As the sky outside the window turned an inky black, a voice echoed throughout the train: "We will be reaching Hogsmeade in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train, it will be taken to the school separately."
Teddie looked across at Theo. He had managed to secure an empty compartment when he had boarded the train and had allowed her to share with him when she arrived. They hadn't spoken much the entire train ride, but the silence was a comfortable one.
As the train started to slow down, Teddie and Theo joined the stream of students out in the hallway. People pushed their way towards the doors and disembarked onto a tiny, dark platform. Teddie shivered and pulled her cloak around her body. Then a lamp came bobbing over the heads of the students and a gruff voice shouted: "Firs'-years! Firs-years over here!"
Teddie looked around and her eyes widened at the man calling for first years. He was huge. "Is he a giant?" she asked Theo.
Theo shrugged and followed the crowd of first years towards the man.
"C'mon, follow me - any more firs'-years? Mind yer step, now! Firs'-years follow me!" the man called, waving a huge hand in his direction. Slipping and stumbling, they followed the man down what seemed to be a steep, narrow path.
Teddie stuck as close as she could to Theo. He glanced down at her and wordlessly grabbed her wrist so that they wouldn't get separated.
"Yeh'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec," the man called over his shoulder, "jus' round this bend here."
There was a loud "Oooooh!"
The narrow path had opened suddenly on to the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.
"Wow…" Teddie breathed.
"No more'n four to a boat!" the man called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting on the shore.
Teddie and Theo climbed into one and were followed by a blonde girl and a dark-skinned boy.
"Everyone in?" shouted the man. He had a boat to himself, due to his sheer size. "Right then - FORWARD!"
The boats lurched forward, gliding seamlessly across the water's surface. Teddie leaned over the side and smiled as her rippled reflection stared back at her.
"I wouldn't do that," the dark-skinned boy said.
Teddie pulled back and stared at him. "Why?" she asked.
"My mother told me a giant squid lived in the lake," the boy said. "It likes to play pranks on first years. She said that when she was a first year, it reached into one of the boats and pulled a student under the water."
"Fascinating," Teddie said, leaning back over the side of the boat.
Theo pulled her back. He didn't say a word but kept his hand on her wrist to prevent her from leaning away from him again.
"Heads down!" yelled the man as the boats reached the cliff. Teddie and those in her boat bent their heads and the little boat carried them through a curtain of ivy which hid a wide opening in the cliff. They were carried through a dark tunnel, which seemed to be taking them right underneath the castle until they reached a kind of underground harbour.
Theo helped Teddie climb out of the boat. She smiled her thanks and followed him along the stone corridor until they reached a set of stone steps. They climbed steadily upwards and finally came out on a smooth, damp grass right in the shadow of the castle.
"It's even beautiful up close," Teddie whispered to Theo.
"Everyone here?" the man called from the front of the group. He led them up the last set of stone steps and stopped in front of a huge, oak front door. He raised a massive fist and knocked three times.
The door swung open at once. A tall, black-haired witch in emerald green robes stood there. She had a very stern face and Teddie guessed she was not a woman to be crossed.
"The firs'-years, Professor McGonagall," the giant man said.
"Thank you, Hagrid. I will take it from here." She pulled the door open wide. The Entrance Hall was so big Teddie was sure she could fit her entire house inside. The stone walls were lit with flaming torches, the ceiling was too high to make out, and a magnificent marble staircase facing them led up to the upper floors.
They followed Professor McGonagall across the flagged stone floor into a small room just off the Great Hall, where Teddie could hear other voices. The rest of the students must have come up to the school via other means. The first years crowded into the room, jostling each other and carving out space for themselves and new friends,
Teddie and Theo stuck to the back wall with the blonde girl and dark-skinned boy.
"Welcome to Hogwarts," said Professor McGonagall. "The start-of-term banquet will begin shortly. But before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be like your family. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory and spend free time in your house common room."
Theo and Teddie exchanged looks.
"The four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin," McGonagall explained. "Each house has its own noble history and each has produced outstanding wizards and witches. While you are here at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your house points, while any rule-breaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the House Cup, a great honour. I hope each of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours."
McGonagall's eyes flitted over the faces staring up at her. She spotted Teddie at the back of the room, her gaze lingering a second longer before she turned away again.
