THE SCORPION & THE LION
As the heavy doors to Hogwarts opened, the creaks of the hinges echoed an old tale of an ancient place far older than they imagined. Albus, Amelia, and Scorpius stayed close to one another while the group of first years ascended the steps, still following Hagrid until they reached the entrance to the Great Hall. A tiny wizard Albus recognised from pictures of The Order of the Phoenix arrived soon after and climbed a stool to make sure everyone could see him well.
“Welcome first years, welcome!” Professor Flitwick said in a squeaky voice, smiling at them. “Please follow me to the antechamber, the sorting is about to begin.”
“I’ll see yer in a bit Albus,” Hagrid said ruffling his hair so hard Albus’ entire body shook.
The persistent feeling of dread that had assailed Albus all day returned as the group of first year students made their way towards the sorting ceremony. He could hear excited whispers beside him but he was so consumed with anxiety that nothing anyone said permeated. At some point, Albus was unsure when, Professor Flitwick started his speech, the only reason he even begun paying attention was because Scorpius' elbow nudged him back to reality.
“...once the hat has sorted you, please make your way as quickly as you can to your house table. Now, for those of you that don't know, the four Houses of Hogwarts are; Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin."
A group of first years stood towards the back murmured in excitement at the mention of Slytherin. In their midst stood the same boy Albus had seen at the train station. He locked eyes with Albus, and offered a nod of the head before turning away to talk to his friends once again.
"That's Nakari Malum," Scorpius whispered. "His mother was the daughter of the former Japanese Minister for Magic and his father descends from the ancient House of Malum, a super powerful and respected Ethiopian wizarding family."
"And he's at Hogwarts?" Amelia asked, chiming in on the conversation.
"Oh yeah, his father works at the Ministry now, he oversees the Department of Magical Co-Operation."
"How do you know all this?" Albus enquired curiously.
"I read," Scorpius quipped.
Professor Flitwick cleared his throat, looking directly at Albus, Amelia and Scorpius who quietened down immediately.
"Those of you from wizarding families will already know that each house has a noble history, it is therefore your duty to try and uphold and increment their traditions. These Houses will become your identity and those within it like your family away from home. Throughout the year anything of note will earn your House points and any rule-breaking will result in points been taken away. At the end of the year the House with the most points will win the House Cup. Now, who's ready to get sorted?”
Albus, Amelia and Scorpius along with the rest of the first years all sighed in wonder as the doors to the Great Hall opened. There were tens of thousands of stars sparkling from the ceiling, which had been enchanted to resemble the nights sky. A sea of candles floated below them, helping to light the gigantic hall and further augmenting the sense of awe. Albus looked away from the multitude of faces and saw Hagrid taking a seat at the teachers table next to Professor Longbottom who gave a thumbs up as encouragement. Professor Flitwick moved past the students and placed a soiled wizard’s hat on a solitary wooden chair causing the room to fall silent. The sorting hat appeared to be deliberately remaining still for the audience's suspense until finally it opened its mouth near the brim.
A thousand years
Have come, have gone.
A thousand years,
Still Hogwarts holds strong.
Our fathers bickered,
Our mother's fought
Yet still our legend,
Here was wrought.
We take to hone.
Here we form,
Here was born.
A thousand years
Have come, have gone.
Through the darkest of wizards
Hogwarts weathered the storm.
A thousand years
Have come, have gone
And though I divide you
I do not divide you,
United we stand,
We bid you be strong,
For even the greatest of minds
Have attempted to wrong.
A thousand years
Be part of the journey,
I bid you welcome!
The Great Hall burst into applause as students took time to discuss the songs message with each other. Harry had explained to Albus that the hat changed its message every year, and no one really understood what it meant, only that it never said anything without a deeper meaning.
“When I call your name,” Professor Flitwick said squeaking above the applause. “Place the hat on top of your head and sit on the stool.”
Professor Flitwick, cleared his throat, unrolled a long scroll and started calling names.
“Abraham, Daniel!” a small blond boy with glasses a little too big for his face walked over to the chair, lifted the hat and placed the hat on his head.
“HUFFLEPUFF!” the sorting hat shouted.
The table to the right burst into applause once more and a fat ghost dressed like a friar welcomed a flustered looking Daniel Abraham.
Applause and whistles erupted from the table second from left. Susan Arrow was greeted by a tall boy wearing a badge on his chest which Albus recognised as that belonging to a Head Boy.
Albus felt weaker and weaker with every name that was called...
He didn't think he'd be able to go through with it, had anyone ever refused to be sorted? If so, what would happen to them?
Albus made to turn away, sick to the stomach at the thought of letting his entire family down but felt Scorpius' hand grab his wrist.
"You'll be fine," he said reassuringly.
Professor Flitwick continued to call students, reaching "Malfoy, Scorpius!"
