Year 1: Debutant(e) once more
The most amazing thing about suddenly remembering that she was once an accomplished fifty-five year-old wizard who lived a thousand years ago, Hermione reflected, was how normal everything felt. She was somehow labelling herself with two identities simultaneously in her head, and here she was eating cereal like it was just another morning. Maybe some things in life were like that: if you don't worry about it, you'll never need to. Insist on imposing some sort of conflict between the two ideas, and you'd just give yourself a headache. Kind of like that wave-particle duality theorem that she'd read about yesterday.
Did she have any problems with being once a wizard and now a witch? Much less than she would've expected. It probably helped that she'd already lived eleven years as a "normal" girl before her memories returned to her. She was Hermione just as she was Salazar. Had been Salazar, she supposed.
It was fortunate that she was reborn to a muggle family, without the complications of having to figure out how her new parents' heritage had influenced her magic. At least this way she knew that her magic was all Slytherin and entirely familiar.
But what should she do now? That would be a more useful thing to think about.
By the time her parents returned home from the dental clinic, her headache had resolved itself into the form of questions – lots and lots of them.
What had become of the wizards and witches? How many of them were living? There shouldn't have been any more conflicts with the muggles, or she would've heard about it. How had the fledgling magical "society" grown since she - Salazar had left it? Dare she hope that it had evolved as tremendously as the muggle one, having carefully concealed itself to maintain its peace as Salazar had urged them to do? Surely they hadn't once again dissolved, leaving most magical families isolated from each other as they had been in Salazar's youth. She had faith in wizardkind.
And how was Hogwarts? At the very least it was still called Hogwarts. She felt childishly pleased that they hadn't felt the need to rename it something more "respectable". (Never mind that the founders only named the school this way to spite some irritating nobles.) Did they still teach the same classes? In Latin, the language of magic in Salazar's time? Or English, the common tongue? How many students did they have now?
On the other hand, how would her parents – Jean and Olivia Granger – feel about the existence of magic? Certainly they would not hurt her for it. The muggles that Salazar used to contend with blamed magic for everything beyond their tiny circle of understanding and would burn their own children in a heartbeat, but that was then and this was now. Besides, with the renewed interest in the scientific principles since the Renaissance era, muggles had actually managed to become miraculously enlightened, and societies had become far more civilized that Salazar had thought possible… But it was much more difficult to tell whether people had become more tolerant. Or, more importantly, whether her muggle parents would still treat her the same way.
Hermione stewed in her questions to the point that she actually had to try not to fidget until the arrival of the very patient Professor Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress, from their fire place. Hermione thought her very patient, because it probably hadn't been easy to alternatingly convince the Dr. Grangers that magic wasn't a hoax, as well as answer her own multitude of questions on various aspects of the magical world.
The professor's method of arrival was apparently a modern invention called the Floo network, which utilized fire and fireplaces to transport witches and wizards between establishments. However, the most common mean of transportation was still apparition. Hogwarts had a headmaster and a deputy headmistress now, as well as a head of house for each of the houses Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Slytherin. The headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, was a powerful and world-renowned wizard. (Hermione had gathered as much from his various titles.) The largest magical market in Britain was the Diagon Alley, which was a small hidden network of streets and stores and no longer the haphazard collection of stalls and peddlers that used to gather outside Gringotts. Very impressive!
"We must go there the first thing on Sunday!" mother clasped her hands excitedly.
Hermione let out a small breath of relief. It was comforting that her mother was as eager to see the magical community as Hermione herself. Her parents' various possible responses to magic was another worry that she could let go of for the time being. But it was clear that she had to pay a visit to Diagon Alley first, alone.
Firstly she needed her wand. That was a priority. Then she needed to get back her bearings. Salazar's strong need for control was beginning to resurface again, causing her to become increasingly aware that she was currently rather short on both magic and information. Grilling Professor McGonagal about magic, as patient as the older witch was, would be far from enough. She needed to be able to explore the nooks and crannys of the magical community unrestrained, and as soon as possible, so that she could get a comprehensive picture of its situation and what threats remained before she accidentally makes a mistake.
After all, with all the progress that the magical society had surely made over the centuries, she must be sorrily outdated in some ways. While she grudgingly accepted that she was once again a twitchy wide-eyed debutante entering society for the first time, she refused do so while looking like an uneducated illiterate.
"Professor, how do we get to Diagon Alley?" asked Hermione.
"Look carefully for a pub called The Leaky Caudron in downtown London," waved Professor McGonagall offhandedly, "are you sure you lot would like to go on your own? I can accompany you if you wish."
"There's no need to take up your time, Professor. You seem like such nice people, I'm sure we can ask around and manage," nodded Dr. Jean Granger.
"But if you don't mind, are there any cultural customs or faux-pas that we should be aware of?" asked Dr. Olivia Granger, "Any tabooed expressions that would be considered distasteful? Any controversial topics that we need to be diplomatic about?"
