Nothing that Yugi had seen thus far could have prepared him for the immensity of Hogwarts; if Diagon Alley was a streaming vein with relation to the magical world, Hogwarts was the pulsating heart that it all seemed to originate from. As he wandered the first few corridors of dry ground they reached in the underbelly of the school, he was speechless from how endless it seemed. Above him whole staircases at times swung about, changing course and reaching towards doorways and passages that seemed to go on forever. Over them, the ceiling appeared to be transparent, though from so far down below he couldn't tell if it was glass or a spell cast upon it, and he could see the flickering lights of stars.
Once he managed to pry his attention away from his surroundings, he realized that he and Harry were once again by themselves. If anything, however, this made him feel more comfortable. Harry was really the only one in this strange new world that he trusted at all, and with Yami's presence still weak and lingering within him, the need for guidance was ever-present for him. It was also comforting in the sense as well that if he were by himself, he would probably get so lost that he'd never be found again.
"So…where is it we're going now?" Yugi asked after a few moments of uneasy silence, at least on his part. Harry walked about as though this place truly were his home.
"The ceremony for us to be sorted into our individual houses isn't for a few more hours, so for now I'm just giving you a miniature tour and we'll go retrieve our belongings to take to whichever house we end up in," Harry explained with a relaxed smile. But Yugi didn't feel so relaxed; this whole 'sorting ceremony' that Harry kept referring to had him at wits end. He didn't quite understand how a hat was going to know where he belonged; he didn't even know usually where he belonged.
Yugi's worried thoughts were interrupted by the echoes of a cooing sound that traveled down the corridor from behind them. It startled him at first, but Harry just chuckled a bit and held up his arm horizontally. "Don't worry Yugi, it's just Hedwig…" he said, and Yugi watched as a snow-white owl suddenly cut through the darkness towards them and landed on Harry's arm, nuzzling its feather face and neck against his cheek. Yugi took in a deep breath to calm himself and smiled. "She's beautiful…is she your pet?"
"Sort of, in the magical world animals serve more purposes for their owners that just company. Hedwig can deliver mail and packages to my friends, and she seems to know when I need her most. I suppose there's a bit more of a connection between owner and animal in the magical world; they're closer to being animal familiars," he explained once more, and Yugi nodded as he watched Hedwig nip at Harry's ear playfully. Considering his connection to some of his dueling monsters, Yugi could understand the similar connection that Harry was talking about. But thinking about this made him miss his Dark Magician and the other card entities he was close to, so he attempted to shift his thought pattern.
Harry suddenly noticed Hedwig grasping something in her talon and gently took it from her. It was a parchment scroll neatly tied with a piece of string; he untied it and opened it, reading it swiftly. His eyes began to widen with surprise and panic as he finished. "It's a note from Dumbledore, he says the ceremony's about to start!" Harry said, suddenly grabbing Yugi's arm and dragging him along towards the appropriate chamber.
"But…but you said it wasn't going to be for a while!" Yugi shouted. "I thought we had a few hours to get ready!" So much for getting anymore mental preparation done, it seemed.
"I thought so too, but the other students are all already prepared for it, and Dumbledore was pressured by some of the professors to start it, so we need to hurry or we'll miss your name being announced!" Harry said swiftly and urgently, his words meshing together a bit in his rush. Yugi's feet barely even touched the ground at the frantic pace that Harry was dragging him along. Whole elaborate corridors that they ran through turned into formless blurs as Yugi focused on what was ahead, afraid of what was to come, especially without Yami there to help him and now no time to get himself ready.
It felt like they'd run an entire marathon before they reached an auxiliary chamber outside of main banquet hall where the Sorting was going on; fortunately, the Sorting Hat wasn't too far into alphabet when they arrived, but it was going through the students at such a rate that Harry still seemed to be in a panic. As cheered and revered silence alternated in the massive hall beside them, Harry quickly pulled out his wand and closed his eyes, taking a second to concentrate. Yugi was busy looking in on the ceremony with awe and terror as Harry swiftly uttered his spell.
"Accio…Yugi's school robes," Harry said, unable to think of a less ridiculous way to say what he was summoning.
"How is saying that going to get them from wherever they are to-" Yugi began to say anxiously, when suddenly he was knocked over by the force of his robes plowing into his back.
"Quick quick quick, put them on!" Harry said, yanking Yugi up and tugging the black robes hastily over his head. Yugi was so nervous that he flailed around a bit, trying to allow Harry to pull them on quickly while at the same instant trying to get back onto his feet. The robes fell down to the floor; they were a bit too big for Yugi, but there was little time to be worrying about that right now. The instant that Harry finally got them wriggled over his head, a voice suddenly rang out over the momentarily silenced hall before them. Harry recognized it as Professor McGonagall's voice as it bellowed through the quiet like thunder, but to Yugi, it was a strange voice that made him tremble a bit with worry.
"Yugi Mouto!" the voice cried out, and a few hushed voices began instantly as students looked around for the next student to be sorted.
