The Sorting Hat
Hagrid's big hairy face beamed cheerfully over the sea of heads. "Come on, follow me - any more first years? Mind your step, now! First years follow me!"
Slipping and stumbling, they followed Hagrid down what seemed to be a steep, narrow path. It was so dark on either side of them that Harry thought there must be thick trees there. Nobody spoke much. Neville sneezed once or twice, and a bushy-haired brunette was muttering to herself excitedly. Above them all loomed the castle, windows sparkling in the starry sky.
"No more than four to a boat!" Hagrid called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore of a great black lake. Harry picked out a boat to share with Neville, Ron, and Ginny. "Everyone in?" shouted Hagrid, who had a boat all to himself. "Right then - FORWARD!" And the fleet of little boats moved off all at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass.
About halfway across, bubbles began to rise in front of the fleet, which slowed to a stop, and a moment later a huge dark beast surfaced. It was hard to make out details, but its eyes were the size of dinner plates, and it seemed to have long tentacles, which were cradling the boats gently. Harry and the rest of his boat stared at it silently; someone screamed behind them. After a minute or two, the giant squid sunk under the water once again.
Everyone was silent as they began to move again, either staring up at the great castle overhead or down into the water. "Heads down!" yelled Hagrid as the first boats reached the cliff under the castle; 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 them right underneath the castle, until they reached a kind of underground harbor, where they clambered out onto rocks and pebbles. Then they clambered up a passageway in the rock after Hagrid's lamp, coming out at last onto smooth, damp grass right in the shadow of the castle.
They walked up a flight of stone steps and crowded around the huge, oak front door. "Everyone here?" called Hagrid. "Let’s see… nope, we’ve still got thirty-nine." Harry wondered how the huge man could have counted so quickly, but was distracted from this thought when Hagrid raised a gigantic fist and knocked three times on the castle door.
The door swung open at once, revealing the stern witch who had brought Harry to King's Cross, Professor McGonagall. "Thank you, Hagrid," she said calmly, looking over the group, "I will take them from here." She pulled the door wide. The entrance hall was so big you could have fit the whole of the Dursleys' house in it. The stone walls were lit with flaming torches, the ceiling was so high it was shrouded in darkness, and a magnificent marble staircase facing them led to the upper floors.
The first-years followed the professor across the stone floor, and Harry nearly dozed off to the sound of other kids murmuring among themselves. Before long, though, Professor McGonagall swung open another door, and revealed what had to be the Great Hall.
Harry had never even imagined such a strange and splendid place. It 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. These tables were laid with glittering golden plates and goblets. At the top of the hall was another long table where the teachers were sitting. Professor McGonagall led the first years up here, so that they came to a halt in a line facing the other students, with the teachers behind them. The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight. Dotted here and there among the students, the ghosts shone misty silver. Mainly to avoid all the staring eyes, Harry scanned the teachers sitting at the High Table.
In the middle sat Dumbledore, who he recognized from the chocolate frog card, and Hagrid had already entered and was drinking deeply from his goblet, twice the size of a normal one. Professor Flitwick waved cheerfully to Harry before drinking from his own goblet, which seemed comically large. Next to Flitwick was a man with reddish skin who wore a dark blue hooded cloak, with the hood pulled low over his face. "I think that's Professor Adams," whispered the brunette from right next to Harry, startling him. "He was an Auror for twenty years.”
Harry shrugged and looked up at the Head Table again. Professor Adams was talking to a man who, with his long black hair, hooked nose, and pale skin, was surely Professor Snape… Snape looked past Adams straight into Harry's eyes, and his lip began to curl. Harry smiled widely at the man who he hoped would tell him about his mother, and the professor's eyes widened. Harry wondered why, vaguely, but then his gaze was drawn to the hat Professor McGonagall placed on a four-legged stool in front of the first years. This hat was patched and frayed and extremely dirty, and Petunia definitely would never have let it in the house.
Harry watched in amazement as the Hat opened a rip near the rim like a mouth and began to sing. He clapped with the rest of Hall after it finished its song, wondering which House he would be put in. The hat seemed to be asking rather a lot; Harry didn't feel brave or quick-witted or any of it at the moment. If only the hat had mentioned a house for people who felt a bit queasy, that would have been the one for him.
Professor McGonagall now stepped forward holding a long roll of parchment. "When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted," she said. "Abbott, Hannah!"
Hannah went to Hufflepuff, along with Susan Bones, but Terry Boot became the first new Ravenclaw. Harry noticed that as the Sorting hat cried out their names, the robes they wore changed slightly; the belts and ties shifted to match the House colors, and patches showing the House crests appeared on the robes. But before long, Harry mostly tuned out the Sorting, worried about his own; at least until the brunette ran up. Apparently her name was Hermione Granger, and she ran up to the Hat and rammed it on her head.
After a few minutes, during which Hermione was whispering furiously, apparently arguing with the Hat or something, the hall began to fill with murmuring. Harry leaned over to Neville and whispered, "What are they talking about?"
Neville leaned back and whispered back, "Something about her taking a long time to be Sorted. It's rare for it to take this long, anyway."
