aged through war and had been the ones who had righted the world after they had been left alone.

We failed them.

He stood from his own desk and stepped towards her noting her fingers tightening around her bag strap. Her hair had been pulled away from her face, corking uncontrollably past the hairband and giving her an almost lioness visage. Her brown eyes narrowed as he stopped and she pursed her lips drawing his gaze to them. He quickly focused on the whole of her face before he let himself do something stupid.

Weeks had passed since their last confrontation. They had all been busy trying to figure out a way to get close enough to the Dark Lord as safely as possible. They still had classes and other responsibilities that kept them occupied as well as trying to keep their secrets from anyone else. Dumbledore had woken up positive he drank too much sherry and needed to cut back, something Severus encouraged claiming he was just glad no students had seen his antics. Albus had paled at that and then the portraits had all inferred certain tomfoolery he engaged in while drunk out of his skull. It was certainly very Slytherin of them as they couldn't outright lie to the acting headmaster but making up stories and telling them to each other so he could overhear was apparently allowable. Albus, shamed and humbled was distinctly quiet in the following weeks and kept his head down which was helpful to the four of them.

Weasley had taken it upon himself to explain things to Severus properly stating Potter wasn’t a good fit at this time and Severus agreed. As much as he noted the change in Potter he still despised the boy, though to be fair he knew it was due to the actions of his father and the boys disrespect before his slip through time. He knew that he would be able to put aside his disdain given enough time and perhaps distance. Hermione however outright refused to talk to him and he couldn’t blame her for it.

Severus had spent any free moments though thinking on the few conversations they had.

She had become Hermione in his mind. Ever since she had declared herself for him, despite taking it back, he couldn’t let it go. She would no longer fit into the box he had carefully constructed for her in his mind. She was no longer the child he thought she should have been. No, his mind kept displaying her from his dream. Fully matured, intelligent and beautiful. Now he knew the truth he could see her potential. The way she moved, the way she talked or held herself was indicative of a witch who knew her self fully.

His brain stuttered to a halt on that train of thought. No matter what was happening to him internally she was still stuck in the body of a child. Regardless there was an opportunity here and as a Slytherin Severus was loath to let it pass him by. He didn't love her. Not yet. He couldn't with her in this body, still his student and him still in the service of two megalomaniacs. Once he had thought that death would be his port of call, after all was said and done and he welcomed it. Peace from his wretched existence. Now there was a far more tantalizing picture that dangled in front of his very eyes. A picture he had not allowed himself to truly think about.

“We have to talk.”

“About?”

“Us.”

Both her eyebrows rose high on her forehead and she let out a disbelieving scoff. “There is no us. There will never be an us. So, there is nothing to talk about.”

“What if...what if I wished for it?”

He had to hand to her. She wasn’t giving him anything and he supposed he deserved it. She pursed her lips as she considered him. “We don't always get what we wish.”

“I know that Hermione-”

“Don't call me that,” she hissed taking a step towards him.

His eyebrow rose. “Your name?”

“Yes!" She snarled before realizing her stance was a tad too aggressive. She let out a breath and stepped back. “Besides I am not entering into a relationship with a body like this,” she muttered softly crossing her arms over her chest. Severus smirked knowing she hadn’t really meant to say that out loud. His Slytherin nature pounced on it.

“So, you will enter into a relationship with me?”

She opened a mouth only to snap it in shock. “That... is not what I meant.”

“What did you mean Hermione?” He crooned and was pleased to see her eyes widen.

“I told you not to call me that,” she warned. Severus sighed. He didn't want to push her too much. He glanced down at the floor as he considered his words carefully.

“What if I...tried?”

“Tried what?”

He lifted his gaze and held her own. “With you.”

She laughed. It was a cold cruel laugh. “You don’t want me. You said it yourself.”

“Not yet I don’t.”

She smirked and it grated Severus to see her smug. “So what? I have to wait until you feel I'm acceptable in your eyes? No thanks.”

“Well did you? In your future? Find someone else?”

She chewed on her lip as she considered his question. Her eyes cut away and Severus frowned. There was something here, something that weighed on her that had nothing to do with him. After a moment of silence, her voice cut through, low and dull. “Even if I did it wouldn’t have lasted long.”

“Why?”

She started like she had forgotten they were talking. “Doesn't matter,” she snapped uncrossing her arms.

Severus decided to let it drop but he filed it away. He lifted a shoulder. “Then we will both try.”

Hermione blinked at him in disbelief. “What? No! Didn't you hear me? I don’t love you.”

Severus smirked. As strange as the conversation was, he was enjoying himself. “I don’t love you either Hermione. So, we are on equal ground.”

She grabbed at her hair exasperated with where the conversation was going. “Except I know all your secrets and you know literally nothing about me.”

“Then you will give me the opportunity to know you.”

“You're barking,” she muttered throwing her hands up and turning away from him.

“You said it yourself. I will never be him. You have changed the future and we are now on a new course that will probably see me survive this war. I want to at least have something to look forward to.”

She spun. “Oh, how convenient for you,” she sneered at him.

Severus smiled. “Yes, it is. I am a Slytherin after all.”

“I'm not some prize you get for being a good boy. Even if you had lived in the future, my past, I doubt we would have ever made something of it. We’re too different.” Her bag slipped off her shoulder and she let it fall to the ground before once again leaning against one of the work stations. She crossed her arms and looked down at the floor in consternation.

“Are we though?”

Her head snapped up. “What?”

“The man you knew he was too different. I, however, am unknown to you to an extent.”

She shook her head baffled by him. “How are you different then?”

“I would have thought that obvious. I have my sights set on you.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Why?”

Severus shrugged. “Why not. You're incredibly intelligent and have the potential to love me. You are already aware of all my vices and negative attributes.”

“Maybe I don’t want you.”

He scoffed. “That’s a load of bullshit.”

She flinched and glared at him. “This is not happening. Despite what I... feel...felt for you, this,” she motioned between the two of them. “-is not happening. I have a mission to complete and that is my primary objective.”

He sighed and copied her posture against his own desk. He knew he would have to show her he wasn’t playing with her. “You were right. Lily never really did see me. I fell in love with her because she was the first person not to look at me and see something to be sneered at.”

Hermione looked away trying to appear non-plussed. He continued.

"And I can see in your eyes, despite us being at odds right now, that you have...affection for me. Despite everything, my age, my past, your past. You still know me. Like no one ever has.” He stood up and stepped toward her but she ignored him. “It’s confusing and annoying. Then there's the fact you’re still underage-”

She shook her head still not looking at him. “Actually I'm not. Underage. This body is already a year older than everyone else and my time with the time turner...well I’m 17 at least.”

Severus opened and shut his mouth before taking a deep breath. “Regardless, I’m attracted to your mind at present.”

Hermione finally looked up at him and sniggered. “You’re attracted to me? How embarrassing for you.”

“Your mind Hermione, the witch inside you,” he muttered with a roll of his eyes and walked slowly over to her stopping in front of her. She eyed him warily but didn't move. 

“You’ll find Hermione,” he leaned down and skimmed her ear with his lips, letting his voice drop to a whisper. “That I can be very patient.”

She suppressed a shiver and pulled back to look up at him. “And you’ll find Severus, that I can be just as stubborn."

He looked down at her, a small sly smile gracing his mouth. “You see? We’re made for each other.”

****

“What did Snape want?”

“Nothing,” Hermione mumbled trying to hide the redness of her cheeks as she walked out of the classroom to find both of the boys waiting for her.

Ron chuckled and waggled his eyebrows at the embarrassed witch. “Did you and Snape get jiggy with it?”

“No! And I resent exposing you to Will Smith.”

Ron laughed again before slinging his arm through Hermione's and pulling her down the hall. He opened his mouth wide and started to bellow. “Innnnnn West Philadelphia born and raised-”

Harry let out a laugh as he ran to catch up and added his voice to Rons. “On the playground was where I spent most of my days.”

Chillin’ out, maxin’ relaxin’ all cool.”

Hermione rolled her eyes and smiled indulgently. “I hate you two.”

Chapter Text

“I hate this place.”

Severus cast a glance over at Hermione who was looking up at Malfoy Manor with undisguised disgust. He realized with a jolt that she had been captured imprisoned and tortured here. He felt a small fissure of guilt climb his gut but ruthlessly suppressed it. Now was not the time.

“I don’t have fond memories of it either,” Ron muttered. The memory of Hermione's screams had filled his own nightmares for quite some time and it had taken longer for him to forgive the Malfoys for the role in her pain then the others had.

“Are you sure Tom isn't here?” Hermione asked adjusting her bag. Severus nodded.

“He’s traveling. For what reason I don’t know but he won't be back to later tonight.”

“He’s searching for the elder wand,” Potter said matter-of-factly. Severus looked down at the young man and scoffed.

“That's a myth.”

Potter blinked up at him. “No, Albus has it. The Hallows are real Severus. And we have them.”

“Well, technically one. But Albus has the other two,” Ron piped up.

He wanted to dismiss their story as nonsense but everything he had seen and experienced since they revealed themselves to him had told him to believe. A small part was angry as Albus for once again keeping him in the dark about it but he shied away and focused on the mission at hand.

“Lucius will meet us by the servant's entrance.”

“Of course,” Hermione muttered with a roll of her eyes and together with the boys followed Severus around the side of the building.

“Why does it even have a servant's entrance?” Ron asked to no one in particular. “They have house-elves.”

“Why do the Malfoys do anything? Because they can,” Harry spat. He had forgiven the Malfoys in the future and was on quite good terms with them in general but these Malfoys had not learnt the vital lessons that had allowed the Trio to accept them. That was one thing they all worried about. Changing the future meant some people would not be the people they knew which could have ramifications that they could not possibly understand yet. It was a gambit but for the sake of the magical world, it was one they needed to make. 

Severus said nothing. He couldn’t deny their vitriol. Hell, he felt some hatred towards the family himself. But they were his friends and he cared for them though he would never announce it to anyone. Ever. Not only that Lucius had made their mission easier by convincing the Dark Lord to use Malfoy Manor as his base of operations. Tonight, the Death Eaters would arrive to take part in the first-ever revel since his return.

Lucius ushered them in and led them into a ridiculously extravagant and spotless kitchen. He idly wondered if Lucius had ever actually been in this room before.

“Where are the house-elves?” Hermione asked and Severus fought not to roll his eyes.

“A good house-elf never appears to guests,” Malfoy sniffed.

Harry laughed. “Funny, that’s what we say about Malfoys.”

Lucius narrowed his eyes at Potter, a vein in his neck twitching while Weasley chuckled and Severus hid a smirk. The Trio somehow knew exactly how to get under Lucius' skin and it was an enjoyable experience for Severus to watch.

“You know when you clench like that it releases stress hormones that age you rapidly,” Hermione said still looking around for house-elves. Lucius stood up and stared at the witch in horror.

“That can't be true,” he whispered touching his face. Hermione nodded.

“It's true, however, I've noticed when you clench your face you also clench your butt and I've always been partial to a nice firm ass then your face, to be honest.”

Severus felt his own jaw grind angrily at the thought of Hermione admiring Lucius derriere. Lucius, however, sent an infuriatingly smug look to Severus.

Ron however snickered. “Don't look that pleased, Malfoy. She just implied your face looked uglier than an ass.”

Lucius whirled around to face the witch who shrugged in agreement. He breathed noisily through his nose before gesturing though the door. “Let me show you through to where you can set up safely.”

Harry and Ron followed Malfoy easily but Severus grabbed Hermione by the arm and yanked her close to his body. He leaned in.

“Why are you looking at Lucius ass?”

“Why do you care?”

“Because you're mine.”

A look filtered across her face before she reined control of her features and narrowed her eyes at him. “I'm not someone who can be owned.”

“You misunderstand me. You are mine because I am yours.”

She blinked up at him, her mouth open in shock before her features twisted angrily. “Not yet,” she hissed as pulled away from him to follow the others.

They found the boys in a large room setting up undetectable wards. Ron motioned for Hermione to come to him and together they starting pulling out the required items they would need tonight. Lucius looked at the table down in confusion as they spread the items before them.

“What are these?” he muttered picking up a dull round jewel. Ron looked up and smiled.

“You gave me the idea actually.”

“And what idea is that?” he asked smoothly before letting out a shriek as the jewel suddenly had legs. He had dropped it as soon as it started moving and leaped away from it. Everyone let out a laugh at Lucius' reaction as he tried to play it off cooly. He failed obviously. Ron bent down and picked it up, squeezing the side so the legs popped beck in hidden from view.

“This is a sleeping scarab. I designed them with my brothers. Once activated they find the nearest magical signature and deliver a painless bite that causes the victim to fall into a deep sleep for 12 hours.”

“Why would you create something like that?”

“There was a need.”

“What need?” Lucius pressed and was disappointed when Weasley ignored him by pulling more beetles from Granger's beaded bag. Lucius was quite impressed with it, to be honest. Perhaps Granger could be convinced to create one for him. Though much better than her drab little thing. Only the best for a Malfoy.

“You’ll put these under all the seats with a simple sticking charm." Weasley continued to explain. "We’ve applied linking charms so we can activate them remotely. Once that occurs, they should take out most of the Death Eaters without too much damage to anyone.”

“Well that is a neat little trick but what happens if one of us gets bitten?”

“We took the antidote,” Hermione said simply, her arm thrust deep within the bag.

Lucius looked at her blankly. “I didn’t.”

“I know.”

“Will I be given this antidote?”

Hermione considered him for a second. “No.”

Lucius blanched. “But...you like my ass.”

Hermione's eyes snapped to Severus' frame which seemed to tighten. “You didn’t listen. I said I'm partial to a nice firm butt. I never said yours. Just that I prefer looking at a butt, any butt, to your face.”

Severus seemed to relax at her words while Lucius' face fell momentarily. He recovered quickly, however, pulling himself tall and sniffed haughtily down at the witch. “I’m not partial to any part of you Miss Granger.”

Hermione tried to suppress a snigger. “Oh, how will I ever recover,” she managed dryly before rolling her eyes at Ron. He smiled disbelievingly and pulled out what looked like a handful of large fangs.

Lucius struggled to ignore them and how they grated his nerves. They were children for Merlin's sake. And Gryffindors to boot. He bent down to take a closer look at the pile of fangs. “What are they?”

“Basilisk fangs. You know the one you helped release in Hogwarts and we helped slay.”

Lucius stood shifting uncomfortably under Weasley's gaze. Children, they might be but they did have an aura that Lucius couldn't decipher and made him unnaturally uncomfortable. “Yes well...what are they for?”

“None of your business.”

Lucius pursed his mouth, grabbed the scarabs that Granger had conveniently put in a bowl for him and turned to Severus who was watching them carefully. “Severus, I have never been so disrespected in my own house before. I'm going to plant these...these things before I retire to my office. I will let you know when the others arrive. Please keep an eye on these...hooligans.”

Severus raised an eyebrow at his dramatics as he flounced from the room.

“What a vain git,” Hermione muttered. “Harry? Put up the privacy wards, please. Can't let the posh twat know what we are about to do.”

Harry nodded grimly and with a swish of his wand all the doors closed and the windows shuttered. The room was plunged into darkness before Harry lit the sconces. Hermione and Ron began to pull out heavily ward boxes from the bag and placed them on the long dining table. They both stepped back grimly and stared at them.

“Let's destroy some Horcruxes shall we?”

Chapter Text

A house-elf snapped into the room and quivered as Severus turned his attention to it. It pulled hard on its oversized ears as her big green eyes swiveled around to the trio who ignored her before looking up at Severus fearfully. 

“Ugsy is sorry sir. Master is telling Ugsy to tell you they are here.”

“Are they in the correct room?”

Ugsy gulped obviously uncomfortable with talking to Severus. After all, a good house-elf never appeared in front of guests...or at least a Malfoy one did not. “They is in the drawing-room. They is all eating.”

“Good. And the scarabs have all been placed?"

The small house elf twisted the bottom of his tea towel. “Ugsy did them herself. They is all in the correct place.”

“Well done. Thank you Ugsy.”

The little elf breathed a sigh of relief and disappeared without a sound.

Hermione looked down the table at Harry who no doubt was mentally preparing for the rest of the night. Harry had little to do at this moment in time with Ron and Hermione taking on the bulk of the work within the room. She gave him a small strained smile and then turned her attention on the objects that were enclosed in magical barriers. The boxes had been charmed to contain the dark energy of the Horcruxes so they would not influence anyone who came close to them. A precaution they had all agreed to take as they still knew so little about Horcruxes themselves. Ron had spent hours applying the charms and Hermione could really appreciate his expertise as they literally could not feel anything from within.

The diary and the ring were already taken care of thanks to Albus being a control freak and Lucius being an idiot. The cup was currently sitting in Lestrange's vault (though who knew where it went now, they're both dead...Narcissa?) unencumbered with a soul piece. The locket and the diadem would be the first to address. Nagini was still in her magical confinement, the suitcase sitting away from the other boxes and they would kill her last of all. Their dampening spells had worked a treat and she was sluggish at best which meant the danger level was at a minimum. They'd still treat her as the threat she was, however. You could never be careless with a thing like Nagini.

Ron walked behind her, his eyes on the locket. “I can't believe we wore that thing for so long.”

Severus glared at him. “You wore it?”

Hermione gritted her teeth at his tone. He still had no idea what the war was like for them. How Albus had given them this massive mission and little clues nor help to complete it. They didn't need his scorn at a time like this if at all. “Not important right now but yes. We couldn’t just toss it into our jewelry boxes, professor,” Hermione snapped her eyes narrowing. Ron and Harry shared a look that both Severus and Hermione missed. Severus pursed his lips at her tone. 

“I could do without the sarcasm please.”

“You could but I won't.” Hermione waved a hand dismissively at him.

“Ok I'm going to step in and break whatever this is up,” Harry said and handed Ron the basilisk fang. “Same as before?”

Ron looked a little green as Harry removed the wards and pulled the gold chain and locket from the box. He carefully set it down before letting out a shudder and stepping away from the table. A quick nod at Ron who grimaced in reply before focusing on the locket. He let out a nervous chuckle.  “Ok...yeah. At least this time I won't see you and Hermione making out, right?"

“You saw what?” Severus rumbled though everyone ignored him. Hermione smiled at Ron before squeezing his shoulder and taking a step back away from the table. Ron raised the fang up and looked at Harry.

“One....two...three. Open.”

Severus startled as both Hermione and Potter let out a hiss and then his attention caught as the golden doors of the locket swung open. He palmed his wand in alarm as an older rendition of what appeared to be Pansy Parkinson arose in the black smoke. She spun sensually before her eyes narrowed on Ron who faltered and took a step back, the fang lowering to his side.

“Dirty little blood traitor,” she hissed. “Why would I, of the great and noble House of Parkinson take you? Please. I've only been playing with you because you're so easy.”

Ron shook his head as if to dismiss a swarm of angry bees. “No.”

The Slytherin pouted. “There's a reason why I don’t want to go public. I'm embarrassed to be seen with you.”

Ron shook his head again and palmed the fang. “Pansy is not embarrassed by me. She's embarrassed by her own actions. She loves me unlike you who has never known love.” With a snarl, he brought the fang up and then plunged it down in the middle of the locket. Both Severus and Harry winced as a long-drawn-out scream echoed through the room.

“Well done Ron,” Hermione murmured as Harry put his hand on Ron's shoulder. Ron sniffed a bit and let the fang drop on the table next to the smoldering locket.

“You're in love with Pansy Parkinson?” Severus asked feeling a bit foolish. Ron nodded not looking up at him.

“Huh?”

Ron shrugged off Harry's hand and turned angrily toward Severus. “What?”

Severus stared at the young man as if seeing him for the first time. He considered the two together. “You strangely make sense.”

Ron blinked, his anger draining out of him when he realized he wasn’t going to have to defend his relationship to yet another person. “Thanks, professor.”

Harry had picked up the fallen fang and placed it to the side before picking up a new one. They had no idea if it was one basilisk fang per Horcrux or if they could reuse the same one but it was better to ere on the side of caution. He flipped the fang in the air before catching it and handed it to Hermione. “Ok, Hermione you're up.”

Hermione took the fang and adjusted her grip. She did not want to fuck this up and she remembered being so scared the last time round that she had nearly dropped it due to sweaty palms.

“No getting wet and making out ok?” Hary said with a grin as he looked between Ron and Hermione. Ron chuckled while Severus growled.

“What the fuck is wrong with you three? I want explanations, Hermione.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “So demanding. Let's do this.”

Harry removed the wards protecting them from the Horcrux, pulling the diadem out and placing it gently on the table. Out of all of them, it felt the least evil to him but Harry still hated being near it. He stepped back eagerly allowing Hermione to take his place. Almost immediately the diadem started to rattle on the table as if sensing its end and Hermione panicked quickly striking at it, her fear taking over her logical mind. It flipped and flew onto the ground and just like before a dark smoke arose from it. Severus stared in shock as his own form shimmied its way into being. Hermione's eyes went immediately to it and the real Severus felt a twinge of jealousy at the longing that was clear as day on her face.

She should look at me like that.

The older version of himself was obviously older, more worn and tired. The stress of the war, of his position apparent in his face but his posture was strong and proud. The apparition opened his mouth and then suddenly his hands started to claw at his neck. Severus flinched as large wounds opened up and blood seeped out covering his chest. Was this how he died? His eyes flickered to Hermione's form as she dropped to her knees, the fang cradled by her hands close to her chest as her eyes cemented on the apparition. A rasping cough echoed the room.

“Why didn’t you save me?”

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” she muttered tears falling down her cheeks. The absolute grief in her voice cut Severus to the core and he made to interfere when a look from Potter stopped him. Weasley pulled him back.

“She needs to do this herself,” he murmured lowly, his eyes on the scene in front of them.

Fake Severus reached out a hand for Hermione to take and she closed her eyes and bent her head. It was almost as if she was ashamed to even be in his presence. Severus knew how that felt but to see it reflected before his eyes with him as the recipient was alarming. Did she really love him that much?

“We could have been together. I wanted to live, Hermione.”

“No...no you didn’t. You needed to rest.”

“I would have loved you; we could have had children.”

She sobbed harder as the face of the apparition became cold and cruel. An evil grin spread across his face and he seemed to grow in presence as he loomed over the sobbing girl. Severus' lip curled in horror as he spared a look at Potter and Weasley as they watched the scene with an awful grimness. 

“No that’s not right is it Miss Granger? You can't have children can you?”

Harry and Ron whirled around to stare at each other in horror. Hermione had never said anything about that before. Severus swallowed.

“Why would anyone want a witch that could even do something as simple as falling pregnant?" The sneering apparition glided around her trying to goad her even more. Severus' eyes went to his witch who seemed to shrink momentarily before stilling completely. Her head snapped up angrily.

“You didn’t want children,” she hissed standing up. Severus felt his mouth go dry as her face hardened.

Yes, yes, I did. With you.

“You didn’t want me,” she cried as she took a step toward it. Her hair seemed to come alive roiling around her head like an electrified halo. Severus had never seen anything so magnificent even as his heart was shredding at her words and the ramifications of them.

No, I do. I do want you. More than anything. 

“You hated me!” she screeched the magical wind now blowing around the room.  

No, I could never Hermione. Never.

She brought the fang down with a roar that befitted her house and it screamed with fury in response.  The backlash caused the lights to flicker and extinguish leaving them in darkness. Ron gulped in air as he waved his wand and light returned to the room. He looked at Harry in shock, devasted by what they had just found out. Hermione had suffered enough and to find out she had suffered this in silence without either of them knowing was heartbreaking. Tears welled in Ron's eyes as he watched Harry wipe his own from his face. He turned to go comfort his best friend to find Severus there holding her from behind enveloped in his robes as she cried. They had collapsed on the ground together and both Harry and Ron turned away to give them some privacy. Severus had rushed to her almost immediately when the Horcrux had been destroyed too agonized to do anything but.

“I'm here Hermione,” he whispered in her ear as he rocked her. “I'll be here for you. Always.”

Chapter Text

She felt wrung out. She didn’t want to do this anymore. She wanted to hide away and block out the world. Pretend nothing exists. But there was still one more Horcrux for them to take care of and a Dark Lord to take out. Hermione was if nothing else driven to complete any assignment she gave herself and this one was probably the most important.

She had heard Severus' words. Had felt his solid presence at her back and his mouth on her ear as he whispered his promises. She had heard them and locked them away promising herself she would look at them later. For now, they had a mission to complete.

She had found herself quite tangled up in Severus' limbs when she stopped crying and took account of the situation. One arm was wrapped around her waist, her back against his chest while the other traversed between her breast, his large hand resting on her heart. His chin sat on her shoulder, his ragged breath on her neck and his knees on either side of her encasing her in his warmth. Desperately wanting to lean back she pulled his robes off their body and made to get up. He released her immediately and they both awkwardly scrambled up.

She wiped her face, averting her eyes from him and walked over to the table where Nagini's suitcase was sitting. Harry walked up silently and twined his fingers into hers and gave her a squeeze. Ron touched her elbow lightly. She was so blessed to have these men in her life. Harry, her brother in everything but blood, always the one to never judge and to always accept her choices and Ron, oh Ron, her very best friend. Her champion. Her hero. Her confidant. She knew they were concerned about her but now was not the time to talk about the revelation and they all knew it. She sighed heavily and released Harry's hand.

“Is everyone ready for this one?” Ron asked looking back at Severus who looked shell-shocked but managed to tight nod. Grasping his wand tightly Ron took a deep breath and unclipped the locks on the suitcase.

What was supposed to happen was Hermione and Ron would venture into the suitcase magically, find the snake and bring it out ready for its demise. They had decided not to destroy the Horcrux within the magical suitcase due to the many charms in place that could react negatively to any backlash.

