Chapter Three: Suzie, Sorted!

“The Sorting of Suzie Sefton”

by MMADfan

Chapter Three: Suzie, Sorted!

Suzie is dosed with potions, then makes it to the Great Hall, where Severus Snape presides over the Sorting.

Characters: Suzie Sefton, Rubeus Hagrid, Poppy Pomfrey, Severus Snape, the Sorting Hat, and others
Rated: T

← ← BACK TO CHAPTER TWO: THE TRAIN AND THE TROLLEY


Chapter Three: Suzie, Sorted!

Monday, 31 August 1998

“A great wizard, that one is,” Hagrid said, his deep voice resonating in the stairwell.

“The one I threw up on?” Suzie asked, feeling a bit better in the depths of the castle, surrounded by cool stone and flickering torches.

Hagrid chuckled. “Yeah, that’s the one. Severus Snape, his name is. A great hero of the wizarding world. One of the greatest in history. Ever hear of Harry Potter?”

Suzie nodded. “I have his Chocolate Frog card.”

“Well, without Severus Snape, Harry Potter couldn’t’ve done any of it—or he’d’ve had a harder time of it, any road. Perfessor Snape walked straight into the jaws o’ death last May, sure never to live and see another day, but he did it for the wizarding world—for you and me—and we’re all the luckier for it that Perfessor Dumbledore and Miss Hermione Granger was there to snatch him back and save his life. But a braver wizard you’re not likely to meet than Severus Snape. A bit stiff, sometimes, and not very . . . fun-lovin’, but sometimes the heroes o’ the world don’t have much time for fun. But a great wizard, no doubt about it. Head of Slytherin House, too.”

Wonderful: she’d thrown up all over a Head of House and one of the greatest heroes of the wizarding world on her very first day of school, Suzie thought. And she hadn’t received her biography of him from the Famous and Infamous Witches and Wizards update, either. Clearly, she’d have to read more of Hogwarts: a History, too. “He’s Head of Slytherin?”

“That he is. The greatest Head of Slytherin since Slytherin himself. Greater, some say. ‘Wizard without Peer,’ they named him at the Merlin awards. He’s a bit scary to some, but a lot of heroes can be scary, I expect.”

Suzie thought about that. Greater than Slytherin himself . . . “What’s Slytherin House like?” Andrew, Cy, and Toni had all talked about the other three Houses, but they hadn’t mentioned Slytherin.

“Oh, now, Slytherin House . . . The House dormitories and common room are located in the dungeons—which we just passed through—beneath the lake. Perfessor Snape teaches Potions, and that classroom’s in the dungeons, too. Safer that way, what with explosions and such. Slytherins themselves, they’re a mite hard for me to describe . . . ambitious, clever wizards and witches, some of ’em for the worse, some for the better. And in the big battle in May—you know about that?”

Suzie nodded again.

“Well, in the big battle in May, when everyone thought that Perfesser Snape was dead, the older Slytherin students all rallied ’round the Headmistress and Harry, and they all faced down You-Know-Who together, and Blaise Zabini—that’s the Slytherin student who led them—he said that they were all fighting in the name of Severus Snape.” Hagrid sniffed and wiped his eyes with a big purple handkerchief. “It was a brave and wonderful sight to see. Go down in wizarding history, for sure. A great moment for Hogwarts. ‘We’re Snape’s Slytherins,’ he says to him, bold as brass and as brave as they come.” Hagrid blew his nose.

“Wow.” Suzie was awed. Maybe Slytherin House would be the right House for her. Professor Snape sounded like a storybook hero, and he hadn’t even yelled at her when she’d thrown up on him.

“And what’s yer name, little witch? I’m rattlin’ on so, and we’ve not even been introduced proper yet!”

“Suzie Sefton. Suzanne, really, but no one calls me that.”

“All right, then, Miss Suzie Sefton! One more flight and we’ll be to the Hospital Wing. We’ll likely have to call for Madam Pomfrey, though, since she’s probably already down in the Great Hall waiting for the Welcoming Feast.”

They approached the large doors leading to the infirmary, and Hagrid knocked. The door opened immediately, and a house-elf in a set of fresh blue tea towels popped into visibility.

“’Lo there, Perlie! We’ve got a sick new first-year here. Needs to see Madam Pomfrey double-quick. The Deputy Headmaster wants her at the Sorting!”

Perlie smiled at Suzie, nodded, then Disapparated with a short, sharp crack.

“We’ll just wait in here. Madam Pomfrey will fix ya right up!”

Hagrid led Suzie over to a bed near them and motioned to her. “Up ya go. Set yerself down there, Miss Suzie. How’re ya feelin’? Ya still look a mite peaky.”

“My stomach’s still queasy, but better, I think,” Suzie said, sitting on the edge of the bed and swinging her legs.

