The Sorting Ceremony
Eva walked down the corridor. She felt strange in such a new place. It looked like a castle with gray stone walls and tapestry hangings. The place was completely deserted and shiver went down her spine at the eeriness of the hall. Every footstep echoed as she slowly walked.
Some one suddenly appeared at the end of the corridor. It was only a black shadow in the distance. Eva stopped and looked nervously. Had she been caught?
The figure did not move and Eva soon became curious and began to run down the hall. Behind her the torches that once lit the corridor began to go out leaving a swell of darkness. She ran faster towards the person who didn’t seem fazed by the events unfolding.
Eva turned her head seeing the darkness come at her and knew that this was not a good thing. She turned and almost ran into the figure. She stopped short and came face to face with her. The woman from her nightmares. This time she was so close she could feel the woman’s breath as she stared incessantly. The dark tangled hair, the black eyes, the rotting teeth. Eva stepped back but the ground underneath her was gone and she began to fall back into the darkness.
A hand gripped Eva’s shoulder and shook her from her sleep. She opened her eyes groggily and sat up. She was still on the train but it had stopped. Swan stood before her with a bright smile.
“Wakey, wakey, welcome to the Hogwarts Stations. Last stop,” she said cheerfully collecting her items. She had changed out of her normal clothing and was now in a black cloak. She had also changed her makeup as well. Instead of the pink lips she now wore a brilliant shade of red. Her eyes were colored in gold and red shadow like they were on fire.
Eva turned and looked out the window. It was dark but a faint outline of the station could be seen as small lanterns had been lit.
Soon Swan placed a pile of clothing on her lap. “You are going to need to change now, we are going to have to leave soon.” Eva looked at the clothes and they were the robes that she had bought at Diagon Alley. “I took the liberty of pulling them out of your things while you slept. You know you were lucky that I didn’t let them draw anything on your face.” She motioned to Samwell who was still snoring loudly at the end of the cart. On his face were black marking of a curly mustache under his nose, and a round monocle around one of his eyes. “And the great thing about this,” Swan said leaning in and holding up a strange looking marker, “is that when they look at their reflection they can’t see the marks, but everyone else can.” She giggled and put the marker in one of her coat pockets.
Lura, William, Sparrow, and even the sleeping Samwell where in their robes. Students started to file out of the train and on to the platform. Swan woke Sam and began to usher them out of the cart before she pulled the shade on the door window. She talked ecstatically about the new year while Eva put on her robes. Eva thought that Swan reminded her a lot of her Aunt Lucy.
As she turned to grab Myster Swan stopped her. “No, we leave everything in here. They will take it up to our rooms for us because we have to go to the opening ceremonies. Even Myster has to stay here.”
Eva didn’t know if she liked the fact that Myster would be left alone but she gave him a pet on the head and walked out of the cart with Swan. When they exited the train Eva saw that only the first years were left. All of the older students were already leaving. The young students all stood in a crowd together eagerly talking about what would happen next.
“We have to go through a sort of initiation before we can be sorted. My older sister told me that we have to jump through flaming hoops,” Swan whispered to Eva. A great fear grew in her stomach and she gulped. William, Sam and Sparrow found them and joined in the conversation.
“Well, my father told me that we have to fly across a huge lake, and that this is our first flying lesson and if we don’t do it we fail the class,” William said with a smile. He further went on to say that he had been practicing at the lake near his house. He had only fallen in once or twice. Eva thought that she might be able to do that but what if she did fail. Michael would not be very happy with her.
Out of the distance large footsteps could be heard and a swinging lantern could be seen walking towards the group. Whatever was heading their way was quite large. The shape of a huge beat came into view was the lantern got closer. She could hear girls whimper at the sight of it.
Eva stood on her tip toes and she looked at the new guest. He was a large man, at least eight feet tall, with large frizzy grey hair and bear that covered most of his face. He held the lantern looking down at the little students.
They all held their breath waiting for something to happen. Every student seemed to be trembling with fear.
“Maybe, it is who ever can out run the giant without getting eaten,” Samwell said from behind her and she could even tell that he was scared.
