John stood stiff as a rail between Mike and Sherlock at the front of the Great Hall, painfully conscious of all the eyes on him. Everyone looked so tall, even sitting down. He wasn't scared, of course, but the only people he knew who actually liked this kind of attention joined amateur theater companies.
The fierce-looking witch who had shown them into the Hall said, "When I call your names you will sit on the stool. I will place the Sorting Hat on your head, and it will tell you your House. When you have been Sorted you may go to your House table." She looked at a parchment scroll. Apparently wizards still used that sort of thing, or maybe the old-timey stuff was for grand opening ceremonies. "Alder, Jeffrey."
Jeffrey Alder, a wiry boy with scrubby brown hair, stepped up to the stool, almost tripping over his own feet in the process. The lady set the dirty old hat on his head, and he sat for a minute before the hat shouted, "HUFFLEPUFF!"
The second table from the right burst into applause. Jeffrey Alder, looking quite relieved, took off the hat and stumbled to a seat, where the older students greeted him warmly.
John gave a little sigh of relief. He was glad they didn't have to take some kind of test; Sherlock would have got in easily enough, and others like him, but what would the Muggle-borns have done?
As the Sorting went along the line grew shorter and shorter. "Brant, Isabella," was the first Ravenclaw, and John noticed Sherlock glance at that table with a hint of longing. "Diggory, Cedric" became a Hufflepuff, but he was Jeffrey Alder's absolute opposite, with his perfect smile and perfect hair. "Fillmore, Rosaline," joined Slytherin. Mycroft sat at the head of that table, immensely puffed up as he observed the proceedings.
Finally, the witch called, "Holmes, Sherlock!"
"Good luck," John whispered as Sherlock left the line, supreme confidence on his face.
The hat had barely touched his head when it shouted, "RAVENCLAW!" The second table from the left cheered, but John saw Mycroft had something of a sour look. Sherlock couldn't have been happier.
John cursed his miserable luck for being stuck at the end of the alphabet.
Sometimes, John noticed, it took the hat a long time to figure out which House to sort the student into, and sometimes only seconds. He hoped it wouldn't take long with him.
"Oh, blimey, here I go," Mike said under his breath. He needn't have worried. After a bit of though, the hat sent him to Hufflepuff and his new classmates greeted him with a thunderous round of applause.
Finally, four boys were left in line: John, a boy who looked entirely too big to be eleven, and a pair of redheaded, freckly twins who had hardly stopped whispering and laughing with each other since the Sorting began.
The giant of a boy became a Slytherin, and John's stomach turned a cartwheel. Unless the twins were named Washington, he was next.
They weren't. "Watson, Jonathan." Taking his courage in his hands, he marched up to the stool. He sat and for a moment looked out at the Great Hall before the Sorting Hat fell over his face.
"Well, well," said a voice, which John realized with a start was coming from the hat itself. "Look at you. You aren't much of a puzzle; it's clear as day where you ought to be. Brave at heart, that's you. Which means GRYFFINDOR!" The hat shouted the last word, and the far left table got to its feet and cheered as John, grinning from ear to ear, joined his House.
Only the twins were left. "Weasley, Frederick" was Gryffindor as well, but he didn't sit down; he waited by the stool until "Weasley, George" joined him. Then the two of them ran for the Gryffindor table, bowing extravagantly to the applause.
Breathing heavily, they dropped into seats on either side of John and introduced themselves.
"Lovely to meet you."
"Welcome to Gryffindor."
"And you are?" they asked together.
"John...Watson, hi," he said slowly. His head spun. How could they talk so fast?
"Looking forward to a new school, new friends, new adventures and all that?" asked one of the twins (he'd already lost track of which was which).
"I suppose so," he began. "I hardly know what to expect. I'm a Muggle-born, you see, and I'd never heard of Hogwarts until I got the letter this summer. Is it anything like a Muggle boarding school? Are there sports and things?"
"There's Quidditch," said the other twin, a longing look in his eyes. "Mer-lin, Quidditch is going to be great."
"We've been playing since we could sit up on broomsticks," the first said, neglecting to explain to a bewildered John what this Quidditch might be.
"And then - of course it's not a school-sponsored sport but it ought to be - there's all the things you can do with moving staircases."
"Charlie said he has a list of stunts hiding in the common room, even some he and his buddies could never do,"
"And we're going to check off that entire list."
John found Sherlock outside the Great Hall after the feast. "Congratulations!" he said.
"Thank you," said Sherlock. "I wasn't surprised, but I am glad I got to shove it to Mycroft."
"All our family have been Slytherins - well, except our father's half of the family, but Mycroft takes it as a matter of personal pride to be a Slytherin family. I think he'd be just as proud no matter what House we were all in. He just wants something to be proud about."
"Seems like the type."
"And you, congratulations to you too. I took you for a Gryffindor right off."
"Cause Gryffindor is the BEST HOUSE EVER!" Sherlock jumped as the Weasley twins shouted in his ears.
"For God's sake! Who are you?"
John cracked up, covering his mouth with his arm. "Sherlock, this is Fred and George...er, George and Fred Weasley."
"Aw, don't be sore, Shirley," said Fred - or George, grabbing Sherlock's hand and shaking it off his arm.
Sherlock disentangled himself. "It's difficult being the middle child, isn't it?" he said. George - or Fred - quirked his eyebrow, then laughed it off and continued.
"Watson, the Gryffindor seventh-years are throwing a party for the first-years up in the common room. Coming?"
John hesitated. He didn't want to leave Sherlock alone, but a little dark-eyed girl rushed up to their group and said in a sharp brogue, "Holmes, the prefects are looking for us. Are you coming?"
Sherlock shrugged, said, "Good night then, John," and allowed her to drag him off to the Ravenclaws.
John smiled. "Let's see about this party."