Of A Sort
Of A Sort
September 1, 1965: A New Class
The Sorting Ceremony
I'll see you in your dormitory tonight. After the Sorting.
Andromeda forced her hands to stop shaking as Bella disappeared down the corridor. She tried not to look at Ted and Gilderoy; if it weren't for her, they wouldn't have had to see that. They'd probably want her to go, and she knew she should, but she'd been having fun.
"That's a mess, isn't it?" Ted said casually. "Do you want to go back to the song?"
Andromeda blinked. The words to the song had gone completely out of her head. "No, I... well, maybe I should go."
"You want to go back to that?"
"Not really, but..."
Ted shrugged and gestured at the seat, suggesting, she supposed, that she sit back down. After awhile, she did.
I'll see you in your dormitory tonight. After the Sorting.
It hadn't been a good day with Bella all around, and it sounded like she planned to top it off with something quite unpleasant.
They'd stayed at Grimmauld Place last night, so the voyage to King's Cross Station would be less time consuming. It was enough of a strain, Mother said, to be expected to deal with the Muggles they would undoubtedly have to avoid at the station; she did not care to be in a rush when she did it. Bella had suggested Apparating there and then Obliviating everyone's memory.
"My clever girl," Mother had said, brushing Andromeda's hair. "But the Ministry might frown."
Andromeda bit her lip. Bella was joking. Probably. And certainly Mother was. "Do they stare, there at the Station?" she asked. "The Muggles?"
"Muggles are too foolish to see, let alone stare," Mother said. She tapped the brush with her wand to wet it again. "There's not much more to be done with your hair, Andromeda. I think it's lying as flat as it will today. Bella, promise me that once she's mastered some basic charms, you'll teach her to manage her hair?"
Bella nodded. Her own hair fell in two perfectly flat and shiny black sheets around her face. Andromeda's was wavy and fluffy, and a shade of mundane brown that had always looked out of place in the family, almost more childish than little Narcissa's carefully done pigtails.
Auntie had given them use of Kreacher the house elf for the day, and between Kreacher and their own elves, the luggage was already loaded into a Charmed Muggle car. Andromeda was looking forward to the ride. The vehicle had been bought last year for Bella's sake, but it was treated with great distaste and Andromeda hadn't been allowed to go for a ride in it, no matter how often she asked. Bella just stood in the doorway, wrinkling her nose at it, the house elves scurrying around her.
On the stairs, Narcissa was sitting primly, watching the goings on with a good imitation of detachment. A few risers down, their cousin Sirius was weeping inconsolably. Andromeda sat down beside him. "I'll be back for Christmas, just like always."
"You only just came, and now you're leaving."
"In a few years, you'll be able to go to school with me."
He sniffed. "I could go now. I'm smart enough. I can read and write. And I can do spells."
"Well, you're not supposed to." Andromeda kissed his cheek. "Why don't you go up and play with Narcissa? I think she could do with a playmate."
Both of the younger children looked at her with expressions of horror so perfectly identical that she almost laughed.
She kissed Sirius's cheek again--whatever else was to be said about her half-spoiled, half-ignored little cousin, any sane person had to admit that he had the most kissable cheeks in London--then stood up. Narcissa scrambled up the stairs, as though afraid that she too might be kissed.
Andromeda dropped her a curtsey and a wink instead. Narcissa was probably a lost cause, being much more prone to playing along with Bella's jokes than Andromeda's fantasies, but she was the only little sister Andromeda had, and heaven knew she was at least better than Bella.
"Time to go."
Bella's long nails dug into her arm and she felt herself dragged down the stairs. Andromeda barely registered this sort of thing anymore. Bella had always seen her duty as eldest as being largely concerned with leading Andromeda around by handy appendages; there was a photograph in the parlor at home showing two-year-old Bella tugging one-year-old Andromeda around by her big toe, smiling mischievously.
"Write to me!" Sirius called. "Please! I can owl you back!"
"I'll write," Andromeda promised as Bella dragged her out the door.
"You'll forget," Bella said, then stuck her head back inside. "Hey, Sirius!"
"You won't know her when she comes back."
She ducked back out and slammed the door on Sirius's howl.
