“How much this little school gonna cost me?” My mother heard the figure and glared at me.
I understood. It would be my 11 year old ass if I squandered the opportunity. Her glare didn’t dampen my excitement. Hogwarts! Me! A muggle born, black girl was going to Hogwarts.
There was one trip to Diagon Alley. We went into three stores. We got my wand. My books were secondhand and my mother hissed that she dared me to act ashamed in front of all these white folks. Hold my head up. She ran her hands over the robes. Laid critical eyes on the seams and said she could sew me better. We were going home.
That didn’t dampen my excitement either. A muggle born black girl was going to Hogwarts. Me.
I wandered the train. In and out of cars. I introduced myself. Felt people out. Sidled up next to a girl and told her I’d knock her teeth to the back of her throat if she whispered one more thing about “who the ghetto girl was” and wasn’t a bit of magic on earth that would stop me. I was confused about the amazement over Hagrid’s size. My Uncle Toots was twice his size. Twice as mean too.
I got quiet when they explained the houses. The sorting hat. But I went when my name was called and put the hat on my head.
“What have we here? A bit reticent, are we?”
“I’m 11. And you wanna go rooting through my underdeveloped brain to put me in a crew that’s gonna control how I’m perceived for the rest of my life?”
“What-” the hat coughed. “What ideas. What a vocabulary.”
“If you can say reticent, I can say perceived. I don’t wanna do this.”
“Which part, darling?”
“I don’t wanna be sorted. Not yet. I won’t let you.” I imagined my brain, my thoughts, locked in a safe.
It gasped. “Nothing. I can find-Never- In all my centuries of- Let me in!”
“Tell them you can’t sort me yet.”
“That isn’t how it’s done.”
“Doesn’t seem like you have much choice.”
The silence was broken by his reluctant laughter. “You’ll come back to see me?”
“When I’m old enough to decide. When I know what I’m doing. I promise.”
“I’ll be waiting. I admit I’m anxious to see what you…decide.” He laughed then shouted. “NO HOUSE!”
There were gasps and whispers and titters. I took off the hat and jumped off the stool with a smile.
“It isn’t done!” A professor screeched.
The headmaster put on the hat himself and closed his eyes. The hall fell into a hush.
He lifted the hat off his head and smiled. “It seems it is done. She’ll be placed into guest quarters until further notice.”
The adults whispered about where I would sit during meals and classes. During quidditch games. Duh. Wherever I wanted.
And I did. For four years.
I asked the headmaster for the sorting hat on my fifteenth birthday. I knew before winter break what I wanted, but I had to be sure. He nodded and handed me the hat. I’m sure he was tired of me, my shenanigans, the letters from my mother that said if I wasn’t breaking rules or failing classes she was going to let me be, and it was in their best interest to follow her example. There would be a problem if she had to take off work to come up there, and it wouldn’t be with her child.
I slipped the hat on. “Hello.”
“Oh, I’ve been waiting for you. But there is still nothing to see. Aren’t you going to invite me in?”
I felt him touch my memories, my experiences, the parts of my personality I didn’t try to hide anymore.
“Yes, I see,” he said.
I opened my eyes.
The hat and I spoke together. “Slytherin.”