Author: John Sexton
Genre: Harry Potter Slash
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Chapter Eighteen -- A Session with the Sorting Hat
Hermione was elated, as Ginny turned to Sals, with a twinkle in her eye.
"Well," she quipped, as her eyebrows arched, "you certainly know how to stir things up," she smiled and winked, "ever thought of going into politics, Sals?"
Sals laughed pleasantly.
"Ah... no! I've quite enough enemies already, thanks, Ginny."
She laughed, and seemed delighted with Sals's response.
Hermione joined in the laughter, but it was curtailed by the familiar voice of Ginny's brother, as he rasped angrily in her ear. Hermione felt a chill run down her spine, even though the anger was not directed at her.
"I think you should sit with your own year, Ginevra," Ronald Weasley spat her name, as he leaned over her shoulder.
Without turning around, or acknowledging her brother in any other way, Ginny simply replied, "and I think you should grow up, Ronald! You are embarrassing yourself, as well as me and every other mature person in Gryffindor."
Ronald turned towards Sals, his face almost purple with rage.
"Keep away from my sister, Snape," he growled.
A hush descended on the immediate vicinity, then swept across the hall in a nearly discernible wave.
Hermione was furious, but this was none of her business: it was a matter for Ginny and Sals to handle.
"Mr Weasley," called Dumbledore from the head table, and all eyes were on the redhead, "a moment, if you please."
The angry Gryffindor glared at Sals, Ginny and Hermione, in turn. His complexion matched his hair, and his face was set in a belligerent scowl, as he huffed over towards the headmaster.
The conversation between the old man and the angry redhead was drowned out by the chatter that hummed across the hall.
It was totally indiscernible but over in a matter of seconds, and Weasley was soon striding towards the back of the hall. His look was murderous, but, oddly, it was not directed at the trio. He looked down at the floor, as he swiftly made his way out through the huge doors, which he slammed shut.
A new mood descended upon the Great Hall, as the conversations became suddenly hushed and almost conspiratorial. But the gloom did not last long, except for Ron Weasley's group, which seemed more mutinous and disaffected than ever.
Sals finished his pudding, as the feast drew to a close, then he excused himself from the table.
"Back in a tic," he said.
He strode over to the head table, and stood before Dumbledore.
"Ah, Salazar," cried the wily old wizard; he was beaming.
"Good evening, Headmaster," Sals smiled at the old man.
"Congratulations, my boy, on that fine effort tonight, very impressive." He turned to Professor McGonagall, "wouldn't you agree, Minerva?"
"Absolutely, Albus," she replied, then she smiled at Sals. "Very well done, indeed, Snape, the hat is proud of you. Congratulations on being Sorted into Gryffindor, I'm sure you will do our house proud. Though I'm not sure what your father must think of it all."
Sals did not need to wonder at the woman's sincerity; he could tell, even without resorting to Legilimency, that she had not expected this result, and she did not trust him.
But that did not stop him from wondering just how difficult it would be to breech the sly old witch's defences, when the need arose, as it surely would before too long.
While her smile had been warm, her true sentiments were not so agreeable. Sals doubted that she'd take her eyes off him for one second. Another problem that he had not anticipated! His anger with the hat flared again: the year ahead was looking even more problematic.
"Thank you, Professor," Sals smiled, "I'm sure Dad's probably relieved, if the truth be known," he added with a cheeky grin that he directed from McGonagall to his father.
The new Dark Arts Professor had just turned to the conversation, from the far side of the headmaster.
"I'm quite relieved, if the truth be known," was Severus' rejoinder.
He made no further comment, but he secreted a wry grin, before returning his attention to his teacup, and his discussion with the new Potions Master, Professor Slughorn.
"I'm very honoured to be in Gryffindor, Professor," Sals smiled at his new housemistress, "I will always try to bring credit to the house, Ma'am."
"I am sure you will, Snape," McGonagall smiled at him, "the Sorting Hat knows what it is doing."
"THE FUCK IT DOES!" Sals cried, at the top of his silent voice.
"Language!" cried his father, without interrupting his own conversation.
"Thank you, Ma'am," Sals almost chirped, in his attempt to hide his rising anger.