It had gone on like that all the way to King's Cross and onto the Platform, where Bella had spotted poor, bucktoothed little Gilderoy Lockhart even before his mother had caused a scene, and when they'd met up with the Malfoys, Lucius had joined her as he always did. Andromeda normally didn't object to Lucius joining Bella, as it meant he wasn't making an effort ot socialize with her, which they both hated, no matter how often they'd been forced to go through it. Loathing of their enforced companionship was the only thing they agreed on. But Lucius and Bella had turned their cruelties on some poor stranger who had done nothing to them as soon as they were out of adult sight, and that, Andromeda objected to.
So naturally, Andromeda had responded by picking a fight with her sister and Lucius before she even reached school. It had to be some sort of record. She couldn't think what else she might have done--well, other than leaving well enough alone once she'd ascertained that Gilderoy was all right--but it wasn't going to be pleasant in Slytherin tonight.
Maybe you wont be there.
She didn't allow herself to hope. She was a Black. Blacks were Slytherins. She'd just have to take whatever Bella had in mind.
"Are you all right?" Ted Tonks asked. "I mean, are you really?"
She looked around. "Yes, I..." She bit her lip. "I'm sorry, Ted. I think I've got you in a bit of trouble. My sister doesn't like... well..." She pointed vaguely at his clothes.
"Muggle-borns," Gilderoy said impressively. "Don't worry, though. I plan to defend the Muggle-borns with my life if necessary." He struck a heroic pose, and Ted grinned over his head at Andromeda.
She smiled back, hoping against hope that Bella would leave him alone later. She certainly wouldn't deign to fight fair with a Mudblood.
About thirty minutes out of Hogsmeade, the two boys changed into school robes--Andromeda had worn hers--and went to wait in the corridor to collect Ted's and Gilderoy's pets from the luggage well. According to Bella, the witch who chaperoned the train (and sold candy from the cart) wanted to eliminate the luggage well and have all students, even first years, keep their baggage with them at all times. "It won't happen, though," she said confidently. "Who is she, anyway? Just a servant."
A seventh year girl, slightly pudgy with bright red hair, was keeping the line in order. While the boys went in, she held Andromeda out. "It's a bit crowded," she apologized. "No more than two at a time, and as you haven't got a pet..."
"It's all right."
"That's why they're thinking of changing the rule. Just takes a bit too long."
Gilderoy came out with a fine owl in a golden cage, and Ted had a sort of white plastic basket with a blanket tied over the top. Inside of it, an exceptionally ugly, fat, scarred tomcat was purring ecstatically and trying to poke his large paws through to pat Ted's arm. "This is Dodger," he said. "That's from Oliver Twist. He was stealing food from the garbage so I started feeding him. Mum said I'd best bring him with me, because she's not going to keep doing it." He grinned. "Well, they did say we could have a cat, right?"
They were instructed to leave the rest of their baggage where it was when they disboarded; presumably the school elves would bring it inside.
A huge young man with long hair and a wild beard met them at the edge of the lake, smiling brightly. "Firs' years!" he called out. "Firs' years, over here!"
"I can't believe he's still here," Andromeda heard someone say a few feet to her left. She turned to see Bella, her back turned, shaking her head in Lucius Malfoy's general direction. "What an oaf," she went on. "He used to be the apprentice, but they made him groundskeeper in the middle of last year. He's one of the headmaster's favorites. Honestly. Dumbledore will take anyone. The only good thing about him being headmaster is that at least I don't have to sit through class with him."
Thankfully, Bella was swept away with the older students and Lucius made a mad dash for any boat that didn't contain Andromeda. Andromeda rode with Ted and Gilderoy and their animals. Ted fell silent upon seeing the castle, and a wide smile came across his face. He bit his lip. Andromeda wouldn't say anything, but she thought he might be crying a little. Gilderoy, meanwhile, had to be pulled back from standing at the prow of the boat like a conquerer (the boat listed wickedly, but thankfully didn't overturn).
A black-haired witch wearing a tall hat with a tartan brim met them at the castle and led them into the Great Hall--pets were left outside, to Dodger's very vocal disappointment--where an old hat sat on a stool in a place of prominence. Andromeda was paying attention only to the Hat when she felt a sharp pain in her elbow and was yanked back.
"Tonight," Bella hissed. "After the Sorting."
"Miss Black!" the black-haired teacher, Professor McGonagall, said, sounding exasperated. "You haven't even been back an hour."
Bella let go and smoothed Andromeda's sleeve. "Sorry, Professor," she said. "Just wishing my sister good luck."
