Due to some unforeseen delays, this year’s school feast appeared more succinct than usual.
As they chatted, Professor Rosier left her seat after just five minutes of mingling.
She returned shortly, leading a lengthy procession of first-year students to the front of the auditorium.
If Matthew and his companions had been soaked before, these first-year newcomers seemed to have emerged from the lake rather than having taken a ferry.
They appeared to be entirely drenched.
They stood in a line along the staff table, many shivering, likely due to a combination of cold and nerves.
Professor Rosier placed a three-legged stool in front of the freshmen, setting a tattered, grimy, patched wizard hat upon it.
The entire auditorium’s gaze was now fixed on the hat, and silence enveloped the room.
A fissure near the brim parted like a mouth, and the hat began to sing:
“Welcome to Hogwarts,
May your choice be wise,
Here you’ll spend years in study and play,
Forge friendships, seize chances, make the most of each day.”
The lyrics remained essentially unchanged from the previous year, emphasizing unity and harmony, urging students from all houses to live and learn together.
As the song concluded, warm applause erupted throughout the auditorium.
Professor Rosier rolled a substantial roll of parchment.
“When I call your name, approach, sit on the stool, and wear the hat,” she instructed the first-year students. “Once the hat assigns a house, proceed to the corresponding table.”
A tall, freckled boy emerged from the crowd and donned the hat.
“Slytherin!” the Sorting Hat declared.
Sean Avery removed the hat and hurried toward the long Slytherin table.
Applause cascaded among the Slytherin students, and Matthew also offered a symbolic clap.
Astoria, possibly related to Daphne Greengrass, took her place between her sister and Agnes Lestrange, engaging in animated conversation.
The sorting ceremony continued, and the apprehensive first-year students, with varying degrees of fear, took turns at the three-legged stool.
The lineup gradually dwindled, and Professor Rosier reached the ones on her list.
A girl with peculiar, whimsical mannerisms approached Professor Rosier.
She stood out from the crowd with her pale complexion, silver eyes, and dark golden-brown hair.
The applause resonated once more in the auditorium as fewer students remained.
The name sounded somewhat familiar, reminiscent of Flourish & Blotts Bookstore’s manager and a family of pure-blood wizards.
With only two students remaining, Ginny Weasley was sorted into Gryffindor, while Madeleine Yaxley joined Slytherin, concluding the sorting ceremony.
Professor Rosier collected the sorting hat and stool and carried them away.
Vincent promptly seized his knife and fork, eagerly eyeing his empty dinner plate—
Professor Grindelwald stood up, delivering a more succinct address than the previous year:
Delectable dishes materialized on the golden dinner plates as though conjured from thin air.
Slices of beef, savory pies, vegetable dishes, bread, jam, mashed potatoes, and a jug of pumpkin juice appeared.
Unable to restrain himself, Vincent immediately began devouring generous portions of mashed potatoes.
The feast continued in high spirits.
Outside, the rain still lashed against the windows, though the sun on the ceiling had vanished.
A flash of lightning illuminated the golden plates, empty dishes replenishing instantly as pudding appeared.
Matthew opted for a slice of syrup fruit pie, savoring its deliciousness.
As the pudding vanished, the golden plates and goblets vanished along with it.
Replete, everyone reclined in their chairs, hands on their full bellies.
Professor Grindelwald rose once more, “Now that you’re satiated, I must share a few announcements—”
“First and foremost, to our first-years, within these castle walls, Hogwarts shall safeguard you as your home, nurturing you throughout your growth… Wherever and whenever Hogwarts will stand as your bastion!”
“However, adherence to Hogwarts’ rules is paramount. Professor Kettleburn wishes me to reiterate that students must not venture into the Forbidden Forest under any circumstances; the risks are yours to bear. Furthermore, the Caretaker, Mr. Pringle, asks me to relay that several items have been newly banned within the castle this year—namely…”
After summarizing the school regulations, Professor Grindelwald redirected his attention:
“Moreover, let me introduce this semester’s new Transfiguration professor—”
“Professor Severus Snape!”
The wizard who had shared their train journey quickly stood and nodded and acknowledged the four house tables.
Thunderous applause erupted, an enthusiastic welcome to the new Hogwarts instructor.
Matthew stood there in disbelief.
He was among the few students who refrained from clapping.
“What a farce! Severus Snape? Are they kidding?”
Matthew shook his head incredulously, his pumpkin juice forgotten mid-sip.
“Snape… How could that be?”
Unless Matthew Wickfield’s eyes had played a cruel trick on him.
Greasily black hair, voluminous bat-like robes, sunken eyes, and that unmistakable hooked nose…
These distinctive Snape features, he hadn’t glimpsed them on the wizard from the train.
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