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    ‘Oi! Black!’ hissed a voice behind Sirius.
    He turned round to see Guilelme Zabini beckoning to him. Sirius smiled a goodbye at James, and shifted backwards to join the sons of his parents’ circle.
    ‘What’re you talking to him for? We’re your friends aren’t we?’ said Lucas Bulstrode. Zabini nodded emphatically in agreement.
    ‘Silence!’ snapped Professor McGonagall before Sirius could so much as shrug. The Hat had been singing, but it had finished now, and the Professor was holding a long roll of parchment.
    ‘Atkins, Rowena!’ she barked.
    A pretty, dark-haired girl with two long plaits moved shyly up to the stool. She took the Sorting Hat and placed it upon her head.
    ‘HUFFLEPUFF!’ shouted the Hat. One of the tables broke into cheers, and Rowena went to join her house.
    ‘Not surprising,’ said Zabini drily. ‘All the Atkinses end up in Hufflepuff. Their blood’s as pure as it comes, but they’re too stupid for Slytherin.’
    ‘Bertram, Carl!’ called McGonagall. The brown-haired boy whose elder brother had seemed so protective at King’s Cross approached the front.
    ‘RAVENCLAW!’ said the Hat, almost straight away. Carl Bertram scrambled down and ran to the cheering Ravenclaws, sitting next to his delighted brother who banged him on the back.
    ‘Black, Sirius!’

    ‘See you over there,’ said Lucas Bulstrode, while Guilelme Zabini grinned and winked at Sirius. But Sirius was so nervous he hardly noticed. He moved hesitantly up towards the Hat. When he placed it on his head it fell over his eyes.
    ‘Another Black, eh?’ whispered the Hat in Sirius’ ear. ‘I bet you’re expecting to be in Slytherin. Would it surprise you to learn that I don’t think you fit the Slytherin mould?’
    ‘No,’ Sirius thought back. He’d been listening to the Hat singing about all the different houses. Slytherins, it said, were clever, but would use any means necessary to achieve their ends. He found himself thinking, hoping, that he wasn’t like that - hoping, in other words, that he was different from everyone he knew. It unsettled him, but he had an overwhelming feeling that this moment was going to change the course of his life.

    ‘You are a very clever boy, Sirius Black,’ the Hat continued. ‘One of the cleverest whose head I have ever looked into. I have glimpsed the minds of both your parents, your uncles and aunts, your cousin Narcissa, over there at the Slytherin table - indeed, your illustrious predecessor, Phineas Nigellus Black, who was once Headmaster of this fine institution. Only your uncle Alphard was as clever as you.’
    ‘He was in Ravenclaw,’ thought Sirius. He didn’t want to be in Ravenclaw with those soppy Bertrams. He wanted to be in Gryffindor with the ‘pure at heart’ - that would make his parents the angriest.
    ‘Yes he was,’ said the Hat. ‘But though you may have the brains to shine in that fine house, I can also see courage - great courage, and the potential for incredible loyalty where it is deserved. I think I know where to put you. GRYFFINDOR!’
    The Hat shouted the name of the house to the whole room. Sirius felt a surge of pride and relief, and expected the Gryffindors to cheer and welcome him ... but there was only a stunned silence, followed by loud booing from the Slytherin table, except from Malfoy, Lestrange, and his cousin Narcissa who stared in disbelief. Mortified and overwhelmingly disappointed, Sirius slunk over to the Gryffindor table. No one made room for him. He had to squeeze onto the end of one of the benches. He put his head in his hands, desperately holding back tears.
    ‘Silence!’ shouted Professor McGonagall. ‘I am ashamed of all of you, but my own house most of all. Slytherins, you will have ten points deducted from your total when term begins. Gryffindors will lose twenty.’
    That shut everyone up, but it didn’t make Sirius raise his head again. He listened to the names being called - Harmony Bones was made the second new Hufflepuff, while Lucas Bulstrode got into Slytherin. Lily Evans, the girl whom James had thought was pretty, was cheered enthusiastically as she took her place at the Gryffindor table. Jerome Goyle, another of Sirius’ old friends, predictably made Slytherin. Then there were a lot of names he didn’t recognise, so he looked up for sheer curiosity. ‘Grant, Hannah, Haran, Jones, Jorkins, Longbottom ...’ then ‘Lupin, Remus,’ a pale, thin, serious-looking boy, made Gryffindor. Sirius found himself waiting nervously for James’ name to be called. If only James got into Gryffindor, at least he would have one friend ... ‘Macmillan, Morris, O’Brien, O’Brien ...’ Sirius was pleased to see that Flora, the long-haired twin who’d got stuck into him on the boat, was put into Ravenclaw, while her nicer sister Laura was Sorted into Gryffindor. Then ‘Perks, William’ was made a Hufflepuff, ‘Pettigrew, Peter’ a Gryffindor after much deliberation, then ‘Prewett, Cassandra,’ who had once stolen her mother’s wand at a party and set fire to Sirius’ hair, was made a Slytherin ... they’d missed out James!
    ‘Quinn, Brianna!’ called Professor McGonagall. Sirius saw his new friend looking worried and confused.
    ‘Oh - wait a moment, Miss Quinn - I am sorry, but I appear to have skipped a name on the list. Potter, James!’
    Sirius sighed with relief; so did James. He ran up to the Hat as if he was afraid Professor McGonagall would change her mind. The Hat fell over his eyes, too, as he jammed it onto his head. After a moment it shouted: ‘GRYFFINDOR!’
    Sirius cheered with everyone else as James replaced the Hat onto its stool and came over to the Gryffindor table. A few people shifted to make room for him, but very deliberately he bypassed them, and walked right to the end, where he sat down next to Sirius. They both grinned and clapped each other on the back.
    ‘All right?’ said James. ‘Gosh, I thought there’d been a mistake and they were going to send me home!’
    ‘I thought so too for a minute,’ said Sirius.
    ‘Oh, hey,’ said James, in a much lower voice. ‘I thought they were rotten to you. Just because you’re a Black - I mean, my grandma on my dad’s side was a Black! All the old wizarding families are related, your name doesn’t make you a Slytherin.’
    ‘I was really glad the Hat put me here,’ said Sirius gloomily. ‘Now I feel like I’d like to be re-Sorted. I won’t have any friends here.’
    ‘You’ll have one,’ said James firmly.
    ‘Thanks,’ said Sirius, a little awkwardly. He had no idea why James had decided to stick by him like this, but he was very grateful.

