It was a tradition, Minerva knew, a tradition that stemmed from the beginning of Hogwarts itself. During the first feast of the year during the sorting the teachers quietly made bets on which house students would go to. After spending so many years watching, most of the senior teachers had gotten quite good at it. What was his last name? Were her eyes twitching? Did he trip and fall? Did she bring a book? Who was he talking to when he entered the Great Hall?
Albus disproved of it, but he couldn't really put a stop to it. Minerva agreed with him on most issues, but his animosity towards the sorting game was ridiculous. Things were as they were. To quote a muggle, "A place for everything and everything in its place." Their speculation didn't affect the student's placement in the least. It was all very well for Albus to say that one shouldn't judge students like that for their appearances, anymore than one should judge a book by its cover, but really, the whole point of the sorting was a snap judgement. Not even the Sorting Hat itself could claim to thoroughly understand a student after scant minutes.
Minerva shook her head in frustration and unraveled the long scroll. Ever since she had been appointed Deputy Headmistress she had become in charge of reading the names off the list for the sorting and could no longer could bet at the teachers table. Pity too, with her shrewd eye and sharp judgment Minerva had made many a galleon. But now for the sorting. She cast an eye briefly over the assembled students, appraising them. Soon the pack would be split in to the brave, the loyal, the intelligent, and the ambitious. She took a deep breath and called: "Applehills, Stewart."
The boy nervously approached the hat. She heard the teachers break out in muttering.
Slughorn said intently, "Based on his family I speculate . . "
She tuned them out.
"Here you go."
A girl was next.
"That one's mine, a Ravenclaw if ever I saw one. Look at that gleam for knowledge in her eyes!"
"I don't know; her parents were both Slytherins."
"What pretty black hair she has!"
"Three galleons on Slytherin?"
You could always tell. Whether by their attitude or by their family. Minerva glanced at the next name. A Black. Everyone knew where the Blacks went. Few pure blood families were darker, more prejudiced towards muggle borns. She called out
Unlike past times, teachers table did not break out in mutters. Of the students, only Slytherin watched with interest. They all knew where this boy was going.
"Well, that's another one for you Horace."
"Indeed, he'll be a good addition to our house. He certainly has the family looks."
"Are you silly? We all know the house in store for him is Slytherin."
Dumbledore shushed the teachers. Of course it would be Slytherin! Anyone could see it. Not just the name, though the thought of a Black going anywhere but Slytherin was already insane, but the boy's haughty look, his arrogant swagger, and the chiseled aloofness of his face. Minerva let her mind wander. No Gryffindors yet. She could only hope this year's bunch would be good, or at the very least would stay out of trouble. She frowned, had that boy been sorted yet?
Absolutely stunned, shocked silence would appropriately describe the reaction to this sorting. Had they misheard? Surely the hat had said Slytherin, or even Ravenclaw, but not Gryffindor! Numb and barely believing it, Minerva watched for the boy's reaction, waited for him to put the hat back on or demand to be resorted or yell or sulk or refuse to sit with his new house. Instead she watched as he grinned, the look mixed of triumph and disbelief. The grin overwhelmed his face, until Minerva couldn't believe she'd ever thought him solemn. Letting out a bark of laughter, the boy bowed theatrically to the teachers, and raced off to sit at his new house as gradually growing applause filled the hall.
"Well," thought Minerva.
The teachers didn't play their Sorting Game for many years to come.