It was like nothing he had ever seen before. Glowing lights from the castle's windows danced like stars in the sky, making Remus' eyes twinkle with gratification. The castle was huge, even from the extended space between Remus and Hogwarts School, it seemed to be towering over even the largest of trees that vacated the area around it. No doubt the trees were as old, if not older, than the castle itself. It felt like a dream to Remus, he was expecting to hear his mother’s blazing voice any second.
To his surprise, her wailing utterance never erupted and he was soon following a populous crowd out of the Hogwarts Express.
“Firs’ years!” The booming voice nearly knocked Remus to the frigid ground in fright. He didn’t have to look hard to see where the voice had transpired from, because standing at the end of the boisterous crowd was a man so elevated Remus had to bend his head back several inches just to peer up at his face. “Firs’ years, this way! Com’ on now!”
“That’s one big man,” James muttered, copying Remus’ move and bending his head back to see the grinning giant-like creature. “Well, I think it’s a man.”
“What else could he be?” Peter wondered, his voice even stronger than it had been on the train. He, too, had bent his back to gaze maladroitly up at the man.
“A giant,” Sirius said, grinning broadly.
"Giants are a lot taller than that," James said loudly, his eyes shining bright with wonder. "I suppose he's some kind of other creature. One that's frightening and exciting at the same time. Or dangerous and malicious. Now that would be exciting, wouldn't it? I'd love to meet a creature like that."
“He could have gotten into some kind of potion, you know,” Remus said quickly, not liking James' fascination with dangerous creatures. The three boys turned to stare incredulously at Remus, who instantly dropped his head. He pushed his way forward toward the man before any of them could say anything, following the other first years (who were muttering and whispering about the man behind their hands).
Claiming someone was a giant wasn't the best thing to do, most would jump to many conclusions about the matter, Remus thought to himself in hopes he could forget James' last statement.
"Good, good. Now let's get goin' shall we," the monstrous man said, his mouth hardly visible behind his evasive beard and mustache. "We're takin' the lake." He led the group, taking long strides that forced the new students to jog to keep up with his fast pace.
The walk was short and winding, their path led them straight to a small bay where boats littered the still water.
"Now, on'y four ter a boat." The giant man took one whole boat for himself, it bobbed precariously in the water when he jumped in not so gracefully. Remus was sure it would have went under if magic wasn't involved.
He jumped inside the first boat he saw and glanced around. James, Peter, and Sirius followed in after him, all looking extremely giddy with large grins on their faces. Remus sighed and looked around again, noticing for the first time just how many first years there were.
His observing was cut short as their boat jerked forward and began gliding across the water. Looking around, he noticed he wasn't the only one surprised by the sudden movement. In the boat next to theirs, a girl with her red hair in pigtails squealed loudly, the boy next to her laughing jovially at her.
The boats meandered through the water, bobbing on the cool liquid underneath and swaying in the small breeze. Many times, the boats passed under short trees, making the boys duck and cover themselves to avoid being knocked in the water or scratched from the branches. Several minutes passed before the castle could be viewed clearly. Lights danced from the windows, illuminating the castle vibrantly.
Without warning, the boats all stopped instantly at the water's end. The four boys, along with everyone else, was lunged forward, some toppling over the front of the boats; Remus included.
He winced and picked himself up from the ground as James came to his side. "Nice tumble there, Remus," he laughed.
"Er…yeah," Remus muttered, hitting the dirt from his pants and robes quickly and looking around.
"Now," the oversized man began. "When we get up ter the castle, ye'll have ter wait fer Professor McGonagall. Yeh might want ter smart yerselves up before the sorting begins." Then he walked off toward the castle, beckoning them to follow.
Up stone steps and through large double doors, the students soon stood in what Remus guessed was the Entrance Hall. A chandelier hung high above from the ceiling, casting a dim light over the room. If Remus wasn't so nervous, he would have thoroughly enjoyed being there.
They were soon left alone in the large room, waiting quietly for the Professor that was supposed to come. A stillness had come across the group that made Remus feel anxious, he gnawed on the inside of his cheek jumping at the smallest of noises.
Quite suddenly, however, the tense atmosphere was replaced with a new one; fear. They weren't alone in the hall, a blue man had joined them. It took a moment for Remus to realize that is wasn't a man at all, but a ghost of some sort. The ghost cackled at them with a large grin on his face, holding something in his hands.
"Firsties!" he bellowed, and without warning, pelted small objects at them. Remus ducked down as two hit him painfully on the head.
"PEEVES!" a woman's voice yelled over the shrieks and shuffling of students. "I told you last year about bothering the new students!" With a laugh, the ghost named Peeves disappeared from sight, throwing the remainder of objects down upon the students. Remus realized they were rocks.
The flustered woman turned to the group of cowering first years, her thin lips looking menacing. "Well, it appears you've met Peeves, the Hogwarts poltergeist." She glared at the spot where he had vanished. "I assure you he'll offer no problem if you ignore him. But that is of no matter right now," the woman walked slowly back and forth in front of the students, looking as if she were about to lecture them, and from the look on her face, Remus guessed there was a lecture coming.