Teddie frowned. Finding the interaction strange.
"The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you all smarten yourselves up as much as you while you are waiting. I shall return when we are ready for you. Please wait quietly."
She left the chamber.
Teddie turned to the three beside her. She had figured a while back that they were Purebloods, and probably knew more about Hogwarts than she did. "Do you know what houses you want to be in?" she asked.
"My whole family has been in Slytherin," the blonde girl said. "Oh, I'm Daphne, by the way. Daphne Greengrass."
"Teddie Green. I bought my brother a book called Hogwarts: A History when I went to Diagon Alley," said Teddie. "He told me just last night about the houses. Slytherin sounds like the most interesting, plus, the book says he had a weird fascination with snakes, and that he could talk to them. I love Snakes, and I found myself identifying with Slytherin on so many levels. I hope I get his house, too,"
The dark-skinned boy eyed Teddie. "You're a Muggleborn, aren't you?" he asked.
Teddie nodded, although she did roll her eyes. What was it with these guys? What did it matter what blood status she was? She'd already had Mason tell her about the blood statuses in the Wizarding world. Apparently being a Muggleborn was a big deal, and Mason even worried about her safety. But then he remembered that Teddie wasn't someone that allowed others to push her around, no matter who they were.
"It's rare that a Muggleborn ends up in Slytherin," the boy said. "Slytherin was against Muggleborns being taught at Hogwarts."
"Yeah, my brother told me about that," Teddie said. She shrugged. "Maybe I'll be the change,"
The boy smirked. "Slytherin looked for ambition and determination," he said. "You'd fit right in with that skill. "I'm Blaise. Blaise Zabini."
"Nice to meet you," Teddie said. "What house do you want, Theo?" she added to the boy she'd met in London.
"Slytherin," Theo said.
Teddie grinned. "So, hopefully, if I make Slytherin, we'll all be together then?" she asked.
A door opened at the end of the hall and Professor McGonagall returned. She called out to the first years, ordering them to form a line. Theo, Teddie, Daphne, and Blaise fell into line behind one another and followed the students ahead of them out of the chamber. They trailed across the Entrance Hall and through a second set of double doors.
The Great Hall was lit by thousands and thousands of candles that were floating in midair over four long tables. These tables were laid with glittering golden plates and goblets, and lined with hundreds of students all dressed in black robes. At the top of the hall stood another long table, behind which sat several adults. Teddie scanned the table, her gaze settling on Snape at the far end. He met her gaze, nodded once and then looked away.
Teddie caught Daphne's eye and shrugged as they came to a stop before a set of steps leading to the high table. The first years all crowded around a small three-legged rickety wooden stool as McGonagall stood nearby, holding a ratted old hat.
Silence hung heavy in the air, and then a rim appeared at the brim of the hat, and it started to sing.
"A singing hat?" Teddie whispered to Theo. "That wasn't in the book."
Theo cracked a smile and nudged her, shushing her.
After what felt like forever, the hat stopped singing and the whole hall burst into applause. As silence fell again, Professor McGonagall stepped forward holding a long roll of parchment. "When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted," she said. "Abbott, Hannah!"
A pink-faced girl with blonde pigtails stumbled out of the line, put on the hat, which fell down over her eyes, and sat on the stool. A moment's pause -
"HUFFLEPUFF!" the hat shouted.
The table on the right cheered and clapped as Hannah went to sit down at the Hufflepuff table.
"HUFFLEPUFF!" the hat shouted for the second time.
The table second from the left clapped this time; several Ravenclaws stood up to shake hands with Terry as he joined them.
The table on the left exploded into cheers.
The table on the far left of the hall erupted into cheers.
Teddie quickly scanned the Slytherin table, her gaze meeting the boy she knew to be Marcus Flint. He smirked at her and she turned her attention back to the Sorting. So he was a Slytherin, and he seemed to want to be her friend? She was liking the idea of being a Slytherin more and more.
Daphne leaned in close to Teddie. "Notice how the hat seems to take longer on some people?" she asked.
"Yeah," Teddie nodded.
"My mum told me once, if the hat takes longer than five minutes to decide, they call it a Hatstall," Daphne explained.
"Hatstall? What does that mean?"
"It's where the Hat can't decide where to put you," Daphne said. "My mum said that Hatstalls are rare, but there have been a few known ones."
