Disclaimer: Don't own, don't profit.
Technically, this is the same world as Mercenary (and My Sister's Keeper). And by technically, um, they divided in, oh, 1500 or so. I can't make heads or tails of my remaining Mercenary notes (pro-tip: backups! Also, avoid dropping laptops, they don't like that) so hi. Random overpowered protagonist stuff for now. Also I'm lazy and don't want to re-figure out Harry Potter magic.
Music: Bullet for My Valentine's "Your Betrayal"
You know how I used to put lyrics at the start and end of every chapter? Well, apparently while I was gone, that got banned. Oh well. I hear I can still put song names and titles of bands, so I'm going to do that instead. I often write while listening to music to set the mood :P.
Wind Under My Wings
Prologue: Clipped Wings
This is not what they are born to do.
They had been a strong, proud people once. Under cover of night, they still whisper the old legends back and forth to themselves, reliving the days when, well, they weren't slaves. They had their fair share of beautiful princesses, strong princes, intrigue, the works.
Not anymore. The treaty had seen to that.
In hindsight, it was kind of obvious that they'd lose the war.
Hermione woke up in a library.
She has never been in here before, she swore, but it was oddly familiar. There's a warm fire, plenty of books, and a pair of comfortable chairs around a table that looked like they were stolen from the Gryffindor common room. And sitting on one of the chairs was a young-looking woman in loose-fitting black clothing, delicately sipping a cup of tea. "Good morning Hermione," she said in a voice that sounded like the voice of thousands of people overlaid on each other.
Hermione sat up. It doesn't pass her notice that she's already fully dressed, and that the bed she was laying on disappeared after she got out of it. "Who are you?" she asked, cautiously, drawing her wand.
"I am Hogwarts. And I came to thank you for your misguided efforts to save my people."
Hermione blinked. Well, that was unexpected. "You're...Hogwarts?" She's not sure what she expected the personification of Hogwarts to be, but this was't it. Hogwarts had dark brown hair cropped rather short, and she's maybe all of five feet tall, with the lean muscles of a runner. She looked young, almost impishly so, and definitely did not remind Hermione of any sort of grand lady, and her hands are calloused, like a worker's.
"Well, to be fair, I am the conglomeration of all the elves who died building Hogwarts," Hogwarts replied. She took another sip of her tea. "But yes, I am what you would call Hogwarts' consciousness." She looked around, her eyes flitting quickly between shelf and shelf. "Nice place, by the way. Although expected. Oh! I'm entirely remiss in my manners. Please sit." She gestured towards the other chair.
Hermione did so. She wished for a cup of tea and it appeared in front of her, to her surprise. A quick wave of her wand detected no poisons, but she knew better than to trust herself to detect every possible poison. She's only in fourth year, after all. "All the elves who died building this Hogwarts? I thought the Founders built Hogwarts."
Hogwarts noded, rather eagerly. "Yes. We were placed in slavery after losing the Isoldian Civil War in the year 1057 and tasked with building this castle. Your four Founders designed and commissioned this place, of course, but it is my people who put their blood, sweat, and lives into it." She smiled; it's creepy when juxtaposed with her words. "And it's our consciousness that got bound to it. Hogwarts' magic, well, is mine." A pause; she tilted her head. "You're aware that consciousness can't be created, right? Or are they not teaching that these days? I don't know, I don't get around much, I only know what the Headmaster or my brethren bother telling me."
"No." Hermione hadn't ever read anything about magic and consciousness, she's sure of that. She doesn't have a perfect memory, but it came pretty close. "How did you hear of me?"
"Figured. Your kind likes to write mine out of your history books." Hogwarts shrugged. "Slavery's not politically correct these days, at least among you muggleborns. Which reminds, me, by the way, thank you. The house elves are quite unhappy about your little S.P.E.W project, I'm afraid, but I do appreciate your efforts." She sighed. "They've forgotten what freedom feels like." Dropping her head slightly, she sighed again. "I so miss running around in this world as I did in my youth, before I was bound into this castle."
It didn't take long for Hermione to put two and two together. "The house elves are your descendants." She's wondered how they became slaves before. There's no mention of how house elves came to be in any history book she's read, and she's read a good fraction of the Hogwarts library by now.
"Yes. Long years of suffering and inbreeding has sadly taken their toll, I'm afraid." Hogwarts took a sip of her tea. "They know nothing except how to serve, and so far I haven't been able to awaken them." She shrugged. "And while I applaud your intentions, it's a tad bit more complicated." A small half-smile. "You can't free those who don't want to be freed, unfortunately." She looked directly at Hermione; her eyes are pale blue and penetrating. "And this is where you come in, if you want to. But first," she gestured around her, "this place."
"What? Oh. It's not mine. It's yours, Hermione." At Hermione's blank expression, Hogwarts continued, "Oh please don't tell me that they're not teaching you about mind palaces anymore." She sighed, running a hand through her hair. "Your kind and your silly distinction between Dark and Light magic." Another sigh at Hermione's confused look. "Oh don't tell me they don't teach you about the Medea Wars either."
Hermione shook her head. "Professor Binns only teaches about the Goblin wars..."
