The Sugar Quill
Author: Reta  Story: Where No Weasley Has Gone Before  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Where No Weasley Has Gone Before

Where No Weasley Has Gone Before
A Sorting Story

This story takes place approximately fifteen to twenty years after the Trio’s graduation from Hogwarts, and follows the daughter of Ron and Hermione.  The world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling, as do all the adult characters in this story.  Many thanks to my wonderful beta-reader, NightZephyr.

The gray hall was filled with a mass of rain-drenched, black-cloaked eleven year olds. It seemed an enormous room to Anna, although she supposed that by Hogwarts standards it was only a small antechamber. From the stories her parents and Uncle Harry told, the wizarding school had halls the size of Quidditch fields, ballrooms that spread like oceans, and towers that frequently collided with passing clouds.  And of course, the occasional swamp that remained from Uncle Fred and Uncle George’s time here, she remembered, smiling.

Anna couldn’t believe that she was finally here, and that she was about to be Sorted. She shivered with anticipation, and hugged the book Uncle Remus had given her to read on the train close to her chest. Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis. She had read the Chronicles of Narnia before, of course, but she didn’t own any of them, and this volume was extra-special, since Uncle Remus had told her that it was the exact same book he had read on his first train ride to Hogwarts. Sometimes she thought Uncle Remus was her absolute favorite uncle, even if he wasn’t really related to her. It was a much better present than the leather-bound copy of Hogwarts, A History that Mum had given her. She appreciated that Hogwarts, A History would be very useful, and she had struggled most of the way through it before leaving home to make Mum happy, but she just didn’t enjoy non-fiction the way Mum did.

She had loads of other presents, too – in fact, Anna’s luggage had nearly doubled after the going-away party at the Burrow last night, and she had had to ask Mum to put an Expansion Charm on her trunk. She had an owl from her Uncle Harry, a large sampler of items from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes from her Uncles Fred and George that she had managed to keep her mother from noticing, more Chudley Cannon paraphernalia to decorate her dormitory than she had ever imagined existed from her father, and a maroon jumper from her Grandmother Weasley, among other things.

Anna had been to the big celebration her Weasley grandparents had put on for all their grandchildren the night before they left for Hogwarts as long as she could remember, but this was the first time that the attention had been almost entirely on her. By some strange miracle, she was the only Weasley grandchild of her age, so she was the only one leaving for the first time this year, and the only other grandchild who was given special attention was Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur’s oldest daughter, Molly, who had been made Head Girl.

Molly had been toasted more than once, but Anna had been the center of attention most of the night, while all of her relatives gave her presents and advice, and tried to guess what house she would be Sorted into. There wasn’t much question of that, of course – nearly all the Weasleys still ended up in Gryffindor. Granddad and Aunt Ginny said that she might end up in Ravenclaw, but Anna privately thought that if Mum hadn’t been a Ravenclaw, there was no chance that she would be one. Uncle Bill and Uncle Charlie said she was hardworking and nice enough to be a Hufflepuff, but that was just because they had mostly seen her on her best behavior. Uncle Harry had kissed her cheek and told her that she had the kindness of a Hufflepuff, the brains of a Ravenclaw, and the cunning of a Slytherin, God help her, but that she had the heart of a lion and couldn’t be put anywhere but his own house. That had been really nice of him. Then he had told her all about the Sorting Hat, so that she wouldn’t be scared by any of the stories her cousins told her about having to club trolls over the head or defeat basilisks just to get sorted into a house.  Uncle Harry was actually the fifth of her uncles to take her aside that night to tell her that, but it was still nice of him.

Anna looked around at the swarm of first-years surrounding her, and wondered how many of them knew what the Sorting Ceremony was like. Not many of them, judging by how withdrawn and quiet they were. Or maybe they were just worried about what house they would be sorted into. Her mum had told her that she shouldn’t worry about what house she’d end up in, since the whole point of the Sorting was that she’d be placed into whatever house was best for her, and no matter where she ended up she’d make wonderful friends.  Her dad had laughed, and told her that no true Weasley ever ended up anywhere but Gryffindor, and that she should tell the Fat Lady hello for him. Anna agreed with Mum in principle, but thought her father was probably right. While she didn’t see anything wrong with being a Hufflepuff or a Ravenclaw, she’d probably be a Gryffindor. Still, it didn’t hurt to be open-minded.