Teddie swallowed and stared at the Hat. She was about to ask Daphne what would happen if the Hat couldn't decide where to put you when McGonagall called her name.
Teddie froze. She felt a hand on her back and Theo pushed her forward. Taking a deep breath, Teddie climbed the steps to the stool and sat down. The last thing she saw before the hat covered her eyes were her new friends offering her encouraging smiles.
"Isn't this interesting?"
A surprised yelp escaped Teddie's lips and she heard a light chuckle around the hall.
"Don't be scared," the voice said. "I'm the Sorting Hat. I'm just going to look through your thoughts and try to figure out where to place you. You know, I always enjoy sorting Muggleborns. You have no common knowledge of the Wizarding World, and therefore do not beg to be placed in a specific house in order to uphold age-old family traditions. But what's this? You're no ordinary Muggleborn are you, Miss Green? No, I daresay you are not. Interesting place, your mind, very interesting indeed. You have powerful magic coursing through your veins - magic that would make most witches and wizards cower in fear."
The hat hummed to itself, sifting carefully through each and every thought that trickled through Teddie's mind.
Teddie swallowed as she listened; the hall was silent and she could see movement beneath the rim, so she was aware that everyone was still out there, watching and waiting with bated breaths for the Hat's decision. What would happen to her if it couldn't decide on a house? Would she be sent home? Would she be called a fraud? She'd kill Snape if this was some sick prank.
The Hat chuckled. "Aggressive," he said in her ear. "Professor Snape will have his hands full with you this year, that's a fact. I can tell that your life has been difficult, and I can't promise you that Hogwarts will be easier, but you're used to difficult, aren't you? I may even go as far as to say you'd welcome an even greater challenge of difficult, although you may not agree. You know, Miss Green, things are about to become very interesting for you, and there is only one house that I can put you - SLYTHERIN!"
Teddie removed the hat and looked around at the faces staring up at her. She smirked and made her way over to the table that had just stood to applaud her.
As she settled herself onto the wooden bench, Teddie looked up to see Daphne take the stool. The blonde looked so cool and composed as the hat covered her eyes. It didn't take long before the hat shouted "SLYTHERIN!
Teddie cheered as Daphne run over to sit beside her.
The Sorting continued through several more letters before finally reaching the M's.
The Hat had barely brushed the boys head before shouting "SLYTHERIN!"
There weren't many people left now.
Teddie looked up as Theo took the stool. He met her gaze as the hat sat on his head and shouted "SLYTHERIN!" to the hall.
Theo took the empty space beside Teddie as Daphne slid down to make room for him. He smiled thankfully at the blonde girl and then turned to Teddie. For someone who didn't seem to want to be friendly, he was definitely warming up to her.
Pansy Parkinson became the next Slytherin, and soon McGonagall called a name that caused a whisper of surprise to flutter around them all. Teddie looked around, curious as to why people seemed to be craning their necks to get a good look at the boy she had met in Ollivanders a few days earlier.
"Hatstall?" Teddie asked Daphne as she leaned across Theo.
Daphne shrugged. "I doubt it," she said. "Both his parents were in Gryffindor, there's a high chance he'll be put there too. Besides, Harry Potter is famous in the Wizarding World. He destroyed a very Dark Lord when he was merely an infant. He'll become a Gryffindor for just that alone."
"Seems like a stupid reason, if you ask me," Teddie muttered, pulling back.
Soon the rip at the bottom of the hat opened wide and yelled: "GRYFFINDOR!"
The Gryffindor table erupted into cheers as Daphne caught Teddie's eye.
Professor McGonagall called for attention; she even had to use her wand to fire off a couple of loud fireworks to shut the cheering Gryffindor's up, before she could continue with the Sorting. After Harry Potter a Ronald Weasley also became a Gryffindor, leaving Blaise to take the stool last.
The hat sat for a second on top of Blaise's head before shouting "SLYTHERIN!"
Blaise joined his new friends at his new table.
"Welcome to the dark side, Green," Blaise teased as he sat opposite Teddie.
"Apparently all the fun stuff happens on the dark side," Teddie replied. "Besides" she added with a shrug. "According to the kids in my neighbourhood, the dark side has cookies."
Blaise smirked as Daphne and Theo chuckled.