“Better out than in, sometimes,” Hagrid said with a nod.

At the far end of the ward, the fireplace suddenly flared green, and a witch seemed to drop in through the chimney. Suzie giggled. It reminded her of Mary Poppins. She half-expected a crew of chimney-sweeps to follow the witch and begin singing “Step in Time.” A light went on for her: this must be what Toni had meant when she said she’d “Flooed” from Leeds to London that morning in a flue network. They went through people’s chimney flues somehow. Very odd. Suzie couldn’t imagine how that could be accomplished, but magic was something brand new to her, and she supposed that there must be some kind of magical conduits connecting different flues, since they were obviously not physically connected.

The witch bustled toward them, not a smudge on her—they must keep up the network at Hogwarts, which would please Toni, Suzie thought.

“What have we here?” the matron asked, drawing her wand as she approached.

“Miss Suzie Sefton, Madam Pomfrey,” Hagrid said. “She was a tetch sick to her stomach after the boat ride.”

“I threw up on Professor Snape,” Suzie said.

The witch’s eyebrows rose. “Did you, indeed?” She cast a spell, and funny symbols floated around Suzie. “Whatever did you eat on that train?”

“Um, I had . . .” Suzie thought a moment. “Some Bertie Bott’s Beans, Ice Mice, Peppermint Imps, Fudge Flies, Chocoballs, cherry fizz, pumpkin fizz, half a pumpkin pasty, some parsnip crisps . . . half a fish paste sandwich with relish, a tiny bit of a coronation chicken sandwich, a few bites of a sandwich called ‘Express Surprise,’ some of a hummus and tomato pita, half a lebnah and aubergine pita, and part of a kidney bean puree and sultana sandwich—that’s my favourite at home. And Abdul gave me some halvah and a couple macaroons. Oh, and then after lunch, I had more sweets from the trolley and some fizz.” She paused, taking in Hagrid’s and Madam Pomfrey’s expressions. “I didn’t eat it all by myself. I shared everything. And I still have a lot of the sweets left. I just tried them all. I did eat most of the Every Flavoured Beans myself, though. The others didn’t want any.”

“Did you spit out the bad beans?” Hagrid asked curiously.

“Oh, no, that would be uncouth” Suzie replied, all seriousness. “I just swallowed them.”

Madam Pomfrey clucked and shook her head. “Well, Miss Sefton, it is no wonder you were sick. And you should spit out the really bad-tasting beans. It’s expected.”

“I wanted to try everything, and I didn’t want to be rude.”

“You’re Muggle-born?” Madam Pomfrey asked. “Well, you’ll have the rest of your life to try new wizarding sweets. You needn’t try everything all at once. I’ll fetch some potions for you.”

“Potions?” Suzie said brightly. “My first potions!”

“Mm, indeed,” Madam Pomfrey said drily.

“I’ll walk ya down to the Great Hall after you take the potions,” Hagrid said as the matron went over to a cupboard to fetch them.

“Oh, we can’t use the fireplace?” Suzie asked, disappointed.

Hagrid chuckled. “No, that’s the internal Floo-Network for staff—and they only use it when they’re in a hurry. Students don’t normally use it. I don’t either.”

Suzie looked him up and down. “Do you fit?”

Hagrid laughed. “Yeah, Miss Sefton, I fit!” He was still chuckling when Madam Pomfrey returned with two potions.

“So . . . the wizard whom you vomited on actually brewed one of these potions, Miss Sefton,” Madam Pomfrey said as she measured out a spoonful of a dark, sticky-looking potion. “He’s one of the best Potions masters in Britain—probably in Europe. You are very lucky to be learning Potions from him. Open!” Madam Pomfrey put the spoon in Suzie’s mouth. “He’s strict, though—but you need to be strict when teaching something that can be as dangerous as Potions can be.”

Suzie made a face. “That was horrible. Sorry,” she amended quickly, remembering her manners. “Thank you, Madam Pomfrey.” An expression of surprise flitted across her features. “I feel perfect! The queasiness is all gone!”

“I should hope so! Now, this one is to keep you feeling that way and hopefully to avoid any problems on the other end of your digestive system. There you go.”

Suzie swallowed down the potion. “Licorice. I don’t like licorice much, but not bad.”

“As Professor Snape would tell you, we do not take potions for how they taste, but for what they can do for us,” Madam Pomfrey said briskly as she recapped the potion bottle. “Did you actually vomit on Professor Snape?”

“She sure did, Madam Pomfrey! All over his robes and boots,” Hagrid said. “But it vanished quick as anything,” he added with a wink.

