Author's note: This oneshot is part of a greater Alternate Universe, in which more stories will be posted as they're written. For the purposes of this fic the main thing to know is that this is AU after book 6 and the Battle of Hogwarts was lost and not all the horcruxes found. (This is crossposted from AO3, which also has more onshots set in this verse. Search for 'anamia' if you're interested, or just wait since everything will eventually get crossposted.)
Content warning: frank discussion of racism both real and fantastic.
Disclaimer: all characters and settings belong to JK Rowling. I am receiving no profit from this work save the satisfaction of a job well done.
They call you mudblood like it's some kind of insult. Like you haven't had to work for all the things they get for free, like you hadn't been top of your year for six years in a row and would have been for seven if things had gone as planned. Like you can't hold your own against Lucius Malfoy in a duel, like you don't regularly send Rastaban Lestrange running for the hills rather than face the insult of being defeated. They call you mudblood like they expect you to be ashamed of your family, of the mother who told you that one day you would be brilliant and the father who fed you a steady diet of classics from age six and opened your eyes to a world larger than the one around you. They throw the word around like they expect you to want to be like them. Like they think you long to trace your ancestry back ten generations, or sixteen, or to Merlin himself. (You can, actually. Your grandmum got into genealogy when you were thirteen and you can pull up a family tree dating back to the 5th century. You're pretty sure not even the Malfoys can go back that far.)
The other don't understand, not even Harry who grew up with muggles. He sees them the same way Arthur Weasley does - amusing enough and certainly worthy of protection but still fundamentally other. He's ashamed of his muggle background and frankly you can't blame him, not with the so-called family he had to grow up with. Ron and Neville and Luna are all wizard-raised, purebloods who grew up in secluded areas and barely even saw a muggle for the first sixteen years of their lives. They all get horribly offended when the Death Eaters throw the word around, rushing to assure you that they don't think of you that way, that you shouldn't listen to the Death Eaters, that they're the scum of the Earth. They're so earnest you don't have the heart to tell them you honestly don't mind.
You minded once, back when you were young and idealistic and sure that if everyone could just forget your blood status for a minute they'd accept you and see your potential. You're older now, more jaded. You've survived eight years in a society that wants people like you dead, spent months petrified when you were twelve (and months before that terrified), been harassed, condescended to, insulted, spit on, accused of stealing your magic from someone else. You've dealt with friends who don't understand anything even though they say they do, and with professors who are honestly surprised when you surpass your classmates. You have lived for eight years among people who expect you to be ashamed of where you come from and you've emerged stronger for that.
When you were younger, before Hogwarts and before magic, back when you thought you might one day be normal, you learned about Hitler and about the Jews and you didn't understand how anyone could hate people based on something so inconsequential as religion. Your dad sat you down and told you about racism, about prejudice, about senseless hatred. You listened to him in disbelief, righteous indignation growing in you until you jumped to your feet and declared that one day you would grow up to be Prime Minister and outlaw hatred. He didn't give you the indulgent smile your teachers would have, or pat you on the shoulder silently like your grandmum did (your grandmum, who lived through the war and saw hatred first hand and who somehow managed to stick to her good Anglican convictions and save all judgment for God alone). He made you sit down again and told you about the League of Nations and how it wasn't quite that easy to change human nature. Later he gave you Heart of Darkness to read and you felt sick for days. (Your mum yelled at him for that when she finds out, telling him that you were too young to deal with it. He only shrugged and says that the world is a dark place even for children.)
Years later you remember that book and you remember Kipling and you remember Othello and you stand firm to your beliefs about House Elves no matter what the others say. You've heard rhetoric like that before, even if your classmates haven't, and you refuse to accept it. (Later still you'll realize that there are cultural differences at play and you'll learn how to better wed your convictions to the society in which you function and people will start listening to what you have to say.)
It took you a week to calm down enough about finally finding a place where you belonged to start looking around you when you got to Hogwarts. Once you did you started seeing the way other students avoided you, the way they giggled at you in class and looked down on you for not knowing how to write with a quill, or not being used to walking in robes. Within two days you knew that you didn't belong, not really. Magic wasn't all that counted, not here. You worked harder than ever once you realized that, memorizing book after book and going countless feet over the required length for essays, determined to prove that you could be the best no matter who your parents were. It served to push students farther away, but you knew all about being ostracized for being smart. You'd hoped that it would be different here, but it wasn't and as long as you were hated for something you could control that was okay. (It wasn't, though, and sometimes you would sit on your bed and cry and wish you'd never heard about magic at all.)