After a long moment the giant spoke in a very welcoming tone, “Welcome, to the Hogwarts Station. As first years, we take you a special way to get to the castle before you are all sorted into your houses.” Eva knew that this must be the beginning of initiation. The giant led the way through the station and out to a dock that led to a huge body of water.
So, it was true, she was going to have fly across this water. Her heart was caught in her throat but as she looked out at the water she saw twinkling lights moving on their own through the water. Small boats came across the lake on their own. Swan tapped Eva’s shoulder and pointed at something in the distance. Eva looked up and gasped as she saw a large castle on top of an enormous hill. The lights inside were bright and twinkling, making it seem like it was floating in stars.
The boats pulled up along the long dock. “Alright, no more than four in a boat,” the giant called stepping into his own boat. Eva watched as students filed into their boats. This wasn’t any sort of initiation.
Swan pulled Eva into the closest boat. Sparrow, William and Samwell climbed into a boat in front of them. The last few stragglers found the last spots. Two girls, who were obviously already very good friends, climbed into the front seat of the small boat. The chatted for a moment and then turned back and greeted Swan and Eva.
They both spot nearly identically in excited chipper tones. It was hard to determine who was saying what when. “This is probably one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced, even being a witch,” the girl with the short blonde hair said. “Yes, I can’t believe we are finally here,” the other girl who had long strawberry blonde hair sang.
There was a short introduction which Swan took full liberties of. Eva didn’t have to say a word. The girls introduced themselves as Elliette Mahonie and Web Massey. They had been best friends since they were very young and were completely inseparable. Eva found it interesting that the girls both had such strange names. In fact many of the people she had met had strange names especially her new found friend Swan.
In the front of the boats the giant could be heard, “Alright then – onward!” His voice echoed over the dock and gasped followed as the boats began to move on their own accord towards the beautiful castle ahead.
Swan began her speech about the castle and the many wonders it held, at least from what she heard from her elder siblings.
“It is quite beautiful they say and after the war and the whole school was burnt to crisp they whole castle was redone. I hope they updated the dorms, my sister told me what they looked like. So not fashionable,” she continued by telling Eva about the secret passages, moving classrooms, and enchanted grounds. Eva was almost too excited to contain herself from hopping out of the boat and swimming there.
“Mind your head,” the giant said ducking as he disappeared behind a thick curtain of ivy. All the students followed the instruction and they were taken into a cavern beneath the castle. The boats stopped at the pebble beach and all the students filed out onto the shore. “This way,” he said holding the lantern in front of him. He led the way to a hidden set of stone steps. The amount of stairs was endless as the climbed along the rock face. The steps emptied out onto a soft green field blackened by the night sky. All the students picked up their pace as the castle was near. After a short walk up stone steps they were greeted by a large set of wooden doors. The giant raised his large fists and pounded three times with the enormous iron knockers.
The heavy doors opened to reveal a tall slender woman in silver velvet robes. Her face was very pointed with piercing blue eyes and her luminescent skin matched her white hair which was molded to stand straight up on top of her head.
“Here they are Professor Duquette,” the giant said.
“Thank you Professor Hagrid, I will take them in,” the woman said in an elegant and gentle voice. She turned swiftly and seemed to float across the stone entry way as she led them to a small room. Eva was mesmerized as she walked into the entry. The group of first years seemed miniscule compared to the size of it. There were torches and beautiful paintings the covered the walls. Right before the beautiful marble grand stair was a statue but Eva was not able to close enough to see what it was. Instead she was pushed into the small room. There was little seating and the lighting was sparse and everyone felt cramped as Professor Duquette called their attention.
“Welcome to Hogwarts,” she began in the same crystalline voice. “For those of you who do not know, every year we have a start-of-term banquet where we meet our staff and our new friends for the term. Before you are all able to be seated you must first be placed into a house. This ceremony has been done since the beginning of Hogwarts and has not changed even after the Battle of Hogwarts. Being sorted into your house is no simple matter. Your house will be with you every step of your journey at Hogwarts and will be a sort of family while you learn here.