McGonagall frowned, but obviously wanted to keep the Sorting moving along. She led Andromeda back to the others. On the stool, the hat moved, seeming to look from side to side, as if a small animal lived inside of it. When everyone was quiet, it cleared its throat and sang.
"In misty days when I was new--
The world was smaller then--
There was no place for those to go
Who for learning had a yen...."
Andromeda rolled her eyes, smiling. She'd read a book called Hogwarts: A History when Bella left last year. She knew much of the history the Hat was singing about--the Four Founders, the Houses, even the split. She knew everything except the Hat itself. When Bella had insisted on keeping it a secret, she'd assumed the process for Sorting was involved and frightening; the Hat was a welcome and pleasant surprise.
I'll see you in your dormitory tonight. After the Sorting.
The thought stabbed through her mind out of nowhere, and she shoved it away. Bella made threats; it was what she did. Andromeda had lived with her sister for a long time, and she could handle anything Bella had in mind.
Glancing over at Ted, she could see that he was quite enraptured by the song, and his eyes kept flickering to the enchanted ceiling. It made her happy for some reason she couldn't quite fathom--it was like seeing a world she'd always known with a whole new light poured through it.
When the Hat had finished its song, Professor McGonagall stepped to the front of the group. "Now, first years, when I call your name, you will come forward and be Sorted." She unrolled a parchment and looked over her spectacles. "Black, Andromeda."
Andromeda stepped forward and sat down on the stool. McGonagall handed her the Hat. She held it for a moment and it nodded toward her vaguely, then she put it on her head. It slipped smoothly over her hair and darkness enveloped her.
"Well..." the Hat said, then said nothing else.
Slytherin, Andromeda thought.
"No," the Hat said thoughtfully. "No, you're not a Slytherin."
Andromeda almost fell forward off the stool. But... my family... we've always been...
"Nonsense." The Hat's tone was entirely dismissive, and it went back to its deliberations. Andromeda sat still, not having the faintest idea what to expect--all of her visions of herself at Hogwarts had included Slytherin, and while she had not especially wanted it, life at home could become difficult rather quickly. The Hat gave a sigh. "No," it said, "not Slytherin, but where? Your mind is sharp enough, and I see a great deal of kindness in you, and courage. In fact, all I fail to see in you is ambition."
I am ambitious! Andromeda thought with some irritation. She had plans as much as anyone else did, and--
There was a soft, cloth-y sound that came into Andromeda's mind as laughter. "Very well, you have ambition, but it doesn't rule you."
All right, then.
"Well, that decides it at any rate. Yes, you would have done well in Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff, but my dear, you will be your truest self in
Andromeda Black stood up and put the Sorting Hat back on the stool. She looked over at the Slytherin table, her face white with two high spots of color, and--to Gilderoy Lockhart's astonishment, since she was obviously terrified--stuck her tongue out at her sister. Gilderoy could hear someone hissing even over the cheers that erupted at the Gryffindor table when Andromeda joined them. He saw one of the older students--the redheaded girl who'd overseen the luggage compartment, he thought--throw a red and gold scarf over her shoulders, while a redheaded boy who Gilderoy strongly suspected was not the older girl's brother clapped Andromeda on the back. Apparently, sticking one's tongue out at the Slytherin table was admired in Gryffindor quarters.
Beside him, Ted Tonks leaned in a little closer. "Where d'you reckon you'll be?" he asked as Professor McGonagall called for "Candlemas, Richard."
"Gryffindor," Gilderoy said calmly. Where else would he be Sorted? Even if he had not quite accomplished an act of heroism yet, the Hat would see into his mind and know that he was a hero inside. "Perhaps you'll be there as well. We could keep up with our partnership from the train."
Ted shook his head. "I don't know. I only do that--you know, fighting with people--if I have to. I don't much like it. If a fight's coming at me, I'll duck it if I can."
Someone sniffed loudly, and Gilderoy looked over his shoulder. Lucius Malfoy was listening to them with disgust. "Coward," he said. "Mudblood coward."
Ted's face went red, and Gilderoy could see his hands flexing into fists--pretty big fists for an eleven year old, and judging by the scars on his fingers, he hadn't actually managed to duck that many fights. But he didn't turn or acknowledge Lucius.
Gilderoy straightened up. "You shouldn't say that," he whispered firmly to Lucius. "It's rude."
