The hapless girl slowly lifted the Sorting Hat from over her head. The sight that met her eyes made her grimace in a mixture of distaste and fear. It was a shell-shocked hall. Nobody had expected this. A Weasley in Slytherin?
On a slight shove from an equally shocked Deputy Headmistress, Ginny Weasley leapt of the stool and looked around helplessly. Her gaze fell instantly on her brothers. Ron shot her a dark look, sitting next to Jerry Potter, the boy-who-lived. Ginny's face clouded even further on seeing Jerry's look of mistrust. Her gaze shifted to the twins, who shook their heads in disbelief, and finally Percy. Surprisingly, Percy looked at her sympathetically, and attempted a weak smile.
"Miss Weasley, please go to your house table," McGonagall said exasperatedly to the final student to be sorted for the year. As shocking as her placement might be, she had no right to hold up the evening for everyone else.
Sniffing, Ginny turned her head towards the mass of green and silver, and took a step hesitatingly. All the students sitting there seemed to look at her with an almost predatory glee. She grimaced once again, but walked resolutely.
'It matters little where your brothers are, for you belong in only one place,' the Sorting Hat had whispered in her head before yelling SLYTHERIN for the whole of Hogwarts to hear.
'I don't belong in Slytherin,' the thought filled Ginny's head with despair and distress. Unbidden, she felt a tear threatening to appear in her eye. She took a deep breath and walked to the furthest corner of the table, away from other students, and sat down. Resting her head on the table, the newest Slytherin paid little heed to the rest of the proceedings, including the start and finish of dinner.
When the prefects led the students to the Slytherin Dungeons, Ginny walked as if in a daze. Once in a while, another first year student attempted to draw Ginny in a conversation, but the miserable girl didn't even appear to register the words.
For years, she had eagerly awaited this day, when she would finally follow her older brothers to Hogwarts, and to Gryffindor. But now that very day became her biggest nightmare. She was a Slytherin, the very embodiment of everything horrible that her brothers ever spoke of. The Lair of the Serpents would become her home. Ginny shuddered. What would her parents say?
Tears threatened to appear again, but the girl held them back stubbornly. Her pride was all that was left to her.
"Welcome to Slytherin House," the prefect said. Ginny didn't recall his name. "Over here in Slytherin, house loyalty means everything. Whatever happens in the dungeons, stays in the dungeons! If any of you go running to anyone save Professor Snape, you will become a pariah for the rest of your days in Hogwarts. This is most important, no matter what happens, always seek Professor Snape's aid. I am absolutely serious. The other houses hate us, and so your only friends for the next seven years are here, around you. Do not lose this friendship, or else you will suffer."
"Some of you might have expected to be sorted to another house," and as he said, the prefect's eyes fell unwaveringly on Ginny's red head. "But you are here. Accept it. Accept us. Or your life will be much more miserable than it needs to be." Finally, he lowered his voice and said, "Some of you might receive visitors to your beds tonight. Struggle, and the consequences will be dire. Tattle outside this house, and you will suffer, for no one save Professor Snape will believe a Slytherin, and he doesn't like tattlers. Nothing that happens in here is wrong, and should not be divulged outside."
To Ginny, the meaning was clear, and this time her determination gave way. She started crying, disregarding the look of disgust thrown at her by the prefect.
An hour later, Ginny found herself unable to sleep. The dreaded words of the prefect haunted her ears. She knew she wouldn't be overlooked, not because she was pretty, but because she was a Weasley. She heard the noises coming from a bed near hers; the girl was a muggleborn, and therefore even worse off than her. But at that moment, she only cared for her own self. With a shudder, she realized how Slytherin that was.
'I don't belong in Slytherin,' she repeated like a mantra in her head, when her curtains were pulled open.
"Well well," a voice drawled. "If it isn't a little Weasel!"
Shielding herself with her teddy bear, Ginny crouched as far as she could on her bed as a thin blonde boy slowly made towards her. She had no doubt as to his identity. She had seen him only weeks ago in Diagon Alley. Draco Malfoy was claiming her.
"Please, don't," she begged pitifully.
Malfoy laughed scornfully. "Such a perfect opportunity, how can I not? It's a pity I cannot boast to your brothers about it, how I ravage their baby sister… how I walk to her dorm, get on her bed, slowly remove her robes, and…"
"Leave her, Malfoy," a quiet yet forceful voice interrupted.
Ginny turned her head to see a raven haired boy observe them from the entrance of the dorm. She squinted her eyes and nearly gasped. The boy looked a lot like James Potter, the boy-who-lived's father.
"Get lost, Potter," Malfoy sneered. "I was here first. You know the rules."
At the mention of Potter, Ginny's eyes widened and she looked pleadingly at the newcomer. He had a short and lean build, but carried himself with an aura of authority. Approaching Malfoy fearlessly, he said, "You know how much I care about the rules of this house. Go back to your bed, Draco, you are too young to be playing 'big boy'."
"And you are not?" the boy asked snidely, but took a step back.