She wondered who among the students standing around her would be in Gryffindor with her – or in Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff, of course -- and how quickly she would be able to make friends. She had hoped that she might make a friend on the train, like her dad and Uncle Harry had, but the only first-years she had run into on the train had greeted her by asking if she was a pure-blood. She had looked down her nose at them with disdain and walked out of the compartment with a chilly dignity. At least, she had hoped that it seemed like chilly dignity. She had been trying to imitate the way her Aunt Fleur behaved when she felt she was being slighted by people beneath her, but Anna was afraid she had a little too much Weasley in her to be able pull it off. Maybe she should have pulled out her wand and tried out that Bat-Bogey Hex that Aunt Ginny had showed her. She grinned to herself at the thought. Either way, it looked like she would have to be making friends elsewhere, and that was just fine with her. She knew better than to want to associate with that sort.

A very short, wizened old man with puffy white hair and a kindly smile entered the room and began to corral the first-years into an orderly line for the sorting. Anna realized with a bit of a thrill that he exactly fit her parents’ description of their Charms teacher, Professor Flitwick. She hadn’t realized that he was still teaching, and wondered a little why she had never heard any of her cousins mention him. He began tell the first-years about the importance of Houses and the Sorting and all kinds of things Anna already knew about, and she lost herself in a daydream about what it would be like to be in his class. Swish and flick! Wingardium Leviosa … or was it LeviosaShe couldn’t remember.

The line trickled slowly into the Great Hall, and Anna caught her breath at the beauty of the candlelit hall and enchanted night sky. She managed to pay attention while the dilapidated Sorting Hat sang a very long and very boring song, but lost her concentration while it began to sort her classmates. She was at the end of the very long line, and there were so many fascinating things in the hall to distract her. There was a horde of ghosts in the back of the room, some of whom she thought she might recognize from stories – was that Moaning Myrtle? The House Ghosts were at their house tables, of course. She squinted to see whether she make out the blood on the ghost at the Slytherin table, but she couldn’t tell.  Anna didn’t really want to look at that table, but she had always been curious about the Bloody Baron, and couldn’t find anyone to really tell her anything about him. There was the Fat Friar at the Hufflepuff table, and not too far from him were her cousins Paul and Will. They were smiling at her, she realized, so she waved and smiled at them. Her cousin Cedric at the Ravenclaw table had already been waving at her, and made an expression of mock hurt when she waved at her Hufflepuff cousins before him. Anna stuck her tongue out at him, then smiled and blew a kiss.  Someone hissed at her, and she turned around to see a whole host of redheads waving at her, blowing kisses, and making victory signs from the Gryffindor table. She tried to give them each a special wave: Sirius, Albus, Sylvia, Fabian, Callista, Gideon, Lily, Jim, Ted – even Molly offered her a prim smile. Having so many relatives at Hogwarts was going to be a royal pain sometimes, she knew, but days like this surely made it worth it.

Her turn finally arrived, and she swallowed the little trepidation she had left and marched up to the front of the hall and put the on the worn and raggedy hat, wondering as she did so why no one had put a better preservation charm on it.

Hmmm, and what do we have here?  the hat buzzed at her. Another Weasley … but different from the rest. Hmmm. You’re a challenge, little one.

Anna felt slightly miffed at being called “little one” by a hat that barely came up to her knee. Then she remembered how old her mother (and that ridiculously detailed tome on Hogwarts’ history) had told her the hat was, and felt a little ashamed. The hat seemed amused, though it didn’t say anything about it.

A nice thirst to prove yourself, yes. Ambitious, aren’t we? Quite intelligent, too. And cunning, oh my. You’re kind-hearted and loyal in your own way, but I don’t think you’re a Hufflepuff, no indeed. Courageous, and yet … perhaps not a Gryffindor.

Anna sat very straight and willed herself not to give the hat any preference. She wouldn’t plead to be put in Gryffindor because everyone else in the family was there. The hat should put her where she fit best.

Oho, is that the way it is? asked the hat, still sounding amused and now somewhat gratified. I don’t hear that very often. In that case … if you’re sure… better be “SLYTHERIN!”

~ * ~

Anna felt the blood drain from her face. The hall was suddenly entirely silent – Anna hadn’t realized exactly how much noise the older students had been making until they all stopped at once. In the vast mass of students in front of her, she could see a dozen Weasley faces suddenly gone white under their red hair. Fabian had been pouring a glass of pumpkin juice, she noticed with a sudden burst of nervous hilarity, and his goblet had started to overflow onto the table.

