- Chapter 4 -
Edward, Lady, BoCo and James stepped out of their carriage, amdist the hundreds of other Hogwarts students swarming onto the platform, all of whom seemed much bigger than Edward and also seemed to know exactly what they were doing. BoCo was gazing in amazement and something in the corner of the platform, which no-one else - including Edward - could, by the looks of it, see. The four of them all hovered anxiously near the train, not knowing what to do - but suddenly, they heard a seemingly distant voice - "First-years over here! First years, come here!" Following the ringing voice, Edward found that it was coming from a small man at the other end of the platform, who had very bright - almost orange - red hair, which was beginning to recede slightly. He turned to the others. "Come on," he said, "We're meant to be up there, by the look of it..."
Suddenly looking alert again, BoCo nodded and the four of them made their way over to the redheaded man. A few other first-years were standing around him. Although he was short, the confused-looking children still looked miniscule somehow next to him. Even Gordon looked somewhat smaller than he had in Madam Malkin's. As soon as the other first-years had milled over (the redheaded man calling encouragingly to them all the time), the man smiled down at them. "Everyone here?...good. Come on then, follow me." Most of the first-years - including Edward - felt happily apprehensive about what was coming, but a few looked downright panicked about what awaited them through the doors of the Hogwarts castle.
The man chatted happily to them the whole time. "I'm Duke...Duke Robinson. Gamekeeper at Hogwarts...I take care of the grounds, you know." A few students chatted happily back - James for one - but most were feeling so full of anticipation that they could barely do much more than grin excitedly to each other.
Duke eventually led them towards a huge, glittering moat. The school stood majestically across the water, shimmering slightly in the autumn sun. "Into the boat, then," Duke said brightly. Everyone's eyes moved down to a long, Viking-style rowing boat bobbing on the water, tethered by a fraying rope. A little boy who looked about four gasped at a dark tentacle that glinted at the water's surface, then began to cry. Gordon smiled at him. "Don't worry," he told him, looking kind. "It's only the giant squid..." Edward spluttered with anger at Gordon's feigned consideration. Meanwhile, the little boy cried harder. Edward was sure he couldn't be nearly old enough to go to Hogwarts...but that wasn't important right now, as they were now all trying to fit in the boat, which suddenly seemed smaller with forty or fifty students crammed into it (Duke was comforting the small boy, who looked decidedly happier). Getting the students sitting near the edges to help (Lady picked up an oar that was longer than her and pushed it through the water in a surprisingly determined way), Duke began to row them across the wide moat. A considerable amount of splashing went on, and most of the students climbed onto the grassy bank shivering from the water that had splattered over them.
Duke led them through the wide wooden doors into the brightly lit Entrance Hall. A very tall professor with messy-looking greyish-black hair hurried over to them. "These the first-years, Duke?...Ah, good. Come in here then, all of you." Looking very imposing above the mostly small first-years, he took them into a chamber at the side of the Entrance Hall. At first, Edward thought it was the Great Hall he had heard so much about from his parents, but soon realised it was much too small for that - though at the moment, every aspect of Hogwarts seemed rather terrifyingly huge. Duke had gone now, and the tall professor walked to the front of the room to speak to the first-years who were now restless with excitement. "Now." He looked around the students, who now gazed up at him in a kind of hushed admiration. "Now, in a moment, when you are taken into the Great Hall, you will be Sorted into your houses. The four houses are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. Each of you will be undergo a short test which will determine which house you would best fit into."
Edward was nonplussed. A test? But - but - what was the test? And - if he managed to fail - which now seemed horrifically likely - what would happen? Would he get sent home? The idea of returning to his parents like that - not even able to get into Hogwarts - filled Edward with a sudden dread. He'd practically be a Squib...he would be a Squib.
But there wasn't time to muse over Squibs right now - the professor was leading them into the Great Hall already. Edward's mind was temporarily taken off his worries as he, like every other first-year, gasped at the sheer brilliance of the Great Hall. The ceiling, miles above the head of any of the hundreds of people in the Hall, was specially designed to look exactly like the sky above it. Right now it showed a beautiful sunset, golden and pink and dotted with wispy grey-blue clouds. On ground level, five long, polished wooden tables were crowded with students and teachers alike. A large stage, framed by huge velvet curtains, stood at the front. The first-years were lined up beside this stage. All that was on the stage was a chipped stool with a tattered hat on top of it. The test didn't look too gruelling right now - but Edward still felt slightly anxious of what was to come.
Before they were Sorted, though, the hat began jumping up and down on its stool, in a kind of dance, and its brim split open like a mouth. It began to sing an odd-sounding but brilliant song, with rather rambling lyrics. When it reached the end of its song, everyone in the Hall clapped and cheered wildly. All too soon, the Sorting began.
The tall professor began calling out names from a long scroll of parchment, starting with "Biggs, Gordon!"
Gordon, who fitted his name incredibly, marched up to the stage. Scooping up the hat, he placed it on his head and sat on the stool. It was only a few moments before the hat's fabric mouth opened again and it shouted "Slytherin!" in a voice that reverberated across the Hall. Meanwhile, Edward breathed a sigh of relief - all he had to do was put on the hat! He wouldn't end up being sent home, branded a Squib.
Gordon dropped the hat back on its stool and hurried over to a table which Edward now realised was clearly marked 'Slytherin'.
Looking down at his parchment, the professor went to call out the next name on the list.
Edward's turn seemed to have come far too soon. It took him a second to realise what was happening, then suddenly he remembered and stepped up onto the stage. Taking the hat, he sat on the stool and became aware of the hat talking to him.
