I don't believe you know me, although you know my name
I don't believe the faults I have are only mine to blame
I don't believe that magic is only in the mind
I don't believe I'd love somebody just to pass the time I Believe In You – Kylie Minogue
As they’d agreed during the week, Araminta Apparated into Gideon’s flat on Saturday morning. Common courtesy might declare Apparating directly into someone’s premises the height of rudeness, but he’d practically ordered her to do so, having grown ridiculously paranoid about her safety in the past week. She knew it was because he cared about her, but it was beginning to get slightly stifling, possibly because she wasn’t used to having someone worry so much about her.
She had – on the surface – been irritated with him when he’d dropped by her cubicle in the week to tell her that he had arranged with Dumbledore for her to try on the Sorting Hat.
“And it has to be this Saturday,” he’d pointed out, “because the new term starts on Sunday and we can’t really turn up at Hogwarts when it’s full of students.”
Possibly, her irritation had been slightly unfair. In reality, it had been borne from embarrassment that he had gone to Dumbledore with such a request, especially when she had specifically asked him not to.
But mostly, she was touched that he’d gone to such lengths for her. She couldn’t deny that she was curious about what she’d find out about herself, but she really hadn’t thought it that important. That he had thought it important enough to ask Dumbledore if they could visit Hogwarts, meant a lot to her.
He was just finishing his breakfast in his small kitchen when she arrived. She wasn’t really sure that she liked this flat. She hadn’t spent much time at his previous one, but it had felt more like his home than this. It was as though he’d given up on making his residences homely, as though he anticipated having to move again, and didn’t see a point in making his flat comfortable to live in. The thought saddened her.
It took him a moment to notice her.
“Dragon keeper,” she said lazily before he could get the question out. “Should I ask you for your Chocolate Frog card history?”
He grinned, the reaction enough to confirm to her that it was him.
“I’ve still got loads of Agrippas if you want one, you know.”
She pulled a face.
“I think they produced twice as many of him as anyone else; I have loads from when I collected them. I never had anyone to swap with, either...”
“That must have been awful, having to resort to buying more Chocolate Frogs just to get the cards you were missing.”
“I can’t say I’m too fond of them now,” she admitted.
“Blasphemy.” He shook his head. “Do you want anything to eat, by the way, or have you already eaten?”
“I’m good, thanks.” She didn’t want to hover here too long. Part of her was growing nervous, and wanted to get the visit over and done with as quickly as possible.
She wasn’t sure if Gideon had picked up on this, or whether he merely sought to be away from his flat, but he didn’t seem keen to hesitate any longer than necessary.
They Apparated to Hogsmeade, which was almost entirely deserted, a sign of the fear amongst people of the threat which the Dark Lord posed. It was a far cry from the bustling crowd which had descended upon it only two months previously, for Fabian and Marlene’s wedding. That was a sobering thought in itself, that Fabian was already a widower only weeks after getting married.
They walked up to the school gates in a companionable silence. Araminta was glad for this, as she wasn’t really in the mood for a deep and meaningful conversation, and they were far past the point of small talk.
At the gates, Gideon conjured a Patronus; a fox, which dashed off up the grounds.
“I wish I could conjure a Patronus...” she said wistfully.
He looked at her, frowning.
“Can you not?”
She shook her head, avoiding his gaze.
“Of course not,” she said. “I was never taught to. Why would I have been? I don’t think the Dark Lord can conjure one. I doubt I’d be able to-”
“Why on earth not?” he cut in sharply.
“From what I understand of patronuses, you have to be able to feel happiness, and love, and...”
“And you think you can’t?”
“I-” She hesitated. “I don’t know. I’ve never even tried it before. I don’t know if I even have a memory strong enough to conjure one...”
She was relieved when the gamekeeper, Hagrid, appeared at the gates, cutting their awkward conversation short. He tried to engage Gideon in friendly conversation as they walked through the grounds, but Gideon seemed lost in his thoughts, and so Hagrid soon gave up and trudged back to his hut.
