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The Unbreakable Vow by Akabara
Chapter 4 : Chapter Three: Oh, the Nonexistant Joys of Being Sorted
 
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For those who would comfort a nervous friend when they themselves are terrified.

***

So, after donning our black school robes, Conan, Albus, Rose, Scorpius and I had made our way off the scarlet train, leaving our luggage behind as instructed by some female voice from nowhere (which Conan had been very excited about). Conan had imprisoned Hoenheim again, and Dan had tittered at me angrily but had not thrown a fit when I left him in the compartment.

Then we were off, following an unbelievably large man by the name of Hagrid down a dangerously narrow and slippery path. Brent had told me about Hagrid, but meeting him in person was, to say the least, intense. He was just so big, especially- though I hate to even mention it- compared to me. Also, his face was hidden by an immensely scraggly beard and a shock of unruly hair. I think that two shiny button-like things in his mass of hair were eyes, but they could have just as easily been bugs.

After we had descended the path, huddled together like a bunch of frightened puppies and whispering furtively, we came to a small fleet of boats. Boats! I hate riding on boats. When Brent had taken me on one when I was nine, I had thrown up. Repeatedly. The rocking just made me feel so sick… Not to mention the lovely prospect of drowning if you fell off one.

But it appeared that we had no choice in the matter, so Conan and I got into one of the rocking demons as we heard Hagrid yelling, “Four to a boat!” Somewhere along the way we had gotten separated from Rose, Albus, and Scorpius, so now we were going to be stuck on a boat with two more people. And I was positive that Conan was going to make friends with them. That was all I needed.

And so I sat there, knuckles white as I clenched my hands in my lap. I could feel my stomach rolling as the boat rocked in the dark water. Then, the boat started moving much more violently, and for a second I thought we were sinking or something. However, it turned out that it was just my fear brought to life.

More kids for Conan to entice into friendship.

There were two of them, one with sandy blond hair and green eyes, and the other with red hair, freckles, and blue eyes. They seemed to be friends already, so there was a moment of awkward silence as we sat in the boat, which had resumed its normal terrifying swaying rhythm.

Then, we all lurched forward as the boats started moving forward across the glassy lake. I, however, once again subjected to the unluckiness of being small, was lurched forward a bit more than the others.

I practically fell into the red-haired boy’s lap.

Well, that was one way to break the ice.

“Whoa, you okay?” the redhead asked me, helping me get back into my seat and brushing me off. I felt like a little kid or something. Conan shot me a worried look but I silenced it by narrowing my eyes dangerously at him.

“I’m fine,” I answered, looking away from the kid who had helped me. I hated being embarrassed.

I just noticed something- I hate a lot of things.

Should that bother me?

Well, it doesn’t, so moving along now...

“My name is Ira Finnegan. This is my mate Colin Creevey,” the redhead informed us genially, offering his hand. Conan shook it enthusiastically and introduced himself and me. Ira then offered his hand to me.

I blinked. Rose was one thing, but Ira? I just stared blankly at him until he withdrew his hand. His grin hadn’t even diminished a bit. Then his companion, Colin, spoke, trying to make idle conversation. He seemed very uncomfortable.

“So, when do you think we’ll get to see the castle? My dad says we’ll get a good view from the boats. He fell into the lake when he was a first year, actually. Apparently the giant squid saved him...” Ira snorted.

“Your da got saved by the giant squid? Seriously, mate?” Colin nodded vigorously, miffed at being doubted.

Conan’s eyes grew wide. “Really? Did he get to see it?” Colin shrugged, suddenly looking even more uncomfortable. He was obviously regretting what he had said. Maybe he babbled when he was nervous or something.

“I dunno. It was, you know, dark and such…” he trailed off, looking decidedly awkward. Ira rolled his eyes.

“Colin’s a nice guy; he just has a serious condition. He can’t socialize to save his life.” Colin huffed but leaned back, arms crossed over his chest, and fell silent.

Then we turned a corner and Conan gasped loudly. My eyes grew wide as I beheld the splendor that was Hogwarts castle. Brent had tried to describe it to me, but nothing could have prepared me for my first glimpse of the monstrous castle. Lights twinkled in hundreds of windows, and as I looked across the water, I saw that the structure was reflected on the glassy surface of the lake.

