The Sorting Hat

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The door swung open at once. A tall, black-haired witch in emerald-green robes stood there. She had a very stern face and Rain's first thought was that this was not someone to cross.

"The firs' years, Professor McGonagall," said Hagrid.

"Thank you, Hagrid. 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 like the ones at Gringotts, the ceiling was too high to make out, and a magnificent marble staircase facing them led to the upper floors.

They followed Professor McGonagall across the flagged stone floor. Rain could hear the drone of hundreds of voices from a doorway to the right — the rest of the school must already be here — but 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." Began Professor McGonagall. "The start-of-term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will 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's dormitory, and spend free time in your House's 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 are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your House Points, while any rulebreaking 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 are waiting."

Her eyes lingered for a moment on Neville's cloak, which was fastened under his left ear, and on Ron's smudged nose. Rain nervously ran her fingers through the ends of her hair, which was, again, in a pony tail.

"I shall return when we are ready for you." Said Professor McGonagall. "Please wait quietly." She left the chamber.

"How exactly do they sort us into houses?" Rain asked Ron.

"Some sort of test, I think. Fred said it hurts a lot, but I think he was joking."

Rain bit her lip and closed her eyes in an effort to regulate her breathing and her pacing heart.

Then something happened that made her jump about a foot in the air — several people behind her screamed. Her eyes snapped open and she gasped along with the people around her. About twenty 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 seemed to be arguing. What looked like a fat, little monk 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.

Nobody answered.

"New students!" Exclaimed the Fat Friar, smiling around at them. "About to be Sorted, I suppose?"

A few people nodded mutely.

"Hope to see you in Hufflepuff!" Cheered the Friar. "My old house, you know."

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