I step out of the train to see a magnificent castle in the distance and its immense reflection over a crystal clear lake.
And before I can even wonder how we could possibly get there, Lily taps me on the shoulder. “Fancy trying to find a carriage with me?”
Oh, by carriages, duh.
I look over her shoulder to see Remus and James grinning at me and behind them, to my dismay, is Sirius… and his adorable little girlfriend. Nope, ignore them. Juuuuust ignore them.
I turn to Lily and reply cheerfully, “Alright then.”
We turn around to make our way to the horseless carriages when I suddenly a voice call from behind me. “Miss Cecilia Vance! Excuse me, Miss Vance!”
I spin around to see a tall, stern-looking woman with a tight bun standing next to a smaller carriage far from the rest.
James leans over to whisper in my ear, “Uh oh, it's Professor McGonagall. What on earth did you do, mate? I think getting in trouble before we even get to the castle is a new record!” He pauses. “Actually, nevermind, I think Sirius and I got detention on the train once.”
I laugh nervously. Yeah, good question.
“Well, go on, then.” Remus nudges me in the back. “I reckon she just wants to have a word with you or something. Since you're new and all.”
“If you say so…” I gulp. She looks kind of cross. Or maybe that's just how her face looks.
Lily gives my arm a reassuring squeeze. “Hey, don't worry about it! Professor McGonagall's the head of the Gryffindor House and while she maybe look scary, she's got a kind heart.”
I nod, not quite reassured at all. “Well, catch you later then.” I wave at them as they climb into the horseless carriage and ride off before adding under my breath, “Probably...”
With a polite nod to the professor, I climb into a smaller carriage down the path and we start moving towards the castle. Many nervous glances and minutes of awkward silences later, she finally breaks the ice.
“Cecilia Vance, I would like to welcome you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As you know, our school is divided into Four Houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. I suspect that you would rather not be sorted with dozens of first years so…” The I feel the carriage stop and I glance out the window to see the school's front gates just meters before me. Wow, that was fast. “I brought the sorting to you, Miss Vance.”
She pulls out an old patched-up hat and jams it on my head before I can even blurt out, “Blimey, that's an ugly hat!”
Suddenly, a voice starts speaking out of the darkness of the hat covering my eyes.
“Hello, Cecilia Vance.”
“Hello… hat thing?” I squeeze my eyes shut for a few moments before opening them again. “So, are you going to sort me or what?” I think back to the voice.
“…I'm thinking,” it replies flatly.
After a moment, he muses aloud in my head, “ I see Hufflepuff traits in you. You have an inherent kindness that values others’ happiness well above your own, yet a grit and determination to prove yourself among your peers. Perhaps a Gryffindor, as well? How intriguing…”
It suddenly occurs to me. What house is Lily in? What the hell, why didn’t I bother asking when I spent all those hours with her on the train!
“But what’s this?” the hat continues, clearly oblivious to my rambling thoughts. “A multitude of Ravenclaw qualities! Interesting, interesting… home-schooled, eh? You’re clever. Very clever. And… a wide knowledge of curses, my, my.”
You know, now that I think about it, maybe I can just ask him what house Lily and them are in. I mean, it sure seems all-knowing enough. It probably knows what I had for breakfast. Seriously, I don’t even know what I had for breakfast.
“And… ahh, of course, daughter of the famous Edwin Vance, are you? One of the most prominent Slytherins of his time!” the hat remarks. “With that kind of ravenous ambition in your blood, would you follow in his place?”
“Wait a minute, are you about to sort me into Slytherin?” I think back, aghast.
“Why, of course,” the hat replies, sounding taken aback itself. “You come from an entire family of Slytherins! Surely you understand that those traits flow strongest through your veins.”
“OH, HELL NO—oops, sorry, Professor.” I quickly snap my mouth shut and think fiercely, “I mean, are you kidding me, hat?! I may have Slytherin blood, but don’t think for a second that belong in the House! You think I’m that hungry for power? You gotta be joking!”
“It was only a suggestion,” the hat grumbles under its breath before sighing. “Oh, very well then. Better be… GRYFFINDOR!!” the hat suddenly bellows aloud.
Professor McGonagall jumps in surprise. “Not so loud in an enclosed space!” she scolds irritably.
