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Chapter 44 : The Sorting
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I heard the door open a minute or so later and Mum and I left the kitchen to see which one of my grandparents was arriving. I reached the door to find Cinda setting her bag down on a table and gazing around at the house.
"Mum," Mum greeted Cinda.
"Julie, darling," Cinda smiled and embraced her, "So, this is your new house."
"Yes," Mum nodded, "What do you think?"
Cinda paused. "Small," she said after a while, "And kind of quaint."
"I'll take that as a complement," Mum said wryly.
"It's just so different," Cinda went on, "Your old house was so much grander and fancier..." she trailed off.
"Yes, but honestly, we didn't need all that space, Mum," Mum explained, "We lived there because Walter inherited it and it was his childhood home. Otherwise, we would have stayed at our first house. Remember that one?"
Cinda nodded. "Yes, that one was even smaller than this."
"But we like it," Mum sighed.
"I know, I know," Cinda replied, "It'll just take some getting used to."
We wandered back to the kitchen and Mum continued cooking while Cinda set the table. Richard and Dad arrived a few minutes later and Richard told my parents how much he liked the house. We took them on the grand tour (which didn't take long) and showed them the entire place with the exception of the basement, which was still in partial disrepair.
When we finished showing my grandparents the house, Ellie announced that dinner was ready.
"I'll go see if Matt's up to eating dinner with us," Mum said as we entered the kitchen.
"Let me, Jule," Dad said, "I haven't seen him in a few hours."
I sat down at the table next to Mum, with Matt's empty seat on the other side. Ellie started serving the food, but no one started eating until Dad returned.
"He's sound asleep," Dad said as he sat down at the head of the table.
Mum nodded, "I figured he would be. He's been asleep ever since we got home from St. Mungo's."
"When will he be all recovered?" Richard asked quietly.
"Probably late tomorrow or early Thursday, he'll be feeling back to normal," Dad told him.
The rest of dinner was spent discussing England and what my parents liked and disliked about it. Richard and Cinda had dozens of questions about the house, Dad's job, and England in general.
After dinner, Dad enlarged a bed that had not sold at the estate sale (which actually happened to be the bed my grandparents usually slept in when they stayed at my house) and set it up in the library for them. Everyone went to bed a few hours later, but I stayed up and looked out of my telescope.
I woke up late the next morning. Very late. But I figured I needed to in order to adjust to the different time zone. I stumbled down the stairs and to the living room only to find that I was one of the first ones up. Only Mum and Dad got up before I did and were talking quietly to themselves.
Richard and Cinda woke up shortly after I had brekkie (or would lunch have been a more appropriate term?). It wound up being a very quiet day. Matt was in no shape to go anywhere. He spent the day lounging on the couch reading and playing his DS. Cinda gave Mum interior decorating advice about the house and the two of them wound up rearranging the kitchen yet again. Richard, after hearing about Dad's microwave incident, decided to teach Dad the finer points of cooking meals in a microwave. I thought this was rather funny since Richard was certainly not a cook. But, Richard and Dad seemed to enjoy it. They even went out and bought these Muggle things called 'microwave dinners', which are meals you stick in the microwave for a few minutes and then eat. We wound up having them for dinner.
I spent the day wandering from room to room, just looking at what my family members were doing. I realized how very odd it was to have my grandparents in England with us. What was even stranger was that at that moment, no one in my family was in Australia. Well, except for Clarence and his family, but I didn't really consider them family anymore. I played a few rounds of Exploding Snap and Gobstones with Matt, but then he got bored with it and we both read for a while.
Dad had to go back to work the next day, but Mum decided that we could go show Richard and Cinda Diagon Alley. That was fun, especially when we went to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Both Richard and Cinda were flabbergasted by the amount of magical pranking items they had. Dad met us for dinner at the Leaky Cauldron, which was nice.
Richard and Cinda left a few days later. Their visit had been surprisingly fun. They said they'd visit again soon, but didn't give an exact date.
The weeks went by quickly after that. The time before I would go to Hogwarts was quickly decreasing and once August arrived, I realized how close it was. I started thinking about it all the time and it was making me nervous. Sure, I was getting used to our new house and living in England, but school would be a different story. I was going to know absolutely no one, except for the headmaster.
