Welcome to Slytherin
Is a set of words that appears on Hermione Granger's inner left arm when she is a small tot barely able to recite the periodic table, but already masterful of the alphabet. Her parents tell her to hide the mark if she can – because they don't understand it, but they aren't about to let their fear dictate their lives when sharpies are a thing and children love to write on themselves. Hermione likes tracing her fingers over the words with a fond smile that says it all: This is mine and nobody else's. I'm special. Shove it, world.
It isn't until Hermione Jean Granger gets her hands on Hogwarts textbooks that she finds out these words on her arm are her link to a soulmate. Her soulmate. HERS. It is someone who loves her and will cherish her forever and won't be mean like children at school who have unresolved issues with hostility.
Hogwarts: a History is Hermione's favourite book. Because that's where she first sees the word Slytherin.
Salazar Slytherin is a man of great power who is prejudiced against muggleborns – LIKE HERSELF – but, Hermione draws up an explanation, only because back then muggles and those influenced by muggles – aka muggleborns – used to BURN witches and wizards. Used to inflict ungracious pain upon witches – like HERSELF – and were totally unhygienic back then. Hermione is from a family of dentists. She is, like, super clean. And super smart.
Her home is Slytherin.
A boy loses a frog and Hermione helps him find it. His name is Neville Longbottom and he wants to go to Hufflepuff. His gran is mean. His frog's name is Trevor.
Hermione flings open a door to a compartment like it's nothing because she's magic and she's on a train that's taking her to school and WHAT EVEN IS LIFE! A big smile is on her face; her buck teeth glare and dare anyone to insult her. She rubs her hands together when her eyes fall on a ginger boy with a wand.
''Are you going to do a spell?'' Her eyes spark and her mouth tears into a wide grin and she is thrilled. ''Let's see it then!''
Then disappointed when nothing happens.
Then immensely satisfied when she succeeds.
She saunters outside after meeting a celebrity and a boy with dirt on his nose. Proud. Ecstasy coursing through her blood. Slowly she uncovers her inner arm and thinks – I'm so close – thinks – I'm going to meet you, finally –thinks – This is it.
The Hat sends her to Slytherin, after trying to put up some fight – but whatever foe Hermione Granger has is sure to fail. She is no Ravenclaw. Or Gryffindor. Or Hufflepuff. So says she and the words on her wrist.
A girl with a cat on her lap and a tart halfway into her mouth shakes hands with Hermione and says her name is Millicent Bulstrode, but then adds, '’Who are you?''
''Hermione Granger.'' Hermione answers clearly because her parents have taught her that mumbling means shame and she should never be ashamed of who she is.
''Granger?'' An older boy in green interrupts. ''You related to that potioneer or something?''
Hermione shakes her head. As far she's aware of, her family is as muggle as they come.
A few students look at each other. Then they blink. And then they stare at Hermione.
''What?'' Hermione is self-conscious at that point. Hands pull her hair over her face. The sorting is almost over and a blond boy sits next to her.
He is Draco Malfoy.
She is Hermione Granger.
''Like Dagworth-Granger?'' He asks, trying to understand, to rationalize the unthinkable in his eyes.
She is exasperated and says ''No.''
''So, are you a mudblood then?'' A lanky boy called Theodore Nott inquires like one inquires if it's raining outside. Or something else that's mundane.
''I'm muggleborn.'' Hermione explains in a tone one would use when speaking to someone slow.
Draco Malfoy inches away from her. As does everyone else. She is the plague that brings fire to their homes.
They think – filth – she thinks – I will not be written off.
''What's that got to do with anything?'' Hermione questions the older students and one responds. His name is Flint.
''You're a liability. You're beneath us.''
''That's not true!''
''Oh really?'' A girl, Daphne Greengrass, says. ''We aren't the ones who hunt witches and wizards.'' The voice she has is assured. This is fact.
''Oh do excuse me, but are you from the dark ages?'' Hermione yells and people from other tables turn to look. The professors don't watch, but they rarely do. Thankfully Snape's gaze is averted form his House.
Draco Malfoy rolls his eyes at her antics and snaps. ''Shut up, you're a Slytherin. Act like it.''
''Muggles don't hunt other people. Muggles don't even know you exist and it's because of the international statue of wizarding secrecy.'' Hermione's voice carries through the Great Hall. People stare, but the most uncomfortable are the folk in soon to be green scarves.
