Ars memoriae, or The Art of Memory
Anti-Litigation Charm:If you recognize it, it belongs to the indomitable J. K. Rowling. I make nothing but my own amusement and keep nothing but the wish that things might have turned out a little differently in her world.
Author's Notes: This is a fairly long and COMPLETED story – the draft is about 180,000 words. I make no promises on updates since this is my first story and I'm still figuring out how things work, but I hope to be able to post once every week or so. The T rating is based on (not terribly explicit) descriptions of violent situations and a bit of profanity peppered throughout, so please make your decision to read accordingly. This is canon through DH and disregards most of the Epilogue-that-must-not-be-named... it tied things up with far too neat and tidy a bow, don't you think? We will, however, accept or at least acknowledge a good deal of what Ms. Rowling had sketched out for her characters there. Also, this first chapter is a bit more of a prologue than anything... so do stick around for Chapter 2 to see where this is heading. Now... away we go!
The first quarter moon illuminated the small stone buildings at the end of the tracks as the scarlet steam engine chugged to a halt at the station. Scores of students in heavy black robes piled out of the cars onto the platform and headed down towards a fleet of horseless carriages in orderly rows beside the still, dark lake, and their nattering on about the summer holidays gradually shifted topic to the school year ahead. Bellowing over the din, an enormous man with glittering black eyes emerged with a wild mane of shaggy hair and a beard roughly the size of a small shrubbery. Clutching a battered pink umbrella in one hand and oversized lantern in the other, he cried out, "Firs' years! Firs' years over here to the boats!" The smallest (and most jittery) of the students left the fray to queue up behind him as he led them down to the waters, silhouetted in the moonlight like a peculiar parade akin to a mother duck and her ducklings making their way to a pond.
"An' here's Teddy!" said the giant. "Teddy Lupin, yeh've grown up since I saw yeh las'! Yeh all right, then?"
The thin boy he was addressing beamed at the familiar burly man and squinted for a moment, lost in a moment of intense concentration. His mousy brown hair instantly grew several inches and transformed itself into a matching shaggy bush as his blue eyes narrowed and darkened to match the larger man's black ones.
A burst of laughter exploded from the large man. "Are yeh tellin' me ta shave the beard, Teddy, or can yeh not change everythin' jus' yet?"
"It looks like it must itch, Hagrid. And doesn't it weigh a lot?" he asked politely.
"Ah, it itches summat' awful in the summertime… not so bad now. An' I don' think it can weigh more'n you!" Hagrid turned to all the students to address them all. "No more'n four to a boat, now!"
Teddy climbed in next to a boy with short black hair and a girl with a green and silver Alice band. He greeted the students, watched all the other boats fill with students, and wondered how Hagrid could possibly cross the lake in one of the tiny boats without it immediately capsizing or slowly sinking as it sailed forward to the castle high upon the cliff on the other side. The boats propelled themselves across the lake, guided by some unseen force through a dark tunnel under the castle to a pebbly harbour on the other side. After they clamored out of their vessels, the duck parade now headed up to the castle door, and Hagrid raised his fist to rap on it loudly three times before it swung open.
If the man who led them to the castle was three sizes too big for a normal man, the one who would lead them through the castle corridors was three sizes too small. The wizened old man was tiny and spry, shorter than the most diminutive amongst them all, wearing robes made of navy brocade and a wide smile.
"Professor Flitwick, here're the firs' years," announced Hagrid.
"Thank you very, very much, Professor Hagrid! I shall see you inside at the feast," Flitwick squeaked out as a most unequivocal handshake took place.
Hagrid lumbered off in one direction to another set of wooden doors while Flitwick guided the students in another across the flagged stone floor of the Entrance Hall, peeking over his shoulder every few moments to encourage them to move along more quickly. When they arrived at an empty room next to the Great Hall, the man hopped up atop a small podium normally reserved for a bust or small statue and began his welcome.
"Welcome, welcome to Hogwarts!" Flitwick began. "I am certain that you are all famished and knackered following your lengthy journey here, but before you may join your fellow students at the start-of-term feast, you must be sorted into your houses. The Sorting Ceremony has been the first task put to each Hogwarts student since Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin founded this institution over a millennium ago. You will be placed in a house named for one of the founders, and your fellow housemates will be the people you eat with, room with, and study with – much like a family here. Each of the houses has different strengths, and each has produced many fine witches and wizards through the years. I hope that each of you takes pride in your house and works to bring it even greater honour. Now, if you please, follow me! When we arrive at the front of the hall, wait for your name to be called to come forward."
