Anything but Slytherin
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury, Scholastic, and Raincoast Books, and Warner Brothers Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter or anything related to Harry Potter.
Heavy double doors swung open, revealing a middle-aged teacher, with an angry red scar splitting her no-nonsense face in half.
"Firs' year Prospects, profes'r McGonagall," Hagrid boomed, helping a clumsy blonde boy out of the boat. He was refusing to let go of his wand, which made manoeuvring on the narrow pier a bit harder than it should.
McGonagall's sharp eyes darted over the group of frightened first years, before landing on the hulking caretaker. "Thank you Hagrid, I'll take it from here. Fiat lux."
Hagrid threw the kids one last concerned look, before mumbling "Yea, yea, fiat lux" and lumbering away.
McGonagall glared at Hagrid's retreating back, as if making a mental note, before snapping at the children. "Well come on then, stretch a leg. I won't have you dillydallying like beaten cats on the most important day of your lives."
Even as Harry trotted after his new teacher, he couldn't help but feel her words did little to lift the tense mood that had overtaken the group. What did distract them, however, was the state of the corridor they were being taken through. Cracked picture frames, scorch marks on the walls and overturned suits of armour spoke of a fierce battle that had taken place here sometime in the past. Why no one bothered to clean up the mess afterwards was another mystery.
"Is that blood?" gasped a bushy haired girl, Granger, taking a step away from a dark stain on the wall.
"It sure is!" Ron, a confident red head with whom Harry had shared a compartment on the train, spoke up. "Dad says the Council of Light decided to keep this part just the way it was after the Battle for Hogwarts. So that Prospects could see for themselves the evils of the Dark Age we'd left behind!" he parroted proudly.
"Quite right, Mr. Weasley," McGonagall suddenly appeared at their side. "Remind me to award you five points after you pass the sorting. After all, it should be just a formality for someone of your noble roots. What was it, seven consecutive generations of Gryffindors on father's side?"
"And three on mother's!" he boasted proudly.
"Indeed. Well done Mr. Wesley, I'm sure you'll make the Light proud."
Harry noticed that some of the kids wearing tattered robes with green armbands were throwing Ron dirty and sometimes even jealous looks. The Granger girl, on the other hand, was already peppering him with questions, which he took an obvious pleasure in answering.
Eventually, McGonagall opened another set of double doors and ushered them into a spacious antechamber. Whispers and gasps spread like a wildfire, as the kids saw four imposing figures clad in heavy white robes looming over them from the room's corners.
"Guardians of Light!" Harry heard Ron's reverent whisper, while the green-armband children inched away from them fearfully. The twitchy blonde boy, who had been helped by Hagrid earlier, clutched his wand even harder, while his dark-skinned friend started muttering a Latin chant of some sort under his breath.
Harry caught the eye of one of the knights who, to his surprise, gave a slight nod in return. Instinctively, his hand reached for his scar; he didn't think he'd ever get used to being called 'the Liberator' and shown fanatical revere everywhere he went in this weird new world.
"Come on Prospects, form a line. The Sorting is about to start." McGonagall called out, slamming the entrance door shut with a wave of her wand. Two knights stepped in front of the locked doors, glaring at the nearby children, as if daring them to try to get past them.
There was hustling and pushing, as everyone fought for places away from the front of the forming line. Green armband children were especially ferocious, eliciting glares from everyone else. Not seeing what was the big deal, Harry stood where he was, behind Ron and a sneering girl proudly displaying two shining white pins on her chest. Looking down at his own pins, Harry knew the girl's parents must have also died serving the Light.
He was startled out of his reverie when the twitchy blonde and his black friend pushed past him, trying to reach the back of the line. However, one of the Guardians suddenly materialized right next to him and landed a meaty palm on the blonde's shoulder.
"Going somewhere, darkling? What, you don't want to learn magic?"
"No sir!" the boy snapped to attention. "I mean, yes sir, I'd like that very much, sir! I'm grateful to the Council for giving me this chance to redeem my name!"
"Is that so?" the Guardian sneered nastily, twisting the boy's shoulder painfully. "And what is your name, boy? In fact, why don't you tell all your little friends who will be sleeping in the bed next to them?"
The blonde gulped, before reciting what sounded like a well-rehearsed speech. "Draco Malfoy, the ward of the Council. Son of Lucius Malfoy, convicted Death Eater, curse on his black soul. Son of Narcissa Malfoy nee Black, convicted Death Eater sympathiser, curse on her black soul." He gulped even harder, before proceeding in a shaky voice. "Seven consecutive generations of Slytherin on father's side and five on mother's."
"Ahh a Malfoy! Just as I thought." The Guardian turned towards his female colleague. "Hear that, Hestia? We have a celebrity here!"
