Neville Longbottom’s face had changed a lot in the last nineteen years. His hair had become longer, coming down to the bottom of his shoulder blades, and had started showing signs of grey. It was even tied in a ponytail now. The roundness of his face was gone, and his cheeks were slightly sunken. Overall, it gave him a handsome look. He was no longer the old, forgetful Neville Longbottom; he was a tough and striking man, commonly known in Hogwarts as Professor Longbottom.
“Hey, Hagrid,” he greeted pleasantly. His voice was quite deep and strong. “Thanks a lot for bringing in the new students. You can go up to the Great Hall if you want, I’ll take it from here.”
“Thanks, Neville,” Hagrid replied, running a large hand through his tangled hair. “I’ll be goin’ up ter the feast. Feelin’ really hungry… see yer there.” He shuffled past Neville and went in.
“Right, now,” began Neville, looking at the students. “Before you lot go up to the feast to get sorted, I might as well tell you some things about Hogwarts. There are four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. When you stay here, your house will be like your family. If you break any rules, you will lose house points, but if you achieve anything good, you will be awarded house points. At the end of the year, the House Cup will be awarded to the house with most points. This is a really great achievement, so you better stay good and try not to lose any points. Got any questions?”
They all shook their heads.
“Good. Now, follow me please.”
They followed Neville (or as they should call him now, Professor Longbottom) through the double doors and into the antechamber. Albus looked all around him. The castle was a lot different than he had expected. He thought that the castle would be very big, but he was wrong… it was <i>humongous!</i> It was a lot bigger than he had thought it would have been. But before he could register anything else, Professor Longbottom stopped and turned around to face the group of new students.
“Now, stay here. When we are ready for you, I’ll come again and get you, okay?” He went back in.
The wait was a long and awkward one. No one said anything. Albus looked around at his fellow students and saw that they were about as nervous as him. Andrew’s face was a shade of green, and he looked really uneasy. Albus gulped, and thought about what laid ahead. James had told him really scary stories about the Sorting, and Albus hoped they were all false. While they were in the car on their way to King’s Cross, he was going on and on about how the teachers had taken them to the Forbidden Forest to wrestle Acromantulas after they had been sorted into Gryffindor, just to see how brave they were. Even though his parents had shut James up, Albus wasn’t too sure. What if they did have to wrestle Acromantulas? Albus thought he’d faint.
Finally after two minutes, though it seemed like a million years to Albus, Professor Longbottom came back, a smile plastered on his face. “Come on then, you lot.” he said. “The Sorting is about to start.”
Albus gulped. This was it. The moment he had been dreading. Albus’ leg was feeling all squishy; he was actually surprised that he didn’t collapse. He hobbled through the doors leading to the Great Hall with the others. It was full of people; the four house tables were crammed with students who were all staring at them as if they were performing a circus act. He could see James and his cousins sitting at the Gryffindor table, which was the leftmost. He honestly wished that he would be sitting there along with them and also, if they landed in Gryffindor too, Rose and Andrew.
He looked up towards the staff table and saw Professor McGonagall, sitting at the middle of the table. A few chairs away from her was Hagrid. He then looked at where Professor Longbottom was. He seemed to be busy with a three-legged stool, on top of which was a ragged, ancient-looking, pointed hat. Albus knew what that hat was for. It was the Sorting Hat, which would sort him into his house. His stomach lurched as he looked at it.
Once Professor Longbottom had finished with it, he stood beside the stool, clutching a long roll of parchment. Professor McGonagall tapped her goblet with her spoon; everyone fell silent at once and looked at the Hat. For a few seconds there was total silence, then a seam of the hat opened like a mouth, and it started to sing:
A thousand years have passed,
Since Hogwarts school was made,
It has faced many wars
But never did it fade.
We saw a lot of students,
With reasonable wit,
I sorted them all perfectly
Exactly as they sit.
Now all you new students,
I shall sort you as well,
I’ll see within your minds
And where you’ll go I’ll tell.
You may belong to Gryffindor,
Where stay the brave at heart,
Their gallantry and loyalty
Set them fully apart!
You may be placed in Ravenclaw,
Where the smart and witty stay,
Their intelligence and intellect
Help them all the way!
You may fit into Hufflepuff,
Where virtuousness dwells,
Their honesty and faithfulness
Win them all the duels!
You may go to Slytherin,
Where the brains are on fire,
Their cunningness and slyness
Get them what they desire!
So take this old hat in your hands,
And simply put it on,
I’ll just observe your minds and thoughts
And tell where you belong!
The Hat finished singing and the Great Hall burst into applause. Behind him Andrew said, “That’s all we’ve gotta do? I thought that we’d have to do some magic or something!”
