Despite the First years’ excited chatter, the Great Hall seemed rather intimidating and gloomy in its half-empty state. Clearly, the school was designed for a far greater crowd, but as the number of students dwindled with each subsequent class, the many seats at the long house tables were vacant. As, or so she had been told, Julia and her classmates were born on the onset of the Second Wizarding War, theirs was a particularly small year, although it was predicted that the next few would be smaller still. After all, even Julia’s year at her local primary school back at home hadn’t been very big. Once she’d found out about magic, and Hogwarts, and the War, the 11-year-old had tried everything she could to understand this so very alien world, to connect it with the life she already knew, and her parents had acceded, though somewhat reluctantly, that during the first years of Julia’s life, there had often been an unnaturally cold and hostile atmosphere. It was therefore hardly surprising that this effect had been felt, much more pressingly, in the Wizarding World, Julia reasoned. Still, this observation did little to lift her mood while the girl stood in line with the other first years, waiting for her name to be called, watching as the young witches and wizards were sorted into their respective houses. Sometimes, the old, battered hat shouted out its decision the instant it touched the new student’s head, but other times, the Sorting Hat – a singing, speaking, sorting hat, for Christ’s sake – took more time, its subject’s expression ranging anywhere from curious to stubborn to terrified. Julia supposed it didn’t matter much where she’d end up, it sounded as though all of the houses had their ups and downs, and, really, she was happy just to be here, at Hogwarts, studying magic.
“Last Name, Julia”
Pulled out of her reverie, the girl ascended the few steps to the stool in front of the staff table where the sorting took place. She accepted the hat from the tiny, tufty-haired professor, who gave her a small, encouraging smile before she sat down and put on the hat, almost knocking off her glasses in the process.
“Interesting..,” a voice sounded in the back of her head, startling her. This must be the Sorting Hat, reading her mind! “Well, you’re no Gryffindor, that’s for certain,” the hat continued, chuckling. “Easily frightened and rather quiet. Not nearly boisterous enough. No, you know how to use that head of yours. You would undoubtedly do well in Ravenclaw, but Hufflepuff could also make a great home for you, kind-hearted and compassionate as you are. You have patience, too, or at least for others, you do. Yet you value learning… But I rather think you already spend enough time in your own head as it is, so it better be…