The Sugar Quill
Author: FernWithy (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Of A Sort  Chapter: September 1, 1965: A New Class, Part 1
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Of A Sort

A/N: This is the first multi-sort year. Part One introduces four firsties on the Hogwarts Express; Part Two will tell each of their Sortings in their points of view.

Of A Sort
by FernWithy
September 1, 1965: A New Class
Part One: The Hogwarts Express

He stood alone, a stalwart lookout in the sea of humanity that crashed and pulsed beneath him--London, unaware and trusting, not knowing that only one thing stood between it and its final destruction.

Carefully, trying to fit in so as not to cause alarm, he slipped into a stream of his peers, alert to every movement, every wrong glance. Was the girl with the mousy brown hair just a bit too nervous as her dark-haired sister led her through the crowd? Was the blonde boy's arrogance just a little too calculated? Was he perhaps truly an ally, trying to fool the enemy?

He turned his head back to the arched entrance to the station, where a Muggle-born boy--was he really a Muggle-born? Or was he in disguise?--stood uncertainly in his rolled-cuff blue jeans and a clean white t-shirt. The boy smiled at him in a dodgy sort of way.

Somewhere in this throng was the Villain, the threat, the doom of all wizardkind, and only one person could stand against him, only--

"Gilderoy Lockhart!"

The voice cut across every level of activity on Platform Nine and Three Quarters, and everyone turned to look as Mummy made her way over to him, her handkerchief in one outstretched hand. She spit on it as she bent over him and started dabbing at a spot beside his nose. "There you are!" she said. "Madam Greenley and I misplaced you while Eddie was looking for a place to put your trunk. Dear me, you've gone and gotten yourself dirty again."

Gilderoy looked up at his classmates, many of whom were sniggering behind their hands. The arrogant looking blonde boy rolled his eyes and turned away, and the Muggle-born boy at the archway laughed (it wasn't a mean laugh, at least, but it was obviously an "I saw that" sort of laugh). Only the mousy haired girl looked at him with any sympathy, but her dark haired sister sneered and put her fingers in front of her mouth to mimic Gilderoy's buck teeth, and made not-very-funny faces and bunny hopped around until a grown-up came along.

Mummy, meanwhile, noticed none of this. She finished cleaning Gilderoy's face, then kissed his cheek (following this with another swipe with the handkerchief to get rid of her lipstick). "Now, Daddy is sending all your favorite books by post," she said. "They didn't fit in your trunk. As soon as you know which dormitory you'll be in, you let us know, and we'll send you your shelves. And don't worry, Cook will make sure you get lots of treats while you're away. Now, do you have your wand?"

Gilderoy held up his new wand, shiny in the sunlight that came hazily through the windows in the ceiling.

Mummy beamed at him. "My little wizard," she cooed, mussing his hair. "What a handsome darling you are. Don't you break any hearts!" She stood and put her hand on his shoulder, looking for all the world like she intended to board the train with him.

This time, Gilderoy could actually hear the sniggering. "Mummy," he said softly. "Can't I go on the train alone?"

"Now why would you want to do that? I'll just come along and help you settle a bit."

"Mummy, please..."

Just then a wizard in rich velvet robes came to her. "Mrs. Lockhart," he said kindly, "the train is reserved for students. Even I will need to Apparate back to Hogsmeade after taking care of personal business in London, and I'm the new Headmaster."

Mummy looked at the man with surprise. "Oh, but surely a mother can..."

"I'm afraid the rules are quite clear. The Hogwarts Express is for students. Could I take you to the place where the other parents will watch the train leave?" The man winked over his half-moon spectacles at Gilderoy.

"Well, I--"

But the new headmaster was already leading Mummy away. She blew a kiss in Gilderoy's general direction, and he caught it dutifully, as was right and fitting for a hero of his stature, who could certainly bear the affections of the woman who gave him life.

He straightened his shoulders and looked at the other students, many of whom were still laughing into their hands. Little did they know of the danger which would await them, the horrors that they would have to face, and when he rescued them, as of course he would, they would be sorry for looking down at him.

