This prologue has been edited and re-uploaded.
To any old fans reading, don't worry, nothing of significance to the plot has changed. To any new readers, I hope you enjoy :)
Disclaimer: everything that you recognise, of course, belongs to JK Rowling, and the world that she lets us visit. The rest is mine, unless stated otherwise.
This story will be canon as much as possible. Any canon deviance will I hope still be plausible - please bear with me. Any questions, feel absolutely free to ask me - I promise to answer as fully as possible.
Reviews are very much appreciated and always responded to. Many thanks!
They are all the same on that first day. Tall ones and short ones, fair hair and dark hair, excited and nervous, they are all the same. Indoctrinated by muggle schools, by magical families, they believe as only children can believe: with a trust that once lost can never be recaptured.
They stare with wide eleven year old eyes, up, up, up at the hat and stool and the teacher, and they are all the same.
Some are friends, but most are strangers, and it is with that free anonymity that they exchange nervous smiles, respectful nods, and yes, the occasional glare. They will grow and they will learn, both in and out of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, no different from the founders, really.
They are all the same.
"Black, Sirius," crowed the Deputy Headmistress, whose name was Professor McGonagall. Her stern eyes watched the young boy nod to a friend by his side and walk up the steps with an air of smug confidence that was not reflected in his wary, shifting eyes. He winced as the hat was placed on his head, as if expecting to be burnt. Thankfully, however, he wasn't, and he smiled nervously, feeling the eyes of the cross looking woman upon him as he waited.
The House of Slytherin craned their necks in unison.
Among the robes adorned with silver and green sat a fifth year girl, her silvery blonde hair perfectly straight but for a small curl close to her pale cheek. Her eyes, a passionate, cerulean blue, watched the boy fiercely, as if her stare alone would be enough to snatch him from the stool and bring him safely to her side; her napkin could very well set on fire and she wouldn't have blinked.
The boy appeared to be avoiding her eyes, though, and he flinched ever so slightly when a voice abruptly muttered in his head.
"Well, aren't you just a tricky little thing?"
Sirius fought hard to hide his shock. He pressed his lips together and kept his eyes firmly on the closed oak doors at the other side of the room, hoping desperately that he didn't look too much like he wanted to run right through them.
Orion Black had always had a knack for masking his emotions with a blank stare. Cold and uncompromising, Sirius had always hoped his father's Mask was hereditary, but almost twelve years of practice had thus far proved otherwise. The wise old croak of the hat's voice had taken him by surprise, and his own Mask slipped with a sharp gasp.
"I suppose," Sirius agreed, unsure what to say to a talking hat that was currently perusing intrusively through his mind.
"Now, tradition dictates that I should put you in Slytherin…" Sirius felt a flutter of panic and for a moment he had to fight the urge to shout 'no!' to the silent crowd of students. A blush stained his slender cheeks. "Hold on a minute, boy, I haven't decided yet!" the hat scolded, and Sirius sniggered uneasily. For a brief second there was silence. Then the hat spoke again, clinical, almost monotonous.
"You're far too lazy to be a Hufflepuff. No, not a Ravenclaw. Well, if you're so against Slytherin, and I agree there is really no place for you there…yes, I see now. That leaves only…GRYFFINDOR!"
A silence as cold as the shiver that ran through Sirius' chest stilled every breath in the Great Hall.
Sirius was sure that from all the way across the room he could feel the icy wrath of his cousin, Narcissa, chilling him acutely. And then, as he glanced down at the collection of first years, seeking out a friendly face, one boy jumped high off the ground and punched the air in exultation. A wordless shout of glee escaped his lips, soon followed by an uproar of hysterical laughter and cheering as the shocked Gryffindors welcomed their Stolen Black.
Sirius jogged heartily down the steps to his house, but as he skidded towards his new house table he caught the eyes of a girl stood among the first years. Cold, appraising fury carved lines into her face, eyebrows raised and jaw tight.
Pushing his concern at her glare to one side, Sirius returned the thumbs up James was giving him with a grin, feeling undeniably grateful for such a friend. This was going to be a good seven years, he could feel it.
Wendy, the girl corrected in her head as the ratty talking hat was dropped onto her dark mop of hair.
