"Darling, it really is best if you run straight for it. We can all go together, hmm?"

"I suppose…" Linden drawled nervously.

Andromeda's words did little to comfort her. It was the first of September and she and her cousins had all gotten up at the crack of dawn to enjoy one last breakfast together before heading off to King's Cross Station.

The whole way, while Dory snored on Linden's shoulder, Andromeda had tearfully gone on and on about how proud she and Ted were of Linden. Everything was going to be okay and she would make a ton of friends that would end up being some of her best mates and the best years of her life.

She hadn't known how to properly respond to that.

Now, she looked up, biting her lip at Ted when his larger hands curled around her own. Dory had grabbed the trolley handle on her left side and Andromeda, her right. Underneath Ted's hands, she could feel hers shaking. The train left at 11:00AM and it was already 10:45AM.

She had been through the platform before whenever it was Dory's turn to go to Hogwarts for the year, but this was different. It was her turn.

"Wh-what if I get stuck?" she whimpered.

"You won't," Ted assured her, patting her hands, "You'll go right through. Just hold onto the trolley. Simple as that."

"I underestimated the direction, once," Dory mumbled, "Crashed into the wrong platform and broke my nose. Not my finest moment. Mum fixed it right up, though."

Linden gasped loudly and Andromeda scolded her daughter.

"Hush," she hissed, "Come, now, Linden, darling. You'll miss your train."

"On the count of three," Ted announced and Linden went rigid, "One…two…three!"

Her family, strong as they were together, did most of the pushing and Linden squeezed her eyes shut, doing her best to keep up blindly. It was only when the trolley was pulled to a stop, that she stumbled, her eyes opening in the process.

She gasped at what she saw.

Steam was rising around a large scarlet train that had the words 'Hogwarts Express' painted across the top in sparkling gold letters. The pure white steam was curling into the bright sky, a whistle sounded occasionally, alerting everyone to the time. More people than Linden could ever hope to count were clustered around it, ready to board and have the train take them to a place full of wonder and magic for an entire year and more to come.

Anxiety bubbled in her veins and she inhaled a deep breath, flinching when two other kids ran past her, laughing and chasing something that fluttered away from them into the air.

"It's a beautiful sight, isn't it?" Andromeda asked, her tone matching Linden's awed expression.

"I—it's pretty," Linden mumbled, eyeing all the students, "All these people fit into the train?"

It had sounded cleverer inside her head, but she was in disbelief that it was at all plausible. How many students attended Hogwarts, anyway?

"The witch who pushes the Honeydukes Express is quite nice," Dory mused, making Linden crave a some Pumpkin Pasties, "Ask her name, no one ever does," she nudged Linden playfully, "I bet you'll make a friend."

"Nice one," Linden swallowed thickly, looking desperately up at Andromeda.

"Come here, darling," Andromeda pulled Linden into her arms and hugged her tightly, "I'm going to miss you very much."

"I'm going to miss you too," Linden said into her cousin's chest, "I promise to send owls."

"That's a good girl," she looked up when Andromeda pulled away and knelt down in front of her, "Now remember, I love you and I'll be proud of you no matter what happens. If you're placed in Slytherin, then that's all right. Ambition doesn't have to be a bad thing, does it?" Linden shook her head, feeling as though she was supposed to, "Your ambition might be to finish your homework early or to talk to a boy you might fancy…maybe your ambition is to see how much pudding you can eat in twenty minutes?"

Linden laughed, a sound that always turned heads and that must have been the reaction her cousin wanted because she laughed too, wiping away tears that had built up in her eyes.

Linden craned her neck back when Andromeda straightened up and gave her a little push towards Ted.

"Say goodbye to your father and your sister."

By the time the words registered, Linden was already engulfed in Ted's strong embrace, keeping her from seeing her family's reaction and providing the perfect opportunity to pretend that she hadn't heard the slip-up. Not that she minded Dory being referred to as her sister.

"Don't forget you'll be home for the holidays," Ted reminded her. He didn't acknowledge the slip-up, "Only in a couple of months."

Linden nodded against him and squeaked when she was yanked out of Ted's arms and pulled into Dory's arms, literally being crushed. It was blinding.

