Chapter 2 : Changing the World One House at a Time (Next-Gen / OC)
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Character: Gasp Wattle (OC)
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Drinking Humour, Annoyingly Awesome OC
The year I made my grand entrance into the celebrated Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was indeed most memorable. It was the year when, it seems, the Plump Goddess who eternally imposed over the Natural Order of Things decided to attend the Annual Deities' Banquet and get completely smoshed before colliding drunkenly into the Wheel of Fortune, and… well, it doesn't take too much of an imagination to guess what happened next.
The Sorting Ceremony started well enough, with the nice albeit intimidated-looking folk sorted into Hearty Hufflepuff, the foolhardy redheads into the Brave House of Gryffindor and all the bespectacled little children with their hair slicked back into Ravenclaw, home to the Witty. But, as all stories involving drunken Fates, it wasn't long before everything went to the dogs (as my kind would have it).
Albus Severus Potter, wee son of the Gryffindor Legend that was Harry Potter (not to mention the famed Bogey-Hex wonder, Ginevra Weasley), ascended the steps to the stool as all eyes in the Great Hall widened in anticipation. The Sorting Hat sure did take its time, but as soon as it opened its mouth, everyone expected a loud and hearty, "GRYFFINDOR!" Needless to say, Inebriated Fate had something else in store for the poor bugger. As wise as the old and haughty Hat was, even he seemed completely confused as the word "Slytherin" crawled out of its makeshift mouth. The Great Hall fell completely silent, and the pale Albus Potter stumbled his way to his designated table, a lot greener and less red than he had hoped for, I'm guessing.
That was only the beginning. I had only heard of the Malfoy name once when I was reading up on Hogwarts after I had received my Letter of Admission, and the things I had read did not (to put it lightly) shed a particularly good light on the family. So, when the infamed platinum blonde Scorpius Malfoy sat down and embraced his fate, I suppose it came as a shock to everyone (including me, and especially Malfoy himself) when the Sorting Hat seemed to announce unwillingly that Malfoy had been sorted into the Red House of Gryffindor - surely, a first in the Malfoy genealogy.
Molly and Rose Weasley shared a similar fate as they were parted from the Gryffindor Legacy the entire Weasley family had procured, and split their paths for good (well... House-wise); the former into Ravenclaw, and the latter into Hufflepuff. Two years down the line, they would both laugh at the irony of this, as Rose was the one who had inherited the brains from her famous mother, Hermione Weasley (apparently the cleverest witch of her age, although I'm sure it's much debatable), while Molly was as soft and buttery as a Pygmy Puff.
Gregory Goyle the Second, whose father I heard had been an ex-Death Eater and not exactly the brightest bulb in the cabinet (if you know what I mean), was promptly sorted into Ravenclaw, and Alice Hannah Longbottom bore only the slightest connection to her enivironmental father, Professor Longbottom of Herbology, in that she was sorted into a Green House (Slytherin, of course).
So, when I, Gasp Wattle, an enthusiastic, intelligent eleven year old and as artsy as theatre-folk come, was called out (the transitory moment that I had been waiting for the moment I realised I was a wizard ruined by the fact that everybody seemed to be tapping their plates), I knew something was afoot. I sat down on the three-legged stool nonetheless, stayed stark still as the hat slowly reached my head. By this time, it seemed the Sorting Hat didn't even bother. It let out a mighty sigh before wearily muttering, "Slytherin." And that was that.
At first, I thought it was a mistake; it must have been! But (although I stand firmly alongside my idea that the Forces of Nature were intoxicated beyond functionality that year) now it seems kismet for a muggleborn such as myself to have been thrust into the house with the longest standing statistics of pure-blooded students (0.999, with myself being the lone 0.001). Slytherin, the house of supposed backstabbing cheaters and bigoted Fascists - a strong yet false reputation initiated by Salazar himself, the zealous namesake, and unnecessarily inflamed out of proportion by the self-professed Dark Lord and the whole Death Eater phenomenon.
I guess, in a way, I've been chosen - in a very different way to the Almighty Chosen One, Harry Potter (unfortunately, no crystal ball filled with spectacular prophecies for me, but still... I have better hair). I believe I'm chosen to rectify centuries' worth of damage to the lopsided reputation of the Slytherin House. After all, we did only begin as the House of Ambition, and Ambition alone isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I, Gasp Wattle, Captain of the Wizarding Chess Association, founder of the Notorious Duelling Club, Secretary and full-time Director of the Hogwarts Theatre Company and passionately professing member of the Aeronautical and Science Foundation, at the mere age of fifteen and three quarters, have been chosen (albeit by bad Fate and drunken Fortune) to broaden your mind and set the record straight.
Undoubtedly, a lot of things have changed since I stepped foot into the most prestigious wizarding school north of the equator (which is only challenged by some crackpot, all-brawn-no-brains school named Durmstrang, whose ego-driven self-titling tendencies I doubt will ever be able to upstage Hogwarts' repute). And this story begins where it has begun in many cases of change: the Headmistress' Office.
