The huge castle doors swung open at once. Inside, a man was waiting for them. He was possibly in his late twenties, wearing a strange outfit, which Michelle recognised as a Quidditch uniform. She had read briefly about Quidditch in Hogwarts: A History, though she didn't fully know the rules yet. She made a mental note to herself to ask Regina about it later.
''The firs' years, Alex.''
''Thanks Hagrid,'' the man named Alex said. He had dark short hair and extremely white teeth. ''I'll take it from here. You go to the Great Hall.''
The first years followed the teacher into a small empty chamber off the hall, as Hagrid made his way towards the Great Hall, which was already filled with the older students and teachers.
''Welcome to Hogwarts!'' the man smiled brightly. ''The start-of-term banquet is starting soon, but first we'll have the Sorting Ceremony. Each of you will be sorted in a house- Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin. Treat your house mates like a family, you'll be stuck with them for the rest of your education, after all.''
The man laughed a high laugh. No one laughed with him, though. Michelle smiled a bit, feeling bad for him.
''Ahum,'' Alex coughed. ''Right, before I'll take you kids to the Great Hall, you should know that your triumphs will earn you points, while breaking the rules will lose house points. The house with the most house points at the end of the year will win the House Cup.
''Shall we go then?''
Alex lead them out of the tiny chamber, into the Entrance Hall and into an enormous- well they did call it the Great Hall for a reason -room. The room was lit by maybe a thousand or more candles, which were floating, by the way. Michelle was grinning from ear to ear. She just couldn't believe this was actually happening.
The first years walked past four long tables, where the other students were seated, towards the staff table. In front of it was a stool with a rather old hat on it.
''No way I'm putting that on.'' a girl whispered with disgust.
Regina tapped Michelle on the shoulder and pointed towards the ceiling. Wait. Where was the ceiling? Michelle was dumbstruck to find herself staring at the night sky.
''Oh!'' she whispered, when she realised what was going on. ''I've read about it in Hogwarts: A History, it's enchanted, isn't it?''
Regina nodded, when the group of first years had reached the stool. It immediately became quiet in the large room.
Alex was standing next to the stool and was holding a long parchment.
''When I call your name, please come forward and sit on the stool to get sorted.''
The chubby boy whom they shared the boat with, walked forward confidently. He sat on the stool and put the hat on his head.
Nothing seemed to happen for a while, until the hat's 'mouth' suddenly opened and yelled 'SLYTHERIN!'.
Michelle jumped a little bit into the air. She didn't expect the old hat to start talking, let alone to start yelling all of a sudden.
Reshmi Bickley was the first Hufflepuff, as Robin Brooks was the first Ravenclaw. The queue started to get smaller and smaller, until Regina was called.
''Oakley, Regina!" Alex called. Regina smiled a little at Michelle before she went up to the stool. She sat down and put the hat on her head, a nervous look on her face.
It didn't take the Sorting Hat long to decide that Regina fitted in: 'GRYFFINDOR!'
Regina looked relieved and quickly joined her older sister at the Gryffindor table.
Radley, Sabrina was next. She too was sorted into Gryffindor. She was so excited that she forgot to put off the hat and ran immediately to the table. After returning the hat, Alex called the next name.
With a nasty feeling in her stomach, Michelle walked towards the stool. It'd be nice if she were to be in Gryffindor as well, since she and Regina had become pretty good friends.
She sat down and slowly put down the hat. It startled her when she heard a voice in her mind.
''Well, aren't we interesting?''
''Are we?'' Michelle responded.
''Hmm…You're quite difficult. Very intelligent and an open mind, creative, but also brave and courageous. But most of all hardworking and loyal. Yes, it has to be…
Michelle quickly put down the hat and joined the cheering Hufflepuffs. She had been disappointed that she wasn't in the same house as Regina, but the Hufflepuffs seemed friendly. Hardworking and loyal, huh? Well, it did describe her.
The last of the first years were sorted as well, and then Alex put the Sorting Hat away.
The headmaster, professor Sloan got up and smiled at her students. She was very thin, and as Regina would state later on, she should really eat some pies. Her hair was short and red brownish. When she spoke, she spoke with a Scottish accent.
''Welcome to Hogwarts, now I'm starving! Let's eat!''
Well you would be starving if you were that thin, Michelle thought.
She looked at the plates before her as food appeared out of nowhere. Amazed and not sure where to begin, she stared at all the food.
''Amazing huh? My sister told me about it, but still.''