Lucius raised an eyebrow. He'd opened his mouth to speak when another voice interrupted. "I have not had to teach this lesson during a Sorting for some time," Professor McGonagall said, "but when I am speaking, you are not."
Lucius snapped his mouth shut and stepped back. As soon as McGonagall turned around again, he put his fingers in front of his mouth to mimic Gilderoy's teeth, just as Bella had at King's Cross.
Gilderoy felt his face flush and turned back to the Sorting, which had moved on to "Drear, Edgar," who became a Slytherin. Somewhere, he'd seen a Charm to fix his teeth. He determined to find that spell if he had to read every book in the library to do it.
While "Eastman, Elizabeth" was sorted into Hufflepuff, he felt a sharp point between his shoulders. A wand tip.
He didn't move his head to look, but he could see Lucius Malfoy out of the corner of his eye. He took a few steps forward and slid as unobtrusively as he could in front of Ted Tonks.
"Forrester, Katherine" ("GRYFFINDOR!")... "Holbine, Anne" ("RAVENCLAW!")...
Gilderoy bit his lip. The moment was coming, the moment when his inner self would finally be revealed for all the world to see. "Kilbourne, Mary-Louise" ("SLYTHERIN!")... "Kilbourne, Michael" ("GRYFFINDOR!")--those two would have interesting holidays--then...
Gilderoy walked forward slowly, shoulders squared, to take his place in the world. He sat down on the stool and looked out over the sea of faces in the Great Hall. They weren't paying attention now, not yet, but they would soon. He put on the Sorting Hat.
It slipped over his head entirely and came to rest above his shoulders, not even catching on his ears.
A voice in his ear laughed softly. "Well then... what have we here?"
Gilderoy frowned. He didn't care for the Hat's tone.
"Perhaps Slytherin," the Hat mused, sounding amused and not at all serious.
I think not!
Of course not. I'm hardly of their ilk.
You don't see me calling people Mudbloods.
"There is more to Slytherin House than that. You certainly are willing to go to great lengths to stay out of trouble, and yet you have a great deal of ambition, and you mean to live up to it."
I am brave, Gilderoy said.
The Hat laughed again. "You are creative," it said.
Gilderoy sniffed, but didn't answer the Hat.
"Hmmm. Yes, I know... Yes, I think that's right."
Gilderoy ground his teeth, not wanting to give the Hat the satisfaction of being asked, but it kept not going on with it. What? What's right?
"If you really don't care for Slytherin, I won't put you there, though I think you would like it better than you imagine."
"Then again, your imagination is quite active."
"I can see it, you know. You live inside your mind, don't you?"
"And that is why you're going to
Lucius barely listened to the Sorting after, by some miracle, Andromeda Black had gone into Gryffindor. Her family would hate it. Lucius was relieved. Perhaps he would never again be forced to look at her dull hair and too-wide mouth at dinner again, let alone spend a whole evening watching her frown at his jokes and wrinkle her ugly nose at him.
He'd had to do that as long as he could remember. She was a Black, and she had been born the same year he had--there were certain things that had always been expected.
He'd always thought it unfair that he was expected to be attentive to Andromeda. Bella was pretty and clever, and they got on well. The little one, Narcissa, always laughed when she was allowed to tag along, and Lucius supposed she would be passably nice-looking someday. But no--just because of bad luck in birthdays, he had been stuck with the thick-lipped little mouse who had no sense of humor at all.
He'd never thought the word "Gryffindor" would sound so liberating.
Mother and Father would want him to keep as much of a distance from Andromeda as possible now. They would let him visit with Bella instead when the families met. Bella was far prettier, and she laughed at his jokes. Freedom from Andromeda Black... that was something to note in his journal. An important day.
Bella wasn't pleased, of course, and Lucius would offer the proper amount of outrage, but inside, he thought he might simply break into song, go flying, shout from the rooftops.
When he'd gotten to the train station this morning, Father had immediately walked him over to the Black sisters and stood him next to Andromeda. She looked quite as annoyed with it as he was. As soon as Father left, Lucius noticed the ridiculous, chipmunk-toothed boy pretending to sneak around. If nothing else, he would probably be good for a few laughs. Bella reached the conclusion at the same time, and starting joking.
Naturally, Andromeda wasn't amused. Nothing amused her.
Except for the Mudblood and his ridiculous song. Lucius was glad to be shut of her, but still... seeing her there in the train, laughing... He should have known something was amiss before the Sorting. Andromeda Black didn't laugh.
