Once past the lake all first years and Hagrid, the large man, trekked up the stone steps and gathered around the monstrous oak door. Hagrid knocks- pounds more like- three times. The castle door swings open immediately. A rather tall witch dressed in emerald green robes stands there. Her brown hair is pulled back in a tight bun and her lips are pressed into stern line. Already I like her.
Hagrid smiles proudly at her. "The firs' years, Professor McGonagall." So this is Minerva McGonagall!
"Thank you, Hagrid. I will take them from here." She pushes the doors completely open revealing an entrance hall so big my house could easily fit with a fairly good sized yard as well. Torches dot the stone walls with light but I can't make out the ceiling it is so high. More stairs, these ones marble sit in front of us.
We follow Professor McGonagall across the flagged stone floor in a daze. It is all so wonderful! Voices through double doors on our right wake us from our trance. Everyone else must be in there. But we are led to an empty chamber off of the hall.
Professor McGonagall claps her hands twice to get our attention. Then, "Welcome to Hogwarts. The start of term banquet 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, while any rule breaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup, a great honor. I hope each and everyone of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours." She then advises us to look presentable and says that she will come back to get us in a moment.
I wonder what the different houses are like. Gryffindor sounds nice. Slytherin sounds creepy, like a snake.
Everyone starts whispering to each other wondering the same thing. A few gasp or jump as a dozen or so ghosts float through. Yes, I was one of the ones who jumped.
Professor McGonagall has returned. "Now, form a line and follow me."
We follow her into the Great Hall in more of a clump than a line. All but first years are seated at four long tables set with golden dishes. I look up and see floating candles in what looks like the sky.
Hermione nudges me and says, "It's bewitched to look like the sky outside. I read about it in Hogwarts, A History."
"I know, I've read it too," I explain quickly, stopping her from going on.
Near the front of the room Professor McGonagall places a stool in front of the raised platform where the teachers sit. She puts an old, pointed wizards hat on it. A tear by the brim opens into a mouth and then the hat starts singing:
"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 of heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs 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 I 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 entire hall explodes into applause. It dies down quickly as Professor McGonagall steps forward to explain that when she calls your name to sit down on the stool she will place the hat on your head to be sorted.
My whole body shakes as the first person, Hannah Abbott, is sorted into Hufflepuff. It didn't seem that bad. She sat there for a second or two and then the Sorting Hat shouted out her new house. One of the tables start whooping and invite her over enthusiastically.
"Hufflepuff!" She grins then hurries to sit next to Hannah.
The next two, a boy then a girl were sorted into Ravenclaw. The table second from the left clap appropriately. Unlike the high fives at the Hufflepuff table they shook hands with most of their new house.
"Brooke, Lydia!" I hear my name and my stomach drops to the floor. The walk up to the stool seems to take forever. I can feel all eyes on me. I sit down clumsily and have to slide my bottom back. My face must be so red by the time the Professor places the hat on my head. It slides down until it covers my eyes.
A voice near my head says, "Well, well, well! You've got courage, running away from home for such a chance. Plenty of wit- not enough of that going around lately. Curiosity, selflessness, very little self esteem though. I sense some anger as well, but not as much as a true Slytherin. Too independent for Hufflepuff...Better be RAVENCLAW!"
I sigh with relief and run over to my house table. I shake strangers hands, say hello, and smile. I sit down to watch the rest of the Sorting.
The first Gryffindor is called then a Slytherin soon after. A set of twins are called to different houses, one to Gryffindor and the other to Ravenclaw. She sits next to me but seems unsure of whether being separated from her lifelong friend was a good thing.
At the next name, Harry Potter, everyone but a few first years gasp and struggle to get a glimpse of him. I do too, I read his story in one of my books on the way here. He sits there longer than anyone else but is eventually called to Gryffindor. It seems a bomb has gone off when he goes over to his house. The redhead twins stand on the bench and shout "We got Potter!" over and over. Everyone stood up to cheer. I look back and see Professor Dumbledore, the Headmaster standing also. He hadn't stood for anyone else.
Four more students were sorted then Dumbledore stands up, spreads his arms wide open and beams. "Welcome! Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are; Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!"
My whole house stands and we applaud madly. That was brilliant, wouldn't you say? Everyone else claps nicely then begin to eat the food that appears on the tables.