“Lived to tell the tale, too, I see,” Madam Pomfrey said, suppressing a smile at Suzie’s expression of alarm at her words. “Professor Snape is a great wizard, brave, honourable, and powerful, an excellent Potions master, and one of the finest wizards of my acquaintance, but as I said, he’s very strict, and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Still, he also knows what it is to be ill, so I’m sure that he was understanding. You two had better get down to the Great Hall, though, or his patience will be tested again, and twice in one night is probably one time too many! And don’t eat too much tonight, Miss Sefton! They’re potions, not miracles!”

“Four flights down, and the Great Hall’s on our left on the ground floor,” Hagrid said conversationally. “Ya might want to remember where the infirmary is for the future.”

“Infirmary, fourth floor,” Suzie repeated, looking around her at the hanging lamps, wall torches, and the many portraits, all of which seemed as animated as the wizarding photographs, or even more so. “The castle’s really big.”

“Oh, yeah, real big, and it’s not hard to get lost when yer new to Hogwarts. Even if ya’ve been here for years, the rooms sometimes shift, and the stairways, too, so ya have to keep yer wits about ya! Ever lost, ask a portrait for help, is what I do,” Hagrid said heartily.

“Portraits can help?” Suzie asked.

“Sure can! Some o’ them more than other, o’ course. But address them polite enough, and they’ll be happy to help. Keeps ’em busy.”

The sound of voices reached them, a happy, excited buzzing rising from the Great Hall.

“Here we are, now, Miss Suzie!” Hagrid said as they reached the entry hall. “I’m going up t’ staff table, but you wait here in back with Mr Rath. The Sorting will begin soon! Best o’ luck to ya!”

There was now no question in Suzie’s mind: she wanted to be in Slytherin. Professor Snape sounded wonderful, and Slytherins were heroes in the war, and it sounded cool to live in dungeons under the lake. She assumed they weren’t like the drafty, damp, and dark dungeons she’d seen in historical tours. Almost nothing about this castle seemed like the castles she’d visited with her parents, except the stonework.

Trying not to be distracted by the amazing sight of the Great Hall and its Charmed ceiling—which she had read about in Hogwarts: a History—Suzie found Toni, and the other girl looked relieved to see her.

“Are you feeling better?” Toni asked. “The Headmistress already welcomed us all. I was worried you wouldn’t be here.”

Suzie nodded. “I’m feeling grand! The infirmary witch gave me potions!” she whispered excitedly.

“The Sorting’s starting,” Andrew whispered as Professor Snape walked toward the stool on which a large black hat was sitting. “Shhh! I don’t want to miss my name!”

“The Sorting of students into Houses is a tradition reaching back to the very beginnings of Hogwarts School,” Professor Snape said. “The four Houses, established and named for the Four Founders of Hogwarts, are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. The Sorting Hat shall examine each of the new students and Sort them into their appropriate Houses.”

Suzie thought that Professor Snape looked very commanding, standing up front there in his long black robes. She’d have to get some black robes to wear under her school robes. The school robes were black, too, but she thought the layers of black were megacool, and she and her mother had only purchased two sets of everyday robes, and neither set was black. The witch at Madam Malkin’s had said that a lot of students just continued to wear whatever they normally wore at home, and simply put their school robes on over it all. She recommended only purchasing two sets of everyday robes, one a bit nicer in case she went to a party. One set was a long-sleeved robe of bright turquoise blue with silvery insets and a paler turquoise shift-like under-robe, and the other was a sleeveless grass green over-robe with green brocade accents and a heavy, darker green under-robe. She’d felt like a princess when she’d tried them on.

The Great Hall went quiet as suddenly the Sorting Hat began to speak—or sing, actually. In her excitement, Suzie didn’t follow the entire thing, which seemed slightly nonsensical to her, but it was clear that each of the first-years would be Sorted into one of the four Houses, but that regardless of House membership, the students all belonged first to Hogwarts, “mother of them all.”

Professor Snape read the first-years’ names in alphabetical order, and Toni’s was the third one called.

“Antonia Blackwell,” Professor Snape read.

Toni, whose long red braids seemed to quiver with excitement, trotted up to the front of the Hall.

The first two students had been sorted into Gryffindor, so Suzie crossed her fingers for her friend, knowing how much she wanted to be Sorted into her father’s House. The Sorting Hat sat on Toni’s head for quite a long time, and Toni’s expression grew serious.

Finally, the Sorting Hat called out, “Ravenclaw!”

Smiling, Toni ran down to join her new Housemates, who were all cheering and clapping at the new addition to their ranks. Suzie smiled, too. Ravenclaw sounded like a good House, and Toni’s mother had been a Ravenclaw, so that was all right.

“You’ll probably be in Hufflepuff,” whispered Cyrus, who had sidled up closer to Suzie and his cousin. “Muggle-borns are usually in Hufflepuff.”