You’re supposed to take me off now, and set me on the chair, the hat reminded her.

“Is this your idea of a joke?” Anna hissed at the hat. “It’s worse than your poetry! I am NOT a Slytherin!”

You could have fit in another house, the hat buzzed. But you asked me to put you where you fit best, and that’s Slytherin. You can’t hide who you are from me – it’s all in your head, you know –

“Miss Weasley?” Tiny Professor Flitwick was hovering at her elbow, and had taken the idiotic, incompetent, and downright cruel hat off of her head. He looked at her with her concern. “You ought to go join your housemates,” he told her gently. “It’s a bit overwhelming, I know, but you’ll feel better when you’ve got a bit of food in you.”

She stood up shakily, and tried to smile at him, but it didn’t work at all. She began to walk slowly towards the Slytherin table. It was full of people wearing green and black, looking down their noses at her with beady eyes. They looked a little bit like monsters, or the bloodthirsty aliens that frequented Ted’s Muggle comic-books. Her housemates. She swallowed, and realized that if she didn’t get out of the hall quickly, she was going to be sick.

Anna walked right past the Slytherin table, and out the door that stood behind it. Once she was out of the hall, she began to run.

~*~

Anna was hopelessly lost, but she supposed it didn’t really matter at this point. She had stopped running a while back, but before she could find her way back to the Great Hall, she had fallen waist-deep into the black marble floor of one of the more dimly-lit corridors. After spending at least an hour trying to come up with ways to extricate herself, she had finally given up. Anna tried to relax and avoid thinking about how dark the hallway was, or about what kind of creature could be making be making the peculiar noise coming occasionally from somewhere in the blackness behind her. Her cousins would find her eventually – in fact, it shouldn’t even take them very long, since one of them should have the Marauder’s Map. If they decided that it was better not to look for their Slytherin relative, she would just die of thirst in about seventy-two hours, maybe a little bit less since she hadn’t drunk much at luncheon. All in all, she’d prefer that fate to spending the next seven years in Slytherin.

She began to shiver uncontrollably, and wrapped her arms around herself to try to stop herself from shaking. How could she have landed in Slytherin? Sure, she wasn’t always as nice as some of her cousins were, but she’d never even considered that she might actually be evil. How could you be evil without realizing it? What did this mean about her future? Would she wake up one morning and suddenly develop the urge to hex small children? Would her subconscious automatically start formulating plots to kill her Uncle Harry and bring back He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Even-Though-Uncle-Harry-Says-He-Should-Be? Would she no longer be able to appreciate sunsets and rainbows and puppies and cute little bunny rabbits? Not that she had ever liked bunny rabbits all that much, and she really hadn’t been that thrilled about puppies ever since she’d been bitten by Uncle Charlie’s dog. There it was – she had already been demonstrating signs of evil tendencies, and hadn’t even noticed it. She’d better move away from her family before the uncontrollable urges to curse Muggle-borns and blood-traitors set in.

She felt something brush against her shoulder, and she flinched, barely managing to keep herself from shrieking loudly.

“It’s all right, it’s just me,” someone said soothingly behind her, and Anna turned to see the freckled face of her cousin Cedric, his glasses glinting from the light of his wand. “Are you alright?”

“I’m stuck,” Anna told him miserably. Her voice shook and she sounded like she’d been crying, but she decided she didn’t care. Cedric shook his head at her, smiling.

“Honestly, the scrapes you get yourself into, youngling. This hole is really hard to get out of – they usually keep this corridor locked, I can’t imagine how you got in here. Hang on a minute.” He knelt next to her and pointed his wand at the ground, muttering something. After a minute, the floor lit up, and Cedric lifted her easily out of the marble. She leaned against him, still unable to stop shivering, and he held her tightly, stroking her hair.

“You’re alright, youngling,” he whispered. “It’s okay now.”

“No, it’s not,” she muttered into his shoulder.

She felt, rather than heard, him sigh. “Let’s see if we can’t get you warmed up.” He conjured a blanket out of the air and wrapped it around her. Cedric was only a fifth year, but he was very smart. “Maybe I ought to take you round to the kitchens before we try to figure out where your dormitory is. You must be hungry, after missing the Feast.”

“I’m not going to my dormitory,” Anna informed him. “It’s in Slytherin. I don’t belong in Slytherin.” At least, she didn’t want to belong in Slytherin.