Seeing Scorpius approach the sorting hat and place it on his head, Albus felt a pang of sadness, knowing that it would be their fate to be sent to different houses. But what was it the sorting hat had said? In spite of the fact that he divides them, he does not divide them, so they did not have to stop being friends just because they would belong to fiercely different houses.
“Taking a long time, ain’t it?” Amelia whispered to Albus.
After what seemed like an eternity, the sorting hat finally called out, “GRYFFINDOR!”
However, this time there wasn’t applause from any table. The name Malfoy was synonymous with Slytherin, all generations had been sorted into that House, even Scorpius looked dumbfounded.
“Errr…move along,” Professor Flitwick said uncomfortably.
Scorpius, looking paler than usual, walked towards the steps toward Gryffindor table, where he was met by stone cold silence, whilst over at the Slytherin table, several people were staring daggers at him as if he had somehow betrayed them. He looked up to Albus for help, dumbfounded by what had just occurred.
The hat hardly touched his head before it screamed, "SLYTHERIN!"
The Slytherin table slammed their fists on the table, creating an almost tribal sound as their new member sat down. Nakari looked full of pride at having been sorted into Slytherin.
Albus walked as slowly as he could, attempting to delay the sorting. He saw James' intrigued face among the crowd, as well as Ted Lupin and Victoire Weasley. The look of expectation on their faces caused the knot in his stomach to tighten to the point that his knees almost buckled. Albus approached the stool, picked up the hat and placed it on his head.
“Hmm…” the hat whispered into his ear. “I’ve seen a mind like this before…uh huh…another Potter…ah, your brother was far easier to place...hmmm. Interesting. I see ambition, desire and abundant talent…all these traits would do you good in Slytherin…yes…but ah yes, I see…”
Albus closed his eyes.
“You are very similar to your father and yet so different…he begged me to put him in Gryffindor…you wish the same but refuse to plead…it takes bravery to accept a fate that could lead to such disappointment, specially for one so young...it can only be…GRYFFINDOR!”
Albus jumped in surprise as the hat shouted the Houses name to the Great Hall. He opened his eyes just in time to see the entire Gryffindor table up on its feet. All of a sudden, the burden lifted from his shoulders, he caught sight of James staring at him with a soft smile, clapping along with the rest of the Gryffindors. Albus made his way to the table and sat next to Scorpius drawing some angry glances from his housemates.
"You don't have to--" Scorpius started.
"Shut up," Albus replied with a smile.
The sorting hat didn't spend too much time considering her before sorting Amelia into Gryffindor. Beaming, she joined her two friends just as the sorting ceremony was drawing to a close. Professor McGonagall stood up once everyone was settled. She looked at once regal and menacing and judging by the way postures had changed, it was clear that she was not someone to aggravate.
“To the new faces, welcome. To the old faces, welcome back. I know you are as keen to stuff your bellies. as I am to get into bed with a hot cup of cocoa and call it a day. Please give a warm welcome to our new caretakers Deimos and Phobos Leech," Professor McGonagall gestured to the back of the room where two slim, tall and balding men stood.
Deimos and Phobos were identical twins so the only way to distinguish them was by their eyes. Deimos had milky white eyes, giving him the appearance of being blind, although Albus doubted that was the case from the manner in which he scanned the room. Phobos on the other hand had completely black eyes, as if they were dead and needed to be gouged out and replaced. Neither brother gave so much as a smile as the entire Great Hall welcomed them with applause.
"Secondly and lastly," Professor McGonagall resumed. "Last year we saw an increased amount of rule-breaking. Unsurprising seeing as we now have Potters, Weasleys and Lupins under one same roof,” she said bluntly and was met by laughter. “This year, punishments will be severe. Any repeat offender will lose their House one hundred points for every rule they break, however minor it may be. Deimos and Phobos have been tasked with enforcing rules. Now, please enjoy the feast and remember to leave a token of appreciation to our dedicated house-elves for their hard work in making sure we are well fed.”
With a clap of her hands the tables filled with all types of food including sausage rolls, treacle tarts, shepherds' pies, hot pots, roast spuds, roast lamb, anything they could want had been provided.
"Mate..." Albus said eating a sausage roll.
Scorpius shook his head, unable to eat. "What just happened?"
Albus nudged Scorpius and pointed at Amelia who was devouring everything in front of her.
"What? Never seen a girl eat?" Amelia paid them no mind and returned her attention to her plate.
"They hate me," Scorpius said looking around the Gryffindor table. Albus who had taken the queue from Amelia and started to eat looked up and saw the distrusting glances aimed at Scorpius.
"I think they hate you more, mate." Albus said pointing at thumb at the Slytherin table. "But listen, eat now, worry later."
Albus smiled through a mouthful of roast potatoes, feeling at ease for the first time in months and thinking that perhaps Hogwarts wouldn't be as bad as he had anticipated...at least not for him.