Araminta was grateful to pass through the school more slowly, enabling her to halt in the doorway to the Great Hall and take it in properly for a moment. They reached the gargoyle on the Seventh floor which led to Dumbledore’s office, and Gideon said “Acid Pops.”
She looked at him oddly as the gargoyle leapt aside.
“How did you know that?”
“He told me the other day. He’s not here at the moment, apparently. Says he’ll be back tomorrow. He’s trusting us to behave, so don’t go letting me down. After you.”
He gestured towards the staircase, and she stepped forwards onto it; he followed her.
She still found herself in awe of Dumbledore’s office upon her second visit, and allowed herself to get distracted by the various instruments in it. Gideon, on the other hand, barely glanced at them, instead heading straight to the shelf behind the desk which the tatty Sorting Hat sat on.
“Come on, then,” he said cheerily. “You can be a rebel, and sit in Dumbledore’s seat, if you want.”
She smiled slightly, crossing the office in trepidation. She sat down gingerly and let him put the Hat onto her head, feeling like a bit of a fool.
“No need to worry, my dear, most people look rather fetching when wearing me.”
She jumped at the voice in her ear.
“Now then, I don’t remember you from any Sorting I’ve done ... did you not attend Hogwarts? No, I see now, you were homeschooled ... and I suppose you want to know where I’d Sort you? Well ... this is difficult, any twenty-two year old is going to have a complex mind, and yours is especially so. Where to start ... yes, I see courage there, immense courage, and a great deal of nerve. You have a clever mind, but to be wise one has to be more than just smart, so I don’t think you would belong in Ravenclaw. I see great ambition there, and a willingness to do near enough anything to achieve those ambitions ... yes, there is cunning there, you would have done well in Slytherin...”
She shuddered slightly.
“But you have shown great bravery and self-sacrifice in your life, so if I had to Sort you today, I would most definitely place you in Gryffindor.”
She could not prevent the smile from spreading across her face.
“However,” he continued – her heart sank – “as I have said, a twenty-two year old mind is complex, very complex ... much more developed than an eleven year old mind, more mature. It therefore does not necessarily follow that I would have put you there eleven years ago. It may be difficult to decipher what attributes you have always had, and which you have developed ... your bravery has emerged recently, very recently, strong emotion can do that, along with a desperate need to achieve something ... which takes us back to your Slytherin attributes. Those are much more entrenched ... yes, I think that you would have been placed in Slytherin if I had Sorted you at eleven.”
Her shoulders drooped, as she was told exactly what she hadn’t wanted to hear. After all she had done, and with the amount she hated the Dark Lord and his aims, she was still placed in Slytherin?
“My dear, you listen to the prejudiced too much, and look upon the belittled house that is Slytherin with a closed mind. Being a Slytherin is nothing to be ashamed of. As I have said, courage and ambition, Gryffindor and Slytherin, are so often, as you yourself show, so tightly woven together that it is near impossible to separate them. Each one drives the other one on. Indeed, you would not be you without that cunning and ambition. It is a common misconception, sadly started unintentionally by Salazar Slytherin himself, that all Slytherins must be Dark witches and wizards with anti-Muggle sentiments. It is, like the others, a mighty house, one to be proud of. Just because you would have made a good Slytherin does not mean that you cannot go on to become a great witch, fighting on the side of the light. Indeed, without that cunning, you would not be able to do your job at all, and so it really is nothing to be ashamed of. You must remember that, and embrace your Slytherin side, for it is what makes you who you are.”
She frowned, as the Hat’s words sunk in. It was true, she had only heard bad things of Slytherin house, from the Prewetts and Sirius amongst others, and they, though wonderful people, all had the ability to be very close-minded.
She knew, she realised as the thought sunk in, that Slytherins could be good; was Snape not an example? Had she not seen his thoughts, accidentally, that split second the other month when he’d let his guard drop? Hadn’t he proved his true loyalties by alerting Dumbledore when she’d told him the Dark Lord had found out Gideon’s address?
