It was not long before they heard: “We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train, it will be taken to the school separately.”
Just as Harry remembered, the train slowed right down and finally stopped. People pushed their way toward the door and out onto a tiny, dark platform. Harry shivered in the cold night air. Behind him followed Neville and Hermione. Before they could get too cold, they heard Hagrid yelling, “Firs' years! Firs' years over here! C'mon follow me – any more firs years? Mind yer step, now! Firs' years follow me !”
Slipping and stumbling, they followed Hagrid down a steep, narrow path. It was so dark on either side of them. Harry wondered for a minute why, until he remembered that there were thick trees there. Nobody spoke much. Especially not Harry. He was too lost in memories of the first time he had walked this path.
Harry was brought out of his reverie by Hagrid is saying, “Yeh'll get yer firs site of Hogwarts in a sec, jus round this bend here.”and just behind Harry came a loud, “Oooooh!”
The narrow path had opened suddenly onto the edge of a great black Lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was vast castle with many turrets and towers. It was Hogwarts, and more beautiful than Harry remembered it.
The last time Harry had seen Hogwarts it had been in shambles. There hadn't been much but rubble left. By the time Harry had been sent back in time there wasn't even much rubble left. The elements had worn it down through the years between when it had been blown up and when Harry had been sent back in time. Not that Harry had seen it.
There was too many sad memories there of people lost. The last time he had seen Hogwarts looking this beautiful, was when he had said farewell at the end of his sixth year. It had been almost 9 years ago for him. Seeing Hogwarts this whole and untouched by war, almost brought tears to Harry's eyes.
He was again brought out of his reverie by Hagrid as he said “No more'n four to a boat!”
Harry, Neville, and Hermione shared a boat. Harry again looked around for Ron. He finally spotted him. He was getting into a boat with Seamus and Dean. It was so good to see him again or at least a miniature version of him. 'Oh well.' Thought Harry.' I'll try to talk to Ron later.'
“Everyone in?” Shouted Hagrid, who had a boat to himself. “Right then – FORWARD!” And the little boats moved off at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass. Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle overhead. It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood.
“Heads down!” Yelled Hagrid as the first boat reached the cliff; they all bent their heads and the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy that hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They were carried along a dark tunnel, which seemed to be taking the right underneath the castle, until they reached a kind of underground harbor, where they clamored out onto rocks and pebbles. They clambered up the passageway in the rock after Hagrid's lamp, coming out at last on to smooth, damp grass right in the shadow of the castle.
They walked up the flight of stone steps and crowded around the huge, oak front door. Hagrid raised a gigantic fist and knocked three times on the castle door.
The door swung open at once, a very familiar tall, black – haired witch in Emerald – green robes stood there. Just as Harry remembered she was wearing a stern face. Harry remembered Professor McGonagall very well.
She had been his head of house after all. She may have been stern, but she was also a very good teacher who knew what she was doing. He was very sad when he heard that she had died when Hogwarts had been blown up.
“The firs' years, Professor McGonagall,” said Hagrid. “Thank you, Hagrid. I'll take them from here.” She pulled the door wide. The entrance hall looked exactly as it was in Harry's memories from his early years in Hogwarts. Large enough to fit the whole Dursley house in and lit with flaming torches. It also had the grand marble staircase that led to the upper floors.
They followed Professor McGonagall across the flagged stone floor. Harry could hear the drone of hundreds of voices from the doorway to the great Hall, where the rest of the school was. However as before, Professor McGonagall showed the first years into a small, empty chamber off the hall. They crowded in, standing rather closer together than they would usually have done, peering about nervously.
“Welcome to Hogwarts,” said Professor McGonagall. “The start of term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the great Hall, you'll be sorted into your houses. The sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory and spend free time in your house common room.
“The four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has its own noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you're in Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn you house points, while any rule-breaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup, a great honor. I hope each of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours.
“The sorting ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you all smarten yourselves up as much as you can while you're waiting. I shall return when we are ready for you, please wait quietly.” She then proceeded to leave.
As they stood waiting, Malfoy was giving them weird looks which Harry just ignored for now. He heard Hermione muttering spells under her breath. Neville was looking even more nervous by the second. He tried to calm them down by telling them about the sorting hat. Hermione had a very relieved look upon her face when she heard she wouldn't need any spells.
“I am so glad we don't need any spells. Why doesn't it mention the sorting hat in Hogwarts a history though?” Said Hermione
Before Harry could explain to her that books don't contain everything, Ron walked up to them. “Why would you think that a dumb history book would tell us how we would be sorted?” He asked her.
“I just thought how Hogwarts a history has so many other facts in it that surely it should tell as how we would be sorted.”
“Books don't tell you anything. If you would get your head out of your books maybe you would learn how we would be sorted. My brothers said we would be fighting a troll. They should know. They are third years after all. I'm going to beat it and get into Gryffindor and you don't see me with my head in any book do you?”
“Back off Ron!” exclaimed Harry loudly. He still wanted to be friends with Ron, but he couldn't believe how he was treating Hermione. She was almost in tears.
“Who are you tell me what to do?” Asked Ron. Before they could argue further they heard a loud gasp behind them. They backed off from each other and turned around.