Instead, Nagini launched out of the suitcase throwing the trio backward as they scrambled away from her in shock and fear. Hermione let out a horrified scream as the snake landed and immediately turned to Severus. Ron and Harry had already recovered, result from years of training and were throwing hexes at it which did nothing to stop the giant snake. Her eyes narrowed in on the Potion Master and with a hiss began to slither towards him. 

Severus had felt fear before but nothing like this. He knew this was how he died in the first life Hermione had experience and he knew it was one of her biggest nightmares. Nagini had always been immune to a lot of spells thanks to the Dark Lords' augmentation of her and he never did find out which one would be effective. He palmed his wand uselessly as more spells hit the snakes body. Potter and Weasley had quite a large repertoire but nothing was slowing it down.

He had backed up quickly until his back touched the wall. His eyes flickered past the snake and found Hermione's. He wished she would turn away. She shouldn’t witness this again. The fear and anguish written across her face suddenly gave way to determination and Severus watched in awe as she twisted and became a giant snake.

Hermione was on Nagini within a blink of an eye however the snake was not going to be surprised like she had been the last time. Nagini spun around and sunk her fangs into Hermione's side. She vaguely heard the concerned shouts of others in the room but she barely felt it as she reared up pushing venom into her fangs and struck with such force it bowled both of them over.

Severus scrambled away from the two massive snake wrestling and twisting around each other. He skirted them quickly giving them a wide birth as he made his way to the table where both Potter and Weasley stood transfixed at the battle taking place. Both tried to strike the other but missed and were forced to retreat. He had seen Nagini bite Hermione form and a sick horror grew within him.

As the ball of writhing reptile hit the back wall with a massive thump Hermione suddenly seemed to get the upper hand. The cobra pushed all its weight onto the smaller snake and wrapped awkwardly around it effectively pinning it to the ground. It looked at Potter and hissed.

NOW.

Her voice bellowed in their heads, pushing them into action and all three spun and grabbed a fang. Severus was the quickest already running towards the snakes, his fear for Hermione dominating his fear for Nagini.  Skidding to his knees and plunged the fang viciously into the side of Nagini who hissed in pain and reared up while Hermione sunk her fangs into her again. Black sludge seemed to ooze from the wound and Severus could almost smell the dark magic that permeated it. 

Again.

He plunged again and again ignoring the splatter of blood that coated his robes and face. The thick tar-like sludge seemed to bubble as if it were boiling but it was freezing to touch as it puddled around his knees. Severus ignored it all plunging the fang in until a scream was ripped from him.  It wasn’t until he felt Potter grabbing him and pulling him back that he finally stopped.

“It's done Severus. You did it."

But he didn’t. Hermione had still been bit by the awful creature. He frantically ripped himself from Potters' grip, dropping the fang and scurried to Hermione's side. She was lying completely flat on the floor and Severus hesitated. She lifted her head and looked up at him.

“Turn back,” he whispered. Her head flopped back on the ground with a thud. 

“She can't. Not yet at least.”

Severus looked back at Weasley who walked over to her his wand casting diagnostics.

“While Nagini is a python Tom augmented her to have venom. However, Hermione in this form is immune to it, to a degree. If she were to revert before her systems purge it, it could kill her.”

Ron hunkered down next to her head looked down at the snake who stared at him. “You’re out old girl.”

She let out a growl-hiss and Weasley chuckled. “Don't fret. We’ve got it from here on in.”

He turned back to Severus noting Harry was now magically moving the now dead Horcrux away from Hermione. “Severus? Will you stay with her while Harry and I finish this?”

Severus blinked up at the boy and for the first time saw a man instead of the child. “Yes.”

Ron nodded and turned away giving Harry a look. Potter squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. 

“You ready mate?”

“Let's get this shit done.”

Weasley picked up one of the scarab Beatles and Potter had pulled out a robe. “Don’t leave this room,” Potter muttered as he pulled the cloak over him. Severus blinked as he disappeared and then opened it so Weasley could duck under. The ward fell and the door opened and closed as they left. Severus whipped his wand up securing the room again and looked down at Hermione.

I'm sorry.

Severus started when he heard her in his mind. Her mental voice was so odd to here in his mind and he hadn't realized she was so adept at mind speak let alone was an animagus. How much more did he have to learn about her in order to stop being surprised? He shook his head. Those were questions for another time when she wasn't fighting for life and they weren't surrounded by the enemy.

“You have nothing to apologize for,” he remarked slowly as he started to chant the healing spell over her bite wound. It was resisting him but he continued on nonetheless.

Yes, I do. When I saw that damn snake going for you again...I realized that I could have lost you. Again. In the exact same way...Time was repeating itself and I was so... standoffish with you because...

...I didn’t want to be hurt again.

Severus stopped casting to look at her. He considered his words carefully. “Neither did I.”

They were silent after that Severus finishing healing her wound and casting diagnostics. Hermione was lethargic and sluggish when she moved due to the venom though she was still working it through her system. Severus didn't know how long it would take her but he hoped that the diagnostics were telling him the truth and she'd be recovered soon enough. Though he was never one to rely on hope alone and squashed it ruthlessly.

“Is that why you didn’t have any relationships in..your last life? You couldn’t have children?”

She didn’t answer him.

He continued on. “I never did think I would have anyone who would want to have children with me. Or want me for that matter.”

She moved and lifted her head. Her great big body slithered sinuously before she stopped.

I can have children but it would need to be done with muggle technology.

He frowned in confusion and waited for her to continue. 

It’s a genetic disorder. Well, they think it is. It’s called endometriosis and it can cause infertility. It’s why my mum had me so late and why I’m an only child. It doesn’t affect purebloods or even half-bloods. So there's little to no treatment.

She seemed to shudder and Severus increased his healing charms over her.

Wizards even muggle-borns don’t want anything interfering with their precious sperm. They didn’t last long when I explained the process to them.

He was silent. She could have children after all. For a moment his mind supplied a lovely picture of an older Hermione a son at her hip and a little girl running around her. He frowned trying to regulate the image to the deep recesses of his mind and concentrate on healing her. That, if it was even a possibility was a long way off.

“Children are a fair way off Hermione but I'm not opposed to trying muggle means.”

She hissed and Severus took his hands off her immediately. Despite knowing it was Hermione she was still intimidating and he didn't want to offend her in any way that could hurt her or him. She reared up her body coiling until she was eye level with him. Her hood expanded and contracted.

Do you mean that?

He swallowed realizing the ramifications of his words and the fact that she could turn into a giant snake at any time and bite him if she felt like it. “I don’t say things just to hear my own voice.”

Oh, I'm sure that’s not true.

He chuckled and slowly brought his hand out to stroke down her chest. “You're lovely,” he murmured. “So you obviously still have some stories to tell me.”

She mentally giggled. A lovely sound to Severus' ears if he was being honest with himself. Her scales ripple under his hand the light bouncing off them in a mesmerizing way. He could feel the muscles, the power under them as they slowly contracted and released.

Yes, plenty I suppose.

She laid her body back on the ground and closed her eyes. Severus continued to monitor the venom that was slowly being neutralized within her body. He silently marveled at her.

I wonder if he's died yet?

Severus stiffened. He had been so focused on Hermione that he had forgotten the whole point of this endeavor. “The Dark Lord? I don’t think so. I believe would have felt it. You never did explain the plan fully.”

Her dark eyes swiveled back to him and he saw what almost looked like pity which was odd. He flinched never liking being at the end of it.

Oh.

“Oh, what?”

Severus. Harry is...Harry is a Horcrux. He has to die.

Severus scrambled to his feet and stared down at the snake witch. He shook his head as he tried to make sense of her words. Potter? A Horcrux. Impossible.

“No.”

Severus...

He had spun and was storming to the door intent on stopping Potter before he did something so foolish. How could they have not told him that? How could Albus of all people keep this from him? From everyone? Raise him to the slaughter. He had to protect the boy. He promised. Promised Lily. Promised Albus. Promised himself.

Just as he reached the door handle a searing pain raged up his arm and blinded his vision. He sunk to his knees his hand gripping his arm as he struggled to keep from passing out. Bile chased up his throat and he struggled not to vomit. He felt small hands wrap around his frame and he relaxed into her embrace his body convulsing while tears fell. He sat awkwardly on his knees, already knowing it was too late and she carefully pulled him into her arms and stroked his hair.

“I was supposed to protect him. I promised.”

“Shh Severus it's all right. Use your brain.”

He frowned at her tone and her words. How could she be so calm? She had just lost her best friend possibly both of them? Merlin, why did they leave without him? Why did he let them go? The door suddenly opened to reveal Potter staring down at them in confusion. Severus gaped up at the boy.

“What are you doing in the doorway? You know what? Never mind. Ron's securing the Death Eaters now. Tom’s done. We need to contact the Order and the Ministry.”

Behind him, he felt Hermione nod and Potter gave her a grin and spun around.

“Harry?”

He looked back. “You good?”

“Yeah...just... who was it?”

Potter let out a huge smile. “My mum. She said she was really proud...” Then he turned to Severus. “...and happy you finally get your freedom.”

Severus stuttered and Hermione let out a laugh.

“More stories Severus. More stories.”

Chapter Text

“What the devil is going on Malfoy?”

Hermione stepped back on her heel and crossed her arms as the Minister stepped through the floo. Scrimgeour was an odd-looking man who had been killed in the first war. Hermione only met him once when he had delivered Albus’ will and Hermione noted he didn’t look well then and he didn’t look much better now. Behind him Ndiaye stepped through taking in his surroundings, his eyes narrowing in on Hermione.

“Minister,” Malfoy purred but was cut off when Scrimgeour caught sight of Granger leaning against the wall her eyes on him. He glared as he brushed the soot from his robes.

“You girl? What are you doing here? Are you not meant to be at Hogwarts?”

Hermione ignored his questions instead nodding her head to him and turning. “Minister. This way please.” She began striding down the hall and was pleased to hear Scimgeour huff in restrained outrage before his footsteps indicated he did indeed follow her.

Malfoy caught up with Granger. “He doesn’t like me,” he murmured so only the witch could hear.

Hermione eyed him. “Malfoy, no one likes you.”

Malfoy huffed. “You're not very nice, are you? I suppose that’s why Severus likes you.”

She ignored his baiting and he crinkled his nose at the lack of response. They moved through the archway of the ballroom and stepped aside so Scrimgeour and his undersecretary could enter. Scrimgeour eyeballed both of them before his gaze landed on the body of Tom Riddle.

“Merlins balls is that...?”

“Voldemort,” Malfoy purred and Hermione's eyebrows rose at his choice of name. Malfoy shrugged and adjusted his cane. Scrimgeour tore his eyes from Riddle to take in the rest of the room. His mouth flapped noiselessly and Hermione suppressed a smirk. Beyond the bound body of Tom Riddle lay thirty-five high ranking Death Eaters unconscious and bound themselves.

“And is that...”

“His Death Daters,” Malfoy answered clearly enjoying the shocked Minister's reaction. Suddenly a door opened and Harry entered from a side room; his sleeves rolled up drying his hands on a towel. Hermione frowned. He looked remarkably older and she silently decided to revisit the numbers regarding their maturation. They were all particularly powerful mages and it was entirely possible their magic was advancing their body age to cope even beyond what their calculations had said. 

“Oh, good you're all here,” Harry remarked calmly as he swung the hand towel over his shoulder. Hermione frowned again at his words but noticed Harry's gaze was focused behind her. She turned to see Severus leading Albus and Kingsley into the room. Albus stuttered to a halt when he saw the body.

“Harry,” rasped the Headmaster. “What have you done?"

Harry's eyebrows rose in confusion and he spared a glance at Hermione. “We’ve taken down Tom and all his merry little followers.”

Scrimgeour suddenly pulled a wand on Lucius who backed up. “Not all you haven't.”

Before Hermione could even start to protest Scrimgeours' wand flew from his grasp and he turned to snarl at Ron who had been crouching by Goyle Snr ensuring he was restrained correctly. He caught the Minister's wand easily and Hermione smirked at his use of wandless magic. Ron twirled the wand idly between his fingers. “Tsk Tsk Minister. You should get all the facts before pulling a wand on someone.”

Albus, however, looked more and more incensed. “What have you done Harry?” he bellowed and stalked over to the young man who merely blinked. Everyone else flinched at Albus' tone. A stupid man to be sure Albus Dumbledore was still one of the most powerful wizards in the world and their superior to boot. Harry stood up straight and stared at the man who towered over him.

“I've ended it.”

“No. No, you haven't you stupid boy you’ve only delayed the inevitable.”

“Why are you upset?” Hermione asked, uneasy with how overbearing the Headmaster was being to Harry. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Ron was also uncomfortable as he moved closer to the two. Albus spun and took in Hermione his eyes widening before narrowing in realization. His gaze flickered to Ron and then back to Hermione's.

“Because Miss Granger there are things in play that you couldn’t possibly imagine?”

Hermione affected a slightly panicked look and glanced at the occupants in the room ensuring they were thoroughly involved in the conversation. They needed them to see, to understand, what Albus had done and what it could have cost them. They needed the Minister and Kingsley on their side, on the right side and above all, they needed them to trust they knew what needed to be done. The only way they could do this is if Albus dug the hole himself.

“What things? You mean to tell us there was information we didn’t know that was important to the cause?”

Albus looked equal parts pleased and exasperated. “Exactly Miss Granger and now your foolhardy adventure will prolong this war for Merlin know how long.”

Hermione looked up beseechingly at the Headmaster. “Why didn’t you tell us then?”

“You’re children,” Albus said condescendingly as if it were that simple. As if he hadn't been preparing them for years to be combatants in this war. To be willing to sacrifice everything they held dear for the greater good. Hermione's thoughts buzzed angrily in her head. The hypocrisy of this wizard continued to astound her. “So, the other Orders members? They know right?”

Albus dithered for a moment. “It wasn’t the right time to reveal certain things to them?”

“The right time? You at least told Professor McGonagall, right? Professor Snape?”

His silence confirmed what they already knew but it was still disappointing to witness it. Albus turned away from them all and stared down at the body of Tom Riddle.

“You're the fool, Albus,” Severus said lowly.

“Be quiet Severus. I'm trying to figure out what to do now,” he snapped dismissively.

“You mean with the Horcruxes?” Harry asked his top lip curling in anger. Albus looked up at the boy who lived in shock.

“You didn’t think we knew? Typical...you always thought you were the cleverest in the room. Sadly, you forgot about Hermione.”

Albus' eyes flickered to Hermione's in consternation. “You knew-”

Harry cut him off again his fury in the man he had once trusted evident on his face. “It wasn’t that difficult when you looked at it logically. But then again wizards tend to overlook logic all the time.”

Hermione's lips thinned as she thought of his words. Truly it wasn’t. Even if they hadn't figured it out their first time around, looking back on it with all the information it wasn’t that hard to come to the conclusion. Albus did and instead of asking for the assistance from the collective talents of the Order he had decided to keep the information close to his chest.

“How...How many...”

“Eight,” Ron growled lowly. 

Scrimgeour looked faint as he stared first at Ron and then at Harry. “Eight Horcruxes. Circe's tits.”

“And you destroyed...”

“Every single one.”

Albus swallowed struggling to understand the turn of events. “How?”

“We used the basilisks' fangs.”

“How the bloody hell did you get your hands on basilisk fangs?” Scrimgeour asked.

Ron frowned. “The basilisk at Hogwarts,” he said slowly.

“Fucking hell I forgot about that. Albus you can expect me to be enforcing a review on the school. You can't have students traipsing out at all hours and taking out a cult with illegal and dangerous parts of creatures.”

He stopped for a moment and looked at the trio. “Not that we aren't grateful. You stopped the war before it could begin. I suspect an Order of Merlin for each of you.”

All three shrugged noncommittedly. “It wasn’t just us. We wouldn’t be here without Professor Snape's help,” Ron said and Hermione smiled at him.

A cough interrupted what Scrimgeour was about to say and Ron rolled his eyes. “His royal gitness helped as well,” he added throwing a thumb at Malfoy who looked inordinately pleased to be included in the praise. Even if he prompted it himself. Scrimgeour's furry brows furrowed as he took in the blond aristocrat.

“Malfoy? Helped bring down the Dark Lord.”

Hermione lifted a shoulder. “We needed spies.”

“And Snape and Malfoy were those spies?” The Minister looked at Harry for clarification. The trio nodded as one and the Minister rubbed his head in consternation. It was understandable she supposed. They were an odd team-up. Scrimgeour glanced at the two conscious Death Eaters not at all impressed with the turn of events but he couldn't dispute the facts so he nodded to them and turned to both Kingsley and Ndiaye issuing orders to start the cleanup.

“I'd love to just shove them into Azkaban but after the shit storm of Black's escape, they’ll need proper trials.”

Harry's eyes lit up. “About Black...”

Hermione turned away ignoring as Albus stumbled into a chair looking as old and tired as ever. Kingsley was now ignoring the old man and from years of working with him as her Minister, she knew he was disgusted that Albus had put them all at risk. The Order was ready for a shakeup and none were better to do it then Kingsley. They also needed Albus to step down so they could smoothly start the next part of their plan. Albus would no doubt want to be in control and looking omniscient again and they couldn't allow it.

Hermione sighed and raked a hand down her face. She herself felt wrecked, the snake venom and emotional turmoil of the night had been enough for her and she was ready to put all this shit behind her. She felt Ron's hand on her shoulder and she looked up wearily and gave him a small smile.

“We did it.”

“The first part.”

“Still a win. Though I could use a good hot meal and sleep for a week.”

“You have to tell me what happened with Tom.”

Ron swallowed and glanced over to where Harry and Scrimgeour were talking lowly in a corner. “Fucking scary when Harry went down. Tom just about shit himself when he saw me though.”

Hermione chuckled realizing that Tom had already killed a Ron Weasley already.

“And for a wizard in his 70’s and rocking no nose he was powerful. I could barely keep my shields up. Luckily Harry wasn't out of it for that long.”

Another hand landed on her shoulder interrupting anything else they were about to say and both Gryffindor's looked up at Severus. “We should get you back to Hogwarts."

From further on in the room, Ndiaye and Kingsley started firing off patroni. Ron eyed the lion and bobcat as they raced from the room. Hermione could tell something was puzzling him but he would announce it in his own time. She took his hand and followed Severus down the corridor. Harry caught up to them giving them a wide grin as another Patronus whizzed past them and Ron stopped pulling his hand from Hermiones. Everyone stopped and stared at him.

“Hang on. Tonks's Patronus changed when she fell in love with Remus. Why didn’t yours?"

Hermione smiled and looked at Severus. She had read through his diaries before and he was sure she was well aware. Severus let out a long-suffering sigh and waved his hand at her. She grinned and turned to Harry and Ron. “Mine didn’t need to. It was already the correct version."

The boys looked at each other in confusion and then at Severus who had pulled out his wand.

"Expecto Patronum."

Harry couldn’t help it. He laughed. And then Ron laughed and Hermione was giggling as Severus watched, bemused, as a giant male River otter swam around him.

Chapter Text

“Aw fuck.”

Hermione’s head shot up in shock before taking in a very flustered Errol trying to shake a very distinctive red envelope off his claw. Ron quickly relieved the poor creature before staring balefully at it. The owl shook out its feathers before he took off taking out a pot off honey on its way up and out. Harry shook his head as he cleaned up the mess.

“Ya can’t ignore it mate...just get it over with.”

A quick look around the Great Hall showed that only a few students were up so early so Ron cast a non-verbal muffliato around the three of them and slouched as he opened the letter. The sound of tearing paper made all three wince as the enchanted letter pulled itself up and opened its origami mouth.

“RONALD WEASLEY. HOW DARE YOU SNEAK OUT OF SCHOOL AND DISPATCH A DARK LORD AND HIS HORRID CRONIES. YOUR FATHER WAS SO INUNDATED WITH CONGRATULATIONS AT WORK THAT HE HAD TO COME HOME AND IT’S ENTIRELY YOUR FAULT. WE ARE SHOCKED. SHOCKED AND SO VERY PROUD. WE’LL BE SEEING YOU TONIGHT. Oh, and well-done Harry and Hermione.”

All three of them gaped as the letter tore itself into pieces. Ron recovered quickest charming the pieces into an origami swan. “Honestly. We didn’t even sneak out. Professor Snape was with us.”

Hermione couldn’t help but laugh at his explanation as he simultaneously canceled the muffliato and charmed the swan to fly gracefully around their heads. Harry too was chuckling as took a bite of his breakfast.

From the corner of her eye she noticed a very distinctive robe and she turned to see Severus making his way over to them. He looked just as tired as she felt (and probably how she looked too). He had deposited them back onto Hogwarts grounds before disappearing again to deal with the Minister and Albus. Harry had been too buzzed to fall asleep and Hermione just wanted a shower so after cleaning up they had made their way down to breakfast just as the sun was rising.

Now the night was catching up on them and Hermione saw how Ron's eyes dropped and how Harry was hunched over his cereal bowl. She didn’t know how they were going to make it through today's classes.

Luckily it seemed that Severus was to be their savior as he stopped behind both Ron and Harry and glared down at them. Harry continued eating while Ron beckoned his swan to dive in front of him.

“You three delinquents will not be attending class today. You will be returning to your dormitories and resting.

Harry's head snapped up in indignation. “Delinquents?”

Ron, however, blinked tiredly and smiled dopey up at the potion master. “Did anyone ever tell you you’re my favorite teacher?”

Severus smirked down at the redhead. “Obviously.”

Harry dropped his spoon into the bowl and pushed it away. “Delinquents? Us?”

Hermione smiled and ignored him, her attention on Severus who continued. “I suggest you leave before the rush starts and your actions are questioned.”

“And the paper comes in with all our exploits,” Ron added with a grimace as he stood up. Hermione and Harry followed though Hermione paused as the room began to spin. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath willing her dizziness away. When she opened them both Ron and Severus were looking at her closely and with identical faces of concern. She giggled and with that their expressions cleared though their eyes were still trained on her.

Once upon of time she would have dismissed their worry but she had had one hell of a night. Destroying Horcruxes was never easy on one's magical core and her fight with Nagini left her feeling discombobulated. Not to mention her emotions had been through the wringer. Her boys had every right to be concerned for her and she was just glad they were there for her.

Harry hooked his arm in hers when she made her way around the table, and with a nod to Severus who made his way up to the staff table, all three turned towards the entrance. With every step though Hermione's body felt like lead and she felt herself leaning on Harry more and more.

As they stepped through the Great Hall's archway, she felt someone clock her with a shoulder and she let out a cry of pain and stumbled to her knees. Her side exploded with heat and she knew there was still venom that had obviously not been flushed from her system. Dimly she was aware of Harry and Ron both yelling at someone but her mind was on compartmentalizing the pain. She knew she would have to return to her Animagus state soon or she would be in real trouble.

“Maybe Granger should watch where she’s going, stupid little mudblood,” Malfoy snarled. She would have rolled her eyes if her stomach wasn’t currently rebelling and her breakfast was threatening to come back up.

Draco Lucius Malfoy.

The thundering voice of one Lucius Malfoy echoing around the room had Hermione sitting up on her knees despite her roiling stomach and staring stupidly at him. He had obviously changed as well, his half cape flying behind him as he stormed over to his now quivering son.

 “Father...”

“Shut up you little fool,” he snapped before turning to Hermione and placing a gentle hand under her elbow. She struggled to get up but Lucius was surprisingly patient, making sure she was steady before sending a frown to Draco. “How dare you not help Hermione up.”

Draco spluttered confused at his father's actions. Hermione could see Pansy behind him and her eyes were taking in first Lucius and Hermione and then the very unconcerned faces of Ron and Harry. Her eyebrows rose as she came to some sort of conclusion.

Out of nowhere Severus appeared at her side smoothly severing the contact between the two. “Quite Lucius. Miss Granger is on her way to the hospital wing right now for some rest.”

Lucius smirked and stood up straighter his cane coming t rest in front of him. “Very good Severus. So glad to see you taking a firm interest in the wellbeing of your students.”

“As always,” Severus snarled through his teeth. Lucius smile widened and he stepped back to allow them through. Ronald came up to support Hermione with Harry on the other. Severus took one last look at the students that had stopped to gawk at the scene and everyone scattered. No one wanted to piss the Potion Master off this early in the morning.

Lucius, however, had turned his attentions onto Draco who looked like he was working himself up to a full-blown tantrum. Hermione was almost upset that she was going to miss it.

“Draco if you ever utter that disgusting word in front of a witch like Granger, I will honestly disown you.”

Severus pulled in front of them having safety scared his quota for students for that day and started to lead them up.

“What is he doing here?” Severus asked no one in particular.

“He’s essentially the mouthpiece for Slytherin. I know that’s your gig but you know that they don’t really trust you wholly so we asked Lucius to come here. They’ll listen to him and he’ll explain what happened and how Slytherin will go forward from here.” Harry answered his eyes on Hermione whose head began to bob erratically.

“Always plan in layers, Severus,” Hermione added. Her side was burning now and she felt little droplets of sweat form on her forehead.

“Sometimes it's hard to reconcile you three now and the annoying little snots you were," Severus said turning around. His eyes widened in alarm as he took in Hermione's condition. She felt his cool hand on her forehead and she leaned into it.

“She’s burning up.”

Ron moved her arm around and lifted her shirt. He stared in dismay at the angry red wound where Nagini had bitten her. “Shit, the wounds infected. Probably residue venom too.”

“She needs the hospital wing,” Severus snapped pulling her from the boys grasp and swinging her up into his arms.

“Weee,” she managed before her head flopped back. “Ow.”

“Not a good idea Severus. She needs to turn into her cobra again. It’s the only way.” Ron said stepping around Severus. “This way.”