“Shhh!” Andrew whispered.

Suzie really hoped that Cyrus wasn’t right about that. Besides, what could be more boring than hanging around a bunch of other Muggle-borns? She wouldn’t learn anything new! It would be okay to have other Muggle-born friends, of course, and they could puzzle things out together, but she didn’t want to be stuck only being with other Muggle-borns. Cyrus wasn’t always right about everything, Suzie reminded herself.

Professor Snape read off, “Andrew Campbell!” and Andrew practically ran up the centre aisle, afraid of being skipped over.

The Hat didn’t take as long with Andrew as it had with Toni, and Gryffindor had a new wizard at its long tables.

The next student whose name Suzie recognised was Abdul. His eyes shone as the Hat declared him a Hufflepuff. Suzie clapped for him, since he seemed very happy with his new House.

Suzie felt as though it was taking forever to get to the end of the alphabet, but as she quickly calculated the numbers of Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and Slytherins in her head, she noted with pleasure that fewer students were being Sorted into Slytherins. She thought that was a good sign for her own chances: there’d still be room for her by the time Professor Snape got to her name. She hoped that he wouldn’t call her “Suzanne.” She didn’t want to start the year in her new school with everyone thinking of her as “Suzanne.”

After Gerald Sands had been Sorted into Hufflepuff, Professor Snape read her name.

“Suzie Sefton.”

Suzie grinned in delight. He’d known she was “Suzie”! He was wonderful! She just had to be in his House! She bounded up onto the raised dais and smiled up at Professor Snape with shining eyes. She whispered, “Hi, Professor!” as she plopped down onto the Sorting stool.

Professor Snape’s eyebrow twitched slightly. Suzie took that as a smile from him; after all, Professor Hagrid had said he wasn’t very fun-loving—he probably hadn’t had much time for fun, being a hero—and so that was probably the way he smiled.

The Sorting Hat approached her head slowly, and Suzie, with all her might and all the earnestness she could muster, thought, “Slytherin! Slytherin! Slytherin!” Oh, she just had to be in Professor Snape’s House!

The Sorting Hat brushed the top of her head, she heard a sort of chuckle, and the Hat whispered to her, “A Muggle-born witch in Slytherin, eh? Why not? Ambitious enough!”

“Slytherin!” the Hat shouted loudly before Professor Snape had even let go of it.

Suzie couldn’t help her squeal of delight. She grinned happily at Professor Snape, then ran down to join her new House. Slytherin House! And they had green flags. Green was her favourite colour!

Everyone at the long set of Slytherin House tables was clapping, and Suzie took a seat beside one of the other newly Sorted first-years, Asghar Ershadi—she hadn’t met Asghar yet, but she had taken careful note of the names of each of the students sorted into Slytherin. There were only a half dozen first-years remaining to be sorted, including Cyrus, and when he was Sorted into Ravenclaw, Suzie clapped enthusiastically. She hoped that, now that they were in the same House, Toni and Cyrus would get along a little better than they seemed to on the train. On the other hand, maybe that was the way Ravenclaws were—always trying to know more than the other.

The final first-year student, Marion West, was Sorted into Slytherin, and Suzie shoved over closer to Asghar, making room for the skinny blond wizard between her and the prefect on her other side. It would be wise to get to know the prefects, of course, but she wanted to get to know her own classmates first, find out more about them and make new friends as soon as possible. She was gradually becoming aware that being a Muggle-born meant more than that she would find the wizarding world confusing at first; being a Muggle-born meant that she could be perceived as an outsider by others. She didn’t want to spend seven years feeling like an outsider. She smiled at Marion as he took his seat beside her. He looked more nervous than she did, and his smile didn’t reach his eyes.

The Headmistress stood as Professor Snape took his seat beside her.

“First-years, acquaint yourselves with the prefects in your Houses; they all wear badges identifying themselves as such. They will escort you to your new homes—after, of course, the feast!” Headmistress McGonagall raised her wand, and suddenly, a true feast appeared before Suzie’s eyes. She was very, very glad that Madam Pomfrey had given her the potions.

Suzie dug in, helping herself to mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, Yorkshire pudding, and lentil pie, and then, not wanting to stand out amongst her new classmates, who, like Cyrus, might think that not eating meat was something Muggle, she also helped herself to a little of the roast beef, trying not to think of the pretty cows she enjoyed watching as they peacefully chewed their cud in the deep green fields near her home. Happily, though, it seemed no one noticed what she was or wasn’t eating, so she only ate a few bites of the beef, which didn’t taste good to her, anyway, and had a funny texture.

