The blood-curdling shriek caused each and every last student to turn around to stare at Meghan, pointing at Aidan and screaming at the top of her lungs.
Remus was relieved to see Mortimer swoop out of his seat and clamp a hand over his sister's mouth. Meghan was still putting up an admirable fight to be heard; even after she had been tackled he could still hear her muffled cries.
When Remus saw Chloe's expression, his heart sank. As an uncle, he wanted to rush over and fix the look of utter despair on her face. Yet, he knew he couldn't do anything to help her at the moment: he wasn't Uncle Remus, he was Professor Lupin.
Aidan Malfoy was standing frozen to the spot with a look of confusion and unmistakable agony on his face. This wasn't supposed to happen…no one truly regretted their sorting decision.
A loud babble had risen up from the student tables and the benches scraped on the stone floor as people squirmed around to get a better look at Aidan and then Meghan.
"SILENCE!" bellowed Snape, rising out of his chair. "There will not be a mockery of this Sorting Ceremony!"
Deep silence indeed followed Snape's order, and then came a soft tink-tink-tink after someone accidentally knocked their fork off the table.
Oh bravo, Severus, thought Remus, just scare the rest of the first years right through the floor.
"Mr. Malfoy," snapped Snape, pointing firmly at the Gryffindor table, "you will sit down immediately."
Although he was an excellent headmaster, Severus Snape most certainly lacked in the people skills department. Luckily, Hermione was his deputy-headmistress and covered those bases for him. Hermione had insisted to every family member who dared scorn Snape's character that he wasn't awful in the least. You just had to get to know him, she would say tirelessly.
Remus always remained politely silent on the issue, but privately agreed with every last swear word Harry and Ron had colorfully described Snape with. He also felt extremely fortunate that it was Hermione who did all the staff hiring, or else he wouldn't have had an opportunity to ever teach again.
Remus was quite surprised that Aidan didn't put up a fight but simply sat down at the Gryffindor table and assumed an extremely dejected expression, staring at the wood.
"Meghan!" Mortimer hissed, after the Sorting resumed and it was safe to make some sort of noise again. "What on earth did you scream for?" He unclamped his hand from over her mouth and his normally perfectly groomed hair was looking quite frazzled.
"Why didn't you?" Meghan replied angrily. She was much paler than usual and her face was wrought with concern. "He's going to get Ch—."
Mortimer drew a deep breath and calmly put his hair back to sorts. "The Professors will take care of it! You don't see Chloe getting all worked up over this!"
With the mention of her name, Chloe realized that she probably should be howling along with Meghan about this. But… she couldn't. It simply didn't feel real. It was like she was watching all of this from an outside window looking in.
Mortimer left them after a firm whispered order to keep quiet, and his cheeks flushed bright red.
"You've got to write to your dad," Meghan whispered urgently, "he'll make it right."
Chloe felt herself nodding. Her dad. What would he think of all this? She felt her mind start to wander again.
"You look like you're going to faint," Meghan said, "green and everything."
Chloe nodded, still not able to speak. There was a glimmer of comfort when Meghan slipped her hand into hers and looked sympathetically at her.
"Uncle Harry'll make it okay…."
"Potter, Chloe," Professor Granger called.
Chloe lifted her green eyes to the dais and swallowed. Meghan squeezed her hand before dropping it.
"Go tell that stupid hat a thing or two. You're a Potter," she said firmly.
Miraculously, a small bit of Chloe's resolve came crashing back, and she climbed up to the dais and even managed to glare at the hat. Yes, Meghan was right, it was just a stupid hat. She knew where she belonged and she would tell it so.
I'm a Gryffindor, she thought as she placed the hat on her head.
Positive of that, are you?
Yes, Chloe thought without hesitation.
Your self-assurance is admirable, Chloe Potter. But you haven't questioned your placement at all? I thought so.
But I know I'm a Gryffindor!
Insistent…very insistent. Much like your father, you know.
Chloe gulped. What was the hat talking about? But, my father was a Gryffindor….
Yes he was. At his choice too.
