Chapter 14: The Sorting
Sopping wet and dripping, Lily and I followed the rest of the first years up to an oak door in the castle wall. Holly Jade led us all into the Entrance Hall, an attentive and enthusiastic look on her face. She was clutching a book in her hand that read: Hogwarts: a history.
The Entrance Hall was beautiful in many different ways. It was so big that you could have crammed half a dozen replicas of my house into it. Flaming torches lit the golden railings on the grand, marble staircase and reflected off the suits of armour standing resolutely by the walls. On the right were a set of double doors standing open, permitting laughter and cries of welcome to escape the room into the Entrance Hall where we were standing.
Holly had begun to walk quickly towards the doors when a very severe looking woman stepped between her and the room and looked down her nose at her. Holly looked up and smiled but when she saw that the woman’s lips remained in a tight line her smile faded and she began to look scared.
‘The firs’ years, Professor McGonagall,’ Hagrid said from behind us.
‘Thank you Hagrid, I will take them from here,’ Professor McGonagall said. ‘Follow me, please.’
We followed her into a small room where we all huddled together and watched her as she swept her magenta-robed-self towards the front of the room. Her dark hair was pulled back into a tight bun at the back of her head. A few strands of grey hair were visible on her hairline and her face was lined in places that suggested she frowned a lot. She gave us all a tight smile.
‘Good Evening and welcome to Hogwarts,’ said Professor McGonagall. ‘The start-of-term banquet will begin- good heavens! What ever happened to you two?’ She stared at us incredulously. ‘It’s not raining outside is it?’
‘No, Professor. We fell into the lake,’ Lily mumbled.
‘Ah, yes. Come here please.’
We made our way nervously to the front of the room, squeezing past the rest of the first years. James tried again to trip me as I passed.
‘You’re in trouble now, Snivellus,’ he hissed.
Professor McGonagall pointed her wand at us and Lily closed her eyes and held her breath. From somewhere in the room someone sniggered uncontrollably. A warm gust of wind blew about my eye-lashes and forced my eyes shut. The wind stopped as suddenly as it had begun and I opened my eyes. Professor McGonagall had already lowered her wand and stowed it beneath her robes. I felt warm and dry and suddenly very sleepy. She shooed us back to the clump of students and straightened up.
‘Where was I? Ah yes. The Sorting Ceremony will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory, and spend free time in your house common room.
‘The four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has its own noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your house points, and any rule breaking will cause your house to lose points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup. I hope each of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours. The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you all smarten yourselves up as much as you can while you are waiting. I shall return when we are ready for you,’ said Professor McGonagall. ‘Please wait quietly.’
She swept out of the room and the whispering started.
Lily was as white as a sheet. ‘How do they sort us?’
‘They place a talking hat on your head that can read your mind and see your qualities,’ I said happily. This made her turn a delicate shade of green. ‘Oh come on, Lil! It’ll be fun! But you still better be in Slytherin!’
She smiled weakly.
‘We’re ready for you.’ I looked up and saw Professor McGonagall standing at the door, gazing at the huddle of confused children expectantly. ‘Come along now.’
She led us into the Great Hall. Holly Jade was trotting on McGonagall’s heels and Lily and I were right behind her, Lily clutching tightly to my hand like it was a life line.
I gasped. If I thought the Entrance Hall was grand it was shabby compared to this space. The Great Hall was lit by thousands of candles, floating in mid-air above four long tables. Each table was lined with students wrapped in black robes, draped with fabric of each of the house colours and littered with glittering, golden, empty plates and goblets. At the top of the hall was another long table that stood perpendicular to the other four tables. The teachers, each robed in different, elegantly designed robes sat at this table, gazing out at the sea of chattering students. I looked up and saw the moon and stars outside. I didn’t think there was a ceiling at all until Holly turned around and whispered:
‘It actually is the ceiling. I know it’s hard to believe but I read about it in Hogwarts: a history. It’s supposed to have a spell on it that forces it to mimic the sky outside.’
We reached the front of the hall a hush fell upon the Hall. On a rickety stool stood a tattered old hat that had a rip near the rim. I glanced up and saw Professor Hagrid taking his place at the teachers’ table. I turned my attention back to the Sorting Hat. As I watched, the rip opened wider and served as a mouth as the hat began to sing:
‘Oh, you may not think I’m pretty,
But don’t judge on what you see,
I’ll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.
There’s nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can’t see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffis are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
if you’ve a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You’ll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
So put me on! Don’t be afraid!
And don’t get in a flap!
You’re in safe hands (though I have none)
For I’m a Thinking Cap!”
The whole hall burst into applause as the hat finished its song. It bowed and became still. Beside me, Lily swallowed.
Professor McGonagall now stepped forward holding a long roll of parchment.
‘When I call your name, you will come forward, put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted,’ she said.
‘Avery, Archemus!’ A cruel looking blonde haired boy walked to the stool. ‘Slytherin!’
The table on the right, draped in emerald green and glittering silver erupted in cheers as the boy went to sit down.
