Henry and Roy shuffled into the cafeteria along with the other forty first year students who would be starting at the East Brighton Preparatory Academy. The other students, already seated at the tables, barely looked up from their meals.
It didn't look much like the Great Hall of Hogwarts that he had seen in Mum and Dad's old photos. Instead of a thousand floating candles and a stormy sky, Henry just saw dirty ceiling tiles and fluorescent lights.
And there were no long wooden tables with silver platters of food, but instead scuffed red plastic tags and dented aluminum trays heaped with something that almost looked like macaroni and cheese.
"This must be the Sorting!" Henry whispered eagerly to Roy. "My father told me all about it!" He searched the room for any noticeable banners to see what the different houses were, but he couldn't see any.
No matter; the muggle's version of the Sorting Hat would surely explain it.
"Sorting?" Roy grunted. "Sorting what?" He was muggle born, after all, so of course he wouldn't know how it was done at Hogwarts.
Do the muggles not do sorting? Henry wondered. That didnt make sense. Haggard had even brought him to a Muggle library so that he could learn a bit more about his school before the first day; theyd used a machine that Haggard had called "internet."
There, he saw pictures of mascots and all the bright colors, just like the Gryffindor lion.
And while they were at the Muggle's version of Diagon Alley (Called "Shopping Mall,") Haggard had explained that all the boys would be split up to live in different areas of the school. There had to be a sorting, right?
"You know," Henry tried to explain, "Like, where they split us all up and decide what house we're going to live in."
"Ohhhh." Roy nodded understandingly. "Yeah, 'at's what this is for."
The young girl in front of Roy turned right then and passed a stack of papers to him. They weren't the yellowish parchament that Henry was used to; just plain white squares covered in black writing.
Roy took one for himself and then passed the stack to Henry. Henry studied the options, each with a little blank check box next to it:
Windsor Building, Dorm A
Windsor Building, Dorm B
Churchill Building, Dorm A
Churchill Building, Dorm B
"Errr...." Henry wasn't sure if this was right. Where was the Hat to make the decision? "You just pick one?"
"Yeah," Roy answered, seeming a bit confused. "Wotchu think, Henry? Want to room together?"
"Sure!" He didn't have to stop and think about it. Regardless of what House they chose together, it would be good to be with a friend.
"Well, my brother Doug was in Churchill B 'is first year," Roy explained. A roguish grin spread across his face. "'e said that it's got a pretty good view into the girls dormitory across the quad! I say we grab that one!"
The girl in front of Roy turned around and shot daggers at him along with a look of disgust. She was likely trying to figure out which dorm was not across from Churchill B.
Henry looked back down at the paper. "Well... what attributes does House Churchill fit best? Because I think that I'm fairly studious and intelligent, but my father's house was known for being brave and those things tend to run in the family."
He frowned; this really would be easier if there was just a hat to the decision.
Roy's face screwed up in confusion. "Henry, you're a weird bloke. What the hell are you talking about?"
"You know..." This was so frustrating! Henry'd never had to deal with Muggles before.
"Isn't our house supposed to match our personality?"
Roy laughed. "It's just a place to live, Henry. It'll be a bunk bed and a desk with a little lamp on it. Probably broken, if what my brothers all told me is true. That's about it."
"Oh." Henry looked down at his paper. "I guess Churchill B will be fine then." He looked around for someone passing out feathers to write with, but there were none. Just some little orange sticks topped with what looked like bubblegum.
Roy took one and pressed it against his paper, and it made a mark in the box, so Henry copied him. Just like that, it was done. That was the muggle version of sorting.
Roy and Henry turned in their forms and were shepherded into a different line. They were given trays and walked past a counter with a glass sneeze shield.
A frumpy old woman ladled heaps of orange goo onto their trays from a big metal bin that was indeed labeled "macaroni and cheese." Henry couldn't see a single noodle in there.
Then they found their way to tables and sat in no particular order; Henry didn't even know who the other members of Churchill B were yet.
"So this is the feast?" Henry asked, poking at his goo. Roy had already devoured half of his portion.
"Yep!" Roy said. "But don't get used to it. My brothers said the food gets worse after the first night. They're trying to make a good impression and whatnot." He followed that sentence by shoveling another forkful into his mouth.
Henry looked down at his orange blob. He decided he didn't like being a scientist very much.