Chapter 6: The Sorting Ceremony
Silhouetted mountains grew like anthills on the passing landscape. Sirius pressed his head against the cool refreshing glass. If only the train ride could last forever, Sirius wished naively. Chocolate Frogs for breakfast, Pumpkin Pasties for lunch, and Cauldron Cakes for dinner. He could surround himself with good company, and have a few laughs. Hogwarts surely could not compare to the compartment's satin interior and soft cushions. He dreaded the train's arrival, and the consequential sorting ceremony. James ruffled up his hair and looked at his reflection in the glass window.
"Do I look alright, mate?" Running a hand through his hair again, his voice wavered with insecurity.
Sirius clapped his hands together and assumed the role of a fawning grandmother. "Oh you look absolutely lovely today Jamie!" He sank back into his seat; with his energy lost, he exuded a sour composure.
"There is a strong possibility that I'm going to be brutally murdered tonight in my sleep."
"I'm not sure I follow?" James fondled the snack wrappers.
"My whole family has been in Slytherin for generations. I am nothing like them. I hate their sneaky backward ways. My brother Regulus will probably welcome me to the house with painful hexes. Where will I hide? I might as well be a lamb in a den of gytrash."
"Just because your family has been sorted into Slytherin doesn't mean that you will be." Remus spoke up.
"OI! Remus speaks! Where were you all this time? Deep in that large brain of yours, plotting our demise?" James mocked.
"Absolutely." Remus retorted casually. He did not want to admit that his silence was a direct result of Taylor's presence. His confession would lead to deeper truths. The train slowed to a stop, just as Lily and Taylor settled back down into their seats. James looked at them, and attempted to have a civil conversation.
"So, what house do you girls think you'll get sorted into?"
Lily answered first. "I don't care as long as it's as far as possible from you three!" Taylor smiled at her friend's ferocity.
"Well, I am hoping for Gryffindor." James admitted.
"Then I'll have to rival you with Slytherin." Lily combated him verbally. Taylor was not sure of the differences, so remained silent during the discussion. What exactly is a sorting anyway?
"I'll be in Slytherin. My whole family's been sorted into that house. So chances of me getting into any other are slim to none." Sirius lounged in the seat waiting for the train to completely stop. Remus grunted a noise which clearly implied: No one listens to me. Lily strategically switched her house choice to Hufflepuff.
Taylor removed her luggage from the overhead compartment, and jumped off the train. The crisp evening air was refreshing after a stifling journey. A coarse elderly man with broad shoulders and dark gray hair hobbled forward. He was covered in fox and rabbit hides, and his face was scarred and bruised.
"Welcome first years! Follow me this way."
Lily pulled Taylor along, trying to lose James, Sirius, and Remus. Successfully, the girls skittered to the front of the group, near their aged guide. The platform disappeared, along with all signs of manmade objects. Trees towered over them, only to be replaced by a glistening lake.
A seven-story high medieval castle perched scenically upon a regal cliff side overlooking a black lake. Towers and turrets stretched toward the sky and complimented the surrounding mountainous landscape. Taylor stood in awe for a moment, until Lily dragged her by the arm into a small boat. She sat down, her eyes glued to the castle that stood grandly in the distance. Lights flickered from the windows like embers in a dying fire. The boat wobbled unexpectedly as James and Sirius settled on a wooden bench.
"Boody Hell! Are you two stalking us?" Unconsciously, Taylor reached for her wand underneath her robes. Having her wand so close gave her comfort. The boys ignored the question, and mystically the boats pushed off from the shore. The gamekeeper blew a whistle and the vessels drew closer to create a fleet. The ripples in the black water danced playfully around the dinghy, disrupting the glitter of the third quarter moon upon the surface.
James whispered to Sirius and the duo began to roar with laughter. The boat rocked and groaned under their stamping feet. Lily stood up and faced them.
"Can you two please act like adults?" The boat generously leaned starboard, throwing Lily off balance. She struggled to regain her equilibrium, whirling her arms about like an out of sync windmill. Heroically, James jumped up to help Lily, but too failed to find his sailor legs. Before catastrophe could claim her friend, Taylor quickly grabbed Lily's hand and pulled her down to the wooden bench. The two girls prayed that the boat would not capsize. James repositioned himself and fell down into his seat. He held onto the edge of the boat, slightly seasick from his quest. With miraculous recovery, the queasiness in his stomach disappeared, and he rapidly put his hands in his lap, edging away from the edge of the boat.
"Everything alright?' Sirius asked, noticing James's uneasiness.
"I just saw an eye the size of my head looking back at me."
"You're joking." Sirius looked over the edge. A giant pink squid drifted along with the fleet of boats. Intrigued, Sirius reached into the water and touched the tender slick skin of a nearby tentacle.
"You're bonkers, mate." James shuddered.
The boats took shore inside an internal docking area. Everyone piled out mumbling to their friends and acquaintances. A tall witch in fern-green robes entered the room. Her emerald eyes scanned the crowd of first years from under her ceremonial hat.
"Quiet down!" She commanded firmly. "The sorting will begin momentarily. Please remain cordial throughout the procession and mind your voices while others are being sorted." When she was satisfied that the students comprehended the instructions she added, "For everyone's reference, I am Professor McGonagall. I will return shortly to guide you to the Great Hall." She disappeared into the room beyond, and without a hovering threat, the students resumed talking. Taylor jumped unexpectedly when a scream echoed off the walls like a gunshot fired in a submarine. A silvery ghost appeared in the middle of the crowd and glided toward the ceiling.