Bella had spent the rest of the journey steaming, pounding her fist into the wall of the compartment. Of all the filthy, obscene ideas! Before she had even reached Hogwarts, Andromeda had dirtied herself with this sort of scum. Bella planned to not allow her to associate outside of Slytherin until she'd been "cleaned up."
She wouldn't be pleasant tonight, but Lucius didn't mind. She'd plot some sort of scheme, probably, and he could always help her.
Ahead of him, the bucktoothed boy who had hidden behind a trunk to avoid the tiniest of hexes was confidently telling the Mudblood that he would end up in Gryffindor, and hoped they would end up there together. The Mudblood disagreed.
"If a fight's coming at me," he said, "I'll duck it if I can."
Naturally. Lucius rolled his eyes, and supposed he must have made some sort of noise, because Bucktooth looked back at him. Lucius wrinkled his nose. "Coward," he said. "Mudblood coward."
The Mudblood flexed his fists, like he planned to initiate a street brawl, but didn't turn around. Bucktooth pulled himself up pompously and said, "You shouldn't say that. It's rude."
Lucius wasn't sure what he intended to say to this absurd notion--as if the presence of a Mudblood in the Great Hall of Hogwarts was something to be treated like a visit from a dignitary in the drawing room!--but he never got a chance to say anything. The old shrew conducting the Sorting looked over her specs and said, "I have not had to teach this lesson during a Sorting for some time, but when I am speaking, you are not." She turned away.
Lucius made a face at Bucktooth, who Bucktooth looked away again ostentatiously.
The Sorting went on; Lucius ignored it.
"The place," Father had said this morning, his voice hard and resolute, "is crawling with Mudbloods and their ideas. You are to stay clear of them, Lucius."
Father stood and looked out the great window of Malfoy Manor, its central pane showing a broad expanse of the countryside and its facets showing various servants going about their tasks around the house. These could be changed at will, as Lucius had found out when he'd stolen one of Father's spellbooks and tried to learn a handful of hexes from them. Father had demonstrated some curses whose existence Lucius hadn't suspected that day. He had not taken books from Father's collection since.
"I would send you to Durmstrang," Father said at last. "I would send you, but we have lost enough of our traditions. I will not allow these interlopers to destroy all we have built, or give them default rule of Britain. This is our home. We will reclaim it one day, and I won't have the chain of tradition broken for the sake of these fools."
Father looked at him sharply. "You do not take your place in the world seriously enough, Lucius. You have a responsibility."
"I know, Father."
"Yet you waste your time playing and joking."
Lucius had chosen not to answer, and simply smeared honey on a new bite of a scone.
Father sighed. "You'll feel it someday, Lucius. How our world is slipping away from us, being stolen from us. They have no feel for it, no sense of our history, our place in the world. They want to impose their ways on us. It erodes, Lucius. Like anything under constant abrasion, it erodes."
"My grandfather's great-grandfather once held all this land." Father swept his arm vaguely across the vista out the window. "He kept the crops growing for the Muggles, and they paid him proper respect. Then the Muggle-lovers at the Ministry wrote a decree to 'protect' them from such horrors. Now their crops fail, and their manufactories belch smoke into the air, and their children run off to all the forsaken corners of the world. And yet we are expected to take their stock in with our own, and listen to their ideas?"
Lucius scooped a few more eggs onto his plate. When Father went on a tear about this, he could go on for hours. Lucius had heard it all, several times. He didn't know why Father couldn't just boil it down to its essence: Muggles were crass dolts with no sense of propriety at all, and being born with a talent for magic didn't change who they were or where they came from. They made everything feel dirty.
Witness the Mudblood standing in front of Bucktooth.
Lucius prodded Bucktooth with his wand, and was not surprised to see him skitter around and put the Mudblood between them. Bucktooth didn't even look back.
The Mudblood, on the other hand, turned and glared. Lucius smirked back at him.
Bucktooth went up, making a ridiculous figure of himself by pretending to swing a cape he wasn't wearing, and sat down like he expected to be crowned King. Instead, the Sorting Hat slipped over his head entirely, hiding his face and neck. Lucius fought an urge to laugh. The old shrew would probably give him a detention. The Hat appeared to be talking to him for some time before it called out, "RAVENCLAW!"
Another Mudblood--"Lucerne, Antonia"--was sorted into Hufflepuff, and Lucius had barely realized where they were in the alphabet when the shrew called out, "Malfoy, Lucius."
