Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

Author's Note: Hello, and welcome to my new story. It is true that I am working on several different stories right now, but I assure you that they will all be worked on in equal amounts. This one is a huge inspiration for me.

I have seen many other fics of this nature, so I know it's been done before. But I hope to offer a unique perspective on the idea, and I strive to make it different from all the others.

Please let me know what you think.

It is Our Choices

By: ChoCedric

As the Sorting Hat settled over Harry's head, he was extremely glad it covered his eyes. For one blessed moment, he could pretend the entire school wasn't staring at him in rapture, all muttering beneath their breaths. Never in his life had he felt so vulnerable and exposed, not even when his teachers in primary school accused him of wrongdoing due to Dudley's lies. When Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon screamed at him, he was humiliated and ashamed, but this was an entirely new experience, and one which made his hands sweat and his heart pound.

The trip to Hogwarts had truly been amazing, and he had met some very interesting people along the way. Ron Weasley was someone he'd definitely like to get to know better; he had been one of the first people to really want to socialize with him. However, he had found it disconcerting when he had marveled over the lightning-bolt scar that marred his forehead, but Harry was willing to look past it, even though he felt a little nettled at the awe being shown to him. After all, he remembered nothing about that fateful night except the high, cold laugh and flash of green light that showed up in his nightmares. Why was he being praised and exalted for living while his parents had died?

But he was still willing to offer Ron a chance, and when he pondered it some more, he realized how much better friendship with Ron would be than with Draco Malfoy, another boy he spoke with that day. When he'd met him at Madam Malkin's Robe Shop, the other boy gave off an impression of smug superiority, and it reminded him uncannily of Dudley, who had given him nothing but bullying and grief over the years. The impression had only been reinforced on the train, when Malfoy had said outright that Ron was a waste of space, and that he could teach Harry to make better friends. The dislike Harry felt towards Malfoy was instant, and he knew now that it was mutual.

And now, in the Great Hall, the atmosphere was one of great anticipation. His name was being whispered in reverent tones from many of its occupants, and Harry was completely overwhelmed. The words of his Uncle Vernon flitted through his mind: Lazy, spoiled, good-for-nothing freak. You'll never amount to anything. You'll never get anywhere in life, you little brat. Go to your cupboard and stay there, see if I care.

Beyond anything in the world, Harry wanted to prove himself. He wanted to show that he was more than the skinny, unwanted waif of the Dursley family, whose clothes were too big for him and who had no real family or friends to call his own. And he didn't want to be the hero of the wizarding world either, some Dark Lord killer who parents told their children about in their bedtime stories. If he was going to make it in this new world, he was going to create his own legacy. He was going to be his own person.

"Oh, my, what do we have here?" Spoke a voice in his ear, and Harry's mouth opened in shock. Before he could say anything out loud, however, the hat continued, "Yes, I am speaking to you, but no one else can hear our conversation. I didn't mean to frighten you."

"This world is so strange," Harry said in his mind, hoping that the hat would be able to respond.

Harry heard a deep, resounding chuckle. "Indeed," the hat replied. "Many a person who has worn me has said the same. I admit, it must be rather odd."

The hat went silent for a minute, and Harry felt a very peculiar sensation. It felt as though his mind was being sifted through, and his thoughts were being examined. Memories were tossed to and fro like a stormy sea, and Harry had a hard time keeping up with them.

Finally, when the sensation ended, the voice returned. "Hmm," it said, and Harry could hear true wonder in its voice. "Difficult, very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see, and not a bad mind either. There's talent, oh my goodness, and a nice thirst to prove yourself. So where do I put you?"

Harry's heart began to pound louder, and terror consumed him as the thought resounded through his mind: Not Slytherin, not Slytherin, please, not Slytherin. He recalled Hagrid's disparaging remarks towards the house, and the fact that the dark wizard who had ripped his family apart who he had apparently defeated, Lord Voldemort, had been in that house. Draco Malfoy knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be placed in Slytherin, and indeed, he had been. He'd swaggered over to the table with an arrogant smirk the instant he was Sorted. And Harry knew his parents had been in Gryffindor; he had heard nothing but good things about the house, that they were pure and good and had been some of the best fighters against Voldemort. Harry wanted to make a name for himself, to prove himself as someone who could be trusted and be a good person.

"Are you sure, now?" asked the Sorting Hat with a note of true curiosity. "You could be great, you know, and Slytherin could help you on the way to greatness."

And at that moment, Harry felt his heart plummet into his stomach. Oh, God, he thought, and he began to shake. I knew it. I knew it all along. Of course I'd end up in Slytherin. The Dursleys' words echoed through his mind again. Hooligan. Delinquent. Worthless freak. Stupid. No good. No one will love you, no one will want you. Spoiled brat. Waste of space. "Please," he thought at the Sorting Hat, feeling as though the world was crashing down on him.

"Child, you are not any of those things you're thinking," the hat whispered to him, its voice actually sounding consoling. "I swear to you, your world is not ending. Ever since the reign of the Dark Lord, Slytherins have been maligned, misunderstood, and scorned. Society creates its own monsters, Harry Potter, but you can be the one that changes those perceptions. You have always wanted to prove yourself, I know it. You have had a hard life, but you have always strived to succeed. You can truly make a name for yourself in Slytherin. Didn't you say you wanted to defy others' expectations of you? Everyone is expecting the Golden Boy to go into Gryffindor."

The air seemed to freeze as Harry let the words of the Sorting Hat sink in. It was true; after only a minute in his mind, it knew him better than he thought anyone had before. Dread and shame flooded him at the thought of being hated again, of people muttering angry words at him and looking at him with betrayed faces. But at the same time, the hat had a point. He desperately wanted to show the world he was not the boy they expected him to be; he was sick of the expectations. He had dealt with that enough at the Dursleys, and now, it seemed as though the same thing was happening. Now, he was being idolized instead of despised, but he knew that people were constantly assessing him, judging him, searching for holes in his armor. And with a sudden, reckless surge of energy, he wanted to be the one to shatter that pedestal. A blinding bolt of clarity rocketed through him, and just like that, Harry Potter's mind was made up. He had chosen.

"Well done," said the Sorting Hat, and Harry heard true respect in its tone. "You made a good choice. Your path will be thorny and difficult, but you will have much help, and you can grow to do great things."

And then, the brim opened, and a word was shouted out, a word that would alter the course of many lives, and start Harry Potter down the path to his destiny.