Harry sat next to Ginny at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall as the sorting of the first years took place as it always had. There had been several new additions to all of the houses already, and everyone was wondering where the last first year would be placed.
Professor McGonagall stood holding the sorting hat while she looked down to her list and said, “Vivian Wexler.”
The last remaining girl walked up and sat on the stool. The sorting hat was placed on her head and it was only a few seconds later when everyone heard the sorting hat proclaim that Vivian was to be a Hufflepuff. Vivian jumped up and walked smiling to the Hufflepuff table to a chorus of applause from her house.
What everyone was expecting to see next was for McGonagall to remove the sorting hat and the stool so that Dumbledore could begin the opening feast in his usual manner. What they were not expecting was for McGonagall to set the hat back on the stool, walk back up the center isle and out of the Great Hall.
Questioning murmurs had erupted all over the Great Hall before she had even made half of the trip to the doors. The murmurs continued until Professor Dumbledore stood and cleared his throat, returning attention to the front of the Hall.
“No doubt,” Professor Dumbledore began, “you have all noticed that things are not proceeding as usual. We have some special circumstances this year that need us to allow for some changes. First, let me introduce to you Professor Bryce Bane, who will be acting as your Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for the year.”
At that point an elderly looking man sitting at the teacher’s table rose and gave a small wave to the students before retaking his seat.
“Professor Bane,” Dumbledore continued, “is here during a sabbatical from The Salem School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in America.”
“America?” Ron whispered to his friends around him. “I never even thought about there being a school in America.”
“There are two actually,” Hermione whispered in answer. “There is one on each coast of the United States. The one in Salem is the oldest.”
“Now that Professor Bane’s introduction is taken care of,” Dumbledore said, “this would usually be the time when we would begin the feast. Before we do that though, there is one more sorting to be done.
“It is my great pleasure to inform you that, for the first time in its history, Hogwarts has accepted a transfer student from another school. A transfer from the very school from which Professor Bane comes to us as a matter of fact. The student is in the last year of study, so some time of adjustment may be needed.
“At this time I think it is necessary for me to tell you the circumstances that have brought this student to us, since I’m sure it would become a matter of rumor soon anyway. Up until this last year, there was a dark wizard in America named Jarvis Hornquist who terrorized the wizarding communities on the eastern coast of the country. I say last year, because at the end of the last school year, he came across a young student who proved too powerful for him when they dueled. As you might imagine, the fame that resulted for the student made returning for another year at the school impossible. It is my hope that the students of Hogwarts will make every effort to welcome the new student with treatment no different than they would give to any other student. The special sorting ceremony will now begin.”
“Dueling dark wizards,” Ron said. “He must be a really tough guy. It sounds like a Gryffindor if I ever heard of one.”
It was at that moment that Professor McGonagall opened the door to the Great Hall and began walking back up the center isle. The new student followed close behind her, and every jaw in the Great Hall dropped at the sight.
They had all conjured a picture of the wizard who had battled and defeated such a powerful enemy, but what they saw walking up the isle, was as far from what they were expecting as it could be. The wizard turned out to be a tall well tanned witch with flowing blonde hair that looked as if she had been pulled straight off of the beach and thrown into a Hogwarts uniform.
The young witch held the eye of everyone in the Great Hall as she walked, but acknowledged none of them as she stared straight at McGonagall’s back as she glided up the isle. Her focus never wavered until she turned her head slightly and looked straight into Harry’s eyes as she passed where he was sitting.
Harry had been surprised that she had looked over at him, but the thing that really disturbed him was the shiver that ran down his spine when he saw the look in her eyes. He didn’t know if the feeling was some kind of warning or not, but he knew that it wasn’t a good feeling.
Professor McGonagall reached the steps and raised the sorting hat once more as she said, “Cassidy Silverwood.”
The young witch stepped forward and took a seat on the stool. Professor McGonagall placed the sorting hat on her head, and everyone waited to hear the sorting hat’s decision.
“I tell you it’s a sure thing,” Ron whispered. “She’s going to be a Gryffindor.”
Still remembering the feeling he had when she looked at him, Harry said, “Don’t be too sure of that. I have a funny feeling…”
“Slytherin,” the sorting hat announced, causing the Slytherin table to erupt in cheers.
Cassidy Silverwood stood up and moved to the empty seat at the Slytherin table, which just happened to be next to Malfoy. As they watched her walk to the table, Harry saw something out of the corner of his eye. When he looked up to the teacher’s table, he noticed that Snape was looking right at him, and he had a rare grin on his face.
Professor Dumbledore stood once again and said, “Now that we have welcomed Miss Silverwood into our school, let the feast begin.”
Dumbledore waved his hand, and as expected, a mountain of food appeared along every table. The first years, were in awe at the surprise, but everyone else set right in to discussing what they thought of their new student.
“I think the sorting hat might have made a mistake,” Neville said.
“Don’t be too sure, Neville,” Harry said. “Remember that the sorting hat nearly put me in Slytherin.”
“How can she fight dark wizards and still be in Slytherin?” Ron asked.
“She may not be overtly evil like Malfoy and some of the others,” Harry warned, “but the sorting hat always has reasons for making the choices it does. Just don’t drop your guard until you know what those reasons are.”
Ginny nudged Harry in the ribs and motioned for him to look at something. What he saw was that Cassidy had gotten up from the Slytherin table and every head was once again fixed on her as she walked in the direction of the Gryffindor table. Harry tried to ignore it and made the others stop watching as well.
Harry didn’t have any choice but to take notice as Cassidy stopped right behind him and cleared her throat softly as she said, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but are you Harry Potter?”
“Yes, I am,” Harry said as he turned in his seat and looked up at her questioningly.
“I’m Cassidy Silverwood,” she said as she extended her hand, which Harry accepted in a gentle handshake. “I really can’t believe I’m getting to meet you in person. All of my friends back in America have your picture posted all over their walls.”
“What?” Harry asked, not sure he had heard her right. “What pictures?”
“Well, the ones from the paper,” Cassidy responded. “Even in America, a person can’t go a month without reading a story about something to do with you. People are hoping you’ll defeat Voldemort and keep him from spreading his evil overseas.”
“I would warn you that some people in this country aren’t very comfortable hearing Voldemort’s name said out loud,” Harry said.
“I know,” Cassidy said. “There are plenty of people in my country who believe the same garbage and call him He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. As if the name itself could hurt anyone.”
“Congratulations on your defeat of Hornquist,” Harry said.
“Oh, thanks,” Cassidy said. “He wasn’t nearly as powerful as Voldemort though. It will take a special wizard to defeat him.”
“Or just a dedicated group of friends,” Harry said as he motioned to those around him. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them. Let me introduce you.”
Harry began introducing all of his friends, as well as some others who nudged closer to get in on the discussion. The last person Harry came to introducing was Ginny.
“And last, but by no means the least, my girlfriend Ginny,” Harry said.
Cassidy reached her hand out to shake Ginny’s as she said, “You have no idea how many hearts you just broke back in America. My friends are going to cry for days when they find out Harry Potter has a girlfriend. As if he was going to sweep out of the sky on his broom and carry them off with him anyway. Well, I had better get back to my own house table before they send out a search party for me. It was nice to meet you all.”
After she had walked a safe distance away, Neville said, “I still say they made a mistake putting her in Slytherin. When was the last time a Slytherin was that nice to anyone?”
“Don’t be fooled by that sweet smile she puts on,” Harry said. “Something still bothers me about her. It’s something deep inside, and likely the thing that made the sorting hat put her in Slytherin in the first place.”
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