I stargazed as we were pulled along the lake to Hogwarts. I could count a few constellations, but the rest of it just blended together as just ‘stars’. If my brother were here, he could- I stopped myself as I tore my gaze away from the stars. Thousands of thoughts raced through my head as I started staring at my hands.
How long has it been since I thought of- did I ever think of- I became acutely aware of my body as my thoughts raced, every breath that came through my nose and out my gills, my tail lying to my side, my teeth far too sharp than what I remembered.
Not even consciously, I slapped my hand into the water around the boat and pulled some of it up and stuck my face into it and took a deep breath. The cold water was a shock to my system as it ran through and out my gills. Next, I took all the thoughts and buried them deep. Now was not the time.
Ron, Harry, and the fourth person in our boat were looking at me worryingly. I took the water that had run out of my clothes and dumped it backed into the lake. “I’m fine.” I wasn’t. Their gazes lingered on me before they went back to looking at the castle. I joined in watching as I idly played with some water in my hands.
We passed under a curtain of vines, which hid the castle from view. The boats came to rest next to some docks, where Hagrid and the rest of the students started piling out of them. A toad croaked and Hagrid handed it over to Neville, who was overjoyed at its return. Once Hagrid checked over everyone, we ascended a flight of stairs which brought us to the front lawn of Hogwarts. We passed through the main courtyard to the main entrance of Hogwarts, where Hagrid let out three booming knocks into the night.
The sun was gone over the horizon, only the light of the moon and the torches outside the castle gave us light. The doors opened seconds after Hagrid’s knocks ended, revealing Professor McGonagall in all her emerald-robed glory. Hagrid and McGonagall traded a few words before she ushered us into Hogwarts and into a smaller side room, off to the side of the Great Hall.
There, McGonagall introduced the houses: Gryffindor for the brave, Ravenclaw for the smart, Slytherin for the cunning, and Hufflepuff for the helpful. She told us to wait quietly before leaving.
“You know,” I started as a thought occurred to me, “I never even considered what house I might end up in.”
“It’s Gryffindor for me, the Weasleys have been in that house for generations,” Ron said.
“Yeah, I’m thinking it might be Gryffindor for me considering how stupid I am in doing a lot of things, but now I’m not so sure.” I reflected on my actions in the past few months of my remembered existence, and all things considered, I’d been slightly passive but also startlingly gung-ho about things. In my life Before Gura, I’d taken a sorting quiz and gotten Ravenclaw, but that was only because it asked questions about reading and I just like reading, and Ravenclaw isn’t exactly about just reading. Considering what I’ve done since I’ve become Gura, it’s a high definite for Gryffindor, but it wasn’t… I didn’t think I could fit in there. Slytherin was a no-go completely like, I’m not touching that landmine of a house.
Hufflepuff? I didn’t feel too strongly one way or another about it. The people there would be nice, yeah, but…
But but but. Hehe butts. I shook my head and groaned. It wasn’t like I could influence the hat’s choice like Harry could, honestly. It’s pick me to where I needed to be, and I’d go there. Simple-as. “My brain is overheating, I haven’t thought about anything this hard in a long time.”
I heard a stifled laugh before Harry asked, “When was the last time you did think that hard?”
I tried to think back… and nothing came to mind.
“So, never, huh?” Harry took my non-answer as an answer.
“No, no; I have thought this hard previously, I just don’t remember when it was.”
Before a response could usher forth from Harry or Ron, screams erupted from the back of the room. Looking over, several wispy spectres had emerged from the back wall. Most of them were chatting with each other, the two in lead arguing over something.
“Oh look a distraction,” I said before quickly correcting to, “I mean, I forgot that Hogwarts has ghosts.”
Harry gave me a side look before focusing his attention up at the arguing ghosts that had stopped to peer at us. As the two ghosts tried to chat with the unresponsive students, a thought occurred to me as I looked at the Friar.
“Hey, how’d a friar end up being a wizard then a ghost? Aren’t yall, like, holy men or something?”
The friar perked up, “Ah, well, that’s-” someone cleared their throat from behind us yet again. “-going to have to wait, I’ll gladly tell you the story if you end up in Hufflepuff!”