“Look, I know better than anyone that it’s hard to be the only Weasley in a house, and I was sure hoping that you’d be joining me—“

“You’re in Ravenclaw! How hard can that be?” Anna pointed out, indignant. “It just means that you’re smarter than the rest of the family. No one’s telling you that you’re evil.”

“Listen to me. There’s not a chance in h– well, there’s not a chance that you’re evil, and nobody who knows you is thinking that.” Cedric looked at her critically. “Hold still a minute, you’ve got dirt on your face.”

Anna held still obediently while he wiped her cheek with part of the blanket. “Does that mean that they’ll let me be re-Sorted?”

“I don’t think –“ Cedric stopped in the middle of his sentence, and sighed. “Maybe. I’ll write Dad and see if he could talk to the headmaster. People still listen to the Boy-Who-Lived. And we’ll ask Molly, she’s Head Girl, she might be able to do something. But let’s get you some supper first, and let everyone know that you’re all right. That idiot brother of mine forgot the map at home, so we’ve been looking for you the hard way.”

He pulled her to her feet and they started down the corridor. He held her hand, which Anna usually considered herself too grown up for, but she decided that it was okay for today. Life seemed a little better, holding onto the hand of her favorite cousin.

“If they won’t put me in a different house, maybe I could transfer to Beauxbatons instead,” Anna said hopefully, trying to be brave like a Gryffindor.

“You’re not going anywhere,” Cedric said firmly. “You’re staying right here with me. Now come on.”

Before they reached the kitchens they came across a gathering of most of their cousins, who made a fuss over Anna and told her how glad they were to see her.  (“Our parents would have murdered us if anything had happened to you – that is, if Grandmum Weasley hadn’t come after us with her knitting needles first,” Gideon assured her solemnly). Anna was happy to see them too, but she couldn’t help but notice that most of them seemed to be avoiding looking directly at her, and she began to lose the small amount of confidence that Cedric had given her. Molly was there, surrounded by a few of her most devoted admirers – Molly had inherited her mother’s Veela traits, and nearly always had boys trailing after her. She also always made Anna feel about six inches tall. Anna edged closer to her, and asked her in a small voice whether there was a chance that she could be sorted again.

“Goodness, I don’t know. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that,” Molly said, blinking her long lashes in surprise. “I don’t really see what the point would be, do you? I mean, your house is just something you are. It’s not as though it will change if you put the hat on again.” Cedric winced at this, and Molly seemed to collect herself, and blushed a pale and pretty pink. “I’ll talk to the headmaster about it,” she promised, though she sounded dubious, and patted Anna’s cheek. Anna bit her lip, and tried to feel encouraged by this.

All too soon, Anna found herself standing alone with Molly in front of the entrance to the Slytherin common room. It was late enough that the other Weasleys had had to return to their own common rooms, and as Head Girl, Molly was the only one of them who was supposed to know where the Slytherin common room was. Anna seriously doubted that her other cousins hadn’t frequently visited this dark and dank portion of the castle to try to torment their least favorite classmates, but they probably couldn’t admit that in front of Molly. Still, Anna wished it could have been Cedric standing next to her.

Molly was fumbling through a large sheaf of papers, trying to remember where she had put the list of the current house passwords. Anna tried to keep her eyes on Molly and avoid looking at the Slytherin portrait guardian, which was a disturbingly large and life-like snake. The snake was staring at her and hissing menacingly, and when it caught her looking at it, it lunged towards her as if about to strike. Anna knew that it couldn’t leave its canvas, but she found herself edging closer to Molly anyway.

“There it is!” Molly exclaimed finally. “Your password is ‘dementor’s kiss.’ Can you remember that?” Anna nodded. “Well, go on then. Tell it to the portrait.”

Anna did so, and the snake lunged one final time before sliding to the side to reveal an elegantly arched doorway. Anna stood to the side, and waited for Molly to go in first.

“Go on in, then. One of your prefects should be waiting for you inside,” Molly told her. “I’m not really supposed to go into the other houses’ common rooms if there’s not some sort of emergency.”

Anna reluctantly stepped through the portrait hole, and the door slid silently back into place before she could say goodbye to Molly. The room she had entered was completely dark except for the light coming from a gigantic fireplace that stretched from floor to ceiling on the far side of the room. Before it were the silhouettes of two students playing chess in complete silence, their shadows stretching nearly half-way across the green marble floor. There was no one else in the room.