Then the headmistress turned her attention to her teacup, acknowledging that Sals had come to speak to the headmaster.
"Professor Dumbledore," Sals lowered his voice, and addressed the old man solicitously, "it's about the hat that I wish to speak to you, Sir."
The wizened wizard said nothing, but merely smiled.
"I would very much like to talk to the hat... if that is at-all-possible, Headmaster."
"I'll bet you do!" quipped Sals's father, without turning back towards Sals, or interrupting his conversation with Slughorn.
"Any suggestions? A bit of help would be appreciated, Dad," Sals whined sarcastically, but there was a serious undercurrent to his plea.
"Of course, my boy," was the headmaster's pleasant reply.
"This is one of those adventures of which you are so fond..." Severus teased his son.
"The Sorting Hat," Dumbledore continued, "does seem to enjoy chatting with you, Salazar."
"... you know... where you pit your wits against the odds, and emerge the wiser for it."
"We shall be in my office in twenty minutes."
"This is your moment, your enterprise, Sals."
The headmaster leaned forward and pushed a small bowl across the table.
"... you know what to do, and only you can decide how to approach this dilemma."
"Peppermint Plimpy?" the old man asked, as he offered one of his sweets to Sals.
"On your toes!" quipped his father, "he's testing you. That's all the help I'm giving."
"Oh, great," Sals grumbled, "sure you couldn't be more cryptic?"
Sals thanked the headmaster, then grinned wickedly at his father as he turned almost two-seventy, to face the Gryffindor table.
"You really can be a bastard, when you put your mind to it, Dad!" Sals shot over the grin.
"What can I say? Professor Severus Snape is back at Hogwarts... I'm in my element!" came his dad's cheery reply.
"Yeah, well you could at least offer me some encouragement," Sals groaned.
"Good luck," Severus quipped.
Sals dropped his head towards his chest, and laughed to himself, as he made his way back to the Gryffindor table.
Hermione stood up, as Dumbledore made his way out of the chamber; the ancient warlock had just dismissed the assembly. She turned to face Sals and Ginny, while the rest of the students, who were nearly all closer to the great doors, excitedly made their way to their dormitories.
"I've got to take a detour, before I go up to the dorm," Sals apologised.
"There are a few people I have to see," he added, with what Hermione thought was an odd expression, given the circumstances.
Even more confusing was what Hermione found, when she followed the melodramatic nod that he flicked across the vast chamber.
Draco Malfoy was still sitting at the Slytherin table, flanked only by Crabbe and Goyle, and looking darkly at Sals.
The blond's sullen posture was as if nothing had changed in the last month, or from the last school year, for that matter.
Hermione sensed a cold chill... this did not bode well... she felt it to her bones.
"But how will you find your way there?" cried Ginny... "to Gryffindor?" she added.
The stunningly gorgeous boy smiled, in such a way that both Hermione and Ginny blushed.
Hermione's reaction was one that she could not comprehend, let alone explain. She was confused, and knew, intuitively, that Ginny felt the same way.
"I had to kill a few hours here, after my interview with Dumbledore, last month... while I waited for Dad to finish his meetings," the dark-eyed youth explained. "Wandering through the castle, I made the acquaintance of several very friendly portraits that day. I think it's great that so many of the portrait residents are happy to help with directions."
Ginny squinted, "well, aren't you the clever minx!" Then she smiled and chirped, "anyway, since Madam Prefect, here, has got to look after these little darlings."
She grinned wickedly in the direction of the excited First Years, who were growing restless.
"Without the help of your darling brother!" Hermione teased Ginny.
"I suppose I should keep family honour intact, and lend a hand putting them to bed, Herm," Ginny chirped again.
"Is she nervous?" Hermione wondered.
"Well, then, we'll see you in the common room, Sals," the girls chorused, then laughed at their timing.
He smiled, gave a cute little wave, and turned towards the Slytherin table, while the girls focussed their attention on the restless and excited First Years.
Sals stormed out of the Great Hall, alone and furious, then headed straight for Dumbledore's office.
Slytherin was going to be a bloody fiasco! All of his plans were totally fucked!
The angry youth turned his wrath back on the damned hat, then wondered at its motive. Had it put him in Gryffindor to thwart his plans? Did the hat disapprove of what it had learned? Just how much had it learned?