''You're not clean.'' A girl with short black hair whose name is Pansy Parkinson – Hermione remembers because her last name is a disease and her attitude is horrendous – sneers. ''Muggles live in filth.''
''I'll take you home over the holidays and show you my perfectly clean home. Your facts are based off of the dark ages and clearly you haven't updated them. It is the twentieth century. Do you even know what a pen is?'' Hermione is relentless because she is going to win this and nobody will tell her she won't. This is where she belongs and no obstacle is too great.
Pansy's eyes threaten to swallow her whole head. Draco Malfoy inches away some more from her. Flint laughs, bemused amusement tingeing his voice. Millicent notices how her cat doesn't see Hermione as an enemy and doesn't spout racists slurs at Hermione. She keeps a fair distance, though.
They all do.
''You shouldn't be in Slytherin.'' Draco Malfoy whispers under his breath, but there is a wobble in his voice that makes him doubt. And doubt is a powerful thing.
Slytherin has rules. There isn't a rule list hammered into a wall or enchanted to float around so everyone can see. They're subtle. Rules that are engraved into every Slytherin's being by the time they come to Hogwarts.
''Don't get caught.'' Draco Malfoy says to Hermione Granger because she's a hopeless mess, but she's in green and they need to look out for their own, no matter the impropriety. ''Don't be so loud either. Sweet Merlin you almost made me deaf in the Great Hall.''
Hermione rolls her eyes.
''Don't argue with Slytherins outside the common room.'' Pansy Parkinson says. ''The whole school is out to get us and we don't need to look weak.'' There's a crack, deep, that splits Hermione in half when she hears Pansy spit the word out, ''We'll let it slide once because you don't come from a magical family, but, seriously, control yourself.''
Hermione nods again and this time she bites her tongue.
Theodore Nott makes a noise of agreement, and then says. ''Also, people are going to be pricks to you because you're muggleborn and because you're Slytherin. Learn to pick your battles.''
''Keep your head down, too!'' Flint calls out.
Headgirl Slytherin then speaks. ''That goes for all of you firsties, your job is not to lose us points.''
Hermione takes in information like a sponge. Then she bends these rules to accommodate her, because she is an anomaly and shouldn't be in Slytherin. Yet she belongs. The fire inside her burns and the magic that courses through her ignites, crackles in her hair and causes it to never uncurl. (No matter the ironing spell – Tracey Davis has tried all the ones her mother has taught her)
Millicent snorts, bored cat held up in her arms. ''You really think she's going to listen to that?'' Her cat meows in agreement.
''I will,'' Hermione promises.
Tomorrow morning she's already earned Slytherin twenty points.
So much for keeping her head down.
Draco Malfoy actually hisses at Millicent to nail Hermione's arm down during Potions and she almost goes through with it.
''Knowledge should be showcased.'' Hermione recites her parents' teachings.
''Oh my Salazar why are you not in Ravenclaw with the other shit faced idiots who think like you?'' Pansy screeches. Hermione wrinkles her face in annoyance and tells her it's none of her business.
Pansy blinks at that. Then she makes it her solemn duty to find out. Though that's not resolved until next year, for now she still won't even touch Hermione in fear of getting the muggle plague.
Snape doesn't like her. That's okay, Hermione thinks, because a lot of people don't like me.
He does, Hermione muses, find my aptitude for Potions endearing. (Not enough to award points, the racist slimebag) When Neville blows up a cauldron every Slytherin takes a collective sigh of relief that they aren't his potion's partner.
Millie is her potion's partner and Hermione clings to her like a lifeline. She follows Hermione around and sometimes even leads when she notices how lost her friend is. It's a good friendship they have.
Pansy purses her lips and glares alongside Daphne Greengrass. Tracey Davis laughs at something Blaise says. The common room fills with children and near-adults. ''Seventeen is the majority?'' Hermione remembers asking. ''That's weird! And you just get married off like cattle, huh?''
At that Headgirl bristles because she's ensnared in such an arrangement. In the common room anyone willing enough to humour the genius first year answers Hermione's questions.
''Can anything break the glass?'' She points at the glass window separating her common room from certain death by drowning, mermpeople, and squid.
''It's magic.'' Blaise Zabini (unnaturally symmetrical for a twelve year old) says. ''It can't be broken.''
Hermione nods, mildly satisfied with the answer. She'll still try and find the spell capable of doing it. Just so she can find ways around it.
''Do any of you have normal sounding names?''
