Chapter 3 : Chapter III: One Last Thing and Sorting
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My mother smoothed my hair.
"This is it," she whispered, her voice muffled by emotion. I bit my lower lip.
"You'll be fine," my father assured, his eyes twinkling. I nodded, but didn't quite agree.
Suddenly their smiles faltered; my parents exchanged a long look, and my mother bent down until our eyes were almost level.
"Before you go, Wren," she murmured, "There's one last thing we need to tell you."
I blinked up at her. "What is it?"
My father glanced at the families around us, lowering his voice as to go unheard. "Stay away from the Blacks," he said grimly.
"Especially that Black boy, the one in your year," my mother added, her eyes boring into mine.
I looked from one parent to the next, stumbling for words. But for that one night cleaning dishes, the Black name had been unofficially banned from household conversations. Neither my mother nor my father had mentioned them in front of me since. And they had never been this firm with me before; I was an obedient child who did as my parents asked.
"But...why?" I finally whispered.
"Mark my words, he'll be nothing but trouble," my father answered, his eyes narrowing.
"It's for your best interest, dear," my mother finished, gently nudging me onto the train. "Now take care of yourself - remember to send us a letter as soon as you're settled in. Don't fuss about Peeves; he'll only be a bother if you let him. And if you're not to class on time at first, don't fret - ask one of the older students for directions."
My father winked. "Stay out of trouble, sweetheart."
And just like that the train began to move, students' faces popped out of windows, hands waved their final goodbyes. There were no farewell hugs, no parting kisses...as the train picked up speed, I watched my parents grow smaller and smaller, the distance between us as wide as the sky, their shining faces curled up in smiles once more.
The hushed whispers seemed to come from every House at once, filling the Great Hall with the older students' fascination.
"...the Black heir, of course..."
"Purebloods, the whole lot of them..."
"...Slytherin for sure."
I craned my neck and stood on tiptoes, searching through the crowd of first years. Many stirred, almost hesitant. Who would be the one to step forward?
Finally, the crowd shifted and he lingered into view, climbed the steps to the rickety wooden stool, faced the Hall and sat down.
I wasn't sure what I had been expecting. I knew nothing of this boy, other than his name - a name that had already defined so much of him, who he was, who his family were, who I was forbidden to go near. I had spent the train ride treating my imagination (then my sweet tooth, when the trolley rolled by), trapped in my compartment between a pair of reserved Ravenclaws and the window, gazing at the countryside through thick, clear glass, dreaming of what this boy would look like, act like, be like. A potential murderer, perhaps, or a criminal in the making. I wasn't sure what I had been expecting, but I was surely not expecting this.
The boy was unreasonably handsome. His hair, a mess of deep, dark waves and even longer than my own, was cut just before his shoulders, slightly grazing the edges of his collar. The wispy, untidy fringe thinned out to its longest point at the nape of his neck, and a small lock fell with grace and hung just a little too close to his right eye, too short to sweep behind an ear. He brushed it away. He had creamy white skin, even whiter in the Hall's flickering candlelight. He was the size of any average 11-year-old, but had already begun to lose the boyish innocence of childhood to something inexplicable, a lofty elegance captured in his frame. He had a definite jaw, a chiseled chin and a pointed nose, but most shocking were his eyes - they were a brilliant grey, the iris blossoming around the pupil like midnight clouds encircling a dead and buried moon, illuminated by the light of the stars, the unparalleled color of the sea before a storm. His eyes flitted around the Hall, glanced at each House once or twice, and eventually settled on staring straight ahead.
I fell to my heels, voices died away, and the Sorting Hat was dropped upon the boy's awaiting head.
A very faint sound, too far away to distinguish, came from the tattered hat - it seemed to be conversing with the boy, as each respective mouth was faintly moving. I leaned forward. Seconds passed like years. From the corner of my eye, I could see the Slytherin table as still as stone, waiting.
Finally, the Hat spoke.
The sounds which followed were deafening; at the Gryffindor table, most students were mad with cheering, but others turned to their neighbors in disbelief. They shrugged or muttered, their eyes dark with the occurrence of something unanticipated. The Slytherin table was up in arms - two girls had even shot off the bench in outrage, one with dark hair and the other with light, their pretty mouths hanging open in indignation. A boy next to them sneered.
The mess had slipped quietly from the stool, stumbling in a sort of daze to the Gryffindor table. House members clapped him on the back and howled words of welcome, and his answering smile was faint but firm.
For a moment our eyes locked, and I looked down at my shoes, blushing pink for a reason I couldn't explain.
The Sorting continued uninterrupted. Eventually Professor McGonagall called a girl with the last name of Evans, and I recognized the long red hair of a girl from the train. Sure enough, she had been standing next to her scrawny companion, a boy with hair that hung like a greasy black mop. I had seen them sitting together in a different compartment.
The Sorting Hat graced her long, lustrous strands, and declared the girl a Gryffindor.
The greasy-haired boy groaned, and the girl gave him a sad little smile.
It was my turn - I swallowed hard and drifted forward. The crowd seemed to part for me as I ascended the stairs, eyes trained on the Hall's glossy floor. Approaching the stool with shaking legs, I sat down.
The Sorting Hat dipped over my eyes, covering my line of vision with worn black cloth. It spoke in a tiny voice that only I seemed to hear.
"Ah, Ms. Fillory. I sorted your parents, gifted Ravenclaws indeed…destined for great things, the pair of them…will you follow in their footsteps? You have your mother's wit, your father's brains - but what's this? A fair amount of courage...not afraid to fight, no, not at all. Loyalty and bravery, too…hmmm…"
My heart thumped with a dull ringing in my chest. I was holding my breath.
I sighed loudly. Gryffindor - at least it wasn't Hufflepuff.
At my new house table, students applauded, whistled, patted me on the back and grasped my hand. A wide grin had slipped onto my face without my permission, but I didn't fight it. Sliding along the bench, I found myself next to the red-haired girl. She held out her hand to me, a kind smile on her lips.
"Hi. I'm Lily, Lily Evans."
I took her hand. "It's nice to meet you, Lily Evans. I think I saw you on the train. I'm Wren."