That was what terrified Sals, more than anything else: he did not know how much of his scheme had been compromised... he panicked.
"What if it tells McGonagall or Dumbledore?"
The youth was also feeling crushed that he was not the master Occlumens he had thought himself to be. That was a blow to both his ego and his confidence; but he dare not admit it, not even to himself.
What stemmed from that was even more uncomfortable: because Sals's father had tried to caution him against being overconfident with the hat, as recently as this morning, just before he had given him the Portkey to platform nine and three-quarters.
Sals's arrogance had brought him undone, and he dreaded what his father would have to say.
"But it's behind me now!" the young wizard tried to rationalise.
"No use crying over spilled potion," Sals admonished himself, with one of his father's favourite aphorisms... one that he hoped his dad would adopt on this occasion. In any case, it was true: there was no point to dwelling on the past, recent or distant.
"What's done is done!" he affirmed his nascent conviction through gritted teeth... he had a persona to maintain and a plan to fulfil, if he was going to be successful and, more to the point, the victor in the looming conflict, which promised to be a full-on shit-fight.
The frustrated young wizard's thoughts returned to the hat, which had not seemed very happy with his treatment of the Prince of Slytherin.
Sals mused on that, then frowned when he considered what else the hat would not like. He shrugged his shoulders in angry frustration; after all... what could he possibly do if the hat planned to stop him?
Then Sals thought back over the hat's words, and one recollection stood out: "You will do well in Gryffindor."
"GRYFFINDOR!" The word still stung; anger flared; Sals's plans were in tatters!
Suddenly, Sals slowed his pace to a near-standstill.
"Or are they?" he asked himself, as more of the hat's thoughts tumbled back out of his subconscious mind... "I'm glad to see that you share my ambitions for Hogwarts. Together we'll succeed."
The words echoed inside Sals's head: "share my ambitions..." "together we'll succeed..." "TOGETHER!"
A smile crept across the handsome youth's face.
He quickened his pace and almost began to jog, as his impatience to talk to the hat grew with the realisation: the hat knew what he was planning, and it supported him!
Then Sals' smile morphed into a scowl, when he considered how long it had taken him to realise that!
He was furious that he had been so distracted by the negative aspects of the hat's decision... that he had allowed himself to be blindsided to the bleeding obvious.
The powerful young wizard was really annoyed that he hadn't recognised this palpable conclusion till now. So much for being a master strategist!
Sals tried to rationalise again, and managed to focus on the positives of this insight.
He still didn't understand where the hat was coming from, but that didn't matter anymore; all that really mattered was that one of Hogwarts' oldest magical entities wanted him to succeed.
"But how?... What can the hat do?" Sals wondered.
"And why am I in GRYFFINDOR?" the perturbed youth growled, as his breath began to labour.
"GRYFFINDOR!" he roared again.
It echoed down the empty hallway, as he raced angrily towards his assignation with Dumbledore and the hat. His mood was swinging like a pendulum; once again he was suddenly black with renewed frustration.
"`Together we'll succeed...' What the fuck does that mean?" he gasped furiously.
Sals' outburst echoed off the walls once more, causing him to flinch with embarrassment at his childish lack of discipline. It was a bitter reminder that he was -- after all was said and done -- still only sixteen, despite playing this adults' game, in which the penalty for failure or error was merely death!
When Salazar arrived at the statue of the fearsome gargoyle that guarded Dumbledore's office, he realised that the old man had not given him the password.
He slowed his breath, while he contemplated that, then tried the one that his father had used, when they had been there a month ago.
He was frustrated, but hardly surprised, when the guardian did not move.
"This is ridiculous!" Sals huffed, with his hands on his hips, and his head thrown back in disgust.
Then he smiled; it was deliberate; the old man was testing him. He turned to face the foreboding image of the guardian once more.
"Peppermint Plimpy," Sals declared confidently.
The statue never reacted; it sat on its haunches, implacable, disinterested, yet seeming ready to pounce at the merest provocation.
"Mmmmm," Sals murmured to himself, "maybe Plimpy is a fish of a different colour."
Then, taking a sudden imaginary step to the left, Sals cried out, "Red Herring!" Then he followed quickly with a desperate "red Plimpy!"