"Well, you've certainly got a good mind...brave, too. You could be a Gryffindor...maybe...but perhaps there's more to you than just braveness? Good logic...clever...I think you'd do well in...Ravenclaw!" Edward hastily placed the hat back on its stool and hurried to the Ravenclaw table, as the teacher continued to call out names. Most of them Edward didn't pay much attention to - apart from a few. "Jones, Lady" was sorted into Ravenclaw, and came to sit next to Edward. The boy who had cried at the squid's tentacle - "Stewart, Peter Sam" - was sorted into Hufflepuff. "McIntosh, Donald" was another Ravenclaw (his twin, Douglas, became a Hufflepuff). "Redhead, James" became a Gryffindor, while "Small, Percy" joined Edward at the Ravenclaw table. "Vickers, BoCo" was another Hufflepuff.
Finally, as the last first-year was sorted, Professor Hatt, who most of those from wizarding families had heard reams about from their parents, stepped up onto the curtained stage.
The Headmistress was a slim, dignified woman with neatly bobbed pale brown hair, though she was rather short, so her elegant lilac robes trailed behind, still somehow looking graceful. The professor who had supervised the Sorting hurried over to the top, staff-filled table and took a seat at it.
Once the last few mumblings and coughs had finished, Professor Hatt's serious face broke into a smile, and she suddenly looked rather more like a human being than a celestial wonder. She began to speak in a surprisingly loud voice, which reached all the corners of the Hall.
"Now, although we have reached the evening, I don't think it is quite bedtime yet, so I will not be making a speech right now." Laughs from the crowds of students.
"So I will say nothing to you this year except to welcome our new first-years, who, from my own experience, are probably feeling very insecure and somewhat excited about what on earth is happening."
A few of the first-years - Gordon for one - looked deeply insulted, but most of them laughed slightly nervously at how perfectly Professor Hatt had captured exactly what most of them were feeling.
"So - now I have have said everything relevant - tuck in!"
Tureens of rich soup, bowls of crispy potatoes, huge jugs of orangey-yellow pumpkin juice, glistening stew and, for some reason, a small plate of chocolate-coated marshmallows, were suddenly whisked onto the tables. Students and teachers reached for the slightly rusty ladles and spooned food onto their golden plates. Edward followed their example, but before he ate, he took in some of the other people crowding the Hall's long tables. James sat at the Gryffindor table; his red hair and permanantly embarrassed face made him blend into the startingly red tablecloth. Each house seemed to have a ghost - Gryffindor's was a moustachioed man in an overlarge ruff whose hands hovered self-consciously around his neck.
Hufflepuff had a golden-yellow tablecloth, and was decorated with matching brass candlebras. BoCo waved; Edward waved back, then glanced at their ghost, a round, jolly man dressed in friar's cothes.
The Slytherin table was decked almost entirely in green, from the silky tablecloth to the tiny emeralds - Edward was sure they were glass - embedded in the handles of the cutlery. Their ghost sat between Gordon and another boy almost as big as him, and was a thin-looking baron with a cunning expression on his translucent face. His long robes seemed to be splattered with a shimmery kind of liquid - Edward made a note to stay out of his way.
And what of Edward's own Ravenclaw table? Without even being biased (well, maybe a little bit), Edward thought the Ravenclaw table was the most beautifully decorated. The tablecloth was a rich shade of royal blue, with maroon embroidery around the edges, while bright blue candles flickered in silver candlesticks. Ravenclaw possessed the only female ghost, a woman in a long gown who seemed permanantly weepy. Every so often she glanced at the Slytherin ghost and wailed slightly into her handkerchief, which didn't appear to have much effect on her tears.
Edward began to eat the food on his plate, and found his parents were right - Hogwarts food was some of the best he'd ever tasted.
The feast lasted several hours, a generally jolly mood that one would not normally associate with going back to school permeating the Hall. The ceiling turned from pinky-gold to inky black, spattered with stars and a large silver-white moon glowing amongst them.
Finally, just as a few first looked as if they would have liked to put their faces on their plates and fall asleep there and then, Professor Hatt called the feast to an end, and the prefects - now recognisable by the large badges bearing a 'P' pinned to their robes - led the sleepy first-years to the Ravenclaw dormitory. As he was so tired, Edward only noticed one of the prefects - and he was rather hard to ignore, given his enormous height.
The Ravenclaw common-room was located at the top of a very tall tower, its narrow sides filled with winding stone steps. These steps went on for seemingly hours before they finally stopped at a large, blank wooden door, whose only decoration was a slightly tarnished bronze knocker, intricately carved into the shape of an eagle. To the collective gasp of the first-years, its pointed beak opened and it cawed, "Forwards I am heavy, backwards I am not...what am I?"
One prefect answered, almost instantly, and in a slightly bored voice, "A ton."
"Good logic." replied the raven, twitching its beak into a sort of smile. As they all climbed through the portrait hole, the prefect muttered to her friend "It's done that one before...".
The Ravenclaw common room was really quite a beautiful place - graceful, draped in blue and brown, a flickering fireplace lighting the room, with squashy velvet armchairs crammed in front of it. A white marble statue of an elegant woman stood majestically at the back of the room. Edward wanted to stay there for a while, taking in that wonderful room, but all to soon they were being taken up the two staircases spiralling from either side of the room, the boys up one, the girls up another. The dormitory was smaller and darker, yet still it had delicately embroidered tapestries hanging on the walls, and was framed handsomely by five slightly aged four-poster beds; suddenly, Edward wanted more than anything else to climb into one of those beds and fall straight asleep.