Chapter 1 : The Sorting of Students
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Good Night, Severus.
“Can I tell you a secret, Albus?” whispered Rose suddenly. She and Albus were watching the crowds standing on Platform 9 ¾ fade into the horizon as the Hogwarts Express sped away. “I don't... I don't want to be in Gryffindor,” she confided, almost a tad bit of shame coloring her words.
“Lucky,” Albus sighed wishfully. “My biggest fear is not being chosen for Gryffindor, and you're wanting to be in another house!” He shifted his gaze from the blurry countryside to Rose's crestfallen face, instantly finding the words to restore her confidence. “Which one, anyway?”
“You have to promise not to laugh!” she exclaimed seriously, looking into his eyes expectingly. Albus just as solemnly nodded his head to show her he could be trusted. “Okay. Ravenclaw...” The second word was barely audible, but he heard her clear enough.
“Rose! That would be perfect for you, seriously!” he nearly shouted. “Why is that a secret?”
“Look at our family, Albus,” Rose hissed. “Who has ever 'not' been in Gryffindor? Tell me one person. It would be the end of the world!”
The fears squirming in his stomach flared at her words. His dad had made him feel better about the Sorting, but now he was once again terrified. Would he be disowned? People would say he couldn't possibly be a Potter, not if he wasn't a Gryffindor!
“Oh, Rose,” groaned Albus fearfully, feeling as though losing his lunch wasn't out of the question. “Why did you have to say that?”
But Rose's mind was already miles away. “Oh no!” she yelled suddenly, startling several students behind her. “I never finished reading The Beginners Guide to Potioneering! And James said Professor Tavara gave his class a test on the first day... What a great way to show I'm good enough to be a Ravenclaw!” With no further words to Albus, she practically shoved the other students out of the way to find her luggage. They'd planned on finding a compartment together, but Albus found himself completely alone.
Compartment doors were being slammed shut all around him, clearly a warning for anyone left in the aisle to find somewhere else to go, but Albus finally found a partly empty room. Inside were two older students, one trying to sleep and the other writing a letter, and a fellow First Year who was clearly as pale and nervous as Albus.
As Albus entered, hoping for them to allow him to sit down, the boy writing the letter jumped to his feet pompously. For one terrifying moment Albus thought he was going to literally throw him from the compartment, only for the boy to announce, “Well, I must be off. Prefect duties and all...” Clearly dejected by the fact that no one cared, he hurried away without a second glance at Albus.
“You can sit here,” said the other First Year to Albus, who'd yet to speak. He gratefully took a seat beside him.
“I'm Albus,” he said at last to the other boy.
“My name's Sullivan O'Dale,” was the reply. He seemed to be extremely happy that formal introductions were out of the way. “Are you Albus 'Potter'?”
“Of course he is!” shouted the third member of the compartment suddenly, who up until then had appeared asleep. “How many Albuses do you know?” he ranted in an inexplicable rage. “I thought just maybe I'd get some sleep in here, but apparently not!” With that final exclamation he stormed out.
“Ignore him, please!” Sullivan muttered, mortified. His blond hair was so pale Albus thought he could see an embarrassed shade of pink shining through on his scalp. “That was just by brother, Quentin. The other git was Harold. He's my brother, too.”
Albus forced a laugh in an attempt to make Sullivan feel better. “It's okay, really. I have so many family members, and they're all psychotic in some way, believe me!”
The ridiculous outburst by Quentin actually helped the two boys become friends, as though that moment gave them a launching pad into other topics. They were so caught up in varying conversations that the train trip seemed to have ended far sooner that it should have, and they found themselves lining up for their Sorting before they could mentally prepare themselves. Sullivan, who ended up right in front of Albus, helped by babbling on and on in his own nervousness, but even that ceased when the line of First Years shuffled out into the Great Hall. Albus tried to take in the room's beauty, but Professor Longbottom called out Janet Ahrora's name, effectively wrenching Albus' attention back to him.
After fifteen agonizingly long minutes, Albus watched his new friend Sullivan being placed in Gryffindor, then heard his own name called out. He crossed the stage with footsteps that echoed in the silence, then slowly sat down on the creaky stool.
“It's okay, Al,” whispered Longbottom before the Sorting Hat settled down over his eyes, blocking out the entire world.
Please! Albus mentally shouted, just put me in Gryffindor and be done with it!
