YOU GUYS WE ARE ACTUALLY FOR REAL AT HOGWARTS.
I can hardly believe it either. So much so that I am in the middle of a rousing chorus of ‘When are we going to get there!’ just as the door swings open and Harry comes face to face with a black-haired woman in emerald-green robes. She looks very stern and Harry quickly decides that she is “not someone to cross.” She is Professor McGonagall AKA catwoman from the first chapter!
Harry rabbits on about how huge and glam Hogwarts is as they follow McGonagall to an annex off the Great Hall. She explains that they will be sorted into Houses before taking their seats and that these Houses will be their family at Hogwarts. They will have classes with them, sleep with them (lol not that way… although I don’t doubt that there is fanfic – ‘This way, children! This way for the Gryffindor Orgy!’) and spend their free time with them.
So… this is nice and … segregatey.
Heather says: Oh my God, do you know what fandom is one giant orgy? Glee. Glee fandom is the scariest place in this or any known universe. Cheesus.
Sophy says: Yeah, but the difference is that Glee should be one giant orgy.
McGonagall tells the kids the four Houses are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, and that each student can earn or lose points for their House by being more or less awesome.
(If there is any justice in the world I see points in one Hermione Granger’s future. A whole lorry-load of points.)
At the end of the year the House with the most points will be awarded the House Cup. This a great honour apparently, but since one of four Houses gets it by default every year, I don’t see why it’s such a big deal. I mean, your House could win the cup and all it would mean is that it was the least shit over the past ten months. As in every house had been a total turd sandwich all year but your lot just sucked a bit less. That’s not glory!
I think the cup should only be awarded when a House manages to earn a billion points in one year.
(Can you fit a billion points into a lorry, Hermione? I bet she’d know the answer.)
And another thing. I don’t get school Houses. I’ve lived them, but I don’t get them. I’ve never been the type to feel loyalty to a randomly selected group, or to be proud of myself for something someone else has done just because we wear the same badge or have the same coloured scarf or whatever… and I’m starting to see why I don’t care about football. And why I would suck at war.
GOSH, look at me learning things about myself via the means of Harry Potter.
(I’ll be sure to do it in private next time.)
Rin says: We’re so different. I was that person who used to shout for my house/team until I lost my voice. Wait… “was” ? … Still am.
Heather says: If I had a Ropher-coloured scarf I would wear it every moment of every day of my life.
Rin says: I want one.
Sophy says: I would totally sell my individualist soul for one of those.
Meanwhile Harry is asking Ron how they’re going to be sorted, and Ron is telling him it’s some sort of a test.
At this: “Harry’s heart gave a terrible jolt. A test? In front of the whole school? But he didn’t know any magic yet – what on earth would he have to do?”
lol, whatevs Snowflake, I’m sure you’ll be juuuust fine. They might even make a new House and name it after you. I would not be shocked.
We’re told that everyone else looks scared too, just so we know Harry’s not a pussy. No one is talking very much except Hermione Granger, who is “whispering very fast about all the spells [she’s] learned and wondering which one [she’ll] need.”
OH Hermione. OH HERMIONE.
While they’re waiting to go in a bunch of ghosts appear and everybody flips their shit and I’m all ‘Pull yourselves together kids! You’re going to wizard school, of course there are going to be ghosts.’ And of course one of them is a friar and one of them has a fancy ruff on. And of course they chat casually as they pass like no one should be flipping their shit over them BECAUSE IT’S WIZARD SCHOOL.
Harry proceeds into the Great Hall and is properly dazzled. There are “thousands and thousands of candles that are floating in mid-air” and the tables are laid with “glittering golden plates and goblets.” Oh of course goblets, of course. Personally I would have had them drinking out of plastic cups. Using those loopy straws that you wear like glasses. It’d be hilarious and it would make thematic sense, what with the connotations of Potter-worship!
The ceiling of the Great Hall is “velvety black” and “dotted with stars,” and Hermione whispers, it appears to anyone who will listen, “It’s bewitched to look like the sky outside. I read about it in Hogwarts, A History.”
OH HERMIONE. THE LORRY IS PULLING UP OUTSIDE THE CASTLE.
Rin says: There’s me. Hoping that Hermione will confuse me for a house point. And jesus, I would never ever ever trust Sophy to drive a vehicle that large.
Heather says: Oh my God, Sophy. Are you, like, holding out your arms for an embrace inside the lorry? And Rin! Your tiny head! Accio Amazing!
Sophy says: I’M JUST GIVING HER THE THUMBS UP. I’m not allowed to embrace her. Rin said she’d cut off my arms if I tried, and she is always watching.
McGonagall places a shabby, festy, pointy thing that Harry thinks Aunt P “wouldn’t have let in the house” reverently on a stool. This is the star of the chapter, the titular Sorting Hat.
“Maybe they had to try and get a rabbit out of it, Harry thought wildly.”