The ancient and ever-sagely Professor McGonagall was seated before me, across her impeccable Mahogany desk, fingers steepled under her chin. Admittedly, her whole countenance was mightily impressive, and (from personal experience) quite urine-inducingly terrifying. But it's been a long time since I first sat in her office and given how often I've been in this very selfsame situation, we've become familiar enough with one another.
"How may I help you today, Mr. Wattle?" she asked. This was customary.
"You see, Professor, I've been here for four and a half years, and I think you would agree that there have been many adjustments I have pioneered (with the help of enthusiastic colleagues, professors and yourself of course) in that short span of time."
"Of course," she agreed, "The Chess Association, your science foundation (although I still feel I do not quite grasp the concept of it), your delightfully innovative theatre company, and many others you and I both know and approve to be beneficial to the school."
"Yes, if I do say so myself, I believe my muggle upbringing and Slytherin ambition have joined arms to make a wonderful contribution to this equally wonderful academy. However, there is still one thing I am dissatisfied with."
By this time, the professor knew where I was heading, but she gestured for me to continue. "Pray tell, what would that be?"
"You see, despite my conspicuous heritage, the presence of numerous progeny of well-intending folk, such as the Order of the Phoenix, within the Slytherin House, and the many contributions we have made to the school system, still the stereotype survives... Thrives, even. I guess that would be the negative aspect of a legacy. The point is, I can't help but feel that it's a little unjust that in spite of the fact that we've proven othrwise time and time again, the rest of the school is intent on regarding us in a light similar to that of criminals and traitors."
"Surely that's an exaggeration - "
"Excuse me, Professor McGonagall," I interrupted politely, "but when have you ever know me to exaggerate?." She muttered an affirmative and welcomed me to carry on with a gentle nod of her head.
"My attempts to bridge that ever-persistent gap between the houses have been thwarted through and through, whether due to house rivalry, bitterness over who won the last Quidditch match or some nonsensical, domestic debate about whom some boy gave "that charming smile" to... Do you understand, Professor?"
"Well... Admittedly, that last event was an absolute debacle."
I remembered that fiasco. What was meant to be a pleasant and exhilirating gala turned into an each-house-for-itself battleground. Needless to say, when the consequences included a packed Hospital Wing, a hundred angry students and the cancellation of the annual Dance and Banquet (which had only become tradition on my suggestion), the house that was sponsoring the gala was the one to be blamed for it all. Of course, Slytherin had little to do with the function at all as it was my undertaking, but still, guilty by association in the mind of the mob.
"You must admit, Professor we're killing our reputation here. Even the knuckleheads (pardon my language) at Durmstrang are emitting a healthier mindset to one another than any of the students here.
Professor McGonagall sighed. I didn't need a clearer sign to say that she took everything I said to the affirmative. "And I suppose you have a proposition."
The finality made me smile.
"As always, I do. You won't like it. But I guarantee it will work."
"I'm listening, Mr. Wattle."
I sat at my usual spot in the Great Hall; it was close to the front, right by the wall, which held optimum reception of all that happened in the Great Hall. It was also the spot the dear Baron frequented the least, which avoided that dreaded shivery sensation upon touching a ghost. I clapped politely as Professor McGonagall stood up to address the students and announce what we had discussed in the privacy of her office, and later with the rest of the staff.
Strangely enough, I was nervous. The attempts I had made before, those foiled expositions, galas, soirees and such, were all rather minor endeavours with minimal collateral damage. If this ship went down, there was a distinct possibility that the whole school would go down with it and Lord only knew what consequences awaited me at the end of that tunnel.
"In the light of recent events and the general ethos of the school, a decision has been made by the staff and myself as Headmistress of Hogwarts. The amount of discord between the houses is more than dissatisfactory to the name Hogwarts has made for itself, and we have been seeking the most opportune moment to intervene. Albeit, this may not be such a moment, but the urgency of the situation has called for immediate remedy. I will call upon Mr. Gasp Wattle, whom you all know as a fellow pupil, who has offered a unique solution to this problem."
I stood up from my seat and walked briskly onto the pedestal. Professor McGonagall tapped my shoulder and gave me a stern nod as she resumed her seat; suddenly all eyes turned to me, from the staff (half of whom still disagreed with my proposition) as well as the whole student body, who looked like they were ready to either listen to what I had to say, or persecute me for what I was about to do next.
I cleared my throat, a thin layer of sweat accumulating on my forehead, and was suddenly grateful for the amount of theatre and performance my parents had urged me to do during the summer holiday. I looked down at my speech cards, which had all the appropriate keywords written down… Suddenly, my hands seemed to work of their own accord as they stashed the cards away; my mouth followed suit, completely ditching the rehearsed speech.
