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Chapter 5 : The Sorting
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A/N: I apologize in advance for this chapter. It will run the gamut of emotions…happy, sad, funny, angry…it’s really going to be a roller coaster chapter. But this is a really important day in Sirius’ life that helped changed him forever. I do sincerely apologize for the last scene…I’m terrible at those types but I tried my best. Special thanks to jynx67 for helping me torture dear little Sirius in this one.
“Are you going to Platform 9 ¾?”
Sirius turned at the shy, almost hesitant voice behind him. The girl looked tiny, not nearly old enough to be admitted to Hogwarts but she held a Hogwarts Express ticket stub tightly in her hand as if afraid to let it go. Her dark red hair gleamed in the sunlight and her green eyes flashed with impatience. Although she appeared calm, her flustered expression told Sirius she hadn’t a clue where she was going.
“There’s no such thing as Platform 9 ¾, are you daft?” Sirius leaned against his baggage cart as he watched her. Even though he and James were first years as well, both of them had made numerous trips to the station with their families. It had given them both a sense of superiority to the many other uneducated youth who were crowding the station on this early September morning. Having arrived to the station early, they had sat back and made jokes about them until they began to loose interest.
They had arrived at the station early with a singular mission in mind - catching a glimpse of some of the new wares being transported into Hogsmeade, the town nearest Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. James had disappeared just moments earlier on the tail of a surly looking dock worker that had been loading brown cardboard boxes marked “Fatal- Do Not Ingest” in block letters on the side. They had pooled their resources so James could try and bribe anything he could off the boorish worker.
“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just your cloak and…” she trailed off. “Never mind, I’m sorry to have bothered you.” She began to scuttle away but suddenly she turned and faced him, her shoulders squared. “You’re tricking me, aren’t you?”
“Pardon?” Sirius could no longer hide his grin.
“You know exactly where it is and just won’t tell me. What a rotten thing to do.”
“Don’t get so huffy,” Sirius shook his head. “I was just having a little fun. I wouldn’t leave you stranded here.” He extended his hand. “Sirius Black, nice to meet you.”
“Lily,” she shook his hand firmly, her eyes still wary. “Lily Evans.”
“Need some help with your bags?” Sirius smiled genuinely this time, his attempt to apologize for giving her a hard time.
“I can manage, thank you,” she said quietly, her voice firm but pleasant.
“Suit yourself.” Sirius shrugged and waved as James held up the paper bag triumphantly. “Just walk into the barrier here...no, take your things with you.” Sirius took hold of her arm and helped her through the barricade then pushed her things along behind her.
“Who was that?” James tipped his head toward the barricade.
Sirius shrugged. If he told James how she’d asked about the Platform, he knew James would tease her about for years to come. “Just another first year.”
“Aren’t you just the helpful little tour guide?” James shoved the bag in his cart. “Come on, we don’t want to miss the train.”
Sirius followed James through the barricade and onto the train. It took them several minutes to push their way through the crowd and locate a compartment of their own near the back of the train. After stowing their personal things, James poured the contents of his paper bag onto the seat between them as the train gave a quick lurch and began pulling away from the station.
“What is this?” Sirius picked up a small gray orb covered with tiny spikes all around.
“Wouldn’t touch that,” James said knocking it out of his hand. “It’s filled with itching powder,” he explained mischievously. “And this,” he held up a bottle of dark green liquid, “is sleeping potion. It’ll put you out for hours.”
Sirius returned the grin, being more careful about the things that he picked up. In his quick shopping spree, James had managed to acquire at least two dozen different potions, objects, and items to wreck general nuisance among the halls of Hogwarts. Sirius couldn’t wait to try them out. Just as he was blowing a silver colored dust at James (since neither knew what it would do) a loud screeching near the doorway grabbed his attention. “Hang on, I’ll be back.”
“Sirius! I can’t see anything!” James was attempting to brush away the strands of bushy hair that had suddenly sprouted all over his face. The hair was long, almost to his knees, and made him resemble a lion more than a person. “Sirius, it’s not funny!”
Sirius was still laughing as he stepped away to see what the commotion was. “I’ll be back, don’t worry.” Stepping into the corridor, Sirius was surprised to see the girl from the Platform standing between a pale, freckled face boy and three other much larger boys, all with their wands drawn. They were yelling at each other and Sirius couldn’t help but admire the determined look on the girl’s face.
