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Chapter 1 : The Sorting
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Finally, finally, it was her turn to become a Gryffindor.
I looked out at the sea of faces, feeling a little sick to my stomach. “Hufflepuff!” The sorting hat declared, and a blonde boy scampered off to the appropriate table.
Professor Flitwick adjusted the list in his hands and called the next student. “Parkinson, Natalie.” I didn’t pay much attention as the hat considered Natalie. I was counting Weasleys in the crowd, making myself feel better. It was easy, since all six of my cousins were at the Gryffindor table, along with both my brothers. They were predictable as ever. Hugo and Freddie were laughing at something Roxanne must’ve said. Albus and Rose sat near them. A ways down the table, James and Louis – who, as fifth years, thought themselves highly sophisticated – were making grotesque faces at each other. And Lucy sat at the far end of the table, looking a bit anxious as she took in the mess of rowdy students, her Head Girl badge glinting in the light of the chandeliers.
Then, far too soon, the hat sent Natalie off to some house or other, and Professor Flitwick called the name I’d been waiting for. “Potter, Lily.”
My knees felt so shaky I was afraid I might fall over on my way across the platform, but I managed to reach the chair, lift the hat, and set it on my head, where it immediately fell over my eyes so that I couldn’t see a thing. I have to admit, it was a relief to escape from all those faces, even though they could still see me.
“Well, how about that!” Said a voice right in my ear, and I knew it was the hat, speaking only to me. “Interesting, interesting. Let’s see here… You’re quite plucky – you’d make an excellent Gryffindor. But loyal, too, and certainly willing to work hard. Not a bad brain either, although, well, I don’t think Ravenclaw is the place. But I’m missing something… I have a suspicion, in fact…” the hat mused. “What is it that you want?”
So many thoughts rushed through my mind at the question. I wanted to be a hero like my father. To be a famous Quidditch player like my mother. To seem valuable among the herd of Weasleys, to stand out. To have a successful business like Uncle George, or maybe even to be Minister for Magic someday. And…
The hat gave a quiet chuckle in my ear. “I thought as much.”
… And to be in Gryffindor, I finished my thought. But the sorting hat was already speaking, and it was saying, out loud now, with every student and professor looking on:
The Great Hall was deadly quiet. I stood from the stool, replaced the hat, and walk numbly off the platform. My heart caught in my chest as I passed the Gryffindor table - the table I had expected to join for my entire life – and saw the horrified expressions on my cousins’ faces. My brothers were even worse. James looked as if he had just been told Voldemort was his grandfather, and the betrayed look in Al’s eyes made me want to cry. I bit my lip and forced one foot in front of the other. As I approached the green-clad table toward the back of the room, a rumble of gossip rose up out of the silence, necks craning to get a better look at me. The Slytherins were so shocked that they hadn’t even bothered to cheer and were staring with the same disbelieving faces as everyone else. For a moment I wished fervently that I didn’t come from a famous family, that I could walk to any table without causing a stir, but then I felt a deep rush of adrenaline. For eleven years I had competed with two older brothers and nine older cousins for a moment of attention. Now, for once in my life, everyone’s eyes were on me, and that was worth savoring. With this in mind, I managed to look straight ahead and approach the Slytherin table with what I hoped seemed like absolute composure.
I took my seat with a strange combination of pride and shame running down my spine. I was the first Weasley not to be in Gryffindor, and the first Potter as well. One or the other would have been bad enough, but together? And I wasn’t simply not in Gryffindor, oh no. I was a Slytherin. On the other hand… I was the first. Suddenly, completely out of the blue, my dream of standing out had come much closer. It was an overwhelming combination of feelings and I wanted nothing more than to curl up and have a good cry, but that wouldn’t do. Obviously. So instead I turned to the girl next to me at the table, stuck out my hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Lily.”
I happened to find myself addressing Natalie Parkinson; apparently she’d also been sorted as a Slytherin. Her round face was framed by long blonde hair. She had an upturned nose and a decided chin, but also a quick, dimpled smile. She gave me the once over – what she was looking for I couldn’t have said, but it seemed I had it – and granted me an impressed nod. Then she shook my hand and replied, “Yes, I gathered that. I’m Nat.”
I quickly discovered that Nat had a biting, brilliant sense of humor. As the remaining first years took their turns at the sorting, she whispered to me what the hat might have been saying. “Well, I suppose it will have to be Hufflepuff,” she scoffed, studying a pudgy boy with a vacant expression. It was rather mean, I know, but he did look a bit pathetic, and Hufflepuff did have a certain reputation. Anyway, I needed any distraction I could get if I was going to keep the tears back. When the hat sent him to join the yellow and black-clad table, I couldn’t help but grin. In fact, Natalie was right about nearly everyone.
