Sammy had never been claustrophobic. She had no trouble hiding under her bed at home, or reading in some forgotten corner of her tight closet when she wanted to be alone.
But right now, Sammy felt like she could use a little space.
The crowd of first years was clumping together like a scared flock of sheep, with Sammy squeezed right in the center. She could spot Teddy and Victoire somewhere ahead of her, but there was no possible way to move towards them. People were pressing down on her from all sides. She imagined being squished into nothingness, being forced smaller and smaller until she disappeared with a pop!
After they had gotten off of the train, the first years had been led down a windy, twisty path by a giant man with a tangled salt-and-pepper beard whom Teddy had informed her was Hagrid, the Head of Gryffindor House. There, she had gotten her first glimpse of the school she had been eagerly awaiting for eleven years.
Truly, Hogwarts was magnificent. In the dark night, it had seemed to stretch on and on, grazing the starry sky with the highest towers. There were flickering lights in some of the windows, and a bright luminosity shone out from the opened great double doors. The reflection of the lights shimmered and rippled in the liquid obsidian lake. It was a place of magic and wonder, Sammy could already tell.
The rest was a blur of boats and lamps and walking and then she found herself all alone in the middle of a giant pressing crowd.
No one said a word. Sammy could have sworn no one was breathing. She didn’t know if she was breathing. Maybe she would pass out before she even got to be sorted. Then they would all slowly shake their heads and say, “You know, she must not have been up to it…” And then they would send her back on the train and her whole life would be ruined.
Footsteps echoed through the hallway, interrupting Sammy’s ominous thoughts. They were… big footsteps.
Hagrid marched to the front of the crowd, his massive chest thrust out in self-importance. Sammy had to bite her lip in order not to laugh nervously.
“All o’ you firs’ years here?” he boomed cheerily. “Wouldn’ want any’n ter get lost now!”
The first years just looked at him warily, but this did nothing to affect his good spirits.
“Yer jus’ gonna head through tha’ door right there, teh get sorted. Ye best be off, now!” he continued. With those words, he swept open the door to the Great Hall.
The group took one collective gasp. It was like nothing Sammy had ever seen before—the walls traveled up and up and up to a ceiling that seemed like it opened up to the heavens. There were candles hovering ten feet above their heads, and the flames flickered merrily. There were four long tables that were almost filled with students. This, Sammy thought, was where the Houses sat.
Hagrid, beaming, led them down the space between the two center tables, until the entire group came to a halt in front of the steps. There, on the steps, was a stool with a hat.
“The Sorting Hat,” someone behind her whispered. She felt some of the students trembling.
It was an old hat, a wrinkled wizard’s hat with frays and rips at the hem. It looked as if it had been used as a Quaffle several times in its long life.
The Sorting Hat opened a rip near its brim, and began to sing in a wheezy tone.
It sang about the four founders and unity, but Sammy couldn’t listen. It was all she could do not to start hyperventilating.
Finally, it was over. The Sorting was about to begin.
Hagrid pulled a large scroll out of his extensive overcoat and unrolled it.
“Aaron, Diane!” he called out. A girl with silky blonde hair made her way out of the crowd and over to the stool. She quickly placed it atop her head, and it fell over her eyes.
All was silent for a moment, and then came a great shout of “RAVENCLAW!” coming from the hat. Diane pulled it off her head and stumbled her way over to the most loudly cheering table.
“Allen, Garrett” was sorted into Gryffindor, and “Bones, Vesta” became the first Hufflepuff. It went on like this for a while, with Hagrid reading from the scroll and occasionally mixing up names, so that “Cress, Eugene” became “Cross, Ethan” and so on.
When Hagrid called “Lupin, Teddy,” Teddy confidently walked to the stool before placing the hat on his head with a slight smile. The hat deliberated only a second before calling out “GRYFFINDOR!” Teddy’s grin stretched from ear to ear as he made his way to the Gryffindor table.
Finally, after what could have been hours or no time at all, Hagrid announced, “Riddle, Samantha!”