“Severus Snape was a very interesting character to Sort,” the Hat supplied, listening to her thoughts. “I expected great things to come from him; he had a thirst to prove himself to those who doubted him. I see this in you, too. But first and foremost, you must believe in yourself.”
She removed the Hat before it could say anything else.
“All done?” Gideon smiled at her, a smile which she couldn’t return. “I might try it on, see what it has to say about me.”
She nodded, and handed the Hat to him as she got to her feet. He didn’t bother to sit down as he pulled it on. She held back a scowl at the sight of him wearing the Hat; ‘fetching’ wouldn’t be the word she’d have used. Bastard material, she thought to herself as she turned away and headed back to the curious instruments, trying to distract herself from what the Hat had just told her.
Gideon didn’t spend too long with the Hat.
“Ready to go?” he said after a minute or two. She looked up and saw him replacing the Hat on the shelf. She didn’t reply, but merely turned on her heel and headed for the door, sensing him following her.
“What’s your verdict then?” he asked her as they reached the bottom of the staircase, the gargoyle leaping back into place behind them.
“Not here,” she murmured.
She felt his confused gaze on her, but said nothing more as they left the castle and its grounds.
“You coming back to mine for a bit?” he asked gently as the school gates closed behind them.
She nodded, and then Disapparated.
He Apparated into his flat moments after she did. He opened his mouth to speak, but she got there before him.
“What did it say about you?”
“Oh, Gryffindor.” He frowned slightly.
“You’re not disappointed, are you?”
“Course not! I was half-hoping for something different though, to show that I’m no longer my eleven year old self, I guess. But then, Gryffindor’s where I belong, and I’d have been disappointed if it had said I no longer did ... I can’t have my cake and eat it, can I? But it did say that there’s less Ravenclaw in me now than there was. Apparently I’m not as wise as I was. I don’t quite understand that-”
“Being wise isn’t just being knowledgeable when it comes to wielding a wand,” she supplied, having understood the Hat fully when it had made the same remark to her. “To be wise, you have to be able to judge people without prejudice, to be able to come to the right decision without being rash or assuming things. I guess you – and I – are guilty of all of those things. No, I know you are.”
He scowled slightly.
“But I guess the war has changed you, like it has everyone,” she added. “Sometimes you have to be rash; sometimes you don’t have the time to think things over.”
“I guess...” He tailed off. “Still,” he continued brightly, “least he didn’t tell me Hufflepuff, now that would have been depressing-”
She laughed hollowly.
“There again with your prejudice. I’d have done anything to have been told Hufflepuff.”
He frowned again.
“I’m lost on both counts,” he said. “Why Hufflepuff? And what did the Hat say to you, anyway?”
“Hufflepuff’s trait is loyalty, right?”
She didn’t have to say any more; he nodded in understanding straight away, and opened his mouth to speak.
“It didn’t even mention loyalty,” she continued bitterly. “Knowledge, yes – but not wise enough for Ravenclaw – bravery and courage enough to make me a Gryffindor now, the cunning and ambition to make a First Year me a Slytherin, but no sodding LOYALTY!” She punched the wall, furious with both herself and the Hat. “And then,” she continued, pulling her throbbing fist to her chest – definitely no wisdom – “you have to go and criticise the one house I wanted, because you think that being true to one’s self just makes you a duffer-”
She sank to the floor, fighting back tears.
“Hey,” he said gently, sitting down beside her and wrapping an arm round her shoulders. “Where’s all this anger come from? And ... do you think that we don’t think you’re loyal?”
“I’ve been trained by the Dark Lord. He took me under his wing, I was his protégée, I should be grateful for all he’s done for me. But instead, I turn against him, to fight alongside the people I was fighting against ... where’s the loyalty there? It’s fickleness, that’s what it is-”
“How can you even begin to think that?” He pulled her tighter into his side, taking her bruised hand in his and stroking the knuckles gently. “Araminta, you’re one of the most loyal people I know, and your ability to change sides just emphasises that. Surely, only true loyalty to a cause can lead to you joining the Order? Because that’s certainly what I see it as-”
“You didn’t at first.”