The queue of students waiting to board the train finally moved, and Gilderoy let his highly sharpened senses awaken again. He could see the headmaster with several parents as they passed the archway. Gilderoy nodded solemnly to him, having understood the man's unspoken request. He couldn't remain with the train, so it was now in Gilderoy's able hands to keep his classmates safe.

As they thronged onto the train, Gilderoy allowed himself to be jostled back and forth, on the chance that one of the jostlers would reveal himself as the great threat... a dark creature, perhaps. Not a vampire, not at eleven in the morning, but perhaps the human familiar to one, which was even now concealed in one of the trunks, to be released on the school when--

"Hey!"

He tripped forward into an empty compartment, a sharp pain at the back of his head. When he turned around, the arrogant blonde boy he'd noticed earlier was staring at him, hand still raised, an expression of amused disdain on his face. Behind him were the sisters, the dark sister leading the other one by pulling on her earlobe. The older sister had a Slytherin badge on her robes; the other two seemed to be first years. The younger sister smiled at him apologetically, but didn't say anything.

"Oh, look Lucius," the dark-haired girl said. "A completely empty compartment." She swept past Gilderoy, pushing him disdainfully as she went. "Except for our little house elf, here."

Gilderoy, still off-balance from tripping, fell to the floor, and the blonde boy, Lucius, went out of his way to step ostentatiously over him. Something hot and sickening rose up in Gilderoy's throat, and he found that when he tried to get up, he couldn't. He looked away from Lucius and the girl.

He felt something warm on his arm and made himself look around. The girl with light brown hair was crouched down beside him. "Are you all right? Gilderoy, isn't it?"

Gilderoy nodded. He didn't want to talk.

"Tell the elf to put our trunks away, Andromeda," the dark-haired girl said breezily.

The sister--Andromeda, Gilderoy supposed--frowned. "Let him be, Bella. He didn't do anything."

"And he doesn't need to do anything, except put our trunks up." Bella wrinkled her nose at Gilderoy. "Get about it, elf."

"You don't have to," Andromeda told him. "I'll do it. You go find somewhere to sit."

She started to move to the trunks, which were in the corridor, but Bella was up like a shot, and grabbed her back, dragging her to the seats. "I told the elf to do it," she said. "You're a Black." One long leg kicked out, the foot connecting with Gilderoy's backside. "Do it, elf," she said.

Lucius, who had just been sitting and watching with silent amusement, now gave a bored-sounding sniff and turned to Bella. He opened a small travel bag. "My parents gave me much better sweets than we'll get on board. Would you like one, Bella?"

Bella looked into the bag and pointed at two or three items. "I'll have those," she said. "If you're sorted into Slytherin, you should put some of these out in the Common Room."

Lucius rolled his eyes. "If," he said. "Bella, my family is always in Slytherin, same as yours."

Gilderoy lugged the trunks into the compartment, straining with effort. He wasn't used to physical labor, and found that he didn't want to become used to it.

"Overhead bins," Bella said, smiling wickedly.

"Those are heavy," Andromeda said. "No one could put them up there without magic."

"Well, is he a wizard or isn't he?" Lucius asked.

"He's a first year, same as we are," Andromeda said. "He only just got his wand. I'd bet you can't levitate the trunks up there."

"Of course I can," Lucius said. "My family doesn't hold with this nonsense about holding off training for eleven years. I know quite a lot."

Andromeda adopted a form of her sister's commanding drawl. "Do you? I don't believe you. I've never seen you do anything. I think you're all talk."

Lucius raised his wand, but Bella slapped his arm down and said, "You're an idiot."

"I'm perfectly capable of--"

"--falling for my baby sister's tricks? You'll end up in Hufflepuff."

"I--"

Something sharp hit Gilderoy in the ribs. He looked up and was shocked to see that it was Andromeda, poking him hard with the tip of her boot. She looked significantly at Bella and Lucius, who were quarreling, then looked at the door, then looked at Gilderoy.

Gilderoy frowned.