The meaning of her father's letter became crystal clear. Chloe took a deep breath. Then I want to make my choice too! I choose—
Chloe's heart almost took a flying leap out of her chest. That had done it. Every doubt she had in herself had been shattered. There was light applause, and Chloe jumped off the stool feeling as though she had wings on her shoes and she could soar right off into the starry ceiling.
She saw her Aunt Hermione beaming at her and Meghan clapping wildly, and then she saw Aidan Malfoy. Now Chloe didn't feel confused about the situation, she felt indigence bubble up as she saw him sitting at her house table.
Aidan Malfoy didn't belong in Gryffindor! He didn't even look happy! Chloe sat down next to Catherine and decided she would most definitely never give him another thought. Mortimer was right; the Professors would re-Sort him.
Catherine smiled sweetly at Chloe. "I'm so glad you're in Gryffindor, Chloe. Everyone will be so happy."
"Thanks," replied Chloe, still feeling flushed with all the excitement.
Mortimer held up his palm stiffly and smiled. Chloe realized he was trying to high-five her.
"Oh," she said awkwardly, and lightly slapped palms with him. "Thanks, Mortimer."
"Good show, Chloe."
Chloe fought back her giggle. Her cousins were so weird sometimes.
Catherine deposited Monster into Chloe's hands like a brick. "Would you mind taking this?"
Chloe smiled and patted Monster. "Not at all."
"And finally, Weasley, Meghan," Professor Granger called.
Chloe turned in her seat, holding her breath in anticipation.
Not Hufflepuff, Meg, she thought. Don't you dare go to another house…I don't care how different you want to be, you're a—
Chloe gave a short squeal of happiness. Catherine and Mortimer were clapping approvingly.
"Father will be so pleased," he said with obvious relief, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
Meghan arrived at the table in a tumble of curls, talking, and general commotion.
"I'm so glad you're in Gryffindor, Meghan," Chloe heard Catherine repeat.
"Thanks a million, Cath," Meghan said taking Monster from Chloe.
As expected, Mortimer held up his palm again and waited.
Meghan stared at him blankly. "You got a question, Morty?"
Mortimer snorted in frustration and stuck his hand out further towards her.
"And we call those hands," Meghan said slowly. "You okay?"
Chloe laughed and leaned over to whisper in Meghan's ear.
"Oh!" Meghan said. She high-fived her brother but still gave him an odd look.
Headmaster Snape rose from his chair, and Chloe was immediately fascinated with him. She had heard her family speak of him, and their descriptions seemed to match. Supposedly she had met him when she was smaller, but Chloe didn't remember it.
"Welcome to Hogwarts. You are all very fortunate to be attending this esteemed institution for your magical education."
Chloe thought that this sounded very rehearsed. The Headmaster didn't seem the type to spend an excess amount of time on welcoming speeches.
"Returning students will help you adapt to life here, whether it be study habits… or behavioral expectations. You will give the Hogwarts name the dignity and respect it deserves." The Headmaster cleared his throat dryly and looked around, his gaze resting several places before continuing.
"Behavioral problems, if any, will be dealt with by Heads of Houses and Prefects and occasionally, our care-taker, Mr. Argus Filch."
He paused and waved an impatient hand in a general direction, almost as an afterthought.
"Is that cat dead?" Meghan quietly exclaimed, to Chloe's left.
"I think so," Chloe whispered back, eyes wide. "It's just… laying in his arms."
"It looks like it has that disease… um… you know…."
"The plague?" suggested Chloe
"No, no, that's not the one… although," Meghan squinted, "maybe."
Meghan and Chloe suddenly noticed Mortimer glaring at them and tried to keep from grinning at each other. The cat discussion could and would be held later.
"Our new flying teacher has asked me to relay the message that flying lessons will not take place until late October at the earliest, due to his delayed arrival at the school."
Both Chloe and Headmaster Snape looked sourly put out at this tidbit of information.
"Professor Granger has a few announcements now, and I expect complete attention and silence." Headmaster Snape sat down and sipped from his goblet.