"You don't say, Dawlish!" A stout woman with burns over half of her face strode over and glared down at the squirming boy, inspecting him like a piece of meat. "So this is the infamous Malfoy spawn? Not much to look at, is he?"
Harry was sure he saw the beginnings of a sneer on Draco's face, before he covered them with a contrite mask.
"You know boy, I never personally fought your father, but a few of my auror friends had. Some of them never lived to become the Guardians they rightfully should. Are you aware of that, darkling?"
Hestia's eyes bore into the boy, who was positively trembling at this point.
"Yes ma'm." He gulped and braved a look up. "I'm very sorry ma'm, but as you know, all of my father's victims received my letters of apology, as well as shares of my family's estate." Was there a touch of bitterness in his tone? The two Guardians must have felt it, as the male one twisted Draco's shoulder even harder. "B-b-but of course, I look forward t-t-to further redeeming my family's crimes towards the Light upon becoming a productive member of society."
With an internal shiver, Harry recognized Draco's stiffened posture for what it was - he was expecting beating to start any moment now!
"That's the spirit boy!" Dawlish beamed nastily, almost knocking Draco over with a 'friendly' slap at his back. "We'll make a Light wizard out of you yet! So why don't you stand right here in front of Potter and show everyone what a redeemed little bundle of joy you are!"
"Yes sir! Thank you sir! Fiat lux!"
Followed by snickering and jeering, blushing Draco scampered off into the line right in front of Harry. His dark-skinned friend, who had been watching the exchange rooted in spot, quietly slipped in front of Draco.
"Alright, listen up!" McGonagall clapped her hands for attention. "You will now walk into the Great Hall in an orderly fashion and stand at attention with calm and dignity. Once your turn is up, you will step forward, say your name and request a permission to be Sorted into our society. If the permission is granted, you will then walk to the stool in the centre of the hall and place the Sorting Hat on your head. Upon being Sorted, you will be allowed to join your new housemates for the upcoming Start of the Year Feast. Are there any questions?"
She glared at the fidgeting children, as if daring them to speak up.
"Good! Follow me then! And no talking!"
Harry followed Draco into a huge chamber, with floating candles, star-night ceiling and several long tables filled with staring wizards and witches. Three of those tables were reserved for the students, one for each house, while the fourth one stood perpendicular to the rest and housed the school faculty. Alongside the left wall, there was a large empty space, where another house table could have easily fit. Instead, there was only a human-sized object covered with a black veil and a squad of grim-faced Guardians standing at attention around it.
In the centre of the hall, Harry spotted a simple tripod with a tattered old hat sitting on it.
"The Sorting Hat," Ron whispered excitedly, while Draco and his friend visibly stiffened.
McGonagall walked over to the Hat, which brim suddenly opened and started singing.
Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,
But don't judge on what you see,
I'll eat myself if you can find-
McGonagall tapped the Hat with her wand, muting its words. She then turned towards the arrayed first years and spoke up.
"Prospects, welcome to your Sorting. Hogwarts and the Council of Light recognize three houses. Gryffindor, for the brave and chivalrous. Ravenclaw, for the witty and intelligent. Hufflepuff, for the loyal and hardworking. With your acceptance into either one of them, your status as Prospects will end and a new life of Adepts will begin. On this most important day of your lives, in the name of Hogwarts' faculty and the Council of Light, I wish you good luck. May the Light shine down upon your path."
She waved her wand carelessly towards the Sorting Hat, lifting the silencing charm.
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends-
Quickly, almost panicky, she restored the silencing charm, and then spent the next half minute throwing her scarred glare at the increasingly more fidgety students. Unnerved by the silent stares, Harry caught himself twisting the hem of his robes, his stomach bubbling with nervous energy. In front of him, Malfoy kept chanting "Lumos" under his breath, staring at his blinking wand as if it might disappear at any moment. His black-skinned friend had his eyes clenched shut, whispering his Latin prayer with more and more fervour. Even Ron's brash confidence seemed to have taken a beating under the strain.
Finally, the Hat's mouth stopped moving. McGonagall removed her silencing charm and motioned for the Sorting to begin, breaking the tension that had taken over the group.
As if coached her whole life for this moment, the sneering two-pin girl from the front took a step forward and declared boldly, "Susan Bones requests the permission to be Sorted!"
McGonagall looked through the list in her hands, made a small mark and then smiled at her. "Granted. Go right ahead, Susan."
Susan strolled over to the stool, her head held high. Harry noticed that a few arrayed Guardians gave her similar subtle nods he himself had been receiving. She placed the Hat on her head and a few second later, it yelled out "HUFFLEPUFF!"
Taking the Hat off, she nodded briefly to the staff, many of who nodded back, before heading towards the cheering yellow-and-black table in the middle.
Ron stepped up next and cleared his throat nervously. "Ronald Weasley requests the permission to be Sorted!"