Theodore Nott raises his hand in the common room while they're all studying for upcoming tests. He makes her laugh, that lanky boy who never makes a problem for anyone. He, too, is a sponge that collects information. Not for academic purposes, though.
''Nott to sound rude, but when are you going to tie that tie Nott properly, Nott?'' Hermione snaps her fingers and finger guns at Theodore Nott who silently turns away and buries his head in his book.
''Please get resorted.'' Tracey Davis pleads.
''Can't do that.'' Hermione says while nodding. ''I belong here. Hat said so.''
''You won't be breaking any rules.'' Draco Malfoy tries to go past Hermione's rule abiding principles. ''It's perfectly fine for a student to change houses. Especially mudbloods.''
Hermione bobs her head right and left and says. ''Malfoy, really, now, you know I can't do that. I love it in Slytherin! You're all really fun to be around! We're like a family! A culturally diverse family!''
Blaise Zabini chokes on his own spit. Greg and Vincent are not even in the same vicinity as her. They've taken a page out of Pansy's book of dealing with the muggleborn infestation! A muggleborn in your House?! They're more common than you think!
Pansy starts to come around when she's forced to sit next to Hermione at Charms. They're doing the levitation spell. Hermione shows off the first chance she gets. One feather. Two feathers. Twenty points to Slytherin. That's it for now. Next she'll try to impart some knowledge to her fellow youths.
How about that nice, but incompetent boy from the train station? Ronnie something. Weasley. Yes, she knows that much from Malfoy's constant whinging.
''It's Wingardium LeviOsa.'' Hermione corrects. ''Your wand work is really good, but the pronunciation needs work.''
''Yeah, bugger off Slytherin, I'm doing fine.'' He mutters, ungrateful. ''Must be the hand me down wand.''
''Okay.'' Hermione backs off, but not without a jab, ''have fun being stuck on a first level spell, Weasley. And don't go around blaming that second rate wand for your own magical ineptitude.''
Pansy can appreciate anyone insulting the blood traitor Weasley clan so when Weasley starts to rag on her fellow Slytherin Hermione Granger, she's quick to her rescue.
''Oh shut up, Weasley. She's levitated, what, two feathers already and you can't do one? Clearly you're outmatched.''
''Thank you, Parkinson.''
''My absolute pleasure, Granger.''
Harry Potter calls them both Slytherin menaces and tells Ron not to take them seriously.
''Smart words coming from someone who's only got friends because he's famous.'' Hermione says nonchalantly, eyes trained on the two feathers floating in front of her.
Pansy clasps her hands together and sees Hermione Granger in a new light. Her eyes bore into the spell more than the wand does, the pureblood girl notices.
Halloween passes as any other day for Hermione at Hogwarts. Some fantastical creature is out for student blood. People are panicking. In that brief moment of fright while everyone is shuffling to get to their dorms Hermione pales – though not even under extreme fear and duress can she get as pale as Draco Malfoy – and whispers. ''Aren't the dungeons where we sleep?''
Headgirl overhears that and stops a professor. ''Professor Snape, Troll in the DUNGEONS.''
Snape just sighs his famous sigh of contempt for Hogwarts that he exhibits sometimes when no one's looking. But because everyone is under red alert he lets loose.
''Stay here, children.'' Snape sneers and then, ''Dumbledore!'' His worst nightmare is realised: He has to interact with Dumbledore a little more than usual. Someone gasps. Oh the horror!
Headgirl points at Hermione and says. ''Ten points to Slytherin for not getting us killed. Congrats, Granger.''
Hermione dusts off her school badge. ''Shucks. Don't mention it.'' Millie burst into giggles. ''I did what any sensible person would do,'' says she surrounded by people who didn't think of avoiding certain death.
Daphne covers her face with her hand and leans into Theodore Nott.
Pansy looks at Blaise who's looking at an annoyed Draco. ''Mate, whenever she opens her mouth and you get annoyed, I want you to know that's how I feel whenever you mention Potter.''
''I am not like that.''
''Yeah,'' Pansy agrees, ''you're much worse.''
Hermione goes home for the holidays and vows she's going to kick one of these pureblood girls down a peg when they go home with her and see her home is perfectly ordinary. Millie is content enough to send letters back and forth, though. Her letters always have a paw print next to her signature. Theodore doesn't send any letters; neither does Hermione expect him to. Pansy follows Theo's footsteps.
