The Best House at Hogwarts
Theodore Nott gave his
father a brave smile and boarded the train. The crush of people on the platform
had made him uncomfortable, but it was nothing to the way he felt on the train
itself. It was full of students, chattering and laughing, meeting friends,
making friends. He knew a few neighbors from Diagon Alley, but he had to no
desire to tag along like a little kid. He just wanted to find a quiet spot and
sit out of the way.
were filling up. Theo felt his throat tighten. What he wanted to do was
bolt. Not back to home so much as away from this mass of people. He’d have to
look for a group of new students or find Malfoy. But he knew he’d rather
endure meeting new people than endure Draco. He moved down the aisle, trying
to avoid bumping older students, as he glanced through doors.
He found a bunch of
students who appeared his age and, taking a deep breath said, “Hello. First
year here. Do you have room? They all made welcoming noises. He hefted his
trunk to a storage rack and moved into the group.
Names were tossed out
so fast he couldn’t catch them all. But he was relieved that no one seemed to
know each other. Every few moments someone stood to lean at the window and
wave. Theo glanced out once, but he was certain his father had left as soon as
he got on the train. There was a long whistle, a call from the conductor and
the train started with a lurch.
For a few moments there
was silence, broken slightly by uncomfortable shifting and hard swallows. And
at last one of the girls spoke a little too loudly, “What Houses do you think
you’ll be sorted into?”
“Gryffindor! Least Me
Mum thinks so. She says anyone as reckless as I am couldn’t go anywhere else.”
A boy with an Irish brogue said, grinning..
brave,” the girl corrected. “I’ve read about the Houses in Hogwarts A
History. I think Gryffindor must be the best House.” Theo hadn’t heard her
name at all, and couldn’t guess what it might be. Although everyone else in the
compartment was wearing regular clothes, very Muggle suitable, she was already
in her school robes. Her hair was wild and frizzy and in his mind Theo was
calling her “Frizz.”
Two voices protested
together, “The best House is Slytherin.”
best House is Ravenclaw.”
“Slytherin is known
for helping its students succeed after school. A lot have become important
leaders and famous Healers.” The speaker was a
dark haired girl who seemed to think she had already been sorted into
The Irish boy
interrupted, “Yeah, but most Dark Wizards come from Slytherin!”
“Well, that might be
true, but, Gryffindor has its share of bad wizards too,” she argued back.
“Ravenclaw is famous
for clever wizards, the ones who come up with new spells and new magic. That’s
where I want to go!” the boy called Shue…no Boot…piped in.
“Yes, Ravenclaw would
be a good house,” Frizz said.
“I think so too,” Theo
said suddenly and then realized everyone was looking at him as if he wanted to
go there because the girl had said so. He turned red and added, “but Slytherin
would be a good House. A lot of my family has been in Slytherin.”
Frizz seemed to be appraising both him and the dark
haired girl. Theo went on, “Slytherin has a mixed reputation.” He realized
he sounded like his father now. “My Dad says some families are jealous of
Slytherin and a little afraid of it but that’s because it’s full of strong
Gryffindor both sound scary,” Susan Bones said, “You’re right about Gryffindors
being reckless, Seamus.” She looked at Irish boy and Theo silently repeated his
name to himself as she continued, “My Gram says Gryffindors are famous for
being brave, but they don’t always think. She says, “Gryffindors rush in where
Ravenclaws fear to tread.”
cowards!” Boot protested.
“Well, no. But they’re
famous for learning and for knowing what they are getting into.” Susan
continued, “Ravenclaw would be a good House, but I’m hoping for Hufflepuff.”
“Hufflepuff! Who would
want…oh, sorry,” Seamus started.
“It’s a good House…the
backbone of the wizarding world! Lots of good strong witches have come from
Hufflepuff. My Gram did,” Susan said firmly.
Mandy-- or was it
Candy?—joined in. “It isn’t supposed to matter anyway. Not really. My Dad says
no one cares once you’re out of school. He’s always saying, ‘Don’t look at the
House the wizard goes into, but at the wizard that comes out.’
Frizz spoke, “But Slytherin doesn’t take Muggle-born
students, does it?”
“No, why should it? They wouldn’t be
able to keep up, would they?” Dark Hair answered. Theo wished he could
remember her name.
“Me Dad’s a Muggle.
Nothing wrong with it!” Seamus snapped.
“He doesn’t do magic,
does he? There’s no reason to put Muggle-borns with Purebloods. It would hold
the Purebloods back! If Muggle-borns have to
come to Hogwarts they should go to Hufflepuff. Hufflepuff takes anyone.”
“I’m Muggle-born and I
don’t think I’d hold anyone back!” Frizz said, her eyes flashing. Seamus,
red with anger, glared silently and Susan Bones looked about to burst.
“Yes, I thought you
might be.” Dark Hair said smugly. She tossed
her head and looked out the window.
“I think I’ll go explore the train!” Frizz announced and
turned to leave.
Seamus and Susan
followed after without a word.
There was a very
awkward silence. Theo cleared his throat. “My Dad knows Professor Snape, the
Head of Slytherin House. He came to dinner one night. He said that he’s seen
weak Pureblood wizards and strong Muggle-born ones.”
“And what did he
say about mixing them?” Dark Hair asked.
“Nothing. He said
Hogwarts accepts every magic child and teaches every magic child. He says it’s
“So you already have an
in for Slytherin?” Dark Hair asked, changing the direction of the conversation.
“No. He said the
Sorting Hat decides and that it’s final.”
“Did he say where he
thought you’d go?”
Theo shook his head,
“He said where ever I was sorted, I should look like I wanted to go there.
