The door swung open at once. A tall, black-haired witch inemerald-green robes stood there. She had a very stern face andHarry'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 youcould have fit the whole of the Dursleys' house in it. The stonewalls were lit with flaming torches like the ones at Gringotts,the ceiling was too high to make out, and a magnificent marblestaircase facing them led to the upper floors. They followed Professor McGonagall across the flagged stonefloor. Harry could hear the drone of hundreds of voices from adoorway 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 closertogether than they would usually have done, peering about nervously. "Welcome to Hogwarts," said Professor McGonagall. "Thestart-of-term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take yourseats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses. TheSorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here,your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. Youwill have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your housedormitory, 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 hasproduced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts,your triumphs will earn your house points, while any rulebreakingwill lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with themost points is awarded the house cup, a great honor. I hope eachof you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours. "The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in frontof the rest of the school. I suggest you all smarten yourselves upas much as you can while you are waiting." Her eyes lingered for a moment on Neville's cloak, which wasfastened under his left ear, and on Ron's smudged nose. Harrynervously tried to flatten his hair. "I shall return when we are ready for you," said ProfessorMcGonagall. "Please wait quietly." She left the chamber. Harry swallowed. "How exactly do they sort us into houses?" he asked Ron. "Some sort of test, I think. Fred said it hurts a lot, but Ithink he was joking." Harry's heart gave a horrible jolt. A test? In front of the wholeschool? But he didn't know any magic yet -- what on earth would hehave to do? He hadn't expected something like this the moment theyarrived. He looked around anxiously and saw that everyone elselooked terrified, too. No one was talking much except HermioneGranger, who was whispering very fast about all the spells she'dlearned and wondering which one she'd need. Harry tried hard not tolisten to her. He'd never been more nervous, never, not even whenhe'd had to take a school report home to the Dursleys saying thathe'd somehow turned his teacher's wig blue. He kept his eyes fixedon the door. Any second now, Professor McGonagall would come backand lead him to his doom. Then something happened that made him jump about a foot in theair -- several people behind him screamed. "What the --?" He gasped. So did the people around him. About twenty ghostshad just streamed through the back wall. Pearly-white and slightlytransparent, they glided across the room talking to one another andhardly glancing at the first years. They seemed to be arguing. Whatlooked 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 hedeserves? He gives us all a bad name and you know, he's not reallyeven a ghost -- I say, what are you all doing here?" A ghost wearing a ruff and tights had suddenly noticed thefirst years. Nobody answered. "New students!" said the Fat Friar, smiling around atthem. "About to be Sorted, I suppose?" A few people nodded mutely. "Hope to see you in Hufflepuff!" said the Friar. "My old house,you know." "Move along now," said a sharp voice. "The Sorting Ceremony'sabout to start." Professor McGonagall had returned. One by one, the ghostsfloated away through the opposite wall. "Now, form a line," Professor McGonagall told the first years,"and follow me." Feeling oddly as though his legs had turned to lead, Harry gotinto line behind a boy with sandy hair, with Ron behind him, andthey walked out of the chamber, back across the hall, and througha pair of double doors into the Great Hall. Harry had never even imagined such a strange and splendidplace. It was lit by thousands and thousands of candles thatwere floating in midair over four long tables, where the rest ofthe students were sitting. These tables were laid with glitteringgolden plates and goblets. At the top of the hall was another longtable where the teachers were sitting. Professor McGonagall ledthe first years up here, so that they came to a halt in a linefacing the other students, with the teachers behind them. Thehundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in