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Chapter 12 : Chapter 11-That ‘Sort’ of Thing is Nerve Wracking
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Jake looked around in awe as the doors to the Great Hall were flung open. The Deputy Headmaster, Professor Flitwick, led the way for the first years, carrying a battered old hat and a stool. The new students had already been told a little bit about the houses. Jake had no clue as to which house he wanted to be in. He started to feel nervous. What if there isn’t a place for me? he worried.
He glanced up and gasped. The sky was just as brilliant as it had been outside, though inside it had the added beauty of hundreds of floating candles.
Professor Flitwick placed the stool down in front of the Great Hall, right in front of the staff table. He placed the hat on top of the stool, stood back, and waited. The room was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.
Suddenly, the hat seemed to come to life. A gravelly voice from within began to sing:
You may think I am dirty,
In years at least ten score and thirty,
But I am no ordinary piece of cloth,
Much better than your shirty!
I am the Hogwarts Sorting Hat,
The fairest in the land,
For it is my job to sort you out,
Upon my masters’ command.
I’ve seen into the depths of the greatest minds,
Ever to walk through that door
Sewn was I to place you,
By the fabulous Founders four!
Maybe you’ll go to Gryffindor,
Where courage is the rule,
Loyalty they tell us all,
Is the very best tool;
Or maybe you’re a Hufflepuff,
There’s none more caring and kinder,
Than Helga’s faithful clan,
For a Hufflepuff is a particularly good finder; *
Maybe, perhaps, you’ll fit in Ravenclaw,
Wherein dwell the wise,
If you need a helping hand,
A Ravenclaw will help to advise.
But maybe a Slytherin you’ll be,
A house of cunning and craft,
But don’t let them hear you,
Calling them a little bit daft.
So come into my folds,
I will not hurt you a bit,
But if I do not satisfy you,
Please, don’t call me a git!
The hall erupted in applause, and the first years joined in. Jake could hear his heart beating in his head.
“As I call your names,” Professor Flitwick began, picking up the old hat. “Please step forward.”
He didn’t know most of the names of the students in his year, and there was a chance that Baxter was the first name to be called. He held his breath.
“Arcuri, Alesandro.” A skinny boy with dark hair and rectangular glasses timidly approached the front of the room, his legs visibly shaking beneath his robe. Professor Flitwick placed the Sorting Hat on the boy’s head. A few seconds later, the hat cried, “RAVENCLAW!”
“Baxter, Jacob.” Jack gave him a pat on the back as he began to walk towards the stool. Though there wasn’t much distance between him and the hat, the journey seemed to take forever. Jake glanced up at the staff table. His eyes were instantly drawn to Professor Snape. Their eyes met briefly, and he could have sworn that the professor had given him a slight nod. Finally reaching the stool, he gingerly sat down and the hat was placed over his eyes.
He started slightly as a voice began talking. It seemed that only he could hear it, as he hadn’t heard anything when that Alesandro kid had been sorted. “Hmm, Baxter, I remember your parents well, they were easy to sort. You are much like them. So where to put you? Let’s see Slytherin won’t do, maybe Ravenclaw? You have a considerable amount of knowledge in this head of yours, I see. But you have suffered much. Hmm, better be-”
“GRYFFINDOR!” The hat shouted for the whole hall to hear. There was a roar of applause from the red and gold draped table, and Jake rushed over to their warm reception trembling with relief.
Jake sat down next to an older girl wearing a badge, who smiled at him in greeting. “Emily Cook, Seventh Year prefect.” she whispered. He vaguely remembered seeing the girl at King’s Cross, she must have been one of Mrs. Cook’s children.
Several more students were sorted into the various houses. Jake listened and clapped for each, though his applause was a little less hearty when the Grisham twins were not surprisingly sorted into Slytherin. His ears perked up when the professor got to the H names.
“Hargitt, Hilda” was sorted into Hufflepuff.
“Hurtz, Emmaline.” Jake couldn’t help but smile, knowing that she hated that name. His eyes didn’t leave her trembling form, her face as pale as milk. The hat enveloped her.
“Hurtz, Emmaline.” Her heart was pounding. Her whole life she had been taught to be invisible, and here there were hundreds of eyes upon her. She felt plainer than ever, and wanted to cry. This was almost worse than him. Almost.
The wooden stool dug into her rear as she sat down. She almost screamed with claustrophobia as the hat slid over her eyes, but only long practice kept the sound in. “Ah, a Hurtz, I remember your father well. He was easy to place, he was a Slytherin through and through. I’m sure he would love for you to follow in his footsteps.” An inexplicable panic rocked her body. “Ah, there is some fight in you I see? I know where you should go. Ms. Hurtz, you’re going to be in-”
The hat was lifted from her head, and she sat there paralyzed with shock. “No!” she screamed. “That’s not possible! I’m supposed to be in Slytherin! No! No! No!” The tears were already starting to flow uncontrollably. She heard sniggers coming from somewhere. Probably the Slytherin table. It was her worst nightmare come true. She was never going to live this down.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, dear.” The short professor said kindly, “But the Hat’s decision in final. Come, let’s get you over to your table.” He helped her stand and directed her in the right direction. She stumbled clumsily towards the red and gold. There were a few people clapping, but most were staring at her with either wariness or contemp. She felt her face burn. Well, at least I match my house now, she thought bitterly.
There was nowhere to sit. Sure, there was space left but people didn’t seem willing to move for her. Fresh tears came to her eyes. An older girl stood up and walked over to her, smiling. “Come, sit with me,” she told Emma kindly. The younger girl dumbly followed, numbed by embarrassment.
