“Well done, Evan!” Professor McGonagall, who got the news, had come dashing out of the Great Hall. She skidded on the wet floor and grabbed a student around the neck to stop herself from falling. She straightened her pointed hat, and said sternly to the crowd drenched in water. “I’ll take care of the rest. Move along, into the Great Hall, come on!”
Along with the crowd, Evan, Harry, Ron, and Hermione slipped and slid across the entrance hall and through the double doors on the right, Ron muttering furiously under his breath as he pushed his sopping hair off his face.
The Great Hall looked its usual splendid self, decorated for the start-of-term feast.
Golden plates and goblets gleamed by the light of hundreds of candles, floating over the tables in midair.
The four longHouse tables were packed with chattering students.
At the top of the Hall, the staff sat along one side of a fifth table of a fifth table, facing their pupils.
Evan, Harry, Ron, and Hermione walked past the Slytherins, the Ravenclaws, and the Hufflepuffs, and sat down with the rest of the Gryffindors at the far side of the hall, next to Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost.
Pearly white and semitransparent, Nick was dressed tonight in his usual doublet, but with a particularly large ruff, which served the dual purpose of looking extra-festive, and ensuring that his head didn’t wobble too much on his partially severed neck.
“Good evening,” he said, beaming at them, “How was your summer vacation?!”
“Not bad!” Evan replied, tapping lightly on his school robes with his wand. The water on them evaporated in an instant, and his clothes became dry again.
“I have seen the latest issue of Hogwarts Magic. You’ve done a great job, Evan!” Nick said proudly. “So many ghosts have been asking me about you. They know I’ve the best relationship with you.”
For the Hogwarts Magic, Evan needed Nick’s help with many things. News sources provided by ghosts in various parts of Britain had now become the biggest feature of this newspaper and were very popular.
There were also many opportunities for contact between Evan and Nick. Among all the young wizards at school, the relationship between the two was also the best.
They had just said a few words, and Colin dragged his robe between them.
“Evan, you’re already in, it’s raining really hard outside!” said Colin, taking off his shoes and emptying them of water. “I stood in the hall for a while, trying to see my brother crossing the lake. But I could see nothing in the dark.”
His younger brother, Dennis Creevey, was on the train just now, and Evan had met him.
The little guy had mousy brown hair and looked smaller than Colin, but more energetic.
Obviously, Colin had already told him a lot about Hogwarts, and had greatly praised Evan in front of him. As soon as the little guy saw Evan, he was so excited that he almost lost his breath counting his great deeds!
That looked like a replica of what had happened when Colin met Harry before.
“I really hope they hurry up the sorting, I can’t wait!” said Colin, practically bouncing up and down in his seat. “I just hope he’ll be sorted to Gryffindor! Evan, can you pray for him with me?! Keep your fingers crossed, eh, Harry?”
“No problem!” Evan nodded.
Harry also agreed, and everyone’s topic turned to whether brothers and sisters usually went in the same Houses.
Judging by the Weasleys, that was indeed the case, and their seven children had been put into Gryffindor.
But this wasn’t always true. Hermione cited the example of Parvati Patil. She was in Gryffindor, and her twin, Padma, was in Ravenclaw; though they were identical. Even from a personality perspective, there was no difference.
There was also the case of Sirius. All Black family members were usually assigned to Slytherin, but he was the only one to be assigned to Gryffindor.
This made Colin nervous, and he kept his hands folded, praying for Dennis to be assigned to Gryffindor.
Evan’s eyes turned to the center of the Great Hall. Since he entered the school, he had not watched the Sorting ceremony on the spot due to many accidents. It seemed like this year at least, he wasn’t going to miss it.
At the staff table, there seemed to be rather more empty seats than usual.
Hagrid, of course, was still fighting his way across the lake with the first years. Professor McGonagall was in the entrance hall to supervise the drying of its floor, and prevent Peeves from causing more trouble. Professor Snape was not there.
Only Dumbledore was sitting there as usual, his sweeping silver hair and beard shining in the candlelight, hiss magnificent deep green robes embroidered with many stars and moons. The tips of Dumbledore’s long, thin fingers were together and he was resting his chin upon them, staring up at the ceiling through his half-moon spectacles as though lost in thought.
For a long time, he seemed to sense Evan’s gaze. He lowered his head, smiling at him, winking his blue eyes.
Next to Dumbledore, tiny little Professor Flitwick was sitting on a large pile of cushions, drinking a red drink.
He was beside Professor Sprout, the Herbology teacher, whose hat was askew over her flyaway gray hair. She was talking to Professor Sinistra of the Astronomy Department.
After a while, just before the ceremony started, Snape appeared, sallow-faced, hook-nosed and greasy-haired.
He walked into the Great Hall in his dark robes, his footsteps not making a sound at all.
Snape seemed to have an invisible aura, one that made all the young witches and wizards unconsciously shut their mouths as he passed.
His loathing cold eyes paused briefly on Evan and Harry, and then quickly moved away.
“Look at the professors’ table, there’s still an empty chair!” said Harry, following Snape’s footsteps to the staff table. “It’s the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Why hasn’t he come yet? I don’t know who it will be.”
They had never yet had a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who had lasted more than a year, and that position was cursed.
Evan knew that this year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher was to be Mad-Eye Moody.
To be precise, it was a fake Moody, impersonated by Batty Crouch Jr. He didn’t know what he was doing, and he hadn’t shown up yet.
“I don’t know who it is, but I wish they would just hurry up, I’m starving!” said Ron.
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than the doors of the Great Hall opened and silence fell.
Professor McGonagall was leading a long line of first years up to the top of the Hall, where everyone looked.
If Evan, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were wet before, it was nothing to how these first years looked. They appeared to have swum across the lake rather than sailed.
They filed along the staff table and came to a halt in a line facing the rest of the school.
All of them were shivering with a combination of cold and nerves, except the smallest of the lot.
He was Colin’s younger brother, Dennis, and the little guy was wrapped in Hagrid’s moleskin overcoat. The coat was so big for him that it looked as though he were draped in a fury black circus tent. His small face protruded from over the collar, looking almost painfully excited.
When he had lined up with his terrified-looking peers, he caught Colin’s and Evan’s eyes, gave a double thumbs-up, and mouthed, “I fell in the lake!” He looked positively delighted about it!