Dutifully he and his fellow First Years had followed the lady with the greying bun along a shaded path as the other students trekked in another direction. Her lantern bobbed before her, lighting a ground strewn with twigs.
Being taller than most of those present, he was able to see above their heads, was able to notice the boats rocking gently atop a lake. He slowed. No one had said anything about crossing water to get to the castle. Why hadn’t Niq told him? Why had no one mentioned this fact? He’d have sooner stayed home if they had.
“Now, there’s boats enough for four to one. Go on.”
While those around him piled into boats that looked fit to capsize, Louis stood still, a feeling of dread having clawed it’s way up his spine. Were there grindylows in that lake?
“Is everyone in?”
The unknown lady spun around so as to check, and found him, the only one remaining, standing about a foot from the edge. He’d like to be as far away as humanly possible, but he didn’t need to look an even bigger freak than he felt.
“Can’t we just drive up?”
“Scared of water, are you?” someone scoffed from nearby.
He refused to let shame cover him as a few giggled. Tilting his head upward, he stared into the woman’s face. Her expression was kind.
“You can sit in the boat with me, if you’d like.”
He’d like to turn back around and board the Express home, to be frank. The hand that closed on his was firm however, and he allowed himself to be guided into the craft, upon which he promptly shut his eyes.
Don’t turn over. Don’t turn over.
The fleet began its journey toward the castle, and Louis dug his fingers into his thighs. It hurt, but thinking of the pain kept him from imagining that the boat would capsize. The odd rocking motion already had the chocolate frogs he’d devoured on the journey threatening to hop back out.
“What’s that?” someone squeaked from a boat behind.
“How’s about you find out?”
There was a scream and a splash, and a couple may have laughed. His nails dug deeper still.
“Which one of you did that?”
The exclamation drowned out the angry tone of the woman sitting next to him, as the girl (he refused to look, so it could also have been a boy), was recovered.
“That’s the Giant Squid,” a nasally voice informed. “Mam told me about it.”
The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, and when the boats docked, Louis was the first to scramble out. With his feet on dry land, he glanced upward, and a couple stars twinkled. The corner of his mouth inched upward.
They were led up to the castle, which he had yet to take in due to his attempt to slow his heart, and left in a room. There wasn’t much chance to chat, as a dark-skinned woman with partially whitened hair in slim braids that ended at her waist entered soon after. With her hands clasped in front of her, she welcomed them to Hogwarts.
“I’m Professor Sinistra, Head of Hufflepuff House. While the other students get settled for the ceremony, I’ll explain what’s expected of you as new members of this institution.”
She discussed point-earning and point-losing, the House Cup, and other things that failed to keep his interest. His gaze wandered left, and he noticed a girl with blonde hair and soaked robes. The one pushed into the lake, it was safe to assume.
“Tidy up now. I’ll see if they’re ready for you.”
Once she exited, he combed his fingers through his fringe, while those surrounding him adjusted their robes and generally fidgeted.
“Follow me, then.”
They shuffled along behind her, and ignoring the ooh’s and aah’s once they entered the Great Hall, his gaze sought out Niq, who was now a Sixth Year. She waved at him from the Ravenclaw table as soon as their gazes connected. He grinned back before turning to the front, where they had stopped just in front of a three-legged stool. Following the Sorting Hat’s impossibly long song, Professor Sinistra removed a roll of parchment from against her chest and began calling off names.
A rather small girl with mousey hair, settled on the stool, only for the hat to be placed atop her head. He had expected it to decide on a house almost immediately, but for some reason, it sat there for a full five minutes. A wave of red swept up her neck and flushed her face. Another couple minutes passed before the hat shouted out “HUFFLEPUFF”.
One of the tables to the left of him exploded with cheers, and the girl, all smiles at finally being sorted, ran off to join them.
And so it continued. He looked up to the ceiling briefly, shifted his weight to his other leg a couple of times. With close to sixty fellow First Years, and with him having the misfortune of a last name that started with a letter near the end of the alphabet, he had quite the wait.