Suzie joined in the conversation about what classes she was looking forward to—Transfiguration and Potions—and soon, dessert was served, puddings, cakes, pies, and biscuits in funny shapes. Trying to remember what Madam Pomfrey said about not having to taste everything new at once, she only took some trifle, which was covered with berries she’d never seen before, and a large piece of dark chocolate cake with fudge icing between its several layers. She loved chocolate and it was something she only ever got on special occasions, but it was her birthday, after all, and her first day at Hogwarts, and it was a Welcoming Feast, which only came once a year, too, so Suzie decided it was all right to have a largish piece of cake.

As she was beginning to wonder whether the largish piece of cake had been a very good idea, or perhaps she should have avoided the trifle, the prefect next to Marion, Kevin Harper, stood and said it was time to go down to the Slytherin dormitory for the first House meeting of the year. All around the House tables, other prefects were making the same announcement. Not wanting to miss her very first House meeting, Suzie decided that mind over matter would have to work this time. Besides, Madam Pomfrey had given her those potions. She wouldn’t get sick again. At least, not until after the meeting . . .

Suzie was thrilled with the Slytherin common room. It was gorgeous and mysterious, and one large, darkened window apparently looked right out into the lake, though since it was nighttime, it only showed inky blackness. She put her hand against the window and was puzzled by what she felt.

“It’s not glass,” an older girl explained. “It’s the stone wall, just charmed to be transparent.”

“I’m Suzie Sefton,” Suzie said, holding out her hand as Andrew had.

The older girl laughed, but shook Suzie’s hand. “Letitia Pepper. Lettie.”

“Letitia, that’s a really pretty name,” Suzie said. She’d never known anyone with that name before.

“Thanks. I was named after my grandmother, Letitia Rosier.”

“I like your ring,” Suzie said, noticing the gold and silver double-snake ring that Lettie was turning on her right ring finger.

Lettie smiled. “I’m a Snape’s Slytherin,” she said proudly, holding out her hand so that Suzie could see the ring more closely.

“Aren’t we all Snape’s Slytherins?” Suzie asked, puzzled, though she admired the ring and the two tiny emeralds that made up the single eyes of the silver and gold snakes.

Lettie laughed. “I suppose so. But these rings are for Slytherins who fought in the Battle of Hogwarts.” She sobered. “Anyway, if you see someone with a gold and silver ring like this, it means they were in the battle.”

“Professor Hagrid told me about that. Everyone thought Professor Snape was dead, and the Slytherins fought in his name,” Suzie said as the girl dropped her hand.

“Yeah, some of us did, the right ones, anyway. Of course, the young kids stayed in the Hospital Wing, but Zabini gave them all silver rings, anyway.”

“Wow,” Suzie breathed, in awe. She’d be living with heroes from the war.

“We got Orders of Merlin, too, but you can’t wear those around every day without looking like a pompous fool,” chimed in an older boy whose wrinkly smile reminded Suzie of her Great-aunt Sadie’s old bulldog.

“Aw, go jump in the lake, Hatrack!” Letitia said.

“Still the master of the zippy rejoinder, I see, Lettuce,” the wizard teased. He grinned at Suzie. “Charles Thackeray. Chip—or ‘Hatrack,’ to some.” He offered her his hand, and Suzie saw another gold and silver double-snake ring on his ring finger.

“I’m Suzie Sefton.”

“Yeah, we saw you Sorted,” Chip said, smiling one of his funny grins. “I’m one of the seventh-year prefects. Ursula Kent is the other one. Have any problems or questions, we’re the ones you can come to, us or any of the other Slytherin prefects.”

“Speaking of prefects, did you see that Malfoy’s back?” Ursula asked.

“Yeah . . . he’s not a prefect any longer, though,” Chip replied.

“Running away and hiding kind of loses you a lot of privileges,” Lettie said.

“He did what he had to,” Chip said. “Put the past where it belongs, Lettie.”

“Mmph. As long as he doesn’t bring it up, I won’t.”

Chip nodded, apparently satisfied. “Professor Snape will be here soon. Give us a hand rounding everyone together, Lettuce. You know he doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

“If you can stop calling me ‘Lettuce’—at least for the next twenty-four hours—I’ll give you a hand.”

Chip just laughed, but Lettie told Suzie to go find a place to sit, and then she began to go around and help the prefects gather everyone for Professor Snape’s annual speech to Slytherin.

Suzie sat in nervous anticipation of Professor Snape’s arrival. Although she hadn’t made a very good impression on him on their initial meeting, she was going to change that. She was going to swallow her nerves—and her nausea—and sit and listen respectfully to Professor Snape, and she was going to make a note of everything he said, and follow it to the letter. She was going to be the best Slytherin she could be. If she did that, everything else would follow, she was certain, and she would find her place in the wizarding world.