    He didn’t know what else to say, so he just sat in silence and watched the rest of the Sorting. ‘Quinn, Brianna’ became a Hufflepuff, ‘Riley, Claire,’ a wiry, sporty-looking girl, a Ravenclaw. Morgana Rosier, another acquaintance of Sirius’, became a Slytherin. A couple of names down the list, Lily Evans’ friend Severus was also made a Slytherin. She looked a bit disappointed, but to Sirius it was a foregone conclusion - Severus Snape was a sullen-looking, greasy-haired boy who seemed to fit in very well among the Slytherins.
    Then Linda Travis approached the stool. Sirius looked at her with interest - there were lots of Travises. He was related to some of them. They were all, or had been, Slytherins. Rowan Travis, a deathly pale second-year with a face like a weasel, was a particularly nasty one. He watched his cousin Linda intently from the Slytherin table. When she was made a Ravenclaw, the Slytherins didn’t dare boo, but the Ravenclaws fell into a stunned silence. Then the Bertram brothers began to clap, and at the look on Professor McGonagall’s face, so did the rest of them. Linda sat with the Bertrams, who immediately began to befriend her.

    It was almost over now ... ‘Tremaine, Adela’ ... ‘Wood, Gregory’ ... ‘Yaxley, Drucilla’ ... and finally, Guilelme Zabini sauntered proudly over to the Slytherins to almost deafening applause.
    ‘All your old mates are over there, right?’ said James to Sirius.
    ‘Yep,’ said Sirius. ‘But I don’t think I’ll miss them.’

    After a magnificent start-of-term feast, the first years trooped sleepily upstairs behind their prefects. The Gryffindors followed a tall, deep-voiced sixth year boy named Kingsley Shackelbolt, who everyone seemed to call ‘Bolt’ for short. He took them up stairs, along corridors, up more stairs, until they all felt quite lost.
    ‘And watch out,’ Bolt said, as they passed a portrait of two ladies who were currently having a tug-of-war with a hairbrush, ‘the teachers aren’t very sympathetic about new students getting lost. Most of you will probably get points taken off for lateness if you’re not careful. Best to allow plenty of time to get places, your first few weeks.’
    ‘I’d rather stay in bed a bit longer, thanks,’ said James. Sirius laughed.
    ‘Suit yourself,’ said Bolt, overhearing. ‘But you’ll soon learn to hate losing house points. No one in Gryffindor will thank you for it. If you’re the sort of person who only thinks about yourself, there’s a shortcut to the Slytherin common room just down there.’
    ‘There you go Black, your dream escape!’ someone called.
    ‘Ignore them,’ muttered James.
    Presently they came to a portrait of a very fat lady who woke from a doze to ask them for the password.
    ‘Galloping gargoyles,’ said Bolt, and the portrait swung back, revealing a good-sized hole in the wall. ‘Remember that,’ he added to the first years, ‘or you won’t be able to get in.’
    He led them into a large common room decorated in the Gryffindor colours, full of chairs and tables for doing homework, and squashy armchairs for relaxing. Sirius and James exchanged a pleased glance. Sirius was sure it would be a much better common room than whatever Slytherin might have. For one thing, he’d heard it was in the dungeons, whereas the Gryffindor common room was near the top of a tower.