"Hogwarts is a traditional, hardworking school. You will be expected to work and achieve. Slacking off is strictly prohibited." The woman tightened her lips as she looked sternly down the bridge of her nose at the whimpering first years. "Your house is like that of your family. You will attend classes together, dine together, and live together in your dorms. Any rule breaking or deleterious behavior and you will be docked points.
"Your stay here at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is important for your future. As it is expected that you gain knowledge, your schooling courses are most important to you. Now, follow me and we will begin the sorting ceremony."
Remus' eyes widened eagerly as the woman turned on her heel and lead the group through massive, oak doors. He stumbled behind Sirius, who bounded enthusiastically behind the woman.
Wondrous eyes followed the collection of new students as they filed into the Great Hall, their own eyes filled with absolute interest as they looked about the glowing room. Remus' eyes bulged as he stared up the ceiling, which actually didn't appear to be a ceiling at all. It looked as if the roof had been removed, revealing the night's sky.
Candles floated over the five tables, four located at the entrance, and one at the top that held, what Remus assumed them to be, the Professors. The man that had lead them across the lake looked down at the students, a smile (or what appeared to be a smile, with his mouth hidden behind his entangled hair it was almost impossible to tell) on his face.
The woman stopped at the end of the narrow passageway formed between two tables full of eager students, and turned to look at the first year again. "Form a line along here." She then turned away from the first years again, walking briskly to the edge of the room and disappeared behind a door. Remus rubbed his eyes, almost positive that the door hadn't been there previously. He shook his head, convincing himself that he had been far too interested in the room before him. Moments later the woman reappeared, carrying with her a bundle of, what it appeared to be, tattered cloth and a chipped, four-legged stool.
Slowly, as if trying to prevent it from cracking any more, she sat the stool on the top of a slightly raised platform, setting atop it the ragged cloth. Squinting, Remus realized it wasn't just a piece of cloth, it was a hat. Looking around, he noted his fellow class mates had the same confused expression on their faces. Shaking his head wonderingly, he turned to look up again at the stool.
What happened next was something he definitely wasn't expecting, the hat moved! Closing his eyes tightly, he shook his head yet again, then re-opened them. The hat continued to move!
"Wow," Remus breathed under his breath. As if it couldn't get more bizarre, the hat (or that's what it looked to be, Remus pondered whether it was really a human stuck in the form of a hat, seeing as it appeared to be alive), began to sing.
A thousand years and then some more,
When I was young and new,
There stood the mighty Founders Four,
Their plans were great and true.
A castle just for unity,
For those who wished to grow,
This wonderful opportunity,
Was their ultimate goal.
Dear Hufflepuff with yellow hair,
She fought hard for her honor,
She kept the peace and laws all fair,
And remained pure and proper.
Ravenclaw with her well known grace,
She could solve any tricky task,
She'd solve it in all with easy haste,
In her intelligent mask.
Proud Gryffindor dressed up in gold,
His chivalry couldn't be ignored,
He was daring, strong, proud and bold,
Defeated all with a single sword.
Young Slytherin was sly and quick,
Dressed only in green and silver,
Only the best were in his pick,
He made not a final offer.
Then one year they fought and fought,
Which aided in the sly one's defeat,
He left the three for a new future he sought,
The Founders plans were beat.
They couldn't make it without unity,
They all wanted to shine the most,
Their fallen community,
Lost them their fourth host.
So I tell you now to look around,
Become friends with everyone,
Hard times are sure to make a sound,
Make the most of enemies none.
Gasps of shock and wide eyes soon filled over the first years. Remus doubted weather any of them heard what the hat was saying, for they all stared dumbstruck at it.
"I will call your name," McGonagall said as the hat's song ended. "And you will sit on the stool and place the hat on your head. It will announce what house you are in, and you are to join that table.
Remus watched curiously as student after student slowly approached the stool. For some the hat sat on their head for seconds before it bellowed out their chosen house, for others, it sat there motionless for nearly a minute. Sirius Black bounced proudly up to the stool and placed it confidently on his head. It sat there for almost two minutes when it finally shouted "Gryffindor!" Remus noticed the uneasy look on Sirus' face as he walked to the table, but it was soon replaced by a forced smile. Remus wondered if it was really as bad as it looked.
By the time it was his turn, his palms were sweaty and his knees shook dangerously.
He gulped and let out a long breath before approaching the stool. He sat down carefully, almost scared that the stool would break under his weight. He saw the whole school, staring up at him, some with large curious eyes and others with hands clutched over their growling stomachs. He placed the hat on his head, it slid over his eyes, casting him in complete darkness.
"Yes, you do like your books, don't you child?" a voice whispered in his eyes. His heart thumped as he realized the hat was talking to him. "Yes, yes, you'd do wonderful in Ravenclaw. But, you know, I think you'd do great elsewhere. Oh yes, now I'm sure that you will be perfect for…"
"Gryffindor!" Cheers and applause met his ears almost instantly. He pulled the hat from his head, his stomach not as knotted as before, and sat down at the end of the Gryffindor table across from Sirius, who grinned at him. And, for the first time since he arrived on the Hogwarts Express, Remus felt his lips pull back into a grin, too.