It was a technicality, and everyone knew it. Malfoys had stood with Slytherin himself, and the family's history was even more tied to Slytherin House than the Blacks'. Father was right--tradition, after all, meant something.
Lucius sat down without any particular hurry, and looked around the Great Hall. Bella was sitting at the Slytherin table, fuming, her jaw clamped shut against what Lucius was quite sure would be and amusing rant later.
He smiled at her, then pulled the Hat onto his head.
The Hat said nothing but, "SLYTHERIN!"
Ted Tonks had never felt more out of place in his life.
Not that he wasn't happy. The castle was beautiful, and the ceiling was brilliant, and he'd already made two friends. But it was all surreal.
This morning, he'd awakened in the seedy flat where he and Mum had made their home for as long as he could remember. He'd kissed her goodbye before she went to work and she'd hugged him. She didn't do that very much. Mum loved him and he knew it, but she wasn't one for a lot of hugs. She loved him by working two jobs to keep them off benefit--Mum would eat Dodger before she'd go on benefit--and making sure that he had things he needed, and by listening to him talk and knowing what he liked and not complaining when he decided he wanted to wear his hair like Paul McCartney. One of the neighbors had complained, and Mum had even tugged fondly on his fringe and said, "I think it suits him."
But this morning, she'd hugged him, and he thought she was crying. "Now, you have a suit laid out, with a proper tie and all. You promise me you'll get off to King's Cross all right?"
Ted nodded. It was only a matter of a few blocks.
"I'd like to come," Mum said. "But Mr. Lane gave me the breakfast shift off twice last week. I can't--"
"It's all right, Mum, really." Ted smiled at her and gave her another hug. "I can get to the train. I'm glad you were there for shopping and such. I'm not good at that."
"Hmph. Some things don't change--the shops will try to cheat you everywhere. You just keep your eyes open."
And then she had left, her nylon uniform blending into the gaudy orange of sunrise.
Ted had broken his promise, but only because he couldn't figure out how to work the tie. She'd shown him, but he couldn't make his fingers do it. And without the tie, the fancy shirt and trousers looked silly. Clean blue jeans and tee shirt so white that it almost hurt to look at would have to do; he'd be changing into school robes before he arrived, anyway. He'd, er, borrowed a trolley from King's Cross two days ago and used it to push his trunk and Dodger to the station around ten, ignoring the strange looks from his neighbors. One of the bigger lads in the neighborhood threw a handful of mud at his shirt, but it fell short, as things thrown at Ted had always tended to do.
That was his morning.
Tonight, he was in a castle, surrounded by people wearing velvet, and his moptop hair looked short and conservative. He'd made friends with two people who lived in England and had never heard of the Beatles, and been in a fight with a genuine Wicked Witch.
He was madly curious, and part of him wanted to see everything. But another part of him was just disoriented, and all he really wanted was a friendly face. When he'd been with Andromeda and Gilderoy--what names!--it had been easy enough, but now they had both been Sorted into different houses, so the most friends Ted would have would be one, and that's if he wasn't put into Slytherin or Hufflepuff. He certainly didn't feel like a brave Gryffindor, and he'd never been very clever about school things--he did well enough, but he really didn't care, so that probably counted out Ravenclaw. Which would leave him with no friends in the place where he ended up.
This thought tried to snag in his mind as the names went on and on. He wished they'd let him bring Dodger into the Hall. Poor old Dodge had started crying when he'd been left again, after so long on the train--those sharp, loud, repeated meows that he gave when he was absolutely desperate for an ear-scratching. It was an awfully long time to wait for the person you belonged with.
Ted understood the feeling.
There were times when he wished his father's name had been Anderson or Adams or Beale. Anything that wouldn't put him at the end of the queue for anything leaning on the alphabet. This was one of those times--he just wanted to find the people he would be with. The waiting was difficult.
Walter Tonks had come up on the worse side of a bar brawl when Ted was still in nappies, and Ted had almost no memory of him, except for being swung through the air by a laughing giant who had seemed to take up the whole world. He sometimes had a daydream about Mum remarrying and taking some new name, but Mum had told him that even if she did, he would remain a Tonks.
"I imagine you wouldn't be yourself if it weren't for Walt," she said wearily sometimes. "You certainly don't get much from me." She always shook her head fondly when she said this.
