Author: John Sexton
Genre: Harry Potter Slash
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Chapter Seventeen -- Sorting Salazar `Slytherin' Snape

Hermione shifted uncomfortably on her seat beside Ginny, in the Great Hall. She could see Draco, over on the Slytherin table, from where she sat; but she was more intent on watching Ron Weasley... warily.

Ronald had been quite rude, when they'd met in the corridor of the train. Hermione was finding it hard to recognise what she had ever seen in him.

Since Harry's demise, Ronald had not been the boy that she thought she'd known for the past five years. Now Hermione wondered just how much of the transformation was due to Harry's absence... or how little.

She had given the matter a lot of thought, ever since that altercation at Edburg's, four weeks ago. But today she'd begun to realise just how very selfish and insecure Ronald really was.

Being Harry Potter's best friend had been Ron Weasley's one great claim to fame, well... that and being made a prefect; yet even that now looked to be in jeopardy.

Hermione thought back over the past five years: Ron Weasley really was his own worst enemy. He'd always resented being poor and having to live up to the reputations of his brothers... well... maybe not Fred and George.

But two head boys and a captain of Gryffindor's Quidditch team, not to mention the twin's Quidditch prowess, was an awful lot to try to emulate.

She remembered Harry telling her, once, about the Mirror of Erised, and what Ron had seen in it.

However, Harry had been gone barely two months, the new school year had only just begun, and Ronald was already in disgrace. He'd lost his two best friends, his second wand in as many months, and was now facing the loss of his prefect badge.

None of this excused his behaviour, of course, but it did explain it, at least in part.

Across from Ginny and Hermione sat Lavender Brown, Parvati Patil and Neville. He was the only boy from their year sitting with them.

The rest of the sixth-year boys were huddled together, at the far end of the Gryffindor table, surrounded by some fifth, fourth and even some third-years. They'd been sneering and grumbling since they'd sat down; and Hermione knew what, or rather who, it was all about.

Ron had been spreading his disaffection among the other Gryffindors, and anyone else who would listen, on the Hogwarts Express.

Hermione had already received several outright sneers, and numerous snide glances and whispered remarks, when she'd done her prefect's rounds on the train.

Now Ron was presiding over a pride of angry young lions, and they were repeatedly glaring down the table at her, and looking murderous: it was Gryffindor at its worst.

Ron was flanked by Dean, Seamus and the Creevey brothers, while Jack Sloper, Andrew Kirke, Cormac McLaggen, and Oliver Wood's younger brother, Quentin, sat opposite. They were all huddled around Ron, as he held court.

Hermione shrugged her shoulders, in a near involuntary shiver, at the sight of the mounting discontent, before she looked back over at Draco once again.

He was sitting between Crabbe and Goyle.

Hermione shook her head slightly, and could not suppress a grin, as she thought of the two of them, in the carriage with Luna, of all people, wearing those silly glasses.

She still found it hard to think of them as "Vincent and Gregory."

"But that weird scenario might just make it easier," she whispered to herself, then shook her head again.

The buzz around the Great Hall was growing steadily louder, as everyone anticipated the start of proceedings.

Ginny leaned in towards Hermione.

"What did you say?" she asked over the din.

"Oh, nothing, just mumbling to myself," Hermione replied casually.

"You were thinking about Crabbe and Goyle," Ginny teased, "and that weird thing they had going with Luna."

"Yeah," Hermione blushed slightly, then laughed, "who'd have thought?" she quipped rhetorically.

"Not me, that's for sure," Ginny cried. "I was beating myself up for leaving her alone with them, and never expected anything even remotely like that."

"Well," Hermione smiled warmly, "it does make it a little easier to think of them as `Gregory and Vincent.'"

Ginny grimaced; "can't say I'm there yet." Then she leaned closer to Hermione and lowered her voice.

"I've been wanting to ask you for ages, but haven't had a chance till now," Ginny paused theatrically, "don't you think......"

The youngest Weasley stopped and seemed to regroup her thoughts.