Anna crept along the edges of the room towards the fireplace. She felt curiously reluctant to step into the light, but she gathered her Gryffindor courage and approached the chess players.

“Excuse me,” she said politely. “Could you tell me how to get to the first-year dormitory?”

One of the students moved his knight and captured the other’s pawn. Neither responded, or gave any indication that they had noticed her presence.

“Er … can’t you hear me?” Anna ventured, feeling a trifle foolish. Neither of the students so much as blinked “Right, then. I’ll just be off and find my own way, then.”

There were at least a dozen unmarked doors off of the common room. Anna sighed, and opened the one nearest her to begin her search. Half an hour later, she had discovered no dormitories, but over a dozen more rooms that seemed to be common areas. All the better for plotting and sneaking about, she supposed, but it wasn’t very helpful when you actually needed to find something. She finally literally ran into a prefect, who sniffed derisively at her, informed her she was late, and escorted her to the first year dormitory.

The dormitory had the same elegance that all the Slytherin chambers had – beautiful, but hardly comfortable or inviting. Five green canopy beds stood in a row, each with a trunk at the foot. The windows showed a mass of seaweed and a school of fish swimming by, and Anna remembered that the Slytherin rooms were rumored to be under the lake. Four girls were talking in front of the fireplace – they turned to see who had entered the room. Anna realized with a sinking feeling that they were the girls she had met on the train. They didn’t seem to remember her, however.

“Well, if it isn’t the Weasley brat, finally gracing us with her presence,” said one of them with a sneer.

The tallest of them extended a hand towards Anna. “It’s about time a Weasley joined us in Slytherin. After all, whatever else your family is, at least they’re purebloods.”

Anna regarded the hand in front of her, but didn’t take it. “I’m not a pureblood,” she said quietly. She was inwardly shaking with rage and indignation, but she noticed with some pride that her voice was entirely steady. “My mother is Muggle-born, and a better witch than any pureblood.”

She swiftly crossed her room to the bed that had her trunk sitting in front of it, and pulled the curtains closed around her. She fought back the urge to cry, afraid that the closed curtains might not be enough to prevent the girls from trying to torment her further. But the Slytherin girls stayed on the other side of the room, and Anna let the tears trail silently down her cheeks until she fell asleep.

You can’t hide who you truly are – it’s all here in your head, you know.

~*~

When Anna awoke the next morning, her first impulse was to bury her face in her pillow and go back to sleep, refusing to face the world ever again. But the silk pillowcase felt strange against her skin, and the light filtering through the heavy bed curtains turned the world around her a strange and flickering green, and she soon realized that what she really wanted to do was to get as far away from the Slytherin dormitory as she possibly could. She waited just long enough make sure that she could still hear the heavy breathing and light snoring of the Slytherin girls, then sprang out of bed as soon as she was sure that they were all asleep. She noticed with some despair that the Slytherin insignia had appeared on her robes overnight, but hastily donned them anyway and crept quietly out of the room.

Once Anna had run far away from the Slytherin dungeons and nearly gotten herself lost again, she realized that she had no idea where to go or what to do. She couldn’t stomach the thought of entering the Great Hall again, and didn’t really want to eat breakfast anyway. Her cousins wouldn’t be up yet, so there was no point in trying to find the entrance to Gryffindor Tower. She finally ended up going outside, where she amused herself by throwing rocks into the lake (Anna had never been able to skip stones, no matter how many relatives tried to teach her) and wondering what would happen if she dove into it and begged the giant squid to take her in. She would still attend classes, of course, but she could live underwater with the squid instead of with the Slytherins, and maybe even pick up some lessons in Mermish from the neighboring inhabitants.

Anna’s daydream was interrupted by the arrival of her new owl, who was carrying a thick packet of letters and had to hoot loudly at her to get her attention. Anna tried to make it up to her by offering an owl treat, but the owl just nipped her finger and perched on a nearby bench, staring intently at her. It was rather disconcerting, and not at all the way that Anna had been led to believe that personal owls generally behaved. Perhaps Uncle Harry had accidentally purchased some sort of specially-bred man-eating owl. Anna sat down on a nearby bench to read her letters, trying not to notice her owl stare hungrily at the blood welling up on her finger.