In the short silence that followed Wendy felt panic and humiliation stain her cheeks bright red. Her fears were confirmed: she wasn't magical enough…she was going to be sent away...and her parents had been so proud to discover there was a witch in the family…
"My, my, what a stressful young head we have here, eh?" the hat asked, and Wendy sighed in relief. Perhaps she wasn't going to be sent home after all.
"Hmm," hummed the hat. "You seem to have the independence of a Ravenclaw, but you lack the confidence to be sure of what you know. Hufflepuff would very suitable…"
"Don't just dump me there!" she whispered pleadingly. She had overheard two of the boys – one of them being the one with the charming smile whom the green and silver table had made such a fuss over not getting – talking about the sorting whilst they were on the boats, and had been horribly rude about the sorts of people who were placed there.
"Don't fret, I never just dump someone in a house. What about Gryffindor? You're not the bravest of souls, but you're loyal and there is a certain strength in you, hidden deep. You'd do well there…"
"Are you sure?" the girl asked in a hopeful voice, the nervous fluttering in her stomach calming as anticipation swelled inside her. The hat made a strange, humming sound of assent, and its booming voice echoed around the hall. Applause erupted from the red and gold table, accompanied by a rippling cheer that brought out her bashful nature, and much to her embarrassment she let out a loud giggle of pride and excitement.
The redheaded girl walked slowly up the stairs, concentrating very hard on not falling down. The hat bounced lightly on the crown of her head, and she closed her eyes to the world after glancing momentarily at Severus, who smiled and waved shyly.
"Oh, very interesting my dear. Very interesting indeed."
Lily opened her eyes in a flash and glanced around the room, hoping very much that nobody else could hear this. Did the hat talk to everybody like this?
She drummed her clammy fingers against the sides of the stool as she contemplated which would be the most desirable house to be placed in. She cast her gaze swiftly over the room, skimming over the curious faces and finally settling on the green and silver table. A devouring silver serpent was embroidered into their green flag, and it was clear that this was the house Severus had described as his dream choice.
A crease pulled in her brow as she wondered at that. They all looked like they were, for want of a better phrase, a relatively unpleasant bunch. Not any less physically attractive than the rest, but something in their expression expressed uninviting danger. What was Sev , sweet, kind Sev thinking, wanting to become one of them?
"You have the mind of a Ravenclaw, my dear, but for some reason I feel it will not do to put you there," the hat informed her contemplatively.
Lily listened attentively, her wide, emerald eyes roaming the crowds as a few more seconds ticked by. She caught the gaze of that horrible boy who had been so rude to Sev on the train. He was staring up at her along with every other occupant of the room, but his attention kept being drawn away from the sorting as he turned to grin at his equally horrid friend, who was already sitting comfortably with the Gryffindors.
"No, only one place for you. I see now, that mind; that temper! You can only be…GRYFFINDOR!"
Applause erupted for the third time at the red and gold table, and Lily beamed as she all but danced her way to her new house table, sitting herself down comfortably opposite the boy called Sirius Black, whom she recognised from the train. He attempted to speak to her, no doubt hoping to say something he thought terribly clever, but she paid no attention to him. Instead she waved meekly at Severus Snape, whose expression was one of badly concealed disappointment.
The girl with soft blonde hair that was tied in a tight ponytail walked slowly up to the stool where she sat awkwardly, shoulders a little hunched, her pale green eyes wide as she waited to be sorted.
"How strange! Such a Gryffindor, but there's a seed of a serpent in you that is most fascinating. I am quite tempted to put you there. Something tells me you could become something great in that house, and I am never wrong…"
Lizzie felt her lips part in a sharp gasp. Her family had, for the most part, been a long line of Ravenclaws, and so very little out of the ordinary ever happened in the Harding household that she had expected little else. But now a strange bubble of something alike to pride flared in her chest at the prospect of being a Slytherin. It was, after all, known for its selectivity; the thought of being singled out as one of the few worthy of such a place filled her with a tickling sense of honour.
"Oh yes, you'd do perfectly well there. But your heart is soft; your emotions rule you, easily manipulated and exploited."
"That's not so bad!" Lizzie hissed, and her irritation grew as the hat chuckled condescendingly.