“Is there a problem?” Sirius asked quietly, leaning against the door frame of his compartment.
“These,” the girl’s eyes flashed as she spoke, “oafs were trying to make him to eat owl droppings.”
Sirius couldn’t help but laugh. Her eyes turned on him in an instant, though, and Sirius immediately hushed. “Lily, right?”
She nodded but still didn’t move. Her arm was protectively around the boy who, although bigger than her, seemed completely baffled by the entire situation.
“Who are you?” Sirius lifted his chin to the boy, ignoring Lily’s penetrating stare.
“My name’s Peter,” his voice shook slightly, whether from nervousness or fear, Sirius couldn’t tell.
“This isn’t your concern, first year.” The larger of the boys barely glanced his direction. “It’s tradition.”
“Your tradition stinks,” James voice broke through the banter and all eyes turned his direction. A brief moment of stunned silence followed then everyone except Lily burst into hysterical laughter.
“And what, the baby lion is going to stop us?” One of the boys jeered. “I haven’t seen a face like that since some Mudblood took me to a muggle zoo!”
Sirius could see Lily’s breath catch. It was almost imperceptible but over the years he had learned to pay close attention and it was something he couldn’t miss. It explained her unease at the Platform and her general lack of wizarding knowledge. She had been raised with muggles…Sirius was sure of it. James had squared his shoulders ready to lunge at whoever came within his earshot since he still couldn’t see beyond the mass of hair covering his face.
“Do you really want to do this?” Sirius asked quietly, his body moving to stand in between the boys and Lily. Like it or not, he knew that Lily was the most vulnerable of the group…if only for her bloodline alone. Whether she knew it or not, Sirius couldn’t tell.
“Do I know you?” The largest boy pushed toward Sirius. “You look familiar.”
“He’s a Black,” a hushed voice pointed his wand at the Black family crest embroidered on Sirius’ cloak.
“You must be Sirius. I’m Lucius Malfoy, you probably don’t remember me from the party this summer.”
The wands were immediately withdrawn and hands outstretched to welcome him. “I didn’t realize it was your year to enter Hogwarts.” “It’ll be good to have you on board.” “Do you fly much?”
Sirius shook each hand and answered the questions politely, urging Lily gently away as he spoke. Once he was certain she was away, he placed a hand on James’ shoulder. “If you’ll excuse me, we’ve got a little spell to sort out here.”
“We can take care of that for you…”
Three wands rose towards James at once but Sirius waved them off. “No, that’s okay. I think we can handle it.” He pulled James into the cabin and motioned for Peter to follow.
“What the hell was that?” James asked angrily as the door slid shut. “Sirius, can you get this off me or what?”
Sirius waved his wand absently at James as he watched Peter take a seat near the window. “Are you okay?”
James, now free of his mane, studied the new arrival. “Who the hell are you?”
“Stop being such a prat, James.” Sirius turned to Peter again. “Are you okay?” he asked again, more softly this time.
“Stop taking in strays.” James glared at Sirius. “He’s fine, aren’t you, Peter? It is Peter, right?”
“Yes.” Peter nodded, his eyes roaming the objects James had scattered across the compartment. “What is this?”
“No!” James and Sirius screamed but it was too late. Peter had picked up the orb filled with itching powder and it now covered his entire body. The reaction was immediate and Peter began failing wildly as agonizing itching covered his skin. The powder began to coat the room and Sirius and James lunged into outside hallway, crashing into the exterior train wall and sliding to the floor in an attempt to get away from the dust. Their laughter echoed through the corridor and inquisitive heads began to peek out from nearby rooms.
“That’s a banned substance, you know.” Lily’s voice made both boys look up.
“What are you going to do, report us?” James’ haughty voice made Sirius cringe but she ignored him and offered Sirius her hand.
“Aren’t you going to help me up?” James’ outstretched hand waited patiently but she made no move to assist him.
“I think not.” Lily turned on her heel, murmured under her breath and waved her wand carelessly at the room, causing the dusty scene to clean itself.
“Show off.” James’ irritated voice made Sirius laugh and he pulled him off the floor.
“Come on, let’s get cleaned up, we should be getting close.”
Neither James nor Sirius were exciting at the prospect of crossing the lake to get to Hogwarts and the idea of something lurking beneath the dark muddy water had almost sent Peter into hysterics. They grumbled, they groused, and they tried to pull “pureblood rank” to be able to travel in the coaches with the older students. For their constant complaining, James and Sirius were welcomed to Hogwarts with the first detention ever to be handed out prior to the start of term.