"I know Draco Malfoy has changed... significantly... or you wouldn't be wasting your time with him."

Ginny paused again; she seemed unsure of how to proceed: a most uncharacteristic display for one so forceful.

Hermione guessed that her younger friend might be trying to be tactful.

Finally the feisty redhead whispered determinedly, "what's the story with him and Sals, Herm? I can't quite put my finger on it."

She huffed, with an air of frustration... "but there's something not quite right there."

Ginny paused, then ogled at Hermione.

"Can you see it?" she wailed, "or am I just imagining it?"

Hermione never got the chance to reply, because the great oak doors were flung open, at that very moment.

"Tell me later," whispered Ginny, just as the din -- which had gradually filled the chamber -- stopped in a heartbeat, when Professor McGonagall led the newest students into the hall.

Hermione never ceased to be amazed at how, each September, the first-years seemed to get smaller and younger. This year was no exception: they seemed barely out of nappies, almost angelic.

They all looked terrified--and excited too, of course--as they looked around the Great Hall, in absolute awe of their new environment. The chatter from the older students grew louder, as they began to point and wave to the numerous siblings among the new arrivals.

That had the effect of easing some of the anxiety for those young siblings, but for many of the other first-years, the noise merely exacerbated their angst.

Hermione liked to play a game with herself: she'd try to guess which of them were from Muggle homes and into which houses they'd be sorted.

A tinkle of glass from the teachers' table brought everyone's attention to Professor Dumbledore, who stood to address the school.

"Welcome, welcome, to another year at Hogwarts," the old man cried, in a voice that Hermione thought lacked its usual sparkle. "We are about to begin the Sorting of our new students, and then, of course, we shall enjoy the feast," he announced.

A flurry of whispered chatter swept across the Great Hall, as the closest students noticed the headmaster's blackened limb.

"Look at Dumbledore's hand!" Ginny exclaimed, in Hermione's ear.

Hermione had been too distracted to notice, but she was horrified by what she saw when she looked up.

Dumbledore was quick to dismiss the injured hand, and moved straight on to school business.

"Let us proceed with the Sorting," the ancient warlock declared cheerfully.

As Professor McGonagall stepped up onto the dais, and placed the hat on the stool, the students grew suddenly animated, then strangely quiet.

The instant that the hat came to rest, it raised its tattered peak and cried out, "Oohh!"

It was a long moan that eventually rang into the beginning of the hat's traditional song...

      "I'm the Sorting hat, you see,
      though ragg'd and tattered I may be.
      The Founders' magic I possess,
      Which makes me powerful, I guess.
      "What can I do? You may well ask.
      Well I'll explain this little task,
      Which I'm about to do for you,
      With lots of noise and much ado.
      "Upon this stool you each shall sit,
      Then I shall ponder for a bit,
      While I sit up above your head,
      And tell you where you'll find your bed.
      "The house I allocate to you,
      Is one that's certain to be true,
      To all that lies within your heart,
      And it shall guide you from the start.
      "Four houses were, I'm sure you know,
      Founded ten cent'ries ago,
      Each modelled on its founder's skill,
Their virtues shall in you instil.

"The Slytherins are sure and sly,
They'll guide your steps with open eye.
Then Ravenclaw was very bright,
So clever minds I'll pick tonight.

"While Hufflepuffs are loyal and true,
They stand up strong and see you through.
The last great house is Gryffindor,
Where brave hearts shall come to the fore.

"Now all these traits are great indeed,
But what Hogwarts now really needs,
Are students who can face the brink,
With hearts and minds that are in sync.

"So put aside your petty spats,
And don't behave like spoilt brats.
We must stand and fight our foe as one,
If we're to finish what we've begun.

"That's all I have to say on this,
To not do so would be remiss.
So work like bees within a hive,
And then, as one, we'll surely thrive."

When the hat had finished, and the applause had died, the headmaster rose to his feet.

"Well," Dumbledore said happily, "it would seem that the hat has once again delivered a message for us all. I hope you heed its sage advice."