"Blimey! I'm going to go completely mad without you around!" Dory moaned into her shoulder, "I'm stupid proud of you!"

"Um," Linden choked out, "Cheers, Dory…I'm proud of you too. Good luck with the rest of your training," she felt her hand twitch, "Um…help?"

Both her cousins laughed at the display and after some persistent tugging, Linden and Dory were separated, both startling when a loud whistle blew.

Andromeda sniffled and pressed her lips tightly together.

"We'll write soon," Ted promised, stroking Linden's hair, "Wave to us as you go, okay?"

"Mhm," Linden nodded, taking hold of her trolley, "I love you guys. Bye."

"Have a good term!" Dory called out to her while she waved.

Linden waved back, then turned to go, her lip between her teeth and her eyes occasionally glancing downwards.

This was it. She was approaching the train that would soon whisk her away to a magical school away from the safety of Remus and her home.

She weaved her way through cats, trunks and owls, looking for a proper carriage in which to sit. There were people hanging out windows to talk to their family and some fighting over seats.

'Is it too late to turn back?' she thought, anxiously looking for an empty one.

When she spotted an empty compartment, she quickly pulled her trunk, heaving it up the steps with as much strength she could muster.

"D-did you need help?"

The voice surprised Linden, causing her to drop the end of her trunk on her foot. The compartment that she was so sure was empty, apparently, was not.

There was a girl, poking her head out of the compartment, looking like she might cry. She had light skin, barely visibly by her bad acne, wavy espresso brown hair and blue eyes.

Linden nodded, "Yes, please."

With the girl's help, they managed to tuck away Linden's trunk in the corner of the compartment.

"Thank you," Linden said gratefully, going to sit down next to the window, "That was ever so polite," she peaked out the window as she said this, trying to see her family, but also stay hidden.

"You're welcome," said the girl shyly. Then, in a louder voice, chimed, "I'm Eloise. Eloise Midgen."

"I'm Linden," she glanced at her as she said this, omitting her last name. Was it really necessary?

If it was, Eloise didn't correct her and said, "It's my first year, too," she informed her shyly.

"Oh, look, she's made a friend!" a voice gasped, right outside the window.

Linden's face flushed and she got up to lean out the window, glaring. So much for staying hidden.

"Andromeda!" she hissed, "Don't…"

"We love you so much!" Andromeda sounded close to tears again, "Take care of yourself and send an owl when you get there."

"I will, and I love you too!" Linden replied, then gasped, "Oh, and keep an eye on Remus for me, please! Pretty please!"

The train began to move and she gave a big wave, settling back in her seat when she could no longer see her family.

The train had turned a corner and she tried not to get teary-eyed, not wanting to cry in front of Eloise. If she had been alone, that was another story, but she was not.

She cleared her throat, taking a deep breath through her nose and turned to watch the houses flash by the window. She peeked over at Eloise to see her doing the same thing.

Her heart leaped in her chest when she recalled Andromeda's words. Was it possible that she already had a friend? She hadn't even been on the train that long!

She opened her mouth to try and start another conversation, when the sound of the compartment door sliding open, interrupted her.

"I found one, Hannah," the boy called over his shoulder, "There's only two people in this one."

Linden pressed herself closer to the window, trying to shrink into herself when the blonde-haired boy and another blonde girl behind him, clambered into the compartment with their trunks.

"Hiya!" the blonde-haired boy with tan white skin greeted enthusiastically, plopping down next to Eloise, "Everywhere else seemed to be full. I'm Anthony…Goldstein!" he added a second later.

"And…I'm H-Hannah Ab…Abbot," a pink-faced girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, was struggling to get her trunk in the compartment.

"Um, let me-

"Got it!" Hannah cried enthusiastically, shoving her trunk in and Linden retook her seat.

"Phew!" Hannah fell into the seat next to Linden, still flustered. She reached over and shut the compartment door.

"Um…" Eloise flushed, "I'm Eloise Midgen," her voice was mousy as if she wasn't sure introducing herself was quite appropriate.

Linden bit her lip when Anthony looked at her expectantly, his dark brown eyes kind.

"I'm Linden," she told them, again, leaving out her last name.

Hannah suddenly rounded on her, "Do I know you from somewhere? You look oddly familiar."