‘Your Housemates will be watching,’ he said.” Theo felt foolish now. It
probably looked like he was showing off.
stalled and Theo recalled the evening Professor Snape had visited.
Having a guest for
dinner had been a surprise to him. Not only for dinner, but at their home for
dinner. He and his father usually ate at one of the taverns on Diagon Alley.
Theo hadn’t understood at first, but his father had invited the professor just
to introduce them. And when it had become obvious, Theo had been embarrassed.
They had talked about
the Houses that night. After admitting he was biased, the professor had said,
“The biggest problem with Slytherin is that some students confuse marks with
knowledge. Those students go to great length to get high marks, but forget to
learn the material. However, those who are truly interested in learning the
magic do exceptionally well. There is no stopping a Slytherin who has a goal.”
“What about Ravenclaw?”
Theo asked. He wished he hadn’t. Snape looked at him with beady eyes for
several moments. It must have been clear that Ravenclaw was Theo’s first
knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Some forget to use it. But, as a group, they
are very clever.”
His father had almost
demanded that the professor tell him if he thought Theo would get into
Slytherin. Somehow the professor skirted the issue, never saying anything
really bad about any House and at last had snapped, “He’ll be the same boy
after he’s sorted that he was before.”
For some reason, the
Professor immediately turned to Theo and asked, “Which House do you want?”
It had come so
unexpectantly that Theo just stared for a moment, stammered, then said with
confidence, “Whichever House the Sorting Hat says, of course.”
The professor had given
him the slightest of smiles and seemed satisfied. Theo thought that it would be
interesting having Professor Snape as a Head, but a little frightening too.
Later he had complained
to his father about setting him up. But the senior Nott had merely shrugged. “If
you don’t end up in his House, at least he’ll recognize you when you come to
Potions. You might be happy he came tonight. I’ve heard he can be pretty hard
on the non-Slytherin students.”
“Theo looks like he’s
taken a forgetfulness potion!” Mandy laughed gently. Theo looked up, realizing
his mind had wandered. He smiled and shrugged.
Someone brought out a
pack of exploding snap cards. A few pulled out books. Theo reached for his book
but was interrupted as several boys stopped and looked in. He recognized
Malfoy, but not the two husky boys that flanked him.
“Oh, hello, Nott.”
Draco looked around the compartment. “I thought I’d get a group together who
expect to land in Slytherin.”
Dark Hair jumped up
with a smile and crossed to the door. “I’m going to be in Slytherin! I just
have to be! I’m Pansy Parkinson.”
Malfoy studied her
moment, then nodded. “ Draco Malfoy. This is Crabbe. Over here is Goyle.” He
looked at Theo, “Coming, Nott?”
Theo swallowed. “No
“Think you might not make
it? Maybe you aren’t good enough,” Malfoy turned abruptly and strode away.
Pansy glanced back with a smirk and followed after. There was another long
silence. Theo thought to himself that Ravenclaw was looking better and better.
The afternoon dragged
on. Some of the others went exploring. A couple of new kids came in. Mostly
Theo read his book. Finally someone called out to change and suddenly they were
At last Theo stood with
the crowd of first years and stared around at
the Great Hall. Nothing had prepared him for this. He glanced toward Frizz,
and to his surprise she seemed less excited about it than most others. The
stern witch whose name he’d already forgotten began calling names in
alphabetical order. N was a long way off.
He scanned the staff
table and saw Professor Snape. Their eyes met briefly, but the man gave no sign of recognition. Theo forgot completely that
the professor had seemed interesting and instead remembered now how cold he had
been. Now he looked absolutely scary.
“Ravenclaw,” Theo said
softly. As his name grew closer, Theo’s throat grew dry. Silently he was
chanting “Ravenclaw, Ravenclaw.” And at last his name was called and his brain
went as dry as his mouth.
There was a blur then
silence as the hat dropped on his head, “Ravenclaw?” a new voice asked. “Yes,
you would fit nicely in Ravenclaw.” Theo started to stand, but realized the hat
was still speaking. “You aren’t the first Slytherin to want Ravenclaw. Very
similar the two. But for you…SLYTHERIN!”
Theo forced himself to
smile and hurried away from the stool in the only direction he could go-- the
Slytherin table. Malfoy was sneering, “Well, joining us after all?”
“Yes,” Theo said
brusquely, shaking the hands of the older Slytherins and nodding at the other
first years. A new name was called, “Parkinson, Pansy.”
Theo groaned silently
and pretended to welcome her to the table. Harry Potter was called and the
sound in the room became a roar. Theo looked over in surprise. The boy with the
famous scar was going to be a classmate! He watched Potter as he moved to the
Gryffindor table and sat beside Frizz.
Finally Zabini was
called and became a Slytherin. “I don’t believe he made it!” Draco muttered.
Zabini came quickly, looking a little bewildered and Theo motioned to the empty
spot beside him. If Draco didn’t like him, there was a good chance Theo would.
They listened to the
Headmaster’s strange speech. Malfoy made several disapproving noises that
entertained most of the others. Theo thought that Professor Snape had seemed to
respect Dumbledore, although he hadn’t really said so. He kept his opinion to
himself but studied the old wizard as he spoke. The food appeared and Theo
forgot to worry about Housemates and Headmasters.
After a few mouthfuls,
he looked up to the Staff table and saw Professor Snape was looking at their
table. Theo watched as the professor’s eyes snapped from one new Slytherin to
the other, as if he were analyzing potions. Their eyes met and this time the
Professor nodded. For some reason, Theo found himself smiling back. The
professor’s expression didn’t change, but he looked at Theo for a moment before
moving his gaze to the Gryffindor table. Theo decided that whether he liked it
or not, he was Slytherin. And for the next 7 years Slytherin was the best House