As he trotted off past the four wooden tables that ran the length of the room, Teddy gazed up at the same quarter moon in the ceiling of the Great Hall. He had been hearing stories of Hogwarts as long as he could remember and had catalogued a list of the things he most wanted to see and the people (and portraits and poltergeists) he most wanted to meet. He stared at the empty golden plates on the tables as his stomach gave a quiet grumble. As the forty odd eleven-year-olds marched forward through the seated crowd to the front of the hall, conversations abruptly came under a lull and whispers began:
"Blimey, they're all so tiny…"
"There's my sister! Oy, Imogen… Imogen!"
"Ha! D'you remember our Sorting? I thought I would faint dead away!"
One student in particular received more than his fair bit of attention as he nervously realized that some of these strangers already knew who he was. He rid himself of Hagrid's mop and mug as the queue marched forward, putting on his usual visage and vivid violet tresses.
"Psst… I think that's his godson… or nephew, maybe?"
"Oh! His nephew. Er… which one?"
"The one with purple hair… Er… black hair… red… blue…" Teddy could hear it all and rapidly shifted through a spectrum of different colours, hoping they would focus their attention on someone else, anyone else but him. A few hands went up to point him out.
"Ah, that one."
"He'll be Gryffindor, right?"
"Do you think we can meet him?"
"Why not? He's just a first year."
"No, not him. Him. Maybe he'll visit?"
"I heard he's a werewolf."
"Harry Potter's a werewolf?"
Teddy shrank down as small as he could, silently willing the students to forget about him and his family. Before any further speculation could take place, Hagrid placed a squat three-legged stool on the raised dais by the High Table. On top of the stool was perched an extraordinarily dirt-encrusted brown hat with a wide brim, a pointy top, and several off-colour patches. One good spin through a washer would do it in permanently, Teddy thought, and suddenly he knew what was going to happen next. The brim ripped open wide like a mouth and the hat began to dance (so to speak) as it sang:
Oh, there are finer hats than me,
Tams bolder, boaters brasher;
But a wiser cap you'll never see
At any haberdasher.
I will assist all to discern where
Each of you belongs.
I might not look like much and yet
I've sung a thousand songs!
A thousand songs, a thousand years
I've sorted students here,
Since Gryffindor bewitched me for
This task done every year.
If you are brave and daring and your
Nerve comes to the fore,
Fear not! good friend, it's likely you'll
Belong to Gryffindor.
If you are eager to discover
Every rule and law,
With ready mind and ready wit,
You'll be a Ravenclaw.
If you're a kind, but average fellow
Sitting on your duff,
You work hard, but you're not too bright,
You'll be in Hufflepuff.
However, if your only goal
Is saving your own skin,
With no regard to those around,
You'll go to Slytherin.
So slip me on and you will see
I'm never, EVER wrong,
I'll look between your ears to find
Where you truly belong!
Innumerable moments of stunned silence filled the hall when the hat completed its task. Some awkwardly polite and scattered applause staggered forth from the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables, while gaping mouths registered shock at the Hufflepuff table and flashing eyes registered anger among the Slytherins. The hat bowed to each of the four tables as if nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred and became quite still once again, but the professors at the High Table were slowly rousing from their respective stupors. A rotund older man in well-appointed robes looked increasingly queasy as the song reached its final stanzas, while a rosy-cheeked witch (with dirt under her fingernails and a Flitterbloom clipping sticking out of her greying bun) sprinted around the High Table to snatch the Hat from its stool and give it a thorough shaking.
"Not too bright? Not too bright?" she shrieked at the Hat, desperately searching for nonexistent eyes that would never appear in order to glare it into submission. "I have sat idly by and listened to your songs for years, for years, and although you have never gotten the merits and values of the House of Hufflepuff quite right, you have never insulted my house like you have today. I will not tolerate this!" She threw the hat back down and whipped around to face a tall woman with salt-and-pepper hair in emerald-green robes. Her voice came out as a hissed whisper. "Minerva, what is the meaning of this?"
"Pomona, please… I have no idea!" Minerva McGonagall hushed softly, attempting to quiet the fury of the woman standing before her. She then addressed the sea of be-robed students. "Dear students, I'm afraid I must apologise on behalf of our Sorting Hat, which I believe it is a bit under the weather today. Or it woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Whatever the case, this song is not wholly representative of the houses at Hogwarts. All four have a noble history and all are worthy of Hogwarts. Professor Sprout, Professor Slughorn, perhaps you would care to share a few words with the students about your houses while I see to the Sorting Hat?"
"Yes, I would," huffed Sprout. She stepped up, adjusted her robes, and began to speak, still visibly shaking with anger. "Why, members of Hufflepuff are renowned for our commitment to justice and our unwavering loyalty. Remember Cedric Diggory, Hogwarts' champion in the last Triwizard Tournament, who triumphed in that challenging contest through the use of his brains and his skills and who lost his life at the hands of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Remember Nymphadora Tonks, a valiant Auror who lost her life at the Battle of Hogwarts, and whose last years were served in the Order of the Phoenix to protect Harry Potter so that he could finally defeat You-Know-Who." She found Teddy's eyes in the crowd of first years. "Nymphadora was one of the finest young women I ever had the privilege of teaching. She was also a great deal of fun." Teddy blinked back tears and nodded, shifting his hair once again to a violent shade of pink.