It wasn't until your second year that things really hit home though, not until the basilisk started roaming the hallways and picking off your classmates, not until you heard people saying how glad they were that they weren't in danger. Some of them used the word, some of them didn't, but the sentiment was still there. Ron and Harry never said it out loud, but you couldn't help wondering if Ron, at least, felt that too. You spent most of that year alternating between terrified and despondent, and by the time you did finally figure out the answer you'd all but given up hope. You would never be smart enough, never know enough, never be good enough to overcome that prejudice, and you were only twelve. It seemed a situation worthy of hopelessness, no matter how many encouraging words your mother sent to you or how many famous people your father pointed you towards as examples of how to overcome hatred. You were only twelve and people like you were being actively persecuted.
You never have been good at hopelessness though, and by the time you came back for your third year that hopelessness had condensed and hardened into resolve. You would be good enough. You'd already saved the school twice, though no one but Dumbledore and your friends knew that. You took every single class you could, spending hours proving to everyone who would listen that you weren't only as good as the purebloods, you were better. (And if you were throwing yourself into your work to avoid thinking about the way Harry and Ron wouldn't talk to you, well, you weren't thinking about that, were you?)
You passed with better marks than ever, imagining Malfoy's smug face or Lavender Brown's condescending pity every time you thought you would drop dead from exhaustion. Somehow you kept going, surviving mostly on pure determination. You thought of Nelson Mandela, who drafted a constitution while in prison, and of Anne Frank who kept hoping despite everything going on around her, and your essays got longer and your hours of sleep shorter and shorter. The harder you worked the more they sneered at you, and you fueled yourself with the knowledge that not a single one of them could do what you were doing. When McGonagall tried to convince you at Christmas to drop a few classes you shook your head and refused to explain your reasoning. You think she understood though: the look she sent you was filled with understanding and her voice was gentle when she asked you if anything was wrong. You shook your head and convinced yourself that you weren't really lying.
Sirius Black was the first pureblood you ever met who didn't look down on you, not even unconsciously. Admittedly he was distracted when you first met him, but even on later meetings he treated you like he did everyone else except Snape - warmly but distantly, like he couldn't quite see you clearly. You humored him as best you could, knowing that as a fugitive he wouldn't be able to get the help he so clearly needed. Only later would you realize that being a fugitive had nothing to do with it and the wizarding world had no mental health care to speak of. You didn't ask them if they had similarly medieval views on rape, not really wanting to know the answer.
You shouldn't have warmed to Sirius, really. He was everything your parents had always warned you about - irresponsible, childish, prone to mood swings, even at times completely irrational. You told yourself for a while that you liked him because of what he meant to Harry, and that wasn't a complete lie. He gave Harry family, and God only knew your friend needed some of that in his life. Soon enough though you had to accept that that just wasn't enough of an answer and had to concede to yourself that the opinion of wizards still mattered to you. He respected your background, not just tolerated it, and managed to ask intelligent questions during the few times you and he talked about your family. His information was ten years out of date or more, but that was understandable and he could still carry on a more intelligent conversation about the workings of the muggle world than Albus Dumbledore or Arthur Weasley. When he admitted that he learned as much as he could about muggles to annoy his parents, you weren't all that surprised, and you even laughed some when he told you the story of him and James running into muggle policemen. Most wizards would have just obliviated the men and forgotten moments after. Sirius, at least, considered it a prank to remember and left the policemen with their memories. Part of you thought you shouldn't appreciate something as small as basic human decency, but most of you was busy being relieved that there were decent wizards out there, even if they were mentally unstable convicted criminals.
When you were fifteen you met her and all your festering dislike of purebloods and their culture hardened into pure hatred. You have never hated anyone so much, not even the dark wizard (you refuse to grace him with the title of Lord, not when that's what he wants) who ruined your life or his minions who killed people you love and make your daily life living hell. When you need resolve to get up in the mornings, it's her face you think of, not Malfoy's or Lestrange's or his. You learned how to organize people that year, learned how to bring out the potential in your friends and keep things running smoothly behind the scenes. Ron and Harry never find out how long it took you to charm those galleons, or curse the parchment, or figure out a discrete way of spreading the word about the introductory DA meeting without alerting her. You studied as hard as ever, but for the first time you weren't just doing it to be better than the others. You'd read up on the last war and you knew how people like you were treated. This time it would only be worse. You had too many things still to do to die at fifteen (or seventeen, or nineteen, or twenty one) so you needed to learn to defend yourself. When Harry wasn't looking you looked at books of dark spells and learned those to, telling yourself that you were doing it so that you would recognize them when the time came, not so that you could use them one day against your enemies. You weren't fooling yourself one bit, not even then. All the while she kept after you, hounding you and torturing Harry and when you snuck out at night to practice more spells you told the Room of Requirement to give the practice dummies her face.
