C h a p t e r F i v e

Sortings and Decisions

The Hogwarts Express pulled up to the station, and the students eagerly disembarked, everyone chatting about what the current year would be like. Among the first years, there was much talk about the Sortings, and who was going to be in what House.

"Firs' years over here!" Hagrid called out loudly. He grinned as he caught sight of Harry, Ron and Hermione.

"Hullo Harry, Ron, Hermione. Alright here?"

"Hi Hagrid. I got your letter." Harry replied.

"Ah, right. Yeah, Dumbledore been keeping Maxi and me busy. Meeting with..." He trailed off upon remembering that he was with mixed company. "Well, that'll keep. Back to a new school year." From his height, he could see another figure step off the train, and a grey owl flew over to perch on his shoulder. When the young man turned toward their group, the half giant could see the resemblance to Harry.

"Ah, Tim Hunter, is it?" He called out to him. Tim glanced up at him, and his eyes only widened slightly at the hulking man standing there, first year students milling around him.

Harry and his friends waved him over, but Tim also heard another voice calling to him as well. He could see Draco likewise waving him over to his group. Obviously, Slytherin students didn't seem very friendly, though the girl near Draco appeared pretty. That is if she hadn't had the moue of disgust upon her face at the time. Tim glanced between the groups, and decided Hagrid was neutral enough for the moment. He could make other decisions later. He walked over to the giant, and had to crane his neck to make eye contact despite his own height.

"Um, hi," he said.

"Hullo, Tim. I'm Hagrid, professor and groundskeeper at Hogwarts. I teach Care and Handling of Magical Creatures. Professor Dumbledore already informed me of your situation. Since you're new here, you'll be Sorted after the First years." He said to him as quietly as he could. In a loud, and downright booming voice he added to the rest of the children, "Now if you all follow me please." He then led them all away to the boats by the school's moat. Tim's gaze flickered upward to the sight of the looming castle. With the moonlight illuminating the rocky edges, the effect gave it the appearance of a fairy tale castle.

"Well, that bloody figures," He muttered.

Harry likewise noticed Draco calling Tim over, and the two of them frowned at each other. Both of them turned back to their respective groups.

Ron commented, "What does he want with Tim? From what he had told us, he scared Malfoy silly."

He shrugged, "I don't know." His frown deepened as he remembered what Draco had said to them at the end of last year. About how Harry had picked the wrong side in the upcoming battle, and Draco most likely was following in his father's footsteps to become a Death Eater. "He might have been trying to get him on his side. Tried to do the same to me when we first met."

Ron nodded, "I remember that."

Hermione spoke up, "But that's not going to happen? Tim has more sense than that, right?"

Ron turned to her, "Well, you were the one saying that Tim shouldn't been showing off his magic like he did. Even though the look on Draco's face must have been priceless." He snickered a little at the mental image of Malfoy wetting his trousers in fright.

"Well, he should have been more careful. We're fairly safe at school, but there's still things to worry about." Hermione reminded.

"Regular ray of sunshine, aren't you?" Ron teased her, "Headmaster Dumbledore's powerful, nothing can get past him. Right, Harry?"

Harry had been distracted still, thinking about Draco, Tim, and the fact Voldemort was most likely going to come after him again. It was only a matter of time when.

"Harry? You alright?" Ron asked him again.

"Err... yeah, I'm fine, Ron," he replied. "Nothing to worry about."

Inside the castle, Tim glanced around at the high staircases, and paintings all around. Upon closer notice, he could see some of the stairs were moving, and the people in the paintings were moving. Even from his experience, he had to admit it was interesting.

"Attention everyone!" A female voice announced. There was an older woman dressed in long robes, and wearing an unmistakable witch's hat upon her head, standing in a doorway. Tim had to bite his lip to keep from laughing at the sight.

"I am Professor McGonagall," She said, her voice laced with an obvious Scottish burr. "I teach Transfigurations, and I am Head of the Gryffindor House. One of the Houses which you may be Sorted into. In a moment, we will enter the Great Hall, and you will sorted into the Houses. These are to be your family while you are here. You will eat and sleep together with your House members. All of your accomplishments will favour your House, and any failures," Her expression, already stern, appeared downright grim at this point, "will likewise hurt your House. I trust that you will all strive to do your best here at Hogwarts." As the doors behind her opened, she shooed the first year students on ahead. She then motioned Tim over.

"Over here, Mr. Hunter," She said with a small, yet warmer smile. "You will be Sorted after the first years. Arrangements have been made for you to have tutoring sessions due to your situation. For the most part, you will be considered a fifth year student, and have your classes with them." She sighed a little, and asked, "Now do you have any questions?"

"Uh, this Sorting business? What exactly is it?" Tim asked uneasily, imagining any number of creepy or disturbing rituals involved. He had seen his share over the years.

