A/N: Faith, Buffy, and all related characters and concepts belong to Joss. Harry, Hogwarts, and all their relatives belong to J.K. I'm just having fun, not making money.
Chapter 2: Sorted
I was sprawled at the feet of a giant, and he was reaching for me, and I whimpered and tried to scoot backwards. Gin got between us and held out her hand. “You must be Hagrid. My brothers have told me about you.”
He looked down at her, then scooped her up in a hug. “Eh, and you must be Ginny Weasley. Got the look o' yer family about ye, ye do. Well, you know the drill then.” He set her down and looked down at me. “Alrigh', then, li'l one?” I nodded, faking confidence, and he moved away. “Firs' years, this way! All firs' years, leave your things and come this way!”
I gave a quick look around, but no one was watching, so I pulled out my wand, cast the locking charm on my trunk under my breath, and hurried after Gin and Lu, who were reassuring B that Joy would be fine, and the house elves would take good care of her, which of course set her off with questions about what house elves were and why they were there, and a hundred more. She was so busy asking, she didn't watch her footing, and she stumbled. I darted in and caught her, and she flashed me a grateful look in the near-dark.
Gin was impressed. “Wow, Faith, you're fast. I didn't even see her stumble.”
I shrugged a little. “Had to be. Where's the big guy leading us?” Before any of them could answer, we came round the corner and saw the lakeshore and all the little boats.
The giant- Hagrid- was standing at the water's edge. “Ev'rybody in, only four to a boat, come on then.” We scrambled into a boat together, Lu eagerly peering out across the lake and Gin eying the dark water nervously. B looked like she wanted to ask more questions, but I was sitting staring at my hands, and she noticed.
B put her hand over mine. “I bet these boats are dead safe. I mean, they wouldn't let us little kids in them if they weren't, right?”
I smiled up at her through my hair. “I'm not scared of the boats. Or the lake. Even though I heard there's a giant squid down there.” I turned my hand and grabbed hers, looking her in the face. “Will you still be my friend even if we're in different Houses?”
“Faith!” She threw her arms around me, setting the boat rocking. “Of course we'll be friends! We'll always be friends!” Lu nodded, and Gin put her arms around us.
The boat started moving on its own, and B squeaked and let go of me to grab the sides of the boat and stare out across the lake. We cleared the shore, and came around the corner, and everyone gasped at our first sight of the castle. I'd seen pictures and all, but actually seeing it still took my breath away. And I was going to be living here! And, wow, it glittered and shone...
The boats slipped into the cave and bumped themselves up against the docks, and we all scrambled out, a few people looking a bit sick. Hagrid led us up the stairs and into the Entrance Hall, and the mudb- no, Muggleborn- gasped and pointed at the moving portraits, most of whom were clustered in the closest few frames, whispering to each other about us. After a moment, a tall witch with a severe grey bun and a hat whose point stuck out sideways stepped out from a side door and looked us over.
She frowned a little, and the chatter died. “Good. Now, I am Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall, head of Gryffindor House and Professor of Transfiguration. In a moment I will lead you into the Great Hall. I will then call each of your names, and you will sit on the stool to be Sorted. You will then move to your House table, where you will eat with your House at every meal and in all other ways treat your House as your family while you are here. After supper we will show you to your Common Rooms and explain further.” She turned away, and there was an excited murmur as we followed her. She opened the huge double doors, and led us in, and there were more gasps. Even I was willing to show my amazement at the masterfully enchanted ceiling, showing the cloudless, moonless sky above the school, and the hundreds of candles floating between us and the stars.
We were led up to the front of the Hall, where we clustered between the Head Table and the longer student tables. There was a tall stool, with an old battered hat perched on it. The Hat shifted, the folds turning into a face, and then it opened its mouth and started singing. I tuned it out and spent the time checking the Hall for exits and assessing the teachers. The Headmaster, sitting in the middle, seemed nice, smiling and nodding and keeping time with one finger as the Hat sang. Next to him was a plump witch with a kind face, then an excitable wizard who was small enough to be part gnome, then a pale wizard with a beak nose poking out from his dark hair and dark eyes glittering behind it. He caught me looking and smirked, and I yanked my gaze away just as the Hat finished and everyone started clapping
McGonagall gestured for quiet, then unrolled a scroll. “Aston, William.” A skinny boy with pale hair and freckles pushed forward, looking like he might be sick. McGonagall lifted the Hat off the stool, he climbed up and sat, and she put the Hat on his head.
After a moment, the Hat called out, “Hufflepuff!”, and Aston slithered out from under it and ran for the Hufflepuff table, to cheering from three Houses, and boos from Slytherin.