Severus followed Ron through a narrow hallway. “Where the devil are we going?”

“Room of Requirement. Shortcut, so no one sees us.”

“Can't have anyone see you this affected by a Gryffindor student, can we?” Harry panted from behind them as they rushed up the stairs. Severus almost faltered. Potter was right, he was openly showing concern for her. Was it obvious? His affection for her?

No wonder Lucius had such a smarmy look on his face. The twat.

Severus looked down at the witch in his arms.

I don’t care. Let them see. I don’t care.

Hermione let out a groan. “I’ve got to...I’ve got...down...put me...”

Suddenly he wasn’t holding a witch anymore but a 12-foot cobra. He buckled under her weight and went to his knees his heart pounding in his chest as she let out a growl-hiss.

“Fuck,” Ron yelped as he spun and grabbed her head.

“Weasley, use your wand.”

"Snape use your head. Magic will interfere with her healing now. Now help,” Ronald snarled out hefting the now unconscious cobra in his arms to get a better grip. Behind Severus, Harry was struggling with her tail. Together they managed the last few steps and the short walk to the RoR.

Severus barely took in the room his eyes on Hermione. “Can we cast a diagnostic at least?”

Ron eyed them both warily having collapsed on the floor with Harry. “A simple one. I reckon she’s just in a healing sleep. A healing potion would be ideal though,” he hinted before conjuring a few pillows and lying down on them. Potter followed though they both watched Severus cast a diagnostic and confirm Ronald's prediction.

Severus stood. “I will return.”

Potter waved his hand at the potion master. “Okie dokie.”

He almost snarled at the boy but reigned it in and stepped out of the door. Quietly taking into account the location before striding down towards his personal brewing rooms he cast a tempus spell.

“Not even seven,” he muttered as his robes flew around him. Today was going to be a long day.

Chapter Text

“I swear to god, it’s insanity.”

“Jill, just let it go.”

“No. No way. They snuck out. Not only from their dorms but the entire school!”

“And killed he-who-must-be-named Jill.”

“It doesn’t matter! They broke rules. Big rules. They should be expelled.”

“No one is going to expel Harry Potter.”

“Or Granger for that matter....even Snape is nice to her.”

Hermione rolled her eyes at Ron who was cross-referencing something and slammed her book shut. The three third-year Ravenclaws who thought they were being quiet all jumped and then averted their eyes. Hermione stood up and made her way over.

“In case you weren't aware we had permission and a teacher with us the entire time. No rules broken.”

The girls all gaped up at her their mouths moving like fish out of water causing Hermione to sigh loudly. Why did she even bother? It wasn’t like the truth would even be half as exciting as the rumors that were currently circulating the school. She turned on her heel and left the library knowing Ron would catch up to her. Not a minute later and she heard his footsteps behind her.

“Did you know apparently Harry sacrificed both you and me and we’re just corporeal ghosts made flesh?”

Hermione slowed as Ron caught up with her and gave him a wide grin. “Really? Well, I heard that I went back in time and asked Merlin for help.”

Ron’s eye widened with adoration. “Wow, Hermione...you did that for us?”

Hermione giggled and together they made their way back to the common room. It had been a week since they had destroyed Tom Riddle and it had been a week from hell. Reporters, ministry officials, and busybodies had all wanted a piece of the story and all three felt like they were being tugged in different directions. Every day before and after classes some ministry lackey asked for them to clarify some point or they’d get inundated with reporters requesting interviews and then, of course, there was general fan mail from the public.

Hermione had no less than twenty-three request for her hand in marriage. Four pureblood couples had wanted her to have their baby and one had asked for her toenail clippings.

Ron had received countless offers for quidditch positions from teams all over the world, 102 solicitations for sex and the chance to have a dragon species renamed in his honor. He declined all of them.

And Harry....well Harry just incendio'd everything that came to him. Severus approved greatly and even corrected his form for just a little bit more control.

They had obviously given an interview to the Minister and Kinglsey and provided doctored memories to them days after the event but it seemed that it wasn’t enough. Harry had mused that perhaps it was because it was done in secret with no life lost that caused the big furor. The first time everyone was so shell shocked, so traumatized that they simply left the trio alone for the most part.

The trials for the Death Eaters would begin in a month's times which coincided with the Trio actually leaving the UK. They had talked to Kingsley regarding this, explaining the issue at hand lightly and he had promised to help them in whatever way he could even without all the facts.

Kingsley had told them that they were doing things differently this time with the trials thanks to Ndyaie. He had suggested truth stones be shipped in from the Americas as well as the use of Veritisieum brewed by a Potion Master without any ties to the events in any way. That had been difficult however they did manage to find an Australian Potion Master by the name of Van Evington who agreed to the strict guidelines the Ministry enforced.

This time no Death Eater would get away and no innocent would be unjustly imprisoned.

They had also completed their NEWTS over the weekend as well which had been extremely arduous even for Hermione. It had caused some issues at the Ministry with some demanding they complete their OWLs first but Ron had simply said that if they did not test well then they could just return back to school and take the OWLs with their rest of their classmates. It was the one thing they had requested after the fall of Riddle and Scrimegour believed there was no harm to allowing them to at least try. They owed them that at least.

Friday had seen them do Herbology with a very stout witch by the name of Helmda Grey and she followed them the next morning when they completed Potions. A very tall, very thin wizard oversaw their Transfiguration exam positively ecstatic when they all conjured patroni easily. Hermione completed Ancient Runes on her own and the Sunday morning saw them all back again where Ron shone in his Charms exam (naturally) and Harry awed everyone in DADA. Hermione once again finished the day solo with Arithmancy.

Their absence was explained easily enough by Kingsly who told Minerva they had business to attend to at the Ministry. Minerva had understood enough and allowed it and with it being the weekend no one said much about their absence.

Hermione brought her thoughts back to the present and gave the password to the Fat Lady who opened the portrait quickly for them. She had been quiet around them these days and none of them cared for the reason.

“Well well well if it isn’t the resurrected come back from the Gates of Hell where they bartered for Satan himself to take Tom as his personal servant.”

Hermione looked over to see Harry and Ginny smiling at them from the couches in front of the fire.

“Really Harry? You can’t barter with Satan. We just gifted Toms' soul as an early birthday present.”

Harry nodded his head seriously. “That's very sweet of you two.”

Ron entered behind her. “We thought so. I’m going to go get ready.”

Ginny sat up as she watched her brother head to his dormitory. “Get ready for what?”

“We’ve got an Order meeting tonight. Nothing exciting...just going over the same ole shite,” Harry said standing up and stretching. Ginny eyed him warily before slowly nodding. They had told Ginny the general story as well as Luna, Neville, and Pansy with a few added extras to make them feel included.

The general story was pretty simple: The Dark Lord had unintentionally tied his magic to Harry's on that fateful night in Godric's Hollow ensuring Harry could not die from an Avada (because one can not Avada oneself). Tom had been drained of power in the process forcing him to flee returning only when his power was renewed. Ron and Hermione had found a way to sever the connection and with Severus and Lucius’ help they completed the spell ensuring that Tom Riddle had died properly and stayed dead.

Ron thought it was too simplistic but it seemed to have worked. People, for the most part, were very easily convinced and tended to believe what they were told. Add in the fact that magic was...well magic and it was a done deal.

After a quick shower, Hermione found the boys waiting for her outside her room. Both of them had changed as well and Ron held out her traveling robe before the Trio left the common room waving goodbye to Ginny as the ducked through the portrait. The daylight was waning as they met Severus at the foot of the stairs near the Great Hall. He merely sneered at them and turned forcing the Trio to follow him through the large entrance doors. They were silent until safely away from the castle with Severus slowing his steps to allow them to fall in line with him.

“Albus not coming?” Harry asked mildly as they made their way to the gates. Ever since that night, Albus had been acting extremely strange...well stranger than usual. He had taken to creeping around the castle late at night and only talking to the portraits who insisted when asked he was just muttering absolute twaddle. Severus had put it down to a shock. The faculty was also clearly worried about him.

“No, Kingsley and Minerva will be taking over the Order.”

“Do you think he’ll be stepping down as Headmaster?”

“If he doesn’t, I imagine the board will be requesting it. He’s become more unbalanced every day.”

Hermione frowned but put it out of her mind. Albus wasn’t her concern and he in no way impacted their plans as far as they determined. She looked up at Severus as they stepped through the gates.

“To Grimmauld,” he said lowly before spinning and disappearing. The trio followed arriving in the park just across the street. They made their way over and were greeted by Sirius who ignored Severus for the most part. Hermione didn't think that feud would ever end, not entirely. They may be civil enough not to fight but acknowledging the existence of each other politely? Impossible.

“The rest of the Order is already here,” Sirius said to the trio as Severus strode ahead. “Not exactly sure why Kings called it but it should be interesting with you three present.”

Hermione struggled not to scoff at his enthusiasm but followed him into the kitchen where the meeting was to be held. Sirius gave her a headache with his emotions. One moment he was happy and acting punch drunk and the next he was morose and sulking. Harry was much better at dealing with him but even Hermione could see his patience was waning for his godfather. Her eyes immediately sort out Severus who stood in the corner scowling at anyone who deigned to look at him. Tonks was talking excitedly to Remus, her hands almost hitting Arthur in the face. He was doing his best not to get hit and Remus took pity on him and grabbed Tonks's hands in his own. The subsequent blush that rose on her cheeks was endearing.

Molly was bustling around with Amelia on her tail helping give everyone a cup of tea. The red-headed matriarch stopped to buss a kiss on Ron's cheek before shrieking about biscuits and moving away. Other order members moved out of her way and made for their seats.

Kingsley sat next to Ndyaie and Minerva conversing lowly together though they all stopped when they saw who entered. Kingsley stood up.

“Let’s bring this meeting to order shall we?”

The next three minutes were spent rearranging chairs and getting comfortable much to Kingsley's annoyance. Finally, however, it was quiet and everyone was waiting to start.

“Right, everyone comfortable? Great. Now there is an issue that has been brought to my attention. An issue that could be more devastating to us than anything Tom and his minions could do.”

Molly let out a gasp. “What is it?”

“I'll let the experts explain it,” Kingsley said nodding to the three of them. The entire orders' attention swiveled to the three as they stood up. Hermione could see disbelief and confusion war on many of their faces.

Ron pulled out his wand, his brow furrowing as he set in motion a complicated set of flicks and twists. In front of him, a 3D globe of the world materialized spinning on its axis. A few witches and wizards eyebrows rose in appreciation at this feat though for the most part the confusion remained.

“This is a representation of our world as it is right now,” Ron said as he flicked his wrist again. Ley lines appeared to wrap themselves around the globe in a pulsing blue color. Every one murmured appreciatively. Another twist saw the nexus points glow in green.

“Here we see our ley lines and nexus points. Nexi for those that don’t know are magical convergence points that intersect ley lines. Both feed each other and in turn feed our magic at its very core. For the last 100 years, we’ve seen a steady buildup of dark magic polluting the nexi and straining the ley lines.”

Kingsley sat forward his eyes firmly on the globe. He knew the problem having discussed it with the trio earlier but not the full extent of it. “Obviously there is a Nexus point at Hogwarts and the Ministry as well as St Mungos. Are you saying that the wars have been damaging them?”

Hermione nodded. “Yes though I wouldn’t say damaging. You cannot damage magic. You can take it away, reduce it even kill it but magic itself is self-repairing. It’s why the system works so well.”

“So what's the problem dear?” Molly asked her tea forgotten. “ Can we not just allow it to self-repair itself. Now that Riddle is dead there shouldn’t be any more dark magic.”

Minerva nodded. “Aye, that should work. And we could also cleanse the Nexus at Hogwarts over the summer. There is a ritual. It isn’t that difficult-”

“It’s not just the Hogwarts Nexi. Or the Ministry. Or St Mangos. Ron?”

Another twist and the nexi points turned a dark black and seemed to seep into the surrounding areas. The ley lines bulged under the extra strain turning a dark muddy brown and flowing on to the next nexi point. Minerva sucked in a startled breath.

“All of them?”

Ron shook his head. “No, but a bloody big majority of them.”

Minerva glanced at Kingsley, worry evident on her face. “Dear Merlin. What can be done?”

“We need to reset them.”

Severus' deep voice echoed around the room and everyone turned toward him. Minerva let out a huff before turning back to the globe still spinning in front of them.

“That’s impossible.”

“Minerva's quite right,” Ndyiae spoke up. “The time and energy required...even then the calculations...impossible. One or two nexi could be cleansed. It requires a specific spell, people, etc. We could not clear that amount of dark magic.

Hermione smiled. “We can. We just have to do it on a global scale.”

“How?” Kingsley asked Hermione who looked to Harry.

Harry nodded. “We have already reached out to other magical communities. In the following year, we will be visiting these communities and explaining the situation in full and how we plan on combating it.”

Molly stood up her face mottling in outrage. “You'll do no such thing. You’re underage. You've...you’ve got school.”

Kingsley's face cleared with realization and he gave the trio an impressed look. “Actually, Molly they actually took their Newts over the weekend. I have their results with me. I was going to wait until after the meeting, however...” Kingsley muttered as he fished out three bound scrolls from his robes. He sent them up and everyone watched as the scrolls floated over to the trio. They snatched them out of the air and placed them in their pockets before turning their attention back to their audience.

Molly, however, wasn’t having any of it. “You’ve already? How is that? I didn’t give any permission...Minerva, why did you not tell me?”

Minerva looked from Molly to the trio. “I dinnae know Molly. Kingsley collected them on Friday morning citing ministry business.”

“Molly, sit down,” Arthur said tugging on her arm. “We’ve more important things to deal with. Let them talk.”

Molly seemed to consider her husband before sending a look to everyone else. “We’ll be talking about this later though. Mark my words.”

She sat down with a huff and glared at Ron. He rubbed his face in exasperation before continuing on.

“Visiting the communities will allow us to get an idea of how inundated the nexus is and if it would be required into the inclusion of the spell. At this point our schematics are telling us we need at least one team from each continent but I think we’ll get a better idea on the ground.”

“So you already have an idea of how to create a spell? On a global scale?” Ndyiae asked his interest peaked.

Hermione nodded. “We’ve been working on this for almost a year.”

Molly huffed and crossed her arms. “Let others go.”

Hermione shook her head. “We do not have the time to teach others the in and outs of nexus magic. It took me all of last year to teach the boys.”

“And how do you know so much Hermione? I’d hardly call you an expert.”

Hermione took a deep breath. She knew that Molly just wanted to protect them but sometimes she went about it in the wrong way. “Well, by all means, Molly lets waste precious time trying to find an expert to teach everyone what is required, create an intricate ritual that requires knowledge of potions, runes, charms, arithmancy and have enough magical talent to help reset the core. I have the evidence, I have the data. You can all see it, check it if you must but we cannot waste time. Armageddon clock is now at 6:47 am on Wednesday the 23rd of June, 1999. That is the point of no return. If we do not reset the lines and the nexus and restart the earth's magical core then there will be no magic by the year 2027. At all.”

Molly lost the coloring she had worked herself up into and her mouth open and closed silently. She looked at Minerva and then at the Trio.

“At all?”

The three nodded grimly.

“I trust Hermione. We’ve always said she was the brightest witch of her age,” Sirius said with a smirk at the young woman and Hermione could see Severus glaring daggers into the man.

“They are correct.”

Everyone turned to see Albus Dumbledore in the doorway, stroking his beard and giving them all the twinkle-eyed look he was famous for. Hermione fought to not roll her eyes and failed. Albus’ smile grew wider as if he enjoyed her attitude.

“Albus, what do you have to say about this?” Molly demanded looking relieved to see the Headmaster.

He moved fully into the room stopping at a space in the dining table and peered closer at Ron’s globe. “Well done my boy...surely with such charm work you’ll seek a master to make it official?”

Ron's ears went red and Hermione felt her heart go to him. All he wanted as a child was to be recognized and here was one of the greatest wizards alive doing that.

“Yes sir...after this has been resolved of course.”

Hermione beamed at him. 

“Quite right,” Albus said before turning to the Order. “I've known the nexus at Hogwarts had been struggling to clear its blockage for quite some time but I had thought it was just this one point. This is most concerning. We must trust our young charges. They seem to know what they're doing.”

Molly stood. “Albus surely we can use someone else? They are children.”

Albus looked down at her. “Are they Molly? They dispatched Tom Riddle and captured all the relevant Death Eaters in the same process. Harry handled his trial earlier in the year with a maturity unmatched by even some adults I know. They managed to finalize their NEWTS on their own as well with none of us any wiser.”

Molly bit her lip.

“Worry not Molly, we will be watching them carefully and overseeing all they will be doing. They will not be alone in this endeavor.”

Hermione felt a fissure of panic rush through her spine and a side look to Harry and Ron told her they too felt the same. Albus was up to something. What they did not know and that was the most worrying thing.

Chapter Text

The next hour was more back and forth, with Hermione handing out information plackets with her calculations and Albus twinkling at everyone as if he knew everything previously. Hermione could almost feel her teeth crack as she struggled not to grind them every time Albus said something. Ron and Harry were also on edge as they answered all the questions directed at them.

What once had been a relatively simple night had now turned into a giant shit storm. All three knew the threat Albus could possibly pose a threat to their carefully laid plans and they'd be up well into the night trying to figure out exactly what he was planning.

As the meeting ended the trio hovered into a corner and cast a muffliato as everyone else chatted in small groups or said their goodbyes.

“What the fuck?”

Ron let out a frustrated grunt and ran his fingers through his hair. “I know. This could cause a spanner in the works. Any ideas?”

Harry had his arm crossed and was chewing silently on his lip. He glanced at everyone still left in the room and then looked at Hermione waiting for her to put her two cents in.

Hermione rubbed her forehead feeling the headache that had pounded away during the meeting get worse. “Well, it’s almost our time up here. Technically the spell work is done here and will need only tweaks when we get the other information from the other groups. How much can he fuck up?”

“Do you want an honest answer to that Hermione?”

Hermione winced and crossed her arms. “Well...ok...shit. Look let’s just head back to the school and try to rest tonight and we can deal with this tomorrow.”

Ron sighed. “So that barmy act was all for show? Or has he actually cracked it and this is just a front? Fuck, we’ll have to watch him closely. It’s like we cannot catch a break, even knowing what we do.”

Harry patted Ron's shoulder in sympathy before his eyes drew across the room. “Erm Hermione...you might be in a little trouble.”

Hermione frowned, turned and saw what Harry was talking about. Severus was practically glowering at her from his corner. She sighed and gave the boys a weak smile. “Wish me luck yeah?”

Harry nodded with his own grim smile while Ron canceled the spell. He moved back to the dining table where Lupin was poking his 3D projection with his wand. Hermione watched as Severus pulled himself up and walked over to her.

“Come with me,” he snarled in her ear and stalked out of the room. She sighed again and followed not at all ready for this conversation. She saw the edge of his robes disappear into the library and made her way to the room. He pulled up a series of impressive wards the minute she was in and then turned to glare at her.

“You're leaving.”

“Yes.”

“You weren't going to tell me.”

Hermione stared. “I just did.”

“I would have thought that I deserved a bit more than that,” Severus scoffed.

She grunted lowly and rubbed her forehead. “You do. Of course, you do. But with preparing for NEWTS and getting the travel arrangements squared away...” she stopped. No, she couldn’t do this. She couldn’t be the coward now. She took a deep breath and looked him in the eyes. “I was scared.”

Severus blinked at her. “Scared of what?”

Her eyes darted around the darkroom before she looked back up at him as she considered her words. “Last time we didn’t get even close to a chance. This time...I am so unsure of how to step forward with you. I don’t want to mess it up.”

He stepped back his eyes never leaving hers. She swallowed as she watched him slowly move around the room and she couldn't help but fidget in the silence. She didn’t know what he was thinking or where this conversation was going to go but she hoped he wouldn’t be cruel to her. Severus stopped at the bookcase and with his index finger stroked the spine of a book. He opened his mouth once before shutting it and then let out a frustrated breath. He glanced at her before his eyes returned firmly to the book.

“We’re in the same boat then. I've never had a relationship before so as it turns out you’ve got more experience than I do.”

She couldn’t help but smile softly at his words. It was a good sign that he was tempering himself around her own insecurities. That he was opening up to her and exposing his own. She looked down at her clasped hands, twisting her fingers almost painfully before looking up when she heard his movement. He was now standing in front of her again and she had to suppress a startled breath. His hand came up and stopped before he touched her. He flexed it before lowing it.

“The one thing I do know is that we have to be honest with each other.” The kindness in his lowered tone had calmed Hermione enough that she gave him a shaky smile before focusing on the buttons of his frock coat.  There were things she needed to say, things she knew she didn’t want to actually voice but if they didn’t do it now there may not be a time when they could before she leaves. She also didn't want to see his reaction to her words. “This...time apart...maybe good for us.”

Severus nodded his head and straightened. “I agree.”

“When we return...I mean...you’re free now...you shouldn’t feel beholden to me...if you wish.”

“I don’t.”

“You say that now but-”

“Stop. I doubt I can convince you, given our history, but you should know how loyal I am.”

“I know... I just don’t want you to feel like...trapped.”

He stared at her. Both knew they wouldn’t start a relationship while she was so physically young. And it seemed that they would be separated for a year and to her, a lot could possibly happen in that time frame. For him, however, with the death of the Dark Lord, he surmised that very little would happen within the next year. It worried her though, so Severus relented.

“Very well. No promises. For either of us.”

She visibly sagged in relief and if Severus didn’t know the witch, he would have been upset with the reaction. Hermione, however, was just as loyal to the people she loved as he was, and he knew she wouldn’t stray. Hell, she had stayed true even when he was dead.

“Thank you, Severus.”

A slither of pleasure sizzled up his spine at the sound of his name on her lips. He ruthlessly suppressed it and tried to focus on another important aspect. “When do you leave?”

“Three weeks from tomorrow.”

“Ah.”

They stood awkwardly until Ron knocked on the door. Severus lowered his wards to allow the boy to open it a tad and stick his head through. “Sorry to interrupt but Sirius is starting to get suspicious which is impressive because he's a complete twit.”

Severus snorted and looked down at the red-headed Gryffindor. "The word is twat Mister Weasley," he snapped almost enjoying the guffaw that exploded from Weasley's mouth and the giggle Hermione let out. He moved to the doorway, dismantling his wards with a  flick of his wand and then glared down at Hermione. “If you ever steal from my stores again Miss Granger, I will ensure that your children’s children will have detention,” he snarled in a loud voice that echoed down the hall. And with that, he snapped his robes and stalked around Ron. “Move Weasley.”

Ron watched wide-eyed as he moved past Sirius who sneered and then gave the two a nod before following the Potion Master to the kitchen. Ron let out a chuckle and turned back to Hermione.

“Did he just threaten to have his own grandchildren in detention?”

“RON!” Hermione squeaked her face turning red.

“I haven't seen you blush like that in a very long time,” Ron said with a smirk.

“Shut it, you git.”

Chapter Text

Tempest Goodfellow had cornered them on their way to the NEWTs exam. She was, in the trios time original timeline, quite a good arithmancer and had been the one everyone went to for help. A level headed half-blood who had been carted off to Azkaban for marrying a muggle-born and helping him "steal" magic. In this time though she was a bright-eyed assistant and so very young in Hermione eyes.

The Ministry was a difficult place to be in for Hermione and Ron. Harry being an Auror was used to being ignored and ignoring people in turn. His job meant he had to be fully focused and on all the time. Hermione and Ron were less inclined to that kind of behavior and everyone they recognized they had to refrain from talking to them like they knew them...because in this timeline they were just children.

So when Tempest who was a dear friend to Hermione came careening down the side staircase Hermione's eyes lit up and she smiled at the witch before Ron nudged her. Her disappointment lasted two seconds when Tempest's eyes found Hermione's and she saw recognition.

“Minister?” She called out and Kingsley stalled waiting for Tempest to get to them. She slowed to a trot and stopped in front of them giving a nod to the trio before focusing on Kinglsey.

“May I talk with Hermione Granger for a moment. It won’t take long.”

Kingsley frowned, looked around quickly and then nodded, ushering Harry and Ron to his side to give them some semblance of privacy. Hermione silently put up a muffliato and stepped closer to Tempest eager to understand why she was acting this way.

“I’m Tempest Goodfellow, low-level arithmancer." She sucked in a breath and held out a manilla folder. "And I think you need to look at this.”

Hermione took the folder Tempest and opened it scanning the contents quickly.

“My numbers are telling me something and it keeps leading me to you,” she hissed as other ministry workers walked around them. Hermione ran her fingers down the equations checking quickly in her head if they added up though she knew Tempest was bloody good. Tempest glanced wearily at the boys and Kings who stood off to the side patiently waiting to be done.

Hermione almost cursed while Tempest had nodded thoughtfully. “So you do understand. Good. I thought I was going barmy.”

“No. No, you're not. Thank you tempest. Mind if I-?” she lifted the folder. Tempest shook her head. Take it. Though... when you're done with whatever that is... let me know?”

Hermione smiled at the blonde witch happy to see that her friendships from her old life weren’t completely gone. “I will.”

That piece of information had changed a few things in their application of the worldwide casting.

Each nexus was different due to the people. The magic evolved over time to suit the magical people it supported. It was essentially a symbiotic relationship. They had been doing calculations for the spell based on the nexus easiest available to them. Hogwarts. And while the bases were right the overtones changed dramatically.

Hermione had thought she would be on the ground checking Nexi like Harry and Ron but this added complication meant all her time would be spent refining the spell to suit each location and allowing it to flow smoothly into the ley lines. The only place she could do that was in Japan. They had the biggest conglomerate of arithmancers in the world and the most on hand references should she need it. She would have to rely on the others to send her all the details of each nexus to ensure the spell worked on such a global scale. The next three weeks were spent going over what details she would need from each nexus and finding accommodations that would suit her long term.

