At any rate, in the Sorting of Andromeda Black, Gilderoy Lockhart, Lucius Malfoy, and Ted Tonks, each ended up in a different house. Andromeda was in Gryffindor, Gilderoy (because of his wild mind-based imagination) was in Ravenclaw, Lucius (of course) was in Slytherin, and Ted was in Hufflepuff. On the Hogwarts Express, Andromeda, Ted, and Gilderoy got into a bit of a tiff with Bella, which included her less than stellar response to her sister singing Muggle songs and playing with a Muggle-born boy. Gilderoy vowed to defend them. After coming out from behind the trunk where he'd been hiding from Lucius. Anyway, Ted is pretty impressed with Hogwarts, and glad to be in any house... but I think especially glad to be in Hufflepuff. I'll pick up the morning after the Sorting.
Ted didn't want to open his eyes. He was half-sure that he'd had a really spectacular dream last night, and would wake up in his little room in the London flat he shared with his mum, Dodger tangled in the bedding by his feet and the dingy sunlight making its spotty way through the threadbare curtains.
Well, Dodger was on the bed, at any rate. Ted could feel him stretching, pulling at the blankets, then shifting the mattress as he made his way up to--
Ted opened his eyes.
Dodger was sitting on his pillow, paw raised for another morning swipe. That was normal.
But everything else was as it had been when he went to sleep. Instead of the dreary flat with its chipped paint, he was in a light, airy room, lying in a rich bed with yellow velvet hangings. The wood on the frame might be ebony, for all he knew about such things, and he almost suspected it was. Four other beds were lined up along the wall in the long dormitory room, each like his own, each holding a sleeping boy. Ted was closest to the window. Beside him was Christopher Connolly, an Irish boy who said he wanted to play something called "Quidditch," and had promised to explain it to Ted sometime today. Next was Terrence Caldecott, who had been sullen all night and had only offered the information tha this father had been in Slytherin. Beyond Terrence was Gil Abbot, a bit of a goof from London who had made a great show of explaining how he'd once snuck off from Diagon Alley to see a Muggle film. He hadn't been able to remember the title, the story, or any of the actors. Furthest away, by the door, was a quiet, bookish boy called Michael Bast, another Muggle-born. As Ted watched, he rolled over and sat up, propping himself on his elbow. His eyes widened when he saw Ted.
Ted smiled and pointed at the door, and Michael grabbed his dressing gown to go out.
When they were on the staircase outside the dormitory, looking down into the Common Room--another bright and airy space, with floor to ceiling on the east side that looked out over the rolling grounds--Michael gave a relieved sigh. "Thought it would be gone when I woke up," he said.
"Right there with you, mate."
"You're Ted, right?"
"Far as I know."
They went down the stairs, settling into the large black and gold chairs by the fireplace. Detritus from the welcome party seemed to have disappeared during the night, and the drawing of the ten new Hufflepuffs--done by a seventh year girl who promised they would be charmed later today to make them move and talk like the other portraits--was lying on a work table. Ted glanced at it, going through the names he'd learned last night.
"Nice of them to introduce everyone," Michael said. "I have to admit, I'm a bit nervous. I've never been good at making friends. I don't know why the Hat put me here. I don't really have friends at all. People always thought I was... odd."
"Well, you're not odd here."
"So am I."
"Well, then, we'll be odd together."
Michael smiled nervously. "What, er... what can you do? I mean, what could you do? You know... that..."
"Oh, bits of things. I scryed in mud puddles to see the future. Got paid for it, too, though now I have to stop. Mum said she'd back me up, say she put her foot down and wouldn't let me swindle anyone anymore."
"What about you?"
"I... well, I disappeared once. Right in the middle of school. Of course, everyone thought it was just a trick. Got a bit scared, there. And I made a plant grow when everyone thought it was dead, but that could just be that I did something right. You know. The normal way."
"Well, who knows what the normal way will be here?"
"I don't. I got my wand, but I haven't tried anything yet. I feel like I'll wave it and nothing will happen."
"Didn't it do anything at Ollivander's?"