My reply of “What if I don’t,” didn’t get said as McGonagall ushered the ghosts out of the room. “Form a line,” she commanded, and the gathered students formed a rough semblance of a line that McGonagall looked over critically before telling us to follow her out of the room.
It almost felt like a march of death, with the depressive and nervous air the children were leaking, as we walked into the Great Hall. The chattering of hundreds of students exploded around us when the doors opened, all of them now looking towards us. I heard Hermione whisper something behind me, but couldn’t catch it.
McGonagall stopped next to a stool with a hat upon it, on the far end of the Great Hall. The new students had stopped at the foot of the stairs that led up to the stool, and where the rest of the teachers sat. The hat twitched before sitting up straight and opening its brim wide, it began to sing.
All students stared at it, the new ones in disbelief and the old students in attention. As the song slowed to an end, the students broke into applause as the hat bowed, its tassels raising up to act as arms. It bowed a final time before it stayed in that position, looking like a normal- if dirty and wrinkled- hat again.
Professor McGonagall, who held a scroll in her hands now, spoke up, “When I call your name you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted. Abbot, Hannah!”
A girl stumbled out of line behind me and approached the stool. She sat down as the hat was lowered on her head. A few moments passed before, “HUFFLEPUFF!” the hat shouted. The Hufflepuff table on our right exploded in cheers as the girl rushed down to sit with them.
From there, the sorting continued with the hat calling out house names and the students sitting down at the tables. The last names ending with F soon came, and gone as, “Gawr, Gura!” was called.
I started, before jerkily moving forward. As I approached the stool, I realized with increasing intensity that I was actually very nervous. Sitting down as the hat was lowered onto my head, I felt something, before the hat called out immediately: “HUFFLEPUFF!”
I jerked a bit before asking in my head, “Hey, wait! I wanted to talk with you!”
“No thanks,” I heard the hat reply before my new apparent house exploded in applause. The hat was lifted off my head and I mechanically moved to the Hufflepuff table, where several students congratulated me as I sat down next to the other new students. I stared off into the close-far distance for a bit until my brain rebooted by someone shaking me.
Blinking my eyes a few times and shaking my head, the person asked, “You alright there, Gura?”
“Er, yeah,” I said as a table erupted into cheers. “Didn’t really think I’d get into Hufflepuff, honestly.” I rubbed my fingers together. “Thought I’d get into Gryffindor instead.”
The other student- upperclassmen I realized- rose an eyebrow with a smile on his face. “Really?”
I nodded. “Knowing what I know about myself, I thought it really wasn’t much of a choice between the other houses. I guess the hat knows something about myself that I don’t?”
“It almost always does. I’m Cedric.”
“Gura, but you already knew that.” I blinked up at Cedric. He looked… almost nothing like his movie counterpart. Granted, I couldn’t exactly remember what that looked like, but it had to be noted.
The sorting continued on, students being sorted and houses erupting into cheers or polite applause. I realized somewhat belatedly that I missed what house Hermione got into, and after asking another student they said she got into Gryffindor. Neville was called up just after I asked that, and he got sorted into Gryffindor as well. Malfoy was called up not long after, and the hat wasn’t even touching his hair when it called out Slytherin.
“How much gel do you think Malfoy uses on his hair?” I asked the table.
“Half a bottle of Sleakeezy’s,” a boy said immediately.
A red-headed girl snorted. “Potter would need half a bottle. Maybe even a whole. Malfoy probably uses a quarter or less.”
“Sleakeezy’s doesn’t leave identifiable gel marks, like shiny hair. It’s some expensive off-brand that says it does the same thing but worse,” another student said. “He probably uses a full bottle of that.”
Murmurs of assent rippled through the group around me, before breaking out into applause as Sally-Anne Perks got into Hufflepuff. As the cheers died down, McGonagall called out, “Potter, Harry!” and the hall erupted into whispers.
I watched as Harry took deep breaths before lowering the hat on his head. It fell over his eyes, and the hall quieted immediately. If I wasn’t so anxious for my friend, I’d be in awe of how fast it happened. Harry’s head twitched a few times, and I could barely see his mouth move before, “SLYTHERIN!”