“There of four houses, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has produced the finest witches and wizards of our time, and is sure to produce more with every year. All of your successes will have a great affect on your house as points will be given for good deeds, and unsuccessful will lost points. The house with the most points at the end of the year will win the house cup. I know each of you will strive to see your house win the honor.
“I ask that you wait here while the ceremonies are beginning. Remember it is a great honor to be accepted to Hogwarts and to be sorted into one of the great houses. The entire school will be watching. I will come back for you soon,” she finished and slipped through a side door that led into a loud room.
As soon as the door closed talking broke out as everyone prepared themselves for the ceremony. Eva tried to run her fingers through her long curls but she didn’t make it far. Clearly her hair was a lost cause, and she finally hoped that she was brave enough to wear makeup. Swan, who clearly needed the least help, pulled a mirror from her pocket and was checking her hair and makeup.
“So what is the sorting ceremony like?” Eva asked the nerves building up again.
“It is a test they give every student to decide which house you are in,” Swan began still checking herself. “You see each house has a certain something about it. My sister was sorted into Ravenclaw and she is a real bookworm, you never find her without some kind of book. Harry Potter was in Gryffindor, so I am sure only the really brave are in that one.”
Eva knew for sure she would not be placed in that house. She was afraid of makeup. Her thoughts were interrupted as Professor Duquette entered. She jumped slightly as the woman spoke.
“It is time, this way,” she said it with such a smile that a shiver went down Eva’s spine. Was she prepared for this?
She was not. As soon as the doors opened into the great hall her stomach almost leaps through her throat. The room with filled with hundreds of students of all ages. They sat around four long tables which had four prominent colors; green, blue, yellow and red. The room was enormous with huge vaulted ceilings. As Eva walked slowly down the center isle she saw the wandering eyes looking up at the ceiling. Her eyes followed and found that it looked just like the night sky with billions of stars. This of course was nothing compared to the many eyes staring at them. That was what she noticed next. All the students were fixed on the first years. They walked timidly towards the far end of the hall were a raised platform sat many older witches and wizards. Every seat was filled except two, she noticed. In the center was podium and next to it a stool with a blue velvet hat on it.
The children spanned out in front of the podium and hat and stared nervously up at Professor Duquette. She moved onto the platform and easy the stool forward towards the students. Everyone stared at it curiously and Eva did the same. For a second she thought she saw it move, and then she knew it had. The velvet hat crumple slightly at the brim and a face formed on it. With that the hat began to sing:
I sing a song of joy and spirit,
If you have the ears to hear it.
Come join the school of magic and learning,
It is not that disconcerting.
I am your ‘in’ into a house,
Which will decide the lions from the mouse.
Four houses are your choice,
So come and hear my voice.
The Gryffindors are quite a catch,
And bravery they do snatch,
Please pardon and forgive,
As I mention the boy who lived.
The Hufflepuffs will be your friend,
For they are loyal until the end,
They are unafraid of challenge or fate,
And are just when the hour is late.
If a Ravenclaw be for you,
Great smarts are in store, that’s true.
For the raven is ever wise,
And with great wit it flies.
Or perhaps you are a Slytherin,
The cunning and successful kin,
And know that friends are ever near
When you are with fear.
Do not think me naive,
Since the wise old hat was given leave.
As the castle burned and lost,
I will be here a new embossed.
But come and sit upon this chair,
And do not fear what I will fair.
The house that you must be in,
Will help you triumph until the end.
There was a pause and suddenly the entire audience broke out into applause. The first years followed suit and clapped as well. Eva just stared at the hat and wonder what it meant.
Professor Duquette, still clapping stepped forward with a long scroll in her delicate fingers.
“And now let the sorting begin. As I call your name please sit on the stool and that hat will be placed on your head. Once you are sorted you may sit with your designated house.” She cleared her throat and called out the first name. “Newton Crabtree.”
A small boy moved his way slowly through the small crowd. He was rather short and plump with mess of brown hair on his head. He had to climb to get on the seat as an older student was helping Duquette. The student placed the velvet hat on top of Newton’s head and it seemed to cling to his scalp as the face reappeared.