‘Black, Sirius!’ I made a vow to never call him by his first name again now that I knew his last name and the same with James when I finally knew his.
Black made his way up to the stool and sat down gently. Professor McGonagall placed the hat on his head. The hat sat lopsided and it seemed to ponder for a moment before shouting.
The table on the far left cheered loudly and nearly muffled the groans of the Slytherins. Black took the hat from his head and, with a grin that stretched from ear to ear he walked towards the table draped in maroon and gold. James slapped him on the back as he passed.
‘Evans, Lily!’ My heart skipped a beat and Lily drew in a sharp breath. I squeezed her hand reassuringly and let it go gently, using it to put pressure on her back to make her go up to the stool.
My heart regained its strength and pounded loud and clear. I was glad no one else could hear it. I crossed my fingers behind my back and wished for her to be in Slytherin. I bit my lip and tasted blood. I wanted her to be in Slytherin so badly it hurt.
She walked to the stool on trembling
legs. Professor McGonagall dropped the Sorting Hat onto her head, and barely a
second after it had touched her dark red hair, the hat cried, “Gryffindor!”
I let out a tiny groan. Lily took off the hat, handed it back to Professor McGonagall, then hurried toward the cheering Gryffindors, but as she went she glanced back at me, and there was a sad little smile on her face. I saw Black move up the bench to make room for her. She took one look at him, seemed to recognize him from the train, folded her arms, and firmly turned her back on him. I felt proud of her until distress overpowered pride. My chest ached and I felt like I could cry at any moment.
I had to be in Gryffindor to protect her from those boys! But mother would be so disappointed in me if I were in Gryffindor.
The sorting continued though my world had come to a stop.
I watched as a Hufflepuff and then a Griffindor and then two Slytherin’s were sorted. A girl called Jasmine Kilter (Hufflepuff), Remus Lupin (Griffindor), Infirmos Mulciber and Regina Parkinson (Slytherin).
Regina’s smirk made her beautiful face look ugly as she made her way to the Slytherin table and sat beside an older looking boy who resembled her greatly. Ashining blue and orange badge was pinned to the front of his robes.
The hat took a while to decide but finally it yelled, ‘Griffindor!’
Potter. What a boring, common name.
As soon as the hat touched a hair on Potter’s head it yelled ‘Griffindor!’
Finally, when there were half a dozen of us left to be sorted, ‘Snape, Severus!’
I walked up to the stool and sat down upon it, a silent battle raging inside of me.
The Sorting Hat was placed on my head and I cast a quick glance at Lily before it fell over my eyes. I started as, inside my head, The Sorting Hat talked.
Where shall I put you, I wonder?
Hmmm… You have done a very brave and chivalrous thing tonight. These are the traits of a Gryffindor.
Yes… Gryffindor… that seems fitting doesn’t it? Wanting to join Gryffindor for Lily Evans knowing that you will get bullied by Potter and his friends? That’s a braver thing to do than people would think.
It unsettled me to think that the hat could see everything inside my head but I sat quietly anyway.
But what’s this? Cunning and ambitious? An ancestry of Slytherins? A growing fascination of the Dark Arts? Slytherin would do great things for you. Oh, you don’t think you have a fascination with the Dark Arts? It’s all here in your head. Your memories… your mother used a spell called Levicorpus on your father that hoisted him into the air by his ankle. What was it you asked?
With a sinking feeling, I remember.
You asked what it was, didn’t you? Yes, yes… you cannot argue with the Sorting Hat. But where should I put you? That is the real question… Brave, chivalrous, cunning and ambitious. An ancestry of Slytherins and a fascination with the Dark Arts. But yet… a friendship with a Gryffindor that encourages your bravery to shine out of you when she really needs you. A bond… so strong… that only the most horrific of acts is bound to break it…
The tension was unbearable.
Gryffindor, Slytherin, Gryffindor, Slytherin, Gryffindor… Yes Gryffindor. No… Slytherin! Uhhh…
‘Slytherin!’ The hat yelled loudly. I jumped to my feet and made my way to my House Table where the Slytherins were cheering loudly for me.
I shook hands with a boy who had long, platinum blonde hair. ‘Lucius Malfoy, Snape. Really pleased to meet you.’ I noticed that he had a large Prefect badge on the front of his robes.
Over at the Gryffindor table, Black put one finger under Lily’s chin and made a fake, sulking face at her and I saw him mouth, ‘Oh come on, Lilysweet. You know you want to be friends with us!’
Lily stood up quickly and walked to the opposite end and side of the table to them and sat next to a small girl with auburn hair and introduced herself. She stole a glance over at me and saw me staring at her sadly. She gave me a tight smile and turned back to the little girl.
When the sorting was over, Professor Dumbledore stood up and started to make his way to the owl shaped lectern.
‘Now before we become engrossed in our start of term feast, I would like to say –’
The Sorting Hat made an odd coughing noise.
‘Alas, haha! The Sorting Hat has not yet finished!’ Dumbledore said, smiling widely.
The Sorting Hat began to sing again.