Michelle looked at the girl sitting left from her. She was very small and probably from India. She recognised the girl from earlier, but couldn't quite remember her name.
''Your sister goes here? So you must have known about being a witch your entire live?''
Michelle really envied all the kids who had known about magic such a long time. There was so much for her to learn, not to forget that if her mum had been a witch, she could have gone to the platform with her.
To her surprise however, the other Hufflepuff shook her head.
''No, our parents are Muggles, so it was quite a surprise when my sister got a letter last year,'' she pointed to a girl seated at the Ravenclaw table. They looked alike, but not too much. ''I think she's really glad that we're not in the same House.''
They laughed at that.
''So it was even more of a surprise when you got your letter as well?''
The girl nodded.
''Quite, yeah,'' she hold out her hand. ''Reshmi Bickley, by the way.''
''Michelle Sherwood, my mum is also a Muggle. Didn't that owl scare the hell out of you?''
Reshmi laughed at that, saying that her mother had hidden under the table and her father had grabbed a banana and acted like it was a gun.
Michelle was glad that she had made another friend so fast. She glanced at Regina, to see that she was also laughing. They might be in different Houses, but that didn't mean they couldn't remain friends.
The main dishes disappeared and made place for the desserts. Michelle almost drooled at the sight of it. Oh God, she was going to get fat, wasn't she?
Reshmi, who was quite skinny, ate a lot more than Michelle would have imagined. Blimey, that girl could eat!
Nearing the end of the speech, the first years were all taken aback by the sudden appearance of a bunch of ghosts. Since the older students and staff didn't even flinch, they soon figured that the ghosts lived at Hogwarts.
The ghost of a fat monk joined the Hufflepuffs at their table. His name was apparently
unknown, so everyone called him 'The Fat Friar'. He was a short and fat man with a brown tonsure. He seemed very cheerful and greeted the older students with a friendly wave.
After professor Sloan made another speech, mainly about rules and which items weren't allowed, yada yada yada, they were lead to their common rooms. Two older kids, who called themselves Prefects, lead them towards the kitchens. Michelle wondered how many of them knew where the kitchens were, since she only knew because of 'Hogwarts: A History'. It didn't specify where they exactly were though, probably to prevent students from getting a midnight snack. They passed a rather large still life of a fruit bowl, which Michelle didn't really pay attention to.
At the end of the corridor, they found a pile of large barrels.
''Now, pay attention, 'cause this is important.'' the girl told us.
''Unless you want to be soaked in vinegar.'' the boy added with a smirk.
The girl pulled out her wand from her robes and pointed at the barrel two from the bottom, middle of the second row.
''You have to tap at this one in the rhythm of 'Helga Hufflepuff'. Tap the wrong barrel and…''
''You will be soaked in vinegar.'' the boy reminded them again.
The girl showed them how to do it and a passage was revealed. The passage led to a round, low-ceilinged room. Michelle guessed that it was designed after a badger's sett, since the badger was the Hufflepuff House's mascot. It looked extremely cosy and she immediately felt at home as she followed her fellow Hufflepuffs into the common room. The room was decorated in the colours of Hufflepuff: yellow and black. There were round doors in the wall, which she guessed led to the dormitories. Plants seemed to be everywhere, making the room even cosier.
Michelle's favourite part of the common room had to be the mantelpiece though. She had always loved mantelpieces, but this one was decorated with dancing badgers. She had not realised how much she had wanted a pet badger until now. She wondered if her mum would let her have one.
''Well, you should all head to bed, long day tomorrow.'' the female Prefect said. She and the other Prefect opened the door to their dormitories.
Michelle and Reshmi followed the others in their year in the search for their room. One of the doors on the right had 'First years' carved in it.
One of the girls in the front opened it and they climbed inside. The first years found themselves in underground tunnels, which led to the dormitories. The boys and girls parted ways and soon Michelle and the other Hufflepuff girls found their room. The dormitories were just as cosy as the common room.
Michelle found her trunk in front of one of the beds and jumped at the patchwork quilt covered four-poster bed. She reminded herself that she had to use Hoothoot tomorrow to write her mother a letter, before she fell in a deep sleep.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: By the way, I know that since Michelle and Reshmi are Muggleborns, a member of the staff should have given them their letters and explained everything, but I just really liked the idea of the owls (especially Reshmi's father's reaction), so everything's just explained in the letter.
And I'm a huge Pokémon fan, so if I really were a witch and had an owl I would definitely call it Hoothoot.
Oh and sorry for the late update! I just couldn't find the inspiration to finish this chapter until last night.