A/N: I've always wanted to write a large-scale AU for Harry Potter, but it wasn't until recently that I got an idea for the kind of world I wanted it to be. I'm going to take my time and try to do this right, so don't worry if it seems like the story raises more questions than it answers at first. More and more information about the world of the story will be revealed as time goes on. I will say that the majority of the plot does take place in Hogwarts, but it won't be anything like the Hogwarts we all know and love. Similarly, while the characters are mostly from canon, their situations, motivations, and interactions will all be different. This is a completely new world, shaped by forces set in motion over a thousand years ago. About the only similarity with canon is that both worlds desperately need a hero.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter
Prologue: Magic's Price
Centuries ago, before wizards and witches were divided into castes, Salazar Slytherin was a professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That's right: His Eminence, the High Wizard himself, was once a teacher. He founded the school with Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Helga Hufflepuff, and taught there happily for many years.
However, an argument arose between Salazar and Godric. Salazar did not trust Muggleborns, and wanted to admit only students from pureblood wizarding families. Godric disagreed. The two friends argued more and more, until the entire school was divided amongst their supporters. Salazar eventually left the school, but he vowed that one day he would return and purge the school of all those unworthy to study magic.
For many years, Hogwarts was at peace. But then, true to his word, Salazar returned to Hogwarts, and he came at the head of a mighty host of wizards and magical creatures. He delivered his ultimatum to the three Founders – if they surrendered and left the school forever, he would let them live. Godric scoffed at Salazar, sure that no army could breach the school's defenses. But Salazar had discovered ancient and powerful magics during his seclusion, and with them he tore down Hogwarts' strongest wards.
The Battle for Hogwarts raged all afternoon. The Founders, mightiest wizards of their day, fought alongside the older students against Salazar's forces, but they were slowly being overwhelmed. Then Godric came forth. He called out to Salazar, his voice soaring above the sounds of battle and the screams of the dying.
"Enough of this!" he cried. "Your disagreement has always been with me. Let no more innocents die for our foolish pride."
They fought a Wizard's Duel in the smoking ruins of the Great Hall, their power enough to shake the very earth. After a duel that lasted until dawn the next morning, Godric disarmed Salazar. He took up his sword, a fabled weapon reputed to be unbreakable, and stabbed his former friend through the heart.
With a sword in his chest and his heart's blood pooling at his feet, Salazar only laughed. In his travels he had found more than an army – he had discovered the secrets of immortality. Still laughing, Salazar pulled out a second wand and killed Godric Gryffindor with a single curse. The Battle for Hogwarts was over.
But Salazar was not satisfied with getting his revenge – oh no. The Dark Arts corrupt even the strongest of souls, and Salazar had already sacrificed his own humanity for power. A single school could never be enough. When the survivors bowed their heads to him, and Slytherin's flag flew alone from the walls of Hogwarts, Salazar was already setting his sights on a larger goal.
He would remake the entire Wizarding World in his image.
excerpt from sole remaining copy of The Hidden History of Hogwarts, written in 1758 by Nicholas Flamel and banned shortly thereafter
London, England – 19th September, 1990
Hermione Granger had always been a little bit different. When most toddlers were learning how to walk, she was learning how to read. When most children were stumbling through their first picture book, she was devouring Shakespeare and Dickens. Her parents had worried about her difficulties in making friends, but Hermione didn't see the point of wasting time with immature crybabies who didn't appreciate the appeal of knowledge or the beauty of the written word.
She had her life planned out by the age of eight - she was going to go to Oxford (or Cambridge, in a pinch), become a famous professor, and eventually be the President of a university. She may have been short on friends, but she lacked neither ambition nor determination.
However, Hermione's dream suffered an abrupt shock on her eleventh birthday. She was opening a present from her parents, who beamed down at her with their gleaming dentist teeth (Hermione thought it just the tiniest bit unfair that she, the daughter of two dentists, had such absurdly large front teeth). But that was an old grievance, its edges worn smooth by time, and it could not hope to compete against the joy she experienced upon seeing the leather-bound cover of The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson.
She tore the book free from the wrapping, feeling as if she could fly, when suddenly the lights in the living room began to flicker like mad. Her book grew hot to the touch, and she cast it aside with a frightened yelp. Her parents echoed her cry a second later, when the book burst into flame.
"NO!" Hermione cried out, lunging for the book before her parents could stop her. She plunged her hands into the flames, holding her breath against pain that never came. The fire, now a merry bluish-green, danced over and around her hands with the abandon of a young kitten. Hermione sat back, awestruck. She looked at her parents, who were white with shock.
"Was it supposed to do that?"
The rest of Hermione's birthday was very, very quiet, although her parents were quick to assure her that they weren't mad at her – that they still loved her. Hermione had read enough to know that she had just done something impossible, and that was certainly going to take some thinking about.
In fact, she went up to her room early that night, determined to stay curled up in her bed until she had wrapped her head around this strange new occurrence in her life. Sleep was impossible, of course, and so she was still awake at midnight, when she heard someone fumbling around with the lock outside her window.
This was exceedingly strange and more than a little frightening, not least because Hermione's room was on the second floor.