Sacrificing her to the centaurs at the end of that year remains the most satisfying thing you have ever done.
By the time Dumbledore died you were seventeen and you didn't think you had any more hatred in you. You were wrong. You looked around you at the funeral and you hated. You hated Snape for doing the deed and you hated Malfoy for being a coward (after all, you are a Gryffindor). You hated each and every person who hadn't believed Harry about him being back, hated everyone who seemed to think this would all blow over, hated all the people who hadn't chosen sides because they thought their blood and their money would protect them. You were perilously close to hating your own friends, Harry for thinking he could just abandon you and do his hero thing on his own (as if he would have survived three months without you; you taught Ron to do the levitation charm that knocked out that troll first year), and Ron for thinking it was some kind of grand adventure. You almost hated them both for having nothing to lose, Harry because his family was dead and Ron because his already knew and could choose their fates with eyes wide open. You buried yourself in your books after the funeral, but for once you couldn't concentrate on thick tomes filled with obscure magical knowledge and you went to your trunk and dug out the first book your father ever gave you and tried not to cry.
You didn't warn your parents before erasing their memories of you. You couldn't take the chance that their objections (because there would be objections, of course there would be) would change your mind. You love your friends, but these are your parents. They raised you and shaped you and only the knowledge that you're doing this to keep them safe lets you go through with it. You don't stick around to watch them look at you with confusion, don't wait for them to find your room and wonder what it's for. You don't look back, just Apparate straight to the Burrow. By the time you tell Harry and Ron what you did you've reconciled it within yourself and you barely even feel guilty. (Later, when you've all learned more about Dumbledore than you ever wanted to, the phrase 'for the greater good' will cross your mind and you'll suppress it almost instantly.)
After that it all starts blending together. You run, you camp, you fight. Harry does his best to figure out where the Horcruxes are, but he doesn't have any more of an idea than the rest of you. People die, some friends some enemies, some you never knew. You don't mourn. You can't afford to take your attention from your goal. Ron, you know, uses the death of innocents to fuel him in battle. You use your hatred. You're not sure what Harry uses. His sense of duty, probably. Or the fact that he thinks he deserves this. (You wonder what it says about you that you don't try harder to dissuade him from this idea, not when it's so useful to you. Nothing good, probably, but you realized when you were fifteen years old that you weren't necessarily a good person and you've long since made your peace with that.) When Neville and Luna join you after the failed battle of Hogwarts you consider asking why they still fight, but you don't. It seems somehow too personal, even between people as close as the five of you have become.
You don't hide your identities when you fight, don't sink to the same level as the Death Eaters. Their masks don't hide their fighting styles or mask their voices anyway, and you've learned to identify the most dangerous of them just by their walks. Lucius Malfoy glides; Bellatrix Lestrange either stalks or dances depending on her mood; Walden McNair stomps. He, of course, moves like a reptile, all snake-like grace and predatory speed. (Occasionally you wonder if Ginny moved the same way back when she was possessed during second year.) You wonder if maybe they just hide their faces out of habit or because he's a traditionalist. At the end of the day it doesn't matter. You have too many other things to worry about, too many books to read and spells to research and contingency plans to perfect to spend time wondering why Death Eaters do what they do.
They know you all too, know you by name even. In a weird way you feel flattered that you're enough of a threat to them that they committed your name to memory; none of them would give you the time of day if they a had a choice in the matter. It gives you a sense of grim satisfaction to know that you've forced your way into their closed minds so thoroughly. Of course it gives you even more satisfaction to defeat them, cursing them so thoroughly that they can't speak at all. The ruthlessness you learned in school serves you well now and only Neville doesn't give you the occasional concerned look when you come out with something particularly obscure and vicious. Neville learned ruthlessness on his own.
They call you mudblood when they know you can hear them, flinging the word at you like it's some ultimate weapon that will make your resolve crumble and your wand fall from your fingers. You remember your parents who loved you up until you betrayed them, and your schoolmates who mocked you until you proved yourself better than all of them and you laugh in their faces. They call you mudblood like it's some kind of insult. You know better.
It's a badge of honor.