Out, she mouthed.

Gilderoy understood it this time. Bella and Lucius were entirely focused on calling one another names, and both had lost interest in him. He scrambled backward out of the compartment and pulled himself to his feet in the corridor just as he heard Bella suddenly shout, "Where's my elf? Andromeda!"

Gilderoy kept running. He would not be able to rescue the fair maiden until he had regrouped and gathered himself, possibly put together a team of able assistants. He could only hope now that she had the strength to withstand her captivity long enough for him to mount a proper rescue.

He finally came to a small side compartment where a trolley full of candies was stored. He moved a few candies aside and slid onto the bottom shelf, closing the curtains around him, so that he could think more clearly about how to rout the villains. Perhaps he could call upon the dragons in the hills, or use one of the many complex spells he knew. Perhaps he could--

"When I was younger, so much younger than today-ay-ay..."

Gilderoy frowned. The singing voice was high, warbly, and badly off-key. The tune was one he'd never heard before. It was coming closer.

"I never needed anybody's help in any way..."

Footsteps came into the compartment and the curtains moved as the singer leaned over the cart. The voice was now directly above Gilderoy.

"But now those days are gone I'm not so self-assu-u-ured..."

Things shifted on the top shelf.

"Now I finally wonder... what's all this weird candy for?..."

Gilderoy had never heard the song before, but he rather suspected those weren't the real words. The singer had gone on to just keep the tune on "bom-BOM, bom-BOM," his legs twitching around and flipping the curtains.

This wouldn't do. Gilderoy simply couldn't plan a complex rescue with this popping music in his head.

He reached out and opened the curtain.

The singing boy jumped back--Gilderoy caught only a glimpse of rolled-cuff blue jeans--then there was a clunking sound as he tripped over the long laces of his sneakers. He muttered something, then bent down into Gilderoy's frame of vision and flipped his long bangs out of his eyes. "Wotcher, mate," he said. "What're you doing down there? Gave me a start."

Gilderoy sniffed and started to climb off the bottom shelf. His legs didn't quite want to make it.

The other boy held out his hand. "Here--grab on."

It wasn't embarrassing at all. Maybe this boy had been sent by the Ministry to help Gilderoy in his quest, a valet of sorts. Once he was extricated from the cart, he stood up straight and held out his hand. "I," he said, bowing and flourishing his robe like a cloak, "am Gilderoy Lockhart."

"Pleased to make your acquaintance," the other boy said jauntily, grinning and holding out his hand to be shaken. "Ted Tonks."

Gilderoy shook his hand. He was probably undercover, and it would be bad form to break their secret identities as battlers of evil. "Pleased to have you aboard, Ted," he said.

"Thanks." Ted said this with a great deal of gratitude, smiling widely. "Not many people seem all that glad to see me here."

"You're Muggle-born, aren't you?"

Ted nodded. "Shows?"

Gilderoy shrugged. He had never met a Muggle-born before and his family had nothing to do with Muggles, but he'd never had anything particularly against them. Mummy had made him study her school books so he would know any Muggle-borns when he saw them, but she said that he shouldn't be unkind to them. They would need special help getting around.

"Don't worry," he said, "you'll learn your way. If you have any questions, you can ask me."

"Great." Ted pointed at the top of the trolley. "What are all these things?"

It seemed a frivolous question, what with a maiden to rescue and all, but a hero and his valet needed to form a partnership over something, and candies seemed like a good enough start, as long as it didn't take too long. Gilderoy began pointing out Cauldron Cakes and Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. Ted looked on with interest, but after awhile, Gilderoy noticed that his fingers were snapping and his toes tapping manically.

"Is something wrong?" he asked pointedly.

Ted looked surprised, then stopped moving. "Sorry. I've a song stuck in my head."

"Hmmm."

"So which is your favorite?" Ted asked, sweeping his hand over the trolley.

"I'm fond of Cauldron Cakes." Gilderoy sighed. They would need to get about their rescue mission soon.