"Careful!" whispered a man's voice, low and rough. "You'll wake her up, you clumsy fool!"
"Shut up," a second voice hissed. "Where's she gonna run, anyway?"
Hermione was now truly frightened. She slipped out of her covers, but as the window was already starting to open, she knew she didn't have enough time to reach her door. She wanted to scream, but her throat betrayed her – it was too dry to make a sound. She dropped to the floor and scrambled under the bed.
A pair of legs stepped through the window and came to rest on the floor, black leather boots inches from Hermione's face. "She's not here," the first man whispered.
He walked slowly across the room, heading to Hermione's closet. A second pair of legs came through the window. Hermione held her breath for all she was worth.
Please go away. Please go away.
"No. Did you check under the bed?"
Hermione squeaked with fear, drawing a satisfied grunt from the louder of the two strangers. She clawed forward in a desperate attempt to get out from under the bed, but the black boots ran over and blocked her escape route. A face appeared in front of her, bearded and terrifying, and Hermione jabbed out with two fingers. She got him right in his beady, cruel eyes, eliciting a roar of outrage.
He reached in and grabbed her hand, yanking her painfully into the open. "I'll get you for that!" he cried. He raised his other hand, which held a little, poined stick of wood. Hermione sucked in her breath, this time ready to scream bloody murder.
"Stop!" The second man caught his accomplice's arm. "No unnecessary spells, remember? Do you want to explain to Scrimgeour why it was necessary to curse an infant?!"
"The little brat nearly poked my eyes out!" the bearded man protested. Hermione let out a piercing cry, until her captor pointed his wooden stick at her and she suddenly found that she couldn't. Her mouth was shut tighter than a locked door – she tried, but she couldn't even part her lips with her tongue.
"Bloody hell," the second man complained. "Now the parents are awake for sure. And the Memory Charm is such a pain in the arse…"
"Better you than me. I'll take care of the girl, you do the parents. Make it quick, though, 'cause we've got two more cases of accidental magic tonight."
Hermione struggled vainly against the man's iron grip, wondering what exactly "taking care of her" meant. The last thing she saw was a burst of red light coming from the end of his wooden stick.
Hermione woke up with a blinding headache. She tried to get up, but her arms were anchored to the bed with leather restraints. She looked around – she seemed to be in a Hospital Wing of some kind. At least, she was in a hospital bed, and there were a dozen like it on either side of the room, some with children lying in them. None looked older than Hermione. A few watched her with idle curiosity.
A boy roughly Hermione's age came walking up to her from across the room. He held a clipboard and kept his nose high in the air.
"You're awake, then? Good. Any nausea? Headaches?"
"…My head hurts…" Hermione said, put off by the boy's officious attitude. "Er… who are you?"
The boy drew himself a little straighter. "I'm Justin Finch-Fletchley," he said proudly. "Boys' Dorm Captain and volunteer hospital aide. And this is Madame Umbridge's Preparatory Academy for Young Witches and Wizards. If you're not experiencing any more serious side effects, I should go fetch Madame Umbridge. She'll want to greet you herself."
He bustled away, aquiver with self-importance. Hermione was too disoriented to call after him. A black boy in the bed opposite hers spat on the floor, in the direction of Justin's retreating back. He had a nasty black eye and a cast on his arm.
"He- hello?" Hermione addressed him timidly. "Do you know where we are? I need to find my parents!" Hermione had read once that crying was a silly use of time and energy that could be better put to use figuring out a way to improve the situation. Never had that advice seemed more useful than now, but she still couldn't keep the tears from flowing.
The boy's face suffused with sympathy. "You're freshly caught, huh? I'm sorry. They got me so long ago, I don't even remember what my parents look like. I think it's easier that way. They say it's tougher the older you are, but it stops hurting so much after a while. I'm Dean, by the way. Dean Thomas."
"Hermione Granger," she answered politely, the response automatic. Dean's words carried implications that Hermione was not willing to examine closely for fear of cracking her fragile self-control. To distract herself, Hermione asked another question. "What is this place?"
Dean shrugged. "You heard Justin. Madame Umbridge's House of Blah, Blah, Blah. Most of us just call it the Mudhouse."
"Mudhouse? Why call it that?"
Dean gave her a wry grin that held little actual humor. "Because this is where Mudbloods get sent when we're too young for work or school. You, me, and every other kid here – we're all Mudbloods, and this place exists to get us all scrubbed nice and clean so we can contribute to society." He drew out the final word with a girly, high-pitched accent, obviously mimicking someone, though Hermione had no idea who.
"That will be quite enough, Mr. Thomas," spoke a voice from a doorway behind Hermione. It was a sweet, girlish voice, and Hermione had a feeling that she was about to find out whom Dean had been mimicking.
She turned her head and saw a squat woman with a toad-like face wearing a disastrously pink cardigan. Her smile stretched from cheek to cheek. Hermione could tell immediately that it was completely false. Dean fell silent, the tension in his eyes warning Hermione in a way that needed no words. This woman was dangerous.
The woman patted her short, curled hair and coughed delicately. "I'm Dolores Umbridge, the Headmistess here. And you're Miss Granger, of course. Welcome to our little family, dear. You're one of us now."