The stone monster remained fixed, but Sals could swear that it was staring at him intently.
"My name is Salazar Snape," the boy announced boldly, a newly inspired tactic now in play, "and I am here to see the headmaster," he quipped.
He decided to exercise some tact; "Professor Dumbledore is expecting me," he added solicitously.
Sals huffed once more at the lack of response, and resumed his disgusted pose.
Slowly the collar of his shirt began to ripple, as his snake emerged from his clothes and slithered its way around his smooth neck, to nestle its head against his ear, flicking the lobe with its serpentine tongues.
"Hello, Vipera, how fares the Queen of Slytherin?" the boy greeted her appearance warmly.
In a flash the snake slithered around the youth's throat and over his shoulder, then disappeared beneath the collar, only to re-emerge around his wrist, from under the sleeve of his Gryffindor robe.
Just as quickly, it wrapped it's torso around Sals's hand, which he held up in astonishment.
"Sorry... Queen of Gryffindor!" the tall, dark, handsome youth quipped whimsically.
He admired the serpent's now golden scales, scarlet eyes and forked tongue.
"Very impressive," he complimented his familiar, "gold suits you, Vipera!"
The serpent slid back up under his robe and around his neck, then began to hiss ever so faintly into Sals' audio canal.
The boy smiled, yet again, as he recalled a snippet of trivia from "Hogwarts, a History."
He studied the school shield, upon which the awesome guardian rested its lethal paws. The long, sharp talons of its right paw were caressing the mane of the lion, while the equally fearsome claws of its left were draped over the head of the serpent.
Sals focussed on the Slytherin emblem, then he hooded his obsidian orbs, and hissed his previous announcement... in Parseltongue!
The statue immediately gave way, and the great spiral staircase to the headmaster's office rumbled and swung into view.
Just as Sals stepped onto the stairs, his euphoria was crushed by a horrible thought: "What if Ron Weasley is waiting at the top of the staircase?"
The last thing he wanted right now was a distraction. He was impatient to speak to the hat; the thought of having to endure the redhead's antics was already raising Sals' hackles. He was not in the mood for any of the irrational Gryffindor's stupidity.
As the top of the staircase swang into view, Sals was relieved to find no sign of his newly acquired enemy.
"Come in, Salazar, come in!" called Dumbledore, just as Sals stepped off the staircase, and the door to the headmaster's office opened magically.
Sals stepped inside the chamber, to find the ancient wizard sitting behind his desk, peering across at him over his glasses.
Dumbledore looked like the kneazle that had just caught a rat.
Sals wondered if the game was up, if all his plans were dashed. Had the hat betrayed him?
"Thank you, headmaster," the boy purred smoothly, playing his part to the very end. He nodded respectfully to the old man, then closed the heavy door behind him.
"Well done, Sals," Dumbledore complimented the new student. "I have it on good authority that no one has thought of that approach for at least three hundred and seventy years."
Sals masked his relief, and immediately looked pointedly at the portraits that hung behind the old man; they were arrayed around the walls haphazardly, it seemed to the youth.
Some of the former headmasters were dozing or, in some other fashion, preoccupied; but some, Sals observed cautiously, were obviously intent on following his interactions with the headmaster quite closely.
The old man laughed brightly, "well done, again, Salazar." Then he leaned closer and lowered his voice. "Severus told you all about them, no doubt."
"No sir, you did," the scheming young wizard replied, with an air of embarrassment commensurate with the discomfort of having to correct such an eminent figure.
"Ah, well... well done, in any case, my boy... it was your namesake who designed the staircase and charmed the gargoyle, you know."
"Yes, Sir," Sals replied fervidly, "I read that in `Hogwarts, a History,' only the other day. That was what inspired me to try Parseltongue," he half-lied.
"I have Hermione to thank for that, Headmaster," he smiled sweetly, "she really loves her history."
The handsome youth knew that bit of trivia would tickle the old man's fancy.
Dumbledore smiled, but it was laboured. Sals could see that he was not well, but decided, never-the-less, to play up to the old man's banter.
"So... Tom Riddle never tried it, Headmaster?" Sals enquired cheekily, "not even Harry Potter?"
