Emma was a patient girl. It's a trait she'd cultivated during a life no child should ever have to live. A life of waiting for food, waiting for her turn to use the restroom...waiting to be adopted. Patience was a virtue that had never seemed to make Emma more appealing to couples looking for a child. She was written off just because odd things seemed to happen when she was around.
She had only found out recently that she was actually causing those odd incidents to occur.
Because apparently Emma was a witch.
Three witches had come to the orphanage on her eleventh birthday and explained all about how she had powers and would be going to a school to learn about them. Unfortunately, her birthday was in October and school had already started, which means Emma had to wait patiently for nearly a year before she could immerse herself in this new world. In those months she was almost convinced she had imagined the entire conversation. When in doubt, she would look at the letter she still had from Hogwarts and remembered the promise to be picked up at the end of August.
Now, finally in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Emma was patiently waiting once more. This time, she was waiting with others though. About thirty other children were all gathered in the Great Hall waiting to be sorted into their school houses. The house system had been briefly explained to her but she couldn't say she cared much about where she was placed. She was more worried that they would decide there wasn't a place for her at all.
Before her worries could get the best of her, the sorting began. As she waited for her turn, she diligently watched the other students being sorted. After all, these would be her classmates and potential friends. It took some students, like a girl named Belle French, a minute or two for the Hat to decide. (Gryffindor) Some, like a boy named Killian Jones, less than fifteen seconds. (Slytherin)
Emma refocuses on the proceedings as the tiny professor announced the next name.
From somewhere in the group of students in front of her, a taller girl with long brown hair emerged. She had the posture and elegance of a princess and one would think she had all the confidence in the world. But as soon as she turned to sit on the sorting stool, Emma knew that not to be true. Her eyes...her very pretty eyes...told a different story. They told a story of a girl who is anxious, maybe even scared. And Emma felt for this girl. While all the students seemed nervous when up on the stage, something instinctually told Emma that Regina anxiety was bigger than she could imagine.
The Hat sat silent for about a minute. And in that time, Emma studied Regina in a way she hadn't with the other students. She watched as emotions ran though her eyes and wondered what she was thinking. She watched as the candlelight made her skin radiate warmth and the natural highlights shine in her dark hair. She watched as she inhaled a deep shaky breath through her lips. Lips that were adorned by a small scar on the top right corner.
Regina had captured her attention so throughly that she almost missed the announcement of her house from the shouting Hat.
"HUFFLEPUFF" rang out into the hall, along with a respectable amount of applause.
The brunette smiled graciously at her new house-mates...but her eyes showed deep conflict.
Emma noted that Regina was the first girl to be sorted into this house. She sat at the end of a long table with two boys from their year. Archie Hopper, and Neal Cassidy.
The sorting continued as it had before. Yet it felt different. Emma felt as if something had shifted and changed in a way she couldn't describe. She would catch her attention drifting to the brunette every few seconds and have to force her eyes back to the stage.
She almost missed her own name being called.
She shyly proceeds to the stool and sits in front of the mass of students. She noticed that many of the older students weren't paying close attention and this oddly made her feel better.
"hmmm Swan, a fitting name. You seem to capture the creature's essence well."
Emma starts at the sudden voice echoing in her ears.
"Yes...now where to put you."
Emma bites her lip as the hat debates.
"You show a resilience and willingness to prove yourself that would make a good Slytherin. Yet you have a natural intuition and the work ethic of a Ravenclaw. You have the empathy and resourcefulness of a Hufflepuff. But the protectiveness and fortitude of a Gryffindor."
"So which is the best house for me?"
"For the fist time in half a century, I have a student that would thrive in any of these houses...so I'm going to let you choose."
"...but I don't really know anything about the houses. How am I supposed to choose the right one?"
"You're heart already knows which one."
Emma opens her eyes at this statement. Not realizing she had closed them in the first place. She had no sense of how long she had been sitting on the stool.
Almost on instinct her eyes trail to the pretty brunette at the Hufflepuff table and their eyes meet. The other girls mouth quirks up in an almost smile and Emma's heart jumps.
"You have all the tools for success, you need only love. The best place to find love and family with little fear of judgement or competition is HUFFLEPUFF"
Emma practically blushes as she places the hat back on the stool and hurries to her new table in the center of the hall. She ends up sitting right next to Regina, across from the boys. They all share a quick smile as they focus on the last few students being sorted.
Only one other student joined their table. A boy named Graham Woods rounded out the number of new Hufflepuffs to five.
The feast soon commenced and Emma was amazed by the amount of food that appeared before her. As she was eating she asked one of the older students where the food came from, and how it appeared.
The second year boy laughed, which irritated her a little. "Magic" He said as if it was obvious.
"Yeah but who magicked it to appear? The headmistress? And someone still had to cook it right? Something can't come from nothing."
The boy looked at her like she was crazy for asking questions. "Well the kitchens are by our dorm so I suppose someone must prepare it there. What does it matter who cooks it?"
She heard Regina scoff at the comment next to her. It's the most she's heard from the other girl all night so the noise immediately catches her attention.
"Well I'd like to know." Emma simply says, ending the conversation.
When she looks over, the other girl is once again absentmindedly playing with her food. She hadn't spoken yet and it didn't seem as if she wished to be spoken to. Curiously, Emma got the impression that Regina wasn't a shy person. She simply seemed distracted, maybe even nervous. While most of the other student's fears went away after being sorted, Regina's seemed to be as strong as ever.
The rest of the meal passes with a little conversation between the other first-years. All while stuffing themselves until they felt they would burst.
It had been a long day though so Emma was more than ready to sleep when everyone began to exit the Great Hall. A blonde prefect named Wendy, led them to their dorms. She waved at Emma before speaking to the recognized the older girl from the train ride over. She had ended up in a compartment with the girl and her two younger brothers.
Wendy shows them how where the secret entrance to the Hufflepuff common room is and how to get in. The tapping reminds Emma of getting into Diagon Ally when Professors Flora, Fauna, and Merrywether took her to get school supplies.
The common room is homey with all the plants, colors, and deep set furniture. Emma can't believe she get's to live in such a warm and inviting environment. The group separates after it's explained that there are two tunnels leading to the boys and girls rooms. Emma follows Regina silently to the last door on the right. There names already carved into a wood plaque and hung from the door.
Emma likes seeing their names together.
It only occurs to Emma when she is faced with a comfy room adorned with patchwork quilts on two beds, that she's going to be sharing a room with Regina. Alone. For the next seven years.