Sirius had tuned out the blubbering ramblings of the sorting hat, but watched as his fellow first years were divided amongst the four houses. Sirius couldn’t conceal his disappointment as James Potter was sent to Gryffindor. Sirius nodded his goodbye as James moved to sit at his designated table. So distracted was he, Sirius didn’t even hear his name called and another student had to prod him along. Fully expecting to be sorted before he even set down, Sirius was surprised when the sorting hat was silent.
“Hm,” it said after a long pause. “Slytherin you suspect.”
Sirius gritted his teeth. “Blacks are always in Slytherin. Can we hurry this up? I look like a damn fool sitting up here.”
“Tsk, tsk. What a temper!” The hat’s sing-song voice grated on Sirius. “A Black you say? Are you quite sure about that? I can see it all you know…here in your head.”
“Then put me in Hufflepuff. I don’t really care. Just make everyone stop staring at me!” Sirius tried to jerk off the hat but it wouldn’t budge.
“Going to fight the sorting hat, are you now, boy?” The hat laughed. “I can’t say I’ve ever had that happen before. Bit of courage and defiance there, I must say.” The continuing laughter enraged Sirius.
The hat’s announcement had come so abruptly, Sirius sat stunned. No longer was it making rambling useless accusations, but it had actually sorted him! Sirius glanced to where the Gryffindor table was clapping loudly and beckoning him forward. His eyes shifted to the Slytherin table and then the staff table looking for some explanation. The staff sat unmoving, though, most of them wearing expressions of mixed incredulity and surprise.
“Mr. Black.” A soft spoken female professor with a tall pointy hat pulled him off the chair. “You’ve been sorted, Mr. Black. Please take a seat with your house.”
Sirius’ stomach churned as the food came…he couldn’t eat a bite. The fresh pumpkin juice made him nauseous and Sirius finally dropped his head into his hands. What had he done?
“I can’t believe we got in the same house! What’s the matter with you?” James shoved him slightly.
“You don’t understand,” Sirius gazed around vacantly. “How could this happen? My parents are gonna kill me.”
“Relax. Just wait until we get to our rooms. I bet there’s all sorts of stuff we can get in to. Sirius, this is great!”
“Stuff it, James, alright?” Sirius’ head swam as he spoke. Swallowing the lump rising in his throat, he rose to follow the others as they began to move toward their dormitories. Although the other first years were jabbering with excitement, Sirius could only hear a faint buzzing in his ears.
Both Sirius and James turned to see the head boy coming their way.
“You’re wanted in Headmaster Dumbledore’s office immediately. I’ll escort you. Mr. Potter, I trust you can find your own way to the dormitories?”
Before setting foot in the office, Sirius already knew his parents were there. The wave of dread that had washed over him at the sorting had intensified to the point of physical illness and he couldn’t keep his body from trembling.
“Mr. Black, please sit down. You look a bit weary.” Dumbledore motioned to a chair and Sirius sank into it gratefully.
“As we were saying,” his mother said, casting an angry look Sirius’ direction, “we demand he be re-sorted. This is unacceptable!”
From the corner, the pointy-hatted professor stepped forward. “I’m sure the Headmaster would gladly allow such a thing but I daresay the hat has made up its mind.”
“Excellent point, Professor McGonagall. It is rather useless—"
“I demand it!” his mother screeched.
“Will it be necessary for us to talk to the board, Headmaster?” his father asked gravely.
“Of course not. Professor, the hat if you will.”
Sirius glanced from his parents to the hat in dismay, knowing what was going to happen. Sure enough, the hat didn’t even touch his head before calling “Gryffindor!” once again.
He closed his eyes as the fight ensued. He felt for the Headmaster…he was trying to reason with them. But Sirius had learned years ago they were incapable of reason.
Dropping his head, he chanced a look at his parents from underneath shaggy bangs. Both had apparently just come from yet another dinner party at the Black household. Their impeccable robes, trimmed in the darkest green velvet, look out of place next to all of the others in the room. They had obviously appeared in a rush, no doubt the result of his damn great-great grandfather, former Hogwarts Headmaster Phineas Nigellus rushing to Grimmauld with glee to share the news of Sirius’ latest mishap. Sirius cast an angry look at Nigellus’ portrait which hung behind the current Headmaster’s desk. He had a look of satisfaction on his face, as if to say “I told you so!”