Professor McGonagall tapped her goblet again, and the Great Hall became quiet once more. Professor Longbottom unfurled the scroll and called out:
The boy named John scurried to the Hat and put it on. A few seconds later, Hat shouted, “Ravenclaw!”
The Ravenclaw table erupted with applause. John took off the hat and walked quickly towards the Ravenclaw table, as Professor Longbottom called, “Arden, Alexander.” Albus heard Alexander gulp (he was right in front of Albus) as he walked nervously towards the Sorting Hat. Professor Longbottom put it on Alexander’s head. He sat there for about twenty seconds before Hat shouted, “Hufflepuff!” Alexander seemed relieved as he removed the hat and walked towards the Hufflepuff table, which was applauding loudly.
A few more people were sorted, most of who became Ravenclaws, or Hufflepuffs, but the first to become a Slytherin was a rough looking kid named Albie Darrenson. The Sorting Hat announced him a Slytherin even before the hat touched his head. Albus thought that the boy would be pure evil. The next girl, Nancy Elliot, was the first Gryffindor. The whole table started clapping. Once she had reached the table, Albus saw Victoire get up and congratulate her.
The sorting continued like that. Professor Longbottom quickly finished off with the Es, the Fs, the Gs and so on. Albus did not pay much attention to it, for he was more worried about himself. He honestly did not want to end up Slytherin.
At last, something got Albus’s attention back. Professor Longbottom had called out “Malfoy, Scorpius.” Albus saw him drag his feet to the tool and put on the Sorting Hat. Oh, please, Albus thought, rolling his eyes. Why the formality? Everyone knows he’ll end up in Slytherin. But…
“GRYFFINDOR!” shouted Hat.
Albus was astounded. Scorpius Malfoy, a GRYFFINDOR? But his whole clan has been in Slytherin! Then... A dreadful thought occurred to him, and he felt the ground being dragged away from under his feet. It’s possible that I’ll end up in Slytherin!
Hardly anyone in Gryffindor applauded, and even the Slytherins all looked dumbstruck. Albus saw Malfoy go up to the table with a confused look on his face.
The Sorting however, continued as normal, though Professor Longbottom had seemed a bit shocked himself after Malfoy’s sorting. But, almost too soon for Albus, Professor Longbottom called his name. Albus jumped. He wasn’t ready yet! He gulped and slowly walked towards the Sorting Hat. Everyone seemed totally focused on him. Once he went up there, Professor Longbottom winked at him. He tried to wink back, but ended up blinking with both his eyes.
Albus sat on the stool fretfully and looked towards the Gryffindor table. He saw Victoire wave at him, saw Fred, Dominique and Louis give him thumbs-ups, and saw James mouth Slytherin at him. He tried to ignore that, but ended up more nervous. Professor Longbottom put the hat on his head. Albus cast one look towards the Great hall before the hat covered his eyes.
“Aha,” said a voice into his ear– it seemed to come out of the hat itself. “A Potter, huh? You seem a lot like the good half of your father. I can see courage, a lot of it! Oh, yes, there is talent too, and a lot of loyalty as well. You’d do very well in Gryffindor, you know, oh yes.”
“Please let me be in Gryffindor, please,” Albus begged quietly.
“You want Gryffindor?” the Hat asked. Albus nodded. “Are you sure? Slytherin wouldn’t be a bad choice either, you know.”
Albus shook his head vigorously. Please, I want to be in Gryffindor... he thought.
“Well then,” the Hat said. “If you say so, you’d better be in… GRYFFINDOR!”
Albuss eyes flew open. Professor Longbottom removed the hat from his head and said very quietly, smiling, “I knew you’d be Gryffindor, Al, just like Harry.”
Albus couldn’t believe it; he was actually in Gryffindor! He had made it! Amidst all the loud cheering, he ran towards the Gryffindor table, looking back at Rose and Andrew on his way, who grinned at him. He quickly went towards the place where his brother and cousins were sitting.
“Congratulations on making Gryffindor, Al,” Victoire squealed, patting his shoulders.
“Atta boy, Al!” chorused Louis and Fred simultaneously.
“Thanks, guys,” Albus said happily. Then he rounded on James. Glaring at him, he said loudly, “You see, I made it into Gryffindor!”
“Never said you wouldn’t,” James replied, smirking. “I only said you might be a Slytherin…”
The Sorting quickly progressed. Soon it was Andrew’s turn. Albus crossed his fingers. The black haired boy sat there for about a whole minute before Hat declared him a Gryffindor. He jovially took off the hat and hurried over to the table and sat down beside Albus. Soon came Rose’s turn, who was immediately made a Gryffindor. She quickly came towards them, and after being congratulated, she and the others watched the rest of the sorting.