Yes, very good questions from Mum. Sometimes people were ridiculously ready to pronounce you their archnemesis for the strangest of reasons, and you wouldn't even know what happened. Once she'd met a rather stuck-up lord who started a feud, all because his guest shook water off his cloak "insultingly". She'd hate to stumble into modern magical society only to inadvertently make herself a pariah.
"Well now," the stern professor pursed her lips, "I should think there's nothing significant that you should be concerned about. You may wish not to make it known that you don't wield magic, however."
"Oh, that's very reassuring, thanks!" Hermione beamed. If worse came to worst, she could always hide behind the fact that she was muggleborn and plead ignorance.
"Don't worry," McGonagall smiled kindly, "a bright young witch such as yourself will do just fine."
Hermione reckoned she might've hyped herself up a bit too much, because by the time she surreptitiously trailed a tall man into Diagon Alley the next day her stomach was fluttering. That nervous excitement settled down once she actually saw the Alley, however. It looked like magic had changed very little. Certainly there were some small inventions here and there, and definite improvements to the broom, which Godric had been so keen on perfecting. Nevertheless, there were no great mind-bending changes that matched the ones in the muggle world, which was slightly disappointing.
But regardless, the sight of witches and wizards bustling to and fro in the cobblestone street put her in high spirits. None of this would have been possible a millennium ago. True, the more powerful magical families were able to learn of one another and interact, but most people would live their entire lives without ever meeting another mage.
Hermione smiled. From this perspective, they'd come quite far after all.
The Gringott goblins were as annoying as she remembered them. They didn't spare her a single glance when she approached the tellers, and made a point to ignore her when she tried to get their attention. They visibly started when she announced what she'd wanted though.
One of the tellers peered down condescendingly at her from behind his gold-rimmed glasses. Hermione was slightly impressed, since he managed to pull it off in the process of falling off his stool.
"You want the box that Salazar Slytherin entrusted to us?"
"Exactly, Griphook," Hermione peered at a name tag that haphazardly peeked out behind various instruments and stationaries on the counter.
Griphook's face reappeared behind the counter with an incredulous sneer. "You are asking for a legendary item that has been with the goblins of Gringott for centuries, girl! What gives you the right?"
"Because I can open it," she told him simply.
Griphook looked like he'd rather believe that it was going to rain gold today, though he brought out the object in question nevertheless. Very annoyingly, Hermione found that she had to stand on tiptoe just to properly take her box from his hand! Certainly it was all about power dynamics, but this was going a bit too far.
Propping her chin up against the high counter, Hermione inspected the small silver box that had been rudely dangled out at her. She could see that it was still intact - well polished, in fact, despite obvious signs of attempts to force it open. Most of them initiated by the tellers themselves, probably.
She ran a slender finger over the engraved snake on the lid, whispering to it in nearly silent parseltongue. "Remember me?"
The lid slid open, glowing green.
In her peripheral vision, Hermione noticed Griphook craning his neck to sneak a peek at what was inside.
Unfortunately for him, Hermione feared, he would be utterly disappointed. This coveted box was perfectly worthless to the goblins - all it held was Salazar's homemade wand and the key to a vault. But the goblins must've spent a millennium trying to break it open, guarding it jealously and passing the puzzle of the box onto their children like some mysterious treasure. Now that was funny. Nearly as funny as the rate at which blood drained from Griphook's bony face when the significance of the action registered.
Yes, treasure-hoarding goblins certainly did make the best guards.
"You, you..." The goblin pointed a shaky finger at her and blurted. "You're... How...?"
"Pleasure doing business with you," Hermione smiled back dazzlingly. She took the wand, one of her earliest and proudest creations, and let the warmth spread from her fingers to the rest of her body as it welcomed her magic back. "Now, the vault please."
Griphook blinked, slowly got up and showed her to the cart that looked just as likely to collapse as it did before without another word.
Hermione cheerfully settled in beside the poleaxed-looking goblin and spent the duration of the ride singing heavy flattery for everything in Gringott from the tellers to the old blind dragon that just went by. It served no purpose really, although she might've ended up unsettling Griphook even more. Hopefully that would get the goblins to hold off on trying to fleece her, at least in the immediate future.
She – Salazar, that is - had made sure to open a personal vault, separate from the family vault that any relatives or descendants of relatives could potentially enter should they somehow be made his heir. The goblins had been more than happy to open this vault. See, Salazar's own additions to the vault's protection prevented them and just about anyone else from accessing its contents, but they had very logically assumed that if they waited long enough and tried hard enough after his death, they could eventually claim its riches for themselves. It was a risk-free gamble - which they lost.
It would be wisest not to touch the Slytherin family vault without finding out who currently controlled it. She could tell by inheritance magic that she was still currently the family head, but that didn't mean the vault was not being used by an heir presumptive. Besides, if cousin Marvolo's spending habits were anything to go on, she wondered if there would be anything left in the family vault from her time after a whole millennium.
Her personal vault, as it was, contained more things than money. She found Salazar's favourite bottomless bag, into which she scooped a careless handful of gold. She also took with her a small library of various kinds of books, many of them nearly impossible to find elsewhere (at the time) and a dozen authored by Salazar himself. Then there was the small silver and emerald signet ring that Salazar always wore.