“That’s bloody amazing,” Ira said, sounding awed. Colin just stared up at the structure, his mouth hanging open slightly.

“Heads down, you lot!” I suddenly heard Hagrid yell from the head of the battalion of boats. So, of course everyone put their heads down, hunkering down in the boats while wondering why their guide had instructed them to do so. Everyone, that is, except for Conan. He had been too distracted by the castle and looked mildly confused. Because of this, he did not bend over in time.

The boats passed under a curtain of sickly green seaweed hanging down in front of the mouth of a cave, and I heard a nasty splat as the seaweed smacked Conan in the face. He sputtered and swiped at his face with the sleeve of his dark school robes.

After passing through the entrance to the cave, I straightened up and turned to reprimand Conan about his inattentiveness. However, I found that I couldn’t see anything. It was pitch dark, and the only sounds were the drip of water from somewhere in the cave and the other kids’ breathing. The only way I knew that I was still in a boat and that Conan was still next to me was the fact that I was gripping my seat tightly and I could hear Conan’s breathing.

Oh, man. I don’t like the dark either.

We continued on like this for what seemed like forever, but what was really probably only a few minutes at the most. Then I saw a light- probably a lamp- from somewhere far in front of me, and I let out a breath that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.

Then a disconcerting grating sound and our boat jostling caused me to start, and I was glad that we were still in semi-darkness so that Conan, Colin, and Ira couldn’t see me frightened.

A call of “Land ho!” from a kid somewhere in a boat to my left informed me that we had reached solid ground. I sighed with relief as Hagrid directed us to exit our boats. Feeling land, even this mass of slippery pebbles, under my feet was enough to make me relax somewhat.

I started to walk off, following Hagrid, who I saw now held the lamp that I had seen a few moments earlier, but Conan called after me and I paused to let him catch up. Now we had thankfully lost those other two kids and were once again caught up in the flow of anxious eleven-year-olds.

We were off through a rocky tunnel, once again huddling together, partially out of fear and partially because the tunnel was really narrow. We finally made it out of every claustrophobic’s nightmare and found ourselves in a sea of grass. I could feel water coming in through my shoes and soaking my socks.

Gross.

I stepped lightly, trying not to get my feet even more wet in the grassy lawn. Conan stayed close to my side, not wanting to be left behind.

Then the group of kids stopped and I was forced to do so as well. We had reached the bottom of marble steps that lead up to the gigantic front door of Hogwarts. I could see Hagrid standing in front of the door, and I noticed that Albus and Rose were standing close to him.

“Professor Longbottom’ll take care of yeh from ‘ere,” Hagrid assured us, turning back to look at the many small, scared faces of the eleven-year-olds.

Hagrid then rapped loudly on the door three times and stepped back. The door swung open to reveal a tall, slightly pudgy man with a kind, open face.

“Thanks so much, Hagrid. I’ve got them now,” the man said. Hagrid clapped him on the shoulder and then turned and lumbered back across the grounds, probably heading home.

“Now, if you would please follow me.” The man standing by the door stepped aside to let us walk in. Conan and I were the last two inside, and the man closed the door behind us and then rushed to the front of the mass of new students.

He directed us to follow him and we did as we were told. Everyone was looking around excitedly, taking in the sight of the amazing hall that we had entered. I looked over at Conan. He was drinking in his surroundings like he would never see them again, not like he would be seeing them almost every day for the next seven years.

The walls were gray stone, and there were brackets that held torches with merrily dancing flames, making the hall seem comfortable despite its coldness. A gigantic marble staircase led to the rest of the school.

Then we entered a small antechamber off of the hall after having passed a pair of large double doors that most likely contained the whole population of Hogwarts based on the din that was coming from it.

The man turned to face us and cleared his throat into his fist. “My name is Professor Neville Longbottom, your Herbology Professor and Head of Gryffindor house.”

Wait, so this was the Professor Neville Brent had told me about? The one who was “cool”? Not exactly the word I would use to describe this man, but Brent didn’t seem like he was being sarcastic, so I gave the guy the benefit of the doubt.