After another minute or two, the hat shouted, rather triumphantly, "RAVENCLAW!" and Hermione headed off to the appropriate table, looking slightly disgruntled. Harry saw Professor McGonagall shoot Flitwick a slightly smug look before she called the next name on the list. It wasn't long before she called Neville up to take his place on the seat.
The Hat took some time with Neville as well, but ended up called "Gryffindor!" after only two minutes or so. Harry took interest once again when Draco was called; the Hat was barely on his head for a moment before it shouted "SLYTHERIN!"
There weren't many people left now. "Moon" "Nott" "Parkinson" then a pair of twin girls, "Patil" and "Patil" then "Perks, Sally-Anne" and then, at last - "Potter, Harry!"
As Harry stepped forward, whispers suddenly broke out like little hissing fires all over the hall.
"Potter, did she say?"
“The Harry Potter?"
The last thing Harry saw before the hat dropped over his eyes was the hall full of people craning to get a good look at him. Next second he was looking at the black inside of the hat. He waited.
“Hmm," said a small voice in his ear. "Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Quite a good mind, too. There's talent, oh my goodness, yes - and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting... so where shall I put you?"
Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, Gryffindor, I guess. Neville seems like a good bloke. Besides, Ron mentioned that all Weasleys go to Gryffindor, so I'll have Ron and Ginny there too.
"Gryffindor?" said the small voice. "Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin would help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that… no? Well, if you're sure – I'll send you on to GRYFFINDOR!"
Harry heard the hat shout the last word to the whole hall. He took off the hat and walked shakily toward the Gryffindor table. He was so relieved to have been chosen, he hardly noticed that he was getting the loudest cheer yet. Percy the prefect got up and shook his hand vigorously, while the Weasley twins yelled, "We got Potter! We got Potter!" and Flitwick cheered along with everyone else. Harry sat down opposite the ghost in the ruff he'd seen earlier. The ghost patted his arm, giving Harry the sudden, horrible feeling he'd just plunged it into a bucket of ice-cold water.
And now there were just five people to be Sorted. "Thomas, Dean," a black boy taller than Ron, joined Harry at the Gryffindor table, then "Lisa, Turpin" was sent to Ravenclaw. Then Ginny stepped on to the Hat, and a minute or two later had been sent, to Ron's great surprise, to Ravenclaw. She sat next to Hermione and began talking with her quietly for a moment before watching Ron's Sorting.
Ron looked pale green now, but resolutely climbed the steps to sit under the Hat. Only a few seconds after putting it on his head, though, he came to join Harry at Gryffindor.
"Zabini, Blaise," was made a Slytherin, and then the Sorting was over. Harry listened to Dumbledore's short speech ("Boffo! Bumble! Bib! Blockhead!"), and before long the food appeared and he began to eat. As Harry helped himself to a treacle tart, the talk around the table turned to their families.
"I'm half-and-half," said Seamus Finnegan. "Me dad's a Muggle. Mom didn't tell him she was a witch 'til after they were married. Bit of a nasty shock for him." The others laughed.
"What about you, Neville?" said Ron. "Come one, all we know is the little mongrel."
"Mongrel?" asked Lavender Brown, and soon cooed at Kamno when Neville showed him off.
"Well, my mum and my gran brought me up and they're witches," said Neville, letting Lavender take Kamno from him, "but the family thought I was a squib for ages. My Great Uncle Algie kept trying to catch me off my guard and force some magic out of me; Mum had to stop him from tossing me off the edge of Blackpool pier once; but nothing ever happened. I got a letter from Hogwarts though, obviously. They were all really pleased, Gran was crying, she was so happy. You should have seen their faces; they thought I might not have any magic, like I said. Gran wanted to buy me a toad, but Mum made her get me Kamno instead."
At last, the desserts too disappeared, and Professor Dumbledore got to his feet again. The hall fell silent.
"Ahem - just a few more words now that we are all fed and watered. I have a few start-of-term notices to give you.
"First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils. And a few of our older students would do well to remember that as well." Dumbledore's twinkling eyes flashed in the direction of the Weasley twins. "I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you all that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors.
"Quidditch trials will be held whenever the team captains schedule them. Anyone interested in playing for their house teams should contact their team captain; the names of the captains are posted on the boards in the common rooms. Be reminded that first-years are not permitted on the House Teams, nor to own brooms.
"And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death."
Harry laughed, but he was one of the few who did. "He can't be serious, right?" he muttered to Percy.
"Must be," said Percy, frowning at Dumbledore. "It's odd, because he usually gives us a reason why we're not allowed to go somewhere – the forest's full of dangerous beasts, everyone knows that. I do think he might have told the prefects, at least."
"The head boy and girl probably know," the other Gryffindor prefect, a tall blonde girl, called from farther down the table.
"I suppose," said Percy, still frowning.
"And now, to bed with all of us!" called the Headmaster.
The Gryffindor first years followed Professor Flitwick, through the chattering crowds, out of the Great Hall, and up the marble staircase. Harry's legs were like lead, he was so tired and full of food. He was too sleepy even to be surprised that the people in the portraits along the corridors whispered and pointed as they passed, or that three Flitwick led them through doorways hidden behind sliding panels and hanging tapestries. They climbed more staircases, yawning and dragging their feet, and Harry was just wondering how much farther they had to go when they came to a sudden halt.