About 20 ghosts had just streamed through the back wall. Pearly white and slightly transparent, they glided across the room talking to one another and hardly glancing at the first years. They were arguing. The Fat Friar was saying: “Forgive and forget, I say. We ought to give him a second chance –“
“My dear friar, haven't we given Peeves all the chances he deserves? He gives us all a bad name and you know, he's not really even a ghost – I say, what are you all doing here?”
A ghost wearing a ruff and tights had suddenly noticed the first years. Before anyone could answer, “New students!” Said the Fat Friar, smiling around at them. “About to be sorted, I suppose? Hope to see you in Hufflepuff!” Said the friar. “My old house, you know.”
Before anything else could be said Professor McGonagall returned and said, “Move along now, the sorting ceremony is about to start.” The ghosts then floated through the opposite wall. “Now, form a line,” Professor McGonagall told the first years, “and follow me.” They did exactly that, and walked through the doors into the great Hall with Harry making sure his occlumency shields were in place.
Harry wasn't near as nervous as he remembered being the first time, probably because he knew what to expect. The hall was lit by thousands and thousands of candles that were floating in midair over four long tables, where the rest of the students were sitting. Harry recognized many of them. The tables were laid with glittering golden plates and goblets. At the top of the hall was another long table where the teachers were sitting.
Harry recognized each and every teacher sitting up there. Every single teacher sitting there had died before the new millennium had arrived. He could feel Dumbledore's eyes on him. He refused to look at him directly however, because he didn't want him to learn about his shields quite yet.
They were brought to a halt in the line facing the other students, with the teachers behind them. Beside him he heard Hermione, who must be feeling better, whisper, “It's bewitched to look like the sky outside. I read about it in Hogwarts, a History.” She said referring to the enchanted ceiling.
Professor McGonagall then entered with a four-legged stool and the sorting hat. She sat it down upon the stool and it began to sing:
“Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,
but don't judge by what you see,
I'll eat myself if you can find
a smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
your top hats we can tall,
for I'm the Hogwarts sorting hat
and I can cap them all.
There's nothing in your head
the sorting hat can't see,
so try me on and I will tell you
where you ought to be.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
where dwell the brave at heart,
their daring, nerve, and chivalry
set Gryffindor apart;
you might belong in Hufflepuff,
where they are just and loyal,
those patient Hufflepuffs are true
and unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Rave claw,
if you've already mind,
where those of wit and learning,
will always find their kind;
or perhaps in Slytherin
you'll make your real friends,
those cunning folk use any means
to achieve their ends.
So put me on! Don't be afraid!
And don't get in a flap!
You're in safe hands ( though I have none)
for I'm a thinking cap!”
The whole hall burst into applause as the hat finished its song. It bowed to each of the four tables and then became quite still again. Professor McGonagall now stepped forward holding a long roll of parchment and said “When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted, Abbot, Hannah!” and with that a girl that Harry recognized as Hannah Abbott stumbled out of line and sat down. After a few moments, “Hufflepuff!” was heard.
This sorting went exactly as Harry remembered it that is until the hat got to Hermione, “Ravenclaw!” was the shout. Harry couldn't say that he was totally surprised. He just hoped that this didn't change things too much. After that everyone went where they had gone the first time. At least, Neville didn't run off with the hat. Harry also thought it took the hat a few moments more to sort Malfoy into Slytherin. As it got down to the last few students, he finally heard, “Potter, Harry.”
Just as it did the first time, the hall broke out in whispers. “Potter, did she say?” “The Harry Potter?” People again stood up and tried to get a good look at him except for Neville, Hermione, Ron, and Malfoy who all looked at him in shock. Then the hat slid over his eyes.
“Hmm. Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see not the bad mind either. There's talent, oh my goodness, yes – and how interesting. A time traveler.” Said the hat.
“Please don't tell Dumbledore.” Said Harry. “Don't worry Mr. Potter. I am bound not to tell the headmaster what see in the students' heads. Not to mention I can't wait to see the look on his face when he can't get through your barriers.” Harry sighed in relief.
“Now where to put you. Over your past lifetime, you seem to have developed traits of all four houses. You are so courageous and brave but you don't often go running headfirst into battle. You use logic and cunning as good as any Slytherin. You also are quite knowledgeable and read like a Ravenclaw. However, yes I see the main thing that drives you these days is loyalty. Your loyalty to your friends and your cause. You are determined to defeat Voldemort. Not to mention you have an extreme amount of patience. It is clear to me that despite having been sorted into Gryffindor before you now belong in HUFFLEPUFF!” and that last word was shouted out into the hall where a stunned silence lasted for all of a you moments before the Hufflepuffs started jumping up and down and cheering.
Profressor Sprout was on her feet and clapping as well. Harry looked to Hermione and then to Neville and shrugged. He then proceeded to go sit down at the Hufflepuff table where many people came to shake his hand and clapped him on the back to congratulate him for getting into Hufflepuff. The rest of the sorting went by uneventfully.
Finally Professor Dumbledore got to his feet. He was beaming at the students, and kept glancing at Harry. He also had his arms opened wide.
“Welcome!” He said. “Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! thank you!” Everybody including Harry clapped. Harry then proceeded to turn to talk to his new housemates.