The hat stalled again before eventually calling out “RAVENCLAW”.
The blonde that he had noticed earlier stepped forward. Just before the hat crowned her head, he frowned. No, wait. How could she be dry already? His gaze flitted over those that remained to be sorted, and he found a matching face, this one with hair sticking to her cheeks and neck. She had her fingers crossed and pressed against the side of her thighs. Twins. He’d failed to notice earlier.
“HUFFLEPUFF,” the hat cried.
She seemed to shrug to her twin after removing the hat.
The girl pushed a wet lock behind her ear and sat down.
“RAVENCLAW!” it decided without a second’s hesitation.
He wondered if something like that was normal. While he supposed that they could have different personalities, he just figured that the hat would plant them in the same house regardless.
The boy who had scoffed at him was made a Gryffindor.
Finally, he thought, as he sat down. The hat was a little smelly, he decided, and hoped that the musty scent didn’t remain in his hair.
“Not surprised to be sorting yet another Weasley,” it began.
“And I certainly won’t be the last one,” Louis injected.
The hat chuckled. “Hm. You’re witty and fairly intelligent. A bit loyal, just as every Weasley before you. But, you’re clever and shrewd, and tend to think before you leap. With your resourcefulness and an almost overwhelming desire to succeed, there’s no better place for you than SLYTHERIN!”
Louis sat there for a moment. While he didn’t care much for the house of Gryffindor, despite the fact that his father and many of his relatives had been placed there, he had never considered Slytherin. None before him had been sorted there, and he glanced towards the Ravenclaw table, where Niq was sitting, stunned.
Realising that he couldn’t sit there forever, he lifted the hat from his head and placed it upon the stool. Mind whirring, he made the almost neverending trek to the Slytherin table and sat next to Susan Sullivan. He wasn’t certain of the reactions of his housemates, but he had noted that there had only been a smattering of applause.
Zahara Zimmerman was made a Hufflepuff, after which the Headmistress stood.
“For those of you who are unaware, I’m Professor Vector.” Dark eyes seemed to settle on everyone present before she continued. “A few notes before I leave you to indulge in the feast. We have two new Professors this year. Professor Clearwater shall be taking over the post of Charms.”
There was the usual applause as a curly-haired woman waved, a small smile on her face.
“And Professor Steele will be leading Defence Against the Dark Arts. Please be so kind as to welcome her.” More polite applause as a severe-looking woman briefly raised her hand in acknowledgement. “Enjoy the feast.”
The tables became overladen with food. Finding that he wasn’t much hungry, Louis picked at a chicken leg. Slytherin?
There was a bit of whispering along the table before he was spoken to directly. “So, Weasley.”
He looked up to find a surely older student sitting opposite him. One brow winged, he waited for the boy to go on.
“Bet your famous family won’t be too pleased with you.”
Louis didn’t think that the statement was worth a response, and therefore dipped his gaze back to his plate. He was about to spare a carrot when his plate was shoved aside.
“I was speaking to you.”
“Oh?” Louis looked up once more. “Sorry. I don’t know how to respond to hot air.”
The boy’s lip curled. “Do you know who you’re talking to?”
“Don’t care, and don’t care to.”
There was a snicker from somewhere nearby, but Louis’s gaze didn’t waver.
“Watch yourself, Weasley.”
“I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the mirror, but if you insist.”
Niq had taught him that word, and apparently it went over the head of the idiot conversing with him, if the blank look in his dark eyes were any indication. With one final glare, he moved off to rejoin his friends.
Pulling his plate back, he settled his hand on his raised fist and returned to picking at his chicken.
With an inward sigh, he lifted his head once more, only to find an extremely pretty girl grinning at him.
“Flint’s a toe rag. Don’t let him get to you.”
He frowned as she flicked dark hair over her shoulder. “He didn’t.”
“Good.” She looked down at his plate. “Aren’t you hungry? The food’s really good.”
He shrugged. “More tired than hungry.”
She nodded, and a curious expression lingered on her face. He felt slightly uncomfortable with the attention.