The black haired boy didn't respond to Draco Malfoy. He looked at Ginny appraisingly, and said, "Come with me."
Ginny hesitated. She looked from Malfoy to the apparent Potter, and without a second thought, scampered to her feet, and keeping as much distance between herself and Malfoy, got behind the black haired boy, her teddy dangling from one hand.
"Go to bed, Draco," the boy said ominously as a farewell, as he walked out, the redhead inches behind him.
In the Common Room, there were quite a few older students awake, doing all kinds of things, from revising for the next day to making out.
Seeing the two first years descend, several eyes turned to them, but the boy-who-was-a-Potter didn't appear to notice. Ginny hid herself behind the boy, trying to not appear conspicuous, but it was hard to not get identified.
"Look, blood traitors!" a voice mocked, and several titters rose.
"Silence," the Potter boy said quietly, but was disregarded. Sighing, he opened his mouth and let out an angry snake-like hiss. The effect was instantaneous. The Common Room froze, and slowly returned to their own tasks, ignoring the Parselmouth.
But Ginny recoiled in horror. To her, the hiss was not merely a sound. She knew what it was, for her ears heard it well enough. But to her mind, it was a clear and succinct commanding word, "Silence!" She froze in her spot, her hand covering her mouth, as she looked at the other snake-speaker with dread.
But the boy grabbed her arm and dragged her towards a portrait of a snake coiled around in a circle. Looking at the painting, the boy hissed again, "Open."
Ginny watched in silent awe as the painting sprung open, revealing a dark passage, and she was pulled in by the boy.
"Ginny Weasley," he said plainly. "A family strongly aligned to Dumbledore and the Light. A family of Gryffindors. Ginny Weasley, a Slytherin."
Ginny shuddered and flinched at the final word. The way the boy spoke made it more real than it had felt so far. Raising her head, she looked at him, meaning to thank him for rescuing her from Draco Malfoy, when she realized she wasn't aware of his intentions.
As if reading her thoughts from her expression, the boy said, "You have nothing to fear from me. Even Malfoy was more of pomp and show than anything else. He is too young to have done anything… as am I. But the upper year students aren't."
"Th-thank you," Ginny uttered finally, letting out a deep breath.
"I'm Harry Potter," the boy said, without acknowledging the girl's gratitude. "Twin brother of the boy-who-lived, black sheep of the family."
Ginny shifted uneasily. Harry had been kind to her, and she wanted to tell him that he wasn't a black sheep when she recalled she had never really heard much of him. Frowning, she looked at him curiously.
"You're a Parselmouth like me," he said. "The Serpent in the Portrait told me." Then looking around, he hissed again, "Lumos!" Instantly, light dawned in the room around them. It was a comfortably lavish, nearly palatial chamber. A chandelier was hung on the top, a huge king-size bed with silk coverings, a dresser, wardrobes, a bookshelf, a fireplace, a piano in a distant corner with sofas, and an en suite bathroom.
"This has been my room since the middle of last year," Harry explained. "By rights it belongs to you as well."
"Rights?" Ginny asked in bemusement.
"The right of being serpent-tongued," Harry said plainly. "You need it more than I do. I may have intimidated Draco Malfoy, but the older students are a different matter. And I can't keep an eye on you all the time."
Ginny's eyes welled up at the boy's words, dispassionate and yet hiding a kindness she hadn't expected from anyone since the Hat's ominous declaration. "Why are you doing this?" The meaning was clear.
So was the response. "Because we are alike," the boy said. "I had to spend my nights in fear of being hexed or injured. By the time, the Serpent in the Portrait revealed this room's existence to me, I had nursed six broken bones, two strangulation hexes, three cutting curses, and that's not even counting the Gryffindors. But you face a worse humiliation. And I know your brothers. Our narrow minded families do not accept our house placement. The other members of this house will never accept our families. Between two contrasting identities which was chosen for us by others, our next seven years will pass."
'We are alike,' she thought as she gazed at the boy. Then frowning, she asked, "If you give me this room, where will you go?"
Shrugging, he said, "My dorm, I suppose. I doubt many will attempt to hurt me anymore, knowing I am a Parselmouth."
"No!" Ginny said determinedly. Looking at the bed, she hesitated but said resolutely, "If you leave, then so will I. The bed is big enough for both of us."
In surprise, the boy turned to her and said with a frown, "Slytherins would take those words to label you as a foolish and noble Gryffindor, while Gryffindors would call you a Slytherin slut. Which one are you, Ginny?"
Taking the question as a test, Ginny thought for a moment. The answer was quite clear. "I'm a foolish and noble Slytherin."
Then the boy smiled to her for the first time and said, "We are alike." He walked to the bathroom and returned minutes later in his pajamas. Ginny was already snuggled on one side of the bed, as close to the edge as she could get. The teddy bear lay next to her, presumably separating the two of them. "You can get your things during the day," he whispered, climbing up and covering himself with the duvet, before turning off the lights, "Nox!"