Soon, with Zillow, Steven being sorted to Ravenclaw, the Sorting was over, and professor Longbottom carried the Sorting Hat and the stool away. He soon returned and took his seat beside Professor McGonagall. The Headmistress then stood up, and announced, “You may now start eating.”
At the same time, food appeared magically onto the tables. Albus had never set his eyes on so much food. True, they had had many dinners at their house, and Albus had eaten a lot there, but never had he seen so much food in one place. There were chicken legs, chips, beef skewers, vegetables, chops, prawn, mashed potatoes, lasagne, as well as many others. There was, for some reason, mint humbugs too. All of them dug in. Albus took bits of them all and started eating ravenously.
“You were worried for no reason, Al,” Rose told him, taking a bite of mashed potatoes. “I told you that you’ll be in Gryffindor!”
“Yeah, well…” Albus mumbled sheepishly. “I might not have been, too.” Rose rolled her eyes and focused on her food.
Albus was feeling a lot better now that the Sorting was over. He started talking with Andrew. Now that he was freed of his worries, he started talking more freely with his new friend.
“So, Andrew, where do you live?”
“Well, I wive in Lo’don dow,” he replied through mouthfuls.
Andrew swallowed. “Well, yeah, I used to live in Washington before, in the US,” he informed Albus. “My Dad was transferred from there to here. He works in the Foreign Ministry, you see,” he added, as Albus looked confused.
“So you guys aren’t British?” Rose asked, joining in.
“In fact, we are. We went over there when I was a kid.”
“That explains your accent,” Albus said. He took another bite of his chicken’s leg, swallowed, and then asked, “Have you got any siblings?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a big brother who's in college. Pity he hadn’t got any magic in him, you know. I was totally excited when I got the letter from Hogwarts. You see, he keeps bugging me a lot, and now, I can drive him mad myself. I can’t wait to go back and use all the spells on him!” He had a faraway look on his face as he said this.
“You, know, that’s illegal, Andrew,” Rose piped up. “You can’t do magic outside of Hogwarts. They can expel you for that!”
“Now why would they do that?” Andrew asked indignantly. “Why can’t we do magic at home?”
“That’s because you are still underage, Andrew,” Rose replied calmly. “You still cannot control your magic properly. You may lose control and do something stupid. Not to mention, you live in a Muggle locale, so if any Muggles spot you doing magic, or even see any effect of your magic, they will get to know about our existence. You’ll break the International Statute of Secrecy. Witches and wizards are living in hiding, and if Muggles know we exist, there will be a catastrophe. Our parents work day and night to prevent it, and if anything happens because of any underage wizard unable to control their magic, it will be very bad indeed, and not to mention–”
“Um, Rose?” Albus interrupted, cutting across her little tirade. “I think Andrew got the point, didn’t you, Andrew?”
“Er, yeah I do, Rose, I really get it. Thanks!” he replied hastily, a bit nonplussed. Rose looked a bit happier at that and went back to eating.
“She’s, er, a bit strict about breaking rules, actually,” Albus told Andrew in an undertone. “Her Mum’s in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and she really dislikes rule-breaking. Dad says Aunt Hermione was like that in school even, and he says that Rosie has followed in her footsteps. He says that he’s proud, as well as disappointed at this. Proud because she’ll get really good results in her exams and make the family proud, but disappointed because she wouldn’t carry out the family tradition of rule-breaking.”
“Your family were rule-breakers at school?” Andrew asked, surprised.
“Yeah,” Albus told Andrew about his grandfather’s history, as well as his parents’ and uncles’ and aunts’. “And now Uncle George has his own Joke shop in Diagon Alley! It’s called the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.”
“Whoa! I’ve been there when I went to buy my stuff! It’s totally amazing!”
“Yeah, it is, isn’t it?”
“Yeah… So have you got any siblings?” Andrew asked.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve got a big brother and a little sister. That’s my brother over there,” He pointed over at James, who was having a mini food-fight with his friends. “His name is James. He was named after my granddad, and he is a lot like him in every way. Mum and Dad always get letters about him and whatever he does at school, but he never stops. I think there were about... twenty letters from school last year. Oh, and my sister’s name is Lily. She’ll be starting Hogwarts after two years.”
They finished eating, and talked a bit more about each other. Rose also joined in. After a while, Professor McGonagall stood up. The Great Hall, which was noisy and filled with chattering, became quiet at once.
“I have a very important announcement to make, and I believe most of you will be extremely thrilled after listening to it.”
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