McGonagall smiled a little. “Creevey, Colin.” I tuned the Sorting out and went back to assessing the teachers. On the other side of Dumbledore was an empty seat, probably McGonagall's, then that Lockhart bloke, smiling even wider than in his pictures, flashing those impossibly shiny teeth at the students, making some of the witches blush and whisper to each other. I glared at him.
“Lehane, Faith.” I jumped, and deliberately pushed my hair out of my face as I walked, keeping my back straight. I could do this. I wasn't a coward, and neither was my dad. I climbed up on the stool, and McGonagall put the Hat on my head, where it dropped down past my nose. The darkness was oddly comforting, and I heard it noticing that.
“Darkness. Yes, there's a lot of it here, and the possibility for more. Getting more Darkness to help strengthen the Light. Braver than you give yourself credit for, though, yes, you'd do well with the Lions.” My breath caught, though I didn't know if it was hope or fear, but the voice went on. “Clever, cunning, always wanting to know... fiercely loyal, if only to a select few... any choice could let you blossom.” I blinked fast to get rid of tears. Something, even a Charmed Hat, was talking about how I could blossom? “Still, you need to know what you face, face your fears, learn your strength. Dark does not mean evil, you know.” I bit my lip, knowing what was coming, and heard it call out “Slytherin!” McGonagall took it, and I set my chin and marched to the end of the Slytherin table. There were boos and catcalls, but not a single cheer. I realized there had been a couple others Sorted into Slytherin, and the Snakes had cheered for them, but not for me.
I tried to ignore the whispers from my new Housemates as I passed. “Loser Lehane.” “Never know she was pureblood.” “Scrawny little thing.” “...trying to suck up to Snape? I mean, they could be twins...” I took the seat at the furthest end, crossed my arms over my chest, and stared at McGonagall.
She gave me a sympathetic look I ignored, then read the next name. “Lovegood, Luna.” Lu drifted forward and smiled dreamily at McGonagall.
She sat, and the Hat took almost no time. “Ravenclaw.” There were a few cheers, mostly from older students, and a lot of whispers and giggles, plus a few nasty comments from my new Housemates. She drifted down to the very end of her table, and sat facing me. I smiled at her, gratefully, and she smiled back.
There were a bunch of names I didn't care about, then “Summers, Buffy.” She practically bounced over to the stool, and nearly vibrated as she sat. The Hat took a little while with her, at one point saying something that made her tense and nervous.
Finally, the flap in the front opened. “Gryffindor.” She bounced over to the end of the Gryffindor table to lots of cheers and happy comments, and I scowled a little. She gave me a 'sorry' look, and I shrugged. Lu looked over her shoulder, then back at me, looking worried, but I gave her a little smile, then sent it over her shoulder to B, who smiled back a little. Cheering as someone else was Sorted pulled us out of the weird almost-conversation.
“Weasley, Ginevra.” All three of us watched intensely as Gin sat, and almost before it was on her head, the Hat was calling out “Gryffindor!” There was plenty of cheering, especially from her twin brothers, halfway along the Gryff table, plus a nasty comment from Malfoy. I made a mental note to trip him the next time he walked past me.
Dumbledore stood, and the students quieted and faced him. “Wonderful. Now, just a few announcements, and we can get to the Feast. Firstly, as older students know and first years would do well to remember, the Forbidden Forest is off-limits to all students. Secondly, I would like to welcome a new member of staff, here to be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, a gifted wizard and author we are proud to have, Gilderoy Lockhart!” Lockhart stood and waved, still with that smile that was starting to wig me out a little, and a bunch of student witches swooned or gasped or whispered and giggled with each other, while the student wizards almost all glared or muttered to each other. Dumbledore smiled and nodded. “I am glad to see that we are all making Professor Lockhart so welcome. That's the Hogwarts Spirit I love to see.” With perfect timing, a ghost of a wizard with a big, old-fashioned ruff around his neck rose up through the end of the Gryff table closest to Dumble. There were gasps and whispers, and Dumble laughed. “And with that, let us begin!”
The tables were suddenly full of food, and I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that I could eat at a normal pace, no one was going to try to take it away, the others weren't going to eat it all before I could get any, and I could always find the kitchen and ask the house elves for a snack. I filled a plate slowly, and smiled to myself to think that none of the others at this table would ever think to ask 'lesser creatures' like house elves for anything, or even notice if they were there, and I made a mental note to see if the little creatures listened in to our conversations. I was going to need information against the other Snakes if I didn't want them to make my life miserable.