“Here, you try this time,” she said, as Wao, Min took her seat on the platform. I examined her. She was a slight, pretty girl, with shiny black hair. She sat remarkably still, the hat just over her eyes, and her expression was completely unreadable, an absolute picture of control.
“Oh, you’re a sly one,” I said, my voice imitating the hat’s. “Definitely a Slytherin.”
“Hey, don’t say that about your own house!” Nat hissed, laughing. But the next moment the girl was walking over to join us, and my new friend was forced to abandon her smirk. For the next student she guessed Gryffindor, winning out over my prediction of Ravenclaw. “Ha! That last one was just beginner’s luck,” she teased, the smirk returning.
We continued the game for the next few first years, Natalie pegging every student. The last to be sorted was Rafi Zahir, a Middle Eastern looking boy who wore glasses. We both looked him over for a moment.
“He reads a lot,” Nat declared. We had abandoned the pretense of talking for the hat, in favor of more astute guesswork. “And he likes school. He’s a Ravenclaw.”
Even though she had proven herself the better guesser, I couldn’t help but disagree. He was wringing his hands in an anxious way, but he had also managed to keep the hat from covering his eyes. Hardly anyone else had managed this, and to top it off he was taking in the mass of people and the grandeur of the Great Hall with an expression of cool contentment, and maybe just a bit of greed. I shook my head. “No,” I said with absolutely certainty. “This one is a Slytherin.”
“No way,” Nat answered.
“He is. I know it.”
“Let’s wait and see.”
Rafi Zahir turned out to take an unprecedentedly long time to sort, and Natalie and I had to wait a whole six-and-a-half minutes before the hat finally called, with a shadow of relief in it’s voice, “Slytherin!”
“Yes!” I yelled, my cry of triumph buried under the cheers of the other Slytherins.
Nat rolled her eyes at me, but she was grinning all the same.
Rafi sat down at the table just across from me. “I guess you and I are the oddities tonight,” he said with a nervous grin. While I knew exactly what he meant about me, and although I wasn’t offended – he was absolutely right, after all – his words did increase the tightness in my throat. What would mum say? What would dad say? I pushed the anxiety down and focused my attention on the boy. I wasn’t sure how he was an ‘oddity’ himself, and was on the verge of asking what he meant when Headmistress McGonagall stood. The hum of chatter died out instantly.
“Now that all of our new students have found their homes, let us welcome them.” The hall rang out in cheers from every table, until McGonagall raised her hand to quiet us. “Welcome, also, to the returning students. Let us hope a few months’ rest has you ready for a productive school year.” She paused for a moment. “Dinner is served.”
The headmistress returned to her seat. I could see Neville – Professor Longbottom, that is – sitting only a few places to her left, chatting amiably with a dark-skinned, middle-aged man. Then, out of nowhere, the empty plates on the table filled with the most delicious assortment of foods. Despite the enormous amount of sweets I’d eaten with my cousins on the train, I found that I was nearly desperate with hunger and loaded my plate accordingly. The shepherd’s pie looked particularly marvelous. Next to me, Natalie was spooning mashed potatoes onto her entire plate, and made a face of disgust when I offered her a delicious looking tray of roasted carrots. I could only laugh at her.
Now that the sorting was over and I had some food in my belly, I started paying closer attention to the people around me. Of course there was Natalie on my right, and Rafi Zahir across from me. The pretty Asian girl who I’d spotted as a Slytherin was a few seats down, chatting with a serious-looking boy wearing a Prefect badge. They both looked as if they were trying not to seem bored, and failing miserably. On my left there were a few girls, maybe around third year like Albus, and on their far side a very good-looking blonde boy of the same age. The girls were obviously admiring him, while he determinedly ignored them. All together, there were nine new Slytherins, and something like 70 students in the house. And really, for the most part, they didn’t seem so bad. Sure, there were a few rough-looking older boys, and a handful of snotty-seeming girls. Still, considering all the things I’d heard about Slytherins, they didn’t seem like as bad a lot as I’d been expecting.
When the feast was over, McGonagall gave another little speech about not going into the Forbidden Forest. I wasn’t really listening. I was too busy freaking out silently to myself. During dinner, between Nat’s hilarity and the interesting chatter around me, I had managed to avoid my horror over the sorting. Now though, at the prospect of sleeping for seven years in the dank dungeon Uncle Ron had once described to me, I found ignoring my Slytherin-ness significantly more difficult.