No need for such loud thinking, replied the Hat dryly. It sorted through his thoughts, memories, and emotions before saying to Albus, You'll make a fine wizard someday, of that I'm certain. But underneath all of your empathy is an underlying thirst to show everyone just how great you're going to be. Someone's trying to out do Dad, eh? There is a House that can help you. And that particular House is in need of a hero... The last word was shouted out loud for all the Hall to hear;
Albus sat in shocked silence along with the rest of the school. He was still silent when a cacophony of chaos erupted throughout the huge dining hall. The Slytherins were cheering and laughing excitedly, not for Albus, but the irony of the situation. Above the amazed Slytherins' loud voices were the angry protests from the Gryffindors. There was one voice in particular that Albus recognized as his brother's, James.
“No way!” he screamed furiously. He was only a Second Year, but was truly his father's son. Rules were mere stepping stones meant to be crushed along the path to whatever James wanted. “Change it!” he demanded loudly. “Now!”
Professor McGonagall was calling her school to order when the Hat, freshly plucked from Albus' head, suddenly shouted, “I will not change or defend my decision! The boy is a Slytherin!” That statement only served to whip the crowd into a louder frenzy.
McGonagall jabbed her wand into the air, causing a sound like thunder and a fiery explosion occurring simultaneously to silence the Great Hall. “Mr. Potter, please join your House for dinner,” was her first curt demand. “Everyone else, never, and I promise you I do mean never, repeat this behavior. I don't expect another sound to be made for the rest of the Sorting. Professor Longbottom, please continue.”
In a sort of shocked, disconnected way Albus strode toward the the Slytherin House's table, all too aware of the entire school staring him down, even though no one would ever dare testing McGonagall's threat. Albus found himself sitting across from Scorpius Malfoy , who was suspiciously grinning back at him. He sat there, insides squirming, oblivious to his surroundings, until he heard, “Weasley, Rose.”
His cousin followed the trail of thousands of students before her to the infamous stool. Longbottom placed the Hat on her head, and the whole school held its collective breath while wondering if there would be another surprise placement. The seconds stretched, but finally the old patched Hat announced that Rose was a, “GRYFFINDOR!”
The Gryffindor table managed to look ecstatic while remaining silent, but Albus was vaguely aware of Rose's stricken look. She went to sit with her House, and family, with an expression that was almost as miserable as his own.
The Sorting was finally over, thus dinner began. Albus mechanically reached for a baked potato, though he contained no desire to eat it. Over a heap of fried chicken, green beans, and rolls, Scorpius tried to talk to him. “This is great, you know? It really is. A Potter in Slytherin...”
“Yeah, it's just awesome!” snapped Albus angrily. The smirk on Scorpius' face never lessened, but he didn't try to begin another conversation.
After a single bite of potato for the entire feast, it was time to retire to their dormitories for the night. Albus followed his House forlornly, for the stunned shell that has barricaded him before had given away to pure despair. Just the thought of explaining to his parents what had happened brought prickly tears of shame to the corners of his eyes. It didn't matter what his father had said on the platform, it was his job to say such things. No Potter was ever meant to be in Slytherin.
Albus caught his new friend Sullivan staring from across the Hall. He threw his hand up into the air as a halfhearted wave, but Sullivan jerked his head back to the front and refused to look his way again. Feeling even worse, Albus became aware of someone standing to the left of the huge doors leading out into the Entrance Hall, looking beyond furious. James.
Every step brought him closer to someone he desperately wanted no confrontation with until he was standing directly beside him. “What did you do,” James growled as he snatched Albus out of the flow of students.
“Nothing, I swear!” Albus pleaded with his brother to just believe him. “It was the Hat!” He stared innocently into James' face, which had yet to lighten up. “Come on, James! Do you think I told the Hat to put me in Slytherin?”
“Don't act so helpless!” James shouted into Albus' face. He'd never seen his brother so angry.
“Why are you so mad? I didn't do anything!” Albus moaned, trying to reason with his brother, but James look beyond that.
“You betrayed us! Your whole family! Think about the future, Albus! You'll always be known as the one that stuck out. Now the Potters and Weasleys have something to actually be ashamed of, after all those years of building our reputations! I don't have anything else to say to you.”
As James merged in with the last of the students, Albus mumbled, “Good night to you, too, James.” His own brother's reply summed up the entire evening's events and hurt him more than he would have ever thought possible.
((A/N: Okay, so you know us authors thrive on reviews, so if you read it, just let me know what you thought. I'll even take 'It sucked!'. I hope you don't think so, but hey, it's a review :) Oh, and also, if you see any words such as 'word' in the story, that was supposed to be a reminder for me to italicize, and I just missed it.))
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