Sirius took a small sense of pride in the fact that his parents were truly shocked at this turn of events. Since birth, he had been groomed for a place in Slytherin House. That he had some how managed to keep them from getting their way made him almost smile.
“Wait! Where are we going?” Sirius hadn’t been paying attention and his father’s vise-like grip on his shoulder tore into his skin.
“We’re leaving. There are other schools more suitable than this.”
“We can teach him better at home for all he’ll learn in that house,” his mother spat.
Sirius wasn’t sure when his mother left them. He wasn’t sure when he agreed to go to Hogsmeade with his father either but hours after the confrontation in the Headmaster’s office, the two were sitting in a darkened corner of the tavern. His father had sat down across from him, glaring over several now empty bottles of fire-whiskey. He wasn’t moving except to pour himself another glass, and he had only spoke to the waiter since their arrival. He had not so much looked at Sirius since they left the Headmaster’s office. Sirius knew enough to fear the silence.
“What are we doing here?” Sirius managed.
“I want you to meet a few people.” His father’s drunken voice filled with sarcasm. “Just what the hell were you thinking? Gryffindor? As if you haven’t broken your mother’s heart enough times since the day you were born. But this? This was going too far.”
“I didn’t have anything to do with it!” he protested. “That damn hat decided where to put me, what was I supposed to do?”
“Not degrade yourself to the level of a filthy mudblood! It’s that no good uncle of yours, isn’t it? He’s filling your head with lies about purebloods being nothing special.”
“No, Father.” Sirius fidgeted in his seat uneasily, unwilling to betray his uncle but knowing lies had never come easy to him. He said the first thing that came to his mind. “I met this girl…”
“A girl?” Hollow laughter filled his father’s chest. “You’re telling me you were thinking about a girl when you put that stupid hat on? How dim-witted can you be?”
“I didn’t realize – “
“Perhaps it’s time we make you realize then,” his voice had a low menacing tone that made Sirius’ heart leap to his throat.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve taken the liberty of bringing some Slytherins to visit with you tonight. I believe you know Lucius, of course. He still has another year at school with you. The others, well, I’m certain their names won’t matter much to you.”
Sirius’ eyes searched the trio before him, knowing they intended to do him harm but unable to equate that with their demeanor. They all looked rather pleasant, as if their presence was nothing extraordinary. The Slytherin crests on their robes reminded Sirius that these should be his friends…his brothers. If he had only done something different, thought something more Slytherin-ish, he could have avoided this entire little lesson. Why was it so hard for him to just behave?
“I should warn you he is quite accomplished at non-verbal magic.”
“At such a young age?” Lucius smiled skeptically at Sirius.
“The talents of a pureblood, Lucius.” His father chuckled then his voice turned to stone. “Get on with it before you’re found off grounds.”
Sirius had prepared himself to shield any curse they sent him but the first crunching into his jaw sent him to his knees.
“Shield charms aren’t going to do you much good now, are they?” Lucius stood a pace behind the other two as Sirius struggled to his feet.
“Leave it to you to choose to fight like a Muggle.” He resisted the urge to wipe the blood flowing from his lip. I will not give my father another reason to doubt me, he thought silently.
The punches came harder each time – his face, his chest, his abdomen. With each blow, Sirius refused to cower under their greater strength.
“You are a persistent one, aren’t you?” Lucius pushed the other two aside as Sirius tried to stand once again. “You would’ve been a credit to Slytherin.”
Sirius wanted to disagree, to argue, to say anything but the words just wouldn’t come. They were right, weren’t they? He had betrayed them before he even knew them. They, just like his family, had every right to hate him.
A jolt of pain coursed through Sirius’ body and he writhed in pain. His eyes sought help from other customers but sometime in the midst of the fight they had all disappeared. The excruciating pain continued, his breath becoming more shallow with each convulsion.
“Lucius!” His father’s voice cracked above Sirius’ own screaming. “A lesson only!”
“Certainly, Mr. Black.”
Sirius’ pain diminished but he still couldn’t move. Every muscle in his body twitched as if an electrical current had surged through him. Where had they learned such magic?
His eyes glazed over as his father’s face swam into view. He had hoped to see a look of regret or remorse, but the cold gray steel of his father’s eyes held no such sentiment.
“Get him up. I do believe he’s messed himself.”
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