Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers apply. I don't own Harry Potter or the Harry Potter universe, of course.

Heart of a Lion

Come, boys and girls, wizards and witches, each one with a wand,
You've heard the tales of what you face, but no need to despond!
For I will see your mind and soul, reveal your inner heart
And place you where you each will see your education start.

Gryffindor, home of the brave, the chivalrous and daring?
Hufflepuff, the loyal house, hardworking and most caring?
Ravenclaw, the scholars both intelligent and wise?
Or Slytherin, where cunning and ambition win the prize?

Four houses each with diff'rent traits, where you might find your friends
Each house with sep'rate methods to achieve their sep'rate ends.
O where will you find your new home, your place of play and rest?
Come, take a chance and put me on – I'll put you to the test!

Severus Snape watched in fascination as the crumbled old hat sang its song. A hat! He had expected some powerful magic to determine where he would be placed, and had steeled himself for something humiliating and painful. He hadn't expected simply to wear a thousand year old piece of cloth.

But there it was. He watched as Professor McGonagall called each of the first-years up to the stool and placed the Sorting Hat placed on each one's head, beginning with "Avery, Julian", for whom the Hat almost immediately pronounced "SLYTHERIN!" to the cheers of the furthest table.

Severus envied Avery. He desperately hoped he would get into Slytherin. He wanted to show the world that he wasn't some ragamuffin from Spinner's End, but a great and powerful wizard! He thought Slytherin would be the best place to prove himself.

"Black, Sirius," was called, and Severus saw one of the cruel boys from the Hogwarts Express make his way up to the chair. Severus could see Black was trying to look cocky, but he could see the nervousness underneath. After about half a minute, the hat shouted "GRYFFINDOR!" to the obvious shock of both the Gryffindor and Slytherin tables.

Severus only vaguely paid attention to the next few names. "Brown, Eric" went to Hufflepuff. "Denbigh, Charlotte" went to Gryffindor.

Then the name he was waiting for was called. "Evans, Lily," called out Professor McGonagall, and Lily went to the Hat. She gave Severus a nervous smile as she sat down. Severus smiled back, and silently repeated to himself, "Please, let her be in Slytherin!"

"GRYFFINDOR!" called out the Hat, and Severus' heart fell. Lily gave him a sad little smile, and sat next to Black. When she turned her back to him, Severus smiled a little smile.

Snape didn't pay a lot of attention to the other names. The other boy from the train, "Potter, James" was also sorted into Gryffindor, and sat across from Lily and Black. Black was ecstatic to see his fellow troglodyte sorted in the same house, but when Potter tried to smile at Lily, she scowled at the dark-haired boy. Severus smiled even more.

Then Professor McGonagall called out, "Snape, Severus!" He strode to the stool, trying to look as confident as he could. He looked over at Lily as he walked, and she gave him a friendly wave, which made Black and Potter laugh. As the Hat was placed on his head, Severus repeated in his mind, "Slytherin, Slytherin, Slytherin..."

"Well, if that's what you want..." Severus heard a small voice in his mind.

"You can talk!" thought Severus.

"Yes, I can. If you're certain you want Slytherin, then I'll put you there, but..."

"But what?"

The Hat paused. "Oh, you have the ambition and the cunning. No doubt about that. You have more cunning than anyone I've sorted in over thirty years. But that's not all that's there, you know. You have a keen mind, and you'd do well in Ravenclaw, no doubt. I don't think you'd fit in Hufflepuff – you have tremendous loyalty to those you feel deserve it, but it's a conditional loyalty. No, you're no Hufflepuff.

"But I see bravery. Oh yes, tremendous potential for bravery within you. You have the heart of a lion, even if you don't see it in yourself, Severus Snape. You wouldn't be a typical Gryffindor, but you could thrive there, as much as anywhere else."

"Gryffindor?" thought Severus, incredulous.

"Indeed. So what will it be, young wizard? Slytherin or Gryffindor?"