Linden shook her head, shifting her position. She had never seen Hannah Abbot before, but perhaps Hannah had spotted her at Diagon Alley.

"Are all your family wizards?" Hannah asked Linden, then looked at Anthony and Eloise, redirecting the question at all of them.

"I'm a half-blood," Anthony announced proudly in a thick Irish accent, "My mum's a Muggle. It came as a great shock to me grandmum when my accidental magic popped up!" he chuckled, "She had no idea. During Hanukkah, I turned her glasses into candy canes."

Hannah perked up, twirling one of her pigtails. Her face was still pink, "I'm a half-and-half too. Up until…" she paused to think, "Well, a long time ago, my family was all pureblood. There's a portrait of one of my family members actually in Hogwarts!"

"Wicked!" Anthony gasped, "I bet we can find it," he turned to Eloise, "What about you?"

Eloise answered this with her head slightly tilted down, "Half-blood," she shrugged, "Nothing special, really."

"Welcome to the club!" Anthony grinned.

Linden found his attitude refreshing and bit her lip again to hide a smile. She could never bite her lip at home and was usually scolded for it by Andromeda.

"I was quite excited to get my supplies," Anthony interjected, "My favorite was getting my wand. I think I'm going to be ace at using it."

Hannah's eyes widened and she leaned forward, "Is it really that easy?"

Linden didn't think so, but kept the thought to herself. Sure, she had learned some magic, but if it was that easy, then what was the point of going to school?

She missed Anthony's answer, but Hannah appeared to sigh in relief, leaning back in her seat.

"I sure hope so," she mused, "I get so nervous. I bet I'm the worst in the class."

If at all possible, her face turned even pinker and Linden hastened to make her feel better.

"I bet you'll be brilliant!" she said, "Maybe we'll be in the same House and we can study together," she tried to keep the hope out of her tone, making it more casual.

Hannah smiled, "Maybe. What House do you think you'll be in? I'm hoping for Hufflepuff!"

Anthony's mouth dropped open, "Hufflepuff, really!?"

Hannah's pink face twisted into a scowl, "Yes, really. It sounds nice…and cozy, too."

Linden had never even given a fleeting thought to being in Hufflepuff—though she knew Dory was rooting for the House—only Gryffindor or Slytherin. Maybe Ravenclaw, but never Hufflepuff.

"I guess it doesn't matter what House I'm in," Anthony shrugged, "As long as it's not Slytherin."

Linden bristled, frowning deeply when Hannah and Eloise both paled and nodded, muttering their agreements.

She turned her head towards the window to hide this expression. The train had carried them out of London and they were speeding past fields full of cows and sheep.

Feeling defensive, she spoke up, "There's nothing wrong with Slytherin."

"What was that, Linden?" Eloise asked, "Did you say something?"

Linden shrugged, but repeated herself, "There's nothing wrong with Slytherin, it's a good House. Ambition doesn't have to be a bad thing."

She didn't look at anyone, but could hear the frown in Anthony's voice.

"What did you say your last name was?" he asked.

"I didn't," Linden looked over at him, still upset.

"Well, maybe she's Muggle-born?" Hannah suggested, looking at her, "Aren't you?"

"No," Linden shook her head, "Either half-blood or pure blood."

"Then you should know," Anthony said matter-of-factly, "That's the House You-Know-Who was in. They're all bad."

"It's the House my cousin was in," Linden had never felt so bold before, "And she's the sweetest, neatest, most loveliest person you'll ever meet! Married a Muggle-born, you know…and their daughter ended up in Hufflepuff. So there!" she wanted to stick her tongue out and almost did, but held it in her mouth and settled for crossing her arms over her chest, scowling.

Her three compartment mates were silent, looking at each other, then back to Linden.

"Your cousin was in Slytherin and married a Muggle-born," Eloise repeated, "Speak up, what's their name? Maybe we've heard of them."

"Tonks!" Linden said proudly.

"Andromeda Tonks!?" Hannah exclaimed, then she gasped, "Merlin, it's you, isn't it? I've heard of your family…I heard rumors…a girl on the train has connections to the Ministry—your Sirius Black's daughter."

"I am," Linden said, "My uncle says I look just like him." Well, so much for keeping her identity a secret.