After the Hogwarts letter had come, Ted had pestered her to tell him about his father, wondering if this odd talent of his had come that way. Mum had laughed. "Ted, if your Dad could see the future in a mud puddle, he'd have used it to make a fortune at the races. Do you see a fortune anywhere?"
Ted had laughed, but it was disappointing. He'd hoped somehow that it came from that direction. At least it would be something.
He'd started telling fortunes for tuppence when he was eight, just for a lark, pretending to see visions in a puddle of mud-cloudy water behind the flat. The first time he'd actually seen a flash of something, he'd thought he was going mad. It had been a pretty blonde-haired lady and in his vision, he saw her stealing Mum's rings. He'd run inside to find Mum alone, but the next day after school, he'd found the lady, who claimed to have gotten a bit turned around walking from King's Cross. Ted, who had always been clumsy, deliberately made himself trip. Her purse fell from the table and spilled--Mum's engagement ring and wedding ring (which she never wore, as both of her jobs involved scrubbing dishes for hours) fell out onto the floor.
Ted meant to get out of the puddle-scrying business after that. It was just too strange. But the girls in the neighborhood, even some of the older ones, even teenagers, really liked to have their fortunes told, and they started offering him a shilling for a fortune, and all of that piled up, and after awhile, a boy could buy a record that he liked, instead of listening to his Mum's...
So he'd gone back. Mostly, he just took guesses, which he decided was somewhat nicer than just making things up, a bit more honest. Sometimes he was right, sometimes wrong. He was right often enough that they kept coming back. He got better at guessing, even when nothing appeared in the puddle. It felt better when he actually did some work than when he'd been cheating.
But sometimes, there were things.
Mostly they were bad things, like car accidents or fires--he would see them later on the news sometimes. Sometimes they were scary--monsters and masked men--but he never knew whether or not those were real. He guessed if one sort was real, the other was.
Until last week, none of the visions made him feel particularly good. He wasn't supposed to be scrying anymore. The wizard from Hogwarts had said at the orientation for Muggle-borns that he had to stop. But he hadn't meant to do it in the first place. He'd just been sitting out back with Dodger curled up beside him, waiting for Mum to come home from her morning job, and he'd stirred a puddle absently with his new wand, fresh bought in Diagon Alley the day before. He'd forgotten that he had it in his hand. The dirt at the bottom had bloomed up into a gray cloud, then suddenly it swirled and parted, and there was a girl there, laughing and singing. She made Ted feel happy for some reason, more comfortable in this new place.
And then she'd been there in reality, on the train, smiling, then laughing, then singing.
When he'd seen Andromeda, the girl that magic had shown him, all of it became real. This was a real world, and he was a part of it. So was she, and that was a bit of all right. He liked her; she was a good sort. He liked Gilderoy, too--he was odd, even in this world, but he'd reached right through his oddness to be kind to a total stranger, and that counted for something in Ted's book.
"Preston, Marian" ("GRYFFINDOR!")... "Reynolds, Chester" (" SLYTHERIN!")
There were only five first years left. Ted glanced nervously around. He was standing close to the Slytherin table, and he could see Andromeda's sister, looking hateful. He looked the other direction to find Andromeda herself; she was sitting with a group of Gryffindors, one of whom had thrown a red and gold scarf haphazardly around her. Apparently, they were glad to have her. She smiled and waved.
"Simonson, Elspeth" became a Ravenclaw, then, "Tonks, Edward."
Ted looked at the remaining three first years who had even worse luck than he did, and gave them a smile. They smiled feebly back--the solidarity of the unfortunately named. He went to the stool and sat down, not knowing exactly what to expect.
A voice from the Hat spoke in his ear. "Ah... tired of waiting, are you?"
Ted almost answered out loud, then remembered that no one else had. A bit. Not that I mean any offense or anything...
"None taken." The Hat moved on its own for awhile; Ted imagined it frowning, hemming and hawing. "You show great bravery," it said. "As bold as any Gryffindor I've Sorted."
Ted dared to hope for a minute.
Then the Hat spoke again. "But I don't think you'll be a Gryffindor." Its voice gained some volume. "Familiar faces are what you seek, connections, friendships."
"You might find yourself surprised." The Hat gathered itself. "You will always reach for people first, and you place a value on working to earn your place. Loyalty, dedication, willingness to toil... I think you'll be at home in
To be continued... in 1969.