Sprout looked back at Professor Slughorn, still seated behind the table. "Horace? Is there anything you'd like to add?"
He smiled at her pleasantly. "My dear woman, you're doing quite well enough for the both of us. Continue, would you please?"
Surprised that he would not stand and speak for his own house, Professor Sprout turned back to the students and began again, this time with a bit less fervor and zeal. "The students of Slytherin also have much to be proud of. I know there have been difficulties for Slytherin since the fall of You-Know-Who, but your house was founded, certainly, long before Salazar Slytherin began to... er, disagree with the other founders. And while he may have valued blood status, there have been pure-blood and half-blood students of Slytherin over the years who have shown tremendous intelligence, courage, and dedication in their callings. Remember Severus Snape, who laboured for years as a double agent to defeat You-Know-Who – even though we didn't know it at the time. Why, our own Professor Slughorn dueled You-Know-Who in the Battle of Hogwarts! And in his pyjamas, no less!"
While Professor Sprout had been speaking to the student body, Headmistress McGonagall had slipped the Sorting Hat onto her own head and had begun her own investigation. There were no visible traces of any dark magic, no spells or hexes lingering on the hat in any way. Why, then, did it sing this malicious little ditty? After conferring with the staff at the High Table, she turned to the students once more.
"There appears to be nothing wrong with the Sorting Hat," she declared. "Nothing magically wrong, that is. The Sorting will proceed as planned."
Professor Flitwick unfurled a long roll of parchment and said, "Please come forward when I call your name… Alderton, Gemma!" A girl with curly blonde hair ran to the stool as the hall erupted in applause. After the disastrous song by the Sorting Hat, there seemed to be no other problems with the ceremony (continuing through "Bollingberry, Colin" before getting to "Le Feuvre, Nicole" and "Lupin, Theodore" and finally ending with "Wood, Stephen"). This year, there were a few more students sorted into Gryffindor and Ravenclaw than usual (six boys and seven girls went into Gryffindor, while eight boys and six girls went into Ravenclaw). And there were a few fewer students in Hufflepuff and Slytherin (four boys and five girls in Hufflepuff, five boys and four girls in Slytherin). While the Hogwarts castle began subtly shifting the stairways in the dormitories and widening the rooms for the first year students, the Sorting Hat was swept off the stage by Hagrid and placed in the antechamber.
Headmistress McGonagall stepped forward and opened her arms wide in the manner she had seen Albus Dumbledore employ for so many years, smiling down on her students for the upcoming year.
"Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts!" she said. "Since our Sorting took a bit longer than usual, I have only two words for you all before we start our feast: Tuck in!"
Everyone hollered and cheered as the golden plates and dishes before them began to fill with roast lamb and roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and black pudding, heaping piles of mashed potatoes and turnips, loaves of crusty bread, bowls of steamed mussels, and stacks of Ginger Newts.
Teddy Lupin was clapped on the back by the prefects in his new house as he loaded his plate with a taste of everything. He introduced himself to the others sitting nearby between forkfuls of buttery potatoes. After he began displaying his gallery of noses to his fellow first years (first up was his mother's favourite – a pig snout, followed by a tiny button nose and then a large bulbous protuberance), he fielded questions about what it was like to be able to disguise yourself as anyone, whether or not her ever got stuck in a position that he couldn't get himself out of, and if it was possible to grow significantly taller than Hagrid or shrink down smaller than Flitwick. He never had to answer a single question about his parents... or his godfather.
While the students at all four house tables began chatting about common rooms, Quidditch tryouts, and first lessons, the professors at the table above were still discussing the unexpected events of the evening. Professor Sprout had calmed herself down considerably, but it was still quite easy to imagine pale puffs of smoke emitting from her ears.
"Minerva, has anyone been in your office lately?" she asked. "Are you positive that no one tampered with the Hat?"
The headmistress smiled at her sadly. "Pomona, I don't think it's likely... I truly don't believe the Hat has been tampered with, but one can never be too cautious with this sort of thing." She looked to her newest staff member for his expertise. "Bill, would you mind taking it for a thorough review?"
During his temporary one-year appointment as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor a few years earlier, Bill Weasley had successfully broken the curse left on the post left by Lord Voldemort. Thus free to accept the job on a regular basis, he accepted the job and also became the Head of Gryffindor in his second year teaching. If anyone had cursed the Sorting Hat, Professor Weasley was the best chance of discovering what was wrong. He nodded his agreement to his former Head of House. "Have it sent to my quarters and I'll examine it more closely." He then looked to Professor Sprout, still stewing about the slight to her beloved Hufflepuffs. "Pomona, what did you mean earlier when you said the Hat hadn't gotten the virtues of Hufflepuff quite right?"