It was once again a lucky break as if they had discovered this on the ground months into the endeavor it would have put them back weeks, if not months and could have possibly spelled doom for them. It made Hermione wonders once more if something higher up was on their side.

*****

The trio stood on the cliffs of Dover and looked out across the sea that was rolling angrily. The wind whipped their traveling coats angrily around them and Hermione had had to spell her hair up and away from her face. She glanced up at the ever-darkening sky and the storm clouds rolling in offering glimpses of jagged lightning. The day, it seemed, reflected their mood.

It would be a year before they saw one another again and they were all struggling with that. In their original future, they had always been a quick floo trip away. Harry had, of course, had trips away on Auror business but it was never for long. Not this long anyway. Hermione knew she relied on the boy's company just as much as they relied on hers. It was going to be hard to be so far from them.

Hermione pulled out two potions of dark roiling red. It had been brewed after Toms demise and left to simmer for the last weeks over a low heat. “I had hoped we could have done this together,” she said handing them off to each of them. The boys took them carefully Ron holding it up to the light and examining it.

“We don’t have enough time,” he muttered. “We need to find the correct nexi and be in the communities getting a feel for the magic.”

“Yeah. I’ll write you both regarding any changes. Don’t do anything stupid. I’d hate to get this far and lose one of you to a Heffalump.”

Ron frowned trying to remember that particular creature in Hagrids classes. Harry however laughed and Ron's confusion lifted. He was used to this. Sometimes Harry and Hermione had inside jokes about certain things due to their muggle upbringing. Once upon a time, it had hurt to be left out but now he just shook his head and smiled. Muggle dynamics were confusing at the best of times and he liked that they had something just for them.

A crack signaled the arrival of Ndyiae with their portkeys and one Lucius Malfoy. The tall blond brushed off non-existent dirt and strode toward the trio before stuttering to a halt unsure if he was interrupting anything. Harry raised a finger and Lucius nodded curtly and turned back to Ndyaie.

“That git can be quite useful when he wants to be.”

“It's the Slytherin in him,” Ron snarked with a quirk of his lips. Harry turned to Ron.

“Do you know the hat wanted to put me in Slytherin?”

“Me too?” Hermione chimed in.

“And look at that? You’ve both been quite useful,” Ron said with a smirk.

“Ha! Git.” Hermione laughed before her chin started to wobble. “I'm going to miss you both.”

Harry gave her a sad smile. “A year at best Hermione. And we’ll write and send patroni.”

“Its not the same and you know it.”

“I know Hermione,” he murmured as tears started to fall down her cheeks. He opened his arms and she fell into them, burying her face into the crook of his neck. They both felt Ron join their hug and together they savored their last moments.

Ron stepped back first. “Well, we can’t put this off forever.”

They all made their way over to Ndyaie and Lucius, the latter handing them specific portkeys. Lucius took the cord from an electric kettle and stared at it in confusion before glaring at Ndyaie. “Is this muggle?”

Ndyaie didn’t get a chance to answer because Lucius had suddenly popped out as the portkey activated, his yelp disappearing on the wind. Ndyaie snickered almost evilly.

“See you soon, you blond baboon.”

Hermione laughed and looked down at her own portkey, a griffon feather. “When do I leave?”

“It is word activated,” Ndyaie explained handing each of them a slip of parchment. “His word was muggle. I did not want to deal with him more then necessary.”

“That is why you are so good at your job,” Ron said with a chuckle before sobering and looking at Hemione. “A week from today right? Any time?”

Hermione nodded. “Anytime but it has to be done by sundown. And remember you're not going to feel great for at least a couple of days so don’t start anything. Get settled, prep and then consume.”

Both Harry and Ron nodded grimly. They both knew this aging potion was going to be brutal. Most aging potions were limited, usually working on skin elasticity and hair and so usually completely painless. This one would be aging their entire being to match their magical core. Bones, muscles, and organs all stretched, moved and matured.

There were a few that Hermione had to choose from but this one actually arrested the age of their magical cores at the point of ingestion. So essentially they would be 28 years old until they actually reached 28 years in this lifetime. It had meant a trickier, more costly and more painful potion but Hermione was going to fight for a better future and she didn’t want to be dying early on because of their choice in the potion.

Ndyaie didn’t bat his eyes over the cryptic conversation and Hermione was once again glad he was on their side. He would be their contact for the UK as he was very aware of nexi magic and had his fingers in all the pots required to set up the spell.

Harry suddenly grabbed Hermione's hand and gave it a squeeze. “I love you, big sis.”

“I love you too,” Hermione whispered as he let her go and stepped back.

He glanced down at his paper and then up at Ron. “Look after yourself mate.”

Ron scoffed. “Don’t worry bout me mate, I'm a freakin King.”

Harry chuckled and with a last nod to all of them he opened his mouth. “Bonapart.”

Hermione stared at the empty space he had just been feeling her eyes well again. Ron gently nudged his fist on her chin. “Buck up love, we’ll be home before you know it and annoying the shit out of you like usual.”

“Be safe Ron. I mean it. Pansy would kill you if you die.”

“Skin me for boots for sure, she’ll make it a trend or something,” Ron said with a huff. “Love you, sweet girl.”

“Love you too,” Hermione managed through her tears.

“Da Vinci.”

Ndiaye smiled at her as she tried to calm herself after Ron had gone. She took a moment to wipe her tears and taking a few shuddering breaths before turning to the man. He place a solid hand on her shoulder. “Do not fret, you’ll be together soon enough. You are strong Hermione Granger.”

Hermione gave him a watery smile and a nod before adjusting her backpack. She looked out once more to the horizon and when it lit up with a crackle of lightning she clutched the griffon feather tightly and whispered “Valour.”

Chapter Text

Lucius Malfoy hated India. It was unbearing hot which did awful things to his skin and his hair. Everyone was seemingly a vegetarian and the food upset his stomach on more than one occasion. The rickshaws were smaller versions of the knight bus which he despised but considering the alternate was a flying carpet he felt it was the better of two evils. Apparition was somewhat illegal here as there were muggles literally everywhere and even if one could be discreet the likelihood of being seen was too greater a risk. 

“Come now Mister Malfoy, should you wish to see the nexi we need to catch the train.”

Lucius tugged at his spider silk white safari jacket and lengthened his stride to keep up with his guide, a young pureblood by the name of Rajesh something-or-other. He wasn't one of the sacred twenty-eight so in Lucius' mind, he should be pleased he remembered his first name at all. Rajesh was just as tall as he was though thin as a stick. He did dress rather well Lucius thought as he eyed navy colored sherwani and gold pants. 

“Can we not just take a rickshaw?” Lucius almost pleaded as his lips curled in disgust. They were moving through a muggle train station and muggles...were touching him!

"Ha, Mister Malfoy you are so funny. Our rickshaws are only allowed in the city limits. We must take a train to Alwar,” the wizard explained as he dodged another muggle. 

“But...but...the muggles.” Lucius was almost embarrassed by the whine in his voice and coughed to cover it up. They had to stop and wait for a large group with multiple trolleys to move out of their way. Rajesh seemed calm by the delay smiling and nodding his head to those who ducked and apologized. Lucius glanced around taking a double-take when the woman next to him- a muggle- was staring at him intently. He took a step away and gave her a restrained smile.

“Oh, don’t worry about them. They barely take any notice of us.”

“They're noticing me.” Lucius huffed as the woman reached out to touch his hair. He recoiled quickly bumping into Rajesh who steadied him with a chuckle.

“Because you’re English Mister Malfoy.” His eyes darted to Lucius' hair which made him feel a tad self-conscious. Still traumatized by that little shit Harry Potter, his hand immediately went to his hair.

“What is it?”

“Nothing, nothing Mister Malfoy. Your hair is just...so unique.”

“Well thank you," Lucius said with a purr. Rajesh frowned and darted through an opening with Lucius hot on his tail.

“It is not a compliment Mister Malfoy.”

“Why is everyone so mean to me lately,” Lucius murmured to himself as he followed Rajesh up the train steps.

Rajesh looked behind him to make sure no one was looking and then he pulled a large ornate key from inside his tunic. He put it into the lock before sliding the door open and ushering Lucius through before slamming the door shut quickly behind him. They were standing in a non-descript compartment that barely fit the two wizards as it was.

“You cannot be serious Rajesh?” Lucius muttered looking around. Rajesh simply smiled, opened the door again and Lucius stepped out into a completely different compartment. The marble tiled floor reflected the pristine white ceiling beautifully as heavy butter-yellow drapes hung tastefully over the windows and tables covered with crisp clean white linen sat in front of them almost majestically.

“Oh, now this is more like it!” Lucius purred taking in the extravagate dining cart. Rajesh gestured to the nearest table and Lucius let out a sigh as he sat down in the beautifully upholstered chair.

“This is the ministry cart. Only for ministry workers and their guests,” Rajesh explained waving down a waiter. Lucius eyed the young man wearily as the train made a halting movement and began its journey.

“Do you not have house-elves?” Lucius asked mildly after their tea service had been delivered.

“No. They are illegal.”

“Ever so useful though?” Lucius took a biscuit between his fingers and set it on a small plate beside his tea.

“Mmm, I would not know, we employ our squibs.”

“Really?”

“Yes, there are too many of us to safely monitor all those who fall under the decree. So, we keep everything in house.”

Lucius considered this as he took a sip. “Oh, I suppose that makes sense. What do you do about the muggle-borns?”

“Do? They are given scholarships to our magical schools.”

“Yes, but about their parents?”

“We do not tell them. Muggles do not understand...in India if a child receives a fully paid scholarship it is a blessing.”

“Yes, but how do the children not blab.”

“They simply tell them what they are learning. Each school teaches muggle classes as well and we have squibs that run interference should a matter arise.”

Well, at least there was something he liked about India. They had fantastic tea. Rajesh spent the rest of the train ride pointing out landmarks that Lucius cared naught for and gave only half-hearted expressions of interest. Once they arrived Lucius felt forlorn as he took one last look at the dining car before following Rajesh out into the swelting heat once more. He was glad the cooling charm was working so well or he would be a hideous mess with this humidity. He idly wondered how horrendous Miss Granger's hair would be and then frowned at the thought of her, still upset at her treatment of him. 

They crossed a busy intersection dodging motorbikes overloaded with produce or people and goodness gracious was that a cow? Lucius couldn't help but stare at the bovine even as Rajesh pulled him along. He hadn't seen a cow in an age. He was sure England had cows but he hadn't actually seen one since he was a boy. It was quite a novel experience.

Soon they found themselves in front of a store that looked extremely cramped and uncomfortable. Lucius let out a sigh as he was bustled into it starting to realize his treatment was not going to get any better. A young woman sat on the ground surrounded by thousands of colorful beads and bangles, looked up when they entered and nodded her head to a door behind her which they entered. They climbed a set of concrete stairs and found themselves in a large room with wide openings with views of the surrounding countryside. Another woman older than the girl below stood in front of a pile of rugs. 

Now Lucius wasn't a particularly stupid man and so the time it took for him to understand what was going on was almost shocking. He glanced at Rajesh in confusion who smiled encouragingly at him, then the rugs, the woman and the open windows. And then back to the rugs.

"Oh no," he whispered.

"Oh yes Mister Malfoy," Rajesh answered with glee.

The ten-minute carpet ride consisted of Lucius desperately trying to keep his hair flying in all directions and trying not to scream due to not having anything to hold onto and no way of steering. Rajesh seemed quite at home sitting cross-legged on his own carpet and when he looked over at Mister Malfoy, he had to stifle a laugh on multiple occasions. The Englishman was on all fours clutching frantically at the ends of the carpet with his bottom in the air like he was going to lay an egg. The carpet hated being pawed at and would pull its tassels or edges from Lucius' grip forcing him to scramble for some leverage.

Once they set down on the edge of Bhangarh Fort Lucius fell to the ground with a squawk and Rajesh, who disembarked lightly, leaned over him with a confused look on his face.

“I think I ate a bug,” the English aristocrat muttered grimacing as he sat up.

“You should not have been screaming then Mister Malfoy,” the young Indian man said helping Lucius up and dusting off his cream-colored pants. Lucius tried desperately to smooth over his hair, but it was all for naught considering the wind had whipped it into knots. He let out a mew of frustrations.

“Let's just get this over with please Rajesh.”

“Of course, Mister Malfoy, this way.”

Lucius looked up at the ruins of the old city and blinked. “This is the ministry?”

“We have multiple ministries. Though this is the one with the most pollution of the nexi. Your Miss Granger thought-"

“She's not my Miss Granger...the annoying chit doesn’t even this me good looking.” Lucius snapped before stuttering to a halt. “Those are muggles."

Rajesh glanced over at a couple of tourists milling around and taking pictures. “They are."

“In your ministry.”

“Sort of. During the day, this place, it a tourist spot.”

“A tourist spot?”

“Yes, though our entrance is well hidden. And during the night it is patrolled by Sharabha and the muggle government has ensured that it's illegal to trespass after sunset and before sunrise. This ministry mainly operates during the night too which helps.”

“Are you telling me that the muggles respect that?”

“For the most part. The locals believe it to be haunted and it’s considered the most haunted place in all of India," he said with a little pride. "Though occasionally some silly muggle tries and is scared by the noises the Sharabha makes.”

Lucius let out a sigh and continued to follow Rajesh to the nexus which was not located within the ministry grounds itself but rather further away. They cast muggle repelling spells and Lucius started the diagnostic castings that both Weasly and Granger had drilled into him. Rajesh sat on the sidelines looking quite comfortable until Lucius finished and called him over.

“It appears Miss Granger was correct. While not a large nexi it seems to be funneling extra dark magic from the other larger nexi like Gurgaon and Roop Kund.”

Rajesh nodded seriously. “What now Mister Malfoy?”

“We need to contact Miss Granger and let her know our findings. We will then need your arithmancers on this affecting the spell to adapt to the local magic and then we will need to choose the participants.”

“Very good Mister Malfoy.”

Lucius looked at the young wizard. "Is there another way back beside the carpet?"

Rajesh chuckled. "You could walk Mister Malfoy."

Lucius without a doubt, hated India.

 

Chapter Text

Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Fucking shit!

Harry Potter was used to running. Running from Aunt Petunia’s swatting spatula, running to his classes after sleeping in, running for his life from stupid snatchers. Harry never thought, not once, that he would be running from a massive yeti-like creature that had a giant mouth in its chest. He was a wizard that lived in a magical world but there were some things too strange to even contemplate.

He had arrived in South America three months ago and after dismissing three other nexi as either not big enough or not polluted enough to warrant a cleansing spell, he had made his way into the depths of the Brazilian jungle. His guide a wizard by the name of Mateo Sousa was a jovial sort of person who told lame jokes that Harry forced himself to laugh at.

They had been trekking through the thick jungles as apparition was illegal in certain parts due to the delicate magical creatures and out of respect to the native tribes, both magical and muggle, that still lived as they did over a millennia ago.

For over a week Harry had dealt with massive spiders and biting bugs that somehow made it past his protective charm and kept him awake at all hours as well as the strangling heat. On the second day, they had encountered a Boitata which had Mateo screeching and cowering behind a tree. Harry simply asked the snake the directions to the nexi which the snake gave willingly and went on its way. Harry supposed it was a little odd that a snake had flames licking up its scales and two giant horns, but it had no way been aggressive to them. Mateo had explained the mythical beast and had become a little awestruck around Harry after that.

As they hacked their way through the undergrowth Harry had to stop to rest. He scrubbed at his beard, glad that his body no longer felt like a prepubescent child anymore and wondered about how Ron was doing. Hermione was safe and sound tucked up in the confines of the Japanese ministry, but Ron had been island hopping around Oceania checking the numerous nexi there. He had had about as much luck as Harry had if not worse because Ron had contracted measles two weeks after his potion sickness. The three-week delay had meant he was far behind where they needed to be. Harry worried that he was going to run himself ragged trying to catch up. His last Patronus didn’t sound too good either.

“Do you have a lady at home Mr. Potter?” Mateo asked handing him a waterskin out of his backpack. Harry took it with a grateful nod and took a sip.

“Yes...well no...I mean I will.”

“You are very odd Mr. Potter....talking to giant Boitata’s and looking for nexi. Very odd.”

Harry grinned. “Yeah, I get that.”

They continued hacking at the undergrowth with their machetes and sometimes blasting it away carefully with their wands. Magic had to be used sparingly here and not for the last time did Harry think that while something was looking out for them it was also testing them as well.

Mateo was a good guide explaining the ways of the native people both magical and muggle and showing how to find edible food while warning him about the poisonous ones. Harry was a quick study and paid close attention just in case they were separated. It was a real possibility in a jungle as thick as this one.

A week into their trek it began to rain almost torrentially. Harry and Mateo continued though now they were slowed in their progress and it ate at Harry. They huddled under trees with large leaves and tried to keep their water deflecting charms up but they failed after a few hours leaving them soaked. They didn’t bother with their tents as the ground was a giant puddle and after the first night, they found that water rushed in soaking everything anyway.

They were uncomfortable, wet, and miserable but still, they pushed on. Harry was glad that Mateo looked on the lighter side of things as Harry was feeling the setbacks fiercely.

A week later and the rain suddenly cleared though that brought out the mosquitos and other biting bugs and the two wizards fought another wave of aggravation and annoyance.

“We are getting close Mr. Potter,” Mateo said quietly after Harry had gotten so frustrated he hacked at a fallen log for over ten minutes. Sweaty and tired he apologized to Mateo for his outburst and they continued on in silence.

Suddenly the trees gave way to a clearing and for the first time since they began this shitty journey, Harry felt his head clear. Mateo giggled and hopped over to a bunch of mushrooms picking them with glee and shoving them into his little sack. Harry smiled at the little man's antics and resigned himself to mushrooms for dinner before glancing around the small clearing.

A clear running stream ran down the center of it surrounded by moss-covered rocks creating a peaceful scene and Harry felt more stress unwind from his shoulders. Giant bromeliads, wild colored Orchids, and passionfruit flowers dotted the edges of the clearing and Heliconia flowers hung like party streamers giving blasts of color to the constant greenery of the background.

To the north of the clearing though was a massive brown mound. Taller then Harry by a fair bit and wider then Crabbe and Goyle if they hugged it seemed like an odd thing to be sitting there. Harry frowned at it knowing instinctually that it didn’t belong. He glanced back at Mateo who was still shoving mushrooms into his bag and decided to investigate.

He gripped his wand in one hand and his machete in the other and leaped over the little stream easily before starting towards the mound. As he stepped over a moss-covered log he stopped and scrunched up his face.

A smell assaulted him so hard that he recoiled almost instantly and he let out a gag that alerted Mateo who stood up and found Harry on the other side of the stream retching violently.

“Mr. Potter?” Mateo called out unsure as to why the man was suddenly ill. Harry glanced up at him holding his hand out to ensure his guide that he was ok and to give him a moment. Mateo jogged up to him walking straight through the stream.

“I’m ok. I just smelt the most awful thing.”

“What were you doing?”

Harry stood up and took a deep breath glad that whatever it was he had smelt was gone now and only fresh air was noted. He looked down at Mateo before turning and pointing to the mound. Mateo stared at it for a second quizzically and Harry looked at it again. They both stepped towards it and then stumbled.

The smell assaulted them again and both men gagged simultaneously. It was like someone had collected all the shit in the jungle mixed it with decaying carcasses that had sat in the sun too long and topped it with Aunt Petunias leftover fish casserole. Out of the corner of Harry's eye he saw the mound quiver and his head snapped to it realizing it was actually matted hair that adorned it and not dead grass.

“Juma,” Mateo whispered his eyes wide with fear. Harry glanced at him noting he was stepping away from the slow-moving stink mound and started to do the same. It ambled around and once it sighted the two wizards it tensed. Rearing back on its forelegs and let out a roar of anger.

From the mouth... situated on its chest.

Harry blinked.

Mateo legged it.

“Run Mister Potter,” Mateo’s voice wailed as he burst through the way they had come and disappeared into the jungle.

Harry ran. Behind him, he could hear the creature in pursuit. Large thundering footfalls echoed behind him accompanied by the heavy breathing and crashing of the beast as it tore through the jungle in its pursuit of them. Fear was a fantastic motivator and Harry soon caught up to Mateo who was gasping and crying at the same time. Harry was obviously fitter than the guide and he forced himself to slow down. There was no way he was going to let this overgrown muppet with its mouth sewn in wrong eat his guide.

He’d also be dead in a day without him despite his training.

Harry knew Mateo didn’t have much more to give so he stopped, turned, and planted his feet. He was good at confronting his fear. It was his job after all.

He shot off a hex.

And then another.

Finally, he pulled his power and cast an entrail-expelling curse knowing it was a dark curse but deciding in a life or death situation it was required.

They all bounced harmlessly off the creature colliding and destroying trees instead. He was vaguely aware of Mateo disappearing through the undergrowth and relaxed a bit knowing both were not going to get eaten by a strange creation of a sloth and a rubbish bin. His last act was to cast a shield spell hoping it would be enough.

The smell hit him first and then he knew no more.

***

He awoke in darkness.

The jungle was pitch black and Harry groaned as he searched blindly for his wand before realizing he could just summon it. The comfortable slap of it in his hand relaxed him a bit before he cast a dull Lumos.

He was back in the clearing he realized as he sat up and a quick panicked glance around found no stinky mound this time and he breathed a sigh of relief. He had hoped the Mateo had gotten away before wondering how he had even survived. The terror in Mateos's voice and the fear he felt running from that thing meant it wasn’t likely to have simply left him alone.

A rustle of feathers alerts him to a patch of darkness beyond where they had found the creature. Two big eyes blink at him and Harry increases his Lumos just a tad only to have her hiss and hide from the light.

“I'm sorry,” he yelled as he turned the Lumos down. His eyes were starting to adjust to the darkness anyway and he noted that she is obviously a hag with her stingy black hair covering her face and frayed and tattered cloak covering her body. Her skinny legs stuck out straight and she seemed to be standing on a branch not far from the ground. Harry hadn't had much interaction with hags back at home but he knew that they weren't dangerous.

“Can you help me? I need to find my friend and I’m worried about the..thing that was chasing us.”

The hag gave a low growl and scuttled off into the jungle.

“Well that was rude,” Harry muttered to himself. Then he heard her return and stare at him.

“Oh, you want me to follow you?” Harry asked and was annoyed when she didn’t answer but scuttled away again. He glanced around for his machete only to find it missing though he was glad his wand was firmly in his hand. He sighed softly not wanting to risk summoning it to him and cutting himself so he made after her hoping she wasn’t leading him into more danger. Her movements were indeed odd as she seemed to hop and flap her cape a bit but Harry just chalked it up to the oddness of hags in general.

They continued this way for a few hours before Harry heard the distinctive sniffles of his guide. She had stopped in front of him before clambering up a nearby tree and nodding her head into the distance. He could see the light of a fire and he knew it was Mateo. He turned to thank the hag when the clouds cleared from the sky and the moon illuminated the night. Harry blinked as he took in what had led him to safety.

The hag is not a hag at all. What he thought was her cloak were large wings with sharp talons at the end of them. Her legs were scaly and her feet had the look of a raptor but so much larger. Her eyes were wide, like an owl blinking at him, almost in amusement and her nose couldn’t be called a nose at all but the beak of a bird of prey. He sucked in a breath and released it knowing his reaction could mean his life.

He bowed his head. “Thank you.”

She blinked at him and then shook out her feathers before letting out a screech that echoed through the night air. Harry flinched and shivered as the sound reverberated down his spine. The bird-woman stared at him for a minute more before hopping down and making back into the confines of the jungle.

Harry took a breath and then turned and followed the light of the fire and the sound of Mateo crying. When he reached the campsite, Mateo screamed in fright before realizing it was him and then promptly collapsed in his arms sobbing out his apologies. Harry assured him he was all right and tried to calm him down.

Once the little wizard had finished his outburst he sat Harry down, gave him a bowl of mushroom soup, and asked what had happened. Harry explained as best he could and when he came to the bird lady he saw Mateo lose all color in his face.

“What is it?”

Mateo swallowed heavily his eyes darting to the darkness that surrounds them. “We do not speak her name. We do not speak her name for she will come for you.”

Harry frowned. “She has a name though, right? She helped me.”

“You shouldn’t have survived,” Mateo said with a shake of his head.

Harry considered this as he finished his bowl of mushroom soup which was surprisingly very tasty.

“Oh, Mister Potter! I forgot to tell you. I found the nexi!”

Harry sighed in relief and smiled at his guide. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be as difficult here on in.

Chapter Text

Ron glanced around the water hole and let out a sigh. Tall cliff faces rose on either side of the waterfall making it feel very secluded and almost mystical. Some shrubs had managed to find purchase on little outcroppings giving an odd contrast of green against the red ochre of the earth. The pool itself was a deep blue that reflected the sun high in the sky.

Ron could barely appreciate the beauty because beside him was an annoyance that had followed him from the moment he had first stepped in Australia. Fern Thompson was the Minister's daughter given her first job as guide to the English visitor and had decided herself in love with him. He had tried on multiple occasions to explain that while flattered he was already in a committed relationship and furthermore had a job to do.

Fern wasn’t one to give up. As they traveled from the Sydney Nexi to the Melbourne Nexi she had weaseled her way into his room twice and had forced him to put up stronger wards. She touched him constantly, batting her eyes at him and trying to entice him with her body. She was quite a beautiful young witch but Ron's heart was firmly entrenched with a certain Slytherin back home and nothing was going to sway that.