It was tense, clearly. Hannah had scooted away from her and Anthony had mimicked her, folding his arms across his chest.

'Now I hope I'm in Slytherin,' she thought, if only to be stubborn.

"Have you…met him before?" Eloise asked timidly, "Your dad?"

"Well, obviously not," Anthony said in a poorly concealed whisper, "He's been locked up in Azkaban for years."

Linden tried not to flinch. After all, it's not like she wasn't aware of that.

No one said anything more on the subject. No one said anything at all.

She settled for staring out the window, lost in her own thoughts. Is this how everyone viewed Slytherin? The 'Bad House'? Just because You-Know-Who had been in Slytherin, that automatically gave it a bad reputation? Anyone in any House could go bad.

Though, she supposed she couldn't really talk. She had her own bad thoughts about Slytherin and Gryffindor. Maybe she would do well in Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. At least then, she wouldn't have to worry. She'd be right in the middle.

Around half past twelve there was a great clattering outside in the corridor and a smiling, dimpled woman slid back their door and said, "Anything off the cart, dears?"

They all got up from their seats and Linden waited both patiently and eagerly. When it was her turn, she purchased two Pumpkin Pasties, a Cauldron Cake and a Licorice Wand.

With her sweets in her arms, she reclaimed her seat and deposited the items in her lap. She look a large bite of the pasty, relishing in its flavor. She should have gotten three instead of the cauldron cake.

Something fell onto her lap. A Chocolate Frog. At first, she thought it was only the wrapper, but when she picked it up and felt the lump of chocolate inside, she looked to her right and saw Hannah, her head down as she gave Linden a long side-glance.

"Thank you," Linden whispered. She didn't fancy chocolate much, but opened the wrapper and stuck the whole thing in her mouth.

Hannah still looked wary of her and didn't lean closer when she asked, "What card did you get?"

"Cliodna," Linden said, flipping it over to read the back.

Irish druidess Cliodna, was a remarkable witch who discovered the magical properties of moondew, the card read.

"Here," she passed it to Hannah, "Do you collect them?"

Hannah's nose scrunched up, "No, not really."

"I do," Anthony piped and Linden held it out to him. His hand, she noticed, was shaking when he accepted it, "Thank you."

"I've heard the feast is completely brilliant," Linden mumbled, "My sister—my cousin, really—says she looked forward to it every year."

"My brother said the same thing," Anthony said eagerly, "What's your sister do now that she's graduated?"

"She's training to be an Auror," Linden finished off her first pasty, "She fancies it and seems happy. What about your brother?"

Anthony's cheeks pinked, "Employee of the Owl Post Office. He…likes owls."

Hannah sniggered, but Linden kept her face passive. Not everyone could or wanted to be an Auror or a Curse-Breaker.

There was a knock on the door of their compartment and just as Hannah reached forward to open it, the person behind the door slid it open themselves.

It was a short, chubby, round-faced boy with blonde hair. He was somewhat buck-toothed and had tear stains on his pale cheeks that he wiped on the sleeve of his jumper.

"Sorry," he said with a loud sniffle, "I-I don't mean to be a-a bother, b-but have you seen a toad at all?"

Linden looked around the compartment as if it would magically appear. She was sure, if there had been a toad, they would have heard or seen it already.

"No, sorry," Hannah answered for all of them.

"I've lost him!" the boy wailed, "And I keep asking around! He keeps getting away from me!"

Linden felt bad for him, "Would you like help looking?"

The boy shook his head, "N-no thanks…someone's already helping and there's people running up and down the corridors…not looking for Trevor, though…" he trailed off, looking even more distraught.

"Your pet has to be somewhere," Anthony told him, "Keep looking and I bet you'll find him."

The boy bobbed his head up and down and slid the door closed, heading to the next compartment.

"Can't imagine why he's so distraught," Hannah announced to all of them, "Toads are the worst pets."

"I wish I had a pet," Eloise commented, "My parents said I could get one if I get good marks."

"Mine too!" Anthony said, "I think it's because they gave my brother a pet, first year and he didn't take very good care of it. He got a cat, but fancied owls."

"I'd fancy a cat," Linden said honestly. She had never talked to her cousins about getting a pet.