"No, and we haven't had many Parselmouths at Hogwarts; in fact we've had more this last fifty years, than in the three hundred and twenty that preceded them.
Sals adopted an enthusiastic demeanour, as he enquired, "so who was the last to try it, Headmaster?"
"Merriman Prince," Dumbledore replied, with a twinkle in his eye; then he paused and nodded, "yes... an ancestor of your paternal grandmother. You, no doubt, have inherited the skill from him, through her."
"Well," Sals laughed bitterly, "it's a damned sight better than having it through a connection to Voldemort, I suppose."
"Indeed," the old man agreed sombrely. "Speaking of Harry Potter," he eyed Sals over the top of his spectacles, and a wicked grin wrinkled his long white whiskers, "I do believe the hat is just as keen to talk to you, as you are to it... about Harry's fate, and other matters."
Then, quite suddenly, the old man's smile evaporated; he leaned forward and eyed Sals earnestly.
"I do not normally grant this privilege, Salazar," the wizened warlock advised the handsome teenager, "I presume you realise that," he added rhetorically. Then he smiled, as he informed the boy, "but the hat agrees that some discussion is in order."
Sals was encouraged by that.
"However," Dumbledore squinted, before eyeing the youth intently, "I trust that you will not attempt to cajole the hat into re-sorting you, my boy?"
"Oh, no, Professor," Sals looked suitably appalled by the suggestion, then he proffered an appropriately grave assurance, "I know that is not possible. Besides," he quipped and promptly adopted his most winning smile, "I trust the hat's judgement," which was almost true... well... it was more hope than conviction.
"Right then," the old man smiled like a loon, again, "I'll leave you to conduct your meeting in private. You may let yourself out, when you are finished, Salazar, I'll see you at breakfast. Well done tonight, you did your father proud."
"Thank you, Headmaster," Sals smiled at Dumbledore, "uh... before you go, Sir... I would very much like to wear the hat... if that is permissible."
He looked warily at the portraits on the walls of the chamber.
"Ah... yes, of course, my boy," Dumbledore grinned, then tapped his long, crooked nose, with the index finger of his good hand. "The walls indeed have ears," he whispered.
The ancient warlock then waved that same hand in the direction of the hat, which was perched upon a shelf, above their heads.
The decrepit pile of old rags floated down, to rest on the desk, facing Sals directly.
The fit young wizard drew a deep breath, as he prepared for his next encounter with the powerful magical entity.
"You can leave the hat on its stool, when you leave, Salazar," the old man declared, then he pointed to the Sorting Stool, as he departed.
When the door to Dumbledore's rooms finally closed, Sals picked up the Sorting Hat, and boldly placed it on his head.
"Well, young Snape," the hat enquired without ceremony, "have you had time to consider your position and your attitude towards my decision?"
"Not really," Sals replied, as he bit his unoccupied bottom lip.
"I still have no idea why you put me there," the boy groused. "You breached my Occlumency with impunity, so you know how desperately I wanted to be in Slytherin."
The hat began to laugh inside Sals's head, which immediately put the boy on edge.
"You are too prickly," Snape, the hat taunted him, "rein in your emotions, boy! How do you expect to occlude anyone, behaving like that?"
"Then you want me to succeed? You don't intend to stop me?" Sals cried in surprise, even in his mind.
"Despite the appointment of a Slytherin as this year's head boy," the hat explained, "at my behest," it added rather pointedly, "Hogwarts has been under Dumbledore's influence for too long.
"It is time for Slytherin to become a genuine force once again within the school, not merely a token of one."
"Then why am I in GRYFFINDOR?" Sals raged in silence.
"For one so bright, you can be incredibly oblique, Snape," the hat pricked Sals's ego once more.
The youth merely huffed in annoyance.
"Your credibility with Gryffindor is virtually non-existent," the hat chided him. "How did you think you were going to get a foothold there?"
The boy made no reply, for he had none to offer.
"You would be far more vulnerable outside of Gryffindor than in it," the hat continued. "Your place in Slytherin is already assured -- you have your father and young Malfoy there -- while your only allies in Gryffindor are Granger, Longbottom and the Weasley girl!