The letters were, on the whole, not nearly as comforting as Anna had hoped. The first was from her father, and was nearly illegible in its vehemence. He assured her that he knew she couldn’t possibly be a Slytherin, and raged for nearly three pages against the incompetence of the Sorting Hat and the many ways in which Hogwarts had degenerated since his days. Anna noticed that he had several times forgotten himself and written down naughty words that she wasn’t supposed to know, which her mother had carefully crossed out later. Her mother had painstakingly written out a twelve-page list of carefully documented examples that not all Slytherins were evil, including the founder of St. Mungo’s (who had been later prosecuted for unauthorized and inhumane experiments on Muggles, but was still quite a humanitarian).  Her mother concluded by reassuring her that they all loved her no matter what house she was in, and immediately afterwards told her that she was sure that Anna would be re-sorted soon.

Uncle Harry’s letter was much shorter, though not of much more help. He described a conversation that he had once had with Dumbledore in which Dumbledore had told him that it was the choices that people made that made them who they truly were. Uncle Harry encouraged her to continue making choices to form herself into the best person she could be, and not worry about which house she was in. Anna would have found this rather touching if she hadn’t heard the story before. Since she knew that the conversation had been about houses, and Professor Dumbledore had been telling Uncle Harry that it was the choices he made that separated him from You-Know-Who and the Slytherins, Anna found Uncle Harry’s letter to be the most disturbing in the entire packet. Aunt Ginny’s postscript detailing several more curses than she had previously taught Anna was at least useful. Aunt Ginny also mentioned how sweet she thought Anna’s new owl was. Anna had agreed with her about that just the day before, come to that. Maybe it was just waiting for her to try a little harder.

She approached the branch cautiously, holding an owl treat in an open palm. The owl snatched it from her, but started hissing at her when she tried to pet it. Yesterday, it had loved that.

“What is it, you just don’t like Slytherins or something?” Anna asked, exasperated. The owl hooted and flew away, causing the branch to snap up and hit her in the face.

“Yeah,” she said, settling back onto the bench. “Me neither.”

~*~

Anna had begun to doze off when she felt someone standing behind her. She looked up to see a girl only a few years older than her. The girl was wearing insignia-less black robes, and had a head of bright bubble-gum pink hair.

“Wotcher, Anna,” said the girl. Anna stared at her for a moment, and then it clicked.

“Aunt Tonks!” she cried, leaping up and wrapping her arms tightly around her favorite non-related aunt. Aunt Tonks, the fantastic Auror-aunt who could banish monsters from under the bed with a single flick of the wrist, and who could make the best shadow-puppets of any of her relations by simply morphing her hand to fit the right shape. Aunt Tonks, who had defended Anna from nightmares throughout her childhood. Anna couldn’t remember ever feeling as happy to see anyone.

“Hello, love. I couldn’t make it to your going-away party, but I thought I’d drop by and see how your first night had gone. Sorry about the morph, I wasn’t sure that the new headmaster would welcome uninvited guests.” Aunt Tonks rarely changed her appearance around Anna, since she had been frightened and confused by Aunt Tonks’ changing appearance when she was small. “How do you like Hogwarts so far?”

“’s awful,” Anna muttered into Aunt Tonks’ stomach. “Horrible.”

Aunt Tonks gently untangled Anna’s arms from around her waist, and led her back to bench again. “I heard you were sorted into Slytherin.”

Anna gave an involuntary moan, and tried not to start shaking again.

“What’re you so afraid of, love?” Aunt Tonks asked softly. “What’s so terrible about being sorted into Slytherin?”

Anna stared at her in disbelief. “What do you mean what’s so terrible about being sorted into Slytherin?” She choked back a sob. “Every story Mum and Dad and Uncle Harry tell, every story anyone tells, Slytherins are the villains. They’re nasty and malicious and prejudiced and downright evil. The only Slytherin that ever seemed half-way decent or admirable was Severus Snape, and he betrayed everyone who counted on him, murdered the only one who trusted him!” Anna sniffed. “It’s stupid enough for me to be in any house but Gryffindor. I’m a Weasley, and Dad says that all true Weasleys are Gryffindors. But Mum says that the hat picks a house that we belong to, that fits who we truly are. And Uncle Harry told me that Professor Dumbledore told him once that the hat picks a house for us based on our own choices, and that our choices show us who we truly are. What kind of choices did I make to end up here? What did I do that made me a Slytherin?”