Over the hubbub of students heading off to various common rooms, I heard someone say, “Slytherin first years this way!” It was the Prefect who had been talking to Min Wao during dinner. He sort of puffed out his chest when he talked, and I was reminded strongly of Uncle Percy. And, well, I love Uncle Percy… but I wouldn’t call that a compliment.
Rolling my eyes, I shuffled into the little group that was forming behind him. I watched the Gryffindors enviously. That’s where I belonged. Those were the friends I was supposed to have. I felt a heavy ache in my stomach. Then we turned a corner and my attention was forced back to my own house. All together, there were four boys and five girls. Three of the boys walked together, chatting, and I had the impression that they had known each other for years. As we followed Percy, Jr. toward the appropriate corridor, one of them stuck out his foot, tripping Rafi. He stumbled, but regained his balance quickly and walked on without acknowledging them. The offenders hooted with laughter, their faces disappointed at his speedy recovery.
We followed the Prefect down a grand-looking set of stairs, along several corridors, down again on a tightly wound spiral staircase, and through several more corridors, before coming to a stop in front of what appeared to be simply a stone wall. I could tell we were in the dungeons, because it was cool and the only light came from torches spaced along the walls at rather long intervals.
“Here we are,” The Prefect announced. “Now before we enter, a few words. Firstly, my name is Bartholomew Barron, sixth generation. I am the senior Prefect for Slytherin house, along with Miss Zabini.” Here he paused to gesture at a pretty girl standing behind us, reading Witch Weekly and chewing a wad of Drooble’s Best. I hadn’t even noticed her. At his introduction she waved a cursory hello and snapped her gum, not bothering to look up from her magazine.
“Yes, well then,” Bartholomew continued, clearly annoyed at his partner’s disregard, “welcome to the best house in the school. I am sure you are all most enthused to have joined us. This is the entrance to the Slytherin common room. Obviously it’s a secret. No non-Slytherin has ever been inside, so don’t go spreading word about it.” I looked up in surprise. Considering my own father and uncle had been Gryffindors and had got in the Slytherin common room, I knew this wasn’t true. Bartholomew seemed to believe his words, however. “You need a password to enter, which changes every two weeks. It is up to you to find out the new password. Knockturn Alley,” he added, and a passageway appeared in the wall. Most of us were pretty unfazed – I had heard and seen far stranger things with parents like mine – but Rafi seemed positively awestruck, though he quickly masked his amazement and followed the rest of us through the tunnel into the room beyond.
Uncle Ron was not the most reliable source when it came to his adventures at school, so I was both relived and unsurprised to see that the dungeon was not actually filled with water. (He had described a sort of swimming obstacle course involving merpeople and the giant squid.) Instead, it was a long, posh room. At its center was a roaring fire that succeeded so well in warming the space, I suspected it had been charmed. The mantle above it bore an elaborately carved snake in the shape of a giant ‘S.’ Tall, elegant armchairs in deep green velvet and black leather were arranged in groups, lit by hanging lamps. The windows were heavy, clearly not meant to open. As it was nighttime, only the faint whitish glow of moonlight came through them, but I could see eerie shadows of movement on the other side of the glass. The overall feeling of the place was not dank and grotesque, as I had expected, but a sort of dark glamour.
Our dormitory, decorated in green and silver, contained five four-poster beds. My trunk was there, set neatly in its place by some diligent house elf. It was already quite late, the feast having gone on until nearly ten o’clock, and I was tired. Bed would be a relief. I opened my trunk and pulled out my hairbrush as Nat vanished into the bathroom.
“So, you’re Lily Potter.” I whirled around. The speaker was one of the students I hadn’t met yet, a girl with sleek curls the color of molasses and a haughty expression. She had just entered the room, accompanied by a shorter girl who looked between us anxiously but said nothing.
“Yeah, I am.” I answered. I could feel the weight of confrontation, but chose to play dumb. “You must be my roommates.”
“I’m Becky,” ventured the second girl, grasping at my peace offering, and the first one shot her a glare. I waited expectantly for the other name.
“Alexa.” She seemed to think telling me this was practically a gift from the gods.
“Nice to meet you,” I said, forcing a smile.
“What exactly are you trying to pull?” Alexa responded, completely ignoring my attempt at manners.
“Alexa, don’t,” Becky muttered, but her friend clearly wasn’t the type to back down.
“No, I want to hear this. What makes you think you’re good enough to be in Slytherin? I mean, Harry Potter’s kid in Slytherin? It’s absurd.”