“Oh, forgot my manners,” she said suddenly. “I’m Rowena Davies.”
The food vanished, only to be replaced with desserts, and he found himself amused as Rowena placed a little bit of everything on her plate. He decided on a tart while she devoured her varied selections.
“Who’s our Head of House?” he eventually asked, gaze idly roving over those at the Staff table.
What a surname.
“He sounds pleasant.”
“She,” Rowena informed on a laugh. She looked to the table, and pointed. “See the one in the silver robes and pointed hat? With all that brown hair?”
He’d have spotted her even if the hair hadn’t been mentioned, since she happened to be the only one wearing silver. That was quite a head of hair, he couldn’t help but think. It wasn’t bushy like Aunt Hermione’s, but it was voluminous. Even sitting, she appeared very tall, as her head was several inches above those that flanked her.
“Is she part giant?” he found himself asking.
Rowena looked thoughtful. “No idea, but she does look it, doesn’t she?”
Professor Vector stood once more to address them. After listing a few forbidden items, she informed that no one was allowed in the Forbidden Forest, and then sent them off to bed.
“Gather round, First Years.”
“See you around,” Rowena told him.
Louis joined his classmates in following a tall Slytherin boy with hair more orange than red. He took in everything around him, for he didn’t want to forget the route to the common room. Down and down they went until they came to a standstill in front of a stone wall. There was nothing upon it, but Louis felt a little strange. Why did it seem slightly wet?
“The password is nobility. It changes every few weeks, so be sure to check the noticeboard often.”
The common room was... rough. Given the stories he had heard about Slytherins from the past, he had expected something more extravagant and luxurious. Nothing was smooth, and even the chairs that surrounded the fireplace were hewn from stone. They couldn’t be very comfortable. And what was with the green lights?
“We’re located beneath the Black Lake,” the prefect was saying.
Louis came to a complete stop. Beneath the lake? Beneath? Was Salazar out of his mind? Well, he supposed that was a silly question, considering.
Just my luck.
Willing his heart not to speed up, Louis descended the stairs to the dormitories. He could already feel his breathing picking up, and he hoped that no one would notice.
“This will be your home for the next year. No need to clean up after yourselves. It’s what the elves are for. Now I’d advise that you all go to bed, as tomorrow will be a busy one.”
With that, he left.
Louis took that moment to look around, his breathing loud to his ears, and immediately wished that he hadn’t. There was a window on the left side of the room, and it provided a view of the lake. He could have sworn something swam by, but he looked away so fast that he may have imagined it.
Before anyone else could claim a bed, he chose one as far away from the window as possible, and which also blocked the view because another bed was next to it. He dragged his heavy trunk to the foot and sat down.
If he wasn’t sure that word would get around, he’d have fled. Since he had to spend the next seven years at this place, he’d just have to act numb while in the common room and in the presence of others, otherwise his time at Hogwarts would be filled with teasing. He already knew that he’d be spending as many hours as he could aboveground though.
“Irving Stretton,” said the boy who plunked down on the bed next to him. Before Louis could say his name, Irving added, “I know who you are. A couple of the boys down my end were talking about you. Said they’d get you good.”
Flint, no doubt.
The other six boys in his dormitory were clearly listening in, but none added to the conversation. He wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t talk to him at all, seeing as he was already marked, so to speak.
Irving smiled and then changed into pajamas. “Probably just a load of talk though. Night, Weasley.”
Louis pulled off his robes but didn’t think to change. Instead, he laid back on his bed after drawing the dark green curtains, and placed one arm underneath his head.
First night and he had already made an enemy, but it didn’t bother him much. What concerned him more was what his family had to say about him being placed in Slytherin. It wouldn’t surprise him any if Niq had already written home.
With a sigh, he turned over and attempted to fall asleep. It wasn’t an easy task though, what with knowing that he was underneath a lake and all. What if the window broke while they all slept and he drowned in his sleep?
Though he had many what if’s, they couldn’t keep his eyes from growing heavy, and with one final thought about the bottom of the Black Lake, he drifted.