Hermione absentmindedly slipped the ring onto her index finger almost by habit, then took it off again.
Griphook bowed her out of Gringotts. Hermione stretched contently. She felt much better now that she was armed in material, if not in information. The whole of Diagon Alley looked so amazing, and she wished dearly to explore. Among all, the bookstore had the strongest pull, and so she naturally gravitated toward it.
"Looking for school books?" asked the helpful clerk while tidying a stack of ratty old tomes. It seemed Hermione had managed to find a second-hand store. "We don't have many of those left, I'm afraid."
Hermione nodded her thanks. "Do you happen to have anything on Hogwarts and its history since its founding?" She could always start by finding out what happened to Godric and the others.
Besides, she could say that she didn't care whether anyone still remembered her after the centuries, but then she would be lying. How big of a footnote did she leave in the annals of history? And which part of her life would people know her for? Salazar the professor? Salazar the potioneer? Salazar the statesman?
In both her lives she'd always taken care not to be conceited. But hey, she'd never claimed to be humble.
"Well we have Hogwarts: A History here," said the clerk, "It covers just about everything - from the formation of the gobstone club to the first headmaster to Slytherin getting chased out of the school, the slimy old bastard."
"But didn't Slytherin help start the school?" Hermione blurted, scandalized.
"He did, but he was evil I tell you," the clerk clucked his tongue sympathetically, "I'm guessing you're a muggleborn first-year."
"Er - yes..."
"Well, Salazar Slytherin would've hated you without even meeting you, see."
For some reason, Hermione very much doubted it. She nodded along dumbly anyways.
"See, he hated all muggleborns, and the other founders disagreed with him. Gryffindor beat him in a duel and chased him out."
"Did he really?"
"Sure did," nodded the bookshop clerk, "but all that's in the past now. You shouldn't worry about it. You're a witch and you deserve to be here."
'I wonder if you'd say that if you knew who I am,' Hermione fumed silently. Scenarios fluttered in her head as she bought the book, thanked the clerk, and left. 'Of all things to be remembered for, they think I hate muggleborns! What by the Styx had gone wrong?'
Hermione took the rest of the day to carefully comb through any bookstore she'd spotted, picking up a number of history books and making sure to get at least three accounts of each major event for at least some semblance of objectivity... But even then, everything she'd read about Salazar was terribly misguided! True, he despised muggles and wizards who wouldn't accept magic and he'd been very vocal and politically active about maintaining distance between magical and muggle populations, but he'd never had an issue with accepting muggleborn students. He'd left the school he'd helped built only because his research had grown too dangerous to be conducted near students, and his disagreement with Godric about certain special muggleborn accommodations had somehow been made out to be a bloody racist vendetta!
The only thing they got right about her was that she - Salazar - had been a dark lord. It was true, she'd been a master of the Dark Arts and an active leader among dark mages who didn't shy away from using her influence to enforce responsible use of magic. If anyone felt that her power and influence warranted the label of dark lord then she would gladly wear the title with honour. Why'd they have to say it like it was a bad thing?
For Tartarus's sake, even her name 'Salazar' seemed to have become a modern expletive for unpleasant situations! And to think she once thought the rising popularity of 'Merlin' swears was just a silly fad.
The remainder of her tour around Diagon Alley was full of interesting sights still, although the knowledge of the magical world's sorry opinion of her put a slight damper on her fun. She was still mulling over her unfortunate discovery after she got cornered in a side street called Knockturn Alley by some disgusting-looking hooligans and had to hex them all until they learned better! For the life of her, she just couldn't figure out just how this happened. What exactly had she done to earn this hate?
But it had become quite clear by now that if she were to announce what had really happened to the evil bigoted probably baby-eating Dark Lord Salazar Slytherin right here and now, the mob waiting to take her to that prison they call Azkaban would be sizable indeed. Not that she was planning to do so immediately anyways. They probably wouldn't believe her.
Hermione arrived home at 4, just before her parents returned from the clinic. Her first contact with the modern magical world had given her plenty more to think about.
Well, then. A summary of her current situation? 'Salazar Slytherin is remembered as dangerous, conniving, despicable. As is everything connected to him... me. Hermione Granger is a completely unknown entity, so the first introduction will almost determine what people expect of her... magical society at large has just came out of a war, apparently, but looks to be in pretty good shape now.' In addition, she had access to her wand, her books, and enough gold for now. She was suffering no memory loss as far as she could tell - this Salazar had somewhat expected. But her magic had definitely regressed a bit. Children just didn't have the same control as adults.
Her plans for the near future?
Godric, in her situation, would probably jump right into the thick of things on a crusade to defend his good name. But she would rather play it safe. There would be time for action later.
'Don't attract the attention of society's major players. Maneuver into position while keeping my head down.' It was still far too risky to do much, so she would play along and observe. And stay out of trouble. Should be simple, right?
More or less set and ready, Hermione awaited her official first step into the modern magical society.