"I do not claim it to be good or bad, child. But I wonder if you could be truly happy in Slytherin-"
"How do you know? Not everyone's the same, you know!" she spoke in a harsh whisper, her voice wavering with hurt.
"I have been sorting children into houses for hundreds of years, my dear, and I have never been wrong yet. Which is why I choose…GRYFFINDOR!"
Lizzie smiled sweetly at the myriad of cheers for her as she took the seat between Lily Evans and an older student, fighting the regret that simmered beneath her joy. She accepted the pat on the back from the redhead to her right with a grateful smile, refusing to let her eyes stray to the green and silver table at the other end of the room.
Remus kept his eyes to the ground as he made his way to the stool, fiddling nervously with the collar of his robes to make sure his right collar bone was completely covered all the way up to his neck. The hat's voice spoke from the moment it touched his head.
"I see where you are to be placed at once, boy. A werewolf? You are braver than ten men to come here, with all your fears and the dangers you face."
Shock seized Remus' heart in an iron claw, and unconsciously his hand travelled to trace the deep scars a little to the right of his neck, where the collar bone was still crooked and the skin scarred and raw, despite the years that had passed since the incident.
"You think?" the boy asked in a small voice, feeling far from brave as tears clung to the corners of his eyes, his breaths rattling in his chest and his fingers trembling.
"Of course I do, you are strong to be so young and bear so much. As true a Gryffindor as any I have seen."
Though much softer than the hoarse shout of his chosen house that followed, the words deafened Remus, ringing through his ears and causing a wobbly smile to brighten his tired face considerably. He felt lighter and happier than he had done in months. Years, even. Not only was he at Hogwarts, but the sorting hat had said he was brave.
It wasn't until he felt the clap of the only other Gryffindor first year boy on his back that Remus noticed he was sitting at the red and gold table. He let the truest grin to appear on his face in years remain bright, laughing with the other first years at the table.
He was home.
India-Rose let a smile grace her lips as she took her seat on the stool, facing the crowd of students before her, suddenly much more secure than she had felt stood in the line of waiting eleven year olds.
"You seem very sure of yourself, my dear," the hat commented lightly, and India-Rose nodded frankly. "Well, I cannot see much to disagree with you on. You are no Slytherin, and neither are you a Ravenclaw; Hufflepuff, perhaps, if you had a little more patience, but you are too wild and carefree to belong there. I take it you were sure of yourself before you were called up here?"
The girl nodded again, enthusiastic and unabashed.
"I see," the hat said delicately, "but take care not to be too sure of yourself; humility is as true a virtue as confidence….GRYFFINDOR!"
India-Rose contemplated the hat's words as she beamed proudly. She took her place beside the boy called Remus, and wondered whether it was the norm for the hat to give free advice on such matters.
For a moment she considered asking one of the others if they had been told anything similar, but thought the better of it. Experience had taught her that some things were best left be, and India-Rose, though not the most discreet of people, knew better than to push her luck
The boy stumbled half way up the stairs and felt his face flood with colour as he sat clumsily on the stool, expecting to turn and see everyone laughing at him. But to his surprise, very few people were. In fact, the loud boy with the ready grin who had chatted to anyone and everyone along with his friend Sirius Black even went as far as to smile encouragingly at him, and Peter felt breathlessly grateful for the gesture.
"Now, now, what do we have here?" the voice that Peter assumed was the hat's asked, and Peter closed his eyes in fear, repeating the same thought over and over again.
"Oh I wouldn't worry," the hat reassured him lightly, "you have ambition and eagerness, but you lack cunning and power. No, I see no place for you in Slytherin."
Relief brought a smile to Peter's face. Shy and tentative, but a smile nonetheless.
Eleven years of living with his Slytherin mother whom he feared far more than he loved had brought a dislike of the green and silver house to his mind from an early age. He couldn't bear to think of himself as a Slytherin, and grow to be like his mother, cold and uncaring. He would sooner have been a Gryffindor, as much to spite the woman as to prove himself better than her.
"Gryffindor, eh? I don't know about that," the hat said firmly. "A surprising choice, I must say."
Disappointment robbed the smile that had been growing on his face, and Peter looked away from the crowd of students and down to his knees.