A bundle of walking sticks was floating in midair ahead of them, and as the professor took a step toward them they started throwing themselves at him. "Peeves," Percy whispered to the first years. "A poltergeist."
Professor Flitwick spoke, his voice high and flutelike. "Peeves, begone!" A loud, rude sound, like the air being let out of a balloon, answered. "Do you want me to go to the Bloody Baron?" There was a pop, and a little man with wicked, dark eyes and a wide mouth appeared, floating cross- legged in the air, clutching the walking sticks.
"Oooooooh!" he said, with an evil cackle. "Ickle firsties! What fun!" He swooped suddenly at them. They all ducked, but there was no need to; Flitwick whipped out his wand and shouted "Garluma!" Peeves' movement was suddenly reversed, and the poltergeist was sent flying through the halls head-over-tails, slamming into a wall and groggily floating away. Everyone in second year and above applauded, as the first-years stared in amazement.
"You want to watch out for Peeves," said Percy, as they set off again. "The Bloody Baron's the only one who can control him, he won't listen to prefects or even teachers. Here we are."
At the very end of the corridor hung a portrait of a very fat woman in a pink silk dress. "Good evening, Professor," she said. "Password?"
"Caput Draconis," said Professor Flitwick in a high, carrying voice that reached the mass of Gryffindors, and the portrait swung forward to reveal a round hole in the wall. They all scrambled through it - Neville needed a leg up - and found themselves in the Gryffindor common room, a cozy, round room full of squashy armchairs and couches.
Percy pointed out two stairways at the back, telling Harry that the one on the right led to the male's dorms, but Professor Flitwick was saying something. "Muggleborn first-years, come over here please!" he called. "That includes you, Mr. Potter, as you were raised by Muggles."
Harry drifted over to where Flitwick stood, in the middle of a circle of armchairs and couches, and sat in one of the armchairs. There were only two muggleborns in first-year Gryffindor, it seemed. One of them was Dean Thomas, a burly black boy, and the other was a tiny little blonde girl whose name he couldn't remember.
"Now then," squeaked the professor. "My name is Filius Flitwick, and I am your head of house as well as the Charms Professor. Now, I know that you've had a certain amount of information given to you by the professors who came to meet you to take you to Diagon Alley. What do all of you know about our world?"
Everyone was silent, just looking at each other. "Come one," Flitwick said encouragingly, "surely there's something…"
Harry hesitantly raised his hand after a moment. "Um. Can you explain the Houses a little better? And exactly what is your job as head of house?"
"Certainly!" he squeaked. "You know from the Sorting Hat that Gryffindor is the house of the brave, Hufflepuff the loyal, Slytherin the cunning, and Ravenclaw the intelligent. Of course, there are other traits associated with these houses; chivalry and, I am ashamed to say, acting without thought, are also Gryffindor traits; Hufflepuffs are very fair and generous; Ravenclaws are usually curious and a bit eccentric, and Slytherins are ambitious and often rather underhanded.
"However, none of the Houses are fundamentally different. You will find good people and bad people in each; there are dull people in Ravenclaw and unsubtle people in Slytherin, Gryffindor has both the brave and the not-so-brave, and Hufflepuff has had its share of traitors. You may have heard rumors, furthermore, about the houses; that all Dark Wizards come from Slytherin, that Hufflepuffs are all mediocre, for example.
"None of these are true. I draw your attention to the infamous serial killer Sirius Black, servant of You-Know-Who and a Gryffindor, to my shame. The dark lord before him, Grindlewald, once visited Hogwarts and tried on the hat; he was placed into Ravenclaw! I doubt I need to list all of the Dark Wizards from houses other than Slytherin, as I'm sure you're all quite bright. But I urge you all to disregard these stereotypes!"
Professor Flitwick paused to breathe; he had been quite vehement by the end of his impromptu speech, and Harry got the impression that he had given it several times before. "I apologize, Mr. Potter, what was the second part of your question?"
"Oh, er… what do you do as head of house?"
Flitwick smiled benevolently. "I arrange your schedules, I control discipline in the house, I provide career counseling, and I favor you most unfairly during classes." He chuckled at the last one to show it was a joke. "I encourage your studies and try to get you to behave well, though not necessarily with success. And, as our government is heavily influenced by wealthy and bigoted purebloods," he said, frowning, "I am technically the legal guardian of all Gryffindor students who do not have a wizarding parent. This means that I am to act as a father or grandfather would to all of you; I do try to take an interest in each and every one of you, and you will receive small Christmas presents from me. Once you reach your third year, if your parent does allow you to visit Hogsmeade, I can give permission, assuming that there is no other reason for you not to visit."Flitwick yawned. "But it's getting late. If any of you have any questions or concerns, any at all," and it seemed that his eyes rested longer on Harry than the other two as he looked between his first-year muggleborns, "come to me. I will not laugh you off, I will not ignore them, I will take them seriously and either look into them or answer them as best as I can. Now, to bed!"