"This is magnificent!" I state into the open. An older boy across from from me gives me a look that says, Well, duh! I ignore him, a trait I am well adapted at.
The food is delicious but I don't remember much of it. By the time to food arrived I was ready to go to bed. Looking around I know that I'm not the only one. Pamela Patil's eyes can hardly stay open.
After the dessert Dumbledore stands up to give out a few reminders. The speech was lost on tired ears but I got the basics. No magic in between classes, stay out of the forest, and the right hand corridor on the- fourth floor?- is out of bounds.
"And now before we go to bed, let us sing the school song!" I ribbon flows out of the Headmaster's wand forming the lyrics. Everyone sang to a different tune, I sing quietly so no one can hear me. Mostly I am just saying the words not singing.
"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 your best, we'll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot!"
The Weasley twins ended last on a very mournful note. After that we are instructed to follow our house prefects to our dormitories.
I stand up and follow behind a boy and a girl that lead us to the marble stairway. We start up and keep climbing until we get to the fifth floor. Then the prefects lead us down the hall a ways. We turn down a right corridor. At the end of this corridor we have the option to go straight or into an empty classroom on the right. On both walls are dark blue drapes that appear to be covering just the walls themselves. Someone pulls back part of it revealing a tight spiral staircase.
One by one we start up. The walls in the stairway are decorated with portraits that spew out facts to passersby.
"The paintings, they move!" I overhear an excited girl say behind me. I smile and wonder how any of this is possible.
The front of my house reaches the top. There is a door without a handle but with a knocker shaped like an eagle. A girl taps it against the wood three times and it comes to life.
In a pleasant voice the eagle asks, "When is it possible for nothing to exist?"
"You have to answer the question to be allowed in," explains the male prefect. "Anyone want to give it a go?" A lot of first years raise their hands to answer. I do not, I hate people looking at me. "How about you there?" He asks me anyway.
My face turns red but I nod slowly and make my way to the front of the line. "Er... well, everything is something and nothing is just the lack of something so as long as there is something it is not possible for nothing to exist until something is missing. Then it becomes nothing as the something is no longer there." My eyes never left my feet as I said this.
"Well put," the brass eagle says. The door swings open and I walk onto a wooden loft. It is nice and open with six tables spread throughout the room with four to five chairs each. Bulletins and book shelves cover the walls. To the left is a small staircase that wraps down the wall to the common room. The whole room is circular. One blue love seat and two recliners are placed near a fireplace directly under the loft. Another loveseat and recliner are near the stair case. On the right side of the room is a couch and three other chairs.
"This is The Loft. We study up here a lot. Reminders or notifications are put on the bulletins. Feel free to borrow books from the bookcases but at the end of the year they had better be put back." The prefect, Mark Bronson, leads us down the staircase. "This is the common room. There are plenty of seats so don't crown one area. And please don't rearrange the furniture. Kelly, will you show the girls to their dormitories?"
I follow Kelly the other prefect directly under The Loft. It appears to be a mini library under here. There are more books than any of my old schools had combined. On the right in the very back is a bookcase with a book with a really worn spine. Kelly pulls it halfway out and it slides to the side revealing a steep staircase. It is dark, only a candle every six yards lights up the wall-hugging stairway.
"This is usually the only way us geniuses get any exercise," Kelly jokes. We walk down the length of one floor and come to a landing with a door on the left. "Okay, first five girls here's your new room. Keep it neat and get along!"
Five girls stay behind and watch the rest of the group continue down the tower wall. We walk the distance of two floors this time and my legs feel like falling off. Five of us stay here and watch the group go past. I open the door.
My new room is amazing! Five beds are pressed horizontally against the walls. A large dresser sticks out at the head of each bed and a desk and chair at the foot. A large heater sits in the middle of the room. Soft blue carpet invites us to remove our shoes and prepare for bed. The dressers and desks have large backs that extend to the ceiling making little cubicles around our beds for privacy. My trunk is already under my bed, my clothes neatly folded in their drawers. Roo is sleeping in her cage that is hanging from a hook above my desk. I change into my pajamas and climb into bed. I am asleep in a flash and I know that the other girls are too.
Tonight I have wild dreams of floating candles, magic wands, and lots of books.