I take off the Sorting Hat and hold it out to the professor as she adjusts her now crooked hat. “Er, Professor McGonagall?”
“Ah, yes.” She takes the hat from me and places it on the seat beside her. “Well, that’s that then. Congratulations, Miss Vance.” She extends her hand and I reach out to shake it slowly. “Welcome to the Gryffindor House. I dare say it is always a pleasure to have another brilliant student join us.”
The professor leans over to open the carriage door so I can step out.
“Merlin knows how many years Slytherin has taken the House Cup from us.” She smiles warmly at me. “I look forward to seeing you in class, Miss Vance.”
“Um, you can count on me?” I answer with an awkward smile.
But Professor McGonagall just beams at me. “Well, better get to the feast then!”
“Yeah, bye, Professor!”
I sprint off into the castle and burst through the gates. I think I heard some old bloke and his cat yelling for me to stop, but I didn’t stop and I didn’t care. I wasn’t put into Slytherin! Mum and Dad are going to be so pissed! Brilliant!
A giant front door and two dozen turns and hallways later, I hurtle into the Great Hall and all the heads turn to look at me.
Embarrassed, I bow my head down and slow to a brisk walk, trying not to catch anyone’s eye. I find the Gryffindor table without much difficulty. I mean, with the gigantic red and gold banners, who could miss it?
But still, where is everyone?
I hear a sudden roar of laughter from the general middle section of the table and look over to see Lily, who is sitting next to James (probably because he wants to flirt with her), who is sitting with Sirius (most likely because they're best mates), who is sitting with his girlfriend (evidently to continue the snogging they didn't finish), who is sitting with Peter (obviously because he wants to sit as close as possible to his dazzling friends).
What a group.
I spot Remus sitting across the table from the rest of his friends, clearly much more comfortable not being squished on one bench. He was watching them with a rather amused look on his face.
I look from him to Lily and make my decision.
Ye-up. Sorry, Lily. Remus wins this round.
As I walk to the table and swing my leg over the bench, Remus greets me with a light punch in the shoulder. “Hey, how'd it go, mate? We all know McGonagall called you away to sort you.”
Lily squeezes my hand from across the table since I can't hug her over all this food. Bloody hell, there's a lot of food on this table!
“Please tell me you're not just sitting here for the heck of it,” she says hopefully, almost yelling over all noise and chatter in the Great Hall.
I grin at all the faces peering at me intently. “Hang out with you lot voluntarily? Never.”
The entire table cheers at the news.
“Excellent!” James reaches over and gives me a rather hard high five. “I knew you had the qualities in ya, mate! I knew it!”
Remus laughs at my response. “You make it sound like it's a bad thing. But congrats!”
“Now we can hang out in the dormitories too!” Lily squeals. “I'll show you around later! There's the Common Room, the Gryffindor Tower, oh, and the…”
Man, this girl sure can talk. I think I'll just stuff my face instead. Boy, I am starving.
The only person I don't hear congratulating is Sirius. But, of course, his lips are locked with his girlfriend, Ellie.
Brushing the uninviting image of Sirius and Ellie snogging out of my mind, I decide to just focus on my dinner instead. Well, assuming I haven't lost my appetite yet from the sounds they're making right across the table from me. Until… well, my attempts to block out all sounds from the other side of the table was going pretty well and I was just about through with my mashed potatoes when I hear, “Sirius, not in public…”
WHAT THE BLOODY HELL?!
I gag and start coughing violently.
Remus pats me on the back sympathetically. “You'll get used to it.”
I look at him incredulously. “Get used to it?!” I repeat, aghast. “Don't tell me I actually have to put up with this for three more years? You have got to be kidding me!”
I steal an annoyed glance at Sirius and immediately regret it. Cursing, I wipe my mouth with my napkin and slam my fork down on the table.
Sirius breaks away, his hand still… somewhere indecent. “Hey, what's up with you?”
I glare at him irritably. “To think for one moment, I actually thought you were a nice guy.” And with that, I storm off.
“Oi! Where you going?” I hear Sirius call after me.
Huh, I wonder, Sirius, I wonder. I'm ignoring him. I am so ignoring him. What was that? You wanna talk? Nope. I'm ignoring you, so HA! Ignoring, ignoring, igno—
Something hits me in the back of my head and I spin around to catch it just before it hits the ground.
