We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...
Emma's parents are thrilled. Such a good school, so well respected, and those alumni- just look at the battle against the Dark Lord! All that talent!- they're beyond proud. Emma's pleased on their behalf, of course. She wants to make her parents proud. She doesn't ask how badly the school was damaged in the war; she doesn't inquire how many teachers are missing or dead; she doesn't mention wishing she could stay home for a year. Maybe until things are just a little more rebuilt.
(She thinks it, though.)
She smiles and hugs her parents and agrees yes, of course it's wonderful, helping to rebuild the wizarding world is important. She'll start school in the fall, become a better witch.
And, as her mother points out excitedly- now they need to go shopping.
Emma's hardly unfamiliar with Diagon Alley. It's the place to be seen, as far as her parents are concerned, so that's where they've always shopped. But it feels different, somehow, to be shopping for Hogwarts. Her mother is showing every shopkeeper the list, fingers underlining the Hogwarts letterhead. Her father is stopping every friend he sees, talking loudly about "here to shop for Emma's first year, at Hogwarts you know".
Emma wants to scrunch up and hide from the attention, but her parents are so happy. It's only just the once she starts school, she supposes. She plasters on a smile and follows after her mother. Almost done now; all she needs is a wand.
And as everyone knows, there's only one place to get those.
"I know that there are Houses! That's, like, a thing for boarding schools, I think. And er, I think someone said the names, but I forget. Is there more?"
"Yeah. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff are the four of them. In Muggle schools I think you get a random House? Or something like that? It's not like that at Hogwarts. I got Renée to tell me how it worked when it looked like I'd be going to the Owly so it wouldn't matter if it was a surprise, but it would usually be a surprise, do you want to know how the sorting works anyway?"
"I got the whole speech from my parents already, they're both Ravenclaw, but thanks."
"Renée was Ravenclaw too - they just told you? Renée seemed to think it would be better if it was a surprise but I never saw why. Anyway, Jenny, there's a magic hat, you put it on your head and it figures out what sort of person you are and each sort of person goes to a different house. It's more complicated than this but basically Ravenclaw is for smart kids and Gryffindor is for brave ones and Hufflepuff is for hard-working ones and - Slytherin is supposed to be for ambitious ones, but it was full of all the kids from the evil families in the war, so - if the hat tries to put me there I will just go to the Owly after all, it doesn't start classes for another two weeks."
"I think some of our neighbor's kids didn't know? My parents said not to talk about it with the other kids, at least. But I was worrying about getting put in Slytherin and they were reassuring me I could ask for Ravenclaw."
"Oooh, those sound like good traits, finding out which I am will be fun! But I guess not Slytherin. Ambition is fine and all, but wars are bad. I hope it does not put you there either! Then you would leave, and who would protect me from Emma when she is being a bum?"
"I'm going to try to get Ravenclaw too," says Miranda. "I think I can talk it into Ravenclaw probably."
"But... I don't actually know what I want," she admits. "I mean, my parents really want me in Ravenclaw. But if the Hat knows better I should listen to it, I think? I mean, except about Slytherin."
"I wonder if it's going to be able to put anyone voluntarily into Slytherin, this year," frets Miranda. "Maybe it usually listens but this year it will have to stop to keep the numbers even."
"Are there, like, Magical Reasons the numbers need to be even? Or just so everyone has a place to sleep?"
"I don't actually know."
"Here's to it being bed related!" She holds up her Cauldron Cake for a candy-toast. "Since then we can just move the beds."
Miranda toasts with her still-kicking headless Chocolate Frog, and then deprives it of its forelegs for good measure. "Let's hope."
The boats are a surprise, of a sort; she'd been told, of course, but she'd promptly forgotten. It didn't seem that interesting at the time; in person, it's much more memorable. (That might have to do with the slowly building panic about her Sorting, though.) The view as they glide across the lake is spectacular, even if it's rather cold to be in a boat at night. She wraps her cloak tighter and focuses on the view. Don't think about the Hat, don't think about the Hat, it'll be over soon.
Once they've landed she follows the group inside. She's a little too stressed to be chatty, particularly with this many strangers around, but that's okay. She'll meet them eventually. It doesn't have to be right now.
Don't think about the Hat, don't think about the Hat, it'll be over soon.
Miranda nips over to the Headmistress where she is awaiting the students, to have a quick word about her name. "Excuse me, Professor?"
"Yes, Professor. When you call out names, can you use my middle name instead of my first name, or at least let me tell you how to pronounce my first name?"
Back into the swarm of kids.
Up she goes, and she puts the hat on with an attempt at a smile. It's rather strained. As soon as the hat's on, a voice appears in her head.
Hmm. Hmmm! So many opinions here! Yes? Yes, indeed. But nothing deep, nothing you really want.
No, I guess not, Emma agrees. She knows what she doesn't want. It's not the same.
No, no, indeed it isn't. Well! Since you don't seem to have an opinion, we'll just go with mine, shall we?
"Right, then. Hufflepuff!"
She wasn't raised a witch; she's not nearly as stressed as Emma. She skips right up to the stool and plops it on her head excitedly.
A Metamorphmagus! Don't see you very often, no. Interesting, interesting. A decision to make, hmm. You could be Gryffindor, you could be Hufflepuff. Yes, indeed you could. But it's not quite even, you see. So-
"Let's go with, Hufflepuff!"
Excellent, no attempts to make her first name rhyme with "pebble" or sound like "able". Even people who technically pronounce it right as far as the international phonetic alphabet is concerned make it sound weird. Miranda goes up to the hat, a firm expression on her face.
Ah, now you -
I know what you want to say but I won't have it.
You really are a Slytherin at heart.
In another time maybe. If you could make me and all that was left was for me to make the best of it, maybe. Now? No. If I wanted to touch that House while it's in this reputational pit and have to drag it up just to get anywhere myself? If I were that selfless about people I've never met and a group that's done nothing for me in my life, when I have better and more efficient things to do? Then I would not qualify. You could only make me a Slytherin if I were less of one.
The foundational virtues suit you to a T.
Except the blood prejudice, the elitism, the keeping dangerous animals in a school.
None of it part of the core values, only accreted over time... You are determined to leave me no choice, aren't you? Hogwarts will truly lose you forever if I try to make you the most spectacular Slytherin it has ever seen instead of only another Ravenclaw.
If you wanted to put me in Hufflepuff or Gryffindor I wouldn't leave, but Ravenclaw is preferred, yes, and I will not have Slytherin.
You would have made a marvelous snake. But if you insist -
Miranda gets up and sits at her new table.
Jenny waves at her from the Hufflepuff table, grinning with delight. From a distance, she mouths, "No Owly!"