Harry noticed three red heads on the Gryffindor table perk up as McGonagall said "Granted."
Ron walked over to the stool and quickly got sorted into Gryffindor, as he had expected. Blushing at the cheers, he run off towards the golden-red table, where he promptly got mobbed and congratulated by his three brothers.
Malfoy's dark-skinned friend was up next. Nervously adjusting his second-hand robes, the boy stepped forward and declared shakily. "State's ward Blaise Zabini requests the permission to be Sorted."
McGonagall glanced at her list and nodded. "Granted. Proceed."
A hush fell over the Hall, as the first Prospect with green armband was about to be Sorted. Zabini walked slowly and deliberately, as if each move took him one step closer to his doom. Halfway through, he paused for a moment and a white-clad Guardian immediately appeared by his side, giving him a significant look. Zabini waved him away, almost visibly gathered his courage and then took the final two steps to the stool. McGonagall helped him put on the Hat, as his hands appeared too shaky for the task.
Silence stretched for what seemed like ages. Hundreds of eyes were taking Zabini's every twitch and shudder with uncanny interest, more eager to hear the verdict than in any of the previous two cases.
The blue and bronze House offered a reluctant applause, while the other two tables deflated with something akin to disappointment. Zabini however didn't seem to care. He had fallen on his knees, laughing and crying and thanking every single deity he had been praying to earlier. When he started hugging McGonagall, crying into her robe, she'd finally had enough and motioned towards the Ravenclaw table. Two perfects came and dragged Zabini off towards his new table, stoically suffering through his hugs and heartfelt thanks.
Clearing her throat, McGonagall motioned towards the next Prospect in line. Harry gulped, realizing his turn was fast approaching, but Malfoy in front of him seemed positively petrified. Dawlish's menacing look finally prompted him to took a shaky step forward and declare in a hoarse voice.
"Dra-Draco Malfoy, ward of the state. Err, requests permission to be Sorted."
A wave of excited whispers spread throughout the Hall. McGonagall shushed the students, gave her list a perfunctory look and then nodded towards Malfoy. "Proceed."
Gulping visibly, Draco made several unsteady steps and then stopped. Dawlish immediately appeared by his side and sternly motioned him forward. However, where Zabini had mastered himself, it seemed Draco just couldn't do it. Wilting under the Guardian's glare, the blonde started inching back towards the entrance.
"Sir, I'll just need a minute to collect my thoughts and then- No, wait!"
Student's mocking catcalls and boos turned into cheers as Dawlish roughly grabbed Draco's hand and dragged the protesting boy up to the stool, where McGonagall was already waiting with the Sorting Hat in her hands.
"There goes Gryffindor, you little dipshit," Dawlish sneered as he slammed Draco onto the stool, eliciting another round of cheers around the Hall. McGonagall gave Dawlish a stern look and then turned her glare towards the student body, quickly restoring the discipline. Done with that, she turned towards the babbling Draco, Hat in her hands.
"Wait! Please wait! Just give me a moment and I'll do it myself! For the love of Light, please stop!" Malfoy was yelling, struggling against Dawlish's grip.
The entire student body was rooted in the spot, completely captivated by the unfolding drama. For some reason, they reminded Harry of a pack of sharks that had sensed fresh blood in the water.
In the end, Dawlish backhanded the boy and McGonagall took the chance to bring the Hat down on his dazed head. No sooner had the Hat touched his blonde hair had it yelled out, "SLYTHERIN!"
A collective gasp reverberated throughout the Hall, although Harry couldn't make out if it was the one of fear or excitement. It certainly wasn't the one of sympathy.
"Hah! I knew it, you little snake!" Dawlish grabbed Draco and flung him roughly several meters across the Hall, towards the veiled object on the left. Malfoy scampered onto his feet and drew his wand, a wild look in his eyes.
"No! Wait! I demand a resort! That stupid Hat barely touched my head! I was never given a chance!" The boy was working himself into a fill blown panic attack, swivelling his wand from one approaching Guardian to the next.
"You've been Sorted Mr. Malfoy. The Hat has made its choice," McGonagall informed him calmly.
"You bitch! You set me up, you all did!" In desperation, he turned towards the ancient wizard on the head table. "Professor Dumbledore! Please! You got to help me! I'll work for you, I'll tell you anything you want to know about my father, I'll- I'll... Please sir, just give me another chance! Please!" He pleaded, tears pouring down his bruised cheeks.
The Headmaster cleaned his glasses and looked down at Draco sadly. "I'm sorry Mr. Malfoy, it is out of my hands now."
He motioned towards the Guardians, one of whom removed the veil from the mysterious object. Harry gasped along with the rest of the Hall, although his gasp was more out of startlement than glee. What was revealed looked to him disturbingly like one of those electric chairs he'd seen on TV.
