Dear Albus,

Isn't it screamingly funny that I, Snape, the terror of Hogwarts, should keep a diary like some lovelorn adolescent girl? Ginny Weasley springs to mind. Ah well, I cannot hope to outdo a member of the Weasley family in pure silliness, can I? Perhaps I should have opted for that pink diary with hearts? But that was too Gilroy Lockheart to be considered even amusingly camp.

So, dear diary, Dear Albus, here you find me at the far end of the Forbidden Wood, with young Malfoy besides me sleeping the sleep of the utterly exhausted. Lying there like that, his normally sleek blonde hair tousled, with grimy, tear-stained cheeks, he actually looks like a child again – or for the first time. And I feel sorry for him. That is a first time too. I actually feel sorry for one of those sleazy, slimy Slytherin skunks. How I hate that house!

Do I detect a look of surprise, Albus? Did you really think I loved Slytherin, or even liked it? I have hated every minute of my time in that place. And yes, you could have known. Surely you remember the teachers' meeting where I suggested we abandon that stupid hat as a means of selection? Minerva, trust her to go in Keeper-of –Traditions mode at once, thought I simply disliked the object because of its Gryffindor associations and that silly stuff about the sword the old ass kept in there. Well, Gryffindor could have kept his entire wardrobe, including his (presumably red and gold) undies in the thing and I could not have cared less. What did bother me, is that the garment is so completely clueless that it actually leaves the choice to the child if things get a bit difficult. And that is downright criminal. No child should have to make such a decision on his own. But Our Great Keeper of Traditions, stubborn like all Scotts – Alastair is a case in point - denied fiercely and came with a wonderful clinching argument: "We do it like this because we have always done it like this."

How people can expect a brilliant innovator like you to rest in peace while such a rigid fool is ruining your life's work is beyond me. Anyone boring and predictable enough to choose a cat as Animagus should be boiled in her own kettle and buried with a stake through her heart. Make that a caber. If her Scottish heart, underneath that tartan upholstery, is as big as you always claim, it should be feasible.

But, to come back to my subject, yes, I have hated Slytherin from the moment I really knew what Slytherin was. This was, for obvious reasons, after the Sorting Procedure and after I had been forced to make the choice that has spoiled, if not downright ruined, my life. For what did I know about Slytherin before I came to Hogwarts? I knew that my mother had been at Slytherin. Of course I knew, not a day went by without her mentioning it. "When I was at Slytherin …" "Mind you get into Slytherin later, it is the only place to be …" If only I had married a Slytherin instead of That Man …" Do you know that she actually painted my nursery green and silver, so that I would come to like the colours early on? Green calming for the eye nerves of children, my foot! Muggle-talk, to convince my father. Not that they were ever convinced by anything the other said. They fought over the decorations, the food, the jobs they held, the books each liked, and of course mostly over me. Whatever I did, one would tell me off for it, the other would disagree and off they went, screaming and shouting for hours. "It is all your fault" being the usual end, either shouted by Dad or sobbed by Mum just before the great slamming of doors. It probably was, too. The whole world seems to consider me an obnoxious misfit; they were just the first to cotton on to it. No wonder their marriage did not stand the strain of having me for a child. No wonder they were so glad to see me leave. In fact, my fathers' only consolation for having to fork out school fees, robes and books was that, unlike the local comprehensive, Hogwarts is a boarding school.

So put a child who has been indoctrinated in Slytherin-love all his life on a train, assure him that you will haul him back in disgrace if he does not make it into the only proper House (Mum) and that you will thrash him within an inch of his life if he does come back (Dad) and you have a child who will murmur "Slytherin" when asked to choose.

And I was asked to choose, no mistake about that. No sooner sat that clueless rag on my head than it started: "Ooh, really difficult case we have here. Really difficult. More than enough courage, I see. And good brains. Talent too, oh dear yes, and a strong urge to prove yourself … very interesting. Where shall I put you? "

Well, what did you expect me to think? Slytherin, Slytherin, put me in Slytherin, I practically begged that hat.

"Not Gryffindor?" the voice said, "Are you sure? You could do great things, you know. It is all in your head and Gryffindor would help you to become great – no? Well, if you are really sure - "SLYTERIN" it shouted. And there I was, condemned to a life I have hated ever since. Because as an eleven year old, with my lousy home life, I was more or less prepared to do anything, just to hear my parents say "Well done, son" for once.

Of course, I could not say any of this during that famous meeting and Minerva's traditionalism carried the day. Combined with your own strong preference for all things Gryffindor, even your phoenix was red and gold. How many other children have suffered because of that hat's incompetence, I do not know. How many ended up in the wrong place, simply to please their family? How many have agonized for years, doubting whether they really belonged in their house, whether they were not, deep down inside, what that foul hat had suggested to them? Take young Malfoy now. What chance did he have to consider anything but Slytherin? With those parents? With that upbringing? Ah, well, the hat screamed Slytherin at once when he was sorted, so perhaps there really was no choice for him …

I had better catch some sleep too, tomorrow will be a long day. The first day of the rest of his life … At least I know what it is to be considered an outcast and a leper. Young Malfoy will have a lot to learn and he'll need me to hang on to. I had better be there for him. Unlike my Hogwart teachers, who seemed to take pride in abandoning even a pupil from their own House. And in lying to the Head Master. Yes, Albus, you were well and truly deceived in that little matter of Lupin and the Whomping Willow. But I'll tell you another day. There is still so much we must talk about.

Well, in best Ginny Weasley tradition, Goodnight Dear Albus, I am so glad to have you for a friend.

Truly glad, Albus, no jokes here.

At least I have the saving grace of not inventing a friend. You have always been a very real one. Who, perhaps, would not even find it 'screamingly funny' to see me like this.