A/N: I own nothing, except the specific dialogue.


Ivan pulled the hat down over his head and squeezed his eyes shut for good measure. He did want to be here––it wasn't just another one of his mother's ambitions––but this was surely the worst part. Not Slytherin, not Slytherin, please not Slytherin...

"All right, I get it," muttered a quiet voice. Ivan barely noticed.

Not Slytherin, not Slytherin. It wasn't that Slytherin itself was probably that bad––Ivan knew he shouldn't stereotype, and he rather fancied he looked good in green. But if he went to Slytherin, everyone would expect him to be...they'd think he wanted, even...no way.

"Yes, I see that."

Not Slytherin. Not Slytherin. Why wasn't anything happening? Was the Hat broken, somehow? Not Slytherin. NOT Slytherin...

"All right, already!"

Ivan jumped, eyes flying open. But no one else in the Great Hall seemed to have heard the buzzing shout. Not Elena, sorted into Gryffindor ten people before himself, or Gregor, watching from the Ravenclaw table, Prefect badge on his chest and guard, even at Hogwarts, at his back. Miles would be out there, too, somewhere, if he hadn't been held back for medical stuff.

"I wouldn't put you in Slytherin anyway," grumbled the voice, which Ivan tentatively identified as coming from the Hat itself.

Good, he thought, gratefully, fervently.

"The question is, where then?"

Um, Ivan thought back politely, How about Hufflepuff? That would be reasonably safe.

The Sorting Hat considered it, then somehow gave the impression of shaking its non-existent head. "Not quite."

I thought you took choices into account, thought Ivan, stung.

"Yes," said the Hat, "but that doesn't mean I accept dreams for truth." Ivan felt the brim open, and it shouted for the whole Hall to hear, "GRYFFINDOR!"