Severus was so sure of his destiny, and was just about to tell the hat, when he heard Potter shout, "Hurry it up!" Severus glanced over at Gryffindor, and saw Lily smiling at him, supporting him with her expression, as if she was signalling to be strong and not listen to her imbecile housemate. What he wouldn't give to spend the next seven years with his best friend. His only friend.

"Looks like you've made up your mind," said the Hat into his thoughts, and shouted "GRYFFINDOR!" to Severus' immense shock.

Cheering erupted from the Gryffindor table, as they called him over. No one cheered louder than Lily, waving at him and beckoning him to come sit next to her. In a daze, he went over to her. To them. His housemates. His Gryffindor housemates!

Lily made room for him, and hugged him tightly. "Oh, this will be so much fun Severus! We'll be in all our classes together! This is what I dreamed of!"

"Me too," he said sincerely, still not quite believing it. He had been so sure...

His daze didn't quite end until Headmaster Dumbledore shouted "Tuck in!" Severus didn't even listen to Dumbledore's speech, although he recalled laughing from everyone, including his housemates. Lily. And those twits Potter and Black.

What had he gotten himself into?

Severus did his best not to devour the bounty in front of him too quickly. He'd never seen so much food. They never ate like this at home. There was so much meat, so much everything.

Lily was laughing and talking to him, and he smiled back and made conversation as best he could between mouthfuls of food. "Who'd have thought we'd both be Gryffindors?" she said, shocked but happy.

"Where'd you think you'd end up?" said the boy sitting opposite him, who Severus vaguely recalled being among the other first-years. He was a thin boy with light brown hair whose face looked like it had more than eleven years on it, even if his size didn't.

"Slytherin," Severus said, which earned a hiss from a couple of his housemates, and a "Well, thank Merlin you didn't!" from an older girl a few seats down from him. "You?" he asked the other boy.

"I'm still surprised I'm here at all," the other boy said with a weariness that Severus could sympathize with. He extended his hand. "Remus Lupin."

"Severus Snape," he said, shaking it.

"Don't you mean 'Snivellus'?" laughed Potter.

"Don't say that," said Lily.

"Oh, you need your girlfriend to defend you, Snivelly?" mocked Potter.

Severus was about to cut Potter down to size with a withering retort, as soon as he thought of one, when Lily responded first. "Be quiet you ponce!" she snapped, which shut Potter right up. Severus had never heard Lily use language like that.

Unfortunately, Professor McGonagall heard Lily as well. "Miss Evans! We'll have none of that! One point from Gryffindor! I hope this is not typical of your behaviour, young lady. I will not have the honour of Gryffindor dragged through the mud."

"Potter started it," Severus said quietly. "Lily was just defending me."

"Yeah, well, Snivellus here shouldn't even be a Gryffindor! What did you call us on the train? Brawn, not brains?"

"You will stop this foolishness at once!" McGonagall said firmly. "We are all Gryffindors, we are all family. You will hopefully even learn to be friends soon."

"No chance of that," muttered Black.

"And one point from Gryffindor from you, Mr. Black. Do not start your education this way, or you may find it ending sooner than you think. And Mr. Snape, you will find there is room for both brawn and brains in Gryffindor," she said with a hint of reproach. Softer, she said, "I know it has been a stressful day for you all. I trust that we will see no more of this. Finish your food, and your prefects will take you to our common room."

"Nice going, you little worms," muttered a fourth-year after McGonagall was out of earshot.

Remus gave Severus and Lily a little smile, and an eye roll at the events which just occurred. Severus couldn't help but smile back. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.

Gryffindor. He still couldn't believe it. At least he had Lily with him, he thought as he took a second helping of dessert, something he had so rarely back home.

He was going to like it here.

[Author's note: I don't know if I'm going to go anywhere with this, but I'm not marking it as complete, even though it could easily stand on its own. I may return to it from time to time.]