Running Backwards Chapter Four (2015-04-02)

Hogwarts castle is like a geode–the outside is tough, but inside is all vivid colors and mesmerizing shapes. Oh, sure, the stonework outside was the same, but inside is where Hogwarts truly came to life. We could see the staircases moving above us, portraits peeking in curiosity at our little herd. And the ceiling of the Great Hall was literally marvelous.

In a way, being an unsorted Hogwarts student would be the last time all of us were equals. Blood purity, magical versus not childhoods, fore-knowledge of spells–none of that mattered when all of us were gaping at Hogwarts in amazement. Even having watched the movies, I was as unprepared as the next child–who in this case was Cedric, a pureblood–and the one after that, who really was a normal muggleborn.

But soon enough, I felt the eyes of the crowd on us. And while I was one amongst many I couldn’t help but hunch my shoulders and duck close to Cedric who had an unenviable four inches of height on me. I knew it was mostly benign attention and nothing personal, probably wondering how many first years would be sorted into their respective houses, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I stood out I would be hunted.

Which is unfortunate, considering the method of Sorting literally has one called out by name and seated at the front of the hall. So while my fellow first years murmured in shock about the sentience of the Sorting Hat, my head was on a swivel–scanning the rest of the hall and all the very many people in it.

My surname started with C, which meant, probably, I would get it over with early without having to be the dreaded first position. Fortunately there was an “Avery, Cornelius” and a “Burke, Octavia,” ahead of me–the former sorted into Ravenclaw, the latter into Slytherin.

“Chason, Reyniero,” Professor McGonagall called, and I tried not to wince when all eyes turned to me, as predicted. I also tried not to trip as I walked to the stool, but I suppose I can be glad that I managed to catch myself before I fell. I sat, trying to keep my gaze on my new friends instead of staring fearfully at everyone else in the room. Thankfully, the Sorting Hat was placed on my head, the width easily causing it to fall down to my eye level.

My mind was open.

Not that much. You’re surprisingly steady beneath the nerves. Unusual for a child… then again you don’t truly consider yourself as one. Do you?

I didn’t want to respond.

Come now, this is one of the most interesting minds I’ve seen in centuries.

So I didn’t.

You wouldn’t deprive an old hat of a little entertainment. The headmaster’s office gets so boring, and Fawkes is a terrible conversationalist.

Really?

Yes. Though according to your memories, none of this is real.

Was he having an existential crisis during my sorting?

I’m a talking hat, I have other reasons to have existential crises over.

I waited for the hat to get back on topic.

Yes, very well. Muggleborn, oughtn’t put you in Slytherin then, not that you have any cunning or ambition to speak of.

I had kept my past life secret so far, lies of omission counted, right?

Hardly the tools of a master manipulator. And to what end? Not that you want to be in Slytherin.

Of course not.

Nor Gryffindor.

That would have been terrible.

A mind in that noggin of yours, doubly so with that condition. Your head start would help you fit in with Ravenclaw quite nicely.

Were those puns?

Ah, but I see the truth. You want to be in–

“HUFFLEPUFF!”

I guess it seemed like an obvious choice, even if it was one I had made subliminally. Talking to the hat, it didn’t feel like my Sorting had taken that long at all. But when it was pulled off my head, I could see everyone looking mildly to majorly irritated. There was clapping, of course, but as I took my seat at the Hufflepuff table I could hear some older Gryffindors behind me grumbling. Merlin’s balls, a Hatstall that long just for a ‘Puff?

Immediately after me was Cedric who was also sorted into Hufflepuff. I was relieved to find I hadn’t done anything to irrevocably change canon in less than a day. And, funnily enough, following him was Arthur who had also been declared Hufflepuff. As they sat down next to me we grinned and nudged at each other playfully.

Stephanie, after Arthur, I wasn’t surprised to see get sorted into Ravenclaw, though I was a little disappointed. We could still be friends, of course, and judging by her teasing pout she would make it so.

The sorting went on, but I didn’t really care all that much. I recognized some of the Gryffindors–the ones that Harry had bothered to notice–like Angelina Johnson, Lee Jordan, Alicia Spinnet, and the Weasley twins. And the name Adrian Pucey–Slytherin–sounded vaguely familiar. But I was mostly just whiling away my time until finally the last of us, “Yaxley, Mitchell,” had been sorted.

Then, once the tired, impatient applause petered out, Dumbledore stood up.

~

A/N: He’s not really going to say anything important. But it seemed like a good spot to stop as any.