Choosing Your Own

With huge thanks, as usual, to Rochefort for the speedy and incredibly perceptive beta. I don't know how she does it, but she does and I am very grateful.

For Moa.

As he would be the first to admit, Sirius Black has been a cocky little bastard since birth. When he first arrived at Hogwarts, he swaggered into the place as if he owned it. Nobody could tell that he was measuring his every step lest he stumble on the way, or that his palms were so sweaty, he kept pressing them against the fabric of his trousers, carefully hiding the act in the pockets. Good job James was there, to help him keep his calm. Of course, he would die first rather than admit to James he was scared as hell. And he didn't want to be there just then.

He didn't want to be sorted.

It isn't that he was frightened, of course not. It was that he was, well, a Black. And everybody knew that the Blacks, like the Malfoys and the Lestranges, were all Slytherins to the core. However, having already met all the potential little Slytherins at his parents' gatherings, he really didn't want to end up sharing a dorm with them. One kid had looked like he could easily choke him in his sleep and not even blink an eye. Well, if worst came to worst, he'd punch an eye out. Wouldn't be the first time, either. Sirius gathered his fingers together into a tight fist and walked on.

Now, James - James would be Gryffindor. All the Potters had been, after all, and probably all the ones to come after would be, too. There was no getting around it. What would the professors say when they saw two best chums from two completely different houses? Probably wet themselves from shock. Oh, well. Sirius had always felt odder than his family - shocking people came easily enough now.

Trying to put any thoughts of sorting out of his mind, he looked around at all the potential future mates. The girls were too scared and, well, girly looking, to pay much attention to, but some blokes looked like they had potential. Sirius had absolutely no interest in making friends with ponces. He liked equals. James was an equal. Who else would be? Who would be worthy of becoming part of their exclusive club, now only consisting of two?

Sirius continued to look, while a strict-looking professor led the way into the Great Hall. Everyone shuffled, one after another, into the huge hall. Sirius saw many of them gaping. He wasn't all that impressed. He'd seen such halls before, after all. Splendor, he'd seen plenty of. However, this, now he came to think of it, felt somehow different. He couldn't put his finger on it, but it was ...something. It wasn't the splendor that was making his frozen stomach thaw out.

As they came to a stop, he looked over to the left, where all the long tables were situated. As his eyes traveled over the older students, they settled on a boy of his own age, standing in the crowd, also watching the hall. And while Sirius was looking about almost indifferently, moving his head this way and that, this boy stood absolutely still. His mouth was set into a determined thin line, his jaw tense; Sirius could see the muscles working in his cheeks. His grey eyes looked as if they were made of shiny steel, and the only sign of softness on the face was the slightly upturned nose, which gave him an almost curious appearance. The strangely long lashes left shadows above his cheeks, almost concealing dark circles. He was small and looked rather frail, but the fists that his hands were clenched in told a different story. Sirius decided to watch him a bit more closely. He wondered what had that one so riled up. He looked like he was facing a battle, not a house sorting.

Shortly, the Sorting Hat was brought in, the stool set down on the floor. Sirius already knew everything that would take place - his mother had rehearsed it with him enough times, much to the delight of little Regulus. In those scenarios, Sirius inevitably was called out as 'Slytherin'. His parents, after all, would expect nothing less of their eldest son. Sirius gritted his teeth.

The Sorting Hat had finished its song. The old students cheered, while the first years smiled feebly. James had a crooked smile on his face, and Sirius kept wiping his wet palms on the insides of his trousers, strangely to no avail.

'Now, come up as your name is called, sit down and you shall be sorted!' called out the strict-looking professor. Sirius couldn't remember her name, but it had sounded Scottish.

'Azdwalt, Hermia!'

A little pink-cheeked girl shuffled away from the crowd and headed for the stool. She looked ready to faint, but had perked up a little when the hat called out 'Ravenclaw!' and even smiled with relief as she got off the stool. Sirius's stomach churned and he covered up the noise with a little cough. He didn't have long to wait.

'Black, Sirius!'

Here we go, he thought and separated from the crowd. Not really sure why, he looked once more to his left. The small boy he'd noticed earlier was watching him, still with the same intense stare he had turned on everything. Somehow this didn't allay Sirius's nerves and he quickly looked away. He concentrated on swaggering and with some effort made it to the stool. The hat fell over his head unceremoniously and he became enshrouded in darkness. Then a small voice began speaking in his ear.

'Well, well, well. What have we got here. Mr Sirius Black. I suppose I shouldn't even wonder with this one, eh?'