    Kingsley Shacklebolt led the first years through a stone archway on the other side of the common room. There were two staircases spiraling upwards into the tower.
    ‘Girls, you’re the one on the right - boys, the left. Yours are the dormitories marked “first years,” obviously. Now I’m sure you’re all very tired, it’s been a big day for you today, so I’d advise you all to get some sleep so you’re refreshed for when classes start tomorrow. You’ll find your luggage has been brought up already. You will receive your timetables tomorrow at breakfast. That’s about all I think, so welcome to Hogwarts, and welcome to Gryffindor. I’m sure most of you will do us proud. Good night.’

    ‘I’m sure he looked at me when he said “most of you,” ’ Sirius said to James as they climbed the stairs to their dormitory.
    ‘What of it?’ said David Morris, another new Gryffindor. ‘If you’re decent you’ll prove it, Black, and if you’re not, well, that’s your own fault isn’t it?’
    ‘He is decent,’ said James.
    ‘Oh yeah? How long have you known him?’
    ‘Only since this morning,’ James admitted, ‘but I can tell things about people. Sirius is all right, and unless he proves otherwise I’ll duel with anyone who picks on him, all right?’
    ‘Fine, fine,’ said David, putting up his hands. ‘I’m willing to give him a chance.’
    ‘Will you please stop talking about me as if I’m not here?’ Sirius asked quietly.
    ‘Sorry,’ said James with a laugh. He pushed Sirius forward into their dormitory, a round room with a high vaulted ceiling, furnished with five magnificent four-poster beds, and wardrobes and cabinets for their possessions. ‘Yep - you’re definitely here.’