"Well, you will see in a few minutes. And from what the Headmaster has told me, I don't believe you will have any trouble."

Shows how little you know about me then. Tim thought bitterly. There always seems to be trouble for me. He followed her into the Hall where students were standing by tables on either side. Looking up, he could see candles hanging in mid-air, and overhead instead of a ceiling, there was a stormy night sky. He studied it a little, seeing the intricate magics involved.

"That's brill," he whispered to himself. He added in a louder voice, "Must be very complicated. The spell to do that."

"Yes, that would be the Headmaster's doing."

Tim nodded, obviously impressed in spite of his disbelief over the place. They came to a stop behind the crowd of first years. The children all were staring at something strange. A very shabby, dilapidated hat lay upon a wooden stool. And just when he thought it couldn't get any stranger, the top separated from the brim, creating a mouth, and the hat began to sing.

"Founders four made the school,

And houses four became the rule.

For the wise, Rowena surmised

In Ravenclaw, where sharp minds lie

For the loyal, Helga supposed

In Hufflepuff, where hard workers repose.

For the brave, Godric knew

In Gryffindor, where the stout hearted are true.

For the ambitious, Salazar planned

In Slytherin, where the cunning shall land.

All of you I will tell you well

In which of the four, you shall dwell

So fear not, I'm never wrong

Slip me on, for this is the end of my song"

The students and the teachers in front of the Hall applauded, some quite loudly. Tim couldn't help laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of it all. Some moth-eaten, wizard's relic was going to tell him which House he should go? That was it? It was completely silly, and he started wondering if this fuss was really worth the bother. How was he going to learn to control and properly do magic at a place like this?

He was pulled out of his thoughts when he heard names being called.

"Bailey, Gertude" A pretty blonde-haired girl stepped up, and as soon as the hat descended upon her head, it was only a second before the hat yelled, "Hufflepuff!" A round of cheers went up at the House table as she walked over to join her classmates.

"Cernd, Liam" was sent to Ravenclaw, and a "Crowley, Aric" joined the Slytherin students. A few names later, he heard "Lowry, Esperanza" and a somewhat mousy girl with dark features, and glasses perched on her nose, stepped up the stool timidly. She sat there nervously fidgeting the whole time the hat was on her head. A few moments later, it shouted "Gryffindor!" She quickly removed the hat, and fled to the table, disappearing in the crowd of cheering students. Tim turned, and could see Professor Lowry watching the shy girl. Comparing features, he quickly figured the girl to be her daughter. He was a little surprised that the girl was going to be studying at the same school that her own mum was teaching at. No wonder she's shy. Her mum's a teacher here, and coming in from another country. He made a mental note to talk to her later if he had a chance.

He was so much engaged in thought that he almost missed his own name. As it was, Professor McGonagall had to repeat herself.

"Hunter, Tim!" She called again with a note of annoyance in her tone of voice.

"Er, yeah, right." He answered, his cheeks burning at the sound of surrounding titters. Bloody hell He silently thought. He stepped up to the stool, and forcefully jammed the hat upon his head with some anger.

He heard an "Oof, easy there," in his head. A talking hat? He thought, only to receive in reply:

"Quite right I talk, and sing, in spite of boys crushing my brim. Now, let's see. There's some arrogance, no surprise. A bright and imaginative mind, if bearing a rather impulsive nature. Strange... Ambitious to a point, but not really focused. A wish to avoid past wrongs, how unusual. Very difficult, hmmm... where to put you, eh?"

My luck, probably be either Gryffindor or Slytherin. He thought bitterly.

"Bit of a cynic, aren't you? Well, true, you have great potential for either place. Great potential indeed. Not unlike another lad."

Oh, not fuckin' Potter again! We're not the same.

"Perhaps, though you have more in common than you realize. But I cannot place you. You are so evenly divided that you would go far in any House."

Fat lot of good you are then.

The hat commented saucily, "Oh ho, is that how it is? Maybe you should go to Slytherin after all."

Tim considered it, but all he could see was Molly's tearful face as she said goodbye to him. 'I waited, Tim, I did.' She had said, after she barely seemed real to him anymore, his eyes and ears full of magic. He remembered her conversation to Marya, how he in the future made copies of her, abused her, imprisoned her, making her his puppet. And how he made so many deals with demons that he couldn't remember himself. He remembered seeing Mr. Wrong, with perversions of Tim's family, and friends, including those who came about from his Opener magic. And Mr. Lily, who offered him, answers where he knew he would find none. Perhaps he could be an exception to that House, but he couldn't go that way. Not now, when he finally found himself, and knew who he was. There's too much chance he would lose it if he gave in.

I can't. It's too high a price.