“I think we have a…GRYFFINDOR,” the hat boasted and the boy sat up quickly as the hat was pulled off. The tables all clapped. He ran over to the long table marked in red and sat amongst the other Gryffindors.
“Cecilia Jarre,” Duquette announced as a slender girl stepped forward. She didn’t seem quite as shaky as Newton as she perched herself on the stool. The hat was placed upon her head and it paused for a moment.
“SLYTHERIN!” the hat exclaimed and the girl gleefully jumped off the stool and to the green table.
Web Massey, the strawberry blond girl from the boat was called next.
Her best friend followed and was also sorted into Hufflepuff. She saw the happiness and they hugged each other and took their seats at the yellow table. A very small and mousy girl named Kylie Phipps was sorted into Ravenclaw, and squeaked with excitement as she sat at the blue table.
Name after name was called as the first years were sorted into houses. Both Samwell (still with his silly mustache and monocle) and William were sorted into Gryffindor. Eva turned and saw that they sat next to Lura who was also in Gryffidor. Two more students were put into Slytherin and they all seemed to have something in common. The boy named Ulrich Orion who was sorted into that house sat next to a girl who looked fairly similar to him and Eva thought that perhaps siblings were placed into the same house. This fact was reassured as both Swan and Sparrow were sorted into Gryffindor.
The group became smaller and smaller as the students were separated. Suddenly her name was called.
“Eva Highmore,” the room fell silent in her mind and everything began to black out except the hat that would be placed on her head shortly. She was so nervous. What if she was placed in some other house than Swan? She would have to make all new friends.
She pushed the thoughts behind her and walked slowly up to the stool. Professor Duquette gave her a smile which didn’t encourage her. Looking out at all the faces she sat down and the hat was lowered onto her head. The beautiful feminine voice of the hat began to speak again. She had not heard it before with any of the other students.
“Hello my dear,” the hat began, “Eva Highmore. But that isn’t who you really are, is it? Who are you? Your mind is so foggy. Oh, well goodness me, I see.” Eva felt like there was a person running around her brain and pulling through information. “Well, isn’t that odd. You have a special gift don’t you. I bet you know exactly what house you are going to be put in. Well, that is odd isn’t it. There is something here that might be useful,” the hat began and suddenly the image of the horrifying woman from Eva’s nightmares appeared in her mind. The hat began to scream in her head, but it wasn’t in her head because all the student’s faces turned to horror. The hat was screaming out loud for everyone to see and hear. The student grabbed the hat and pulled it from Eva’s head, and it instantly went silent.
Eva stared out at the stunned crowd and realized what had just happened. She looked like a freak up here on the stool. A murmured shuddered through the hall as the students questioned what just happened.
Professor Duquette was consoling the hat as it seemed to weep behind her. After a moment the teacher placed the hat over Eva’s head and the hat spoke sadly, “Gryffindor.”
There was no applause as Eva stepped down and took her seat at the Gryffindor table. She didn’t even bother trying to sit next to Swan. No one would want to be friends with a freak who scared the sorting hat.
The rest of the sorting was a blur as Eva sat along and dejected at the table questioning what happened. She knew that her history was slightly different than the normal witch but she didn’t think it could be that bad. It took all her strength not to cry. If the other Gryffindors tried to speak to her, she didn’t notice because she was too embarrassed to make eye contact with anyone.
Professor Duquette began speaking again at the head podium. Eva looked up to pay attention hoping that the other Gryffindors would forget what had just happened. From behind her she could hear whispering and murmurs. It seemed that everyone was unsure of something.
“Welcome all to another year at Hogwarts,” Duquette began, “I will not keep you from your meal prepared by the culinary club from Ravenclaw. All that is left to say is LET THE FEAST BEGIN.” Her voice echoed throughout the hall and magically the table became filled with food. There baskets of fruits and cheeses and bread. A beautiful roasted pig sat towards the middle of the table with an apple in its mouth. There were pies, and soups, and anything that you could possibly think to eat.