The hat proceeds to talk – WIZARD SCHOOL, PEOPLE – and not just talk, but sing. That’s right. It sings a little song to introduce itself and I sort of want to vomit about it, because I’m a curmudgeon that way. The cutesy, because-I-can whimsy of kids’ fantasy novels like this has given me the absolute shits for as long as I can remember. It’s pretty much why I avoided reading these books till now… but I’ll try to focus on the positives and soldier on.
For the greater good. Which is Rin not cutting my arms off.
Luckily for the Sorting Hat its fictional audience is vastly more appreciative than I am. They burst into applause when it’s finished its song.
And here’s my whimsy-free translation of it:
I’m a mind-reading hat. When you put me on I’ll tell you which House you’re in. If you’re brave you’ll be in Gryffindor. If you’re fair, loyal and hardworking you’ll be in Hufflepuff. If you’re clever you’ll be in Ravenclaw. And if you’re cunning you’ll be in Slytherin.
Okay, so right now Hufflepuff is totally looking like the House of Houses. I mean, that’s three awesome qualities for the price of one! Meanwhile, what exactly is the difference between Ravenclaw and Slytherin? Is Slytherin just a repository for evil Ravenclaws? Because that’s what I’m getting.
Harry watches as each first year goes up and puts on the hat, gets sorted into a House and rushes off to a specific table – because apparently you have to eat with your House too. Sheesh.
He thinks adorably to himself how he wishes the hat “mentioned a House for people who felt a bit queasy,” because “that would [be] the one for him.” Oh Harry, never stop being British.
Bulstrode, Milicent lives up to her ugly Trunchbullesque name by being sorted into Evil House. Not only do Evil people have Evil names, but, Harry muses, they actually look sort of Evil too – “Perhaps it was Harry’s imagination after all he’d heard about Slytherin, but he thought they looked like an unpleasant lot.”
That’s it Harry. Nurture those prejudices. I’m sure they’ll come in handy later.
Heather says: Trunchbullesque! Sophy, I love you! Never change! Never stop making Roald Dahl references!
Sophy says: I shan’t! By snozzcumber!
Next it’s Hermione’s turn, and she “almost [runs] to the stool and [jams] the hat eagerly on her head,” and I fall more in love with her with every line Rowling writes, I really do.
The hat shouts “Gryffindor!” and Ron “groans”. I wish Ron was real so I could punch him.
Rin says: And the battle between Harry/Hermione and Hermione/Ron is starting!
Heather says: You know what? I actually lived through the Potter Shipping Wars. (I suck at war too.) I take back what I said about Glee.
Sophy says: I’m so glad my Harry Potter self was born in peacetime.
When it’s Neville’s turn he runs off still wearing the hat and has to run back amid gales of laughter and I ADORE him for it, I really do. (It’s the kind of thing I would have done when I was small. Shh.)
Obligatory randoms get sorted, nobody cares.
Let’s pretend Rophy show up at this point to create a welcome diversion…
Heather says: OMG! HH Hat on top of witch hat! LOL FOREVER!
Sophy says: I like to think your cartoon self is still a bit edgy at the HH hat not having direct contact with your body. Also, YELLOW PANTS!!!
Malfoy’s in Slytherin and is all ‘YAY GO TEAM EVIL’. I wouldn’t expect anything less.
When Harry Potter’s name is called everyone gets all tingly and awe-struck.
He puts the hat on and it starts muttering to him about how difficult it is to sort him because he’s just so fucking fabulous that it wants to put him in all the houses.
Harry sits there anxiously thinking ‘NOT EVIL HOUSE NOT EVIL HOUSE’ and the hat, perhaps with a pinch of reluctance, lets him have his way and sorts him into Gryffindor.
He gets “the loudest cheer yet,” but ~barely notices. Yuck. Please stop it, Rowling.
Finally Ron is sorted and winds up in Gryffindor too. Thank God. I suspect it would be very difficult to be someone’s BFF if you weren’t allowed to spend any time with them.
Once everybody is seated, Dumbledore stands and welcomes everybody to Hogwarts. He says he would like to say a few words before they begin their banquet. “And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!”
It’s adorable. I might hate it a bit.
When he sits back down, dinner magically appears on the table and Harry describes in some detail the gluttonous feast – really, it is a ridiculous amount of food. Even Dudley would be in awe.
While Harry eats he has a chat with the resident ghost of Gryffindor Tower. His real name is “Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington” but you can call him “Nearly Headless Nick.”
Some kid named Seamus Finnigan, who apparently wasn’t sorted into Ravenclaw for a damn good reason, asks, bewildered, how you can possibly be nearly headless.
Um… when your head has nearly been cut off, Seamus, you moron? Go back to Ireland and put white-out on your computer screen.
Nearly Headless Nick tips his head off his neck and it hangs by a thread.
Point made. Grossly.
They finish their meal and it turns out the plates at Hogwarts are cleaned by magic in the time it takes to snap your fingers. I’m a little skeeved by this. It feels a bit cosmetic and I worry about germs, I really do.