"I see... you truly are unusual. Well then, since you're sure, it shall be Gryffindor!" And the last word was shouted throughout the Hall, with cheers erupting along the House table. Tim heard none of it as he silently took off the hat, and replaced it on the stool. He went over, and sat down near Harry's group.

He didn't see it, but Harry spied Draco staring at Tim, not cheering which was expected considering his loathing of the House and its students. But his expression was strange. A mix of anger, sadness, and disappointment swam across the Slytherin student's face. He almost seemed hurt somehow, which was unheard of.

Ron clapped Tim on the back, "Well done!" But Tim barely acknowledged him.

"Tim? What's wrong?" Hermione asked with concern, but he just shook his head.

Harry glanced over at him, and decided to talk to him privately in the Common Room later.

The noise level died down again as Headmaster Dumbledore stood up.

"I welcome you all to another year at Hogwarts for those returning students, and a new year for our new students. As a reminder, no students are permitted to enter the Forbidden Forest, and third years and above only are allowed on Hogsmeade visits with parental or guardian's permission."

Continuing he gestured to Professor Lowry, "I'd like to introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Cora Lowry." Ron and Harry looked at her, though they both also glanced at Professor Snape. Snape who currently taught Potions had been coveting the DADA position since he had begun teaching at Hogwarts. And he continued to be angry at being denied the opportunity. A great deal of it stemmed from his background as a Death Eater, but Dumbledore continued to refuse him anyway. Snape currently had a snarl on his face at the new professor, his anger very plain.

"Ooh, no wonder he's upset. Shown up by a girl this time?" Ron mentioned.

"And what does that mean?" Hermione angrily asked.

"Um, nothing. Just Snape's upset not getting the spot yet again."

"Don't see why he bothers considering how long Professors last there anyway." Harry remarked, and the two nodded. The position held a reputation for being cursed, or jinxed since no Professor ever lasted more than one year for various reasons.

"Plus, she's from America." Tim quietly added.

The three turned to him, and Ron asked, "A Yank Professor? Really?" Upon the received nod, he added, "Brilliant. Bet she'll have some good lessons." All four of them looked over at her, and she seemed to give a thumbs-up in Tim's direction. He gave a small wave in return. Everybody was surprised by what she did next. She turned toward Snape, and smirking a little, mouthed a comment to him. She then winked at him, and his face turned scarlet with anger. Chuckles and snickers were heard by some of the students to witness this. Snape hurriedly got up to leave, but a remark from Dumbledore stopped him, despite the Headmaster's eyes twinkling with amusement. The Potions professor sat down in a huff again.

Dumbledore then said, "Well, now introductions have been made, I think we're all ready for some refreshments?" And food and drink appeared on all the tables. Tim glanced down, wondering what kind of spell was used. Teleporting possibly? He knew enough that conjuring out of thin air was very hard and advanced.

Hermione blinked, and asked the boys as they proceeded to eat, "What do you suppose that was all about?"

Harry shrugged, "Some strange American custom?"

Ron shook his head, and said, "I hope it's not what I think. She's acting like she fancies him! Bleeding bonkers to think him attractive!"

They glanced at Tim, but he was quiet in thought again. He seemed indifferent to the feast, and actually looked like he was more interested in leaving early like Snape.

And speaking of the professor, Harry noticed him gazing at their table. A prominent frown was in place, but little surprise there. He hadn't liked them since their first year, especially Harry, due to being enemies with his father from their own school days. But as his eyes flickered toward Tim, the frown was still remained, but with a difference. He appeared to be studying the new student as intently as he would study their cauldrons in class.

A piercing cry sounded overhead, and an owl landed on the table before Tim.

His attention diverted from Snape, Harry remarked, "Oh, I didn't know you had an owl as well. What's their name?"

A funny expression appeared in Tim's eyes as he replied, "Oh, I call him Yo-yo. Long story really." He glanced back at the bird intently.

Tim, you must be careful while you are here. I have learned of disturbing matters in this world.

Under his breath, Tim muttered, "Can we talk about it later?" His eyes flickered over to indicate the current company.

The bird ruffled its feathers in irritation. Very well, meet me in the school's Owlery later. It flickered its gaze to Harry briefly before raising its wings, and flying away again.

By now, Ron and Hermione were likewise watching this odd exchange.

"No mail?"

Tim looked at them, not understanding what they were talking about. They were not surprised by the bird's sudden appearance. In fact, Harry mentioned having one, though his was probably much more ordinary. Only Tim knew of Yoyo's true identity, but again he wondered why it had looked at him, and not unlike the old Merlin had in their shared vision.

Sensing his confusion, Hermione explained, "Most wizards use owl-post to mail letters and packages. Very different from the muggle postal service."

"Oh, ok. Uh, no mail. Excuse me." He then got up from the table, and headed out of the Hall. Gryffindor and Slytherin eyes turned to watch his departure.