"Not to say there is no chance," the hat encouraged. "If you truly believe you belong there, you are not wholly unsuited. In truth, you are far more likely to succeed as a Gryffindor than as a Slytherin…if you're sure it's what you want…"
"Y-Yes!" Peter murmured under his breath.
"Very well then, I am not one to go against so strong a desire. Perhaps things will turn out for the better this way…GRYFFINDOR!"
As the crowds cheered for him, Peter was close to throwing his arms in the air with joy. He jogged to his table, nearly falling again but not caring about the sniggers as he collapsed onto the bench beside the girl with blonde hair and a gentle smile whose name he vaguely remembered was Elizabeth.
He nodded to himself, bolstered by the applause. He would not be the same as his mother; he could feel it.
It was the Gryffindors' turn to sit up just a little straighter.
Cocky grin comfortably in place and chest stuck out to make himself feel all the more important, James jogged up the steps excitedly. He was in no doubt as to where he would be placed. All his life he'd been told over and over again, how he was such a balanced mixture of his mother and father and, seeing as they were both Gryffindors themselves, his confidence was all but a physical presence surrounding him as he swaggered to the stool and plonked himself down.
"GRYFFINDOR!" the hat shouted within a few seconds, and for a moment, though elated by the tumultuous roars of approval from his house, he paused, considering the announcement.
That didn't take very long, he thought to himself, and was about to whip the hat from his head when a snide reply came from the hat that made him hesitate.
"Well there's not really much else to be said on the matter, boy. You don't belong anywhere else." And though he felt this should have only boosted his pride further, even more than the applause and attention he was receiving, the way the hat had spoken made the smile on his face falter just a little.
He had known he was all Gryffindor, and was filled with enough arrogance to be sure he belonged nowhere else. But hearing it said aloud by someone else, albeit a battered old hat, made the words sound slightly less praise worthy. It was as though instead of pointing out to him his worthiness as a member of Godric Gryffindor's house, the hat was quietly explaining to him that he was welcome nowhere else.
He didn't know whether or not he liked that thought, and as he returned Sirius' high five, scooting along to accept the handshakes of a few of the other older students who were almost excited as his friend, a sense of loneliness crept over James Potter's mind.
He shrugged the creeping shiver away as best as he could. He was where he belonged, and that was all that mattered.
Juliette bunched her mass of dark chocolate curls to one side of her neck in self conscious embarrassment as she sat down delicately on the stool, shrinking beneath the hat as it was placed on the crown of her head. She stared directly at the red and gold table, unable at first to tear her eyes away from the boy with shaggy black hair and glittering grey eyes.
The boy who should have been a Slytherin, she thought to herself angrily.
"Now, now, another person who seems to belong in one place only. You are even more determined to be a Gryffindor than you are right for the place," the hat said briskly. "Which does not surprise me; resentment such as your own for the Slytherin house is rarely found in anywhere but…GRYFFINDOR!"
Juliette let the grin widen on her face, her eyes finally relieved of the grim pain that resided in them, replaced with happiness and merriment. She took the seat beside the girl she recognised from the train – Lily Evans, she recalled though they had thus far exchanged only friendly smiles – and was grateful of the welcoming pat on the back she received from the redhead.
For a moment her eyes flashed to the boy sat almost directly opposite her, but forced her attention to turn to his friend, James Potter, who smiled and waved. She reciprocated the gesture, and eagerly leaned over the table to high five the boy.
"Good going, Swindon," the boy praised excitedly.
"Same to you, Potter," she grinned.
She had been relieved the first time she realised she would already have a friend at Hogwarts when she first arrived, albeit one known only through family acquaintances. They had enjoyed many a long afternoon talking amicably about Hogwarts and Quidditch. The boy was kind and excitable, and Juliette was glad of his company.
In fact, for a moment it seemed as if James was going to further their conversation, but then his attention was claimed once more by Sirius Black, who was hooting with laughter, and Juliette's anger returned, prickling in her eyes until she started up a conversation with the redheaded Lily, who seemed no more impressed by the pair than the dark haired girl was with Black.
Juliette forced herself to ignore the two boys sat no more than a foot away, desperate to block out the knowledge that she would be spending the next seven years in the company of Sirius Black.