Fern sulked the entire way from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie after Ron had finally had enough and yelled at her that he wasn’t interested and to leave him alone. She seemed to perk up as they traveled to the Kimberley though, which made Ron relax somewhat.

“My mother's people are from here,” she explained excitingly. “They can help us.”

Fern had found an uncle who was also a ranger and he agreed to take them to the nexi though it meant getting inside a helicopter. Ron had hated muggle means of flight since Hermione had convinced him to go on a holiday to Spain the muggle way. They had a lot of turbulence which scared the shit out of Ron but made Hermione laugh at the greenness of his face. He never made fun of Hermione's dislike of flying on brooms again.

When asked if they could use brooms Ferns uncle, a wizard who introduced himself as Waylon just laughed. “Mate, we have too many tourists that could potentially sight you. Not worth the risk. Plus we don’t actually use brooms in the bush cause Magalanias will think its potential food. We’ll be fine in the chopper.”

Ron disagreed not caring what a magalania was but put on the headset anyway and gripped the seats as they took off. Fern didn’t stop talking the entire time pointing out certain landmarks and telling stories of their people. Waylon smiled at Ron and rolled his eyes at his niece though kept quiet the entire journey.

They landed and Ron yanked his headset off and jumped out quickly. Fern spoke to Waylon for a few moments before jumping out herself and making her way over to Ron. She turned and watched as the chopper took flight waving ecstatically as her uncle flew away.

“Waylon said my cousin will meet up with us in a couple of hours. We’re to trek to the nexi from here though.”

Ron shouldered his backpack. “Cousin?”

“Pete, he’ll pick us up in his ute and take us back to the station.”

“Ute? You mean we could have driven here.”

Fern blinked at him and then punched him good-naturedly in the arm. “Aw yeah, but you would have missed the view.”

“I missed the view anyway trying not to be sick.”

“I thought you liked flying. You play Quidditch don’t you?” she muttered kicking a rock.

“I like flying when I'm in control and not in a ridiculously heavy metal machine.”

Fern giggled but didn’t answer and continued on. They had made it to the nexi quickly and Ron was surprised to see it was a waterhole though he kept that to himself. He didn’t want Fern to go on and on about it if he was honest.

He dropped his backpack and watched as Fern disappeared up the escarpment shouting about finding some food while he did his thing. He sighed loudly asking Merlin for patience before taking out his wand and casting the spells he and Hermione had developed.

“Ronald.”

“That didn’t take long,” he muttered twisting his wand forty-five degrees.

“Ron....stand up, please. Slowly.”

Ron frowned at a particular blip in his diagnostic not understanding where the surge of magical energy had come from. “In a moment Fern.”

“Jesus fucking christ Ronald look up.”

Ron looked up...

...and almost shit himself.

He stumbled back landing on his ass as he looked up at the creature that was staring down at him with its teeth bared.

“Is that...is that a bunyip?” Ron gasped out his eyes not leaving the creature. It was almost larger then he was with massive yellow eyes and a snarling mouth. It’s teeth were long and serated, it’s ear pinned back against its head and looked like it was frothing at the mouth.

“No...thats a fucking drop bear.”

“That's an urban myth,” Ron managed as he slowly tried to scramble away from the creature. It let out another hissing growl at the movement and Ron paused.

“Long story mate but your best move very slowly towards me,” Fern said quietly.

“How dangerous are they?”

“Like kill you for looking at it wrong dangerous.”

Rons's mind raced and lifted his wand. “Shit. I'm looking at it. What defenses?”

“Don’t even think about it. We need at least two more wizards to take it down.”

Ron cursed mentally hating the fact that a lot of magical creatures were almost immune to spells. “Any ideas?”

“Run.”

“That’s your solution? You just said to go slowly.“

“Yeah, well I changed my mind. It looks pissed. I’ll get its attention and then you bolt. Ok?”

“Fuck. Ok.”

Ron tensed as Fern let out a screech which caused the drop bears gaze to focus on her instead. Ron turned quickly and started to leg it up the embankment. He could hear the beast behind him scrambling up the rocks its labored breathing and snarling hisses becoming louder as it enclosed in on its prey.

Ron hated being prey.

He didn’t feel pain when a giant paw sliced over his face nor did he feel it when he was thrown back down the embankment. The shock and adrenalin forced him to focus on other things. Fern screaming. His left eyes closing and blood dripping down his face. The roar of the drop bear and its thundering paws as it closed in once again on Ron.

His body wasn’t responding as it should as he trained it to do and he wondered about that idly as he struggled to lift his head. He could see the paws of the beast as it made its way towards him and he closed his one good eye in preparation for the worst.

Suddenly there is a splash of water and Ron felt half of him become submerged in the water. His eye snapped open and he could see fern running toward him her eyes on something behind him. He could see horror and that had sent a sliver of fear down his spine.

Her wand was already waving as she lightened him enough to haul him up, pulling him towards the safety of the embankment without care of his injuries. He cast a look back and watched as a giant crocodile the size of two cars chomping happily on the squealing drop bear.

“Fuck, did you know that thing was in there?”

“The drop bear? Yeah, they're mostly triggered by magical signatures which is why muggles don’t see them. They prefer waterholes too.”

“Not the fucking drop bear Fern the thing that ate it.”

“That...no well..there's been talk of a super croc still living but no one actually believed it.”

“We’re wizards we shouldn’t rule anything without.” He stumbled over a few rocks before collapsing onto the ground. Fern glanced at his eye before gagging slightly and looking away.

“It's a super croc Ronald.”

“It's a drop bear Fern.”

She took a breath, glancing at him momentarily before quickly looking away no doubt upset over the state of his face. “Yeah, ok, fair enough. Sorry I should have told you.”

“Yeah you should have,” he snapped angrily before sighing. “Regardless this is not the nexus we need. Go find your cousin so we can get on the road.”

Fern looked at him. “Um, you need a hospital.”

“Oh right do you have one out here?” he sneered enjoying her frown. The combination of fear, pain, and adrenalin had made him angry and he knew he needed to have some peace and quiet to just calm down. His arm ached and he knew something was wrong with it though thankfully it was not his wand arm. He made a dismissive wave at her. “I'll heal it myself.”

Fern looked at him in disbelief before dropping her backpack in front of him. His had been lost in the attack and he didn’t want to even bother summoning it as he knew he would need every ounce of energy to fix his injuries.

“There's a first aid kit in there,” she muttered before turning and stalking into the scrub. Ron groaned and felt a searing pain over his eye that made him gasp with the suddenness of it. He knew that now the adrenalin had worn off he was nw going to be feeling the pain of what was surely one of the worst injuries he’d ever had. Blood was dripping off his face and landing in the dirt but Ron ignored it as he reluctantly cast a diagnostic. He knew why he couldn’t see out of that eye now.

Slowly, painfully he searched for a rock large enough and transfigured it into a mirror. Taking a deep breath he lifted it to his face and then dropped it, keeling to his side to vomit. The sight of his face was nauseating. He took deep breaths through his mouth as he tried to calm his stomach. After a few moments, he grabbed the mirror again.

His eye was literally hanging out of its socket, three large bleeding lacerations started at his cheek and moved jaggedly back past his ear and through his scalp. He knew that was going to scar and he squashed down his vanity ruthlessly. He had been lucky during the war and his Auror days, only coming out of it with a few small scars but now it would be for the world to see. He dropped the mirror again and then charmed it to hover in front f him. Taking up his wand he popped his dislocated shoulder back into place with a painful grunt. He moved it around as he got his feeling back and then focused on his face. He wished he had brought some healing potion wishing above all for a pain potion. It was almost unbearable now.

Thankfully the eye itself hadn’t been damaged just yanked from its socket so he carefully cleaned the eye and moved it back into place muttering some healing and tightening spells as he went. He cleaned the blood from his face and scalp stemming the bleeding as he went and stitching the worst of it crying out as each stitch sent agony through his head. He felt sick again even though there was nothing in his stomach and swayed as he sat. The world began to spin slowly and he knew he was close to passing out.

 

***

 

He came to with a cry of pain as his head throbbed angrily. Slowly he sat up wincing with every movement and glanced around. They were in a clearing and in front of him a fire was crackling lowly in the cool air.

“You’re awake!”

Ron shuddered at Ferns screech. A hand snaked out and smacked her on her head.

“Dat boys been through enough without you baying at him like a banshee.”

“Ow auntie.”

Ron blinked blearily at the woman who hunkered down next to him. Above him, the clear night sky twinkled with a million stars and he could see the cloudy wash of the milky way. He looked back at the woman.

“Now you just sit still boy. Not many come back from a drop bear attack. We gonna give you some medicine that'll knock you out. Help with that,” she said lowly and pointing to his face which ached fiercely.

“Thank you,” he managed as she brought a cup to his lips and he swallowed slowly ignoring the taste. He allowed himself to be laid back down by the woman and sighed as the effect of whatever she gave him started to work. Fern scrambled into his vision.

“That's my auntie. She found us before Pete did and she treated you. She’s really good with bush medicine.”

“She a ranger too?”

“Yeah, but she wasn’t ranging when she found us. Said she just knew she was needed.”

Ron just hummed at her explanation too pleased with not feeling pain anymore. Fern's eyes rove critically across his face and she chewed on her bottom lip before grinning down at him.

“Well, you're still alright look wise. Will your bird want you now? I'm still free if ya want?”

“I'd rather be clawed by a drop bear again,” he muttered ignoring Fern's face and her aunties laughter as he hunkered down fell back asleep.

Chapter Text

Severus stared at the witch in disbelief. It had only been six months since they departed from England and somehow, she had grown into the young woman he had seen in his dreams. She was currently talking to a tall Japanese man in the courtyard of the Japanese ministry. An impossibly giant cherry tree stood in the middle of the courtyard its soft pink flowers swaying softly in an unfelt breeze. It sat on a small grassy hill with a stone path that wove its way around it before disappearing into an archway. The high glass ceiling was domed to accommodate for the tree which Severus knew would soon be magically shifting colors. It had been a deep purple when he first arrived before switching to a stark white.

The small witch who had welcomed him had explained the cherry tree was over 700 years old and was much like Hogwarts own Whomping Willow. Only this one didn’t just attack everyone, only those with ill intent.

Severus knew it was a remarkable bit of spellwork and had said as such to the witch who had bowed at the compliment. The atrium was essentially a large authentic Japanese garden. From where he stood he could see a stream that fed into a large pond that held large lilies and he could see the ripples caused by the koi. Mossy stones littered around the gardens occasionally moving and revealing themselves to be tortoises. There were multiple areas to sit some with mini zen gardens to indulge in and the tinkling of wind chimes wove through the air with the delicate scent of the cherry blossom.

All in all, it was a very peaceful place to be.

The Japanese had some of the greatest arithmancers in the world which is why Hermione had chosen to come here. They had welcomed her in and from her previous letters were very helpful in creating the spells required for each region and ensuring the participants were strong enough to conduct the spellwork.

Hogwarts was firmly settled into winter and he had decided he had had enough of just writing to Hermione. While both of them had decided a break would have been good Severus thought a small visit wouldn’t hurt. So here he was in Japan staring at the witch who had been on his mind more then he cared to admit.

Her hair was still huge bouncing lightly with every movement of her head but gone were the frizz. The curls occasionally corkscrewed in odd directions and the deep plum of her wizarding robes set off the her dark brown hair perfectly. She was obviously taller, her face had lost the last glimpses of baby fat and now she had an almost regal lift of her chin.

She still had not noticed him so engrossed in her conversation and that suited Severus just fine. It gave him more time to commit her to memory. A young clerk interrupted them and Hermione started digging through her bag before finding and handing a scroll to the man. With a bow, he left racing back through the archway.

Severus felt his eyes narrow as the wizard she had been talking to chuckled and took a step closer to her. They were already close, to begin with, and Severus felt the first slivers of jealousy and doubt crawl up his spine. They hadn’t promised anything to each other. Perhaps Hermione had found another worthier wizard. He could not blame her but that didn’t stop his heart from thundering in his chest.

He moved back into the shadows of another archway and watched knowing it would only hurt him. He also knew that he couldn’t help himself.

She smiled up at the man and then gestured to the entrance and they both turned towards the entrance.

“...dinner with you?”

Severus almost snarled as he caught the last part of the wizard's question. That was his witch his mind yelled before he faltered. On one hand, he knew that he was a possessive man and he would fight for what he deemed his with a ferocity most would never encounter. But on the other Hermione wasn't something that could be owned and she could make her own choices that he would begrudgingly respect. This duality was causing him to break out in a sweat which was most unorthodox for him. This witch obviously turned him inside out with her presence and Severus both loved and loathed it.

Hermione stopped at the front desk presenting a card to the clerk who took it and started rifling through a drawer before stepping into a back room. Hermione looked back up at the wizard and Severus could indeed see he was attractive and about Hermione's age.

“I would love to go for dinner but pretty tired. I’m just going to head home and write a letter to my partner.”

Partner? Was that him? His inner self almost crowed.

The wizard let out a sigh and leaned on the desk. “Ah, this mysterious partner. The way you talk about him makes me think he is perhaps made up?”

Hermione frowned. “No. He’s just a very private person that’s all

The wizard chuckled. “Come now, Hermione. He can't be that special. You don’t even have any picture of him. You don’t talk about him, hell I don’t even know his name.”

“Why should I tell you anything about my personal life?” Hermione snapped her brown eyes flashing in anger. Severus smirked, thrilled by the fact she was getting annoyed with the idiot.

“I'm just trying to get to know you better Hermione. We could spend time together-”

“I said no.” Hermione snapped cutting him off.

“Alright, I know when to stop, see ya 'round Granger.”

“Obviously you don’t you stuffed turkey,” she snarled under her breath. Severus, however, couldn’t stop grinning as he watched her take her wand from the clerk with a tight smile and stormed out of the ministry. Severus followed his heart lighter than before.

“I warn you I'm in no mood for games. Why are you following me?"

Severus turned around looking for this unseen entity that had somehow crept up on the both of them only to find no one there. He then realized she was actually talking to him and he felt his cheeks heat at his carelessness. He was better than this both in stealth and knowing it was wrong to stalk a young woman. He took a deep breath and stepped out of the shadows.

Hermione's eyes widened. “Severus?”

“Hello Hermione,” he murmured feeling awkward now. What had he been thinking, following her like a stalker? He hadn't is what, too caught up in the fact she still wanted him. What did Poppy use to call that? Twitterpated? Merlin strike him down now.

So annoyed with himself he hadn't realized Hermione launching herself at him and suddenly his arms were full of a witch who was kissing him square on the mouth. He couldn’t remember when the last time he had actually kissed a witch but as he wrapped his arms around her and tilted his head to deepen the kiss he found he didn’t care.

She pulled back beaming up at him. “What are you doing here?”

“Visiting my witch,” he answered surprised by the deep tone of his voice. 

“How long do I have you for?” she asked pulling back, her eyes roving all over his face.

“Two weeks...and then Albus wants us back for the new year.”

Her face lit up with his answer. “I guess I'll have to make the most of it. Let's eat some dinner, shall we?”

Severus had never enjoyed himself as much as he did that night. They had talked about her progress over a traditional Japanese meal, laughing at the dunderheads who had tried to court her and the problems the boys were having out in the field.

She asked him how he was, genuinely interested in knowing. His research and the classroom. Of the little battles waged in the staffroom. She had laughed so hard when he told her Pomona had tried admonishing him for the Slytherin quidditch tactics and when he stood up she had squawked and fell. That wouldn’t have been very interesting but she had fallen into a cauldron of live frogs and her derriere and been wedge so firmly that only the strongest of summoning spells had freed her. She refused to look him in the eye since.

“Poor Pomona.”

“Poor frogs! I had to release them.”

“Why?”

“They suffered enough,” he muttered taking a sip of sake and that had set Hermione off, her peals of laughter echoing around the room and making him smile.

They had walked home through the almost empty streets, Hermione pointing out different landmarks or areas she had visited. Severus felt himself stiffen when she wove their fingers together and he looked down at her as she prattled away unaware of the effect she had on him.

How she felt so at ease around him when only half a year ago everything was so confusing and awkward he’d never know. True many of the obstacles that had been in their way were now removed. He was no longer her teacher, no longer the servant of two old nutjobs and she had obviously grown into her adult body. He would have to get her to explain that one though he was content to just sit in this moment with her small hand in his and her soft voice chattering away.

He hadn’t been fully aware when she opened the door to her apartment but suddenly he realized where they were. He stopped in the hallway watching as she toed off her shoes unsure of what was happening. He didn’t want to give himself cause to hope she would invite him in. In his mind, he had thought she would stop at the door, gift him with an innocent kiss and he’d be on his way.

In his mind courting Hermione Granger would be a long-drawn-out process. Wasn’t that what they had to do? He’d never had a real relationship and had never been interested in the relationships of others to take notes. She was still talking her hands waving as she took off her coat and Severus slowly took off his own shoes. Perhaps she was unaware of bringing him into her home? He would go slowly to ensure he wouldn’t scare her when she realized.

Once his jacket was hung up she grabbed his hand again and tugged him into what appeared to be a living room and then into another hallway. Severus felt his heart start to race. What was she doing?

“Severus?”

He looked at her his eyes wide as he took in the bed and then the witch in front of her. Her face morphed into confusion and then into horror.

Ah, there it was. She finally realized.

“Severus we don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to,” she whispered.

“What?” The word exploded from his chest too loud for the room and Hermione took a step back her face morphing back to confusion and then to shame.

“I'm not...gosh... I'm so sorry I didn’t realize... you're not ready...”

“Not ready?” He said looking at her in bewilderment. He was so confused. What the devil was going on here? “Me?”

A bemused but bewildered look flashed across Hermione's face. “Ok, Severus your words and your actions are in direct opposition to each other.”

Severus took a deep breath and reached out for her hands which she allowed. “Hermione... I thought you wanted to take this slow. I thought... I'd court you.”

She grinned up at him. “You can still court me if you wish.”

His eyes flickered to the bed. “But...You wish to...”

She smiled up at him taking a step into his arms. “Severus I've spent years thinking about this day. I won't pressure you and if you're not ready I won't feel-”

He cut her off with a bruising kiss before pulling away and giving her a severe look. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” she laughed as her hands stroking circles on his chest. “Please Severus.”

He stared down at her searching for some sign of indecision or doubt. She huffed. “Severus, did you honestly think we were just going to have a relationship without sex?”

“Yes!” He huffed, his eyes widening. “Why would you want to...at the very least give you a few years to work up to it.”

“Work up to it? Oh, Severus. You really don’t realize do you?”

“What?”

“You're a very attractive wizard.”

“You drank too much sake.”

She laughed, her eyes lighting up with mirth. “Yes, but in my mind, I've always found you attractive. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all.”

“Then your eyes are damaged. I'll brew you a restorative potion when I get home.”

She laughed again, her head tipping back and Severus felt a warmth sliver down his spine. Here he was holding a beautiful intelligent witch who laughed at his jokes, debated his theories, and wanted to be intimate with him. The world had officially turned upside down.

“Severus would you like to have sex with me tonight?” she asked stepping out of his hold and moving back towards the bed.

His eye twitched. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Did you eat that poisonous fish? Of course, I want to have sex with you. “

Hermione giggled. “Good. Then come here.”

Chapter Text

Ronald Weasley looked up at Hogwarts as it towered over the surroundings. He ran his hand over his beard as he hefted his backpack on his shoulder. He had thought to go home first unsure as to when the others were to arrive, but they had decided to meet with the headmaster as soon as they were together and it seemed to be where he was needed right now.

“Ah, there's the Ron I know and love.”

He spun around and his face broke into a grin as Hermione launched into his arms.

“Hey M,” he murmured into her hair. She laughed as he spun her once and then steadied her as he put her back down, his gaze taking in the changes in her. He had missed her more then he realized, and he could do nothing but hug her again. Hermione seemed to understand, her hand soothingly patting his back before finally pulling back and looking up at him. Her eyes sparkled as they roved over his face frowning as her fingers came up to trace his scars. His scars had never bothered him in the first life, and they hadn’t bothered her either. They had both been through a war and its aftermath and they knew that they probably wouldn’t get away pristine this time round either. She had known about them for months having received his report but seeing them was a different thing altogether. Her hands stroked at the beard he grew not long after he set down in Papua New Guinea.

He, in turn, looked her over and gave her hair a soft tug. This was his Hermione. The woman who would scold him for not eating all his vegetables or sigh when he started talking about Quidditch. This was the Hermione who helped him become a man, a charms master, and a better person in general.

She never did grow very much compared to him. He towered over both Harry and Hermione once he had reached his adult height. She had gotten taller though, adding a few inches on her fifth-year height. Her face had lost the last parts of childhood, her jaw and cheeks more pronounced but still soft and her hair had settled in waves across her back occasionally corkscrewing in odd directions. She gently tapped at one of the claw marks near his ear.

“It suits you,” she said simply and then stepped back, taking in his frame. He had grown a few inches and had bulked out. Tall and bullish Pansy used to tell him. He grinned down at her as her eyes flickered from his scars to his eyes.

“Yeah well, at least one Weasley needs to have these scars I suppose.”

“Do you turn into a drop bear on the full moon?” Hermione teased.

“Nah but I have this weird craving for eucalyptus leaves.”

She giggled at that before turning towards Hogwarts and letting out a sigh. “I suppose we should head in and get this over and done with.”

Ron rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, I s’pose. The students are still there though.”

Hermione frowned. “So?”

Ron hesitated. “Pansy is in her last year, and we wrote to each other but-”

“It’s different in person,” Hermione finished for him softly. Ron relaxed, thankful that Hermione always seemed to just understand what was going on in his head.

“She knows about the scars and that I’ve changed but she’s still so young.”

Hermione nodded knowingly. Harry had the same reservations with Ginny. “It’s true she may need some time and you already know how to be patient for her but I’m pretty sure she is in deep with her feelings anyway. You’ve got to just...trust her.”

Ron chewed on his lip. “But the scars-”

Hermione cut him off with a smack to his shoulder. “Any witch that only sees those scars and not the amazing wizard you are is blind and an idiot and you know that.”

Ron blinked and then grinned. “Naw Hermione you’ve gone so soft in your old age.”

“I can still whip you in a dual, mister,” she snapped back goodnaturedly.

“Them sounds like fighting words.”

“You know it, Weasley,” she muttered as she opened the gates and walked through waiting for Ron to catch up. He stopped her before she could continue you on and she looked up at him with mild confusion.

“I’m just really glad to see you again Hermione. I missed you and Harry a lot.”

Hermione smiled and patted his hand. “I missed you too dorkface.”

He laughed and shook his head. “Well we can stand here looking like berks or we can balls up and go see everyone.”

“Let's balls up then.”

They slipped into the entrance hall without being seen and made their way up the staircases before Ron stopped suddenly. Hermione looked down the hall and smiled when she saw Pansy talking to a few students.

“I’ll see you later yeah?” She whispered and at his tight nod, she took to the stairs. He hesitated for a moment taking her in before walking up to the little group.

“Pansy?”

She turned her head and looked up at him in confusion before doing a double-take.

“Ron,” she whispered and Ron almost started fidgeting under her shocked gaze. Was she happy to see him? She jerked unexpectedly and turned to her friends.

“I’m skipping Potions. Go on without me.”

The two girls frowned at Ron with mistrust and reluctantly walked away glancing back at the two until they were out of sight. Pansy then motioned for Ron to follow her into an unused classroom nearby. She entered the room hesitantly throwing up some wards before turning towards him and looking him over almost shyly.

Ron swallowed nervously. “Pans...I’ve missed you.”

She blinked at him before a grin spread over her face and she launched herself at him. He grunted as he caught her not at all expecting this reaction but welcoming it none the less. He gripped her in a hug that had been so much like the one with Hermione before but this was so very different. He had loved Pansy for a very long time and holding her like this again brought tears to his eyes. This was the witch he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. This was his home.

She pulled back and Ron saw tears in her own eyes that she was rapidly blinking away. He stroked her hair as she cupped his cheeks in her own hands.

“It’s like your inside finally match your outside,” she whispered as her hands wandered down to grip strong shoulders. She was looking at him with amazement and he knew he would have to explain everything to her soon but for now, he was just content to be with her. He looked down at her with what could only be described as adoration and Pansy felt her breath catch in her throat. They had been sending letters to and fro for almost a year getting to know each other and with each letter she received, she had fallen harder for him. She was so happy that he was home and still interested in her.

The last year had been a tough one for her taking Grangers advice to heart and trying to be worthy of that attention. She had removed a few acquaintances that had been toxic which had been easier to do since the demise of Voldemort and had thrown herself into her schoolwork wanting to get a potions apprenticeship when she graduated. Her parents had been a tough one and over the Christmas break, she had left them though they probably hadn't even noticed her departure. She had an aunt who was delighted to take her in having herself been disowned from the family for marrying a blood traitor. She knew now would never please her parents not fully and that realization had hurt more than anything. Her parents were Death Eaters lower on the food chain and wanting to climb higher and she knew they would have happily sacrificed their daughter to do so. Her life siding with them wouldn’t have been happy even with Voldemort gone.

But if she chose Ron...the opportunities were vast. A rich future stretched out in front of her. One with a career that interested her, friends that would support and love her, and a man who adored her for who she was.

“I love you, Pansy.”

Those words said so honestly and so truthfully had been words she thought she would never hear uttered to her. She had always believed that her parents would arrange a marriage for her and she was destined to be just a shiny toy on an unknown wizards arm. Her parents did not love each other either and had constantly told her that a relationship with love was something of fairytales. So she thought it was something that would forever be out of her grasp. She may have power and wealth and influence but love? That was something for Hufflepuffs.

