Chapter Six – The Sorting Hat

The door swung open at once. A tall, black-haired witch in emerald-green robes stood there. Violet liked this woman immediately; she looked truly how Violet felt a witch should.

"The firs' years, Professor McGonagall," said Hagrid.

"Thank you, Hagrid. I will take them from here."

The first year students followed Professor McGonagall into an enormous entrance hall. Violet gasped and threw her head back to try to see the ceiling, but to no avail; the ceiling was just too high. Violet smiled. This castle was so cool, and she could already tell just from standing there inside the front doors. She couldn't wait to explore; she was itching to see every inch of this enormous place!

"Hey, Violet!" Ron whispered. Violet shook her head and turned to Ron, who was beckoning to her. She was alarmed to see that the rest of her classmates had kept moving; Professor McGonagall hadn't stopped in the entrance hall. Violet bit her lip and hurried after Ron into a side chamber off the hall.

"Welcome to Hogwarts," said Professor McGonagall. "The start-of-term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory, and spend free time in your house common room."

Violet felt suddenly nervous. What if she wasn't in the same house as Hermione and Ron? Would she still get to see them at all?

"The four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin," Professor McGonagall went on. "Each house has its own noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your house points, while any rule-breaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup, a great honour. I hope each of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours."

Violet's nervousness doubled. Triumphs? What did she mean by 'triumphs'? Violet wasn't sure how she felt about the sound of that; it sounded as if they would be dueling each other or something. She suddenly had a vision of different houses having epic battles between themselves. Violet sincerely hoped that her theory was wrong. To comfort herself, she pulled out her last Licorice Wand from inside her robes and began to chew.

"The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you all smarten yourselves up as much as you can while you are waiting," Professor McGonagall concluded. Her eyes met Violet's, then lowered to the Licorice Wand in Violet's hand. Her mouth thinned slightly, but she didn't say anything except, "I shall return when we are ready for you. Please wait quietly."

And she left. Violet's chewing became more frantic.

Hermione stepped over toward Violet, eyed the Licorice Wand that Violet was fast devouring (there already really wasn't much left of it now), and said sniffily, "You really shouldn't be eating before the Sorting Ceremony, you know."

Violet didn't say anything, but made a noise in her throat.

Hermione sighed. "Oh, well. Anyway, I wonder what sort of test we're going to undergo during the Sorting Ceremony? I hope we don't have to duel anybody; I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet..." and she was off, whispering very fast about all the spells she'd learned and wondering which one she'd need.

Licorice Wand gone, Violet looked up at the ceiling, barely listening to Hermione, and absently sticking her hands in her robes pockets. She still had a Chocolate Frog in her left pocket. She fingered it carefully. Would she have time to eat it before McGonagall returned?

Suddenly about twenty ghosts streamed from the back wall. Violet forgot about her Chocolate Frog immediately. Several people screamed.

The ghosts appeared to be arguing until a ghost wearing a ruff and tights noticed the first years.

"I say, what are you all doing here?" he asked.

Nobody answered.

"New students!" said a ghost that looked like a fat little monk. He smiled around at them. "About to be Sorted, I suppose?"

A few people nodded mutely. Violet said in a carrying voice, "That's right!"

"Oh, I hope to see you in Hufflepuff!" said the Fat Friar. "My old house, you know."

"Move along now," said the sharp voice of Professor McGonagall. She had returned. "The Sorting Ceremony's about to start."

The ghosts floated away in single file through the opposite wall.

Professor McGonagall instructed the first years to form a line. They did so, and she led them back out into the entrance hall and through the great double doors of the Great Hall.

Violet couldn't believe her eyes. There were thousands of candles floating above four long tables where the rest of the school was seated. A fifth table on a raised plaform was where the teachers sat on the other end of the Hall. Violet glanced up at the ceiling- she could see up into the night sky! There apparently was no ceiling! Interesting...but what if it rained?

As if reading her mind, Hermione whispered, "It's bewitched to look like the sky outside. I read about it in Hogwarts, A History."