"It's only one of the ghosts who haunt the castle. There is a ghost for each house, you know." Lily explained. Taylor rubbed her hands together nervously. Memories of the orphanage rewound in her cranium, echoing Daniel Babio's twilight horror stories and childhood nightmares. For Taylor, spirits were personified by cold lifeless beings that lurked in dark corners and locked children in mysterious closets. A ghost donning clothes from the fifteenth century, fine lace and a ruffle pleated collar, floated toward Lily.
"I prefer to say accommodate, rather than haunt, my dear." The ghost's voice was good-humored and cheery. He floated over Remus, who shuddered from the sudden airy chill. "No troublemakers in this year's Gryffindor class, I hope!" Sirius and James made eye contact. Taylor overheard the ghost's friendly introduction to a short brown eyed girl. "I am Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, but I prefer Sir Nicholas. Good luck with your sorting."
"I've heard my brother call him Nearly Headless Nick." Sirius whispered to James. "Story goes, the executioner's axe was blunt and it took forty-five whacks to kill him. Even then his head was only partially severed from his body."
"That's an unlucky bit." James rubbed the back of his own neck in partial sympathy. The doors swung open and Professor McGonagall reappeared.
"Come along. Don't dally." She ordered, looking over her spectacles at the nervous group.
Four long decorated tables filled with students, created spacious aisles within the Great Hall. The tables were already set with gleaming golden plates, goblets, and silverware. Hundreds of faces watched the first years enter through the massive wooden doors. The ceiling rendered a beautiful mockery of the sky outside, lit by thousands of floating candles. Shooting stars raced wildly to meet their ends over the professors at the front of the room. Taylor followed the group, which stopped in front of the High Table. A stool with a dirty witch's hat stood lonely. Without warning, the hat squirmed alive and crunched into an eerie face. Taken aback, Taylor fixated her stare on the object. I must be imagining things. The hat began to sing:
"You may be shocked to hear this,
Coming from a cap,
But I really was not satisfied,
As someone one's fabric scrap.
I'm not your normal type of fashion,
I play by clever wit,
For I am the Hogwarts Sorting Hat,
And I will find your fit.
I am very fond of searching,
For the things you'd rarely see,
So try me on and I'll advise you,
On where you ought to be.
You may find a home in Gryffindor,
Where bravery and chivalry ring true,
Daring and adventurous,
Your path is up to you;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Loyalty is all they know,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are honest sure,
And unafraid to grow;
Or yet become a Ravenclaw,
If knowledge is what you seek,
Where those of academia,
Will surely find their peak;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll wield your greater powers,
Self preservation is the key,
A strong leader who devours.
So don't be scared my little friends!
And put me on if you are ready.
For I'm a Thinking Cap!
My answers will be steady."
After the song, the emerald green witch looked down at her piece of paper and back at the chattering first years. That was a brilliant poem little song from a hat! Taylor looked down when the hat looked in her general direction. I would not be surprised if it could hear me think.
"When I call your name, step forward and place the sorting hat onto your head. You will be sorted into your house. Either Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin." There was a long pause, enough for the instructions to ferment in the young students' skulls. She cleared her throat. "Black, Sirius!" The alphabet was cruel to Sirius.
Sirius glanced over to a table on the far right. Green cloaked students readied themselves to clap. Among them, Regulus gave Sirius a Caesarian thumbs down and a bemused smirk. Like a criminal toward the hangman's noose, Sirius turned and sat on the chair.
To Sirius's surprise, the hat triumphantly called out Gryffindor. He took off the hat in disbelief and returned it gingerly to its stool. Offensively, he gestured at the Slytherin greens, who bellowed in unison. Regulus's eyes followed his brother, as he walked to the far left to join his new home. Professor McGonagall called out a few more names, until "Evans, Lily!" came to Taylor's attention. Her friend was instantly and predictably placed in Gryffindor.
Taylor waited patiently and clapped accordingly for each student. "Lupin, Remus." Placed in Gryffindor. She hoped the pattern had become the trend. "Lupin, Taylor!"
Her lungs lurched forward as her breath caught painfully in her chest. She stepped up to the stool and sat down. Glimpsing at Lily eased her tension. Lily crossed her fingers as any good friend would. Behind her, Sirius smirked at having finally learned her name. Taylor placed the Sorting Hat on her head. The fabric wobbled and curled against her hair in a tickling fashion, but she dared not laugh. A disembodied whisper caressed her ear.
"What an interesting combination. Miss Paukstaitis your mind is filled with caverns." Taylor raised her eyebrows. Surely this hat knows I am Taylor Lupin? Davis even. What the hell is a Pauks— "Brave and exceptionally talented. I find that highly commendable. But how can I doubt you? Your bloodline runs deep crimson." I am not sure this hat knows who I am. "You have powerful potential, but your self doubt is limiting. Your mother was the same way." My mother? Taylor desired for the Sorting Hat to tell her more, but it had no time for conversation. "Family. Ah, yes! Very good." Taylor felt like she was being teased. For a moment, she forgot about the hundreds of faces watching her. The hat continued to mutter to itself, debating on her characteristics. Did everyone's take this long? Then the hat came to a conclusion.