“I love you too Ron,” she whispered almost afraid of the words themselves but needing to say them. Ron's face lit up and she knew she had done the right thing as he smattered kisses all over her face making her squeal with his antics.

He pulled away and smiled down at her before kissing her forehead. “I’ve got a meeting with the Headmaster but then after that, I’m all yours.”

Pansy sighed at the sweet gesture before looking up at him, her eyes twinkling. “It’s a Hogsmeade weekend too.”

“Date night?” Ron said with a grin and she giggled. Gods, who was she turning into? She sounded like a lovesick fool. She sobered up and stepped away from him smiling as he reached for her with a frown on his face. She laughed. “Go. Meet with the Headmaster. I’ll see you on the pitch as I now have a free afternoon too.”

He nodded almost sadly, stepping past her before pulling her wards down wordlessly and she huffed an annoyed breath at his ease with magic. As he opened the door, she suddenly grabbed him and pulled him into a kiss. This kiss was one full of promise and as Pansy tilted her head and opened her mouth to him, she thought she could see herself doing this for the rest of her life. Ronald Weasley was a really good kisser.

Steps echoed up the corridor and Pansy tore her mouth from Rons in horror as Harry Potter stopped on the landing and spied them. He had grown too somehow though still recognizable even without his trademark glasses. His hair had obviously grown and was now tied back in a bun and he too sported a beard though it was shorter than Rons. He quirked an eyebrow at their entwined position and Pansy fought hard not to flush with embarrassment.

“Pansy, Ron,” he said as he tapped two fingers to his head in salute before continuing.

Pansy couldn’t help but gape after him then glanced up at Ron in confusion. “He’s not upset?”

Ron laughed. “Harry knows how much I adore you.”

“You adore me?” Pansy teased as he tucked her hair behind her ear before looking into her eyes.

“Very much so.”

“You're so lame. How embarrassing for you,” she said grinning at him. Her eyes roved over the scars that dissecting his eye.

“It doesn’t bother you. The scars?”

She considered his question her fingers coming up to lightly trace the healed injury. Ron watched as her face settled into thoughtfulness and his heart soared. Here was the real Pansy. Not the girl who used her words to whip people with hateful malice. Not the girl who turned her nose up at everything she deemed unworthy of her. The girl so insecure she had no true friends because she was afraid of being hurt again.

Here was Pansy, the woman he loved, who secretly read romance books and gushed over fluffy crup puppies. Who could eat a whole bucket of chicken with her fingers and then daintily lick her fingers as if she were the queen of England. The woman who stole all his hoodies and refused to give them back because she loved the scent of him.

“No, they just show how brave you are.”

Those words brought Ron's eyebrow high up on his forehead as he considered her. Those were the exact same words Fleur had uttered after Greyback attacked his brother. “Do you have any veela in you?”

“No why?”

Perhaps whoever had sent them on this quest couldn’t change everything. Perhaps somethings had to happen no matter who it happened to. A Weasley scarred by a mythical beast and still loved by a woman everyone would have thought unsuitable for him still occurred just with different people. Time was a very strange thing.

“No reason.”

She made to question him, but he cut her off with another kiss knowing that he’d be late to the meeting and not giving a damn. Because he was exactly where he needed to be at the moment.

Chapter Text

Harry and Hermione both smirked knowingly as he walked into the headmaster's office. He sighed with annoyance before Harry stood up and hugged him.

“Missed you mate,” he said with a clap on his back.

“Yeah you two though if you to keep acting like numpties I might head back to Australia.”

“To Fern?” Hermione teased batting her eyelashes and Ron rolled his eyes at her antics.

“With Pansy. On our honeymoon.”

Hermione laughed. “As if. That girl wants to be taken to Paris not the outback.”

Ron rubbed his beard as he sat down. “You might be right about that one.”

Harry pulled some books from his backpack and handed them to Hermione before leaning back against his chair and looking around. No one else was there except for the portraits who all seemed to be asleep. Harry knew that probably wasn’t the case.

Nosy turds.

He had found Hermione leaning against the wall on the opposite side to the entrance of the headmaster's office. She had let out a happy squeal at the sight of him, hugging him to the point of robbing him of air. His relationship with Hermione was different from her one with Ron. They were siblings in every sense except blood. There had never been romantic feelings as he considered her to be his sister. His older, annoyingly right all the time sister. There was love and respect there and they’d always have each other's back despite not always agreeing with the other choices.

Ron and Hermione were closer in some ways, more likely to hang out after work and spend time doing things on days off. They needed to spend time together to keep their friendship on the right track. Harry could go weeks not seeing Hermione despite working together but the minute they were together it felt like no time had passed at all. Their connection was just that strong.

He longed to see Ginny as well, hoping she was less childlike than when he last saw her. That had been extremely hard on him. He missed his wife more than ever not even having the ability to write to her as he wanted. Ron had already started a sort of relationship with Pansy before they left but Harry had known that Ginny needed more time and experience. It grated his nerves that she was dating other people, but he knew that had led her to him the first time and she had needed that time to truly understand what she wanted.

This was the year that they had left in pursuit of the Horcrux's and Ginny had been left in the school to contend with the Carrows. Now that had all been wiped clean and while he was happy to save her from that kind of pain, he worried that it might change her.

That last year had been instrumental in a lot of changes in people. After the war Neville was no longer the fearful man who trembled when spoken too. That year had forced him to find his backbone to protect those who needed protection. Draco had lost a lot and that had turned him into a decent sort of person. Harry wondered if their actions in saving a lot of heartache and pain and in turn ripped away the people they knew and held dear.

Putting aside his thoughts he almost jumped when the statue slid away to reveal Albus. The old coot looked just as healthy as ever twinkling at them as if he knew they were coming.

“Miss Granger, Harry. How wonderful that you’ve returned to us.”

“Hello Headmaster,” Hermione murmured standing up straight as Harry just nodded to the man.

“Please go on up, I’ve got to collect Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape.”

They nodded as he walked down the hall his purple robes swishing around his ankles and whistling an unknown tune. Hermione let out a frustrated snarl and walked up the stairs followed closely by Harry.

They made themselves comfortable and had only had to wait a few more moments after Ron had arrived to be greeted by their Head of House. Minerva had gushed as she hugged her cubs claiming how proud she was of the three of them and she was glad they were home. Severus came not a moment later his eyes searching and finding Hermione straight away.

Harry could see Ron trying to suppress a smile at how obvious their old potion master was being, but Harry thought the sneer directed at the two of them made up for that.

“Potter. Weasley,” he managed before sitting in the chair furthest from them. Minerva huffed an annoyed breath before pressing them to tell her all about their adventures. They spent the next half hour talking, with Ron and Harry taking center stage. Hermione waved off saying that her stay in Tokyo had been boring and nothing like what the boys had experienced.

Albus returned holding what looked like a handful of cupcakes. “Marvelous creatures house-elves. I always get spoiled whenever I visit them.”

He made to offer everyone one a cake, but they all shook their head. Albus merely shrugged, opened a drawer in his desk, and deposited them in. “They’ll keep I’m sure,” he muttered to himself. He then sat himself down and looked over the trio.

“Now let’s talk.”

The meeting lasted the rest of the afternoon with Hermione going over the simple version of the spell knowing she would have to do so again in-depth with the Order meeting. Albus and Severus both asked for clarification on a few things but for the most part sat and listened to her. At one-point Ron had excused himself to shoot off a Patronus and Harry had an idea who he had message though kept quiet. His relationship with Pansy wasn’t that much of a surprise when Hermione told him. He knew enough about Pansy from Draco that he figured they’d be a good match.

Both Ron and Hermione would need to do a few diagnostics around the grounds of Hogwarts and then they would spend the next few weeks teaching the conduits the spell and what to expect. Aside from gathering the rest of the conduits it was now a waiting game.

They would be in constant correspondence with the arithmancers in the chosen locations to ensure they were on the same page. The spell required complete worldwide synchronization. Each nexi would need its conduits to connect to its core. Once completed they would coax the magical energy to open up the ley lines pushing their conjoined power until the met up with the next nexi. The nexi chosen were usually surrounded by smaller ones or ones not as polluted. Once every nexus was connected these secondary nexi would help with the filtration process, helping the dark magic to flow through them and cleansing them naturally.

Hogwarts would act as the center and be the last nexus connected to the web of magic with Hermione Ron and Harry being the ones to accelerate the healing that would usually take hundreds of years. They would use the sun, a cleansing body, to help this process. The heat taken from when the sun reached its zenith on the longest day on their calendar would speed up the breakdown of the dark magic and revitalize their magic with energy.

Once connected to the sun's rays they too would use the other conduits assigned to the Hogwarts nexus to tap into the ley line grid, joining up with their brothers and sisters around the world.

A great push and pull will follow as the magical cores would forcefully push the dark magic through the nexus dispersing it evenly through the leylines and secondary nexi. In turn they would be pulling less polluted magic in encouraging the movement of magic to build up and create a steady stream.

As the meeting ended with confirmation that an order meeting would occur later the three stood up and looked at each other almost awkwardly. They had no idea what they were supposed to do. The burrow was probably their next point of call though Hermione wanted to see her parents again soon.

Minerva however ushered them out. “Come now, dinner will be served soon you must eat with us.”

Albus hummed. “Yes, quite right Minerva, a bit of dinner would do well and, we have enough room at the professor's table for all three of you.”

“Really?” Ron asked a bit surprised by the offer.

Minerva huffed. “Sybil rarely comes down anymore, Hagrid is nursing some new beast Aurora will be up in her tower all night...some new comet in the sky.”

Hermione wandlessly shrunk her bag and put it in her pocket before glancing at the boys. “Oh well if we’re not intruding...I've always secretly wanted to sit up there.”

“Really dear? Do you think you could become a professor then? I could apprentice you.” Minerva gushed as they made their way down the winding stairs.

Hermione grimaced. “Uh no, thank you. I honestly don’t have the patience.”

“Well Severus doesn’t either and he does all right.”

Hermione caught the look that passed between Harry and Ron mock scowled at them. Sure, Severus wasn’t the greatest of teachers, but he did have to act a part for Tom and Albus. It can't have been easy.

The walk down had been quiet though when they entered the great hall, they almost balked at the noise that hit them.

“I had forgotten how loud it was here,” Ron muttered to Hermione as he walked down the aisle. Many of the students were craning their heads to see who the professors had brought, and Hermione ducked her head never enjoying being the center of attention. Luna waved at her as if she had never left and Hermione waved back happy that no matter the circumstances Luna would always be Luna.

“Ron? Harry?”

Hermione looked over to see Ginny standing and staring at the wizards in shock. She supposed the change in their appearance was shocking to the young witch, but she hadn’t thought she had changed that much that Ginny wouldn’t recognize her at all.

Ginny sprinted around the tables and launched herself into Harry's arms. Ron let out a sigh. “Twelve months she hasn’t seen me and it's like I’m like Frankie First-year. I’m only her brother.”

Hermione giggled remembering too well that reunion. “She’s got lots of those though, she’s only got one Harry.”

“Shut up Hermione.”

By now half of Gryffindor were standing in their seats calling out their names or talking loudly with each other. Minerva hissed at them to be seated and reluctantly they sat though they continued to talk amongst themselves.

Ginny had now made her way from Harry to hug Hermione and Ron and they whispered that they’ll catch up properly soon. She smiled at that before planting a kiss on Harry's cheek and making her way back to her friends.

The other teachers were already seated, and the trio rushed up to the platform and dithered momentarily before finding their seats. Ron sat next to Flitwick, Harry next to Hooch, and Hermione slid in next to Severus who made a show out of glaring at her for her audacity. She ignored him as he settled back in his seat, her eyes on the students giving her and the boys looks of interest.

“Did you perhaps bring some of that poisonous fish home?”

She frowned perplexed by the question.

“I was hoping you would join me later on...” he murmured suggestively, and Hermione tipped back her head and laughed. The other staff members and students looked on curiously as she nodded her assent and then continued to giggle at Severus pleased expression. Though almost everyone just thought he was less angry than normal.

Chapter Text

“So, we’re the elf lords?”

Ron's confusion was apparent. Harry had thought it was hilarious that there were nine conduits and three casters surrounding one golden circle. He spent most of his free time explaining it to Ron who had never read Lord of the Rings.

Harry snickered. “Three rings for the elven lords under the sky. Seven for the Dwarf-lords in the halls of stone. Nine for mortal men doomed to die.”

“Merlin, that’s a bit grim don’t you think?”

Harry frowned. “Nah you have to read it. You’ll love it.”

Hermione sighed and turned away not interested in his one ring to rule them all shite. The last few weeks had been very draining. Order meetings, correspondence with the other nexus communities, and a constant influx of more information that needed to be fed into her arithmancy calculations. That was on top of seeing her parents again (rather emotional), order members wanting to catch up (emotionally draining) and former classmates clambering for attention (exceedingly dull.)

Lucius had done nothing but complain every time they met up to go over letters and calculations causing her to suffer nothing but the most splitting of migraines. She ended up hexing his hair peacock blue and ensuring that whenever he wanted to show off it would fan out most majestically exactly like a peacock train. It lasted merely a week, but Severus had laughed himself sick and then proceeded to thank Hermione in-depth that night.

Albus was a source of contention merely because he wanted to be the center of everything which oddly Hermione could understand. He was quite literally an alternate version Lucius Malfoy but subtler and Hemione was sure he would take great joy in Hermione hexing his hair to mimic a peacock tail. Harry had helped to keep him in line though. He seemed to know how to make him feel relevant while keeping him out of Hermione's hair while she was brainstorming or orchestrating the spell.

They had said goodbye to the students, Severus with great relish and Harry and Ron with less enthusiasm. Ginny despite being quite wrapped up in Harry had noticed Ron's infatuation with Pansy and had taken the giant leap of befriending the girl. Despite being suspicious Pansy accepted the friendship and the two girls waved goodbye from a shared cabin.

The next few days saw most of the Order move into the castle and the rest of the conduits. Cleansing rituals were completed purging the magical cores and bodies of the participants of any residue dark magic or negative energy. Both Albus and Severus were violently ill and took a full two days to recover. It hadn’t been pleasant for Hermione or Harry either having been subjected to torture and cursed scars, but they recovered regardless.

The day of the solstice dawned clean and bright and the castle had been a flurry of activity. Order members were sending off patroni confirming last-minute details to the participants around the world (which took longer than expected and not for the first time Hermione wished that the magical community got with the time and used phones). Conduits were purifying there chosen areas around the castle and getting a feel for their chosen ley line.

The center of the nexus sat smack bang in the middle of the Great Hall. Everything had been removed from the room, charms had been stripped and Albus had pulled down the enchanted ceiling. It left the room feeling stark and barren, and Hermione noted with an unpleasant feeling; strangely muggle. From this point, Harry, Ron, and Hermione would join their magic with the nexus and then connect to the leylines and then the conduits outside the castle.

The conduits had to be magically strong witches and wizards with a connection to Hogwarts. Of course, almost everyone had been a student there at one point in time, so it was a bit difficult narrowing it down. Arithmancy had helped but in the end, they just had to go with their guts. Severus, Minerva, Filius, and Albus were a given. Molly had also been chosen as well as Kingsley and three relatively unknowns: Lenore Pucket an alumnus who now worked in St Mungos, Natty Omicry an arithmancer who lived in Hogsmeade and Frankie Wattlefly a high level unspeakable who had seemingly disappeared by the time the trio had been firmly entrenched in the Ministry.

Everyone had congregated in the Great Hall waiting for the time to begin the ceremony. Family members (a vast amount of them Weasleys) also hugged and wished them luck while Order members went over last points. Everyone would be leaving the grounds once it was time as they had decided they didn’t want any magical cores potentially confusing the spell or the magic generated. The conduits, draped in heavy royal blue robes representing healing, had stood out amongst the crowd and were quiet no doubt nervous for the spell to begin.

Hermione glanced over at Ron and Harry. Their robes were a little more intricate. Harry wore white with silver healing runes sewn into the hem, signifying new beginnings and purification. Ron who was dressed in black robes representing the removal of negative energy and Latin words of protection had been embroidered in the hems. Hermione herself was in silver representing rebirth, a change of direction, restoring equilibrium. She had carefully stitched black spell work in Paracelsus’ Alphabet.

Harry looked up and decided it was time and quickly ushered everyone out. A quick charm showed when everyone not relevant to the spell had stepped outside the boundary and all the conduits in place ready to begin. Under Albus' guidance Hogwarts locked itself down and wards settled into the boundary lines. The trio felt when the castle was secure and Harry quickly sealed the entrance doors and took his position.

Hermione wiggled her bare toes on the cool cobblestones before walking silently into the middle of the room. With one last glance at Harry, Hermione slowly bent down placed her hand in the center of the circle. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and whispered the connection spell. Behind her, Ron started weaving a charm to show where the sun was in the sky and Hermione was surprised to feel the heat on her back. She glanced up to see it moving steadily across the ceiling. The zenith would be soon and then the cleansing could begin.

Below her, the circle pulsed with heady energy and as Hermione walked back to her position, she could feel the thrumming heartbeat of the nexus under her feet. She turned and made eye contact with Ron and then Harry, nodding tightly, and then they all raised their faces to watch the sun.

As it touched the highest point, they raised their hands as one.

Hermione started her chant noting Harry and Ron had done the same though theirs differed to her. They needed to represent all ways of life and were attuned to the magic in a different way. Harry was air-based; alert, curious, and perceptive. Ron was fire-based; full of courage and passion. Hermione was of course earth, grounded, logical, and hard working.

“May our great awakening now gather irresistible momentum. May the old shadows spell of fear, disconnectedness, and powerlessness now melt away like mist that dissolves under the bright beams of the solstice sun.”

“May the children of the earth unite in our oneness and rededicate to the urgent healing and empowerment we need for one another and for Mother Earth.”

“We align with the ways of our ancestors. We join together to protect our descendants. May the shadows show fear, may they melt away that dissolves under the bright beams of the solstice sun

Harry was staring ahead. “Calm from chaos.”

Hermione was looking down. “Growth from destruction.”

Ron looked to the sun. “Light from dark.”

Hermione knew the moment their magic connected to the ley. A great boom resonated through the room. The steady heartbeat of the nexus now thundered around them filling their very bones with its vibrations. She could feel the connection spell ripple through the stones, could almost see the golden wave moving outwards from the circle towards them. As it touched their soles it moved up until it made contact with their magical cores.

As one they gasped, and Hermione went to her knees the power, the vastness of it almost too much. If she hadn’t known others would help with this burden she would have crumbled under the pressure. A sliver of strength wound itself into her frame and she welcomed it wholeheartedly. The wave continued its journey outward and within seconds she could feel the burden lighten as the nexus connected with the conduits.

She stood shakily and glanced at Ron who was wobbling a bit and Harry who looked grounded and firm. He nodded tightly to them both and Hermione realized he had been the one to push his magic onto both of them and kept them standing. If they weren’t so focused, she would have marveled at his magical strength and ability.

They slowly pushed their magic instinctively finding the ley lines trembling under the weight of the pulsing nexi. Hermione let herself smile.

Everything was going exactly to plan.

Chapter Text

AUSTRALIA

Fern felt the ground rumble and she glanced at Patrick and Tory who had been chosen to be the triad for their nexi cleansing. Behind her standing at four points facing outwards were her aunties chosen for their unique connection to Arnhem land. They had been born on this land and their history went back thousands of generations. Their feet pushed deep into the red dirt moving with a song no one could hear but felt deep within.

She could feel magic filling her very core as she connected to the nexi and in the distance, she could see Uluru light up against the darkening sky grounding her and connecting her to the magic of her people. This was her home, this was her power, this was her history. Her ancestors were all around her fueling her, filling her with pride. She lifted her hands to the sky and began to chant.

FILIUS

Filius pulled his magical core tighter to him as the ley line from Australia connected to him and the Hogwarts nexus. He felt the three unique cores and the four elders though he could not see them. He closed his eyes savoring the strength of a people that was 60,000 years old. Their connection was a thing of beauty and a tear escaped him.

 

INDIA

Guneet kneeled on the soft sand and threaded his fingers into it. The pulsing heat of the nexus drowned out all sounds but he felt the other six wizards that circled the nexus. Their cores called out for him and though he was fearful at first the beating of the nexi had calmed him and he released his natural shield to join his brothers. He gasped as he connected with them. There was joy and fear and determination. He sent a prayer to Vishnu asking to help purify themselves and their magic.

MINERVA

Minerva ground her teeth. The ley line to India was colorful and loud. She couldn’t see the other conduits too far placed around the Hogwarts but she could feel them and sense, that they too were in awe and struggled under the onslaught of new emotions and magic. She closed her eyes and summoned every part of her magic. She was a powerful witch, she had survived two wars,  the marauders and the Weasley twins. There was nothing she could not contend with. She had been chosen and she was going to see this through.

 

SEDONA ARIZONA

Si had always been wild and reckless and free. She ran barefoot through the sandy hills and danced naked under the summer moon. Her magic wove in and out of the trees that she climbed catching her when she fell and lifting her up. She splashed through hidden creeks and flew through red rocked canyons listening to the whispers of her ancestors long gone but never forgotten. She could never contain it nor did she ever want to. She had learned at her mother's feet that she was a witch and a witch meant she was one with the earth and a protector of all its gifts. She stood her feet wide apart and her hands flung apart and her head tipped back to the skies as she joyously chanted along with the other witches.

MOLLY

Molly gasped at the wash of maternal power that ran through her. No males tainted this line for she felt and knew that the mother's gift was its own power. Women were the beginning of all creation and magic and Molly felt a love move through her that she had never felt before. Molly knew of romantic love and familiar love and the love she had for her children. She knew instant unequivocal love that had been born the minute each of her children entered the world. She knew the solid learning love of her husband her soul mate and she knew the gift of a loving friendship. But this love was deeper and purer than she ever knew. It must be protected. At all costs.

 

BOLIVIA

Tokota stared at his hands that held the bowl. They were farmers' hands, stained with dirt and the remnants of a hard day in the field. They were his father's hands and grandfathers and they showed he lived a good life. A life that gave more than received. That cared not just for his family but for his community and the land. His twin sister held her own bowl, her own offerings hidden within and they both whispered for Ekeko to come and bless them in their endeavor. Their elders stood staggered behind them, whispering their own words, driving their own magic into the nexus. Everything was balanced. Night and day, dark and light, brother and sister. Everything except the nexus and together they ground down their magic and focused on the core.

SEVERUS

Severus felt something of akin to the two cores at the end of the ley line. He was one to stray on the line of good and evil. He played the sides with the expertise he had not even realized until now. He loved and he hated in equal measure. He was loved and hated in return too. He closed his eyes as something cracked and then settled within his chest. Balance...it was all about balance.

 

TIBET

The trek to Mt Kailash had been long, arduous, and not without danger but now in the shadow of the great mountain, Penpa couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty. They had set their spells to distract any muggles a week ago and had just completed the Kora hoping it would help their goal. Penpa grinned at Tashi as they walked around the perimeter of the nexus gathering the power like they gathered sticks for their fires. Tashi shook her head in mock exasperation at her little cousin. She glanced up at the mountain and wondered if her twin brother had felt the majesty of being near the great peak when he had come here two-years earlier on a pilgrimage. It was supposed to bring him good fortune, but cancer had still killed him in the end. It would always feel like there was a piece of her missing but here connected to the nexus Tashi almost felt whole again.

ALBUS

Albus was concerned. The minute the ley line had hit him he felt like his arm was not there anymore. In none of his readings had he read anything that would suggest such a feeling, but it hindered him no less. He could see his arm in front of him, but it felt like it was missing. He used all his mental capability to ignore the feeling and focus on the matter at hand.

 

EGYPT

Far from the lights of the city, Rashida felt the sand quiver under the beating of the nexus. Adom moved across from her with a grace that had been denied her and she had once hated it always feeling clumsy and inadequate. But as their cores joined and thrummed together, she could feel Adom’s own insecurities about himself and she marveled. He had admired her brain and her quick wit, thinking himself too dull and uneducated for her. He loved her as she loved him and they both stared at each other in shock. All those years wasted. But now they could be together in a world reforged and new. There their love could blossom.

LENORE

Lenore gasped as she felt the love pulsing from the ley line. Her mind went to her own wife sitting at home with their daughter and worrying about her. She knew the feeling of being indecisive with announcing her own feelings to her best friend whom she had fallen in love with so long ago. But love always found a way and Lenore opened herself fully allowing love to enter the nexus with tears in her eyes and her heart with her beloved.

 

BOTSWANA

Keeya glanced at her sisters and brothers as they stamped and threw their hands up. The shells on their feet shook with the movement and then Lorato began clapping soon joined by the rest of her sister. Lorato was the oldest and Keeya the youngest and though many years separated them Keeya adored her. She followed her moves precisely wanting to be more like her and when the nexi connected with them Keeya almost cried. Lorato kicked the sand and started to chant, her deep brown eyes alight with power and strength. Then Lorato turned and looked at Keeya and beckoned her to join her in leading the dance with her.

KINGSLEY

Kingsley had been an only child who had grown up in a village that was poor. Many children died of disease or war or simply ran away and even though there were still children he had grown up lonely because he was different. There was no in-between in his village. Either they accepted you or you were an outcast. So, when the ley line connected, and he felt for the first time in his life what a loving sibling felt like and a small part of his soul sung in happiness.

 

RUSSIA

Anatoly could feel the power of the volcano beneath him. Though it had been quiet for decades he could still sense it was very much alive. The great city of Ryugu-jo sat hidden within its depths. He knew the muggles had folk tales of this place, but little did they know it actually existed. Once the island held muggles, but they left a long time ago and now only magical people lived here hidden in the mountain. Anatoly was surprised that their nexus had been so inundated with dark energy, but the pompous blonde Englishman had said it was because it was the largest one on earth. Anatoly stood perfectly still next to his uncle and his aunt holding a white candle in front of them. Twenty-seven magi had been chosen to complete the cleansing and almost all of them were related to him in some way or another. Family. Home. Pride.

