Arriving at Hogwarts
I climbed out of the Hogwarts Express, my robes tangling around my ankles and my hair getting in my face. I didn’t care. The cool, crisp air smelled of the beginning-of-the-year Hogwarts feast.
My best friend Brooklyn Vawdrey followed me, balancing two cages on her arms. “Take your useless cat, Aly,” she ordered, “or I’ll drop it.”
I retrieved my fluffy black-and-white feline from Brooklyn’s hands. “He’s named Dauncey, as you know very well,” I retorted, smiling. I’d gotten Dauncey over the summer at Diagon Alley’s Magical Menagerie, after Headmaster Damien and his group of- followers? Worshippers? I didn’t quite know what to call them- had killed my owl Peltie last year, and my other best friend Rossalene Chung had spent most of the train ride fawning over him.
Brooklyn switched the other cage- which held her huge black owl Maycott- to her right hand, pulling the hood of her custom-made Twilfitt & Tattings robe over her long, frizzy brown hair with her left. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Come on, let’s go find a carriage.”
“Wait- not without Ross,” I protested, but just then, our other best friend popped out of the train, grinning.
“Sorry,” she panted. “Someone dropped their stuff and I helped clean it up.”
Brooklyn and I rolled our eyes at each other. Typical Rossalene. She was a true Hufflepuff: kind, sweet, and wholeheartedly innocent. Still, she’d proved herself a deadly fighter last year, when she’d taken out an entire group of Headmaster Damien’s follower/worshippers with only a few assorted plants and her wand.
“Well, let’s go now,” Brooklyn said, moving up the hill away from us, “or else all the good carriages will be gone.”
We sprinted up the hill, cages jangling, and arrived just before the first carriage started pulling away. I blanched at the thestrals but clambered into an empty-looking carriage near the end of the long, twisting line. I’d started seeing thestrals after last year’s battle, and I wasn’t scared of them exactly, I just wasn’t used to the large skeletal horses.
The door of the carriage slammed shut after Rossalene and Brooklyn climbed in, and we started to move. In the dim light of the flickering torch on the wall of the carriage, I could make out the shadowy forms of my two friends and...
“Bloody-” I caught myself before I could swear. “There’s someone else in here!”
The person shifted uncomfortably. “It’s only me. Polly.”
“Oh, hi, Polly,” Rossalene said cheerily. The two of us breathed sighs of relief. Polly Lider was a fellow Ravenclaw fifth-year, although she was so petite that you sometimes mistook her for a first year when you bumped into her in the halls. She was nice enough, but a bit of a know-it-all; Brooklyn had never quite trusted her after our second year at Hogwarts.
“Your brother’s getting Sorted this year, isn’t he?” I asked Polly.
“Yes.” Polly could talk on and on if she wanted to, but her voice was a little airy, as if she wasn’t fully paying attention.
“Cool.” Except me, everyone in the carriage had a younger sibling- Brooklyn had Libby and Rossalene had Joshua, both third-year Gryffindors.
As my petty attempt at conversation died out, I turned to Rossalene, and we started to chat about Honeydukes’s new line of longer-lasting sugar quills and when we thought the first Hogsmeade trip would be. It was a much more pleasant conversation.
When we reached the castle, Polly scrambled out first, then Brooklyn, Rossalene, and finally me. My best friends and I walked up the entrance stairs arm in arm, laughing and chatting, and we had just stepped inside the huge double doors when a water balloon smashed against the floor just to our right, soaking a poor second-year Hufflepuff boy and splashing a quartet of seventh-year Slytherin girls, who shrieked and made faces at the ceiling.
“Peeves,” muttered Brooklyn darkly. “He needs to find some new tricks. Water balloons are so old-fashioned, he used them back in Harry Potter’s time.”
“That was only fifty years ago!” Rossalene laughed.
By running and dodging, we managed to make it into the Great Hall without getting more than splashed a little. One of Brooklyn’s Slytherin buddies- Alejandra Rice, a dancer who was more commonly called Leja- pulled her aside as we passed the green table, and Rossalene departed with a wave to sit with her friends at the Badger table. I took a deep breath and braved the Ravenclaw table solo.
Polly was sitting by herself near a gaggle of giggling fourth-year girls, and I took a seat across from her. Only when the girls had cleared did I see who I was sitting next to, and I nearly groaned aloud.
Will Greene was my biggest student rival in Ravenclaw. He was perfectly nice, of course, and he’d fought on my side last year, but before that we’d always competed to secure the best grades. Third year, it had gotten nasty. I pushed the memories from my mind. Will was okay, but I’d still get the better O.W.L. grades this year.
Bad luck; Will turned, hearing something, and saw me. “Oh- hi, Aly,” he said with a hint of a smile. The boy loved to aggravate me, but as that was usually only during class, he was being nice. “How was your summer?”
“Fine. Relaxing, after last year,” I added with a laugh that was a little forced. “And yours?”
“It was nice.” He seemed to be on the verge of launching into a story, but before he could, his eyes dropped to the blue badge upon my robes, showcasing one of my two newly acquired Hogwarts positions. “Prefect! Excellent.” He pointed to his own badge. “I knew it would be you. Find me after dinner so we can show the first-years to Ravenclaw Tower.”
I nodded, adding, “I’ll do that, Will.” I hoped he would take the hint, but Will plowed on. “I was surprised that they only had the Head Boy and Girl patrol the Hogwarts Express today. Do you think it was-”
I was saved from further talk by the new Headmaster, Professor Fourier, calling out, “Please settle down.” I did just that, turning in my seat to face the dais. When I’d gotten the news that the über-intelligent Potions teacher- who had been Head of Ravenclaw House at the time- had been promoted to the position of Hogwarts Headmaster by the Wizengamot over the summer, I’d been super excited. Professor Fourier had been my favorite teacher. “Please sit so that we may commence the Sorting and the feast.”
Slowly, the Great Hall quieted. The first-years- do they get smaller every year?- marched in, huddled in clumps. One tiny boy was obviously Polly’s brother, as they shared their minimal height and thick sandy hair. I also recognized the brown-haired twins that were, ironically, the little siblings of the Hufflepuff fifth-year twins, Kayla and Ana Strait- friends of Rossalene’s.
Professor Longbottom, the grey-haired deputy headmaster, appeared on the dais. He carried a small stool and a ragged old hat. Setting the hat on the stool, he placed the stool on the floor. He then cleared his throat and stepped back.
“Sing,” the Herbology teacher commanded simply.
And the hat sang.