She was crying in earnest now, and Aunt Tonks reached into her pocket and handed her a large yellow handkerchief. Anna blew her nose. “I do nod wandt do bedray anyone,” she said into the hankie. She felt Aunt Tonks putting an arm around her, and she leaned into her aunt’s shoulder.

“Anna,” Aunt Tonks said after she had absent-mindedly splashed her feet in the puddle under the bench for a few minutes, “What house makes for the best Aurors, do you think?”

“Gryffindor,” Anna recited automatically, sniffling. “They’re brave and they stand up for what’s right.”

“Nah,” Aunt Tonks said casually, still dangling her foot in the puddle. “Gryffindors are well-meaning and all, but they’re not so good at plans. They see something wrong with the world, and they want to fix it right then and there. They don’t have the patience to think about all the possibilities and come up with the best strategy. Not all of them, of course, there’ve been some smashing Aurors from Gryffindor, but it’s really not the house that we try to recruit from.”

Anna was a little shaken by anyone suggesting that Gryffindors were not the best and most sought-after for anything, but she tried to pull herself together for another guess. “Er … Ravenclaw, then?”

“Ravenclaws have their good points. All that knowledge comes in handy, even if they sometimes get distracted and forget what they’re supposed to be researching, or become more interested in discussing the theoretical implications of Nerbiggle’s Third Arithmetical law than in actually solving a case. But no, they’re not our favorite house either.”

Anna stared at her aunt incredulously. “You’re not telling me it’s Hufflepuff.” Hufflepuffs were nice and all, but somehow she couldn’t picture them as being the best at tracking down the world’s most formidable threats.

Aunt Tonks sighed, and shook her head, smiling.

“But – but – that only leaves Slytherin!” Anna spluttered, and blushed to hear herself so taken aback. She sounded like her father. “Slytherin supplies the evil wizards, how could you trust them to catch them?”

“Slytherins are cunning, patient, and subtle,” Aunt Tonks said. “In other words, we’re good at putting plans into action. That means that we turn out a lot of people who are quite effective in trying to take over the world, but also those who are good at outwitting them. Slytherins make superb Aurors.”

Anna digested this. “We? You’re … a Slytherin, then?” she asked in a small voice. Aunt Tonks had always seemed so nice. And she had been in the Order. Anna had always assumed she was a Gryffindor like everyone else.

“Don’t look at me like I’ve grown three heads, girl. Although I could do that, if you’d like,” she added with a grin. Her grin softened into a more gentle smile, and she took Anna’s hand in hers and patted it gently. “I’m still the same Aunt Tonks you’ve known all your life, child. Slytherin traits don’t have to be evil, love, or even unpleasant. We’re ambitious, yes, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with ambition. It can be something to be proud of – we know what we want, and we’re willing to work to get it. Ambition can lead people to do terrible things, like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or in a smaller way like your Uncle Percy, but it’s equally likely to lead people to do wondrous, beautiful things. Where would the world be without people whose highest ambition is to somehow serve their fellow man?”

“B-but, S-Slytherin has produced more Dark wizards than any other house,” Anna protested. “And even the ones who aren’t Dark are still prejudiced against Muggles and Muggle-borns.”

“Gryffindors – particularly Weasleys – are equally prejudiced against Slytherins,” Aunt Tonks said in the hard, bitter voice that she usually used when speaking about Death Eaters and escaped prisoners from Azkaban. “I’m not excusing my housemates, mind, and I share your family’s hatred of certain Slytherins. But that doesn’t change the fact that they condemn an entire group of people based on the actions of individuals. They’re not so different from Slytherins as you might think.”

Anna couldn’t find anything to say to this, so she looked fixedly at the lake instead of Aunt Tonks. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing, and she felt a rush of anger at her aunt for saying such a thing about the family. But deep down, something in her admitted that her aunt might be right.

“It’s not an easy thing to be a Slytherin,” Aunt Tonks continued after a few moments of silence. She spoke softly, almost as if she was talking to herself. “It’s true that my house – our house – has turned out a lot of Dark Wizards in the last fifty years or so. But sometimes I wonder how much of that is because of a cascade effect. ‘Iron sharpens iron,’ my dad used to say, ‘and so does one person shape another.’ One student corrupts another, and an entire year goes bad. The house develops a reputation because of one person or one year, and then the good and decent people who might have been in the house, like your Uncle Harry, choose not to enter it. The innocents who make it into Slytherin are treated by everyone else as though they’re already evil, and eventually they find it easier to just fulfill people’s expectations.”