For now.

“First thing first, welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!” Professor Neville began, and I could tell that he was getting ready for a long and most likely boring speech. “The start-of-term banquet will start soon, but before the feast, you will be Sorted into your houses.”

So I would be getting sorted soon… I felt a little nervous; you know, I had that whole ‘butterflies in your stomach’ thing going on, but I managed to suppress it. It was just the event that would dictate the rest of my life here at Hogwarts.

Well, that was a cheery thought. Now I feel even more nervous.

“The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are a student here at Hogwarts, your house will be like family. You will sleep in your house dormitory and spend leisure time in your house common room.” Professor Neville paused for a moment, apparently making sure that we had all understood. When no one looked utterly lost, he continued.

“The four houses that you could be sorted into are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.” I really couldn’t pick out which one I was most likely to be in, even with my newly acquired knowledge of the houses. At least the train ride hadn’t been a complete waste. I wasn’t particularly brave, what with my fear of darkness and boats, and I wasn’t all that friendly, if you couldn't tell. Math was a strong point for me, and I always got decent grades, but I wasn’t sure how smart I was in magic terms. That left Slytherin, which was almost taboo for some reason. I knew it had something to do with Slytherin apparently always churning out crazy evil psychos, but other than that, I didn’t really know much about the house, and most of the people I had heard from were what you might call “biased”. I then turned my attention back to the Herbology Professor’s speech, which was turning out to be quite informative.

“Each house has its own unique history and traits, and each has produced talented young witches and wizards who have gone on to do great things. While attending Hogwarts, you will earn house points for being successful, whereas any rule breaking will result in a loss of points. At the end of each year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup, a prize that everyone wants to get their hands on. I hope that each of you will be a credit to your house and to your school.”

I thought that this was the end of his speech, and a few others apparently were thinking the same thing, but Professor Neville began speaking again.

“Now, the state of Hogwarts now is very different from the state it was in when some of your parents attended. If you have an older sibling that attended Hogwarts, they might have already told you this, but for those who do not know: Hogwarts has become integrated to a certain extent. Your classes will have students from all of the houses, and though there are house specific tables to eat at, there is now a table for those who wish to sit with friends from other houses. This state of affairs was protested by… certain people, but the headmistress feels that these new ways are necessary in order to become a better, less segregated school. I hope that you all do not let one’s house dictate who you befriend. Everyone should be given a chance.” The Professor seemed a little lost and cleared his throat, as if this part of the speech was new or improvised. Most of us, including me, had obviously not thought that this was the end of his speech, as there wasn’t really a solid conclusion. There was an awkward pause before he spoke again.

“Well, the Sorting ceremony will begin in a few minutes, so you might want to get ready. There’s no need to be nervous. Yes, the entire school will be watching,” I saw Conan go pale, “but they all had to go through the same thing. None of them are going to laugh at you or anything.” The Professor swept his gaze around the array of students again, looking reassuringly at a few students who looked like they were about to pass out. Conan was one of them. “I’ll be back to get you when it’s time. Please try not to make too much noise.” He smiled warmly at us. With that, Professor Neville exited the room and we were left alone to fester in our fear.

I really need to stop thinking things like that. It’s creepy.

Conan looked over at me fearfully and I sighed. “You’ll be fine, Conan. If Brent and Teddy could do it, you can definitely do it.” Conan still looked a little pale, but he nodded. Then he closed his eyes and tried not to hyperventilate.

Well, I tried.

This was really boring, standing here and listening to the hushed whispers of the soon-to-be students. I thought of looking around to see if Rose, Albus, Scorpius, Ira, or Colin was around, and if they were nervous at all, but then I caught myself. Was Conan rubbing off on me or something?

The thought was terrifying.

I jumped as a loud voice rang out through the small room. “Alright! You guys ready? It’s time, so please follow me.” We all followed Professor Neville, and I had the fleeting thought through my nervous dizziness that we were like ducklings following their mother around.

We entered the double doors that we had passed by earlier on our way to the antechamber, and the noise hit me like a fist and I felt even dizzier than I had before. That’s when I realized that the dizziness wasn’t due to my nerves. I had completely forgotten to monitor my blood sugar.