theflickering candlelight. Dotted here and there among the students,the ghosts shone misty silver. Mainly to avoid all the staring eyes,Harry looked upward and saw a velvety black ceiling dotted withstars. He heard Hermione whisper, "Its bewitched to look like the sky outside. Iread about it in Hogwarts, A History." It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, andthat the Great Hall didn't simply open on to the heavens. Harry quickly looked down again as Professor McGonagall silentlyplaced a four-legged stool in front of the first years. On top of thestool she put a pointed wizard's hat. This hat was patched and frayedand extremely dirty. Aunt Petunia wouldn't have let it in the house. Maybe they had to try and get a rabbit out of it, Harry thoughtwildly, that seemed the sort of thing -- noticing that everyone inthe hall was now staring at the hat, he stared at it, too. For a fewseconds, there was complete silence. Then the hat twitched. A ripnear the brim opened wide like a mouth -- and the hat began to sing: "Oh, you may not think I'm pretty, But don't judge on 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 sleek and tall, For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat And I can cap them all. There's nothing hidden 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 Gryffindors apart; You might belong in Hufflepuff, Where they are just and loyal, Those patient Hufflepuffis are true And unafraid of toil; Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw, if you've a ready 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 itssong. It bowed to each of the four tables and then became quitestill again. "So we've just got to try on the hat!" Ron whispered toHarry. "I'll kill Fred, he was going on about wrestling a troll." Harry. smiled weakly. Yes, trying on the hat was a lot betterthan having to do a spell, but he did wish they could have tried iton without everyone watching. The hat seemed to be asking ratheralot; Harry didn't feel brave or quick-witted or any of it at themoment. If only the hat had mentioned a house for people who felta bit queasy, that would have been the one for him. Professor McGonagall now stepped forward holding a long rollof parchment. "When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on thestool to be sorted," she said. "Abbott, Hannah!" A pink-faced girl with blonde pigtails stumbled out of line,put on the hat, which fell right down over her eyes, and sat down. Amoments pause -- "HUFFLEPUFF!" shouted the hat. The table on the right cheered and clapped as Hannah went tosit down at the Hufflepuff table. Harry saw the ghost of the FatFriar waving merrily at her. "Bones, Susan!" "HUFFLEPUFF!" shouted the hat again, and Susan scuttled off tosit next to Hannah. "Boot, Terry!" "RAVENCLAW!" The table second from the left clapped this time; severalRavenclaws stood up to shake hands with Terry as he joined them. " Brocklehurst, Mandy" went to Ravenclaw too, but "Brown,Lavender" became the first new Gryffindor, and the table on thefar left exploded with cheers; Harry could see Ron's twin brotherscatcalling. "Bulstrode, Millicent" then became a Slytherin. Perhaps itwas Harry's imagination, after all he'd heard about Slytherin,but he thought they looked like an unpleasant lot. He was startingto feel definitely sick now. He remembered being picked for teamsduring gym at his old school. He had always been last to be chosen,not because he was no good, but because no one wanted Dudley tothink they liked him. "Finch-Fletchley, Justin!" "HUFFLEPUFF!" Sometimes, Harry noticed, the hat shouted out the house at once,but at others it took a little while to decide. "Finnigan, Seamus,"the sandy-haired boy next to Harry in the line, sat on the stoolfor almost a whole minute before the hat declared him a Gryffindor. "Granger, Hermione!" Hermione almost ran to the stool and jammed the hat eagerly onher head. "GRYFFINDOR!" shouted the hat. Ron groaned. A horrible thought struck Harry, as horrible thoughts alwaysdo when you're very nervous. What if he wasn't chosen at all? Whatif he just sat there with the hat over his eyes for ages, untilProfessor McGonagall jerked it off his head and said there hadobviously been a mistake and he'd better get back on the train? When Neville Longbottom, the boy who kept losing his toad, wascalled, he fell over on his way to the stool. The hat took a longtime to decide with Neville. When it finally shouted, "GRYFFINDOR,"Neville ran off still wearing it, and had to jog back amid galesof laughter to give it to "MacDougal, Morag." Malfoy swaggered forward when his name was called and got hiswish at once: the hat had barely touched his head when it screamed,"SLYTHERIN!" Malfoy went to join his friends Crabbe and Goyle, lookingpleased with himself. 