“I’m a prejudiced dick, we’ve already established this.”
“You’re only saying this because it’s me, and I have a strange affinity with your mattress. If it were anyone else-”
“I’d be saying the same thing to them now.”
“Even my husband?”
His arm stiffened.
“There we go. You were never shagging him, you’d never have considered it, so therefore you wouldn’t have-”
“No, that’s not why.” His voice was sharp, forceful. “It’s because he genuinely meant what he did-”
“I thought I did-”
“You were brainwashed-”
“So was he!” She glared at him, breathing heavily. “We’ve all been! The only reason, the only reason why you, and James, and Marlene, and all the other purebloods in the Order, don’t believe in pureblood supremacy, is because your parents didn’t. Us? We were brought up to believe the exact opposite-”
“For a start, never refer to yourself as one of the Death Eaters. You’re not one of them. Secondly, upbringing isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to beliefs. You ought to know that. Take Sirius. Exactly the same upbringing as all of the others in nutjob families, and yet everyone knows where he stands. Against them. Because he had the humanity to recognise that it’s wrong. You? You’re the same. You had the-”
“I only changed sides when I found out about my parents’ deaths. You were right all along. I just fight the people I believe are responsible. That’s what’s changed, that’s all-”
“You were arguing the exact opposite to me not four weeks ago.” Gideon raised an eyebrow. “Do you honestly believe that’s the only reason you switched sides? After everything you’ve argued, everything you’ve admitted, after acknowledging your reluctance began long before you found out about your parents, do you honestly doubt yourself that much? Do you honestly think you don’t have the capability to change sides, or that changing makes you a weaker person, who doesn’t know who she stands for? Because that’s a load of bollocks, and you know it.” He paused, frowning slightly. “Or are you purely in this for revenge? Because if that’s what’s driving you, then great. It’s part of what keeps me going, so I’d be a hypocrite to tell you otherwise. But if that is all it’s about, and you’ve been having us all on-”
“I don’t know!” She turned away from his gaze, and buried her head in his chest. “I thought I knew what I was doing, why I was fighting, but now ... the Hat says I’m not loyal-”
“Did it say you weren’t, or did it just not say you were?”
She frowned into his chest.
“They’re the same thing-”
“No. Really, they’re not. It didn’t mention loyalty to me, are you going to tell me I’m not? Because I’d like to think I am-”
“You’re loyal to a fault.”
“Well, there you go then.” He paused. “If all of this worry is just because of the Hat...”
“I don’t know.” She sighed. “I don’t do emotion. I’m either happy or sad, that’s as far as it should go. It’s as far as I want to comprehend. I don’t want this love bollocks, or anything else, to come into it, because then I have to try to understand it, and I don’t get it-”
“Nobody does.” He stroked her hair a few times. “That’s half the joy of it. If everyone understood love, we wouldn’t be fighting, and we wouldn’t be here debating it. Look. Let’s simplify things. Do you think that Muggleborns and Muggles are below purebloods?”
“Do you think killing them is right?”
“Well, that’s good enough for me.”
She pulled her head up, looking up at him.
“You don’t mean that.”
“I bloody well do.”
He leant down and planted a soft kiss on her lips.
“I believe in you. I don’t give a damn about what a scrap of fabric thinks. I don’t give a damn how many Dark Marks you have, how many times you’ve used the Cruciatus, how many Death Eaters you know, how many spells you’ve learned from Voldemort. You’re one of the most loyal people I know, and I think you’d have made a fine Hufflepuff. I’d trust you with my life, and I sure as hell know that I’d die for you. What does it matter what other people think? I believe in you, Araminta Gamp, and I’ll never stop.”