They were all watching him, every eye on him - staring, observing, judging, condemning. Whispers accompanied the hall.
'Potter, did she say?'
'The Harry Potter?'
'Why's he limping?'
'Where's the scar?'
'Blimey, what happened to his face!'
The musty hat smelt of parsnips and dust, and his vision was blocked as it dropped over his eyes.
Ahh, Mr Potter, the hat whispered. Interesting... you'll be a hard one, I see... there's loyalty in there, plenty of intelligence... think before you act, you're no Gryffindor... Cunning, sly as well... you dont have the drive for a Ravenclaw... a thirst to prove yourself, I see... Well then, better be SLYTHERIN!
The hall was completely silent. Harry removed the hat and trotted off down the hall to the silver and green table, hoping no-one noticed his limp. Not a single sound could be heard - was it really such a shock? Still no-one clapped, so Harry raised an unimpressed eyebrow at table he was sitting at. A large Slytherin boy, looking around 15, began to clap, and slowly the hall picked up, although much quieter than anybody elses cheers. Taking a seat by a small, brown-haired girl who had been sorted a moment before him, he raised his eyes to the staff table. A sallow man with a hooked nose and lank black hair was watching him in complete and utter shock.
'Hello,' the girl next to him said, her crisp aristocratic voice breaking his gaze from the professor. 'Pansy Parkinson. Good to meet you.' She held out her hand, which Harry took to shake properly. 'Harry Potter,' he greeted in his hoarse voice. 'Although I'm sure you already knew.' The half of his face that wasn't mutilated by thick scars lifted into a smile, producing the crooked smirk he had possessed since seven years old.
'Excuse me for asking,' Pansy said apologetically. 'But how did you get those burn scars?'
'Fire,' Harry smirked. 'Isn't that how you get most burn scars?' Pansy pouted, but Harry saw a spark of amusement in her eyes.
'By the way, that's Professor Snape who you were watching before,' Pansy explained. 'He's head of Slytherin house, and the potions teacher. I've heard he's lovely to Slytherins, but a bastard to the other houses. Most of the teachers don't like our house you see, as You-Know-Who came from Slytherin, so he cuts us some slack where the other teachers don't.'
When the sorting had finished, Dumbledore stood up and greeted the students, finishing with, 'Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!' Plates and plates of food appeared in front of Harry, who looked at it longingly.
'Why aren't you eating, Harry?' Pansy asked. 'There's loads of food here! And it's all healthy too - Professor Snape makes sure all of us have proper nutrition, unlike other houses.' She cast a look of disgust at the Gryffindor table, who Harry could see were all stuffing their faces without even picking up a knife and fork.
'I can't,' Harry said matter-of-factly. 'I inject nutrients instead - and don't bother asking why.
Pansy looked shell-shocked. 'Oh my god,' she whispered. 'That must be awful! I feel terrible now.' She glanced down miserably at her plate.
'It's fine, go ahead,' Harry reassured. 'I wouldn't want anyone to go hungry because of me.'
In the common room, Pansy and Harry were standing together, watching as the tall, sallow man, Professor Snape, billowed in.
'Good evening, young Snakes,' he said in a deep voice. 'My name is Professor Severus Snape, Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House. While in Slytherin house, you will be expected to follow certain rules.'
His eyes looked down upon all the first years, black and deep.
'Firstly,' he began, 'if you have a quarrel with a member of your house, it is to be kept inside the common room. Our greatest strength is our unity, and we will show no weakness. Secondly, every one of you is required to eat a healthy amount at meals, and eat politely, unlike the slobbering savages at Gryffindor table.' His eyes paused on Harry as he said this, before carrying on. 'All first years are to be in bed by 9 o'clock, and will rise at 6.30 in the morning. Showers are mandatory. None of my students will walk around smelling like hippogriffs. If you are having trouble with homework or another class-related problem, see Zephyr Stevens and Shannon Towers, your prefects. They are here to help. The same goes for issues with bullying, sleeping, eating and the like. No-one is to be out of the common room after curfew - I am kind to you all out there, but in here, you get away with nothing. And lastly, the dorms are separated by gender - that is not to be challenged. I have set alarms in your dorms to inform me if someone is awoken in the night. I am aware many of you will become homesick,' here his eyes flicked to a pale, blonde haired boy, 'then you come to me and I shall arrange a floo visit. I hope you all do well in Slytherin. Potter, stay behind, the rest of you are dismissed.'
Pansy gave Harry a comforting look, before scampering off behind the rest of the first years. Taking a deep breath, Harry stepped up to the tall professor.
The man looked at him with slight dislike. 'Potter, why did you not touch your plate at dinner? Is Hogwarts food not up to your standards?'
In his rough, ragged voice, Harry explained his situation. He lifted up his top to reveal a patch of milky white skin that had a black ring inserted into the area. Snape lowered himself to examine it. The ring had a three centimeter diameter with a small hole in the middle, just the right size for the end of a syringe.
'I see,' the professor said, surprise and curiosity evident in his eyes. Then they narrowed to look at Harry. He fidgeted, the man's gaze making him feel transparent, but then he said in a low voice, just loud enough for Harry to hear,
'I expected you to be just like your father. So far I am somewhat dissuaded of the notion - but prove me wrong.' He rose gracefully from his heels, leaving a small and surprised Harry Potter.
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