Man, I was such an idiot. I was always telling Brent not to worry, and then I went and did things like this.

We had somehow reached the very front of the hall and were standing with our backs to the teachers in a fearful huddle. It was then that I noticed Albus in front and to the left of me, standing close to Rose and looking like he was going to puke. Relief flooded into me, and I wondered why. Then my brain caught up and I remembered his loot from the train.

“Hey! Hey Albus!” I hissed over at him, hearing what sounded like singing in the background. I felt Conan stir to my right, but my attention was on Albus, who had jumped in surprise when I had said his name.

He turned to look at me and whispered back, “What is it Peyton? Are you okay?” I took a deep breath.

“Can I have a chocolate frog or something?” He opened his mouth to ask but I was too quick. “I’m diabetic.” Albus still looked confused and I felt irritation flash through me like fire. Of course he had to be ignorant about it; how many wizards had diabetes? It was apparently very rare, and even though the Healers at St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries had toiled away for years, there was still no cure for it. Sure, we can take care of your cancer, but sorry diabetics, you have to live with it until we find out how to cure it, which is probably never going to happen at this rate of progress. Not to mention that I was the even odder case out; a kid with type 2 diabetes. Then Rose suddenly shoved her hand in one of Albus’ pockets and pulled out a chocolate frog box, ripped it open, and handed the chocolate to me. I was jerked out of my heated thoughts by her actions and took the chocolate frog from her wordlessly.

She answered my unspoken question as I popped the chocolate frog into my mouth and felt it melt, sending sugar into my body so that I would feel normal again after a few minutes. “My mum’s Muggle-born, so I know a lot of Muggle stuff like that. You okay?” I swallowed the frog- wow that sounds weird- and nodded. Then I noticed that Professor Neville was calling names off of a large piece of parchment that he held in one hand, a tattered old hat held in the other.

“What’s going on?” I asked Conan, trying not to panic. Just what had I missed? Albus and Rose leaned closer, as they too had missed whatever had been said.

“The hat sang a song about the houses, and now it’s going to sort us. When Professor Neville calls our name, we walk up and sit on the stool. Then he puts it on our head and it sorts us. Then we walk down to our house tables.”

I blinked.

“Hufflepuff is yellow, Gryffindor red, Ravenclaw blue, and Slytherin’s green.” Conan pointed respectively at the decorations hanging over the four tables with people at them, identifying the different places that I might have to walk to. The fifth table was empty and had the Hogwarts crest on its banner. That must be the “integrated” table that Professor Neville had mentioned. I suddenly noticed that the Slytherin table had considerably less people than the other houses, though they didn’t seem any less imposing because of it. Then I tuned in to the names that Professor Neville was calling out, knowing that “Hicks” wasn’t too far in the alphabet. Then I started as a familiar name was called.

“Creevey, Colin,” Professor Neville seemed to choke on this name a little bit, but quickly recovered. Colin walked over to the stool and then sat down, looking faintly sick. Professor Neville placed the tattered hat on the boy’s head and I was once again alerted to the fact that we were Sorted by a hat. Seriously? How was a hat supposed to sort us?

Then I practically jumped out of my skin as the hat yelled “GRYFFINDOR!” Professor Neville removed the hat from Colin’s head and there was an eruption of noise from the Gryffindor tables as he joined them, looking very embarrassed.

So the hat could talk. I should have guessed; this is a school of magic, after all. I’m surprised the stool wasn’t chatting about how much it stinks- literally- to have so many nervous people sitting on it.

“Draconias, Zane,” was the next name Professor Neville called out. I resisted the urge to snort. What kind of last name was Draconias? Did he come from a family of dragons or something?

A boy with dark hair that fell over his eyes- how could he see where he was going?- walked over to the stool, hands in his pockets. He sat down, looking up as Professor Neville put the hat on his head. The hat took about 5 seconds to deliberate, and then called out loudly “SLYTHERIN!” There was polite applause from the Slytherin table, though they stayed seated and looked quite respectable as Zane silently joined them. The older boy Zane sat down next to patted him on the back, though, and then they turned their attention back to the Sorting. I couldn’t help wondering if the Slytherins acted like that on purpose to make themselves seem- I don’t know- not evil or whatever it was people had against them.