FRANKIE

Frankie could almost taste the pride of secrecy that wound itself in the Russian ley line. And it was something that he could savor and enjoy. It was after all the reason he had chosen to be an unspeakable all those years ago. He had been on the edge of discovery with some of the time turners when his name had come up in the algorithms and Raina sent him here. Now as he felt the power of the nexus he realized that that discovery would have probably meant the end of him. Magic, he thought works in very mysterious ways.

 

ROMANIA

Ella glanced around the forest and chuckled at how easily duped the muggles were. Hoia-Baciu Forest was considered by muggle standards to be the most haunted forest. Muggles regularly reported ghost sightings (true but all of their ghosts were harmless), unexplained apparitions (also true but how else are the students supposed to learn how to apparate) and faces appearing in photographs (apparently notice me not do not work on cameras). The intense feelings of anxiety and the feeling of being watched were all just clever spellwork to keep them from entering their small but prestigious school. The school got away with any major issue with the statue of secrecy because the muggles so easily accepted the haunted story. So the students were constantly encouraging it by turning quaffles into small UFOs, or hexing them with rashes or scaring them with amplifying voices on the wind. It was easy enough to do and it was fun. This nexus business was not fun but once it was over they could return to their favorite pastime. She nodded to her teacher before raising her wand to the sky

NATTIA

Nattia almost laughed at the mischievousness that wound through the Romanian line. It wasn’t something she was familiar with being a straight-shooting, no-nonsense medi-witch, but it was enjoyable to feel it sneak around her teasing lightly. She could feel how young the conduits were though one was older and had the sense of a leader. There was bemusement there and joy at their cheekiness and a keen sense to get this over with so the young ones could do what young ones did best. Live. And with that Nattia focused on the task at hand.

 

HOGWARTS

Centuries of magic had been poured into her stones from both the nexus and the magical people that she housed. The ley lines gave her a taste of foreign magic far away over oceans and mountains. The forest allowed her to tap into the natural magic of the earth and the magical creatures that lived and practice their own ways. The lake showed her magic forgotten by the people and still slumbering quietly awaiting a new age. She had been built in the perfect spot, surrounded by magic and she fed gluttonously on it. Until it became rotten and her insides heaved and groaned and she wondered if she could continue. Now she could feel they were on the brink of a cleansing and she almost sighed with gratitude.

 

 

****

 

 

All around them they could feel as each ley line from their chosen locations connected to their conduits and then to the Hogwarts nexus. They could feel the great magic well up in all of them, ready and primed to become pure again.

Hermione's body began to thrum with vibrant energy, and she opened her self-up to be a conduit allowing it to flow through her. To flow to Harry and Ron. Behind her she could feel Minerva's magic join her own, flowing and twisting with wisdom as it joined within the rivulets of the nexi. Severus was next with his love for her that almost buckled her knees. Filius with his joy for life. Molly with her loyalty, Nattia with her passion, and so forth until they were one swirling mass of magical energy.

 

 

Everything was going to plan.

 

 

And then everything went to shit.

Chapter Text

The screaming began as soon as they tried to cleanse the nexus. It started at the base of Hermione's skull echoing through her head and reverberating down her body. It was the scream of anger, of pain and destruction. The words died in her throat as panic crawled up her spine. She clasped her hands over her ears trying to drown out the awful hideous sound, but it rose in volume.

“What's going on?” Harry bellowed from the other side his face pitched in pain.

“I don’t know,” Hermione managed back. The pain was almost too much.

“Dark...dark magic,” Ron managed.

Of course, this was dark magic. Protecting itself, rising to fight them. The room rumbled and a wind picked up blowing them this way and that. Harry stumbled trying to keep his position in the spell as his mind and magic worked furiously against the darkness that was fighting them.

This hadn’t been what was supposed to happen. Nothing in their research, arithmancy, or calculations had even suggested this would occur and he had no idea how to fight it. This was raw magic, diseased and tortured, hateful and twisted. He looked to Hermione, her eyes scrunched up in shock and pain, her hair snapping around her head like Medusas mane of snakes.

Ron buckled under the pressure and went to his knee, his head bent as his vision began to distort. He watched in horror as red angry scars snaked up his arm, a remnant of his old life from where the brain tentacles had seared his skin. He quickly looked to Hermione and saw blood dripping from her arm and he knew that that ugly epitaph was been etched on her arm again.

It seemed that the dark magic was seeking out every bit of itself from within them. Though in this life they had never suffered physically they still held the scars of their pain and it was being drawn to the surface.

Hermione started to scream not knowing what else to do as her body was buffeted and she struggled to keep her feet. The magic felt worse than the Cruciatus, then watching Severus die. There was a ripping, vicious hole in her that it entered and gorged her insides almost gleefully.

Outside the conduits felt the darkness consume the leylines. Severus stumbled moaning with the seductive taste that entered his body, teasing and enticing him. A wicked temptation that he spent his life denying his magic access to.

Albus roared with pain but stood tall trying and failing to temper it with his own magic. Minerve sobbed and Molly howled. Kingsley fell to his knees and dug his fingers into the cool soil and cried out. Filius vomited, Lenore scratched at her face and neck silently begging for a reprieve. Frankie rocked back and forth his body curling in on itself as if to protect itself from the dark magic that curled around him. Tears fell down Nattia's face while blood dripped from her bitten lip.

The whole castle fell into darkness and the people outside the gates gasped with fear. Sirius and Remus tried desperately to enter but were thrown back violently knocking both the wizards out. Ndiaye made a sign against evil and started rallying the other members to step back just in case. Arthur sat stricken as dark clouds rolled over the great castle and shrouded it from sight.

The inhabitants of Hogsmeade shuddered as the daylight ceased and despair wrapped around them. Children cried and clutched at their mother's robes, wizards wailed with sadness and witches screamed in fear. The world had suddenly become a dark and fearful place.

Inside the castle, the portraits froze, the ghosts disappeared and the house elves cowered under tables. Hogwarts groaned under the onslaught of dark magic rising from its depths. Sinister laughter shrieked and echoed through the halls. Windows shattered and doors ripped from their hinges. Ice began to form across the floor and wind-blasted statues into dust.

Hermione sobbed as she felt it consume her, rising through her body like a poison intent on her destruction. A coldness fell over her as her strength started to wane.

“Fight it, Hermione,” Harry screamed his voice full of panic, his own struggle almost too much for him.

“It hurts,” she sobbed back her hands clutched to her chest. Ron was pushing his own magic out, alarm on his face as he watched her diminish in front of him. Their eyes met and they knew that this would be their end. Ron felt his heartbreak at her acceptance and then gritted his teeth.

“Harry,” he screamed over the cacophony of shrieks and screeches that pierced him. Harry glanced at Hermione and then at Ron and he instantly understood. Ron struggled to his feet. If he was going to die it would be on his feet, next to the two most amazing people he had ever known. He nodded to Harry and then to Hermione who tried to wipe the tears that were flowing down her cheeks.

Hermione reached deep into her subconscious and pulled up the taste of the magic of the centaurs. The clean crisp earthy feel of their magic filled her as she remembered the first time she had been apart of their rituals. That flowed into the magic of the merpeople and then the house-elves. Magic was a gift given to many.

Ron grabbed onto love. The love he felt for his family, the brotherly love of his friendship with Harry, and the pure love he had for Hermione. He thought of his friends and his teachers who had stood with him and guided him to be the man he was today. He thought of Pansy. So powerful and so right. Love had its own magic.

Harry reached for his mother and father. For their sacrifice and love. He remembered his mother's eyes, his father's pride, his godfather's sadness, and Remus’s hope as they stood with him before he had died at Toms wand so many years ago. There was magic there. Strong and untouched by evil. He pulled it to him and pushed it out.

The magic they were fighting against screamed in anger and fear as it fought them. There own magical cores were close to blowing out but still, they kept them open hoping that somehow it would be enough to push back the black tide they struggled against. Even if it meant their lives they would give it freely to protect everything they held dear.

Hermione's throat closed up and her screaming ceased though the pain doubled. Beside her Ron and Harry were also fighting a losing battle, their bodies contorting in agony, screaming and wrenching at their insides as if they could rip the darkness from within them. Too caught up in their torture they did not realize they had started to rise their bare feet lifting from the stones. Agony flew through their bones, misery settled into their teeth, horror in their hearts.

Hermione's body snapped backward her limbs jolting and twisting angrily.

Ron felt like a butcher was hacking at him, splitting his body in two with a sharp cleaver.

Harry was crying as his very soul felt like it was being mutilated and he wished for death at that moment.

It was too much. Too much power, too much responsibility, too much darkness. Their mortal bodies could not contain it. Hermione felt herself slipping into darkness and welcomed it. Ron fought with everything he had, clawing until his last moments. Harry let his mind wander, away from the hurt and the pain. It seemed like the darkness had won.

And then the wind stopped.

The pain stopped.

The world stopped.

The trio were suspended their limbs limp but their eyes fixed to the ceiling above. Silence fell over the room save for their shallow breaths. Then their bodies shuddered, their hands flung out wide and their eyes rolled up into their heads. Slowly their bodies spun until they were once again facing the nexus. Their robes fluttered as they continued to float high above the stone floor.

As one they started to chant.

"Sanctificamini in tenebris

Lucem producam

Restituere in statera."

A great intake of air as if gasping their last breaths and they brought their hands together with a loud clap that resonated through the silent room. They pulled their arms back once more and brought them together, the sound causing the stones to quake and the stain glass windows to shatter.

The three figures held for a moment longer.

 

And then they fell.

Chapter Text

Hermione fell to her knees, her stomach rebelling as she struggled to hold herself up. She squeezed her eyes shut, the light too bright too encompassing. Breathing slowly through her nose, she lifted her head and looked to her right. Squinting, she managed to make out Harry's form doubled over much the same as she was. He was gasping looking around wildly.

There was nothing but white.

Confused, Hermione looked to her other side and was relieved to see Ron sitting up on his knees his eyes closed and breathing deeply. Relief flooded through her.

We’re ok.

“Not quite.”

All three looked up at the voice. In front of them stood an impossibly tall woman draped in a green Grecian gown. She smiled down at them as they gaped at her. Hermione found that she couldn’t focus on her face, that her eyes seemed to skitter from it. There was a sense of supreme power radiating outwards from her and both fear and wonder flooded her.

“I am the manifestation of magic herself.”

Her voice was deep as the oceans yet light as a breeze, the soft trilling of a young girl, the husky murmur of a woman grown, and the brittle whisper of a wizen crone. All at once, lapping over each other, blending into one another. There was power and innocence and wisdom woven into the tones that floated to them.

“Magic is female?” Ron asked almost stupidly. The tips of his ears reddened at his outburst and Hermione almost smiled thinking it had been quite some time since Ron had spoken without thought.

Magic smiled indulgently down at him. “I am earth magic, mother magic at its core. But I come to you in a form that you can comprehend.”

"Oh-kay,” Ron managed his eyes darting to Hermione's. She struggled to her feet, her body so weary her limbs almost felt too weak to support her. Harry stumbled to her side and Ron caught him before he crashed into her. She smiled thankfully at him knowing that she would have just crashed to the floor had he continued. All three stared up at the woman.

She considered them for a moment. “I have been watching you three for a long time,” she murmured before she crouched down onto her knees before them. Even from that position they still had to look up at her.

“Such different personalities. But you love each other like I haven't seen in a very long time. The magic that you each cultivate is very unique, yet it blends so well with each other. A testament to your will to forgive and move on, to foster love."

They all looked at each other considering and weighing her words carefully. This could be a trick or a fevered dream but something was at play here that felt real enough to their minds. Ron cleared his throat first. “Where are we?”

Magic seemed to think upon his words for a moment. “Nowhere. Everywhere. It depends on the perspective. Currently, your bodies reside on the material plane.”

“So, we’re on the astral plane?”

“No. Your souls are vibrating at a different frequency." She paused for a moment. "My frequency to be exact.”

“Oh,” Ron said looking at Hermione for help. She shook her head and shrugged. Magic laughed and Hermione felt like a Patronus was flowing through her. It was her mother's hugs, her father's whiskery kisses, Severus eyes. It was the joy of her first spell, her first real friend, her lover holding her through the night. The sighs of the boys told her they too felt the same.

“Oh that was nice,” Harry said with a smile.

Hermione however let the feeling go and focused on the issue at hand. “What are we doing here?”

“You are dying.”

Harry quirked a smile. “Been there, done that. A few times now actually. Don’t remember you though.”

Hermione glared at him. They could sense she was a force not to be reckoned with and Harry was being too blasé for Hermione's taste. There was a possibility that they were in real trouble. Dying wasn't something she actually wanted to experience until she was well into her hundreds surrounded by her family.

Magic smiled at Harry her lips quirking in amusement though Hermione was forced to blink rapidly and turned away when she tried to look at her whole face. She found too that even though she had just seen her smile she couldn’t remember the shape of her lips nor the color. It was like a dream that was fading from memory once awake.

“Yes, but I was there preventing Death from coming to you.”

Harry moved forward and scrunched up his face before his eyes landed on the talisman that sat at her shoulder. “Really? How?”

“I sent Albus to you and entertained Death long enough for you to return.”

All of them shared looks having spoken multiple times regarding Harry's death. No one, no one but them knew about the train station, Toms shriveled soul and Albus' appearance. Even Ginny was not told.

“It was easier than appearing to you. For your mind that is,” she explained

“And now?” Harry asked and took a weak step back when Magic stood. Her gown fluttered, the colors rippling like a rainbow before settling back to the forest green. Hermione rubbed at her eyes feeling an ache build up behind them. She stiffened when a giant hand caressed her head and settled over her eyes. The ache disappeared and then the hand left her and she felt strangely bereft.

“Now you work to save magic, you understand how I work, how important I am to the world. You are older, wiser. More capable.”

She turned then and gestured for them to follow. They stumbled after her still feeling weak but eager to walk with her for some reason. Hermione caught up with her first and she was pleased when Magic slowed her steps for them.

“If we didn’t you would have died.”

Magic faltered for a moment and the brightness dimmed. “Correct. I would have died.”

Harry came upon her other side. “You were the one that gave us hints about the potion and the timeline. You brought us back through the time room.”

Hermione felt Magic smiling at them, but she didn’t bother to look up to confirm in. Looking at her face was too terrible, too majestic for her human mind to understand, and though Magic had obviously healed her ache the first time she didn’t want to push her luck especially when it seemed their very lives were on the line.

“I may have bent the rules a little.”

Hermione frowned something niggling at the corner of her mind and opened her mouth to ask a question when magic stopped and turned to her.

“Time and reality work differently for me. I have experienced when you failed. When you did not even know. This was the best result.”

Hermione's mouth shut with a snap. Her mind whirled with her words. This had been the best result? How awful were the realities that had never been then? Did the dark win? Did the war continue to rage? She shuddered with the possibilities.

“So, what now?” Ron asked.

Magic considered him for a moment. “Now, you choose.”

Harry frowned and glanced at Hermione and Ron in confusion. He looked up before wincing and stared at her talisman. “Well of course we choose to live.”

Hermione felt Magic smile sadly. “No, my sweetlings,” she sighed with a bitter softness. “One of you must die. And you must choose who.”

Hermione trembled and saw Ron gape at the celestial being. “What do you mean? That’s not fair.”

“You are right. It isn’t fair,” she crooned softly. “Death has been denied a lot lately. He wants one of you as compensation.”

“Well he can't have us,” Hermione snapped crossing her arms and lifting her nose. Out of her peripheral, she saw Ron nodding his head vigorously while Harry smirked. Magic sighed her hands threading together in front of her.

“It is not up to me.”

“You're magic itself...just magic him away. Confound him or something.”

“Oh, my dear Ronald. I wish it works like that.”

Her words were like a sledgehammer. There was a deep finality that spoke that there would be no way around this ultimatum. Hermione felt Ron's hand in her own and was grateful for it. Harry walked around the woman and stared at the two in consternation. This didn’t feel like it was going to end happily for anyone. Hermione reached out her other hand and Harry took it. Ron glanced down at their clasped hands and then gave Hermione a strange look. Harry’s eyes widened and shook his head while Hermione was struggling to understand what they had decided.

And then it hit her all at once and she felt relief and horror in equal measure. She swallowed heavily and bowed her head as tears leaked from her eyes and fell down her cheeks.

She heard Ron cough awkwardly and then squeeze her hand before turning to Magic. “Very well. We’ve come to a decision.”

Chapter Text

For a very long time, Severus had thought he would never experience true happiness. And then a woman and two of her friends crashed through time, upended his world and chose him above all others.

They had saved the world too. Multiple times. The whole magical world whispered their thanks after the cleansing had been complete. A hellish experience Severus didn’t want to think about ever again.

But the consequences were in front of him none the less and he was forced to confront them every day. His eyes flickered over to the other two in their own beds surrounded by others. Severus noted Molly and Arthur Weasley beside Wealsey's bed and Luna and Ginevra next to Potter's. Crying was over. There was just shocked pain now.

It had been two weeks since the cleansing. Two weeks since they had all woken on the grounds of Hogwarts confused and magically drained. Two weeks since they stumbled into the Great Hall to find the trio unconscious and barely breathing. Their cores almost wiped clean.

"A coma," Poppy said. "A healing coma," Albus soothed. "A death sleep," Parkinson muttered. No one corrected her.

Their cores had been damaged severely but had recovered well enough, their bodies had not been injured but they didn’t wake up. Hope began to dwindle as time marched on. The medi witches summoned from St Mungos muttered their apologies and condolences and said nothing could be done but to wait.

Reports had come in that the connected nexi were clear of dark magic and were filtering through the magic from the smaller less inundated nexi around them. It had worked and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

That relief was short-lived as focus turned to the trio. Despite everything, the diagnostics were telling them the trio were diminishing. Everyone knew it. Felt it in their bones and they all despaired.

“Oh my, Poppy. POPPY!”

Severus reared back and looked over as Molly stood up and started wringing her hands. Her eyes were on her son who seemed to breathe and then stop. Severus watched in horror as his skin tightened and the color drained. His body relaxed fully into the bed. Poppy started wheeling spells like a madwoman as Molly flung herself into her husband's arms and sobbed. Ginevra and Luna stood up clutching each other tears streaming down their faces as they watched their brother and friend die. A movement at the door caught Severus' attention and he saw Parkinson stare at the chaos before her face crumpled in despair and she fled. Severus swallowed. Parkinson had been visiting her paramour when all others had left. She would creep in, give him a sneer and then sit staring at Ronald before slinking off before dawn. They never talked. He knew his Slytherins better than that. But they both knew they were in this together and the silent companionship was soothing in its own way.

Severus stood up and slowly walked over to Poppy and gently grabbed her wand. She whirled around her eyes frantic and wide.

“Severus?”

“He’s gone Poppy.”

Molly let out a wail and collapsed onto the ground as sobs overtook her. Arthus just stood there blinking numbly at their sons' body. Ginevra had scuttled around Potters' bed and tried to pick up her mother who protested vehemently.

“No, not my son. Not my, my boy. My baby boy.”

She was heaving gasping in huge lungsful of air as her body shook. Poppy hung her head for a moment before taking the sheet and covering the young man's head. Severus swallowed as his red hair disappeared. He turned his back and stumbled back to his seat. He grabbed Hermione's hand desperately as the world seemed to spin. Nothing made sense anymore. He blocked everything out and focused just on the woman in front of him.

Distantly, after some time had passed, he heard Molly and Arthur leave, taking Ginevra with them. Poppy had taken Miss Lovegood, but Severus knew not where and didn’t care. His focus was on Hermione. He counted the breaths she took and squeezed her hand with everyone. He thought on when she had returned and they spent as much time together as they could. Strangely it was the mundane moments that came to him now. Waking up next to her. His hand on the small of her back as he guided her around the castle. Her delight in finding that Severus was ticklish. Moments so precious and so few.

Later he felt Sirius place a hand on his shoulder.

“Severus.”

He blinked and looked up at the marauder that had made his life awful. He felt nothing. His heart was breaking. He knew that what had happened to Ronald would happen to Harry and to Hermione. He sucked in a ragged breath surprised when it turned to a sob and he buried his head in his arms.

“It’s ok Severus,” Sirius stuttered wetly. “I know.”

Severus felt Sirius leave his side and heard him take a seat next to Pot-no Harry’s bed. He may look like his father but he was anything but. And for everything he did, everything he sacrificed he deserved some respect. Severus leaned over and tucked a curl behind Hermione's ear while he listened in on Sirius.

“Hey, pup. I know you're in there. I know you can hear me. And...and I want you to know I'm so very proud of you. You’ve fought so hard and for so long and...” he sucked in a breath and Severus looked up to find him openly crying as he stared down at his godson. “If you need to go, son. Go. We will miss you and we love you but don’t hang on for us. We’ll be ok because you saved us. All of us. And we will meet again...you and Ron and Hermione we'll see you all again. Soon ok pup?”

Once alone Severus leaned over Hermione and pushed her hair away from her face. He watched her breath for a few seconds before settling his lips on the shell of her ear.

“Don't listen to a word he says Hermione,” he hissed. “Do you hear me? You fight. Fight like the Gryffindor you are. Don’t give up. Not on everything. Not on me. Give us a chance.”

He sat back down and stared. She shouldn’t be this still. Her face was usually so animated, her eyes alight with intelligence and humor. 

“Please Hermione, give us a chance,” he whispered before sobbing into the sheets.

 

****

 

He awoke a little time later to Poppy shaking him gently. He blinked blearily up at her and focused on Minerva who had pulled up a chair next to him and was stroking Hermione's face lovingly. He noted the wobble of her chin and the tears that threatened to fall. She looked over at him and her face looked agonized.

“I'm so sorry Severus,” she whispered. He frowned at her and then sucked in a breath as he turned his attention to Hermione. Her chest didn’t rise. Her face was grey and relaxed.

Severus pushed away violently from the bed and screamed.

“Severus! Severus please,” Poppy begged trying to calm him down. Minerva had stood up too, the tears finally cascading down her face as she watched Severus break. He grabbed at his head digging his fingers into his skull. His magic reared up in him.

Suddenly someone crashed into him, grabbing his arms and he was taken to the ground. He roared with anger, with pain. He had lost Lily and that had hurt but losing Hermione was like someone had ripped his soul out and flayed his body.

“Poppy! A calming potion,” Remus yelled while he tried to grapple with the out of control Potion Master.

Poppy tried to thrust a calming potion under his nose, but he twisted away from her snarling. He realized he was still screaming and clamped his mouth shut even as the tsunami of pain welled in his chest. He shuddered and scowled up at Poppy who flinched. “I want to feel my pain. I want to know it was real. That I loved her, and she was mine and now she’s gone.”

Poppy hesitated before corking the potion again and looking up at Remus who still held Severus in an arm lock. He sighed softly as Severus relaxed and stopped fighting him. He released the Potion Master and hunched over, his hand rubbing at his eyes. “At least they’re all at peace now.”

Severus stiffened. “What do you mean?” he asked even as his gaze swiveled to Harry’s bed, where Ginevra was laid out next to the chosen one. She was whispering in his ear, her hand rubbing his arm as if to warm him. Tears flowed freely down her face and she looked at him and Severus felt his very soul darken.

“Severus,” Remus murmured in his ear. “Harry died two hours ago.”

Chapter Text

The world reeled at the death of the trio after they had saved magic. Many magical communities erected statues of them especially the ones that had to participate in the Great Cleansing. But as with almost all eras, time moved on and so did the wizarding community.

Magic now fully released, tempered herself. Three of her hero's had died sacrificing themselves repeatedly. This was not what she had wanted. Magic was all about intent and she had felt the trio's intention with all of her being. They would not leave another to sacrifice themselves. Their intention had been borne out of pure love for each other.

Magic wrapped herself up and isolated herself from the world.

The Weasley family was wrecked. Fred and Goerge closed their shop as they mourned their little brother and his friends and never really got it up and running again. Ginny never married and took a job at the Quibbler in an attempt to help Mr. Lovegood after his daughter disappeared. Luna had felt her soul dim with the death of her friends and went into the Amazon intent on finding some mystical beast and never returned. There had been a few missions to search for her, but all returned without finding the blonde Ravenclaw.

Neville went on to become a herbology professor and married Hannah Abbot.

Pansy Parkinson with the loss of the only person who really understood her, turned to drinking and 2 years after the death of the trio brewed a poison and killed herself.

Draco Malfoy married Astoria Greengrass and had one son. Severus Snape turned up to the christening and was never seen again.

The trial of Sirius Black was held three months after the awakening and on the second last day, Sirius had heard voices calling to him. He searched for and found the veil looking at it with a distinct longing. Remus had tried to talk the marauder out of touching it before realizing there was nothing really to live for and together they had stepped in to be welcomed by those who had passed before.

Magic grew vengeful and unleashed her anger upon the world.

A terrorist group known as Tera caused mayhem for the magical world. They had perfected their magical bombs in England and then had taken to the world inciting terror and panic wherever they went. The magical communities turned fearful of outsiders and closed their borders to protect their citizens.

Nymphadora Tonks, Mad-Eye Moody, and Kingsley Shaklebolt were killed in the blast that rocked Cambridge and Arthur Weasley was severely injured in another that happened in London. He would spend the rest of his life at St Mungos.

Magic begged death to return them but by then it was too late.