There were slight murmurs, before Dumbledore cleared his throat and continued.

"Before we begin the sorting of the first-years," he said, "I would like to introduce a new student. He will be joining Sixth Year. I do hope you will make him welcome."

Another buzz washed across the hall, but quickly died. The headmaster had a twinkle in his eye, when next he spoke.

"For those of you who may not have heard...' there was a ripple of laughter at this... "our newest member of the Sixth is called Salazar Snape, and yes, he is the son of our own Professor Severus Snape. Please make Salazar welcome."

Enthusiastic applause broke out at the Slytherin table, but the other three house tables produced a great deal of squealing and chattering among the numerous covens strewn across the Great Hall, some polite applause but little else.

Hermione and Ginny applauded warmly, and Neville followed suit. However, Lavender and Parvati were scandalised by the trios support for Snape's son.

Lavender leaned over and half-whispered to Hermione, "this is Professor Snape's son you're applauding! ... you do realise that?"

Hermione merely smiled and clapped more vigorously.

At the other end of the Gryffindor table, the rebels were ominously silent, mutinously so.

When Sals walked out onto the podium, from the chamber behind the head table, the buzz of excitement reached a crescendo.

He had changed into his school clothes, since leaving the Hogwarts Express.

Covens of young witches--those who had missed seeing him on the Hogwarts Express, and those who hadn't--convened across the tables, to assess this newest arrival. Their tittering squeals seemed to indicate wide-spread approval.

"Well," sighed Ginny, "there won't be any shortage of competition. I still can't believe he's Snape' son!" she added cheekily.

The hall became silent, as Sals sat on the stool, and Professor McGonagall placed the Sorting Hat upon his head.

"Ah!" cried the hat, inside Sals's head, "young Snape, we meet again. I trust you have used the past month productively?"

"Good evening, Hat," Sals replied amicably, "it has been a very productive four weeks, thank you," he added, with a self-satisfied grin.

"So, then," the hat enquired, "are you ready to enter the fray, young Snape? Feeling up to the challenge?"

"I believe so," Sals smiled, though it belied his nervousness, "this should be an interesting two years."

"Indeed," the hat replied whimsically... "AHA! it exclaimed quite sharply, now THAT comes as a surprise. You and young Malfoy! You have been busy!"

The hat paused, then added soberly, "and you have been ruthless too, I see. I did not think you capable, I have underestimated you Snape!"

"What?" Sals replied anxiously; he had not fed the hat any thoughts on that topic; he grew suddenly tense.

He was just barely conscious of the buzz of anticipation and curious chatter that was slowly building in the Great Hall.

"And Miss Granger," the hat added, amusement lacing its voice in Sals's head... "well, well, well, that IS intriguing... quite intriguing. Yes... mm!" it added. "You are, indeed, full of surprises, young Snape."

"What?" cried Sals anxiously, what are?--"

"So that's your tactic!" the hat cut across Sals's query; "things certainly have happened since our last encounter. You have indeed had an interesting month."

Then its voice grew suddenly dark and serious.

"But I detect great deception in your stratagem, and great risk: you are playing a dangerous game Snape."

"What!" cried Sals again, with no attempt to mask his panic.

The hat was not supposed to be able to breech his Occlumency.

Salazar's confidence plummeted, as the tattered hat proceeded to invade his rattled defences with impunity.

Sals's tension was commensurate with the growing frenzy of chatter across the Great Hall that was fast becoming a distraction.

"Sooo..." the hat teased Sals, "you've had dealings with Tom Riddle, as well! Now there's a name I haven't heard for quite some time. Well, well, well," the hat laughed, "you are a wonder, young Snape, though you are indeed your father's son.

"As they say, the acorn does not fall far from the oak. I would dare to say you're more Slytherin than Severus, if that were possible. You will bear watching this year, I think! Yes, indeed..."

Sals was reeling... this was not supposed to be happening.

"Your father was right, of course," the hat taunted Sals again, "it was rather arrogant of you to presume to occlude me. Though, I must say... I haven't had a challenge like this for nearly eight hundred years.

