Kurt slid further down in his seat, his arms folded stubbornly across his chest. All around him his classmates were eating their first breakfast at Hogwarts, chatting in excitement about how amazing everything was and how much fun they were going to have, but for the first time that he could remember, he had absolutely no desire to be at Hogwarts, even though he’d been dreaming about it for as long as he could remember.
He did not want to be in Slytherin. He hated it. He hated the spooky underground common room, he hated his awful green striped tie (green had never been his color), he hated his bed in his room full of strange boys. He wanted to be in Gryffindor like his mother. He still had her Head Girl badge in his room back home, displayed proudly on his shelf next to her wand (tulip poplar, ten and a half inches, unicorn core, very strong) and her bottle of perfume, the one his father bought for her in a Muggle shop before they were married. All his life he had dreamed of becoming a Gryffindor like his mother, and it had taken everything in him not to pitch a fit when the Sorting Hat shouted “Slytherin” the night before.
In fact, he’d rather be at home with his father, working on his Muggle cars and going to his Muggle school where they might throw him into dumpsters on occasion, but at least he had the choir after school and he could go home to the safety of his own bedroom that he didn’t have to share with a bunch of rowdy boys who insisted on tacking Quidditch posters all over the place.
“First year Slytherins, come line up,” the prefect girl said, clapping her hands. “We have double Care of Magical Creatures. Come along, hurry up.”
Kurt pushed his untouched plate away and trailed behind his class, sticking his hands deep in the pockets of his robe. His wand (dogwood, thirteen inches, unicorn core, slender and whippy) brushed up against his fingertips, but it didn’t send a little thrill up his spine like it had the day it was finally placed in his hands. He almost wished he was a Squib like his father instead of a Slytherin.
He followed the rest of the excited and noisy first years down the hill towards Hagrid’s house, worrying at his lip. There was no way he could get out of this. Maybe he could just fail all of his classes and they would send him home. But no, that wouldn’t do. His father had been so proud about sending him off to Hogwarts. He’d handed him several Galleons to buy treats on the train, kissed him on the cheek, and told him how proud he was to have him as a son. No, he couldn’t disappoint his father.
He squared his shoulders and filed in at the edge of the group. The Hufflepuff first years lined up on the other side of the enclosure, all eagerly peering into the fence to get a better look at the pygmy cwingens. Resembling an ordinary rabbit with extra-long ears, they weren’t good for much but making decent pets, but as Hagrid explained, a happy pygmy cwingen in your garden was an excellent gnome deterrent.
“Now, I’m goin’ to pair yeh up with another firs’ year, and I want yeh to work together to tend to your pygmy cwingen,” Hagrid said. “It’s a simple thing, don’t take much to keep ‘em happy, but you don’t want to see what happens when they get angry.”
Kurt lingered on the outskirts, his hands still deep in his pockets, but suddenly Hagrid placed his very large hand on his back, nearly swallowing him up, and propelled him over towards a Hufflepuff boy hugging a pygmy cwingen to his chest.
“There ya are,” he said cheerfully. “What’s your name, little one?”
“Kurt,” he stammered, staring up at Hagrid.
“Well, this is Blaine,” he said. He patted Kurt on the head. “You two work together, all right?”
Kurt looked over at Blaine and swallowed hard. Blaine offered a hesitant smile. “You want to hold him?” he said, holding out the pygmy cwingen.
“No, you can,” Kurt said, hugging himself and looking down at the ground.
Blaine leaned closer. “Are you okay?” he asked, concerned.
Kurt shrugged. “I guess,” he said.
The pygmy cwingen made an unhappy noise and Blaine sat down on the grass, settling the plump little rabbit on his knees. “Aw, you’re making him sad,” he said. “Here, come pet him.”
Kurt reached over hesitantly and petted the top of the cwingen’s head. The bunny snuffled at his hand and licked his fingers. “He’s giving you bunny kisses!” Blaine exclaimed. “He’s so cute. Here, you should hold him.”
Suddenly Blaine scooted right next to him, his thigh pressed against Kurt’s, and Kurt found himself with a lapful of pygmy cwingen. The rabbit turned around several times, the tips of his ears brushing Kurt’s chin, and settled down in a plump fuzzy ball to sleep. “Aw, I want one,” Blaine cooed, reaching into Kurt’s lap to pet the little animal’s head. “I have a puppy at home. His name’s Snowy. Do you have any pets?”