The community suffered in other ways. Children were now so rare that even squibs were a blessing. Magic did not obey as easily as it once did, and spells and charms became harder. Some magical folk gave up on it altogether and tried to integrate themselves into the muggle community hoping they could at least be saved in that way.

Magic despaired.

Even the muggles felt it. Their days were drearier, their problems direr. Famine rushed through countries following civil wars, disease broke out and swept entire continents leaving death in its wake. The climate no longer held by its magical leash wreaked havoc and destruction fueled by the muggle's disrespect of nature.

Magic wept.

Finally, she sighed and turned her eyes to the sun. 

Magic had been saved but the world had not.

Chapter Text

Death turned and lifted his skeletal hands to magic. “I only wanted one.”

Magic shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. They do not consent and will find a way to circumvent you and the outcome will be the same.”

Death looked at the trio who were standing near the scrying bowl. This turn was not something he had anticipated. Should they die by his or their own hand the future looked bleak. Despite being death he was not omniscient. Magic had the power to see multiple futures but not all of them. This was one she had not seen but he could feel that if it continued the outcome would be the same and he despaired.

Death could not see the future, he wasn't magical having existed long before her. His existence was in the present and the past. He knew however that he had been denied many a reaping as the actions of the trio had occurred. And now he was at a crossroads and had no idea how to step forth.

Without death, the living would not live so well. He was required. He was necessary. He loved life. Despite being Death. It was what made his existence so rich.

But...

Should he continue to demand the balance be paid less life will exist. Within generations, the magical community will dwindle. Even if magic did not temper herself the ripples of the trio were more important. Without them, it would stand on the precipice of self-destruction.

He ignored the three young ones and turned to Magic. “Show me.”

 

*****

Ronald Weasley let out a soft snore and pulled his wife tighter to him, the hammock rocking gently with the movement. She made a small mew of protest before burrowing further into his side and falling deeper into sleep. Hermione shook her head fondly at the couple and ushered their children away from the slumbering couple. Briar Weasley all of 10 years made vomiting motions at the sight of her parents cuddling and her younger sister Rose giggled evilly. Both girls had surprisingly their mothers coloring much to their father's delight.

5-year-old Lily potter was balancing precariously on a toy broom her father Harry holding her lightly so she could get a feel for it. James their oldest flew rings around them and his little brother Evan tried desperately to keep up. Ginny Potter hung upside down on her own broom, crossing her eyes and poking out her tongue at their youngest daughter Cassia just shy of a year giggling madly.

Most Sundays when the weather was warm saw the entire family milling in the paddocks behind the Weasley home. There were too many of them now to fit in the house even with extension charms so they had begun creating a space outdoors for them all. The orchard had matured giving shade and plenty of places for the children to play. The veggie garden was off-limits due to James potter ripping up all of Molly's prize-winning tomatoes. The field was littered with blankets and cushions for the adults to sit and relax.

Molly was currently setting the long table ready for lunch. She was quite in her element surrounded by her babies and grandbabies and doing what she did best. Mollycoddling them all. She chuckled as Tonks and Remus’s youngest Sage came barreling from under the table brandishing a wooden sword and yelling at his cousin to surrender.

Luna waddled up behind her, her belly already large with the prospect of twins and sat down with a sigh and a grateful smile to Molly who passed her a plate of food.

Rolf Scamander, Luna's husband, was showing Finn and Sabre, Remus middle children, something in the orchard, and Molly suspected it was some sort of magical creature by the way the twins shrieked with laughter.

Severus sat with Remus and Minerva as he rubbed his youngest son on the back trying to settle him to sleep. The Slytherin had long since settled his issues with the two marauders and it had helped that Remus was no longer suffering from the change. A young Potions Mistress in the States had found a way to permanently make the process painless and be able to retain their human mind.

Teddy was stealing kisses from Victoire thinking he was being very discreet about it all but paled when he turned and saw Bill glare at him. Tonks and Fleur roared with laughter as Teddy stole one more kiss before scampering away from the man.

Fred was lying on his back enjoying the afternoon sun with his wife's head pillowed on his stomach. Angelina was making daisy chains for his only daughter Gwen. A few meters from them George had a captive audience of multiple children oohing and ahhing over his mini fireworks display.

Draco and Hannah were chatting on the low stone wall that separated the garden from the field, ignoring everything as children raced around them. Astoria was helping Neville clean his youngest child off having just been pushed in the mud by her Scorpius. Scorpius was trying desperately to explain it was an accident before quailing under his mother's pointed look.

Hermione smiled as her daughter was chatting Sirius ear off about griffins and Sirius was trying his darndest to stay interested. Severus had little issue with Sirius these days as Madeline kept him locked in conversation that he couldn’t be bothered antagonizing Severus. That and Isiah was quite good at practical jokes and Sirius was tired of waking up with a donkey ass and Severus laughing himself sick when he saw him.

Molly smiled as Arthur came from behind and snaked his hands around her. “Mollywobbles,” he whispered and she tsked happily before calling their large and extended family to eat.

 

***

 

“A balance should be paid,” Death demanded.

Magic nodded. “But not with their lives. You’ve seen what happens. It doesn’t work well for either of us.”

Hermione glanced at the scrying bowl and wiped her tears before turning to the two beings that stood before her. “There are consequences to your actions. There are consequences to the choices you put at our feet. Are you prepared to stand by them?”

Death stared into the water of the bowl seeing they were watching multiple realities that were less than desirable. They had not seen what Magic had just shown him for only their choices would be shown to them. This was his choice and his alone. Magic blinked slowly at him as he considered the rules of the universe. There were some things he could bend and others he could not.

“Child, I have a job to do. It is neither pretty nor kind in most cases, but it is required. You must understand I cannot leave without something of substance.”

“Not our souls though,” Hermione whispered brokenly.

“The Hallows!” Harry piped up and both Hermione and Ron look at him in surprise. “We’ll return the Hallows to you.”

Death considered it. Their faces held such restrained hope that he almost laughed but he would not mock them at this moment so innocent that they were. He closed his eyes and reached out searching for the Hallows that had always been apart from him for so very long. Would it be enough? These artifacts had his very being woven into him. If Death had a soul the Hallows were apart of it. Not to mention their moment of creation had shown him Magic and had been the start of a beautifully confounding relationship. There was power and magic and love in the Hallows. Death would be whole again.

He sighed softly and opened his eyes. “Very well I will give you a year. Return the Hallows to me and I will consider your debt settled, and the balance restored.”

Chapter Text

“Severus! Severus, good god, man. Where the fuck are you?”

Sirius screaming was like a pickaxe to his temples. The marauder catapulted into the room his arm flinging out to grab onto the door to stop him from running into anything. He stumbled with the abrupt loss of forward momentum and for a moment his legs were wheeling in different directions. Severus frowned at the exuberance on his face. He had disappeared into his office and was contemplating drinking himself into an early grave. The stupid dog was interrupting it. 

“You need to come right away. Just...come,” he barked before changing into his dog form and galloping out of the room his joyful yips echoing through the corridor. Severus felt his heart jolt before suppressing it ruthlessly. He stood slowly, capping the whiskey bottle, and then closed his eyes asking for strength he didn't think he had anymore. He could see Black waiting for him at the end of the hallway wagging his tail and his tongue lolling stupidly out of his head. With a sigh of frustration knowing he wouldn't get any peace until he followed the mutt he closed his door and followed the dog.

Outside the day was dawning bright and beautiful, an abrupt contrast to what Severus felt at the moment. He had barely slept, couldn't really bare to, knowing that Hermione's scent had gone days ago from his bed. His rooms felt empty but so full too. Full of memory, of moments small and seemingly inconsequential. He wanted to hoard them all afraid they'd disappear and at the same time, he wanted them gone. Why did he have to remember? Why couldn't he experience her? Why was she gone from him? He racked his hand over his face as he continued.

The entrance to the hospital wing was open and two figures stood in the doorway. Pansy Parkinson and Ginerva Weasley both looked broken, hunched over in their grief, and lost in how to proceed. They both ignored the marauder as he scrambled into the room, their eyes on his as he came to stand next to them.

“What is going on?” Severus asked his eyes finding Ginevra's and then Pansy's who stood at the entrance of the hospital wing. From here he could see a crowd had formed in front of the room they had placed the bodies in, ready for burial. He swallowed heavily at the thought that his Hermione was cold and lifeless on the other side. Pansy shook her head, her arms wrapped around herself while Ginerva simply blinked at him. He felt a sense of compassion for both as they knew exactly what he was feeling. Their eyes rimmed with dark circles and redness from crying positive they mirrored his own. Pansy leaned on her Head of House seeking comfort where she could. 

“Wards,” Ginervra breathed. “Wards started to erect. We can't access the door.”

Severus started, his eyes taking in the room before narrowing on Albus who was waving his wand around wildly. Pansy stood up and moved closer to the redhead as he quickly pulled out his wand and began pushing through the others that had gathered. Remus and Sirius were whispering quietly to the side, Arthur and Molly clutching at each other, Kingsley standing grimly near Albus and Minerva as their wands swept over the room.

Behind him, he could feel Ginevra and Poppy shadowing him and he couldn’t blame them. Like sought like after all. He glanced back to see them holding hands finding strength in each other and he was glad for it. 

He joined Albus in casting diagnostics and when he found wards he knew, he started to disable them. To his frustration stronger more foreign wards settled in their place. Kingsley huffed angrily at Severus when he lowered his wand in confusion and shook his head.

“I’ve just sent for the Head Unspeakable. We have no idea what this is.”

Severus frowned turning to the wizard. “Could it be a backlash?”

Kingsley considered his words. “Possibly. We know that the dark magic surged just before the connection broke and that is what killed them. It could be a buildup within them.”

Minerva hum at his words. “Are we endanger?”

Behind her, they heard the floo flare and Kingsley rushed back to Poppy's office before escorting a very small but big-eyed woman to them. She hummed noncommittally as she took in the obvious magical forcefield around the room. Severus gritted his teeth.

“Are you going to help or just stand there?” He snarled. The woman merely blinked at him. She seemed to be sizing him up and then hummed again before stepping around him to the door. Her wand swished around her violently and even Albus looked puzzled by her movements. Suddenly she spun around her wand disappearing behind her back and she took in the group that had congregated. Severus registered the other conduits had gathered though had been on the fringe of the group not really knowing what was going on.

“My name is Raina Polsat. I am the Head of the Department of Unspeakable..”

Next to him he could hear Sirius let out a growl at her blasé nature. He almost snarled right along with him but that would mean he agreed with the stupid marauder and that was something he couldn’t quite allow.

“Can you tell us what’s happening?” Pansy finally snapped and Severus felt his regard for the young woman grow. Raina swiveled her head to stare at Pansy and then smiled.

“Wards have been erected.”

“We know that you daft bint. Why have wards been erected? Why cannot we not take them down?”

“Because only the magical signatures keyed into those wards can do so.” She explained as if it was obvious. Minerva looked around in annoyance while Filius stepped up his wand spinning as he did an in-depth analysis.

“I can’t find any magical signatures,” he muttered as he considered what his wand was telling him.

Raina blinked at the charms master. “That is because the diagnostic charm has not been invented yet.”

“All right I’m going to hex her,” Sirius snapped yanking up his sleeves. Kingsley laid a calming hand on him and with a warning look shook his head. He turned to Raina.

“Who invents it, Raina?”

“Ronald Weasley.”

“That's impossible. Ronald Weasley is dead and inside that room,” Pansy growled angrily her voice pitching with her grief. Ginerva let go of her hand and put her arm around the Slytherin.

“Is he? Well, that won't do at all. Perhaps the magical signatures entwined in the wards could fix that?”

“There’s no fixing dead,” Ginevra deadpanned angrily. Tears swam in her eyes but the tilt of her chin told him she was stronger then he had thought her to be. He almost smiled at them both.

Raina tsked at them, her gaze moving over the people before her. “And yet Harry Potter has survived death quite a few times now. It stands that he could possibly do so again.”

Ginevra and Pansy both snarled at the witch's answer before Minerva stepped forward her steely gaze firmly on the Unspeakable. “Speak plain and speak true or I won't be accountable to what this witch will do to ye.”

Severus smirked at the witch admiring her anger and power. It didn’t seem to faze Raina however who blinked and then sighed.

“The three magical signatures can pull down those wards.”

“Who are they?”

“Severus Snape, Pansy Parkinson and Ginevra Weasley.”

All three frowned at the witch before Severus grunted. “I tried to pull down those wards myself and more fell into place.”

“You tried by yourself. You must try as a cohesive unit. It is safe. Do not worry on that account.”

"How can they trust you?" Remus muttered. "They don't know you at all." 

Severus flicked a glance at the werewolf surprised at his words. 

“Why us?” Ginny managed quietly.

“You already know,” Raina murmured with a touch of gentleness in her voice. Severus glanced at Albus and Minerva before staring at the two young witches. Pansy took a deep breath and shrugged her shoulders.

“Why the fuck not.”

“Pansy!” Minerva scolded but everyone ignored her. Severus glanced around the room. He could see the hope in their eyes and he could not fault them for it but he also could not allow himself to feel the same. Hermione was dead. She had been dead for well over a day. There was no coming back from that and by the way, Ginerva and Pansy looked they had agreed with his thinking. However, Pansy pulled out her wand and nodded tightly to Ginevra who sighed and did the same. Severus spun and faced the door feeling the wards hum loudly around the room. He glanced down at the two witches by his side who were both staring ahead of them.  

They all stepped to the room and a white light exploded.

Chapter Text

“Where the devil are we?”

Everything was too bright. His eyes skittered around the white expanse trying to find something to contrast against. The shock of Pansy and Ginerva's colorful forms had him wincing and blinking rapidly but he was happy there was something to focus on as he was starting to h\get a headache. They slowly stood up, looking at each other before searching their surroundings. Severus flexed his wand hand where his wand hand been just moments ago and growled. He hated being defenseless especially in an unknown environment.

“Nowhere...and everywhere.”

Severus wheeled around and the breath was punched from him. Ginny started sobbing her hands covering her mouth as she stared at the trio that had somehow materialized in front of them.

“Where the fuck? What the- what is going on,” Pansey screeched staggering back and eyeing Ronald Weasley warily.

Weasley held his hands up and took a step towards her but stopped when she flinched. “I'm real Pans.”

“Sort of,” Potter chortled though his eyes were concerned as he took in his girlfriend. She was still sobbing silently but her eyes were roaming over him almost hungrily.

Pansy swallowed. “Are we dead?”

“No. But we may have fucked up a bit.”

Pansy snorted. “Of course, you did you’re Gryffindor's. “

Hermione stepped closer to him, her hand reaching for his and he almost choked with the feel of her. She was real and warm and oh so familiar. Her brown eyes swam with unshed tears as she looked up at him and she reached up to caress his cheek. He almost closed his eyes at the feel of it but was too wary of her disappearing once again.

“I’m so sorry my love,” she whispered.

“I almost broke,” he admitted softly.

“I know. I saw. You were so brave.”

He bent and rested his head against hers breathing her in. He would happily just stand in this moment forever. Apparently Pansy wasn’t of the same mindset.

“Explain Ronald. You put me through literal hell.”

Severus turned his head to see Potter holding Ginevra tightly as she sobbed into his chest, while Pansy stood stiff and unsure. Ronald raked his hand over his beard and Severus saw her eyes light up with the familiar action.

“I know Pansy. I’m sorry. We all are but you have to know we had no idea that was going to happen. Dark magic cannot be predicted apparently.”

Pansy lips thinned and she took a slow step towards him. “So, what now?”

Potter pulled away, his hands cupping Ginevra's face his thumbs brushing away her tears. “Hogwarts is currently preserving our bodies but because we died our souls lost their connection to them. We are currently vibrating at a different frequency and can't return.”

Ginevra sniffed. “Ok. How do we help?”

Hermione smiled. “It seems that somethings are intricately connected.” She looked up at Severus. “You know how Albus is constantly harping on about how love saved Harry?”

Severus nodded unsure as to where they were going.

“Our souls are made up entirely of love in the beginning. Pure love. The most magical thing in the universe. As magical beings, we can gift some of our souls to those we love. Not large and nothing that will taint us but it’s enough. James and Lillys love for their son protected him when Nagini forced Toms's soul fragment into Harry.”

“Without them, I would have died,” Potter said as he tucked Ginervras head under his chin.

Severus rolled his eyes with a huff. “Great Albus is right, I'll never hear the end of it.”

Hermione giggled softly and Severus almost cried at the sound. “He wasn’t correct. He thought Lily's sacrifice was the only reason he survived. In fact, it was just a fluke. Nagini being there and suffering from built-up pressure, Toms drive to split his souls, hell even Harry's age attributed to it.”

“Harry was a year old. His core would be beginning to present itself magically,” Ginny muttered.

Potter nodded his head and continued stroking her hair. “Correct.”

Severus glanced down at Hermione in confusion. “What does that have to do with you?”

“I love you. You love me. You have a part of me in your soul and vice versa,” Hermione said softly her hand resting on his heart and he quickly covered her hand with his own enjoying the touch.

“We’re not yet properly dead. Magical people work differently from muggles. Our bodies may be lifeless, but our magical core still beats.”

“Don’t you see Pans...you're our way back.”

“How?’ Pansy whispered finally stepping into his embrace.

“Sweet girl, it’s already done.”

 

***

 

Severus sat up and pushed Poppy away angrily. “I'm fine,” he snapped. “What happened?”

Poppy sat back on her heels and blinked at him. “Nothing. The wards dropped and so did you three.”

Severus frowned at her explanation. “That’s strange.”

“How long were we gone?”

Severus’ head swiveled around to see Ginevra and Pansy beside him also sitting up and being attended to by others.

Poppy tsked. “Severus you’ve only been out for seconds.”

“That’s impossible. I was-” he stuttered to a halt and glanced at Pansy who was frowning and Ginevra who was looking panicked. They all scrambled up trying to make sense of what had just happened. Raina Polstat, Severus noted, was nowhere to be seen.

“We were-” Pansy began and then stopped looking beseechingly at Ginevra who shook her head.

“We can't remember,” Ginevra whispered in horror. “We were somewhere though. Definitely somewhere.”

Severus could feel the fear in her voice. They had been somewhere they knew that, but it had been taken from them. If what Poppy said was true however and by the looks of confusion on the others she was, they had only been out seconds. Something happened to them, something important.

“Such an old man, his memory is going.”

Severus whipped around and stared at Hermione who was leaning against the door jam a smile on her face. Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter stood just behind her grinning like loons.

“It's okay," she crooned. "I still love you.”

Molly screamed and Albus grabbed Minerva as she fainted. Everyone else just froze as they took in the trio who had been dead. Who were supposed to still be dead. Pansy seemed to be the first to move towards the trio stopping in front of Ron with trepidation.

“You were dead."

He smiled kindly down at the Slytherin. “Death realized it wasn’t a good idea to take us just yet and magic owed us a huge favor.”

“That makes zero sense,” Pansy muttered before launching herself into his arms and letting out a cry of joy. It seemed to wake everyone else up from the shock and confusion because Ginevra threw herself into Potters' arms and Severus took an unsure step toward Hermione. His hand hesitantly cupped her face feeling her warmth as she leaned into his touch smiling up at him. Behind him, he could hear crying and exclamations, but he didn’t care as he pulled his witch to him and buried his face into her neck.

“We'll explain it all,” Harry said over the noise.

“I don’t care. I don’t care how it happened. You're here,” he murmured into her hair. Hermione held him a little tighter.

“I'm here and I’m not going anywhere else.”

Severus pulled away and looked out over the people in the room. Minerva was sitting up now with Albus fanning her carefully though he was looking a bit overwhelmed himself. Molly was swatting at Ron angrily before bursting into tears and hugging him Pansy and all. Black and the wolf were smacking each other on their backs as if they had done something momentous and Severus fought an eye roll and lost.

The next thirty minutes were insane as Poppy demanded they all have checkups, the marauders started singing pub songs in celebration and Filius got too excited and let off some fireworks charms which Minerva shut down quickly and dead eying him with disapproval. Kingsley had stepped away after telling Potter they would schedule a meeting to actually explain everything and escorting all non-family and close friends out. Severus noted that neither he nor Pansy and Ginerva had let go of their partners the entire time and he didn’t think that was going to change anytime soon.

“Do you think we’ll get some peace now?” Black yelled as the noise started to settle down.

Ron grinned down at Pansy before wiggling his eyebrows. “I bloody well hope so. I’ve got a witch to marry.”

Pansy hit him lightly with a mock scowl. “If that is a proposal...”

Ronald smirked and pulled back to look at her. “Who said I meant you?”

She laughed. “You better do it properly.”

“As if my future wife would let me get away with anything less than perfection.”

“Damn straight.”

Chapter Text

In the years following The Great Awakening, magical people saw considerable changes within their world. Not only did magic feel cleaner it was more apparent. The years before, magic was discernable only by the greatest and most powerful of witches and wizards. Now small children felt the hum of ley lines, the energy resonating from magical buildings, and the clean swift ease it was summoned to them. Magic had returned in full force ready to be wielded by those gifted enough.

More magical children had been born to both muggle and magical families alike. No longer were families birthing squibs or suffering the tragedy of multiple miscarriages or barrenness. Single child families began to be a rarity. As a result, purebloods relaxed no longer thinking they were being outnumbered and pushed out of the world they held so dear.

Hogwarts would welcome for the first time in over 500 years a full class of students. Multiple teachers were required for each subject to cope with the influx of so many students. Not only that, new classes were also introduced from magical mechanics and magical transportation (portals, magic carpets, airships) to communication (linking charms, scrying mirrors, projection) and Magical creativity class (crystal portraits (like a muggle tv).

The result of expanding on education had led the way for the first-ever magical universities to be established which offered both magical and muggle degrees. This allowed, for the first time ever, magical people to fully integrate themselves into the muggle world.

Ronald Weasley, surprisingly or unsurprisingly depending on who you asked, was the Dean at the first university established in Britain helping craft the charms curriculum and its subsequent applications in other areas of magic. His wife Pansy chaired the Potions department.

Following the global co-operation of the great cleansing, ministries across the world had come together to create an intergovernmental body known as the United League of Magical Nations (ULMN). Its purpose was to create a better future for all magical kind and to tackle world problems together. No longer were ministries allowed to govern as they saw fit. A set of standards was developed that could not be breached and any that did suffered the consequences.

Hermione Granger became the first Secretary-General to chair the ULMN and continued to advise them long after she had stepped down

Reporting directly to ULMN was the International Justice Council (IJC). This council was primarily an intelligence agency gathering information at all levels from political and economic to technological and social. However, it did provide justice to those who sought to undermine the ULMN core standards. Severus Snape had played a role in the development and training of IJC operatives but due to confidentiality clauses, it is not known to what extent.

Great leaps were made in both science and medical fields and both bled naturally into the muggle world. The magical international space alliance (MISA) was established with the backing of ULMN and the first magical mission to Mars occurred in 2036. They had found that magic did not just exist on Earth alone and a secondary mission had been planned straight away with the idea of establishing a magical community on Mars in the near future. Muggles would land 10 years later taking the first steps of creating a civilization outside their little globe.

Harry had returned to being an Auror and later accepted a position to become the Head Professor of the DADA at Hogwarts. For five years between these two occupations, he did head the IJC working closely with Hermione Granger-Snape and her husband Severus. His wife, Ginevra Potter, played first string for the Holy Head Harpies for five years helping them become world champions twice before she retired to raise her children. She would later return to coach the team to three more world championships.

Creatures thought long extinct had resurfaced much to the joy of Hagrid and the Scamander's of the world. Great dragons no one knew even existed awoke from their deep hibernation. Bukavacs now roamed the forests of Croatia. Jackalopes could be found in almost any grassy field and griffins now had multiple subspecies. A herd of Perytons moved into the Forbidden Forest and Nixies carved out a home on the banks of the Black Lake.

Luna encouraged by her friends founded the Magical Federation of Mythical Beasts to help ministries deal with the sudden emergence of mythical creatures. Protection, preservation, and conservation was at the forefront of its ideologies

Draco Malfoy soon found muggle technology and funded the first international social network with the help of MISA. MageSpace, Spellbook, and WiccaGram became instant successes with the younger generation.

It didn’t stop with the magical world though. The disruption of the vortexes caused by muggle pollution had slowed enough to allow the muggles to introduce greener practices. These were usually always influenced by members of IJC statistically placed in muggle governments. Muggles were of course still kept in the dark regarding the magical world as it was just not ready for that step yet. They were still settling into this new magical era after all.

 

***

 

Hermione glanced at Harry and Ron as they watched their extended family sit down for lunch in the fields behind the Burrow. Severus looked over at her his hand on their oldest daughters back while he expertly carried Sebastion in his arms. He smiled at her, a small quirk of his lips before Seraphina captured his attention again. Severus was a wonderful father, quiet but attentive. Somedays Hermione couldn’t quite believe how everything had worked out. How both of her best friends had gotten everything they wished for and the world was a better place for all.

“Ever get the feeling of Deja Vue?” Harry asked seriously. Hermione chuckled as Ron slung his arms around his two best friends.

“Nah mate, never.”

 

***

 

Death looked down upon the field. It would be decades before he would have to reap one of these souls but sometimes he chose to watch. Magic spun into existence beside him and sighed happily.

“That worked out well, don’t you think?” She asked.

“Exactly how we planned?” He deadpanned.

She giggled and danced around him. She had been fully restored and with her restoration came the extension of the human race. They had both seen the oncoming storm and lamented to each other about losing their existence. Without magic in the world, the muggles would have destroyed themselves in a matter of centuries. With no one to reap death would fade away. Not to mention he would miss his dear old friend.

“All is well,” he murmured as he turned from the lovely scene in front of him. Magic let out a laugh and followed him.

All is well indeed.