The silent tension lifted when Aunt Her—no, Professor Granger stood up and smiled nicely at them. "Welcome!" Chloe thought she looked terribly important in her nice blue robes with silver embroidery. Chloe then had to remind herself that her aunt was terribly important.
"This year, in addition to the House cup competition and Inter-house Quidditch tournament, I'm very pleased to announce a new contest."
Students glanced at one another with blank expressions and shrugs.
"We are beginning an academic competition. Students with top grades in their year and house will receive special privileges and awards at the end of the year. Privileges will carry over to the next year and for as long as the student holds the excellent academic record."
There was a burst of excited talking amongst the students, and Hermione waited politely for them to settle again.
"Students in seventh year will receive their special privileges mid-term, so the contest will be fair for everyone. We're hoping this will bring more glory to our students who embrace academia and learning, rather than simply supporting our athle—."
"LIONS FOR THE QUIDDITCH CUP!" shouted an extremely loud voice, somewhere down the line of the Gryffindor table.
The entire hall erupted into laughter, and Chloe looked to see who had shouted. A plump girl with a merry face was grinning at them all.
"Maybe you can actually win a game this year!" someone shouted from the area of the Slytherin table.
The hall broke into louder laughter. Chloe didn't really find it all that funny.
"Maybe we will!" shouted the girl again, she didn't look exactly serious and she was laughing along with everyone else.
"Yeah, maybe!" shouted a Hufflepuff.
Professor Granger didn't seem annoyed about being interrupted, and her mouth was curved into a small smile, but she cleared her throat and attention was back on her again.
"With that behind us, shall we eat?"
There was a collective chorus of "Yes!" and Chloe was very glad to see the tables fill with food. She was starving.
"I told you everything would be okay," Meghan said shaking her head at Chloe. "I can't believe you were worried."
"I was the only one worried?" Chloe said lightly. "Who was the one screaming?"
Meghan made a "Hmph," noise and helped herself to the platter of fish that had made it around to them.
Chloe bit into a roasted chicken leg and shrugged. Everything did feel all right, especially since Aidan Malfoy was sitting at the end of the table talking to no one and eating nothing. Chloe was certain that he would be re-Sorted. He simply just didn't belong.
"If he keeps that up," Meghan said glancing down in Aidan's direction, not even bothering to lower her voice. "They won't have to re-Sort him. He'll just starve."
"Meghan," Chloe whispered, when Aidan looked up briefly. "He heard you."
"So? He tried to kill you." Meghan was obviously unconcerned with any amount of tact when it came to Aidan. Chloe thought briefly that it was probably Meghan that her father should have written to.
Chloe shook her head, not wanting to talk about Aidan anymore. She had glanced over the enormous turkey in front of her and saw a boy sitting opposite them. This was a welcome sight because they were otherwise surrounded by Catherine and Mortimer and their friends. Luckily, they hadn't shown much interest in speaking to Chloe or Meghan yet. Chloe pushed the turkey platter with effort, since it had to be at the very least, thirty pounds. It clanked loudly against the potatoes dish and the boy looked up at the noise.
"Hi!" said Chloe brightly, straining to see over the rest of the turkey. It was such a pain being short sometimes. The boy was short also, so she assumed he had the same problem.
Meghan took notice of this, and helped Chloe shove the turkey further down the table.
"Hi!" Chloe repeated, now that the boy was fully visible of both her and Meghan.
"Hello," said the boy in an extremely soft voice.
Chloe's first impression of him was very pleasant. He was the type of person that you could simply look at and know he was nice. Especially since she immediately thought he looked like the dormouse in her Alice in Wonderland book. She decided not to mention this just in case he might not appreciate it.
Meghan, who was his complete polar opposite, shoved her hand across the table. "I'm Meghan."
The boy did shake Meghan's hand, but not before he looked utterly startled at her loud demeanor. He meekly shook her hand and awkwardly took his back.
"I'm Chloe." Chloe reckoned that foregoing the handshake was probably a better idea.
The boy nodded, his feathery brown hair falling into his eyes at the movement.