These troubled times, I won’t deny,
Seem dark and full of hate.
But right now serve yourself some pie.
And wipe and clean your slate.
See the light where it is dark,
Or turn over a new leaf,
Don’t let the darkness leave a mark,
And make a point of self-belief.
Malfoy leaned over and whispered in my ear, “It’s talking about He Who Must Not Be Named!”
When I looked worried the boy from the robe store, Mulciber, and the cruel-looking, blonde boy Avery leaned over, ‘You have nothing to worry about, Snape. Something tells me you won’t be killed by Him anytime soon. You’re like us… We’ll protect you… just do everything we say,’ Avery said and raised his eyebrows meaningfully.
When the song was finished, there was yet another round of applause for the Sorting Hat.
I found Avery’s comment unsettling.
My thoughts circled and repeated themselves inside my head.
I am safe from Voldemort if I do what my friends say. But Voldemort isn’t really scaring me at the moment. I don’t know what he’s capable of… so I don’t have anything to be afraid of except His name and the thought of Him… perhaps I should be afraid. I am safe from Voldemort if I do what my friends say. Perhaps I should keep them close until I find out more about this mysterious ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ character.
‘Right… Got it,’ I said confidently and received a pat on the back from Avery.
Dumbledore began to speak again.
“I would like to say a few words. First years are reminded that the Dark Forest is out of bounds to all students. Also, the caretaker Mr Filch has asked me to remind you that the dungeon corridor is out of bounds and it is forbidden to go through any doors except for the door leading to the staircase that descends into the Slytherin Common Room. On a lighter note, I would like you all to welcome our new Muggle Studies teacher, Quirinus Quirrell.”
A round of half-hearted clapping broke out and the new Professor stood and raised his hand to acknowledge the applause. His hair was dark and matched his eyes. His face was handsome but he had an air of unkemptness about him and I wondered vaguely what had brought him to Hogwarts to become a Professor.
The golden platters were suddenly loaded with any type of food I could think of. There was pasta, vegetables, chicken, lamb, beef, steak, sausages and sauces that I didn’t even have a name for. I ate until I couldn’t hold anymore down only to see the platters empty and refill with an obscene amount of wondrous desserts. I forced down a pastry or two and then felt too ill to eat anymore but Malfoy assured me:
‘Don’t worry; you can eat more dessert tomorrow night,’ he smiled, revealing dimples in his cheeks.
When the feast was over I followed Malfoy and a girl called Narcissa Black.
She smiled at me with her face tilted towards the ground but her eyes looking at me with an unsettling, knowing sparkle. She made me uncomfortable. Her platinum blonde hair was the same as Lucius’ and seemed to blend with her skin so that you couldn’t tell where her hairline started and finished. She had an otherworldly look to her. I didn’t like it.
The Prefects led us down many flights of stairs until I felt suddenly colder and the air was stiff. We stepped out into a dingy looking corridor that was poorly lit with flaming torches on the walls.
I noticed there was only one door in this corridor, and it was at the end of the hall. It seemed very isolated and desolate. I wondered why Malfoy and Black were looking at it so nervously.
Before I had time to think, a deafening, soul-wrenching scream rang through the corridor from the door at the end. The scream conveyed a pressure in my ears that left them ringing and as I threw my arms over my head to protect them, my heart filled with terror.
Narcissa and Malfoy looked at each other worriedly and Narcissa said shakily, ‘Come on irst Years. It’s nothing to worry about!’
Avery saw me staring at the door and gave me a knowing smirk that told me he knew more than he should.
They led us down the corridor, walking quickly until we reached a plain expanse of stone wall.
I looked at it curiously but my unspoken question was answered when Narcissa Black said, ‘No dirty blood.’
I was pleased with our noble password until, with a jolt, I remembered Lily.
The wall slid aside and revealed a grand, stone walled space lit by green lights around the room. All thoughts from the night were blown from my mind as my eyes took in the scene.
Several couches stood near the fireplace where, on either side, hung the Slytherin silver and green flag. Directly above, was the large Slytherin emblem; a huge snake, rearing up and about to strike. A wide staircase that split into two further up I assumed led to the dormitories.
Malfoy and Black explained the conditions of no boys allowed in the girls’ dormitories and showed us around the room and confirmed my assumption, telling us that the staircase led to the dormitories.
We left for bed soon after this and made our way up to our dormitories. I shared a room with Mulciber, Avery and Longbottom. Longbottom was a first year I hadn’t met before but he seemed harmless… if not a little stuck up.
Our beds were four posters with green hangings and our belongings had already been brought up from the train. We made it like our homes (messy in my case) and moved in completely by putting our clothes in our dressers.
We changed and hopped into bed. Mulciber and I were on one side of the room and Avery and Longbottom on the other.
All the misery and unanswered questions came rushing back when I closed my eyes that night. Mulicber kept bugging me to talk to him but all I wanted was to be alone with my thoughts. Everything overwhelmed me and a single tear rolled from under my eyelashes. I lay for hours wondering how Lily was feeling.