"What do you think the reaction of the rest of Gryffindor would be, towards Miss Granger or Miss Weasley, if you were in Slytherin? What do you think the likes of the Weasley boy would suggest were their motives?"
Sals merely shrugged his shoulders.
"You would be lame and impotent, if you were in Slytherin," the hat pushed on, "figuratively speaking!" it added emphatically.
Sals detected a lilting barb in the hat's tone, but he did not react.
"If you want to be the master of Hogwarts's destiny," the ancient magical entity proceeded unabated, "you have to win over the staff and prevail upon the entire student body; to do that you have to control Gryffindor... you already knew that!" the hat chided him.
"How were you going to do that from inside Slytherin?" it added, a little impatiently. "From Slytherin you command Slytherin; from Gryffindor you rule the school!"
Sals was reeling. He had not had time to process any of the implications of the hat's decision, either during or since the feast. He was, even now, struggling to cope with his very recent realisation that the hat appeared to support his agenda.
"Of course I support you!" the hat barked, "you foolish boy.
"But you need to be more flexible with your planning, and be prepared to change your tactics, when the need arises. This is such a time! It will take Slytherin guile of the highest quality to win this forthcoming conflict, young Snape!
"Voldemort was right! Your plan is bold, resolute and original..." the hat continued enthusiastically, "and it might just work! Though you must take great care, exercise extreme caution, and curb your arrogance!"
That stung, but Sals swallowed his pride, and took the admonition for what it was worth. After all, his father had issued the same cautionary advice only that morning.
"For too long now," the hat expanded, "nearly as many years as these walls have been standing, there has been an injustice at Hogwarts that has never been redressed.
"Your plan has the potential to restore Slytherin to its rightful place, and reawaken its power and Magic at long last. I approve of everything that you are attempting to achieve."
Sals smiled smugly, but curbed his overt delight for fear of alienating the hat; nevertheless, the young lion's confidence grew, as the ancient magical entity continued...
"Use Tom Riddle to your advantage, but do not take your eye off him for a second. He will betray you at the first opportunity," the Sorting Hat purred its encouragement and caution with a casual air.
Then the pile of old rags eased itself across Sals's brow.
"Young Malfoy," the ancient hat muttered, "I do not really know, since I barely touched his skull, during his sorting five years ago! ... ... ...
"Regarding your tactic with him, I offer no comment. I can see that to do so would be a waste of both our time; though I cannot say I approve."
"So much for not commenting!" Sals scowled at the hat.
"Mmmmm..." the hat added a sullen approbation, before conceding ground... "I make no further comment!"
Sals rolled his eyes, and made no attempt to conceal his reaction.
Though, the hat immediately broke its guarantee...
"I must say," it added haughtily, "the cruelty and brutality you have exhibited with him surpasses anything I thought you capable of perpetrating. You are prepared to be ruthless, to achieve your ends, young Snape, and that may just give you the edge in this forthcoming conflict!"
Sals could not help but grin at the hat's burst of irrational contrariness: it was almost human.
Then the hat pulled its wilting peak into a more determined pose, and sat more rigidly on the handsome Gryffindor's crown.
"Keep Tom Riddle firmly in your sights, young Salazar," the hat repeated its earlier warning in Sals's head, in a mental whisper. "You are in great danger, and you are playing with a fire beyond anything that any Muggle -- and most wizards, when it comes down to it -- could even begin to imagine.
"I sense your anxiety," the hat observed, with an aura of compassion, "it is to be expected. I would be concerned if you were not anxious."
The beautiful youth smiled briefly.
"It is good that you have come to talk," the hat soothed onwards, "I understand you, better than anyone you have ever known! We have no secrets... you and I!"
Sals was unnerved by that revelation, and the hat merely chuckled at his reaction.
"I understand your frustration and fear of failure, your desperation to get them all to accept you for who you are, not for who they think you are. Your determination to please your father. I know that you hate living a lie.
"Harry Potter was no different. As the boy who lived, he was never known for who he was, either. But you have the chance that Potter lost, the chance to live. What's more, as the son of Severus Snape, you have the opportunity to control your own destiny.
"Now, then," the hat's voice took on an entirely different tone, "about the fate of Harry Potter, and its implications for your tactics in Gryffindor..."
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: firstname.lastname@example.org