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 likelittle hissing fires all over the hall. "Potter, did she say?" The Harry Potter?" The last thing Harry saw before the hat dropped over his eyeswas the hall full of people craning to get a good look at him. Nextsecond he was looking at the black inside of the hat. He waited. Hmm," said a small voice in his ear. "Difficult. Verydifficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There'stalent, A 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, Not Slytherin,not Slytherin. "Not Slytherin, eh?" said the small voice. "Are you sure? Youcould be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherinwill help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that --no? Well, if you're sure -- better be GRYFFINDOR!" Harry heard the hat shout the last word to the whole hall. Hetook off the hat and walked shakily toward the Gryffindor table. Hewas so relieved to have been chosen and not put in Slytherin, hehardly noticed that he was getting the loudest cheer yet. Percythe Prefect got up and shook his hand vigorously, while the Weasleytwins yelled, "We got Potter! We got Potter!" Harry sat down oppositethe ghost in the ruff he'd seen earlier. The ghost patted his arm,giving Harry the sudden, horrible feeling he'd just plunged it intoa bucket of ice-cold water. He could see the High Table properly now. At the end nearest himsat Hagrid, who caught his eye and gave him the thumbs up. Harrygrinned back. And there, in the center of the High Table, in alarge gold chair, sat Albus Dumbledore. Harry recognized him atonce from the card he'd gotten out of the Chocolate Frog on thetrain. Dumbledore's silver hair was the only thing in the wholehall that shone as brightly as the ghosts. Harry spotted ProfessorQuirtell, too, the nervous young man from the Leaky Cauldron. Hewas looking very peculiar in a large purple turban. And now there were only three people left to be sorted. "Thomas,Dean," a Black boy even taller than Ron, joined Harry at theGryffindor table. "Turpin, Lisa," became a Ravenclaw and then itwas Ron's turn. He was pale green by now. Harry crossed his fingersunder the table and a second later the hat had shouted, "GRYFFINDOR!" Harry clapped loudly with the rest as Ron collapsed into thechair next to him. "Well done, Ron, excellent," said Percy Weasley Pompouslyacross Harry as "Zabini, Blaise," was made a Slytherin. ProfessorMcGonagall rolled up her scroll and took the Sorting Hat away. Harry looked down at his empty gold plate. He had only justrealized how hungry he was. The pumpkin pasties seemed ages ago. Albus Dumbledore had gotten to his feet. He was beaming at thestudents, his arms opened wide, as if nothing could have pleasedhim more than to see them all there. "Welcome," he said. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Beforewe begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And herethey are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! "Thank you!" He sat back down. Everybody clapped and cheered. Harry didn'tknow whether to laugh or not. "Is he -- a bit mad?" he asked Percy uncertainly. "Mad?" said Percy airily. "He's a genius! Best wizard in theworld! But he is a bit mad, yes. Potatoes, Harry?" Harry's mouth fell open. The dishes in front of him were nowpiled with food. He had never seen so many things he liked to eaton one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops,sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries,Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and, for somestrange reason, peppermint humbugs. The Dursleys had never exactly starved Harry, but he'd neverbeen allowed to eat as much as he liked. Dudley had always takenanything that Harry really wanted, even if It made him sick. Harrypiled his plate with a bit of everything except the peppermintsand began to eat. It was all delicious. "That does look good," said the ghost in the ruff sadly,watching Harry cut up his steak, "Can't you --?" I haven't eaten for nearly four hundred years," said theghost. "I don't need to, of course, but one does miss it. I don'tthink I've in troduced myself? Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington atyour service. Resident ghost of Gryffindor Tower." "I know who you are!" said Ron suddenly. "My brothers told meabout you -- you're Nearly Headless Nick!" "I would prefer you to call me Sir Nicholas de Mimsy --" theghost began stiffly, but sandy-haired Seamus Finnigan interrupted. "Nearly Headless? How can you be nearly headless?" Sir Nicholas looked extremely miffed, as if their little chatwasn't going at all the way he wanted. "Like this," he said irritably. He seized his left ear andpulled. His whole head swung off his neck and fell onto his shoulderas if it was on a hinge. Someone had obviously tried to behead him,but not done it properly. Looking pleased at the stunned looks ontheir faces, Nearly Headless Nick flipped his head back onto hisneck, coughed, and said, "So -- new Gryffindors! I hope you're goingto help us win the house championship this year? Gryffindors havenever gone so long without winning. Slytherins have got the cup sixyears in a row! The Bloody Baron's becoming almost unbearable --he's the Slytherin ghost." Harry looked over at the Slytherin table and saw a horribleghost sitting there, with blank staring eyes, a gaunt face, androbes stained with silver blood. He was right next to Malfoy who,Harry was pleased to see, didn't look too pleased with the seatingarrangements. "How did he get covered in blood?" asked Seamus with greatinterest. "I've never asked," said Nearly Headless Nick delicately. When everyone had eaten as much as they could, the remains ofthe food faded from the plates, leaving them sparkling clean asbefore. A moment later the desserts appeared. Blocks of ice creamin every flavor you could think of, apple pies, treacle tarts,chocolate eclairs and jam doughnuts, trifle, strawberries, Jell-O,rice pudding -- " As Harry helped himself to a treacle tart, the talk turned totheir families. "I'm half-and-half," said Seamus. "Me dad's a Muggle. Momdidn't tell him she was a witch 'til after they were married. Bitof a nasty shock for him." The others laughed. "What about you, Neville?" said Ron. "Well, my gran brought me up and she's a witch," said Neville,"but the family thought I was all- Muggle for ages. My Great UncleAlgie kept trying to catch me off my guard and force some magic outof me -- he pushed me off the end of Blackpool pier once, I nearlydrowned -- but nothing happened until I was eight. Great Uncle Algiecame round for dinner, and he was hanging me out of an upstairswindow by the ankles when my Great Auntie Enid offered him a meringueand he accidentally let go. But I bounced -- all the way down thegarden and into the road. They were all really pleased, Gran wascrying, she was so happy. And you should have seen their faces whenI got in here -- they thought I might not be magic enough to come,you see. Great Uncle Algie was so pleased he bought me my toad." On Harry's other side, Percy Weasley and Hermione were talkingabout lessons ("I do hope they start right away, there's so muchto learn, I'm particularly interested in Transfiguration, you know,turning something into something else, of course, it's supposed tobe very difficult-"; "You'll be starting small, just matches intoneedles and that sort of thing -- "). Harry, who was starting to feel warm and sleepy, looked up at the High Table again. Hagrid was drinking deeply fromhis goblet. Professor McGonagall was talking to ProfessorDumbledore. Professor Quirrell, in his absurd turban, was talkingto a teacher with greasy black hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin. It happened very suddenly. The hook-nosed teacher looked pastQuirrell's turban straight into Harry's eyes -- and a sharp, hotpain shot across the scar on Harry's forehead. "Ouch!" Harry clapped a hand to his head. "What is it?" asked Percy. "N-nothing." The pain had gone as quickly as it had come. Harder to shakeoff was the feeling Harry had gotten from the teacher's look --a feeling that he didn't like Harry at all. "Who's that teacher talking to Professor Quirrell?" he askedPercy. "Oh, you know Quirrell already, do you? No wonder he's looking sonervous, that's Professor Snape. He teaches Potions, but he doesn'twant to -- everyone knows he's after Quirrell's job. Knows an awfullot about the Dark Arts, Snape." Harry watched Snape for a while, but Snape didn't look athim again. At last, the desserts too disappeared, and Professor Dumbledoregot to his feet again. The hall fell silent. "Ahern -- just a few more words now that we are all fed andwatered. I have a few start-of-term notices to give you. "First years should note that the forest on the grounds isforbidden to all pupils. And a few of our older students would dowell to remember that as well." Dumbledore's twinkling eyes flashed in the direction of theWeasley twins. "I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, toremind you all that no magic should be used between classes inthe corridors. "Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of theterm. Anyone interested in playing for their house teams shouldcontact Madam Hooch. "And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floorcorridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone whodoes not wish to die a very painful death." Harry laughed, but he was one of the few who did. "He's not serious?" 