"Reckon I should try them all. What sort of money do they cost? I went to the orientation, but I don't remember. The brass ones are the least, right?"

Gilderoy was about to resign himself to explaining money--to a boy of a eleven!--when a softer voice appeared behind them. "Excuse me?"

Both boys turned.

Gilderoy was very disappointed. It was the fair maiden, who apparently would not need to be rescued after all. "You escaped?" he asked.

She smiled. There was a bright red mark on her left ear shaped like a long finger, and a tiny cut at the end of it was pushing out a slow bead of blood. "Usually. I'm sorry about my sister. I'd say she's not always like this, but she is." The bead of blood broke and ran, and Andromeda seemed to notice it for the first time as it flowed around the curves of her ear. "Blast," she said, touching it with her finger and drawing it away with distaste. "I wish she'd cut her nails."

Ted, who had fallen silent and wasn't twitching his feet anymore, sprang into action. He pulled a clean white handkerchief from his jeans pocket and offered it to her with an idiot grin.

"Thank you," she said, taking it and dabbing daintily at her ear. "I've met Gilderoy already, but I don't think I know you."

Ted just continued goggling at her.

"His name is Ted Tonks," Gilderoy said, thinking that it was a name that would never sound dignified, no matter who was using it. "He's Muggle-born."

Andromeda looked over her shoulder in a sudden, panicked move, then relaxed and turned around again. "I'm Andromeda Black." She looked at Gilderoy. "I just wanted to make sure you were all right. Bella's a bit rough sometimes."

Gilderoy felt himself blushing, but Ted didn't seem to be laughing at him for hiding from a girl--er, for needing to regroup after confronting one--so he decided not to make any more of it than was necessary. He'd picked up vital information about the enemy, at any rate, and had two allies. In all, it was a fruitful day so far.

"I really don't feel like sitting with my sister and her little protégé," Andromeda said. "Are you two sitting anywhere?"

"I hadn't found a place," Ted said. He took a step forward and tripped on his laces again.

Andromeda reached out and caught him, pushing him back up and laughing a little. "You might tie those up shorter," she said.

Ted shrugged and went back to his wordless grinning.

Gilderoy caught himself shuffling his feet and made himself stop. "Maybe we could just stay here."

"I don't think so," Andromeda said, pointing to her side. Gilderoy poked his head around the door frame, and saw an angry looking witch coming at them.

"What are you three doing in there? That's not for students! You'd best not have stolen anything!"

"No, ma'am," Ted said, finding his voice and coming out into the corridor. "Nothing." He turned out his pockets to prove it.

"Hmmph. Well, you've no business in here, so all three of you, run along now."

She herded them out. Andromeda was smiling again. Ted seemed to have found his stride, and as they walked down the corridor, he was snapping his fingers again and doing a little dance, singing, "BOM-bom-BOM-bom-BOM..." He hit one of the compartment doors in the rhythm of the song, and someone yelled for him to stop. He smiled sheepishly. "Sorry," he said as they came to a compartment that was occupied only by one older student, who was sleeping with his head on a rolled up Gryffindor scarf against the window. They went in.

"He has a song in his head," Gilderoy informed Andromeda when he noticed her looking curiously at Ted's snapping fingers, lowering his voice to avoid awakening the older boy. "At least he claims it's a song."

"It is!" Ted insisted. "It's... well, everyone I know knows it. Have you ever heard the Beatles?"

Gilderoy tried not to laugh. Andromeda smiled politely and said, "Er, I've used a lot of beetles in things. I don't think they sing. Did you do a spell on some? Is that how they found you?"

"Not bugs," Ted said, his awkwardness totally disappearing in what appeared to be genuine dismay. "They're a music group, out of Liverpool. Everyone knows the Beatles!"

"I've never heard Muggle music," Gilderoy said. "My mother prefers the wizard harpists."

Ted looked hopefully at Andromeda, but she shook her head. "I'm not allowed to listen to Muggle music."

"Oh." Ted sighed and looked somewhat crestfallen. "I brought my records, but I forgot I wouldn't be able to play them."