Violet continued to gaze up at the starry ceiling of the Great Hall, and wasn't paying attention to where she was walking, so she ran right into Ron, who was knocked off balance, and tripped forward into the sandy-haired boy in front of him. Violet immediately lowered her gaze and watched in horror as first years in front of her and Ron were knocked forward in a kind of domino effect. Violet hunched her shoulders slightly, trying to be insignificant for the moment. She sighed in relief when she saw that nobody actually fell down.

After everyone in the front of the line had steadied themselves, the line continued forward and the first years ended up standing in front of the staff table facing the rest of the school. Professor McGonagall placed a stool in front of the first years, and placed on top of it a shabby pointed wizard's hat. It was patched and frayed and very dirty. Violet thought it was very cool.

Violet stared at the hat, then glanced around at everyone to make sure she was supposed to be staring at the hat. They all were, so she returned her gaze to the shabby thing as it twitched and a rip opened near the brim, like a mouth, and the hat burst into song:

"Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,

But don't judge on what you see,

I'll eat myself if you can find

A smarter hat than me.

You can keep your bowlers black,

Your top hats sleek and tall,

For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat

And I can cap them all.

There's nothing hidden in your head

The Sorting Hat can't see,

So try me on and I will tell you

Where you ought to be.

You might belong in Gryffindor,

Where dwell the brave at heart,

Their daring, nerve, and chivalry

Set Gryffindors apart;

You might belong in Hufflepuff,

Where they are just and loyal,

Those patient Hufflepuffs are true

And unafraid of toil;

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,

If you've a ready mind,

Where those of wit and learning,

Will always find their kind;

Or perhaps in Slytherin

You'll make your real friends,

Those cunning folk use any means

To achieve their ends.

So put me on! Don't be afraid!

And don't get in a flap!

You're in safe hands (though I have none)

For I'm a Thinking Cap!"

The hall burst into applause as the hat finished its song and bowed to each of the four long tables before going quite still again. Professor McGonagall stepped forward with a long roll of parchment in her hands.

"When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted. Abbott, Hannah!"

And so the ceremony had begun. Hannah Abbott and Susan Bones were sorted into Hufflepuff, then Terry Boot and Mandy Brocklehurst went to Ravenclaw. Lavender Brown became a Gryffindor, Millicent Bulstrode and Vincent Crabbe became Slytherins, Justin Finch-Fletchley became a Hufflepuff, and Seamus Finnigan became a Gryffindor. Violet tried to remember every first year's name, which would be difficult, what with there being about forty of them, but she had a good memory.

"Granger, Hermione!"

Hermione almost ran to the stool and jammed the hat eagerly on her head.

"GRYFFINDOR!" shouted the hat. Ron groaned. Violet smiled weakly.

Violet continued to watch with rapt attention, sneering when Gregory Goyle became a Slytherin, and sniggering when Neville Longbottom, after being sorted into Gryffindor, ran off toward the Gryffindor table still wearing the Sorting Hat, and had to run back through gales of laughter to give it to Morag MacDougal.

Draco Malfoy swaggered forward and the hat had barely touched his head when it bellowed, "SLYTHERIN!" As Draco strutted over to the cheering Slytherin table, he glanced over his shoulder, caught Violet's eye, and smirked haughtily.

There weren't many people left now.

Violet thought that Theodore Nott was somewhat attractive, but then the hat put him in Slytherin, and she immediately decided he was off-limits. Then Pansy Parkinson became a Slytherin, Padma Patil became a Ravenclaw, and her twin sister, Parvati Patil, became a Gryffindor. Then Sally-Anne Perks was sorted...and then--

"Potter, Violet!"

Little whispers broke out as Violet stepped forward, grabbed the Sorting Hat, and put it on her head as she sat down on the little stool.

She sat for a little while, staring at the inside of the hat, then a little voice said, "Hmm. Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, oh my goodness, yes- and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting...So where shall I put you?"

Well, if you don't mind, I'd rather not be in Slytherin, thought Violet.

"Not Slytherin, eh?"

That's right. Not Slytherin.

"Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that- no? Well, if you're sure- better be GRYFFINDOR!"

Grinning, Violet removed the Sorting Hat, placed it back on the stool, and hurried over to the cheering Gryffindor table to join Hermione. The Weasley twins were chanting, "We got Potter! We got Potter!" and Percy the Prefect got up and shook Violet's hand. The Gryffindor ghost in his ruff and tights, who sat opposite Violet, smiled at her and patted her arm, which immediately felt like she had just plunged it into the lake again.

Violet gazed back at the High Table, where the teachers sat. She recognized Albus Dumbledore, with his long silver hair, beard, and mustache, crooked nose, and half-moon glasses. She also saw a man wearing a ridiculous turban, and he was sitting next to a man with shoulder-length, black, greasy hair, which framed a thin, sallow face, and a long hooked nose. For some reason, Violet's heart gave a quick jolt when she saw this man.

There were only four people left to be sorted. Dean Thomas became a Gryffindor, Lisa Turpin became a Ravenclaw, and then...

"Weasley, Ronald!"

Ron stepped forward, and the hat had barely touched his red hair when it shouted, "GRYFFINDOR!"

Violet clapped loudly and let out a cheer as Ron collapsed into the seat next to her.

"Well done, Ron, excellent," said Percy, leaning across Hermione and Violet as Blaise Zabini became a Slytherin. As Zabini took his seat at the Slytherin table, Professor McGonagall rolled up her parchment and picked up the stool and the Sorting Hat and carried them out of the hall.

Violet glanced down at the golden plate in front of her. It was empty. She stared at it a moment longer, feeling hungry, then pulled a Cauldron Cake out of her pocket and placed it in the center of the plate. Hermione nudged her and nodded up at the High Table.

Albus Dumbledore had gotten to his feet, arms opened wide. Beaming, he said, "Welcome! Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!

"Thank you!"

He sat back down. Violet cheered with the rest of the school, then leaned around Hermione to ask Percy if Dumbledore was a bit mad.

"Mad?" Percy replied. "He's a genius! Best wizard in the world! But he is a bit mad, yes..."

Violet glanced back at her plate and ate the Cauldron cake, then noticed Ron and Hermione piling real food onto their plates on either side of her. She looked up and saw the dishes piled with all sorts of different foods, and Violet immediately loaded her plate with Yorkshire pudding, bacon, roast chicken, fries, gravy, and pepperment humbugs.

It was the best dinner Violet had ever had. She enjoyed eating (of course) and talking to Ron, Hermione, Percy, and the ghost sitting across from her, Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, or, as the residents of Gryffindor Tower called him, Nearly Headless Nick.

Violet was quite entertained when Seamus Finnigan blurted out, "Nearly Headless? How can you be nearly headless?" and Nick replied irritably, "Like this," and pulled his left ear, allowing his head to swing off his neck and fall onto his shoulder as if it was on a hinge. He looked very pleased at their shocked expressions.

Violet, wanting to know everything she could, had Nearly Headless Nick point out the other ghosts in the hall and tell her who they were.

"Let's see...that's the Fat Friar, the Hufflepuff ghost, the Gray Lady, resident ghost of Ravenclaw Tower, and the Bloody Baron, Slytherin ghost..." Nick told her, his head wobbling slightly.

After that, talked turned to their families. Violet listened for a little while as Ron, Seamus, and Neville talked about their homes and their parents, and (in Neville's case) grandparents, then turned and joined Percy and Hermione's conversation about lessons. Violet and Hermione listened raptly to Percy as he told them a bit about how their first Transfiguration lessons would go.

Eventually Violet's gaze returned to the Hight Table where the teachers were. Hagrid was drinking deeply from his goblet. Professor McGonagall was talking to Professor Dumbledore. The teacher wearing the turban was talking to the hook-nosed teacher Violet had noticed earlier. She watched him for a moment or so, and then he looked past the other man's turban and straight into Violet's eyes. A pain shot suddenly across the scar on Violet's forehead, and she gasped. The hook-nosed teacher looked away, but Violet continued to watch him.

