A Hero Amongst Villains
Hermione's mind kept drifting back to the kiss she shared with Ron just a few moments ago. Now it was time to find Harry and now is when she gets stuck in her silly romance story of all times! It takes someone who is at their best when they're being brave to win a war and nobody does it better than Ronald Weasley. He is pointing out that Harry is in the Room of Requirement. They immediately decide to race off to seek out their friend.
This was a war so Hermione wasn't surprised to see students on the ground, damaged or otherwise, but it brought tears over her cheeks as they race against time. She knew the prophecy and leaving Harry unattended in this battle was hardly the clever move. She should have protested but she didn't. There was no way to change it now but she could move faster. So she slams her feet down harder and commands her muscles to move more gracefully. Before she realizes it she is striding far ahead of Ron and making her way over steps as though she is flying.
When the pair of them enter the Room of Requirement it is difficult to see. Hermione goes to grab Ron's hand but she hears a very familiar curse being cast, "Crucio!" It ignites pain and anger inside of her heart and it makes her move more deliberately than she ever has before, feet leading her to Harry's side. She finds that Crabbe, Goyle, and Malfoy are also there. Goyle is the one attacking Harry while Crabbe is defending his violent friend. Draco, on the other hand, is shouting at them.
"THE DARK LORD WANTS HIM ALIVE!" He is too busy repeating this that the blonde man doesn't even realize that Hermione is present. She knows that he has the power to do more but for some reason he is not using his abilities. Harry is growing weary and this triggers the maternal response that has long rooted itself into Hermione's personality. She flails her arm out and disarms Crabbe and Goyle. This snaps everyone's attention to her. Draco's heart may as well have fallen from his sleeve because Hermione sees his face lose whatever color it has instantly. They are now confronting each other on opposite sides of the war.
"You guys can join our side. It doesn't need to be this way." Harry suggests. He has never believed that murder was the answer. More than anyone in this war it was Harry Potter himself who did not want people to die. If dying himself had stopped Voldemort then the boy would have done it years ago. This is what makes Harry so admirable – he spares even his enemies. There are plenty of men who wouldn't, and one of them is her other friend Ronald Weasley.
"They don't deserve redemption." Her redheaded maybe-boyfriend sneers at them. This causes Hermione to interject because there is no need to take it further.
"They deserve it but they do not want it." Neither of the boys says anything further, and the Slytherins remained rooted in their spots. Hermione is watching Draco now to see if he tries to defend against her statement, waiting to see if he steps forward and offers to switch as easily as he had a few years ago. She stops paying attention to him after several long minutes of motionless staring. Behind him is a crown, or a tiara, glimmering faintly in the evening light that lingers. Instantly Hermione recognizes that this is the diadem they were looking for, Rowena Ravenclaw's diadem. Trying to hide the excitement and realization is difficult but she manages to tap Harry's arm. They look at one another and nod. Apparently Harry has pieced it together at the exact same time she has…
Unfortunately, their faces betray them because Draco spins around to grab the diadem and Goyle takes a spare wand from Draco's hand. Hermione notes that it is not the Elder Wand. When Dobby came to save them from Malfoy Manor, Luna had mentioned Draco was carrying a spare and gave it to her. Hermione wonders if he had taken up carrying spares during these terrible times. Harry had also told her that Draco was in possession of the Elder Wand, which is not what Goyle has taken from his friend now. He slurs his words and casts a spell before Hermione, Ron, or Harry can defend against it.
Everything is chaos as the Room of Requirement is burning. Everyone has been running away from it, at least everyone who is left - as Goyle caught himself on fire. Draco tries keeping Crabbe at pace but it is unsuccessful. Harry seems to have found a broom and sweeps up Crabbe on the front of it. After that Ron bolts ahead to grab his own broom. The flames are at Draco's heels and if he so much as takes a wrong step he will be dead. She finds herself refusing to leave without him at her side. Ron and Harry both are hovering above her as Draco catches up. Ron forcefully pulls Hermione up while Harry is helping Draco aboard.
Once outside the Room of Requirement Crabbe punches Harry, intent on stealing his wand. There is a brief struggle but soon Draco is putting his friend into an unconscious state. Now there are four of them standing idly in the corridors of a school under siege. Draco doesn't hide the fact that he is more interested in Hermione but she blushes at his candor. Ron steps in between them with shifting eyes. Hermione does make herself give him a reassuring glance but it is broken immediately when Harry tries to open the door of the Room of Requirement before it disappears.
"NO!" He is shouting. Everything is still happening so fast that the intelligent young witch struggles to figure out why Harry is panicking. Then there are shrilling screams. Draco grabs Harry's shoulders. Ron pushes Draco away. Hermione stands there doing nothing whatsoever. Figures are blending back and forth until the screams stop.
"The diadem was in there, Malfoy! I need to go in to destroy it!" Harry verbally attacks his enemy.
"And the fiendfire will continuously damage it until it is fully destroyed." Draco parries, defending quickly before being forced into submission, "Besides the other horcrux in the room needs more precise attention than that headpiece!"
Hermione jolts back into real time. Draco is telling Harry the one thing she hasn't allowed herself to believe for months. She had long ago suspected that Harry was a horcrux himself, albeit not an intentional one, but to say it out loud and unguarded… to a young man who might not have even guessed…
"Harry?" Ron whimpers in the resulting awkward silence. Harry is breathing heavily. She looks nervously to him and then to Draco and then finally to Ron. Everyone but Ron seems to have known this, which causes him to choke on his words.
