The kids around him were nervous. He saw it in their faces, their shaking hands, heard it in the nervous giggling. He was nervous too, and slightly apprehensive. But he didn't let it show. No, that's not how he had been raised, and although he had started to doubt whether everything his parents preached was the ultimate truth, he still was one of them. You didn't just leave all that behind, if it had been drilled into you for 11 years. For he was the family heir, and as that he couldn't show emotions, be it good or bad. He'd never been good with that rule; it just went against his very nature. But here, it seemed, he was one of the most collected of the haphazard group of first years. Nevertheless, he thought wryly, Walburga Black would still find fault with him; and if it was the mere fact that he was standing next to James Potter. Of course he'd stumbled across that name when he had to memorise pureblood family trees at the age of seven, but the Potters were considered much too liberal and Muggle-friendly.
He knew he should have stepped away from the other boy as soon as he had heard his name, but he found he was much too intrigued to do that. It had the thrill of the forbidden, and he had actually enjoyed his company during the train ride. Could it really be that wrong to befriend the boy?
James also seemed to be one of the few who were looking forward to the Sorting. Well, Sirius thought, James was so sure he'd be in Gryffindor. He supressed a sigh. If family played a role in the Hat's decision, he knew exactly where he would end up, and his eyes automatically strayed over to the table with students clad in green and silver. Both Narcissa and Andromeda sat there, watching him with eagle's eyes. He didn't overly care for Narcissa, she deemed herself too old for him and kept to her friends and her betrothed, but Andromeda's eyes held sympathy. At least there would be one face he was looking forward to, everyone else were sons and daughters of pureblood families he had meet at various family functions, and according to his parents philosophy, none of them came from a family as old and pure as the Blacks anyway which he had also been reminded of.
He felt a nudge in his side, and saw James pointing towards McGonagall who held out the Sorting Hat for him. Now he felt like blushing after all, his mother's rules were all well and good, but sometimes, it just couldn't be helped that one slipped at some point. Drawing himself up to his full height, he sauntered towards the rickety stool and took place. Immediately, the Sorting Hat obscured his vision, and he could hear a clear voice, speaking to him. 'Ah Mr Black! The first male in this generation, am I right? That would make you the much-treasured heir, wouldn't it? An easy sort, I'd say, but oh! You seem quite complex, my boy! What to do? Talent and wit, quick on the uptake, it cancels out your cunning and ambition. Ravenclaw would seem an alternative.' Ravenclaw? Mother's going to have a fit, Sirius thought derisively. 'No, I agree, you don't have scholarly ambition, way too lazy.' That's right, Sirius thought back, you already know where to put me. He felt a smidgen of regret as he thought back to the conversation on the train and the budding friendship with James Potter; he'd felt drawn to him and as if he was abandoning him after they'd had such a good start. 'What is this? Is this loyalty I see from you to someone you've barely met? Did I see wistfulness in your thoughts when you discussed houses with that other boy? You certainly have a recklessness about you, and a passionate streak that is much darker in others of your kin. Barely accessed courage that might just be necessary if I send you down that path. No, Slytherin is not for you, I'm afraid. It has to be …'
"Gryffindor!" As the word sounded through the Great Hall before Sirius had the chance to even form a thought to contradict. He was stunned into motionlessness as he processed the verdict. Gryffindor? He could as well have made his will. The dry thought brought him out of his stupor, and as his upbringing kicked in, he lifted his head high, dropped the Hat back on the stool, nodded to a incredulous-looking McGonagall, and skipped over to table he assumed to be the Gryffindor one. Concentrating on the skipping and not to drip helped him cover the distance and blend out the absolute stillness of the Great Hall. Someone started clapping, and he thought he heard James whopping. He joined in out of pure shock, before plopping himself down at the near end of the table. More applause followed, and hissing from the Slytherin table. He exhaled heavily, barely registering anything else as he tried to wrap his mind around what had just happened. His family would be furious. Or would they? It was just a house, after all. He silenced the treacherous voice in his head that told him he'd been punished for less severe 'offences', choosing to believe that they loved him more than their prejudices. I'll see. Nothing can be done now, anyway.
Andromeda caught his eye, a strange fond gleam in hers. No, if they care for me, they won't leave me. And having James around, there won't be that stilted politeness and showing-off and no need for blank masks. Nothing but fun. At this, his mood brightened. Whatever his family would throw at him – he still clung to the hope they would understand – he felt the oppressiveness of his childhood sink away, making way to fun and adventure-filled seven years at Hogwarts.
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