Victoire, standing next to her, jostled her to the front of the line and pushed her to the stairs. Sammy tried to make her limbs move. She collapsed on the stool and shakily jammed the hat on her head. The view of all those people looking at her, a sea of stone faces, was replaced by the dark inside of the hat.
“Hmm… very interesting…” whispered a voice in her ear. Sammy stiffened even more, if that was possible. “Lots of bravery… quite clever, I see…” it continued. “If you’re anything like your parents—”
“Don’t judge me by my parents!” Sammy hissed, unable to control herself. “I’m not like them!”
“I see, girl, I know your mind… but you carry their name, one that is infamous in the Slytherin household…” No, thought Sammy. “No? Then how about GRYFFINDOR!” The last word echoed around the room, and applause broke out. Sammy gratefully rose up off of the stool and yanked the hat off of her head. Her legs felt like jelly as she walked to sit next to Teddy. May shot her a smile from the Hufflepuff table.
“Did that take a long time?” she whispered to him.
“No,” he answered. “It just feels like that, doesn’t it?”
Right after “Voss, Medea” was made a Ravenclaw, “Weasley, Victoire” was called. There were only a few people left to sort. She walked her way up to the stool, not so confidently as Teddy, but confident enough. As soon as she put the hat on her head, it called out, “GRYFFINDOR!” Teddy sighed with relief as Victoire headed to sit across from him.
As soon as the last student, “Zuckerman, John,” was made a Hufflepuff, the woman at the center of the head table stood up. She had dark gray hair that was piled into a tight bun at the top of her head, stern eyes, and a pinched mouth that had broken out into what looked like a smile dusty with disuse. May had told Sammy about the woman—Professor McGonagall, the Headmistress.
“I will make this short so you may enjoy the marvelous feast,” Professor McGonagall said, her voice echoing through the Great Hall. “Welcome to Hogwarts!” Applause broke out as food magically appeared on the table.
Teddy piled as much of the food as he could reach on his plate, while Victoire calmly picked at the surrounding dishes, piling some of this and that on her plate. Sammy took a chicken wing and some mashed potatoes, figuring that she could have more if she was still hungry.
“—everyone else in your family has red hair,” Teddy was saying.
Victoire smiled and shook out her silvery hair, looking at Sammy. “My great-great-grandma was a veela,” she explained. “Most Weasleys have red hair, but mine’s blond.”
Sammy swallowed a bite of her chicken. “What’s a veela?”
“A veela is a really beautiful woman,” Teddy said with a dreamy look in his eye. “They dance for Bulgaria when they make it to the World Cup.”
“But I don’t have that much veela blood,” Victoire added hastily. “Why don’t you tell Sammy about yourself, Ted?”
“I’m part werewolf!” Teddy said. Sammy blinked. “My dad was a werewolf and my mom was a Meta… Meta…” He looked to Victoire.
“Metamorphmagus,” Victoire finished.
“Yes, that,” Teddy said. “I don’t actually turn into a werewolf, but at the full moon I grow fangs!”
“Wow,” Sammy said. “Is your dad a full werewolf?”
“He was. My parents died in the fight against Voldemort.” It was said so matter-of-factly that Sammy winced.
“I’m an orphan too,” Sammy said quickly. “I live with a foster family. My parents… were also killed in the fight against Voldemort.” It’s true, she told herself.
They conversed for a while, and Sammy could feel her eyes growing heavier as her stomach grew fuller. When all the food had vanished from the plates and dishes, Professor McGonagall stood up once more.
“I hope you all had a wonderful feast,” she said, the rusty smile still lingering on her face. “I would now like to remind you of the Hogwarts rules.” A couple of boys from Sammy’s table groaned collectively. “No student may enter the Forbidden Forest. The Forest is named so for a reason, as there is much that might harm you inside its borders. Also, our caretaker, Argus Filch—” she pointed to a scowling, scruffy man that looked to be in his eighties—“would like to remind all students that magic in the corridors, as well as an extensive list of other things that may be found posted around the school,” Sammy could have sworn McGonagall rolled her eyes, “are forbidden.
“With that, I bid you all: good night!”