"When I first came to Hogwarts," I started, "I had never felt prouder and more determined. I had just heard that I was a wizard, and the prospect of studying all those magical subjects - arithmancy, transfiguration, ancient runes; for Merlin's sake, Quidditch - I couldn't believe it was happening. I was happy and all the opportunities were open to me. And then I was sorted into Slytherin; I was still happy. What did it matter what house anyone was in? The House of Ambition and Determination? That sounded like me - you've all seen the chess club, you've seen the Shakespearean plays the Theatre Company has performed, the Science fair that the Aeronautical and Science Foundation puts on evey year, the duelling festivals… Sure, the Photographers United and Political Debates Team weren't as successful, but there were some good times. So, am I ambitious? I doubt any of you will say "No," and I doubt any of you will think of it as a bad thing."
I could hear Professor McGonagall clear her throat uncomfortably. It wasn't part of the plan and I felt like turning around immediately and apologising for the change, but I needed to get it all out first. Besides, I wasn't too sure what my trajectory was here, and I feared veering off course would leave me stranded and speechless, with nothing but embarrassment to keep me warm at night for the rest of my school career.
Several students started shuffling in their seats, tired and bored presumably; however, Professor McGonagall's gaze seemed to keep them from throwing leftovers at me.
"House rivalry!" I shouted, sounding so hysterical I was starting to scare myself. I pointed out a Hufflepuff with a blue eye and his arm in a cast, "Quentin! What do you think of house rivalry? Do you think it's 'just good ol' competitive fun' when those masked vigilantes playfully roughed you up after you won the Quidditch match last Saturday?"
I saw Quentin grimace, which I took as an affirmative. I turned to a dainty Ravenclaw, her hair pulled back slightly and her large hornrimmed glasses drowning her facial features. "Meredith, what about you? How's house rivalry for you? Did you enjoy being made fun of after winning fifty points for Ravenclaw for answering a particularly difficult question?"
Meredith seemed to shake her head, although it was difficult to tell whether she was answering my question or realigning her massive spectacles.
"All those functions, that mock Quadriwizard Tournament, even the Dance and Banquet… I honestly thought it would be enough to bring you all together, even if for a little while…"
I paused. I finally turned around and looked at Professor McGonagall, who still seemed unsure what exactly I was doing. I shrugged, and carried on.
"Initially, we decided to take you apart. To eliminate the notion of houses in general. No Ravenclaw. No Hufflepuff. No Gryffindor. And no Slytherin. No house points, no House Cup; forget about Interhouse Quidditch matches, those house colours you invested so deeply in to wear to the next game... That was my initial proposal - drastic, but necessary."
A loud ripple of disgruntled interjections burst, before it was hushed by a stern Professor McGonagall.
"But I think every one of you isn't just capable of turning it all around; I think you're sick of the stereotypes, the supposed 'differences' between the houses, and want change. You're tired of the epithets that are forced on you. Witty Ravenclaw, Foolhardy Gryffindor, Soft Hufflepuff and Devilish Slytherin… Those wonderful stereotypes we're branded with as soon as the Sorting Hat opens its mouth. You're proud of your house, just as proud and happy I am with mine regardless of whatever faulty pipeworks it has; but it shouldn't define how people treat you or look at you.
"I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you all still want to cling desperately to that stereotype. Please, raise your hands; we'll do a count and see which of you are happy with this."
I watched as the students looked confusedly at one another. A small, bewildered first year at the end corner of the Slytherin table slowly started raising a hand, quivering with some internal debate about what the right answer was, but I quickly spoke again before he had the chance to raise it all the way up.
"That's why I'm proposing something a little different - a trial run, if you like. Show that we can get along together and we can look past our supposed 'differences'. Hufflepuff can be as strong and intelligent as the next House; Gryffindor's not as brainlessly hardy as they're made out to be; Ravenclaw can party just as hard and Slytherin's not a house full of potential convicts and chauvinists."
By now, I could thankfully see several people starting to nod their heads. The next part was impuslive, and I didn't know how much trouble I'd get in for it, but I needed something to make my Plan B stick, and this was it.
"We've decided to re-open the Dance and Banquet for this year, and I suggest you all pair up with someone from a different House. It's four weeks from now - four weeks to engage with and learn about one another; if all goes smoothly, we won't need anything drastic to sort this knot out."
A rumble of cheers and excessive hugging floated through the Great Hall, probably more in response to hearing the announcement of the re-opening of the Dance and Banquet than anything else, really, but I had a good feeling about this.
I felt Professor McGonagall appear by my side, looking over the ecstatic student body.
"Re-open the Dance and Banquet, Mr. Wattle?" I heard her say. I smiled, turning to face her.
"You have to admit, Professor," I answered, "the whole no-House, Adventure-Obstacle team-building thing would have turned out absolutely disastrous."
"Yes, I do suppose so, but you do know what this means."
I gulped, waiting as she turned her head ever slightly to look down at me and smile.
"I get to choose the music?" I asked hopefully.
"Well, I imagine now that you've been crowned Head of the Banquet committee you'll need to arrange the theme, the decorations, the caterers, invitations, food, lighting, and of course, the clean-up crew thereafter… Oh, and not to forget... "
I sighed. It was going to be a long four weeks.
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