"Really?" Hannah asked, "I'd much rather have an owl."

"Oh!" Eloise gasped, her hand self consciously touching the acne on her cheek, "Guess who I saw with an owl? Harry. Potter."

"What!?"

"What?"

The cries from Anthony and Hannah were simultaneous and by the lowering of her head, Eloise didn't take too kindly to this attention.

"Did you get a good look at him?" Anthony demanded, "Did you see his scar?"

Eloise shook her head and Anthony's face fell.

"Then how'd you know it was him?" he asked.

"Everyone up and down the train was going on about it earlier," Eloise said, "He's sitting alone with a boy who has red hair."

"Wicked!" Hannah gasped, "He'll be the most popular boy in school, I bet. Everyone knows him and his parents names."

'Wow, Harry Potter,' Linden thought. She had never seen him before, but knew of him as much as any other wizard kid, 'And his father's my godfather, I think and his mother's my godmother. Does that make us god siblings? Half god siblings, I think? I don't know. Oh, I'll have to tell Moony.'

"He's already been written about in the books," Eloise started, "In one of th-

A voice echoed through the train, causing them all to look up at the ceiling: "We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train, it will be taken to the school separately."

"Already?" Anthony mused, "I guess the train does feel like it's slowing down."

Linden looked out the window and agreed with Anthony's query. It was getting dark. She could see mountains and forests under a deep purple sky.

Her anxiety returned full force and her breath hitched. How had they gotten so close to Hogwarts so soon? She had kind of hoped the train ride would go on forever. The term hadn't even started yet and while things seemed to be okay, she had already gotten off on the wrong foot with some of the students.

What if everything else went to complete shambles as she stepped off the train?

"…going to change?"

A hand shaking her shoulder brought Linden back to the present and she looked over, to see Eloise and Hannah smoothing down their robes. Anthony was no where in sight.

"You better change," Eloise said, and Linden hurried to do just that.

She slipped on her long black robes over her dress right when the train came to a stop. People were pushing their way toward the door and out on to a tiny, dark platform.

She was the last to leave her compartment and almost fell flat on her face while doing so. She really couldn't see a thing. No one had told her about this part.

"Firs' years!" a loud voice called out, "Firs' years over here!"

Linden gaped at the large man when he came into view. She had never seen someone so big! His hands—one of them curled around a big, swinging lantern—were the size of dustbin lids and he had a long mane of shaggy black hair and a beard that covered most of his face. His dark eyes, illuminated by the lantern, were as dark as the beetles Linden often found in the garden at home.

Her heart stuttered in her chest and she slipped and stumbled, trying to keep up. She had lost both Hannah and Eloise and she had no idea where Anthony had gone off to.

She had to squint to try and see the steep, narrow path and squeaked when she tripped, grabbing onto someone to keep from falling.

"Hey!"

"Sorry!" she quickly apologized.

"…Linden?"

"Eloise?" Linden gasped, "Thank Merlin I found you. Now, I won't get lost."

"Your eyesight really is awful," Eloise commented.

"Not really," Linden corrected, "It's too dark. Do you know who the man is?"

"No," Eloise said, "He has to work for Hogwarts, though, but isn't he too big to be a teacher?"

"Yeh'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec," the large man called over his shoulder, "Jus' round this bend here."

His voice was as loud and large as his frame, echoing in the silence that caused Linden to trip when she had looked up to try and see him.

"You don't think we're walking to-

Cutting herself off, Linden joined in the loud chorus of "Oooooh!" It had probably been a dumb question, anyway.

The narrow path had opened suddenly onto 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.

They didn't get to look for long, "No more'n four to a boat!" the giant man called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore.

Linden couldn't believe how pretty the castle was and she tried to keep her eyes on it as she got into a boat, joined by Eloise and two other students that Linden didn't know.

"Everyone in?" shouted the man, who had a whole boat to himself. "Right then—FORWARD!"

Linden gasped, reaching out to grasp the edges, when her boat began to move, gliding across the glittering lake. Like everyone else, she should have been staring at the grand castle that in comparison, made all the castles she saw in her Muggle books look ridiculous.

She should have been, but she wasn't. They were getting closer and closer to the castle and Linden hoped there was a spell that fixed internal organs because her heart was going to beat straight out of her chest. She wished she had Remus. He always made her feel better when she got like this.