I half-closed my eyes as I took the first bite of roast beef, letting the perfect juices fill my mouth and run down my throat, the meat melting on my tongue. This was a hundred times better than Mum's cooking, ten times better than anything Mike ever made. I took a gulp of pumpkin juice, which was fresh and cold and delicious, then a bite of roasted potatoes. They were spiced, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and I found myself making little happy noises as I ate. I stifled them immediately, glancing around from behind my hair to make sure no one had noticed. The rest of my table was pointedly ignoring me, but when I raised my eyes, Lu was watching me, and she gave me a little smile when our eyes met.
I smiled back, then looked past her to the Gryff table. A couple of the second-years were telling a story, and B, Gin, and Creevey were listening with wide eyes. I didn't want to be jealous, so I let my eyes keep moving. The bloke with hair like mine, who must be Snape, was currently missing, but as I was noticing this he hurried back in and over to McGonagall. He whispered to her for a minute, then they both left, frowning. I raised an eyebrow and kept an eye on the Professors while I ate. Sure enough, a few minutes later Dumble got up and headed out, and a little bit after that Dumble and Snape came back and sat, the latter frowning at the second-year Gryffs. Considering Potter and Gin's brother, both Gryffs, were still missing, I only wondered if they were hurt or just in worlds of trouble.
I shrugged and focused on the desserts that had just appeared. I'd find out about Potter soon enough, and for now I was going to enjoy as many different sweets as I possibly could. I ignored the whispers and snickers as I tried a piece of every pie and cake I could reach, and when they stopped looking at me, I slipped a few things in my pockets to keep in my room. This was all heaven as far as my stomach was concerned, but some part of me was convinced it would all be snatched away at any moment. I scowled at the groups of friends, happy and laughing, all around me.
Dumble came back in a few minutes later and got everyone's attention. “Prefects, if you would please gather your Houses and lead them to the Common Rooms.” He smiled, his eyes twinkling. “If you would especially check that you do not leave any first years behind. We would hate for any of them to be lost and incur Mr Filch's wrath this early.” There were some chuckles, and a general shifting and shuffling, and I let myself be caught in the tide of Slytherins.
B caught my eye across the Hall, and mouthed, “breakfast?” I nodded, and she beamed and waved.
I gave a little wave back, then concentrated on where we were going. This was a big place, and I needed to know the layout fast. I was betting there were a million secret passages, too, and I should start finding them. Never know when I'd have to hide from other students, or avoid teachers, or get somewhere in a wicked hurry. We moved down into the dungeons, torches casting flickering light on everyone's faces and making the other first years huddle together a little.
I snorted. They thought this was scary? Dank corridors and badly Charmed torches in a school? I guessed that whatever nastiness their mummies and daddies got up to, they kept it from their precious spawn. I was betting I was braver than anyone younger than third year... except maybe Him and his friends. My back straightened, and I glanced behind me to see Snape watching me with those glittering dark eyes. I scowled, and he smirked and moved past us and further into the dungeons.
Everyone was clustered along a section of blank wall, and an older boy stood between it and us, looking us over. “This is the entrance to the Common Room. Keep its location secret, as well as the password, which is currently 'pure blood'. I will be changing it weekly, with the new one posted on the bulletin board inside.” As he spoke, several of the stones of the wall shifted and moved aside, revealing a large room with green-leather-covered couches and Slytherin banners on the walls. He backed in and we all followed him, the older kids heading down the halls in the far corners. The Prefect gestured. “As you can see, this is the boys' hall, and that is the girls' hall. Boys are strictly forbidden from being in the girls' hall at any time, and there is an enchantment to enforce that. Class assignments will be handed out in the morning. Anyone found outside the Common Room after 9 pm will be docked House Points. Welcome to Hogwarts.”
The other first years spent a minute examining the Common Room, but I headed directly for our room. I claimed the bed against the far wall, and set my trunk at its foot. I muttered the unlocking charm and sighed in relief when the trunk popped open a little (the lock hadn't held in years, Mum said), the tiny wisp of green smoke telling me no one had tried to unlock it. I unloaded the sweets and snacks from my pockets and into the trunk, and got out my Potions book. The other first-year girls came in just then, already talking and laughing and getting to know each other, but they hardly even glanced my way. I decided I didn't want to be in the same room as them more than I had to, and that I would look the Common Room over in more detail, maybe even explore the corridors a little before curfew.
I glanced at the other girls, to see them not paying any attention to me. I muttered the locking charm I'd found and modified for safety, making it seem as though I was just engaging the physical lock, then pocketed my wand and headed for the door. As I passed the other girls, one of them whispered, loud enough for me to hear. “Like we'd try to take anything from Loser Lehane.”