Sitting on the long leather sofa with four other first-years, Suzie felt in her robe for her wand. Still there. She couldn’t wait for classes to begin tomorrow so that she could really begin using it. Right now, she felt as though everything in this new world was there just beyond her reach. Once she learned to use her wand, she thought, that would all change.

The door opened, and Professor Snape strode in, his black teaching robe billowing about him. Immediately, everyone was silent, and the two students who had put their feet up on the table in front of them took them off and sat up straight. Professor Snape looked them all over, and Suzie could feel his gaze lingering on her. No doubt he was remembering her arrival on the dock earlier that evening. Her heart beat faster, but she didn’t look away, and his eyes moved on to the next student.

“Our House has a long and noble history,” Professor Snape began softly, “and although the actions of some might have tarnished the House image in the past, the actions of others have polished it. ‘Do not mistake image for reality,’ Salazar Slytherin reminds us. Polish does not a sharp blade make, only honing. Our Founder said, ‘Hone your edge, but do not weaken the blade.’” Professor Snape looked around him at all of the silent students, all listening seriously. “We have been honed; we have been forged and we have been tempered. Slytherin said, ‘Purity comes through eliminating dross. Banish the unnecessary within you, and you will obtain refinement, and with refinement comes strength.’ Our purity is not the illusory quality espoused by those whom we have defeated, whose false ideal brought them only weakness and failure. Our virtue lies in incorporating all of our myriad strengths into one, each of us providing a new element. A potion obtains its power through the combination of its ingredients, correctly chosen and well brewed; the exclusion of any necessary ingredient causes the potion to fail. You were all Sorted into Slytherin House, therefore you are all necessary to Slytherin House. How each of you behaves will affect the entire House. Do not bring dishonour to yourself, to your House, to Hogwarts—or to me. You shall rue that day if you do.”

Professor Snape closed his eyes briefly, and Suzie thought he must be overcome with emotion, though she saw no sign as to what that emotion might be. She hadn’t entirely understood her Head of House’s speech, but she would write it down as soon as she could before she could forget it.

“Thackeray, Kent, get on with it. I will speak with you and the other prefects tomorrow.” Snape turned abruptly on his heel and left the common room.

As soon as the door was closed, the room buzzed with voices, but Chip stood on the short, round table in the centre of the room and shushed everyone.

“Okay, you all heard Professor Snape. We have to hold our heads high and remember who we are. Don’t let anything that anyone in another House says provoke you. Image isn’t everything, but we can do something to polish ours up. And the best way to do that is to do well.”

“Start by getting rid of Malfoy,” someone in the back muttered, and a few people snickered.

“You just don’t get it, do you, Patterson?” Chip said. “We are ALL Slytherins here—and we are going to make Professor Snape proud of us by remembering that and working together. More than that, we need to work together to get what any of us might want: success, achievement, power, position—not to mention House points. And without power over ourselves individually, there is no power at all. So next time you think you want to say something like that, bite your tongue.”

Suzie looked around, trying to figure out who this Malfoy was. She’d heard his name a few times, and none of them had been in a positive context. She wondered what the wizard had done that so many people in his own House didn’t like him. But Professor Snape had said they were all Slytherins there—and that meant her, too—and so she wouldn’t hold it against him, whatever it was. She did want to find out what it was, though. There was so much that she didn’t understand, and she thought that at least some of it had to do with the war and the Battle of Hogwarts, but she didn’t know what. The first chance she had, she was going to read her new book, How the Light Side Won. That would at least give her a place to start, and she’d know what questions to ask without sounding like a completely ignorant outsider.

Ursula Kent, a stocky, blonde witch, stood next to Chip. “Okay, the prefects will show the first-years where the dormitories are. The rest of you, do whatever you want—but don’t break curfew—and don’t cause any trouble our first night back.”

“Harper, Stratton, you’re with me,” Chip said. “Cavanaugh and Gleason, give Kent a hand.”

Suzie sidled up to Lettie. “I feel sick,” she whispered. “Really sick.”

“You’re the first-year who threw up on Professor Snape, then?” the witch asked. She didn’t wait for an answer, though, and tugged on Suzie’s elbow, dragging her over to Ursula, who was giving instructions to the other prefects. “Suzie’s going to be sick again.”

“Well, get her to the toilet, then,” Ursula said impatiently. She looked down at Suzie. “Yeah, you look green. After you’re settled, someone will have to bring you to the infirmary.”

Suzie nodded. She really was going to be sick, soon.

“Go on, Lettie, get her to the loo. I don’t want to be covered with her dinner. I’m not as quick at clean-up as Professor Snape,” Ursula said, backing away from Suzie.

Fortunately, Suzie and Lettie made it to the loo before her dinner came back up.

“Are you sick?” Lettie asked as Suzie rinsed her mouth out. “That is to say, do you have some disease, or are you just nervous?”