Emma sat next to the older girl who took her hand and gave it a squeeze. “I can see this was quite a shock for you.” She whispered. Emma nodded. “Emily Cook, Seventh Year Prefect. Let me know if you need anything, or if anyone gives you a hard time.”
She started to look around the table. She belatedly noticed that boy from the train, Jake, was sitting next to her. He smiled, but not in a mocking way.
“Are you alright?” he whispered during the applause for “Junk, Janee”.
Emma nodded. He was a stranger; he didn’t need to know her problems. What was a lie going to matter?
“Look,” he continued, “I’m sorry about what happened on the train. I honestly hadn’t seen or heard from Jack in years. I didn’t want you to think that I had tried to mislead you.
He was being so sweet. That hadn’t been what was bugging her. She had gathered as much from the two boy’s conversation. What bothered her was the loss of an opportunity. She had never come so close to having a friend, maybe even a best friend, and now someone else swooped in and took that position. Jake might still be nice to her, and he probably would, since he seemed to be a good person. But he would go to Jack first. Not her. He’s probably better off with a guy for a best friend. They deserve each other.
She smiled. “That’s okay, sorry I over reacted.”
He stuck out his hand below the table. “Friends?”
“Mccrimmon, John.” Jack walked up to the stool and hat. He seemed the least worried of all the first years, though there was a hint of worry in his eye. What does he have to worry about?
“GRYFFINDOR!!!” The hat shouted. Emma’s heart plummeted. There was something about that boy that made her nervous. He was so familiar it was scary. Some of his mannerisms, his facial expressions, were like-she froze. He reminded her of Father. Emma shivered involuntarily. Thankfully everyone was too busy applauding the approaching Jack to notice. She mechanically joined in.
This is going to be one hell of a year. Or a year of Hell.
Severus watched the Sorting through a bit of a fog. He clapped in the appropriate places (more heartily if it was a Slytherin, or course), but he barely paid attention. His mind was caught up on Jacob Baxter.
I’ll have to get over this, he reprimanded himself. I can’t go on like this all bloody year!
He was just thankful that the boy wasn’t in Slytherin. He wasn’t in his house, so he would only have minimal contact with Mr. Baxter. That should have been satisfactory, but it wasn’t. His damn conscience wouldn’t leave him alone.
After “Zindel, Lilly” was sorted into Slytherin, Minerva rose from her seat. She was an imposing figure, but a stark contrast to Albus’s performances. Though he had to admit, he was much fonder of Minerva’s tactics, she took things much more seriously and to the point. Unlike that bumbling old fool that brought him so much grief. And saved you from your own self destruction. He snorted to himself. Yes, and then proceeded to condone tearing my soul in shreds by committing murder. He shook his head as Minerva began to speak. It was best not to dwell on the past, not in the presence of other people.
“Now that the First Years have been sorted into their houses,” Minerva began, her strong voice echoing throughout the Hall without the use of an amplification charm, “I have a few remarks to make, though I’ll be brief for I know you all must be starving.” As if in agreement, Severus’s stomach gurgled, though thankfully it was masked by the chuckles that ran through the crowd. “First, the Forbidden Forest is off limits to all students. There is a reason it is called what it is. Heed it. Secondly, Mr. Filch has a list of banned items he would like you all to look at, as some new Weasley products have made the list this year.” A groan passed through the students, causing Severus to smirk. “I would also, I would like to introduce our newest staff member, Professor Longbottom, who will be replacing our retired Herbology instructor Professor Sprout.”
The students, led by Minerva, began to clap for the new professor, who stood up and grinned awkwardly in the spotlight. There was a roar of applause from the Gryffindor table, as some of them had been classmates with Longbottom. Neville, he reminded himself. That was going to be hard to get used to.
“Lastly, I would like to explain something to the First Years. The rest of you have heard this before, so all I ask of you is to remain quiet for a few moments more. Now, First Years, you will be spending seven years within these castle walls, if everything goes well. However, you may here some older students referred to as Eighth Years. These are students who were attending Hogwarts during the War. For those of you who are new to our world, five years ago we had a devastating conflict between good and evil.” Severus could feel eyes going in his direction, though he kept his firmly planted on the Headmistress. “During the war, the education of many students was disrupted both within and without the walls of Hogwarts. To remedy this, we offered to let students stay an extra year, and eighth year if you will, to complete their education. I hope this clears up any confusion you may have.
“I think we’ve all waited long enough.” Minerva clapped her hands, and the golden platters filled with mouthwatering delicacies. “Eat up!”
Jake couldn’t believe how tired he was. And we have to start classes bright and early tomorrow. Everyone around him was stretching and yawning as they blindly followed the voices of the prefects crying out “First years! First years this way!”
After flight after flight of moving stairs, they finally reached a picture of an overweight lady in front of which they stopped. “This is the door to the Gryffindor common room.” Emily Cook began. “You will give the Fat Lady the password to gain entry. It will change periodically for security purposes. Please, for your own safety, do not write them down on paper, you are bound to lose it. The current password is ‘Pigfarts’*.”
The new Gryffindors filed through the newly opened doorway, and were then directed towards their gender appropriate staircases. Before they parted, Jake pushed his way over to Emma. “Goodnight!” he called out to her quietly, getting a smile in response. But there was a haunted look in her eyes where the smile didn’t quite reach. And it scared him.
“See you tomorrow, Jake” she whispered back before following the rest of the girls.
As they climbed the stairs, Jake couldn’t contain a grin, in spite of his fatigue. Hogwarts was better than he ever could have imagined.
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