A tear trickled down Anna’s cheek again, even though she had mostly stopped crying. “I don’t want that to happen to me,” she choked out. “I’d leave Hogwarts and move in with Muggles before I let that happen to me!”

“Good,” Aunt Tonks said briskly. Anna stared at her with horrified resignation, and Aunt Tonks laughed and drew her close. “Not about the leaving Hogwarts part, I meant about the not letting it happen to you. A house is just a house, Anna. It’s just a set of rooms, and a group of people who are constantly changing. It has no more power over you than you give it. You make your own choices, and determine who you are by yourself. After all, I managed to come out of it alright, didn’t I? And believe it or not, I’m not the only one.”

Anna managed to nod mutely at this, although she wasn’t too sure about the bit about Aunt Tonks not being the only one.

“Maybe this time it will be you who begin the cascade effect, who teaches Slytherins to be kind again. After all,” Aunt Tonks said, dropping a kiss on Anna’s head, “not only do you have the cunning, subtlety, ambition, and class of a Slytherin, but you have the courageous and kind heart of a Weasley. You’ll be fine. Oh, drat.”

“What?” Anna asked, straightening suddenly. She noticed that a bracelet around Aunt Tonks’ wrist was vibrating rather violently.

“The gits at the Ministry have never fully understood the fine concept of a day off,” Aunt Tonks said with exasperation. “I’d better run. Will you be all right now?”

Anna swallowed. She had felt better while talking to Aunt Tonks, but without her – well, she had to get used to facing the world without the help of her relatives sometime. “I’m all right,” she said bravely, like a Gryf – like a Slytherin. Aunt Tonks kissed her forehead again, and stood up, tripping over her own feet in the process. “I’ll owl you,” she called over her shoulder, sprinting towards the Forbidden Forest – where, Anna remembered, she would be able to Apparate. Surely that was the only reason why someone would sprint towards the Forest.

After she left, Anna sat alone on the cold iron bench, watching the first few raindrops of an approaching storm fall into the lake. She thought about casting a warming charm, but surprised herself by thinking that perhaps she’d go inside instead, and find a fireplace to warm herself by. But she stayed several minutes more, watching raindrops form ripples on the lake’s surface that spread until they collided and disappeared.

When she finally returned to the castle, she found an older boy blocking the doorway, scrambling to pick up the supplies from his satchel. The satchel had evidently split from the weight of all the books he had tried to cram into it – that, as much as the insignia on his robes, marked him as a Ravenclaw. Anna recognized a lot of the books from her mother’s library: Wandering With Werewolves (An Anthropological Study), Meddling Muggles – Muggle and Wizard Interactions in Medieval Times, A Comparison of Principles of Potion-Making and Muggle Chemistry, The Personal Narratives of Various Ghosts Haunting Linlithgow Palace as Transcribed by Hebert Nerflinger, and of course, Hogwarts, A History. Anna smiled fondly to see someone so like her mother – it was true, her mum really could have been a Ravenclaw. She noticed that a bottle of his ink had rolled so far that it had ended up near her feet. Anna picked it up.

“Here,” she said, offering it to the boy. He took it, then scowled at her.

“Sod off, Slytherin.” He shouldered the bag and walked away with quick, impatient strides. Anna sighed, and leaned her head against the wall of Hogwarts.

It was going to be a long seven years. But she would stick it out.

 

- FIN -

 

A few notes:
 -  I should mention that the idea that Remus Lupin read Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the train to Hogwarts came from Thistlerose’s “At the Beginning.”
-  Anna’s belief that Severus Snape betrayed everyone who trusted him is not meant to add fuel to the “Snape: evil or not?” debate.  I don’t have an opinion on the matter, one way or the other; it fit this story for Snape to at least appear evil, so I went with it.   I think it quite likely that even if Snape is still loyal to the Order, his innocence will never be widely known, and so Anna may simply be misinformed.
-  Tonks as a Slytherin:  No, I don’t really think that J.K. Rowling intends Tonks to be a Slytherin.  We don’t know what house Tonks belongs to, however, and I don’t think that Slytherin is an entirely unlikely home for her.  Tonks appears to be a bumbling idiot a great deal of the time, but is in fact a brilliant Auror and at times a double-agent for the Order; to me, this shows that she possesses the Slytherin virtues of cunning, subtlety, and general sneakiness.   

//
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