Seamus announces to everybody that he is a “half-in-half” – his mother is a witch and his father is a Muggle. She didn’t tell him till they were married and it was “a bit of a nasty shock for him”. Everybody laughs. I am deeply concerned about their moral compasses.
Marital fraud is not lols, okay kids?
Neville says he was brought up by his grandmother who was a witch. He took a long time to show signs of being a wizard, and his Great Uncle tried to draw it out of him by pretending to drown him and dropping him out of windows and stuff. His dedication and child abuse were rewarded when Neville finally got his magic on. When he got into Hogwarts they were thrilled because, Neville says, “they thought I might not be magic enough to come, you see. Great Uncle Algie was so pleased he bought me my toad.”
NEVILLE. STOP MAKING ME LOVE YOU. YOU WILL NEVER BE HERMIONE. You can have a picnic basket of points.
Heather says: It’s OK, Neville! I love you most!
Sophy says: I like that mini-Neville dresses like an old man. It suits him.
Speaking of Hermione – because I was before Heather Hogan butted in – she’s busy quizzing Prefect Percy as to how soon they can start their classes. Do you think I love it? Because if you do, you’re right.
Harry looks around the room feeling “warm and sleepy”. He sees Professor Quirrell, aka turban guy from the pub in the last chapter, talking to a teacher with “greasy black, hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin.”
Suddenly that less-than-dashingly-described teacher looks straight at him, and he feels a sharp, hot pain in his scar.
Harry gets the feeling, whether from the pain in his head or from the teacher’s expression, that this teacher doesn’t like him at all. Ooh-er. A friend of Voldy’s perhaps?
He asks who he is and is told he is Professor Snape, the Potions teacher. Apparently he wants Quirrell’s job though. Snape “knows an awful lot about the dark arts.”
After dinner Dumbledore mentions that Quidditch trials will take place in the second week and then proceeds to lay down a few ground rules.
‘No magic in the halls’ reminds me of high-school in the South of France, where there was ‘No smoking in the halls’. Students were earnestly entreated at the end of each class to wait till they were out of the building before lighting up. Oh The French. I don’t even know.
Dumbledore says that the forest is forbidden – as is some corridor on the third floor – “to anyone who does not wish to die a very painful death.”
This Dumbledore fella’s a bit of a card isn’t he? One minute he’s as fluffy as that rabbit Harry didn’t have to pull out of a hat, and the next he’s throwing casual death threats at small children.
Rin says: I know right. If he’s so great and powerful as everyone says, why do things like forbidden forests and death rooms exist?!
Sophy says: Dumbledore is probably responsible for the Holocaust. There, I said it.
The third-floor corridor being out of bounds is a new deal, and Percy is perplexed, because Dumbledore will usually give them a reason why they can’t go places and this time he hasn’t.
They then sing the school song. In a way that makes me cringe. See apparently, whilst they all sing the same words, they sing them to their very own tune. What’s the bet everybody in the Hogwarts Marching Band has their own drum?
Dumbledore is moved to tears by the “music”, which he considers “a magic beyond all we do here.” Um… yeah okay Dumbledore. A hall full of children singing different songs they have made up at the same time could not possibly sound good. The word ‘cacophony’ springs to mind, actually.
After the noise, the kids climb up tons and tons of staircases and pscch, alright wizard-kind, you may be able to fly and all, but in the Muggle world we have these nifty things called elevators.
Hogwarts has a poltergeist called Peeves. I am so totally bored by this, but feel compelled to mention it in case it’s important later.
Eventually they – they being Gryffindors Only – come to a “portrait of a very fat woman in a pink silk dress.”
She asks them what the password is and when Percy answers “Caput Draconis”, the portrait swings forward to reveal a round hole in the wall.
Everybody scrambles through it and into Gryffindor common room – a “cozy, round room full of squashy armchairs,” of which I very much like the sound.
They go up a spiral staircase and find their beds – four-posters hung with deep, red velvet curtains.
AND OKAY I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS. I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED A BED WITH CURTAINS. ALWAYS ALWAYS. OMG. IT’D BE LIKE SLEEPING ON A STAGE.
Rin says: That makes getting your birthday present this year surprisingly easy.
Sophy says: You’re sending me a bed? Seriously?
They all put their pajamas on and hop into bed quickly, because they are quite exhausted after their journey and all the excitement.
Harry thinks he might have had too much to eat because he has a Very Strange Dream.
He’s wearing Professor Quirrell’s turban and it’s talking to him, telling him he must transfer to Slytherin at once – “it is his destiny”.
Dream-Harry is about as keen on that idea as Waking-Harry would be. He tries to pull the turban off but it won’t budge. And then Malfoy is there, laughing at him. And then Malfoy turns into Professor Snape who laughs on. And then there’s a burst of green light and Harry wakes, sweating and shaking.
The next day he doesn’t remember the dream at all.
Perhaps it will come back to haunt him in the next chapter, when he gets to know THE POTIONS MASTER.