Dad finished my potions room and I was very happy with it. It looked a lot like the one I had in Australia, except it had no windows. Dad put some sort of magical ventilation system in, though.
"Amy!" Mum shouted down the stairs one Thursday afternoon.
"What?" I shouted back as I increased the fire under my cauldron.
"You've got a letter!" Mum answered.
I turned off the flame and ran up the stairs. Maybe it was from Olivia. I had owled her the previous week, but she still hadn't gotten back to me.
Mum handed me the letter once I entered the living room. I turned it over and saw that it was from Hogwarts. I slit it open, pulled the letter out, and read it silently.
Dear Miss Eckerton,
Please note that the new term will begin
on September first. The Hogwarts Express
will leave from King's Cross Station,
Platform 9 3/4 at eleven o'clock in the
Also, since you are a new student this term,
you need to arrange to meet with the
headmaster prior to the start of term.
Please owl him with a time that will work,
the sooner the better.
Professor Padma Patil
"What's that about?" Mum asked.
"Telling me when school starts," I mumbled, "September first. But I have to go see the headmaster soon, since I'm new there." I handed her the letter.
Mum's eyes moved along the page and then she set the letter down on the table. "I'll send an owl. I could take you tomorrow, after Matt's appointment with Norlam."
Matt's sessions with Norlam were going well. So well in fact, that Norlam announced the next day that he was going to start the relaxation techniques he had mentioned months ago. Norlam actually had Mum and I do them as well, which was kind of odd. He had us take deep breaths with our eyes closed while we imagined ourselves in relaxing places. I thought about walking through the bush in Australia.
It was actually really relaxing and the hour went by fast. Norlam talked briefly in private to Mum and then left.
"Ready to go?" Mum asked a few minutes later.
"Yeah," I replied.
Kendrick had said he was going to meet us at the Three Broomsticks, so Mum, Matt, and I Apparated to Hogsmeade and walked into the pub. That afternoon it happened to be filled with gossipy old witches and there were a few wizards discussing politics at the bar.
"Just give it a few years," one of them was saying, "And Percy Weasley will be Minister. I'd bet my Gringotts account on it."
"Naw," the other one was saying, "He's softened with age. He's just not Minister material anymore."
"Julie!" Professor Kendrick got up from the bar and greeted us. He had been sitting a few seats down from the politicking wizards.
"Professor Kendrick," Mum smiled and shook his hand.
"Please, call me Fabius."
"All right," Mum said.
"Well, let's go up to the castle," Kendrick replied.
I followed him out of the pub and into Hogsmeade. Hogsmeade in the summer was a lot different than Hogsmeade in the winter. People were congregating outside and talking about anything and everything. Little kids ran around chasing each other and older kids goofed off.
Eventually we made it to the school grounds and then into the castle. The castle was the opposite of Hogsmeade. It seemed completely deserted. In fact, I didn't see a single person on our way to Kendrick's study.
"Is Walter working?" Kendrick asked as we entered his study.
"Yes," Mum answered.
"How is he liking it?"
"Oh, he's enjoying it," Mum said.
"Good," Kendrick smiled and gestured for us to sit down.
I sat down in one of the two chairs in front of Kendrick's desk and Mum sat in the other. Matt sat down on her lap.
"All right," Kendrick folded his hands together, "As you know, the term starts on the first and you will arrive here by train. How did you get to school in Australia?"
"Train," I replied.
Kendrick nodded, "And I'm assuming the platform the train arrived at was hidden from Muggles?"
"Yeah," I said, "You had to run into the barrier separating two platforms."
"Ah, well, it's the same here. You will run through the barrier in between platforms nine and ten at King's Cross to get to Platform 9 3/4."
"Ok," I said.
"And now onto slightly more exciting matters. We need to figure out what classes you're taking. At Hogwarts, there is a core curriculum of classes that everyone must take until the end of fifth year, when the O.W.L. exams are taken. Then, you choose which classes to continue at the N.E.W.T. level for sixth and seventh years. At the end of seventh year, you take your N.E.W.T. exams in those classes."
