Chapter 37 / The Hat's new song
‘Did everyone see that Grubbly-Plank woman?’ asked Ginny. ‘What’s she doing back here? Hagrid can’t have left, can he?’
‘I’ll be quite glad if he has,’ said Luna, ‘he isn’t a very good teacher, is he?’
‘Yes, he is!’ said Harry, Ron and Ginny angrily.
‘Well, we in Ravenclaw think he’s a bit of a joke,’ said Luna, unfazed.
‘That’s not very nice, Luna,’ I smiled apologetic, ‘Hagrid’s their friend.’
‘You’ve got a rubbish sense of humour then,’ Ron snapped, as the wheels below them creaked into motion.
Luna did not seem perturbed by Ron’s rudeness; on the contrary, she simply watched him for a while as though he were a mildly interesting television programme.
The carriages jingled to a halt near the stone steps leading up to the oak front doors and I got out of the carriage first.
‘See you later!’ I waved to the others and ran up the stairs, following Luna into the castle.
The Entrance Hall was ablaze with torches and echoing with footsteps as the students crossed the flagged stone floor for the double doors to the right, leading to the Great Hall and the start-of-term feast.
The four long house tables in the Great Hall were filling up under the starless black ceiling, which was just like the sky they could glimpse through the high windows. Candles floated in midair all along the tables, illuminating the silvery ghosts who were dotted about the Hall and the faces of the students talking eagerly, exchanging summer news, shouting greetings at friends from other houses, eyeing one another’s new haircuts and robes.
‘Who’s that?’ Luna said sharply, pointing towards the middle of the staff table as we took a seat at the Ravenclaw table.
I first saw Professor Dumbledore, sitting in his high-backed golden chair at the centre of the long staff table, wearing deep-purple robes scattered with silvery stars and a matching hat. Dumbledore’s head was inclined towards the woman sitting next to him, who was talking into his ear. She looked like somebody’s maiden aunt: squat, with short, curly, mouse-brown hair in which she had placed a horrible pink Alice band that matched the fluffy pink cardigan she wore over her robes.
‘I don’t know. Must be the new defence against the dark arts teacher.’
‘Nice cardigan,’ said Luna, smirking.
‘Hallo Luna, who’s your friend?’ a boy with chubby cheeks and sleek dirty-blond hair smiled down upon us.
‘I’m Kath Riddle,’ I said as I stuck out my hand, ‘nice to meet you.’
‘Anthony Goldstein,’ the boy shook my hand.
‘Oh, you’re the Ravenclaw prefect, right? Hermoine told me about you.’
‘So, you know some people around here? Nice to know. If there’s anything you need to know, or it something is bothering you, just give me a shout. I'll do my best to help you.’
‘Thank you, Anthony, that’s nice. I’ve been in Hogwarts before.’
‘Really? I’ve never heard of you.’
I just smiled at him. Apperently he took that as a sign to sit down.
‘The first-years will be here any minute.’
Seconds after he spoke, the doors from the Entrance Hall opened. A long line of scared-looking first-years entered, led by Professor McGonagall, who was carrying a stool on which sat an ancient wizards' hat, heavily patched and darned with a wide rip near the frayed brim.
The buzz of talk in the Great Hall faded away. The first-years lined up in front of the staff table facing the rest of the students, and Professor McGonagall placed the stool carefully in front of them, then stood back.
The first-years’ faces glowed palely in the candlelight. A small boy right in the middle of the row looked as though he was trembling. I recalled, fleetingly, how terrified I had felt when I had stood there, waiting for the unknown test that would determine to which house I belonged.
The whole school waited with bated breath. Then the rip near the hat’s brim opened wide like a mouth and the Sorting Hat burst into song:
And Hogwarts barely started
The founders of our noble school
Thought never to be parted:
United by a common goal,
They had the selfsame yearning,
To make the world’s best magic school
And pass along their learning.
‘Together we will build and teach!’
The four good friends decided
And never did they dream that they
Might some day be divided,
For were there such friends anywhere
As Slytherin and Gryffindor?
Unless it was the second pair
Of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw?
So how could it have gone so wrong?
How could such friendships fail?
Why, I was there and so can tell
The whole sad, sorry tale.
Said Slytherin, ‘We’ll teach just those
Whose ancestry is purest. ‘
Said Ravenclaw, ‘We’ll teach those whose
Intelligence is surest. ‘
Said Gryffindor, ‘We’ll teach all those
With brave deeds to their name, ‘
Said Hufflepuff, ‘I’ll teach the lot,
And treat them just the same. ‘
These differences caused little strife
When first they came to light,
For each of the four founders had
A house in which they might
Take only those they wanted, so,
For instance, Slytherin
Took only pure-blood wizards
Of great cunning, just like him,
And only those of sharpest mind
Were taught by Ravenclaw
While the bravest and the boldest
Went to daring Gryffindor.
Good Hufflepuff, she took the rest,
And taught them all she knew,
Thus the houses and their founders
Retained friendships firm and true.
So Hogwarts worked in harmony
For several happy years,
But then discord crept among us
Feeding on our faults and fears.
The houses that, like pillars four,
Had once held up our school,
Now turned upon each other and,
Divided, sought to rule.
And for a while it seemed the school
Must meet an early end,
What with duelling and with fighting
And the clash of friend on friend
And at last there came c morning
When old Slytherin departed
And though the fighting then died out
He left us quite downhearted.
And never since the founders four
Were whittled down to three
Have the houses been united
As they once were meant to be.
And now the Sorting Hat is here
And you all know the score:
I sort you into houses
Because that is what I’m for,
But this year I’ll go further,
Listen closely to my song:
Though condemned I am to split you
Still I worry that it’s wrong,
Though I must fulfil my duty
And must quarter every year
Still I wonder whether Sorting
May not bring the end I fear.
Oh, know the perils, read the signs,
The warning history shows,
For our Hogwarts is in danger
From external, deadly foes
And we must unite inside her
Or we’ll crumble from within
I have told you, I have warned you . . .
Let the Sorting now begin.