Remus must have felt just as, if not more anxious than she felt. In the dark, at night like this. What had he been thinking? Did he think because of his werewolfry, he wouldn't get sorted into a House at all?

'But he did,' Linden reminded herself, 'He got sorted and he was so happyhe loved Hogwarts and maybe I will too.'


Words couldn't express how much of a relief it was, when the large man—Hagrid she soon learned—took them up a flight of stone steps and knocked on the huge, oak front door. A witch, tall, pale, black-haired and dressed in emerald-green robes opened the door and was introduced as Professor Minerva McGonagall.

She tried to catch the gaze of the woman whom she was named after, but failed to do so and was left, shoved into a small, empty chamber off the hall with the rest of the first years.

This made no sense to her. The entrance hall was ginormous. The stone walls were lit with flaming torches, the ceiling was too high to make out, the floor was flagged and there had been a magnificent marble staircase that led to the upper floors.

No. Instead they were crowded together in this room, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, muttering to each other nervously.

Professor McGonagall had given them a grand speech about the Houses and House points, very firmly telling them that their House would be their family. They would have classes together, sleep in the dormitories and spend free time in their House common room.

Linden shifted her weight, running a hand through the side of her hair. She wondered if she should have done something special with it, after all? Andromeda had offered to French braid it, but Linden had declined, not wanting to show off her face.

She almost felt like people were staring at her. What if she was getting paranoid?

The sudden sound of screaming caused her to scream as well and she whirled around, a hand going over her heart.

About twenty ghosts had streamed through the back wall. Pearly-white and slightly transparent. They seemed to be arguing with each other.

A fat little monk was saying: "Forgive and forget, I say, we ought to give him a second chance-"

"My dear Friar, haven't we given Peeves all the chances he deserves? He gives us all a bad name and you know, he's not really even a ghost—I say, what are you all doing here?"

Linden blinked at the ghost who had just spoken. He was wearing a ruff and tights.

She looked behind her and no one answered. What did the ghost mean? They were supposed to be here.

Apparently, this Friar fellow was aware of that fact.

"New students!" said the Friar, smiling around at them. "About to be Sorted, I suppose?"

Again no one answered.

"Hope to see you in Hufflepuff!" said the Friar. "My old house, you know."

Linden bit her lip, raising her eyebrows. Maybe this was a sign. Dory had talked grandly about Hufflepuff, Linden had set next to a girl hoping for Hufflepuff and now she was in the presence of the Hufflepuff ghost!

"Move along now," said a sharp voice. It was Professor McGonagall, "The Sorting Ceremony's about to start."

Disgruntled, the ghosts floated away through the opposite wall.

Linden looked at Professor McGonagall, waiting for a bigger reaction at the ghostly interference, but the woman looked very indifferent, turning on her heel.

"Now, form a line and follow me," was all she said, marching through the doors.

Linden could feel herself shaking terribly and she wondered if anyone had ever passed out before. She might be the first…

She walked behind a boy with light beige hair and considering there were people behind her, she had no choice but to follow the line into the Great Hall.

The rest of the school was already gathered over four long tables and Linden kept her head down, focused on the shoes of the person in front of her.

She came to a halt at the top of the hall when the shoes in front of her stopped and she peeked up, her cheeks coloring when she realized they were in a line facing the other students, the teachers behind them. Even the ghosts were there, dotted here and there among the students.

'Oh, Merlin,' she breathed inside her head, 'I suppose it would cause more of a scene if I ran out, wouldn't it?'

She quickly glanced up again as Professor McGonagall silently placed a four-legged stool in front of the first years. On top of the stool she put a pointed wizard's hat. This hat was patched and frayed and extremely dirty.

Linden had never seen a hat like that. It looked like something Andromeda would have scrubbed and spelled to death in her attempts to get it clean. How had she reacted when she saw it at Hogwarts?

Everyone in the hall was now staring at the hat. For a few seconds, there was complete silence. Then the hat twitched. A rip near the brim opened wide like a mouth—and the hat began to sing:

"Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,

But don't judge on what you see,

I'll eat myself if you can find

A smarter hat than me.