They all giggled, and another one whispered back. “Not unless I needed a rag to clean out my cauldron...”
I pushed past them, pretending I hadn't heard, and headed down the hall. The Common Room had a bunch of interesting nooks and corners, plus a big fireplace that kept the whole room warm. I was drawn to the windows, which looked out on the green underside of the lake. I spent a minute pressed against the glass, hoping for a glimpse of the giant squid, before remembering how late it was, and thus how dark the lake was beyond the gleam of the windows. I'd have to come back in the morning.
I saw from the mantle clock that I had almost an hour, which I figured was plenty of time for what I wanted to do. I headed out, and searched out a way towards the Great Hall that stayed in these lower levels. The passages twisted and turned, but I kept moving in generally the right direction, and eventually I heard house-elf voices. I tracked them to a painting of a bowl of pears, but I couldn't figure out how to get behind it.
There was a 'pop' behind me, and I spun defensively, to see a house elf wearing a tea towel as a kilt. He smiled nervously at me. “Please, Miss, students isn't supposed to be down here. Does Miss need help finding Miss's room?”
I smiled as nicely as I could manage. “Actually, I was looking for you guys. I wanted to talk to you.”
He blinked. “Miss... was looking for us? Whatever for?”
I fidgeted. I vaguely remembered the house elf we'd had when I was a kid, before Mum had sold her for drinks money, and she'd been wicked helpful about everything. I could only hope... “I need help. I won't survive here without... Look, can I talk to the group? Or at least where some of your friends can hear?”
He looked me up and down, then reached past me and tickled one of the pears in the painting. The frame swung out like a door, and I peeked around to see the kitchens, bright and warm and smelling amazing. I smiled and blinked away a couple of tears. The bustle and hum of all those house-elves, the friendly chatter, was somehow comforting.
Some of the others noticed me, and wicked quick there were half a dozen clustered around me, wanting to know what I wanted, what I needed. The press of them overwhelmed me a little, making my breath short. The one who'd brought me in stroked my hand gently, calming me, and I took a couple deep breaths.
I looked down at my hands, then up at the house elves through my hair. “You guys make the best food I've ever had.” They tried to be all modest and deny it, and I smiled a little. “I mean it. I didn't get-” I took another deep breath. “But, err, I was wondering...” The next bit came out in one huge rush. “Is it possible for me to get food anytime? Cause you never know- Or maybe there's something you could make that I can keep in my trunk? Just in case-” I ran out of words, and breath, and bit my lip as I looked into each of their faces.
They thought, and then they looked at each other, and smiled. The one with the tea-towel kilt, who I was starting to take a liking to, nodded. “Not many is asking such things, Miss, but we is happy to be helping when someone does. We is making you things right now. Would Miss like to sit and have some tea? And crumb cake?”
I blinked, then slowly started smiling. “That would be brilliant. But, um, my name is Faith, please just call me that. It's wicked weird the other way.” They bustled around me, got me seated at the counter with hot, strong tea and baked goods that were actually baked, not burnt to a crisp, and a few minutes later gave me... things.
They were wrapped in paper, and they were basically the size and shape of a small book, and I was very confused. The tea-towel elf explained. “They was designed for long treks, Miss Faith. They is full of nutrition, but also very tasty, and easy to carry. We is making them sometimes for the Quidditch practices. They is keeping a very long time, too, and is not damaged by getting wet. Miss Faith can come back for more, or whatever else you is wanting, whenever you is wanting.”
I smiled and tucked the food things in my pocket. “There... um... was one other thing. Well, two, one being, what's your name? And two, well, I... Do you guys listen in to us? To the students, I mean? Cause if you hear anything that would help me... They're already picking on me, and I need to be able to fight back, and if you guys can help-” I clasped my hands together to stop myself, taking a deep breath.
The elf smiled. “No one has been asking for so much help. No one is asking if elves know things. Elves is knowing many things, Miss Faith. Melly is happy to be helping Miss Faith. Miss Faith can be looking for Melly anytime, and Melly will be telling Miss Faith everything elves know.”
I smiled. “Brilliant. Oh, it's probably getting late. I need to get back. Cheers, Melly, everybody. The food alone would make this place worthwhile.” I waved, and they waved back, and I scampered back to the Slytherin area, and made it through the moving wall just as the mantle clock struck 9. I went back to the dorms and got ready for bed, keeping one food bar thing in my robes and tucking the others in my trunk. Then I got into bed, planning to read for Potions, but it was the most comfortable bed I'd ever been in, and the thing with the elves had me pretty relaxed, and I fell asleep with my wand in one hand and my Potions book in the other.