I look up to see Remus waving at me. “You'll need it!”
I open the crumbled note and read slowly, “The password is 'blabbermouth.’”
Huh, yeah you too, Remus. Oh wait, I think it means something. I remember Lily mentioning that the entrance to the Gryffindor Common Room is some sort of portrait hole and… something about a fat lady… I think? I mean, I was eating some seriously delicious pot roast at the time, so can you blame me for not paying attention?
Hmm, well, let's see then…
Blimey, it took a while to find this place!
Once I got onto the 7th Floor though, the fat lady portrait wasn't so hard to find. I mean, it's pretty big and she's kind of fat. Hence the name.
“Excuse me?” the portrait says indignantly.
“Damn, I must've said that out loud,” I mutter.
The Fat Lady looks at me with narrowed eyes. “Password?” she asks in a disapproving tone.
“'Password'?” I repeat, puzzled. “You're the portrait that Lily was talking about right? She was saying something about some sort of portrait hole.” I examine the portrait carefully. “So, am I supposed to make a hole in the portrait or something? That's a shame. This is such a nice painting.”
“Heavens no!” The Fat Lady flattens her dress irritably. “I shall ask you the password and you shall tell me the password and then I will let you in! None of this hole making nonsense!”
“Ohhhhh!” I slap my palm to my forehead. “Sorry, lady, my mistake. Blabbermouth!”
The Fat Lady huffs. “Indeed!”
And with that she swings open only to reveal, indeed, a hole… behind the portrait. Ah ha. I have never been more dull-witted in my life. Okay, probably have, but… yeah.
I climb in and swing the portrait closed behind me. I barely have time for my eyes to sweep the amazing Common Room that I've only seen the pictures of in Hogwarts, a History when I hear a “Meow!” down by my feet.
“Vuxta!” I squeal. “Did Mum send you over beforehand, kitty? What's this ya got for me?” I raise my eyebrow at the letter in her mouth. I swoop her up in my arms and examine the envelope curiously.
Huh, it’s from Mum.
I take a quick glance around and make my way up the stairs to the left, as per the directions from Lily in her little verbal tour in the Great Hall. Once I finally lay down on my bed, which looks excellent by the way, I tear open the letter and toss the envelope onto my night stand.
My eyes scan the parchment. Ah, just the usual motherly questions. Did you make any friends? Do you like the food? Did you get sick on the plane? …It's a train, Mum. Did you forget to pack anything? I'll send it over if you forgot! Blahdy blah blah.
Well, better reply to make her happy. But hold on now…
Something at the end of her letter catches my eye.
“I probably mentioned this to you already,” I mutter, reading it to myself, “but remember that Black boy your age that I was talking to your father about? Well, he's your fiancé you know, so I hope you two will get along!”
What’s that supposed to mean?
I toss the letter on the bed and start petting Vuxta absently.
Black boy? I mean, I did hear Mum and Dad chatting about making ties with the Black family over dinner a while back, but what’s all this fiancé rubbish about? Is this some sort of joke? I don't know anyone from the Black family. Well, except that one time we visited their house, but that was ages ago. Plus, it was during the school year, so only Regulus was home. Hmm… who was his brother aga—
“Cecilia!” Lily exclaims as she bursts into the dormitories.
I spin around on my bed to see her holding a bowl of chocolate pudding in her hand.
“How could you run off like that? You missed dessert!”
I take the pudding from her outstretched hand gratefully. “Thanks, I was getting hungry.” I did skip most of dinner after all.
Lily sits down on the corner of my bed with a meaningful look in her eyes. “Look, I know he's seems unreasonably annoying, but he's Sirius Black! You don't need to waste your effort getting mad at him all the time. He's bound to go around snogging every girl he sees—”
“Yeah, yeah, I know… wait, WHAT?!” I fling the pudding out of my hands and onto the bed, not really caring where it landed. “What did—did you just say—is his name—LILY, WHAT?!”
Lily looks at me in alarm. “What's eating you, mate?”
“Sirius Black…” I grab Lily's shoulders in shock. “His last name is Black?!”
Calling my subsequent ear-splitting shriek epic would be an understatment.