You can keep your bowlers black,

Your top hats sleek and tall,

For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat

And I can cap them all.

There's nothing hidden in your head

The Sorting Hat can't see,

So try me on and I will tell you

Where you ought to be.

You might belong in Gryffindor,

Where dwell the brave at heart,

Their daring, nerve, and chivalry

Set Gryffindors apart;

You might belong in Hufflepuff,

Where they are just and loyal,

Those patient Hufflepuffs are true

And unafraid of toil;

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw, if you've a ready mind,

Where those of wit and learning,

Will always find their kind;

Or perhaps in Slytherin

You'll make your real friends,

Those cunning folk use any means

To achieve their ends.

So put me on! Don't be afraid!

And don't get in a flap!

You're in safe hands (though I have none)

For I'm a Thinking Cap!"

The whole hall burst into loud applause and Linden swallowed thickly. The Slytherin verse hadn't sounded too nice. If she ended up there, would they all hate her because her father was labeled a traitor and was technically responsible for who she now lived with? Or would they like her because of what her father had done and what her family name held?

She didn't think she was daring or too bright. The more she thought about it, the more Hufflepuff sounded appealing and Dory would be so incredibly happy. The Friar ghost might have funny stories about her sister and how great would it be, if she ended up as Prefect in her fifth year? Dory would be completely gobsmacked.

"When I call your name," Professor McGonagall said loudly, causing Linden to look up. The witch was holding a long roll of parchment, "You will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted," she read the first name, "Abbot, Hannah!"

Linden bounced on her toes a little as Hannah stumbled out of line, put on the hat, which fell right down over her eyes, and sat down clumsily. She waited, but not for long.

"HUFFLEPUFF!" shouted the hat and Linden smiled.

The table on the right cheered and clapped as Hannah went to sit down at the Hufflepuff table. The ghost of the Fat Friar was waving merrily at her. It was so warm and welcoming and Linden desperately wanted that.

"Black, Linden!"

Linden's blood ran cold and her head snapped up. She hadn't meant it literally! She didn't want to be called so soon!

The hall went completely silent, then whispers broke out.

"Black, is that what she said!?"

"Black, Black!?"

"Sirius Black!?"

"It has to be!"

"They let Sirius Black's daughter into Hogwarts!?"

"Can they do that!?"

Linden pulled at her fingers, running her thumb over her nail polish. She took a deep breath and stepped forward, wilting when the girl beside her took a step back. People were still whispering, but it was quiet enough to where she could hear her shoes clicking against the floor.

Shaking, she sat down on the stool, having to keep her head up in order to wear the hat.

"It's all right, dearie."

She barely heard the whispered words and then the hat was dropped on her head, the brim flopping over and obscuring her vision.

She had expected the hat to cry "HUFFLEPUFF" like it did for Hannah, but that's not what happened.

"Hufflepuff?" said a voice in her ear, "I see, I see. Ahh, the mind of an authentic Black. It's been so long…you're just as difficult as your father."

'My father?' Linden thought.

"Yes, yes," the hat drawled, "Difficult. Very, very difficult. Plenty of loyalty, I see. There's talent, a hidden thirst to live up to the witch you think would make your estranged family proud of you, you crave companionship. Ahh, Remus, yes, I remember the fellow…"

Linden bit her lip, 'Can't you just put me in Hufflepuff?'

"Alas, that would be a great injustice," the hat declared to her and her heart sank, "I can see you're scared and while Hufflepuff is the safest choice—however, it is not the best choice. What is, then?"

'Hufflepuff,' Linden thought back stubbornly. She thought fiercely of Tonks, 'She would be so happy.'

"But would you be happy?" the hat responded, "With a complex mind like yours, I can attest that you'd bore quite easily. Yes, I see it now, very clearly. I know exactly where you belong…"

Linden closed her eyes.

"GRYFFINDOR!"

The word was shouted to the entire hall and Linden sat there, stunned. Slowly, she took off the hat, twisting around to hand it back to Professor McGonagall who gave her the smallest of smiles.

She hopped off the stool and tripped over her feet in doing so. She was still shaking, worse than before. Gryffindor. She had been placed in Gryffindor.

There was no applause from her new peers when she headed towards the correct table.