"Still, I'm glad to see that you share my ambitions for Hogwarts, the hat declared. Together we'll succeed... you will do well in...

"GRYFFINDOR!" cried the Sorting Hat.

"WHAT?" Sals screamed, "no... NO!!" he cried, though his mouth did not move.

No one in the Great Hall perceived Sals's shock and anger, not even his father, none but the hat.

It was doubtful that Sals would have been heard, in any case -- even if he had roared like the lion he now apparently was -- because the buzz of excitement and consternation across the hall was chaotic.

"What's the meaning?--"

"Not now, Snape," replied the hat impatiently, "you've a feast to be getting on with. Besides, I've a very nervous bunch of first-years to get through, before that feast, so be a good chap and--"

Before the hat could finish, it was whisked off Sals's head by Professor McGonagall.

The newly sorted Gryffindor considered snatching the hat back from the Deputy Headmistress, and having it out with the damned, moth-eaten, old, wrinkled thing -- the hat, not the deputy! -- right there and then. But he thought better of it.

"I've not done with you, hat!"

Sals projected that thought at the patchwork of tattered cloth, as he slowly rose from the stool.

Sals had been so preoccupied, arguing with the hat, that he had barely noticed the reaction to its pronouncement. He now paused to survey the situation.

The Slytherin and Gryffindor tables seemed equally incensed by the hat's decision, while the other two houses appeared simply amazed. Clearly Sals's own expectation had been shared by everyone.

On closer inspection the Gryffindor students exhibited more shock than enthusiasm; their applause was sporadic and interspersed with voices of dissent.

The response from Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw was subdued, though their tables were abuzz with chatter.

Dreading what he might see, Sals looked to the Slytherin table.

Every one of them, down to the very last second-year, was staring angrily.

Sals caught the shock of platinum-blond hair in his periphery, but he made no attempt to scan the Ice Prince of Slytherin. In any case, the entire Slytherin table was festering with so much anger at the betrayal
-- and it was all directed at him -- that he doubted he could read his little puppet with any degree of accuracy.

He would deal with him later.

Everything was turning to shit before Sals's eyes... all of his plans, all of his hopes, had been dashed by a stupid, tattered, old cloth hat that talked!

Sals paused briefly, swept his eyes across the other three house tables, then shook his head ever so slightly. He was bitterly disappointed with the hostile reactions of many of the Gryffindors; as for the rest of the house... their response was mixed, if not restrained.

Sals did not want to convey shock or dismay; that would only compound the problem. He turned towards the Gryffindor table, where Hermione was sitting at the top, near the empty spaces for the First Years. She was ecstatic, and he wondered just what was in store for him.

"Father?" cried Sals, without turning around; they had long ago transcended the need for eye contact.

"You certainly know how to cause a stir, Sals, I'll say that much for you!" his father taunted him, "though I hate to say it, I did warn--"

"I'd like a little support here, Dad!" Sals snapped. "I'm drowning... in case you hadn't noticed! The hat knows EVERYTHING, it even knows about our meeting with Voldemort!"

"We've been down this road already, Son, in case you had forgotten. It's not as bad as you make out," came his father's upbeat reply. "Now go and greet your new little house-mates," was his parting jest, "and play nicely."

"Thanks for your sympathy, Dad!" Sals groused.

The newest Gryffindor smiled bravely, then made his way to the divided house of lions, with his heart in his mouth. He was not ready for this.

Hermione welcomed Sals to the Gryffindor table, and offered the seat between Ginny and her.

She, like everyone else in the hall, was still reeling from the shock of the hat's decision. But she was determined to make Sals feel welcome, and to ensure that things went as smoothly as possible, particularly with the climate as it was amongst a significant number of Gryffindors.

Hermione introduced Sals to Lavender and Parvati, while Neville smiled warmly and offered Sals his congratulations.

However, they had little chance for discussion, as Professor McGonagall cried out the first of the newest arrivals' names, "Addison, Penelope."