I nodded. Classes and exams had been similar to that in Australia.
"Therefore, you have to take Transfiguration, Herbology, Potions, History of Magic, Charms, Astronomy, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Besides those, you can take two or three electives. The choices for electives are Muggle Studies, Divination, Care of Magical Creatures, Arithmancy, Divination, and Ancient Runes. Which would you like to take?"
"Well, I did Care of Magical Creatures and Ancient Runes in Australia," I explained, "I guess I'll just take those."
Kendrick nodded and jotted something down on a piece of parchment. "Very good," he turned to Mum, "At Hogwarts, anyone in third year and above can visit Hogsmeade a couple of times during the year. If you'll let Amy participate, I'll need you to sign this form." He handed Mum a piece of parchment.
"Of course," Mum picked up a quill and quickly signed the parchment.
"Well," Kendrick took the permission slip, "All that remains now is to Sort you into your house, unless you want to be sorted with the first years."
My house. I had completely forgotten that I'd have to be sorted into a house at Hogwarts. "I'll do it now." No way was I going to be sorted in front of the entire school with a bunch of eleven-year-olds.
"All right," Kendrick stood up and then paused, "It's sort of been a tradition at Hogwarts for the first years not to know how the sorting is done." He turned to Matt, "Could I ask you not to mention anything about the sorting when you're on your first train ride to Hogwarts?"
Matt nodded but didn't say anything. I was now thoroughly curious about this sorting thing. Why was it so secretive? What was so special about it?
"All you'll have to do is sit there," Kendrick told me as he pulled a very old looking hat off a shelf near his desk. He held it up in front of him. "This is the Sorting Hat. It will tell you where you will go."
I stared at it. A hat? A hat was going to sort me? Even in the wizarding world, that was a little strange. "But it's a hat," I said.
"A wise hat," Kendrick smiled.
"And I will figure out where to put you," the hat's brim opened suddenly and began talking.
I gaped at it and then turned to Mum and Matt. Both of them were staring at it as well. Not only was it a hat, but it was a talking hat.
Kendrick walked over to me and put the hat on my head. Immediately, the hat's voice appeared in my head. I nearly jumped out of my seat from the shock of it.
'Hmm,' the hat began, 'you're older than most of the kids I sort.'
'Yeah, well, I moved here,' I thought.
'I see that,' the hat replied. I guess it knew everything about me.
'Hmm, you're loyal. Fiercely loyal. You'd do anything for your family,' the hat said more as a statement than a question, 'Good Hufflepuff material.'
'Loyal, that's good. I guess I'm loyal.'
'Very loyal. But that's not all. You've got courage. A rare courage that I don't see every year. The courage you need to remain loyal to your family, especially your brother, no matter what the circumstances are. Yes, indeed, very interesting combination. The loyalty of a Hufflepuff, but the courage of a Gryffindor...'
'Gryffindor! Someone told me that's the best house.'
'Everyone says that about their house. They all have their good qualities. And you happen to possess the qualities of two great houses. Hufflepuff and Gryffindor. But which one. Which one indeed?'
I didn't really care which one. I didn't know anything about either house, except that Ted Lupin and George Weasley said that Gryffindor was the best.
"Gryffindor!" the hat finally shouted.
I breathed a sigh of relief as Kendrick took the hat off my head. It as over. I hadn't even realized how nervous I was about the sorting until after it was over.
"Congratulations," Kendrick said as he put the hat away, "Many great witches and wizards have been in Gryffindor."
"That's where Dumbledore was," Matt announced suddenly.
"Yes, he was," Kendrick replied and turned around to look at Dumbledore's portrait, but it was empty. "Well, I think that's it. Oh, here's a list of supplies you'll need before term starts," Kendrick handed me a piece of parchment, "Most should be the same as what you needed in Australia, but there are a bunch of books you'll need to get as well as robes. Madam Malkin's in Diagon Alley sells Hogwarts robes."
"Thanks," I said.