The abrupt sound of clapping, caused her to falter in her steps and she looked up at the ceiling as that's where it sounded like it was coming from.

She turned her head and found herself looking upon the High Table where all the teachers sat. In a large gold chair, Albus Dumbledore, silver-haired and dressed in resplendent robes was clapping his hands, soon joined in by Hagrid who gave her a curt and friendly nod when she caught his gaze.

Feeling better, she turned back to head towards the table, but not before she caught another man's eye, who also sat at the High Table.

The man was thin and had a very large, hooked nose and sallow skin. His lips were curled in complete and utter disgust as he gazed upon her, making Linden unable to see his teeth. He wore flowing black robes that matched his shoulder-length, greasy black hair that framed his face in curtains. His eyes were dark and penetrating, narrowed into slits as he glared openly at her, clearly with such hatred that Linden shivered and had to look away.

She went to try and find a seat at the table, but the other children either scooted closer together or turned away from her, not bothering to hide their whispers.

"You can sit here."

Linden's eyes widened and she looked behind herself, making sure that this red-headed boy with a big nose wasn't addressing anyone else.

She knew who he was immediately. Well, kind of. He was definitely a Weasley if his flaming-red hair and abundant freckles had anything to say about it.

His twin, sitting next to him, glanced at his brother, looking a little put off and wary, but said nothing.

"Can I really?" she asked him, going to claim the seat on his left side.

"Yeah, 'course," the boy said, "I'm Fred Weasley and this is my brother George," he gestured to his twin who smiled at her.

"And, the most important one of all," George said, gesturing grandly, "Prefect Percy."

Linden followed his hand, but Percy either didn't hear him (which wasn't likely) or simply chose to ignore him. Percy had quite the rigid posture, looking pretentious and dignified. He had the same vivid red hair and freckles and wore horn-rimmed glasses.

"Boot, Terry!"

Linden's attention was drawn back to the Sorting when McGonagall's voice boomed out. She tried to keep her focus when the hat shouted "RAVENCLAW!" and the table second from the left clapped this time.

She felt a little envious when several Ravenclaws stood up to shake hands with Terry as he joined them.

She looked down at her empty gold plate, a furrow creasing her brow.

'I'm actually in Gryffindor,' she thought, 'I'm sitting here at the Gryffindor table.'

She threw a quick glance at the Slytherin table. None of them looked very happy, she thought. Even their ghost looked gutted. He was very pale, pearly-white and slightly transparent. He had wide, staring, black eyes and a gaunt face. The robes he wore were covered in silver bloodstains and he carried chains and a sword while sporting curly powdered wig.

Gutted indeed.

Remus would be happy, she knew. It was the House he was in, the House her godparents were in and the House their best mate Peter was in. They had turned out all right. Well, Lily, Peter and James had tragically been killed by You-Know-Who, but they had been perfectly okay before that.

But she didn't have any of their genes. She had her father's genes, which she wasn't ashamed of, really, it only made her a tad nervous.

It was another step on his path, one she feared she would end up taking. Dory was like Ted as they both lacked in cleanliness and organization. What if she was like her father, but in paranoia and murder?

She dug her teeth into her lower lip, right when "Finch-Fletchley, Justin!" was placed in "HUFFLEPUFF!" had she been spacing out that long?

'Dory will be disappointed,' Linden thought, still failing to pay attention. She had never heard of anyone going bad while in Hufflepuff.

"Goldstein, Anthony!"

Linden's eyebrows flicked up and she craned her neck to get a look. The hat had barely touched his head when it shouted: "RAVENCLAW!"

She clapped her hands quietly and out of sight, under the table. People in different Houses were allowed to interact and be friends, weren't they?

"Linden Black!" hearing her name, she automatically turned her head, seeing two girls with their heads together, "Me dad won't-

The rest of the sentence was swallowed up by the roaring sound of applause from her table. She hurried to join in, though she had no idea who she was clapping for.

She shook her head as if to clear out any unwanted thoughts. She wasn't going to think about any of this, right now. She was supposed to be having fun, clapping and cheering for her new "family". After all, these were the people she would be spending the next seven years (if she didn't convince her cousin to let her be homeschooled) with.

With that decided, she twisted so that both her head and body faced the line of students still awaiting to be sorted.