This is it, I'm finally here.
A giddy excitement washes through my body as I step off of the train at Hogsmeade Station, a mass of students of all ages flooding around me. I am too distracted to notice the jostling bodies and the irritated words. All I can think is 'this is it, this is it, I'm finally here,' the words becoming a mantra as I follow a man to a fleet of rickety rowboats. He's so tall, so massive, that I'm startled at his gentleness when I trip on the hem of my too-long robes and he helps me up. Hagrid, I remember Ron calling him. I thank him, blushing profusely in the natural Weasley way.
These boats are surely as old as Hogwarts itself, and I find myself nervous for the first time since I got my Hogwarts letter. What if I fell in? What was it that Fred and George had said about a squid? I wasn't exactly the best swimmer, after all...
But I look to my right and see a small, mousy boy staring wide-eyed at the boats, the lake, the impossibly large man, and all the students around him and I know he's too overwhelmed by all of this to be anything but Muggleborn. I smile at him, remembering his endless chatter on the train and I know this stunned silence will be a rare occurrence in the years to come. He returns it shakily, clamoring into the boat with myself and a blonde with impossibly round eyes. I'm too awestruck with the image of Hogwarts castle appearing amidst the fog to properly introduce myself to the girl.
It's... magnificent. Every story from my brothers, every picture, every letter, every word ever mentioned about Hogwarts is meaningless in the wake of the genuine article. How could I have ever tried to picture it before? My finger-paint renderings from childhood are brought to mind and I smile to myself. I can't wait to tell Tom. As they usher us into an antechamber of some sort, I remember his kind, reassuring words scrawled neatly on the pages not long ago. You'll do fine, Ginny, everything is going to be fantastic.
Then we're suddenly thrust into the spotlight, the main event of the night as we all wait to be sorted. I look all around, taking in every bit that I can as I wait endlessly for my name - my name - to be called, and my eyes land on Gryffindor table. A gaggle of redheads smile and gesture happily to me and I feel my cheeks heating up again. Then I notice that our gaggle is less one, along with a certain brunet Boy-Who-Lived. I feel my amazement take the back-burner to my worry as it rises up in my chest. Where was Ron? Where was Harry? Would they really miss my Sorting? The moment when I make my family proud in the best possible way?
Because I would make them proud... right?
Panic replaces the worry as the forbidden thought comes into my mind. I look around, trying to get my bearings, but the Great Hall seems to be hemorrhaging 'greatness' and closing in on me tighter and tighter as the minutes ticked by. I had to be a Gryffindor, right? Tom always told me how brave I was, commending me for telling that Malfoy boy off for messing with Harry in the book shop. He said I was a shoe-in for my family house. Yes, surely I'll be in Gryffindor gold and crimson by the morning. Surely.
I watch the blonde from our boat float up to the stool and take a seat, the hat sitting atop her head for all of a second before calling out, "RAVENCLAW!"
Luna smiles dreamily and sets off for her house table, a bit of a surprise to me. She isn't an imbecile by any means, no, but a Ravenclaw? I thought a Hufflepuff, surely. She seems so sweet and believing. Perhaps first impressions aren't the best way to judge people's character, though. If that were true, though, how could I trust what Tom said about me? We've only been friends for a few weeks, he barely knows me. How does he know if I'm brave or strong or anything that being a Gryffindor stood for?
I feel my lungs constricting, my breath coming in short gasps. I didn't have long at all until I would be under the Sorting Hat.
You're so loyal to your family, Ginny, so considerate and kind, how could anyone not notice you? Loyal like a Hufflepuff. Kind, considerate, fair... all those meaninglessly nice words used to describe Hufflepuff students for lack of anything truthful. A house full of bloody misfits and cast-offs. How could anyone be proud to be in that house over Gryffindor? My whole family is drenched in crimson and gold, I can't be the only one in yellow and black!
He says I'm a smart girl, too, though. And, while they were hardly a gaggle of idiots, Gryffindors weren't known for using their heads first. Tom said I'm - what was the word... clever. Yes, clever... Cleverness is a Ravenclaw thing, right? Or is it wit? Well, he says I'm witty as well, with my little quips and nicknames for the ones that were mean to me... I feel my lips frown as another first year takes his seat on the stool and has the hat placed on his head.
"SLYTHERIN!" it calls, and by his smirk, the boy seems to agree.
Tom told me that most Slytherins were clever, as well. I'd only heard of them being evil, growing up in a family like mine, but he said they were simply fans of self-preservation. I couldn't exactly disagree with that point. Who doesn't want to be alive? It was hardwired into our brains to stay alive, why should one group be shunned for listening to their brains? He said they were cunning, too. I'd had to ask him to explain that word. He'd simply said that they always had a means to an end. I asked him if I was cunning, since I usually had a plan to get back at my brothers. Of course you are, Ginny. You're as clever and cunning as they come.
Needless to say, I didn't write again they rest of the day.
How could I have any quality, any single one, that the rival house had? How could I be anything like my enemies?
My heart is beating like a hummingbird's wings, fast and hard, and I'm absolutely stricken with anxiety. What if I fail my family? What if my brothers never speak to me? Wat if my parents disown me? What if Harry just writes me off as just another girl? Just the sister of his best friend who embarrassed her family and ruined their legacy. I feel the tears prickling at my eyes, a rare occurrence, and I push them back irritably. I refuse to cry in front of my whole school before anything's even happened.
I'll save them for tonight in my four-poster, in whatever house it may be.
I blush at the use of my full first name and somehow make my way to the three-legged stool with falling on my face. I hold my breath as the brim of the old hat slides past my eyes to rest on the tip of my nose.
"My, but you're a nervous wreck, aren't you, girl?"
I jump in surprise at the voice in my ear. I forgot about that part... Absolutely.
I hear a chuckle. "Another Weasley, then, eh? But you're the first female I've had on this stool in, my word, is it seven generations now? You certainly stand out in that crowd, don't you? But can you stand out in the same house, can you show yourself as the individual you are? You aren't just a Weasley, girl. You are, you can become, so much more than that. And you know it, don't you? You know that, despite all that loyalty in your heart, you want to stand out in that crowd. You want that boy to see you as who you really are. You want your brothers, your parents, everyone, to see you and not just that red hair, don't you girl?"
Yes. It's a desperate, fleeting thought full of all the desire in my heart, but I know it's the truth. I know that this worn pile of fabric isn't just having me on, he's seeing my soul.
He chuckles again. "Then where should we put you, girl? You don't seem very fond of Hufflepuff."
The reality hits me in the face as I look out at my brothers, smiling expectantly at me, their littlest sibling, their only sister.
"Ravenclaw doesn't seem the way to go with you, either, my dear. There's wit and cleverness, but you let that heart of yours lead you and they would never accept that... Slytherin would certainly be a change for the Weasleys."
I feel my heart slowing its pace. It knows the answer already, just as I do.
He chortles one more and I'm sure the Sorting Hat has never laughed this much. "You and that boy of yours have more in common than you think, girl."
I never know the meaning of his comment as he lets out a roar of, "GRYFFINDOR!"
My brothers explode in a cacophony of hollers and cheers and my cheeks are as red as the house table when I finally take my place. The grin cannot be moved from my lips.
This is it, I'm finally here.