As the bushy-haired girl ascended the dais, Neville Longbottom wiped his nose on the back of his grubby sleeve and tried very hard not to faint. His other hand was stuffed rigidly in the pocket of his robes where he kept his pet toad, Trevor. He stroked the amphibian lovingly.
Although most people did not hold a particular fondness for slimy things that squirmed, Neville found a deep unexplainable comfort in the softness of Trevor’s belly and the cool dampness of his skin. Trevor was quiet and unobtrusive—the perfect sort of companion, in Neville’s opinion. He would prefer a toad over the classic elegance of an owl any day. Owls made him nervous. Every time he was around one, he became very aware of just how long those claws were, just how sharp that beak was, and just how far he would be able to run if all that razor sharpness suddenly decided to spring at him. How anyone could stand all that fluttering and squawking and sidling
about, he didn’t understand.
Hundreds of candles bobbed brightly over Neville’s head, and the young faces packed in beside him shone flushed and excited beneath the warm glow. Neville caught the eye of a small blond-haired girl on his left and she smiled encouragingly at him. But Neville merely blushed and looked away. He hated being shy.
Neville drew his hand out of his pocket just long enough to clap along with everyone else as the newly sorted girl took her seat. She made it look so easy! What had the hat said to her? Neville wondered, his breath quickening. Did it ask her questions? Was there something specific he was supposed to have studied? Neville gulped. He tried to dredge up the few facts he had managed to retain from his reading over the summer, but his mind remained terrifyingly blank. All he could think about was—
In his mad rush to get up the dais, Neville tripped on the first step and fell spectacularly on his face. Ears burning, he scrambled to his feet and tried very hard to ignore the echoing sniggers at his back. He climbed wobbly onto the four-legged stool.
No more than a second later, the stern-faced teacher plopped the Sorting hat over his ears, and Neville’s world immediately went very dark and very quiet…that is, until a small, terse voice suddenly spoke in his ear.
“You’re shaking, Longbottom,” it said.
“Sorry,” Neville replied dumbly. “I’m a bit scared, I guess.”
“And do you like
being scared, Neville Longbottom?”
What a silly thing to ask. “No, of course not. How could anyone like
“Good question. But here’s a better one: what would you do not
to be frightened anymore? What would you do, Neville Longbottom, for the power to look at your fears and laugh?”
Neville was shaking more than ever—but this time with excitement. “Anything,” he breathed.
“Anything? Are you sure?”
“So be it. SLYTHERIN!”