"You probably have a name too," Meghan suggested bluntly. She glanced at Chloe and then back at the boy.
"Sorry," he swallowed. "I'm Finnigan. I didn't mean to be stupid but … I'm a bit—."
"In awe?" Meghan finished. "It's really neat here, isn't it? Chloe and I have been told all these stories, but there's nothing like seeing it for yourself. We've been waiting for years!"
"Well," Finnigan paused, looking flustered again. "I'm not sure how to say it."
"Excited?" Chloe questioned. "I can't wait for classes to start. I'm not exactly sure which class I'll do well in. They all sound so nice."
Finnigan shook his head. "I like everything, well, I think I like everything…"
Chloe and Meghan waited patiently.
"I've never seen anything like this before," Finnigan finally got out.
Chloe and Meghan glanced at each other. "Oh!" they said together, both realizing what he meant.
"You're Muggle-born!" Meghan confirmed.
"Oh, but I'm not," Finnigan said quickly. "My mum's a witch." Finnegan looked troubled and shook his head. "Sort of."
Meghan had set down her fork and was staring at him. Chloe just felt plain mystified.
"I'm afraid we don't know what you mean," Chloe apologized.
"I think one day she just stopped being a witch," Finnigan said shyly pushing his fork around his plate. "I was just told about everything last month."
"Just stopped!" Meghan was disbelieving. "You can't STOP being a witch."
"Meggy," Chloe whispered. "Don't be rude!"
"But it doesn't make sense," Meghan argued pointedly.
"He said he didn't really understand it," Chloe replied. "He probably doesn't want to talk about it." She glanced up at Finnigan, "Well, you would like to talk about something else, wouldn't you?"
Poor Finnigan looked lost again. "I guess so…"
"What do your parents do?" asked Meghan.
"My mum is a receptionist," Finnigan said, his gray eyes on Meghan, almost waiting for her to explode about this bit of information also.
"What about your dad?" Chloe asked pouring herself more pumpkin juice.
"Oh," said Chloe and Meghan simultaneously again.
"So sorry," Meghan said sympathetically.
"I didn't really know him," he said shrugging the comment off.
Headmaster Severus Snape scowled at his Deputy Headmistress, still considering her suggestion.
Hermione knew the scowl was due to him thinking about it, not that he was generally annoyed with her, so it didn't bother her in the least. "He expects us to do something," she persisted. "Look at him!"
"Sorting hat decisions are not items for discussion. This is why students don't Sort themselves, Professor Granger!"
The Headmaster's cheeks were drawn tightly, and he gazed at Aidan Malfoy, sitting stock still at the Gryffindor table. Hermione saw Severus' resolve waver, and she continued her argument. "He isn't happy! He deserves an explanation!"
"And do you have one to give to him?" Snape retorted quickly in a sharp whisper.
Hermione closed her mouth. Snape nodded and pushed his plate away with long bony fingers. "I didn't think so."
"Perhaps you'd like to be the one to speak with Pansy Parkinson then." Hermione crossed her arms, and delivered this comment with just the right amount of unconcern.
It worked of course. Severus Snape's eyes narrowed. "Whether we speak to the boy or not, there is going to be an upset. Pointing out the obvious isn't going to change my mind."
"And Harry Potter, I'm sure he'll have a few choice words on the matter…"
Hermione might as well announced that she was going to blow up Hogwarts that evening. Snape plunked his goblet down angrily and rounded on her. "What does Potter have to do with all of this?"
Hermione raised an eyebrow. She had definitely become an expert in the field of convincing Snape to do things he normally wouldn't do. "I'm merely pointing out the obvious, Professor. You know what Harry has to do with all of this…"
"Where is Lupin?" Snape growled, pushing his chair away from the table.
"At the end of the table," replied Hermione calmly. She stood up to follow him.
"Get him. He's the head of Gryffindor house."
Remus watched Hermione Summon a small silver key on a white ribbon from her desk and unlock a cabinet on the wall.