Daphne's letter is a surprise. Rich, pretty girl wants a favour? One of those muggle fashion magazines with beautiful, still photos? Of course, Hermione writes, I'll gladly bring one to you. It's the least I can do for my dorm mate.
Indebted Slytherin girls are powerful cards to hold in one's twelve year old hand.
When she returns the magic hits her full force and Hermione finds solace in it. It's like being home; regular home has a certain suffocating feeling around her throat. Stopping the Latin from phasing past tight lips. Power sizzles in her fingertips. Wand in her robe, taken out in class at a teacher's order.
Millie and her cat crash Hermione into a tight hug. They drain the life out of her, but it only makes her laugh seep with relief. She does belong here. The words on her wrist never revealed to anyone prove it.
Daphne inches closer to Hermione at the dining table. Pansy narrows her eyes. It's not a good expression on her. Though they're all eleven and everyone looks ugly as an eleven year old. Under the table Hermione hands Daphne the Vogue magazine and the pretty girl lights up. Mouths thank you. Hermione mouths back, ''You owe me.''
Daphne smiles. ''Don't say the already implied, Hermione. It's not Slytheirn.''
''Best to make sure,'' Hermione says and turns her attention to the food. Millie's hacking at it already while making sure Hermione's dentist approved food is waiting for her.
(''What are dentists?'' Blaise Zabini asks one night
''Muggle tooth healers. When you don't clean in between your teeth, or, well, floss – you have to go to dentists for them to take the bad tooth out with pincers...usually while you're fully awake to experience the pain.'')
Pansy refuses to eat, says she watches her diet, but when Millie scoops some food onto her plate the mean girl thanks her and eats a little.
They all saunter to their dorms, glad to be back at Hogwarts. Lie in their beds and get ready for class tomorrow.
Sometime in the dead of night Daphne's wand lights up as she reads under the covers, ooing and awing at photos that Hermione doesn't care for at all.
Pansy joins her and says – too loudly – ''Granger, do muggles dress like this?'' Shows her some photo of a woman that Millie already thinks looks sickly, dressed in jewels Hermione's mother would never wear in fear of getting more acquainted with the ground from the intense gravitational pull.
''Yup.'' Hermione says, sleepy, but aware of her actions. ''Definitely, Pansy. That's muggle fashion all right. Can't get more muggly than that.'' From out of her covers she raises her arm and gives Pansy a single, but decisive thumb up. ''I fully support you and any fashion choice you make. That muggle fashion would look stellar on you.''
Pansy throws the magazine at Hermione's face, but fails to hit her. Her hands tangle around the paperback and when Daphne goes over to get it back a jolt of electricity surges through her, making her flinch away.
''What the bloody hell was that!'' Hermione yells, drops the crackling magazine, and stares at it.
''Wow,'' Pansy says, ''you're twelve and still let accidental magic happen to you? This must be so embarrassing for you!''
''Shut up!'' Hermione shrieks and covers her head with the covers, mortified. Pansy laughs until Daphne elbows her in the ribs.
Tracey wakes up and murmurs they should all go back to sleep, which is rather Tracey-like since the girl doesn't talk unless she has something important to say. Her interactions with Hermione consist of asking for help and telling her how to not infuriate people slower than her.
Tomorrow they all gather and come to the conclusion they should make a study group to bring up their grades. Hermione isn't going to refuse Pansy's cry for help.
''Oh my Pansy, you want a mudblood to help you get your grades up? Tsk tsk. Spending too much time with Greg and Vincent has dumbed you down, hasn't it?'' Her grin is cruel, tinged with spite.
''I'm not going to say you're not smart, Granger. You shouldn't be, but that doesn't change the fact that you are.''
''You stuck your landing, Parkinson.'' Granger commends, ''but I'm still sour from last night.''
Pansy closes her eyes, inhales, exhales.
''Sorry for making fun of your magical outburst, sometimes it just happens when you have too much magical energy. Now that the apology is out of the way I want you to make a study group with us!'' Then for the sake of sounding sincere. ''Please,'' says Pansy with her best smile.
Hermione accepts only because Tracey says she can teach them all useful spells against boys' unwanted attention. How? ''My mother thinks any self-respecting girl ought to know how to defend herself.''
Spell by spell, chapter by chapter. They'll be great, all of them.
Dumbledore watches them from afar. Asks Snape over to his office. An audible sigh can be heard as the slimy Slytherin slithers on over to the headmaster's office.
