Part 4: The Sorting
Severus stood with the rest of the first years in a small room off of the Great Hall, waiting to go in. His stomach had settled for the most part, and now he was quite starving. Lily stood next to him, shaking from either nervousness or excitement. Every now and then, she would reach out and grab his hand, squeezing it tightly. Each time, his pale cheeks would turn a brilliant shade of red.
He really didn't mind her friendly gestures, although it was starting to get a bit annoying, but he was worried that the stern-faced witch -- who had just introduced herself as Professor McGonagall, the deputy headmistress and the head of Gryffindor House -- would notice and deduct more points from him. Lily, thankfully, had stopped grabbing his hand and now was bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet.
Professor McGonagall was telling them that their House was going to be something like their family while they were at school. Something about earning and losing points was mentioned as she shot pointed looks at Severus, James and Sirius. Severus thought about the fact that he had already lost points for his future House, but then again, so had James.
His mind was busy with thoughts about becoming a member of Slytherin House. If the hat refused to put him in there because he was a half-blood, then he was hoping for a place in Ravenclaw. Gryffindor was not an option, and Hufflepuff was even less appealing. Besides, he was sure if he ended up in either Gryffindor or Hufflepuff, his uncle might refuse to pay one Knut towards his expenses.
The doors to the Great Hall swung open and Professor McGonagall was commanding them to follow her. The first years filed in behind the deputy headmistress. The sight before them was so wondrous that even Severus found himself staring openmouthed. The ceiling had been bewitched to look like the clear night sky, just like the one outside. Four long tables ran the length of the room, and across the front was the staff table. A tall man with a waist-length white beard introduced himself as Professor Dumbledore, Headmaster. He welcomed the first years warmly as Professor McGonagall brought out a stool and a ratty old hat.
Long, long ago
when I was new,
were four close friends
with talent true.
A wizarding school
was their great desire:
a place to teach,
Now they're gone,
but what does remain
is a House bearing
each founder's name.
Each House is unique
as you will learn.
Listen, as I describe
them each in turn.
The first is Slytherin,
where you will find
those of ambition and
Next is Hufflepuff,
the salt of the earth,
where fairness and toil
have the most worth.
In Ravenclaw reigns
wisdom and lore,
Gryffindor takes only
the bravest ones:
daring daughters and
It's now my task
to sort each student.
My methods are both
time-honored and prudent.
A look at your thoughts
and I will know,
into which house
you ought to go.
One final thought
I give to you:
always be loyal,
always be true.
Hogwarts is now
Try to live in
peace and harmony.
Now place me upon
your darling head.
There's nothing to fear,
nothing to dread.
The process should only
take a minute.
That's right, step up,
and let's begin it!
First, a girl was sorted into Ravenclaw and two boys went to Hufflepuff. Sirius Black was the fourth student to be sorted. The hat took its time trying to decide where best to put the young Mr. Black. Finally the word "Gryffindor" rang out, and the Slytherin table hissed with a smattering of whispers. Severus dared to glance at Bellatrix Black and Lucius Malfoy. Both of them seemed to be deep in conversation. Bella glared with contempt at her younger cousin as he returned her look defiantly.
Severus missed the next few sortings as he tried to determine why Black would dare want to be in another House. Surely the hat should have shouted out Slytherin before it even touched his head!
Severus gave his traveling companion an encouraging grin as she climbed up onto the stool. The hat took only a few seconds to make the decision to put her in Gryffindor. Severus felt his stomach drop to his knees. Suddenly, he was overcome with a surge of defiance. For a brief instant, he wanted nothing more than to become a member of Gryffindor. Then his senses started coming back: he had no choice but to be in Slytherin if he wanted to receive a magical education.
Several other students were sorted before the Lupin boy made his way to the stool. The skinny boy's face looked positively green with anxiety. The Sorting Hat took only a moment to decide that Lupin should be a Gryffindor.
"Pettigrew, Peter!" The round boy stumbled going up the step, falling flat on his face. A Hufflepuff spot seemed to be guaranteed to him. Surprised mumbling broke out when he was announced as a Gryffindor.
"Potter, James!" The hat didn't even touch his head before it shouted, "Gryffindor!"
"Rosier, Evan!" The boy swaggered up to take his place on the stool. He joined the Slytherin table.
"Sinistra, Stella!" A pretty, dark-haired girl walked past Severus; she, too, was sorted into Slytherin.
"Snape, Severus!" The boy felt his knees go weak as he made his way to the stool. The hat fell down over his eyes.
"Oh my, what an interesting combination we have here! Courage aplenty, a very brilliant mind, cunning to be sure, ambition, and a strong sense of loyalty. Where to put you?" The hat's voice echoed strangely in Severus's head.
"Slytherin," Severus thought firmly.
"Are you sure?" it asked. "A mind like yours would be right at home in Ravenclaw, I think."
"No, Slytherin, I have to be in Slytherin."
"But you have a lot of courage, my little friend. You already have one friend in Gryffindor; you could eventually have more."
"Lily and I can still be friends. Just put me in Slytherin already," Severus demanded.
"I see I wasn't wrong about the strong sense of loyalty. Definitely not afraid of hard work. Perhaps Hufflepuff would be a good place for you."
Severus was on the verge of ripping the hat from his head, thinking furiously, "Don't you even dare consider sticking me in there with those duffers! Now say 'Slytherin,' and let me go!"
"Obviously, with a nasty temper like that, Hufflepuff wouldn't work out. Please, consider Gryffindor. You have so many of the fine qualities that embody that House."
"Don't you understand? I want to become somebody important, to do something phenomenal, and the only way I can do that is to be in Slytherin!"
"Ambitious and persistent," the hat said finally. "If you are sure, my dear boy, then I will place you as you ask."
"Get on with it then."
"Slytherin!" the hat shouted to the student body. Relief flooded his mind as Severus pulled the irritating hat off of his head. He glanced briefly at the Gryffindor table, only to see Lily's disappointed face looking at him. He tried to convince himself that it didn't matter; they could still be friends. Yet, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Potter boy tossing him a look of deepest hatred.
Glaring back at him, Severus made his way to the Slytherin table. Evan Rosier grudgingly made a space for him. He turned up his nose at the sight of Severus's worn and faded school robe. Severus tossed his hair back out of his face, refusing to be intimidated. He waited out the rest of the Sorting with his stomach growling. When the last few first years had been sorted, every kind of food imaginable appeared on the tables. Severus joined his peers in the amazing feast.
At the end of the meal, Severus staggered to his feet, feeling full and sleepy. He dutifully followed along with the other first years as Lucius Malfoy readied to lead them to the Slytherin dormitory. As they exited the Great Hall, he craned his neck, looking for Lily. Severus wasn't paying attention and walked into the person in front of him.
"Watch were you are going, Serveus!" snarled one of the Lestrange brothers, brushing at his robes as if the younger boy had contaminated them.
"My name is Severus," he snarled back. "As in the Roman emperor, Lucius Septimius Severus, who reconstructed Hadrian's wall."
"I highly doubt," began Bellatrix Black, tossing back her thick black hair, "that your Muggle father would be that clever."
Mother of Merlin, how did she find out? Had she just overheard a bit of family gossip or... Potter! Potter must have been listening outside the compartment door when he had been telling Lily about his family on the train. He had then, more than likely, told Black, who in turn had told Bella and Lucius just to get back at him. If those boys wanted to ensure that he was never accepted in Slytherin, then making his parentage known would be the way to do it. His face turned red with anger, and he blurted out, "Unlike your cousin, I'm clever enough to be in Slytherin."
"How dare you, you filthy little snot!" Bella sputtered in fury. Apparently, Severus had struck a nerve with the girl.
"Enough, Bella," Lucius said firmly, taking hold of her shoulders and turning to the younger boy. "I think little Severus here may be of some use to us. I loved the Hair-Growing Hex you used on Sirius. I hear you managed to tip him into the lake as well, and you got that little brat, Potter, also. Mind you, I don't appreciate 'ickle firsties' who cause Slytherin to lose points, so watch your step from now on."
"I will," Severus said, grinning slightly. A compliment from Malfoy could only mean that the prefect was impressed with him.
They were at the foot of the main staircase when the Gryffindor prefects came by with their first years in tow. Severus caught sight of Lily Evans and waved slightly, trying to reassure her that he still wanted to be friends. Her face lit up with a smile when she noticed him in the crowd.
Somehow the two groups became intermingled as they passed each other. Severus hoped to get close enough to Lily that she might squeeze his hand just one more time. He also wanted to reassure her that the fact that they were in two different Houses was in no way going to affect their newfound friendship. Instead he found himself confronted by Potter and Black. The two boys were threateningly close to him, wands in hand, ready to jinx Severus at the least bit of provocation.
Potter spoke in a tone that would have been menacing if his voice wasn't so high pitched. "Keep away from her, Snivellus, she's a Gryffindor."
"She's going to figure out sooner or later that you're nothing but trouble. We'll make sure of it," Black said, shoving him with his shoulder.
Severus moved to whip out his wand when he felt a very firm hand on his shoulder. It was the headmaster, peering down at him with very serious blue eyes. Severus had the oddest sensation, almost as if the old man knew what he was thinking.
"Is there a problem, gentlemen?" he asked, looking at each of them in turn.
There was a mumbled chorus of "No, sir," as Black and Potter scurried off to join their House.
"Is there anything you wish to tell me, Mr. Snape?" the headmaster asked, his eyes twinkling as he watched Severus.
"Professor McGonagall has spoken with me about the incident at the dock. Remember that your choices are just as important as your abilities. Do you understand?" The blue eyes looked right through him, causing Severus to shiver.
"I understand, sir." He nodded.
"Very good." The headmaster raised his voice. "Mr. Malfoy! You seemed to have misplaced one of your charges in the shuffle. I would hate for him to get lost on his way to the dormitory."
Malfoy beckoned to him. "You there, come along."
Severus hurried to catch up with the group of Slytherins as they headed down to the dungeons. He had the oddest feeling that he was being stared at. When he looked back over his shoulder, he saw Headmaster Dumbledore watching him with an intense look on his lined old face. The look was similar to the one his mother had had on her face when he had left with his uncle earlier that morning. With a slight shrug of his shoulders, Severus turned to follow Malfoy and the others to his new home in the dungeons of Hogwarts.
I have plans to continue this. Thoughts?