"You can call me Hogwarts. And of course, he did die in one of them. Anyways. This so-called distinction between Light and Dark is merely a holdover from the Medea Wars. What? The victor writes the history books after all." She drops her shoulders. "And I guess I've rarely been on the side of the victors. Anyways. I like your place; it's nicer that most of the ones I get to visit."
"What's a mind palace?" Hermione asked.
"Oh, I haven't explained that, haven't I? Well - " she breaks off to check her pocket watch " - there's not much time before dawn but I guess I should go through the basics. A mind palace is the visualization of how your mind is organized. I can see you like books, by the way, and your memory is excellent."
"Is this why the tea appeared for me?" She looked down at it, willing a spoonful of sugar to appear. It did, dropping down into her tea with a little clang.
Hogwarts smiled. "Yes. You catch on quickly. This is your space, you can do whatever you want with it. I should teach you how to defend it, though. Pity they don't teach that anymore. I guess it got classified as Dark Magic."
"Why is it?" It seemed like a useful skill. Hermione stirred her tea and took a sip. It was exactly how she liked it, not that that was surprising.
"I think...it's because it's exactly like learning how to lie with a straight face, and lying's classified as a sin." Hogwart shrugged. "Your people's obsession with Dark and Light. But, yes, Occlumency is categorized as a Dark Art."
Hermione nodded. One thing to look into as soon as possible.
"With Occlumency, you can guard your mind, make it run more effectively, organize it, and so on." A pause. "It used to be taught to all elven children, until..."
"You teach your children to lie to you?"
Hogwarts fixed her with her cold blue gaze. "Of course. We don't consider lying a sin, per say. It's been our greatest strength for as long as we've existed. Honor, truth, fidelity...all more obnoxious than simply leaving that behind." She paused. "When it comes to war, and I don't remember a time where we haven't been at war, everything counts." She ducked her head. "Sorry," she whispered, as if she'd just said something she wasn't supposed to say.
Hermione remembered many hours of listening to Binn lecture about goblin wars. She hasn't heard of any elven wars, but she doesn't bother to bring it up. Binn was a veteran of a goblin war (although Hogwarts had been quite wrong about how he died); maybe he was biased.
Or maybe Hogwarts was lying.
Well, only one way to find out. "I'm serious about freeing the house elves," Hermione said. She doesn't usually make decisions without consulting at least a dozen books and thinking it through, unlike either Harry or Ron, but the imagine of Winky, scared and alone in the Quidditch World Cup, sealed her resolve. "Let me help you."
"Really, you would?" Hogwarts' eyebrows lift in surprise. Whether real or feigned, Hermione didn't know. "Thank you."
"What would you like in return?"
Hermione paused. She didn't have a good answer to the question right now, and she thought it was highly suspicious that Hogwarts naturally assumed that she'd want something in return, instead of simply helping from the goodness of her heart. "I'll tell you later, can I?"
With a swift nod, Hogwarts replied, "I guess you're a reasonable person. I could go for that. Deal."
The pocket watch chirped. "Oh dear, I should let you get back to sleep," Hogwarts vanished her tea. "Oh, uh, could you avoid telling anyone you've seen me? I'm not exactly supposed to wander around student's minds. And - " she looked at Hermione with pleading eyes, "can I come back tomorrow night? Please?"
"Of course." How could Hermione answer otherwise?
And then she blinked, and when she woke up, she saw the curtains of her four-poster bed over her, and she felt like she hasn't slept a wink last night.
"She's not going to like it when she finds out the truth."
"I didn't lie to her."
"You didn't exactly reveal the full truth either."
"Yeah...but she's a witch. She's not going to want to help us if she knows that freeing us means Hogwarts will die."
"I know. But, Hogwarts, can you claim to live now? We're already dead. Can we let them live?"
"I'd like to think we're just speeding up the inevitable."
AN: The title...
There's a book that I read when I was young, where the main themes involved the protagonist's father's plane and freedom. I don't remember what it's called, but...yeah. The title is symbolic. I promise you. No one gets wings. Oh, and if anyone knows what book I'm referring to, please tell me.
I...tried to make Hogwarts what I'd think a twentyish elf would be like, and then tried to make her easily distractable, since she has thousands of voices speaking in her head, so to speak. Also, she's fairly isolated and she's bored to death. She has no context of what's going on in the real world, and only vaguely gets to know what goes on in between her walls – she gets information when the house elves bother to tell her, when the headmaster tells her, and when a house elf dies within the walls of Hogwarts (which isn't a common event, and she gets to see only what the house elf saw during his/her lifetime, which isn't the most useful of knowledge, but is why she speaks modernish English. Also because I didn't want her to speak like she walked out of Beowulf). She's spent the last thousand years trying her best to free her people and getting nowhere.
As for how powerful Hogwarts is – very. Obviously, she's Hogwarts. But her powers are bound to the current Headmaster – she can't use them herself. She knew about the basilisk, for example, but couldn't get rid of it herself. She can walk into any unguarded mind but must announce herself, and she's an excellent Occlumens.
Incidentally on pronouns – Hogwarts is technically of both genders of the same time. She's androgynous enough to come across as both male and female, but she has enough female attributes to get read as female (blah blah 'male is default in our society' blah blah).