The round little woman pulled herself up and squared her shoulders, letting out a quick breath before responding. "My dear boy, I have been Head of Hufflepuff since you were knee high to a Screechsnap or a Venomous Tentacula. I have heard dozens of Sorting Songs over the years, including those from my own seven years here. Have you ever listened to the depictions of any house but your own? Really listened?"
Bill gulped in response, shaking his head no, and she continued on. "I don't mean to attack you, dear, I just mean to point out that we all smile and nod and applaud the Hat without giving it a second thought, as though it's a novelty item rather than a powerful magical object. It's not benign! There are always a few of the same key words and phrases used, of course. Gryffindor is the home for the "brave at heart," for those who are "courageous" and "bold" and "daring"; Ravenclaw is the thinking wizard's house where knowledge and study are valued. Slytherins are always cited as being "cunning" or "shrewd," but the description is never very flattering and some years emphasizes blood in ways that don't actually fit the practices of the house. As for my students in Hufflepuff, we're often called "just" or "loyal," sometimes "hardworking." Now those are lovely traits that we do value, but some years the Hat likes to declare that we're also the house for people who weren't accepted anywhere else... the house of leftovers and secondhand witches and wizards who barely earned their Hogwarts letters in the first place." She looked him in the eyes now, holding his gaze. "Nothing I've heard in the past is a bad as what we all heard tonight, but it wasn't right then and it isn't right now."
Bill could only nod in agreement, taking another long swallow of pumpkin juice.
She turned to the man on her right. "Horace, I am beside myself to determine why this doesn't seem to bother you. I hope you have a good long chat planned with your house tonight to reassure them all of their value and their place here."
Horace Slughorn dramatically rolled his eyes and sighed. "Pomona, I have resigned myself to certain, er... expectations about my house. I do try to encourage the promising students in my care with incentives such as my Slug Club, but some students cannot be changed and family prejudices run deep. I am, if you recall, an instructor here only because Dumbledore pulled me out of a very comfortable retirement, and I am, if you care to tally them, in my thirteenth year post-retirement. I would dearly love to retire again while I am still able to enjoy it." He took out an elaborately-monogrammed, teal silk handkerchief to gently dab his brow. "I never thought that my former student, Gwenog Jones, would retire from the Holyhead Harpies before I would from my second tour of teaching!"
At this, he turned his gaze down the table to Headmistress McGonagall, waited until he locked eyes with the woman, and gave a solitary nod in acknowledgement of some sort of unspoken contract. She smiled weakly and announced to no one in particular, "Albus left me his Pensieve... perhaps it would be best if I went back through the years to listen to the other Sorting Songs..."
The sudden appearance of Peeves the Poltergeist hovering above the High Table with a large trifle forced McGonagall back to attention. She sharply directed him back to the kitchens with his pudding and walked forward again for her final series of announcements for the night as the afters appeared in place on all the tables: hodgepodge pie, treacle tarts, blackcurrant flummery and loads of biscuits all appeared on stands in front of the plates while iced pumpkin juice refilled the goblets.
"Attention, students! Now that you are all adequately nourished, I have a few additional start-of-term notes you would do well to observe. It is my duty to remind you that the Forbidden Forest is, in fact, forbidden. There are several magical creatures in the forest larger than an automobile and more powerful than any of you. Furthermore, your Head of House will have reserved time on the Quidditch pitch during the second week of classes for tryouts. Do contact your Quidditch captain if you are interested. If you have brought a new owl to Hogwarts this year but have not yet registered it, please take care of it sometime tomorrow. Until then, they are more than welcome in the owlery. And, finally, Mr. Filch has requested a reminder that the use of magic in the school corridors is explicitly off-limits."
At this, McGonagall nodded to the darkened corner where caretaker Argus Filch was standing in the shadows. He loudly rasped out a watery cough, and McGonagall spoke again. "He would also like me to inform you that he has spent the lion's share of his summer holiday deriving a new list of things for disobedient students to do during their detentions." At this, Filch bared a gleeful, off-kilter smile.
"And now," McGonagall continued, "the time has come for us all to head off to Slumberland. Your house prefects will lead you to your common rooms where your trunks await you."
As she clapped her hands together, the plates and goblets all emptied themselves, immaculately clean and entirely bereft of crumbs. Teddy Lupin rose with his housemates and followed the crowd along stone corridors filled with suits of armour, beneath pearlescent ghosts bobbing above, down marble staircases with steps he had to jump, and past several portraits trying to get his attention. The troop of students finally arrived at their destination and he looked up and grinned at what would soon be a very familiar painting.
"That's just it, Harry... I need to find Severus Snape."