Kendrick walked us back to the Three Broomsticks. He and Mum talked about Hogwarts the whole way there, but I didn't really pay attention. I just kept thinking about how in less than a month I would be a Hogwarts student. Well, I sort of already was. I had a house. Gryffindor. The house where the brave and courageous students went. The Sorting Hat had said I was courageous, but I didn't think I was. I couldn't think of anything courageous I'd ever done. Loyal, yes, I could see myself as loyal. But not courageous. What had the hat meant anyway? Courage to remain loyal to my family no matter what? Why would I need courage for that? I guess that hat knew more about myself than I did.
"Where do you want to go first?" Mum asked me the next day, as we walked down the steps of Gringotts. My parents had decided to take me shopping for my school stuff, and we had just finished another bumpy ride on a Gringotts cart. It had not been any better than the first one.
"The book store," I said immediately.
We set off to Flourish and Blotts and my stomach started to calm down. I had felt like I was going to chunder on that cart. Matt had actually sort of enjoyed it this time. I figured it was because he wasn't recovering from jet lag this time. Neither was I, but it still made me sick.
Flourish and Blotts was extremely crowded when we arrived. It didn't surprise me since it was a Saturday and only a few weeks before the start of term. Kids were running around and parents were shouting at them not to leave the shop. Mum immediately grabbed Matt's hand as we entered.
There were a few shop assistants scurrying around trying to locate books for people, but I decided to just find my own. I always liked looking around book shops and finding my own books. Dad helped me and it wasn't long before we had bought them all and found Mum and Matt in the children's book section. Mum was looking at a cookbook and Matt was reading a book about a bloke who had decided to fly his broom to the moon.
After we left Flourish and Blotts, we walked to Madam Malkin's, a store I had walked past numerous times but never actually entered. We walked into the cramped shop and started looking through a pile of robes.
"Hogwarts?" an old witch who was busy supervising measuring tapes on two different kids.
I looked up. "Yeah."
"Just give me a few minutes and I'll be right with you."
I nodded and continued to rifle through the pile of robes. I wasn't really interested in any of them, but there was nothing else to do.
"I'm bored," Matt announced after we'd waited two minutes.
"Why don't I take him to the joke shop?" Dad suggested, "Then you can finish up here and go to the Apothecary. We'll meet up with you after that."
"That's a good idea," Mum agreed and Dad and Matt left the shop.
Matt hated going to the Apothecary in Australia because all the smells of the various potions ingredients wafted together to make an almost unbearable scent. It made him feel sick every time he went into the shop. It didn't help that the place had Wolfsbane (the ingredient, not the actual potion) out in the open and that stuff is really dangerous for werewolves when it's undiluted. I figured the Apothecary in Diagon Alley would be no different.
A few minutes later the witch who I assumed was Madam Malkin called me forward to get measured for my robes.
"What house are you in?" she asked as her measuring tape magically measured me.
"Gryffindor," I told her. It was definitely odd saying that.
A little while later, Mum and I left the shop with three sets of Gryffindor robes. Apparently the Gryffindor mascot was a lion, as the crest depicted a lion standing on its hind legs.
The Apothecary was a few buildings down from Madam Malkin's. The Apothecary in Australia was always one of my favorite shops. I could spend hours browsing the different ingredients and cauldrons.
We stepped into the dark shop and sure enough I smelled the familiar sent of Wolfsbane. But I ignored it since Matt wasn't there and made a beeline for a display of solid gold cauldrons. Someday I would own one.
"Amy, you know you're not getting one of those," Mum said.
"I know," I replied, "But I can dream, right?"
Mum sighed, "Of course. Let's just find your ingredients."
"I've got a solid gold cauldron," a voice drawled from behind me.
I turned around and saw a tall and skinny bloke around my age walking towards me. His hair was a mousy brown and his face was plagued with a lot of acne.
"Er, ok," I said, "Is it nice?"
"'Course it's nice. It's solid gold," the boy laughed, "You don't look familiar. Do you go to Hogwarts?"
"Yes," I said.
"Huh," the boy muttered, "Like I said, I don't think I've seen you before. Is this your first year at Hogwarts?"
"Er, yeah," I said quietly.