"HOW LONG!" He shrieks again, tears obviously stinging his eyes and blurring his vision.
"I-I-I theorized about it s-several months ago." Hermione admits her knowledge with a stutter. It seems better for her to speak before everyone else since she'd just kissed him. It might help keep him calm, she thinks. Ron's jawline tightens in contrast to her expectations.
"Just after the vault I realized that perhaps the reason I hear them is because I am one." This means that Harry knew coming into Hogwarts that he was a horcrux, or that it was great possibility. Hermione catches a glimpse of Ron balling his fists.
"What about you, Malfoy?" Ron barely gets the words from behind his teeth.
Draco, Hermione subconsciously finds herself correcting her friend silently.
"I've known for years. After Malfoy Manor became a headquarters and Snape began regular visits for meetings I overheard the term being used. It took some time and hard research but eventually I found the answers. Everyone knows the story of Harry Potter and the night his parents were killed. It didn't take me long to guess that he, too, had a piece of Voldemort's soul inside of him." Hermione listens closely, her chest buckling under the pressure as her reader informs them that he's known not for hours, not for weeks, not for months even.
But he has known this information for years.
None of them speak. Instead, Harry pivots and leads the trio away. Hermione reminds herself that she must follow him because this war is bigger than her heart. Even though a piece of her wishes to stay with Draco she knows that she must save the world first. With the smallest glance backwards she swears she sees Draco open the doors to the Room of Requirement as Harry intended to only minutes ago.
A hero amongst villains, Hermione thinks to herself before sliding her hand into Ron's with full dedication to the war once more.
Draco races back into the Room of Requirement as soon as Hermione is moving down the stairs. He wonders when Harry will realize that he's stolen the basilisk fang from his pocket. It was a lie when he said that the fiendfire would eventually destroy the diadem. It would take something more powerful than out-of-control dark magic. Now he has the fang, which he knew was used to destroy the diary in their second year – another horcrux, a story his father was forced to relive in shameful regularity from the Dark Lord.
Draco takes out the Elder Wand, even though it has never worked just right for him. It does do basic spells and so the desperate man begins casting various spells to kill the flames. Aguamenti; jets of water help get rid of the flames in front of him creating a walkway but it doesn't necessarily prevent the flames engulfing the items around him; or from sweeping out and brushing the edge of his clothes. Draco pulls his suit jacket off and pushes another spell past his teeth. Impervious; this should prevent the flames from getting to his torso and arms at the very least. Frigore flamma; this is better known as the flame-freeze spell. He starts casting at large objects hoping that it will cool the area around him down.
He knows that he cannot cast it on himself so he decides to approach an item he's already charmed. Seeing that it has surprisingly worked he begins making a path back through the Room of Requirement. Each step he forces himself to analyze the area around him while also seeking out the diadem. It is not long at all before he finds himself back the heart of the flames with little cover.
Sweat is drizzling down his face and his late friend is but a pile of crisp ash and bone in the middle of the floor. Draco was sure that he had not dropped it that far back. He is now aware that he has obviously missed it so he turns back around and starts walking back out. His heart is racing and the heat of the fire is beginning to affect his breathing. Half way back through the room Draco realizes that he's suddenly dizzy. He nearly forgets why he is even in the room in the first place. Suddenly he realizes that he knows exactly what this is, he had done too many essays with a medicinal thesis to not know what is happening. These were the early signs of heat exhaustion. He was moving too quickly through such a hot area. Any minute now, as rapidly as he was going through the symptoms list, Draco was sure he would fall over and faint. If he passes out then he has no chance of surviving the fiendfire. It was still too strong and his spells wouldn't last forever.
If he wasn't looking for something he realizes he could have disapparated already but there is no other option. He must absolutely find this diadem and destroy it. One thing that he must do to prevent him from blacking out is getting water in his system, so he keeps his eyes out for a goblet. He is sure if he can get a drink or two he will be much better. Once he spots find a bowl he settles with it and immediately casts Aguamenti again.
As he drinks he hears a sobbing nearby. Draco drops the bowl and twists around trying to identify the location. The sobbing was undoubtedly coming from the horcrux and the sound was just so clear. It had to be right next to him. The water gave him a brief adrenaline but it lasts only long enough for him to move too far into the fire. The leg of his pants catches fire for is split second but he swats it out immediately. Then he notices that he has wandered out enough to see the diadem is right in the middle of the pathway.
Draco wriggles out of his jacket and lays it on the floor to smother the flames. It is mostly successful so he just repeats this action until he is on top of the diadem. With the heat engulfing him at an overwhelming rate Draco bolts back through the path that he made with his jacket and charmed items. As he gets closer to the exit the hotter the self-created passage gets, which means he must be close to fainting. He gets so near that he just springs for the door, but he slips on the ground and loses his energy as soon as he crashes against the floor. For a few minutes he simply stares at the doors only a foot or two away in utter defeat. Yet he knows that his pity cannot last long. Draco pulls out the basilisk fang and looks at the charred diadem in his hands. There's searing pain moving up the left side of his body and even though he knows that it has to be flames he convinces himself that it is just the pain of the fall.
Then, before he loses his opportunity, he stabs the fang into the diadem.