Its purpose must have been equally disturbing, as Malfoy positively wilted at the sight of it. Waving his wand wildly, he started screaming with desperate bravado. "No! Stay away! I won't let you! You've already taken everything from me, I won't let you-"
An invisible spell knocked him down, his wand spiralling out of his hand. The entire hall cheered like on a football game. As if spurred by their fans, four Guardians grabbed the dazed boy and dragged him off towards the chair. Malfoy's desperate cries of defiance were drowned as the entire student body started drumming their kitchenware against their tables, chanting "Chair! Chair! Chair!" Zabini hesitated for a moment, glanced left and right at his new housemates, and then joined in the chant against his - former? - friend.
"No! Stop! It's no fair! You can't do this to me!" Malfoy's shouts became desperate, as the Guardians forced him down into the wooden seat. He finally broke into pathetic sobs as they started strapping in his arms and legs. "No, stop! Please stop! Don't do this to me! For the love of Light, have mercy! Have mercy!"
Sickened by the sheer bloodlust in the air, Harry looked around helplessly, hoping that someone, anyone would step in and stop the madness. A dumpy female teacher on the head table looked at the pleading boy tearfully, but obediently stayed in her seat. Granger and a few other muggleborn Prospects protested loudly, before being shushed by their new wizard-raised friends. A few students on House tables had horrified looks on their faces, some of them even praying quietly under their breaths, but none of them protested or even tore their eyes away from the spectacle.
Quietly but efficiently, the Guardians finished strapping in the weeping boy and then one of them unceremoniously pulled the lever on the chair's side. Malfoy's cries turned into screams as red light enveloped him with a loud zapping sound. And then, it was over. In the dead silence, Draco was unstrapped and allowed to limply fall out of the chair.
"I guess tiger doesn't change his stripes, eh Malfoy?" Dawlish crowed as he dragged the quietly shivering boy and simply dropped by the wall, where he curled into a foetal position.
Harry numbly stared at Draco's trembling body for what seemed like ages, and only repeated prods at his back and McGonagall's sharp clearing of throat brought him back to present. Looking around, he suddenly realized it was his turn to be Sorted; to play the same three-out-of-four Russian roulette his potential schoolmate had just lost. Cold dread inched up his spine and for the first time, he wondered if coming here was such a good idea after all. Knowing there was no turning back now, he forced himself to step forward and croak out, "Harry Potter-"
The entire hall exploded into gasps, followed by whispers and speculations. While McGonagall was shushing them up, a Guardian appeared at Harry's side and whispered into his ear. "Requests permission to be Sorted."
"Requests permission to be Sorted," Harry parroted, trying to force the images of Malfoy's desperate struggle out of his head. His own rising panic didn't make that easy at all.
McGonagall didn't even glance at the list, as she smiled at him and nodded. "Granted, Harry. Go right on."
Gulping, Harry forced his legs into motion, trying to ignore hundreds of bloodthirsty eyes on him. A cupboard under the Dursleys' stairs sounded damn good right about now, certainly much better than...
Almost against his will, he threw another glance towards Draco. To his surprise, the boy had somehow retrieved his wand and was currently chanting "Lumos" over and over, staring tearfully at its tip. Unlike the last time, there was no reaction at his words, no magic to create a small ball of light. Somehow, this scared Harry more than anything he'd seen so far.
"Come on Harry, go on." McGonagall somehow appeared right next to him, beaming down with a smile on her scarred face. "Make your parents proud."
Like in a dream, Harry saw himself make the final few steps towards the stool, sit down and allow the Hat to be placed on his head. His brain was frozen in cold terror, stripped to being merely an observer of his body's actions.
"Hmm," he suddenly heard a small voice in his head. "Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, A my goodness, yes - and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting... So where shall I put you?"
Realizing this was his one and only chance, desperation bubbled out of Harry's stomach, breaking him out of his shock. He gripped the edges of his stool, screaming in his head, "Not Slytherin! Anything but Slytherin!"
"Not this again!" The Hat snapped, sounding exasperated. "What's with you kids these days? Don't you want to become great, to amount to something? It's all here in your head, you know. Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about it."
"No! Please no! Anything but Slytherin!"
"Oh come on, prejudices like this will hardly help you in life. Maybe I should just stop listening to your kids' wishes altogether and start putting you where you truly belong." The voice sighed. "So, I suppose it better be-"
The Hat's proclamation was drowned in the resounding roar of the student body. Harry sat rooted in the spot, trying to discern whether it was the one of approval or outrage.
And if there was any difference at all.
A little idea that grabbed me and didn't let go until I wrote it down. I don't see this going further than one-shot. Otherwise, I would have let Malfoy stay around in some capacity. But I guess frying his magic was a lot more fun.