The truth was I was more surprised than anyone, but I bristled at her tone. “I’ve got just as much right to be in Slytherin as anyone. Besides, it was the Sorting Hat’s decision, not mine. If you’ve got a problem, that’s who you should talk to.”
“Oh, believe me, I will be solving this problem very quickly. A blood traitor like you is not going to ruin Slytherin for the rest of us!” At this Alexa spun on her heels and marched out of the room.
Becky stood shocked for a moment and then looked at me in horror. “Oh Merlin, I am so sorry! I didn’t know she was so... Alexa can be kind of awful. Sometimes she’s nice, I swear. Well, not nice, but, I mean, not like that…”
“You already know her?”
“Our mothers are friends.”
“Oh.” I thought of the three boys who’d tripped Rafi. They clearly knew each other, too. They were probably from dark families, Death Eater families, even. I didn’t know anyone in Slytherin house. My parent’s friends were Aurors and Muggle’s rights activists. Aunt Hermione single-handedly engineered the House Elf Protection Act. My mum once – infamously – hexed a former Death Eater at the Quidditch Cup for calling her teammate a Mud Blood. And my dad… my dad was Harry freaking Potter. I let myself slide off the bed and onto the floor. “She’s right,” I admitted. “Me being in Slytherin, it’s absurd.”
Becky sat down next to me. “That’s okay. A lot of the blood purity stuff is a load of dung, anyway. I mean, my mum is pureblood, but my dad is half-blood. Nobody really knows. They’re divorced, so it doesn’t come up that much. But my granny, the Muggle one, is pretty much my favorite person in the world… Hey, you won’t tell anyone, will you?”
“No, no, of course not.” I wanted to cry. Didn’t my father nearly give his life so that Becky could be half-blood and no one would give a knut? I recalled my brothers’ faces as I walked to the Slytherin table and wondered again what my parents would say.
“Thanks. I should probably find Alexa.”
A moment after Becky left, Nat came back from the bathroom, her hair wrapped up in a towel. “Hey Lily, where is everyone?” And then, noticing my face, “Are you alright?”
I blinked away my tears. “Yeah, I was just thinking,” I answered.
Nat started to respond, but then the door opened, revealing Becky, followed by Alexa and Min, who were chatting lightly. I was surprised – I wouldn’t have thought Alexa the friendly type. When Min saw me, she stopped cold, just as her companion had, and I was sure she was about to attack me, but instead she said, “You’re Lily Potter. I mean, you’re the actual Lily Potter. You’re, like, basically famous.”
I could feel my face turning scarlet. Sure, the idea of being famous was nice. But I wanted it to be for something I’d done myself, not because of my name. “My parents are famous, but I’m just normal. It’s really not a big deal”—
“You absolutely have to introduce me to James!” Min squealed. “He is sooooo cute!”
“What?” I was completely blindsided, not least because of the contrast between this and her cool attitude during the sorting. I guess you really never can tell about a person.
Everyone else had climbed into bed by now, but Min dug in her trunk – she was so small she almost fell into it – and emerged with a neatly trimmed magazine photograph OF MY BROTHER. Was this really happening?
“Just look at that smile!” Min was hanging the photo over her bed now, and then another, also of James. The other girls looked on in amusement.
“Oh, for the love of Merlin!” I groaned. Becky giggled behind her hands. James was shirtless in this picture, and I was with him, wearing a sundress and walking along the beach. I remembered that day. It had been only a few months ago, when we were vacationing in Brighton. The ruddy paparazzi guys wouldn’t leave us alone. I got up and crossed the room to Min’s bed. The laughter died out. “Take them down!”
“See if I don’t!” I reached up and pulled off the Brighton picture. Min grabbed for it.
“Give it back!”
“You can’t hang photos of my family. It’s creepy!”
“It’s not my fault you have a gorgeous brother!”
“Ew! Can you please just stop?” I gave the picture a forceful tug, and it tore a little at the corner.
“You ripped my picture!”
Natalie sat up in bed, threw back her covers, and shot me an exasperated look. “Will you both please SHUT UP? Min, you can’t hang pictures of Lily’s family. It’s weird. Lily, James is definitely cute. Now, both of you, go to bed. It’s late and I need my beauty sleep.”
I don’t know why it worked, but Min yielded to Nat’s speech and removed the photos. Satisfied with that for the time being, I gratefully returned to bed and was soon asleep.
Hi there! Thanks for checking out my new story. I hope you like it! Reviews are always appreciated :D Everything belongs to J. K. Rowling and her amazingly talented brain.
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