“I’m not nervous,” Suzie said. “Not very. I think it’s the food.” She shouldn’t have eaten the trifle, she thought, and skipping the beef would probably have been a good idea, too. She felt sick just thinking about it.

Lettie led her down to the girls’ dormitory, which was down a sloping corridor lit by beautiful bubble-like lanterns set at intervals, its translucent-seeming green walls gleaming in their cool light. It felt to Suzie as though they were in a glass submarine deep beneath the ocean.

“I’ll show you where the first-years’ room is, since they’re probably all there already,” Lettie said.

The other four first-year witches were already there with Ursula Kent, Elizabeth Cavanaugh, and Perpetua Gleason. The room was round, not simply circular, looking like half a globe or, to Suzie, like half an orange cut across its segments, the beds arrayed like spokes against the encircling wall, each four-poster surrounded by Slytherin-green curtains tied back with silver cords. On either side of each bed, there were thick patterned rugs of green and silver, and for each bed, there was a dark wardrobe. She recognised her own green trunk at the foot of one of the beds, and the rest of her bags piled next to it. The centre of the room was bare of furniture or carpeting, and coloured stone created circular pattern on the floor. Light came from a large globe hanging from the centre of the vaulted ceiling and from several candles set in tall candlesticks.

“The candles are all Automagical,” Ursula was saying, “and you can light them or put them out whenever you want, but the ceiling lamp is Charmed to light at seven a.m. every morning and to go off at the bedtime curfew. By the end of the week, you’ll have learned enough to know how to extinguish it or light it using your wands and the charm will be removed.” She smirked. “Of course, whether you manage to learn it or not, the charm will still be removed, so that should provide you a little incentive.” Ursula turned to Lettie and Suzie. “How’s she doing?”

“She vomited,” Lettie said, “but she seems better.”

Ursula looked down at Suzie and frowned. “I think she should still see Madam Pomfrey. Do you think you can make it to the infirmary without throwing up again?”

Suzie nodded. “I feel better.” Very embarrassed, but better. Apparently everyone in Slytherin had heard about her throwing up on Professor Snape, and now everyone was looking at her curiously, no doubt wondering if she was going to projectile vomit again.

“Perpetua, bring Suzie up to the infirmary—you’ll have to find out where it is this year, in case they’ve moved it.”

“Fourth floor,” Suzie said. “Professor Hagrid brought me there earlier.”

“Okay, come on,” Perpetua said with a sigh, stepping out into the corridor. “I was going to meet with Harper and the rest to discuss the Quidditch team this year, but I’ll catch up with them all later, I guess.”

“Sorry,” Suzie said. “I can go by myself.” She thought she could find it again.

“You cannot. It’s past curfew. You can’t be out on your own or you’ll get us all in trouble.”

“When’s curfew?” Suzie asked.

“Unless they’ve changed it since last year, ten o’clock on weekdays and eleven on weekends—that’s Friday and Saturday—midnight for the seventh-years. But you really have to be back in Slytherin by quarter to. Lights-out curfew is eleven on weekdays and midnight on weekends, and Professor Snape checks us without warning, so you don’t want to be found out of bed after lights-out unless you’re on your way to the loo, and better not even then.”

“Eleven?” Her bedtime at home had been nine on school nights, nine-thirty if she begged to stay up and read in bed.

“Eleven. Most of the little kids fall asleep before that, at least after the first couple weeks.” Perpetua laughed. “It sounds fun to stay up so late, but you’ll be tired out after a full day, believe me!”

Madam Pomfrey opened the infirmary door to them. In one hand, she had a basket with three potions bottles in it. “Miss Sefton? Miss Gleason?”

“She’s sick again, Madam Pomfrey,” Perpetua said. “She made it through Professor Snape’s speech, but then she vomited.”

Madam Pomfrey looked at the watch pinned to the front of her starched white pinny. “All right, come in.”

She set her basket down on the tall table beside the door, then cast a few spells on Suzie. “I did mention that you shouldn’t overdo it, didn’t I, Miss Sefton?” She sighed. “Sit, both of you.”

She hurried across the open ward to a large cabinet and waved her wand. The cabinet glowed for a moment, and Madam Pomfrey opened the doors and pulled out a bottle. She closed the doors, waved her wand, and strode back over to the two students, who were sitting in straight-backed wooden chairs waiting for her.

“Miss Sefton, I really need to examine you more thoroughly, but for the moment, this treatment will have to do. Please do try to moderate your eating in the meantime, however. Now, open and swallow.”

Suzie obediently took the nasty-tasting potion, this time not making a face or complaining. It was the effect of the potion she was interested in, she reminded herself as she suppressed a shudder, not its flavour. She didn’t want Professor Snape to think she was frivolous or uncouth.