A nervous young witch made her way up to the stool. She followed the deputy's directive and sat down.

Within seconds of the hat resting on her head, it cried, "HUFFLEPUFF!"

The Hufflepuff table erupted with cheers and loud applause.

When Sals began cheering and clapping as well, Hermione joined him. She was determined to show her support for him at every opportunity.

Parvati and Lavender ogled at them as if they were both mad.

Ginny leaned in towards Sals and whispered, "we don't cheer the other houses."

Sals smiled pleasantly and replied, "well maybe we should, Gin."

Ginny was clearly startled, but then she looked around Sals, at Hermione, who was clapping and cheering as well. Hermione smiled at her, tacitly reminding Ginny of all that she had told her. Ginny returned Hermione's smile warmly, then joined in the applause.

While the rest of the Gryffindor table didn't really know what to make of it all, the closest students at the head of the Hufflepuff table were equally confused.

Whispers rippled across the hall and all heads turned to look at Sals, who was the last to stop applauding. But nobody said anything.

The next First Year was sorted into Slytherin.

Sals clapped even more enthusiastically, this time, supported by Neville and the girls.

Hermione was becoming excited; there was a clear indication that Sals was going to have a significant impact on Hogwarts. She sensed that he was about to do something quite dramatic.

Then, as the incredulous muttering from the nearest Hufflepuffs grew louder, Sals smiled at them, stood up, gave a shrill whistle, and finished with more enthusiastic applause.

Even the Slytherins had stopped clapping and cheering by then, obviously aware of the significance of this new boy's behaviour.

Every eye was now focussed on Sals. He remained standing... and the hall was swept by a rustle of quick comments that ceased the instant that Dumbledore began to speak.

"Salazar Snape," Dumbledore's voice rang out clearly across the hall, "why do I get the feeling that you wish to say something?"

"Well, Sir, you are the most accomplished Legilimens alive today... or so my father says."

Sals smiled cheekily at both Dumbledore and his father. The headmaster beamed like a loon, while Severus merely shook his head in faux-despair.

This elicited a ripple of laughter, which prompted Severus to shake his head again, in dismay. The effect was even more laughter that cascaded across the student tables.

"Indeed?" Dumbledore chuckled heartily, despite his frail appearance; he then stroked his long white beard. "Go right ahead, my boy."

The ancient warlock bowed his head and yielded the floor to the new student.

"Thank you, Headmaster."

Hermione was awestruck, as Salazar Snape smiled, then turned, looking surprisingly every inch his father.

The prattle, which had started to gather momentum, died in the instant that the boy faced his peers.

"I'm barely sixteen years old," he began, "and I've already seen, first hand, enough war, fighting, death and bloodshed to last me a lifetime. I know there is at least one fight left to face, but that's the only fight I want to be involved in."

"Yeah, but which side will you be on, Snape?" sniped one anonymous voice, from somewhere down the Gryffindor table.

The response was a gasp that shot across the Great Hall like a blast of chill air, such was the collective shock of the rest of the school body.

Ronald's behaviour infuriated Hermione. However, there was nothing to do except glare at the rebellious redhead, which she did in earnest. The pain that she felt, at the hateful look that he returned, was more than she could have envisioned.

The last trace of affection that Hermione had ever felt for the tall Gryffindor vanished in that moment. If that was the real Ronald Weasley, then Hermione did not want to know him.

The hall buzzed with a collective tone of shock and resentment at such an unprovoked attack.

Sals simply parried the barb with a smile.

"Standing with my father, of course," he replied calmly, "right by Professor Dumbledore's side... and shoulder to shoulder with Harry Potter, once he clears himself of those ridiculous charges."

That last statement sent a ripple across the entire hall that erupted into a fresh frenzy of discussion.

"You support Harry Potter?"

This time the challenger, a Ravenclaw, was clearly identified as he stood up. All eyes turned towards Michael Corner, then flashed back to Sals for his reply.

"I've already said where I stand," Sals replied coolly.

There was another buzz throughout the hall, but this time it was sober, and an air of anticipation ran in its wake.