Eva had not realized how hungry she actually was. The candy that she had collected on the train was never touched and she actually wondered where it had gone off to. If Swan had taken it for safe keeping Eva knew she would never get it back.
She slowly began putting food on her plate even though her appetite was slim. The table was packed and she felt squished between two upper classmen talking and eating. A first year had managed to sit across from her. Their eyes met and she saw that he was having the same trouble with making new friends.
“Hi, I’m Eva,” she said to him. A fear grew behind his brown eyes but he replied all the same.
“I’m Teric,” he said sheepishly.
That was the end of the conversation, because a second year started speaking to him. Eva sighed and began eating. It was quite delicious and she soon realized she needed food. The feast lasted for a long while. Some of the people around her asked her some questions, like where she was from and if she has done any magic. It made her feel better, but still she could sense their uneasiness towards her.
Soon she started to feel the weight of the food in her stomach. She didn’t realize how much she had eaten. Once everyone had their fill, except a few boys who whined as the food disappeared from the table without a trace. All attention was placed back at the front of the hall where Professor Duquette stood elegantly at the podium.
“Greetings, I hope all of you have had your fill. Before we go off to bed I would first like to make some announcements and introduce some important personnel.” An outcry went up at all the tables.
“Where’s Foxstrand?” one called. “Where’s the Headmaster?” another said. “You can’t give the opening speech.”
Duquette did not seem swayed by the calls and instead smiled brighter than before. “Do not worry. I will explain the odd tidings of the ceremony.” This calmed everyone back into their seats where they listened intently. “I am Deputy Headmistress and professor of Divinations.” Eva then realized that she knew the name, because she had sent out the letters of acceptance.
“Typically the closing speech is done by Headmaster Von Foxstrand. Unfortunately due to illness, the Headmaster is not able to be here tonight, leaving me in his place. He does regret not being able to come this evening but has promised something special when he returns.
“I would like to begin by introducing our staff members, some of which are new.” Duquette began listing off names and the staff members stood up. They had such strange names that Eva was having trouble remembering them all. The giant that had led them to the castle was named Professor Rubeus Hagrid and was in charge of the Care of Magical Creatures class. Another that stood out was Professor Olga Smeely with black hair tied back in a tight bun on top of her head. She taught Herbology apparently, though Eva wasn’t sure what that was exactly.
The applause died down and Duquette continued. “I would also like to recognize Mr. Greenig who is our care taker. And he asks me to notify the first years and the students that have forgotten that the forest next to the grounds is forbidden to all students.
“All clubs and teams, including Quidditch, will hold their first meetings and trials at the beginning of next week. Make sure to reserve your space for those meetings.
“And now as is tradition, I ask the Hogwarts Mixed Choir to come up and lead us in a round of the Hogwarts School song.”
A troop of students from all houses climbed on stage in front of a teacher Eva thought was named Shufflebottum. After a deep breath they and the rest of the school began to chant an incomprehensible tune:
“Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they’re bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we’ve forgot,
Just do you best, we’ll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot.”
The song somehow managed to finish and everyone applauded loudly as the choir took their seats.
` “Now off to bed, all of you,” Duquette said cheerfully waving everyone out of the hall.
“First years, this way,” an older Gryffindor called and Eva began to follow but was stopped short. A delicate hand rested on her shoulder and as she turned to see what was happening Professor Duquette’s eerie smile came in to view.
“Eva,” she said, “it is so nice to meet you.” Eva was stuck to her spot afraid that the antics of earlier would lead to something terrible. “I have been asked to take you to meet someone.”
Eva did not want to go. She would have run the other direction if the woman didn’t have a hand on her. She followed nervously as Duquette led her through a back door of the hall. They went down a narrow corridor that seemed oddly familiar to her. Duquette opened a heavy wooden door and allowed Eva to enter first.
It was a classroom clearly, with the desks and books. Strange pictures of animals hung on the wall. Some looked like those she had drawn at the institute. In the center of the teachers desk sat the sorting hat.“Here you are dear, I will return in a short while to take you to your dorms,” she nodded to Eva and then to the hat on the desk and made her exit. Eva was left staring at the oddest thing she had seen all day; a talking hat.