''How is Miss Granger faring in Slytherin?'' Dumbledore asks, twinkle in his eye.
''She hasn't come crying to me, so I assume well?'' Snape says, doing his best to ignore the twinkles and gleams Dumbledore makes so he can manipulate people into making eye contact with him for long enough to be read as an uninteresting book.
''Be sure to let me know if your only muggle-raised Slytherin has any problems?''
Snape nods, but has no intention of giving himself more work than he already has protecting that Potter idiot and grading atrocious essays.
Draco Malfoy and his goons are out antagonizing Potter. Hermione's happy he's got him to harass because she knows she'd be the alternative. That's kind of a horrible thing to think and Hermione doesn't remember when she stopped caring.
All the interactions Hermione has with Malfoy are during classes where he glares fiercely (as fiercely as a privileged infant can muster) at her after she's answered three questions for the teacher. That's her cue to stop. She never stops at three. When Daphne taps her shoulder after the fifth answer THAT is when she stops.
Hermione leans into Millie and her cat purrs, stretched out over their laps. It's a calm day. All of their first year tests are done. Pansy enters the dorm soon enough and shouts. ''Are you two going to go to the quidditch game today?''
''No,'' Hermione answers immediately, ''we're busy being sat on by Millie's cat.''
Pansy looks at them both, then at the cat, then back at them. ''You're both slaves to that cat and I won't be part of this. I'm going to watch the boys hit their balls and cheer on them like a proper Slytherin.''
''We're good, thanks.'' Millie says and pets her cat behind the ear. When it purrs Hermione lets out a muffled squeal of sheer delight.
''You should get a cat, too.'' Millie encourages Hermione's cat budding obsession.
Hermione is totally on board with that idea. ''But my parents won't let me!''
''Tell them you're a witch and a witch needs a familiar.'' Tracey says, emerging from behind Pansy. The girl quickly pops in, takes out some green paint that her mother sends, puts it on, screams, ''LET'S GO SLYTHERIN!'' and leaves.
Pansy follows, muttering, ''Sweet Circe.''
Slytherin wins house cup!
All of the baby, first years are losing their minds. Draco Malfoy even looks happy to be in Hermione's presence.
Oh, oh but then Dumbledore happens!
Oh, oh, look at that Harry Potter wins house cup. Would you look at that? One hundred and sixty points awarded for sheer stupidity!
Days spent culminating house points all gone to waste! If Hermione used to be a starry eyed child she's surely not anymore. She mouths this isn't fair, but when no one says anything she shouts for everyone to hear. ''That's not fair! We earned those points fair and square!''
Blaise Zabini replies, ''Nothing we do is ever going to be fair for them. They can't accept we're good for anything but being slimy gits, Granger.''
''Fine.'' She says through hot, fuming tears. ''I'm never going to be fair again.''
''Wait until my father hears about this!'' Draco says, and his voice breaks.
Gryffindor is cheering and sneering and winning and no matter what they do, it won't measure up to the golden knights of Hogwarts.
''We should have stayed in the common room and played with your cat,'' Pansy sighs. Millie shrugs, not interested in the house cup to begin with. Sure, she's bummed out that they lost, but she's not involved herself in winning. Her job this year consisted of not losing points.
Daphne looks at her unvarnished nails and thinks she's going to change that. ''We lost, so what? You think any of this is going to matter when we're out of Hogwarts?''
''Yeah,'' Tracey speaks over Hermione's outburst, ''it's always the Slytherin that has a high position of power that all the other newly graduated Gryffs eagerly want.''
''But can't have.'' Draco joins in. Nobody mentions the redness in his eyes. ''They can look back on this moment as they're crunching notes at some dead-end job.''
''Malfoy, that's the smartest thing you've said all year.'' Hermione's voice cuts the air, her eyes blinking away the tears that won't stop coming. Her voice, at least, has calmed. ''Not going to write daddy a long letter with a thousand semi-colons?''
''I'm going to wait until I see him in person, Granger. Don't worry your hideous head.'' Then a pause. ''I thought living with proper purebloods might have taught you how to clean up?''
''You thought wrong.'' Hermione replies. ''I'm fine with just as I am, thank you.''
His lips pull back as he stares at the Gryffindors laughing, stomping on their accomplishments. ''I hate them.'' He whispers just loud enough for Hermione to hear.
''Yeah,'' she says, ''me too.''
END YEAR 1