Chapter 1 : A Lion Amongst Snakes
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The shivering children shambled into the vast Entrance Hall, welcoming the warmth with a burst of chatter, as if the cold outside had constricted their vocal cords. There was but one subject among them at the moment, the one Regulus was now so worried about. Though on the train and the boats he had been among the most talkative of the group, and even outside waiting he had been whispering to anyone who would listen about his new broom, Regulus was struck by silence. While others were talking about which house they would like to be in and wondering whether or not they would have to duel a troll, the youngest Black stood stiffly among them, staring wide eyed at the two doors that he would soon be walking through, unsure of what lay there waiting for him.
Though the crowd hushed when a strict-looking woman with a tight, black bun began addressing them, Regulus did not listen. He thought of Sirius and what he had said to him on the train. “You don’t have to be in Slytherin just because they want you to be, Reg. The Hat sorts on personality, not on the wishes of some elitist prudes.” It was only now that Regulus considered this. Even before his older brother turned eleven, it had been widely agreed that both Regulus and Sirius would be in Slytherin, just like the previous generations of Black children. When Sirius had not, his parents were furious. Regulus wondered fearfully what would happen if he followed in his brother’s footsteps. Was he really a Slytherin at heart, or something else?
“Form a line and follow me,” came the sharp voice of the woman with the bun.
More worried than he had ever been previously in his life, Regulus joined the line behind a tall girl with red hair and followed timidly with his eyes fixed on his feet.
Regulus glanced up as he entered the Great Hall, noting that everyone was staring at them as they passed. Some of them actually looked directly at him before turning to the person next to them to mutter something about his identity. He swallowed. Were they expecting him to join his brother? Uncertain, he trundled up the aisle in the middle of the hall, returning his attention to his feet once more.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, they reached the front of the Hall and assembled around a stool on top of which perched a filthy, patched hat. He heard his classmates emit sighs of relief as they realised that they did not have to face a troll. The sight of the hat did nothing for Regulus’ unsettled stomach, however. He had known that it would be a hat, the Sorting Hat, which would decide the house he would be placed in, but Regulus didn’t know what he would hear when he put it on, nor of what he wanted to hear.
The Hat cleared it’s throat, though it had none, and out of a rip near the brim came a song. Everyone in the Hall seemed to be listening to it, the majority of them merely entertained by it. Down at the front of the Hall, though, the first years were listening with earnest.
When the Hat began to describe the houses, Regulus became tenser. The Gryffindors were daring and brave at heart, while the Hufflepuffs loyal and true; Slytherins were cunning and ambitious and Ravenclaws, clever and had ready minds. Though he tried, Regulus could not decide which description best suited him and concluded miserably that he might as well see if the Hogwarts Express had left for London yet. The Hat would surely tell him that he was too cowardly, ingenuine, naive or stupid for any of the houses.
The end of the song was met with a great eruption of applause from all five tables and a rather half-hearted clapping from the first years. The first student (“Ainsworth, Eliza!”) was called up to sit on the stool and after a few moments the hat shouted, “RAVENCLAW!” The girl hurried off to the appropriate table met by cheers from the house in question. Regulus’ name would be called soon.
Oh no, he thought as a Archer, Wendell was sorted into Slytherin. He didn’t want to do this, especially not with so many people watching him. He remembered what Sirius had told him, but then recalled his mother telling him on Platform 9 ¾ that if were to pull a stunt like his brother he would be disowned immediately. Despite the harshness of this statement, Regulus did not put it past his mother to do exactly that.
No, not yet, not now. I’m not ready for this.
Regulus stared at the Hat, considering his options, before realising that he had only one. He took a deep breath and stepped forward. As the Hat was lowered onto his head, his eyes found his brother at the Gryffindor table surrounded by three people who were all grinning at him. His brother was grinning the widest and was also waving. The next thing he knew he was staring at the dark inside of the Hat.
“Ah, another Black!” exclaimed a voice that could only belong to the Hat. “And you are the brother of Sirius?”
Yes, Regulus thought, wondering if he sounded frightened.
“Hm, yes, I should have known. You and your brother are remarkably alike, you know.”
How so? he replied curiously, half-happy, half-hesitant.
“You share the same heart; brave, determined and just. You would do well in Gryffindor, Mr Black.”
“Oh yes! You sound surprised, very surprised. Undoubtedly you have been told that you should be in Slytherin.”
My mother said she would disown me if I wasn’t.
“Ah, I regret to say that this is common among proud, pureblood families. Though you do have the ambition and blood prized by Salazar Slytherin, you would do much better in Gryffindor or even Hufflepuff!”
My parents want me to be in Slytherin.
“But do you?”
Regulus had never been asked if he wanted to be in Slytherin or not, not even by Sirius. Everyone had just assumed that he wanted to be and would be in Slytherin, except for Sirius who thought he wanted to be in Gryffindor with him. As such, this question startled him. He thought about this and the Hat did not disturb him. If he was honest with himself, he wanted to be in Gryffindor. Sirius was there, his older brother who believed in him and didn’t hate him just because he was expected to be the son Sirius certainly wasn’t. But what would his parents say? He, as he was constantly reminded by Sirius, was there last hope. Though Sirius often said this with a spiteful laugh, Regulus knew this was true. He wanted to make Sirius proud, but he also didn't want to disappoint his parents. If all the things the Hat was saying were true, though, then it was clear that he should be in Gryffindor. He debated with himself. His parents or Sirius? Slytherin or Gryffindor? The honest answer was no, he did not want to be in Slytherin.
Yes, I want to be in Slytherin, Regulus lied, knowing full well that the Hat would not be fooled.
“Oh, but you even said it yourself that you wanted to be in Gryffindor with your brother! And I whole-heartedly agree.”
Put me in Slytherin.
“Even though you obviously belong in Gryffindor?”
Put me in Slytherin.
“No, no, you would do much better in Gryffindor, it’s all here in your head – and your heart, your brave, valiant heart.”
I can only be in Slytherin.
“Well if you’re so sure... better be SLYTHERIN!” said the Hat, shouting the last word. “You will regret this, you know,” it added quietly, but before he could reply the Hat was slipped off of his head. As he was ushered off the stool to roaring applause and cheers from the Slytherin table, he wondered if telling the Hat to put him in Slytherin was a mistake. All his relatives, aside from Sirius, had been there so surely he had made the right decision. But as he went to join his housemates, he looked over his shoulder at his brother. He was staring at his plate with a defeated look marring his usually jubilant face. Regulus’ gaze, once more, dropped to his feet and he realised that the Hat was right. He would regret it, he did regret it. After all, lions were never meant to live amongst snakes.
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