“I am going down to the dungeons, myself, so as it is past curfew, I will accompany you.” Madam Pomfrey picked up the basket of potions. After they left the infirmary, she waved her wand, and the doors glowed and there was a light click.

“Did you have a pleasant summer, Miss Gleason?” the matron asked as they started down the stairs.

“I did, thank you, Madam Pomfrey. I helped my parents in their pub, and we took a holiday in Brighton this year.”

“Lovely,” Madam Pomfrey said with a smile.

“My parents have a restaurant,” Suzie said. “Sometimes I help. They have their own gardens, and I pick vegetables and herbs and stuff.”

“My parents’ pub is in the middle of Dublin, so we don’t have a vegetable garden,” Perpetua said, “but Mum grows herbs for cooking and potions.”

“My parents like to have all their produce fresh and local, if they can,” Suzie said, glad to have found something in common with someone in the wizarding world.

They reached the ground floor and went down a narrow corridor leading to the stairs to the dungeons.

“You’re going all the way down with us?” Perpetua asked as they reached the first level of the dungeons.

“As I said, I was on my way to the dungeons, myself, when you arrived,” Madam Pomfrey replied. “I will leave you here, though,” she said as they stepped into the dark corridor at the bottom of the second flight of stairs.

Perpetua looked worried. “Is Professor Snape after being sick?”

“Didn’t he meet with you all this evening?” Madam Pomfrey asked.

“He did, but—”

“Then I expect he is fine. Good night—don’t dawdle! Lights-out soon, and classes bright and early!”

Suzie could almost feel Madam Pomfrey’s gaze following them as they walked away toward the hallway that held the entrance to the Slytherin common room. Perpetua still looked worried, despite Madam Pomfrey’s words.

“What’s the matter?” Suzie whispered. “Is Professor Snape sick?”

“Shh,” Perpetua whispered, looking over her shoulder.

Suzie went quiet until they were in the common room.

“The walls have ears—or the portraits do, anyway, and the portraits also have mouths,” Perpetua said. “Don’t forget that.”

“There weren’t any portraits there,” Suzie pointed out.

Perpetua rolled her eyes, then sighed. “You’re Muggle-born, aren’t you?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “You can’t possibly understand, but . . . like Chip said, we’re all Slytherins now.” She quirked a crooked grin, and added, “Not to mention that you threw up on Snape and didn’t get hexed for it, or even given detention.”

“So is Professor Snape sick?”

“I don’t know, obviously, or I wouldn’t have asked Pomfrey. I didn’t think she’d be so closed-mouthed about it, though—she’s a Hufflepuff, and they all seem to blurt out everything that passes through their minds. Still . . . she didn’t exactly say that he wasn’t sick. Her answer was worthy of a Slytherin. Almost.” Perpetua flopped down into a chair near the fireplace.

“So why did you ask if he was sick?” Suzie persisted.

“He was really, really sick after the Hogwarts Battle. Do you know anything about that?”

“Yeah, a little,” Suzie said. “I know that Professor Snape was a hero, and that he almost died.”

“He was almost killed by Nagini, Riddle’s familiar. Nagini was a giant snake. Her venom was very potent. I saw Professor Snape at the Merlin awards dinner, and he didn’t look very good then, but I thought . . . well, I thought he looked worse tonight. Not as bony and underweight, but still . . . and his speech to the House is usually a lot longer than it was tonight. I think Pomfrey was bringing him potions. The new caretaker and the assistant groundskeeper both have quarters on the first level of the dungeons, I think, and I suppose she could have turned around and gone back up to see one of them, so.” Perpetua shrugged. “Anyway, don’t say anything to anyone, Sefton. If Pomfrey can try to be discreet about it, we can succeed in being discreet. He’s our Head of House. Don’t forget that.”

“I won’t,” Suzie said fervently.

“Okay. Get to bed. The other girls will have already claimed their beds, but you’ll want to unpack your schoolbooks for tomorrow, at least, and get out something to wear in the morning. You don’t want to be after worrying about that before breakfast. Ursula, Cavanaugh, and I will be by to bring you up to the Great Hall for the first morning. I don’t want to be late because we have to wait for you.”

“Thanks for bringing me to the infirmary, Perpetua.”

“Well, I hope you don’t make it a habit, but I’m glad you’re feeling better. Good night, Suzie. And remember, discretion!”

“I won’t say a word,” Suzie promised. She might say a little prayer before she went to sleep, though. It would be terrible if anything happened to Professor Snape. . . .

~ continued with ~

~ Chapter Four: Buzzing Humbugs ~

“Buzzing Humbugs”: Suzie hears more Slytherin gossip, gets to know more members of Slytherin House, and has reason to worry about her Head of House.

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