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"I don't know why I'm so nervous, Albus," Minerva admitted, fumbling with the pins to keep her knot of hair together.

"Well I think I may know," Albus replied, coming up to her from behind and grinning at her flustered reflection in the mirror. Putting his arms around her waist, he dropped a feather kiss on her collarbone and rested his chin there.

As she finished with the pins, she tried to duck out of his hold. "Albus, stop it," she giggled, "You know that tickles." However, the pins that held her knot together also pinned the headmaster to her. She gave him an exasperated look and he chuckled, tugging at the silver stands of his hair binding him to her.

Methodically taking out the pins with a serious air, he set them down on the dresser and ran a gentle hand through her hair. With all the care of a lace maker, he threaded her hair together as she watched quietly in the reflection. When he finished placing the last pin back in her hair, he stood back, frowned, and made to take out the pins again.

"Don't you dare," she reprimanded, catching his hands before they could redo the braid. "It's beautiful."

"It is, isn't it?" he said playfully, and kissed her before leading her to the door of her chambers. "I do believe you have first years to greet," and with a final kiss, they went to welcome the students.

Even though he knew fully well what the Sorting entailed, Harry still felt his stomach give a leap as his mother explained the ceremony to the new first years. Ron Weasley stood at his right, his face a bit green with nerves, but all the same, the redhead gave Harry a wavering smile of support. Harry felt himself give a smile back, every bit as apprehensive as Ron's.

Minerva watched the exchange and stifled a grin as she called the first new student forth. The list went on without a hitch until "Longbottom, Neville" was called forth. As the hat and the boy sat there quietly, Minerva wondered at the hat's indecision. Both of the boy's parents had been in Hufflepuff, and from the little she had seen of him, the boy seemed suited for that house. However, the hat surprised her (yet again) and shouted,


Resisting the urge to raise an eyebrow at the decision, Minerva continued, reading off name after name until she came to the one she had been waiting for all night.

"Potter, Harry," she said and gave her boy a small wink before the Sorting Hat dropped over his eyes.

As the seconds ticked by, Minerva's nervousness came back in full force and she cast a glance at Albus. As always during the Sorting Ceremony, he sat with an aggravating air of omniscience and flippancy, refusing to give away anything. Narrowing her eyes at him as he gave her a wink, Minerva turned her attention back to her son and the Sorting Hat. As it opened its "mouth," Minerva waited with bated breath.


Behind her, she heard Severus give a derogatory snort, as if to say, "And you were expecting. . . ?"




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