Ficlet: Hard Bargain Title: Hard Bargain Characters: A wee Severus Snape Word count: A wee 500 words Summary: The Sorting Hat thought it had seen it all, over the years. Severus Snape proves it wrong.
“Gryffindor, please,” Severus thought rather self-consciously, starting out at the sea of faces before him. He sat up straight, balancing the oversize Hat, tucking his cracked boot behind the other. “Like Lily,” he added. “Like Mum.”
Somewhere inside his mind, the Hat hummed with interest. “Ah, young Severus Snape, son of Eileen Prince. I remember her Sorting. Always wondered what had happened to her.”
Severus bit his lip, trying hard to summon up past acts of bravery--why hadn’t he planned this out earlier?--but the Hat rifling through his memory made it difficult. Unbidden, the image of a single slip of paper came to him, a slip placed carefully in the center of the kitchen table back home. Its uneven writing already looked a bit childish to him.
“Well, well, what have we here?” The Hat's voice sound surprised, even impressed.
Initially he had squeezed his eyes shut against the image, a bit embarrassed, but now he wondered if it might be to his advantage. Desperation and bravery weren’t so far apart, after all. “Please,” he said, rather urgently. “I’ll do well in Gryffindor, won’t I?”
The Hat chuckled. “Is this where we bargain, young Severus?”
“Is that how it’s done?” he asked. Mum never said. “What do you want?”
“Slytherin,” the Hat shouted jubilantly. The sound of applause filled his ears, but he remained seated on the chair.
“Go on, dear,” the Hat said kindly.
“You didn’t even give me a chance,” Severus said. Hogwarts was where he could prove himself, Mum had promised. It seemed rather unfair to start off behind, like this. “Did you think I had nothing to offer?”
“Ah, but you’d given me something valuable already,” the Hat said. “I’ve wondered about your mother, all these years, poor thing.”
“It’s not so bad,” Severus said automatically, but he could almost feel the Hat raise a canvas eyebrow, if that were possible. “Anyway, don’t I get anything in return? You said we would bargain.”
The Hat laughed. “Right, then,” it said. “I suppose you do deserve something. You drive a hard bargain.” For a moment, Severus almost let himself hope for the red and gold of the farthest table, but the Hat interrupted his thoughts. “Let me offer you a piece of advice, Severus: a child who lies as well as you do will go far in Slytherin. Take advantage. Run along, now.”
The image of the note came back again, powerfully, and Severus could almost hear his mother’s voice, urgent and worried and amazed: “Severus, what have you done?”
If you come back this time, I’ll kill you. I have my wand now, and Mother’s taught me the curse. SS
I’ve made myself into a Gryffindor, Mum, Severus thought grimly, slipping off the chair and handing the Hat to the next student, searching for Lily’s red hair in the audience. She smiled crookedly and waved at him, a shy little wave. A Gryffindor wave. She looked very small next to the older students. Severus wondered if he did, too.
They haven’t noticed, not yet, he thought as he walked toward the Slytherin table. Only Mum and Lily knew. But they’ll see. One day, he’d show them.
“Welcome, Severus!” one of the smaller boys cheered, pounding him on the shoulder, as the murmuring group of Slytherins parted to make space for him.
Severus took a deep breath and smiled. "Hullo," he said amiably.