"Why don't you teach us a song?" Andromeda asked brightly.

"I thought you weren't allowed."

She glanced around the compartment. "My mum is back in London." Her face was flushed, and Gilderoy thought she was very afraid, but she kept smiling. "I won't tell her if you don't, and since she won't talk to you, I guess you won't tell."

Ted smiled in plain happiness. "What do you say, Gilderoy? Do you want to learn a song?"

It struck Gilderoy that there were more important things to think about, but he couldn't think of any of them just now, so he decided to play along.

For the next half hour, Gilderoy Lockhart and Andromeda Black sat perched in the corner of the compartment, while Ted stood in front of them like a conductor, trying to teach them the strange words to a song called "Help!" which he claimed was very popular in the Muggle world. It seemed to Gilderoy a bit of a silly song, and he gave up after the first half-hour, though Andromeda and Ted were still having a lot of fun. She'd mastered the words and the melody, and sung it through in a thin but pretty soprano, and now Ted was trying to teach the harmony, and botching it badly, since he could hardly carry the main tune himself.

Well, perhaps Gilderoy could do without allies.

"But now," Ted sang, then broke off. "And there, you go up a little higher and sing right over me. Go on. But now--"

"But now..." Andromeda sang.

"Those days are gone, I'm not so self assu-u-ured, now I finally--"

The door of the compartment banged open suddenly. Andromeda's sister, Bella, stood in the corridor. Behind her, the boy Lucius had his wand raised. Bella's face was pale, with high red marks on her cheeks. Gilderoy fancied that steam would begin pouring from her ears and nostrils very soon.

But when she spoke, her voice was soft and deadly. "Andromeda," she said. She didn't look at either Gilderoy or Ted.

"I just went off to sit on my own, Bella..."

"What do you think you're doing with these..." Bella's gaze moved from Ted to Gilderoy, then back to Ted, where it remained, a look of loathing on her face. Finally, she turned back to Andromeda. "What were you doing? What was that nonsense you were"--she wrinkled her nose--"singing?"

"It's just a song," Ted said.

Bella didn't look at him. She simply stuck out her arm and pointed her wand in his direction. Being in the same general direction, Gilderoy decided that the best strategic choice would be to get behind the shelter of the sleeping student's trunk. "I wasn't talking to you, Mudblood. This is between my sister and me."

Ted took a step toward her wand, snapping fingers forgotten. "Actually," he said, "it's between your sister and me."

"Don't," Andromeda said. "I'll take care of it."

Bella ignored her sister entirely, instead grabbing Ted by his shirt and pushing him against the wall. "There is nothing that is between you and any Black, Mudblood. Go back to your own world."

Andromeda grabbed Bella's arm and pried it off of Ted, digging her fingernails in deep enough for Gilderoy to see red marks when Bella pulled away, looking shocked.

"Let up, Bella," Andromeda said sharply. Her hand was still curled strangely, like a cat about to paw at its prey. Gilderoy ducked further behind the trunk.

There was silence for a moment, and Gilderoy closed his eyes, trying to think of a way out.

Then Bella, apparently done with her surprise, said, "Well. And here I was beginning to wonder whether or not you'd fit in the Common Room."

Gilderoy opened his eyes and peeked carefully around the trunk. The Black sisters were staring at one another, Bella smiling with fake gentleness, Andromeda holding her jaw steady with so much effort that it was almost trembling anyway.

Bella glanced quickly into the compartment, took in the older student--still, astonishingly, sleeping--and backed into the corridor, still smiling. "I'll see you in your dormitory tonight," she said. "After the Sorting."

She swept out.

Lucius remained in the door a bit longer, not saying anything, just scanning the compartment with amusement. He spotted Gilderoy, waved, then raised his wand.

Gilderoy ducked out of the way just as a weak spell hit the floor beside him, then he heard the door close.

He came out from behind the trunk and put a comforting hand on Andromeda's shoulder. "Don't worry," he said. "I'll be looking out for you."

To be continued... at the Sorting Ceremony.

//
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