"I want to be with people that I know and trust," Sals continued. "Being cheered by only one quarter of the school, while being ignored or, even worse, jeered at, does not seem to me to be a very convincing method of building trust, nor a civilised way to introduce a student to a school, and it's an even sadder way of saying welcome!"

Hermione's chest swelled with delight and admiration. She looked up at Sals and caught his eye. He smiled at her, very subtly, and she glowed with pride, as he pressed on.

"I listened to the Sorting Hat's song, from outside, just before I was brought into this chamber for the Sorting," Sals resumed. "But I wonder if anyone in this room actually listened to what the hat had to say!

"Maybe it's because you've heard it every year and I haven't; or maybe because you don't like to see things change, while, for me, everything has changed this year. I don't have all the answers, but I do know this..."

Hermione looked around the Great Hall; every face was turned towards Sals, intent on his every word; all except Ron Weasley and his cadre, who were huddled at the far end of the table, exchanging snide remarks and casting disparaging glances in Sals's direction.

"I went with my father to Diagon Alley last month," Sals continued, "where I met Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy. It was the first time either of them had ever seen me. We hit it off instantly, and I liked them both... I still do."

This sent another twittering wave across the hall, and Sals paused for their attention once again.

"I didn't suddenly stop liking Draco when I was sorted into Gryffindor, nor would I have stopped liking Hermione if I'd been sorted into Slytherin!"

Hermione could not suppress the blush that followed that revelation. She simply cast her eyes towards the table and smiled coyly.

"So that's it..." Sals quipped, "pure and simple: I think house competition is great... when kept in perspective. I can't wait for the Quidditch season to begin!"

The atmosphere lightened a little, fuelled by the banter that ensued.

"But..." Sals waited again... "when our energies are wasted on pointless, bitter resentment and mistrust, then we are doing Voldemort's work for him."

Sals reminded Hermione of Harry, the way he pushed on, ignoring the gasps that accompanied the use of The Dark Lord's name.

"We need to stand together," he declared vehemently, "and support each other, and gain each other's trust. We need to give each other a chance."

He paused for another moment, and everyone, student and teacher alike, was hanging on his every breath.

"I was also really saddened," Sals continued more soberly, "on that same day last month, because I met a third Hogwarts student then as well; but he rejected me out of hand, for no other reason than I was seated at a table with a Slytherin. The fact that I was sitting between a Slytherin and a Gryffindor made no difference to him."

Once again Hermione could not resist the urge to look down the table.

Ron Weasley sneered at her bitterly.

She simply looked away.

"It saddened me," Sals explained, "because I would really have liked the chance to get to know him too. I'd like to get to know every one of you.

"But that sort of prejudice is a poison that only weakens us; ultimately it will kill us all. He didn't even know my name. Merlin's Beard, he didn't even know who my father was."

That evoked genuine laughter from both students and staff.

Sals raised his hand towards his father.

"Sorry, Dad," he quipped cheekily.

This elicited a playful scowl from Professor Snape, which, in itself, drew even more laughter.

"So..." Sals waited for their attention once again... "I intend to cheer and encourage every new student here tonight. I hope you will join me in welcoming them to this great school."

The buzz and genuine applause that rose from the staff and student tables alike, filled the hall, until the headmaster rose to his feet.

Hermione was ecstatic.

"Thank you, Sals," Dumbledore nodded to the boy cheerfully, "I'm sure the Sorting hat is impressed, I know I am."

When Sals resumed his seat, and the chatter abated across the Great Hall, Professor McGonagall called the third student to the Sorting stool.

"Carmichael, Jonathan," she cried, and a small boy with dark hair and bright blue eyes, made his way nervously to the dais.

The hat settled on his head, finally slipping down over his eyes. An eternity seemed to pass before the hat finally cried out...

"RAVENCLAW!" and the house of crows erupted.

Nobody was surprised when Sals, Hermione, Ginny and Neville rose to their feet and cheered and clapped. When Sals gave another shrill whistle, Parvati stood and joined in. Lavender was less enthusiastic. Most of the Hufflepuffs followed Sals's lead.