"I'm going to make some tea," she explained. "What can I g—"
"I'll have nothing," Severus interrupted from his post in the corner behind her desk, Remus thought he looked like a black spider against the cream drapes or maybe a Rorschach ink splotch.
"The usual, Remus?" Hermione asked, not seeming to have noticed Severus' annoyed tone.
"Yes, thank you," Remus answered.
"And for you Aidan?"
Aidan, not bothering to lift his eyes from the photographs on Hermione's desk, shook his head.
Hermione busied herself with three cups anyway. Remus wondered if the silence was suffocating anyone else. He glanced down at the photographs, wondering which ones Aidan found of interest.
There were several of Laura, of course. Remus' personal favorite having to be of Laura as a toddler, running, with a pair of huge feet—unmistakably Ron's—chasing after her.
Then there was a photo of Ron and Hermione's wedding day, of them cutting the cake. Remus grinned, there was another version floating around the Weasley family that Hermione threatened to burn the moment she laid her hands on it. Apparently the moment in time when she and Ron each tried to smear each other with cake was not something she wished to cherish forever. Ron had started it anyway, she had justified huffily.
Remus then saw one of his favorite pictures, a casual family portrait that truly justified the events of a Christmas pageant that the children had played in. Mortimer looked completely like Percy, both of them wearing identical scowls, and the only difference being the enormous glittering harp Mortimer was unhappily toting. Two very furry things were scurrying all about the floor, and Remus knew it to be Madeline and Alexandria. Hunter was waving a crook madly at them, narrowly avoiding smacking Kyle in the face. A very pregnant Ginny was attempting to nonchalantly straighten Meghan's bent angel wing, smiling sideways at Harry. Chloe, in Harry's arms, had both her hands on her halo and she was tugging at it, trying to pull it off.
"It's warm broth with some noodles added."
Remus shook himself out of his reverie and watched Hermione hand Aidan a cup of broth. Aidan looked like he didn't appreciate being mothered. Hermione looked like she didn't care what Aidan thought of her broth, as long as he ate it.
"I have paperwork to send out this evening," Snape said stepping from his place.
Remus rolled his eyes. Severus dropped hints like a twelve-ton weight off the side of the Eiffel Tower. Just as subtle too.
"There's something wrong with the Sorting Hat," Aidan said putting his untouched broth on Hermione's desk. "I've been placed in the wrong house."
"There's nothing wrong with the Sorting Hat, Mr. Malfoy," Snape replied instantaneously, "you are a Gryffindor."
"I would prefer to be re-Sorted," Aidan replied with pained politeness. Remus saw a small tinge of pink appear in his pale face. It was amazing he was remaining this calm.
"I'm afraid we can't do that," Hermione said shaking her head. "We can't overturn the result."
Aidan's hands curled into balls of frustration. "I will go to any house but Gryffindor." Remus half expected a five-year old version of Aidan to add that Snape was ugly, as he heard him say such words to Sirius in the past.
"Watch your tone, or you won't be attending school here at all," Severus said in harsh voice.
Remus waited for a typical biting Malfoy retort about family or Gryffindors, but none came. Curious indeed. Aidan held his tongue, but his eyes shot daggers towards Snape.
"Do you have any questions?" Snape prompted in the silence.
"No," responded Aidan.
"Then Professor Lupin, will escort you to Gryffindor Tower. He is head of your house."
Hermione, frowning, looked as though she had quite a lot to say.
"Let's go then," Remus said to Aidan. "I'm sure you're very tired and want to get to bed. Good evening, Hermione, thank you for the tea."
Aidan didn't reply, but followed him out of the office.
Author Note: Thank Ami for the chapter title. I couldn't think of a proper one, so I just used her silly suggestion. Why not? I have a million other chapter titles…I'm sure you could care less what the title was anyway.
I'm very interested in your comments…and I do love reviews/speculations. However, the next person that suggests that Harry and Ginny have more babies…I will tar and feather you. Do you realize that I have to keep up with the babies after they have them? My characters earn the oxygen they take up. J *Grins* With that in mind…do review….I love them. J