Kurt shook his head. Blaine continued to pet the cwingen. “My sister has a fish she named Mr. Billingham, but she forgot to bring him on the train,” he said. “She asked my brother to watch him, but Cooper’s not really good with pets, so he’ll probably be dead when we go home for Christmas.”
“Is your brother a wizard?” Kurt asked curiously.
Blaine shook his head. “I’m Muggleborn,” he said. “My brother doesn’t have magic, but my sister’s a fourth-year Ravenclaw. What about you?”
“My dad’s a squib, but my mummy was a witch,” Kurt said. The cwingen nuzzled his fingers and he petted his little head. “I haven’t got any brothers or sisters.”
“You know, you’re awfully nice for a Slytherin,” Blaine commented. “Francey told me that Slytherins were mean.”
“We’re not mean, we’re ambitious,” Kurt said. His mouth drew down into a pouting scowl. “And I don’t want to be a Slytherin. I want to be a Gryffindor like my mother.” He sighed heavily. “The Sorting Hat couldn’t decide, and it ended up sticking me in horrid old Slytherin.”
Blaine frowned. “So that’s why it took so long to decide on you,” he said. “I was wondering.” He squeezed Kurt’s arm. “But it doesn’t matter. I’m sure there can be nice Slytherins.”
“I know, but I don’t like it,” Kurt said, resting his chin in his hand. “I don’t like the common room, and no one would let me pick what posters I could put up in the room, and…and my mummy was a Gryffindor. I’ve always wanted to be like her.”
“I’m sure she won’t be disappointed,” Blaine offered.
“I don’t know,” Kurt said. “She died when I was little. Maybe she is disappointed, and I’ll never know it.”
Blaine’s eyes widened and he squeezed Kurt’s arm again. “I’m sorry about your mummy,” he said sincerely. “I’m sure she loves you either way.”
Kurt shrugged his shoulders as they fell into an awkward silence. They could hear Hagrid talking to another set of students a little further down. “Now, now, ye’ve got him pretty content, but the best kind of pygmy cwingen is a happy one. Can’t give yeh full marks for that one.”
Blaine leaned in closer, the tip of his nose nearly brushing Kurt’s. “What are we going to do?” he whispered.
“I don’t know, but we’ve got to get full marks,” Kurt whispered back. “It’s our first assignment, and I don’t want to fail right off.”
Blaine rocked back on his heels, frowning. “We’ve got to make him happy,” he said. “What should we do?”
Kurt suddenly brightened. “I know what makes me happy!” he said. He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a comb. “Here. Try this!”
“You’re brilliant!” Blaine said in admiration. He combed gently through the cwingen’s fur.
Kurt petted the bunny’s head. “You’re a lovely little thing,” he cooed. “Aren’t you? Yes, you’re very sweet.”
Between Blaine combing its fur and Kurt’s crooning, the cwingen rolled onto its back and began to purr like a kitten, pawing at Kurt’s hand. “Well, now,” Hagrid boomed, clearly pleased as he leaned over them. “That’s the happiest one I’ve seen all day! How’d yeh know they like to be brushed?”
“It was Kurt’s idea, sir,” Blaine said. “He’s very clever.” Kurt offered a hesitant smile, his cheeks pinking slightly.
“That’s exactly what we wanted to talk about.”
Kurt and Blaine both whipped their heads round to see Professor McGonagall standing behind them, her hands clasped. The school headmistress beckoned to Kurt, who gently shifted the purring bunny to Blaine’s knees and approached her shyly.
“This doesn’t happen very often, Mr. Hummel, but the Sorting Hat informed me that he’s reconsidered your placement,” Professor McGonagall said, placing her hand lightly on his shoulder. “It’s true you’re very ambitious, but your ambition is tempered by your love for those around you, to the point that you’re willing to sacrifice what you want for other people. Is that true?”
Kurt squirmed a little under her gaze. “I…um, I don’t know,” he said. “I guess?”
She smiled at him. “Well, Mr. Hummel, it seems the Sorting Hat thinks you ought to be moved to Gryffindor,” she said. “He said something about having too much of your mother’s spirit to be in Slytherin.”
Kurt brightened. “Really?” he said. “You mean it?” He whipped around. “Blaine! They’re putting me in Gryffindor.”
To his surprise, Blaine looked crestfallen. “But now we won’t be in double Care of Magical Creatures together,” he said sadly. “And I was hoping we could be friends.”
“We’ll still have Potions together,” Kurt offered.
Blaine brightened. “All right, then yay!” he said. “I’m awfully glad you’re in Gryffindor after all!”