"Well, yes, but in the shop... maybe he did it. It just shot a few stars. A wizard could make someone else's wand do that, right?"
Ted frowned. The thought of his wand not working hadn't occurred to him. It had given him a clear vision in a puddle, but he'd gotten visions with perfectly ordinary sticks as well. "Reckon we'll find out later," he said.
They talked by the fireplace for some time, as the rest of Hufflepuff house began to stir, and went down to breakfast with a group of older students. Breakfast itself was another feast, by Ted's standards. Mum usually worked the breakfast shift, and his meal was usually a bit of toast scrounged from the bread box. Today, it was eggs and sausage and orange juice and toast and half a dozen other things. He had some of everything.
Professor Sprout, a pretty young woman who was the Head of Hufflepuff House--new this year, along with the new Headmaster, according to the older students--brought around their class schedules. She grinned at the first years. "You'll be in my first class today," she said. "Looking forward to seeing you!"
Ted looked at his schedule. Herbology was, indeed, his first class, right after breakfast, and would apparently be shared with the Gryffindors, which made him happy. Pretty Andromeda Black had been Sorted into Gryffindor, and he was anxious to see how she liked it. Later, there would be Potions, with Ravenclaw, and he could check in with Gilderoy. He didn't see anything with the Slytherins, for which he was quite grateful.
"Hey, Michael," he said. "Looks like you'll get to find out about your plant thing later. We've got--"
Something hit the back of his head and seemed to slide down his neck. He reached around tentatively and touched it. His fingers came back orange with egg yolk.
He turned his head. Bellatrix Black was a few feet away, her fork loaded for another shot. He stood up. He was actually taller than she was, even though she was a year older, but she didn't back off. Ted had a feeling that his size wasn't going to be the advantage here that it was at home, where he had often been able to avoid fights with lads his own age just by bunching his fists and looking threatening.
He peeled a bit of egg from the collar of his robes and held it loosely, ready to fling. "You seem to have dropped a bit of your breakfast, Bella," he said. "Would you like it back?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Go home, Mudblood," she whispered.
Ted raised the bit of egg and was drawing back to toss it when Professor Sprout spotted them. She put a hand on his shoulder and frowned at him. "Ted Tonks, isn't it? You shouldn't..." She noticed the mess on the back of his robes and turned on Bellatrix. "Oh, for heaven's sake, Miss Black! Haven't you anything better to do with your time? Ten points from Slytherin." She shooed Bella away with a wave of her hand, then turned back to Ted. "Don't engage her," she said. "If she gives you trouble, come to a teacher. I won't have Hufflepuffs duelling in the Great Hall, even if it is just with eggs."
She tapped his robe with her wand, and Ted felt the mess of the egg disappear from his neck (and, he presumed, the cloth), then shook her head in the general direction of the Slytherin table and went away.
"She scares me," Michael Bast said. "I heard she was bullying Muggle-borns on the train."
"Only me, as far as I know," Ted said. "And a Pureblood boy. And her own sister. And probably everyone else she's ever met. She's a piece of work, right enough."
After they finished eating, the ten Hufflepuff first years trudged down to the greenhouses for Herbology. The Gryffindors were already there, and Andromeda Black waved cheerfully from across a table. Ted gratefully slipped in across from her. "How's Gryffindor?" he asked.
"Lovely." She beamed. "I'm just so happy not to be in Slytherin, I think I could have danced on the table in the Common Room last night, if we hadn't gone straight to bed."
"You didn't have a party to meet everyone?"
"Er... no. What a lovely idea that would have been, though." She sighed. "Oh, well. I like the girls I'll be living with all right."
Professor Sprout cleared her throat and introduced the class, which would cover basics of Herbology today, and asked students to pair up and practice spritzing and watering. Ted and Andromeda paired, since they were already talking. It seemed to cause some consternation among the other Gryffindors, as apparently it left someone "without a partner." The someone was a Gryffindor boy, and Professor Sprout put him with Michael Bast, who started in with a nervous banter that eventually drew a smile.