"You're on," was all Harry muttered before he suddenly shoved Yugi out into the hall. Yugi stumbled out and nearly tripped over the slightly long robes, and chuckled and giggles rang out almost instantly. He looked up fearfully; the banquet hall was dimly lit by candles, with the students seated all around him and the Professors seated at the far end, an eternity away. Most of the professors noticed as he staggered into the hall and looked rather impatient and unimpressed, and this didn't help encourage him to approach. Dumbledore's one comforting presence was missing; the central chair at the main table was vacant and loomed there like an unwelcome presence. The Sorting Hat was sitting on a stool in front of the Professors' table, waiting for him, but he was too afraid to move as everyone waited for him with growing unease. He felt as though his feet had been nailed to the floor.
"There is no need to be afraid, Yugi…" a voice suddenly said from beside him, and when he looked to his left, Dumbledore was standing there beside the doorway with a cheery smile on his face. The elderly wizard placed a comforting hand on Yugi's shoulder and began to nudge him forward, and when Yugi finally mustered the strength to begin his approach towards the Sorting Hat, Dumbledore accompanied him at his side, his hand remaining on the boy's shoulder. "Don't worry, I know all of this is quite frightening for you, and hard to comprehend still. Unlike all the other students here, until a short while ago you had no idea this place even existed. But everything will work out, I assure you of that…" Dumbledore said, giving a swift reassuring wink to Yugi as they walked up the stairs towards the awaiting Professors and the Sorting Hat.
"Pardon his tardiness, young Yugi here has had an eventful few days and is unaccustomed to what we do here…" Dumbledore said, patting Yugi's shoulder as he stepped away and returned to his seat.
Professor McGonagall was standing slightly off to the side and gave Yugi a stern look nonetheless. "You may sit, and the Sorting Hat will determine where it is you will be placed…" she said, gently picking up the hat and allowing Yugi to sit. He did so, but stiffly, his fingers digging into the rounded wood panel of the stool as though it were his lifeline to reality. Some students ahead of them, barely visible in the limited lighting, were still guffawing at his extremely apparent unease. He could even detect faint strings of laughter from the same voice he'd heard on the train ridiculing Harry and himself.
Without much warning, Yugi felt the cloth of the hat placed down onto his head, and it sank down deep enough that it nearly covered up his eyes and made the whole world turn dark. Almost instantly, he could hear the voice of the Hat within his head, though the sensation didn't startle him as much as he thought it would. It wasn't too different from having Yami speak within his mind and talk to him mentally.
"Ah yes, you are a complex one…perhaps one of the most difficult I've had to sort, but we'll find a place for you…" the Hat said with a serious but almost whimsical tone. "I can see a lot of courage and internal strength, and wisdom as well that drives it…you appear to be a good candidate for Gryffindor…" it said, and Yugi for a second breathed a sigh of relief, but the Hat suddenly seemed to stiffen on his head, as though it was contracting into his mind further. "But what is this? I sense darker depths within your mind, a more cunning guise that is both clever and wise, and strong in itself…almost as though you have two minds, it seems…but these attributes would place you at a better standing in Slytherin…" the Hat sudden paused, as though contemplating, and Yugi could feel it shifting and contracting as though it were having some difficulty. He was beginning to feel tense himself, as a moment passed and no decision was made, when suddenly the Hat called out.
"I need to consult the Professors!" the Hat suddenly shouted, and there was a resonating and collected gasp all around. The younger students didn't seem to know what to make of it, but the older students looked downfounded. None of them had ever seen this before. Yugi looked with a panicked, deer-in-the-headlights look down at Harry, who was standing at the far end, but all his companion could do was make a gesture to remain calm.
Professor McGonagall suddenly plucked the Hat off of Yugi's head. "You remain here while we discuss this…" she said, turning and walking back to the Professor's table with the Hat in hand. Yugi just sat there half curled up like a child who felt like they were being punished for something they didn't do. Whispers and continued gasps and laughter streamed through the chamber even with designated older students attempting to calm and quiet the younger ones, and Yugi could steadily feel his face growing warmer and rosy by the sheer embarrassment of this entire situation. Part of him wanted to leap off the stool and run all the way back home, and part of him just wanted the Sorting to be over with so he could move on to whatever happened next.
He was right about to act on his former option when suddenly Dumbledore's calm but serious voice rang out over the hall. "A decision has been reached!"
Professor McGonagall turned and held the hand on her palms so it could face Yugi and the other students. "I have come to the decision that because of this boy's particular strengths and attributes, an immediate choice between Gryffindor and Slytherin cannot be made. Therefore, in this situation, we will allow time and experience to be the judge of where it is he belongs. Yugi Mouto will spend alternating nights in both the Gryffindor and Slytherin Houses until it is determined where his strengths are best brought out. Once that is decided, he will be placed into the appropriate House," the Hat announced.
Now there was no noise, no whispered or chuckles. Nobody seemed to know what to make of this decision. There was no cheering as there had been when a House had been determined. He remembered Harry explaining that Gryffindor and Slytherin were hated rivals to one another because of their conflicting ideals, and thus, neither House seemed comfortable celebrating his only partial acceptance into their group. The Gryffindor student either just shook their heads or looked to be at a loss, while the Slytherin students just glared at him with detestment or angered confusion.
Yugi looked helplessly at the other end of the Hall where Harry was still standing and waiting for him, but Harry was just looking at him helplessly as though he didn't know what to do either.
"I believe it would be more appropriate to talk about this in private…" Professor McGonagall suddenly said as the other Professors nodded and stood, and she grabbed Yugi by his upper arm. Before he could attempt another glimpse towards Harry, Yugi was pulled off the stage and led away with the Professors.