The next name was “Davis, Millicent,” and a pudgy, kind looking girl made her way over to be Sorted. She was put in Ravenclaw and the Sorting continued. There was “Embrey, Jonah,”- a Gryffindor-  and “Erikson, Hannah,” – Hufflepuff- and then “Finnegan, Ira” was called and I saw our redheaded companion from the boats shuffle over to the stool, where he almost knocked it down as he sat on it. The hat had barely touched his head when it roared “GRYFFINDOR!” There was applause and he grinned broadly and nodded to Professor Neville as the man took the hat off his head. Ira then joined Colin at the Gryffindor tables.

“Garter, Wyatt” was the second Slytherin and “Green, Carter” was a Gryffindor. Then it was time for “Hicks, Conan” to approach the stool and be Sorted. He shot me a look of pure terror as he walked over to the stool. He sat down on it and closed his eyes, looking extremely pale compared to the brown, slightly singed hat. It took almost a full 25 seconds before the hat finally bellowed “HUFFLEPUFF!” Brent was right; Conan had landed in Hufflepuff, though it had certainly taken the hat long enough to decide. He was greeted warmly by his new housemates and I felt a little pang. What if I wasn’t in the same house as Conan, as Brent had predicted? For the first time since meeting Conan, I might really be alone. But there was no time for such negative thinking. My terrified musings had made me zone out, and now Professor Neville was already up to “Malfoy, Scorpius.” The hat had barely touched his head when it informed us all that Scorpius would be joining Slytherin.

Then it was time for “Patil, Persai,” a pretty dark-skinned girl who was Sorted into Ravenclaw.

“Potter, Albus,” was next, and a strange hush fell over the hall- I guess his father really was some important bloke- as the hat sat on Albus’ head for the longest time yet. Then, finally, the hat roared “SLYTHERIN!” There was, if it was even possible, an even quieter quiet as Professor Neville, who looked a little shocked himself, took the hat off of Albus’ head. The slight boy made his way down to the Slytherin table, where most of them scooted away discretely. Three of the few that stayed were the boy who had patted Zane on the back, Zane himself, and, to my surprise, Scorpius.

Then it was time for the S’s, and I felt my stomach fly off somewhere to nest. “Silvestri, Drake” was Sorted into Gryffindor, and then Professor Neville called my name.

Oh, God. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t do this, but I still felt my feet carry me over to the three-legged stool as if I was in a dream. I hated those things. How could a stool possibly hold someone with only three legs? Wouldn’t it fall? Strange, random thoughts floated in and out of my mind as I felt the hat on my head. It slipped down over my eyes due to my size, and my view of the hall, of the hundreds of staring eyes, disappeared. The darkness was almost welcome, despite my fear of it.

Well, well, what do we have here?” a small voice said in my ear and I blinked in shock. I really hadn’t expected the hat to talk to me. Just sit on my head silently and then scream out my house for everyone to hear.

Seems you’ve got no idea where you want to be, eh, girl?” The voice asked, not unkindly. Unsure of how to answer, I thought “that’s right.” The hat seemed to hear and thought for a moment.

Well, I can’t rightly say that you’re Ravenclaw material. There’s talent and intelligence, oh yes, but not enough for me to place you there. Slytherin might work; you’ve got both the personality and the potential… but I don’t think you’ll truly succeed there. That leaves Gryffindor and Hufflepuff… Do you trust my judgment, girl?” I was surprised by the sudden question and answered yes. Might as well let the hat do its job. It had probably been doing this for a long, long time, based on its appearance, so I might as well let it put me wherever it saw fit.

Alright, girl, I’ve come to a decision. Are you ready?

I closed my eyes tightly even though it was already dark and then nodded, letting out a deep breath.

I was ready to take whatever I was given, though I was bound to complain about it later.

The hat took what sounded like a deep breath and prepared to loudly inform me, hundreds of other students, and the teachers behind me which of the four houses I would be spending seven years of school in.

Suspense, anyone?

***


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