Ted and Andromeda worked on a perfectly average ivy together for about ten minutes, practicing a drying spell if they overwatered, and talking about their houses. Andromeda was apparently in a tower, which thrilled her, as she'd expected to be in a dungeon.
"The Slytherins live in a dungeon?"
"Well, underground at any rate. Sounds dreary."
"I'd hate that."
They were just starting to talk about what they liked and didn't like about surroundings when a wide-eyed Hufflepuff girl--Atalanta Simms--wandered over, a watering can in her hand. She looked back and forth between them. "I was talking to a Ravenclaw boy this morning. He said he rescued you both from Bella Black on the train yesterday."
Andromeda's eyebrows shot up comically, and Ted stifled a laugh. "Er," he said, "I don't suppose it was Gilderoy Lockhart?"
"Yes... it sounded like it got quite nasty. He said he had to use a Stunning Spell on her! Can you imagine, knowing how to do a Stunning Spell in first year?"
Andromeda leaned forward into the ivy, snickering.
Ted cleared his throat. "Er... Gilderoy... er... "
"He was very helpful," Andromeda spit out from between the leaves. "Very helpful."
Atalanta wandered away again.
Ted laughed, and Andromeda laughed with him, and he liked the sound of them laughing together. "I'll talk to Gilderoy in Potions," he said.
"No you won't," she said. "We should get back to spritzing here."
He did mean to talk to Gilderoy in Potions, and worked beside him for the purpose, but he seemed so happy to tell the tale... it seemed pure nastiness to burst his bubble at this point. And to what end, really? It made a better story if hapless little Gilderoy faced down Bella anyway.
After Potions, they went to Defense Against the Dark Arts, the last class of the day. This was a very basic introduction, and Ted was glad to see that much of this would be common sense--learn about the threats, learn how to respond to them and when not to, and use your head. That was the running theme from the teacher: "Use your mind before you draw your wand." It was a philosophy with which Ted felt quite comfortable.
There were only three classes that first day, but it had been all summer since Ted had exercised his mind (and furthermore, this was all so odd), and by the time he finished dinner and slipped back into the Common Room with Michael and Atalanta, he felt like he'd been hit about the head with something heavy.
"Oi, you three," a voice called. It was the seventh year girl who'd done the portrait, a blonde called Alice Townsend. She was smiling. "I've been waiting for you to show. We have to charm the picture!"
They went over to her and leaned over the parchment, where they other seven faces in the picture were already smiling and looking nervously at one another.
"All right," Alice said. "All you need to do is think about who you are and all the things you like the most, and point your wand at the picture--I'll do the same, to help you out with the magic, since it's a bit advanced--and say, 'Imago Vivere.'"
"Will it work, really?" Michael asked.
Alice just pointed to the other, already animated, pictures.
Michael closed his eyes for awhile, then raised his wand with a shaking hand.
"Ready?" Alice asked.
"One, two, three..."
"Imago Vivere!" they said together.
The Michael picture bit its lip and glanced up with a nervous smile. The real Michael stepped back, looking a bit shocked.
Atalanta stepped forward next, and the same thing repeated itself. The picture Atalanta came to life with a dazed smile and a giggle.
"Are you ready to preserve yourself for posterity, Mr. Tonks?" Alice asked.
"Just think about who you are. What you love most."
"Who I am?"
"When you think of yourself, who do you see?"
Ted closed his eyes, and held his wand loosely in his right hand. In his mind's eye, he saw nothing but a shifting cloud at first, an unformed life, but the winds moved it, separated it, and he saw a small boy on the back steps of a London flat, stirring a puddle with a stick and waiting for visions. He saw himself with Andromeda Black, laughing into the ivy. He saw the egg on his finger, waiting to be flung at Bellatrix. And he saw himself waking up in the airy dormitory, looking out across these strange hills, and hoping he would never wake up from this dream.
"Are you ready?" Alice asked.
"Three, two, one..."
Ted opened his eyes. The picture was smiling back at him in an open, friendly way. "Wotcher," it said.
End 1:34. Overtime and I don't like the ending, but I'll give myself a few extra minutes for going in search of a Latin translator.