    ‘So who’s everybody, then?’ asked David Morris, when they’d all changed into their pyjamas and chosen beds. James’ was by the window, and his barn owl, Winnie, perched on his bedside cabinet for a while before soaring out towards the Owlery. ‘I was too busy eating to pay much attention at the Feast. I’m David Morris.’
    ‘Well, I’m James Potter,’ said James, ‘and this is Sirius Black as you know. I didn’t catch you two others’ names either I’m afraid.’
    ‘I’m Remus Lupin,’ said the pale, thin boy. His voice sounded pale and thin too.
    ‘I’m Peter Pettigrew,’ said a chubby, fair-haired boy who Sirius had barely noticed being Sorted, he had been so anxious about James.
    ‘Good to meet everyone,’ said David Morris. ‘Well, we all know Black’s background, what about the rest of you? I’m Muggle-born myself. I can’t wait to get to know Quidditch, I’ve heard it’s better than anything we’ve got.’
    ‘What’s your football team?’ asked Remus.
    ‘Man U. Yours?’
    ‘I don’t really have one, but my dad’s a huge Celtic fan. He’s Muggle-born. As for Quidditch, well, we all support the Holyhead Harpies in our family.’
    ‘I’m a Falmouth Falcons man,’ said James. ‘I can’t wait for Quidditch tryouts, can you?’
    ‘They say first years shouldn’t even bother,’ said David, dismally.
    ‘I wouldn’t bother in any case,’ said Remus. ‘I - get ill, you see.’
    ‘Sorry to hear that,’ said Sirius. ‘What’s the matter with you?’
    ‘Um - well - they don’t know what it is, actually,’ said Remus, all in a rush, looking at Sirius suspiciously. ‘But I get it a lot. I’d be no good for Quidditch.’
    ‘I’m trying out, I don’t care what they say,’ said James. ‘Shame first years aren’t allowed their own brooms, but at least there are school ones. My dad says they’re hopeless but they’re better than nothing.’
    ‘I’ll try out too, I guess,’ said Sirius.
    ‘Good thinking,’ said James. ‘Nothing wins people over like Quidditch. If you did well you’d be the most popular kid in no time.’
    ‘But you’ve got to understand,’ said Remus quietly, ‘it’s nothing personal, but people find it hard to trust a Black.’
    ‘I get it,’ said Sirius through gritted teeth, ‘but I don’t have to like it.’
    ‘Oh, come on, enough talking!’ said James, leaping up and jumping on his bed a few times. He grabbed his wand. ‘Let’s practice some spells! What’s anyone learned so far?’
    ‘Nothing,’ said Sirius, ‘my mum wouldn’t let me have my wand until today.’
    ‘You mean you haven’t studied?’ said Peter Pettigrew, speaking for the first time since he introduced himself. ‘I’ve been reading like crazy, I don’t want to fall behind. I’ve always been hopeless at learning things.’
    ‘You’ll be all right,’ said James airily. ‘Hey, check this out!’
    He said an incantation, and a jet of blue flame shot from his wand to hang in mid-air for a moment, before James put it out with a flick of his wand.
    ‘Brilliant!’ said Peter, staring in awe at James.
    ‘Cool!’ said Sirius. Jumping up on his own bed, he tried the spell. It worked! He laughed with pleasure.
    ‘Hey, you’re a natural!’ said James.
    ‘OK, I’ve got an idea,’ said Sirius. ‘We jump on our beds at the same time, we cast the fire spell, and whoever gets it the highest wins.’
    ‘Wins what?’ asked James, out of breath from bouncing.
    ‘I dunno - I’ve got a box of Every Flavour Beans in my pocket.’
    ‘That’ll do,’ said James with a grin. ‘OK - ready? One - two - three - FOR THE BEANS!’
    They both jumped as high as they could and cast the fire spell. James’ was just a few inches above Sirius’.
    ‘That’s not fair, I’m taller than you are!’ protested Sirius. ‘Your mattress must be springier.’   
    ‘Rubbish, I’m just better at jumping!’ said James. ‘Come on, let’s go again.’
    Counting together this time, they leapt into the air, and this time, Sirius won.
    ‘Best of three?’ he said breathlessly.
    ‘Let’s do it!’ said James. ‘One - two - three - whoa!’   
    James had overbalanced in mid-air; he fairly flew across to land on Sirius’ bed, crashing into him just as he was casting his spell. Sirius’ wand arm went haywire, and the spell shot straight into James’ bedroom curtains, setting them alight.
    ‘Oops,’ said James.
    Sirius wriggled out from under him.
    ‘Yeah,’ he said.
    They both stared at the fire, spellbound for the moment.
    ‘Oh no - oh no, we’ll all burn to death!’ Peter cried, running around in circles for a few seconds before rushing out of the room.
    ‘Idiot,’ said David. ‘What good’ll that do? Anyone know a water spell?’
    Sirius and James both shook their heads.
    ‘Shouldn’t someone go for a Professor?’ asked Remus Lupin.

    It turned out that Peter had done just that. Half a minute later Professor McGonagall came running in, and put out the fire with a powerful jet of water from her wand.
    ‘Well,’ she said, ‘your bed is soaked, Mr Potter, but I can soon fix that.’
    With a wave of her wand the water rushed back into her wand tip with a loud rushing noise, and the curtains repaired themselves.
    ‘Anyone hurt?’ she asked.
    The boys shook their heads.
    ‘Good,’ she said curtly. ‘Now - Mr Pettigrew here told me what happened, and needless to say I think the pair of you, Black and Potter, were behaving extremely foolishly. Even the smallest Muggle child knows that to play with fire, especially indoors, is very dangerous indeed.’
    ‘Sorry Professor,’ said James, his eyes downcast.
    ‘Sorry Professor,’ echoed Sirius.
    ‘It’s your roommates you should be apologising to. They’re the ones who might have died because you thought you’d play a stupid game,’ said the Professor crossly. ‘Be that as it may, I think I have a suitable punishment for you. Twenty points will be taken from Gryffindor, and you will both receive detention. You will come to my office straight after dinner tomorrow evening and I will tell you what you have to do. For now, I suggest you all go to bed. If I hear any more bad reports about you two tonight I’ll have you in detention for a month. Now good night.’
    She swept out of the room, not seeming as if she wished them a good night at all. As soon as she was gone, Sirius and James burst out laughing - since none of them had burned to death, it all seemed like a fantastic joke now.
    ‘Go ahead, laugh,’ said Remus sarcastically. ‘Lucky Peter used his head, that’s all.’
    ‘Oh, don’t be such a stick-in-the-mud,’ said James. He got into his own bed, and drew the curtains.
    ‘Good night all,’ he said.
    Sirius was still laughing as he drew his own curtains, and as he lay down to sleep, he thought he couldn’t have been Sorted into a better house.

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