Hermione had turned around when Violet gasped. "What's wrong?" she inquired.

"N-nothing...hey, Percy, who's that bloke in the turban?"

"That's Professor Quirrell," Percy replied. "He's the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."

"Who's he talking to?"

"Ah, no wonder he's looking so nervous, that's Professor Snape. He teaches Potions, but he doesn't want to- everyone knows he's after Quirrell's job. Knows an awful lot about the Dark Arts, Snape."

Violet watched Snape for the rest of the meal, transfixed by him, although she didn't quite know why. He didn't look at her again, but she supposed that was for the best; she didn't want him to catch her staring at him. She ate her dessert so absentmindedly that it took her a moment to noticed when all the food had disappeared.

Professor Dumbledore got to his feet again. Violet tore her eyes away from Professor Snape to look at him instead.

"Ahem," said Professor Dumbledore, "just a few more words now that we are all fed and watered. I have a few start-of-term notices to give you.

"First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils. And a few of our older students would do well to remember that as well."

Violet noticed his gaze flash at the Weasley twins for a second.

"I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you all that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors.

"Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of the term. Anyone interested in playing for their house teams should contact Madam Hooch.

"And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death."

A few people laughed. Violet was not one of them. She leaned around Hermione and, alarmed, asked Percy, "Is he serious? What does he mean, 'die a very painful death'?"

Percy was frowning. "I don't know. He must be serious, but it's odd because he usually gives us a reason why we're not allowed to go somewhere- the forest's full of dangerous beasts, everyone knows that."

"Really?" said Violet, suddenly forgetting about Dumbledore's warning about the third-floor corridor. "What sorts of dangerous beasts?"

"Well, werewolves and things," replied Percy. "And unicorns..."

Violet laughed. "Unicorns? Ooh, they sound vicious!"

"And now, before we go to bed, let us sing the school song!" cried Dumbledore. He flicked his wand and conjured a long, golden ribbon, which formed into words.

"Everyone pick their favourite tune, and off we go!"

And Violet happily joined in with the rest of the school as they all bellowed:

"Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,

Teach us something please,

Whether we be old and bald

Or young with scabby knees,

Our heads could do with filling

With some interesting stuff,

For now they're bare and full of air,

Dead flies and bits of fluff,

So teach us things worth knowing,

Bring back what we've forgot,

Just do your best, we'll do the rest,

And learn until our brains all rot."

When the song was finished, Dumbledore wiped his eyes and said, "Ah, music, a magic beyond all we do here! And now, bedtime. Off you trot!"

Violet immediately returned her gaze to Professor Snape as she stood up. Percy told the first years to follow him, but Violet didn't move right away. Ron and Hermione had to grab her arms and move her. She took one final look at Snape, then followed Percy and the other Gryffindor first years out of the Great Hall.

Violet now put Snape in the back of her mind as she paid close attention to the route Percy was taking through the castle. Violet's head kept moving all around, trying to take in as much of the castle as she could on this walk, looking at all the moving portraits, and the suits of armor, and getting attacked by Peeves the Poltergeist was very entertaining. She was also very pleased when Percy led them all the way up to the seventh floor.

They finally stopped in front of a portrait of a very fat woman in a pink silk dress.

"Password?" she said.

"Caput Draconis," said Percy, and the portrait swung open revealing a round hole in the wall. They scrambled through it into the Gryffindor common room, a cozy, round room full of squashy armchairs.

Percy directed the girls to their dormitory, and the boys to another. Violet said goodnight to Ron as he went through a door with Dean Thomas, Neville Longbottom, and Seamus Finnigan, then she followed Hermione, Parvati Patil, and Lavender Brown upstairs through another door. They found their beds at the top of a spiral staircase, and the girls gazed in wonder at the deep red, velvet curtains around their four-poster beds. Their school trunks had already been brought up, so they changed into their pajamas and crawled into bed. Hermione told Violet goodnight, but Violet had already fallen asleep.

A/N: Yup, the next chapter is up already! I'm updating very quickly now, aren't I?