"That's weird. You look too old to be a first year. What year are you in?"
"Fourth," I answered, "And to answer your next question, I just moved to England."
"From where?" the boy pressed, "And why?"
"Australia, and it's not really any of your business," I said as I tried to move away from him. He was quite nosy and seemed like the kind of person who bragged a lot.
"Well," he said as he followed me, "Hope for Slytherin. It's really the only good house."
"I'm already in Gryffindor, thanks," I said as I picked up a bag of dried beetles.
"Oh," he replied, "That's a shame."
"Not really," I said briskly. If this bloke was in Slytherin, I was glad I wasn't there.
"Maybe we'll share classes. I'm in fourth year, too. What's your name?"
"Amy Eckerton," I answered, figuring he'd find that out soon enough anyway, "And you?"
I nodded. "I'd better go get the rest of my ingredients."
"All right. Good luck in Gryffindor," Quinton said snidely as he sauntered off towards the back of the shop.
I avoided him as I continued collecting my ingredients. I seriously hoped the people in Gryffindor weren't like him. In the ten minutes I'd talked to him, I realized that I really didn't want to talk to him again. I just didn't like the way he demanded to know why I moved to England. I hadn't quite worked out my answer to that yet and didn't want to elaborate on it with anyone.
Mum paid for my ingredients and then we left the shop, thankfully without seeing Quinton again. We meandered down Diagon Alley and found Dad and Matt loitering near the Magical Market. I noticed Mum give Dad a significant look and then the two of them smiled at me.
"Amy," Mum began, "We've got a surprise for you."
I looked at them quizzically. A surprise? For me and just me? Usually whenever they said they had a surprise, it was for both Matt and I.
"What is it?" I asked curiously.
"We've decided to get you an owl," Mum explained, "In order for you to keep in touch with Olivia better while you're in school."
"Really?" I grinned, "Thanks!"
I had wanted an owl when I first started school, but my parents said no since we had Jasper. I begged them for months and then gave up.
"Yes, really," Dad said, "There's a shop down the road, Eyelops Owl Emporium. We'll go right now."
I took off immediately for the shop. I couldn't believe I was actually getting an owl. It was the first good thing to happen since moving to England.
I arrived at Eyelops before my parents did and walked inside to find numerous owls hooting in various cages. I started with the first cage I saw, which housed a snowy owl. However, when I tried to get its attention, the owl completely ignored me. Ok, I thought, not that one.
My parents and Matt showed up when I was at the second owl cage. They began to look around and kept calling me to see different owls. I wanted to pick one, though.
I continued looking at all the owls until I came upon one that was black with white speckles. He was in a cage with a few other owls, but they all seemed to be ignoring him.
"Just got him in the other day," the shopkeeper gestured to the speckled owl, "But none of the other owls are accepting him. I think he's lonely."
Like me, I thought. True, I hadn't actually gone to Hogwarts yet so I didn't know what the other students would think of me. But they had been going to school together for years and I was the new kid.
I stuck my finger in the cage and the owl came over and nibbled at it as I petted him.
"I'll take him," I announced a few minutes later. The owl was exactly like me. An outsider in a new place.
The shopkeeper smiled and opened the cage. I found another cage and the shopkeeper put my new owl in it. Mum and Dad paid for him and I carried him out the door with a huge grin on my face. After nearly fifteen years, I finally had a pet. I never had childhood pets like most kids did. Only Jasper, and he was the family owl. I never had fish or rats or puffskeins.
"I want an owl," Matt whined as we walked towards the Leaky Cauldron.
"When you're older and are going to Hogwarts," Mum told him.
"But that's not fair," he muttered.
I smirked to myself. Finally I was getting something he wasn't. Mum and Dad were finally not giving into his whining. Most times, they gave him what he wanted as if it would somehow make up for the fact that he had to turn into a wolf once a month. Maybe they were finally realizing that it wasn't good to give him whatever he wanted.
A/N: Thanks to Moonylupin for nominating this for a Dobby Award on the forums! Thanks also to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight, and Roxz80, Jen, XDNLxtlz99, and Moonylupin for their reviews!
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