Sorted Out of Order

An eternity passed before they finally called his name. Once he sat down, Severus kept as still as he could on the hard little stool, wishing he could delay what was coming somehow. He'd never thought of Gryffindor, for her. Ravenclaw would have been fine. Hufflepuff, manageable, but Gryffindor?

And with that bloody Potter, too. She was sitting next to Black, not looking at him, but that probably wouldn't last. Compared to Severus—

The hat descended, cutting into Severus' thoughts.

"Whew," a voice said, in his ear. The hat, surely. Mum had said it…talked. Severus' fingers curled about the rim of the stool, but he refused to even think of being afraid of something that wasn't alive.

"Wouldn't go that far," the hat said, smugly. "Children are so literal. At least you'll be easy. You'd curse me right now, if you thought you could get away with it." The hat shifted on Severus head, probably gloating. "Oh, and here, your mother was a Prince."

"Wait," Severus said, his eyes on Lily, betraying him. "Just you wait." He flexed his fingers, releasing the rim at his sides. I can just ask, he told himself. That was all it would be, really; asking. "Would I…fit…anywhere else?"

The hat gave a strangled sigh, rippling around his head in a distinctly unnerving manner. "Gryffindor, you mean?"

"I didn't—"

"I know you didn't," the hat said, quietly. "Hush and let me think."

Severus bit his lip. From his mum, that usually meant no. From Da…definitely not. So he waited, refusing to let himself slouch. His mother had been very clear on the first impression he'd need to make. Not wanting to have to make it didn't mean he could just let it go.

"Let it go," the hat said, its tone suddenly sharp. "You hear me, boy? You're a Gryffindor now—you don't need to give a boar's balls what kind of impression you make."

"What? But—"

"Get up," the hat ordered. "You know what table it is." The hat swelled. "Get on over to GRYFFINDOR!"

Severus did. It felt surreal to take off the hat, set it down on the stool, and walk over there like he didn't care. They cheered for him, too. There wasn't a seat free next to Lily, but there was one two seats across from her, and Severus slid into it, feeling like there was too much of him to fit.

"What happened to Slytherin?" Lily said, eyes wide and curious and everything he wanted to see.

"Dunno," Severus said, with a stray glance back at the hat, which had just cheerfully declared a Ravenclaw. "I really don't."

"It was your greasy head," Potter said, nudging Black. "We're the only house brave enough to take it!"

People laughed around Severus. But Lily rolled her eyes and glared at Potter, and for once it didn't matter.