Hermione was so proud of Neville, but hardly surprised; there had never been any doubt of his courage.

Needless to say, few in the hall were surprised to see Ron Weasley and his cohorts deliberately abstain. But the malcontents were soon forgotten, and Hermione's heart skipped a beat, as all attention shifted to the Slytherin table, where Draco Malfoy had risen to his feet.

Adrian Pucey was already furious with Malfoy's behaviour, particularly after their brief interaction between the carriages that morning; but this was intolerable!

Most of the Slytherins, especially the Seventh Years were confused and scandalised when Malfoy began to applaud. Crabbe and Goyle rose in support, and clapped, but neither seemed too sure of what they were doing or why.

The senior Slytherins looked to Pucey, obviously expecting him to say something. He in turn glared at Draco, but it was as subtle as one would expect from a Slytherin.

Draco returned Pucey's stare, and he challenged the head boy with a tacit reminder of their conversation as the train had pulled away from platform nine and three-quarters. He infuriated Pucey even more, when he mouthed the innuendo, "head boy," at the sullen Slytherin.

Pucey rose to his feet, reluctantly, and began to applaud the Ravenclaw. But, when Draco looked across at Sals, and smiled, then gave an equally shrill whistle, mirroring the new boy's naked enthusiasm, the rest of the Slytherin seniors stood and applauded, albeit in a state of confusion and disaffection.

Pucey was disheartened -- but hardly surprised, given the circumstances -- when his housemaster, Professor Snape, nodded at Draco, then at Sals, before clapping his hands in a restrained show of support.

Dumbledore was beaming, as he rose to his feet and began applauding the newest Ravenclaw, while a self-conscious Jonathan Carmichael made his way to his house table. The staff remained seated, but applauded the child enthusiastically until he had taken his place at the Ravenclaw table.

Pucey was livid, as he slumped back down onto his seat. An animated flurry of discussion swept the Great Hall, while the rest of the students resumed their own seats.

Professor McGonagall waited for the noise to subside before she called the next student.

When the hat called out "GRYFFINDOR!", Hermione could not help but notice that the Slytherins were a little less enthusiastic, until Draco let fly with the loudest whistle to date, which Sals returned in kind.

Some of the younger Slytherins began to follow Draco's example, and by the time the last student had been Sorted, the cheering seemed to have become a competition in its own right, with each house striving to outdo the other.

But this did not detract from the exercise, at least not in Hermione's mind. It was a healthy rivalry and, in the end, it was conducted as much for the fun of it as anything else. This was especially so for the last boy and girl, who had been respectively Gryffindor and Slytherin.

However, throughout the Sorting, one group belligerently refused to participate, except when Gryffindor was called. Despite several stern warning glances from both McGonagall and Dumbledore, Ron Weasley lead his little cadre in refusing to applaud any of the other houses.

Worse still, when a Gryffindor was Sorted, the dissidents' cheer was nothing more than an aggressive rebuff of the rest of the school, rather than a welcome for the chosen student.

Hermione's initial reaction, along with her companions', had been shock, which had quickly turned to disgust and anger. But Sals had counselled against retaliation, and they'd soon elected to ignore the behaviour, rather than give the rebels the satisfaction of a target for their animosity.

As the food appeared on the tables, at Dumbledore's command, the Great Hall erupted into a swell of excited chatter.

Hermione assured Sals it was the most enthusiasm she had ever seen from the student body, or the teachers for that matter. She then went on to insist that it was entirely due to him.

A glance along the Gryffindor table told Hermione that not everyone in the hall would agree. Ron Weasley was staring murderously at her, Sals, Neville and Ginny.

The quartet ignored the rebellious redhead and his cohorts, and focussed on enjoying the feast.


If you are enjoying this, you might like my other two Nifty stories...
This is a two-chapter Potterverse short story [complete].
This is on-going and I'm updating it as I write each new chapter.

All feedback is appreciated via: