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The Serpent's Gaze: Hatching Snakes by DictionaryWrites
Chapter 1: The Sorting
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Harry glances to Ron, who gives him an encouraging little grin, even though he looks about as green as Harry does, and Harry moves up to the stool at the front of the room; the Great Hall is awash with dozens of whispers and murmurs, murmurs about Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, and Harry hates it, but he can’t complain. What would people say then, after all? It's bad enough being the Boy Who Lived, and whining about it will only make him the Boy Who Lived And Complained About It.
He sits, and he stares out for a few seconds, wide-eyed at the hundreds of people staring at him raptly, but then the hat drops over his head and Harry sees nothing but the slightly grimy brim. It doesn't smell as bad as it could, at least.
“Hmm,” says the Hat’s voice, quiet and yet loud on the inside of his own head. “Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There’s talent, oh my goodness, yes — and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that’s interesting…So where shall I put you?”
Harry isn’t sure what to say – does this hat want an answer? From him? He didn’t know he was allowed to choose. He hesitates, considering what he’d read in the copy of Hogwarts: A History Hagrid had dropped onto the top of his pile of books. Even with what Hagrid had said about Slytherin, and Ron as well, all of the ones in the book had seemed just fine. Merlin had been a Slytherin, after all, and they’re ambitious – is Harry ambitious? He wants to be a good wizard, he wants-
“Oh, Slytherin would be a fine choice for you, my boy.” Harry jolts at the sudden invasion of the Hat’s voice into his thoughts, but he supposes he shouldn’t have forgotten about it – the Hat is in his brain for the moment.
“Oh, really. You could be great in Slytherin.”
Terrible, Ollivander had said, terrible, but great.
“Oh, but so, so great,” the Hat assures him, and Harry does his best to suppress the shiver than wants to run down his spine. He does want to be great, he thinks. He doesn't want to be terrible, God, no, but he wants to be great: he wants to work towards something better than doing chores in the Dursleys' house and being known for something he doesn't even remember, for something that killed his parents, at that. “Mmm, temper that recklessness, train that ambition– Yes, it’s quite obvious now: SLYTHERIN!”
Harry smiles a little as he pushes the brim of the hat off from his eyes, expecting the same applause from the Slytherin table everyone else had gotten, but he doesn’t hear any applause at all.
All of them are just staring at him, as if- don’t they want him?
He moves off when McGonagall taps his shoulder all the same, trying to ignore the expression on her face and on the faces of the Weasleys on the Gryffindor table, each of whom look positively betrayed; after the pause, he hears one whoop from the Slytherin table, and then they’re cheering, the sound deafening in comparison to the deafening silence from the Gryffindors.
Breathing heavily and glancing to the staff table, where Hagrid looks devastated and McGonagall uncertain, Harry runs to sit with the First Year Slytherins.
Dinner is awkward, to say the least. Draco Malfoy glances at Harry with a sour expression on his face as he joins the Slytherin table, and Harry meets his gaze levelly as the Sorting continues. He cheers and claps for Ron when he gets sorted into Gryffindor, but the other boy shoots him such a nasty look Harry stops mid-clap, shocked out of continuing.
"Sorry," he says to Malfoy as dinner starts, and Malfoy seems surprised, his grey eyes wide as he looks at Harry. The other Slytherins are watching with obvious, rapt curiosity, but for the time being Harry does his best not to look at them. "Thing is, Malfoy, I think I can figure out the right sort of wizard, and I don't think judging them on their family is any way to go about it." Malfoy is silent, lips pressed together. Harry puts out his hand to shake, and Malfoy stares down at it. "Truce," Harry says.
There's a long pause, but then Malfoy takes his hand and shakes it, and says quietly, "Truce. But Weasley-"
"Don't, Draco," Theodore Nott breaks in, and Malfoy glances at him, surprised, then seems to nod his head, accepting the other boy's wisdom. Harry's actually pretty grateful for it.
"Truce," he repeats. "I suppose you can call me Draco, then."
"You can call me Harry," Harry replies, and Draco offers him a small, if thin, smile. With that, they turn to the meal in front of them, and the other Slytherins begin to chatter excitedly to each other about classes, the castle and what's to come, but Harry doesn't join in. He's glad when dinner is done with and they each walk down towards the dungeons; his head had given an awful pang of pain when he’d met his new Head of House’s stare, but a few of the elder Slytherins had lightly expressed their belief that the man could read minds, and perhaps it had been an adverse affect to that.
“Potter.” Harry stops, and he looks back at the girl before him; she’s a tall girl, pretty and with regal features, and Harry notices the green prefect badge pinned to the breast of her robes. “I’m Afifa Lanjwani: I’m one of your House prefects. You were raised by Muggles, right?” Harry nods his head at her crisp tone, and his eyes are slightly wide as he looks at her: Afifa does not smile. He swallows as he remembers that Slytherins supposedly take badly to Muggles, and he opens his mouth, but she cuts through his coming interruption easily.
“You’ll take tutelage. Quill usage is expected here. Basic wizarding etiquette, including faux pas, fashion, rough history and common thought. A guide will be on your bed tomorrow morning. It’s for Slytherins only, including some House secrets, so please don’t share it with outsiders. Okay?” She speaks briskly, but she's not nasty about it at all - she's just business-like. Harry nods, and she taps him perfunctorily on the shoulder, but somehow the touch is comforting even though her expression is grim; it’s not Afifa that addresses the group of First Years but a short, broad-shouldered lad called Francois Richelieu (commonly known, judging by the teasing nudge he’d had from one of the other prefects, as Frank).
“You’ve been lucky.” He speaks bluntly, and he looks from each of the other First Years; Pansy Parkinson is smirking, as is Draco Malfoy; Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle seem completely bored, along with Millicent Bulstrode; Theo Nott and Tracey Davis stand with their arms crossed; Blaise Zabini and Daphne Greengrass, the icy prince and princess of the group, have neutral expressions on their aristocratic faces.
Harry feels out of place.
“You’ve been sorted into the only house with a fully funded alumnus scheme. The only house with more rooms than merely dormitories and a common room. The only house with a view of the lake - and you’ll see when you get in your dorms-” He speaks with a teasing grin on his face, winking at them, then he sobers again: “But you’re also going to be hated on principle. You should note that Slytherins have a bad reputation. People think of us as elitists, Death Eaters, dark magic practicitioners, necromancers, abusers, monsters. Voldemort was a Slytherin, they say.” Harry is surprised, and judging by the sharp gasps from some of those beside him, the others are as well, but Francois says it with an easy confidence.
“They don’t mention Merlin. Slytherin will no more make you a villain than Gryffindor will make you a hero, but the other houses will treat you with extreme prejudice.You will not isolate each other. You will not bully each other. You will stand strong, and you will be united, or we’ll make your lives Hell.” Harry swallows as Francois meets his gaze, just for a moment, and then he says, “Boys with me, girls with Sarah.” and he breaks his stare.
Draco, Harry, Crabbe, Goyle, Zabini and Nott trail after the apparent head prefect of Slytherin house, and he leads them down a series of steps and a long corridor. Light is dim with a greenish tinge here, and it’s quite chilly, but then Francois gestures to three doors, each emblazoned with burnished black letters.
Harry Potter & Draco Malfoy
Blaise Zabini & Theo Nott
Vincent Crabbe & Gregory Goyle
“These will be your rooms until you leave school. The other houses have group dorm rooms, but big rooms aren’t very good down here – we’re built right against and under the lake in places, so we like to have a lot of supporting walls. In you go, lads. We’ll wake you up in the morning.” The corridor has each year's rooms settled together, and to their right are the second year rooms, the seventh year rooms across from them.
Draco leads the way, but when Harry steps into their dormitory he gasps, staring up at the ceiling with his mouth wide open and his green eyes wide. The ceiling has been enchanted with the same charm in the Hogwarts Great Hall, but instead of displaying the night sky above, it displays the lake, and Harry is amazed, completely taken aback by the site. Thick, yellow-green shoots of seaweed are visible at the edges of the vision, but mostly visible are the fish slowly swimming back and forth above them. Occasionally, he'll glimpse the shadow of something a bit bigger, but nothing he can see clearly.
The lamp light is tinted green, and Harry steps towards the bed to the right as Draco strays to the left; he peers at the four-poster bed with curiosity – it has curtains around it, but no canopy.
“It’s so you can look straight up if you can’t sleep. Father told me about it,” Malfoy supplies, and he doesn’t seem smug about it; instead, there’s an honest smile on his features, and he too looks up at the ceiling, smile fond. He was probably told all about it, growing up - if Ron expected to be a Gryffindor upon arriving at Hogwarts, Draco probably expected to be a Slytherin. Harry’s trunk has been set at the bottom of his bed like an ottoman, and to the side is a wardrobe. On the bed are three books: A Serpentine History, An Introduction to the Wizarding World and Basic Charms and Household Enchantments.
“What’s your third one?” Draco asks, seeming genuinely interested as he begins to pull books out of his trunk and set them out on the bookshelf beside his bed.
Harry hesitates, and then he says, “My aunt and uncle are Muggles. Diagon Alley was my first time with magical stuff. It’s a guidebook, I think.”
Draco lets out a smug, amused sound, and Harry turns his head, focusing on getting undressed and getting into bed, and he lies back, staring up at the mostly empty water. It doesn’t remain empty, though: after a few minutes, just as Harry’s eyelids are beginning to droop, mermaids come into view, and he stares up at them, sleepily, as they begin to dance in the green-tinted moonlight filtering from above.
Is he dreaming? Mermaids can’t possibly be real--
But he sleeps before he can consider it further.