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 gosomewhere -- the forest's full of dangerous beasts, everyone knowsthat. I do think he might have told us prefects, at least." "And now, before we go to bed, let us sing the schoolsong!" cried Dumbledore. Harry noticed that the other teachers'smiles had become rather fixed. Dumbledore gave his wand a little flick, as if he was trying toget a fly off the end, and a long golden ribbon flew out of it, whichrose high above the tables and twisted itself, snakelike, into words. "Everyone pick their favorite tune," said Dumbledore, "and offwe go!" And the school bellowed: "Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts, Teach us something please, Whether we be old and bald Or young with scabby knees, Our heads could do with filling With some interesting stuff, For now they're bare and full of air, Dead flies and bits of fluff, So teach us things worth knowing, Bring back what we've forgot, just do your best, we'll do the rest, And learn until our brains all rot. Everybody finished the song at different times. At last, onlythe Weasley twins were left singing along to a very slow funeralmarch. Dumbledore conducted their last few lines with his wand andwhen they had finished, he was one of those who clapped loudest. "Ah, music," he said, wiping his eyes. "A magic beyond all wedo here! And now, bedtime. Off you trot!" The Gryffindor first years followed Percy through the chatteringcrowds, out of the Great Hall, and up the marble staircase. Harry'slegs were like lead again, but only because he was so tired andfull of food. He was too sleepy even to be surprised that the peoplein the portraits along the corridors whispered and pointed as theypassed, or that twice Percy led them through doorways hidden behindsliding panels and hanging tapestries. They climbed more staircases,yawning and dragging their feet, and Harry was just wondering howmuch 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 Percy took a step toward them they started throwing themselvesat him. "Peeves," Percy whispered to the first years. "A poltergeist." Heraised his voice, "Peeves -- show yourself" 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 awide mouth appeared, floating cross- legged in the air, clutchingthe walking sticks. "Oooooooh!" he said, with an evil cackle. "Ickle Firsties! Whatfun!" He swooped suddenly at them. They all ducked. "Go away, Peeves, or the Baron'll hear about this, I meanit!" barked Percy. Peeves stuck out his tongue and vanished, dropping the walkingsticks on Neville's head. They heard him zooming away, rattlingcoats of armor as he passed. "You want to watch out for Peeves," said Percy, as they setoff again. "The Bloody Baron's the only one who can control him,he won't even listen to us prefects. Here we are." At the very end of the corridor hung a portrait of a very fatwoman in a pink silk dress. "Password?" she said. "Caput Draconis," said Percy, and theportrait swung forward to reveal a round hole in the wall. Theyall scrambled through it -- Neville needed a leg up -- and foundthemselves in the Gryffindor common room, a cozy, round room fullof squashy armchairs. Percy directed the girls through one door to their dormitoryand the boys through another. At the top of a spiral staircase --they were obviously in one of the towers -- they found their beds atlast: five four-posters hung with deep red, velvet curtains. Theirtrunks had already been brought up. Too tired to talk much, theypulled on their pajamas and fell into bed. " Great food, isn't it?" Ron muttered to Harry through thehangings. "Get off, Scabbers! He's chewing my sheets." Harry was going to ask Ron if he'd had any of the treacle tart,but he fell asleep almost at once. Perhaps Harry had eaten a bit too much, because he had a verystrange dream. He was wearing Professor Quirrell's turban, whichkept talking to him, telling him he must transfer to Slytherin atonce, because it was his destiny. Harry told the turban he didn'twant to be in Slytherin; it got heavier and heavier; he tried topull it off but it tightened painfully -- and there was Malfoy,laughing at him as he struggled with it -then Malfoy turned into thehook-nosed teacher, Snape, whose laugh became high and cold -- therewas a burst of green light and Harry woke, sweating and shaking. He rolled over and fell asleep again, and when he woke next day,he didn't remember the dream at all.