Dammit, I knew this would happen. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Sirius squeezed his eyes shut and waited for the hat to pronounce its final judgment. After nothing came, he opened his eyes once more. Well, what are you waiting for? Just torturing me, are you? Why don't you just get it over with?

'Why don't you?'


'Well, you so obviously have a preference, why don't you just say it? Or are you too afraid?'

Was the hat telling him he was a coward? The thing has a speaking charm installed into it, and suddenly it's a know-it-all! Sirius Black might have been the bane of his family name, but he was not a coward, and he would certainly stand up for himself against a talking hat.

Fine! Then I choose not to be in Slytherin. Not that that would help.

'A Black, not in Slytherin?' There was no shock, only vague amusement.

Yes, Sirius thought back, as defiantly as he could manage.

'Most interesting. And why, pray tell, are we not in Slytherin?'

Because it's vile, that's why. Look, can we get this over with, or what? Just put me somewhere that isn't Slytherin, if you're so nice.

'A Black refusing to be put into Slytherin... That takes some courage, I believe. You have a difficult life ahead of you, young Sirius Black. You will face much adversity for your choices. But courage is still rewarded in some places, and thus I sort you into - GRYFFINDOR!'

Sirius barely had time to think when he was suddenly thrown back into light, dazed and rather bemused. He scrambled off the stool and even forgot to swagger on his way back, so eager was he to share the news with James. He didn't even notice the shocked stares from his past potential Slytherin allies. He looked up at the high professors' table almost by accident, and practically jumped when he saw Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts's new headmaster, staring straight at him with an unreadable expression on his face. Sirius looked away after a moment and met another disconcerting gaze, this time from the riled-up boy. Still the same steely gaze, though slightly softened by the elongated shadows from his lashes. His lips gave a little twitch. Sirius thought it might have been passed off as a smile, if the jaw hadn't still been tightened beyond repair. He gave a quick smile back and was about to join James in the queue when he realized he was expected to go to the Gryffindor table now he'd been sorted. He climbed into his new seat and looked around at his new housemates. Some of the stares he met were not all that inspiring, but for the most part, they looked all right. He turned back to the sorting.

It would still be a while before 'P', but he kept watching, out of interest. A few poor saps had been sorted into Hufflepuff (Sirius shuddered at the possibility) and a few more for Ravenclaw. When he heard 'Lupin, Remus!' called, he gave a start. It was the riled-up boy. Sirius half expected him to walk like a tree from the way he'd been standing, wooden and stiff, but he didn't. He simply walked up and sat himself on the stool, blind to everything save his goal. Sirius noticed his fists clenching the edges of the seat. He was surprised the boy had any nails left at all.

When Sirius was being sorted, it had seemed to take an eternity. Now that he was finally in the house he had wanted to be in, the sortings were whizzing by. This one, though it took a mere few seconds, didn't whiz by at all. Sirius hadn't noticed that he was on the edge of his seat until the hat finally proclaimed 'GRYFFINDOR!' and he cheered along with his table. Remus Lupin jumped off the stool and headed straight for Sirius, it seemed. And it was when the boy finally broke into a real smile that Sirius realized what was different about this hall. It was somehow brighter, yellower, warmer. The smile relaxed the muscles of Lupin's face and Sirius couldn't help but grin back. It seemed natural that the boy sat down next to Sirius. The looks they had exchanged earlier now seemed like appraisals. When they both turned back to the sorting after a quick nod, the appraisals had been cemented as positive ones.

The next Gryffindor boy to be sorted was called right before James should have been. 'Pettigrew, Peter' was the last boy Sirius had expected to see join them at this specific table, being small, pudgy and resembling a frightened mouse, so he paid him no more attention than a quick nod 'hello'. He was surprised to see Lupin smile at the boy, and receive a nervous smile back. Well, they'll just have to wait and see about that one, then. He didn't inspire much confidence in Sirius, in any case.

It didn't take long for James to join them at the Gryffindor table. He gave Lupin a once-over and when he didn't say anything for a second, Sirius stepped on his foot underneath the table. James grinned. Sirius would just fill him in on the bloke later, lest James think him strange. James didn't even bother to nod at Pettigrew, and Sirius didn't blame him.

Lupin, however. Lupin had been a different story. As tense as he had seemed before the sorting, he was rather relaxed when they all trudged upstairs to their new dorms. Sirius wouldn't have believed it was the same person, save for the careful, measured walk and slightly clenched fists. There was something strange about this boy. If Sirius's battle had been finished when the hat had shouted out his new home, this boy's was only beginning. And Sirius would be damned if he didn't find out what it was that he was fighting for. Or perhaps, he mused as he yawned, ensconced in his soft new bed, what he was fighting against.

Back to Harry Potter